Posts Tagged With: Wales

Marriage of Jannett Reese to Thomas Morgan

Morgan Reese Former First Independent Church Philadelphia

Could the marriage of Colt's second great-grandparents Jannett Louise Reese and Thomas W. Morgan have taken place here? Church records connecting the current Pilgrim Congregational Church to the First Independent Church of 1872 Philadelphia seem to confirm it.

Reese-Morgan Nuptials | October 15, 1872 | Philadelphia, Pa.

Despite my ranting in recent posts about Pennyslvania’s unyielding grip on its yellowed vital records, there has been progress as of late.

No progress on the public side, mind you. But there are certain church and private records that has transcribed, digitized and made available.

One of these happily backs up the old “international records” hit I scored in 2008 that provided the marriage date of my second-great grandparents, Thomas Morgan and Jannett Louise Reese.

(And if you want a rant, ask me sometime about the changes made to its former “pilot” record search. They took it from a series of organized, essential filters to a royal crapshoot. But I digress.)

Jannett Louise Reese, as census records indicate, emigrated from Wales sometime in 1870. Thomas probably followed, also from Wales, shortly after — in about 1872, according to an illustrated history of Allegheny County, Pa. published in 1896, when their family called Carnegie home.

But they started out in Philadelphia. And according to the church records I unearthed in the international index, and confirmed in a Pennsylvania church records database, Jannett Reese and Thomas Morgan were married Oct. 15, 1872 in the First Independent Church.

The record indicates their ceremony was performed by Rev. John G. Wilson. The church, at that time, bore the address 1409 Hanover Street.

Now, Philadephia, Pa. has changed street names and numbers about as often as our slow-witted (but well-meaning) neighbors in New Philadelphia, Ohio. I haven’t been able to definitively unearth a source that connects 1409 Hanover back then to 1409 Marlborough today, but a page on the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s web site identifies the First Independent Church as Pilgrim Congregational Church today. And if this is all geographically correct, then you may be looking at the very site where Thomas and Jannett wed in 1872.

Nifty, eh?

Categories: Ley, quickie post, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

All the Way Back to Wales with the Merediths

Five Generations Meredith-Smith Family 1896

Five generations caught in 1896. Clockwise, from left: Telitha (Meredith) English; her nephew, my great-great-great grandfather, John W. Smith; his daughter, my great-great grandmother, Addie May (Smith) Fisher; her son, Clyde V. Fisher, brother of Zula (Fisher) Ley; and my fifth great-grandmother, Martha Jones Meredith.

From Wales, Via Ley-Fisher-Smith-Meredith | Ley Family History

Of all the elements in Genealogy that appeal to me, I’d guess the case-cracking, Eureka! moments are the ones that most drive the hooks in.

Tracking down clues — and assembling the stories — of ancestors long dead and mostly forgotten is akin to working at some unending, infinitely expansive puzzle. Call it a 9,999,999-piece; call it three dimensional, with clues every now and then slipping in and out of the visible dimensions.

There are the branches well-known and still flowering, the ones often most-closely related to your surname, or your parents’ families. You unearth some lost photo, or mine a record for a detail that reveals some unknown characteristic of their personality or turn in their life, and it’s a giddy sensation, man. You could almost reach out and touch them.

Whereas the forgotten seams in the family story, those shadowy tracts perhaps unspoken of in generations, the ones tragedy or the idle smothering of passing and passing time have barred all conversational ways into, the only way in is through that bottom-of-the-page footnote, or that distant child of a distant cousin of an exiled aunt — for example — these are the veins that enliven the whole landscape, those bare patches drifting like islands from the continent, far from those easy-to-assemble corner and border stretches of the puzzle.

And they glimmer in and out of focus. They beg, almost, to be forgotten. But like itches at the backs of your ears they occasionally beckon, and with the most earnest of prodding, give up their secrets.

When you work on your family tree for months, and then years, it’s a landscape with which you grow intimately familiar. You know the stunted branches. The dead-end roots. Then suddenly, the earth shifts and a new passageway reveals itself. Turns out the root runs deep. And you follow it.

Some of the dead ends we discussed in the blog this week are the branches that stretch beyond my great-great grandparents from Wales on the Weible side — Thomas W. Morgan and Janet Louise Rees (or Rhys or Reese). I’ve collected history book entries, marriage and census records, and obits from at least three newspapers. None make more than a passing mention of their emigration from Wales, or breathe a syllable of their parents’ names.

It’s a pity, since this family of favored grandmothers and cousins brings a welcome shot of Welsh into the ancestral blood. German is still the dominant strain, with the Leys, Foutzes (Pfoutses!), Zeiglers, Duerrs and even Palmers claiming origins there, and the Weibles a bit south in Switzerland. We know the Powells, and we guess the Johnsons are from off the continent, up merry old England way, but Wales brings a bit of color — of coast and mountains and singing in many vowels.

We need to find out more.

But while that Welsh clan of the family has failed to yield its secrets just yet, another of the “forgotten” branches has come through. And it’s on the Ley side, by way of my great-grandmother Mary Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley’s ancestors.

Blaenau Gwent, Nantyglo, Wales

Views of Blaenau Gwent, in the area of Nantyglo, Wales.

By the Mountains of Nantyglo, Wales

There wasn’t a lot I knew about my Fisher relatives, save for the name of my great-grandmother, who died in childbirth when my grandfather Robert Earl Ley Jr. was not yet 2.

The Fishers were closer to his generation, having raised him while my great-grandfather Ley recovered from the tragedy and remarried. A daughter of one of my great-grandmother’s brothers was even close chums with my eventual Grandma Erma (Johnson) Foutz, during their school days in New Philadelphia. But we learned more about the Fishers from census records and photographs shared from the and networks than any tales told around the literal campfire.

As I worked my way back from Zula’s mom, Addie May (Smith) Fisher, the trail grew suddenly and acutely cold. From Addie’s death certificate, I learned the names of her parents, John Smith and Mary Jane Neel. But how to narrow down all the John Smiths? In America, it’s as common a name as Morgan seems to be in Wales. And as I combed the clues in Mary Neel’s death record, I descended into a confusion of rhyming surnames — Lee Neel for her father, Mary Beal for her mother.

What the what?

But a little more intent digging, coupled with some on-site research, has pried the doors open again. And led down surprising pathways.

John Smith and Mary Neel, as mysterious as they may seem some 100 years after their passing, were buried together in East Avenue Cemetery in New Philadelphia, the bookending dates to their lives in Tuscarawas County helpfully and prominently supplied.

John, I found out from his 1915 death record, had been a county commissioner. Probably of Tuscarawas County. Perhaps even when he passed away that December, at a hospital in Cuyahoga Falls. He was merely visiting Summit County, according to the record, when he was stricken with typhoid fever and died of endocarditis at age 65.

John’s parents were listed as William Smith and Mary Meredith.


Meredith Farm Tusc Ohio

John and Margaret Meredith's farm in Goshen Twp., New Philadelphia, Ohio

Merediths 1830 Immigrants to Ohio

A great source that has been making the rounds on lately is the Combination Atlas Map of Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Originally printed in 1875, it contains the usual biographical sketches of prominent families and a wealth of photos, government records and other goodies that actually stretch to about 1908, from what I’ve skimmed. Maps, too!

I’ll share more tidbits from it this week.

But on the Merediths, the book features a nice, fat entry. And what’s more — the picture immediately above, showing my great-great-great-great-great grandparents’ spread in Goshen Twp. (a scene not too different from the way the area looks today, and likely just down the road from where my great-great grandparents Fisher settled), and a remarkable five-generations picture that includes three of my direct ancestors.

Here’s the story, as excerpted from the Combination Atlas… .

The mountains of Nantaglow, Wales (actually Nantyglo — Colt), overlooked the homes of Richard and Jane Meredith, and of Roland and Catherine Jones. (These would be two sets of sixth great grandparents! — Colt.)

John Meredith, a son of the first family, born in 1803, and Martha Jones, a daughter of the second family, born October 31, 1810, were married October 31, 1830, and started for America. The voyage occupied three months and seven days. (Thus, my fifth-great grandparents Meredith come to America.)

Richard, their oldest child, was born August 8, 1831, in Licking County (Ohio — Colt). Their second child, Mary Ann, was born November 4, 1833, at the old Iron Furnace near Zoar (Tuscarawas County now — Colt), where the father was emloyed. Mary Ann married George Smith … . They were the parents of John W. Smith … (So, this paragraph mentions my fourth- and third-great grandparents.)

Telitha C., now Mrs. John English, the third child, was born there, September 8, 1835.

Six months later, John moved his family to Goshen (near New Philadelphia — Colt) and was successfully engaged there in farming and in shipping coal by the Ohio Canal to Cleveland until his death June 13, 1858.

Their other children were born: Roland J. on February 2, 1838; Almeda J. on August 19, 1841, now Mrs. William A. English; Elnora on February 2, 1844, married to John A. Wardell …; Martha L. on January 9, 1847, married to William R. Moore… of Albilene, Kansas; John William on August 29, 1849; and Christopher C. on March 29, 1852.

John W. Meredith lived with his mother at Goshen, and in 1871 took charge of the home farm until his purchase of his present farm of one hundred and twenty-four acres in 1883. His mother, to whom all the estate was willed for life, rented the homestead in 1891, and lived with her children till her death which occurred on May 12, 1898, at the home of Mrs. Elnora Wardell.

In the accompanying picture of Five Generations taken in 1896, this most worthy old gentlewoman is shown with her daughter, Telitha, with her grandson, John W. Smith and his daughter and her great granddaughter, May, who married William Fisher (my great-great grandparents — Colt), and with their son, Clyde V (Zula’s brother, my great-great uncle).

The excerpt goes on to tell of John W. Meredith’s life and service to the county.

Now that these major pieces of the puzzle have clicked into place, I’m eager to find out more about John Smith’s job as county commissioner. I had heard of an ancestor of Addie’s or John William Fisher’s (I believe) who was sheriff of New Phila (or Dover?).

But John’s position is important, since, if he was county commissioner (back then, there may have been only one, compared to today’s three?), he would have served at the same time my great-great grandfather Charles Henry Ley was county treasurer. Could this be how John Smith’s granddaughter, Zula, met Charles Ley’s son, Robert?

Either way, the family puzzle gets ever more colorful the more these forgotten pieces find their way home.

Smith John Mary East Ave top

The grave of John W. Smith and Mary Jane Neel, in East Avenue Cemetery, New Philadelphia. Mary Jane's father, Lee Neel, was buried in the adjacent plot.

Categories: Ley, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

For the Record | Jannett Morgan, 1914 Obit

Jannett Morgan headstone: Chartiers Cemetery, Carnegie, PA

Colt's great-great grandmother, Janet Morgan, is buried in Chartiers Cemetery, Carnegie, Pa.

Jannett Louise (Rees) Morgan | 1849-1914

This blog series explores the lives of Weible 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. Full scans of the articles are available in each post.

What’s in a name? When it comes to developing an affinity for ancestors that made monikers for themselves a moon and more ago, well, plenty.

Where my own handle is concerned, I’ve been fascinated to learn of all the Fredericks (auf Deutsch, Friedrich) throughout the family tree — Leys, Foutzes, Metzgers, Weibles. Though the germination of that gens is mostly German. If you know what I mean.

And I’ve enjoyed getting to better know my great-grandfather, the gun collector, Robert Ohio Weible, responsible for naming my grandma Sue Ley’s older brother, Robert Colt Weible, hence providing inspiration for my middle name. (Yes, in answer to inquiring grade schoolers from the 1980s, my real one.)

Today’s post concerns a great-great grandmother who shares the name of my mom, Janet Louise (Ley) Foutz. This post wraps up a mini-series on Weible ancestors, and information gleaned from their obituaries.

In fact, when it comes to names, those given to my Mom and her siblings mainly seem to draw inspiration from the Weible side. Let’s play the name game (and relatives with more information may, of course, buzz in):

Robert Earl Ley, III — clearly takes a cue from father Jr. and grandpa Sr., but the Robert is also shared by grandfather Robert Ohio Weible (after whom an uncle and cousin are also named)

Sally Ann — I don’t know (forgive me, Sal), and haven’t seen whether the Sally is short for Sarah (which her daughter, my cousin, is named), but if so, that’s a name shared with her great-great grandmother Sarah Ann (Walters) Fisher, mother to John William Fisher (father of Mary Zula Lucrece Fisher). Sal, am I even close there?

Jeanne Abbott — The Abbott is shared by her mother, Suzanne Abbott (Weible) Ley, and farther back, by her great-great grandmother, Fannie Jane (Abbott) Goddard

Suzanne Elizabeth (Betsy) — There are several Elizabeths in our family (and Sue is her mother), including Weibles, Metzgers, Fishers and one Elizabeth (Blough) Schrock, wife of Joseph Schrock, her third great grandparents, who were among the first settlers of Crooked Run, south of New Philadelphia, Ohio, and whose daughter, Susan (one of the first babies born in Crooked Run, in 1814), married Frederick Weible

Mary Lynn (Pinny) — No other Mary Lynns that I’ve turned up, but a Mary Elizabeth (Weible) Intermill and, of course, Mary Zula Lucrece (Fisher) Ley, her grandmother

Heather Beatrice — No other Heathers, but Beatrice, of course, for Beatrice Ethel (Morgan) Weible, her grandmother.

Beatrice Weible, better known as M.A., was Jannett Morgan’s youngest daughter, sister to Janet (Morgan) Richardson, and an aunt to sister Sarah Elizabeth (Aunt Sade) Morgan Curtis’s daughter, Janet Louise Curtis. So, those are the names in common with my own mom’s, Janet Louise (Ley) Foutz. What else do we know about the original, genuine article?

Born in Wales, Married Life in Pennsylvania

With, as it turns out, a brief stay in the extended (and descended) family stomping grounds of Dover, Ohio.

We know about R.O.’s role as a traveling furniture salesman. And we suppose it may have brought him into contact with his eventual wife, Beatrice Morgan. But maybe it had something to do with his not-yet-mother-in-law’s stay in Dover in the home of her daughter, Janet Richardson.

Following the death of her husband, hotel proprietor Thomas Morgan, in 1897, Janet had the care of three adult and four young children, including five-year-old Beatrice. Oldest sons William and Thomas were already working, and daughter Sarah would soon marry. It appears that the family kept on in Carnegie through 1910, until, sometime before 1914, Janet Morgan moves in with daughter Janet Richardson (her first child, son Frederick, wouldn’t be born until 1916).

But then again, since I haven’t yet found a record to date Janet’s marriage to Howard Richardson, was there another reason the family moved to Dover? (And could Janet have met Howard, and Beatrice have met R.O., that way instead?)

Janet Morgan’s obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had yielded only a brief clue in its instruction to copy that news to Dover, Ohio and Philadelphia, Pa.:

On Monday, February 16, 1914 at 8:25 p. m. at Carnegie, Pa., Janet Morgan, widow of Thomas W. Morgan, in her 65th year.
Funeral services on Thursday, February 19 at 2 p. m. at her late residence, 317 Seventh Ave., Carnegie, Pa.  Friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend.  Interment in Chartiers Cemetery.
[Phil. (PA) and Canal Dove (O) papers pls. copy]

News from the Daily Reporter (Dover, Ohio) before her death about her daughter being called to her bedside seems usual, and doesn’t reveal the Dover connection:

Mrs. Howard Richardson was called to Carnegie, Pa., yesterday on account of the illness of her mother, Mrs. Janet Morgan.

But her Dover obituary at least reveals some details, including her former residency there. From the Daily Reporter (Dover, Ohio), Tuesday, Feb. 17, 1914:


Mrs. Janet Morgan Dies at Home in Carnegie, Pa. — Daughter Lives in This City.

Mrs. Janet Morgan, 65, for two years a resident of Canal Dover and well known here, died of paralysis at her home in Carnegie, Pa., at 7:30 o’clock last evening.

Mrs. Morgan was the mother of Mrs. Howard Richardson of this city.

Coming here from Carnegie, the Morgan family resided in this city two years, going back to Carnegie last June. One son and three daughters survive.

And that is all these three articles yield. We still do not learn the identities of her parents. There is no mention of her birth in Wales, or her emigration, or confirmation of her marriage date (which we have as 1872, in Philadelphia). And we don’t know why she and her family came to Dover.

The Dover obituary seems to get wrong her survivors, since I have sons Thomas and Glen both living at the time of her death (and no information on William or David). And we get no confirmation of her maiden name (Rees? Reese? Rhys?) But we do get the interesting clue, in the Carnegie obit, of the news being copied to Philadelphia, as well as Dover. Perhaps there are relatives of her husband or of her own family living there.

We do know that less than three months following her mother’s death, Beatrice Morgan would marry Robert Weible, and would make her home in Dover (for a time, next to sister Janet) for the next 60 years.

What else was going on in the world on Feb. 16, 1914? The first airplane flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco was completed. Earlier that month, the first stone of the Lincoln Memorial was laid in Washington D.C., and Charlie Chaplin debuted his film “The Tramp”.

Janet Richardson Called to Carnegie Feb 1914

Morgan Janet (Rees) Obit 1914

Categories: Ley, quickie post, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Livin’ it Up at the Hotel Morgan

Hotel Morgan, Carnegie, PA 1896

The Morgans appear on their first U.S. Census in 1880, in Appollo, PA. By the time the family appears again, in 1900, they live in Carnegie, and Jannett Morgan is widowed. An entry in an 1896 book provides a clue as to what Colt's great-great grandfather Thomas Morgan was doing in the years before his death.

Thomas Morgan | Life in 1800s Carnegie, Pennsylvania

I suppose, for families of Welsh descent, there are more common names to have in your ancestry than Thomas Morgan and Jannett Reese.

Like, say, Jones or Evans or Roberts or Griffith. So I’m told.

But the hundreds of records that come up for Thomas Morgan and Jannett (or Jeannette, or Janet) Rees (or Rhys or Rees), born in Wales about 1850, reveal enough commonality to render a search for definitive documentation, well, complicated.

Luckily, by the time this pair of names links up, as it were, in the United States after 1870, the recorded evidence is a bit more yielding.

Of all the Welsh Thomas Morgans getting married after emigrating, only one matches with a Jannette Reese. My great-great grandparents marry Oct. 15, 1872 in Philadelphia, PA.

The Morgans next appear together on the 1880 census, about 300 miles west, in Apollo, PA. Thomas, 32, is employed as a heater in the northeast Pittsburgh suburb, and 30-year-old Janet occupies herself with raising their three children, William, 7, Thomas, 3, and Sarah, 1.5 (better known to those-in-the-know as Aunt Sade).

The census next finds the Morgans in 1900, living southwest of Pittsburgh in Carnegie, on Lea Street. This move may jibe with what descendants today know of the origins of my great-grandmother, Beatrice Ethel Morgan (one day to be Weible), but due to the fire that destroyed the 1890 census, the 20-year gap raises more questions, which I’ll get to in a moment. But suffice to say, seven-year-old “Bealnica” (in census transcriber parlance) is faithfully listed as the youngest member of the household, along with older siblings Janet, 12, Glen, 16, David 17, Sarah, 21, Thomas, 23, and William, 26.

But where is the family patriarch, Thomas? The census lists Janet as married for 25 years, but now widowed. (The census also reports an eighth child who has passed away by then.) The document lists her year of immigration as 1870, and reports that the family home is owned, free of mortgage. The family seems all together, and well off, but what all has happened in the intervening two decades?

In my search for information about my great-great grandparents, the trail went cold at this point. Janet appears again in the 1910 census, still on Lea Street, still living with six of her children (Sarah was married to Harry Clyde Curtis, and mother to a Janet of her own by then). This is the last federal census in which she is listed. And due, in part, to Pennsylvania’s strict lockdown on birth, death and other vital records (whereas Ohio’s, since 1801 on, are public and, fortunately, widely transcribed and available), that’s where I left her for awhile.

My questions: When did Janet and Thomas die? And where? What were their lives like between 1880 and 1900? And ultimately, who were my great-great-great grandparents in Wales?

Through some creative record-diving, and a bit of friendly assistance — not to mention luck — I’ve found some answers, at least to the first few questions.

There are several sites online which compile cemetery records. Two of the best I’ve consulted are and Through the work of thousands of family connections and volunteer researchers and photographers, these sites build databases of cemeteries old and new, in the U.S. and abroad. The big limitation? You could find the right cemetery, in the right town, and still be out of luck if no one bothered to write down and upload your ancestor’s information, or photograph their headstone.

Taking a chance, I began browsing cemeteries in Allegheny County. I started with a cemetery in Carnegie that had the most records listed, and… Eureka! A search for Morgan turned up not only records, but gravestones for my great-great grandparents.

Thomas, as suspected,  had passed away only years before that 1900 census. A volunteer photographer at offered to look up his obituary, if it was published. And Janet’s, and son Thomas H., and daughter Sarah and granddaughter Janet Curtis, all of whom are buried at Chartiers Cemetery.

MORGAN-On Sunday, October 17, 1897 at 5:10 a. m., Thomas W. Morgan in his 50th year.
Funeral services from his late residence, Hotel Morgan, corner of Fourth Ave. and Chartiers St., Carnegie, Pa. on Tuesday, October 19 at 2:30 p. m. Friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend.
[New Castle, Pa. papers pls. copy]

While neither Thomas’s obituary or that of his wife or descendants offer any clues to the previous generation (it appears the Post-Gazette followed the same constricting style guide for paid obits from before 1897 through Janet Curtis’s death in 1995), it did lead me to a book published in 1896. Allegheny, County, Pennsylvania; Illustrated, which has been scanned and preserved in its entirety through Google Books, includes an entry and sketch of the same Hotel Morgan mentioned in Thomas’s obituary.

As it turned out, Thomas owned this hotel, which you can find on this 1897 map of Carnegie (marked 7):

Carnegie, Pennsylvania 1897 map

According to the description accompanying the history book entry, Thomas Morgan bought the hotel in February 1895. His family first came to Carnegie about 1884. Thomas worked in the steel mill there, and served two terms as a town councilman. He bought and renamed the 16-year-old hotel and had it outfitted with gas heat and electric lights. The book entry brags up the hotel’s accommodations, quarters, food and liquor and service, and called it “the chief hotel in the borough.”

As for what happened to the hotel after Thomas’s death, or why he died at such a young age, the obituary again offers no clues. But there is the matter of a will that Thomas left. Given a bit more persistence, a bit of that welcome luck, the state of Pennsylvania may yield a few more answers yet.

Janet died in February, 1914, about four months before my great-grandmother, Beatrice Morgan, married Robert Ohio Weible. By then she was living on Seventh Avenue in Carnegie, likely in the home of her daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Curtis.

Jannett Morgan headstone: Chartiers Cemetery, Carnegie, PA

Thomas W Morgan headstone: Chartiers Cemetery, Carnegie, PA

Categories: Ley, quickie post, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ancestor of the Week: 7/19/2010

Great-great-great-great Grandfather Henry Charles Powell

Henry Charles Powell (1814-1911)

I’ve been fortunate in my research, so far, to pretty definitively trace back several branches in the family tree to our first ancestors in America.

In previous posts, I’ve written about my great-great-great-great grandfather Charles Ley setting up shop as a saddler in Shanesville, Ohio after emigrating from Bavaria, and the careers of his father and grandfather as ministers in St. Alban.

In future posts, I’ll tell you about Michael Pfouts first settling along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border after emigrating from the Baden-Wuerttemberg region of Germany about 1787. He eventually made the trek to Ohio with his young family in the early 1800’s, settling in Harrison County.

And I’m still digging up information on Thomas Morgan and Janette Louise Reese, who — as best as I can tell — were immigrants in the Philadelphia area before 1872, when they were married. They eventually settled near Pittsburgh, where Janet was widowed while my great-grandmother, Beatrice Ethel (Morgan) Weible was still a little girl.

At any rate, those are three families we can trace to being “right off the boat” in America, with roots in The Netherlands, Germany and Wales, respectively. Here’s a fourth family, with roots again in Wales, but here we also add England and Ireland to the mix.

Babe of England, Child of America

Henry and Francis (McCullough) Powell were parents to Harriet “Hattie” J. Powell. She married Augustus Ley, son of the German immigrant saddler Charles. Augustus and Hattie were parents to Charles Henry (named after Henry Powell) Ley, whom you might know better as father to Robert Earl Ley Sr.

Henry’s parents were Thomas Powell and Henrietta (Howells) Powell. Both were descendants of the same old Welsh line. I’ll share more of Henry’s parents, and by consequence, of his wife’s ancestry, in a later post. Much of that history is revealed in the exceptionally detailed book by W.D. Shirk, which you can download and read in its entirety. But in summary, the Powell and Howells name derived from “ApHowell.” One branch dropped the Ap and became Howells (the s added by the English); the other dropped the A and H and thus became Powell. They came from Breconshire, Wales, and were known as far back as 1509, during the reign of King Henry VIII.

Henry’s family were descended from Welsh lords, and made their money as merchants. His mother’s family were manufacturers of flannel clothing, and first came to America following the Revolutionary War (it is said at the request of President George Washington himself) to establish textile factories.

Henry was born on High Street in London in 1814, the fourth son of Thomas and Henrietta. His family had amassed a fortune as merchants, but times in London were turning hard. When Henry was 3, they packed up and sailed for Maryland, first settling in Virginia, and then in Ohio, finally landing in Coshocton County, near Bakersville.

A man of faith and family

The family lived a frontier life among the early Ohio settlers. There was no proper school. Henry learned from his father about using an ax, hoe, grain cradle and scythe. His mother would instruct him to remain seated until he had committed the day’s scripture or poetry to memory. It sometimes took hours, but later in life Henry became known for the scripture and verses he would recite while visiting the sick to cheer them up.

Church was central to the family’s life at home and in the community. Henry joined the Methodist church as a young man, and apparently suffered a falling out with his father because of it. But he took an active role in the church his entire life. At home, his family worshiped and prayed together each morning and evening. He was an ardent attendee of prayer meetings. At 88, he drove five miles through a howling wind on a zero-degree day to reach church.

He was small in stature, but stood up for his convictions. As Shirk wrote:

One time at church when it was customary for the women to sit on one side and the men on the other, a young ruffian took the women’s side. (Henry) asked him, kindly, to go over on his own side, and when the fellow still persisted in staying where he was, (Henry) took him by the back of his neck, and lifted him into the aisle.

Henry married Frances McCullough in 1839. He was 24, she was 19. Fannie was born in Ireland, and came to America with her parents, John and Catharine, in 1820. She was not formally educated, but, as Shirk writes, “she was a great reader and took much pleasure in… her church paper, the Christian Advocate, and good books.”

They raised their five children on 108 acres near Bakersville, Ohio. They cut their grain with a sickle and threshed it with a flail. They knit, spun, wove and made their own clothes. They rode to church on horseback. With the assistance of his sons, Henry’s farm eventually grew to 300 acres.

Life his father, whose farm served as a hiding place and way station on the Underground Railroad, Henry was a staunch abolitionist. During the Civil War, as Shirk wrote, Henry’s anti-slavery stance put him in danger from a group of southern sympathizers who called themselves the Knights of the Golden Circle.

After 35 years of marriage, Fannie died in 1874. Four years later, Henry remarried. Lucretia Meek’s first husband, Sylvester, had been killed in the waning days of the Civil War. With Henry, she enjoyed 33 years of marriage, most of it spent on the family homestead in Bakersville.

Shirk writes that Henry retained a sharp mind late in life, and was hardly ever sick, save for the usual physical wearing down in old age. One of his favorite scripture verses went, “For we know that, if our earthly house of the tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Henry died in 1911. At 96 years, 7 months and 9 days, his confirmed lifespan is the longest of any Foutz or Ley ancestor.

Great-great-great-great Grandmother Fannie (McCullough) Powell

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