The Hancock County Jail

The Hancock County jail, built in 1879, stood at the northwest corner of West Main Cross and Broadway.

hancock county jail
The Hancock County jail and sheriff’s residence. (Findlay-Hancock County Public Library Digital Collection,

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.

First Hancock County Jail, built 1830. (Findlay-Hancock County Public Library Digital Collection,

A replacement was not constructed until 1852.

second hancock county jail
Second Hancock County Jail, built 1852. (Findlay-Hancock County Public Library Digital Collection,

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.

We are related to two of the three.

louis luneack relationshipross w moore relationship

Stanley Robert Smith: Frequent Flier Miles

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:relationship to jacob frank

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

bazley market location
The location of Bazley Market, now occupied by the Bistro on Main (seen here in October 2015)

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.

A delightful array of products available for purchase on 22 Jan 1929 (Findlay Morning Republican)


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.

Esba Lincoln Groves, who served six terms as mayor of Findlay, Ohio, between 1909 and 1932 (Photo from:

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.

Next Time:  The Hancock County Jail




Genealogy is a Superpower

I pushed the “send” button.  And then I cried.

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.

Stanley Robert Smith: Like a Bad Penny

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.

Findlay Courier, 19 Feb 1929

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.

Hancock County Courthouse, 300 South Main Street, Findlay; photo taken by Wikipedia user Ruhrfisch

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 Department Store (

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.

319 south main findlay
319 South Main Street, Findlay, as seen in August 2015

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:

gifts for everyone
Findlay Morning Republican, 19 Dec 1929

(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…


The Family Photo Album: The Smiths, 50 Years Later



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:

GH Smith 50th anniversary
Findlay Republican Courier, 5 Aug 1949

The Family Photo Album: 15th Annual Arras Family Reunion

15th annual Arras family reunion, 1922

The 15th Annual Arras Family Reunion was held on August 15, 1922, at the home of Philip D. Arras, four miles southwest of Jenera, Ohio.

Initially, I couldn’t quite read the year on the sign at the bottom of the picture:

15th annual Arras family reunion, 1922 sign

but luckily for me, an announcement of the reunion was published in the Findlay Morning Republican newspaper (and even mistakenly appeared twice, making it possible to read portions of the announcement that were misprinted!):

15th annual reunion
Findlay Morning Republican, 15 Aug 1922

Philip D. Arras was born 14 Aug 1853, the son of Johannes and Margaret (Essinger) Arras, and grandson of Johann Peter and Anna Margaretha (Hofmann) Arras.  The latter couple emigrated from the Odenwald in Germany in 1831, bringing along several books which were still in the possession of the family at the time of the 15th Annual Reunion:

15th annual Arras family reunion, 1922 books

The center book in the pile, which at the time was 268 years old, was a German prayer book printed in 1654 that had been passed down in the Arras family.  Henry Arras, who, as I’ve mentioned before, was very interested in the family history, was extremely proud of this book.  In 1936, he entered it in a historical display held by the annual Farmers Institute in Jenera and won first place for the oldest relic.

One of the books was also a family bible which contained entries for the Arras family since before their emigration to the United States in 1831.  My great-uncle, Theron Arras, had possession of that bible years ago before his home was broken into and the thieves stole it, amongst other things.

Here are the (very few) people I recognize:

15th annual Arras family reunion, 1922 zoomed section elizabeth wahl

In the section above, the woman sitting in the lower right in the dark dress, appears to be Elizabeth Ann Wahl, the daughter of Friedrich and Anna Maria (Blaser) Wahl, wife of Peter D. Arras.  I believe the man holding the dark hat is her son, Samuel Frederick John Arras.

The woman just to the left of Elizabeth looks like Wilhelmina “Mina” Arras, daughter of Johann Philip and Katherine (Heldman) Arras, wife of Christian Essinger.  Beside her may be her sister, Louisa “Lucy” Arras.  Lucy was the wife of George Nessler.

In the enlargement I posted of the books, the boy with his head just to the right of the sign is Willard Balthasar Arras, son of George Henry and Johanna Magdalena (Crates) Arras.  His sister, Elvina (Arras) Rausch Weihrauch, can be seen in the photograph just below, holding her infant son, Clarence Weihrauch (wearing a dark outfit and light newsboy cap):

15th annual Arras family reunion, 1922 section 2

Their mother, Johanna Magdalena (Crates) Arras, my great-great-grandmother, is below, the woman on the upper left:

johanna magdalena arras

This reunion photo is one that I’ve always wished I could share with all the distant cousins I can find.  I’d love to be able to identify every single person in it!  Hopefully, eventually, we’ll be able to do just that.  So, can you help?  Do you recognize anyone?

Harry Thompson Tucker: Cricketer’s Wedding

wedding photo group
The wedding party.  Seated at front are Louise Marion Musson and her new husband, Harry Thompson Tucker.  Standing to the right of Harry is his mother, Eliza (Prouten) Tucker.  The man visible over her shoulder is one of her twin sons, either Edmond Lewis or William Prouten Tucker.  The woman with the very large hat just over Louise’s shoulder is the bridesmaid, Miss Eugenie Tucker, Harry’s sister.  At the far left in the front row is another sister, Nellie Ruth Tucker.


cricketers wedding
Portsmouth Evening News (Portsmouth, Hampshire, England), 25 Oct 1905

St. Saviour-on-the-Cliff is located on Queens Road, Shanklin, near Shanklin Chine and the Esplanade.  The newest portion of the building, the baptistry, seen below projecting out to the left, was constructed in 1905, the year that Harry Thompson Tucker and Louise Marion Musson were married.

st saviours on the cliff
Church of St Saviour-on-the-Cliff, Shanklin

Click the following links to listen to the hymns played at the wedding:

The Voice That Breath’d O’er Eden

O Perfect Love

wedding photo
Harry Thompson Tucker and Louise Marion Musson

Horace Mew, the photographer who took their wedding photo, was also a champion swimmer on the Isle of Wight.  During the summers of 1905 and 1906, he made multiple attempts to swim across the English Channel.

channel crossing
Portsmouth Evening News (Portsmouth, Hampshire, England), 24 Jul 1906, p5