52 Ancestors: #15: The Amazing Truman Bucklew : Things I Never Knew…

Lewis Truman Bucklew (1897- 1995)

Truman Bucklew

Truman Bucklew, 1940s

Although I try to stick to writing to my direct relatives rather than those related only by marriage, sometimes their stories are just too amazing not to be told. And since I hinted at Truman Bucklew’s unusually adventurous life when I wrote about his wife, my Aunt Irene Kaser Bucklew, it is only fair that I explain a bit about his life.

In September, 1918, he filled out a World War I draft registration card which describes him as having blue eyes and black hair, of short stature and medium weight. He has a physical disability that will prevent him from serving in the armed forces–a “stiff hip.”  But that disability did not prevent him from doing just about anything else he set his mind to–with one disappointing exception.

At the age of 22, he had to take on some responsibility for his mother, when his father died of cancer at the age of 68. Truman lived with his widowed mother until he was thirty-two.  He had dropped out of school before high school and first worked for his father’s local telephone company fixing telephones then became a mechanic, fixing engines. Truman was obviously skilled at fixing things, as he later worked helping The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to install the first electrical lines that arrived in Killbuck, Ohio in 1930.

Irene Kaser 1920's

Irene Kaser and Truman Bucklew

You can follow his progress after he married Irene Kaser, in my story about her.

But  before Irene and Truman met he had become known as the first to own an airplane in Holmes County, Ohio. He bought a Curtis Motors airplane after taking lessons in Missouri. Once he learned to fly, he flew the plane back to Holmes County.  A few years later, he bought a WACO biplane (trading his 1926 Pontiac according to a newspaper article).

In 1927 the first civilian pilot’s license was issued. The FAA , Federal Aviation Administration, did not exist, so the governing body was the Aeronautics Branch of the Commerce Department.  Truman sold that plane in 1929, when he learned that he could never get a pilot’s license because of his “stiff hip.”

In an article in the Holmes County Hub, he tells a fascinating story.  “A photographer from Millersburg, a Mr.  Keckler, would strap a pine box to the side of the plane and go up with me [in the plane] and take pictures of Millersburg and Killbuck. ” That is amazing.  I wonder if any of those 1920’s photos survive? I seem to recall seeing Truman pictured in a leather helmet like pilots wore, but I cannot find it.

His aviator adventure earned him a spot on a mural commissioned by the Millersburg Pizza Hut and painted by Ruston Baker of Killbuck, Ohio. Here’s a partial list of the people honored, and a picture of Truman’s biplane flying over an Amish buggy and a covered bridge. (That is SO Holmes County!)

When he and Irene married, Truman owned the Ford automobile agency in Killbuck, but that business failed during the depression and after the REA project, he was out of work for several months.

In my story about Irene, I mentioned him working in Fredericktown, and the newspaper article says that he worked in a factory making control cars for blimps during World War II, so that may have been in Fredericktown.

At some point in the late fifties, he and Irene moved from the house where I had visited them on Main Street to a small house on Water Street.  There, Truman put his handyman skills to work remodeling and enclosing the front porch. (My grandmother Vera later purchased that house and lived in it during her last years).

Truman Bucklew House

The Truman Bucklew House on Water Street in Killbuck, before and after enclosing porch and remodeling.

His handiness was even put to use by the circus when he lived in Sarasota Florida, winter home of Barnum and Bailey after Irene died.  He was hired to make equipment for the circus. Amazing.

Truman Bucklew carpentry

Hutch made by Truman Bucklew

He turned to self-taught wood working and cabinetry in his later years.  The Holmes County Hub article mentions how he would find wood drifting in the creek (which was just behind the house) and identify the wood. He called it “resurrecting.”

He built himself a lathe and started making rocking chairs, which he said you could find “all over Ohio,” as he had given them to nieces and nephews. He also made hutches, and this photo belongs to a cousin who is fortunate enough to have one of his creations.



The  talented man even made a spinning wheel. Amazing! In the newspaper article he says modestly that woodworking is something that anyone can do. “I wouldn’t say that I have talent,” he says, “just perseverance.”

Truman’s second wife, Margaret Jane (Jennie) Butler, was raised by her grandfather and grandmother, Merriman Lisle and [namesake] Margaret Anderson Lisle.  Now here’s where it gets interesting. Margaret Anderson was the aunt of my maternal grandfather, Leonard Guy Anderson. (Margaret Anderson Lisle was also the half-sister of Erasmus Anderson, whose Civil War Letters I have published.) You can find the story about how she came to raise two Butler sisters, and a Lisle/Butler family picture here.

Truman Bucklew's wife Jennie

The Butler Girls with Margaret Jane (Jennie) on the right). Photo from Ancestry.com tree of M. Blosser (circa 1905)

So, my uncle-by-marriage married my second cousin once removed! (The grand-daughter of my great grand-aunt.)

They met in Sarasota Florida, where Truman lived most of the time after Irene died.  Truman was Margaret (Jenny)’s third husband. She had divorced the other two.  They married in 1960, but it was a short marriage, as she died 2 1/2 year later in Sarasota.

In 1967, according to a 1991 article in the Holmes County Hub, Truman married a woman named Irene, again in Sarasota. She is quoted in the 1991 article, so their marriage would have been the longest he had. ( I have not found documentation so don’t know who she was, or whether she survived him.)

[Update: The name of his third wife was, interestingly enough, Jenny Irene Lanham Aufrance (combining both his first wives’ names. And she did survive Truman.]

In another amazing coincidence in Truman’s life and marriages–Irene Lanham Aufrance Bucklew is the daughter of Grace Lanham, whose picture appears at the top of this page (2nd from right), who lived next door to my Grandmother Vera, and whose recipe for fruit cake  I published.

Truman Bucklew article

Article in Holmes County Hub, August 1982

Truman was honored at the Killbuck Homecoming Celebration in 1982 when he was in his 80s. In 1991, at 93, he was the grand marshall for the Annual Antique Festival parade with the theme “The Wonder of Flight.” Truman’s amazing life ended when he died and was buried beside Irene Kaser Bucklew in the Killbuck Cemetery in 1995, when he was 98 years old.

How We Are Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the brother of
  • Irene Kaser (Bucklew), first wife of
  • Truman Bucklew.

Research Notes

Census records from 1930 (Killbuck, Ohio) and 1940 (Killbuck, Ohio) help tell me where Truman was and what was happening in his life.  These records were accessed on line at Ancestry.com

World War I Draft Card Ohio Registration, County: Holmes, Roll 1832249 for Lewis Truman Bucklew. Accessed through Ancestry.com

The Marriage License of Irene Kaser and Truman Bucklew, found on line through Family Search.org.  “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X85V-NFL : accessed 6 April 2015), Truman Bucklew and Irene Kaser, 15 Mar 1931; citing Wayne, Ohio, United States, reference ; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 425,763.

The Marriage License of Margaret Butler Kittleson,Accessed at Ancestry.com original from , Florida Marriage Index 1927-2001Florida Department of Health,Jacksonville, Florida Vol. 1881, Certificate 11299. Accessed through Ancestry.com

The Coshocton Tribune. The searchable database of this newspaper is accessible on line. I found it through Ancestry.com and found Irene and Truman in many Killbuck columns, Personal section from 1935 to 1945 and beyond. I noted a dozen articles and scanned many others.

Newspaper Interview: “Truman Bucklew: A Look Back” Holmes County Hub by J. A. Thompson-Winant , August 1982. (Image found on a family tree at Ancestry.com).

Newspaper interview: “93-year-old Truman Bucklew Has Memories of Time when Both He and Flying were Young.” Holmes County Hub, by Rhonda Rossner, October 10, 1991. (Image sent to me by Annette Kaser).

Photographs are my personal property except the headshot of Truman which is cropped from a photo found in a public tree on Ancestry.com and the images of the mural, shown on a placemat and provided by Ruston Baker, the artist.

The hand-made hutch is a family heirloom in possession of Annette Kaser, photo used by her permission.

Family stories and personal experiences contributed to the story.

[UPDATE} From personal coorespondence (and see comment below) from the great-grandson of Jenny Irene Bucklew, who also is fortunate enough to own the spinning wheel that Truman made.


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3 thoughts on “52 Ancestors: #15: The Amazing Truman Bucklew : Things I Never Knew…

  1. Craig Proper

    His last wife survived him by several years. Her name was Jenny Irene Lanham Aufrance. Please contact me for more info. She was my Great-grandmother. And Truman the only Grandfather I ever knew.

    I own that spinning wheel.

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Craig: Thank you so much for this information. I’ll add it to the post, and I’ll be in touch with you. Anything else you’d like to add here about Truman? Lucky you, to have the spinning wheel, by the way!

  2. Bro

    I remember Uncle Truman as a friendly, quiet old fellow hobbling around his the house and woodworking in his garage shop on Water Street. He had a somewhat sad, world-weary smile (or so it seemed to me at 6 or 7). You do a wonderful job researching and celebrating the lives of these folks. Glad to learn Truman was honored in the Killbuck celebration. Years ago I made a rushed visit to the Millersburg Pizza Hut and glanced at the mural without realizing the significance of the plane. He must have had some high-flying dreams as a young man. And he must have had some charm with the ladies, too, convincing three of them to marry him.


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