52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Popular

52 Ancestors

Note: These newspaper clippings all came from Newspapers.com and were clipped mostly from the Kentucky Advocate. I will be happy to share the exact paper name and date upon request.

Some people are fortunate to have a diary keeper in their ancestry. Some have found earlier publications written by an ancestor’s family with direct personal knowledge. Others have collections of photos, letters, or other memorabilia that speak volumes about their ancestor’s personalities. The Coomer’s were captured in newspapers. Without these snippets, they would be just another collection of people without insight into their private lives.

For popular, I will have to dip into what I know about the Coomer’s. They are the most famous people I research. I have clipped over 200 articles mentioning this family in Kentucky newspapers. And I am thankful for this popularity as their presence in the local newspapers made it possible for me to make or confirm family connections, and it provides excellent evidence to support the stories told to the Coomer generations through the years.

The earliest newspaper entry naming the Coomer’s – well, that branch of the Coomer’s that I am most interested – occurs in 1882. It was reported in several newspapers during the week of 7 November that the young daughter of Frank Coomer fell into the home’s well, but was recovered without injury. This Frank Coomer was a resident of Boyle County at the time, and Edward’s family is believed to be the only Coomer family in the county. Edward did have a son named Frank. Frank and his family later moved to Bloomington, IL where he continues to be mentioned in newspapers there and back in Danville. In Bloomington, he goes into the stove manufacturing business.

In 1893 Mrs. Frank (Eliza) Coomer of Bloomington, IL received visitors from friends out of Danville as well as Mrs. A.B. [Albert B.] Coomer (Frank’s sister-in-law). In 1899, Edward’s grandson, William Coomer of Bloomington, Ill, is wed to Clara C. Tetzlaff. Later that same year, relatives of Danville are invited to Bloomington, Ill for the wedding of Delia T. Coomer, daughter of Frank Coomer. Frank remained in touch with his Danville friends and family for the remainder of his life. His fiftieth birthday was reported in the Danville papers as well as his 1944 death, despite his having left the area some fifty years earlier. He still had friends in Danville who remembered him. 

On 22 July 1886, The Evening Bulletin out of Maysville, KY reported that Samuel Coomer persuaded Miss Fannie to marry him after all. Samuel Coomer was another son of Edward’s, and he married two different women named Fannie! Sam made it into the papers several times. Despite this happy announcement, Sam’s future mentions were more tragic. Sam had demon’s. By January 1889, Sam lost property in Danville to a Sheriff’s sale for delinquent taxes. He seems to fall out of the social scene until the death of his first wife, Fannie, in 1914. She died suddenly from illness and a weak heart. His sister, Rebecca, moved in with him in January the next year at his house on Walnut Street. In May, he marries Fannie number 2 (nee Keyser). By October, at the age of 52, poor Sam dies in his bed. The newspapers were kind enough not to report the details, but his death certificate recorded the cause of death as suicide by consuming carbolic acid. 

Hugh and his family are very popular with the newspapers. Hugh Coomer and Sarah Batey made their debut in 1886. The procurement of their marriage license was reported on 24 December in the Kentucky Advocate (Danville, KY). The following year he made news again for building a home in the new development along 5th Street in Danville. Starting in February 1891, he is advertising his services as a house painter and paper hanger who can be contacted through Logan & Eastland’s Drug Store. His painting business gets a boost later that year when the newspaper credited his painting work on the First Presbyterian church building, followed by the Welsh & Wiseman Co. Building on Main and Third. Hugh has hired employees by March of 1892, and in 1893 has a team to work on painting and papering the interior of the Opera House, which is under complete renovation that year. Hugh would go on to win contracts to paint Centre College and the Court House on Main. He opens his own storefront and goes into business with Mr. Nave. The store is mentioned numerous times with stories involving moves to three locations, changing the name from Coomer & Nave to Coomer and Sons, cats and rats making a fool of him, and mysterious dancing paint cans in the store window.

Tragedy strikes Hugh and Sarah when their four-month-old daughter dies on Friday, 10 September, and is laid to rest on Saturday, 11 September 1892. One year later, Hugh and Sarah have a new baby boy who they name Hugh Jr. Sadly, little Hugh only lived 7 years, he dies in1900. Death reaches out again in 1907 when their seven-year-old son, Carl, died.

Even Hugh’s health is the subject of social news. In 1906 he had recovered from “severe” illness and took up walking for his health and weight loss, joining “Major Ozone’s fresh air crusaders” (a cartoon in the newspapers that ran intermittently starting in 1904). The paper begins to call this his Ozone Treatment. He is reported walking from Danville to Junction City, KY in forty-five minutes, Bryantsville, KY in an hour and a half, and to the east side of Texas, KY in eight hours (round trip). In 1910, he and Sarah took a trip to Elixir Springs In Casey County for recuperation.

From Wikimedia Commons for Major Ozone’s Fresh Air Crusade.

Sarah, who we already knew was a Batey, is connected to her Beatty family in New Albany, IN in 1894 when her brother, Nathanial, comes to visit and subsequently sends for her while he is ill. Why, yes, I did intend to change the spelling of their surname. While Sarah was known as Sarah Batey, her family apparently was known as Beatty in Indiana. This helped to confirm a few of the lesser-known connections to public records in and around New Albany.

In 1904, Hugh was a witness in a murder case involving the death of Rail Road night operator Mr. Rucker. That same year, Hugh travels to St. Louis for the World’s Fair. In 1914 and 1915, the newspaper seems to poke fun at Hugh and his friend, Tharp Shaw, calling them wrestlers and boxers.

His children are mentioned routinely in the social columns. Guy and Eugene are particularly popular and are reported on in the same humorous fashion as Hugh was. And as it turns out, part of Hugh, Guy, and Eugene’s popularity in the newspapers was probably due to Guy’s employment with the Danville Messenger and continued friendships after leaving the newspaper business for soldiering (WWI) and railroad work.

Edward’s daughters are represented as well with marriage notices and social visits. Rebecca Coomer, Edward’s oldest child, was thanked by the Kentucky Advocate on 21 September 1893 for returning her copy of the 17 August issue to the newspaper. Rebecca made news again in 1915 when the house she was renting a room at was the target of a bomb. The property owner reported that the bomb was intended to wreck his home. Rebecca and another tenant were home at the time of the explosion and were shaken up fairly bad.

Our famous Edward Coomer (aged 68 at the time) makes the news himself in the Interior Journal on 7 July 1893 when a horse he’s holding bites off his right thumb outside of Kelly’s blacksmith shop.

I could write more and more about this family in this town. We knew many of these stories even without the newspapers. One of the benefits of being a family of community pillars. But despite what was already known, it was still fun to find a little bit more in the newspapers. This family has been the most fun to research in newspapers. Even today, the descendants of Edward and Hugh Coomer make it into the news.