Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cloverdale Cousin of the Notorious Jimmy Hoffa

It's exactly this sort of thing that keeps family history research fun, fascinating, and quite the educational experience. 

I was reading over great grandmother Sarah's letters yesterday, trying to find the part about her uncle's death. I finally found the letter dated March 20, 1932 and on the second page was the part about Uncle Elsberry Poynter's passing. But there was another death, that happened just hours later, that got the best of my curiosity.....

Letter dated 20 Mar 1932
"There has been lots of sickness and deaths here, two or three funerals at Cloverdale a week. Last Wed. Week - Jimmy & Arch Poynter came over and said that Uncle Elsberry was awfully bad so after dinner we went over there and he died soon after we got there. So the next day in the afternoon I was getting ready to bake a cake to take over there that nite. We were going over there to sit up and let the family sleep, they were going to start to Ky with him Fri. morn. and Mr. Frazier, the father of the woman that lives in the next house towards Cloverdale, came running down here and said she was dying and wanted Lloyd to go after a Dr. & asked me if I would go up there so I put on my coat and ran up there. I had never met her. She was awful bad, her mother and sister was there. She had a little baby 3 days old and they had let her bowels leak. They had sent to school after the two little boys, it was so sad. I stayed till the Dr. and some more folks came and I came on back home and we went on over to Uncle Elsberry's but the undertaker had come and taken him to his place at Cotesville and we came on back so the folks could sleep. We stopped at the neighbors as we came home but she had died too."

Well, I thought if I could find out who the woman was that died, I might find a descendant researching the family that would be interested in this story told by my great grandmother. All I had to go on was the woman's father, a Mr. Frazier, and that she was Sarah's neighbor on the next farm. I checked the 1930 census but I wasn't sure which neighbor it might be or if it was certain that same neighbor was living there in 1930, so I did various searches to see if I could find a 1920s Frazier marriage in Putnam county and to see if I could find a woman who had died in Cloverdale, Indiana on March 3, 1932, the day after Elsberry died.

It didn't take me long to find her. She was Cordia Fern Frazier, wife of Virgil H. Hoffa and they did indeed live on the farm adjacent to my great grandmother's in 1930. Cordia and her infant daughter were buried in Cloverdale Cemetery. Oddly enough, the stone says the infant was born and died on March 1. Either the baby was already dead when Sarah went to help, or perhaps someone was trying to save space on the stone by not putting the second date. Now, armed with information on the Frazier/Hoffa woman, I could follow my quest to look for anyone who might be researching this family.

In the meantime, I found myself thinking about that surname "Hoffa". Silly thought really but, what if Virgil was related to the notorious James Riddle Hoffa? Out of curiosity, I Googled Jimmy Hoffa and the first thing that stood out in the Wikipedia article was the fact that Jimmy was born in Brazil, Indiana, not far from Cloverdale. Maybe it wasn't such a silly thought at all! I quickly found out that Hoffa was not a particularly common name back then and after only an hour's worth of digging I was able to confirm that Jimmy and Virgil were 2nd cousins. Their grandfathers were brothers, Jacob and Isaac Hoffa, and the family members were long time residents of Indiana, going back to the early 1840s. There are countless census, birth, marriage, and death records for Hoffa in Indiana.

Of course, Jimmy wasn't "notorious" yet in 1932, he was still a teenager. All the same, it was a fun bit of trivia discovery. My great grandmother lived next door to Jimmy Hoffa's cousin!



  1. Very interesting! Being a former Detroiter, the Hoffa name is well known to me.

  2. Excellent detective work. A find like this can go a long way to keep the desire to do research alive when everything feels like a brick wall.

  3. Great work! You know you helped someone by going the extra mile. A descendant will find this. Great post!

  4. Don't you love these side trips that happen with a great letter or diary or other interesting clue from an ancestor!? Wonderful research here, Lisa. Thanks for sharing this unusual post.