Posts Tagged ‘Greene County’

john lafayette johnson birthday 001

This is a picture that my mother told me was taken for my great-grandfather’s birthday. When I asked her who everyone was (besides those whom I knew), I don’t remember if she told me or if she just said “relations.” I’ve slept since then and of course – it is NOT WRITTEN on the back of the picture. I dug it out again last week and decided it was time I tried to figure out who was at the birthday celebration.

I knew it was taken in 1939 – two months before my great-grandfather (he’s the older man on the far right), John Lafayette Johnson, passed away from pancreatic cancer. Even if I hadn’t been told that was the year, I could look at the image of my mother – third from the left in the sweater with the “B” on it – and know that she was still in high school. In 1939, she was 17 and played basketball for her high school, Bath Consolidated Schools, located in Bath Township, Greene county, Ohio. My great-grandmother, Katie (Blazer) Johnson, had passed away in 1930 of stomach cancer which explains why she wasn’t in the picture.

I knew the photo was taken in front of the home on Ohio Street in Fairfield (now Fairborn, Ohio) because I have seen other pictures of the same house and in the 1940 census, my grandparents were still residing there. My first thought upon seeing all the other people was that it was Johnson relatives, but when I shared it with some distant cousins hoping they would recognize someone, it was a bust. Anyone that it might have been had already died by 1939. Besides, the Johnson relatives lived in Indiana.

So I turned to my great-grandmother’s family. They lived in Urbana, Ohio – about an hour’s travel today. Her brother, Wesley Blazer, was still living in 1939 but I had never seen a picture of him. His son, Glen O. Blazer, I had known and had pictures that I could compare as well as his wife, son, and sister. Below are the comparisons. The picture on the right was taken in 1976. Looking at the ears, chin, mouth, nose and eyes led me to believe this was Glen. Based on that deduction, all I needed to do was compare photos of his wife, Nina (Cushman) Blazer, and his sister, Ada D. Blazer, as well as place them in that time frame.

glen blazer comparison

Below, the picture on the right of Nina Cushman Blazer (Glen’s wife) was taken at a reunion in 1969 – 30 years after the one on the left.

nina cushman blazer comparison

The comparison collage below of Ada Dell Blazer show how she looked in 1939 (left), around 1918 (top right), and at a reunion in the early 1970s (bottom right).

ada blazer comparison

Based on the photographic evidence, I was able to see the picture more clearly (pun intended!). Since Wesley Blazer was still living and would have been 76 years old, I believe he is the gentleman with the hat sixth from the left. The young man standing just over Nina’s shoulder would be Marion Blazer – son of Glen and Nina. In 1939 he was about 16 years old. The man peaking out from behind Ada’s head would be her second husband, John Black, and their daughter would be in front of her.

Below is the photo after I added the names of those in the picture.

john lafayette johnson birthday

 And just for more comparison – here’s a few photos taken in 1969 and the early 1970s that include my grandparents, Glen & Vesta Johnson, as well as Glen and Nina Blazer, and Ada (Blazer) Black.




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Eva as a young girl

In The News Article I learned that my grandfather’s foster sister listed her mother as Clara Badgly Grennells. Then in Clara Badgly I sought out this mystery woman through census records – without too much luck. But in the previous installment, The Letter, I finally had more information to work with. In order to decipher the who, what, when, why, where, and how, I need to analyze the letter.

Pendleton, Ind.
July 19, 31.
Dear Folks,
How does the weather suit you? I wish it would rain, our garden is wilting. I have some news for you all.
I undertook to locate my Mother and found my Father. He was here to see me on the 12th and again yesterday afternoon and evening. Lives in Indianapolis. Has a brother that’s an attorney and one a contractor. Name is John Hanrahan.
He is Irish. Vesta my mother would not have nothing to do with him after she learned she was to become a mother and would not tell him the truth nor let him see her. So he did not know until after I was born then he wanted to marry her but she wanted to marry Fred Blackburn. Instead. She told my father I died. My father really loved (Fluffy) that’s what he called her. She was his first sweetheart. Name was Clara Badger instead of Badgly. I guess she was always changing her name. This picture of her was taken when she was 30 yr old. My father said she looks tired and worned in it. Not a bit like she did at 20 yr, said she was beautiful at 20.
When she died on Christmas ’28, Clara’s father states she called for me and cried till they had to give her morphine. She died at 6 pm. That was the Xmas John gave me those pearls, and that day I told Mom that some one wanted me terrible bad. I just felt it. The Doctor said if they could find me she would live. Oh I don’t see why I can’t have her now. They say I’m exactly like her. She named me “Marie”! She some how found out my last name was Johnson. He said she was not bad.
Am enclosing this envelope. Please send it back right away as it is precious to me. He said he would send us some money next Thursday. John is laid off again.
Well I thought I’d let you all know about it. My Father said to thank Mom and Dad for taking good care of me and wants to meet all of you. Has raised or nearly raised 5 children of some one else’s and none of his own. Said he always wanted a child and here he had one and did not know it. His step-children are jealous of me. He 41 awful nice. John likes him.
I like his brother Frank and his wife (illegible) nice too. My father looks like this picture yet.
Well I’ll stop. Send this back right away. I’ll enclose a stamp I want them.
As Ever,

Initially, I was beyond thrilled to find this letter, read it, and share it with “L” (Eva’s daughter). And she was just as excited to hear about it and read it. However, the more I looked at it, the more unclear it became.

The date the letter was written is July 19, 1931. That is one year and almost two months exactly from the time Eva’s foster mother (my grandmother), Kate J Blazer Johnson, passed away from stomach cancer in Greene county, Ohio while living with my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson. My great-grandfather (Eva’s foster father), John Lafayette Johnson, was still living. Presumably, the “folks” to whom she addressed the letter includes her foster dad, John Johnson, her foster brother, Glen R. Johnson, and his wife (my grandmother), Vesta C. Wilt Johnson; Eva even uses my grandmother’s name at the beginning of the letter. I wonder if Eva had given any thought as to whether or not she would hurt her foster dad by gushing over her birth father or pining away for her birth mother a year after the death of the woman who had raised her from birth?

Eva begins the letter just like any other correspondence between family members by mentioning the weather and her garden but makes it perfectly clear that her reason for writing doesn’t have anything to do with trivial day to day matters but an important event that has happened to her by summing up how she had been searching for her birth mother. Eva doesn’t mention how long she has been searching but putting it together with the news clipping from the Anderson Herald, it would seem as if the search has been ongoing for awhile. Eva drops the proverbial bomb in their lap that she has already met her birth father, and he has visited her twice! She gives her birth parents’ names as Clara Badger (“not Badgly”) and John Hanrahan, who she says “is Irish.” Since she has discovered the error of what she thought Clara’s surname was and what is correct, my assumption is that the news article came first. If that is the case then the information given in the article was incorrect because it specifically states that “four years ago the foster parent…died.” That would have meant the story was printed in 1934. Yet the story said it had only been twenty years earlier that Eva had been born giving the news article the date of 1930 and only a few short months after Katie had died.

Then, perhaps to somehow justify the circumstances of her birth or the reason she was given up to Katie and John, Eva launches in with an explanation that includes how Clara didn’t want anything to do with John Hanrahan even though he wanted to marry her but instead was told by Clara that Eva had died. Eva gave the name of the man Clara had wanted to marry instead as Fred Blackburn. Furthermore, she goes on to talk about the events surrounding the night that Clara died and said it was Christmas 1928. She used the words “Clara’s father states” and “The Doctor said” and “They say” but there aren’t any details to defend those statements. Did John Hanrahan tell her those things? If so, how did he know what Clara’s father or the doctor said? Who are the “they” she says told her she is just like Clara? How did Eva know that Clara named her “Marie” or how she found out her surname was Johnson? No explanations by Eva are ever given for that. She never tells my grandparents that she has met these other people. If John Hanrahan didn’t give her that information, then how did Eva know all of that?

Eva weaves a melodramatic story about how her birth mother was calling for her the night that she died and at the same time – miles away – she was having a premonition that “someone wanted” her “terrible bad.” Later in the letter she gives more information as to the name of one of John Hanrahan’s brothers – Frank – and that she likes him and his wife. That indicates that she has met the Hanrahan side (or some of it) of her birth family. Eva mentions how her biological father bemoans that he never got to raise one of his own children but has helped or has raised five children. She goes on to say that his step-children are jealous of her. Was she able to meet them? Were all of the “five children” John’s step-children or did he have nieces and nephews that he helped raise? Did John tell her they were jealous of her or did she say that to make herself feel better or look better to her dad, brother, and sister-in-law? Perhaps it was her way of saying, “See, there are people who can’t believe I have John Hanrahan for a father and they don’t!”

Finally, in closing the letter, Eva reminds my grandparents and her foster dad that she has enclosed a picture, possibly two, of her parents. It is not clear whether or not it is a picture of her bio parents together of separate ones. What she does make clear is that the picture is very precious to her and they are to send it back to her immediately in the envelope she is also sending along with a stamp. I assume that they did send it back although I haven’t checked to see whether or not they kept it for some reason, and it’s among the other ten-thousand photos I have of people I don’t know (because no one marked who they were on the back of the picture! – but that’s a rant for another time!). Eva also casually mentions that John Hanrahan is going to send them some money because her husband, John Skinner, has been laid off again. Eva makes sure to let them know that her birth father wants to thank her foster parents for taking “good care” of her and also wants to meet all of them.

The details that I picked out of the letter to help me research Eva’s birth parents include their full names: Clara Badger and John Hanrahan. Clara wanted to marry Fred Blackburn. John Hanrahan has two brothers – a contractor and an attorney. He also has a brother, Frank, who is married. I can’t claim that Frank is either the lawyer or the contractor. John Hanrahan was born about 1890 if he is 41 years old in 1931. It isn’t clear if he is married in 1941 but he has or has had step-children – or children that he considers step-children. Clara has passed away by 1931 – supposedly on December 25, 1928. John Hanrahan is Irish or of Irish descent and lives in Indianapolis.

My best guess is that when The Anderson Herald published the news article concerning Eva and her mother, it was printed in the late summer to early fall of 1930 – not that long after Katie died. That is probably how John Hanrahan discovered Eva – even though the birth mother’s name in the article is incorrect – it was close enough for him to figure it out. I believe that Eva embellished some of the details for dramatic flair. Her mom, Katie – the woman who had raised her – had died and her dad – John Johnson – was living in another state. Eva was unclear if she was going to see him again. So her melodrama could have been a way for her to cope with the types of abandonment she had felt in her life – first by her birth mother right after she was born, then by her foster brother, Glen,  and then Katie and John when they moved away, then by Katie’s death, and finally the knowledge that Clara had already died. Eva found her birth father only because she was searching for her birth mother! She wasn’t going to end up with a “mom” following Katie’s death after all.

If nothing else, I had more information to use for research – and what a boat-load of information I found!

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Since I spent two and a half days last week at College Orientation with my daughter, I thought I’d write about those college grads in my family.

The first person that comes to mind is my mom’s brother, my Uncle Glen Johnson.  He was named after his father and was the firstborn child and son of my maternal grandparents.  Uncle Glen attended school in Greene County, Ohio and graduated from Bath Township Consolidated High School in 1936.  He then went on to Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.  Uncle Glen played the Sousaphone in the Ohio State Band and in 1937 was the first Sousaphone (or “big horn”) player to dot the “i” in the Script Ohio at halftime. (Please see the article at Central Ohio for more information.)  The Ohio State Band history also reads: 

History of the “i”-dot
At its first performance, the Script Ohio’s “i” was dotted by a trumpet player, with no special attention or honor being given to the movement. When the trumpet player, John Brungart (1933-36), dotted the first Script Ohio “i” October 10, 1936, the march from the top of the “o” to the top of the “i” was just another movement to complete a formation. Brungart simply took his place in a complex single file line drill. Over 60 years later, the honor of dotting the “i” is known throughout the world.
Because director Eugene Weigel provided several new floating formations throughout the 1936 season, the first Script Ohio was seen by bandsmen as just another formation. No charts were used–Weigel simply placed members in their spots. “We knew that we did something different, not started a tradition,” Brungart said, “I wasn’t picked to dot the ‘i’, I was just in the right place at the right time.” Script Ohio was performed two more times during the 1936 season, both with Brungart dotting the “i”. During a field rehearsal in the fall of 1937, Weigel had a spur-of-the-moment idea, and shouted to Glen R. Johnson, a sousaphone player, “Hey, you! Switch places with the trumpet player in the dot.” After several run-through with the exchanged positions, the script was ready to be performed. At the game on October 23, 1937, the marching band, led by drum major Wesley Leas, performed with Script Ohio with Johnson dotting the “i”. Johnson was in the band from 1937-40, and during all of those years he dotted the “i”. From that time forward, the i-dot became the province of the big horns.
The familiar kick, turn, and bow by the sousaphone player at the top of the “i” was an innovation introduced by Johnson at a game in 1938. “(The turn) was an impulse reaction when drum major Myron McKelvey arrived three or four measures too soon at the top of the “i”,” Johnson explained, “so I did a big kick, a turn, and a deep bow to use up the music before Buckeye Battle Cry. The crowd roared when this happened, and it became part of the show thereafter.”

My grandparents took many photos of the OSU band during their trips up to Columbus to visit their son.  Uncle Glen went on to graduate in 1941 with a Bachelors in Business Administration and spent 41 years working for Clark Equipment Company in Battle Creek, Michigan.  He retired in 1982 as National Accounts Manager.  Throughout his career and his life, he was very successful.

My mom’s sister, Genevieve, graduated from Bath Township Consolidated High School in 1938.  She then went on to receive her nursing degree from Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio in 1941.  Aunt Genevieve was a registered nurse for the City of Dayton for a few years prior to death in 1958.  In fact her granddaughter and great-granddaughter have gone on to pursue nursing degrees. 

My dad’s sister, my Aunt Marie, attended Salvation Army College in New York and still holds a rank with the S.A.

My mom’s first cousin, Fred Wilt, received a Bachelors Degree from Indiana University and a graduate degree from Purdue.  He was a special agent for the FBI for over 30 years.  In his youth, he participated in the 1948 Olympics held in London and the 1952 games in Helsinki competing in track and field.  After retiring from the government, he held coaching positions for many years at several universities.

My maternal grandparents never completed high school – attending only through the 10th grade so it is a great testament to their nurturing and advice that two of their three children went on to complete higher education.  My paternal grandparents also did not attend college and even though only one of their children attended college, I’m sure they were immensely proud of the sons who volunteered to serve their country during World War II. 

Though each generation strives to give their children a better future with better opportunities, let us not forget those who choose other avenues to explore besides college.  Those who serve their country, state or local government.  Those who give their time or skills to help those in need.  Those who use their creativity to make a difference and influence others.  Those who choose to be in public service.  Those who choose to be a stay at home parent.  Those who set examples for others.

Who is the first person in your ancestry that you’ve found who has gone on to college?  What impact has your grandparents’ or parents’ education or lack of had on you?  What impact has your’s had on your children?  Would you do anything different (finished college, gotten a different degree, gone on to graduate school)?

(Picture: Genevieve and Glen Johnson)

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So many times when we locate an ancestor they have migrated from where they were born or married or built a home, to another area possibly a great distance away.  What prompts these moves?  What was it they were searching for or hoping to gain by moving?

There are many web sites dealing in reasons including: California Gold Rush, Oregon Trail, the Dustbowl of the 1930s, the Homestead Act of 1862, immigrating from another country in search of a better life, religious persecution, and more.  Today many people move from one locale to another due to a change in occupaton or a relocation, stationed at different spots due to military service, to get out of small towns or big cities, to go to school, and more. 

I thought I would detail some of my ancestors’ migration patterns.  I don’t have enough proof to document the reasons why they moved – just that they did.

Frederick Goul (5th great-grandfather)
Frederick took his wife, son, and daughter by ship (possibly the “Rawley”) from Frankfort, Germany to America in the mid-1700s.  By the time they reached Philadelphia, his wife and daughter had died. 

Adam Goul (4th great-grandfather)
Adam married Elizabeth Lutz in Pennsylvania and several of their children were born there.  They moved to Rockbridge County, Virginia by 1804 and by 1817 had migrated west to Goshen Twp, Champaign County, Ohio.  Adam and Elizabeth are buried at Treacles Creek Cemetery in Champaign County.

John Goul (3rd great-grandfather)
One of Adam’s and Elizabeth’s sons, born about 1802, in Philadelphia, he was with his parents when they moved to Ohio.  About 1823 he married Martha McManaway.  John and his wife didn’t move from Champaign County.

Malissa Goul (great-great grandmother)
Malissa met Franklin Blazer in Champaign County and they married.  The couple moved west to Madison County, Indiana before 1860 and most of their children were born there.  One son, John, and one daughter, Martha (Mat), remained in the area.  Daughter, Katie, grew up in the County and only moved in 1930 with her husband to live with their son in Greene County, Indiana.  Daughter, Rachel, moved west to Missouri and Kansas.  Son, Wesley, moved to Champaign County, Ohio where he married, brought up children and died.

Glen R. Johnson (maternal grandfather)
My grandfather (son of Katie Blazer and John L. Johnson) was born in Anderson, Indiana and never moved away until he was in training for WWI at Ft. Omaha, Nebraska and then on to Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas.  He went to France toward the end of WWI and then returned to his wife, son and home in Anderson.  During his career in the Army Air Corps (later the Air Force), he and his family moved East to Greene County, Ohio.  This is the place they considered home for the remainder of their lives.  Yet they also moved according to the military to Wiesbaden, Germany.  My grandfather also spent some time in Washington D.C., Tullahoma, Tennessee; Finschafen, New Guinea; Orlando, Florida.  Returning to the Dayton area before 1960, he and his wife lived out the remainder of their lives in that area.

Jacob Johnson (3rd great-grandfather)
Jacob was born in New Jersey in 1787.  He moved (probably with his parents and family) by 1816 to the Southeastern section of Ohio in Brown County, Ohio.  His wife’s family (Ann Shields) has also been located in that area.  By 1840 Jacob and family were living in Center Township, Rush County, Indiana, where he spent the remainder of his life.

James Wilson Johnson (great-great grandfather)
He was born in Ohio when his parents, Jacob and Ann, lived in Brown County.  As a child he moved with them to Rush County, Indiana.  In the 1880 Census James and his second wife, Margaret Gordon, are living in Stoney Creek Twp, Madison County, Indiana.  James spent some time in Michigan in his later years living with each of his daughter’s and their families.  He moved one last time – when he was buried in Little Blue River Cemetery in Rush County, Indiana.

John Mullis and Dolly Stanley (3rd great grandfather and mother)
In-laws of James Wilson Johnson, they moved from Wilkes County, North Carolina before 1838 to Rush County, Indiana.

Perhaps as I continue with my research, I will discover the reason why these people moved from one area (or country) to another.  It has just been quite interesting to see their migration patterns.

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As a young child growing up in a “growing-out-of-a-rural-farmland-township” in Southwestern Ohio, my parents owned a home on a half-acre lot.  We didn’t have privacy fences or alarm systems.  We knew every one of our neighbors on our street, some of them behind us, and knew everything about them.  Our township had once been rural – farmlands spread out, creeks gurgling as the water traveled over rocks and banks.  In fact several of the towns in Greene County around us had names associated with water in them.  I lived in Beavercreek.  There was also Ceasars Creek Township, Silver Creek Township, Spring Valley, Sugar Creek Township, Bellbrook, and Yellow Springs.

My parents loved to garden.  In one corner of the backyard was our vegetable garden.  I remember being able to eat tomatoes right off the vine.  They were warm from the Ohio summer sun, the juice and seeds running down my hands and arms after taking a big bite from them.  No other tomato has tasted as good.  Then there were the peas.  Right out of the shell, raw and full of flavor.  The most amazing thing I ever ate.  There were also the green onions, bell peppers, and other assorted vegetables. 

In the opposite corner was my mom’s flower garden.  Black-eyed Susans, snap-dragons, poseys in many different colors transformed that area into a sea of beauty.  Mom would tenderly clip flowers and place in vases scattered throughout our home.  We always had fresh flowers every spring and summer.  There were other flowers and plants that Mom and Dad planted.  The peonies (which I never pronounced right until I got older – I always called them “pennies”!) that sat at our property line between our yard and our next door neighbor’s yard.  The lilac bush that produced beautiful purple blossoms every year.  The Japanese Gingko tree with the funny looking green leaves.  The “christmas tree” evergreen and blue spruce trees in our front yard.  The honey suckle plant that snaked itself around the trellis at the side of the yard by the garage.  The snowball bush with the white blossoms that truly did look like snowballs.  The lilies that bloomed every Easter underneath our front picture window.  Pots and pots of geraniums that when the red petals began to fall, it looked like a red carpet.  The marigolds that bloomed early.  The crocuses that foretold winter was over.  The tulips that lined our sidewalk.  The ivy that crawled up the side of the house.  All of these were testaments to my mother’s talent for nurturing plants and flowers.  I did not inherit her green thumb!

Until I started growing flowers (or had them given to me), I never understood the fascination my Dad had for taking photos of them.  I have so many pictures of flowers, of my former child self holding a flower, smelling the flower, standing next to flowers.  But now, I too, take pictures of the flowers.  Living things that won’t last but a season if I’m lucky.  To hold on to the memory and the moment of that beauty, I get my digital camera out and snap pictures.  Two things that tie me to those summer days of my childhood, the flowers and the pictures of them.

(Having a bit of trouble uploading pictures.  Check out the flickr site to the right).

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