Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ralph Waldo Ogden

My dad and his dad James Quincy Davis were storytellers.  We used to kid my dad about the stories he told us over and over again.  One sad story passed from Grandpa Davis to my dad and then to my sister, brother, and me was the story of the tragic death of Ralph Waldo Ogden.

Ralph Waldo Ogden was born December 17, 1907 in Pike Township, Brown County, Ohio to Santford Morton and Bessie Ralston Ogden.  Santford was the son of my second great-grandparents Santford and Sarah Steward Ogden and brother of my great-grandmother Rosa Ogden Davis.  On June 4, 1908, Bessie died and Waldo was sent to live with Rosa and her family.  My grandpa was a little over a year older than Waldo. My dad said that grandpa referred to Waldo as his “little half-brother.”   At the time of the 1910 census, Waldo was living with the Davis family, while his older siblings, Ivah, Paul, and Sarah were living with Santford and his second wife, Lucinda.  By 1920, Waldo was living with his father again.
I have often wondered about Waldo’s name.  It seems unlikely that the Methodist Ogdens were admirers of Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose religious views were a considered radical in his time.  Perhaps they just liked the name.

I wish I knew more about Waldo than how he died.  I know from his obituary (I only have a clipping, so I don’t know the source) that he was a member of the Mt. Nebo Methodist Episcopal Church and "active in church work."  He was a junior at Clark Township High School in Brown County at the time of his death.  The obituary described him as "thoughtful" and "earnest."

The story passed down in my family was that grandpa and Waldo were out hunting one night.  They “treed a ‘coon,” Waldo climbed into the tree, and fell, causing his death. 
A distant cousin told me she spoke to several people who related a similar story.  A group of boys were out one night and “treed a ‘coon.”  (It’s interesting that the same terminology was used by both sources.)  The boys didn’t have guns and Waldo climbed the tree to try to catch the raccoon.  The raccoon attacked Waldo and he fell out of the tree.

According to his obituary, Waldo died the morning after his fall, on November 23, 1924.  The obituary doesn’t give details about how he died, except that “on the last evening of his life while engaged in boyish sport, he received a dangerous fall.”  The obituary states that he was still conscious when his father reached his side, but died a few hours later.
Ralph Waldo Ogden was buried in Warner Cemetery in Brown County, Ohio on November 25, 1924.

I am intrigued by people in my family tree who had no descendants, like Waldo, my maternal grand-uncle Lewis Dudley, my great grand-uncle also named Lewis Dudley, and the many “maiden aunts” I have discovered.  I hope that others are intrigued as well.  I may not be directly descended from these people, but they were part of my ancestors’ lives and each person has a story that needs to be shared and preserved. 

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