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.

The Family Photo Album: George Henry Smith and Mary Lucinda Rauch, Wedding Photo

You have seen photos of them in their old age.  Now here are George Henry Smith and Mary Lucinda Rauch upon their marriage in August 1889.

george henry smith and mary lucinda rauch wedding photo

Little would one suspect that Mary was already four months pregnant with their first daughter, Victoria Emelina Smith, known as Dora.

Little Dora would not live more than a few short months.  She was born January 19, 1890, and died on the 9th of March.  Her parents clearly adored her.  According to their other children, they displayed a photo of Dora in a place of pride in their home for the rest of their lives.

Stanley Robert Smith: Home Again

Finding a job during the height of the Great Depression would have been challenging for any man, never mind an ex-convict.  Many men in Hancock County at this time might have been able to return home to work on the family farm.  This was not an option for Stanley.  It is likely that, following his release from the Ohio State Penitentiary, he moved in with his in-laws.

Stanley’s wife, Bertha, had already spent a good portion of their married life living at her parents’ home at 842 Park Street in Findlay.  From a strictly financial point of view, it made sense.  Where else was the money going to come from?  Stanley had been in prison more than he had been home with Bertha.  Living with her parents also likely provided some much needed stability.

Wedding Bells

Stanley Robert Smith and Bertha Lucille Foreman had married on December 7, 1928, in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.  The most likely reason for the choice of this distant venue was the ability to lie about their ages.  On the day of their marriage, Stanley was 18.  Bertha was a month shy of her 15th birthday.

What Bertha’s parents, Richard and Alta (Fenstermaker) Foreman, thought of this rash move on their daughter’s part seems fairly obvious.  They clearly hadn’t given permission for Bertha to marry or the wedding could have taken place at home.  Perhaps they were already well aware of Stanley’s wild streak.  It was, after all, only three months after their marriage that Stanley was arrested and ultimately sent to the Ohio State Reformatory.

At such a young age, Bertha’s presence in the local newspapers was understandably somewhat limited.  However, the year prior to their marriage, she was listed as having been elected vice-president of the Little Leaders class of St. Paul’s Evangelical church1 and hosting the business and social session of the Intermediate Christian Endeavor Society2.

Stanley, on the other hand, was a boxer who had dropped out of school in order to work.  He was clearly taking full advantage of his youth, as later records describe him as having suffered from an STD in 1928.

The two seem to have been diametrically opposed, but perhaps Bertha was attracted to Stanley’s bad boy vibe.

Like Ships in the Night

Based on his birth date, the couple’s first child was likely to have been conceived during Stanley’s wild streak in February 1929 (butter theft, bad check, forgery).  Bertha would have discovered her pregnancy while her husband was already in jail.

The baby, who would be named Robert Stanley Smith, after his father, was born on November 10, 1929.  Little Bobby saw little of his father in the early years of his life.  Stanley was released from the Reformatory when his son was 2 1/2 months old and arrested again two months later.  It’s difficult to reconcile the idea of a new father with the picture of Stanley, out on a joyride with another ex-convict and his lady friend.  What sort of father was Stanley?  Am I being unfair for judging his parenting based on this one moment in time?

This time, Stanley would be gone for a year of baby Bobby’s life.  Considering how young he was and how little time he had had to bond with his father, it is hard to imagine that Bobby missed his presence.  Instead he had his mother, his grandparents, and other members of the Smith and Foreman families.

Now, however, Stanley was home again, reunited with his wife and child.  Bertha was once again in the family way.  It probably felt like a fresh start, another opportunity to get things right.

1 “Class Elects Officers,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 29 Jul 1927, p 6 col 6.
2 “Members Are Received,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 28 Feb 1927, p 10 col 4.

Indexing: Wills of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 1850

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
133 Joseph Hill Franklin 1 Jan 1850
James R Logan 15 Jan 1850
George Austraw Donegal 24 Jan 1850
Christopher Lobingier Mt Pleasant 25 Jan 1850
134 Daniel Frantz Allegheny 11 Feb 1850
John Bash Loyalhanna 14 Feb 1850
135 William Dice Mt Pleasant 18 Feb 1850
George Nunnemaker Salem 19 Feb 1850
James R Bole 25 Feb 1850
136 John Colglazer South Huntingdon 2 Mar 1850
William Anderson Franklin 5 Mar 1850
137 John J Robertson Massasinewa 6 Mar 1850
138 John Mechling Hempfield 8 Mar 1850
139 Samuel Niece Krieder Borough of Adamsburg 27 Mar 1850
John McCue Salem 29 Mar 1850
Henry Shoaf Sewickley 9 Mar 1850
140 Nathan Smith East Huntingdon 9 Apr 1850
141 John Long Hempfield 3 May 1850
Daniel Sr. Kilgore Mt Pleasant 6 May 1850
142 Benjamin Stewart Rostraver 8 May 1850
Martha Morrison Hempfield 14 May 1850
143 William Scott Allegheny 15 May 1850
Joseph Christy Washington 22 May 1850
Abraham Bowman Hempfield 27 May 1850
144 William Baird Derry 4 Jun 1850
Sarah Lilly Fairfield 21 Jun 1850
145 William Carothers Salem 28 Jun 1850
Anthony Ament Franklin 24 Jun 1850
Alexander McDonnel Sewickley 3 Aug 1850
146 Michael Finley 9 Aug 1850
Christopher M Walthour 3 Aug 1850
George Thompson Rostraver 13 Sep 1850
147 Jacob Christman 16 Sep 1850
148 Joseph Spangler North Huntingdon 16 Sep 1850
Margaret Kelly East Huntingdon 17 Sep 1850
149 Christopher Cribbs Hempfield 27 Sep 1850
James Lammes Franklin 7 Oct 1850
150 Samuel  Russell Derry 11 Oct 1850
Ann Tittle Salem 14 Oct 1850
151 John Donnelly Derry 24 Oct 1850
John Truxal or Troxal East Huntingdon 4 Nov 1850
Mary Sproull Allegheny 12 Nov 1850
George G Brown South Huntingdon 17 Oct and 18 Nov 1850
152 Robert Barr South Huntingdon 21 Nov 1850
John W Cope Borough of West Newton 18 Dec 1850