We Were Here

Stacey Schoonover
Unknown Publication Date
by Konrad Stump, contributing writer to The Logan Daily News

I volunteer with the Athens County History Society & Museum a couple days a week, and this past week the curator approached me with a memorial photograph of a young boy. Today, people would find these photographs morbid, but I think they are courageous. On the back of the photograph was written: "Stacey Lee Schoonover was born May 24, 1905. Died May 23, 1912. Buried May 25. Was just in his casket 24 of May, 7 years. He is gone but never will be forgotten, a kind & loving child & was loved by all who knew him." It's so seldom that old photographs have any identification on them, and I started to wonder about the story behind Stacey Schoonover. How did he die? What happened to his family in the aftermath? How did this photograph end up at the historical society? These are all questions that have weighed heavy on my mind for the past week, and I can get some semblance of Stacey's life. Stacey and his family were not from Hocking County, but their story is one that deserves to be told.
Stacey's parents were Nathan and Bertha (Brooks) Schoonover. They had been married on May 21, 1897, in Athens. Bertha was only 16 at the time. They made their home in Chauncey, Bertha being a homemaker, and Nathan working as a coal miner, it being the most common form of employment at the time. For the first few years of their marriage they lived alone; it wasn't until May 2, 1902 that they welcomed their first child, Harley. Stacey didn't come along for another three years. Their last child, a girl named Forest , arrived on Jul. 18, 1911, less than a year before Stacey's death. According to Nathan's obituary, he was well known and active in the Chauncey community. At the time of Stacey's death, the family was planning on moving to Logan, being so far along in the process as to have their household belongings packed. The night Stacey died, Nathan was in Logan, presumably preparing to make a new home there.
According to newspaper reports, Bertha had been preparing dinner and wanted a chicken killed. Stacey called that he would kill the chicken, and went to get his father's gun. Harley, presumably also wanted to be the one to kill the chicken, tried to get the gun away from Stacey. They wrestled on the floor, and the gun was accidentally discharged. For a while, it seemed as though nothing was wrong, but then it was noticed that his clothing had caught fire where the bullet entered. A doctor was called, but it was deemed hopeless to take him to a hospital. He was buried at Nye Cemetery, in Chauncey, the paper reporting that hundreds of people turned out for his funeral. There is no stone to mark his grave.
What became of the family? How did the loss of Stacey ultimately affect their lives? Sadly, the death of Stacey would not be the last tragedy they would endure. We know that they did not end up moving to Logan. At some point after Stacy's death the family moved to Union township, in Morgan County. Nathan became a farmer. As I mentioned, his obituary suggested that he was well-known and well-liked in the Chauncey area while the family lived there. However, his obituary also states that he was subject to mad fits and had terrorized his family on numerous occasions. In the early morning hours of Nov. 12, 1919, Harley and Nathan had been working in the barn, when something transpired between. According to one report, Nathan stabbed Harley with a pitchfork, and was threatening to kill the family. Fearing for his life, Harley ran into the house, where his mother, sister, uncle, and maternal grandmother also were. Harley got his father's gun and shot him twice, killing him. According to Nathan's death certificate, the shooting had been regarded as being in self-defense, and Harley was still living with his mother and sister in the 1920 federal census, so it can be assumed he was never held accountable by the courts. What happened between Harley and his father? What drove Nathan over the edge? We will probably never know. All we can do is gage what became of the family.
In 1920 they were still living on the farm. Bertha was overseeing the work, while Harley and another young man, Howard Sauer, were tending to the farming. Bertha ended up marrying Howard, though by his death in an auto accident in 1942 he was married to another woman. Bertha remarried as well, dying as Bertha Ross on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 1950. She was buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, in Nelsonville, and does have a stone. What became of Harley, and of Forest? At the time of Bertha's death, they were both living in Athens County, but Harley died in California in 1971, and Forest died in Columbiana County in 1996. She had married Thomas Young before 1934, because that year they also lost a child, a one-day old infant named Louis Ray. He is buried at Greenlawn, possibly near his grandmother, though he does not have a stone. Perhaps Forest, or one of her children, brought the photograph of Stacy to the historical society, hoping to to preserve the memory of the brother who didn't live long enough for her to remember.
Reprinted here with the permission of the author, Konrad Stump.

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