It started with a simple signature and ended with the saga of a family tragedy.
Lately, I haven't been spending too much time on family history. The past few months have been filled with various "crises" and other events that have pushed my passion into the background. No matter how hard I have tried to find both the time and the desire to pull out the notebooks and fire up the research sites, I just haven't been able to "get up the gumption" to do so. Today, due to the dreary Ohio weather and the sickness of numerous family members that left us homebound, I decided to sit down at my computer and begin working on some special projects I have had on my to-do list for awhile.
One of these items is the scanning of ancestor signatures from historical documents. After the signatures are saved, I then attach them to portraits, if they exist, of the ancestor to whom the signature belongs. If no photograph exists, I simply attach the signature to both my Ancestry.com family tree and my own family history files.
(For example, this is a photograph of my 2nd great grandfather, Henry Routsong, whose signature appears several times on the probate records of his father in law, Henry Sweadner.)
My Great Great Grandfather, Henry Mathias Routsong
So today, upon opening the estate files of my 4th great grandfather, Jacob Suman, I discovered several signatures of Suman family members. One that I wasn't very familiar with is pictured at the top of this post; Soloman Isanogel, the husband of my 3rd great grand aunt, Elizabeth Suman.
After scanning, cropping, and saving several signatures, I logged into my family tree and began adding each signature, one by one, to my history file. When I opened the page for Soloman, I realized I had not spent any time researching the Isanogel family. Now was the perfect time to hit that "search records" button. The typical matching census records were located, along with 2 "Public Member Stories". I am always interested in reading the stories that members post and I can usually find some very interesting facts from those shared tidbits of information. Choosing the first story listed, I discovered the following paragraph: (NO CITATION IS GIVEN)The Pioneer:
"Soloman Isanogle entered land west of Chesterfield three miles and made a farm. His family consisted of 4 sons and 2 daughters. Jacob the eldest, was one of the lst school teachers in the township. Soloman was the grandfather of the Isanogle boys who were murdered by Statler. Mr. Isanogle died in 1844 buried in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Delaware County. His
widow lived twenty-eigth years after his decease and died at the age of 82 yrs in 1876. She is buried beside her husband."
I scanned the paragraph and found myself reading it a second and then a third time to make sure I was comprehending it correctly. "Soloman was the grandfather of the Isanogle boys who were murdered by Statler." Grandsons murdered?
There was obviously more to be discovered about Soloman's grandsons. I searched the records of the member who had uploaded the story, but she had no information about any murders. It was time for a visit to my favorite search engine. I decided to look for "Isanogle Murders Madison Indiana" which is where the census records told me that Soloman had lived. The first hit I received was for a family history file that had been uploaded by a someone. It was an unusal site and a little confusing, but what I did find was a listing of Soloman's family members. I knew from the story that the boys were the children of Soloman's son, Jacob. So, I searched for a link to his family. Luckily, they were all included. I went through the list of children's names, birth, and death dates to see if any of his children had died in the same year. I found that William and Isaac had both passed away in 1868. Further investigation showed they had both died on 17 March. This was not a coincidence. Now I knew not only their exact names but I also knew the date they had been murdered. With this information, I could do a more thorough search.
Entering the new facts, I received numerous results; including a Google books "hit". The entire book, Historical Sketches and Reminiscences of Madison County by John L. Forkner and Byron H. Dyson, Anderson, Indiana, 1897, was available on their site and, amazingly, it was filled with information about the tragic deaths and their aftermath.
According to the book, on Saturday, 17 March, 1868, a man by the name of George Stottler went to the home of the Isanogle family. He was drunk and for some reason decided he wanted the use of one of the family's horses. William, 20 years of age, and Isaac, only 16 years old, refused to give Stottler a horse. They began to fight and during the ensuing quarrel, Stottler pulled out a knife he had purchased only that day and both men were stabbed "to the heart". Early Sunday morning, as word spread about the murder, people from the surrounding area became enraged and a "posse", 500 persons strong and armed with various weapons, set out to find the accused. Much of the crowd was ready to hang Stottler without a trial and when he was discovered at 11 o'clock that morning, hiding in a field only 1/2 mile west of the murder scene, it took some very determined lawmen to keep Stottler alive long enough to face legal judgement. He was given a change of venue and he apparently had some of the best legal representation at the time because his life was spared and he ended up with "life imprisonment" at the Michigan City Prison. During his first few years of incarceration, Stottler was "reckless and malicious" according to the written account, and he actually cut off two of his own fingers to avoid working in the prison cooper shop. However, after a few years, there were many people who decided that he had paid his debt to society and they began working to get the murderer paroled.
The Isanogel family and their friends fought hard to keep Stottler imprisoned and they were successful until January, 1897. For some reason that I cannot personally understand, Governor Claude Mathews pardoned George Stottler and as of the writing of the history book, he was living in Illinois.
I guess my next mystery to solve is what happened to George Stottler after his release from prison.
And so this evening, I sit here at my computer, amazed once again by how small fragments can be fit together to make quite an interesting tapestry, smiling over the fact that I have added an entirely new branch to my family tree, and a little angry that George Stottler served so little time for such a cold blooded crime.