Friday, August 21, 2015

Clara and her Soldier

Tecumseh's War.png
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Milton township in Richland county, Ohio, sits in the center of the northern third of the State of Ohio. It is just to the east of what was considered by Tecumseh's Confederacy to belong to the Native American tribes (and to the west of Mansfield, which is shown on this map of Tecumseh's War). Until the defeat of Tecumseh during the War of 1812, there was real danger from raiding parties; some motivated by French or British destabilization efforts, and some motivated by anger over the encroachment of the settlers. It isn't beyond reason to consider future President William Henry Harrison's victory over Tecumseh at the Battle of Tippecanoe to be the point at which settling in Ohio became "safe" for U.S. settlers, and by 1843, the last of the Native Americans who had been living in Ohio were gone.

Clara Callin was the daughter of  Jeff Callin, the shoemaker, and the granddaughter of the tragic Thomas Callin. Thomas's own father, you might recall, was one of those U.S. settlers in the 1810s; and Thomas, who likely died around 1843, would have spent his entire life in an Ohio that believed itself to be under the threat of attack from those remaining indigenous people. But Clara, born in 1855, would have been among that first generation of Ohio Callins who did not grow up in a place where such an attack was a realistic threat. Her generation was marked by a profoundly different threat.

To say that Clara grew up in a "tumultuous time" is too easy. On the other side of the frontier from the "Indian Wars", the decades before Clara's birth were known as the Second Great Awakening, which saw the growth of Protestant churches through revivals and "camp meetings" and saw the creation of new denominations like Churches of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormons), and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In addition to the religious movement, other reform movements such as temperance, abolition, and women's rights also became prominent that period.

Ohio played a huge part in the history of the abolition movement that emerged in the North from that Great Awakening. Abolitionist newspapers were printed in the 1810/1820s, and over time, many Ohio Quakers became active participants in the Underground Railroad. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 put these Ohioans on the wrong side of the law, but as the popular reception of Ohio abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe's book Uncle Tom's Cabin demonstrated, this didn't derail that railroad. Not everyone believed in the abolitionist cause, of course. Many people feared the end of slavery, believing that African Americans would flee the South and come North, to take jobs away from white Ohioans. Even some abolitionists who abhorred the moral evil of slavery were also racists who feared the soon-to-be-former slaves; if you'll forgive the pun, this issue was far from black and white - and that complicated feelings in both Free and Slave states.

Being six years old at the start of the Civil War, Clara would grow up in an America that had faced down its own demise, torn itself apart from within, and begun trying to put it back together. Clara and her brothers would have been too young too understand how many of their uncles and cousins were "off to war" and only the older ones, like 10-year-old Clara herself, might have understood who was missing after 1865.

Despite all of that heavy background, Clara's youth in 1870s Ohio was probably quite exciting in comparison to her predecessors. The discovery of oil in Ohio before the War meant more wealth and more growth in what had been sleepy little farming communities enlivened by the occasional camp meeting. Her brother Martin certainly benefited from the economic booms, building his dry goods business; and we know from numerous newspaper accounts that there were always church and civic social events going on, often being run by the circle of family and neighbors Clara belonged to.

Somewhere in the booms, busts, banquets and church picnics, she met her soldier. His name was Jacob Mohn, and he was 10 years her senior. Born in Derry, Pennsylvania, Jacob's parents, Leonard Mohn and Nancy Bach, had relocated their family to Ohio some time during the 1850s and settled in the township of Blooming Grove in Richland county. He was only just 18 years old in May 1864, when he mustered in with the 163rd Ohio Infantry at Camp Chase. His unit spent six months guarding Washington, reconnoitering the canal and turnpike to Richmond, and repairing defenses at Fort Pocahontas before heading back to Columbus and mustering out in September. They only lost 29 enlisted men to disease, and no reported combat deaths.

In 1870, young Jacob was listed as a farm laborer in the household of Christopher Hons. He seems to have been rather well off, having $300 in personal assets; and in 1875 married Clara Callin. By 1880, they lived in Olivesburg, where Jacob worked as a butcher and Clara raised their first two children, Alveranda Jesse (1875) and Arthur Jefferson (February 1880).

Sadly, life was not perfect for the young couple; the George Callin Family History (CFH) says they had another son named Earnest in 1879 who only lived two years. There are no records or gravestones to corroborate this, but at least if true, this was their only such loss.

By 1900 the family had relocated to Vernon township in Crawford county, where Jacob ran a farm. In the intervening years, they had Mabel (1882), Fred Harrison (1888), Susan A "Susie" (1891), and little Evangeline (1899).

By this time, Alveranda was also married to Tom Hess, and had her first two children (of an eventual total of eight). They married in 1897, and while most of the records before her marriage list her with different spellings and variations (Aloerda, Alverda, Alverdia), after that she seems to prefer Jessie. I can't say I blame her.

Mabel was the next to marry, wedding Edwin Henry Trauger in 1902. The CFH misspells their surname as "Tranger," but when we see the couple in the 1910 Census with their first two (of four) children, Clara M (1903) and Henry Mohn Trauger (1908), the transcriber lists Ed's surname as "Franger," so I'm happy not to be too critical of cousin George.

In 1910, everyone was living back in Richland county. Jessie and Tom Hess were in Jackson township; Mabel and Ed Trauger were in the town of Plymouth; and Clara and Jacob were in Cass township with the four remaining siblings - Arthur working as a farm hand, Fred and Susie presumably finishing school, and Evangeline (11) probably also in school - and certainly already acquainted with the Lautermilch family listed only a few households down the same Census page from her own.

Susie married Gloyd W. Backensto - an unusual name you might recall from an earlier post - in September 1911, just a few months after the 5 April birth of their son, Lloyd Jacque (or Jack, depending on the record). They also had their second son in May 1912, and named him for Susie's brother and father: Fred Jacob Backensto.

Find-a-Grave memorial - photo by Jill & Ron Weikle
But some time in 1912, Jacob Mohn left his farm to stay with Jessie and Tom in Jackson, and in October, they recorded his death in that town. The following year would see his sons marry women from two prominent Richland county families.

Arthur married Orpha Lybarger, and they settled in Shelby; Fred married Frances Pittenger, and they moved to Franklin. In 1915, each couple added a grandson to Clara's growing legacy. Arthur and Orpha had Reno Juston Mohn; Fred and Frances had Arthur Wilson Mohn.

And so, in 1920, only Clara and Evangeline remained in a home in Blooming Grove township. Based on what we can see in the newspapers, they devoted their energy to many of the same activities that Clara had spent her time on in her own girlhood. They entertained visiting relatives, organized community events, and almost certainly lost count of the growing number of Clara's grandchildren.

Then, in 1922, Evangeline married Loree John Lautermilch, the son of George and Della, the Mohn family's long-time neighbors. They remained in Richland county, and though they never had children of their own, they stayed together for the next 50 years. Evangeline died in 1972, followed by Loree John in 1979.

Clara herself died 19 August 1924, have seen the birth of all but one of her 23 grandchildren. She missed Arthur and Orpha's youngest son, Jeffray Arthur, by only 5 years. To Clara, the world that began with the Civil War (and survived) ended with The War to End All Wars (and survived) - and it survived without taking any of her children. That had to be worth something to the family.

Being born as the threats of frontier life receded, marrying her soldier home safe from war, and seeing terrifyingly incredible changes in America during her lifetime, we can only hope that Clara enjoyed her life. In many ways, it can seem almost idyllic from our point of view, knowing the events that lie ahead for her children and grandchildren.

It's easy to see the appeal of nostalgia.

Updates: Refined some of the location information thanks to some helpful feedback.

1 comment:

  1. Tad,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!