Friday, February 17, 2012

“Mr. Lytle left the family in 1918”

Mary Emma Hogue Lytle, my grandmother, left her husband and returned to Akron and her family with her children.  Mary told one of her daughters the constant moving was the reason she left George Marion Lytle and took the children back to Akron. To what would be a childhood of neglect and poverty. 

Mary Emma was born in 1889, the oldest of 10 children.  Her last sibling, a brother, was born four short months before my father became George and Mary’s first child.

I believe Mary married George, fourteen years her senior, simply to escape home and the responsibility of tending to so many younger siblings.  There would have been endless loads of clothing to be scrubbed at the board, hung to dry, taken off the line, ironed. All those younger siblings to keep an eye on and keep diapered. The sheer drudgery is depressing to contemplate.

 She was seventeen when they married. Perhaps it was a love match.  I only say that because Mary Emma was from a staunchly Catholic family and upbringing, which shunned family members who strayed from the faith. George Marion’s religious affiliation is safely assumed in knowing he is buried along with his siblings and his parents in a Methodist cemetery.  But I think the most I can give Mary Emma is infatuation, and perhaps a bit of romance in leaving with a mining engineer to live in Pennsylvania.

My grandparents were married in 1906 and, like in the home she left, the babies arrived every other year.  When Mary returned to her parents’ home in 1915, after nine years of marriage, she was pregnant with her fifth and last child.

George Marion travelled because of his job.  But Aunt Laura, the daughter Mary told of leaving because of travel, also has memories of living with her paternal grandparents in Coalmont.  Parents may tell children whatever they wish, but Mary’s story of frequent moves isn’t that plausible.  I can’t see George moving from assignment to assignment trailing a wife and four children when he had a home base in Coalmont, where Aunt Laura said they lived until they moved to Akron. 

The record I was able to get from the Childrens’ Home contained the tantalizing line “Mr. Lytle left the family in 1918.  He did not appear in court in Pennsylvania.”  This is Mary Emma’s statement to the Childrens’ Home about 1921 when she placed her five children in the Childrens’ Home.  In the years after moving back in 1915, there was not enough food or clothing, or adult supervision, according to Aunt Laura.  She says her father did come one time, she thinks to attempt to reunite, but Mary refused.

I pursued ‘He did not appear in court in Pennsylvania.” Huntingdon County, where Coalmont is located, has a wonderful historical society that provided me with some information about that entry. A genealogical researcher located George Marion Lytle in the Plaintiffs Docket for 1921, where he posted a five hundred dollar bond guaranteeing he would be available for extradition to Ohio.  And when they went to pick him up in 1922, George Marion could not be found.

I looked for the entry on the other side of the ledger here in Summit County, where Akron is located, but the Clerk of Courts found nothing.  I assume Mary Emma filed some action against George, probably in domestic court, probably concerning support, that resulted in a judgment for George to be returned to the State of Ohio.  He jumped bail and disappeared.

The last bit of this puzzle also came from the Childrens’ Home.  In their records they had a letter from Peebles County, Colorado, informing them of the death of George M. Lytle.  He died of consumption, and known by a different name, but in his wallet they found letters from his daughters, pleading for his return.  The return address of the envelopes was the Akron Childrens’ Home.

George Marion died in 1930, a full fifteen years after the separation from Mary.  I have to assume he continued working; he was working when he died in Colorado.  Over that fifteen years his children grew up.  In extreme poverty.  Who left whom is not relevant.  I don’t know why Mary came home in 1915, but told the authorities in 1918 her husband deserted the family.  The order against him likely concerned support; the legal system was as eager in 1918 to see children supported by parents as they are today. My father didn't speak of the father who abandoned the children.  His three sisters, Aunt Laura, Aunt Ruth and Aunt Helen Rita, loved their father unconditionally to the end, and had no charity toward their mother.  AuntRuth, Sister Mary Pasqueline, said they were nobody’s children and they survived.
Another story from my family tree.
The three children who did marry and have children provided homes they surely wished for in their childhood.

My parents on their wedding day.  Grandma Lytle is beside my father; Grandpa and Grandma Rolf on either side of my mother.  The only pictures of Grandma Lytle are from that day.  She was the only member of my dad's family at the wedding.  My father had left the Catholic Church, my mother was not a Catholic.  Dad's many aunts, uncles and cousins did not attend because of this.


  1. A sad story from a hard time....

  2. My, what a life story. Sad, sad. So many hurt lives.

  3. So sad and so damaging for everyone involved. Thank you for both tracking this down and sharing it.

  4. So much sadness, so much pain, so many unknown stories. Great detective work! I can't help thinking about those poor children.

  5. Our parents and grandparents kept so many secrets that it's hard to know what the truth may be. My mother told me that two of my dad's aunts had been in mental hospitals. But, I only found out a few years ago that she had an uncle who was in a mental hospital until he died. At family reunions, I learn all kinds of interesting stuff from my cousins about my deceased aunts and uncles!

  6. I so love family stories. Even the sad ones. I love to see that there is much good that can come from these sad beginnings. Thank you for sharing. And for your detective work. It's truly fascinating!