Circa 1978. This hung in my grandparents' kitchen for a long time. Front, from left, Colt, grandpa Robert Jr., Dan, grandma Sue, Jennifer, Liz. Back: Nikki, David, Andrea, Doreen.
What We’ve Learned About the Leys
It’s been awhile since I began a series of posts exploring the lives of our ancestors, as revealed in their obituaries.
And a good week (or longer) since I published a catch-up post, explaining the absence of activity in this space. Intending, of course, to carry on immediately from there.
So, let’s just dispense with all otherwise flashy intros and get down to business. Because I still have a lot of goodies to share from a March trip home to Ohio. And while life pauses a moment to let me set the fingers twirling again and the lines of type doing their fruitful little march, we should only pause a moment to take stock.
Our agenda? Obits. Lives lived. Places traveled. Families fruitful and multiplying.
First stop were the Leys of Port Washington and, later, New Philadelphia and Dover, Ohio. Second down the trolley path were the Johnsons, my Grandmother Foutz’s family, to be followed by visits with the Foutzes and Weibles.
Before moving on, I thought I’d gather up the fabric a bit and share some of what stood out to me about the family members we remembered on the Ley side.
Ley Lives Revealed – Some Points to Consider
Robert Earl Ley Sr.
1. Death came swiftly
At least for the men directly in the Ley line. And often while at work!
Newspapers of the day spared no details:
My great-grandfather, Robert Earl Ley Sr., died of a heart attack at 65 while treating a patient in the dental practice he shared with my grandpa.
His father, former Tuscarawas County treasurer Charles Henry Ley, succumbed to a heart attack at 59 while carrying a garden hose to his barn. The kind of physically-tasking chore his doctor had advised him against, only to have great-great grandpa “refuse to heed the warning.”
Just as my grandfather witnessed his father’s death, my third great aunt Minnie was on hand as my great-great-great grandfather Augustus Ley dropped dead of a cerebral hemorrhage in his Port Washington general store. He licked a stamp and fell dead to the floor before he could affix it to the envelope, according to the newspaper account. He was 61.
By contrast, our first Ley ancestor in America, Charles Ley (or Karl Gottleib Ley) lived to a hale and hearty 89 — same age as my grandpa Bob when he passed away in 2009 (some 112 years later).
Guess the genes had a different story to tell by then.
Charles Henry Ley
2. A family of “independent contractors”
For the better part of six straight generations in America, Ley males were their own bosses in my family. And many of the “off-shoots” in my line can boast the same.
Karl Ley was a saddler.
Augustus Ley, a dry goods store owner.
Charles Ley may have served at the behest of the county as treasurer, and for a firm as traveling salesman (still in the dry goods business), but he seemed every bit his own man.
Both my great-grandfather Robert Ley and my grandfather Robert Jr. maintained their own dental practice in Dover. And my uncle, Robert III, only just this year retired from his own family practice as M.D.
As far as the dry goods biz went, it seems the first Leys in America opened stores across the country as they spread westward. Doris Ley Hill’s book details the business travelings of the children and descendants of Karl Gottleib Ley and his brother Frederick Christian Ley. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!
3. From Lutheran to Moravian to Lutheran to Moravian again
The way I’d usually put it to my (Scandinavian) Lutheran in-laws whenever I was first getting introduced around is: the Moravian Church, like the Lutheran Church, is an early Protestant demonination, and it falls pretty close to the Catholic tree.
When I was in more of a feisty mood, I’d point out that the Unitas Fratrum actually started before Luther nailed his theses to the church door… only we kind of died out a bit when the Roman Catholics burnt our leaders at the stake facing west (toward Constantinople).
The brethren recovered, of course, and in the 1700s their missionaries were the first to settle Ohio, in Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten, just up the road a piece from where our Leys called home. But my grandmother’s family — the Weibles — always had such a longterm claim on membership it seemed that the Leys must have followed them into that branch of the faith.
Well, not so.
Go back to our fifth great and sixth great grandfathers Ley and there you have two ministers who led the same Lutheran church in tiny Pfalz, Bavaria in the 1700s. Whether Great-great-great-great Grandpa Karl Gottleib Ley carried this faith with him to America in the early 1800s is not known.
But by the time we get to Great-great Grandpa Charles, his wife, Minnie Hammersley is a lifelong Moravian (of the church in Port Washington), and his funeral services are held at the First Moravian Church in Dover (the very same congregation of the Weibles his grandson, Robert Jr. would marry into, and where I would be confirmed).
Next up, Robert Ley Sr. is a member of Grace Lutheran Church in Dover, as were my great-great grandmother and grandparents Foutz (the Foutzes were apparently Lutheran from the time they settled in Ohio, and probably before).
And from Bob Jr. on down, we’ve been Moravian. Well, except for now I’m married to a Lutheran and that’s the church of my sons. Seems to make sense, though, right?
4. 180 years in Tuscarawas County
The Weibles also get props in my family for being first in the county, settling south of New Philadelphia in Crooked Run about 1812. My great-great-great grandmother Susan (Schrock) Weible’s family were among the first five settlers there; my great-great-great-great grandfather Jakob Weible and his family followed about 1817.
The Leys didn’t arrive on the scene until the early 1830s, when fourth great grandfather Karl Gottleib Ley emigrated from Bavaria and established his saddlery in Shanesville. From there, they wound through Port Washington, New Philadelphia and eventually Dover, becoming prominent citizens in the professions noted above.
So, the score, either way you tally it, is impressive. Seven generations of Weibles called Tuscarawas County home for nearly 200 years. Seven generations of Leys did the same forbetter than 180.
Of course, the current generation wised up and moved on. (Sorry, Mom.) But not a bad run, in one place.
From 2007: An ailing Robert Earl Ley Jr. and his great-grandson, Jonah Robert Foutz.
5. What’s in a name?
By my research, the Ley surname hasn’t changed spelling — not from our misty early days in the Netherlands, through our centuries in Germany, and not since our first ancestors came to America.
Whereas, with the Weibles we get Waiblel and Wible; and with the Foutzes there are Foutses and Pfoutses (and perhaps even the dreaded Pfauts).
But it’s interesting to note how given names have been handed down, through the generations.
Our oldest named Ley ancestors are the ministers John Frederick (6th great) and Charles Frederick (5th great). So, maybe it’s more than coincidental that although I get my first name, Frederick, from my Foutz father, Frederick Charles, the name honors the Leys as well.
My second great grandfather Charles Henry Ley seems to have drawn his handle from his grandfather Karl Gottleib, which was Americanized, on census forms and on his gravestone, as Charles. (The Henry comes from maternal grandfather Henry Charles Powell.)
Minnie is another popular name for women in the Ley line. There was Minnie, daughter of Karl Gottleib Ley, who married her first cousin, Carl (son of her father’s brother Frederick) after he emigrated to America, and headed with that branch of the Leys to a successful and enterprising life out west.
My third great grandfather’s daughter, Minnie Mae, married Edwin Frederick Weible (nephew to my great-great grandfather Franklin Eli Weible), foreshadowing a later marriage of my (unrelated!) grandparents Bob Ley and Sue Weible.
Finally, my great-great grandfather Charles Henry Ley married Minnie Eillene Hammersley. They didn’t carry on the name Minnie (their sole daughter was named Irma Haines Ley, after the owner of the company Charles worked for), but they did come up with a name that had theretofore been original among the family tree. They named their third son Robert Earl, who was followed, in subsequent generations, by Robert Earl Jr. and Robert Earl III. (A name not continued directly in the latest generations, but honored in grandson (Robert Jr.) Robert Earl Leatherbury and great-grandsons Jonah Robert Foutz and Robert William Leatherbury.