One House’s Story: The Rumbaugh Family

The Rumbaugh House on Grant Street in Dennison, Ohio, 2022. (Source: earth.google.com)

There are so many homes in downtown areas that are either torn down to make room for new construction or are converted to other uses. In some cases, the original fabric and style of the home call out to those willing to learn about their earlier lives.


A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.

The Rumbaugh’s were a farming family from Pennsylvania, residing primarily in that state’s Armstrong and Indiana counties. John Rumbaugh (1820-aft. 1860) and his wife Elizabeth Ashbaugh (1820-bef. 1850), settled there sometime before the 1850 census was taken. Elizabeth had died sometime after the birth of one of the couple’s daughters in 1842. John was left to raise his three children on his own before remarrying around 1851. John and Elizabeth’s only son was named Israel Rumbaugh (1839-1916) and he worked on his father’s farm until at least his twentieth year.

Israel left the farm and found work as a brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1862 and, less than a year later, married Catherine Hoover (1841-1903). Israel’s occupation took him all over the the states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio and Israel worked his way up from brakeman to conductor. While working along the West Virginia tracks for several months during the Civil War, he suffered a horrible accident. Israel’s foot was crushed between cars and had to be amputated, requiring Israel to wear a “cork leg”, or prosthetic leg, for the rest of his life.

  • Israel Rumbaugh was born in the southern part Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. (Source: wikipedia.com)
  • Israel Rumbaugh listed with his father and siblings on the 1850 census for Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. (Source: familysearch.org)
  • The Rumbaugh Family recorded on the 1880 census record for the town of Dennison, Ohio. (Source: familysearch.org)

After his injury, Israel was moved into the cab of the locomotive to work as an engineer and he stayed in that position for the rest of his career with the railroad. Israel and his family lived for a while in Pittsburgh but Israel would have been familiar with the many towns and railroad yards along his usual routes. Twenty years working for the railroad had been good to Israel and eventually that work brought him to the town of Dennison, Ohio. Once there, in 1883, he purchased the fine brick home of a local merchant eager to follow his markets west. The house sat prominently on two lots on the southwest corner of Grant Street and Second Street in Dennison.

The house the merchant had built was done in one of the most popular styles of the day, the Italianate style. Decades of additions and modifications to the home have stripped it of many of details that would have been on the home originally. Late 19th century and early 20th century insurance maps show the home over time and provide insight into its original appearance. The home was constructed in a version of the style commonly referred to as “town house”, with details like a flat main roof, one-story porch across the front façade as well as a side-entrance with a decorative porch feature as well. Still visible are the tall, narrow windows indicative of the style with stone or brick “hoods” above them.

  • Newspaper report of Israel Rumbaugh's purchase of the home at the corner of Grant and Second Streets in Dennison, Ohio, April 1883. (Source: newspaperarchive.com)
  • The Rumbaugh House depicted on the 1887 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map for Dennison, Ohio. (Source: loc.gov)
  • The death of Israel and Catherine Rumbaugh's daughter Lizzie is reported in the local newspaper, 1887. (Source: findagrave.com)

Israel and Catherine Rumbaugh had two children, both daughters, born during their years in Pittsburgh. The same year that they purchased the home in Dennison, one of the daughters married and then moved to Minnesota with her new husband. That daughter, named Lizzie, died only four years later in 1887. Their second daughter, Alwilda (called Allie), married on Christmas Day in 1888. She and her husband had one child, a son, before the husband died sometime before 1900. Death came calling again when, in August 1903, Catherine Rumbaugh died from kidney disease at the age of 62.

It was not all bad news for the Rumbaugh family though, as Israel found himself asked to serve in a variety of public roles in the community. Israel remarried in 1907 to Elizabeth Yetter (1855-1940) and the couple lived in the home on Grant Street with Allie, her son, and a daughter of Elizabeth’s from a previous marriage. Allie, however, died unexpectedly in 1909 at the age of 41, leaving Israel the only surviving member of his original family. He lived out the remaining years of his life in the home, until his death in 1916. Today the Rumbaugh home serves as the home of the  Knights of Columbus Council #576 at Immaculate Conception.

  • Catherine Hoover Rumbaugh photographed at an unrecorded location, c. 1900. (Source: findagrave.com)
  • Israel and Catherine Rumbaugh's headstones in Union Cemetery, Uhrichsville, Ohio. (Source: findagrave.com)

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.

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