Joseph Reeder and Christina Condon

The story of Joseph and Christina Reeder (Lee’s parents) and their family is a story of tragedy. It’s the story of a man (Joseph) who survived the civil war, including a death march, and horrendous conditions of a POW camp, who after the war went on to father a large family, only to die young and leave them destitute. It’s the story of a poor widow (Christina) who struggled to provide for her family, who also died young, leaving minors without parents or any means of support. It’s the story of a wayward alcoholic son (Lee), who lost his wife at young age, abandoned his young girls, and who, in a drunken rage, reportedly killed a man in a brawl and became a fugitive of the law. It’s the story of three young girls, whose world turned upside down when their mother died suddenly, and they were abandoned by their father; two of the girls (Goldie and Claudine) were subjected to hard work in foster homes followed by cold-hearted rejection, until they eventually landed in a girls orphanage where they were treated harshly.

But the story is also a story of strength and triumph against staggering challenges and hardships. It’s the story of a young woman (Lizzie) who, at the passing of her widowed mother, and although she could barely support herself, took on the burden of raising her minor siblings. It’s the story of an aunt (Lillie), who, with a family of her own in desperate financial situation, came to the aid and defense of her young nieces (Goldie and Claudine) again and again after they were abandoned by their father and mistreated by their wards. It is the story of an elderly widow (Mary) who married a drunkard, and raised his daughter (Pearl) as her own, sparing the girl from the hard life endured by her two orphaned sisters (Goldie and Claudine). And it’s the story of three sisters (Goldie, Claudine, and Pearl) who, in the end, triumphed over the tragic lives they’d been dealt as young girls, who would marry, and raise families of their own, with a love that transcended the deficit they themselves experienced as children.

Joe Gahimer 2015

In the 1840 census, Gardner Condon and his wife Alma were farming in Union Township, Butler County, Ohio. This is just north of Cincinnati, in what today is Port Union on the outskirts of Cincinnati). They had a daughter under the age of 5.

Joseph Reeder was born in June of 1846 in Ohio to Levi C. Reeder (age 29) and his wife Jane Casky. Levi was a farmer.

In the 1850 census, Gardner Condon (age 29) and his wife Alma (age 33) were still farming in Union Township, Butler County, Ohio. They had several children: Aadalisa (age 10), William (age 8), Malissa (age 6), Lucy (age 4), and James (age 2).

Christina Condon was born about 1852 in Ohio to Gardner Condon and his wife Alma Young. Like Joseph Reeder, Gardner was also a farmer.

In the 1860 census, Gardner Condon (age 39) and his wife Alma (age 43) were farming in Deerfield Township, Warren County, Ohio, about 13 miles east of their previous farm. They had several children: Adaline (age 19), William (age 18), Malissa (age 16), Lucy (age 14), James (age 12), Christina (age 10), Elizabeth (age 8), and Mary (age 6).

In the 1860 census, Joseph (13), was living with his parents, Levi C. and Jane, in Allen Twp., Darke Co., Ohio.  Joseph had at that time five brothers and two sisters, all born in Ohio.

Sometime around 1862 or 1863 Levi C. Reeder died.

On 9/1/1864, a Levi Reeder was killed in action at the Jonesboro, GA battle for the Union army in the 14th Ohio Volunteers, Co. I.

On November 17, 1864, Joseph (age 18) enlisted in the military (34th regiment of the Ohio Volunteers infantry). In January, the 8th and 34th Ohio regiments were stationed outside the town of Beverly, Virginia in the mountain region. In the dark early morning of January 11, a Confederate force of 300 attacked the much larger force (1200+) of the Union stationed there. The Confederate surprise attack caught the Union completely off guard. With the deep snow and dark conditions, the fight lasted only about a half an hour. About 800 Union solders were captured, along with Joseph, and only 400 escaped. Joseph, along with the other soldiers were marched through the mountains and snow and deep streams to Richmond, Virginia, where he was confined on January 21. Two or three soldiers filed affidavits that while on the forced march, Joseph became overheated and had to drop out of the ranks and he made a complaint of his heart troubling him.

The Institute for Historical Review

The Civil War Concentration Camps

By Mark Weber

'Some 12,000 Union soldiers were confined at Richmond in several centers, the worst of which was Belle Isle, a low-lying island on the James River. Less than half of the 6,000 prisoners could seek shelter in tents; most slept on the ground without clothing or blankets. Many had no pants, shirts or shoes, and went without fuel or soap. At least ten men died a day in vermin-ridden conditions of inexpressible filthiness. The entire surface of the island compound became saturated with putrid waste matter. Hospitals for the prisoners in Richmond quickly became overcrowded and many died on Belle Isle without ever having seen a doctor.

Rations were meager indeed. Christmas Day, 1863, saw the prisoners without rations of any kind. The daily ration of a pound of bread and a half-pound of beef was steadily reduced. Bread gave way to cornbread of unsifted meal. One small sweet potato replaced the meat. For the last two weeks of captivity the entire daily ration consisted of three-fourths of a pound of cornbread.'

Joseph was paroled on February 15 and made it back to College Green Barracks, Maryland (now St. John’s College at Annapolis) on February 17. He was sent to Camp Chase, Ohio on Feb 19th, where he joined Co. F 36th regiment Ohio Volunteers on February 24th. Early in the war Camp Chase was a training camp for Ohio Volunteers. As the war progressed, the Union army started using training camps as prisoner of war camps for Confederate soldiers. In 1865, Camp Chase had swelled to over 8,000 Confederate soldiers and the camp was unable to support that many, and so many starved. It probably looked as desperate as his POW camp in Richmond.

Joseph was furloughed March 16 for 30 days, then returned and served with the 36th regiment. On June 23, 1865, the last confederate general, Cherokee leader Stand Watie, surrendered his troops and the war was over. Joseph was discharged on July 27, 1865.

Nettie Louella Turner (Levi Reeder’s wife) was born in Ohio on January 19, 1866, the daughter of James Van Buren Turner (age 27) and Amanda Cozat (age 22). Throughout her life, Nettie went by various names: Nettie, Louella, Lula, and Ella.

On February 11, 1868, Joseph Reeder (age 21) married Christina Condon (age 17?), who was pregnant at the time.

Their son Levi (or Levi ‘Lee’ James) was born August 10, 1868 in St. Mary’s, Auglaize, Ohio (nearly to the Indiana border between Columbus, Ohio and Ft. Wayne, Indiana). Throughout his life, Lee went by various names: Lee, Levi, Levi James, James, James Levi, and Frank.

In the 1870 census, a Joseph Reeder (24) was living in Greenville Twp., Darke Co. (located about midway between Dayton, Ohio, and Muncie, Indiana), and doing farm labor.  The fact that he was living alone rather than being listed in someone else’s household suggests that he had a family, since single young men did not usually live alone back then. Either his wife and child (two-year-old Lee) were visiting her parents, or he may have been setting up a new home while his family stayed with her parents.  His age and location are right for our Joseph.

In the 1870 census, Jane Reeder was living with her youngest daughter Malinda (age 10).

On December 26, 1872, Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Reeder was born to Joseph (age 26) and Christina (age 22). Throughout her life, Lizzie went by various names: Elizabeth, Lizzie, and Sarah. Lee was 4 years old.

On November 12, 1874, Lillian Belle Reeder was born to Joseph (age 28) and Christina (age 24). Throughout her life, Lillie went by various names: Lillie, Lillian, and Lily. Lee was 6 years old, and Lizzie almost 2.

On December 12, 1976, William Perry Reeder was born to Joseph (age 30) and Christina (age 26). Lee was 8 years old, Lizzie was 4, and Lillie was 2.

On April 9, 1879, James Gardner Reeder was born to Joseph (nearly 33) and Christina (nearly 29). Lee was 10 years old, Lizzie 6, Lillie 4, and William Perry 2.

In the 1880 census, Joseph (34) and wife Christina (30) were farming in Greenville Township, Darke County, Ohio with their children Lee 11, Lizzie 9, and Lillie 7.  All the family had been born in Ohio.  A servant, Mary Baker (32), from Pennsylvania, also was in the household.

In the 1880 census, Jane Reeder was living with her son, Perry, and his family in Washington Township, Montgomery County, Ohio.

In the 1880 census, Gardner Condon (age 59) and his wife Alma (age 62) were farming in Allen Township, Darke County, Ohio. This is 120 miles north of their previous farm and situated close to the Indiana border between Richmond and Fort Wayne. Their daughter Aadalisa (age 38) was living with them.

On August 10, 1881, John F Reeder was born to Joseph (age 35) and Christina (age 31).

On September 7, 1883, Adeline ‘Addie’ Reeder was born to Joseph (age 37) and Christina (age 33). Throughout her life, Addie went by various names: Malinda Adeliza, Addie Merea, and Addie.

Otto Reeder was born to Nettie (age 18) on June 3, 1884. The father is unknown. On his marriage license, Otto listed James (Lee) Reeder as his father, but that was probably his adopted father. At one point John had a child named Otto Davis living with him, but reportedly not his son.

On August 18, 1884 Joseph (age 38) died of a heart disease which was thought to have been a complication from his military service.

The Greenville Democratic Advocate, Greenville, Ohio, Thursday, August 21, 1884.

Joseph Reeder, aged about forty years, one of Reed’s brickyard employees, died very suddenly last Monday morning of heart disease. He was in town Saturday, and seemed to be in his usual health.

His death left a widow (age 34) and seven minor children: Lee 16, Lizzie 11, Lillie 9, William 7, James Gardner 5, John F 3, and Addie ~1. In Lizzie’s 1896 application to the pension department, she mentions that there were 6 minor children, so Lee must have left home by this time.

Nettie (age 20) married John P. Davis (age 25) on November 1, 1886 in Jay County, Indiana (Book C-F, p176). John’s parents, Isaac and Mahala Davis had 8 children, with John being the second oldest. They were living in Salem, in Jay County, IN. Isaac was a blacksmith, and John’s older brother Henry was a school teacher. John was a laborer.

John (age 26) and Nettie (21) had a child Novie ‘Nova’ born in Jay County on November 18, 1887.

On 2/20/1890, Jane Casky, the wife of Levi C. Reeder, died.

On January 3, 1891, Lee (age 22) married Martha “Mattie” Parks (age over 18) in Paulding County, Ohio. Paulding County is just across the state border from Fort Wayne, IN. It is directly north of Darke County, Ohio (with Mercer and Van Wert counties in between).

The Dependent and Disability Act of 1890 granted pensions to all Union veterans suffering from a disability, regardless of the origin of the disability. It awarded between $6 and $12 monthly to recipients, depending on the level of disability. On August 28, 1891 in accordance with the Act, Christina (age 41) applied for widow’s pension from the Department of the Interior and was pensioned on October 2, 1891. An affidavit by Adie Condon and George Aurenbaugh stated that Christina was destitute – she had no property and no source of income. Her request was apparently approved and she was pensioned from October 2, 1891 until her death. Note: $6 in 1891 is equivalent to about $161 in 2014.

On March 13, 1892, Lizzie (age 19) married Isaac ‘Elmer’ Patchett (age 26) in Darke County, OH.

In 1894, Lillie (age 19) married her husband Earl Franklin Cox (age 21) and moved to Hudson, IL where he began farming.

Lee Reeder made public notice of his petition to divorce Mattie Parks on grounds of desertion.


June 29, 1895 (and for 6 weeks thereafter)


Martha Reeder, whose place of residence is unknown, will take notice that on the 26th day of June A.D. 1895, Levi Reeder filed his petition in the Court of Common Pleas, Darke County, Ohio, being cause No. —, praying a divorce from said Martha Reeder, on the ground of willful absence for more than three years, and that said cause will be for hearing on and after Aug. 8, 1895.

E.C. Wright, Atty.

June 29, 1895

Lee was not granted a divorce as he must not have appeared for the court hearing.

Thursday, July 4, 1895

15096 — Levi Reeder vs. Martha Reeder; divorce. E.C. Wright


The state of Ohio, Darke County

Levi Reeder, Plaintiff vs. Martha Reeder, Defendant

Common Pleas Court

No 15,096


Plaintiff has been a resident of the State of Ohio for the year last past and has a bonafide residence in the County of Darke.

On or about the (blank) day of January, 1890 (actually January 3, 1891), at Paulding Center, Ohio, he was married to the defendant, and that no children were born of such marriage. Plaintiff has always conducted himself toward said defendant as a good, obedient, and faithful husband. But that the defendant has in disregard of her marital duties for more than three years past been willfully absent from plaintiff.

Wherefore plaintiff prays that he may be divorced from the defendant and for such other relief as is proper.

Lee Reeder


The state of Ohio, Darke County

Levi Reeder vs. Martha Reeder

Common Pleas Court

No 15,096


The plaintiff Levi Reeder being duly sworn according to law says that service of a summons cannot be made within the state on said defendant, that the place of residence is unknown to plaintiff, and that the case is one of those mentioned in Section 5048 R.S. of Ohio.

Lee Reeder

Sworn to before me and submitted in my presence this June 25, 1895.

D P Irwin, Notary Public for Drake Co, Ohio


Levi Reeder vs. Martha Reeder

No 15.096


This cause is dismissed for want of prosecution at costs of plaintiff. No record.

On 11/26/1895, Gardner Condon’s wife, Alma Young, died.

When Nettie’s half sister Winona married in December 1895, she and her new husband traveled to Greenville, Ohio to visit Nettie (~30) and her husband John Davis (34).

On March 26, 1896, Roscoe Patchett was born to Isaac ‘Elmer’ Patchett (age 30) and Lizzie (age 23).

Sometime between 1895 and 1897, probably early in 1896, Nettie and John Davis divorced.

On July 11, 1896, Christina died (age ~46). At this time Lizzie (age 23) submitted an application for guardianship of the two minor children: John F (age 14) and Addie (age 12). Lillie was 21, William was 19, and James Gardner was 17. The application included a deposit of a $50 bond (equivalent to about $1,340 in 2014). The application said the children were presently living with Gardner Condon, Christina’s father and the children’s grandfather. Lizzie became the legal guardian.

Later that year, on September 7, 1896, Lizzie submitted a request for pension for the two minor children to the Department of the Interior, Pension Department. She was denied.

On Dec 4, 1896, Lizzie (married name Patchett) filed an affidavit with the US Soldiers pension department clarifying that she was officially the daughter ‘Elizabeth’ and the legal guardian of the two minor children of Joseph: Malinda (Addie) and John. She was again denied.

Lizzie (age 22) must have divorced Isaac ‘Elmer’ Patchett (age 31) about this time.

Story continued on Lee Reeder and Nettie Turner post.