Frank Springer: The Search Continues

I’ve posted a few times before about my great great grandfather, Frank Springer.  He disappeared from public records in 1893 and didn’t resurface until 1920.  Family letters (which I will post as soon as I have them scanned and in chronological order) place him in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Indiana during these years.

The mystery still remains as to what happened to him after 1920.  He does not appear on the 1930 or 1940 Census.  My grandpa remembered having met him in about 1931, so I’m operating under the assumption that he died after 1931.  A recently found letter reveals that Mildred Wiseheart, his daughter, did not know where he was or whether he was dead or alive in 1944.

Letter, Mildred Springer to Arthur Dillard, 25 Jun 1944, p.1

Letter, Mildred Springer to Arthur Dillard, 25 Jun 1944, p.1

Now my questions are:  When did he die?  Where did he die?  What happened to him between 1920 and the time of his death?  These are questions to which I may never have an answer, but that won’t deter me from searching.

More Clues for Frank Springer

As my uncle was going through things at the house yesterday, he came across a ledger belonging to Mildred Springer.  It mostly contains dates and amounts received.  I’m not sure what they are exactly, but I think they could be child support payments from her father, Frank Springer.

Frank left his home in Paoli, Indiana in 1893 for the World’s Fair in Chicago and I have lost track of him from then until 1920 when he appears in Paoli again.  On one page of this ledger, Mildred wrote about her father’s land holdings.

A page from Mildred Springer's ledger, 1908-1917.

A page from Mildred Springer’s ledger, 1908-1917.

In 1910, Mildred writes that Frank has a lot in Oklahoma and two lots in French Lick.  A newspaper article regarding land in Oklahoma was tucked between this page and the next.

Newspaper article from Mildred Springer's ledger, 1908-1917.

Newspaper article from Mildred Springer’s ledger, 1908-1917.

On the ledger page from the previous image, Mildred also writes that by 1912, Frank had sold his lot out west and purchased a third lot in French Lick.  There is also one page of the ledger that lists two payments coming from Madison, Illinois in 1913.

My theory is that he left Chicago after the World’s Fair and travelled West.  He settled in Oklahoma circa 1904 for a time, but was on the move again before the 1910 Census. I’ve searched for Frank Springer in the 1900 and 1910 Census for Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas with no luck.  With some fairly strong evidence to suggest he was in at least two of those states, a transient lifestyle seems a logical explanation as to why I can’t find him.

Here’s my theory with a visual…

Frank Springer's journey

1.  Living in Paoli, Indiana (1892).

2.  Goes to World’s Fair, Chicago, Illinois (1893).

3.  Possible trip to Iowa.  (Part of family legend is that he spent some time in Iowa).

4.  Back to Paoli to check in with family.

5.  Purchases land in French Lick, Indiana (circa 1900).

6.  Claims land near Woodward, Oklahoma (1904).

7.  Possible trip to California.  (Part of family legend is that he spent some time in California).

8.  Sells land in Oklahoma (circa 1912).

9.  Buys another lot in French Lick (circa 1912).

10.  Goes to Madison, Illinois (1913).

11.  It is possible that the California trip fit in here instead of after Oklahoma.

12.  Back in Paoli (1920).

This is the guide I’ll be working with to try to locate Deed and City Directory records for Frank.  It’s confusing, and kind of a long shot, but it’s definitely more than what I had to go on before.  As my co-worker said just a few days ago, most genealogists don’t do it because it’s easy, they do it for the thrill of following the clues and solving the mystery.

A Follow-Up on Frank Springer

I spoke with my uncle about Frank.  He had been trying to locate a photo with no success.  He was, however, able to tell me that my grandfather, Sanford Wiseheart, met Frank Springer (his grandfather) when he was about eight years old at their house in Clark County.  Grandpa was born in May of 1923, so that would put the visit circa 1931.  There goes my theory about him having died before the 1930 Census.  That’s alright though.  Maybe I will find him eventually.

Frank Springer: The Wanderer (52 Ancestors #01)

Frank Springer is my great great grandfather on my father’s side.  He was married to Zerilda Eleanora Rakestraw.  Their daughter, my great grandmother, Mildred Gertrude Springer, was my grandpa’s mother.  Frank was born in Orange County, Indiana circa 1869 and Zerilda “Ella” was born in Floyd County, Indiana in 1868.  Presumably, the two met when Ella went to visit relatives in Orange County.  This entire family has been difficult to research, due to various problems such as incorrectly printed information in the newspaper and changing of names without legally changing them.  Frank, however, is the biggest mystery.

Family legend says that Frank was a wanderer by nature and also had some mental issues.  He left his wife after about a year of marriage, and just after the birth of their daughter.  It is said that he went to California and nobody ever heard from him again.  There are no known photos of Frank, which adds to the mystique.  I think a timeline is the best way to approach this one.

1870

On the Census, Frank is one year old and living in Paoli Township, Orange County, Indiana with his parents, John Alexander and Mary (Lindley) Springer.  His siblings are Anna L., born 1863; Edward, born 1865; and Mary Elizabeth, born 1867.¹

1880

On the Census, Frank is ten years old and still living in Paoli Township with his parents.  Siblings are Anna L.; Edward; Charley, born 1873; Stella, born 1875; and Mattie, born 1877.²

1892

On February 28th, Frank marries Ella N. Rakestraw in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana.³  (My grandfather told me that Ella hated her first name, Zerilda, and broke up her middle name into Ella Nora and started going by that).

By March 9, Frank and Ella had moved to Ed Springer’s farm, which he had recently vacated, near Paoli.4

On November 20th, their daughter, Mildred Gertrude Springer, is born in New Albany.5

1893

On March 23rd, a blurb in the Paoli Republican said that Ella had visited her parents in New Albany and returned home to Paoli.6

On November 22nd, the Paoli News reported that Frank Springer had gone to the World’s Fair in Chicago.7

1894

In May, Francis Marion and Mary Elizabeth Rakestraw petitioned for the adoption of their granddaughter, Mildred, citing that Frank had abandoned her over a year ago and that her mother was an invalid.  The petition was granted.8,9

On June 13th, Ella died of consumption.10

1900

On the Census, Mildred is living with her grandparents in New Albany.11  I could not find any record of Frank.

1910

On the Census, Mildred is living with her grandparents in New Albany.12  I could not find any record of Frank.

In July, the Orleans Progress Examiner reported that Miss Mildred Springer had been visiting Edward Springer and his family.13  (Orleans is just outside Paoli).

1911

In March, the Orleans Progress Examiner reported that Mildred had been visiting her grandparents.14

1920

On the Census, Mildred is living with her grandparents in New Albany.16  Frank is living alone in Paoli Township.15

In May, at the time of Mildred’s marriage to Sanford Wesley Wiseheart, Frank is living “near Paoli.”17

1930

On the Census, Mildred is living with her husband and children in Silver Creek Township, Clark County, Indiana.  Mildred named her second son Frank.18  (I’m wondering if this an indication that she had some sort of relationship with her father, or if it’s more that she wished she had.  My grandpa said that Mildred always had a fear that her family would leave the house and never come back.)  I could not find any record of Frank.

1940

On the Census, Mildred is living with her husband and children in New Albany.19  I could not find any record of Frank.

To summarize, I have Frank Springer pinned down from 1870 to 1893 and he randomly pops back up again in 1920.  My theory is that he went to the World’s Fair in 1893 and got a taste for travel and saw what wondrous things there were in the world and decided to experience it.  By 1920, he would’ve been about fifty and was probably ready to settle down, so he came back home to Paoli.  I’m thinking the reason that I can’t find him in the 1930 Census is because he died sometime between 1920 and 1930.  I have yet to find any obituaries or a tombstone, so that’s my next course of action.


Sources

1.  1870 U.S. Federal Census, Paoli Township, Orange County, Indiana, p.24, Ancestry

2.  1880 U.S. Federal Census, Paoli Township, Orange County, Indiana, p.6, Ancestry

3.  Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 10, p.114, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

4.  Paoli Republican, Wednesday, 9 Mar 1892, p.3, c.5, NewspaperArchive

5.  Floyd County, Indiana Deaths, Book H-12, p.10, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

6.  New Albany Evening Tribune, Thursday, 23 Mar 1893, p.4, c.2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

7.  Paoli News, Wednesday, 22 Nov 1893, p.3, c.2, NewspaperArchive

8.  New Albany Evening Tribune, Friday, 25 May 1894, p.3, c.2, NewspaperArchive

9.  New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 26 May 1894, p.5, c.3, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

10.  New Albany Evening Tribune, Thursday, 14 Jun 1894, p.4, c.2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

11.  1900 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany Township, Floyd County, Indiana, p.9B, Ancestry

12.  1910 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany Township, Floyd County, Indiana, p.14A, Ancestry

13.  Orleans Progress Examiner, Thursday, 28 Jul 1910, p.2, NewspaperArchive

14.  Orleans Progress Examiner, Thursday, 23 Mar 1911, p.3, NewspaperArchive

15.  1920 U.S. Federal Census, Paoli Township, Orange County, Indiana, p.21A, FamilySearch

16.  1920 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany Township, Floyd County, Indiana, p.11A, Ancestry

17.  Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 20, p.375, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

18.  1930 U.S. Federal Census, Silver Creek Township, Clark County, Indiana, p.14B, Ancestry

19.  1940 U.S. Federal Census, New Albany Township, Floyd County, Indiana, p.10B, FamilySearch