My Family Story: The Unknown Legacy of Anna Gottheld (1874-1949)

Part 3 in a series about my 2x great-grandmothers.

Anna Gottheld Lescallett is one of my 2x great-grandmothers. I know almost nothing about her beyond simple pieces of information. I never even heard her name until I was nearly 30 years old.

Anna Gottheld was born on October 15, 1874, to Katharina Beschmann, age 27, and Daniel Gottheld, age 37. She was born near McDonald, PA and/or possibly in Youngstown, OH or Mercer, PA. She was the 3rd born and oldest daughter of eight children.

Katharina and Daniel had married in their homeland in the Pfalz region of Bavaria, emigrating to the United States in 1872 with their eldest son, Christian. They moved about, spending time in Sharon, PA then McDonald and then Trumball, Ohio where Daniel found work in the coal mines. He settled in Robinson, PA until his 1903 death. Katharina lived with her sons in Charleroi until her death in 1920.

It does not sound like a particularly wonderful childhood, although it was pretty typical – large family, hard work, etc.

At age 16, Anna married 26-year-old railway man Sylvester Lescallett from Robinson. The year was 1891. One year later, my great-grandmother Edna Lescalett was born. By 1900, they were living on Sarah Street in the South Side of Pittsburgh. You’ll notice the spelling of Lescallett is all over the map.

Anna was also known as Annie. In 1900, she had four children.

  • Edna Elizabeth/Elisabeth b. 1892
  • William – b 1894
  • Katie M – b 1896
  • Harrie – b 1899

There’s no indication that Edna was in school at this point.

In 1909, Anna had her fifth and final child, Ella. I wonder about that ten year gap. It certainly is not unheard of for a woman to have a child ‘later in life’ (she was 34!) but I wonder that there were no other births or indications of miscarriages. That’s actually unusual – to not lose a child. According to the 1910 Census, Anna had given birth to 5 children all of whom were living. Sylvester still worked on the railroad at J&L and young William was there also at age 15 as a driller. Catherine and Harry were in school. Edna appears to have finished her schooling.

In 1920, the family had relocated to nearby Sidney Street. Edna is now married with children and living a few blocks away. Same with Catherine. William and Harry live at home and work . William is a chauffeur for an unidentified employer and Harry is a laborer in the mill. Ella is at home.

Life changed by 1930. The census shows Anna and Sylvester still living on Sydney Street with their son Harry, 29, daughter, Ella, and her husband, William Hirt. They also had custody of two of their grandsons, Johnny, 15, and Jimmy, 6, Kerr, sons of their eldest daughter, Edna. The boys’ father had died in 1924, sending the sibling group spiraling out into the extended family. So at age 55, Anna was raising two young children, moreover two young children who lost their father and were separated from their sisters and mother. Sylvester and Harry both worked in the mill. Johnny and Jimmy were both in school.

In 1940, they were still on Sidney Street with their adult sons Harry, 40, and William, 44, living at home. William is listed as married, Harry is single. Harry is doing clerical work at the mills, William is listed as unemployed and Sylvester is now working in the blast furnace. I do not know where my grandfather Johnny, great-uncle Jimmy or great-grandmother Edna were living in 1940. I suspect the boys were living with her again and I simply can’t find them in the census. Edna had remarried a John C. Rosensteel and was also raising her granddaughter, Johnny’s child.

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Anna died 29 October 1949 in Mt. Oliver and was buried on November 2, 1949 in Southside Cemetery. Harry died in 1954, William in 1956. Sylvester had died on May 12, 1940 from pneumonia. Unlike my other 2x great grandmothers, Anna did not outlive her children.

How did Anna end up in Mt. Oliver? My best guess is that she would go to live with her adult children after Sylvester’s death. William was living at 200 Locust Street, Mt. Oliver  in 1942 so that’s a good guess.

William had married Martha Murray in 1922 and had two children. He served in WW I. It appears he and his wife were separated, if not divorced at the time of her death in 1949 from breast cancer. They had two children.

Harry never married. He continued to work in clerical type jobs, ending up in Whitehall, PA when he died at age 56. He had no known children.

Catherine married George C Gerhold in 1918, settled on the South Side herself and had 3 daughters. Their stories are particularly tragic. Two struggled with alcoholism and the third lost her two school-aged sons to a horrible accident involving an undetonated grenade they found near an army base in Oklahoma.

Ella married William Charles “Bucky” Hirt, Jr who eventually took over the funeral home owned by his father. It stayed in the family for three generations. They had three children. Ella lived to 1999, more than 40 years after her siblings.

And, then there was Edna who was my great-grandmother. Edna married twice. Her first husband, John Kelso Kerr, died in 1924 from pneumonia. They had five children, one died in infancy. Edna had to send her children out to live with various family members while she found work. She married John Rosensteel in 1932. Together, they raised her oldest grandchild until John’s death in 1941. She died in 1959 from uterine cancer.

When I wrote about Jennie Tarleton, I had family lore to unpack. When I wrote about Sadie Butler, I had lots of primary sources from newspaper clippings. But, Anna? Anna is only known to me through a few pieces of documentation and the experiences of her descendants.

She grew up a coal miner’s daughter. She married at 16, had four children in seven years and lived within a few blocks of the Southside for the duration of her life. She raised her grandsons. She outlived her husband, but not her children. She died at age 75.

Is that her entire story? Is her entire 75 year existence defined by facts primarily associated with her father, husband, and children?

It is striking that her siblings were very prominently covered by the newspapers in the Monongahela Valley – Daniel and William owned and operated a successful grocery store in Charleroi. The local papers are filled with stories about their business and social lives. Not all good stories, but robust descriptors of their lives nonetheless. There’s also some detail about their other sisters. Is it just because they lived in a small town? Why is there no listing for “Mrs. Lescallett” visiting her family? Were they estranged?

How is it that we have no memory of this woman – no story or anecdote, no recipe or reputation to acknowledge that for good or bad, she was here and impacted our lives? I asked my father’s cousins who grew up around that clan. They knew Anna’s daughters (their grandmother and great-aunt), but not Anna.

I have a photo which I believe is Anna’s husband, but nothing of hers except these facts and so many questions. Her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren experienced a lot of misery and trauma. Addiction and abuse are rampant. Was Anna also a victim, a perpetrator or both?

Anna’s husband and her great-granddaughter circa 1936.

Perhaps that is her story, her legacy even. She like so many women in history are lost to us in terms of details, but real to us in terms of having actually been here and part of the tapestry of our lives. She existed in all of her unrecorded, complicated and stark reality. Her legacy is real even if the details are shrouded. Perhaps this post will unearth more details or perhaps it will simply honor the life story that we know.

Rest in power, Grandma Annie.

Read other posts in this series

My Family Immigration Story: The Short Life of Sadie Butler (1872-1922)

My Family Immigration Story: The Tragic Life of Jennie Tarleton (1868-1944)

My Family Story: The Hatfields and The McCoys

My Family’s Immigration Story

My Friend Dave Turns Out To Be My (Sixth) Cousin #NaBloPoMo

I Just Met My First Openly Gay Relative

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  • I really enjoyed reading this. My ancestors also lived on Sarah St. in that same time frame. I wonder if they knew each other? I bet they did.

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