Karen up a tree – two family trees

Just love this picture from the Crawfordsville District Public Library’s database and wanted to tell you today about two local families who were in the barber world, some in this photo. The Ransdell and Rogers families both had several members to remain here and others who went elsewhere, but almost all remained in the barbering business.

Let’s begin with the partners in the photo. Although none are tagged, from ages in this 1909 picture, and descriptions on their WWI draft cards, I have an intellectual guess (keep the “guess” in mind) that Melvin Rogers is the dapper one in front on the left with the dark hat as he was described as tall, with brown eyes and John E. Ransdell is the one on the other side on the right standing with his hands in his pockets. John was described as stout with blue eyes and gray hair. To me, it also makes sense that the owners would be in the front of the photo. They had men working for them which tallies the others in the picture. Usually at this time, the barbers wore white shirts and nice ties or else a white jacket over their clothes and often had 3, 4 or 5 chairs, always busy. Usually, there was a waiting area in the front and many would come in and buy a paper or magazine and read while waiting or sometimes just hang out and talk about what they’d read. Just as often, it was a cigar store along with the barbering.

It doesn’t seem that the two had this shop together for too many years, however, as in 1914, Ransdell was in the same building but his partner was R.J. Corey. John Elias Ransdell was 76 at his passing and had barbered all those years in our city – except for Bill Carpenter doubt another Crawfordsville barber would equal that. John Ransdell continued owning a shop all his life and often employed others. Born in Thorntown, April 17, 1876, he was the son of Thomas and Mary (Hendrickson) Ransdell and was in the middle of several children born to them. His father was a butcher and once listed as a “fish dealer” which is in that line, I guess. John and his wife, Mary “Emily” Wilson lived at 603 S. Washington for several years (married way up in LaPorte County in 1898 but lived here) where he passed away from rheumatism (I can see where he’d get that) and heart disease. Their home was at 112 N. Grant earlier on. They had two daughters, one dying young and Mary “Isabel” who married Leonard Lavin and lived in Columbus, Ohio, plus a son, Thomas Frederick, who moved to Sarasota, Fla. where he was a salesman for a large candy company. He married Fern Rogers who I assume is some relation to Melvin but didn’t find for sure how. Thomas was described on his WWII draft card almost identical to his father. Isabel, John and Emily are all buried here in Oak Hill.

Melvin Byno Rogers was born in Stockwell, Tippecanoe County, son of George Washington and Elizabeth Ransdell Rogers – see a pattern going with these folks? Caught it immediately but still bogged down in Rogers and Ransdell relationships to straighten it out as of now. I will! George was a carpenter all his life, passing away a few months after his son. Melvin was a newlywed when this photo was taken but I couldn’t see a wedding ring on the one I think is him but could also be the one petting the dog. At photo time, Melvin had married Flossie Vessie Stonebraker (father Elmer) on January 27th. Melvin left for a bigger (better?) realm moving to Champaign County, Illinois about 1916 where he ran the Champaign Beauty and Barber Supply Company. Don’t believe Melvin and Flossie had children. They are buried in their adopted city.

Melvin and John E. weren’t the only Ransdells or Rogers to be in the barber business here. Another long-time barber was Clayton Albert Rogers and he may be in the photo as well, having began his career about this time. He was the son of Charles and Nannie (Hole) Rogers and married Maude Tweedy. They were active members of the First Methodist Church. I was amazed that in 1930, they lived at 508 Binford St. and her father Ralph Tweedy (he and his wife living with them) was age 70 and listed as an engineer at the power company. May have to write on him next Clayton passed away before the next census at the young age of 49 years 4 months 25 days after having fought high blood pressure (died of a stroke) for 15 years. Buried Indian Creek. Also, Thomas Frederick Ransdell above did some barbering before moving away forging into other careers.

If the Ransdells or Rogers weren’t barbers, then likely they were electricians (Ben, Clyde) or carpenters (Buford, Thomas), all wonderful professions, good at whatever career they chose to do! Sure enjoyed writing about the Ransdells and Rogers families but now, I need to go figure out the whole realm of their family tree – heehee!!

Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County. You can reach her at Karen@