David's Reformed Church Congregation

David's Reformed Church Congregation
Congregation of David's Reformed Church, Montgomery Co, Ohio, Circa, 1900

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Surname Saturday The Odle's and O'Dell's of Scioto County, Ohio

During the past week, I haven't written too many posts on my blog because I have spent just about every free moment I have had researching on my newly found resource of newspaperarchive.com.  Luckily for me, two of the newspaper they have available cover areas of the country where my husband had family living during the periods of time the source covers.  Last week, I shared both the story of my husband's great great uncle, August Hellmund and the account of the tragic drowning of  his great uncle Clyde O'Dell and his wife, Lillian.  In the past, I have told of some "offbeat" finds I have made such as some "moonshining" arrests and to my great delight, I have uncovered newspaper accounts of family weddings.  Yesterday, I was enjoying the search for "Odles" and "O'Dells" in the new database,  copying and saving articles in my history folders and updating my family tree with any newly found names and dates, when I came upon something new that shocked and saddened me.   It was an article published 4 April, 1937 in The Portsmouth Times.  The headline read, "BULLETS KILL MAN, WOUND MOTHER OF 8".  The article went on to describe how James Odle, in an apparent "jealous craze" had shot and wounded the wife of his cousin, John Odle.  He had been staying with his cousin,  John and his family and had  been very difficult to deal with.  Bessie, John's wife, had apparently had enough of  James living with them and she told him to move out of the house. James became angry, retrieved a gun and shot  Bessie.  Her son, William, had come to his mother's aid and stepped between her and the man attempting to kill her.  After shooting Bessie, James had put the gun to his head and killed himself.  Bessie had actually walked herself to the ambulance, but was now in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the abdomen.  What a terrible story.
I immediately wanted to see just how these individuals fit into my husband's family tree.  The first thing I did was open to my family tree files to look up James, but there are many James Odle's in the family and not knowing any more information than what I had, it was a little difficult to match exactly whose "James" he was.  My next step was the Ohio Death Certificates database at familysearch.org to see if I could connect him to his parents by looking at his death certificate.  Unfortunately, his record wasn't there, but my eyes fell upon the name of someone else.  It was Bessie O'Dell.  According to her death certificate, Bessie died two weeks after she was shot, on 18 April, 1937.  The cause of death was listed as endocarditis, contributory cause was a gunshot wound to the abdomen.   I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness.  I had just "met" this incredibly strong woman who had walked from the scene of her attempted murder to the waiting ambulance, and now she was gone.  She was taken away from her husband and her eight children by a man who was angry that she didn't like his influence upon her household.   I knew there was now more to be told of this story.  I searched the archive database once more, concentrating specifically on her name and I  discovered another article.

At the time of this article, Bessie's condition seemed to be improving, but unfortunately, I knew now that it wasn't to be.

The next two articles I found were obituaries; both Bessie's and James'. 

My final steps in documenting this tragedy were to input the information that I had found into both my Ancestry.com family tree and my personal family tree database.  After that, I could tell my husband that the wife of his grandmother's first cousin, therefore, his first cousin, once removed, was shot and killed by the man, James Odle, his second cousin, twice removed. 

 We all have items that live in our family trees that don't make us proud, but they are still important components to who we are.   Now that I know Bessie, I won't forget her and I think that is what family history is all about.


  1. Post traumatic syndrom for James, the ex cop??

    Sad story, told with empathy. Nice job.

  2. It's interesting, Carol. He doesn't appear to have been either a policeman or a firefighter for very long. He was an automobile repairman in the 1920 census and a truck driver in 1930. He also seems to be always living with another family. I did find his World War I draft enlistment, but I haven't discovered whether or not he was actually in any of the fighting during the war. He seems to have had trouble coping with life in general. Very strange and sad, isn't it?

    Thanks for your comments!

  3. I'd be curious to know why he left (or was discharged) from the police/fire departments? Was he showing erratic behavior there too? Good story Lori - kept me total enthralled.

  4. Wow - terribly tragic story, but an important part of the family history. I, too, have found some very interesting things through newspaperarchive.com, but nothing as important as this. I agree with Mary, this story really kept me on the edge of my seat!

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  6. Me too, I had to see what more you had to tell. Keep it coming.

  7. Interesting. I am from that area, and married into this family. I either personally knew, or knew of, all those involved. Consequently, I learned many secrets, and know the underlying circumstances behind this story. However, in respect for the many young & living parties, I would decline revealing them. I never did think to check the local newspaper for printed copies of the happening, but I will retain what you have posted. It would be interesting to know your connection to this family.

  8. To Jake:
    Obviously, you have an advantage that I do not have, so you would have a different perspective on these events. I, as only a distant relative, by marriage, can only form an opinion based upon the published accounts of the event. I tried to related the story with empathy and I think, based upon the feedback in the previous comments, I succeeded.
    My husband is a descendant of Andrew Jackson O'Dell, son of Nelson Odle.

  9. Thanks for your reply. I feel you portrayed an excellent display of judgement when you posted this article. I am familiar with the Nelson Odle line, and probably have data about Him & His. I am going to check FTM to see just what link he had with my wife.
    Since discovering this issue,I have broused several other issues of yours.
    Keep up the Good Work.

  10. Still looking:
    My FTM shows 3 entries for Nelson Odle.

    Do any of these dates coincide with your Husband's Nelson.


  11. Bessie Johnson Odle was my great-great grandmother and I was familiar with the circumstances regarding her death thanks to my grandmother, Joyce O'Dell Bender. I appreciate you posting the newspaper articles and her story.