A Bienz-Ross Photo Mystery

Last week I showed three very old Schumm-related documents, the 1835 baptismal certificate of Magdalene Schueler, Magdalene Schueler’s 1850 confirmation certificate, and the 1853 baptismal certificate Johann Friedrich Bienz (Jr), the son of Magdalene and her husband John Bienz (Sr). See below for a summary of these individuals. [1]  

With the three documents was this photo:

Lee Ross, Robert & Effie (Koontz) Morrison, Alice (Koontz), Jesse & Frank Ross; Photo to Grandma Bence from Alice Ross, April 1902

A closeup of the individuals in the photo:

Alice (Koontz) & Jesse Ross, Frank Ross; Photo to Grandma Bence from Alice Ross, April 1902

Robert & Effie (Koontz) Morrison; Photo to Grandma Bence from Alice Ross, April 1902

Someone wrote the following on the back of the photo:

From Mrs. Alice Ross
to Grandma Bence
Taken in April 1902

Bentz II [this may have been written by the photographer]

From Mrs. Alice Ross, to Grandma Bence, taken April 1902

I have been trying to figure out who the people in this photo are, but it has me stumped. The home in this photo was very likely in the Blackcreek or Liberty Township area because the photo was taken by Morrison Photography, Chattanooga, Ohio.

1902 photo taken by Morrison Photography, Chattanooga, Ohio

I believe the surname Bence is what we know as Bienz today and since the photo was with the three other old documents I am guessing the photo has a connection to the John Bienz (Sr) family. But I cannot find a Bienz/Ross connection.

Or maybe there is no family connection. Perhaps Grandma Bence was a grandmother figure to Alice and her family.

The Mrs. Alice Ross may be Alice (Koontz) Ross (1874-1947), wife of Jesse Ross, daughter of Joel D. and Anna J (Frock) Koontz. Alice and her parents lived in Blackcreek Township, Alice grew up in Blackcreek, and Alice and Jesse lived in Blackcreek in 1900. Alice had two young boys in 1900 who would be about the same age as the two boys in the photo. It is my best guess that Jesse and Alice Ross and their two boys are four of the individuals in the photo. In addition, Alice’s sister Effie married Robert Morrison. Was Robert the photographer? Is that the connection?

Also, two Bienz families lived in Blackcreek Township in 1900, Joseph W. Bienz (1864-1961), with wife Lucy (Billman) (1869-1928) and their children, as well as Joseph’s mother Mary (Harrod) Bienz (1836-1905). Either woman could have been Grandma Bence.


Maybe someone will recognize the names, the individuals, or the house and will be able to solve this mystery.

Note by kmb: After posting this blog a reader identified the individuals on the photo as, left to right, Lee Ross, Robert & Effie (Koontz) Morrison, Alice (Koontz), Jesse, Frank Ross. I have updated the information under the photos. Thank you!

[1] A summary of the family relationships connecting the three certificates: Magdalene Schueler (1835-1916) was the daughter of Michael Schueler (1808-1880) and his wife Maria Katherine Schumm (1810-1938). Wife Maria Katherine Schumm was the daughter of immigrant John Georg Schumm (1777-1846) and she immigrated to America in 1833 with her father and four brothers. The Schumm immigrants first settled in Holmes County, Ohio, where, in 1833, Maria Katherine Schumm married Michael Schueler. Their second child, Catharina “Magdalene” Schueler, was born in Holmes County on 3 November 1835. About 1838 the Schumms and the Michael Schueler family moved to Van Wert County, where they purchased land and established the village of Schumm and Zion Lutheran Church. Magdalene Schueler married John Bienz (Sr) (1823-1898) at Zion Schumm in 1852. Their first child, Johann Friedrich Bienz (Jr) (1853-1918), was born 20 June 1853.


Skip to comment form

    • Rosemary Charleston on April 28, 2023 at 8:08 am
    • Reply

    Karen, in the first picture is my Grandfather, Jessie Ross and probably Grandma Aluce. The little boy is either Frank Ross or my Dad Lee. The second picture is my Aunt Effie Morrison, Alice’s sister. I’m assuming the gentleman is probably her husband. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never seen these pictures.

    1. Thank you so much for identifying the photo! I suspected it was the Ross family, especially since the young boys looked the right age. All photos here are from the one large photo. I just enlarged images of the adults to see them better. Do you know what the connection to Grandma Beinz is? Thank you for writing.

    2. I forgot to ask in my reply to you, do you know where this house was? Do you remember it?

    • Rosemary Charleston on May 4, 2023 at 9:09 pm
    • Reply

    I do not know the connection to the Bienz name. I also do not know where the house was located. I did not see the whole first picture, but I believe my Dad, Lee is sitting on the fence and Frank is standing beside Jess. There were Bienz’s in Willshire..one was Kenneth and the other was Kermit. Was just revisiting this and saw your answer. Interesting to say the least.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.