Chasing Ghosts: Crother Louis Foster

Crother Foster, my great-grandfather, lived a hard-working life in central Virginia, and according to his death certificate, which was issued in Lynchburg, he “died suddenly” from a heart attack. Near the bottom of the document are listed his parents, Samuel and Elizabeth (Tucker) Foster of Campbell County, Virginia, and in the space labeled “Informant” is the name AC Foster, my grandfather.

Crother Foster was born in the summer of 1872, seven years after the Civil War ended, in the tiny community of Falling River, Virginia. Though his Virginia death certificate has the date altered to be 1882, that date can’t be correct since we see him in the 1880 census, an 8-year-old who is the next-to-youngest child of Samuel Foster. The family was living then with Samuel’s parents – my great-great-great-grandparents – Anthony and Paulina Foster, who were then 77 and 76 years old, respectively. Below them were Crother’s father Samuel, age 48 and his mother Elizabeth, age 30, with their six children: John, 20; Charles, 18; Radford, 15; Mary Alice, 13; Crother, 8; and Samuel, 6. The family also had the schoolteacher Mariah Craddock living with them as a boarder. (Presumably the teacher had some relation to the family, since youngest child Samuel’s middle name was Craddock.)

In 1898, Crother married Emma Harper, my great-grandmother, who was just 18 years old. By the 1900 census, the couple already had one child, Frank, who was a year old. They were still living in Falling River. Over the next few years, Crother and Emma Foster had more children: Lacy in 1902, Walter in 1903, and my grandfather Andrew Conley Foster in 1905.

However, Emma Harper Foster died in 1908 at the young age of 28. Her brief obituary was posted in the Clinch Valley News in Tazewell, Virginia. Three things are interesting to note about that. First, it states that she was survived by five children, when all available records only show four. Second, Tazewell is nowhere near Falling River. Finally, there is also no explanation of the circumstances of her death at such a young age, and I couldn’t find a death certificate for her.

With young children to raise, Crother quickly remarried. The 1910 census lists his wife as a woman named Rosa, who was 25. Rosa Lee (Holland) Foster had been married previously and had a son named Floyd Chesteen Holland. Floyd and my grandfather, now stepbrothers, were about the same age. At that point, Crother was farming in Falling River and all of children were still living with him: Frank, 11; Lacy, 9, Waltsy (who would be Walter), 7; Conley (who would be Andrew), 4; and stepson Floyd, 3.

By 1920, the situation would be very different for Crother Foster. The census that year lists only him, Rosa, and Floyd living together in Lynchburg, Virginia. Crother had moved to the city. He was in his mid-40s, and his occupation was listed as a box maker in a glass factory. At this point, all of his children had left home, even though the oldest, Frank, was only 21. Frank’s World War I draft card says that he was employed in Portsmouth, Ohio, which is a long way from Falling River. The other sons would have been 19, 17, and 15. Again, interestingly, none of Crother’s children are clearly or easily found in a 1920 census.

Crother Louis Foster and family

It’s hard to say what happened in Crother Foster’s family during the late 1910s and 1920s, especially since the 1930 census has him and Rosa back in Falling River, farming, with his two young grandsons living with them. Louis T. Foster and Alfred A. Foster were my grandfather’s sons from his first marriage, and in 1930, the two boys were ages 4 and 1, and living with their Crother and Rosa, not with their parents. (They also had an oldest sister, who was not living there.) One of the few pictures I have of Crother and Rosa show them with two boys, who must be these two grandsons.

The only other traces of Crother Foster in official records come from Lynchburg city directories from the mid-1910s to late 1930s, which has he and Rosa living there. Of course, city directories only show heads of household and spouses, their workplace and home address, but not children.

Crother Foster died in 1938, at the age of 66. In my research, I could find no obituary for him; however, his death certificate listed his address as 914 Cabell Street in Lynchburg, which is only a few blocks from the James River. This simple farmer and laborer lived for most of his life in or near the crook of the Roanoke and Staunton rivers, in the sparsely populated area south of Lynchburg.

This man, who was my grandfather’s father, died ten years before my mother was born, so there are no personal recollections of him to draw from. His older three sons all died fairly young: Frank in 1956, at age 57; Lacy in 1941, at age 39; and Walter in 1952, at age 49. Only my grandfather, his youngest, lived to see his 60s.

Consequently, only a scant few anecdotes about Crother Foster have trickled down through the years. Some of those involved my grandfather’s displeasure at what he regarded as preferential treatment that his stepmother showed to her son Floyd. According to what I’ve been told, Rosa Holland Foster made sure that Floyd had the first and best, and since Crother didn’t stand up for his own children, they could be left without what they needed. Sadly, this might explain the untimely diaspora of Crother’s sons, who seem to have struck out on their own very young.


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