My maternal grandmother’s people came from Ohio. Here for the first time is my great great grandfather Charles August Rohde, Buckeye born and Buckeye bred. He’s my mom’s mother’s paternal grandfather.
I’m tempted to stop there, since I know only the merest facts about the man. We don’t even know what his birthdate was. Family history says that Charles was born in Cleveland in 1866 and died on 23 April 1948, and we know his parents were German immigrants John and Frederica Rohde. One of Charles’ sons, Clarence, wrote that he remembered his grandmother Frederica saying that she and John came from the Strelitz area of Mecklenburg on Germany’s jagged north coast. (Frederica or Fredericka’s maiden name is sometimes written Degner and sometimes Daugner and she is also known as Johanna Frederica.) John and Frederica, and apparently also John’s brother August, came to America shortly before 1865 and settled with friends in Cleveland.
I don’t have any proof but it makes sense that the above photo was taken on Charles’ farm in or just outside Brunswick in Medina County. He looks as though he had only paused for a moment in his routine of daily chores to allow someone to capture his image for all time. In his overalls. I love this kind of raw, honest photo. Below is a second photo of him that shows his face a bit more clearly. The source of my grandmother Wilma (Rohde) Dowell’s high cheekbones is evident here.
The second photo is so similar to the first that you might imagine that they depict the same event and that the photographer just moved closer in and snapped again. But in the second photo the top button of Charles’ shirt is fastened, and the day seems overcast. It also seems as though Charles is older in the second one, but both photos are undated and it’s beyond me to guess at his age in either. His face looks to me to be tanned and polished with the weathering of years working outside.
Clarence’s written account states that John and Frederica had several children who died young, but that Charles had two brothers, Will and Otto, and a sister he does not name. If the Federal Census of 1880 is to be believed, Will must have been August (perhaps August William?), who was a year older than Charles. Otto was a year younger than Charles. The sister was Louise, who was seven years older than August.
In Cleveland, according to Clarence, his father’s family lived on what was then called Petroleum Street (the census bears this out), which he says later became Parafine Street, in the neighborhood around Scranton Avenue (I found a map from 1874 that shows both Mechanic and Parafine streets at right angles to each other; that avatar of Mechanic Street became West 17th St., although I suppose it’s possible that the Rohde’s lived on what is now Parafine Avenue and that an earlier map would show that street as an extension of Mechanic Street). Charles attended nearby Tremont School (the original 1870s school, not the 20th century replacement that’s still standing today). He left high school to become an apprentice in the machinist’s trade.
In 1885 or 1886, Charles married Elizabeth Woike, daughter of John and Regina Woike. Charles and Elizabeth had five sons and a daughter, Charlotte. The sons were William Carl (my great grandfather), John Henry, Walter, Clarence, and Robert.
The 1900 census lists Charles as a machinist living with his wife and children in Cleveland at 935 Denison Avenue. I think by that time Charles’ parents had long since moved out of the city and bought their farm northeast of Brunswick’s town center. I believe I know precisely where that farm was, but I don’t know where Charles and Elizabeth’s was. They followed John and Frederica to Brunswick in 1904, according to a 1949 newspaper article about Elizabeth. The 1910 census lists them as farmers there.
Charles’ obituary in 1948 said that he died in his home northeast of Brunswick. His son Clarence became another Brunswick farmer and “in the 1920s”, Clarence says, “I built up a town route to sell our farm produce and my father used to go along and help me locate old friends and relatives. In this way I got to know the family history quite well.” – mdf
Image archive IDs:
Top image: 20150801_015_charles_august_rohde
Bottom image: 20150801_021_c_a_rohde
About the physical photographs:
Top photo: Pencil (probably the hand of Edna May Rohde) “Grandpa Rohde”
Bottom photo: Pencil (probably the hand of Edna May Rohde) “Grandpa Rohde”
Both loose, from collection of Barbara Fleagle.