The Last Chapter: Frank Foote Part Three

Frank Foote, Jr. was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of George Clawson in December 1861 and experienced violence and death as a soldier during the Civil War from 1862 until 1865. He returned home to Cincinnati after the war to begin the last chapter of his short life, accompanied by the ghosts of his past.

It was only three months after Frank Foote, Jr. returned from serving in the 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War that he married Martha Harcourt just across the Ohio River in Kenton, Kentucky. Frank was 21 and Martha was 18 at the time. On the marriage record, Frank gave his occupation as blacksmith, though this is the first and only time that he offers that trade as his source of income. He would hold a number of jobs during the remaining years of his life, seemingly unable to hold any job for very long.

It was common during the period of Frank Foote’s life for people to move regularly back and forth across the Ohio River from the Cincinnati area to Kentucky in search of work. Frank Foote, and his father, were no different and are found in the historical record as being residents of both, though they eventually both settled in Cincinnati.

Map of the Cincinnati area, 1870.

Frank Foote, Jr. was working as a general laborer and a teamster when he and Martha started their family. Their first child, Cecelia Caroline, was born in 1867 at a time when the family was living in Ohio. Meanwhile, Frank Foote, Sr. was still in the saloon business in Cincinnati, operating saloons in a couple of different locations during the 1860s and 1870s.

Frank Foote, Jr. and his family were living in Cincinnati’s 20th Ward in 1870, with Frank working as a teamster, when the family welcomed two more daughters in the early 1870s; Ella in 1871 and Lillie in 1873. The first sign that Frank Foote, Jr. was not coping well with the demons of his past appears, very publicly, in July 1873.

Somehow, and perhaps because of his status as a Union veteran, convicted murderer Frank Foote, Jr. was hired and sworn in as a Patrolman with the Cincinnati Police Department in the spring of 1873. Less than two months later he was publicly accused of drunkenness and disorderly conduct by one of the individuals who had endorsed him for the position. It would appear that Frank Foote, Jr. was medicating himself with alcohol. Was this the result of working in a saloon from a young age? As a means of coping with the memory of murdering George Clawson? Did the alcohol keep the memories of bloody battles and lost comrades at bay? Unfortunately for Frank Foote, Jr. his suffering would continue.

Somehow Frank Foote, Jr. was able to keep his position as a Cincinnati Patrolman and continued in that position during the middle and later 1870s. Frank and Martha welcomed two more children into their home during this period. A son, Frank, was born in 1876 and another son, Walter, arrived in 1878. During the late 1870s, Frank Foote, Jr. also became active in his local Grand Army of the Republic Post, the Fred C. Jones Post 401, being one of the post’s charter members.

At some point, and whether by choice or by necessity is unknown, Frank Foote, Jr. left the police department and entered the family business of operating a saloon. Probably not the best decision for a man battling his own demons with alcohol. Unfortunately for him, he was about to battle another demon, the untimely death of his 6 year old son Frank in 1881. Whether the death of his young son exacerbated Frank’s drinking or merely gave him one more excuse is impossible to know, but he would only outlive his son by three years.

The location of Frank Foote, Jr.’s saloon at McMillan and Kenton Streets, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Frank Foote, Jr. had experienced a great deal of death and violence first hand. Frank’s shooting-to-death of George Clawson in 1861, the death and destruction of military campaigns of the Civil War, the accidental death of his comrades just as they were returning home from that war, and the loss of his son and namesake at the young age of 6 all undoubtedly took a toll on him. The alcohol that Frank used to ease his pain and suffering would ultimately cost him his life.

Frank Foote, Jr., at the age of thirty-nine, died on 3 October 1884. The cause of death given on the official record was a “Brain Disorder”, but on his grave registration card his cause of death was given as “Acute Alcoholism”. Martha would collect her husband’s veteran pension until her death in 1915. Frank Foote, Jr. was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio next to his son.

Frank Foote, Jr.’s headstone in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.

© Noel B. Poirier, 2020.


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