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As was the custom of the time in which he lived, my great great grandfather, Fred Chapin, came from a large family. Ten documented children, nine of whom lived to adulthood.

Fred's sisters have given me fits. (And to be fair, so has one of the brothers.) I've looked into the lives and wanderings of Essie and Addie. I have a date of death and burial place for the next-to-youngest sister, Immogene (Emma) Chapin.

So I thought I was done. Until a chance comment on my Facebook page by one of my Parrish cousins, wanting to know if any of the descendants of the transplanted Fort Scott Chapins were till in the area, as she planned to make a trip there.

As I looked over the siblings of Fred Chapin and their children, I could only think of one - the only living child of Immogene Chapin and William H Nutz.

Helen Leotia Nutz. What had happened to her?

As I started looking more closely at her, things started getting complicated and mysterious.

And I ran into another sad story.
Helen Leotia Nutz was born on 17 Aug 1890 in Fort Scott, Bourbon Co., KS.

I know this from the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 on (Due to some adjustments in the budget here at the cottage I now access Ancestry from the public library.)

However, that source also muddied the water quite a bit for tracking the whereabouts of my first cousin, thrice removed, because it also gave the following name changes for her, but no date of death. Based on name changes on her Social Security record, she had three husbands: Devault (March 1938), Yocum (August 1940) and Roach (May 1943), when she changed her name on her Social Security card.

However, I know her first marriage was at the age of 15 (she turned 16 nine days after the marriage), with the consent of her legal guardian (and paternal aunt) Susanna (Susan) N. Nutz, with whom Helen was living in the 1900 census in Kansas City, Jackson Co., MO. She married William K Gleason on 8 Aug 1905. I have not had any luck to date finding him either. I suspect the reason for the marriage was probably pregnancy, but that is purely speculation on my part.

So I tried to find a Helen Gleason getting married to a man with the surname DeVault in Jackson County, MO, and came up with this instead:
Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805-2002
Name: Helen Gleason
Marriage Date: 17 Dec 1914
Marriage Place: Jackson, Missouri
Registration Place: Jackson, Missouri, USA
Spouse:  Edward Farrell

I don't know that this is Helen Leotia Nutz, but it sure complicates things. If it is Helen, then this marriage also would have occurred before the Social Security Act was passed by Congress as part of the New Deal, and signed by Franklin D Roosevelt on 14 Aug 1935.
Since the two marriages above for which I could find records took place in Jackson Co., MO, and since that's where she was living in 1900 with her single aunt, Susan N Nice, I thought maybe Helen and her aunt Susan were still close.

I wasn't having any luck finding Helen under any of those surnames throughout the remaining census years of 1910, 1920, 1920 and 1940. I changed course and decided to track Aunt Susan instead.
Many family historians feel that in order to accurately document folks in the family tree, one must have access to historic records through (mostly) subscription services like, for historic newspapers, etc.

And those are helpful. Ancestry has outpaced the free LDS church ( on obtaining scans of marriage records, wills and probate records, etc., but familysearch is highly useful.

And so is a plain old Google search. That's how I found out who Susanna Nice Nutz - Helen's paternal aunt - was, the identity of her parents, and how her life ended.

It was clear from census records that after Susanna Nutz gave consent for her niece's marriage in August 1905, the two did not live together again.

Although I haven't found Helen after the 1900 census, I did find Susanna. Helen was not part of her household in either of those censuses.
Susanna Nice Nutz was born on 21 Aug 1837 in Ohio to Leonard Nice Nutz and Rebecca Clutch. She was the eldest of the children of Leonard Nutz in his first marriage.

I found that information from a website talking about an invention for which Leonard Nutz received a patent. Leonard as an engineer, and for at least ten years, the family lived in St. Louis. On 17 Aug 1858, Leonard Nice Nutz received a patent for a "single column adding device." The article goes on to talk about Leonard's family history, including both his marriages and identifying most of his children.

In 1845, Susanna's mother died, probably in Ohio. Her father remarried to Susan Catherine Cochran on 27 Nov 1846 in Hamilton Co., OH. Leonard Nice Nutz died on 16 Nov 1870 in Alton, Madison Co., IL.

To date, I haven't been able to find Susanna Nutz in the 1850, 1860 or 1870 censuses. She was not living in her father's home in the 1865 Illinois State census or the US census of 1870. I found her next in 1880, living in Leavenworth, KS. She boarded with the family of Charles Kunz, and I suspect that may actually have been Nutz, but haven't tracked that family to find out for sure.

Susanna was a dressmaker. Never married, she was a single woman making her way in the world at a time when "spinsters" were supposed to be living in their parental home, and raising their younger siblings when their parents died.

Helen Nutz's mother died in 1892. As stated above, Helen was living with her aunt and legal guardian (I suspect grand aunt) in 1900 in Kansas City, where Susanna Nutz was working as a dressmaker. Apparently, Helen was still living with Susanna when she married for the first time in 1905. Minimally, Susanna Nice Nutz was a mother figure to Helen for thirteen years, supporting her financially and making a home for her.

After 1905, Helen disappeared from the historic record radar. However, Susanna continued to live in Kansas City, working as a dressmaker, through the 1920 census, taken on 5 Jan 1920.

And that Google search brought gold. Susanna Nice Nutz was also an inventor, like her father. On 28 Mar 1905, she was granted a patent for "new and useful Improvements in Adjustable Measuring and Ruling Devices..." Below is a drawing of her improved adjustable measuring and ruling device, which she said was to help quilters cut uniform one inch strips of cloth on the bias, forming diamonds.

...A piece of cloth may be quickly divided into diamond-shaped figures for quilting by drawing lines thereon with the rulers arranged at the angle shown in Fig. 1 and then changing the position of said rulers so that other lines may be drawn at the proper angle to intersect the first-mentioned lines...
 photo Susanna Nice Nutz drawing of her measuring device.png

In the 1920 census, Susanna Nice Nutz was living at #2 Fountain Court in Kansas City, MO. She was 82 years old, and the head of her household. There was no indication on the form that anything was wrong with her.

So I was stunned when I found her death certificate. Less than one month after the 1920 census, she died on 2 Feb 1920 at Kansas City General Hospital of asthenia and starvation, secondary to senility. (Note: asthenia means generalized weakness and was often referred to as debility on older death certificates. If she was starving, it's easy to see why she would be so weak.)
 photo Susana N Nutz death certificate.jpg

How could this happen, I wondered? She was in the hospital for one day. Had someone finally checked on her, and found her starving? Where was Helen? Did she know? Did she care?

Susanna's remains were sent the following day back to Fort Scott, where she was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, in a family plot with her younger brother, Francis Johnston Nutz, and his wife, Harriet.

Susanna Nice Nutz is only in my family tree because of her relationship to my cousin, Helen Leotia Nutz.

She was a woman I would like to have known in life.

Perhaps I'll meet her on the other side...


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Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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