My Great-Grandmother Katie

Since I have written about my great-grandmother Boothby, I decided I would also write about my great-grandmother in the Salt family. This is about Katie Justice Coffin Salt. Some other time I will write about her parents, and more about the Salt family. I started out to write about her mother, Catherine Elizabeth Justice, earlier and got so distracted by a number of other things that I wrote about that instead. One of my biggest brickwalls is the ancestor in the Salt family who migrated to this country, and I intend to write about him in the future.

Katie Justice Coffin was born in Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, on November 26, 1852 to Catherine Justice Coffin and Zebulon B. Coffin. Her older sister was 12 and her brother was 6. I don’t know much about her growing up years. The Federal population census of 1860, when Katie was 8, shows that the household then consisted of her father and mother, her brother Henry, 2 females listed as “domestic” both born in Ireland and 1 male domestic who was born in Germany. Katie’s older sister Jessie, already married, was living with her husband in the next house. Her grandmother Susan Justice, uncle Harrison Justice, and Anthony Burton (adopted into the family group) lived on the other side of Jessie. Anthony was adopted as a boy (probably not formally) first by Susan Justice, and he lived the rest of his life with various family members. He never married. He worked for Zebulon in his grocery business and served in the Civil War.

In the 1870 Federal census, Katie is not enumerated with her family and I have not yet found her anywhere else. She would have been 17, and her mother had died 4 years previously.  Her recently widowed father, Zebulon was living with his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and Anthony Burton with his older daughter’s family listed as a separate family group (possibly living upstairs), and three domestic servants. Interestingly, one of these servants, a young woman named Sophie Karewald, spent the rest of her life working for various family members. My current guess is that Katie was off visiting a friend or relatives when the 1870 census was taken, and either not listed or more likely was mis-indexed. By 1880, the households had again reconfigured. Katie and her widowed father lived with Jessie’s family.

Katie Coffin, circa 1880

Next door lived Katie’s grandmother Justice and uncle with 2 servants. Anthony Burton was not living with either family at the time of the census.

In May 1883 Katie married John Clifford Salt and went to live with him on his family farm in Saltair, Clermont County, Ohio.

John Clifford Salt, circa 1880

His mother also lived with them on the farm. This was across the Ohio River and about 30 miles east from Cincinnati. Cliff and Katie were second cousins on the Justice family side. His mother Ann was first cousin to her mother Catherine. I don’t know how they met originally. Not only were they cousins, but they probably knew each other from a young age because there was a certain amount of visiting by the young people to the “country” (from the Cincinnati area to the more rural area where the Salt family farm was). Living out in the country was a big change for Katie.

At the time they married, Katie was 30 which seems relatively old to be marrying for the first time, in that era. I never heard any family stories about why she didn’t marry at a younger age, Perhaps she felt responsible to run the household for her widowed father.

Katie and Cliff had 3 children: Anna (who died before she was 2), Henry (my grandfather), and Susan. When the children were very young Cliff developed mental problems and was committed to a state hospital in Dayton, Ohio. In 1893, just 3 months after the birth of her daughter Susan, Katie was made his guardian and he lived the rest of his life institutionalized. A cousin was told and repeated the story that he was cutting ice to put in the icehouse and slipped and fell, injuring his head. He developed mental problems after that and it was thought that the accident had contributed to his problems. I have never heard any good description of what his mental problems were. Cousin Ruhama’s mother, who was a first cousin of Cliff’s, would go visit him when she could, traveling via the electric trolley to a train. Ruhama also said that she had been told that in the hospital he had charge of the bakery, and generally was fine, but that sometimes “the pressure would build up and he would ask to be confined.“ One time he was not confined quickly enough and he threw dough all over the kitchen even onto the ceiling.

Katie and the 2 children continued to live on the farm,

Katie, Henry, Ruie Salt

with her mother-in-law, until Henry was old enough to be out on his own. This picture shows the three of them, either at the farm or perhaps visiting in Newport. It is one of my favorites because one of my brothers looked so much like Henry at a similar age. Once Henry was out of the house, sometime before 1910, Katie and Susan (who was known in the family as Ruie) moved into Bethel for Susan to attend the high school there. By 1920 the two of them were across the river in Newport, Kentucky and Susan had finished nursing school.

Katie had few financial resources and needed support from her children and her brother. She lived the rest of her life in Newport, and died November 1, 1928. Susan lived with her until her death, and only then did she leave Kentucky and later marry. While there are no mysteries about Katie as there are about some of my other female ancestors, with the exception of where she was in 1870 for the census, there is also little that describes her as a person. I am left wondering what she was like, how she spent her time, what she enjoyed or disliked. She must have been a very strong woman to have managed to raise her two children alone.

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