Tag Archives: Ohio Reformatory

Edward Kaser and Sons, a Sad Family Story

Edward Kaser 1871-1958

Edward “Ed” Kaser, the youngest brother of my grandfather Clifford Kaser, first popped up on my radar when I was searching for any of my father’s cousins that might be about my father’s age. Because my father was much younger than his older brother, and Grandfather Clifford was younger than most of his siblings, there were few cousins in the same age bracket as my father. That partially explains why my father claimed not to know any of his Kaser family. But there’s another reason my father may have ducked one particular cousin.

I spotted Edward (Ed)’s name in an article about the Clark, Ohio band where my grandfather Cliff Kaser played the trombone. But most intriguing, as I looked for his children, I discovered that his son Glen was no longer living with the family in 1930, although he was still in his teens. Where he was living came as a shock.

Edward was born in December 1871 to Joseph Kaser (II) and Catharine Sampsel Kaser. Like so many of the Kasers, Edward stayed right in the area where his family had farms, near Clark, Ohio.

Edward was late to marry, still living at home with his widowed mother Catharine in 1900 when he was twenty-eight years old. That would have been the period of his life when he was playing an instrument in the Clark Community band. He must have lived a happy existence in his twenties. Because he was hard working and devoted to his mother, he would have been considered an eligible bachelor, and there must have been joy in making music.

Clark Community Band Stand

Photo of Clark Band Stand. Given to newspaper by Mrs. Sanford Lowe of Clark.

The 1960s newspaper article refers to the band in 1898. Three Kaser brothers–Dave, Cliff and Ed played in the band along with Dave’s son and a nephew Austin.

Ed Kaser married his wife Anna  in 1904. In the 1920 and 1930 census records he is listed as living in Mechanic Township, Holmes County, Ohio, and then in the village of Clark, Mechanic Twp, Holmes County (Probably the same house with location described differently). Unlike most of the Kaser clan, he was not a farmer, but was a painter of houses. He and his wife Anna had three children, Carl (b. 1906), Ruth (b. 1909), and Glen (b. 1911).

In 1920, Edward was 49 years old and his wife Anna was ten years younger. Interestingly, Anna had been born in Switzerland. Although she can speak English, her native tongue is German Swiss. She immigrated when she was about three years old, in 1884, and if the census reports are accurate, was naturalized between 1920 and 1930.

In 1930, only daughter Ruth, who is now 21, remains at home. Edward’s more complete job description is now painter and house paperer.

The Coshocton newspaper reports Ruth’s name many times. She appears to be a bright and talented girl, who is a public speaker and a musician like her father.

The question arises–what has become of the sons, Carl and Glen between 1920 and 1930? Sadly, tragedy struck this family in two forms. On September 11, 1924, the Holmes County Farmer Hub contained an obituary.

Carl D. Kaser was born December 2, 1906.  He an obedient son and a believer in the  Lord Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Holy Scripture.

His health was broken in the last year of his life, and on September 3, 1924, he fell asleep in death, being 17 years, 9 months and one day old.

He leaves to mourn his departure,  father, mother, one brother and one sister and other relatives and friends.

The younger brother Glen was just thirteen when his brother died, but in the 1930 census, at the age of 19, we learn that Glen has been incarcerated in the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio.

Ironically, before I knew about any of this, I visited the once notorious Ohio State Reformatory. The imposing gray limestone Gothic architecture of buildings built in 1886 still glowers over the landscape, while inside the bars of its six stories of cells and bed frames and sinks inside rust away. It was such a cruel place that it was eventually closed, and evil still seems to hang in the corridors. In fact one of its principle attractions now is as a Haunted House. You can take a video tour here.

You may have seen the prison, as it was the site used in the film The Shawshank Redemption. Sentimental movies notwithstanding, I would not wish this prison on anyone. Even if Glen’s original misdeeds were minor, he would have come out at least a hardened criminal. But in his case, he apparently broke–or was incorrigible. I do not know how long he was at Mansfield, and if he might have been at home for a time, but he led a very troubled life.

By the time he was 28, Glen was  an “inmate” at the Massilon State Hospital for the mentally ill.  I can’t help wonder if Glen fell into the category of “criminally insane.” Whatever happened to him, the State Hospital would have been a much more pleasant place than the Reformatory. Massillon was considered one of the most desirable and well designed of such institutions, using separate “cottages”–actually fairly good-sized houses–instead of one massive building.  It certainly would have been an improvement over the cruel and harsh treatment given internees at the Ohio Reformatory in Mansfield.  In fact, the Massillon Museum’s website says,

The McKinley Hall hospital was one of the most popular and “the most beautiful institution in the world”. By 1950, the hospital housed 3,100 patients with approximately 365 full and part-time workers and nurses. The expanse of the land was so beautiful that many family picnics took place on the lawn, as well as the Massillon football and baseball games.

[EDIT, Feb 2023:  In the 1940 census, found with difficulty since almost all names were misspelled, Edward worked as a paper hanger and had work 50 weeks of the previous year. Glenn is listed as living at home, but the census may have been counting institutionalized people at home.
According to the 1950 census, Edward was a paper hanger, but had been out of work for 12 weeks. Because he filled out the extra questions, I learned more about his finances. He only worked 2x weeks during the 12 months preceding the census. He had attended, but not completed 8th grade when he was in school. During the year preceding the census he had earned a total of $304 and family members had brought in another $25.]

Glen died in 1977, and according to the Social Security Records had only received his Social Security card two years before that.  He would have been 64 when he got the S.S. number. Does that mean he was not released from state custody until then?  It will take some time to ferret out all the details of why Glen was incarcerated and why he was in the hospital.  All of the records of the Massillon Hospital have been lost, and I’m not sure how much I can learn form the reformatory.[Note: See comments. Amy Johnson Crow has given me a route to getting complete information on Glen’s incarceration, which I’ll be pursuing.]  Black sheep, or unfortunate victim of mental illness?

Whichever it is, his father Edward and mother Anna must have grieved at losing two sons–one to an early death and one to a life under lock and key. Did that influence their daughter Ruth to remain unmarried?  She was still living at home [see note below] in 1957 when her mother died. Until that time, the Coshocton newspaper is full of notes about Ruth attending Methodist church functions with her mother.

Since Ruth was the same age as my father,and Ed and Clifford were close in age, and played in the Clark band together as young men, it puzzles me why my Dad apparently was totally out of touch with Ruth. I wonder if Glen’s troubles created a stigma that separated parts of the family.

In November 11, 1957, Ruth was admitted to the County Home as “mentally ill .”

Ed died in January 1958 at the age of 87.

Note:   (We called the Holmes CountyHome “the poor house” in my youth, but it also housed people who were ill or just old and could not afford private care.  Ruth would have been about 50 at the time Glenn died, but as yet I do not know when they moved there. Revised with info below. )

EDIT Feb 2023:  According to a Coshocton Tribune obituary of Edward he had been living at the Holmes County Home when he died 16 Jan 1958. His Son Glenn is listed as “Massilon” and his daughter Ruth “of the home.”  Since Edward lived at the County Home, I assume that meant Ruth was there also.

 How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, the son of
  • Clifford Kaser, who is the brother of
  • Edward Kaser, the father of Carl, Ruth and Glen Kaser.

 Notes on Research

A detailed history with many pictures of the Massillon hospital, can be found here: http://www.indeonline.com/article/20140922/blogs/309229998

Anna Kaser’s Obituary, Coshocton Tribune,* November 27, 1957 (Other articles in this paper in 1926, 1923, 1948 and others place Anna and Ruth at Methodist Church meetings and confirm Anna remains unmarried.)

Edward Kaser’s Obituary, Coshocton Tribune,* January 18, 1958

United States Census Reports* of 1880, Bloomfield, Coshocton, Ohio; 1900 , Clark, Coshocton, Ohio; 1920 Mechanic, Holmes, Ohio; 1930, Clark, Coshocton, Ohio; 1940, Mechanic, Holmes, Ohio; 1950, Mechanic, Holmes, Ohio.

Ohio State Reformatory preservation web site: http://www.mrps.org/

*These references were found on line at Ancestry.com.