Monday, February 8, 2010

Grampa Meinzen's Birthday

This is my favorite photograph of my grandfather. You can't tell height from this photo, but Grampa was 6' or a little taller, the tallest of his living siblings. The rest of the aunts and the uncle were much shorter.

My grampa, William Carl Robert Meinzen, was always called Bob or Robert. He was born on February 8, though I can't say for sure which year. Various documents give one of two different years, either 1891 or 1892, and I can't remember which year he claimed as his birth year.

He was the son of Henry C. and Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen. He grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, with 10 other living siblings of various ages. His oldest sib, Henry, was 21 years older than him, and his youngest, Naomi, was 6 or 7 years younger. What a "gang" of kids that must have been! No doubt they all had chores and responsibilities to help home life succeed.

He saw the deaths of 5 of his adult brothers and sisters. The first happened when he was 15, when an older brother died in a gruesome mill accident. The others, including his next youngest brother, passed away before Grampa turned 26.

An older brother, William, passed away in 1888, at the age of 16, about 3 years before Grampa was born. Then a stillborn infant was born, and then Grampa. It seems that Grampa's first name is a necroynm - a reminder to the family of William's life. Grampa, as far as I can tell, never went by the name William. Even in the early census records he was called Robert.

He learned the barbering trade as a young man in Steubenville and was a barber a good part of his life. He had a little shop in Mineral Ridge, Ohio. A haircut cost a quarter, but every haircut was the same: short.

I remember Grampa as a man of few words who didn't interact much with us children. He grew a huge garden and liked to harvest his vegetables when they were at their very largest (read tough and chewy corn on the cob) and very beautiful. He ate the same thing for breakfast every morning - eggs, bacon, and toast - always fixed the same way.

Whenever anyone asked him about his parents or his brothers and sisters, he always referred the questioner to his sister, Mina, who, unfortunately, lived a day's drive away in those days. These days I wonder if he didn't want to talk about his family because there were so many tragedies when he was younger.

I wish Grampa and I had had a more communicative relationship. I could have learned a lot from him, I'm sure.

Happy Birthday, Grampa!

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.


  1. I like your grandpa's hat. Is that a watch or a bracelet he has on his wrist? It is very shiny in the photo. What happened to the item on his wrist? In comparison to the rest of his outfit, it almost seems extravagant.

  2. Oh, the hat! In those days men nearly always wore hats, often very similar to this one. I have that hat. It is the only thing of my grandfather's that I have, I think. He is wearing a watch, and I don't know who has it. I suspect that my aunt sold it, though it's possible that one of the grandchildren has it.

  3. That's a great photo of your grandfather in the elegant pose with pipe, hat, and a lovely warm smile. I've noticed when talking to older relatives that it's difficult to get some of the men to talk much about death or tragedy, so your hunch on that score could very well be correct.

  4. What a great picture of Great grandpa Meinzen! I notice how he and Grandma Doyle share a lot of the same overall facial features.

  5. Greta, I agree. My dad never spoke about his childhood. And aren't men generally less talkative than women, for the most part, and keep their emotions under guard.

    Natasha, don't you also think there's also a family resemblance between him Aunt Dot and Aunt Mina? Though they, of course, have feminine qualities.

  6. My brother clarified some misinformation in this post. He said, "Grandpa was not over 6 feet. I am 5'11 3/4 inches tall. He was shorter than me. I would guess his height was about 5 foot 10 at best. For his generation he was taller than most though."

    Looking at other photos of Grampa and Grampa, I can see that he's not as tall as I remember. I suppose my guess about his height was based on my view of him from how tall (short) I stood as a child.

  7. Nancy,
    I have really enjoyed reading your blog. My great, great grandmother Isabelle Armitage was also a daughter of Abel and Ann Bell Armitage. I was very excited to come across you blog and learn about your family, Isabelle's sister. Let me know if you would like to share any information.


  8. Joyce, yes! I would love to learn more about Isabelle and her family, and especially Abel. I was thinking of a post about my inability to find her father with a title "Unable to find Abel". Is Isabelle also known as Belle Burdiss or Burdess? If so, I think I have a photograph of her. Please contact me with your email address!

  9. Nancy,
    Yes she is Isabelle Armitage Burdess. Her daughter, Annie Burdess Jonard was my great grandmother.
    My e-mail is I look forward to hearing from you.



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