How Jacob Kirsch Lost His Eye, 52 Ancestors #146

I already wrote about Jacob Kirsch in the article, Jacob Kirsch (1841-1917), Lynching Saloonist With a Glass Eye, but as you might have already guessed, some new and very interesting information has come to light. I not only want to document this portion of Jacob’s life – this man was anything but dull – but I want to share how I discovered this information with you. You may discover something very interesting too.

Jacob is Living in an Antique Shop

This entire chapter in Jacob’s ancestor journey started less than 10 days ago with a message from an Ancestry user, Linda. She didn’t match my DNA, but she had found something even more valuable. I know you don’t believe that I think anything is more valuable than DNA, but Linda had found a picture of my great-great-grandfather, Jacob Kirsch, taken in 1891.

jacob-kirsch-1891

Linda found this photo, plus one of Jacob’s daughter, Ida Kirsch Galbreath, in an antique shop in Brownstown, Indiana, about 70 miles west of Aurora, Indiana where Jacob lived.

ida-kirsch-galbreath

The photographs were not displayed together, but Linda took pictures of them with her phone and decided to see if she could find their family. All I can say is “bless you Linda.”

Fortunately, the names and in Ida’s case, her birth and death years were written on the front.

Linda, genealogy angel-in-human-form, went home and promptly got on Ancestry, found my tree, and sent me a message. Thankfully, I actually received the message too.

Within an hour, Linda had e-mailed me the pictures she had taken with her phone and I was frantically trying to find the phone number of the antique shop. The shop, it turns out, had changed owners, and names, and phone numbers. Linda went back, on my behalf, to find a current phone number. Talk about a genealogical act of kindness – times two.

The Missing Trapshooting Champion Article

Jacob Kirsch owned the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana and when I was researching for his article and that of his wife, Barbara Drechsel, I was very fortunate to meet a gal named Jenny who is associated with the Historical Society in Aurora. Jenny was immensely helpful, and we became friends, finding additional common ground in our genealogy work and quilting.

Sometime after I published Jacob’s original story, January 31, 2016, but several months ago, either Jenny or I made a discovery. I think Jenny made the discovery, but neither of us can find hide nor hair of this discovery now. To say I’m mad at myself would be a massive understatement.

One of us found an article about Jacob Kirsch being a champion trapshooter. We remarked that we were surprised, because Jacob was missing one eye. Not only did this (now missing) article say he was a champion, but his team won the tri-state championship. He was a member of the Cincinnati Gun Club.

I had no idea Jacob was a trapshooter until I saw that now-missing article. In fact, I didn’t really know what trapshooting was, and discovered that it’s competitive shooting with a shotgun at clay pigeons that are launched aerially. They used to use live birds released from “traps” which is how the name trapshooting originated.  In the late 1800s, glass balls and then clay pigeons replaced live birds, thankfully.

Jenny religiously reads the old newspapers from Aurora, Indiana, so I’m thinking she may have found that article there. It was clearly a newspaper article, and I remember seeing it.

When I saw Jacob’s photo, I immediately thought the photo had to be Jacob and his trapshooting gun, even though I’ve never seen a trapshooting gun.  I wanted to reread the article to verify what it said, but I couldn’t find that article.

I sent Jenny a note. She remembered, but she couldn’t find anything either. So both of us, the only two people who would have been remotely interested, have now come up entirely empty handed.

So either Jenny and I had coordinated dreams, or I’ve lost the article. How could that have happened given that Jenny and I e-mail and message – leaving a trail for both of us?

Re-Researching the Article

If that article could be found once, it could be found again. Or so I thought.

Jenny and I, last year, were discussing how we thought Jacob had lost his eye before the Civil War because Jacob’s obituary said he couldn’t pass the physical so he served in the Civil War as a cook and teamster instead of as a soldier.

We knew, beyond a doubt, from two people who had met him in person that he had a glass eye when he was an old man – and liked to pop it out and scare the local kids – who all came round the Kirsch House to watch him pop his eye out and run away screaming.  Jacob never disappointed them!

Can you tell which of his two eyes is the glass eye in this closeup of the 1891 picture?

jacob-1891-closeup

Even closer…

jacob-1891-very-close

I think it’s his left eye.  What do you think?

The fact that Jacob was missing an eye was one reason why I was initially surprised when that trapshooting championship article appeared, because I initially assumed that lack of two eyes would make someone a poor shot – or at least significantly challenged. And my presumption was that the military thought so too – given that he couldn’t pass his physical. Turns out I was wrong on both accounts.

Well, let me tell you what – presume and assume are one and the same. I don’t know why Jacob couldn’t pass his military physical, and now, I’m not sure that is even true – but I can tell you that it wasn’t because of his missing eye. Because Jacob’s eye wasn’t missing then.

How did I figure that out? I began with Google. I Googled a variety of terms, but finally “Jacob Kirsch Trapshooting Cincinnati” turned up a direct match…that sent me to Newspapers.com.

Newspapers.com is a subscription site. I’m not a subscriber – or I wasn’t. I am now.

There is nothing a genealogist won’t do to glean that tidbit, that sure thing, about an ancestor behind a paywall – especially at midnight when the only thing standing between them and their ancestor is a credit card number.

Found at Newspapers.com

Years ago, I was a Newspapers.com subscriber, and not once did I ever find anything useful. They kept telling me how many new newspapers they had brought online, but none of those mattered for my ancestors. I let my subscription lapse long ago.

However, Newspapers.com has imaged and indexed many new newspapers since then, including the major Cincinnati newspapers. Aurora, Indiana, where Jacob lived, is just a hop, skip and a jump from Cincinnati, 30 miles downtown to downtown, a short ride on the train – and the Kirsch House that Jacob owned was located beside the train depot. Today, Aurora is functionally a Cincinnati suburb with many commuting back and forth to work.

The first article I found indeed confirmed that I had not been dreaming that Jacob was a crack shot. In the following article published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jacob Kirsch, J. C. Small and H. Hill from Aurora were listed as a team in this national competition.

Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio – Monday, October 31, 1898

jacob-kirsch-1898-article

Ok, I’m redeemed and my sanity is still at least somewhat intact. I was feeling validated by now, my subscription justified, although that still isn’t the original article that told about Jacob winning a tri-state championship. Furthermore, I wondered about the outcome of this particular event.

I searched for the phrase “Cincinnati Gun Club” and the date of November, 1898.  I discovered that the surname OCR (optical character recognition) doesn’t always work.  However, I was able to find 2 or 3 articles about who won the competition.  Jacob Kirsch’s name was in the first article, but the OCR scanning hadn’t picked it up.

The first thing I discovered is that the club boasted that they had 2500 live pigeons in large cages, all of whom would be killed for this event – making it not a shooting competition, but a pointless blood sport.  The pigeons wouldn’t even be consumed, just used and discarded in a bloody mutilated pile – many probably not dead and still suffering.

This saddens me greatly.  Ironically, events like this are part of what led to the extinction of the passenger pigeon.  The last passenger pigeon, died, ironically, in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.  Wonderful, my ancestor directly participated in a species becoming extinct. Now there’s something to be proud of…

On Friday, Jacob Kirsch participated in Event #3 where there were 15 targets (meaning pigeons) and he placed 4th, hitting 12 of the birds.  I hope the other 3 flew far away and never returned.  Then, in Event #8, he placed third, hitting 8 of 10 pigeons.  On Saturday, he didn’t place at all.  I did notice that the purse was noted as $700 cash plus a silver trophy worth $300.  The entrance fee for each event was $1.50.

Learning that Jacob killed live birds for sport with no thought about the inhumanity of his actions certainly dampened and colored my perspective of his accomplishments. And this, even after he had been shot himself, so it’s certainly not like he didn’t know what it felt like. Yet, he continued and obviously enjoyed the carnage.

Regardless, I wanted to know about Jacob, and I’m learning – the positive and negative. It’s just not at all what I expected.

Utilize Different Search Criteria

Becoming frustrated and a bit disheartened, I changed my search criteria to “Indiana” instead of Cincinnati, Ohio and found this.

Indianapolis News – July 25, 1917, also the Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel – July 26, 1917

jacob-kirsch-trapshooter-death

There it is – the fact that they won the tri-state championship. This article from 1917 says that championship was more than 20 years ago. We know that event wasn’t the 1898 event at the Cincinnati Gun Club, so it must have been earlier.

Expand the Net

A little later (in the night, like about 3 AM) I decided to check one more thing. Just one more search and I’ll go to bed. That should be the genealogists’ rallying battle cry!

Jacob’s daughter, my great-grandmother, Nora Kirsch moved with her husband Curtis Benjamin Lore to Rushville, Indiana and I decided to search for the name Kirsch there. I mean, you never know…right?

Aug 22, 1889 – Rushville Republican, Rushville Indiana

jacob-kirsch-trumbower-shot

Ouch!!! I never expected to find anything like this. It makes sense that Jacob would have some sort of target practice available nearby…but at the hotel, beside the train depot with the passenger platform being between the Kirsch House and the depot building?

In the photo below, the Kirsch House (today) is the red building at right with the yellow sale or lease sign in the window and the refurbished depot can be seen at left. The old Kirsch House building is up against the property line on the right side, so the only location available to shoot would have been the garden area to the rear of the Kirsch House which is actually L shaped, between the depot and the Kirsch House.

jacob-kirsch-house-and-depot-area

The driveway area between the Kirsch House and the depot, at that time, was the platform where passengers waited to board the train and where merchandise was loaded and unloaded onto horse-drawn wagons. A busy place indeed with lots of activity.

In the satellite view below, you can see that the only place with any space for shooting would be the small area of grass immediately behind the L-shaped Kirsch House.

jacob-kirsch-house-depot-aerial

Shooting in that area doesn’t seem very safe to me. And apparently it wasn’t, although not dangerous to the people I expected.

I surely wonder if J. E. Trumbower died. The Indianapolis News carried an article too, but they only said Trumbower was shooting with a target rifle and inflicted a dangerous wound.

No wonder the Kirsch House is supposed to be haunted. Between this and Jacob’s son-in-law who intentionally shot (and killed) himself in the courtyard area behind the hotel on Halloween night.

More Tidbits

A thorough examination of every single Kirsch, Kirch, Kirsh match in the Cincinnati papers revealed more interesting tidbits about Jacob’s life.  By the way, newspapers spell horribly – just FYI.

Cincinnati Daily Star – November 5, 1879

Miss Mary Cramnier of St. Louis, sister of Jacob Kirsch, of the Kirsch House and of Mrs. Koehler, of Lawrenceburg, who came to attend the funeral of Martin Koehler, will be a guest of relatives for two weeks.

Jacob’s sister, Mary, came home for the funeral of their brother-in-law. Martin Koehler was married to Katharina Barbara Kirsch, Jacob’s sister. I have already confirmed that Mary Kirsch Cramer/Kramer and Katharina Barbara Kirsch Koehler were Jacob’s sisters, but at one time, I would have willingly bled for this information.

Cincinnati Daily Star – March 24, 1880

Jacob Kirsch, of the Kirsch House is a candidate for Councilman in the First Ward.

Cincinnati Daily Star – Thursday Evening, May 6, 1880

jacob-kirsch-john-dreckler

This very short newspaper entry in which Drechsel or Drexler is misspelled as Dreckler answers a very long-standing question. John is the brother of Jacob Kirsch’s wife, Barbara. John was born in 1856 and we find him on early census records, but then he disappears. He was 23 when he died. I wonder where he is buried. And I wonder why his parents didn’t bring him back to Aurora for the funeral and burial. So many unanswered questions. Furthermore, why weren’t his parents or sisters listed in the article? Surely John’s parents and sisters attended his funeral, along with Jacob and Barbara. They would likely have ridden the train from Aurora together.

Unfortunately, John Drechsel is the only male to carry the Drechsel Y DNA, so this article confirms that I can stop looking for his line with the hopes of Y DNA testing.  This Y line is now dead to us, barring an unforeseen discovery back in Germany.

Cincinnati Daily Star – Wednesday Evening, March 24, 1880

Aurora, Indiana – Jacob Kirsch of the Kirsch House is a candidate for Councilman in the Third Ward.

I had no idea Jacob was politically involved. Not only that, but according to this next article, Jacob was a Democrat. And look, Jacob’s shooting buddy, Joe Small was a Republican. Some of this commentary about “municipal muttons” leads one to believe politics might not have changed a lot since then.

Cincinnati Enquirer – Sunday, June 5, 1881, page 12

jacob-kirsch-1881-article

Just look at this next tidbit.

March 3, 1887 – Indianapolis News

jacob-kirsch-1887-article

As luck would have it, I discovered a newspaper article in Aurora when I visited in the 1980s about this lynching, but just imagine if I had never known. Furthermore, given that Jacob held political office – this would have been even extra juicy and newsworthy.

Why, oh why, cannot the Aurora newspaper be indexed at Newspapers.com?????

Imagine what else we might find.

August 7, 1905 – Daily Republican, Rushville, Indiana

Miss Ida Kirsch who has been the guest of Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Lore returned home today to Aurora, Indiana.

Nora’s sister, Ida, whose photo was found in the antique shop with Jacob’s, went visiting. Ida would have been 29 years old and she wasn’t married. An “old maid” in the terms of the day. However, her labor and presence would have been very valuable to her mother at the Kirsch House. She was a much beloved family member and lived until 1966, age 90.  I never heard anyone say one negative thing about “Aunt Ida.”  Quite the opposite, actually.

May 10, 1907 – Daily Republican, Rushville, Indiana

Jacob Kirsch of Aurora, who has been here this week at the home of his daughter, Mrs. C. B. Lore and family, of West Second Street, returned home yesterday.

These articles generally say “Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kirsch” if the wife is along, so I suspect Barbara stayed home to run the Kirsch House while Jacob visited, or perhaps Jacob chaperoned the Lore granddaughters on a return trip home. According to the Rushville paper, the Lore granddaughters visited their grandparents in Aurora quite often. I know my grandmother, Edith Lore, was very close to her grandparents and spent a lot of time at the Kirsch House.

The Rushville paper, which has been indexed by Newspapers.com, has a quite healthy social section that told who was visiting whom, and from where. According to the numerous listings involving the Lore family, only one makes mention of Jacob visiting. I would wager that it was difficult for him to get away from the Kirsch House for any extended period of time.

This visit occured right after his son-in-law, Curt Lore, had typhoid and was not expected to live. Perhaps Jacob visited Curt to share his wisdom about survival against all odds.

The Bombshell

Then, this bombshell, a “special dispatch,” caused me to inhale sharply and catch my breath.

Cincinnati Enquirer Friday Morning – October 28, 1892

jacob-kirsch-shot-in-face

This was just so difficult to read. It has a ring of disbelief, given that Jacob is my ancestor, and I never knew about this. An event that disfigured Jacob, nearly killed him and literally blew his eye out – and my mother never heard this story? Jacob’s granddaughter, Edith Lore, who lived at the Kirsch House while she was attending business school in Cincinnati was my mother’s mother.  My grandmother’s sister, Jacob’s granddaughter Eloise Lore lived until well after I was an adult and helped me with my genealogy – and she either never knew this story or never thought to mention it. Maybe she thought it was common knowledge and everyone already knew.  I surely didn’t.

I was dumbstruck.

This story has even more implications from subtle messages, after one recovers from the initial shock.

  • This article entirely negates the theory of Jacob losing his eye as a child and not being able to fight in the Civil War because he was blind in one eye.
  • Did you notice how they referred to Jacob? Captain. This is the one and only time I have ever seen this, but it strongly suggests military service. In fact, they refer to him that way twice.
  • Jacob’s wife filed for a widow’s Civil War Pension after Jacob died in 1917 and swore he had served. She would have had first hand knowledge as she knew him at the time. They married in 1866.
  • Perhaps this reference, in addition to the information in the Civil War pension application helps to validate Jacob’s Civil War service.
  • This article also says that Jacob had won many valuable prizes through his marksmanship. Surely he would never been able to shoot again, if he even lived, which was clearly doubtful at the time.
  • But Jacob did live, until 1917 when he died of stomach cancer.
  • In the antique shop photo, I was just sure that Jacob’s left eye was the glass eye, because it looks “funny” in the photo.
  • But guess what, the antique shop picture was taken in 1891 and Jacob lost his eye in 1892, so the antique shop photo precedes his devastating accident.  Yes, that question I asked you about whether or not you could tell which eye was glass in the 1891 photo was a trick. (Sorry.)  However, I surely thought the glass eye was his left one before I discovered that he hadn’t lost his eye until the following year  This illustrates how easily we can see something we’re looking for – even if it isn’t there.
  • Even more remarkable, Jacob not only recovered, but it was AFTER this accident that he won the tri-state championship, assuming that the “more than 20 years ago” comment in his 1917 death announcement wasn’t actually more than 25 years before.
  • Regardless of when he won the tri-state championship (yes, I’m still mad at myself about that article being missing), he was clearly able to participate in the 1898 Cincinnati Gun Club national event as part of the team representing Aurora – so he certainly was still a good shot even though he didn’t win – 6 years after this devastating accident that resulting in him losing his eye. That’s amazing!

There is only one reasonable photo of Jacob after this time, and it’s one of two photos taken the same day.

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

One photo is a group family picture (above) which helps to date the event, and the second, a closer photo of just Jacob and wife Barbara is shown below.

Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel

One can’t really see Jacob’s face well, although you can tell that his eyes don’t look the same. I’m guessing that his left eye is the glass eye, but it’s really difficult to tell – and yes, I’m positive this was taken after the accident. No trick, I promise.

closeup-of-jacob-kirschThis photo was taken after Jacob’s youngest granddaughters were born in 1899 and 1903, probably after Jacob’s brother who lived with them died in 1905 (since he’s absent in the family photo) and before Jacob’s son-in law, Curt Lore (present in the family photo) became ill in early 1909 and died in November, so sometime between 1905 and late 1908, probably 1907 or 1908 based on the apparent age of the youngest child. More than a dozen years after Jacob’s accident.

The accident must have surely disfigured Jacob’s face badly, with a blast powerful enough to remove his eye and affect the jugular vein area – both. I’m surprised he didn’t bleed to death. Amazingly enough, his obituary never mentioned this accident, nor his trapshooting – even though his death notice in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne papers only mentioned his fame as a trapshooter.

I marvel sometimes at the things about our ancestors lives that would be so fascinating…if we only knew them.

That Danged Article

I do not want to even admit this, but ahem….look what I found…just after I finished all this research.

The Hamilton Ohio Evening Journal – July 25, 1917

Jacob Kirsch death

Yep, that’s the original article – you know, the one I couldn’t find. It was, um, errrr, let’s just say hiding in plain sight. However, had I not been desperately searching for this doggone slippery article online again (where I never did find it), I wouldn’t have found any of this additional information about Jacob, his wife’s brother’s death, Jacob’s public service, his political party affiliation, his bloody hobby or how he lost his eye.

And it all started with Linda’s genealogical act of kindness and two photos in an antique shop.  Thank you so much, Linda!!!

20 thoughts on “How Jacob Kirsch Lost His Eye, 52 Ancestors #146

  1. A good lesson to never give up hope! I keep hoping someone in the Canton, Ohio area will find a labeled photo of my grandmother in an antique shop…
    For what it’s worth, I think Jacob’s left eye looks nearly identical in the before and after photos, but his right eye does not. Hard to tell, though, because of irregularities in the photo just around his right eye.

  2. Roberta,

    I love newspapers for the “extra” info that they provide. I prefer GenealogyBank.com for ease of searching newspapers- indexed! I gave up my subscription to Newspapers.com but after reading this, might go back. Although, I suspect it might lead to 3 a.m. searches.

    Winnie

    >

  3. I thought left eye, too, from looking at the first picture! Also, I understand the concept of “missing in plain sight” since I am over 60! 🙂

  4. Roberta … just a note. If you would like to explore Jacob’s trapshooting history a bit more, you might check with the Amateur Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame. They have lots of records, etc. Contact them at staff@traphof.org or their website at http://www.traphof.org.

    I’m a trapshooter as well as loving genealogy and DNA testing. If you’d like to visit more about the history of trapshooting, including Live birds, I’ll be happy to share my knowledge.

    Liz Christensen

    • Thank you Liz. I just sent them an e-mail with the hope that they have some additional information about Jacob. Unfortunately I didn’t find this organization when I was googling and doing the research about Jacob. Thanks much for the info.

  5. We’re hearing more and more about people finding things at tag sales, flea markets, or consignment shops, and searching for the family they originated from. I did it once with a framed caricature I discovered about a professor’s career. It was a retirement gift to a faculty member of a New England university who had since died, and the family no longer wanted it.. The university’s alumni association purchased it from the seller to add to their archives.

  6. This is an interesting update! Even though the info is rather trivial, it really gives some color to the life of an ancestor.

    Roberta: “He (John Drechsel) was 23 when he died. I wonder where he is buried. And I wonder why his parents didn’t bring him back to Aurora for the funeral and burial.”

    Because his pregnant wife wanted him close. OK, wishful thinking, A shame the last hope for a y-DNA provider die with this report, but better than looking for something which doesn’t exist anymore.

    As for captain Kirsch, could he just have been captain of the shooting club? Which doesn’t mean he was in the military, but maybe the title is unrelated.

  7. I have been receiving DNAeXplained emails and have never read any of the articles sent until this one caught my “eye”. Your writing is very clever and engaging, and I had to read all of your article. It was fun to read how simple life was back then in terms of communication. People must have wait with baited breath for any newspaper to arrive, and any news was good news.

    Thank you for this. I would love to find anything about my family when they lived in Hungary.

    Margaret Dingley Lusko (I am on Ancestry.com)

  8. I thought it was his left eye, as did my husband. So, a good twist to your story. I’m sure sorry he had such a terrible accident, that sounds dreadful and amazing that he lived for so many years following it.

  9. Roberta, You make me laugh big time. (and that is a good thing) I am so impressed with your
    photograph angel. It is depressing how many relatives refuse to share family pictures or pretend that they don’t have them. I continue to take the high road and offer digitals to anyone who wants them and hope that this sharing will encourage others. Bill

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