Tuesday, July 30, 2019

52 Ancestors - BROTHER: He Ain't Heavy

A stable home to grow up in is a gift that should not be underestimated. My husband’s maternal grandfather was a mean old so-n-so when I met him. Family and friends chalked his mean streak up to alcoholism and possibly what today we would call “PTSD” from his experience in World War I. However, his childhood was nothing to envy.
Russell Kohne 1917 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Russ 1917
Russell Dayton Kohne was the first child of Lemuel James Kohne and Rebecca Funkhouser. He was born 4 November 1894 in the Lost River community of Hardy County, West Virginia. Russ had two sisters, Laura born in 1897 and Lena born in 1899.

Russ never appeared in a census record with his parents. In 1900, he was living in the household of his paternal grandfather Peter Kohne. If there was any stability in Russ’s life, it was in the hands of his father’s brother Simon Thomas Jackson Kohne. OR Simon Thomas Jackson Chrisman. Yeeah, there’s a story.

The Chrismans and Kohnes
In 1870, Russ’s grandfather Peter Kohne was only 26. He and his wife Catherine Delawder Kohne had two children, James Lemuel and Martha. Living with them was a housekeeper, 26-year old Ellen Chrisman.

Catherine died in 1876 paving the way for Ellen Chrisman to become the official new wife. In 1880, the Kohne household consisted of Peter and Elenora, Lemuel (13), Martha (9), Sarah (8), and Charles who was just an infant born in December 1879. In addition were the Chrisman children Elenora (9), Permelia (5), Rauser (4), and S.T.J. - aka Jackson (3), all of whom were identified as step-children.
Household of Peter Kohne
Lost City Hardy Co WV 1880

In 1900, the “step” was no longer in use, and the children remaining in Peter and Ellenora’s home were enumerated as full-fledged children. At the risk of being labeled “cynical,” I suspect the Chrisman children deserved the Kohne surname. Back in 1880, there was no sign of a “Mr. Chrisman.” Their ages seem awwwfully suspicious.
Household of Peter Kohne
Lost River Hardy Co WV 1900
But I Digress
The daily life of Russ Kohne is not known, but a few report cards were saved, for whatever reason. His grades were average. His “deportment” was only “fairly good.” His attendance was poor.

What interested me about the report cards is that they were signed not by his parents or even his grandparents. They were signed by his father’s brother Jackson. In census after census, Jackson seemed to be the stabilizing force. Even when he was head of household, there were nieces and nephews in his care.
Love the remarks from the teacher:
Should attend school regular and persevere

Where Were Russ’s Parents?
In 1900 when Russ was being raised by his uncle Jackson and grandfather, a sister Laura was living nearby with Peter’s brother Daniel Kohne and wife Lydia. Russ’s mother Rebecca was working as a servant to widower James Miller and his two young children. With Rebecca was her 1-year old daughter Lena.

As for Lemuel, he was in Moorefield, West Virginia, enumerated in the household of Charles and Alice Pashel and their six children ranging in age from 11 to 23. Lemuel and one other man were there as PRISONERS, of all things.
Household of Charles Pashel
Moorefield Hardy Co WV 1900
Why would prisoners be living in a private home? With children in the household, surely the crime must have been minor. Working off a debt due to theft maybe?

Oh Heck No
For years, my husband’s family has wondered about their great-grandfather’s crime. With more newspapers coming online, I finally have an answer for them, and boy oh boy is it a doozy: Murder.

Lemuel shot and killed his neighbor Isaac John Sager. The reason? Dispute over their property line.
from the Baltimore Sun 19 Dec 1899
Yeah, that’s the kind of temper Russ had too, but he never murdered anybody.

None of the news articles gave much detail about the killing. In fact, most sounded much like this personals column out of Mathias, West Virginia, that appeared across the state line in the Shenandoah Herald in March 1901:
from the Shenandoah Herald
March 3, 1901
Ho Hum, just another day in wild, wonderful West Virginia. 
Russ and Hattie Kohne 1967 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Russ and Hattie
50th Anniversary 1967

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.”

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Russ made it to at least 50 years with Hattie. Did she help temper him (no pun intended) to help control his temper? I feel for those men (and now women) who go off to war as one type of person and return a whole different person. What would they have been like if not subjected to the trauma of what they saw in war and what they had to do? Interesting character he was! Interesting family!


  2. Must have been something like house arrest? But that doesn't seem right when he murdered someone. Keep on searching - we need more answers!