Pit Stops on The Road Of Life

The Struggles of Suldon S. Lozau and his daughter, Minnie Lozau Smith.

(This history was derived from study of US Censuses, information received from various state agencies, Evan R. Thompson [a Lozau genealogist] of San Antonio, TX, and a review of Suldon's Civil War pension file received from the NARA in June, 2003.)

The first thing to discuss is his name.  Over the years, he was known, variously, as Suldon, Seldon, Selvin, and maybe a couple more I can't recall right now.  The family name, which MAY have originated in France, might very well have been Lozeau there but here in the U.S. it's been spelled as Lozaw, Lozau (Suldon's tombstone has it this way), Lazaw, or even Lozo (see "Lizzie Lozo" later.)  Despite all the documentation I've studied, I have NEVER learned what Suldon's middle name was.

Suldon Lozau  is buried in Mt. Greenwood cemetery, Trucksville, PA, just west of Wilkes-Barre, in a plot that also contains several of his descendants.

The inscription on his military-style tombstone, " Co. D, 30th NJ Inf." was what first led me, Suldon's great grandson, to think "Gee—maybe my Mom's folks came from New Jersey."  I have a pal who's an Army brat and he said "There hasn't been an outfit with that handle since the Civil War. "  I figured "Hmm—if ole Suldon HAD BEEN from PA he wouldn't have had to go to NJ to enlist—there were plenty of PA units he could have joined." That theory was confirmed by searching US Census records at ancestry.com.  Suldon had come from New Jersey!

Beyond the census records, a great deal more about him was learned from his Civil War pension file, obtained from the National Archives at a cost of $35.  Of greatest importance was the death date of his first wife, which led to my story about “Lizzie Lozo” titledHow Granny Got Her Stone

Suldon was born June 01, 1845, the second oldest of four children of David Lozau and Mary (DeGrough) Lozau in Hope Township, Warren County, New Jersey. It’s located northwest of Newark, just below Interstate 80 and just East of the PA/NJ border.  Its county seat is Belvidere. There is some disagreement among the censuses as to where Suldon's father was born.  Family legend has it that he came from France and the 1880 census shows that Suldon said “France” to the enumerator. If one looks back to the 1830 census, however,  David Lozau himself said that he was born in New Jersey.  Suldon had an older sister named Esther and younger siblings John D. and Phebe, who was sometimes known as Eliza.  

Not much is known of Suldon's early life prior to his enlistment in the Army during the Civil War but he was known to have attended school up to at least age 16.  He enlisted September 3, 1862 (when he was 17) as a private in Company D, 30th NJ Infantry at Camp Kearney, NJ.   His unit's service record was: “duty in the defenses of Washington, D. C., till November, 1862. Moved to Aquia Creek, Va., and duty there guarding railroad till January, 1863. Moved to Belle Plain, Va., and joined Army of the Potomac January 10, 1863. Duty at Belle Plain till April 27, 1863.”

It was during the march from Aquia Creek to Belle Plain that Suldon suffered a life-altering affliction.  His troop paused for a night, in the middle of winter, in a marshy area and the combination of cold and dampness seized him.  As cited in a statement he signed on May 24, 1884 (some 20 years later) when applying for a disability pension, "within a couple of days afterwards he was taken violently sick and was treated in camp by the regimental surgeons, whose names he does not remember.  He was advised to go to hospital but thought he would worry it out in camp.  He was sick for quite a while and felt rheumatic pains from then all along, also has piles from then all along."  The decision to not go to the hospital was a fateful one, for the lack of hospital records would severely hamper his later pension application.

The U.S. Army in the Civil War, I've been told by war buffs, was considerably different from the Army we know today.  Many units were formed to fill specific needs and, after those needs were met, the units disbanded.  The 30th NJ , it seems, was one of them.  Although its service record beyond Belle Plain was comprised of the "Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6. Operations at Pollock's Mill Creek April 29-May 2. Battle of Chancellorsville May 2-5", it was then ordered home to New Jersey. Despite his incapacity, Suldon stayed with his unit until it mustered out on June 27, 1863 after only nine months of service.  The only BATTLE cited was that of Chancellorsville but it is not known what part his unit played. Perhaps they stood in reserve and never fired a shot? Its final record reads "Regiment lost during service 2 Officers and 62 Enlisted men by disease. Total 64."

Following the war, by the summer of 1866, Suldon had moved into Pennsylvania and was living in Prompton, Wayne County (which abuts the NJ border.)  A former coworker later described him, even at  that young age (21), as "working for a farmer" but "not fit for manual labor more than about 1/4 of the time" due to rheumatism and piles.  The coworker wrote that statement in 1890 and said Suldon was, at that time, "at the mercy of his neighbors."

He didn't stay long in Wayne County, only a few months, for another 1890 statement says that he, in the fall of 1866, had moved along to Centermoreland (in Northmoreland Township),  Wyoming County, PA, which is near Noxen PA.  At that place he worked for one Ester Keeler, who I assume was a farmer also. Ester had to let him go because he couldn't do the work.

It should be noted here that, sometime along in this general period, he met and married Elizabeth Ann Lloyd, who was born in Pittston, near Wilkes-Barre.  That general date is ascertained from the fact that their oldest child, daughter Roue (sometimes spelled Rhoue), was born in February, 1868.

Suldon stayed in Centermoreland for approximately 2 and 1/2 years and then moved on to Pittston in the summer of 1869, where he worked in the coal mines until 1879.  The 1880 census still listed him as a "coal miner" but statements from former coworkers reveal that, by 1876, he had switched to driving horse teams at the mines (likely considered "light duty".) He later was unable to do even that work.

Suldon and Elizabeth’s  second child, my grandmother, Minnie Lozau, was born on February 24, 1873.  Son Andrew followed sometime in 1877 and their youngest child, John Lozau (probably named after Suldon's brother) was born on January 03, 1879.  The family was likely VERY poor for, as cited earlier, Suldon couldn't even perform light duty at the mines.  Still, one must assess him as a stubborn, proud man, for he didn't even apply for a Civil War pension until 1883, some 20 years after he'd been afflicted!!

Tragedy befell the family on January 28, 1885.  Suldon’s wife, Elizabeth,  died in Lackawanna Hospital at the age of 37 from what her death certificate called "Erysipelas."  That disease is defined by Merriam Webster as " an acute febrile disease associated with intense edematous local inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues caused by a hemolytic streptococcus."   The death certificate also shows two other items of interest.  It lists her residence as being in Ward 9 of the City of Scranton so it's obvious that they had moved on once again between the 1880 and 1885. 

Suldon finally applied for an invalid pension, as has been said, in 1883.  It is not known exactly what was said in his original application but he was initially turned down.  The reasons were twofold:  he lacked any hospital records (he hadn't gone to the hospital when he was first afflicted and chose instead to let his regiment's surgeons treat him); and secondly, a doctor in 1883 initially found no evidence of rheumatism or piles.   Suldon, once he had decided he deserved a pension, went all out to prove that doctor wrong.  His file is replete with statements he obtained from his old Army comrades, including his lieutenant, and other doctors, all supporting his claim.  He also hired an attorney.  He was finally approved at the rate of $6 per month in March of 1887, a year after he submitted a statement which I have transcribed thusly:

"Plainsville Pa., 2/15/1887

Hon. Commissioner of Pensions

Dear Sir:

In the matter of my claim No. 489467 for invalid pension I would say that I have four children.  One is in the state institution of feeble minded children near Phila., Pa., one has left home, one keeps house for me and the fourth is in the house for friendless children in Wilkes Barre, Pa.   That one year ago last summer I was in such poor circumstances that I had to go to the poor house and not being able to eat the food there I had to leave and try and make a living in some way so last June I sold a sewing machine I had and with the money I bought a small stock of candy and leather and commenced selling candy, tobacco, soft drinks and doing a little cobbling for a living and by not being compelled to pay any rent to my landlord I have managed to get along.  But the first of next April I will have to leave the premises I now occupy and unless I get my pension before that time I am afraid I will have to go back to the poor house.  For the reasons I above state I ask that my claim be made special so that I may know what prospects there are for me in the future as it all rests on my claim.

S. S. Lozau" (note that the spelling doesn’t agree with what his daughter had inscribed on his tombstone)

Noteworthy in that statement is that he didn't even mention the death of his wife two years earlier.   The statement is of great value, genealogically speaking, in that it gives us a partial look at what became of his 4 children.

The " One is in the state institution of feeble minded children near Phila., Pa." is deemed to have been the eldest, daughter Roue.  I feel this is true because the 1880 census showed her, at age 12, as attending school but still being unable to read or write, which suggests some sort of impairment.  My opinion is that, while her mother was still alive (as she was in 1880), Roue was still sent to a local school in hope that she eventually could learn; but that, following her mother's death, she was sent to a specialized school.  At present, I am researching into exactly which school that may have been and whether or not records from there still exist.  Roue was nearly 17 when her mother died but the "one keeps house for me" would have been my grandmother Minnie.  Minnie was only a month shy of her TWELFTH birthday when she was cast into the role of looking after her invalid father. That in and of itself is a Herculean task  and Minnie could hardly have been expected to also look after an older, impaired sister as well.  Minnie turns out to be the heroine of this story-and deserving of her own chronicle which I'll write when this one is finished.  The saddest part of this story is poor Andrew Lozau, the "one has left home."  He was only EIGHT YEARS OLD when his mom died and here, in 1887, he would have been only 10 by the time Suldon is saying he "left home." No one living today has any earthly idea what ever became of Andrew.  The child sent to the “house for friendless children in Wilkes Barre, Pa." would have been John and, although I am searching for more info on his stay there, it's obvious he survived that ordeal and fared well.  He is known to have grown up, moved to the Uniontown PA area, married a Scottish lass, and fathered 10 children.

The pension file is replete with continuing efforts by Sulden to get increases in his pension and he was mostly successful, graduating by the time he died up to $30 a month.  He continuously had to present more and more statements from people who knew of his worsening condition and those statements are present in the file.  Each increase sought required additional doctor's exams and those are on file also.  In 1887, at age 42, he was described as being “5"7" and 146 pounds with dry skin.” His tongue was fissured with a yellowish coating in the center.   His heart was somewhat enlarged and beat rapidly.  His muscular system was described as poorly developed and his hands, as may have been expected, showed no evidence of manual labor.  General nutrition was said to be poor and there was no particular sign of hemorrhoids as of that exam.

A coworker's statement in 1889 tells how he was unable to even drive the team of horses at the mine.  Another statement from 1890 says he was unable to chop wood and had, at times, to be helped out of bed.  By January, 1891, at age 45, a doctor reported him to be down to 126 pounds and that his heart was very feeble with a distinct murmur.  He was described as "emaciated."  In February, 1896, he was down to 124 pounds and to 122 pounds in October, 1900.  His heart condition was being described more and more prominently now and his piles had worsened.  Chronic articular rheumatism was also listed, affecting both shoulders.  In 1905 "sallow complexion" was also noted.  By 1909, he had picked up weight to 130 pounds but had shrunk in stature to only 5' 6 and 1/2".

Throughout all the years following his wife's death in 1885, Sulden had been looked after by his daughter Minnie.  In 1892 Minnie was 19 and, on June 07, 1892 she married Joseph M. Smith, whose parents were from Texas Township in Wayne County, PA.  Sulden must have gotten into the marrying mood himself for he married widow Elizabeth Williams (originally from New York) less than 2 months after Minnie's wedding.  Both ceremonies were performed by Reverend H.C. McDermott in the Kingston Methodist Episcopal Church.  It is not known if Sulden and his second wife ever lived together in their own place but, by 1895, he had divorced her (she died July 2, 1908) and was again living with Minnie and Joe.  The house must have been a bit crowded, as Minnie by that time had given birth to sons Herbert (1893) and Stanley (1895.)  By the 1900 census, they were all together in Plymouth Township and Minnie's third son, Henry, had been born.  Minnie's fourth and fifth children, Marvin and Gertrude Viola (my mother) were born in 1903 and 1906, respectively.  Somewhere during this period Joe must have needed a bigger house and he bought 61 Snyder Street in what was then called Plymouth Township but is in Larksville Borough today.

October 19, 1911 was a black day in the Smith household.  Joe did not come home from work in the mines.  He'd been crushed in a roof fall.  Having lived just 40 years and 3 days, he left Minnie with 3 of their 5 children still at home who then ranged in age from  Henry (14) to Gertrude Viola (5), and then there was also crippled-up Sulden.  The Wilkes Barre Record did not, in 1911, carry obituaries as we know them today and I was fortunate to spot a news item on Joe's death.  The article cited how Joe had intended to take up farming in the Spring of 1912 and, to that end, had just purchased a farm in Lehman.  Joe did not leave a will and the Register Of Wills Office in the Luzerne County courthouse has papers that relate only to Minnie, as administratrix,  signing off with court-appointed appraisers on their valuation of 61 Snyder Street at $600 and his personal property at $62.  It looks as if they overlooked the farm in Lehman and I will have to check the land records to see if the newspaper was right. Had he actually just purchased a farm?

In the summer of 1912, Sulden's pension file shows that he had moved to Erie, at the other end of Pennsylvania, to live at the state-run Soldier's and Sailor's Home, which is still in operation today. He may well have known that he was in his final days for, by September, 1912, he had moved back in with Minnie.  He died, from "acute gastritis and myocarditis", on November 25, just 3 days before Thanksgiving.  He was 67 and had lived roughly 75% of his life debilitated by the one event that had happened in Virginia in the winter of 1862-1863.

Minnie Lozau Smith had suffered two grievous losses within the space of 2 years; the death of her husband, Joe in the 1911 mine accident, and the death of her father in 1912.  Sandwiched in and around those two events was the heartbreak of her two oldest sons.  Stanley Smith, at age 14 in October, 1909, was sent off to the "State Institution For the Feeble Minded Of Eastern PA" in Chester County outside Philadelphia.  I haven't been able to determine whether he was only simple minded or whether he may have, in fact, been an epileptic.  The 1910 census for Chester County added the word "Epileptic" to that institution's title.  The same is true of his brother, Herbert Smith, for he, too was sent to that same institution at age 19 in March, 1912.  The younger children,  Henry, Marvin, and Gertrude Viola (my mother) were, respectively, 12, 6, and 3 when Stanley left and they were and 15, 9, and 6 when Herbert left.  The departures of the two oldest boys undoubtedly had a severe effect on not only Minnie, but also on Henry and Marvin.  Gertrude Viola was too young to have really known her oldest brothers and, in speaking to the daughter of her best friend in 2003, I found that she had never even mentioned having had brothers other than Henry and Marvin.

Minnie had, upon the death of her husband, Joe Smith, in 1911, purchased an 18' by 18' plot in Mt. Greenwood Cemetery, Trucksville but there's no way she could have foreseen how soon she would be using a great portion of it.  Her father came to rest there the very next year.

1918 was the blackest year of Minnie's life.  Over the span of four short months, she suffered the deaths of 3 of her 5 children!!  Henry had gone off to World War 1 in 1918 and was killed in France in June of that year.  Then, in the month of October, the city of Philadelphia suffered some 7,000 deaths from the Spanish Flu pandemic. That plague reached out to the suburbs and grabbed both Herbert and Stanley at their institution!!  They died 3 days apart, only 25 and 23 years old.!!  They were moved north to rest in the family plot but Minnie had no money to buy tombstones for them and they still lack stones to this day (2007.)  For some reason that I haven't been able to discern, Henry lie in France for 3 years, not being repatriated and buried in the family plot until September 01, 1921.  Like his grandfather, Sulden, he has a military stone.

Minnie's son Marvin grew up to marry Elizabeth "Eliza" Lee and sire 8 children; 6 girls and 2 boys, from 1925 to 1941.  He was unable to work much due to the heart condition that eventually killed him, on March 16, 1941 shortly before the birth of his last child.   His wife died in 1956 and they are both buried in "Minnie's plot." 

Gertrude Viola, Minnie's only daughter,  must have been a bit of a worry to Minnie for she grew to be nearly an "old maid."  She was fully 36 years old before she married Albert Warren Hontz, Sr., a widowed miner with 3 sons from Sweet Valley, Ross Township, Luzerne County, PA, on June 10, 1942.  Viola (she hated her first name) gave birth to a 5 1/2 months'- gestation premature baby boy on October 30, 1944 but he lived only 14 hours.  Luckily, her second son, Ronald Edward Hontz, was born healthy on August 17, 1946 and has survived at least 60 years, long enough to write this family history.

Somewhere along the way, it is thought to be about 1938, Minnie got remarried,  to a man named Burton Litzenburger.  He turned out to be a drunk who sometimes took to waving a gun about and Minnie, afraid of him, moved from Larksville out to Ross Township to live with Viola and Albert Hontz. She must have made that move about June of 1946, shortly before the birth of her grandson, Ronald, in August ,1946.   Minnie lived to see grandson Ronald turn nearly 1 1/2

 

and then she died in Sweet Valley on January 10, 1948.

Viola herself did not live long enough to enjoy a full life with her son.  She died of a cerebral hemorrhage on January 17, 1953, just four months after he had started first grade.

I, the aforementioned son of Viola, have been much more fortunate than my maternal ancestors.  I’ve lived, as this is written, nearly 61 years.  I’ve been blessed with moderate health and, educationally, have been afforded the ability to compose this narrative which, I hope, is fairly easy to read.  

Ronald E. Hontz

33 Whitcraft Lane

Shrewsbury PA 17361

(717) 235-5791

cell phone (717) 309-1402

e-mail: Sweetvalleykid@gmail.com

 

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