Archive for the ‘Life and Death’ Category


When Inez Franklin’s wedding announcement appeared in the Greenfield Daily Reporter (Greenfield, Indiana) on March 4, 1920, only her mother was listed. It appeared as if Millie Franklin was a widow. Her husband and Inez’s father, William Franklin, had died 13 years before.

Jesse Wilt (my maternal grandmother’s brother) was 24 years old and had already served in the Army during WWI. His parents had divorced almost eleven years prior to his marriage, and his father probably did not even attend the wedding on February 20, 1920.

The couple married in Anderson, Indiana at the home of the minister who performed the wedding, Rev. W.L. Lundy. The newspaper did not list those who attended the ceremony, but I suspect the two mothers and possibly siblings who lived close.

Jesse and his new wife set up housekeeping on “the bride’s farm near Pendleton.” So obviously, Inez owned land as well as a home. However, in the 1930 US Census, Jesse is related to the head of household as son-in-law. Millie Franklin is the property owner so in actuality, it wasn’t Inez’s farm but rather the home in which she’d been living prior to marriage.

They went on to have four children: Frederick Loren Wilt, Lorraina Mae Wilt, William Thompson Wilt, and Evalyn Joan Wilt. Jesse spent time in the VA Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. Inez died on March 31, 1955 at the home of her youngest daughter, Joan (pronounced Jo Ann) Borelli. Jesse died three years later on Valentines Day 1958 in Dayton.

(Image courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

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Clara Jennings obit - Democratic Standard Coshocton Ohio Sep 15 1893 pg 6

Clara Jennings, my second cousin twice removed, was the youngest daughter of Mary E Lewis (daughter of George J Lewis and Eliza McVey) and Alexander Jennings. (If you remember my Saturday Surname post from yesterday, then you know that George J Lewis was the brother of my great-great-grandmother Julia Ann Lewis House.)

Clara was born on June 8, 1877 in the township of Tuscarawas in Coshocton county, Ohio. Her mother Mary was about 36 year old at her birth. Alexander was about eight years older than Mary. The couple already had six children. When Clara was six years old, her father died. Seven and a half years later, Clara’s mother died.

On September 7, 1893 as seventeen year old Clara was visiting her older brother, Leander James Lewis’ home in the Flint Hill area of Coshocton county, she died of typhoid fever. Two days later after her funeral at Mt. Zion church, she was laid to rest in the cemetery. A cemetery where some of my Amore ancestors are also buried.

For me, it is a shame that a young girl died without her mother being there to wipe her brow or tell her good-bye. But perhaps, it was her mother who said “hello” as Clara departed one life and in to an everlasting life.

As an interesting aside, I am related to Clara in two different ways. First, is via her mother, Mary E. Lewis, my great-great-grandmother’s niece (the House side). Second, is mainly through half-sibling and in-law relationship via my great-grandmother on the Amore side. My great-grandmother, Mary A. (Werts) Amore’s half-sister, Sarah Ellen Simon, married another Alexander Jenning (they dropped the “s” from the end of Jennings). Ellen’s husband, Alexander, was the nephew of Mary E. Lewis’s husband’s father – making him the husband of my first cousin three times removed!

Obituary: The Democratic Standard (Coshocton, Ohio), 15 Sep 1893, pg 6, Ancestry.com, digital images, accessed 12 Mar 2016.

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jail image

When last we saw Stella at the end of “When He Stood Her Up”, she had charged Albert Hercules with bastardy and criminal seduction. It didn’t take any time at all for the man to be arrested and brought to Madison county, Indiana. Hoping to have the charges dropped, he “importuned Miss Blazer to secure his release by marriage, but this she refused to do unless he would give bonds to support their child after it was born.”1

Obviously, Estella Blazer began thinking with her head instead of her heart after being left at the altar. She was under twenty years old, pregnant and unmarried – not in 2003 or even 1983 but in 1883! Without the bonds she wanted, Stella wouldn’t be able to support her baby. Albert Hercules refused to put up those bonds. He told her that he didn’t have the financial resources but it was widely known that he did. Not only had the man seduced her under the pretense of marriage and gotten her pregnant, but he was also lying to her.

The building that housed the jail was finished in 1882 so it was fairly new by the time Albert Hercules occupied one of the cells. During that first month in jail, it isn’t known what transpired in the minds of those involved. Was Stella just going to wait it out and hope that she would receive some financial compensation for her child? What was her home life like? Did her parents often tell her that she had disgraced not only herself but her family? Was Stella depressed or strengthened in spirit by her plight? Did Hercules have any family members to contact for assistance? Did he have any feelings of love for his unborn child? These are all questions that do not have answers.


Newspaper subtitle

One thing is for sure, on January 15, 1884 – after spending a little over a month in jail and not being free on Christmas, Albert Hercules sent for Estella on the pretense of working out an arrangement with her. For nearly two hours, she visited with him – alone – in his cell – while he pled with her to have him released so they could marry. Stella refused on the grounds that if he was released, instead of marrying her, he would run off.

Unbeknownst to Miss Blazer, Hercules had been hiding a weapon. He had managed to find a one pound iron nut and tied it in a handkerchief. Before she could leave his jail cell, the man struck her repeatedly about the face and head with his weapon knocking her to the floor. Her cries for help brought the guard who rescued her. Her injuries were reported to be “six terrible wounds were inflicted on the head, all cutting to the skull; two on the face to the bone, and two fingers were mashed guarding off the blows.”1

When asked why he had assaulted the woman, Hercules told authorities that being arrested and jailed had ruined him. He also remarked that he intended to “kill the woman”2 but was unable to do so before help had arrived. Stella suffered shock and concussion. At first, her injuries appeared to be fatal but as the day wore on, she rested comfortably and improved. It was a good thing that she didn’t die from her attack because as soon as word spread, the towns people wanted to lynch Hercules.3

Albert Hercules did not show any remorse nor offer an apology for trying to murder the mother of his unborn child; the woman whom he had claimed to love enough to bed and promise to marry. The same evening in which the assault happened, the Fort Wayne Sentinel reported that the man sat “in his cell reading the life of Jesse James, seemingly indifferent to the result of his awful crime.”2

The following day, January 16, Albert Hercules was indicted for attempted murder. The paper reported that “he was hung in effigy by indignant citizens” and “only the counsel of a few cool citizens keeps him from ornamenting a gallows.”2

One has to wonder if Stella’s father, George W. Blazer, was part of the group who wanted Hercules hanged. And what of Stella herself? Did she hope that in time she would receive funds from her child’s father for support? Or did the young woman want to see her ex-fiance’ pay for not only putting her in a position of disgrace but for trying to kill her? And what was her life going to be like now that she was right in the middle of a town scandal? And would Albert Hercules pay for what he did?

Stay tuned . . .



    1. “A Brutal Attack,” Dunkirk Evening Observer (Dunkirk, New York), 17 Jan 1884, p. 1, Estella Blazer; digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/9196705/  accessed 2 Feb 2016)
    2. “He is a Brute,” The Fort Wayne Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana), 16 Jan 1884, p. 1, Albert Hercules; digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/29110657/  accessed 2 Feb 2016)
    3. “A Brutal Assault,” The Republic (Columbus, Indiana), 16 Jan 1884, p. 1, Albert Hercules; digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/128016375/  accessed 2 Feb 2016)

(Image of jail: photo by Eugene J Amore, original slide and digital image in possession of Wendy Littrell – Address for private use.)

(News Clipping image: “He is a Brute,” The Fort Wayne Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana), 16 Jan 1884, p. 1, Albert Hercules; digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/29110657/  accessed 2 Feb 2016))

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Blog Throwback Thursday


I’ve realized that I just can not do Wordless Wednesday posts because I always have something to say about a photo. I picked the photo above for Throwback Thursday not for the person (me at a very young age) but the items captured by my father when he photographed me.

A few years after this photo was taken, my dad built a bookcase to separate the entry way of our house from the living room. He also laid laminate tile on the floor so the carpeting on the upper left side of the picture had to be taken up. The new couch next to me was black and orange. Mom was never crazy about the color but she liked the way it sat so she had it recovered in a burnt orange color. Some forty years later, that same couch was where family sat mourning her death. A couch that no one wanted and no one could haul off. I wonder if someone is enjoying it now almost seven years after she died or if it ended up in a dump somewhere.

The dining chair now sits in my home in Missouri – along with the table and other chairs of the set. Who knew that when this picture was taken back in 1965 that I would know exactly where that chair was going to end up?

The table between the chair and the television sat under my vanity for a very long time in our Texas home. Inside – where once was magazines and needlework books – were wooden Disney characters from Bambi. Those figures had graced my bedroom wall as a young child. Now, they are packed away.

That old black and white television set was the only TV in our house. Many times when the TV would get a “snowy” picture, Dad would climb on the roof to adjust the antenna. I would stand at the open door while he moved it around so that way I could relay what was happening on the TV as Mom watched to see if a picture was coming in. I’m not sure what commercial was on the televison when Dad snapped the picture but obviously whatever medicine it was “effective as codeine!”

Many years later, that TV set was put in the basement when we got a brand new color television! But we still had to get up out of our seat and cross the room to change the channel!

When I see pictures of objects that were familiar to me as a child, I always feel a sense of nostalgia. For me, genealogy is so much more than searching for ancestors who have come and gone. It is a history and what transpired within the lives of those people to make them who they were. Such is it for me. Remembering how I felt at certain points in my life – and the objects and places around me – is part of my history. My kids and grandchildren will not know details about why a particular place, or thing, or moment in history is important to me unless I tell them. And tell them again. And again.

Have you shared your memories and history with your family?

(Photo by Eugene J Amore; original slide and digital version in possession of Wendy Littrell – Address for private use)

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Estella (“Stella”) Blazer was born to George W. Blazer and Amanda (maiden name unknown) in 1864 in Indiana – probably Madison county. The beautiful dark-haired girl left her parents’ Anderson, Indiana home at the age of 18 for the big city of Indianapolis. There she found employment in the home of Judge Foutz as a domestic.

Close to the Union Depot located on South Illinois street, Albert Hercules ran a restaurant on West Louisiana street. From all appearances, he was of good character and very attractive. Stella became enamored of the man who in turn, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer (13 Dec 1883), “on the 20th of August, under the promise of marriage, succeeded in her ruin.” It was quite probable that at the time, Stella did not feel “ruined” since she was to be married, and the couple continued to be together when they could. The news continues on that Albert “continued his attentions till she was in a delicate condition” and then took her back to her parents’ home. He told Stella to begin planning for their Christmas wedding. Four months would be a very long time for Stella to wait to be married – especially when there was a child on the way. The earliest date agreed upon was December 2nd.

Albert Hercules left Anderson and went back to his home in Indianapolis. As the wedding date drew near, he went back to Stella’s hometown and obtained a marriage license. However, she became ill, so he left. She was to send a letter to him when she felt well enough to marry which she did soon after.

Following Albert’s instructions, Stella’s father, George, invited a large number of guests and had a large wedding feast ready on December 12th – the new date for the nuptials. The groom failed to show nor did he miss his train as Stella had feared. He had left Indianapolis but was not coming to be wed. Fearing for her child’s future as well as her own, the young woman went directly to the prosecutor and filed two affidavits. One was for bastardy and the other for criminal seduction. A warrant for Hercules’ arrest was issued. The Chief of Police of Indianapolis was telegraphed to arrest the man and hold him until the Marshal could pick him up. Unfortunately, by all appearances, Albert Hercules had flown the coop. Not only was there to be no wedding but Stella was looking at a future filled with disgrace and hardship.


What would happen to Stella? Would Albert Hercules be found and brought to justice? And what about the unborn child?

Stay tuned . . .

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; image in public domain)

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Two years ago, I posted an article about my my great-grandfather’s brother, Jacob Marion Wilt. If you haven’t read it or need a refresher, please go here.

In summary, I have not been able to locate any further information on Jacob nor on his wife, Sena Gibson, for the last two years. I located their son, Russell, and his wife, Ferna Potter (I learned her maiden name!), along with their daughter, Thelma. Or is she (more on that below)?

Yesterday, after checking Find a Grave one more time, lo and behold! There was the headstone for Jacob. Checking in the same cemetery, I located Sena, Russell, and Ferna! Yes, I did a happy dance – not so much of a dance rather than some arm and fist pumps in my chair!

Now, I have a more detailed picture of Jacob’s life and death than I had two years ago. It turns out that Sena Gibson was born Marsena Gibson to Wilson Gibson and Cynthia Ann Maddy about 1856 in Indiana. Sena’s mother, Cynthia, is found at the age of 12, living in the household of Andrew and Marcena Maddy in the 1850 US Census in Henry county, Indiana. Cynthia’s siblings included James, Isaac, Elizabeth, George, Rhoda, Philena, and Sarah Jane.

Cynthia and Wilson married in Henry county about Feb 1855. Besides Marsena, they had two more children – Rhoda and George (which coincidentally, are the names of two of Cynthia’s siblings). The family is found in the 1860 US Census in Jefferson, Henry county, Indiana – along with a girl named Amanda, age 9. Amanda is possibly the daughter of Wilson Gibson from a previous marriage. By the 1870 US Census, Wilson has died (about 1864) and Cynthia has remarried Thomas Ray on March 7, 1866 in Henry county. Son, George, is not in the household giving the impression that he died between 1860-1870. Included in the household is “Sena” Gibson, age 14; Rhoda Gibson, age 12; Sarah Ray, age 4; and James Ray, age 1. In the 1880 US Census, Cynthia and Thomas with children: Sarah, James, Albert, Josie, and Alta are still living in Henry county. Marsena (“Sena”) is found living in the Anderson Sherman household in Henry county as a servant.

The following year on August 5, 1881, Sena Gibson and Jacob Wilt marry in Henry county. About nine years later, their son, Russell Ray Wilt, was born in the same county. Due to the amount of time between their marriage and the birth of Russell, it seems likely that other children may have been born – and died (as a result of stillbirth or miscarriage). However, no records have been found. Sena does report on the 1900 US Census that she is the mother of only one child and that child is living. It wouldn’t have been the first time that a woman did not list stillbirths. It is also possible that couple may have had fertility issues, and Russell was their “miracle” child.

Jacob and Sena are found – still residing in Henry county – in both the 1900 US and 1910 US census records. Jacob does not list an occupation in 1900 but in 1910, he says that he is a “railroad worker.” At that time, the family owned their home “free and clear.” By June 1917, their son, Russell, is a resident of California as shown on his draft registration for WWI and is self-employed. Was that the reason Jacob and Sena moved to California from their native Indiana? To be closer to their only son? Jacob’s father, (my 2nd great-grandfather) Israel Wilt, was still living. Was it difficult for Jacob to move clear across the country from his then 80-90 year old widowed father – knowing that he would probably never see him again? Sena’s mother, Cynthia, had died in August 1911, so she wouldn’t have been leaving her parents.

The couple has been very hard to find in the 1920 US Census. Up until today, I wasn’t sure if they were in Indiana during the enumeration or on their way to California. Jacob Wilt has been found in the 1920 US Census! He is a renter living at 439 King Street in San Bernardino and listed his age as 57 (several years were shaved off his age!), born in Indiana with father born in Virginia (yes) and mother born in Pennsylvania (yes). Jacob is a laborer on the railroad. And for the kicker – his marital status shows he is divorced. What? Divorced? So where is Sena? Has she died?

Yes, Marsena Gibson Wilt died on December 26, 1913 at the age of 57 years in San Bernardino. She is listed as Mrs. J Wilt. So does that imply that prior to Russell moving to California by 1917, the entire family moved? Did Jacob and Sena divorce prior to her death or did Jacob marry someone else between the end of 1913 and the census in 1920? But what happened to Jacob Wilt? In 1930, he is renting 1745 W. King Street in San Bernardino next to the rail yard. He lists his age as 69, working for the railroad “at home” and is widowed. By the 1940 US Census, Jacob had already died. His death record shows that he died at the age of 70 on September 26, 1931 in Los Angeles county.

Jacob and Marsena are buried at Mountain View cemetery in San Bernardino. Thanks to Lynette (Find a Grave member: Gooffson), she not only uploaded the cemetery information to Find a Grave but also photos of their headstones. She has allowed me to use her photos in my family tree.

Jacob Wilt gravestone

Marsena Gibson Wilt headstone

(Headstone photos by Gooffston – AKA Lynette – used with her permission.)

Finding Jacob and Marsena’s headstones and where they are buried enabled me to find even more records and information for my great-grand-uncle and his wife!

Their son, Russell Ray Wilt, had moved – either with is parents or by himself – after 1910. On his WWI draft registration, he lists his birthday as September 6, 1890 and place of birth as Newcastle, Indiana (in Henry county). The address he resided at on June 5, 1917 was 1120 S. Madison in Stockton, California. Russell was a self-employed oilman with a wife who was dependent upon him for support. In 1920, Russell and his wife, Ferna, are roomers in the household of 64 year old Isora M. Oulland in the 7th Ward of Modesto living at 142 Rosemont avenue. Russell’s wife, Ferna, is listed as age 28 born in California with her father born in “English” Canada and her mother born in Illinois. Russell does not have an occupation listed.

In the 1930 San Diego, California City Directory, Russell and Ferna are living at 2351 Boundary street. If that address is still current today, the home is duplex. Russell’s occupation is salesman. By the 1930 US Census enumerated on April 11, 1930, the family is living at 1382 36th street in Oakland, California. They are renting for $30/month. Living with them is their “daughter” Thelma, age 12 born in California. So where was Thelma in the 1920 US census? She wasn’t shown to be living with them in Stockton – unless the landlord, Ms. Oulland, provided the information to the enumerator and failed to mention Thelma. Russell was 22 and Ferna was 21 at the age of their first marriage – putting their marriage as taking place in about 1912. That leaves the impression that Russell was in California by that time. His occupation in 1930 was a specialties salesman.

The 1940 US Census reports that Russell and Ferna were living in Chillum, Washington. By 1940 they are residing in Alderton, Washington. Once again, the couple are roomers in the household of a widow – 69 year old Charlotte Laidlaw, who was born in Canada. Russell lists that his occupation is a self-employed artist and had worked 30 weeks in 1939 and only 6 hours between March 1 and March 30, 1940.

On March 27, 1937 Thelma L. Wilt and James M. Norris were married in Kittitas county, Washington with the approval of Russell Wilt and John Norris Jr (fathers of the intended). Thelma would have been almost 19 years old. James McGovin Norris was born on October 29, 1906 in Roslyn, Washington. The couple are living on the United States Indian Service Government Camp located in Yakima county, Washington in the 1940 US Census – along with their year old son. Thelma reports that she has completed one year of college. Her husband is a surveyor for the government.

By November 30, 1951 Thelma and James had divorced. She then married William Christensen in King county, Washington.

By the time of the 1942 WWII Draft registration – to register older men – Russell and Ferna were back in California, living at 1700 “F” street in San Bernardino. Russell was unemployed at the age of 51 years. He had a scar under his right arm – no mention if it was a large scar or not.

Russell died on August 4, 1954 in Orange county, California. He was buried in Mountain View cemetery – the same as his parents. Ferna followed on August 1, 1963.

Now, back to Thelma and the answer to where she was in the 1920 US Census since she did not appear in Russell and Ferna’s household. I still haven’t located her but I have learned that Thelma was born Thelma Serrano to Lucille Rogers and Arthur Jesse Serrano in March 1918 in Alameda, California. Apparently, the child’s mother took off and left her with Arthur who in turn moved in with his parents. Soon, Thelma’s biological grandparents came down with tuberculosis. Arthur feared for his daughter’s health and put an ad in the paper asking for a couple to take his daughter. It is unknown if an adoption ever took place after Russell and Ferna took young Thelma into their home as their own daughter. Thelma tracked down her biological family in the late 1970s.  She passed away in Washington on February 21, 2000.

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franklin blazer grave

(Photo of gravestone by Gaye Dillon taken on 23 July 2009)

A year ago I wrote about my great-great-grandfather Franklin Blazer in Week 1 of the 2014 Edition of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Up until today, the cause of his death was a mystery. He died on August 25, 1869 so I thought he may have died due to injuries sustained in the Civil War or perhaps he was killed in a farming accident or died of some disease. I was so very wrong.

What could only be termed a tragedy is what befell poor Franklin. He and Malissa Goul had been married at least ten years and possibly upward to 14 years. Their children, two boys and three girls, ranged in age from 2 years to 9 years old. In fact the oldest son, John F., was a month from turning ten – not yet a teenager and definitely not ready to be the “man of the house” at such a young age. Malissa’s son from a previous relationship, James Oakland Goul, was about fourteen.

Thanks to a post on Genea-Musings by fellow geneablogger Randy Seaver, I learned about a new free search tool call Genealogy Gophers. It searches for names in texts of Google books. I plugged in the name of Franklin Blazer and the first result that popped up listed not only Franklin Blazer but Malissa Goul. I knew I had found the correct person. I clicked on the snippet and lo and behold it was an entire book that included tons of information on those with the surname of Blazer and everything within the soundex of B-426 written by John Allison Blazer from Hendersonville, Tennessee. There isn’t a date on it except for the filmed date of 2000.

The information concerning Franklin reports that he was married to Malissa Goul and listed her birth and death dates and they lived in Pendleton, Indiana. It listed their children – four correctly: John, Philip Wesley, Kate and Rachel but listed Martha Ann erroneously as Matthew. Of course when I saw that, I thought perhaps there was another son that I hadn’t heard of but then realized that Martha had been left out. (She is also listed further in the book – still as Matthew – with a child named Chase – so I knew that the name had been mangled). But then I saw something I didn’t know: Franklin died “when struck by lightning in his home.”

I can’t even imagine what the rest of the family went through after that. Did Malissa and any of the children witness this? Did they try to revive their husband and father after he had fallen dead? Was a physician summoned quickly? The weather must have been pretty fierce. It was still tornado season so I wondered if they were also terrified of what else Mother Nature had in store for them.

Franklin had just turned 33 years old. He would never be able to enjoy a life of watching his children grow up and get married. His wife, my second great-grandmother – would never celebrate another wedding anniversary. She remained a widow the rest of her life. Martha, Katie and Rachel all married without their father giving them away. John and Wesley grew into men quickly in order to take on what their father had once done. Twenty-six years after his father’s tragic death, John died of self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As I think about my great-grandmother, Katie, who lost her father when she was almost five years old, I wonder if she had been a “daddy’s girl” and missed him terribly the rest of her life. Or was she so young that she barely remembered him? Did losing Franklin at such a young age change Malissa – her outlook on life, personality, or how she handled sorrow from then on?

His tombstone stands in Grovelawn Cemetery in Pendleton, Indiana. It reads:

son of
AUG 25 1869
33 Y. 2 M & 23 D.

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