Chance Finds is a new series. Frequently, when I’m researching my family, I happen across other (completely unrelated) little tidbits that are just too interesting not to share. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes shocking, but I just can’t resist collecting them!
From the Dorset County Chronicle and Somersetshire Gazette, 22 Aug 1833, p. 3, col. 3:
In the Market-place, Bath, on Wednesday, a man named Stradling offered his wife for sale to the highest bidder. The lady, it appeared, had been sold for half-a-crown on Monday at Lansdown fair, but the bargain was not considered legal–first because the sale was not held in a public market-place, and secondly because the purchaser had a wife already. The lady was dashingly attired and had a halter, covered with silk, round her neck. The biddings amounted at last to five shillings, at which sum it was understood she was bought in. It happened, however, very unluckily for the husband of the fair one, that the police had an eye to this little transaction, for just as the affair had concluded he was apprehended for having created a public disturbance, and was politely handed to a temporary lodging in the Bath Gaol. The above disgraceful exhibition collected, as may be easily imagined, an immense concourse of spectators.
The Hancock County jail, built in 1879, stood at the northwest corner of West Main Cross and Broadway.
It was the third prison owned by the county.
The first was built in 1830, just two years after the formation of the county itself. It was a wooden structure, constructed at a cost of $250, which stood on the grounds of the existing county courthouse on South Main Street. Sometime prior to 1837, this jail burned down. The prisoners themselves were blamed for the blaze.
A replacement was not constructed until 1852.
Its location on Broadway had previously been occupied by a cigar factory. Far more money was invested in building the second jail, just twenty years after the first. The building cost a total of $4,743.
The third Hancock County jail, at which Stanley was imprisoned, was torn down in December 1989 at 110 years old. Carved into the cornerstone of the building were the names of the county commissioners who were involved in the building of the prison in 1879: John Edgington, Ross W. Moore, and Louis Luneack.
This photo of my grandmother’s sixth grade class was taken at Lincoln school in Findlay, Hancock County, Ohio, in the spring of 1935. The original school building was located (and still stands!) at 200 W. Lincoln Street, a mere two or three blocks from the Arras family’s home at 519 W. Lincoln.
Grandma, Lucia (Arras) Benington, would probably not thank me for pointing her out in this particular photograph. She is, after all, the one person who blinked at the exact moment the picture was taken!
I would just skip posting this photo, out of all the class photos in her collection, but there is something special about this one. This is the only picture on the reverse of which she named every individual! Thanks to her thoughtfulness, I can now (hopefully) identify most of the people in all the rest of the photos, with a little detective work.
I imagine it might be a little difficult to read the writing from your computer screen, so here’s a transcription:
1st row–left to right: Jack Krout, Tommy Marshall, Glen Houes, Robert Brewer, Dick Cramar [Cramer]
2nd row–left to right: Betty Weitz, Dorthy [Dorothy] McCall, Marian Saller, Lucia Arras, Jean Taylor, Jane Bish, Virginia Rose, Maxine Sink, Ruth Cliner
3rd row–left to right: Donald Marvin, Betty Ex, Jeanne Anne Athey, Wayne Brewer, Tom Vosslor [Vossler], Mildred Saller, Arlene Strouse, Helena Oman, Rosalyn Rabkin
4th row–left to right: Robert Galnta, John Tabb, Mary Lou McFarland, Shirley Ann Quis, Mary Katherine Varner, Martha and Egen [Eugene] Cuningham [Cunningham], Bob Deyers, James Quinlan
The police were probably getting pretty sick of seeing Stanley’s face by now. After somehow escaping prosecution twice over, he was back in the city jail for the third time in two weeks.
After stealing butter from the Findlay Dairy Company, Stanley had gone around town to various grocers, trying to sell on his ill-begotten goods. On one such outing, he visited Jacob Frank, a man in his early seventies, at his shop on West Front Street.
Frank refused to purchase Stanley’s purloined products and, either in a fit of pique or unable to resist an opportunity, Stanley stole one of Mr. Frank’s checks while the man was not looking.
All in the Family
Surprisingly, Jacob Frank was also a relative.
Stanley’s sister, Clara Viola Smith, my great-grandmother, was married to Oliver Martin Arras.
Oliver’s mother, Johanna, was born a Crates.
Her father, Gottlieb, was the son of Johann Michael and Sibylla (Zehnder) Kroetz.
Gottlieb’s younger sister, Caroline, married Johann Jakob Frank in their hometown of Oberurbach on August 28, 1859, a year after Gottlieb had left for America.
Caroline and Johann Jakob’s son, Jacob Frank, emigrated to Findlay around twenty years later and established his grocery store.
If that all made about as much sense as trying to nail Jell-O to a tree, check out the chart below to clarify:
All of this means that Jacob Frank, the victim of Stanley’s theft, was his sister’s husband’s first cousin, one time removed.
While it is possible that Oliver and Clara were unaware of Oliver’s relationship to Jacob Frank, it is rather unlikely. At least two of Oliver’s Crates uncles, Charley and Monroe, remained in contact with the family in Oberurbach. After World War I, when Germany was suffering so heavily, they sent money to keep their German relations afloat. With letters going back and forth so long after Gottlieb and Caroline had left their homeland, it seems unlikely that their children and grandchildren would be oblivious of one another’s lives in the same city.
With Obvious Regret
On February 20th–Yes, you read that right. The same day Stanley must have been released from jail after his arrest on the bad check charges. So much for remorse!–Stanley, the old charmer, wrote out a check in the amount of $19.10 to be cashed by “Lester Smith”. He forged Jacob Frank’s signature and took the check to a bank to be cashed.
It all could have ended there, as the bank refused to cash the questionable check. Instead, “Lester” handed the check over to a friend, who had it cashed at Bazley Market.
Bazley Market, located at 407 South Main Street in Findlay, opened in mid-October 1928. It was one of a chain of meat markets across the Midwest, owned and operated by Bazley Markets of Chicago, Illinois. Given their ability to purchase meat in large quantities, the chain was able to keep prices low. As a result, the Bazley Market in Findlay was open until at least 1969.
Stanley was arrested the 27th of February, accused of the crime of forgery. This time he would not escape the swiftly turning wheels of justice. The following day he was bound over to the grand jury by Mayor Groves.
Unable to pay his bond of $1,000–an unimaginable amount of money for the man who couldn’t drum up $3 at the drugstore–he was transferred to the Hancock County jail.
I know, it sounds dramatic. Admittedly, I was up late the night before working on research, but this was a man’s LIFE.
Last night, I came across a newspaper article a friend had posted on Facebook. Her local county coroner’s office was looking for help identifying the families of two veterans who had died in the last month.
The coroner’s office had used its resources, with help from the police and the local veterans’ service commission, but had come up empty-handed. They would have to rely on tips from the public to find the families of these men. And if that failed? The Veterans Service Commission would provide a small stipend for burial assistance and contact the National Cemetery Administration and the VA to help arrange the burial.
These men would have been honored as vets and buried, but their families might never know what had happened to them. What a tragedy!
It felt a little cocky to start the research. After all, who am I to think I could do better than the people who had already been tackling this problem for weeks? Certainly, the resources at my disposal were far fewer.
But I made headway. Years of practice locating living relatives came in handy. My genealogy skills proved their worth and I found the family of one of the men. I prepared a sourced report and emailed it to myself so I could contact the coroner’s office in the morning.
I woke up this morning with mixed feelings. I was confident that I had found the right people. I was eager to help return a lost sheep to the fold. But I also questioned myself. Self-esteem has always been a problem for me. Was I really capable of doing this? Had I made a mistake? Were these people going to think I was crazy, calling out of the blue and saying that I knew who this man’s family was (without ever having met them)?
But a friend posted a video to Facebook. One that I seriously needed to see.
It was time to ask the universe.
I called the coroner’s office and emailed them my report. Then, as I mentioned before, I cried. I cried because I had taken a leap of faith; I had trusted myself to be good enough. I cried because there was a man who might not ever be remembered properly if I wasn’t willing to do what I could do. I cried because I actually DO have the ability to make the world a better place. It didn’t happen the way I imagined it as a child, but that’s what I had always dreamed about: changing things, making things better, having an impact on the lives of others.
For lack of a better term, it was like using my powers for good.
Genealogy isn’t just putting together charts and holding on to old dusty photographs so that future generations will remember. Genealogy is here and now. We have the power to do something amazing, if we are willing to try.
Only days after narrowly escaping charges of theft, Stanley Robert Smith was under arrest again. Unluckily for at least one other man in Findlay, the police gave reporters the wrong name.
It was initially reported that 19 year old Ralph Smith was being held in the city jail. The situation wasn’t cleared up until the next day, no doubt resulting in a good deal of embarrassment for the innocent Ralph Smith and his family.
There were actually four men by that name living in Findlay at the time, the closest in age being a 24-year-old quarry laborer, living with his parents. How would you like to come home from work that day? “Son, is there something you’d like to tell us?”
By the next morning, February 20, 1929, the details of Stanley’s crime (and his identity!) had crystallized. A full report appeared in the paper. George Stringfellow, the owner of the S&S Drugstore in downtown Findlay, had filed an affidavit, accusing Stanley Robert Smith of passing a worthless check.
A Building With a Past
The S&S Drugstore was located at 319 South Main Street in Findlay, just opposite the county courthouse.
Its name came from the last initials of its two owners, George T. Stringfellow and R. S. Shoemaker. Both men were registered pharmacists. George Stringfellow had been the manager of C. F. Jackson’s drug department for 15 years before purchasing S&S.
C. F. Jackson’s was a department store located at the southwest corner of South Main and West Sandusky streets. The department store building was known as the Glass Block and was a Findlay institution from its opening in 1905 through April 1933.
The building S & S operated out of (pictured above) had been a dedicated pharmacy for many years. The S & S Drugstore opened in late May 1926. For five years prior to that, O. M. Wolgamot ran the shop as Wolgamot’s drug store. He had purchased the business from J. C. Firmin, who had been a pharmacist there in the center of town for over 30 years.
In fact, as George Stringfellow was clearing out cabinets and drawers, preparing the shop for its grand opening, he discovered a number of old newspapers, dating back as early as 1893.
Whaddja Bring Me?
Stanley’s bad check was written for the amount of $3.80. I’m very curious to know what it was he purchased. What could have been worth going to jail for?
The following advertisement from S&S Drugstore at Christmas that year gives an idea of the kind of spending power we’re talking about:
(And just so you know, toilet water wouldn’t be as horrible a gift as it sounds to us today. It was a dilute form of perfume. Still, I’m tempted to tell the kids that’s what they’re getting for Christmas.)
Look Down, Look Down…
When I first read about Stanley and these first two arrests, stealing butter and spending money he didn’t have at a drug store, I thought his was a Jean Valjean-type situation. Here was this poor man, just trying to scrape by and feed and care for his family in a time of economic hardship. However, given the rest of his history, I’m not so sure that was the case. Just you wait…
George Henry and Mary Lucinda (Rauch) Smith, my great-great-grandparents and the parents of Stanley Robert Smith, in the yard at their daughter Clara Arras’s house. This photo was likely taken on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, the celebration of which occurred 69 years ago today: