Category Archives: Documents and Letters

Mother’s Death Causes Family Conflict–A Letter from Will Stout

The Cast of Characters in a Family Conflict

William Morgan Stout (1873-1944)  intrigues me. He seemed to attract family conflict.

William Stout

Ancestor Great Uncle William Morgan Stout (1938) 65 years old.

I don’t believe I ever saw Will Stout. If I did meet him on one of his brief visits to Killbuck Ohio, I was too young to remember. My great-uncle, older brother of my grandmother Vera Stout Anderson, lived in New York City during the Gilded Age.

Recently I found a letter that he wrote to my grandmother, Vera Stout Anderson in 1937. This one letter to my grandmother is the only thing that I have in his own handwriting. It nicely fills in the personality of my elusive great-uncle Will.

Will Stout’s Life

Very little factual information about Will Stout survives. For instance, it took me years to discover that he died in Palm Beach Florida rather than New York or New Jersey.  I expected to find him still near his relatives in New Jersey in the 1940s.  I only recently was able to uncover Will and Jean’s marriage record. There I learned her last name and that she was a widow rather than a divorcee.

He did not quite have the distinguished career that my mother described as “a railroad attorney”. Nevertheless Will lived in magical Manhattan. Actually, he was one of many lawyers who worked for the New York  street car company, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company.

Will left Killbuck Ohio for school in upstate New York, and then law school in New York City after his father Dr. William Stout nearly disowned him for what Doc Stout saw as dissolute living. This may have been the first of his involvement in family conflict.  His life turned far away from small town Mid Western living and values.  He married a widow several years older than he was.  She had a daughter who he reportedly adopted, but the couple never had children of their own.

  The Interborough Rapid Transit Company opened the first New York subway line in October 1904. Previously, they owned the first elevated lines (The El).  The city bought the IRT in 1940, and the IRT originally ran the subway lines that today are the numbered lines in the subway system.In 1929, Will would have been working for the company when they took a fare increase appeal to the Supreme Court. They asked to raise their fares from the 1904 rate of five cents to seven cents. They lost, which probably played into the end of the company in 1940.

When he wrote the letter in 1937, Will still struggled through the Great Depression. His company had some serious problems, which probably kept their army of attorneys quite busy.

Maude Stout Bartlett’s Life

Maude Bartlett at Stout-Anderson house, Killbuck (c.1952)

Maude Bartlett at Stout-Anderson house, Killbuck (c.1952)

No one every used my great-aunt Maude’s real name, Mary Emeline Stout (1875-1963).  From family letters and the family picture, I suspect that Hattie Stout favored Maude above her other children.  This made perfect sense because Maude was studious, well-behaved, musical–all the things that my rambunctious grandmother and rebellious great-uncle were not. In this picture you see Maude standing at Hattie’s shoulder and Vera beside her father, while Will sits alone.

 

Stout Family Home in Killbuck, Ohio

Dr. William Stout and family in front of family home, circa 1885

Maude married at the age of 23 to Carlos Bartlett, and not long after their marriage, the couple moved to Buffalo, New York. She lived a social life their, filled with books and music and entertaining.

Sadly, Carlos died in 1915 at the age of 42.  For the rest of her life, Maude mourned her “dear Carlos.”  She remained in Buffalo, took in a boarder and taught piano lessons, until in the 1950s she moved back to Killbuck, Ohio.  She and my grandmother Vera had a prickly relationship, (more family conflict).  Though as my mother said, they still cared for each other. They lived at opposite ends of the small town, about 1/2 mile apart. In their later years, they  called each other on the phone on days they could not visit.

When Will wrote the letter to Vera in 1937, Maude was still living in Buffalo with an Englishman boarding in her upstairs to supplement Carlos’ Railroad Stocks income.

Vera Stout Anderson

I have written extensively about my namesake grandmother.  In 1937 when she received Will’s letter, she and my grandfather Guy were running a restaurant in their home (see the picture at the head of this blog).  A short time before, they had been running a boarding house.  Guy may have already been showing signs of the heart trouble that forced them to close the restaurant in the early 1940s.  Her youngest son Herbert had married ten years earlier when he was 19, and he already had four children.  Her oldest child, William J. Anderson had one child. her daughter, Harriette was dating a man she did not entirely approve of.  In other words she had troubles of her own.

Harriette (Hattie) Morgan Stout

Hattie Stout in Buffalo

Hattie Stout and Maude Bartlett in Buffalo Circa 1910

I have written about Hattie Stout (1842-1928) who was a school teacher during the Civil War. She was a woman who was widely read and curious about everything.  She explored life to the fullest. My mother said that she even smoked a cigarette in the teens when women were expressing new-found freedoms, just to see what it was like. Her desire was to live long enough to vote, and she did indeed live to see Woman’s Suffrage.

Hattie served as her husband Doc Stout’s assistant, keeping the house and his instruments spotless. She even took care of patients who had to stay in the Stout home in Killbuck for a brief time while they recovered from some illness.  The couple loved to travel, and Hattie accompanied her husband to medical conventions, went to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893  and visited her son in Manhattan and rode on a double-decker bus.

When Doc Stout died in 1910, Hattie had Vera’s husband take over managing the farms she inherited. She moved into a small house so that they could occupy the large house Doc Stout had built in the center of town.

Hattie visited Maude in Buffalo after Carlos died. By 1920, her health failing at age 78, she had moved to Buffalo to live with Maude. She died in Maude’s home in 1928 at the age of 85.

Cause of Death

Hattie Stout Death Certificate Cause of Death, 1928

The family story ran that Hattie had turned away from the medicine practiced by her late husband Dr. William Stout and her belief in some alternative treatment contributed to her death. When her son Will Stout wrote a letter to her daughter Vera in 1937, Hattie had been dead ten years, but he was still angry.

I was curious about her cause of death. Because she was in New York State, I had to pay $18 and then wait about 9 months before I received the copy of the death certificate.  I have more to say about the cause of death, shown above, in a little bit.

The 1937 Letter from Will Stout to His Sister Vera

Here’s an image of the first page of the four-page letter that Will sent to his sister on April 22, 1937, revealing another family conflict involving Will. As you can see, it is not the easiest handwriting to transcribe, but I have transcribed pertinent parts of the letter below.  Here you can see the name of the company he worked for.

family letter

Letter from Will Stout to Vera Anderson, 1937, page one

…she is impossible it seems to me, & the six weeks or so that I indured (sic) during Mother’s Illness, was sufficient for a lifetime.

Dear Vera & Family,

[ He opens with a response to a recent letter and the fact Vera had not written frequently, which worried his wife. He goes on to complain about his financial circumstances. That may have seemed a bit strange to his much poorer relatives. After all, they did not live in a big city and have a job as lawyer with a large corporation!]

Fortunately for my peace of mind we have been very busy here in the office and have had little time to worry about being the under dog.

It will not be long now when we will be completing our plans for our vacation which as usual I hope to take in August. So far our idea is to drive to Ohio for a day or so & then skip back to a little cottage on a nice little lake upstate where we were for 3 wks last year. It is very unpretentious, very quiet, & cheap & the best place for complete relaxation & rest that we have found yet, so if nothing happens to disrupt our programme (sic) We will start the last Friday or Saturday in July & ought to be in Killbuck the following Monday & Tuesday Aug. 2nd or 3rd, but don’t make extra plans for us we can not stay long for which you should be thankful,

[Here Will mentions possible visits to relatives along the way]

…  the time will be short enough, in fact too short so that we will get ourselves disliked all along the line, but that seems to be the best we can do for I have engaged our cottage starting the 10th of Aug. & so what we are thinking of doing before that date means that we will have to hustle.

[Then he gets to the matter of avoiding his sister Maude. I have bolded the significant statements.]

I don’t suppose you know what Maud is going to do this summer as yet. So when you find out let me know. I have not heard from her in year and I don’t intend to have any Part of my vacation disturbed by a possible scrap, so if she is going to be at Killbuck the 1st week—Aug that will change our plans Of course if she is in Buffalo when we drive thru I will stop & say hello. But that will be all as I recall it she was not at Home the last time we stopped and I suspect she was just as pleased as we were. The last time we did see her she never asked us in the House. But that is all right by me, I am not mad about it & Jean [his wife] is very sorry for her & about the whole thing & gave me fits for not trying to placate her but she is impossible it seems to me, & the six weeks or so that I indured (sic) during Mother’s Illness, was sufficient for a lifetime. That is enough of that, So don’t fail to let me know when she will be if you learn.

Aside from a few colds & minor bellyaches we have faired (sic) very well physically, & I can think of nothing else by way of news. We are looking forward to seeing you & those wonderful kids that a doting Grandmother is crazy about.

[Vera’s son William had a son and her son Herbert had four children by April, 1937.]

Don’t wait so long in finding time to write again.

Love to all

Jean & Will

What Happened in 1928?

Particularly, what happened in Buffalo during that “six weeks or so” that Will refers to? Of course we will never know for sure. But thanks to the doctor who signed the death certificate on January 24, 1928, we know that Hattie died of Diabetes Mellitus (commonly called just diabetes). According to the certificate, she had suffered from Diabetes for twelve years. That was not a particular surprise, as diabetes crops up in several generations in my family. My grandmother (Hattie’s daughter), my sister and one of my sons all have been diagnosed and treated for diabetes.

The most common modern treatment for diabetes, insulin, began to be used in the early 1920s, so would have been available to Hattie.  Read History of treatment of diabetes here.  Did she feel that insulin injections were unnatural?  Did she prefer to use some alternative treatment, like the treatment with high fat diet, which had some supporters at that time? Was she afraid of needles? Or did she, as my family suspected, join a religion that forbade medical treatment?

When I saw on this death certificate “Contributory” [cause of death] as gangrene of the foot I thought of another possibility.  The most common recommendation to deal with the gangrene would be amputation of the foot. She might, understandably, be reluctant to lose her foot, and refused treatment. So perhaps it was the infection that killed her.

The Death Certificate

A minor point: her birth date is given as August 4, 1842 on the death certificate, and date of death is January 24, 1928.  The calculation that she was 85 year, 4 months and 20 days old therefore is slightly off.

One more mystery popped up when I read the death certificate.  I mentioned earlier that Hattie had been living with Maude in 1920.  However, he death certificate says that she has only lived at that address for four months.  Either she had changed her address back and forth from Buffalo to Killbuck, or the census had caught her just visiting in 1920. In that case, she didn’t actually live with Maude until later.  So why would she go to Buffalo in October of 1927?

Presumably Hattie was quite ill by that time. Travel away from home would be difficult, even though she was fleeing to be with her favorite daughter. The only logical reason I can think of for the trip would be to receive some kind of alternative treatment not available in Ohio.

Whatever reason she had, it is clear from Will Stout’s letter that he was present in Buffalo when his mother died. He argued with Maude (and presumably his mother) about Hattie’s treatment.  I can picture the New York attorney descending upon the two ladies at 16 Robie Avenue, ready to take charge.  He was, after all, an attorney–used to arguing.  However, from what I know of Maude, she could be very determined. She may have decided to go along with their mother’s decision about her illness. If so, she would dig her heels in and her older brother would hold no sway. And as we can clearly see, Will lost the argument. His mother lost her life. However, William M. Stout signed the death certificate, listing his address as 537 West 149th Street, NY City.

I am glad to have this glimpse into the personality of William Morgan Stout. However, I am sorry that it is a letter that reveals a family conflict. Despite his wife’s gentle admonitions, Will did not seem to be one to easily forgive.  On the other hand, judging from her refusing to  invite him into her house, neither was his sister Maude.

Eva Maria Stahler’s Widow’s Pension: The Battle Continues

IMPORTANT NOTE

Although this story about Adam Stahler and his widow continued to be fascinating, I now believe I was barking up the wrong tree branch, and they are not actually related to me.  I explain elsewhere how that happened.

BEWARE if you are researching the family of Joseph Kaser. There apparently were two Elizabeth Stahlers from Berks County, and the one I have been researching, whose parents were Adam Stahler and Eva Maria Henrich, is not the one who married Joseph Kaser. 

I have left this post for those people who might be researching the Stahler-Henrich lines.

The Soldier and The Widow

Adam Stahler, my 4th great-grandfather, a German immigrant, fought in the American Revolution–not just once but several times–not just as a humble private as many of my New England ancestors, but as a Captain.  However, when his widow, Eva Maria tried to collect her widow’s pension, she faced a legal ordeal. The battle for the pension lasted longer than the war had taken to fight.

During her lifetime, although the court paid her the minimal widow’s pension, she was unable to get the increased amount due the widows of officers. You can see how I discovered the widow’s pension here, and read about what the first part of the legal battle entailed here.

The Soldier’s Son and the Second Hearing

Ten years after her death, and twenty years after the first hearing, the story resumes when her son, Christian, goes back to court to argue that, as the song goes, “they done her wrong.”

By this time, 1852, Christian is in his seventies, and only one other child of Eva and Adam Stahler still lives–Eva’s namesake Eva Marie Stahler (Neur), who is now married and living in Ohio.

Christian had hired an attorney who came loaded with proof of Adam Stahler’s length of service and the fact that he was indeed a Captain, served the appropriate length of time and his family should collect a higher pension.

Apparently, the court found several holes in Eva Maria’s case, and one of them had to do with spelling.

In a letter that seems extremely sad in retrospect, Christian Stahler explains that neither he nor his mother knew of concrete proof of his father’s service (beyond the testimony of fellow veterans) at the time of the first appeal.  In fact, they had asked at the pension office at Pennsylvania capital city Harrisburg and been told there was nothing. Had they found any records they would have presented them.  However, the new attorney (presumably he gets credit) discovered pay records, enrollment records, and more official records that are testimony to the service of Captain Adam Stahler/Stohler.

…That the person she other employed to assist her with her application had a great deal of trouble with it. Spent some weeks riding the country to obtain the testimony necessary to support it. That had he known that the offices at Harrisburg could have shone any light upon the services of the said Adam Stahler he would have applied there and presented with what testimony he acquired from _____ ______ the testimony in that office, but there was nothing to inform him that there was testimony there.

Because of Adam’s rank, Eva would have been eligible to receive $280 a month instead of $120 for her widow’s pension.

Can’t you just feel the frustration that then 84-year old Eva must have felt in back in1832, along with all Adam’s fellow veterans who had testified?

In an earlier article about this pension, I focused on a letter that reported that the writer of the letter had studied the Revolutionary War rolls looking for Adam Stahler, Stohler, or Stoller and had proven that regardless of how it was spelled, there was only one Adam Stahler.  Apparently, during the first appeal, evidence presented did not convince the commissioner of pensions as to Adam’s service.  Part of the problem of course, involved the free-wheeling spelling of the 18th century.

In June 1852, the new lawyer in the case, J. E. Buchanan, says

The proof herewith submitted will show that he was called ‘Staller.’ In the copy of the record which shows that he was at time of the battle of Brandywine until at Chester Aug. 18th 1777 he is called ‘Staller’ and in one of the affidavits he is called by that name. He is called Stahler in the retinue of the 3rd battalion of militia officers dated May 21 1777. But in the Retinue on the same sheet he is called ‘Stahler’ which reconciles the apparent difficulty of the name. The names are the same in sound however.

And it appears that the bureaucrats just weren’t paying attention in the 1852  widow’s pension hearing.  A full year later, Mr. Buchanan (Esq.) writes again, introducing the testimony mentioned above from the man who analyzed the rolls.

 I forward to you additional testimony in the case of Eve Maria Stahler of Pennsylvania making application for an increase of her pension under the act of July 4 1836. In your letter of April 5th inst. I am requested to furnish in the form of an affidavit the opinion of some old respectable inhabitant of Northampton County Pennsylvania that there was but one officer of the name of Adam Stahler vs Stohler in the militia of that County who rendered services during the Revolutionary War.

I just don’t see how he could have explained it more clearly. And he chose, he said to forward testimony from the Secretary of the office where the records are kept as a better source of information, than the requested old soldier’s testimony.  And he repeats once again that although the names Stahler and Stohler and Stoller are spelled differently, they sound the same.

Surely after such a frustrating widow’s pension case, Christian Stahler’s attorney must have stalked off to the nearest tavern, muttering about the blockheads who could not understand that a name might be spent several ways but still apply to the same person.

Did they win the case? One piece of paper that might contain the answers, has faded beyond recognition and the columns of numbers do not make sense to me. So I have not been able to figure out yet who won the case. UPDATE: Another accounting is clearer and shows that Christian and his sister, the only surviving children were awarded the amount that their mother should have received. THEY WON!

But this story proves that genealogists are not the only ones who have a problem when surnames are misspelled.

Notes on Research

U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, index found at Ancestry.com and 84-page file read and copied from “Application of Eva Maria Stahler, widow of Captain Adam Stahler,”  www.fold3.com/image/18467518?terms=adam%20stahler&xi
d=1945 
 Accessed at the Family Search Center, Tucson NW

Wrong Spelling Costs Eve Stahler Widows Pension

IMPORTANT NOTE

Although this story about Adam Stahler and his widows pension continue to be fascinating, I now believe I was barking up the wrong tree branch, and they are not actually related to me.  I explain elsewhere how that happened.

BEWARE if you are researching the family of Joseph Kaser. There apparently were two Elizabeth Stahlers from Berks County, and the one I have been researching, whose parents were Adam Stahler and Eva Maria Henrich, is not the one who married Joseph Kaser. 

I have left this post for those people who might be researching the Stahler-Henrich lines.

————-

For a couple of weeks now, I have been sporadically attacking a file of 79 pages of legal papers regarding widows pension benefits.  Many of them are illegible, either because age has faded them or because the person who wrote testimony or documents needed one of those penmanship instructors I talked about recently.

Adam Stahler Pension

Page 47 widow’s Revolutionary war pension legal file

And that is far from the worst of the bunch.

Although at least half of the pages still wait for discovery, my magnifying glass and I have figured out enough to fill you in on most of Eva Maria Stahler and her children’s battle to get what the government owed them. The first half of the file has to do with Eva Maria Stahler applying for an increase in her widows pension when she was 83 years old.

The rest of the file is about the attempts after her death to get the pension increased.  Christian Stahler and his sister Eva Maria (the 2nd) were the only remaining children by the 1850s when they brought the case up again. Eva Maria had married and moved to Ohio.

Along the way, I am also piecing together the details of Adam Stahler’s military history, which I will relate in the future, but I am impressed by the number of notable battles he took part in.  For instance, the battle of Brandywine, in which ill-clothed colonial soldiers lost to the British, and the battle of Germantown, another losing battle, but one that turned the ragtag militias into a more disciplined army.  I will return to Adam’s Revolutionary War experiences at a later date. Now back to Eva and her battles with bureaucracy.

As I mentioned earlier when talking about Adam Stahler’s pension, the laws governing pensions for Revolutionary War veterans changed frequently. Early payments were only for the injured, and later for those in need. When Adam Stahler died in April 1804, widows and children of Militia member were not eligible for full pensions. In 1832 an act provided for a widows pension. However, on July 4, 1836, legislation passed that would allow the widows and children of Pennsylvania militiamen like Adam to collect higher payments for officers and their widows.

The records show that Eva Maria Stahler had a Certificate of Pension issued on 27 July 1833 and the pension payment were made retroactive to 4 March 1831. Her payments, which continued until her death, are detailed on this report. The image cuts off the September 1831 payment, but the form does not show a March 1831 payment as promised in the legal decision.

Widow's Pension Payments

Eva Maria Stahler, Pennsylvania Accounting for widow’s pension payments.

So if she was getting a widow’s pension from the time she was 83, why all the legal action? It is complicated by all those different rules in the various Revollutionary War pension acts passed by Congress.  It was not uncommon for widows or children to reapply when a more favorable act passed.

In March 1834, Eva Maria petitioned the state legislature of Pennsylvania. Because that document is very difficult to read, I am still not sure whether that is because Pennsylvania had a separate pension system for their state’s militia, or some other reason.

At any rate, the scene moves to the Office of Pensioner in January 1835 where a note on the cover page of her file notes, “no proof of poverty” indicating the law in force at that time would only give pensions to the needy. She was there to convince the Commissioner of Pensions that she was entitled to the higher amount granted to officers.

In August 1836, one month after the passage of the more generous act of 1836, she testified as to her marriage date (15 March 1768) and that she has remained a widow since her husband’s death.  Both of these are requirements to receive a pension.  She also introduced several friends and neighbors (old veterans) who testified as to her husband’s service in the Revolution.  The acts governing widows pensions generally require proof of the length of service, and whether the veteran was a commissioned officer or enlistee. Eva is depending on the testimony of these old veterans who served with her husband.

Veteran's testimony

Part of page 43 in legal file, the testimony of old soldier and neighbor, George Lonenberger

This is part of a page of the testimony of George Lonenberger, who was a neighbor of the Stahlers.  It reads, in part:

“I was personally acquainted with the late Captain Adam Stahler of Northampton. I saw,was in company with and had conversation with the said Captain Stahler a few days after the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777 and said Captain Adam Stahler had the command of a company of militia fom Northampton County, Pennsylvania and the same Capt. Stahler and his company were active ________ in the Battle of Brandwine on the Pennsylvania Line and in the service of the United States.”

But then the unfortunate part–the old soldier, aged 81, truthfully reports:

“I am unable to say at what time the said Captain Adam Stahler entered the service or at what time he left the Service, but I am positive he was in the service.”

So despite the closing statement, “The said Captain Adam Stahler was thought of as brave and active man and a very respectable man,” Lonenberger is not able to present proof of length of service. We find that sentence about not knowing when he entered or when he left repeated by other old soldiers who testify.

We know that Eva, and probably some of her friends, were giving testimony in German, because a translators version of her name and birth date and their marriage date is entered into testimony. However, the Justice of the Peace, or whoever took the testimony, entered the transcript of the testimony in English.  We can assume that these old farmers did not speak in legalese–“the aforesaid Captain Adam Stahler” over and over again, so some liberty was taken with their testimony.

Eva Marie continued to receive the low payment of $120 per month for her widows pension. She had not been able to prove conclusively that Adam was a Captain, or the exact length of his service in the militia. She could not plead penury and he was not injured in the war. Testimony continued to be gathered until at least 1836, and Eva was not getting any younger.

In 1842, Eva died at the age of 92, having received a widows pension payments at the low end of the scale for about ten years.

Next up,  Part Two, Christian Takes Up the Fight.

Notes on Research

U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, index found at Ancestry.com and 84-page file read and copied from “Application of Eva Maria Stahler, widow of Captain Adam Stahler,”  www.fold3.com/image/18467518?terms=adam%20stahler&xi
d=1945 
 Accessed at the Family Search Center, Tucson NW