Indiana Mysteries

Mollie & John R. Fohl

Mollie Caldwell and John R. Fohl

Nowhere does the family tree encounter more uncertainty than in the branches of the Indiana family of Mollie Caldwell, Lizzie Fohl’s mother.

Mollie married John R. Fohl in Henry County, Indiana, in 1867, just after the conclusion of the Civil War. Her parents were Hannah Canutt and Franklin Caldwell; Hannah’s parents in turn were John Canutt and Mary Magdalina Landis while Franklin’s were Mary Loder and someone completely unknown and – at this distant date – perhaps unknowable.

What happened to Franklin’s father? While online genealogies generally identify his father as James Caldwell – the same as Mary’s other children – there is an obvious flaw in this identification that is usually evident within the published family trees. While Franklin was born in 1823, James died in 1819, a clear biological impossibility. All of James’ other seven children were born by 1819. As of this writing, an entry in Find-A-Grave heroically seeks to make Franklin’s birth legitimate by subtracting 10 years from his birth date, moving it forward to 1813, but all of Franklin’s census records and the 1820 census record for the widowed Mary Loder Caldwell provide contrary primary evidence. Barring great refinement in DNA analysis or an as-yet undiscovered documentary tell-all, Franklin’s father is likely lost to history.

Franklin is unusual within in the family in that he may be the only person to fight for the Union forces in the Civil War. He definitely registered for the draft in July of 1863, and there was a Franklin Caldwell who served as a private in the Union 2nd Regiment of Tennessee infantry; whether the soldier was the same Franklin Caldwell is not clear. Census records otherwise show that Franklin was a typical farmer, living his whole life in the adjacent counties of Henry and Rush in eastern Indiana. The site of his grave is unknown.

Franklin’s mother Mary was also unique within the family, being the only post-Revolution ancestor from New Jersey. She clearly records this fact in census records, although later interpretations by family members sometimes misplace her. Some portion of her family apparently headed west and settled briefly in western Ohio, adjacent to the area of Indiana where she would eventually find a permanent home. She married James Caldwell there in Preble County in 1808.

Indiana Map

State of Indiana with Henry, Rush, and Fayette Counties highlighted

The trail of Mary’s origins disappears quickly, except for one record in the History of Fayette County, Indiana: Her People, Industries and Institutions, by Frederic Irving Barrows. Fayette County is in the group of adjacent eastern Indiana counties important to this family – Henry, Rush, and Fayette. This book has a description of a prominent Fayette County citizen, John Loder who was born in Essex County, New Jersey in 1780 and then moved sequentially to several Ohio locations before settling in Fayette County. Before the move to Fayette  he lived near Hamilton, Ohio, not far from Preble County where Mary was married. Although speculative, it seems likely that John was Mary’s brother based on ages, origin, and pattern of migration.

Franklin’s wife Hannah Canutt’s history is only slightly more traceable. Hannah’s surname is a problem here, since official efforts to spell and pronounce “Canutt” produce a variety of outcomes. The most useful documents are the Henry County, Indiana, court records related to her father John’s estate, produced when he died intestate in 1832 while Hannah and most of her siblings were still children. Hannah’s eldest sister Sarah was already married by then, but her other two sisters Elizabeth and Susan and her two brothers Henry and John were all under 21. While the court proceedings dragged out, Elizabeth married to Jonathan Caldwell, the elder half-brother of Franklin. However, this court record is not easy to find because the name was helpfully interpreted as “John K. Nutt” rather than the more frequent spelling of “John Canutt.” The Henry County court seemed to like this spelling, since the prior year it recorded a probate case for “William K. Nutt.”


This remarkable photograph shows four generations of the Fohl-Caldwell clan. In the center row are Hannah Canutt Caldwell (partially obscured, remarried as Hannah Newhouse by the time of the photo) next to her daughter Mollie Caldwell Fohl. Mollie’s daughters Lora Fohl Gleason and Lizzie Fohl Loeb are in the back row with Lizzie holding daughter Edna, while Lizzie’s son Ben is front left next to his cousin and Lora’s son Lonnie.

Hannah’s father was born in North Carolina, and some unsourced on-line records provide hints that he was the son of a pre-Revolution German immigrant. Like the Caldwells, John met and married his wife Mary Magdalina Landis just across the state border from their eventual Henry County home in Preble County, Ohio. The Landis family also appears to have German origins, moving from Pennsylvania to Virginia before heading to Ohio and Indiana. However, as with the Canutt’s, this history is somewhat speculative. Mary’s 1850 census record claims she was born in Pennsylvania.

Unlike all of Mollie Caldwell’s other grandparents, with Mary Magdalina there is one more generation that can be teased out of the records. Court proceedings  in Hardy County, Virginia (now West Virginia) between 1830 and 1837 named 15 (!) children of Jacob Landes. These included a Mary Magdalina, wife of John K. Nutt. Courts everywhere apparently liked turning the first syllable of John’s surname into a middle initial. One attached affidavit also mentioned that at least one of the children had a mother named Fanny, which some secondary sources identify as Fanny Miller. The Landes family is also likely German in origin.

Despite some good speculations about origins, in reality the ultimate pre-Revolution origins of Mollie Caldwell’s grandparents are all Mysteries to this family history.


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