I keep revisiting certain relatives and Emma Drake, my 4th great aunt, is one of them. Her life was full of tragedy, heartache, and bizarre turns before her tragic death following a lightning strike in one of the worse storms Ohio ever had in June 1916.

I’ve written about Emma before but I keep finding more about her life bit by bit. This week, I found where she had filed for divorce from her first husband, George Leist, on grounds that he didn’t provide for her even though he was in good health and was capable of doing so. Her petition to the Pickaway County court was granted on the 18th of November 1909 and was given full custody of their four children.

Emma went about her life post-divorce working as a laundress out of her home on Huston Street in Circleville, Ohio as evidenced in the 1910 census where she is with her children. Within a few years, Emma met a German immigrant named Henry Herman and they married on 18 July 1914, but it was short-lived as Henry died of a suicide 18 Feb 1915. Her death followed in June 1916 as noted already.

After Emma’s death, I always wondered what happen to her children. They didn’t appear with their father on any of his censuses. In fact, he remarried and lived until 1942. At the time of her death, their oldest child, a son named Robert, would have been nearly eighteen and her girls, Georgia, Katherine and Florence, were nearly thirteen, nine, and seven respectively. Someone had to have taken them in as their father certainly didn’t.

I found the sad (and baffling) answer in the Pickaway County Register of Admittance and Indentures. While Robert was not listed, the girls were listed there – all admitted on 18 June 1914, a full month before Emma’s marriage to Henry Herman, and well before her death in 1916. I cannot imagine how hard it was to support four children on a laundress’ income then so I am trying very hard not to judge Emma for placing them in the children’s home system. But the fact she married Henry a month later makes for suspicious timing, right? Did she just want to be free of the burden of children? In the news article about Henry’s death, it notes that he had not worked since the beginning of their marriage and that financial and family problems drove Henry to drink heavily. So perhaps it was some small mercy the children weren’t in that environment with Emma and her new husband.

Katherine was moved to the Children’s Home Society on 13 April 1915 and was returned back to the society on 1 July 1915 with the notation that she was “non-placeable.” By 1925 she was married and had her first child. Georgia was moved to the Childen’s Home Society in February 1915 and by the 1920 census, Georgia was over two hours away from her hometown in Elyria, Ohio in the Renaurad family household listed as a lodger. In 1930 she was married, living in Virginia. Florence, the youngest, was also placed at the Children’s Home Society on 13 April 1915 but I’m still researching what happened to her afterward.

A ledger entry for Katherine Leist from the Pickaway County (Ohio) Register of Admittance and Indenture.
The notation for Katherine Leist in the Pickaway County Register of Admittance and Indenture.

Emma’s son, Robert, had a fairly turbulent adulthood filled with plenty of time in jail for repeated attempts at check forgery and fraud. I could write a whole blog post on his hijinks alone. In any event, even though I’m sad they were in the Children’s Home Society system since I know how horrible it was for so many others in our family, I’m glad to know I have the answer of where the girls were. I’ll always wonder still why their father didn’t claim them from the children’s home system following their mother’s death when he could easily could have.

Finding the Leist Girls
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