Ben Anderson: Tangled Lives

An Anderson couple

Benjamin Franklin Anderson and Nettie Anderson-Probably on their wedding day.

I talked about the sweet love and sad tragedy of Ben Anderson and Nettie Andress Anderson last week. After I published that story, I found a copy of Nettie’s obituary from 1910. Even given the floweriness of obituaries of the period, you can see why Ben might have stayed in love with Nettie the rest of her life had she survived longer.

Nettie Anderson Obituary. 1910

Nettie Anderson Obituary. 1910

Oh, my, what a paragon of virtue!  Poor Ben.  Left with the child mentioned in the article, and the other boy, Telmar Anderson (1903-1982), who was Ben Anderson’s nephew and ward (son of Guy Anderson). One would expect Ben to immediately  find another mother for the boys. But he never did that.

Instead he prevailed on family members to help him out. When Nettie died, Ben’s mother, Mary V. Brink Anderson was already living with his family–or more likely, they were living in her home in Killbuck. It appears from the newspaper article that although Ben ran the farm which he had bought from Mr. Roof, he had a house in town.  The farm was only a mile or so out of town.

(Excuse me if some of this seems repetitive from last week, but there are complications in the story, and I want to remind you of the relationships.)

In 1919, Mary V. Anderson, who had been a widow for 40 years, married a 2nd husband James Kline, and by 1920, the census shows Ben and the two boys living with his mother and step-father, which continued until Mary’s death.

Ben Anderson and Ruth Anderson 1923

Ben Anderson and Granddaughter Ruth Anderson. Daughter of Estill and Dora. 1923

Ben and Nettie’s only child, Estill (1905-1926) left home at 17  and married Dortha “Dora” Carpenter (1905-1954). They lived with her relatives Jim and Esther Carpenter in Killbuck. Estill had two children, Ruth Leone Anderson (1923-1989) and Estill Anderson , Jr. (1925-1991). Estill Sr. died in 1926, when Estill Jr. was 1 1/2 years old. 

During the 20’s, you may recall from what begins to sound like a soap opera episode of Life With Ben, Ben lost an arm and from then on he had a hook in place of one hand  and was unemployed. Telmar had left home by 1930, although I have not located him at that period of time. At any rate, Ben, now without sons, was still living with his mother and his new father-in-law.

By the 1935 and 1940 census, the situation has become confusing. In 1940, the census had a square to show where people had lived in 1935, and Ben’s box is marked as “same house”. The others living with him are listed as “same place” which probably means same town rather than same house. That would indicate that the house is actually Ben’s (perhaps he continued to live in his mother’s house and the father-in-law moved out when she died).

But even though it looks as though it was his house, Ben is not listed as “Head of Household,” probably because he is not employed. Instead, he is listed as “Grandfather” of the Head of Household. That would be Elbert Steele (20), who is married to Ben’s granddaughter, Ruth (Estill’s daughter) who was now 17 with a one-year-old daughter.

Donovan Anderson

Donovan Anderson. Ben’s Grandson and son of Dora and Telmar. Late 1940s.

But if that is not daunting enough for a household, besides Ben, Elbert, Ruth and their daughter Carol, three other people live there.  Dora Anderson (Estill Sr.’s widow) and her son Estill, Jr. but ALSO her son Donovan Anderson (1929-2001), who is not Estill‘s son, but Telmar‘s son.

UPDATE: May 2018. Donovan is shown here in what I was told was a Merchant Marine uniform (Anybody have information?)  I also just discovered a school yearbook that shows Estill Jr. was a class officer in his Sophomore year at Killbuck High School in 1942. However, according to Department of Defense Records in June of 1942, he enlisted in the Navy, where he served until June 1946. Perhaps he could not resist following his 4-year-older half brother, Donovan into service.

Yes, Dora married Estill when she was very young and when he died, she married his cousin Telmar. Dora and Estill had only been married for three years, and Estill,Sr. was a very young 21 years old when he died. However—the plot thickens–in this 1940 census she is listed as divorced and Telmar, obviously, is not one of the members of the household. So she was the widow of Ben’s son and the ex-wife of Ben’s nephew/ward. She and Ben were living under the same roof with Estill’s daughter Ruth, a very young mother.

The family bad luck seemed to continue with Carol Ann Steele, Dora’s granddaughter–and Ben’s great-granddaughter. I was excited when I discovered this relative because we were very close in age.  Ah-ha! I thought. A long-lost cousin I can look up. Carol was married three times, starting when she was only 16 or 17. She died in 1987. She was not yet 50.

Ben lived until 1963 and died in Barberton, in the Akron area where many of this grandchildren had relocated. So although he lived to be 83, he certainly saw more than his fair share of troubles. He had outlived his father (who died when Ben was a small child), his wife, his mother, his only son, his daughter-in-law, his only brother (Guy) and he lost an arm.

I hope if I ever locate any other descendants of these family members that they have been able to escape the chain of bad luck that seemed to start with sweet Nettie’s death.

UPDATE: May, 2018 Thanks to finding a cousin through DNA testing, I can add a bit of information about Ben, and hope to be able to confirm or correct the other information I have on my grandfather Guy Anderson’s brother and his family.

This new cousin tells me “I noticed that you mentioned my great-grandfather Ben Anderson having a hook from losing the lower portion of his arm. It wasn’t a railroad accident. He owned several oil wells. While turning a crank on one of them it spun out of control and very badly twisted his arm so that it had to be partially amputated. ” She also explains the rather unusual name of Estill.  She says that Ben’s best friend was Judge Estill of Holmes County and he used the judge’s last name as his son’s first name.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie (Kaser) Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette (Anderson) Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Leonard Guy Anderson, is the brother of
  • Bernard F. Anderson, who is the father of
  • Estill Anderson, Sr., who is the father of
  • Estill Anderson, Jr.

  • Leonard Guy Anderson is the father of Telmar Anderson (Half-brother to Harriette Anderson, my mother)
  • Telmar Anderson is the father of Donovan Anderson

Notes on Research

Ohio Births and Christenings 1800-1962, Franklin T. Anderson, 18 Jul. 1903, Ancestry.com Family History Library File No. 477155

United States Federal Census 1910, 1920, 1930, Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio

United States Federal Census 1940, Mechanic, Holmes County, Ohio

Indiana Marriages, 1810-2001, Franklin T. Anderson and Louise Thompson, 29 July 1953, pg 342, Ancestry .com  Family History Library No. 002418899

Michigan Marriage Record, Donovan Guy Anderson to Dora Carpenter, County File 712-771; State File Number 392107

Ohio, Birth Index, 1908-1964, Estill Anderson (Jr.) 13 June 1925,

Ohio Death Records 1908-1032, Ohio Dept of Health, Ancestry.com, Estell Claire Anderson (jr._ Certificate: 038958; Volume: 28568, 22 May 1991 (Notes that he had a 10th grade education)

Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007, Ohio Dept of Health and Ancestry.com, State File No. 1925113461 Estell Anderson Dec. 1926

S. S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index  1936-2007, Ruth Anderson Steele, Ancestry.com

Summit County Ohio Marriage Marriage Records, Ruth Steele and Harry Wiland, May 5 1959, Summit County Court of Common Pleas – Probate Division; Akron, Ohio; Summit County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 1840-1980; Volume Number or Range of Dates: Vol 173, 1959-1960.

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