My post today will cover Gertrude Fowler, who cared for Lee-o-netto in the last few years of her life. She received Lee-o-netto’s property in Allegany for $1 just weeks before Lee-o-netto’s death.
This suggests a number of possibilities such as
- Lee-o-netto was extremely fond of Gertrude Fowler
- Lee-o-netto owed Gertrude a great debt of some kind
- Gertrude took advantage of the elderly Lee-o-netto
- Gertrude was related
The surname Fowler immediately caught my attention. I recognize it as a common Brothertown family name. Layton and Isaac J. Kindness/Kanistanaux have Fowler relatives back in Wisconsin and perhaps some still in the east. This makes it imperative to spend enough time researching the family to determine their origins.
Gertrude Fowler is the wife of John Edward Fowler. John was a blacksmith. They were married about 1900, probably in Buffalo where he is found in the 1892 census and they are found in directories until 1903. By 1910 they are settled in Olean, which is right next to Allegany. In 1927 they purchased a home at 117 South 17th Street. They are at this address as early as 1920, so it appears they were renting the home prior to the purchase. They are still at this address in the 1939 directory. This address appears to be about 3 miles from Lee-o-netto’s home. In April of 1940, 4 months after the death of Lee-o-netto, John & Gertrude are living at 54 West Main St., which is Lee-o-netto’s address.
This couple can be easily confused with Franklin Fowler of Allegany who also had a wife named Gertrude and operated a dairy at 117 North 17th Street. I was confused by this couple several times because of the similarity of the address and names. However, I know I have the correct Gertrude Fowler because I am starting with the couple that is actually living in Lee-o-netto’s house shortly after her death.
John Edward Fowler was born 12-Sep-1877 in Nevada. He is found in the 1880 Census with his parents in Virginia City, Nevada. John is the son of David B. Fowler born about 1850 in England and Ida Josephine Seaman who was born about 1856 in Wisconsin.
An English origin for David rules out his being a Brothertown Indian. Yet --- his wife was born in Wisconsin, which is the location of the Brothertown Community. This looks a little bit fishy. Is someone trying to put me off the track? To add to my concern, there is a David Fowler at Brothertown in the 1880 Census. This man is much too old (born about 1813) to be the guy I am searching for, but he certainly could have a son named after him. Eventually I found him in the 1860 Census with his family. There is no David in the family but there are several other children born around 1850. It should be safe to rule my David Fowler out as a Brothertown Indian in hiding off reservation.
I continued to search for more info on the origins of my David Fowler. I found my answer in the 1860 Census where I found David with his parents, Henry & Emma Fowler, and six siblings living in Buffalo, NY. They are all born in England until we get down to the 7 year old who is born in New York. It appears they came from England between 1851 and 1853. The clincher is found in the 1851 Census of Lopen, Somerset, England where an exact match is found for the family. This Fowler family is not from Brothertown.
David is found in Buffalo directories as late as 1868 and is back in time for the 1885 NY State Census. In between those dates it appears he traveled a bit. I already mentioned
- his wife was born in Wisconsin
- his son John Edward was born in Nevada in 1867
- he was in Virginia City, Nevada with a family for the 1870 Census which also included
- George H. born about 1872 in Wisconsin
- Emma M. born about 1875 in Utah
David is very likely the 20 year old single man in Greenfield, Wisconsin in the 1870 Census. David comes from a family of English blacksmiths and the young man in Wisconsin is a blacksmith born in England. David married sometime before the birth of his first child in 1872 to a woman born in Wisconsin. Looks like a pretty good fit.
I found the marriage record for David and Ida at FamilySearch dated 28-Oct-1871 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is the son of Henry and Emma Fowler verifying I have the right family in the 1860 Census) and Ida is the daughter of Henry and Neny Seaman.
I was not able to learn anything more about the Seaman family, but the surname (including its many spelling variations) does not appear at Brothertown, so it should be safe to rule out any connection to the Brothertown Community in Wisconsin.
Gertrude Fowler was born in April of 1879 in New York. Her children’s records list her maiden name as Swarts (also spelled Swartz). She appears to be the daughter of George Eli Swarts and Ellen Laura Bullock, both born in New York. The Swarts are found at Olean, Cattarugus Co., NY before 1900 and at Clarksville, Allegany Co., NY after 1900.
John Edward and Gertrude Fowler had the following children
- Carl Edward born 21-Mar-1901, died 26-Jan-1952 in Texas
- Alice A. born about 1907 in New York
- Reginald born about 1910 in New York
Gertrude Fowler was very active in local women’s organizations in and around Olean. She frequently served as an officer and on numerous committees for the Daughters of Union Soldiers. She was a member of the St. Stephens Episcopal Church. In 1937 she was elected an officer of the Degree of Pocahontas, Songa Council. I can’t help but wonder what Lee-o-netto thought of this organization? Gertrude and John are mentioned a number of times hosting card parties for special events such as birthdays. I did not find Lee-o-netto mentioned in relationship with any of these activities or organizations.
I also found Gertrude active in the Women’s Auxiliary of the American Legion. Her involvement with this organization may be how she and Lee-o-netto became acquainted. Checking in local directories shows the American Legion Post occupied space in the Allegany town hall. The address of the town hall is 50 West Main St. which is right next door to the home of Lee-o-netto. I plan to cover more about Lee-o-netto’s home in a future post.
John (also known as Ed) and Gertrude are moved in to Lee-o-netto’s house by April of 1940 and they are still there for the 1941 directory. According to the 1943 directory they have moved, presumably having sold the house.
Various newspaper clipping from the time period fill in some of the blanks. In March of 1942 a couple of local girls are returning from a visit with the Fowlers in Manatee, Florida. In October of 1942 there is mention that “Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Fowler of Cuba” recently left for Manatee, Florida “where they will spend the winter”. In September of 1943 there is mention of their son (a soldier) visiting them “at their cottage at Cuba Lake”. In August of 1945 I found mention of Gertrude returning to her home in Manatee after visiting with relatives. It was interesting to note this last clipping mentions Gertrude traveled by airplane from Sarasota, Florida to New York City in only seven and a half hours.
So, it appears the Fowlers were among some of the first “snow birds” escaping the harsh Northeast winters by wintering-over in Florida.
I did not find anything to link this family to the Kanistanaux family in any way. Since the Fowlers did not live in Lee-o-netto’s house very long, I doubt there will be much in the way of photos or memorabilia passed down in the family, but we can always hope. After all, it appears the Fowlers turned the cheap purchase of Lee-o-netto’s home into an opportunity to own a residence in the north and the south, so there may be stories of how some ol’ Indian woman changed the lives of Grammy and Grampa.
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