The Family Photo Album: The Family of G.H. Smith, ca. 1902

home of GH Smith

George Henry and Mary Lucinda (Rauch) Smith and their children, about 1902.  From L to R: Clara Viola Smith, Wilhelmina “Minnie” Smith, mother Mary Lucinda (Rauch) Smith holding baby Harvey Smith, Dan Smith, Harry Smith, Mary Magdalena “Lena” Smith and father George Henry Smith.

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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

By MARGARET DENNIS

“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 (http://www.ancestry.com : 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, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : 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, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_former_state_routes_in_Ohio_(50%E2%80%93130)&oldid=799792962 (accessed September 18, 2017).
13 “Stolen Auto is Got From Quarry”.

Stanley Robert Smith: No Regrets

YOUTH HELD HERE IS SEEN ‘FENCE’ IN CAR THEFT RING

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: Four Generations

arras 4 generations

The photo above depicts four generations of the Arras family of Hancock County, Ohio.

Johann Philipp Arras, known as Philip (1832-1913)
George Henry Arras, known as Henry (1862-1943)
Oliver Martin Arras (1889-1973)
Theron Henry Lamont Arras (1910-2003)

The genealogy bug seems to skip a generation in this family.

Theron was my great-uncle, brother of my grandmother, Lucia Arras.  He was an incredible genealogist, working with German researchers to trace the origin of all the families involved in the shipwreck of the “Famous Dove” (Brig James Beacham).  His work was published in the Palatine Immigrant of July 1988.

Theron’s grandfather, Henry Arras, was also interested in the family history, as I’ve mentioned before.  He worked with the Rev. John Gauss, pastor of Trinity church in Jenera, Ohio, to compile a history, the Familien Rekord, of the Arras family from Germany to Hancock County, Ohio.  I hope to include the Familien Rekord on the blog at a later date.

The original of this photo hangs in a large oval frame on my second floor landing, so you can see it as you come up the stairs.  Theron owned it until his passing.  Prior to that, it hung in the parlor of his parents’ home in Findlay, Ohio.

 

The Family Photo Album: Lucia Arras at Lincoln School, Findlay, 1928-1929

1928-29.JPG

This photo is of my grandmother, Lucia Marie Arras’s, class at Lincoln School in Findlay, Ohio.  It was taken in the spring of 1929.  Lucia is sitting just to the right (our right) of the teacher.

None of these children look particularly excited to be there.  There doesn’t appear to be any of the usual goofing off.  Not one child is looking elsewhere and laughing.  Perhaps the teacher was a stern one.

One of my favorite details is all the interesting patterned socks on the boys in the front row.  I wonder if they were purchased or if their mothers were such talented knitters.

It appears that a concrete block and a crate were used to prop up the first row bench.  A close-up of the crate reveals that it was from the Bourne-Fuller Company of Cleveland, Ohio.  Soon after this photo was taken, Bourne-Fuller would unite with two other companies, Central Alloy and Republic Iron and Steel, to become the third-largest steel company in the U.S.

bourne fuller and knee hole

Check out the boy on the left in the photo above.  Clearly, mothers in the 1920s also struggled to keep fabric over the knees of their sons!  My kids start back to school next week and this is what I expect to see at the end of most days.  The only thing missing is the grass stain.


Other photo posts from Lincoln School:
The Family Photo Album: Lucia Arras, 6th Grade Class Photo

Stanley Robert Smith: The Ohio State Reformatory

mansfield reformatory
http://www.ohiomemory.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p267401coll36/id/13882/rec/5

Some of you are probably thinking that the Ohio State Reformatory sounds vaguely familiar.  That could be for a couple of reasons:

  1. The location is apparently considered to be extremely haunted.  The Travel Channel show, Ghost Adventures, filmed an episode there.  After the reformatory closed in 1990, the state planned to have the building torn down, but public outcry resulted in the formation of the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society.  The group has renovated portions of the building and now operates a regular tour schedule, including an overnight public ghost-hunt.
  2. The Ohio State Reformatory was used as a set for several movies, including Air Force One and The Shawshank Redemption.

Despite its current status as a tourist destination, it held far less attraction for Stanley Smith and his fellow inmates.

historic_ohio_state_reformatory_cell_blocks
Cell Blocks at Ohio State Reformatory (http://www.destinationmansfield.com/what-to-do/attractions/ohio-state-reformatory)

The reformatory opened in 1896 with the purpose of housing young offenders with no previous criminal record.  The boys would receive a high-school education, training in a trade, and religious instruction–essentially giving them all the tools that were, at the time, considered necessary to function normally in society.

Despite these good intentions, it wasn’t long before reality sank in.  By the time Stanley Smith arrived at the Ohio State Reformatory, the number of men incarcerated there was nearly double that that the facility had been designed for.  Similar concerns of overpopulation were experienced at other prisons around the state, including the nearby Ohio State Penitentiary.

By 1935, an Ohio government survey determined that the total excess population at correctional institutions around the state had reached 3,000.  The senate was panned for ” ‘short sighted economy’ in allowing ‘bad health conditions, overcrowding, idleness and unskilled mass treatment’.” 1

It was into this environment that Stanley stepped in April 1929.  No doubt he was considered a bit of a tough guy back in Findlay; at least that seems to have been what he was going for, with his rapid succession of criminal acts over the previous month.  However, it seems unlikely that any 19 year old boy could have been prepared for the experiences he would have over the next two years.

On the evening of April 21, 1930, a year after Stanley was sent to the reformatory, a fire broke out at the Ohio State Penitentiary.    Doors in two of the cell blocks, G and H, remained locked for twenty minutes after the discovery of the fire. 2   Over three hundred prisoners died, still locked in their cells.  Multiple investigations found that every victim could have been saved if guards hadn’t hesitated to release them.

In the aftermath of the disaster, many prisoners at the penitentiary refused to cooperate with guards, calling for the removal of the warden.  Extra guards were called into service.  Prior to this point, only 337 guards were on duty at a time, supervising 4,300 prisoners. 3    It was feared that a general escape attempt was looming.

Three hundred hardened criminals from the Penitentiary, including several of the ringleaders of the post-fire riots, were transferred to the Reformatory.  They were initially mixed in with the general population, but the spirit of unrest was contagious.  The men refused to work, yelling and jeering at guards and mocking a visiting penal reform committee sent by the governor.  At one point, a number of prisoners began to attack the doors and walls of their cells.  A riot was narrowly avoided.  The reformatory superintendent, T. C. Jenkins, clearly feared the general trend.  He requested a rush order of machine guns, tear gas bombs, and ammunition, as well as additional guards and machine gunners. 4

By mid-June 1930, the number of prisoners transferred from the state penitentiary had reached 430, but this point they were all housed in a separate portion of the reformatory.  Unfortunately, it seems that the damage had been done.  On the 12th of June, a situation arose as the two thousand young men entered the dining hall for their evening meal.  The shouting and throwing of chairs ended with several inmates being beaten into submission by guards.  Reports do not mention what proportion of the prison population was actively involved in the rioting. 5

The whole experience must have been terrifying.  How would Stanley react?  Would he be scared straight, or would the Ohio State Reformatory be his “crime school”? 6

Next Time:  Free At Last!


1 “Penal Units in Ohio Rapped as Crime Schools,” Lima News (Lima, Ohio), 3 Oct 1935, p 10, col 1.
2 Henry W. Sharpe, “Investigate Ohio Penitentiary Fire,” Olean Times (Olean, New York), 23 Apr 1930, p 1 col 8.
3 “Ohio Prison Fire Dead Set at 317; Start Investigation,” Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, WV), 23 Apr 1930, p 1, col 1.
4 “Convict Revolt Threatens at Mansfield,” Elyria Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio), 17 May 1930, p 1, col 2.
5 “Unruly Convicts Struck By Guards,” Findlay Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), p 1, col 4.
6 “Penal Units”, p 10, col 1.