May 24

Memorial Day 2019

This coming Monday is Memorial Day. It was originally called Decoration Day, the name my mom always used. It is a federal holiday that traditionally marks the beginning of summer.

Resthaven Memory Gardens, Auglaize County, Ohio. (2014 by Karen)

Memorial Day began as a way to remember and honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who were killed in battle during the Civil War. In 1868 the 30th of May was officially proclaimed as the day to decorate those graves. After WWI Memorial Day was extended to honor Americans who died in all wars. Today most Americans use this holiday as a time to decorate grave sites, whether the deceased served in the military or not.

Memorial Day was declared a U.S. federal holiday in 1971 and is now observed the last Monday in May. In December 2000 the National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed, which asks all Americans to pause at 3:00 p.m. local time and reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day.

Remember to observe proper flag etiquette on Memorial Day: The American flag should be flown at half-staff until noon and then raised to full-staff. During a parade there may be several participants with a flag and it is appropriate to salute only the first flag as it passes by. As the first flag passes everyone should show respect by standing at attention with their right hand over their heart. Those in uniform should give their appropriate formal salute.

Most area towns have a Memorial Day ceremony at local cemetery, conducted by the local American Legion and/or VFW, who also mark all veterans’ graves with an American flag. A big Thank You to all those volunteers.

Aleta, Willshire Home Furnishings, Memorial Day, 2018.

Willshire Home Furnishings will have a display of over 150 military uniforms, photos, flags, maps, and letters of local servicemen all weekend and Memorial Day. It is a wonderful display and well worth a visit. My dad’s photo and Army jacket will be on display there. Willshire will also have its Memorial Day Parade on Monday.

May 21

Tombstone Tuesday–Friedrich J. Stegmeier

Friedrich J. Stegmeier, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Van Wert County, Ohio. (2012 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of Friedrich J. Stegmeier, located in row 2 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Van Wert County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Sohn von
L. und K.
Gest. den. 13
Feb. 1892
2 J.  9 T.

Friedrich J., son of L. and K. Stegmeier, died 13 February 1892, aged 2 years, 9 days.

“Friedrich” Johann Stegmeier was born 4 February 1890, the third child of Leonhardt “Leonhard” G. and Leah “Katharine” (Rettig) Stegmeier.  He was baptized at home on 16 February 1890, with Friedrich Rettig of Convoy and Nickolaus Steger serving as his sponsors. His father Leonhard was born in Wuerttemberg.  

Friedrich Johann Stegmeier died of lung fever on the afternoon of 13 February 1892, at the age of 2 years and 9 days. He was buried on the 15th, according to Zion Schumm’s records.

Stegmeier, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Van Wert County, Ohio. (2012 photo by Karen)

Friedrich J. Stegmeier had the following siblings:
Karl Georg (1884-1954), never married
George Adam Anton “Tony” (1886-1929), married Anna Giessler
“Antoinette”/”Nettie” Elisabeth Martha (1897-1983), married James A. Bell

Friedrich’s parents his two brothers are buried in Zion Schumm’s cemetery. His sister is buried at Convoy.

May 17

New Book about 1872 Secaur Murder

Just in time for summer reading, a newly published book about the events surrounding the murder of 13-year-old Liberty Township resident, Mary Secaur. Many from this area of Mercer County, Ohio, have heard and read about these events that occurred just east of Chattanooga, Ohio, in June 1872.

Even after nearly 150 years there is still an interest and many questions about that murder and the lynching that followed a few days later.

Shadows of the Summer Solstice, by Sharon Schaadt Cowen, 2019.

The most recent account of those incidents is the new book, Shadows of the Summer Solstice…A Legend about a Farmer and the Green Ribbon Murder, by Sharon Schaadt Cowen, ISBN13:978-0-578-46094-9, 294 pages, published by SSC Publishing, April 2019. It is available in paperback and Kindle edition at

Most locals have heard about the murder of young Mary Arabelle Secaur and about the lynching of Absalom Kimmel and Alexander McLeod, two men who were accused of murdering her. Mary Secaur was murdered on her way home from church one Sunday, murdered a couple miles east of Chatt on Tama Road, near where the Farmer’s Picnic is held. Kimmel and McLeod were two of three men accused of murdering Mary and were being held in the Mercer County jail when a mob overcame the sheriff and took the prisoners from the jail. The mob took the men out of town and hung two of them east of where the murder occurred.

Author Sharon Schaadt Cowen has a special interest in this story. Four generations of her family lived east of Chatt and her great-grandparents, Fred and Kate Schaadt, were next-door neighbors to Mary Secaur and the Sitterleys on Tama Road. The families knew each other and the Schaadts were eye-witnesses and participants in the events that occurred after Mary’s murder. Those details have been passed down in the Schaadt family for four generations. Sharon herself grew up near Tama Road and tells the story as it was told to her by her father, Herb. Herb heard the story from his father Lewis, as was told to him by Fred Schaadt himself. Although Cowen tells her family’s version of the incident, she says that the bones of her story come from J.H. Day’s account, Lynched.

I enjoyed the way Cowen tells this sad and tragic story. In her book, set in about 1932, old Duck Legs Phil Kromer, who was a real person, narrates the story from his room at the county home. With his colorful language he recalls the details of the events that summer, nearly sixty years before, and how those events affected the community and how the local people reacted.

One of my favorite things about this book is how Cowen’s personal and local connection makes the characters come to life. Cowen gives the characters real personalities and tells how they dealt with this tragedy. The book also provides a glimpse of what everyday life was like in rural Mercer County in the 1870s. Of course, having grown up in the Chatt area, the names and places were familiar, which added to my reading enjoyment. I know the story, but the book was still hard to put down.

Shadows of the Summer Solstice, by Sharon Schaadt Cowen, 2019.

After nearly 150 years, parts and details of the story will likely always remain a mystery. Although there are several theories about what really happened and who was guilty and who was not, there are just some things we will never really know for sure.

May 14

Tombstone Tuesday–William G. Hoffer, Ora, Gretchen

Ora M, William G, & Gretchen Hoffer, Willshire Cemetery, Van Wert County, Ohio. (2019 photo by Karen)

This is the tombstone of William G. Hoffer, his wife Ora M. (Morehead), and daughter Gretchen Hoffer, located in section 3, row 11, Willshire Cemetery, Willshire, Van Wert County, Ohio. The marker is inscribed:

Ora M.

William G.


The Hoffers were a prominent Willshire family during the first half of the 20th century.

Among his many accomplishments and activities, William G. Hoffer was the editor and publisher of the Willshire Herald until nearly the time of his death in 1949. The Willshire Herald was the predecessor to today’s The Photo Star. Hoffer was also Willshire’s postmaster for about 22 years, having that position until about the time of his death.

I published William’s full obituary last week, as it was published in the 1949 Willshire Herald: William G. Hoffer Obituary, 1949.

His wife Ora played piano at church and gave piano lessons for many years. She died 6 January 1959. Her obituary, from The Lima News, Thursday, January 8, 1959:

VAN WERT – Mrs. Ora M. Hoffer, 87, 417 S. Washington, Van Wert, died at noon Tuesday after an illness of several years. She had suffered a broken hip three weeks ago in a fall.

A daughter of Robert E. and Sarah M. (Allen) Morehead, she was born June 24, 1871, at Romney, W. Va.

Mrs. Hoffer, a resident of Willshire for about 50 years, was the widow of William G. Hoffer, whom she married December 19, 1893.

Mr. Hoffer, who died in 1949, served for 22 years as postmaster at Willshire. He was a former editor and publisher of The Willshire Herald and assisted in founding the Van Wert Times and Wapakoneta Daily News.

Mrs. Hoffer, a piano teacher of two generations, was a member of the Willshire Methodist Church and served for years as church pianist. She was a charter member of the Pythian Sisters and was a member of Bethlehem chapter No. 25, Order of Eastern Star, Willshire.

Surviving are a daughter, Miss Gretchan Hoffer of this city, who is associated with the Starr Commonwealth; a brother, R. M. Morehead of Fresno, Calif. and a sister, Mrs. Blanche M. Hall of Lyons, Kansas. A son, George, is deceased.

Rites will be held at 2 p.m. Friday in the Cowan and Son Funeral Home, Dr. Paul D. Chiles, pastor of the First Methodist Church, and Rev. William D. Powers, pastor of the Willshire Methodist Church, to officiate. Burial will be in the Willshire Cemetery.

Friends may call at the funeral home. The family requests no flowers and friends may contribute to Starr Commonwealth.

Their daughter Gretchen Hoffer died a few years later, on 14 June 1964 in Van Wert. Her obituary:

Van Wert—Miss Gretchen Hoffer, 64, associated with Starr-Commonwealth at Albion, Mich., was pronounced dead on arrival at 3 p.m. Sunday in Van Wert County Hospital. Death was attributed to a heart condition.

Miss Hoffer, a former resident of Willshire and Wapakoneta, was stricken while attending memorial services for Gordon Langley at the local Starr-Commonwealth school for boys.

Two physicians, also attending the memorial services, attempted to revive the stricken woman through mouth to mouth resuscitation and by massaging the heart. Their efforts proved futile.

She was a daughter of William and Ora Hoffer.

Miss Hoffer was a social worker for Starr Commonwealth. She was a former manager of the Van Wert Aid to the Aged and had been associated with the Methodist Children’s Home in Worthington and the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home in Xenia.

Services will be Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Cowan and Son Funeral Home. Rev. Dr. Paul D. Chiles will officiate, and burial will be in Willshire Cemetery. Friends may call at the funeral home. [1]


[1] The Lima News, Lima, Ohio, 16 Jun 1964, p.2, Gretchen Hoffer; digital image by subscription,, viewed 7 May 2019.




May 10

William G. Hoffer Obituary, 1949

Below is a detailed obituary for William G. Hoffer, who, during the first half of the 20th century, was the editor and publisher of the Willshire Herald and Willshire’s postmaster for nearly 22 years. This obituary was published on the front page of the Willshire Herald on 20 January 1949, not quite a week after his death. It is a wonderful tribute to a man who was a prominent member of the Willshire community.  

William G. Hoffer

Rites Are Held Wednesday For Widely-Known Resident
Final tribute and funeral services for William G. Hoffer, civic leader and journalist of Willshire, were held Wednesday afternoon, January 19, 1949, at 2 p.m. at his late residence in this town. Rev. E.O. Bissell, pastor of the Willshire Methodist church, assisted by Rev. R.C. Tucker of Van Wert, conducted the last sad rites, and special music at the piano was played by Mrs. Carrol Geisler. Burial was made in the local cemetery under the direction of the Cowan and Son funeral home of Van Wert.

Death resulted from complications following major surgery at the Decatur, Ind., hospital on December 21, 1948. Although afflicted for a number of years with the ailment which made the operation necessary, his condition did not become acute until several months ago.

Realizing that he could not long endure the severe pain that overtook him prior to going to the hospital, Mr. Hoffer finally consented to undergo the surgeon’s instruments, but reluctantly, on account of his advanced age, prospects for his recovery were bright at first, then the tide turned and the Grim Reaper removed him from this mundane sphere.

A son of the late John and Susan Durst-Hoffer, he was born October 26, 1865, in Centre County, Pa., being the last of a family of 13 children to answer the final summons. He had attained the age of 83 years, two months, and 19 days.

His marriage to Ora M. Morehead was an event of December 19, 1893, and the celebration of their golden wedding anniversary was a source of much pleasure to them and the people of this town and community.

Mr. and Mrs. Hoffer became the parents of two children, George Edward, who died in infancy, and Gretchen of Worthington.

When a young man, Mr. Hoffer took to newspaper work and followed that vocation the greater part of his life. His career covered all phases of the fraternity, from printer to editor, and his fame as an editorial writer was known far and wide.

In his younger days the ”colonel” amazed colleagues with his ability to cover the story and write three columns of news without having taken a note.

In addition to being a former editor and publisher of the Willshire Herald, he assisted in founding the Van Wert Times and Wapakoneta Daily News and was associated with other newspapers in Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, and many other states. He was included in the list of reporters who followed Coxey’s Army on its historic march to Washington D.C., reporting the facts as a representative of the larger city dailies.

The Hoffers first came to Willshire in 1900 and after a brief absence returned here in 1918 to make this place their permanent home.

Politically, Mr. Hoffer was a staunch Democrat and labored diligently in the party’s cause, one reward being his appointment as a postmaster here, his tenure of office extending over a period of 22 years, the retirement law stopping further service in this line of work.

Mr. Hoffer’s interest in the welfare of the town and its citizens is best attested by the recognition given him through his election as mayor, member of council, member of the board of education, and finally as justice of the peace of Willshire township, a position he held for the past eight years.

For a short period he served as the town’s marshal and had many connections with the County Democratic Central Committee.

Fraternally, the deceased had affiliations with the Masonic and Elk lodges of Wapakoneta, and Chas. A. Knott Lodge, Knights of Pythias, of Willshire, an order with which he was identified for nearly 60 years, many years of which he was master of finance of the local lodge. The Elks and Knights of Pythias lodges held services for their departed brother at the home Tuesday night.

Besides these, he had many other identifications, some being that of a school teacher, farmer, stockholder in the old Farmers and Merchants State Bank and Willshire Equity Union Exchange Co., treasurer of the former Willshire Cigar Co., secretary and manager of the one-time Willshire Canning Co. and Willshire Telephone Co., and various connections with the town’s business men’s and community clubs.

Religiously, he was born and reared in the faith of the Reformed church, and at one time in early manhood was a student in Heidleberg College at Atchison, Kansas, with the intention of preparing for the ministry. In 1880 he served as a delegate to the YMCA national convention in St. Louis.

As a citizen, husband, father, and friend he had few equals, and as a follower of baseball and kindred sport, his enthusiasm was considerably restrained.

All in all, it can be truly said that Mr. Hoffer’s passing will be keenly felt in these environs for many years to come, and in bringing to a close this last testimonial to one who selected the newspaper field as his vocation, no more fitting words could be used than to say it with Mr. Hoffer’s own words, “Goodnight and 30.”

William G. Hoffer obituary, Willshire Herald, 20 Jan 1949.

A few of my observations about the information in Hoffer’s obituary.

About the “30” mentioned at the end of his obituary, journalists put the number thirty (-30-), three pound signs (###), or the word “END” at the bottom of a press release copy, indicating the end of the article. [Our son Jeff, who has a Bachelor degree in Journalism, explained this to me when I started blogging. Myself, I use ###.]

There is some conflicting information as to the name of William G. Hoffer’s father. This obituary names him John. He was Joseph in the 1870 census, George in the 1880 census, and George in his newspaper death notice.

The Hoffer’s marriage announcement in a Kansas newspaper [married last Thursday night at the home of the bride] indicates they married in 1894, not 1893. [The Tiller and Toiler, Larned, Kansas, 28 Dec 1894, p.4, Personal Matters; digital image by subscription,, viewed 2 May 2019.]

Coxey’s Army [mentioned in his obituary] was a protest march by unemployed workers from the United States, led by Ohio businessman Jacob Coxey. They marched on Washington, D.C. in 1894, the second year of a four-year economic depression that was the worst in United States history to that time. [Wikipedia] Hoffer did seem to be very interested in politics.

It is interesting to read about the Willshire Cigar Company and to see Willshire’s canning factory also mentioned.

Hoffer’s obituary, from the Willshire Herald, is on microfilm at the Brumback Library in Van Wert. Since my last visit there they have acquired a new digital microfilm reader. It is quite nice and is user friendly, after the helpful staff at the library showed me how to use it. I particularly like the automatic focus and the sharp image it produces. Also nice is the tall monitor, which is perfect for reading newspaper images. It has several zoom features and many other features that I have not used yet, but I will be using it more in the future. I took digital photos of the images with my pocket camera, but you can also print a copy of the image on paper. I prefer to use my camera, one reason is that I simply do not need any more papers around here. Digital is also easier to store and magnify on my laptop. 

Digital microfilm reader, Brumback Library, Van Wert, Ohio, May 2019.

Wouldn’t Mr. Hoffer be amazed with today’s technology and means to share the news. I am sure he would be delighted to see that so many people enjoy reading and searching through old newspapers today.

Wouldn’t he be proud to know that the newspaper he once published and labored over and loved is still read and shared today, just in a very different format.   

Older posts «