Ever have that one relative whose story that you just can’t get out of your mind? I have several of those relatives like that but one that stands out for me is my 4th great aunt, Emma Drake Leist Herman. February of last year, I wrote about what I knew of her story which included the suicide of her last husband, Henry Herman, who drank carbolic acid they morning after they had a fight. As incredible as that tidbit was, Emma’s story continued to be fascinating as her death certificate revealed she died at 8 pm on 2 June 1916 at age 39 from shock with a contributory cause as lightning. What was she doing outside in a storm at 8 pm? Color me fascinated!
Last year, I went home to Ohio to visit for my grand-baby’s first birthday and while at my mom’s, we were going through her photo album and behind a big 8×10 picture, there was this letter hidden. I wrote about it before when talking about how this letter helped me learn more about the mysterious life of my great-uncle Dale. From the hint in this letter, I was able to find his mug shot in the Montana State Prison.
The letter was written November 28, 1930 and was from my great-grandfather Glenn Archer Stewart, Sr. in Pickaway County, Ohio, to his uncle Asbury Archer in Noble County, Ohio. If you don’t know the story of the Glenn and Dale Stewart (and you can read here if you’d like), but quickly I will say that their dad murdered their mom in 1914 and Asbury was not allowed to raise them, being a single man. The boys were placed in the children’s home system and moved around several times. Glenn eventually made his way to Pickaway County, I think to work on the farm of Lewis Edward Jones’ farm, where he met Rosa Jones. They married May 6, 1927 and their first child, Glenn “Archie” Stewart, was born shortly thereafter November 13, 1927. (You do the math! *wink*) Their second child, Rose Mary Stewart, was born October 1, 1930 and this letter was written when she was nearly two months old.
Recently, I went back and re-read this letter and this glimpse into my great-grandparent’s life in 1930 was stunning and revealing to say the least. I had heard that their relationship was difficult and that Glenn was hard to deal with. His son, my grandpa Archie, did not particularly care for his dad and spent much of his time at the Jones’ farm with his maternal grandparents. I had previously found a scandalous newspaper article from July 1945 where my great-grandma Rosa filed for divorce while Glenn was overseas, calling him and his “lady” out for a supposed affair. When I asked my great-aunt Rosie (Glenn and Rosa’s daughter) about it, she had no knowledge of this affair nor the divorce filing, and she was actually quite defensive about it until I showed her the article. I’m sure it wasn’t a pleasant thing to read. This letter, however, reaffirmed the marriage was strained to the point HE thought about leaving in 1930, way before she ever filed for divorce. They stayed together but not happily as Glenn ended up in a mental health facility and later shot himself in June 1954. Dale, his brother, killed himself in Los Angeles in a mental facility by eating poisonous ant paste.
Besides describing family matters, this letter also was an interesting peek into what life was like in 1930 Pickaway County, Ohio, and how the people were struggling with their farms, their finances, and to find work/ways to provide for their families.
November 28, 1930
Received your letter a couple of days ago and was glad to hear from you. It has been a good bit since I heard from you. Well, we have been having some awful weather this week. Snowed and has been down below zero for the past three nights. I certainly hate to see it get bad weather because I don’t know what we will do down here.
The corn is all husked down here and we have been trying to make a living by trapping and hunting and it is going to be a darn slim one too. Fur is not worth half as much this year as it has been. Rats are only worth 50 cents apiece. Skunks $1.25 and coons $4.00. We used to get $1.50 to $2.00 for rats and $9.00 for coon. We can’t catch them now because the streams are all frozen over.
Boy, I’ll tell you I don’t know what we will do till spring. I never seen a time in my life that a fellow could not find something to do in the country.
I had a field of corn to husk and got done last Thursday. So I started out to find something else to do, and everybody that is not done husking will be done in a couple of days. Most of them shredded their corn because the did not have any hay.
About the only thing that we can do now is to make wood and a fellow cannot eat that. I have never been able to buy a load of coal this fall, just 3 or 4 bushels at a time. A fellow has to have a little coal to burn with the wood.
Rosa wanted to read your letter tonight and she said that you need never worry about who is going to take care of you when you get older, that you was welcome to come and live with us when ever you wanted to. Our baby girl sure is getting nice. She is getting old enough to laugh now and she is sure cute. I don’t know what we would do without her.
I don’t know just how to say it, but there was a time last summer that I had a notion to pull out and leave but since the baby has come it seemed to make us both realize more that it was not right to separate.
Yes, Azza, I get a letter from Dale every week. His address is Deer Lodge, Montana, Box 7. I wish you would drop him a line or two. I know he would be glad to hear from you.
Azza, I would like awful well to have a fat hog to butcher this year because we are out of lard and meat and have not got the money to buy more. My father-in-law is going to butcher in a few days and I could get a nice hog off him for $20.00 if I had the money. I have been to buy our meat every other year and had enough lard to do till next butchering but I have not got the money now. I hate to ask you for it because you have been so good to me, but I tell you Azza, I have not got a thing to do, and not only me but nearly every body else down here. I told Ed I would see if I could get money enough to buy one and then kill it when he butchered. Well, it is nearly mail time so I’ll have to close. Write soon.
My 3rd great grandfather, William L. Peters, died 6 Feb 1887 in Pickaway County, Ohio, but his death record had long eluded being found in popular online resources. I learned that it became an Ohio statewide law to record deaths in 1867 and that each county’s probate court was responsible for recording the death as a single line entry in a register between 1867-1908. Deaths that occurred after December 19, 1908 are recorded by the Ohio Department of Health in a certificate format.¹ So, William’s death should have been recorded at the courthouse. I wrote to the probate clerk to see if it was there. In February, I received an email and was told it was not there. How depressing.
Still, it bugged me and sat in the back of my mind for months. I knew it just had to exist! I had found multiple news articles online detailing his sickness, the doctor being called in from another bigger city, and his sons being called to his side in his final days. I even found his obituary but I desperately wanted his actual death record in hopes that it would give me more clues to solving where the Peters originated from.
This past week, my mom sent me the very first pictures I’ve ever seen of my great-grandfather, Glenn Archer Stewart, Sr. I’ve written briefly about Glenn… he was one of the two young boys who were orphaned when their father, William Stewart killed their mother, Esther, and then himself at the the Columbia Hotel in Caldwell, Ohio, in 1913. Glenn, and his younger brother Dale (who I’ve also written about), both committed suicide as well – Dale in 1943 and Glenn in 1958.
I was extremely happy to see Family Search #52stories writing prompt this week because I have had it on my list for some time to write about my grandma, Clara Lou Peters Stewart. My love of music and singing can likely be attributed to her. My love of big band music came from watching her bobby-socking in the kitchen at a 4th of July party one year! She was one amazing piano & organ player. I have oodles of newspaper clippings from her younger days playing in school concerts and I daresay, she likely played at the wedding of nearly half of Pickaway County during her lifetime! I have so many memories of family holiday gatherings where she would hop on the organ in the corner of the dining room after a meal and play/sing for us.