The Mysterious Fate of Lena Smith, Part Two

What was Lena doing in Boston?  Unfortunately, this was not handed down as part of the family story.  Some speculation is possible, at least.

Lena seems to have been quite an intrepid young woman.  Having grown up in small town Ohio, she traveled nearly 800 miles to the brand new world of golden-age Boston in order to forge her own way.  Perhaps, like so many of us in our teenage years, she chafed under the perceived dictatorial rule of her parents and stifling expectations of the community in which she had grown to adulthood.  Maybe she was attracted by the bright lights of the big city.  She might even have traveled to further her education, though options were somewhat limited for those of her sex at the time.

Even her hairstyle (seen here) can be viewed as an indication of the kind of young lady she was.  Short hair on a woman was far from the norm.  In fact, it was considered to be less of a fashion statement and more of a political one.

In a syndicated article that appeared in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette on 27 March 1916, journalist Nixola Greeley-Smith documented the movement toward short hair for women:

Mrs. Charlotte Perkins Gilman has called public attention to the fact that more and more women are cutting their hair short after the manner of men. “It was not the Lord who gave men short hair,” observed Mrs. Gilman, in ridiculing man’s claim to the exclusive privilege, “it was the scissors.”

“Men have a habit of seizing upon everything comfortable and calling it masculine. They stole women’s right to short hair as they stole her right to wear trousers…and as they stole her right to the vote.”1

This association of bobbed hair with women’s suffrage makes repeated appearances in newspapers across the country, including in an article published in the Sikeston Standard (Sikeston, Missouri) in March, 1917:


Woman Displays Clipped Locks At Headquarters Of Congressional Union.

Washington, D. C., March 20.–For many years the lobby in Washington was noted for the short haired women and long-haired men, who frequented the corridors of the Capitol and tried to put through all kinds of freak legislation. It seems now as if the short-haired woman, at least, was about to return. The fashion was started at the headquarters of the Congressional Union, than which there is no more vigorous lobby anywhere, when Mrs. Jessie Hardy Stubbs Mackaye took off her hat with a flourish and disclosed thick clipped black locks, curling a la Mrs. Vernon Castle about her neck and ears.

The locks were amputated, it was explained, because in this shape it is not only easier to manage, but more sanitary and sensible than the long, hair-pinned locks which heretofore have been considered the crowning glory of woman, save in the ranks of the old-time lobbyists like Dr. Mary Walker, who not only have worn short hair for many years, but has worn trousers as well.

It was said at Congressional Union headquarters that more than fifty prominent suffragists were in favor of the new hair cut, provided proper dispensations from their husbands were forthcoming. However, Mrs. Mackaye was still alone in her bobbed-hair glory tonight.2

All of this makes me very curious to know whether Lena was, in fact, involved in the women’s suffrage movement.  One way or another, she was likely quite foreward-thinking and obviously brave enough to sport her short hairstyle regardless of the opinions of those around her.

Do any of you out there know whether there are resources I might use to find out if Lena was a suffragette in Boston?

Next Time: The Mysterious Fate of Lena Smith: Part Three


1 Greeley-Smith, Nixola. “Short Hair for Women! The Slogan Now; Many Lead in New Fashion,” Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Fort Wayne, IN), 27 Mar 1916, p 7 col 5.
2 “Suffragettes Cut Hair,” Sikeston Standard (Sikeston, MO), 23 Mar 1917, p 8 col 7.


Indexing: Wills of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 1852

If you need help navigating to the Pennsylvania probate records on FamilySearch, click here for guidance.

Today’s data is from “Wills 1839-1870 vol 3-5”. Check the first column of the table below for the image number. Type it into the box near the top of the page on FamilySearch (Image __ of 701) to find the desired image.


Image Number First Name Last Name Township Date Proved
180 Joseph A Hisam Rostraver 20 Jan 1852
Alexander Culbertson Unity 23 Jan 1852
Daniel Tarr South Huntingdon 26 Jan 1852
181 William S Robison 16 Feb 1852
Phebe Donald Franklin 17 Dec 1852
Philip Trout Mt Pleasant 2 Feb 1852
182 John Chambers Pleasant Unity 3 Feb 1852
183 John Duff North Huntingdon 5 Feb 1852
John G Strouble Sewickley 17 Feb 1852
James Jr Stewart Salem 25 Feb 1852
Samuel Irwin North Huntingdon 3 Apr 1852
184 William Reynolds Mt Pleasant 6 Mar 1852
186 Margaret Altman Hempfield 20 Mar 1852
Abraham Ebersole Unity 23 Mar 1852
187 William Sr. Kennedy Allegheny 23 Mar 1852
William Jack Hempfield 10 Apr 1852
188 Hannah Snyder East Huntingdon 10 Apr 1852
189 Andrew Boyer 13 Apr 1852
Rosanna Stewart North Huntingdon 29 Apr 1852
Richard Coulter Borough of Greensburg 30 Apr 1852
190 Alexander Hunter Donegal 15 May 1852
Martha Benninger 17 May 1852
Peter Ruffner or Roofner Hempfield 19 May 1852
191 John Sloan Salem 24 May 1852
James Nelson Donegal 25 May 1852
192 Lavina or Lavinia Culbertson Unity 1 Jun 1852
James McIntyre or McIntire 16 Jun 1852
Sarah Rainey or Hill Salem 21 Jun 1852
193 Jacob Kester East Huntingdon 3 Jul 1852
William Hindman 7 Jul 1852
John Laffer
194 Chauncey F Lichtenberger town of Mt Pleasant 8 Jul 1852
Simon H Drum Springfield, Clark, Ohio 3 Aug 1852
195 David Sr. Shirey Unity 5 Aug 1852
Martin Phillippi Ligonier 23 Aug 1852
196 Charles Bovard Loyalhanna 23 Aug 1852
William H King North Huntingdon 3 Sep 1852
197 William Smith Derry 6 Sep 1852
198 Joseph Smith South Huntingdon 23 Sep 1852
Isaac Hugus town of New Salem 27 Sep 1852
Jesse Sr. Kilgore Mt Pleasant 4 Oct 1852
199 John Reeger Allegheny 4 Oct 1852
200 Robert Walker Washington 6 Oct 1852
John Fried South Huntingdon 19 Oct 1852
Abraham Blythstone or Blystone East Huntingdon 20 Oct 1852
201 Agnes or Nancy George North Huntingdon 28 Oct 1852
David Bell North Huntingdon 29 Oct 1852
Wilson Jack Allegheny 10 Nov 1852
William Morrison Allegheny 11 Nov 1852
202 Elizabeth Steel Fairfield 22 Nov 1852
Michael Kunkle Hempfield 23 Nov 1852
203 Mary Ann Giffen Freeport, Armstrong, PA 8 Dec 1852
Barbara Mericle Unity 22 Dec 1852

Stop the Presses!: The Mysterious Fate of Lena Smith

I had initially scheduled this week’s posts to continue the Stanley saga, but I think it’s important to switch my focus for a short time.  Today, September 26, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of Stanley’s sister, Lena.


Mary Magdalena Smith, known by friends and family alike as Lena, was born in 1895.  She was the fourth consecutive daughter born to her parents, George Henry and Mary Lucinda (Rauch) Smith.  By all accounts, Lena and her two surviving older sisters, Clara and Minnie, were extremely close.

As a result, her death at the age of 22 came as a tremendous, devastating shock to her sisters.  When I first started researching our family tree as a teenager, my grandma Lucia, Clara’s daughter, told me her story.

According to Grandma, Lena had moved from small town Ohio to Boston in her late teens.  While there, she became involved with a young man from a prominent family who did not approve of their relationship.  What happened next was a mystery.  Suddenly Lena turned up dead.  Lena’s father and brothers-in-law traveled to Boston to collect her body and bring it home for burial in the family plot.

It seemed that perhaps some foul play had been involved in Lena’s death.  Grandma wondered whether the family had arranged to have her put out of the way.

Considering that my grandmother wasn’t born until six years after Lena’s death, this story had clearly made the rounds in the family a time or two.  Clara probably spent the rest of her life wondering what had happened to her beloved sister.  Certainly Grandma was keen to know whether this was a mystery that might be solved.

Several times over the years, I began searching for Lena.  But you know how genealogy is.  There are so many amazing, interesting things to discover.  It is so easy to get diverted and end up off down the rabbit hole!  And so I had practically forgotten about Lena–until last week, that is.

I was chatting to a Smith cousin (Hi Cheryl!) when it occurred to me to ask her whether she had ever heard Lena’s tale.  After all, her grandfather was one of Lena’s siblings.  She hadn’t, but just telling the story again lit a fire under my rear end.

I searched once more for her death certificate and this time, I hit paydirt!

Next Time: The Mysterious Fate of Lena Smith, Part Two


The Family Photo Album: Bernice and Mary

Today’s photo is of my great-grandmother, Bernice (Kraus) Benington, wife of Ralph Benington whose WWI experiences are documented in this series.  Bernice is pictured standing outside her home at 420 Tiffin Avenue in Findlay, Ohio.  Above her, on the porch, is her mother, Mary Josephine (Groth) Kraus.

bernice and mary

Mary lived to a ripe old age.  Just recently, I found a newspaper article profiling her on the occasion of her 90th birthday:

Findlay Woman, 90 Today, Says Days, Years Go Faster The Older One Gets


“The older you get the faster the days and years go flying by,” Mrs. Mary Kraus, 138 Trenton Ave., commented yesterday. So it isn’t worrying her a bit that, although she will be 90 years old today, her birthday will not be celebrated until Sunday.

Her children are planning an open house from 2 to 5 o’clock Sunday afternoon in the home where Mrs. Kraus lived for 60 years and where all of her six children were born. Located on US 224 in Marion Township, it is now the home of one of her grandchildren, Mrs. Clyde King.

All of her six children, including two who live in Oklahoma, will be at the celebration. So will most of her 14 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren. Friends of the family are also expected during the afternoon to offer their congratulations.

Two of Mrs. Kraus’ daughters, Mrs. Malcolm (Glenna) McFarland and her husband and Mrs. Elton (Mabel) Rose and Mr. Rose are expected to arrive Saturday from their homes in Tulsa, Okla.

The other children, all of whom live in Findlay, are Mrs. Parker (Carrie) Ickes, Mrs. Bernice Bennington, Mrs. Virgil (Frances) Saltzman and Clarence Kraus, with whom Mrs. Kraus lives.

“After my husband John died in 1930, I gave up my home and tried living in an apartment but I felt so boxed up,” she explained. “Then I lived around with all of my children but that didn’t work, either. It seemed I hardly got settled in one place until it was time to go somewhere else. So, since last November I’ve been living here with my son and my children come and visit me. It’s a lot easier on me.”

Oldest of Seven

Mrs. Kraus is the oldest of seven children born to Mr. and Mrs. John Groth who came here from Germany. The family consisted of two daughters and five sons. Mrs. Kraus’ sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Russell, lives in Biglick Township. All of her brothers are dead except one — John Groth of Calypso, Mont.

“That’s the sad thing about living so long,” Mrs. Kraus said. “All my classmates at the old Wolfe School are gone, too, except Mrs. Effie Carter. I hope she can come to my party.”

Mrs. Kraus recalls wading through deep snow and mud many days to attend the little one room school. It was about a mile from her home.

She has been a Lutheran all her life, and believes she is the oldest member of Trinity Lutheran Church.

A lot of her time is spent crocheting.

“I’ve made scads of pot holders, pillow cases and covers for heating pads. My great-granddaughters have pillow cases I have made tucked away in their hope chests. I’ve crocheted better than a hundred rugs, too.”

She likes to make rugs better than any other crocheting she does, but admits they are getting a little heavy for her to handle. Her hands are badly crippled by arthritis but as she says, “I’m going to keep on crocheting as long as I possibly can. I think the exercise is good for my hands.”

Proud of Her Rugs

She is proud of her rugs. She makes all shapes and sizes but, “I can’t make them pretty if the rags aren’t pretty,” she pointed out.

Mrs. Kraus says her eyesight isn’t too good but so far that hasn’t hindered her in her crocheting. But she doesn’t care for television.

“My eyes are better than my ears,” she said, “so even if I can see the picture I don’t know what it is about because I can’t hear the conversation.”

No one ever sees Mrs. Kraus without her white hair neatly combed, rouge and powder on her face and wearing a pretty housedress, according to her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Clarence Kraus.

“Yes, I powder up a little bit,” confessed the peppy little woman who will be 90 years old today. “They say if you curry an old horse he’ll look better!”

Mrs. Kraus is looking forward to Sunday when she will be going back to the house where she lived the longest and most important part of her life and which is filled with memories, both happy and poignant.

With relatives and friends there to help her celebrate her ninetieth birthday the house will bring an experience which will provide her with another happy memory.


Stanley Robert Smith: The Tipping Point?

Stanley had certainly made plenty of bad decisions in his first twenty-two years of life.  We’ve seen a number of documented instances of this over the last few weeks here on the blog.

This time, however, might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for parts of the Smith family.  Others might have been more closely tied to the situation than they would have liked to let on.

Though he apparently tried to cover for his co-conspirators during initial questioning, Stanley did not act alone.  Two younger men were arrested shortly after him, one of whom was his sister’s teenage son.1

Call in the Specialists

Stanley’s two young cohorts were probably quite necessary to the business.  Though Stanley had learned the ins and outs of selling on stolen cars from his cellmate at the penitentiary2, he was, in fact, a plumber by trade.3

Stanley’s nephew had grown up in his paternal grandfather’s garage in Jenera, 12 miles southwest of Findlay.  His father was also a mechanic for the National Refining Company4 and likely expected his sons to assist in repairs to the family’s car over the years.

The third young man, George C. Foster, had worked as a machinist in a garage.5

Without the specialist knowledge of these two, Stanley might not have been able to disassemble and rebuild the 15 cars they were ultimately accused of stealing.

The Chop Shop

It was initially suspected that Stanley was a fence in an auto theft ring operating out of Toledo.6 However, the newspaper articles about the subsequent investigation and trial never again mention these suspected ties.  Instead, Stanley is referred to as the “brains” of the operation.7

The three men stole most of the cars in Detroit8 and drove them home to a barn on Park Street in Findlay.  There, they dismantled the vehicles, removing identification numbers and replacing the engines with new ones they purchased.9

At this point in time, vehicle identification numbers (VIN) did not exist.  Instead, cars were identified by their engine number.

Simply installing a new engine provided Stanley with the ability to furnish a bill of sale.

Moving the Merchandise

The majority of the cars stolen were sold on to unsuspecting individuals in the area.10  The map below shows the location where each of these cars was found:

Findlay: Frank Barger, Glen A. Smith, Leo Friend, C. O. Smith, Theron Arras
Bairdstown: Ray Bell
Bluffton: Carson Marshall
Arcadia: T. J. Eisenhauer
North Baltimore: H. H. Pore

In addition, each of the three men kept one of the cars for himself.

Two of the vehicles had to be dumped.  While transporting a Ford coach from Detroit, Stanley began to suspect that he was being shadowed by police.  He abandoned the vehicle on state route 106 west of Findlay.11

The now-defunct state route 106 existed only from 1923 to 1937.  Its eastern terminus lay in Findlay and it ran roughly southwest to end near Gomer.  Route 106 was replaced by an extension to State Route 12.12

state route 12

The other abandoned car was not located until March 17th.  Stanley had confessed during questioning that it could be found in a quarry at the Turley farm south of Findlay.  The submerged vehicle was towed out by a local wrecking service. 13

1 “3 Turned Over to Federal Officers,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 16 Mar 1933, p 3 col 7.
2 “Youth Held Here is Seen ‘Fence’ in Car Theft Ring,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 11 Mar 1933, p 8 col 1.
3 Inmate Case Files, compiled 07/03/1895–06/06/1952. ARC ID: 571125. Records of the Bureau of Prisons, 1870–2009, Record Group 129. The National Archives at Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.,  Record for Stanley Robert Smith.
4 R. L. Polk (comp.), R.L. Polk and Co.’s Findlay City Directory, 1933-34 (Columbus, Ohio: R. L. Polk & Co., 1933), p. 49, Oliver M Arras; digitized in “U.S. City Directories, 1821–1899,” database, Ancestry ( : accessed 18 Sep 2017), path Ohio > Findlay > 1933.
5 1930 U.S. Census, Findlay, Hancock County, Ohio, population schedule, ED 32-14, sheet 6B, dwelling 157, family 159, George C Foster, digital image,, ( : accessed 18 September 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1820.
6 “Youth Held Here”
7  “Stolen Auto is Got From Quarry,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 18 Mar 1933, p 14 col 3.
8  Ibid.
9 “Youth Held Here”
10 “Stolen Auto is Got From Quarry”.
11 “3 Turned Over to Federal Officers”.
12  “List of former state routes in Ohio (50–130),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed September 18, 2017).
13 “Stolen Auto is Got From Quarry”.

Indexing: Wills of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 1851

If you need help navigating to the Pennsylvania probate records on FamilySearch, click here for guidance.

Today’s data is from “Wills 1839-1870 vol 3-5”. Check the first column of the table below for the image number. Type it into the box near the top of the page on FamilySearch (Image __ of 701) to find the desired image.



Image Number First Name Last Name Township Date Proved
153 Allen McComb Loyalhanna 27 Jan 1851
William Ralston Salem 30 Jan 1851
Conrad Bussort Hempfield 10 Feb 1851
William Brady Fairfield 11 Feb 1851
154 Henry Burkholder Derry 12 Feb 1851
John Sr. Laffer Franklin 27 Feb 1851
157 Egeidick Bechtole Mt Pleasant 4 Mar 1851
Alexander H McCurdy Derry 11 Mar 1851
William Buchanan Loyalhanna 14 Mar 1851
158 Michael Weimer Donegal 17 Mar 1851
George Ambrose North Huntingdon 21 Mar 1851
159 Dorcas Russell Greensburg Borough 24 Mar 1851
Samuel McCutcheon 31 Mar 1851
Lenard Sowerwine Salem 1 Apr 1851
John Bierer Hempfield 2 Apr 1851
161 Timothy Jaynes Derry 4 Apr 1851
Andrew Byerly North Huntingdon 5 Apr 1851
162 Charles Menoher Ligonier 24 Apr 1851
Mary McGowan Loyalhanna 30 Apr 1851
163 Martha Thompson Hempfield 15 May 1851
Henry Boyd North Huntingdon 16 May 1851
James Anderson Unity 20 May 1851
164 Mary Wolgamuth Hempfield 15 Apr 1851
James Ferguson Franklin 14 Jun 1851
Michael Fry Mt Pleasant 16 Jun 1851
165 Alexander Story Hempfield 19 Jun 1851
166 James McKean Franklin 23 Jun 1851
George Seanor Hempfield 1 Jul 1851
Frederick Weller Donegal 1 Jul 1851
167 Jacob Buercles Derry 5 Aug 1851
John Hossler Rostraver 18 Aug 1851
168 Robert Reed 18 Aug 1851
James Ross Donegal 7 Jan 1858
Samuel Sr. Shaw Salem 19 Aug 1851
169 Samuel Low Hempfield 20 Aug 1851
John Greenlee 26 Aug 1851
Margaret Davis Rostraver 28 Aug 1851
170 Jacob Shearer Franklin 1 Sep 1851
Henry Brinker Unity 8 Sep 1851
171 Alexander Clark Greensburg Borough 8 Sep 1851
David Kilgore 9 Sep 1851
172 Elizabeth Culbertson Derry 19 Sep 1851
James Mawhirter Derry 22 Sep 1851
William Mawhirter Unity 27 Sep 1851
173 William Lightcap Unity 3 Oct 1851
John McDowell 18 Sep 1851
174 Elenor Giffen Mt Pleasant 19 Sep 1851
Robert Sr. Shields Salem 16 Oct 1851
James Keenan Youngstown Borough 29 Jul 1851
176 Elizabeth Acklin Allegheny 21 Oct 1851
John McKee 4 Nov 1851
177 Isaac Walter 17 Nov 1851
Jonathan Sarver Hempfield Nov 1851
William Chambers Unity 24 Nov 1851
178 Elizabeth Straw Greensburg Borough 24 Nov 1851
Alexander Cooper Sewickley 28 Nov 1851
William Ekin North Huntingdon 5 Dec 1851
179 David Orr Rostraver 10 Dec 1851

Stanley Robert Smith: No Regrets


Suspect Taken by Police Believed Connected With Group From Toledo

The “fence” for a ring of automobile thieves operating in this section of the country is believed to have been uncovered here by police in the arrest of Stanley Smith, 23, who on March 16, 1932, was paroled from Ohio penitentiary after serving time for forgery.

Charges of receiving, concealing and selling stolen automobiles have been placed against Smith, who used a barn on Park street in which to conceal and dismantle his machines.  Numerous accessories for automobiles have also been found there.

Smith, it is believed, has been connected with a theft ring operating out of Toledo.  None of nine automobiles recovered following Smith’s arrest was stolen in Findlay.  It is presumed that any cars stolen by the ring of thieves here were taken to some other “fence” and disposed of.

Learned at Pen, He Says

It was indicated by Chief Larkins yesterday that Smith would be returned to the penitentiary as a parole violator.

Smith, according to his statement to police, said that during his incarceration in the “big house” he got the low-down on the automobile stealing and dismantling racket from a “lifer” who was his cell mate.  When paroled, he told police he had planned to take up bank robbing as an occupation but later decided to go in for a “more legitimate” business such as stealing and dismantling and selling cars.

J. P. Rockenfield, special agent for the Automobile Protective and Information bureau of Chicago, stopped here yesterday to make an investigation of the case.  Chief Larkins said Rockenfield commended his department on its effective work.  He suspected Smith of being connected with a big mid-west ring.  The automobiles recovered here are thought to have been stolen in neighboring states.

Suspicions Aroused

Smith’s automobile dealing aroused the suspicions of certain individuals who notified police and they in turned launched an investigation.  Going to the barn on Park street, Chief Larkins and Sergeant Homer Johnston found the body and chassis of a machine, and automobile parts strewn all over the inside of the building.  It was while they were looking the ground over that Smith appeared nearby and observing the officers he made a hasty retreat.

The police proceeded in hot pursuit and finally corralled Smith in an alley between East Lima and East Lincoln streets.  This was last Monday.  Smith explained that he was running because he “thought it was somebody else chasing him.”

Reticent at first, Smith later admitted his part in the automobile racket, but he refused to implicate any others, although he admitted to disposing of the cars to men he claimed he didn’t know after lifting the motors and installing new engines.

“Didn’t Know Men”

According to Smith’s story to authorities, these men he didn’t know would bring an automobile to his barn at night.  He, then, would dismantle it, lifting the motor and removing identification numbers.

Later the men would return and take away with them the engine.  Smith said he would in turn purchase another motor and install it.  This, he felt, eliminated any possibility of the original owner tracing his stolen machine, and enabled him to furnish a bill of sale.

Five of the nine stolen machines were recovered in Findlay, one in Bluffton, one in Arcadia, one in Bairdstown and one in Toledo.  Seven are Ford coaches, one is a Ford coupe and one is a Chevrolet coach.  Three or four additional cars are expected by police to turn up shortly.

One of the machines, a Ford coach, has been identified and returned to its owner, Lester Nelson, of Toledo.

Smith told Chief Larkins that he had been in this racket for four or five months.

“Youth Held Here is Seen ‘Fence’ In Car Theft Ring,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 11 Mar 1933, p 8 col 1.