Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Of Widow Catherine (Saylor) Froman - 52 Ancestors

Catherine (Saylor) Froman is one of my paternal great-great-grandmothers.  No stories about her survive, no objects her hands touched, no recipes.  To my knowledge, the only things that survive of her life are her descendants and a handful of records which very briefly tell of her life and existence.

Catherine was born on June 5, 1844, probably in Rhineland.  With her parents and other family members she immigrated to the U.S. sometime between 1846 and 1852.  Imagine that voyage:  being a young child on a ship for several long weeks, or being the mother of that young child!  They settled in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

My first certain acquaintance with Catherine was in the 1870 U.S. Census which reports that she was 28 years old, living in Pymatuning Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, with her husband, John Froman, and five children ranging in ages from 1 to 7 years:  John, 7; Jacob, 5; Lizzie, 4; Theressa, 2; and Adam, 1.  Also in the home were a 25-year-old domestic servant named Catherine Botany, and an 18-year-old coal miner named Casper Froman. 

Within two years of that 1870 census, Catherine had given birth to one baby, Gustave, in 1870; become a widow; and given birth to one more child, Kate, in 1872.  Certainly life must have been difficult for her when one thinks of her raising 7 children without a father in the home.  Her husband's death left her with only a parcel of land, a few household furnishings, and no funds to keep a home and family.  How did she earn money for food and clothing when her children were young?  What was her source of support, both financial and emotional?  How did she manage?  I imagine her demeanor for a time after her husband's death similar to the mother in the drawing above. 

Census records tell little else about her:  she was a housekeeper, she never remarried, and she was probably illiterate.  About her young family they tell only slightly more.  All of her children attended school and learned to read and write.  By the time her oldest son, John, was 17, and the next oldest, Jacob, was 15, they worked in the coals mines and attended school.  Both activities may have been part-time or seasonal.  Their incomes must have been a great aid to the support of the family.

By 1890, four of Catherine's children had married; by 1900, all but one.  Her oldest son, John, remained unmarried until 1910, and Jacob, her second son, had become a widow by 1900.  The 1900 U.S. Census records Catherine and many of her children living in Stoneboro, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  Both John and Jacob lived either in the same  house or next door to their mother her entire life.  The other five of her children lived nearby during the rest of her life.  By that fact alone I can't help but think that Catherine's family was close-knit. 

When she was a little older, there were the briefest notes in a local newspaper of the time.  From the December 8, 1912, issue of the Greenville, Pennsylvania, The Evening Record, we learn that,

"Mrs. Catherine Froman has returned to her home in Stoneboro after an extended visit with her sister, Mrs. Adam Lengerman."

And in the July 26, 1916, issue of the same newspaper, we read,

"Mrs. Catherine Froman of Stoneboro, is the guest of her sister, Mrs. Rosa Lingerman, of Canal street."

I'm working to identify Rosa.  She may be a sister or a half-sister.  I just beginning to research to gather Catherine's family of birth and her half-brothers and -sisters.

Catherine died on December 20, 1928, at the age of 84.  Her cause of death was organic heart disease.  She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Sandy Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

She died without having written a will, but left a $50.00 Liberty Bond, and three-fourths ownership of a house and the property on which it sat.  There should be property records for transfer of land sometime between 1872, when she acquired ownership of part of the property her husband owned, and 1920, when the census reports that she owned the home in which she lived. 

After examining all the records I've been able to find, I imagine Catherine less as the woman in the drawing above and more as a strong and capable woman and mother who endured hardships and survived.

Other posts about Catherine:
A Close-Knit Family - Mappy Monday
The Best Thing About An Intestate Court File

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This post is in response to Amy Johnson Crow's call to her readers to write about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  Thank you, Amy.


© 2014 Copyright by Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.


  1. I have widowed ancestors too who somehow managed despite not having a job. Some took in boarders, some took in laundry, and some apparently did nothing special, so I'm left to wonder how they paid the electric bill and their taxes. Most of them had been married to farmers, so it's unlikely they had a pension to live off of.

    1. Yes, there would have been no pensions for farmers' -- or coal miners' -- widows, especially not in the 1870s -- not until maybe the 1920s or 1930s.

      I'm thinking even further back before electricity -- who collected/cut/hauled the wood to keep the house warm? Of course, there were always property taxes. I'd love to find more information but chances are, I won't. I should try to do some research on how widows managed during the times I had young widows.

  2. I've also got Rhineland area ancestors and they are an interesting bunch to research. Something I've noticed is that they tended to immigrate to the US in large groups. One of the biggest surprises I got was when I realized that my ancestor's siblings (who had been born and/or raised in the US) married people from the same ancestral villages back in the Rhineland. You might want to look into whether your Saylors were involved in the Albright Brethren/German Evangelical Association. The Allen Co. Public Library has an index of obituaries for people involved in these groups:

    1. Hi, Leah A. -- Thanks so much for telling me about this resource and giving the link, too. I'll spend a little time searching to see what I can find. I would be thrilled to find obituaries for any of my Rhineland ancestors.

  3. I agree with you about the picture and your ancestor. She sounds like she was formidable in the best sense of the word (perhaps in the French sense as in wonderful) ...but I still like the picture.


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