Monday, February 28, 2011

Glassworkers - Part 3

Historically, glassworking has been considered a high risk occupation. Very tiny particles of silica become airborne and were breathed into the lungs with extended exposure leading to respiratory problems. Due to the extreme heat of the furnaces and the molten glass, burns were inevitable for many. Heavy metals and toxic chemicals created threats, especially lead poisoning, which would have led to a number of serious health issues with the heart and other organs. 

My grandfather, Herbert Samuel Kuhn, was a 13-year-old boy in school when his father died in 1912 at the young age of 38. The family (which included his mother Hattie, age 33; sister Margaret, age 12, and twins Alma and Agnes, age 4) suddenly had no means of support, so Herbert became the man of the house and began working full time at Fostoria Glass in Moundsville, West Virginia. Of course this meant that he had to quit school, receiving only an 8th grade diploma.

I don't know how long my grandfather worked at Fostoria, nor am I sure of the sequence of all of his various occupations. He and my grandmother bought a small dairy farm on Fork Ridge in 1929, and Grandpa delivered milk by wagon at some point in time.

By December 1936 when he applied for a social security number, Grandpa was employed by Imperial Glass Corporation in Bellaire, Ohio. Back again in the hard work and tough working conditions of glasswork, his doctor, Harold Ashworth, MD, eventually informed him that if he did not leave Imperial it was going to kill him. Interestingly, I found a NY Times article from 1901 entitled “Occupations That Kill” which discussed the reluctance of life insurance companies to insure glass blowers at that time, noting the certain death of the trade.

Fortunately, my grandfather listened to his doctor and put glassworking behind him. In addition to farming, he was a self-employed carpenter for many years, and lived to the age of 74.  I grew up living just across the road from my grandparents, so I saw them often and have many memories, even though Grandpa died when I was only 17.  If he had continued with glasswork, I might not have been so lucky to have those memories.


See Glassworkers - Part 4 for the final post in this series.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Glassworkers - Part 2

Adam Kuhn, my great-grandfather, was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1886 when he was 11 years old. See Part 1 of this series for info about his father, Nikolaus. I know that the Kuhn family was in Fostoria, Ohio, as two of Adam's step-siblings were born there in 1893 and 1895. Fostoria Glass Company moved from Fostoria, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, in December 1891. I've read that most of the employees moved with the company.  Adam is the only member of his family that settled in Moundsville, and as he would have been 17 years old when Fostoria Glass moved, I suspect that he may have made the move at that time.


Adam was definitely in Moundsville no later than 1897, for he married Hattie May Clark on 18 January 1898. She had been born in Moundsville and lived there with her parents, Samuel E. and Margaret (Shimp) Clark. My grandfather, Herbert Samuel Kuhn was born to Adam and Hattie on 05 November 1898, followed by sisters Margaret Marie in 1900 and twins Agnes Pauline and Alma in 1908.

Getting back to glasswork, Adam was a Glass Presser per the 1900 U.S. census; the 1910 census recorded him as a decorator in the Glass House. Adam was only 38 years old when he died on 20 October 1912 at Limestone, West Virginia. While his death record says he died from heart trouble, my grandmother (his daughter-in-law) said he died from “painter's poison,” which was common among glassworkers. She believed that it was from exposure to lead which was common in the glass manufacturing process, especially with lead crystal, ceramic glazes

Info that I've found on the internet about lead poisoning says that it leads to a number of serious health issues with the heart and other organs. So it is quite likely that the so-called “painter's poison” contributed to the heart trouble that was his official cause of death.

When Adam died, support of the family fell on his son, Herbert ... another glassworker.   I'll continue with his story in my next blog post, Glassworkers - Part 3.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Glassworkers - Part 1

From what I've been able to piece together, the glassworking trade was key in determining where my paternal grandfather's ancestors lived. My 2nd great-grandfather, Nikolaus Kuhn (Nicholas Kuhn in the Americanized spelling), was born in November 1848 in Germany, reportedly at Wallerfangen.

According to the Porcelain Marks & More website, 
Nicolas Villeroy … set up an earthenware factory in Vaudrevange (today called Wallerfangen) on the River Saar in the year 1789. He successfully applied decorations onto tableware ...” 
I wonder if it's possible that Nikolaus' glassworking career could have started in that very factory?

In 1886, Nikolaus and his family immigrated to America, with a destination of East Liverpool, Ohio – a city that has been known as the "Pottery Capital of the World" and as "The Crockery City." After East Liverpool's chief industry of pottery began in 1839-40, both the population and number of potteries grew rapidly. Between 1880 and 1890, the population nearly doubled, and Nikolaus' family would have been part of that growth.

Nikolaus' daughter Clara Edith and son Albert were born in July 1893 and March 1894 respectively at Fostoria, Ohio – Fostoria Glass Company had opened there in December 1887. Nikolaus became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in November 1893 at Tiffin, Ohio – home of the Tiffin Glass Company. Both Fostoria and Tiffin are in Seneca County, with Tiffin being the county seat, which likely explains why the naturalization occurred there.  

The 1900 U.S. Census records Nikolaus as living in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, working as a china decorator. He died four years later in Monongalia County, West Virginia, at the young age of 55 or 56, with his death record indicating he was a glass cutter.

Several of Nikolaus' children settled in Morgantown, West Virginia, where sons Mathias and Albert continued the tradition. Mathias was a glassworker per his marriage license in 1899, and was a glass blower at Seneca Glass Company in 1918 per his WWI draft registration. Albert was a glassworker first in South Connellsville, Pennsylvania, per his 1917 WWI draft registration, then at Seneca Glass Company in Morgantown by 1922 per his marriage license. By 1942 when he registered for WWII, he was employed by the Morgantown Glassware Guild.

The oldest son of Nikolaus was Adam, my great-grandfather, who settled in Moundsville, West Virginia. I'll continue with his story in my next blog post, Glassworkers - Part 2.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Woman of Many Names:
Della McGary Aston

One of my maternal great-grandmothers was Cancedella McGary, born 20 February 1868 to Arthur McGary and Louisa Perkins. She married Charles Gibson Aston, as noted in a previous blog post.

The spelling of Cancedella's name seemed to be difficult for many people, especially Federal census enumerators.  She appears as:
  • Cancadal in the 1870 census
  • Cancedell in the 1880 census
  • Cancedlea in the 1900 census

Of course other folks have struggled with her name as well:
  • She was recorded as Cancedela in the birth record for her son Clarence, as well as the Marshall County Marriage Register, and that was misread by a transcriber as Canudela on a state-maintained website.
  • The use of ConsalDella was found in a query on the intranet in 1998
  • The person who recorded the birth of daughter Dessie took a different approach and recorded Cancedella's name using initials: C. D.

All of the variations are somewhat similar on a phonetic basis, but the uncommon name seems to have thrown a curve ball when folks actually tried to spell it.

Considering all this, it's easy to see why she was commonly known simply as Della!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

James Aston & Rachel J. Anderson

James Aston
James Aston, my 2nd great-grandfather, was born 02 April 1831 to Owen Aston and Mary Creighton. He was born in the southern part of Ohio County, West Virginia, that became Marshall County in 1835.

On 10 February 1858, he and Rachel J. Anderson, daughter of Jesse and Angeline Anderson, were married in Marshall County. At that time, James was a cooper, meaning he made or repaired wooden vessels with staves and hoops, e.g. barrels, casks or tubs.

Rachel (Anderson) Aston


James died from a ruptured cerebral artery at age 73 on
26 September 1904 in Marshall County, West Virginia per the record of his death; presumably at his home on Fork Ridge. The date of death recorded on James' gravestone is 24 September 1904. Interestingly, it is recorded in the Death Register that the "duration of disease" was two days, the difference between the day recorded officially and the day that appears on his gravestone.

Both James and Rachel were buried in the Oak Grove United Methodist Church Cemetery, Fork Ridge, Marshall County, West Virginia. According to the gravestone, she had died 31 October 1900, which would have been almost four years prior.

Monday, February 14, 2011

True Love Triumphs

In honor of Valentine's Day, this is the story of the marriage of my grandparents, Herbert Samuel Kuhn and Nellie Belle Church. Fade back to the early 1900's …

Grandma was born at Sycamore in Calhoun County in 1902, the third child of Eli and Lenora (Summers) Church. The family lived briefly in Ritchie County, then spent nearly seven years in Roane County. Around 1913, her parents moved the family to Moundsville in Marshall County, where she met and fell in love with a dapper young man named Herbert (Grandpa had been born in Moundsville in 1898).
Herbert Kuhn & Nellie Church ~ July 1920
I'm not sure when Grandma started working at Fostoria Glass Company, but Grandpa began working there shortly after his father had died in 1912. After falling in love with each other, they wanted to get married, but neither of their mothers would hear of it. So life went on as usual … at least that was the appearance.

In 1922, Eli saw a newspaper advertisement to rent a 300 acre farm near Adena, Ohio, and prepared to move the family. It was at this point that a secret had to be revealed … and this is the story as told by my grandmother:
"Herbert's mother, Hattie, would not let us get married, so we eloped to Wellsburg, West Virginia, then returned and continued to live with our respective parents. The only person who knew was my boss at the Fostoria Glass Company (he had seen the license notice in an Ohio newspaper) and I swore him to secrecy. About a year later, the Church family was preparing to move from Moundsville to the Tweedy farm so we had to tell them what we had done so I could stay behind. Hattie was furious and tried to have it annulled, but it was too late."
Love prevailed, and Grandma stayed in Moundsville with Grandpa when the rest of her family moved to Ohio. In case you're wondering, their actual marriage date was 19 February 1921.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Samuel Harris - Civil War Veteran

Samuel Harris

Samuel Harris was very patriotic according to his granddaughter (and my mother), Alda Louise (Harris) Kuhn. He had fought in the Civil War, having enlisted on 16 August 1862 at Wheeling, Ohio County, Virginia. His enlistment papers state that he was 18 years old, when he was in fact two days shy of 16½ (born 18 February 1846). In order to fight with the Union army, Samuel had misrepresented his age. His service as a private for two years, ten months, with Co. C of the 12th W. Va. Infantry until he was discharged at Wheeling on 16 June 1865 was summarized in one of his obituaries:
"It is believed he was the last surviving member of the gallant 12th West Virginia infantry. He enlisted in Company C., 12th West Virginia Infantry in 1862, and served to the end of the war. He participated in the terrible battle of Fort Gregg, one of the bloodiest hand-to-hand encounters of the Civil war. His regiment literally was cut to pieces, but was thrown into action as a reserve unit at the Battle of Gettysburg later on. He also saw action in the battle of Cedar Creek. During a part of the war he served under General Sheridan."
From a different obituary:
"… saw active service in three of the great battles of the Civil War: the Battle of Gettysburg, under General George Meade; the Battle of Cedar Creek under General Philip Sheridan, whose dynamic leadership turned a rout into a complete and smashing victory for the Union forces; and the Battle of Fort Gregg, Virginia, in which Harris' company was almost decimated, only 30 remaining of the original war strength company."
Mom treasured this plaque Samuel had given her, a souvenir of his attendance at the 65th annual national encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) held in Des Moines, Iowa, 13-17 September 1931. The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization for honorably discharged veterans of the Civil War. Samuel belonged to the Elmore Evans Post No. 77 in Glen Easton, West Virginia, until the death of Thomas Aston left only three members, and they became part of the J. C. Caldwell Post No. 21 of Moundsville, West Virginia.  There is an interesting article on the Marshall County WVGenWeb about the history of the G.A.R. monument erected in 1909 next to the Marshall County Courthouse in Moundsville.

Another article on the same website entitled Thirteen Veterans of Civil War Survive in Marshall County identifies the photo of Samuel as U. S. Harris and later shows his name as U. Samuel Harris.  I wonder if his full name might have been Uriah Samuel Harris?  Uriah Harris was his father, so it's quite likely Samuel could have been named after him but be known by his middle name.  There's always something new to research!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sharing Family History - Update

Three, make that four, days since my last blog post.  Where does the time go?  I've been working on my facebook account - researching and then testing their updated groups feature to see how it might benefit me.  If you read my January 2 post this year, you'll remember that using facebook to "reach the social networkers with family photos" is one of the three ways I'm working on to share family history info.

I'm setting up groups for my different family lines, but for now I'm keeping them "secret" until I'm sure how I want everything laid out.  So far I have set up a group entitled Kuhn Family ~ WV for my paternal grandfather, Herbert Samuel Kuhn, and added several photos.  If you're related, have a facebook account, and haven't already been "friended" by me, let me know either through this blog or via a facebook message to me. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Charles Gibson Aston (1863 - 1948)

I had intended to post this on the 7th of February, as Charles Gibson Aston, one of my great-grandfathers, was born on that date 148 years ago. As an adult, he was a big man who was very strong according to my Dad – he thought that was probably the source of one of his nicknames, Crane. I have also seen him called Colonel in a newspaper article entitled Colonel Aston, Commissioner.

Taken 25 Dec 1930
On 09 July 1890, a marriage license was issued to “Charles G. Aston and Cancedela McGary” (note that the correct spelling of her first name was Cancedella). You can view their marriage license from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History archives. Interestingly, it was another 5+ months before they actually got married at Cameron, West Virginia, on 25 December 1890. Yes, they actually were married on Christmas Day!

Charles was working as a carpenter. Two years later when Dessie was born, he was a sawyer, and the 1910 U.S. census says that he was a sawyer using his own mill. He was also a farmer and a member of the Marshall County Farm Bureau, owning a sizeable farm at the intersection of Fork Ridge Road and Aston Ridge. 

Per his death certificate, Charles died at home on 02 October 1948 at the age of 85. He and several other members of the Aston and McGary families are buried in the Oak Grove United Methodist Church cemetery on Fork Ridge.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Grandparent Memories:
Herbert and Nellie (Church) Kuhn

After putting glassworking behind him due to health issues, Grandpa turned to carpentry and was a self-employed carpenter for many years. He built a house on a corner of his farm for his daughter and son-in-law, and it sat just up the road from the house in which he and Grandma lived. As my parents had built across the road from my grandparents, that meant it was just a hop, a skip, and a jump for me to keep a close eye on the progress. Typical of a young child, I loved to play around with Grandpa's tools, and it was probably inevitable that something would go wrong sooner or later. One day I was using a hatchet on a piece of scrap wood when I struck not only the wood but also my thumb and forefinger, slicing them quite nicely. I remember running back home, spots of blood trailing behind me on the road, yelling for Mom. It took us quite awhile to get the bleeding stopped, and I had scars for years. Needless to say, she wasn't real happy with me that day!

A few years later Grandpa and Doyle Moore worked with Dad on the construction of our new house. Once again, I got to play with the tools … although by then I was old enough to actually be helpful.

My grandparents were dairy farmers for many years, then switched to beef cattle for a few years until they ultimately quit farming altogether. As a youngster, I often played with cousins in the upper level of the barn, climbing around and over the hay bales, and I loved it when it was time to put up hay. I always thought I was being quite helpful by following the baler to make sure the bales didn't roll down the hill. Looking back now, I was probably just an extra concern for my Dad and Uncle Dale – they had to keep an eye on me to make sure I stayed safe!
Christmas 1958 with Grandma & Grandpa
Grandpa chewed tobacco and, while some folks will consider this totally gross, I'll always have a picture in my mind of the coffee can that sat beside his chair. Hey, that tobacco juice had to be spit out somewhere!

Grandma was known for being a great country-style cook – especially for beans and corn pone. To the uninitiated, that is pinto beans and corn bread, a staple meal loved by many West Virginians.

However, one of my favorite memories of being at my grandparents' house was climbing the maple trees.  The photo below shows tree no.1 when it was much, much smaller than it was by the time I started climbing.

Home of Herbert & Nellie Kuhn
There was another tree to the right of this one, then behind it a straight row of trees ran along the property line and parallel to the side of the house.   It might be easier to picture as an L-shaped line of trees around the house.  Nevertheless, I loved climbing those trees, whether by myself or with some of my cousins. Those were great times!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Formatting Dates in Genealogy

Have you ever thought about how easy it can be to read a date incorrectly? How would you read 4/11/00? The year could be 2000, 1900, 1800, etc. You would probably assume that the month and day are April 11 – but they could also be November 4, especially if you are looking at a document from another country.

The best way to prevent confusion is to use the generally accepted genealogy format of 11 April 2000. The month can be abbreviated to three letters, but I prefer to spell it out to further ensure against errors. Think about Jan vs. Jun in the context of handwriting. If the “a” isn't closed, it could easily be misread as a “u” - but there is no way to confuse January and June.

If you're researching your family and find dates that leave you wondering about the month and day, here's what you can do. Knowing that months are limited to 1 through 12, look for dates where the first two segments are higher than 12. For example, with 28/3/00 you know that the first number is the day; with 3/28/00 you know that the first number is the month.

If neither of the first two segments are higher than 12, check other records above/below or before/after the record you're looking at. Chances are good that you'll find one with a number higher than 12 and then you'll know the format being used.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tribute to Uncle Phil

Today marks six years since the passing of one of my uncles, Philip Lee Kuhn. An excerpt from his obituary told the basics:
"KUHN, Philip Lee, 81, of Glen Easton, W.Va., died Thursday, February 3, 2005 at home. Born in Moundsville, W.Va., on November 12, 1923, Philip was the son of the late Herbert and Nellie Church Kuhn. He was a retired employee of Marshall County Schools and a member of the Fork Ridge Christian Church where he served as an elder for 25 years."
He married Dorothy Maxine Moore on 16 December 1949 – it must have been a very special Christmas for the two of them that year!

Phil & Dorothy ~ 1949
If not for Dorothy's death in August 2004, they would have celebrated 55 years of marriage in December of that year. The couple raised their family of four sons on a farm at the end of Tunnel Ridge. I've heard that at one time Tunnel Ridge ran from Fork Ridge down to Big Grave Creek, but I only remember it ending at Uncle Phil's farmhouse up on the ridge.

For many years, Phil drove a school bus from his home to various schools in Moundsville and Glen Dale. The Marshall County School District also employed him as a truck driver and warehouse man - he delivered textbooks, school materials, food, janitorial supplies and various types of equipment all over the county. During his career in the school system, he made a lot of friends and was respected for his work ethic.

I remember Uncle Phil as a quiet, soft-spoken man. In the words of one of his first cousins, he “never had a harsh word for anyone” and “he had a gentle humor that he showed with family and friends.” If only all the world could be as kind and thoughtful as Uncle Phil was.