After DNA testing indicated that I and other family members of the Harry Emerson Knittle family had no connections to any Knittles beyond Harry and many people with the Fay name or Fay connections did connect to us, Rachel Rhodes and I decided to follow the DNA. It led us to John Henry Fay. The following is some of the information we used to piece it together. Rachel did an excellent job of researching and putting these puzzle pieces into place. (Thank you Rachel!!) Documents, certificates, newspaper stories, city directories and more are interspersed in the article below.
January 14, 2020
Rachel wrote to tell me that she thought that one of William Fay and Catherine Miller’s children could be the parent of Harry. They moved from Cambria County, Pennsylvania to Lycoming County, Pennsylvania sometime between 1880 and 1890. So, the time frame definitely seemed to fit. She sent a list of Fay descendants and the amount of DNA that her half brother Matt shared with each one. I checked and my own DNA amounts against the list and discovered I was about twice what Matt’s amounts were. That was because I was a generation above, or closer to the Harry than Matt.
So based on all of the William Fay’s children and their DNA amounts, it appeared the descendants of John Henry Fay were more closely related.
She sent along a few facts about John Henry Fay: He married Hannah Sarah Lloyd Aiken on 12 Mar 1888. They had a daughter, Elsie V. Fay born 15 Oct 1887 (sometimes went by Elsie Beck, her step-father's last name). John then married Minerva Page on 13 Mar 1891. It was noted that John and Minerva (his second wife) also had a daughter named Elsie V. Fay, she was born 7 Apr 1894. John Henry Fay was married two times and had two daughters that he named Elsie V. Fay! Few Fay anscestors are aware of this. Harry Emerson Knittle was born between the two marriages in 1890. The following is the marriage certificate naming John Henry Fay and Hannah as her parents.
Elsie married Olie Roscoe Haines:
January 16, 2020
Rachel sent a timeline for John Fay…His father William first shows up in Williamsport on the city directory in 1881. John himself is first listed on the directory in 1886, living on Wyoming at Charles Street.
Soon John H Fay runs off to Blair County, his daughter Elsie is born 15 Oct 1887 in Roaring Spring, Blair County, Pennsylvania (per the SS Death Index). (Elsie married Olie Roscoe Haines...document above) Then in January 1888 this article appears in the paper:
Another article appears in the March 1888 paper. The article made it sound like they were in a hurry to get married, which was probably because he was trying to avoid the charges against him:
They soon divorced or separated and John Henry Fay is back in the Williamsport directory in 1889 living on George Street. Sarah Weasner was living with her mother Margaret on Charles Street in 1889. They were just two short blocks away from each other. We know that Harry was born in August of 1890.
Map of the neighborhood that John H Fay, Sarah Weasner and Emerson and Sophia Knittle lived in in 1889.
He marries Minerva Page 13 Mar 1891 in Lock Haven.
I found and sent more information back to Rachel.
John H. Fay’s obituary on Find-a Grave: Gazette & Bulletin Dec 26 1945:
"John H Fay, 81, 1819 Meade Street, died at his home on Monday. survivors are two sons, Charles of this city and Alvin of New Jersey, Three daughters Mrs. Ella Guthrie, Mrs. Mabel Chase and Mrs. Elsa Shields, a sister Mrs. Ida Keiser and a brother William of this city."
I noticed his daughters...."Mrs Ella Guthrie." (This is Gail's line) and "Mrs Ida Keiser" (This is Michael's line). (This is not new information but seeing it in the obituary with our new information, brings it full circle.)
I, for a few years, had been researching the Guthrie line since I found so many connections there. I believed at that point that we had found Harry's father...it just may be John H Fay!! With his history and the timing and where everyone lived (We had discovered that all of the players in this story lived within a few blocks of each other in the same neighborhood, Many of these families had intermarried.)
It all made sense!! The puzzle pieces seemed to fall into place.
Also, Grandpa (Harry Emerson) was called a ‘womanizer’ by my father. The story is, that while Grandma was caring for the children (13), he was out running around with other women and not providing, as he should have (that is partly why my Dad sent most of his money home to Grandma after he left home for the following 10 years). I remember when he died in 1975, I asked my Dad if he was going to the funeral, he said, "No, he was a "womanizer" and didn't treat my mother right. I don't want to go." I was surprised, because I had never heard that from him before. It was my mother who told me about it years before and Grandma had told her...Like father, like son? Also, not well known in that one of Dad's brothers, spent time in prison for some kind of sex crimes (He died very young after getting out of prison, when he was hit by a car. I never met him and he never married.) Was this passed on to one of Harry's sons also?
I found this as well:
Pennsylvania, Prison, Reformatory, and Workhouse Records 1829-1971 for John Fay. This was in 1894 at the Allegheny County Workhouse. (He was sentenced to hard labor for 30 days. I am not sure why he was sent there, but it seemed to be for attacking someone?) This document described him as having a light complexion with brown hair and blue eyes. He was 5’4” tall and weighed 140 lbs.
Pennsylvania, Prison, Reformatory, and Workhouse Records 1829-1971 for John Fay. This was in 1894 at the Allegheny County Workhouse.
Rachel and I shared several phone calls in which we shared more information, ideas and compared notes. At this point we were fairly sure that John Henry Fay was Harry Emerson Knittle’s father, so now we wanted to find his mother. It seemed that the story of Harry’s adoption must be true. We also had questions about how other names fit into this family. There were the Weasners, Strykers and more.
I told Rachel about the story that my father’s mother told my mother. Harry was adopted but his real mother was a family member, a Knittle, so he was really still a Knittle. We were sure that we would find his mother was in the Williamsport, Lycoming County area. I could never find any truth to the story.
At this point, I had mapped out my DNA connection numbers with Gail and Michael (relatives of John Henry Fay) and they work out about right for John's connection to us.
January 18. 2020
In a phone call, I told Rachel about a story my father told me when I was growing up. It seemed to possibly hold the clues we may need to solve this mystery. I remember Dad going to great lengths to spell out the name Clush and telling me this story many times.
When my dad was about 3 or 4 years old, his mother took him on the train to Baltimore, Maryland. His ‘Uncle’ William Clush was there in a military hospital, Fort McHenry, after having been gassed in WWI. His gas mask had failed. He was recuperating, but had been told that he would die in ten years from the effects of the gas in his lungs. Dad’s mother and father had named him after William Clush, his supposed uncle. She wanted William to meet his little nephew and namesake.
After years of researching the Clush family, I could only find a connection that made William Clush my father’s distant cousin and not an uncle. I assumed that they just referred to him as an uncle. We knew that Harry was an only child so William could not be his brother. And all of Grandma’s siblings were accounted for and not named Clush. What was true was that Harry’s mother and William Clush’s mother, were half sisters. William’s mother was Sarah Weasner. Sophia Sponhouse, Sarah Weasner’s half sister was, Harry’s mother. Sophia and Sarah’s mother, Margaret Fredericks, was married twice. Her first husband, Sophia’s father Herman Sponhouse, had killed himself in 1870. Then she married George Weasner and had three more children, one being Sarah Weasner, before George died of lockjaw after stepping on a nail. This was such a tragic story for everyone involved; the children, their mother and both husbands.
That night I realized that we still had very close DNA connections to several other families especially the Gephart and Eakin lines. I thought that it might be that one of those families was connected to either Harry or William Clush or that Sarah may be the mother of both, though I had searched that idea many times over the years. It was the only way that Harry and William could be brothers. I could never find the truth.
The Strykers were also showing as closely related to us through Augusta Sponehouse. She was married to a James Stryker. James is the son of Joseph Henry Stryker who was married to Mary Emma Day. This same Mary is Mary Stryker who is found married to Enos Cook in the 1880 Census next door to Emerson and Sophia on Wyoming St. Two more doors down are Isaac Pierce and Frances Mallen, grandparents of E Eakin, who was our closest DNA connection.
January 21, 2020
This was the day the entire mystery was solved thanks to Rachel. She sent me a message with information that changed my life forever. She found the baptismal record for Harry Emerson ‘Weasner.’ The parents were listed as? for the father and Sarah Weasner as the mother. Mrs Knittle (obviously Sophia Knittle) was listed as the sponsor. The date of birth was 5 Aug 1890, the same birthday as Harry Emerson Knittle.
I had been right. Sarah Weasner was the mother of Harry Emerson Knittle. That made Harry’s adopted mother, actually his aunt.
This answered many questions about the DNA. Some of the families who should have been more closely related were not and others who should not have been were actually much closer.
The information has always been there, we just had to know what to look for!
Baptismal record for Harry Emerson ‘Weasner.’ The parents were listed as ? for the father and Sarah Weasner as the mother.
Rachel and I decided we were quite a team and wondered what other mysteries we could solve!
Then Rachel on a hunch, searched for the baptismal record for William Weasner and found the following:
Baptismal record for William Weasner
William David Weasner b. 14 Mar 1895, son of Sarah Elizabeth Weasner and David Meyers. The record indicated that William Weasner was born out of wedlock. This is the same birth date as William Clush.
William David Meyers became William David Clush after Sarah married Jonathan Clush when William was five years old. Jonathan either adopted him or changed his name sometime after they were married in 1900.
We now had proof that Sarah Weasner was the mother of both Harry Emerson Knittle and William David Clush and we had the name of William Clush’s real father. They were half brothers, making William Clush my father’s uncle, just as he had told me. The information was there the entire time!!!! We just had to know how to look for it!!!
After seeing both records and seeing that Sarah had named David Meyers as William’s father, we have to assume that she either did not know the name of Harry’s father, due to possible rape or she was afraid to tell for some reason. She was only 15 when she got pregnant with Harry. John Henry Fay was nearly 10 years older. This must have been quite a scandal at that time period.
It was amazing how we were able to put the DNA results together with the family stories and were then able to finally discover the correct documents and records to uncover and solve this family mystery.
The DNA backed up as well, the matches to descendants of Margaret Fredericks - through Augusta Sponhouse Stryker, as well as one of Margaret's son's (Herman).
It is amazing how we were able to help lead each other in the right direction!
January 22, 2020
I changed my Tree on Ancestry.com to show Harry Emerson’s parents as Sarah Elizabeth Weasner and John Henry Fay. I made Emerson Ellsworth Knittle and Sophia Sponehouse as his ‘adopted’ parents. Within a few days the correct information fell into place in the tree, and the Fay family members began to show up as DNA family members correctly as well as the Weasners, Strykers and more.
January 23, 2020
Rachel and I continued to research to look for more proof and information. She found George Weasner's death notice in the newspaper – lockjaw, what a horrible way to die. The article was dated 12 Nov 1877 and says he died "early yesterday". George was Sarah Weasner's father. She was only about 2 or three when he died.
We discovered more information on a few of the other lines that we are not sure how they connect. More information that can clear up issues about Frances Ellen or Anita Mallen can be found at these trees:
I found out that Frances first married John Power Eakin. He died in 1830. All the years they were married his brother, Jay Eakin lived with them (Must have been because the father had built the house as described in the newspaper clipping. Francis and John had John Joseph first, who was born and died in 1811 after 7 days of pneumonia. Then they had Paul J (turns out to be adopted from an orphanage in Scranton) who died in 1973. Then they had Earnest Franklin, 8 years later (and may have also been adopted), who married Marion L Gephart, and who passed away May 4, 2020 at age 99. After her husband John died of cancer of the gall bladder in 1930, Frances then married his brother Jay. They were married until he died in 1945. Frances and Earnest and his family continued to live in the house. This was/is at 320 Beech Street in South Williamsport and Ernest lived there until his death. Earnest is more closely related to us than anyone else. We are still trying to solve the mystery of how he is related to us, but he connects with other Fays, so we think he may have been adopted also and belongs to the Fay family as well.
Jan 27, 2020
I contacted a few of the Fay descendants with DNA connected to Matt and me.
Mike K wrote me back. He wanted to help us figure it all out. He says he loves a good mystery! I told him that John Henry Fay looks like our most likely connection. His great grandmother was John Henry Fay’s sister.
I continued to keep searching and looking for more information.
I have continued to wonder if perhaps Frances Ellen Mallen could be a Fay as well. I found her baptismal certificate with Henry Mallen listed as her father, but who knows? I have been wondering the same thing about E Eakins from another line, maybe Pierce? EE seems to line up with the Fays.
Mike contacted me again. His cousin also wants to help. He told him that everyone in that neighborhood intermarried! He was actually raised in the house at 1131 George St.!! That is how he knew that everyone was intermarried.
Jan 28, 2020
It was amazing to see all of the names showing up now that I have updated/added the new names and changed the relationship of the Weasners! It looks like we are correct about John Henry Fay and, of course; the Weasners we knew for sure would connect.
June 22, 2020*****
After seeing the photo of Ida Mae Fay, the younger sister of John Henry Fay (I have been unable to find a photo of John Henry Fay). I have been going through photos of my family members. The resemblence is uncanny, and very revealing. If anyone doubts the connection of our Harry Emerson Knittle's family to the Fay family, they need only look at and compare the following photos, as well as the DNA and documentation.
William Fay with his daughter Ida Mae Fay. Father and sister of John Henry Fay.
Ida Mae Fay sister of John Henry Fay and aunt of Harry Emerson Knittle.
Harry Emerson Knittle Fay Son of John Henry
Fay and nephew of Ida Mae Fay.
Anna Mary Knittle Fay daughter of Harry Emerson Knittle Fay
Harry Theodore Knittle Fay son of
Harry Emerson Knittle Fay
William Joseph Knittle Fay son of Harry Emerson
Knittle Fay and my father
William Joseph Knittle Fay
Robery Henry Knittle Fay son of Harry Emerson Knittle Fay
Catherine S Knittle Fay daughter of Harry Emerson Knittle Fay
Edward Leroy Knittle Fay son of Harry Emerson Knittle Fay
The three above photos are of grandson and great grandsons of William Joseph Knittle Fay
A comparison of older photos of William Joseph Knittle Fay and Ida Mae Fay his great aunt
Brothers Ed, Bob, Bill and Gene in later years
Fay Photographs shared on Ancestry
mk15412 originally on 28 Nov 2015
BryanL19 originally on 29 Dec 2013