Born on September 20, 1864 in Stoney Creek, a township of Madison County, Indiana, Katie Blazer, would barely remember her father. Frank Blazer died when she was just five years old leaving her mother to raise three sons and three daughters under the age of 14. Katie’s grandparents, John and Martha Goul, lived nearby and quite possibly her grandfather was her father-figure as she grew.
At the age of 19, on the Fourth of July, 1883, Katie married John Lafayette Johnson. A wedding photo shows Katie standing next to her husband in the stereotypical picture of the times. She was tall and thin with her black hair piled on top of her head. Her dress was dark, probably the one good dress she owned. Owing to the holiday, there were probably more family members and neighbors able to attend the nuptials.
The couple’s first child, Letis, was born almost four years later. In childhood he developed epilepsy which caused horrific seizures and an “insane” quality to his behavior. A mother watching her son spiral out of control would have lent a pall over the happiness of the family. What gossip was spreading throughout the township and nearby towns? Katie had a very difficult time conceiving another child, and Letis was 11 when his brother, Glen, was born.
The younger boy became the object of Letis’ violence. He tried to cut off the younger boy’s ear and another time through a brick through the chicken coop. His actions were most likely due to not being able to control the violence of the seizures and feeling as if he was being swept down into a whirlpool of despair. Katie and John, obviously alone in what they were feeling and dealing with, placed Letis in the Indiana School for Feeble Minded Youth, hoping that their family life would find some normalcy.
Eight years after Glen was born, the couple had the baby girl that Katie had always dreamed of having. Unfortunately, Katie’s joy was short lived. Mary lived only 7 months. Their baby girl was gone – forever.
A few moths later a miracle came into their midst in the form of an angel appearing as a young, unwed mother. The young woman had delivered a baby girl on the Interurban car in Fortville, Indiana. At St. John’s hospital where she was taken after the birth, this girl saw Katie, who was visiting someone. She pleaded with the dark-haired mother of two sons, to please raise her daughter. The Catholic nuns allowed Katie and John to become the infant’s foster parents, although they never could adopt her. The baby’s name became Eva – the baby girl Katie had waited for was finally hers.
Five years after Eva arrived as their child, their first born son died at the Home of pneumonia. Not only had they buried an infant daughter but now they had to bury their son. Did they have immense guilt over his death or relief that he wasn’t suffering from the seizures and violence any longer?
Sometime between late 1921 and 1923, after her granddaughter, Mary, was born, Katie was driving a horse and buggy with her grandchild along side her when the buggy overturned. The baby was fine but Katie broke her back. Luckily, she wasn’t paralyzed but she had to remain bedridden in a back cast for a long time.
While she was unable to move or get up, “gypsies” came in and cut off all of her long hair. No one else was at home and able to stop them. It’s unknown exactly what they wanted to do with it – other than sell it.
When Katie was finally able to get out of bed, she had a corset “cast” made that she wore to keep her back straight. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to walk without the aid of crutches. The granddaughter who was with her on that fateful buggy ride, remembers that when she and her older siblings got into mischief, Katie would charge after them waving her crutches around and sometimes connecting crutch to child. Her body may have been injured but her spirit wasn’t. It is told that she could move as fast as any football running back even on crutches. She also didn’t let the fact that she was a woman in the early 20th century stop her from doing exactly what she wanted.
After being up and around for awhile, she applied for a driver’s license. Apparently she was through riding in a buggy! She fought and won the right to be granted her license and then drove from Indiana to Ohio to visit her brother. She was a woman ahead of her time.
Not many years later, in the early spring of 1930, she and her husband moved to the small town of Fairfield, Ohio. The town subsequently merged with the neighboring town, Osborne, in Greene County, to become the city of Fairborn. They moved into the home of their son, Glen, and his family. Possibly Katie knew what no one else did at that time. That she was dying. Stomach cancer was going to kill her as that buggy accident couldn’t.
As she lay in bed unaware of her surroundings during the last days or weeks of her illness, the story was told that downstairs off the kitchen, the door kept swinging open and shut. When her son, Glen, or her husband would check to see if someone had come in, they found not a single person. Locking the door and returning upstairs to the bedroom where Katie lay, it wasn’t long before the door began swinging open and shut again making a banging noise. It was thought that the spirits of her deceased parents could be coming for her to take her to the world beyond the living.
Katie died a couple months after arriving in Ohio – May 20, 1930. She was laid out in the parlor of the funeral home in Fairfield for the local relatives and friends to pay their respects before she was taken to the place she had called home, Madison County, Indiana. There she was buried in Maple Wood Cemetery near her oldest son and infant daughter and where her husband would join her in eternal rest nine years and eight days later.
Katie lived and died on her terms – not those set down by society or her family. She will be remembered as a strong and determined woman – a woman that her great-granddaughter wishes she could have met.
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