Box Cars on Rail Road Track

Box Cars on Rail Road Track. That is the notation written on the side of the census sheet. The railroad box cars were on the tracks at Willshire and were the abode of 33 men in May of 1910. Willshire had a train depot years ago and these men were enumerated in the village, enumerated as residing in box cars on the railroad track.

Willshire’s Nickel Plate Depot, unknown date.

A few weeks ago I was looking through the 1910 U.S. Census for the village of Willshire, looking for a name that perhaps had indexed differently than the name I was searching for. Names are indexed as they appear to have been spelled in a document and sometimes the indexed name is much different than the actual name. So I looked through all 29 on-line images of Willshire in the 1910 census, looking line by line. I did not find the person I was looking for but I did find something rather interesting on the next-to-last page.

The enumerations on that page look unusual, like those enumerated in a boarding house. I noticed right off that most of the surnames were not common to this area. Not at all! Most of the names were Greek and most of the men were from Greece.

Then I noticed what was written on the side of the page: Box Cars on Rail Road Track. That, and the fact that railroad labor was the occupation of the majority of the men, explained a lot. Since one man’s specialty was bridge construction, I put two and two together and suspect that they were building or repairing the railroad bridge that crosses the St. Marys River east of town.   

1910 U.S. Census, Willshire, Ohio.

Census enumerators began canvassing the nation on 15 April 1910. The law gave census takers 2 weeks to complete their work in cities of 5,000 inhabitants or more but enumerators in smaller and rural areas were allotted 30 days to complete their task.

J.T. Cully began taking the census in Willshire on 15 April 1910 and continued the task in the village and Willshire Township during April, finishing about the middle of May. The men in the railroad cars were enumerated 25 May 1910, enumerated beyond the 30 days allotted in the instructions.

Were these workers actually supposed to be enumerated in Willshire? More from the 1910 Census instructions:

People were to be enumerated at their usual place of abode. The place where they live or belong. Their home, where they regularly sleep.


No. 44: This is the most important and difficult matter you will have to determine. Therefore, study with special care the following rules and instructions…

No. 56: Construction camps: member of railroad, canal, or other construction camps…or other places which have shifting populations, composed of person with no fixed places of abode, should be enumerated where found, except in so far as certain members of such camps may have some other usual place of abode where they are likely to be returned for enumeration or the camp itself may already have been enumerated in some other district.

No. 62: Persons engaged in railway service or traveling-Railroad men, canal men, expressmen, railway mail clerks, sailors on merchant hips, traveling salesmen, and the like, usually have homes to which they return at intervals and which constitute their usual place of abode within the meaning of the census act. Therefore, any such persons who may be in your district temporarily on April 15, 1910, are not to be enumerated by you unless they claim to have no other regular place of abode within the United States. But if their homes are in your district, they should be enumerated there, even though absent on April 15, 1910…

Well, that is about as clear as mud! I am sure Cully stewed about whether to enumerate the men or not. I suspect that the workers had been in the Willshire area for some time when Cully decided to enumerate them. But, since a number of the men were married, they likely had other homes. Who lives in a box car permanently? This is undoubtedly how some people were enumerated more than once in a census. Or perhaps the men came to the U.S. for employment and their wives were still living in Greece. So many possibilities and very interesting at the same time.  

Of the 33 men living in the railroad cars, 5 were born in the U.S., 28 were born in Greece and they spoke only Greek. The occupation of most was railroad laborer. Most (21) were single, 11 were married, and 1 was widowed, Cully indicated that these Greeks immigrated in the early 1800s, which obviously was an error. He most likely meant the early 1900s, and most of the men immigrated about 1908-1909.

I transcribed the names as they are indexed on Their names may actually be spelled quite differently. Names may have been misspelled by the enumerator and/or transcribed incorrectly. These surnames were likely very unusual in this area and very difficult to spell. No dwelling or family number was given to the railroad cars.

The railroad workers enumerated in Willshire in 1910:

Eph McIntosh, 50, single, born in Kentucky, RR bridge carpenter
W Musich, 26, single, Kansas, RR bridge carpenter
A Duren, 40, single, Indiana, RR laborer
James Haerchis, 20, single, Greece, foreman of “RR Gang”
Nick Kaptolis, 40, married 22 years, Greece, RR laborer
Geo Flachas, 21, single, Greece, RR laborer
John Mitchels, 19, single, Greece, RR laborer
Christ Pawpas, 21, single, Greece, RR laborer
Gust Sentros, 24, married, Greece, RR laborer
William Sentros, 22, single, Greece, RR laborer
Gust Louios, 20, single, Greece, RR laborer
Peter Clulomis, 29, single, Greece, steam shovel engineer
Steve Grisofes, 25, single, Greece, RR laborer
John Karvalona, 30, married 7 years, Greece, RR laborer
Seer Sarifus, 18, single, RR laborer
Banm Glaceros, 32, widowed, was married 9 years, Greece, RR laborer
Joseph Harchar, 19, single, Greece, RR laborer
Sam Harchar, 24, single, Greece, RR laborer
Tim Kurcurtas, 40, married 10 years, Greece, RR laborer
Christ Spostots, 20, single, Greece, RR laborer
Donifon Striotes, 19, single, Greece, RR roustabout
George Buras, 25, married 1 year, Greece, RR laborer
Gust Kiaculas, 19, single, Greece, RR laborer
John Kuchis, 30, married 10 years, Greece, RR laborer
George Kapsampus, 18, single, Greece, RR laborer
Paul Livas, 21, single, Greece, RR laborer
John Pichas, 40, married 12 years, Greece, RR laborer
Stratos Chrisanths, 40, married 12 years, Greece, RR laborer
Gust Macaris, 38, married 15 years, Greece, RR laborer
Tom Kiriayes, 40, married 10 years, Greece, RR laborer
Andrew Pilafis, 42, married 17 years, mother born in Greece, RR laborer
E.D. Myers, 25, single, Illinois, RR laborer
James Campbell, 20, single, Indiana, RR laborer

James Haerchis was the foreman of the “railroad gang.” The census indicates he immigrated in 1806, which could not be accurate. The date is probably actually 1906. Cully was was just off a century. Haerchis had been in the country the longest so it makes sense that he was the foreman. Although his language is listed as Greek, I wonder if he also spoke some English and was a translator. Haerchis also had his immigration papers while the other Greeks were classified as aliens.

Donifon Striotis’s occupation was “roustabout.” A roustabout was a worker with broad-based, non-specific skills; one who handled materials for construction.  

Railroad workers, 1910 U.S. Census, Willshire, Ohio.

This census page brings up additional questions: When was the bridge over the St. Marys River built? How long did the construction take and how long were these men residing in the railroad cars?

Could this old bridge over the St. Marys Rive be the same bridge the men constructed?

Railroad bridge crossing St. Marys River, Willshire, Ohio, 2019.

An interesting piece of Willshire history.  

Source: 1910 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 114, p.15A, no dwelling/family, lines 1-33, various names; digital image,, viewed 26 Jan 2022.

Tombstone Tuesday-Mabel Hofmann

Mabel Hofmann, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Van Wert County, Ohio. (2012 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Mabel Hofmann, located in row 5 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Van Wert County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Dau. of Theo. C. & Mollie
16 Aug 1920-21 Jan 1935
Lam. Jer. 3. 31-33

“Mabel” Anna Elisabeth Hofmann was born in Willshire Township on 16 August 1920, the fourth child born to Theodor C. (1884-1969) and Amalia “Mollie” (Schinnerer) (1883-1955) Hofmann. She was baptized at home by Rev. George J. Meyer on 27 August 1920 with Mrs. Anna Hofmann and Mrs. Elisabeth Scaer serving as her sponsors. Elisabeth (Schinnerer) Scaer was Mollie Hofmann’s sister and she was also my great-grandmother.

The Theodor Hofmann family in 1930: Theodor, 46; Mollie, 47; Esther, 18; Paul, 16; Velma, 15; Mable, 9; and Herbert, 7. [1] The father Theodor was a farmer.

Mabel Hofmann died in Van Wert County on 21 January 1935, at the age of 14 years, 5 months, and 5 days. She was buried on the 24th.

Mabel Hoffman had the following siblings:
Esther Florentina (1912-1998) married Erwin Aumann
Paul Lawrence (1913-1977) married Alda Kellermeier
Velma Laura (1915-2010) married Edgar Ehlerding
Herbert Henry (1922-2009) married Mary Lou Hinen

[1] 1930 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 24, p.4A, dwelling 71, family 73, Theo C Hoffman; digital image by subscription,, viewed 23 Jan 2022.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a picture is worth a few questions. Like, who are these two people in the little rowboat? Where was this? And why?

Herb & Karen, c1965

In case you don’t recognize us, that is my dad and me, sometime in the early-mid 1960s, floating on Grandpa Schumm’s farm pond east of Willshire.

I have no idea why my dad and I were in this little boat. Neither one of us could swim. It wasn’t my idea and as I recall, my dad had to do a lot of talking to get me out onto the water.

And who was I waving at? Probably the person taking the photo, likely my mom.

I don’t know if my dad or Grandpa Schumm ever used the boat for fishing, but that little rowboat survived all these years and was passed down in our family. We have it now.

Boat, 2021.

These boats are sometimes called Jon boats. I don’t know about the newer models but this one is pretty unstable. I would not trust it in deep water.

I am not terribly afraid of water but I do have a healthy respect for it. If I venture out on water I like to be in a much larger, stable boat. Sometimes I wear a life-jacket.

My husband Joe proved just how unstable this boat really is. A couple years ago Joe decided to build a new deck on the edge our pond. His plan was to use this boat to carry materials out to the portion of the deck that extends over the water. The water is about waist deep there and Joe could have just waded out there to place and anchor the boards and frame the deck. But he decided to use the boat instead, hoping to stay dry.

Thinking back on the project, a little old rowboat like this one is probably not the right thing to transport parts for an aquatic construction job. And trying to balance that long, heavy piece of lumber in that little boat probably wasn’t a good idea.

Yes, the little boat became unbalanced, tipped from side to side, and started taking on water. In fact, it took on water very quickly. All of a sudden Joe started throwing tools and other items from the boat onto the banks of the pond. Yikes! My first thought was that he was really angry since he was throwing things like that. I backed away a little and was ready to retreat into the house.

Joe had to abandon ship but I wasn’t too worried about his safety. Joe can swim and after all, he was in waist-deep water.

However, I soon learned that he was not angry at all. I knew this when he started laughing. He was simply trying to save his power tools and anything else he could before the boat capsized and sank. We had a rope tied to it and we were able to drag it back onto the shore.

Joe did lose a few tools that day. And he did get wet. To finish the project he just waded out into the water to place and secure the boards, as he probably should have done in the first place.

Deck, 2021

In the end, we had a good laugh and Joe finished constructing the deck in a few days.

The little Schumm boat is back in its spot, permanently docked under some trees, now a lawn decoration near the pond.  

Tombstone Tuesday-Curtain Symbol

A curtain on a tombstone symbolizes the passage from one life to the next, the passage from one existence to another. Curtains conceal and block the view of something and they also provide protection. A curtain is sometimes referred to as a veil. 

Curtain symbol, Riverside Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio.

The inscription on this tombstone is a good example of a curtain. The curtain, which is pulled back, indicates that the pathway to the next life has been revealed and is open. The unbroken column on the left indicates that the persons lived full and complete lives.

Curtains and veils are of great Biblical significance and are mentioned several times in the Bible. A curtain or veil covered the Ark of the Covenant. It symbolized the entrance to the presence of God and protected mortals from the Ark’s radiance. The temple curtain was torn in two after Christ’s crucifixion, signifying that Christians had a pathway into the presence of God.  

Memories of Zion Chatt’s Choir

Today, an old photo of the choir at Zion Lutheran, Chatt, taken sometime between 1947-1960. I apologize for the quality of the photo. It is a copy of a copy but I think you can still make out the people. The nice thing is that nearly everyone is identified, thanks to my mom.  

Choir, Zion Lutheran, Chatt, 1947-1960.

Left to right in the photo: Fern (Caffee) Stetler, Marcella Schroeder, Dale Caffee, Norma Lee (Smith) Luginbill, Don Caffee, Maxine (Smith) Caffee, Ralph Bollenbacher, Mrs. Elsie Byers, Dale DeArmond, Donna (Johns) Caffee, Vernon Caffee, and Florence (Reynolds) Wilson. The last person, a man, is not identified.

I do not know the exact year the photo was taken but Mrs. Byers is among the choir members and her husband, Rev. Waldo Byers, was Zion Chatt’s minister from 1947-1960. Rev. Byers is the first minister that I remember.

There were many talented singers in our congregation and Zion Chatt had a very good choir. Several were soloists. That was years ago and we have not had a choir for quite a few years.

I was in the Zion’s choir during my teen years, when Marcella Schroeder, and later Connie Brigner, directed the choir. My two favorite songs to sing were Whispering Hope and The Holy City. We often still play The Holy City, as a piano/organ duet, on Palm Sunday and we even have a Whispering Hope duet.

As I recall, the choir sang from the balcony. I also remember these black choir robes with the white collar, which were stored up in the balcony years later. 

Before this choir, Zion Chatt had a quartet in the 1930s. The quartet consisted of Howard Caffee, Stubby Bollenbacher, Rev. Carl Yahl, and Paul McGough. Paul’s twin sister Pauline (McGough) DeArmond was the pianist. Pauline was also Zion’s organist for many years. Rev. Yahl was Zion’s minister from 1931-1942, which helps to date this photo.

Quartet at Zion Lutheran, Chatt

These photos bring back good memories of dedicated church members, now gone, who served and helped shape our congregation.