Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Grandma Mary's siblings: Leo's Legend

About fourteen months after Alice, another baby boy was born to Eli and Rachel in December 1891, but he was apparently either stillborn or died shortly, for he was not named, and other than birth,[1] no other record of him exists, that I’ve found, anyway. The 1910 census records that Rachel had 9 children of whom 8 are living.

Then along came Leo. On Oct. 8, 1893, almost three years younger than Alice, he was the seventh child of Eli and Rachel Waggoner. In family records, his name is Leo Cleveland, but that middle name does not appear in any other records, thus far in my research. The middle initial C does, however.

Leo C. Waggoner

Being one of the three youngest children in the family, Leo was about 15 years old when the family left Rich Valley, Smyth County Virginia and moved to Mexico, Missouri. Leo is with the family in 1910.[2] Eventually, his two older brothers, Emery and Gordon, must have influenced his decision to go elsewhere, however. When he registered for the World War I draft, he was farming in Lyon County, Minnesota, where his brother Emery lived. The card says he had brown hair, brown eyes, medium height, and stout build. Interestingly, he gave his birth date as born Oct. 11, 1894, instead of the date on the birth record, Oct. 8, 1893.

Leo C. Waggoner's World War I registration card.

Leo has eluded me in the 1920 census, but I found evidence that corroborates a story my dad told me that Leo lived in California. He seems to have been a hell raiser, at least in his early days. I remember my dad telling us that Leo got in a fight with someone in California and bit off his finger. Or was it nose. I couldn’t remember for sure. Dad laughed as if it were a joke to shock us kids. Years later, I wondered about the truth of it. Surely not, I hoped! A few weeks ago, I decided to search  California newspapers on GenealogyBank, thinking it would be a long shot and nothing would turn up. I was wrong. I found the story in the just a few minutes:

Associated Press
                        FRESNO. Aug. 28 [1925].—Charged with biting off the thumb of Thomas Spano, a ranch superintendent near Clovis, Leo Waggoner, packing plant worker, is being sought by officers on a charge of mayhem.”[3]

Never would I doubt Dad’s stories again.
Just five years later, Leo was living in Lakeshore, Kootenai County, Idaho, where Gordon had lived and had been buried a few years earlier. He shared a place on Yellowstone Trail with two other men: Levi G. Childers, widowed, age 56, and Guy A. House, single, age 31. They were all unemployed.[4] The depression must have hit them hard.
Leo never married, but he had at least one female friend whom he admired enough to have this picture taken with her. They both look dressed to the nine--for cold weather.
On the back of this photo is written, "Leo Wagner and his girlfriend."
 By 1936, evidence shows that Leo was back in California where the city directory of Stockton, shows the name Leo C. Wagner, gardener, living at 838 E. Channel.[5] The picture below shows Leo (on right) and friend in California.
Leo Waggoner and friend in California
 I have not been able to find Leo in the 1940 census, so from 1936 until he died at age 73, his life is a mystery. He passed away in Sanger, Fresno County, California on 6 January 1967, and he is buried in the Sanger Cemetery. Someone on Find A Grave created a memorial for him and added a photo of his tombstone. The beautiful outdoor scene on his grave marker seems to me to reflect a deep feeling he must have held for the mountains. 
Leo C. Waggoner is buried in Sanger Cemetery, Sanger, California. Photo used by permission from a. dot of Ca., findagrave contributor.
(c) 2013 Z. T. Noble

[1] Bland County, Virginia Births: 1861-96, p. 287, No Name Waggoner, Dec 1891; database ( : accessed 23 July 2013), extracted from Fridley, Beth, comp.. Bland County, Virginia Births: 1861-96 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2000; original records, Richmond, Virginia, USA: Library of Virginia, 1861.
[2] 1910 U. S. census, Salt River, Audrain County, Missouri, population schedule, enumeration district [ED] 11, p. 7-B, dwelling 140, family 140, Leo Creelman [Waggoner]; digital image ( : accessed 5 October 2013); NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 767. Note: Due to a transcription error, all of Eli and Rachel’s children’s names are indexed in this census as Creelman. This is not only a misreading of Mary’s last name, Troutman, but also a misinterpretation (or misuse) of ditto marks for the last names of all the children listed under Mary’s name.
[3] “Bites Thumb Off,” Evening Tribune (San Diego, California), 28 August 1925, p. 5; digital image Genealogy Bank ( : accessed 12 August 2013).
[4] 1930 U. S. census, Lakeshore, Kootenai County, Idaho, population schedule, enumeration district [ED] 8, p. 3-A, dwelling 50, family 50, Loco [Leo] C Wagner; digital image ( : accessed 15 October 2013); NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 903.
[5] Stockton [California] City Directory (1936), Spokane, Washington: R. L. Polk and Company, 1936, U. S. City Directories, 1821-1989; digital image (, accessed 27 August 2013), "Wagner, Leo C."

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