Finding Grandfather Emery
By Esther Moneysmith Gross and Matthew Hoppe
Who Was Grandfather Emery? By Esther
I don’t remember ever asking my father, Virgil Moneysmith, about his paternal grandfather. My paternal grandfather, Jacob Moneysmith, was a part of my life (though a fringe part) until his death when I was in college, but there was never any mention of family members other than his children who were my aunt and uncle. Though I had been bitten by the genealogy bug as a teenager, it was some time before I was in a position to pursue it, and at that time—at least in my life—the Internet hadn’t even been dreamed of.
When I started looking into genealogy, I asked my dad about his father. He told me Jacob Moneysmith had been born in Van Wert, Ohio. One of the first (perhaps the first) foray my husband Fred and I made into genealogy searching was a trip to Van Wert. That must have been in the 1960s.
The only thing I remember learning at that courthouse was that there had once been a Moneysmith Road in the city, but it was no longer. (Ironically, many years later I did see a Lake Moneysmith Road in, of all places, the Seattle area of Washington state, and there is a Lake Moneysmith next to it.)
Though both Emery and (we later learned) his father, the first of three William Henrys, had been born in Van Wert, I didn’t learn anything concrete about them on that Van Wert visit. Part of the problem had to be that I didn’t know enough about the people in that ancestor line to have a framework into which to “plug” whatever few names and information I did get. (In 2014 I visited William’s grave in Van Wert as well as the grave of his father, the very first Moneysmith, in Kalida OH.)
Some thirty years slipped by before the Internet came along with ancestor databases like Roots Webb, FamilySearch, and finally Ancestry. Though I don’t have a clear memory of when I learned these things, in time I found out his name was Emery William Moneysmith and he married Mary Katherine Wise in July 1877 in Allen, Ohio. We already knew that marriage had ended in divorce because Grandmother Mary is buried with a different last name on the same gravesite as her son Jacob.
Eventually we also knew that Emery was born October 19, 1847 and died May 16. 1916. From the Internet we learned that he was the oldest of six children, that his mother died when he was just nine, and that within eight months he had a stepmother. Records also told us that the first child of Emery’s marriage to Mary, a daughter name Minnie, died within a year of her birth. Son Jacob was born in 1880 and William in 1886. But what happened to Emery after that? And where did he die? I had visited graves of third and fourth great-grandparents, and I wanted one for this first-great-grandfather.
After the death of Mary’s second husband, John Burroughs, in 1925, she lived with her son William’s family in Niles, but at some point she ended up in Mishawaka with Jacob, where she died by suicide in 1938.
Mary’s obituary said she had moved to Mishawaka from Niles, Michigan, a few miles north over the Indiana border, so I thought Niles might be a good place to make a search for Emery. In 2002 Fred and I made a trip to Niles—an interesting trip because we made it with a Moneysmith second cousin, Kathleen Moneysmith, whom we had never met or even known about until just before that.
Over lunch that day, Kathleen mentioned that she had an elderly uncle named Bill Moneysmith. Really? Might there be a connection? There was! Her Uncle Bill remembered having had a cousin who went to Africa—my dad! Bill was a third William Henry, a grandson of Emery’s born eight years after Emery died. From him we learned that there had been a serious feud between his father, William, and his father’s brother, Jacob, and that for years and years little or no communication had taken place between them.
Emery’s son, the second William Henry, lived in Niles, while his son Jacob lived in Mishawaka, Indiana. My dad, Jacob’s son, was five and a half when his paternal grandfather died, but because of the family rift, we’re guessing they never saw each other in those few short years. That could well explain why my father never mentioned his grandfather. Given distance and limited communication in those days, plus the feud, we wonder how long it took for the news to reach Jacob’s family in Mishawaka that his father had passed away. But where? We still didn’t know where Emery ended up.
Years before when I discovered the world of Internet genealogy, my nephew Matt Hoppe had discovered it, too. Over the years he and I had made many generations of discoveries in multiple branches of the family—Stauffers, Porters, even the Mahnenschmidt predecessors of the Moneysmiths, but we did not find Emery. Matt’s specialty has become tracking down records and making sense of the censuses, so here he tells about his searches and discoveries over the years as we wondered about Emery.
Searching Out Emery’s Life by Matt
We found no records of Emery Moneysmith and family after the 1880 census. We knew that his wife Mary remarried in 1899 to John Burroughs, and that in one of her obituaries it says that Emery died in 1916. (The fact that it is in her obituary strongly suggests that at some point Jacob had learned about his father’s death 21 years before his mother’s.)
We knew that, according to his WWI draft card, son William Henry was born in 1887 in Scott, Paulding County, Ohio. He and his mother Mary were still there in 1900. Mary married John Burroughs and must have been in the process of moving to Michigan in 1900 because she and John are in Ohio for that census, and John and his children were enumerated again in Michigan that same year. I have not been able to locate a marriage record for John and Mary or a divorce for Emery and Mary.
Looking in Paulding County, I found a record for an E. W. Moneysmith who married an Anna Beard in 1894. It gave no indication what the actual names were for E. W., nor were ages given for either him or Anna. I did find an Anna Beard in 1900 in Blue Creek Township, aged 28, living with her sister and mother and divorced. I think it is likely that Anna Beard is the one who married E. W. Moneysmith in 1894.
I sent off for a copy of the divorce record, and it told an interesting story. They were married January 27, 1894 and he left June 1 of that same year. According to her claim when she filed for divorce, he abandoned her and sent her only one letter to advise her that he was never coming back. She was granted her divorce in 1896, and the divorce gave her back her maiden name. It’s interesting to note the age difference between Emery (46) and Anna (22) in 1894.
In 1910 there is an Emery Moneysmith of the right age living alone on a farm in Grout, Michigan. Due to the rarity of this name and the fact that there are no other Emery Moneysmiths his age in any census, it is quite probible this is our Emery. Using this Michigan fact as a clue, I applied for his death certificate from the state of Michigan and received it. It showed that he died in Dowagiac, Michigan, of paralysis on the left so probably a stroke. Dowagiac is 220 miles from Grout, which is quite a distance, but it led us to his final resting place—twenty minutes northeast of Niles on Route 5.
Locating His Grave—Finally by Esther
After Matt figured out that Great-grandfather Emery Moneysmith died and so was assumedly buried in Dowagiac, Michigan, I called the cemetery there. Yes, I was told, he was in that cemetery and on Lot 16, but there was no headstone. Hearing “no headstone” registered at the time, but hearing is not the same as seeing, and it didn’t stick. Following our conversation, the helpful lady sent me a full map of the cemetery with Lot 16 carefully marked, lines showing the best way to reach it, and a note with the names of the headstones on either side of Lot 16. The next step was to wait for a chance to make a trip to Michigan.
That happened in September of 2010 when my husband and I and my cousin Joy Divine Sholty drove up to Dowagiac from her home on the Indiana-Michigan border. It had been pouring rain part of our trip, but when we arrived, the rain let up to simply a steady sprinkle.
Because we had the clearly marked map, we assumed it would be easy to locate what we were looking for, but it wasn’t. For starters, it is a huge cemetery, laid out in the dozens of curved roads seen on the map, but when we got there, we found most of the roads were grass like everything else, so they did not stand out. Shortly before we hit the panic button, we spotted a worker with a truck.
“Follow me!” he said when we approached him, and he led the way in his truck right to where we wanted to go. That’s when “no headstone” became vividly clear. Each “lot” holds four burial plots, and in this case not one of the four had a headstone. The helpful sexton knew what to look for and was beginning to use the probe he had brought with him. “When was this burial?” he wanted to know. “Nineteen-sixteen,” we told him. “Aha! They were still burying in wooden boxes in 1916,” and he quietly laid down the probe. Nevertheless, it didn’t take him long to discern and point out to us where Emery most likely was. One part of the lot was just a hair lower than the others. The soil had sunk there, so that’s where Grandfather Emery was.
At the time, we thought he had died alone; having no headstone seemed to suggest that. But when we got home, we reviewed the information we have (something we should have done before we went) and learned that his younger son William (father of “Uncle Bill”) lived in Dowagiac at the time and is listed as the informant for the information on the death certificate. Nice to know that Emery ended up back with one of his sons rather than alone in Grout, but why the son didn’t see fit to give his father a headstone is something we’ll probably never know.
Finding Emery’s resting place was a mixed emotional experience. Having wondered about him and searched for him for so long made the finding satisfying. But now we know about the somewhat broken life he lived, beginning with his mother’s death when he was only nine, the death of a baby daughter within her first year of life, plus two divorces and the abandonment of a young woman, as well as at age 63 being “alone on a farm” in upper central Michigan far from any known family connections. The absence of a headstone added to a feeling of melancholy, not to mention the family rift—it all adds up to a sad picture. And if Grandfather Emery ever in his life made any peace with God, we don’t know about it.