Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The Smith Years (1882-1893)
First, a brief explanation for my absence. I'm still taking three out of four prescriptions and spent all of last week quarantined at home. You would think that would mean I've had plenty of time to finish the kitchen, but, ummm, not so much. I'll get back to it eventually.
But - to the house. Our last house history post ended on April Fool's Day, 1882, when Noah Einsel sold his stone house and 100 acres of land to John Henry Smith. I groaned as soon as a saw the deed. Those who know me in real life know that I like my houses old and I like my relatives old too. I don't even mind if they're dead. In fact the longer they've been dead the better. In other words, I'm a genealogist. And genealogists hate the name Smith.
If you're looking through the index of 19th century marriage records for the county where you think your great, great, great grandparents got married you really want your great, great, great grandfather to have a surname like Winklefoos, or Quindleyplaas, or Schwartzengrubbier. If Schwartzengrubbier shows up in the index at all you can be pretty darn sure you'll be related to every one that's listed (all 6 or 7 of them, yeah!). But woe if you're looking for Great, Great, Great Grandpa Smith. If he's there at all you'll have to sort through the other 274 indexed Smiths to find him. 266 of which you will not be related to at all.
The problem is somewhat lessened if your ancestor's first and middle names were a bit more risque. Most genealogists can forgive a last name like Smith if it's preceded by a combination like Asberry Hiram, or Otha Lafayette, or Permenias Jasper.
But Permenias Jasper Smith didn't buy my house. Frickin'-John frickin'-Henry frickin'-Smith bought my house. The 1880 census for this county includes 33 John or John H. Smiths. (And because I was curious I looked up the name Permenias Smith in the 1880 census - there are two results for the entire country, one each in Pennsylvania and New York).
But if you're a genealogist with the misfortune of having John Henry Smith as a great, great, grandfather you at least hope that Great Grandpa took for his wife a girl with a first name capable of salvaging this situation - something like Hildegarde would work pretty well. With this hope in mind I flipped to my copy of the 1893 deed recording John H. Smith's sale of our house to Wilson Flack. In particular I was looking for the dower clause near the end. I was really hoping for Hildegard, although I would have been content with something like Harriet or Susannah or Rosina or anything please, as long as it's not...
Are you kidding me? Mary?
It's quite possible that John and Mary Smith were lovely people, but other than their names I can't tell you a darn thing about them. Of the 33 John Smiths living in this county in 1880, six had wives named Mary. None of those six lived in this township. In 1900 there were four John and Mary Smiths living this this county, again none of them in the correct township. The 1890 census would be most helpful in identifying the correct John and Mary, but unfortunately most of the 1890 census was destroyed by a fire in the 1920s.
I could keep trying. Assuming the Smiths lived here during their childbearing years, my next step would be to visit the county probate court and scour birth records from 1882-1893 looking for any child born in this township whose parents were John and Mary Smith. If I find something I could then use the child's name to track down his or her parents. It's a bit of a long shot, but I've already tried the 'easy' stuff.
I've encountered the name Smith in my own family research but luckily not in any too prominent position. (No Great, Great, Great Grandpa Smiths for me in other words.) But the name Roush does feature prominently in my own genealogy, and in the town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia around 1900 Roush was even worse than Smith. According to family lore, if you passed a gentleman while walking down the street in Point Pleasant around 1900 and said, "Hello, Mr. Roush" four out of five times you would be right.
Hettie Ann Gray had married one of these Mr. Roushs in 1888, and by the time her fourth child was born in 1894 she was annoyed by the fact that her children inevitably shared their names with someone else in the community. Hettie decided that her next baby would not have to share his name - and since 80% of the local population would have the same surname this meant Hettie would have to get creative with the baby's given names. John, Richard, Edward, William and the like were out immediately. Out too were Victor, Sylvester, Reuben and Otto. Even Phineas and Elda and Orris had already been taken. But Hettie didn't give up, and I can just imagine her with a little "beat that!" smirk on her face when my great grandfather was born on March 22, 1894. She named him Ucebius Angelo Roush. Perfect name for a tiny little WASP baby whose own Great, Great Grandfather Roush was one of nine brothers to fight in the American Revolution, don't you think?
But this story doesn't end on March 22, 1894. As Ucebius and his siblings became teenagers a new worry began to consume their mother. Sharing a name with another member of the community was troublesome enough, but sharing genes with another member of the community was even more worrisome. And if you were a Roush living in Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the early 1900s it was no easy task to find a potential spouse who wasn't also either a Roush or a descendant of a Roush. (In fact, Hettie and her own Mr. Roush were themselves second cousins once removed....)
So, sometime around 1905 Ucebius Angelo Roush and his family left Point Pleasant. The wonderful picture above was taken some years later near their new home at Deunquat, Ohio. (Great Grandpa is the one holding the two white horses). And since we're on the topic of unusual names I can hardly end this post without telling the story of Deunquat. The village was named after the Wyandot Indian Doanguod, best remembered by local residents for his fervent hatred of white men and his equally fervent love of "fire water". Sometime as an undergraduate I wrote a short paper on the history of Deunquat, but of course I can't find a copy of it at the moment so what follows is mostly from memory.
Deunquat didn't begin as Deunquat. The community was originally known as Swigart Station, a name that was probably borrowed from one of the early residents. But Swigart Station was an informal (unincorporated) name and when rumors of a possible railroad began to surface two of the local residents began to see dollar signs. There followed a race to have the town incorporated.
Picture two roads intersecting to form a plus sign. Our two greedy/bickering neighbors each bought one quarter of the community and each had their quarter incorporated. The northeast quadrant was incorporated as "Petersburg" and the southeast quadrant as "Addison". The official plat records for Petersburg and Addison were filed within days of each other. Following these affronts to its existence, the northwest quadrant was belatedly incorporated as Swigart Station. Thus the 1879 atlas for Wyandot County includes the following:
Note the route of the proposed railroad. Also note that although the atlas clearly identifies "Swigart Station", "Petersburg" and "Addison" as three distinct areas it identifies the area in its entirety as "Petersburg". This was a precursor of things to come. The proposed railroad eventually was built, but by then the Petersburg moniker had overtaken the whole community.
By the time Ucebius Angelo Roush was born nearly 200 miles to the south, Petersburg, Ohio was in its glory days. And somewhere right around the turn of the twentieth century came Petersburg's crowning moment - it was selected by the United States government as the location for a brand new post office. But there was one small problem. In order to avoid confusion, the postal service had a rule that no two posts in the same state could share the same name. And there was already a post office in Ohio labeled Petersburg.
Numerous names were suggested but the turn of the twentieth century was the heyday for obscure little towns all through Ohio, and finding a name for Wyandot County's newest post office that wasn't already in use somewhere else proved to be something of a challenge. Until someone suggested the name "Deunquat". And what do you know - there was no other town in Ohio called "Deunquat". To make it official a small area of land just south of the exising town was platted and incorporated under the new name. And before long "Petersburg" went the way of Swigart Station and Addison.
But Deunquat's glory days were brief. The post office, railroad, and the local church closed. Within the village today mobile homes outnumber the few buildings remaining from the Petersburg days. Today there's not so much as a stop sign to slow the traffic on State Route 231.
But somewhere near Deunquat, sometime in the mid 1910s, Ucebius Angelo Roush met his future wife. Cora Mollenkopf was visiting a school friend when the two girls took lunch out to the field where the Roush brothers were helping a local farmer. Ucebius and Cora were married on Christmas Eve, 1917. If you scroll back up to the beginning of this post you will see their wedding picture.