Thursday, November 12, 2009
Uncle Jacob Meinzen
The young man on the left is Jacob Increase Meinzen, son of Henry C. and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen. He was born in December, 1893. The man on the right is my grandfather, William Carl Robert "Bob" Meinzen. He was born in February, 1892. They are brothers. I wonder if they were good friends. Did they play together as little boys?
There were no family stories about Uncle Jacob, no memories passed along. I know nothing of his childhood and early life, but I know a little about his adult years.
In early September, 1916, when he was 22, he married a young lady named Sudie Coss. At the time they married, they were living in Steubenville, Ohio. Jacob worked as a pipe fitter and Sudie was a pottery worker.
Their wedding photograph is at left. I think it's an interesting photo. Not like wedding photos these days, is it? Sudie looks, perhaps, a little nervous, maybe uncertain. Jacob, on the other hand, looks pleased, I think. Perhaps Sudie was the woman of his dreams?
The following year, at the end of May, 1917, a daughter, Elizabeth, was born to them.
And then, on September 15, 1917, tragedy struck. A local newspaper, "The Steubenville Weekly Gazette," reported on September 20 that Jacob was "engaged in pipe fitting on the top of one of the giant furnaces" at La Belle Iron Works when "he was seen suddenly to fall from his position on a ladder and descend to the ground with terrific speed." "He dropped . . . over 100 feet and was horribly crushed."
When I first saw this article, I imagined the responses of his parents and his wife upon hearing about the accident. His parents had already lost four adult children. Seeing it in print almost felt like a sock in the chest - as though I was reading about a living uncle that I personally knew. How sad I felt when I first learned - and how sad I continue to feel when I think of Uncle Jacob's life cut short at such a young age, when I think about his young wife suddenly a widow with an infant.
Looking at the postcard of La Belle Iron Works, I try to imagine where Uncle Jacob was. Can we see the giant furnaces in this photograph? And how far is 100 feet? It's easy to measure it on the ground but it's another matter - for me, at least - to move the distance from horizontal to perpendicular. Doing a little research, it seems that a building 13 stories high is about 100 feet from the ground. Ohhhhhh.
Sudie later remarried a widower with children, Tom Park, and together they had children. With the help of Aunt Dot's memory and some diligent searching and deduction, I was able to locate Sudie and her daughter Elizabeth and their new family on census records, then in city directories and the SSDI, until I was finally able to find Elizabeth, with her married name, and get in touch with her. Elizabeth was more than generous in giving me two photographs of her father and the wedding photograph of her parents. They are treasures.
I know that Uncle Jacob is not one of my direct ancestors. Part of my interest in genealogy and family history is gathering families together again. They start out together then grow to adulthood and leave home, often starting their own families. Finding the adult children of my ancestors feels like going full circle to me - to put them back with their parents - and at the same time, of course, bringing their spouses and children into the family circle.
My grandfather must have been devastated when his brother Jacob died in such a horrible accident. Jacob's whole family must have grieved for a very long time. While I still feel sorry for his death, I'm grateful to have found him. I'm grateful to be able to bring him alive, if only in my own memory....