A Story Old as Time

It’s a common tale, one I’m sure you’ve heard before.

A young woman marries and quickly discovers her new husband is a drunken, abusive lout and not the loving partner she believed him to be.

They have children. Perhaps the woman finds hope in the idea the additional responsibilities will settle him, but instead, the abuse worsens. At times, things get so bad she must seek shelter for herself and her three small children with family and friends.

The years pass until one night her husband becomes violent again, this time over a minor remark.

Once more, she flees with her children.

A fight ensues, a gun appears, and the story ends, as such tales often do, in death.

Yes, the story is common, and old as the hills, but this time, it’s the narrative of my 3x great grandfather’s brother (my 4x great uncle?), Andrew Keplar and his daughter, whom he died defending in 1871.

I stumbled across the incident in History of Summit County, With an Outline Sketch of Ohio (ed., William Henry Perrin, 1881) while researching John A. Keplar (the 3x great grandfather).

History of Summit County, With an Outline Sketch of Ohiop598The book lists John’s siblings and where they ended up (boldface mine).

“Catharine, married Henry Warner; John, formerly of Green; Jacob, now a resident of Coventry ; Andrew, shot on August 16, 1871, by his son-in-law; Daniel, moved to De Kalb County, Ind.; George, formerly of Coventry, now deceased; Henry, died at eighteen ; Samuel, died in Illinois, and Lena, died after marrying Henry Cook.”

Curious, I continued researching the family and stumbled on the whole sorry story in Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County [O] (page 804-807) by Samuel Alanson Lane (published 1892, with the author’s name listed on the cover as “Ex-sheriff Samuel A. Lane”).

More research proved ex-sheriff Lane’s account wasn’t 100% accurate. Sarah Jane Keplar married Godfrey Semler in 1862, not 1852, making her 19 at the time of the marriage and about 26 when her father was killed. Also, Godfrey was a grocer in the 1870 census, not a hotel keeper (although that could have changed by 1871, when the death occurred).

Ancestry subscribers have shared enough scans of news articles to show that Lane is correct on most details, however.

Andrew Keplar was killed in an altercation with his son-in-law, a known drunkard and abuser.

Semler, who was also injured, was convicted to five years hard labor for manslaughter, despite claiming his mother-in-law pulled the trigger. The governor pardoned him after two years, four months, and eight days after Sarah Jane and her mother rethought their testimony, concluding the shooting was probably an accident.

By that time, Lane says, Sarah had divorced Semler, returned to the use of her maiden name and was granted custody of the three children. A few years later she remarried.

Semler’s fate was somewhat different, and here I feel compelled to quote Lane verbatim: “And as to Semler, himself, instead of profiting by his bitter experience, and reforming his habits, while not regarded as especially vicious, the opinion entertained of him by those who know him best may be summed up in the single but expressive word— ‘worthless.'”

This summation is backed up by a newspaper clipping from 1879 about a drover named George Weary who was “relieved of about $250 in an East Liberty tavern while in the company of a few friends (?).” The money was taken while he slept at the bar.  The clipping continues, “He acknowledged that he as well as his companions did get a little “how-come-you-so” (as he expressed it), which fully explains all that took place in connection with the loss.” 

One of Weary’s “friends(?)” was Semler, who apparently bought a watch after the theft, flashing more money than his circumstances would merit. He claimed the money came from an employer having recently paid him, but the amount paid by the employer proved to be a small sum, which “knocked Semler’s story into a cocked-hat.”

Although I find the outdated wording amusing, it cannot take away the tragedy of this event.

Once again, my genealogical research has reminded me that life has always had its hardships, and the best we can do is take one day at a time, dealing with whatever comes our way and being glad when times are good.

 

2 thoughts on “A Story Old as Time

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