Working the Land

Carl Miller, Jacob’s son, planting corn

Most of my ancestors were farmers. They were among those who cleared and worked the land, a difficult but rewarding job that played an important part in the growth of our country.

Johann “Jacob” Miller, my great grandfather, emigrated from Bavaria in 1871. On the ship’s passenger list Jacob stated that he was a farmer and that his destination was Indiana. After arriving in America he immediately settled in Mercer County, Ohio, near Chattanooga. Some of his Kessler relatives were already living in the area and I believe he settled here because of them. Immigrants most often moved to an area where family or neighbors from the old country had already settled. He purchased 80 acres of land in Section 30, Blackcreek Township, in 1873, just half a mile from the Indiana state line.

What was Jacob’s land like 20 years before he purchased it?  The 1853 Mercer County Plat book shows that the 80 acres was divided and owned by two individuals, Hiram Spry and Wallen Carter. Hiram owned the 40 acres that bordered the road. In 1853 that piece of land was described as excellent land with good timber, rather flat, 17 acres plowed, and 3 acres of meadow. There was an old hewn log house and a young orchard with apple and peach trees. All this was valued at $328. The back 40 acres was described as excellent land with good timber, 5 acres partially cleared, no fence, a new cabin, but no flowers. This land was valued at $265. It appears the lack of flowers made a big difference in the property’s value.

Let’s fast forward 17 years and see what Jacob Miller’s farm was like in 1880. To get that information I looked at the 1880 agricultural census of Mercer County. We are all familiar with the U.S. Federal Census schedules, sometimes called population schedules, but other special census schedules were produced over the years. These are referred to as non-population census schedules.  Among them are four agricultural schedules, taken during the years 1850-1880. They are separate schedules that list the production for all the farms in America, organized by state, county, and township. Although there is not really any genealogical information in the agricultural census schedules, they do contain interesting information about the farms at that time.

Mercer County, Ohio, 1880

Since Jacob Miller was living in Blackcreek Township, Mercer County, in 1880, I went to the Mercer County Public Library in Celina to look at a copy of the 1880 agricultural census on microfilm. The following is information about the Jacob Miller farm that I learned from that census:

Jacob owed his land and it was divided as follows: 46 acres tilled, including fallow & grass in rotation, pasture, meadow; 10 acres of permanent meadows, pastures, orchards, vineyards; 24 acres of woodland and forest.
The value of his farm, including land, fences, and buildings: $1600; value of farming implements and machinery: $25; value of livestock: $300; cost of building and repairing fences in 1879: $15; cost of fertilizers purchased in 1879: $0.
Jacob paid $12 for wages for farm labor during 1879, including value of board.
Value of all farm productions, sold, consumed, or on hand in 1879: $400.
Grass lands mown: 6 acres; not mown: 3 acres.
Products harvested in 1879: 15 acres of hay; 5 acres of clover seed; no grass seed.
There were 2 horses on hand 1 June 1880, but no mules or asses.
He owned 2 Milch [dairy] cows; 4 others; 1 calf was dropped 1879; he owned no working oxen.
Cattle purchased, sold living, slaughtered, died, strayed, stolen & not recovered: 0.
Milk sold or sent to butter/cheese factories in 1879: 100 gal; Butter made on the farm in 1879: 50 pounds; Cheese made: none.
Jacob had no sheep, but he owned 37 swine and had 18 barnyard poultry and 10 others; Eggs produced in 1879: 50 doz.
Cereals grown on the farm in 1879: No barley, buckwheat, or rye; 13 acres of Indian corn produced 500 bushels; 7 acres of oats produced 180 bushels; 15 acres of wheat produced 180 bushels.
Not grown in 1879: Canada peas, beans, flax, hemp, sorghum, maple, broom corn, hops, sweet potatoes, or tobacco.
Irish potatoes grown in 1879: ½ acre, which produced 20 bushels.
Jacob had a 1 acre apple orchard in 1879 that contained 15 bearing trees from which they picked 40 bushels. He did not grow any peaches, nor did he have any nurseries, vineyards, market gardens or bees.
Forest products in 1879: 25 cords of wood cut, valued at $25.

I thought the information in this census was interesting. For one thing, it appears that the family kept busy making butter and gathering eggs. They had quite a few hogs, too. I also noticed that he didn’t have to buy fertilizer back then.

This agricultural census gives us a good indication of what Jacob Miller’s farm was like in 1880. Look for more information about the farm and the Miller family in weeks to come.

Tombstone Tuesday—J. J. Schumm

Although the inscription “JJ Schumm” is all that is legible on this tombstone, I believe that this is the grave marker of Johann Jacob Schumm, one of the Schumms who immigrated to America in 1833 from Wuerttemberg. I will show how I arrived at this conclusion by using the church records of Zion Lutheran Church, Schumm, Ohio, and Van Wert County, Ohio, Cemetery Inscriptions, Vol. V, published by The Van Wert County Chapter of The Ohio Genealogical Society. Several years ago I translated Zion’s church records. They were written in the old German script and their burial records date back to 1846. The Van Wert Chapter OGS read and compiled Volume V in 1992, the last book of their cemetery inscriptions series.

Johann “Jacob” Schumm was born on 26 September 1815 in Ruppertshofen, Wuerttemberg, the son of Johann Georg and Anna Maria Schumm, nee Fisher. Jacob Schumm came to America with his father, sister, and three brothers in 1833. He resided in Holmes County, Ohio, about 5 years before settling in Van Wert County on 7 June 1838. According to the Family Register in Zion’s church records, Jacob married Hannah Herzog on 15 February 1839. There is some conflicting information concerning Hannah’s maiden name here. In a later entry, concerning the baptism of their son George, the church records give Hannah’s maiden name as Billman. I have not been able to locate Jacob and Hannah’s probate marriage record to confirm either maiden name, although Billman has been the accepted surname for years. Hannah was born on 5 October 1822 in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.  Jacob and Hannah had five children, Daniel (1840-1863; died in the Civil War), Katherina (1846-1929), George Christian (1848-1848), Ludwig (1849-1849), and Isabella (1851-1903). Jacob Schumm died on 31 August 1853 near Schumm and was buried on 1 September. He died from consequences of consumption at the young age of 37 years. Burial was in Zion’s cemetery. After Jacob’s death Hannah married Georg Steger, a widower, on 25 July 1854. Hannah died  21 March 1878. It is not known where she is buried. [Source: Records of Zion Lutheran Church, Schumm]

The tombstone of JJ Schumm is in Row 5 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Ohio. According to the Van Wert Chapter’s inscriptions book, the marker for J.J. Schumm was read in 1992 and is described on page 79: “Schumm, J.J., illegible.” Why do I believe that this is the tombstone of Jacob Schumm? First, this tombstone is made of marble. Marble was used for grave markers from 1830-1880. Granite started being used for markers in the 1880s. The material of this marker fits the time period of Jacob’s death.

Next I compared information from my two sources, Zion’s church records and the Van Wert Chapter’s cemetery inscriptions, searching for a Jacob, JJ, or J Schumm who was buried in Schumm Cemetery. If I could account for all the Jacob or JJ Schumms recorded in the church death records and who are buried in Schumm Cemetery, this illegible stone would most likely be that of Jacob Schumm. To do this I searched all of Zion’s death and burial records through 1920 for Schumms named Jacob or with the initials JJ or J. According to the cemetery inscriptions book there are only three Jacob Schumms buried in Zion’s cemetery, as well as a J.A. Schumm. [Note: I want to mention that there are a couple minor discrepancies between the church records and the cemetery inscriptions shown below. Some of the tombstones are weathered and very difficult to read. Errors could have occurred in several ways– errors when the tombstones were carved, errors in the church records, or errors during the reading/inscription process.] My findings and conclusions:

Jakob, son of Friedrich Schumm and his wife Magdalena, born 4 January 1848, died 5 August 1862. [Source: Zion Lutheran Church, Schumm, Book I, page 86] This agrees with the cemetery inscriptions: Jacob Schumm, row 2. According to his tombstone he died 5 August 1862, aged 14 years, _mo, 1 day. He was the son of Friederich & Magdalena Schumm.  [Source: Van Wert Cemetery Inscriptions, Vol. V, page 78] His tombstone is accounted for and this Jacob can be eliminated as a candidate.

Johann Jakob, son of the deceased Ludwig Schumm and his wife Barbara, died 28 Oct 1855, age 9 years, 27 days. He was buried 29 October. Cause of death was a fever, but he was a sickly child. Church records show he was born 30 September 1846. [Source: Zion Lutheran Church, Schumm, Book I, page 84] This agrees with the cemetery inscriptions: Jacob Schumm , row 4. According to his tombstone he died 27 Oct 1854/7, aged 9 years, 27 days. He was the son of Louis & Anna. [Source: Van Wert Cemetery Inscriptions, Vol. V, page 79] His tombstone is accounted for and this Jacob can also be eliminated as a candidate.

Jakob Wilhelm Schumm, son of Georg Schumm and his wife Maria, died 6 August 1858 at 7:00 in the morning, age 1 year, 5 months, 10 days. He was buried on 7 August. [Source: Zion Lutheran Church, Schumm, Book I, page 85] This agrees with the cemetery inscriptions:  J.A. Schumm, row 3, according to his tombstone he died 6 August 1858, aged 1 year, 5 months, the son of George and Maria. [Source: Van Wert Cemetery Inscriptions, Vol. V, page 79] His tombstone is accounted for and this Jacob can also be eliminated as a candidate. His middle name also took him out of the running.

Jacob F. Schumm, row 10, 12 June 1839-24 Aug 1927. This person can be eliminated because of the middle initial F, his vital dates, and because he was married to Maria (1847-1915). [Source: Van Wert Cemetery Inscriptions, Vol. V, page 83]

In conclusion, all of the Jacob Schumms and the JJ Schumms that were mentioned in the Schumm church burial records have existing tombstones–all except Johann “Jacob” Schumm, the immigrant who died in 1853. His tombstone may be gone from the cemetery, but if so, who is buried beneath the marker that reads JJ Schumm? There were no other Jacob Schumms in the church death and burial records

Therefore, I believe that this is the tombstone of one of the Schumm immigrants, my 2nd great granduncle, Johann “Jacob” Schumm. Now the tombstones of the six Schumms who immigrated in 1833 are accounted for, all of them in close proximity to each other in Zion Lutheran Cemetery, at Schumm.

Dropping Pennies

Years ago, when I was a child in Sunday School, we used to sing a song when the offering was taken up. The song was Dropping Pennies, and it went like this:

Hear the pennies dropping
Listen while they fall.
Every one for Jesus
He shall have them all.


Dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping
Hear the pennies fall.
Every one for Jesus
He shall have them all.

This is a catchy little song and it was the perfect offering song as we dropped our pennies to a little metal bank that was shaped like a church. We enjoyed hearing the coins as they hit the bottom of the bank. Kids often like to make noise during the church service. Adults, not so much.

Recently I was reminded of an incident that took place at a Lenten service several years ago. We have two churches in our parish, Zion and St. Paul, and each takes their turn hosting joint services. I attend Zion and this event occurred at St. Paul.

I was sitting by Mary Anne that evening awhile back and our husbands were seated on either side of us. We happened to be sitting toward the front of the church, not in the back rows where Lutherans usually sit. Somehow, as Mary Anne passed the heavy metal offering plate to me, the plate got away from us and fell to the floor. It made a very loud clang and I think the fall may have even dented the plate. It was sort of like watching an accident happen–we knew what was happening and it seemed to be happening in slow motion, but there was nothing we could do to stop it at that point. Of course the change that was in the plate went rolling in all directions.

Once we had everyone’s attention, the scattered offering needed to be picked up so the offering plate could start moving down the pew again. Our husbands seemed very eager to help. It was amazing how quickly they bent down to help pick up the offering. However, Joe seemed to be down there a little longer than was probably necessary. Perhaps he was trying to hide. Mary Anne’s husband mumbled that in all his years he had never seen anyone drop an offering plate.

I have heard other items dropped during church services, primarily hymnals. They tend to make a loud thud, a sound which does not even come close to the sound of a metal offering plate hitting the floor. Sound will also depend on the type of flooring in the church. Did I mention that St. Paul has hardwood floors? Sound carries and resonates on hardwood. We have carpet under the pews at Zion and had the offering plate fell there it probably would have just made a thump. Yes, carpet in a church can be a good thing.

I believe that successful plate passing can be compared to passing the baton while running a relay race. Practice and skill are required. In my defense, I do not get much practice passing an offering plate. This is a skill I have not learned because I am the organist at Zion and I am busy playing an offertory while the offering plates are passed around. I guess my skills are elsewhere.

Our husbands do not let Mary Anne and I sit side by side anymore. At a recent service at St. Paul, Mary Anne was sitting in the pew in front of me. She turned and gave me a little grin as the ushers came down the aisle with the offering plates. I knew that she was remembering our little incident. Mary Anne slowly and efficiently passed the plate to her husband but I refrained from even trying to take hold of it. I let Joe reach over the back of the pew for it. The plate made it safely and quietly to our pew and then Joe passed it on down.

But, a few moments later there was a crash from behind us. Had someone behind us dropped the offering plate yet again? Another plate drop would make Mary Anne and I look less inept. After all, this could happen to anyone. But the sound was not the same. It was not the same loud metallic sound we had produced. I looked to the back of the church and I saw that one of the ushers had knocked over a ceramic mug full of pencils. Yes, it attracted some attention, but not as much as we once did.

Hear the pennies dropping, listen as they fall… Mary Anne and I hope not any time soon.


Tombstone Tuesday – Ed & Helen (Lee) Roesner

North Grove Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio

This is the tombstone of Edward Roesner and his wife Goldie “Helen”, nee Lee. They are buried in Ward 13, Row 7 in North Grove Cemetery, just north of Celina in Mercer County, Ohio. Edward was the subject of the two previous posts. The marker is inscribed:


Edward Roesner was born 27 November 1893 in Van Wert County, Ohio, to Dietrich and Christine (Schorr) Roesner. He was baptized 10 April 1896 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Van Wert. His parents were his sponsors at baptism. His siblings, Melinda, Christian, Friedrich, and Hanna were also baptized the same day. Another sister, Louise, was born and baptized the following month.  (Source: Church records, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Van Wert, page 69.) Edward married Helen Lee on 18 July 1921 in Van Wert County by W. F. Henkel, minister. (Vol. 15:586) Edward died 22 December 1957 in Mercer County, Ohio. According to his death certificate he died of acute cardiac failure due to chronic myocardial insufficiency.

Christian, Ed (standing), Fred Roesner, brothers

Roesner Rites Tuesday P.M. in Funeral Home. Edward Roesner, R.R. 4, Celina, died Sunday at 11 a.m. in the Otis hospital. He had been in failing health and death was attributed to a complication of ailments. Born in Van Wert County November 29, 1893, he was a retired railroader. He had been employed by the railroad for 46 years.  Thirty six years ago he was married to Helen Lee, who survives. He is also survived by a son, Frederick L. Roesner of Lima, a daughter, Mrs. Dwight Bennett of R. R. 3, Celina, nine grandchildren, a brother, Fred Roesner of Oregon and two sisters, Mrs. Larry Sheay of Santa Ana, Calif., and Mrs. Minnie Williams of Van Wert. Dick and Stallter have charge of the arrangements and friends may call in their Funeral Home on West Market Street, until the time of the rites. Rev. W.D. Sharp will have charge of the services on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. in the Funeral Home.
(Source: The Daily Standard, 23 December 1957, page 9, column 1)

Edward’s obituary in The Van Wert Times Bulletin mentioned that his body was to be cremated. (Source: The Van Wert Times Bulletin, 23 December 1957, page 24)

Roesner Rites Held Tuesday P.M.
Rev. W.D. Sharp conducted funeral rites on Tuesday afternoon in Dick and Stallter Funeral Home for the late Edward Roesner. Rev. Sharp delivered the consoling sermon and read verses of several hymns. Interment was made in North Grove Cemetery with the following acting as pallbearers, Levi and Russell Lee, William Myers, Virgil Vorhees, Charles Kirkendall and Fred Boyd. (Source: The Daily Standard, 26 December 1957, page 3, column 7)

Helen G. Roesner, 86, died at 10:12 a.m. Sunday at Celina Manor, Celina. She was a homemaker. Her husband of 36 years, Edward Roesner, died Dec. 22, 1957. Survivors include a daughter, Louise Bennett of Celina; a son, Fred of Curtis; a brother, Russell Lee of Fort Wayne; a sister, Geneva Wilder of Fort Wayne; nine grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and six great-great-grandchildren. Services at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Lehman Funeral Home, Celina. Calling from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral Home. Burial in North Grove Cemetery, Celina. (Source: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 30 September 1991, page 4A)

Louise, Helen, Ed, Fred Roesner, c1925

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Part 2

The Daily Standard, 27 April 1917, page 7

A few weeks ago I blogged about my 2011 Genealogy Goals. I have already had positive results from one of those goals—my goal to review information that I had already collected. By looking through documents I have here at home I was able to get some clues for additional research about Edward Roesner’s railroad accident in which he lost part of his right arm. This is something we, as researchers, should remember to do–look back through the documents and information we have already gathered and study them from time to time. There may be clues that we missed the first time around or information that we never followed up on. We may have collected some new information in the meantime, and when all the information is put together, we may be able to draw new conclusions for further research.

My research goal for this project was to find out more about Edward Roesner’s railroad accident. I had what I thought was an approximate date of his accident from his Railroad Retirement Board file. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, those records showed that he stopped working in April 1917 and that he did not work for the railroad for seven years. He resumed rail work in 1924. Something must have happened in 1917. He had been a brakeman since 1914, a physical and dangerous job. He returned to work as a crossing watchman in 1924, a job that was much less dangerous. It looked like his railroad accident might have occurred in April 1917. He was employed by the Cincinnati Northern Railroad at the time. The Cincinnati Northern Railroad (1894-1938) stretched from Franklin, Ohio, (near Cincinnati) north to Jackson, Michigan, a distance of about 186 miles.  (Wikipedia) Their trains ran through both Celina and Van Wert.

Next I looked at Edward’s WW1 Draft Registration card on The card was dated 5 June 1917. In answer to the question, Has person lost arm, leg, hand, foot, or both eyes or is he otherwise disabled, Edward answered “one hand.” This really narrowed down the time period in which the accident occurred. He had lost his arm before 5 June 1917. So, the April 1917 time period was looking very good as a place to start my search. Edward’s daughter, Louise, had told me the accident occurred in Celina. I would start there, looking through the April 1917 issues of the only newspaper in Celina, The Daily Standard, a weekly paper at that time. I looked through newspaper images on microfilm at the Mercer County Library in Celina and within minutes I found a newspaper item about Edward’s accident in their last issue for April 1917. That was an exciting find!

I learned that Edward’s railroad accident occurred 23 April 1917 in Celina. According to the newspaper article, Edward fell from a box car and the railroad car passed over his right arm at the elbow. They had to amputate his arm immediately. The accident occurred about 1:30 as the southbound Cincinnati Northern freight train No. 75 was passing between Warren and Logan Streets in Celina. Louise had told me that the accident occurred near what was once the creamery on Warren Street.

The newspaper article about the accident also said that Ed lived in Van Wert and that he was married! Married? He did not marry Helen Lee until 1921. This will need some further research. However, Edward stated that he was single on his WWI Draft Registration card, dated about six weeks after the accident. He also stated that he had never been married on his marriage license to Helen Lee. The newspaper probably got that information wrong, but I will still look for a marriage record before 1917.

What about Edward’s job as a brakeman? The brakeman on a train had a dangerous job. According to American Rails, the brakeman held one of the most dangerous occupations on the freight train, or anywhere on the railroad. Fela Law Help describes the job: the railroad brakeman worked with a conductor and an engineer, making up a freight and yard crew. Railroad brakemen usually helped with the coupling and uncoupling of cars as well as operating switches as the cars were dropped off and picked up. And, according to Wikipedia, the brakeman was a member of a railroad train’s crew responsible for assisting with braking a train when the conductor wanted the train to slow down. The brakemen rode in the caboose, the last car in the train, which was built specially to allow a crew member to apply the brakes of the caboose quickly and easily, which would help to slow the train. Brakemen were also required to watch the train when it was underway to look for signs of hot box, (a dangerous overheating of axles,) as well as for people trying to ride the train for free, and cargo shifting or falling off.

Ed’s daughter, Louise, said that after his accident the railroad gave him a lifetime job as a crossing watchman on Logan Street in Celina. According to her, Edward worked in Winchester, Indiana, after they closed the crossing in Celina. As a crossing watchman, Ed’s job would have consisted of operating a manual crossing gate and using a stop sign to control traffic at the crossing. According to Whippany Railway Museum, watchmen were also required to inspect passing trains for defects, report engineers who failed to properly sound the whistle or ring the bell at the crossing, and they were expected to keep the crossing area clear of snow or other debris that might interfere with safe operation. The watchman would sit in a “watch box” or “crossing shanty” until crossing gates became common about the middle of the 20th century.

Louise said that her father learned to function very well without his right arm. She recalled that he learned to write with his left hand, tie his shoe laces, and even garden, one of his favorite pastimes.  One of her earliest memories was when the family lived on Mackinaw Street in Celina.  Their house was very near the railroad tracks and she liked to run down the tracks and greet her father when he came home from work.  She said her dad would pick her up and carry her home.

Edward Roesner completed the 12 question WWI Draft Registration card on 5 June 1917. Below is a copy of that card. It is rather difficult to read and I have included a transcription below the card.

WWI Draft Registration, 12 question card, 1st Registration, transcription:
1.       Name:  Ed Roesner Age: 23
2.       Home address: 619 N. Cherry, Van Wert, Ohio
3.       Date of birth: Nov 29, 1893
4.       Are you (1) Natural-born citizen, (2) a naturalized citizen, (3) an alien, (4) or have you declared your intention:  1 yes
5.       Where were you born: Van Wert, Ohio
6.       If not a citizen, of what country are you a citizen? Left blank
7.       What is your present trade/occupation: None
8.       By whom employed? Where? Left blank
9.       Have you a father, mother, wife, child under 23, sister, brother under 12 solely dependent on you for support? None
10.   Married or single: Single Race: White
11.   What military service have you had: None
12.   Do you claim exemption from draft: None
13.   Tall, medium or short: Medium; Slender, medium or stout: Medium

  • Color of eyes:  Brown; Color of hair: Brown
  • Has person lost arm, leg, hand, foot, or both eyes, or  his he otherwise disabled: One hand

Signature of Registrar: Brough Johnson
Precinct, city or county, state: 1 Ward, Van Wert, Ohio
Date of registration: 5 June 1917
Edward also completed a WWII Registration Card in 1942, shown below.

WWII Draft Registration Card, 1942

It is interesting to note that Edward’s father, Dietrich Roesner, was also involved in the transportation industry. In 1882-1883 he was a boatman on the Wabash and Erie Canal in northeast Indiana. It is also ironic that the advent of the railroad system pretty much put an end to the canal system in this country. And the Roesners were part of both of these means of transportation.