Posts Tagged With: obituaries

The Wayward Path of Oscar W. Foutz


514 buttonwood st reading pa

The street where Sherman Foutz and family closed out their Reading, Pa. days in 1909 bears no trace of their former home. Now, down the street on the right, there’s a parking lot.

 

Wandering Oscar Foutz Leaves Few Traces

It’s easy to paint great-great uncle Sherman Foutz’s son, Oscar, as the black sheep.

The historical record suggests so, with some mishaps, and maybe a bad marriage, the clear absences. But there are holes. There’s a lot we don’t know. And too much that censuses and official records and newspaper articles fail to reveal.

We can’t know, for instance, the personalities behind the official print. The balance of harmony that makes up a household, of love that sparks a relationship, ambition that fuels a career. We can’t clearly discern, 100 years later, the circumstances and darker impulses that move the players on and off the stage.

In the case of Oscar Foutz, then, I’ve assembled the most complete chronology I can. With the barest trace of analysis. With some lingering questions. Certainly without judgment.

Here’s what we know so far.

Born Dec. 17, 1888 to parents Sherman and Elizabeth Foutz, Oscar lived out his early boyhood in the old Foutz stomping grounds of Harrison County.

Sherman’s appointment, in the mid- to late-1890s, to the U.S. Treasury took the family to Washington D.C., where grandparents Jonathan and Rebecca Foutz would join them about 1899-1900. Their youngest children, John, Charles and Vance (Colt’s great-grandfather), all born within 5-10 years of Oscar and sister Grace, likely were more playmates in the new and strange city than proper uncles.

In 1902, Sherman accepted leadership of the Knights of the Maccabees of eastern Pennsylvania. The family moved to Reading, Pa., where Sherman set about growing the membership from just over 90 to more than 3,500 over the subsequent decade, and grew his fire insurance business as well.

Foutzes Well-Educated, Well-Heeled in Reading

Far from the farming life in eastern Ohio, Oscar and sister Grace enjoyed the privileges of a well-known, well-to-do family.

We know Grace attended private schools, and even college at 15; we assume Oscar was granted the same privilege. Both appear occasionally in social columns in Washington, Reading and Harrisburg, having played host or a part in Maccabees’ youth gatherings. Or, in the case of this 1903 Reading Times item, when Oscar was about 15, acting in a local production, “The Readingites.”

In October 1906, the Reading Times spotlighted 17-year-old Oscar Foutz for his role in alerting firemen to a blaze that broke out after 10 p.m. in a tailor’s business at 15 N. Sixth Street, just a few addresses down from father Sherman Foutz’s fire insurance business at 40 N. Sixth.

Foutz Oscar fire hero Reading Times 5 Oct 1906

By 1909, 20-year-old Oscar is employed as a clerk, according to the Reading city directory. The family moves to Harrisburg that year, and according to the census, Oscar finds work there as a fireman for the railroad.

In contrast to Grace’s intellectual pursuits, Oscar Foutz attracts newspaper ink for various sporting exploits, and his active role in the Pennsylvania National Guard.

An April 1909 article in the Reading Times reports Oscar’s second-prize finish in a pool contest at Penn Parlors.

An August 1910 piece in the Reading Eagle tells of a “a lively and amusing” boxing match between Oscar and another National Guard private to settle a “small dispute.” Oscar won.

In Harrisburg, an October 1911 Telegraph item lists Oscar among the members of the Hassler Athletic Club baseball team, which promised to have a stronger squad the next season.

It’s important to note that these are all the exploits of a newly-married man. Before the Foutzes leave Reading, Oscar marries Florence Hartman.

There may be nothing curious about the timing of their marriage license application, filed Jan. 1 1908 in Berks County. But by the time the two are married nearly 10 months later, Florence is far-along pregnant with their first son, Ralph. The wedding is reported in the Sept. 29, 1908 edition of the Reading Times.

Foutz Oscar marriage Reading Times Sep 29 1908

Son Ralph’s birth less than three months later, on Dec. 19, 1908, is recorded by Alsace Lutheran Church.

Sons Ralph, Harry & a Foutz House Divided

Oscar’s troubles seem to begin not long after second son, Harry Sherman, is born March 28, 1910.

The young family appears to live a divided existence. The 1910 census, taken that April in Harrisburg, finds Oscar, listed as married 2 years, and eldest son Ralph in the home of Sherman and Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, 60 miles to the east in Reading, Florence appears in the household of parents Francis and Kate, along with brother Lloyd and sister Hannah. She is listed as single. There is no trace of brand new infant Harry Sherman, though the census taker visited on April 21.

The names of Florence’s parents — and their address — match their wedding announcement of two years prior. And match names listed in Florence’s death announcement (many years later, which we’ll get to). So this is undoubtedly the family. Maybe there’s some fudging going on. Or three-weeks-old Harry Sherman is still in the hospital (though he’s scheduled for his christening the next day).

Curiously, a family of Wunders — Florence’s mother’s maiden name — boards with the Hartmans, and another Wunder family lives next door. In Milton’s house, the youngest child is named Harry (though listed as 4 months old — could they mean weeks?). In Daniel’s, the youngest is named Ralph, age 3 (older by one year than Florence’s son Ralph who is reportedly living in Harrisburg with his father’s parents). Both Milton and Daniel match names listed in Florence’s grandfather William Wunder’s 1902 obituary.

Not yet definitive evidence that the Hartmans passed off 19-year-old Florence as single and passed on her children to siblings. But interesting.

Back to Oscar. Later that year, in August 1910, Oscar would be arrested, tried and sentenced to nine months in prison for his part in clubbing and robbing a man while on leave with three other guardsmen from Reading’s fourth regiment. From the Reading Times, Sept. 16, 1910:

Foutz Oscar Convicted Robbery Reading Times 16 Sep 1910

Death of Sherman & Oscar a Gone Daddy

Oscar appears to later gain reinstatement to the National Guard and continue his family life.

A July 1911 article in the Reading Eagle reports a Florence Foutz visiting the guard camp at Mt. Gretna.

A July 1914 report in the Reading News-Times again lists Oscar as getting ready for that year’s camp at Mt. Gretna.

But by father Sherman Foutz’s death in April 1915, Oscar, not listed as a survivor in Sherman’s obituary, but included in the death announcement, reportedly lives in Arizona. Perhaps Oscar is there with the Guard?

The public record next finds Oscar Foutz in 1917, when a series of legal notices early that year summon him to Reading to face divorce from Florence, which is finalized May 19, 1917, according to the Harrisburg Evening News:

Foutz Oscar divorce final Harrisburg Evening News 19 May 1917

Over the next three decades, Oscar drops from sight. I’ve not found him on the censuses of 1920, 1930 or 1940, or in any vital documents. His mother Elizabeth Foutz’s December 1945 obituary mentions him as surviving, and living in Charlotte, N.C. Whereas, a 1969 Times-Reporter article on Grace Foutz’s “wonderful life” contends Oscar died in 1945. The piece probably meant Grace’s mother. But her obituary the following year definitely mentions a brother who “also preceded her in death.”

Census records and numerous newspaper articles indicate the absence of Oscar from the lives of sons Ralph and Harry. More on them in the next installment.

Meanwhile, mother Florence Hartman remarries, to a William F. Orner. Has another child, Raymond Carroll Orner, born Feb. 17, 1918 and baptized where her older sons were, Alsace Lutheran Church in Reading.

The record gets murky from here. The 1920 census shows, curiously, a Florence M. and Frank Orner living in Harrisburg, Dauphin County. In their household is a nearly two-year-old “Carrol L. Orner” — and also an 8-year-old Sherman (who, if it’s Harry Sherman Foutz, should be 10). We know that Ralph is listed in grandmother Lizzie Foutz’s household, so this may explain the whereabouts of both brothers (if not father Oscar).

The 1930 census lists a married Florence M. Orner, age 39 (the right age), living in Dauphin County and in the company of a 68-year-old Adaline Orner, albeit in the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital. Hmmmmmm….

Florence’s obituary appears in the March 12, 1938 edition of the Reading Times, spelled “Oner.” Sherman, Ralph and Carrol are all listed as survivors, as well as “Catherine,” wife of Roy Rutt. Now, I have not found the origins of the adopted Catherine Foutz, later Mrs. John Roy Rutt, but I have also not detected Catherine in the home of Francis and Katie (Wunder) Hartman prior to her living with Elizabeth Foutz in 1920. So I think this is just a nod from Florence to her former sister-in-law. But… I’ll keep following the trail.

Florence is buried in the same Epler’s Church Cemetery as her parents and several siblings. Incidentally, she dies at the same age as Oscar’s father.

Hartman Florence obit Reading Times 3.12.1938

Categories: Foutz, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Addendum: Grace Foutz’s Fishy Birth Year


Chaney Grace Fred Longview

Grace Foutz Chaney and husband Fred are buried in Longview Cemetery near Bowerston, Ohio, near her parents Sherman and Elizabeth Foutz. The birth year etched into her stone to match her husband’s is incorrect.

The Facts on Grace Foutz’s Birth

Call this item a correction.

In yesterday’s post, which chronicled the teaching career of Grace Foutz Chaney, and her life, post-marriage, in Uhrichsville, Ohio, I recounted the strange inaccuracies in Grace’s birth year following her marriage to Fred Chaney in December 1915.

Censuses of 1920, 1930 and 1940 all get it wrong. Even her gravestone in Longview Cemetery near Bowerston botches the date.

Which leads me to believe the error was probably intentional. And since the fibbing starts after Grace becomes Mrs. Fred Chaney, maybe that’s got something to do with it.

But I was wrong when I wrote:

But never fear: Grace’s 1970 obituary finally gets her age right….

Actually, the Times-Reporter obit never mentions Grace’s birthdate or age at all. So I thought I’d lay out how we know the truth from the lies — even those etched in stone.

Her definitive birth day and year we find via Ancestry.com in the Ohio Births and Christenings Index of 1821 to 1962. The actual film is not viewable online at Ancestry or FamilySearch.org, but here’s a screenshot of the index entry:

Foutz Grace birth Sep 1890

The censuses of 1900 and 1910, first in Sherman and Elizabeth Foutz’s home in Washington D.C., then Harrisburg, Pa., report Grace’s age as 9, then 19. Because the census-takers visited the Foutz homes in June 1900 and April 1910, respectively, the age is right and matches her birth year of 1890.

Then the official record gets fishy.

Erroneous Records Retain Grace Foutz’s Youth

Grace Foutz marries Fred Chaney on Dec. 18, 1915 in Wheeling, W. Va. This is all corroborated and matched up to the Grace we know in the 1969 Times-Reporter article on her life — which, nonetheless, is off by one year for her grandmother Rebecca Foutz’s death (she met Fred after traveling to Ohio for the funeral) and her marriage later that year.

Their marriage document begins the wackiness, listing Grace’s age as 24 (she turned 25 in September 1915) and Fred’s as 22 (he is just 19).

The 1920 federal census finds the couple in Uhrichsville, Ohio. Taken in February, before either of their birthdays that year, Fred is listed as 24, the age he will in fact turn in that July, while Grace is reported to be 26. She is really 29, and will turn 30 in September.

In 1930’s census, taken in April that year in Uhrichsville, Fred is 33 (correct) and Grace is listed as 34, meaning she has somehow aged just 10 years since her marriage 15 years prior. She is really 39. The record also list’s Fred’s age at first marriage as 19 (correct!), but Grace’s as 20, which doesn’t even match the incorrect age recorded in their marriage license. But at least we’re being consistent in being consistently off.

1940 — Uhrichsville. Another April, ten years later. Fred, 43. Right! Grace, 44. NOT! She’s 49 and will be 50 that September.

Fred’s obituary in September 1955 does get his age right at death, at 59. And his side of their memorial in Longview Cemetery is correct.

But Grace’s obit fails to mention her age or birth date. Maybe because, with no survivors nearby (and my great-grandfather Vance having passed away two years prior), there may be few family members to supply the correct information.

But her death record in Ohio gets it right. Well, at least her age. Here’s another screenshot from an Ancestry.com transcription of the actual record. My guess is that the death date — March 27, 1970 — and her (correct) age, 79, appeared on the record. The transcriber then did the math backwards and got 1891 for the birth year, when we know — don’t we fellow genealogy heads? — that Grace’s birthday in September makes 1890 the matching date.

Chaney Grace Foutz death Mar 1970

And that’s how we know several documents for decades got Grace’s age wrong. My guess is that since Fred died 15 years prior, the gravestone had the birth year of her fancy — one matching Fred’s — etched on her side, with the death year waiting.

But Wait — Are Grace and Fred Related?

Let’s train our thoughts on the original departure from reliable fact. Why would Grace lie about her age at the time of marriage? True, Fred, at 19, seems a bit younger. But not all that unusual for the time.

Could he have been her student? Seems unlikely, since her profile in 1969 claims she met Fred in Harrison County on the occasion of her grandmother’s death in May 1915. Still, the article got other facts wrong.

Consider, for a moment, that the article may have got the circumstances right. And consider what’s left out. Grace’s father Sherman died in April 1915, and a cousin, Carl Coleman, in March, both of tuberculosis. All were buried in Harrison County. Perhaps the Foutzes — widow Elizabeth and kids Oscar and Grace — spent extensive time that year home in Harrison County.

If that’s the case, Grace’s and Fred’s abbreviated courtship of seven months, and marriage away from Ohio and Pennsylvania, could make sense.

But also consider the circumstances under which they met. Harrison County farming life in the 1800s was tightly knit. The same families who farmed together are buried together, and the names adorn the mailboxes today. Still, who is most likely to be attending the same funerals, particularly three months in a row? Family.

Fred Chaney’s mother’s maiden name, Wilson, is the same as Grace’s mother’s. Some preliminary poking around Ancestry trees and census records shows one of Elizabeth’s older brothers, William, born some 24 years before her, has a name (and birth and death dates, allegedly) that match a William Wilson who married an Ellen Dixon. They were parents of a Mary Wilson who matches the birth year of the Mary Wilson from Harrison County who married Emerson Chaney, Fred’s father.

So, could Fred Chaney’s grandpa, William Wilson, be Grace’s mom’s brother? Making William Grace’s uncle, and Mary — Fred’s mom — Grace’s cousin.

It could explain why they never had children, or acted wacky about their ages. But it does deepen the mystery.

Categories: Foutz, General Genealogy, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grace Foutz Feature Frames Life in Ohio


Sherman, Grace, and Rebecca Foutz; Rachel Caldwell 1910

About 1910, clockwise from left, Sherman Foutz, his daughter Grace Foutz, his mother Rebecca Foutz and his grandmother Rachel Caldwell pose in happier times.

Grace Foutz Chaney’s Happy, Distant Life

In this ongoing series, we’re taking a crack at solving some of the mysteries surrounding the family of Sherman Foutz, my great-grandfather Vance Foutz’s oldest brother.

A recent research binge on newspaperarchives.com blew open a couple doors I thought, given Pennsylvania’s reputation for white-knuckle-gripping its vital records, would probably stay shut fast.

An illuminating source, as ever, are the obituaries of relatives past. And just in case information is incomplete (or wrong) in the final record of our dearly departed — as was the case in Sherman Foutz’s 1915 obituary, the one clipped and saved for 100 years — it always pays to check the initial “extra” to readers of the day or so before — the death announcement.

If I could offer one genealogy lesson — though stories are the point of this blog — it’s that starting from the end of a life often yields the richest clues to an ancestor’s entire life. Obituaries done right, at least the way I was taught as a cub reporter at the Sandusky Register (egad, a decade and a half ago), serve up all the pertinent birth, marriage and death dates; spouses, children, parents, siblings, (living and dead); occupations, places lived, war record; and all the various memberships and associations that make up a life in brief.

A treasure trove, if you can get at it. And hoping, of course, the newspaper chronicling the lives of your loved ones hasn’t adopted the same abbreviated style as, say, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which hadn’t changed its basic name, died, funeral date and place format in the 98 years between my great-great grandfather Morgan’s death in 1897 and the death of his granddaughter in 1995.

But here I go burying the lead.

Fewer links ahead, promise, and a thorough peek into the life of Sherman’s daughter, Grace Foutz Chaney.

A Return Home to Ohio

The central tragedy for Sherman Foutz’s family was his early death, at 47, of tuberculosis in 1915. Following that, the first of our Foutzes to leave the farm in Harrison County, Ohio, attend college and work in the big cities of Washington D.C. and Reading and Harrisburg, Pa., essentially split up.

Eldest daughter Grace marries that December in a West Virginia county neighboring the one a lot of our other relatives seemed to elope to (probably a story in itself). She lives the rest of her life not with her mother, Elizabeth Foutz, or step-sister Catherine, back in Harrisburg, but with husband Fred Chaney in Uhrichsville, where she works as a school teacher.

They never have children. They never leave Uhrichsville. And they have an odd propensity for consistently lying about their ages. In fact, Grace’s gravestone is off by the same incorrect six years as most of the censuses, which made her, for a time, the same age as the six-years-younger Fred, and which was maybe their point in fibbing.

But never fear: Grace’s 1970 obituary finally gets her age right, and spills the details about a lot of her life. We learn Fred precedes her in death by 15 years. Older brother Oscar is also listed as deceased. Then there are the tantalizing hints of “several nieces and nephews” and that foster sister, Catherine Rutt, whom we haven’t found out a lot about yet.

The obit offered a lot of details. But at the time I discovered it among my great-grandfather’s things a few summers back, the usual parade of questions marched along:

  1. When did brother Oscar Foutz die? Preceded could mean a couple years earlier, or as far back as the 1910s, when he suddenly stops being counted among his mother’s residence, where one son, Ralph, resides. The other, Harry Sherman, as well as Oscar’s wife, Florence Hartman Foutz, are also lost to history (But more on them soon.)
  2. Why did Grace marry an Ohio man just eight months after her father’s death? Where and how did they meet?
  3. Why did Grace suddenly and emphatically live so far removed from her widowed mother, young foster sister and the remnants of her brother’s family in Pennsylvania?
  4. And, living as she did just a dozen miles south of her extended family (my own) in Dover, Ohio, did she maintain connections with the greater Foutz clan?

On this last point, the written record seems to suggest Grace knew about Vance Foutz’s family in Dover and kept up with my great-grandfather, her uncle in family relation, but really just three years her senior and one year Oscar’s, an accident of the 20-year span between bookend brothers Sherman and Vance. In fact, when preteen Vance, Oscar and Grace lived together in Washington D.C. about 1900 (family lore has recorded that Sherman got his youngest brothers John, Charley and Vance jobs in the postal department), they were likely more playmates than proper uncle and nephew and niece. That Vance’s and Grace’s birthdays were also close together (hers, Sept. 5, 1890; his, Sept. 7, 1887) could also have been a fun circumstantial bond.

A few years after Grace died, later in the 1970s, Vance’s daughter-in-law, my great-aunt Louise Foutz, was trying to piece together family history with my grandparents and great-aunt Doris Foutz Waddington. Louise counted, among her father’s known siblings, a brother, Charles, and at least two sisters — Mrs. Sam Hathaway, of Bowerston, and Mrs. Thomas Moreland, of Carrollton. …:

Also a brother Sherman that we know little about, and possibly another sister (Louise wrote). … I went to Pop’s sister’s funeral when I was pregnant with Donna. A Frank Coleman used to visit often, and a niece that lived in Urichsville (sic.), and some red-haired nephews from Canton. Neither Doris or I remember names.

The red-haired nephews likely belonged to Charles Foutz, who died of pneumonia in 1918 at age 32, leaving a wife and four children behind. (More on them soon!) The niece is most likely Grace. An examination of great-grandpa Vance’s funeral guest register shows the shaky hand of 78-year-old Grace Chaney as present.

Pity, then, that no one from my grandparents’ generation remembers Sherman’s dynamic daughter. Fortunately, a newspaper article from the same Times-Reporter, a year before her death, tells more of Grace’s story.

Devoted teacher, never tested for teaching license

A January 25, 1969 feature entitled “Wonderful Life…” details Grace Foutz Chaney’s childhood and education, her marriage to Fred, her teaching career and the ways she lived out her days in Uhrichsville.

Read the whole article by clicking the thumbnail below.

Chaney Grace Foutz wonderful life Daily Reporter 25 Jan 1969

Grace Foutz Chaney’s life is detailed in a January 1969 Times-Reporter article.

Some highlights:

  • Born in Bowerston, by the first grade Grace Foutz attended school in Washington D.C., “where her father was connected with the printing department of the federal government.”
  • After the family’s move to Reading, Pa., she attended private girls’ school and, like her father, became active in the Knights of the Maccabees.
  • At 15, having just completed 8th grade, she took a “sub-Freshman” test and was granted admission to Irving College.
  • Though Grace never properly graduated high school, she spent 5 years at Irving, graduating with a “bachelor of science degree for teaching, Latin, English and problems in democracy.” She was also granted a teaching license in Pennsylvania.
  • Grace was granted a teaching certificate in Ohio (as well as 2 lifetime certificates for teaching grade and high schools) and taught for 40 years in Dennison, Tuscarawas, Harrison County, Conesville and Feed Springs. She never served as a substitute, only taught full-time.

The article also details some family highlights, even if the facts seem dubious or outright incorrect.

On brother Oscar, the article reports him as having died in 1945. An interesting — though perhaps false — match to mother Elizabeth’s death year.

As to husband Fred Chaney, the article reports Grace met him when she returned to Ohio for her grandmother’s funeral “in May 1916.” The death of Rebecca Foutz may, indeed, have been the occasion Grace and Fred met, but sources tell us Rebecca died in May 1915, same year as Sherman, and same year as Fred and Grace’s marriage that December.

The article shares Fred’s occupation as railroad conductor, and gets his death right, in September 1955 (coincidentally, on Vance’s birthday). And shares the location of their first shared, and later, Grace’s solitary residence in the Nicola Building at 3rd and Water streets.

Grace’s wonderful life, though illuminated in interesting ways, still is in many ways a mystery. But with some of the clues revealed there, we fill in a few more blanks. More answers to come.

nicola bldg 101 e third st uhrichsville oh

Grace Foutz Chaney made her home in the Nicola Building in Uhrichsville for more than 30 years.

Categories: Foutz, General Genealogy, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Did Oscar Foutz Outlive His Father?


Foutz Sherman S

Sherman S. Foutz, oldest brother to Colt’s great-grandfather, Vance Foutz.

Surviving Foutz Son Lost to History

Genealogy — thorough, mystery-revealing genealogy, anyway — never unfolds in a straight chronology.

Our look into the latest revelations of the lives of my great-great uncle Sherman Foutz’s family continues this week with a bit of family history time travel. His elusive son Oscar Foutz is today’s focus.

Like life, in which we age in a progression of days and weeks and years, but bounce back and forth in our memories, the time-travel leaps of an active, living mind, genealogy doesn’t reveal its deeper secrets by merely starting at birth and ticking off milestones until death, burial, fill-in-the-blank on the tree.

You often have to start at the end of a life to understand the relative you’re researching, the places they’ve lived, the things they’ve done, the people they’ve loved. Obituaries are — usually — rich troves of the essentials you need to merely confirm that who you’re trying to get to know is, in fact, the family member you’re looking for: birth date, parents, hometown, occupation, spouse, surviving children and siblings, those who preceded them in death.

Filling in the blanks, and ticking off those necessary confirmations, means flipping back and forward through multiple sources to reveal a life lived long after it has ended: birth certificates, census records, draft cards, marriage certificates, gravestones, newspaper clippings.

Often, if you can’t start at the end of a life, you lose the threads which connect you, through history, to its beginning, not to mention its meaningful middle.

For a long time, I’d assumed Oscar Foutz, nephew of my great-grandfather Vance Foutz, had died even before his father, Sherman, succumbed to tuberculosis in 1915 at a too-young 47.

The main reason? Sherman’s yellowed obituary from that April, which my great-grandfather still possessed when he died some 53 years later, lists only his wife and daughter, Grace, as survivors.

Sherman Foutz obit

Whereabouts of Wife and Sons Murky

Adding to Oscar’s challenge as genealogical cipher, are the odd notations in censuses — and his eventual, utter absence from these records.

Jump back 5 years from Sherman’s death. The 1910 census spotlights the family in its Harrisburg prominence.

Living at 1908 N. Third St., the household is headed by a 23-years-married Sherman and wife Elizabeth. Oscar, 21, has worked the entire year as a railroad fireman. Grace, 19, is out of school, but not employed.

And there, a bit of the cryptic: A 1-year-old grandson, Ralph, is also among the household. And Oscar is listed as married two years. But his wife is not living with the Sherman Foutz family.

At first, this led me to wonder if Ralph’s mother — Oscar’s wife — may have died young, perhaps in childbirth. Though, if that were the case, why would Oscar be listed as married two years and not widowed?

Over the last few years, I filled in some of the gaps, discovering Oscar’s marriage to Florence Hartman in September 1908 (after applying for marriage Jan. 1 that year — Ralph was born Dec. 19); discovering the birth of a second son, Harry Sherman, in March 1910; Florence’s visiting Oscar at a National Guard camp in July 1911.

But if finding Florence missing from Oscar and Ralph’s home two years into marriage is puzzling in 1910, by 1920 both parents — and Harry Sherman, for that matter — have vanished from the usually helpful census map.

Son Oscar a Solider, then a Ghost

Skipping five years after Sherman’s death, the 1920 census finds 11-year-old Ralph Foutz living in the care of his grandmother, Sherman’s widow, Elizabeth.

A foster daughter, 14-year-old Catherine, is also listed, and Grace is listed, but then crossed out. Further research turned up Grace’s marriage 8 months after Sherman’s death to Fred Chaney, in what looks like a West Virginia elopement since no family is listed. The couple turn up in Uhrichsville, Ohio, near Sherman and Elizabeth’s birthplace, in the 1920 census. So why is Grace mistakenly entered (and first reported) in the Harrisburg household?

More and more curious.

The family by 1920 has changed addresses, living now at 59 North Tenth St., where they host two boarders and Elizabeth works as a cook for the Elks Home. Harry Sherman is not listed; nor is Oscar; nor is Florence.

What happened to Ralph’s family? With Sherman’s death such a tragic, distracting shadow in my research, I wondered if a September 1910 Gettysburg Times articleindicated trouble for the family.

The article reported that Oscar W. Foutz, of Harrisburg, after receiving his pay as a soldier in the National Guard, went to Allentown with three other men for a night on the town. While making the rounds, a man named William Croghan crossed their paths, was hit with a club and relieved of his valuables. One of the men in Oscar’s party plead guilty and was sentenced to 2 years. Oscar also confessed and got nine months in prison.

Now, Florence would visit him in National Guard camp the next year, indicating, it seems, Oscar’s reinstatement and the family’s continued unity. Though where was she in 1920? Where was son Harry Sherman? And what became of Oscar Foutz?

Did Oscar succumb to tuberculosis like his father? One of Sherman’s (and my great-grandfather Vance’s) nephews, Karl Coleman, also dies of tuberculosis a month prior to Sherman back in Ohio (in the home of Vance). Did Florence and the baby die of it as well?

Reading tea leaves, 100 years distant, is an imprecise business. Death, an easy explanation, can distract. And incomplete records fail to illuminate, and instead lead astray.

In my research this winter, suddenly, an open door. Oscar lived.

Obituaries are often preceded by shorter death announcements. The same was true of Sherman Foutz’s death, only recently discovered. As reported in the Tuesday, April 6, 1915 edition of the Harrisburg Times, Oscar is not only listed as a survivor, but living, by then in Arizona!

What do we know of Oscar — and the rest of Sherman Foutz’s family and descendants — in the years that follow? More to come….

Foutz Sherman S death announce Harrisburg Telegraph April 1915

Son Oscar Foutz is listed as a survivor — and living in Arizona — in Sherman Foutz’s 1915 death announcement.

Categories: Foutz, General Genealogy, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

For the Record | Charles Johnson, 1962 Obit


Charles Arthur Johnson

Colt's great-grandfather, Charles Arthur Johnson

Charles Arthur Johnson | 1886-1962

This blog series explores the lives of Johnson ancestors as revealed in their obituaries. Much of this information was gathered during a March 2011 research trip to Tuscarawas and Harrison counties in Ohio. A scan of the obituary is available at the bottom of this post.

From the Times-Reporter (Dover/New Philadelphia), Friday, Sept. 14, 1962 :

Charles A. Johnson, 75, a retired coal miner and steelworker, died of cancer last night in his home at 448 Kelly St. NW, New Philadelphia. He had been ill a year.

A son of the late Clement and Anna Burkey Johnson, he was born in New Philadelphia and was a life resident. His first wife, Leona Miller, died shortly after the couple was married. His second wife, Viola Mae Palmer, whom he married in 1911, died in 1958.

Affiliation: member of First Methodist Church and United Mine Workers of America, having served Local 8607 as president.

Survivors: 3 daughters, Mrs. Ernest Knisely of Ravenna, Mrs. DeLoyce Fitzgerald of Uhrichsville and Mrs. Don Foutz of Dover; 4 sons, William and Lloyd of New Philadelphia, Thomas of Phoenix, Ariz., and Floyd of Cleveland; 25 grandchildren; 4 great-grandchildren; 2 sisters, Mrs. Carrie Swank and Mrs. Ralph Weber of New Philadelphia; and a brother, Donald, of Wyandotte, Mich.

Three sons, five brothers and a sister also preceded him in death.

Services: in Linn-Hert Co. funeral home Sunday at 2 p.m. with Rev. Calvin Myers officiating. Interment in Evergreen Burial Park. Friends call at the funeral home Saturday from 3 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Friends are asked to make a donation to the Cancer Society in lieu of flowers.

What else was happening in the world Thursday, Sept. 13, 1962? The United States was heading toward a showdown with Cuba, with President John F. Kennedy vowing “to move swiftly… when necessary to defend (the country’s) security.” Earlier that month, the Beatles replaced drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr, Margaret Smith Court and Rod Laver were U.S. Open tennis champions and the U.S. and USSR conducted dueling nuclear tests throughout the world.

Johnson Charles 1962 obit Times-Reporter

Johnson Charles Evergreen Burial Park New Phila, Ohio

Categories: Foutz, Johnson, quickie post | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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