Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lima News

I've been reading up on the doings of my grandfather's cousin, Walter, who was born in Lima, Ohio in 1894. It's not that hard to do. His name appears in some ninety different editions of the Lima News between 1915 and 1972. And all of those papers are archived online. You click on the entry and the whole page appears. The hardest part is trying to decide which news item on the page is most likely to mention the indexed name.

It's not that my grandfather's cousin Walter was particularly famous or important or anything of that sort. He was a solid citizen, active in his church and in the local business community as a sheet metal inspector, apparently a veteran of WWI, but he wasn't especially prominent. In the good old days, newspaper editors put your name in the paper at the drop of a hat. He married a girl who wasn't German. Their picture was in the paper when they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1968.

One of the earliest entries was from 1915. Walter played on a church league basketball team for Trinity Methodist Episcopal when he was 21 years old. His team lost to the South Side team, 16-2. He was responsible for scoring Trinity's lone bucket in that game. The team got better as the season progressed. They had three wins and four losses at one point.

Two years later in 1917 Walter was drafted into the National Guard along with quite a few of his buddies from the church basketball league. Later that year, shortly after Walter had passed his physical and completed basic training, his father, Charles, died suddenly at the age of 63 from a heart attack he suffered at the bakery where he worked. I don't know whether or not his father's sudden demise was sufficient to keep Walter from getting sent 'over there', but I'm sure the idea of his only son going to Europe to fight Germans couldn't have helped Charles' blood pressure readings any.

Charles was born not far from Berlin and grew up speaking German. He emigrated to America one hundred and fifty years ago at the age of three when his brother, my great grandfather, William, was still an infant. They grew up in a little village called Beechwood outside of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Their sister, Louise, was born in Wisconsin in 1858. Charles was twelve and William nine when their father, Wilhelm, died in the Civil War in 1865. Their mother, Maria, re-married two years later to their next door neighbor. Their stepfather had a relative who became a prominent businessman in nearby Kewaskum and the boys were apprenticed in the construction trade.

Charles became a millwright. He married Kate in 1877, the daughter of another local German businessman, a business partner of his stepfather's relative. War orphans were quite fashionable during the Grant administration and good for business if you owned a lumberyard. Charles worked for awhile in Kewaskum before moving to Fondulac where he and Kate started a family, three boys and two girls. They moved back to Kewaskum for a few years and then around 1890 they moved to Findlay, Ohio, not far from Lima.

A few years later, in April, 1893, a diptheria epidemic swept through the Lima area and all three sons, Charles, Edward and Elwood, died in the space of less than two weeks. The two daughters, Lena and Tolinda, survived the epidemic. A year later Charles and Kate had another son. They named him Walter.

My great grandfather, William, moved to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, not far from Minnesota, and got married in 1879. His sister, Louise, married his wife's older brother, Carl or Charles. I don't know if William and Louise stayed in touch with their brother, Charles, in Ohio. William died in a sawmill accident in 1897 when my grandfather was thirteen years old. It's quite possible my grandfather never met his Uncle Charles or his Cousin Walter. But he did have a younger brother named Walter, born the same year that Uncle Charles lost all three of his sons.