1854 -- 1935

By Stephen J. Hartzell

After the death of his wife Sarah in 1851 Reuben Hartzell remained in the Tiffin area, settling in Eden Township. Less than a year later Hiram died at the age of 5. James and Harrison spent a lot of their time working as farm hands, as well as attending school in Eden Township.

There were a number of Lehigh County families living in northern Eden and southern Clinton Townships, many of which had emigrated at about the same time as the Hartzell’s. One of these families was the Strauss family. Three Strauss brothers, a sister and their families moved from Lehigh County to Seneca County in ox drawn wagons in 1848, possibly with the Hartzell, Litzenberger, Burger, Glick and Swander families. Several of these families were among the founding members of the Second Reformed Church of Tiffin in 1850. They saw a lot of each other on a regular basis.

Isaac Strauss and his second wife, Judith (Steinberger), a son and five daughters were among this group. Isaac Strauss and Reuben Hartzell were about the same age and were lifelong friends. December 13, 1853 Reuben married Isaac’s daughter, Leanda, 17 years his junior. Rev. E. V. Gerhart, the first president of Heidelberg College, performed the ceremony in an old frame church that once stood on the northeast corner of Madison and Jefferson Sts.

Reuben and Leanda were blessed with a son, Israel Franklin Hartzell on December 1, 1854. He was baptized by Rev. Gerhart the following January 28. Tragedy struck once again on July 18, 1855 when Leanda died at the age of 25. Eight months later William Smoyer, another Lehigh County native, was appointed as Israel’s Guardian. Mr. Smoyer owned a farm on the south Plank Road, now known as State Route 53, where Israel lived until the age of 10. He was commonly known by his middle name in these years. During the summer of 1860 “Franklin” was on the Smoyer farm in the household of tenants Joseph and Mary Badeffer. In 1861 he entered the 1st grade in the newly reorganized Tiffin Public Schools.

Reuben Hartzell married a third time, to Ruth Taylor in October of 1861. In March Harrison enlisted in the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and James enlisted in the 123rd on August 13. The next day, August 14, Ruth Hartzell gave birth to Mary Loretta Hartzell. Harrison was wounded at Antietam the following September 17. James was killed at Winchester, Virginia on September 19, 1864.

Israel had his 10th birthday on December 1, and 5 days later he returned to the home of his father. By Christmas time Reuben had provided his youngest son with a fine new set of clothes at a cost of nearly $18, including a $5 pair of boots. At this time Reuben owned a property on Wolfe Creek in Hopewell Township, which also contained a sawmill. Reuben sold the Wolfe Creek property in February, 1865, to Frederick and Charlotte Depfer. Harrison returned home from the army in late spring. In August Reuben purchased a home on North Washington St., not far from the downtown area, from Henry Lemp. Here they remained for the next 3 years. The household now consisted of Reuben, 54; Ruth, 47; Harrison, 25; Israel, 11; and Mary, 3.

While at this location Reuben and Ruth were having marital problems. The arguments continued, and finally they came to a head. They separated on the 13th of September, 1867. A few days prior Ruth, in a fit of anger, chased her husband with an iron stovelid lifter, repeatedly beating him with it. He finally escaped the house and stood in the middle of North Washington St. waiting for her to cool off. Ruth filed a suit for alimony on September 21. Reuben answered with a cross petition for divorce. The suits were dropped by mutual agreement the following February, and they reconciled.

The family remained at the same address until December, 1869, at which time they relocated to Noblesville, Hammilton County, Indiana. Noblesville is a northern suburb of Indianapolis. Reuben purchased a home there, and he and Harrison worked together as mason and plasterer respectively. Harrison married Ellen Clark the day after Christmas, 1872. They rented their first home from L. Lebo of Noblesville.

By the year 1875 the nation was plunged into a Great Depression, not unlike the Depression of the 1930’s. The family returned to Tiffin that year. December 1, Israel turned 21. He and his aunt and uncle, Willoughby and Angelina (Strauss) Heilman entered into an agreement with Luther and Cynthia Hall to purchase 2 lots on Hall St. (Cynthia was a daughter of Tiffin Founder, Joshua Hedges.) With the Depression still bearing down on the nation, they found themselves unable to pay the debt off. Financial ruin was everywhere. Harrison and his family entered the Infirmary just before Christmas, 1877, and Ellen and oldest son Harrison Jr. died not long thereafter. Reuben died the following May 5 of Typhoid Fever, with which he had suffered for 2 weeks.

With the estate now pending, Luther and Cynthia Hall filed a foreclosure on the Hall St. properties. Israel, rather than face the suit, had left Tiffin for Wood County to live in the boarding house in Bairdstown, owned by John and Kate (Strauss) Plattenburg, another of his mother’s sisters.Wood County Sherriff Omir Henry delivered a copy of the suit to Israel on June 10. Israel did not respond to the suit, nor did he appear to defend his case. Mr. Hall ended up with the properties and Israel’s 1/3 share of his father’s estate. Mary Hartzell left the state with her mother and moved to Jewel County, Kansas in 1880. The family was now split up, never to be reconciled.

Israel continued to live in the boarding house at Bairdstown. The keeper of the house was Catherine Crawford, a widow who had sold the house to the Plattenburgs a few years prior. She lived there with her children and boarders John Wilson, Squire Dilly, Charles Adams and Christopher Zana. Israel, and virtually everyone in Bairdstown for that matter, worked at the Stave Factory located near the town. On June 8, 1881 the citizens of the town filed a petition for incorporation. There were 61 signatures on the petition, among them was that of Israel Hartzell. This may have been the last time Israel spelled his name “Hartzell.” For the rest of his life it was spelled “Hartsell.”

The town of Bloomdale is about 1 1/2 miles east of Bairdstown. Israel was a charter member of that town’s Knights of Pythias Lodge #278. That Lodge is still active in 1997, and the charter is openly displayed at that location. Israel’s signature is on it, dated February 22, 1888.

A couple of miles away, in Arcadia of Hancock County, a lady named Etta M. Fulk, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Folk (Fulk) of Wyandotte County, Ohio, was married to James A. McLaughlin on January 8, 1878. Nine months later Gertrude G. McLaughlin was born. Two years later Maurice F. McLaughlin was born. Etta McLaughlin was frequently the victim of her husband’s abuse and cruelty. James was a rough sort of fellow and never earned a steady living. Often there was not even a home to live in, and Etta was forced to rely on her own labor in order to provide food and clothing for her children. Finally in 1884 James deserted his family and went west. He moved frequently about so that he could not to be found.

During the 2 years after her husband left, Etta was forced to rely on what little money she was able to earn by her own labors, as well as the charity of friends. Finally in 1886 she filed for a divorce. In December of that year Gertrude, age 8, received a letter from her father. In that letter he stated that he was somewhere near Jefferson, Arkansas, and enroute to another place where he could not be found. He said that he would never support the family nor allow them to live with him, and his whereabouts will always be concealed from them. Etta produced the letter to the Court, and the divorce was granted 3 days before Christmas of 1886.

Somewhere around 1890 Etta Mary (Fulk) McLaughlin met Israel Franklin Hartsell. They courted and eventually married. After their marriage they relocated to Townline in Liberty Township of Wood County. Here on September 18, 1892 Gladys A. Hartsell was born. Gladys was the only child they had together, but to Gertrude and Maurice, Israel was the only father figure they had ever known.

By the summer of 1900 the family moved to Redding Township of Clare County, Michigan, located in the middle of the state. By the summer of 1906 they had again relocated, this time to New Boston, Illinois, which is located in the northwestern part of the state on the Mississippi River.

The Strauss Family Ties Remain Strong

Although the ties with the Hartzell family had been largely broken, the ties with the Strauss family remained strong. Israel was in attendance at the annual Strauss Family Reunion up to at least 1906.

In the summer of 1893 the Strauss family held the first of at least 20 annual reunions. This was the family of the mother Israel was too young to remember. His attendance at these reunions bear witness to the fact that the Strauss’s never forgot Israel, and Israel never forgot the Strauss family. While the Hartzells were scattered, the Strauss’s had one of the largest families in the area. Year after year the reunion drew 125 - 300 people. It was always held in August at either Meadowbrook Park in Bascom or Riverview Park in Tiffin. Following the large dinner the entire family joined together in the singing of the old hymn “Blest Be The Tie That Binds.” The rest of the day was filled with addresses, readings, family history, vocal solos, group singing and the renewing of old acquaintances.

In attending these reunions Israel may have had rare encounters with his brother Harrison, but it is rather doubtful that the two had much to do with each other after Reuben’s death. Harrison’s son Thomas knew about Israel, but none of his children knew they had an uncle Israel until just a few short years ago.

At Home in Toledo

By 1908 Israel and his family was living in Toledo, Ohio. He purchased a home at 1464 Oakwood Avenue. This was truly their home. It was here that he and his family lived out the rest of their lives. This home was in the family until 1956.

By April of 1910 Israel was the owner - operator of the I. F. Hartsell grocery and confectionery store, located on the southeast corner of Oakwood and Detroit Ave., less than a block from the family home. This part of Toledo is now known as the “Old West End.” Gladys also worked in her father’s store. Perhaps it was here that she met her husband Frederick S. Ryno.

Around 1930 Israel sold the store. In that same year his Voter Registration showed that he was a Republican, as was his wife. Israel was now almost 76 years old, and Etta was 70.

On November 9, 1935 Israel Franklin Hartsell died in his home of mitral heart disease. He had been under the care of Dr. John Stamm for the past 8 days. The funeral was held November 12 at 2:00 at the Leon Funeral Home at 2412 Cherry St. with the Rev. H. H. Creager officiating. The burial followed in Memorial Park Cemetery. He is buried in lot #491, Section 2, grave 1. Samuel R. Williams was the Administrator of his estate.

Etta Mary Hartsell died in her home on October 20, 1948 at 1:15 pm, of apoplexy, with which she had suffered for 4 months. She was buried beside her husband.

Maurice McLaughlin died at the family home on May 13, 1943 at 12:15 pm, of myocardial degeneration, with which he was stricken the day before. He was attended by Dr. John L. Ulmer. He had worked as a die setter at Dura Manufacturing. He was survived by a son, Jack Edward McLaughlin.

Gertrude died in her home at 1076 1/2 Dorr St. on April 11, 1949. Her husband, Anthony Pileggi, died in the Oakwood Ave. home in 1941. Gertrude had been married at least once before to a man named Reed, and possibly earlier to a man named Jones.

Gladys A. (Hartsell) Ryno lost her husband, Fred Ryno on October 21, 1942. He was the founder of the Ottawa Motor Coach Company, one of the first bus lines in Toledo. She was later married to Anthony Zielinski, and he survived until 1981. He had worked for many years as a sign painter for the DeAngelo Sign Company, and was survived by a sister, Celia Zielinski. Gladys died on September 25, 1956 at 5:00 pm of Coronary Occlusion, with which she suffered for 2 years, attended by Dr. M. A. Steinberg. Her heirs were listed as Anthony Zielinski, widower; Emra B. Ward, nephew; and Gladys Smith, niece.

She was never able to have children. She was Israel’s last descendant. His line died with her.

In 1996 I went to Toledo to visit all of the above mentioned sites. Toledo Memorial Park and Mausoleum is a huge cemetery containing many thousands of graves. It was started in 1922 and is considered to be one of the finest in America. It is a very well maintained cemetery with a fine staff of people who are eager to assist visitors in any way they can. Upon reaching Israel’s grave site I found a six grave lot marked with one simple stone. On one side is simply “Hartsell” and on the other side is “Ryno.” There is no other inscription. I couldn’t help but to feel a little bit saddened by the fact that these graves are not more clearly marked. The records in the cemetery office contain the following information:

Lot # 491, Section 2; Owner, Israel Hartsell

  • Grave 1 - Israel Hartsell; Date of death, 11-9-35
  • Grave 2 - Maryetta Hartsell; Date of death, 10-20-48
  • Grave 3 - Maurice F. McLaughlin; Date of death, 5-13-43
  • Grave 4 - Anthony Zielinski; Date of death, 1-6-81
  • Grave 5 - Fred Ryno; Date of death, 10-21-42
  • Grave 6 - Gladys Zielinski; Date of death, 9-25-56



    Next I found the store. I was surprised to find a small neighborhood store still in operation in that same building. Upon entering, it reminded me of the small stores that were very common when I was growing up. Outside it was clear that this was now a very rough neighborhood.

    A short distance down Oakwood Avenue I found the house, #1464. Again I felt saddened. The house was still standing, graffitied and windows boarded up. It now looked like everything that would be typical of a crack house in the inner city. As I pulled my car over to take a picture a rough looking young man asked me who I was and why I was taking a picture of the house. After offering a quick explanation I removed myself from the area while the getting was still good.

    I couldn’t help but to wonder how Israel would react if he could see the condition of this Old West End neighborhood today.


    On July 6, 1998, Toledo TV station WTOL reported about this very neighborhood.

    One of the most dangerous, crime riddled areas in Toledo, this stretch of Oakwood Ave. has become known as "Cokewood". A number of abandoned houses, including Israel's, have become a well known haven for Crack dealers. The report's film footage clearly shows Israel's former home. The city of Toledo announced plans to help the people "take back their neighborhood". One part of the plan includes 24 hr. police patrols, including questioning suspicious persons. The other part of the plan is an effort to bulldoze these abandoned houses, all within the next 3 weeks. Israel's house is certain to be one of them. While the house at 1464 Oakwood Avenue will soon be history, the store at the corner of Oakwood & Detroit remains as it was at the time of the above writing.

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    ©1998 By Stephen J. Hartzell
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