Hard Times and a Hard Man

Picture from the Joseph Metcalf collection.


Recently my wife and I traveled to Potter County in Pennsylvania to visit family, three cousins on my father’s side to be precise. They are Susan who I met while researching my family a few years ago, the second Joseph whom I knew about but never met, and the third Kelly was a very recent discovery via DNA findings at ancestry.com. I only had a short time to spend (less than two full days) with them, and we will be getting together for a longer visit in the near future.

My cousin Joseph Metcalf is the grandson of Henry Joseph Moore. Henry Moore was the brother of my grandfather Frank Moore, so Henry is my great uncle. From what I know about my grandfather Frank, and the type of man he was, it is hard to believe that the two men were brothers. Both men were to face very difficult times in very different ways. Frank was to crumble under pressure and, his family was scattered to the winds of cruel indifference. The crucible came for each man during the 1918 Flu epidemic when they both were to lose their wives to this disease. This will be Henry Joseph Moore’s story; I will deal with Frank at some point in the future.

Henry was born June 4, 1875, and he was one of nine children that were born to Henry and Clarissa Peterson Moore. While he could read and write his formal education was to stop at the fourth grade. His life was to be one of hard labor finding employment in the following fields; Farming, Railroad, state highway labor, with most of his work being done in the Lumber and Tannery industries.

Wife Lottie and the children of Douglas Moore. Left to Right Benjamin, Leonard (on lap), Pearl. In back Lettie. Taken about 1908

On March 23, 1909, Henry’s brother Douglas died of what was called Camp Dysentery on his death certificate. The death left a widow Lottie Luella Peterson Moore and four children all younger than ten years of age. The 1910 census shows the family living with her father in law Henry Moore Sr. However Lottie’s health was to take a turn for the worse in September 1911. I found this notice in “The Potter Enterprise” on September 28, 1911.


Is Very Ill

Lottie Moore of Portage, widow of the late Douglas Moore is now a county charge. She is very ill with typhoid pneumonia. She is 32 years old, and the order of relief was sworn to by Henry Moore Sr. and Henry Moore, Jr., father and brother of the dead husband,…

If that was not bad enough on September 30th, the Austin Pennsylvania Dam broke killing scores of people and leaving a path of destruction that would sweep away their shared home. In Paul W. Heimel’s book “1911 The Austin Flood” I found the following account from Lettie Moore Clark, the daughter of Douglas and Lottie, who was 11 years old at the time.

Our family home was swept away by the flood, but we were warned and were all able to escape. My mother was sick in bed and was placed in a rocking chair and carried to safety. The whole thing is like a hideous nightmare.

I recall watching the recovery of a number of the bodies from the wreckage. I remember seeing the body of one man who was so mangled that they couldn’t identify him. I also remember seeing the body of a large, white horse way up in the branches of a tall tree after the flood passed.

Some of the damage caused by the dam break.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA


I was able to find a newspaper article that listed the money paid out to the flood victims. Henry Sr. and Lottie received a combined total of $200. That would be a little over $5000 in today’s dollars.

After three years of helping and looking after his brother’s widow, Henry Moore Jr. married Lottie which made for a ready made family of four children. Henry and Lottie had their first child a girl, which was named Clarissa, after Henry’s Mother. However little Clarissa was only to live for three months. Henry and Lottie were to have three more children that were to live into adulthood. The three children were Joseph born 1914, Lottie born 1917, (she was the mother of my cousin Joseph Metcalf) and Arthur born 1918. By all handed down family accounts while not blessed with wealth, it was a happy home. Henry was able to work and earn money, despite the fact that in 1916 he was to lose his thumb and Index finger on his right hand in a work accident while coupling railroad cars. Tragic events were about to visit the Moore home once again.

In 1918 the great world Influenza epidemic took place. The estimated number of the world dead range from 21 million to 40 million. In the United States, 25 million people came down with this disease and about 675,000 died. Lottie was among the many that made up that awful number. Perhaps she was weakened by her pregnancy and childbirth as she died just two weeks after the birth of Arthur. Henry now found himself with six children ranging in ages from 15 years old to only two weeks.

From the Potter Enterprise Nov. 28, 1918.

Henry had no time to mourn he had to make hard choices and somehow keep his family intact and healthy. There was no welfare system no safety net. Failure on his part would have meant the end of his family. He did have time to bury his wife near his brother her first husband. He would be buried there himself much later. When I saw Lottie’s grave stone 86 years later the inscription that Henry had put on the stone showed a man who was deeply in love and suffering a great loss. This was the inscription.

A loved one from us is gone. A voice we loved is stilled. A place is vacant in our home which never can be filled.

Arthur was only two weeks old had to be cared for. In a letter to me dated December 15, 2002, his granddaughter Judy said: “Because my grandfather had to work to keep food on the table, Arthur was given over to a family in Austin for care (they never adopted him, just acted as his foster family).” I was able to track Arthur in the 1920 and 1930 census and in each one he was placed within the family. In 1920 with an Uncle and 1930 he was with his brother’s Benjamin wife’s family. Judy also stated in her letter that he kept her mother who was not yet two and Joseph who was only four. She stated, “I can’t imagine how that all worked, but it sure did.” The daily grind on Henry had to be immense. But day in and day out Henry prevailed and took care of his family. Then I found this in the “Potter Enterprise” newspaper dated Thursday, October 4, 1923.

Auto Accident

About dusk last Wednesday evening James Huff of this place while driving his Ford along a road to Costello, ran into Henry Moore Jr., and his two children. Joseph aged eight and Lottie aged six, who were walking to Costello. Both children were somewhat bruised and Mr. Moore severely hurt. His injuries consist of a broken rib, bruised shoulder, lacerated scalp and numerous cuts and bruises.

Over lunch, my cousin Joseph Metcalf, Henry’s grandson spoke of this. Henry had either thrown and or pushed his children to safety off the road down a slight embankment. With no time to get himself to safety, he took the brunt of the blow from the automobile. It was his fast action that saved his children from serious injury or worse.

Left to Right
Henry’s grandson Joseph Metcalf and myself Charles Moore. This was the first time Joseph and I met. I have a feeling that if we had known each other earlier we would have had some good times.

I am sure that at times it must have seemed hopeless, but Henry was a hard man. Henry never remarried. All of his children went on to become good citizens with families that stayed connected. Four boys and one of his girls were to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War two. Speaking with his grandson Joseph I was a little envious of the family stories he was able to share. They were stories from a family that was held together by the strength of one man, Henry Joseph Moore. Joseph had history and family that was not there on my father’s side. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, I began to find little newspaper stories about family parties and celebrations of one type or another. Below is one such article. You will not find this kind of newspaper article from my father’s branch.

One of many society articles about the family Henry kept together.

I noticed that pictures that Joseph brought to our meeting of Henry in the last years of his life he was always on crutches. I was told he had broken his hip and since at the time it could not be repaired this was the only way he could get around. I thought to myself just one more tribulation Henry had to endure. Henry was not a general who led his troops on a great cause, or a politician to whom people would flock to hear them speak. He had no cheering crowd to hear, as he did his work out of the public eye. History books will never write of him. When I think of what he did he is a true family hero, the man humbles me. Below is my favorite picture of him. It was taken just a couple of months before his death. His manner, his face says and shows he was a person to be reckoned with.

Henry Joseph Moore
This picture was taken just a few months before his death in 1954.
“I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Theodore Roosevelt


But I will leave the last word about Henry to his granddaughter Judy who said in her letter of December 15, 2002; “My grandfather Henry was a kind man. I have fond memories of him holding me on his lap while, at age 6, read one “Dick and Jane” book after another to him! That’s patience!”






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62 Responses to Hard Times and a Hard Man

  1. judyg1953 says:

    I love how you tell this story. Thank you for sharing it.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for reading my blog and your comments. I enjoyed reading your blog and hope to see more from you.

      • Bernie Moore says:

        Hi Charles, This is Bernie (Bernard Eugene Moore), I am the middle sibling and son of Arthur Henry Moore, the two week old in this edition of your blog. I was born in 1951 and though I remember meetiny your father, Uncle Ben and possibly even you, I don’t ever recall meeting my grandfather, Henry Moore. Cora Wood is who raised my father, no blood relation at all as far as I know. I really enjoyed reading your blog, quite interesting, we should connect via Facebook and Gmail, Cousin. 🙂

      • chmjr2 says:

        Wow! I am glad you found me. I have so many questions. I will contact you as soon as possible. I am glad you liked the blog.

  2. Peter Klopp says:

    Those were surely hard times. You collected pictures and newspaper reports and made an outstanding post on family history. I love your blog.

  3. GP Cox says:

    Whoa, quite a rough life. This is well seen in the eyes of Lottie and her children in the picture. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of good times with Joe Metcaff, now that you’ve found him.

    • chmjr2 says:

      You are so right, you can tell the hard life they lived in the pictures. I do hope to get together with Joe again. Planning another trip already.

  4. What an amazing man Henry was! Well told story, Charles.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Henry has a great story and the family and people in general should know about it. Every family has a Henry some where. We should all look for him and tell their story.

  5. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Reblogged this on Our Ancestors and commented:
    A story worth reading

  6. Amy says:

    What a remarkably strong and yet sensitive, caring man. It’s incredible what he endured. And an important reminder of how we need to take care of each other in our society. That flood photograph seems so timely, given what’s going on in Texas. We have more safety nets now, but do we have enough? Great post, Charles.

  7. GenPhotoGal - Family History Updates says:

    Wonderful story!

  8. What a hard life, but what an amazing man.

  9. Susan Moore Lewis says:

    Charles, this story was told so beautifully. I am proud to be related to Henry Moore, his family and of course you and Sandy. So glad you found me

    • chmjr2 says:

      Susan I am glad you liked the story. The only concerns I have about people liking what I write in my blog are what does the family think. We still have a few more stories to tell that come out of Potter County.

  10. Nicole Hafer says:

    We are family, yet haven’t met. I am Kelly’s daughter. This is beautifully written and I was very excited to read about some of our family history! Thank you!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Nicole I am looking forward to meeting you. Sandy (my wife) and I are looking forward to our next trip to see everyone. I am glad you liked the story. From time to time I write about the Moore family in my blog. I hope to add more stories soon.

      • Nicole Hafer says:

        Looking forward to meeting you and your wife! I got to meet Susan last week. Such a lovely lady! Enjoyed our lunch together and meeting her great granddaughter as well.

  11. evie1939 says:

    Great Story.

  12. “A true family hero” and you’ve told his story so well Charles!

  13. A wonderful story, well told. I could relate. My gg-grandmother, Ellen Birdsell, about whom I wrote yesterday, had a granddaughter who also perished in the great flu epidemic of 1918. She died on her 33rd birthday, leaving behind three sons under the age of five. The oldest was my father.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I read you blog yesterday and enjoyed it very much. As well as Lottie I lost in the epidemic of 1918 a grandmother, great grandmother, and an Aunt. Thank you for reading and your comment.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    This was a very moving account of an “ordinary” man. I love family history precisely for the chance to discover the extraordinary struggles and challenges of our forebears. Thanks for sharing this account.

  15. Spyro says:

    Henry – a family hero to say the least – hardly ordinary – he was extraordinary and brave in a quiet way – I think we have somewhat similar stories, although hard to imagine as relentless as Henry’s, and family responsibilities today, with leaders we are not aware of – I hope so anyway – I am glad you described Henry’s bravery and leadership – thank you – Spyro

  16. A life of hardships, grief, and love lost, Henry somehow managed to still allow love to shine through him. Thank you for sharing the life of this extraordinary man.

  17. higginsmj says:

    Amazing story. Well told. What a wonderful legacy. Thanks so much for sharing this gem.

  18. I loved the way you retold Henry’s story. So full of feeling and all the layers of meaning are preserved. Excellent combination of the personal with the bigger historical events. I hope you and your cousins make up for lost time and have splendid relationships and reunions in the years ahead.

  19. What a lovely post Charles. I’m sorry to hear that your own grandfather was not able to create such a devoted family. Your admiration of his brother is wonderful. He sounds like the kind of man everyone in town would know and depend on in some way or other. I’m happy for you that you were able to meet your cousin and add to your knowledge of your family.

  20. Miss Quoted says:

    I need to start reading your blog posts more closely. This is a compelling story, and I loved it! (For some reason, my reader isn’t allowing me to give it a “like.) The story of the flood really pulled me in. However, It wasn’t the story itself that first caught my attention, it was the location, Potter County Pennsylvania.
    My grandmother was born in Potter County. Surely your and I are cousins at some level. I would love to see if we can find the connection. If you can find a minute, I would love for you to check out this post and let me know if we share any of the surnames in the Wharton cemetery: https://storiesfromthepast.com/2015/06/12/i-went-to-the-cemetery-looking-for-my-family-i-think-i-found-them/

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for your kind comment. The main family surnames from Potter County are; Moore, Dakin, Peterson. I noticed the last name Jordan in your blog, and I have a cousin Flora Moore who married a Norman Jordan in the first part of the 20th century.

  21. Jim McKeever says:

    What an amazing inspirational man, Charles. I cannot fathom the strength he had within him to endure all of that. Life is so easy now by comparison.

  22. As always, I love your attention to detail. Still..such tragedy!

  23. Luanne @ TFK says:

    That’s a lot of hardship. But, wow, to keep on going in the face of it all!

  24. I love seeing pictures, it’s amazing how much you can tell about a family just by their faces!!

  25. great blog and some fantastic pictures

  26. Sandi McGinnis says:

    Very moving!

  27. Such an inspiring story in the face of such hardship!

  28. morphedmyths says:

    So inspiring!! Thank you so much for sharing that touching story. I have tears in my eyes! I think it is so important to get these stories out in the public domain. One reason being the youth of today can have a knowledge of their roots and be part of that bigger picture, so, they too can grow up to be the best people they can be too.

  29. Joseph Metcalf says:

    This was really nice of you !

  30. Judith Metcalf Johansen says:

    So well done! Thank you, Charles, for putting it all together so beautifully.

    I have a little mystery regarding my mom, Lottie Luella Moore Metcalf. The newspaper article said both children weren’t badly hurt when the automobile ran into the three of them. But, Mom said she was unconscious for two days afterwards, and, when she awoke, she thought she saw Jesus standing at the foot of her bed. Clearly she must have had a head injury. Grampa probably pushed her and Joe very hard to get them out of the car’s way.

    Here’s another peek into the Moore siblings family activities. In the 1950’s, on Memorial Day, many of the families gathered for a picnic near Brooks Cemetery. Some of the adults cleaned up family burial plots. We all enjoyed a hearty picnic, and then the men usually went fishing for a few hours. The women whiled away those hours with chit-chat and handiwork (that’s when Mom taught me some embroidery stitches). The children ran about freely in the big fields surrounding the tiny church/grange across from the cemetery.

    Attending most years were: Ben and Martha Moore and family, Pearl (Moore) and Lloyd Wood, Letty (Moore) and Ted Erickson, Lottie (Moore) and Darold Metcalf and family, Joseph Moore.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. In future months I will be writing more blogs on our Moore family line. I am not surprised about not getting the full story in the newspapers. Was just glad I found what I did. Your comments added much to the story. I wish we had Moore family picnics today. They must have been so much fun.

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