Tag Archives: Perry County

The Family Scattered, But He Stayed Still: George Skinner, 1841-1920 (52 Ancestors #8)

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If you were expecting the tale of my second ancestor who died a fiery death, you might be disappointed. (How’s that for an intro?!) I was sick most of last week and couldn’t complete the research that I wanted to devote to it. So instead, I present to you my great-great-grandfather, George Austin Skinner.

George was born in Perry County, Ohio in 1841, one of nine children born to William Harrison and Matilda (Debolt) Skinner. What has fascinated me about George is that he never moved away from Perry County. That by itself isn’t extraordinary, until you put into context with the rest of his family.

His father William died in 1850, which left Matilda to raise the youngest seven children. (George’s brother Marian was just 11 months old at the time of William’s death.) By the 1860 census, the family had scattered. Matilda (twice-remarried) was living with her daughter Amaretta and her husband in Jay County, Indiana. George’s brothers Robert, William, and possibly John Rezin were also in Jay County. His brother Stephen was in Porter County, Indiana. Brother Marian is unaccounted for (so far).

Why did only George stay behind in Perry County? Even his grandfather George Debolt had moved on to Jay County.

For reasons yet unknown, George did stay behind. His descendants are grateful he did, because it was in Perry County that he met and married Susan Orr. They had 11 children, including my great-grandmother Clara (Skinner) Starkey.

George died in Thorn Township, Perry County, Ohio on 28 March 1920. He is buried in Zion Ridge Cemetery.

Came to a Fiery End: John Ramsey, 1860-1941 (52 Ancestors #7)

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John Ramsey (1860-1941), undated photo.

John Ramsey (1860-1941), undated photo.

John Ramsey, my great-grandfather, was a farmer all his life. It was working the land that eventually claimed his life.

John was born in Perry County, Ohio in 1860, the son of Samuel and Charlotte (Danison) Ramsey. In 1887, he married Melzena Kelly. John and Melzena had a tough life. They lost at least four children before their daughter Carrie was born in 1895; they would lose six children in all before 1900.

When Melzena died at the age of 49, John was left to care for four children, ranging in age from 6 to 16. (Ralph, my grandfather, was the 6-year-old.) Surprisingly, John never remarried.

John’s son Luke never married; he lived at home until John’s death. My mom remembers the front room at her Grandpa Ramsey’s house. It had a wood stove and a chair on either side — one for her grandpa and one for Uncle Luke. She also remembers her grandpa chewing tobacco and spitting into the fire. (Eww.)

The Somerset (Ohio) Press, Thursday, 10 April 1941, page 1.

The Somerset (Ohio) Press, Thursday, 10 April 1941, page 1.

Tuesday morning, 8 April 1941, John went to one of his fields to burn off some brush. It isn’t known if he had a heart attack and collapsed or if the fire turned on him and he was overcome by smoke. In either case, he collapsed and was burned “beyond recognition.” He was discovered later that afternoon by one of mom’s classmates.

He and Melzena are buried in Highland Cemetery in Glenford.

NOTE: John Ramsey isn’t my only ancestor to meet with a fiery end. Next week, I’ll discuss my ancestor John McClelland, who participated in the ill-fated Crawford Campaign.


The Grandfather I Barely Knew: Ralph F. Ramsey, 1907-1984 (52 Ancestors #6)

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In a perfect world, I would have known him better. After all, I was a teenager when he died. There should have been lots of opportunities to get to know my Grandpa Ramsey. But it isn’t a perfect world.

I won’t get into the reasons why I rarely saw him, even though he lived only about an hour away. The reasons now aren’t all that important.

My Grandpa, Ralph F. Ramsey, on a rare visit to our house, 1971.

My Grandpa, Ralph F. Ramsey, on a rare visit to our house, 1971.

Ralph F. Ramsey was born 7 December 1907 in Perry County, Ohio. (I can always remember his birthday since the Japanese decided to celebrate it in 1941 by bombing Pearl Harbor.) The memories I have of him is that he was a quiet man and I remember him smiling.

He married my grandmother Della Starkey on 22 May 1929. Together, they lived in the sprawling metropolis of Glenford (population: less than 500 at its peak). After her untimely death, he married Wilda Leckrone.

Grandpa was a shovel operator for Central Silica. It’s funny — he’s one of my few non-farmer ancestors and even then he worked in dirt.

Back in the 1950s, Grandpa and my mom drove to Alabama to pick up Mom’s cousin who was getting out of the Navy. (I think I have that detail correct. Note to self: call Mom and find out who it was.) They stopped at a roadside rest along the way and there were people taking a survey, seeing where people were coming from and going to. Keep in mind, Grandpa lived his entire life in Glenford or just outside of it. So how did he answer the question, “Sir, where are you from?”

“I’m from Thornville, Ohio.”

Thornville? Grandpa never lived there a day in his life.  Later, my mom asked him why he answered that way.

“Because I figured he’d never heard of Glenford.”

(Yet, somehow, this highway worker from Alabama might have heard of Thornville? And we wonder why there are weird answers in things like the census.)

It was because of Grandpa that I flew for the first time. Mom and I were on vacation in Florida with my oldest sister and her family. We had all gone together in their RV; Dad couldn’t join us because of work. The night before we were going to head home, we called Dad… and learned that Grandpa had died. There was no way we could drive back in time for the funeral; Mom and I flew home the next morning.

Grandpa Ramsey – a quiet man, sported a crew-cut, and always made a perfect pot of coffee without ever measuring. In a perfect world, I’d have known him better.

52 Ancestors – #2 Melzena Kelly Ramsey, A Life of Loss

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Melzena Kelly Ramsey, my great-grandmother, was one of the first “new” ancestors I discovered when I started climbing the family tree. Unlike Dad’s side, where my grandma told me the names of many of the ancestors, Mom’s side was pretty much unknown to us.

I first found Melzena in the 1910 census when I was looking for my grandfather, Ralph Ramsey. I didn’t yet have a copy of Grandpa’s birth or death record, but I did have access to the 1910 census of Perry County, Ohio — on microfilm at my local public library. (This was the days before the Internet took off. There were forums on CompuServe and message boards, but nothing approaching digitized records. Yes, I realize how old I sound now. Get off my lawn.) Grandpa was easy to find; he lived in Hopewell Township, Perry County his entire life. Two-year-old Ralph, listed as son of John Ramsey; Melzena was listed as John’s wife.

I remember thinking what a neat name — Melzena. It wasn’t the type of name I was expecting.

John Ramsey household (part),1910 U.S. census, Hopewell Twp, Perry County, Ohio, ED 128, sheet 5A. Note: the rest of the family is on sheet 5B.

John Ramsey household (part),1910 U.S. census, Hopewell Twp, Perry County, Ohio, ED 128, sheet 5A. Note: the rest of the family is on sheet 5B.

When you sift through the numbers and the plain facts, the census can show so much about a person. Melzena Ramsey, wife (of John), female, white, 45 years old, married once (M1), married 23 years. It was the next two columns that made me curious. 11. 5. I remember scrolling back up to the top of the page to see what those columns were for.

Mother of how many children: Number born. Number now living.

11 children born. 5 now living.

Melzena had lost six children.

Combing through the Perry County birth and death records, only four of the six have been identified:

  • Edward, born 6 March 1888, died 2 April 1888. Cause of death: “debility.”
  • unnamed son, aged 13 days, died 17 February 1889. No cause of death listed.
  • unnamed infant (sex not listed), aged 1 day, died 17 April 1891. No cause of death listed.
  • unnamed daughter, aged 15 days, died 14 July 1894. No cause of death listed.

The 1900 census also shows Melzena as having lost six children, so the remaining two must have died before then. Was there a child before Edward and maybe a child before the daughter they lost in 1894? The first child to survive to adulthood was their daughter Carrie, born in 1895. Maybe they lost a child between Carrie and Frank (b. 1898). We’ll likely never know.

I think of Melzena and the children she lost. Did she dote on Carrie and her other children as they grew older or was she distant, afraid to get attached?

In a cruel twist of fate, Melzena died 6 July 1914 at the age of 49. Her five surviving children ranged in age from 19 to 6. For so long, she was a childless mother; all too young, her sons and daughters became motherless children.