52 Ancestors: #30-Helen Stucky Bair Kohler Faces A Challenge

For the time being, I have set aside my own family research (except for occasional timely notes).Instead  I am searching for ancestors of my husband, Kenneth Ross Badertscher. Today–his maternal grandmother.

Helen Stucky (Bair, Kohler) 1890-1974

I am quite sure that Helen Stucky faced many challenges in her life, but one is so huge that I have trouble getting my mind around it.  I first met “Grandma Kohler” when my husband and I married.  She loved filling her farm house with family at Thanksgiving, and never tired of having grandchildren climb over her.

Helen Stucky

Great-Grandma Helen Kohler with Mike, Kenneth Paul, and Brent, in Ohio, 1966.

This picture was taken at Ken’s parents home (Agnes Bair Badertscher and Paul Badertscher) near Dalton, Ohio.  Agnes Bair was Helen’s first child from her first marriage.

Helen Stucky Bair Kohler was tall and had the big hands of a woman made for farm work. She’d fit right into Grant Wood’s American Gothic. But she did not look stern. She was sweet, modest, and welcoming to all, and a terrific cook. Knowing her in her old age, it was hard for me to imagine some of the hardships she had lived through. I’ll never know if these tragedies created her placid personality, or if her placid personality helped her survive adversity.

A Big Family

The oldest daughter born to Frederick and Ida Stucky, Helen grew up on the family farm in York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, near New Philadelphia.  Her father and mother were of Swiss heritage, and kept a dairy farm on Stone Creek Road. By 1910, when Helen was 19, she had seven siblings still at home ranging in age from 3 to 17.  Her sister Bessie, now 16, is not listed with Fred and Ida on that year’s census–probably working out of the home, as was Helen, although I have not found Bessie in a 1910 census report. (A 6-year-old brother had died in 1895, when Helen was just five years old. In 1915 one more sister came along to make it a family of ten living children.)

Around 1917, when Gladys (b. 1915) was a toddler, the family had this portrait made.

Helen Stucky family

Della, Bessie, Helen, Carl, Gertrude, Carrie, Bertha. Bottom row: John, Fred, Ida, Gladys, Frank Stucky
Circa 1917

Young Love

Helen Stucy

Helen Stucky/Adam Bair Marriage Certificate

In March 1912 when she was 21 years old, Helen married Adam Daniel Bair (22), who was known as Adam.  Like her father, he was a dairy farmer, although the Bair family came from Germany rather than Switzerland.  The couple must have had high hopes for their newly acquired farm, when they posed for this picture with some of Helen’s sisters and her first child, Agnes, who was born in 1913. It is a Dodge Touring Car from 1915.

Helen Stucky Bair

In the back seat Stucky Sisters, Bessie, Gertrude and Della. In front Helen and Adam Bair Sr. and Agnes Bair. Circa 1915.

The Challenge

In 1917, Adam Bair faithfully filled out his World War I registration card, showing he had a wife and one child. He was described as tall, stout, with dark brown hair and blue eyes.  But then, just a year and a half after filling out his registration card, the worldwide calamity that followed World War I hit Ohio, and Adam Bair, tall and stout as he was, fell victim to the flu that killed thousands. Adam died in January, 1919.

Helen was two months pregnant when her husband died. She may not even have realized that she was carrying another child.  At the age of 28, she was a widow and a single mother. I can imagine that having worked at the County Alms House that housed the old, the infirm, and those without any financial support, including mothers with small children, she was determined not to be sent to a place like that.

As much as she would not have wanted to be a burden on her parents, who still had five children at home, she really had no choice.  The oldest of the Stucky siblings still at home, Carl (24), was a steel worker, so he was contributing to the family income. The youngest child at home was Gladys (5), who must have been one of those midlife surprises–nearly the same age as Helen’s Agnes. A baby boy was born in August of the year his father died (1919),and Helen named him Adam Daniel after his father. Then Helen went looking for work. Like her sisters, she found domestic work, to help contribute to the budget, but instead of “working out” she lived at home with her parents and her children.

A Second Family

In 1921 the widow found some security when she married Ralph Kohler, seven years her junior, but like her from a large family of Swiss dairy farmers. In 1922, their first daughter, Inez, was born.  Three years later Richard was born and two years after Richard, the youngest, Hannah, arrived.  Her two Bair children and three Kohler children grew up on the Kohler Farm in Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio.  The farm’s address was a rural route out of Dalton, Ohio.

The Kohler farm was a bicycle ride away from Ken Badertscher’s home in Dalton, where his mother Agnes had moved with her husband Paul Badertscher. As a young boy, Ken spent summer days working on the dairy farm. In 1959, Ralph (61) died. Helen’s oldest son, Adam, stayed on and ran the farm, even after he married.  And Helen lived in the same farm house for the rest of her long life.

Helen Esther Stucky (Bair) Kohler died in 1974 when she was 84 years old and was buried in Orrville, Ohio.

Helen Kohler

Helen and Ralph Kohler gravestone, Orrville, Ohio

The suggested theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors challenge was the word “Challenging.” Although the suggestion was to write about an ancestor that is particularly difficult to research, I picked one of my husband’s family who faced a terrible challenge of her own. The research was actually easy.

How Ken is Related

  • Kenneth Ross Badertscher is the son of
  • Agnes Bair Badertscher, who is the daughter of
  • Helen Stucky (Bair) (Kohler) and
  • Adam Bair

Research Notes

This post was inspired by photographs of the Stucky-Bair-Kohler family posted on Ancestry.com, and passed on by a cousin and some belonging to Kay Badertscher.

The ornate marriage license of Helen Stucky and Adam Bair hangs to the wall in our home.

Research at Ancestry.com, including

U.S. Federal Census Records: 1900 census, York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1910 Censuses, Goshen Township and York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1920 Census: York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1930 Census, Sugarcreek Township, Wayne County, Ohio; 1940 Census, Sugarcreek Township, Wayne County, Ohio.

Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962, Tuscarawas County, Adam Daniel Bair

Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962, Tuscarawas County, Helen E. Stucky

World War I Draft Registration, June 1917 for Adam Daniel Bair.

World War I Draft Registration, August 1918 for Ralph Kohler, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Registration State: Ohio; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 1851302; Draft Board: 2, Ancestry.com

Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007, Certificate: 30310; Volume: 15762, Ancestry.com and Ohio Department of Health Adam Daniel Bair

Certificate: 088234; Volume: 21905, Helen Esther Stucky

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