Thursday, December 4, 2014

LaVina (Daugherty) Schrader

LaVina Veatrice (Daugherty) Schrader Johnston,
photo taken 1930s, South Bend, Indiana

While contacting and meeting with Russell Tom Hath's niece to rule out her uncle as my grandfather, I had also been in contact with relatives of the three Schrader brothers. These men were the last three people left on my list of candidates. The chase was winding down. Even though I had yet to see the  DNA results, I had effectively ruled out Russell Hath in my head. It was almost certain that he was in China in the spring of 1946, and therefore unlikely to have met my grandmother and to be the person I was seeking. 

But as I mentioned before, gathering the "Hath DNA" wasn't a waste of my time. Since I had effectively proven my mother to be a descendant of John Henry Daugherty and his wife Emma Augusta Jonas, the genealogist in me saw no harm in adding more Daugherty DNA to my arsenal of research tools. Secondly, Russell Hath's niece had her own "Hoosier Daddy?" dilemma, and testing her could only help her resolve the same questions swirling in her head that she shared by my mother. And lastly, the percentage of DNA match she shared with my mother, even if Russell Hath was not my grandfather, would still yield concrete, mathematical support that the final three Schrader candidates were definitely the men I needed to assess.

This may have been the end of the road. But it certainly was the bumpiest.

LaVina Veatrice Daugherty was the youngest of the five children of John Henry Daugherty and Emma Augusta Jonas. With snippets of evidence that her parents had spent the early years of their marriage in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio, LaVina was born after their wandering when the family finally settled in Michigan for good. But although they remained within the boundaries of a single state, they certainly were not stationary.

Since the Daughertys were poor and mobile, finding records regarding them has been difficult. Even census entries, which are the backbone of traditional American genealogy, are lacking for this Daughertys family. In 1880 they should be a young married couple with their first child, but God only knows what state they were living in. Nothing located. In 1900 when they should be living with all five of their children somewhere in Michigan, still nothing can be found. LaVina's eldest two siblings, Albert Emery "Bert" and Bertha, married their first spouses in Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan, in 1898, when LaVina was still a small child. Bertha's son, and LaVina's nephew, Rollie Ryder, whom we have discussed in a previous blog post, was born in Dowagiac in 1899. So why could they not be found in the 1900 census enumeration of Dowagiac, Michigan, or somewhere nearby?

An article located on the front page of the Kalamazoo (Michigan) Gazette, for Tuesday, 27 March 1900, gives us part of the explanation:

This was LaVina Daugherty's childhood. A move shortly thereafter to Kalamazoo, Michigan, did little to improve the family's economic status. Instead, a slew of arrests of her father and brothers for public intoxication and petty thefts followed, in addition to a string of run-down rental properties.

Even LaVina's birth is shrouded in mystery. Later census entries and documents where she supplied her age are remarkably consistent, indicating she was born in 1893. Yet on 24 May 1944 she filed a delayed record of her birth in Isabella County, Michigan, indicating she was born on 23 February 1890. There is no other evidence putting the Daugherty family this far north in Michigan at this time, and no explanation for the three year discrepancy which she had purposely recorded. It is just one more of a long list of Daugherty idiosyncrasies.

LaVina, known within the family as Vina, appears to have had a special bond with her only sister, Bertha, who was more than a decade older than she. As a 17-year-old, Vina is simultaneously enumerated in her parents' household in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan; and in the household of her sister Bertha in East Jordan, Charlevoix County, Michigan; both census enumeration taken in April 1910 visited eleven days apart. So it is difficult to say who, when, and where Vina met a man who would father her first child, Margaret, born just six months after the census taker's visit in yet another Michigan locale: Otsego, Allegan County.

But it was back in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that Vina met the man who would become her husband. Edward Emil Schröder was born on 5 January 1888 in Oconto Falls, Oconto County, Wisconsin, the eldest of nine children born to August Wilhelm Heinrich Schröder and his second wife, Martha Elisabeth Bräutigam. His parents were both German immigrants, his father coming to America as a young man, and his mother as a child. Beyond brief stays in Chicago after immigrating, both sides of his family had long settled in northeast Wisconsin near the shores of Green Bay. The majority of Ed's eight siblings and four half-siblings remained in that area, but Ed had left home as a young man and was working as a lineman in Kalamazoo, Michigan, by 1911. Not only had he broken away from his rural Wisconsin roots, but he had adopted a simplified version of his surname. Whereas his siblings in Wisconsin were Schroeders, Ed was a Schrader.

On 20 March 1912, Ed Schrader married Vina Daugherty in St. Joseph, Berrien County, Michigan, in a ceremony conducted by the local Methodist minister. St. Joe was a bustling city on the shores of Lake Michigan, and it was notorious in the early twentieth century as a "marriage mill." Many quick weddings were performed here, and for Ed and Vina it may have been done partly because they were both relatively transient at the time. Ed gave his place of residence as Oconto Falls, Wisconsin; and Vina's family was on the move again, this time briefly living in South Bend, Indiana. And Vina, unmarried with a 17-month-old daughter, may have realized she was pregnant again.

The Schraders lived for a short while in South Bend where Vina's second child, Theodore David, was born in late fall of 1912. Surprisingly, the one thing the Daugherty family possessed despite profound dysfunction was an even more tenacious cohesiveness. The adult Daugherty children wandered where their parents led them, even as they married and started families of their own. Vina was no different. Moving back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the same time as her parents and siblings, her third child, Edward Jr., was born there in 1915; and on to Kalamazoo, Michigan, with the whole crew where the fourth, Charles, was born in 1917.

Edward Emil Schrader (1888-1965), husband of LaVina Daugherty (left), and
Frank Hath (1895-1971), husband of LaVina's niece, Catherine Rieder,
likely taken in Kalamzoo, Michigan, c1919

Vina's devotion to her older sister Bertha was manifested also in her relationship with her nephew, Rollie Ryder, Bertha's son. Rollie was closer to LaVina's age than that of her own sister, and he was in her heart more of a sibling. Although Rollie married in Kalamazoo in 1917 to Emily Scharich using his given name, he shortly thereafter changed his moniker to Robert Joseph Schrader. Perhaps this was done out of solidarity for the family he most cherished after his mother's death in 1918, and likely out of a lack of connection to the Ryder surname, his parents having divorced when he was only an infant.

The two families were inseparable. They lived together in Kalamazoo, and it was likely with an enormous amount of mixed emotion that Rollie's wife, Emily, gave birth to their first child, Helen, on 8 January 1918, the very same day that Vina's baby Charles died of whooping cough. Two families so intimately intertwined, bound together through joy and sadness, were also connected in other ways. Just days before, Ed and Rollie (as Robert Schrader) were released from jail after being arrested for trying to sell to a junk yard proprietor $200 worth of brass that Rollie had stolen from the Standard Paper Company's mill where he worked. Rollie was arrested again in April 1918 for doing the same thing, this time with $100 worth of iron he stole from the Clarage Fan Company where both he and Ed Schrader were then employed. In August of that year, he was sent to the Michigan State Reformatory in Ionia for car theft. When he left, Vina and her family cared for his pregnant wife, Emily, and her baby girl.

After Rollie was released from prison the following year, the two families left Kalamazoo for Grand Rapids. Vina's sister - and Rollie's mother - had died in Kalamazoo in the influenza pandemic of 1918. As expected, Vina's parents, and her two Daugherty brothers, John and Bert, moved to Grand Rapids as well. Their stay here, like so many others before it, was brief. Ed Schrader was a foundry worker, and he went where there was work, much like the other men in this family network. The Schraders, the Ryders, and the Daughertys all continued to move in unison. After Grand Rapids, it was back to South Bend, Indiana, by 1921, where Ed Schrader was working for the Stephenson Manufacturing Company. Although living sometimes in the city, and sometimes in rural St. Joseph County, Indiana, just south of the Indiana-Michigan state line, their last two children - Joseph Russell in 1920, and Donald Ira in 1923 - claimed to be born in Dowagiac, Michigan. It is quite possible that Vina stayed with some of her mother's relatives when her children were due to be born, but while her husband still worked in South Bend. The family made it's final move to Niles, Michigan, by 1929. In the 1930s they would move into 943 Pine Street, surrounded by Daughertys, Ryders, and Dorns, their entire neighborhood being nothing but relatives.

Donald Ira "Donny" Schrader (1923-1943)

After over a quarter-century together, Ed Schrader left his wife and family in Niles, Michigan, to visit relatives back home in Oconto County, Wisconsin. He never returned. Vina filed for divorce on on 24 February 1938 claiming desertion, which was granted by the Berrien County Circuit Court on 7 June 1938. Ed lived in the home of Martin and Ethel Brock in rural Maple Valley Township in Oconto County, Wisconsin, living a simple life working as a hired hand and farm laborer through the 1940s. While in Wisconsin, he adopted the "Schroeder" spelling of his name to assimilate with his other family members. But Ed eventually returned to Michigan to be close to his children, living in rural Dowagiac, Michigan, where he died in 1965, having never remarried.

After Ed Schrader's departure, Vina immediately moved a man into the Pine Street address who would be informally considered her second husband, although a marriage ceremony was never officially celebrated. Samuel James Johnston was a Nebraska native, born in 1887, who had moved to Buchanan, Michigan, in the 1920s with his wife, Mabel (Whitney) Johnston, and their three children. Samuel was widowed when he met Vina, his wife dying in Buchanan in 1936, and his children had all grown and started families of their own. Vina's children too were all growing up, and when Sam moved into the Pine Street address, the only ones left at home were Ed, Joe, and Donny Schrader, all in their late teens and early twenties. Around 1942, Sam and Vina left the Pine Street enclave of her extended Daugherty clan, leaving the home as a residence for her daughter Margaret and her family, and they moved to a home on Rural Route 2 outside of Niles, Michigan, in Howard Township. 

On 15 March 1943, tragedy struck Vina's family. Her brother, Ira Daugherty, living in South Bend, Indiana, had driven up to Niles, Michigan, to spend the previous day with his extended clan. Later that evening he took his sister's youngest child, Donald Ira Schrader, and his grandnephew, Russell Tom Hath, south of Niles to visit Donny's brother, Theodore Schrader. At 2 a.m. the men had decided it wast time to call it a night, and were returning to Niles with Donny Schrader behind the wheel. When the threesome had gotten to the area that is now Third Street about a third of mile south of the Niles city limits, a rear tire blew out throwing the car into a spin followed by a roll that took the car sixty feet off the road before it stopped. Donald was ejected from the car and died immediately. the result of a skull fracture and numerous other internal injuries. His uncle, Ira Daugherty, sustained a dislocated left shoulder and a basal skull fracture and was taken to Pawating Hospital in Niles, Michigan. He died three days later having never regained consciousness.

The third passenger, Russell Hath, walked away from the devastation with no injuries. He was inducted into the Marine Corps in Kalamazoo two days later as previously discussed.

Vina (Daugherty) Schrader Johnston continued to live at the rural Niles address until Sam Johnston's death in 1947. She thereafter moved to Dowagiac where her youngest surviving son lived. She died after a lengthy illness in the hospital in South Bend, Indiana, on 15 August 1956.

As I awaited the DNA test results that would most likely eliminate Russell Hath from my list, the only men left who could fit the emerging DNA profile for my grandfather were these surviving sons of LaVina Veatrice (Daugherty) Schrader Johnston.

Was it Ed, Ted, or Joe?

Finding the answer would mean facing the toughest obstacle to date.


  1. So Interesting! You are a gifted writer, Michael!

  2. Also, that must be Aunt Vine!

  3. Please keep going - don't make us wait .... please....

  4. My bet is still on Joe.. my hunch is his descendants might have been less cooperative than those in the past~