Sunday, February 28, 2021

Another Brick Wall Demolished

 On 23 Aug 2020 I blogged about “The Mysteries of Susie,” stating that I was about to give up on Susan ("Susie") Bell/Belle Tingley’s missing thirty plus years and the identity of her later husband “Sturdevant.” No more! The mystery has been solved.

Susie spent most of those missing years, between 1900 and her death in 1930, in Decatur, Illinois. This was always suspected but the name changes that came with marriage made confirmation difficult. I use the plural “name changes” since Susie married three times. The first was, of course, to that scalawag Samuel. Then, when Samuel died in 1903, Susie married Henry Dieckhoff about the same year. Or perhaps I should say she had a relationship with Henry since I can find no marriage record. (Of course, marriage records are often difficult to locate.) Susie and Henry appear together in the Decatur, Illinois, 1910 census, which reports that the couple had been married seven years.

Henry and Susie's Fairlawn marker, but
 she's not buried here. (Find A Grave)

 Henry Dieckhoff was born 2 Nov 1859 (or 2 Nov 1860) in Illinois to German immigrants. He grew up in DeWitt Co, Illinois, but moved to Decatur in Macon Co, Illinois, around 1881 and was followed by his parents, Herman and Mary/Maria (Peters) Dieckhoff around 1888. In Decatur Henry worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker. When he married Susie he was a 44-year-old bachelor with no known prior attachments. The marriage ended with Henry’s suicide on 2 Jan 1918. Henry hanged himself on his back porch, despondent, it was claimed, due to long-term cancer. His grave marker in Fairlawn Cemetery, Decatur, gives the spelling of his name as “Deickhoff,” but that was a name given him by some in his later years. The German spelling “Dieckhoff” was used during most of Henry’s life. The cemetery marker is also inscribed with Susie Belle’s name and her date of birth (knocking off four years, but keeping the day and month, 4 Jul, the same as given elsewhere). But the marker’s date of death for Susie is blank. When Henry died it was expected that Susie would one day be buried with him, but that was not to be.

The twice-widowed Susie continued living in Decatur, supporting herself by working as a seamstress. Then on 6 Sep 1923, the Decatur Herald reported that “Susie Deickhoss” married A. J. Sturdevant in Decatur the previous day. Her name is shown as “Susie Dieckhoff” in a list of marriage licenses in the same newspaper.

“A. J. Sturdevant” was Andrew J. Sturdevant, born 15 Apr 1854, 15 Apr 1858, or Apr 1855 in either Indiana or Illinois. We know almost nothing about Andrew’s early life before he arrived in Decatur around 1896, other than he had married Susan M. Simmons in Johnson Co, Illinois on 25 Feb 1876. (Two Susans. That certainly muddles things.) The couple had seven children, but four died young. Then, on 2 Dec 1921 Andrew’s first wife, Susan, died in Decatur.

Andrew’s second marriage, to Susie, was very short owing to Andrew’s death 14 Apr 1928 at his East Waggoner Street home in Decatur. Actually, it was Susie’s home, the one in which she and Henry Dieckhoff had lived. Andrew had moved in with Susie when they were married. He was buried in Fairlawn Cemetery, Decatur, where his first wife was interred.

And that’s the rest of the story. Sort of.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

William Fred Switzer

I’m doing what I hope is the final edit of the draft of Henry’s Children, the Tapscotts of the Wabash Valley, and I’ve run into a bit of mystery for a great grandson of Henry Tapscott, the Traveler. Perhaps someone out there can help.

Born “William Fred” (or possibly “William Frederick”) Sweitzer on 4 May 1906 in Marshall, Illinois, to Edward Clinton and Mary Catharine (Hartzler) Sweitzer, the great grandson went almost solely by “Fred Switzer.” Fred was married twice, or at least cohabited twice, but we only know the first names of his companions and know nothing of the marriages. We don’t even know when or where he died. (If he is not deceased, he would be 114 years old today!)

Fred is found in neither the 1930 nor 1940 federal census, but does appear in eleven Danville city directories from 1924/1925 to 1945, including the 1930 and 1940 directories. Only the 1924/1925 directory lists his name as “Sweitzer.” In the others he is listed as “Fred Switzer,” “Fred W. Switzer,” or “W. Fred Switzer.” In Danville Fred worked primarily as a salesman and/or driver for dairy companies, Illiana and Bredehoft. He was what was called in the day, a “Milkman.” Remember them?

Starting in 1929, he appears with a spouse, Anna or Anna M., but no minor children. Then, in 1940 his WWII draft registration gives his contact as “Mrs. Anna Marie Switzer,” “Ex Wife.” Anna appears living by herself in the 1943, 1944, and 1945 directories (with a name change to “Ann” in the latter two) and then disappears, never to be seen again. Fred is found in the 1945 directory with a new companion, Emma, and a new job, awning worker, then he and Emma, like Anna, also disappear.

And that’s the story of Fred. What became of him? Or Anna? Or Emma?

It’s surprising that in the 20th century a person can disappear completely.Our problem really stems from the fact, as far as we know, Fred and his five siblings had, at most, a single child among them, and that child was probably illegitimate. Thus, there was only a single descendant, if that, to carry on the history of the Edward Clinton and Mary Catharine (Hartzler) Sweitzer family, or to even give a damn.

Anyone out there know what became of Fred? How about his five siblings Ernest C., Alice G., Walter Everett, Edward Clinton Jr., or Robert C. Sweitzer/Switzer (they went by both names)? We don’t know much more about them than we do Fred.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Spencer Case, The Rest of the Story


Almost three years ago, I posted the story of the Spencer Case (Tapscott Family History: The Spencer Case). And I promised a future post on the fate of the rascal William Woodrow Rease. Here is, finally, his somewhat mysterious story.

In 1940, as a result of the outcome of the Spencer Case, William was an inmate at the Illinois State Penitentiary, in the town of Pontiac, Livingston Co, Illinois. After release he joined his mother, Emma Curtis (her married name at the time), in the town of Mount Carmel, Illinois, where they were living in 1943. In Mount Carmel, William was married 5 Dec 1947 to an Edna Smith. Then in October 1950 and October 1951 the Mount Carmel Daily Republican-Register published a series of announcements:

“NOTICE WILLIAM REASE is no longer employed by the Electomic Chemical Corporation on River Road.

Had William strayed again? And why were the notices posted only in October?

On 18 Oct 1956 in Lewistown, Fergus Co, Montana. Edna and William were divorced. Edna claimed desertion, and that is likely true. It is known that William, possibly while living in Phoenix, Arizona, did some traveling around Mexico in 1956. We don’t see William again, for certain, after that year. When his mother, Emma Arnold Ramsey (yet, another marriage, it is claimed), died on 14 Aug 1979 in Mount Carmel, her obituary stated that her son, William W. Rease, was deceased. But, since she had no close living relatives at the time, the obituary information is suspect.

Now, the Mysterious Part

The 23 Dec 1977 edition of the El Paso Times relates a detailed interview by a reporter of William “Cherokee” Rease. Rease, self-described as the stubborn son of a Comanche-Cherokee mother and an Irish-Cherokee father, claimed to be seventy-nine years old (born 1898) and to have worked as a gas station attendant, inventor, sign painter, school teacher, magazine writer, Fort Worth cop, private investigator, and man-about-Las Vegas. And he was an autobiographer, authoring his life’s story, which formed the basis of the newspaper article (and all his claims).

El Paso Times.
He was also, it turns out, a wife-killer. On 29 Oct 1977, in a rented barn 25 miles from Van Horn, Texas, Rease put three bullets from a high-powered rifle into the skull of the woman he loved, Jacqueline Ray Rease. It was her 43rd birthday. Nine days later, District Court Judge William H. Emory told Rease he would probate his sentence in exchange for a plea of guilty to the charge of murder. Rease agreed and walked free.

Rease’s autobiography was apparently never published, and in August 1987, Cherokee Bill died while still a resident of El Paso. His SSDI (Social Security Death Index) year of birth was given as 1907, considerably different from the year of 1898 indicated by the age he claimed during his interview by the El Paso Times reporter. Apparently Bill liked to stretch things.

A William Rease born around 1907 (excluding one or two who are ruled out by race or location) is first documented in the record of his marriage on 9 Feb 1977 in Chambers Co, Texas, to Jacquelyn R. Johnson, the woman he murdered later that year. In his interview, William said that he had been married twice before that. And before his death, he was married once more, to Carmen Leyva on 28 Feb 1983 in El Paso. With the possible exception of the SSDI, a 1907 William Rease appears in no record prior to the 1977 marriage record.

But, of course, that William Rease of El Paso born in 1907 cannot be found in early records does not prove a connection to our William Rease born in 1914. But there are two things strongly evidencing this. First, the middle name of William Rease of El Paso was “Woodrow.” Second, the SSDI birthdate of William of El Paso was 2 Feb 1907. William of the Spencer Case was born 2 Feb 1914. Could our William have changed his birth year, perhaps to obtain retirement benefits? Birthdate changes, not at all uncommon, usually involve only year changes. Are the two William’s the same? We don’t know. But what are the odds for two William Woodrow Reases born on 2 Feb? Not very high.

Thursday, September 3, 2020


The last blog showed a photo of Samuel with his son and three daughters sent me by cousin Cheryl. The photograph is a little blurred with age making it difficult to estimate children’s ages, and thus the photo date. I decided to try to “improve” the photo by, in turn, enhancing, sharpening, colorizing it. The first and last were done using features available on the My Heritage website. I sharpened it using Microsoft editing. And then I combined all of these variations.

From the photo “improved” with everything, my wife and I think that the boy, presumably Austin, was aged 9 or 10 and the youngest girl, Stella, at the far right, 12 or 13. This means that the photo was taken around 1890 or 1891. The photo also shows that the seated girl has a somewhat rounded face, in contrast to the taller girl standing behind her. Other photos show Viola to have a rounded face, indicating that the seated girl is Viola. And Viola would be expected to be seated owing to the injury to leg caused by Samuel. What do you think?




Friday, August 28, 2020

Sam and Susie’s Kids

 The preceding blog stated that unknowns surround Susie Bell (Tingley) Tapscott Sturdevant, but more mysteries may surround her children.

First, we don’t know with certainty how many children Susie and Samuel had. The 1880 census shows three, “Lully,” “Maria,” and “Susan,” All born in the 1870s. But no Samuel Tapscott family unit appears in a census after that date.

 “Lully’ it turns out was Viola Jane, “Lully” apparently being a nickname (or a mistake by the census enumerator). She was also known as “Lola.” We are quite familiar with Viola’s life. She was born 23 Aug 1875 (apparently out of wedlock), married 1 May 1898, and died 19 Apr 1973.

“Maria” was Julia Maria, who was born in 1876 or 1877 and was probably the “infant child, as yet unborn” that resulted in Susie’s marriage to Samuel on 8 Jul 1876. Julia committed suicide in 1898 by jumping in front of a train. All about that in my book.

The third child in the census is Susan, age 1 (born between 2 Jun 1878 and 1 Jun 1879). An 1879 issue of the Clark County Herald announced “BORN. TAPSCOTT-In Marshall, May 31, to Samuel and Susie Tapscott-a daughter” and a birth record at the Clark County Courthouse records the birth of a girl named only “Tapscott” to Samuel and Susan Tingley Tapscott. We have always assumed those records were for Susan who appears in the 1880 census. And they are. But then we have a problem. According to her death certificate, Estella Tapscott, who went almost solely by “Stella,” was born to Sam and Susie on 23 May 1879, a date that appears on Stella’s grave marker and fits the age on her  marriage record. But we cannot have two children born eight days apart. Moreover if Stella had been born 23 May 1879 she should appear in the 1880 census with her family. Even if her date of birth was May 1880, as appears in the 1900 census, she should still show up in the 1880 census, which has an official date of Jun 1. And, as we will see, the birth record for her brother Austin states that he is child number 4, not number 5 which would be the case if he had both a sister Susan and a sister Stella. The evidence allows one to conclude that Stella does appear in the 1880 census, but as “Susan.” It is likely that the daughter we know as “Stella’ was really “Susan Estella” or “Estella Susan” and was really born 31 May 1878 as given in the more reliable birth record, not 23 May 1879, a date probably promulgated by human error. (Birth dates on death certificates and grave markers are often questionable.)

Finally, there is Austin T. Tapscott, found in only a single record, a reliable birth record at the Clark Co, Illinois courthouse. The record gives the date of birth as 23 Sep 1881 and states that he is fourth child born to “Sarah Tabscot nee Tingley” and “Samuel Tapscot.” No other record of Austin has been found and it is likely that he died young.

An 1884 article in a Terre Haute newspaper states that during a dispute between Samuel and his wife, she had absconded with two children leaving Sam with two others. Four total. And a photograph, from cousin Cheryl, taken around 1890 or 1891 (my estimation) shows Samuel with four children, three girls and a boy. It all seems to fit together. Samuel and Susie Bell had four children: Viola Jane, Julia Maria, Estella Susan (“Stella”), and Austin T. But, as you will soon see,

We May Be Wrong!

Samuel, Julia, Viola, Austin, Stella, c1890-1891, thanks to Cheryl Naegel.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Mysteries of Susie

I hate to give up when it comes to tracing Susie Bell Tingley and her children  (see blog 22 Jan 2018). But I may have to. Susan (“Susie”) Bell (likely “Corabelle” or “Corabell”) married the last-born of Henry and Susan (Bass) Tapscott’s children—the scoundrel Samuel. Once I finish with Samuel Tapscott and his descendants, the book “Henry’s Children, the Tapscotts of the Wabash Valley” will be complete. (Except for a month or two of editing and indexing.) But, I’m afraid I may have to write Samuel and Susie’s section with some rather large gaps. Let’s start with Susie.

Susie Bell (thanks to Cheryl Naegel)

The biggest problem with Susan (Tingley) Tapscott is that she disappears for over thirty years. Except for a postcard that my distant cousin Cheryl Naegel (a cornucopia of information) sent me, no document is found with her name between 1894, when “Bell Fingley” (transcription error) gave permission for her daughter Estella Tapscott to marry, and Susie's death on 3 Dec 1930 at her daughter’s home in Burnett, Vigo Co, Indiana. She cannot be found in the 1900, 1910, 1920, or 1930 censuses, or anywhere else for that matter.

We do know, from the postcard and death certificate, that she married someone by the name of “Sturdevant” (presumably following Samuel’s death on 15 Jun 1903). But, unfortunately, we don’t know her spouse’s first name. All attempts to find the correct Susan (or Susie) Sturdevant in other records have failed.

We also know, from the postcard, that she was living in Decatur, Illinois in 1927. What is interesting is that in 1920, living in Danville, was a Susan Sturdevant born in 1855 (our Susie’s birth year) married to an Andrew Sturdevant. Wrong Susan as it turns out.


Can anybody tell me anything about Susie's missing years?

The next blog will look at Susie’s children, some even more mysterious than their mother.