A Death Greatly Exaggerated, part 3


Warning—the conclusion of this post is now known to be incorrect.  See the “He’s dead, Jim (or, Down a blind alley)” post for details.


In part 1 of this story, I explained how my inherited last name should have been “Scherer” or “Shearer,” but my grandfather, Vernon, refused to use that surname because his birth father, Zyonia Ray Shearer, abandoned him and his family when Vernon was only 4 or 5 years old. But then I looked briefly at Zyonia’s (Ray’s) childhood and found that he, too, had lost his father when he was only 4 or 5 years old. Family tradition held that Ray’s father, Gilbert Michael Scherer, died shortly before 1900 due to traumatic injuries he sustained in an accident:

“Gilbert Shearer was building a home in Missouri.  He was working on the roof when he fell off across a tree stump, bursting his abdomen open.  He fell from his house while shingling his roof.  He was taken to a sanatorium, but died four days later. He was buried in Edmond Cemetery, 4 miles north of Powersville, MO.”

In part 2 of this story, I introduced Gilbert Michael Scherer and his wife Mary Belle (Coddington) Scherer, and tried to present everything I know (or thought I knew) about Gilbert, his short life, and his death. At the end of part 2, I presented the first piece of evidence that Gilbert was still alive long after his supposed death.

In this third and final installment, I’ll make the case for Gilbert not having died when, where, or how the family tradition maintains he died.

Start with what is known

What is known is that there was a Gilbert M. Scherer (“G1”) who was my great-great-grandfather, and that there was a Gilbert M. Scherer (“G2”) who led a long life after G1 supposedly died. The question is whether G1 and G2 are one and the same person. Until such time that a definitive answer can be obtained (for instance, through genetic paternity analysis), this question will have to addressed with circumstantial evidence.

In this post, I will present all the evidence I have that is pertinent to answering the question of whether the original Gilbert Scherer (G1) is the same person as the surviving Gilbert Scherer (G2), making what I believe is a compelling case that G1 and G2 are indeed the same person, proving that my great-great-grandfather Gilbert M. Scherer did not die when, where, or how the family tradition maintains he did.

To do this, I’ll have to compare the two Gilbert Scherers. The details of the life of G1 were presented in part 2 of this post. In the following section, I will share all of the details I’ve been able to find concerning the life of G2.

Who was G2?

The first evidence I’ve been able to find of G2 is on the 1900 federal census (pictured below). A 22-year-old Gilbert M. Scherrer appears on the 1900 census as a boarder in a house rented by James and Margaret Gaston (aged 43 and 40, respectively). James was a shoe clerk (shoe salesman) from Ohio, and his wife was born in Missouri of parents who immigrated from Ireland. James and Margaret had been married for three years, but had no children. Instead, they had two adult male boarders staying with them: Albert P. Smith, aged 26, who appears to be a typewriter repairman (“Repaire Typew²” or “Repaire Typewr”) born in Texas of Missouri-born parents, and Gilbert M. Scherrer.

Gilbert is listed as a single white male, age 22, born in October, 1877, in Missouri, of parents who were both born in Missouri. Interestingly, no occupation is listed for Gilbert, nor is there an entry in the “Months not employed” column. There are also no entries in the “Can read”, “Can write”, and “Can speak English” columns (typically left blank only in the case of children under the age of 10).

The house they were all living in no longer exists, but was located at 518 North Vandeventer Avenue, in 25th Ward of the city and in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis, MO, the fourth largest city in the nation at that time.

At some point before 1906, the G2 Gilbert Scherer did two things:

  1. He became very knowledgeable about the mechanics and design of typewriters;
  2. He moved to Denver, Colorado.

The G2 Gilbert was living in Denver, CO, on August 11, 1906, when he filed his first patent application (for a “Ribbon-Vibrating Movement for Type-Writers”) while he was working for the Underwood Typewriter Company, headquartered in New York, NY. The four-page application (patent application 842,814 (U.S.), filed Aug. 11, 1906; patented Jan. 29, 1907) is shown below. G2 Gilbert’s signature can be seen at the bottom of the first page.

Sometime between 1907 and 1910, the G2 Gilbert moved to Manhattan, New York, presumably to continue working with the Underwood Typewriter Company.

On the 1910 federal census, enumerated on April 26, 1910, a 32-year-old Gilbert Scherer is listed as one of four lodgers living in furnished rooms in Anna E. Hanson’s home on West 66th Street in Manhattan.  His occupation is listed as “Manager, Typewritering”. The three other lodgers in Ms. Hanson’s furnished rooms are George L. Schuman, age 24, born in Michigan and employed as a bell boy in a hotel; Alexander Sampson, age 55, born in Texas and self-employed as a lawyer; and Joe Austin, age 30, born in Michigan and employed by a private family as a chauffeur.

In 1915, the G2 Gilbert is found on the New York state census (pictured below) with his 54-year-old mother, Emma B. Scherer, and his 26-year-old sister, Iva L. Scherer.  They are listed as living in one unit of a multi-unit building at 66 West 104th St. in New York City.

Note: For purposes of comparison, the G1 Gilbert’s father and mother, William and Emma Scherer, moved to St. Louis themselves sometime between 1900 and 1910. On June 4, 1912, G1’s father William died in a St. Louis hospital of empyema of his gall bladder. His death, combined with the death of Julieke in 1892 and of a son before 1900, meant that G1 Gilbert’s family now consisted only of mother Emma B. Scherer, unmarried sister Ivy L. Scherer, and brother Leslie.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed another patent application on December 28, 1917, while living in Manhattan. He was the sole applicant on this patent application (which “comprises [a] mechanism for raising and lowering a phonograph record of the disk type from the rotating disk or table upon which the record is mounted”), and he appears to have submitted it independently of his employer. The four-page application (patent application 1,331,788 (U.S.), filed Dec. 28, 1917; patented Feb. 24, 1920) is shown below. G2 Gilbert’s signature can be seen at the bottom of the first two pages.

In 1918, the 40-year-old G2 Gilbert was required to register for the draft. Gilbert’s World War I draft registration card is pictured below. G2 Gilbert listed his name as Gilbert Michael Scherer and he gave his birth date as June 7, 1878. He states that he’s living at 103 West 93rd St. in New York City. He lists his nearest relative as his mother, Emma Scherer, also living at 103 West 93rd St. He states that he’s employed as an Inspector with the Royal Typewriter Co., and works at 304 Broadway. The Draft Registrar describes Gilbert as tall, with a medium build, with brown eyes and black hair. He is noted as not having lost an arm, leg, hand, eye, or having any obvious physically disqualifications. G2 Gilbert’s full signature can be seen at the bottom of the first page.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed another patent application on January 19, 1926, while living in New York, NY. He was the sole applicant on this patent application (for a “typewriting machine paper feed mechanism”), but he is noted as being an “Assignor to Royal Typewriter Company, Inc.” The four-page application (patent application 1,595,167 (U.S.), filed Jan. 19, 1926; patented Aug. 10, 1926) is shown below.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed another patent application on March 18, 1926, while living in New York, NY. He was the sole applicant on this patent application (for a “typewriting machine margin stop mechanism”), but he is noted as being an “Assignor to Royal Typewriter Company, Inc.” The five-page application (patent application 1,603,215 (U.S.), filed Mar. 18, 1926; patented Oct. 12, 1926) is shown below.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed a Canadian patent application on April 30, 1926, while living in New York, NY. He was the sole applicant on this patent application (for a “typewriting machine mechanism”). The ten-page application (patent application 267,153 (Canada), filed Apr. 30, 1926; patented Dec. 28, 1928) is shown below. G2 Gilbert’s signature can be seen at the bottom of page ten.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed another Canadian patent application on October 27, 1926, while living in New York, NY. He was listed as the inventory on this patent application (for a “typewriting machine mechanism”), but the applicant is recorded as being the Royal Typewriter Company. The ten-page application (patent application 273,060D (Canada), filed Oct. 11, 1927; patented Aug. 9, 1927) is shown below. G2 Gilbert’s signature can be seen at the bottom of page eight.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed yet another patent application on October 11, 1927, while living in New York, NY. He was the sole applicant on this patent application (for a “typewriting machine margin stop adjusting mechanism”), but he is noted as being an “Assignor to Royal Typewriter Company, Inc.” The six-page application (patent application 1,799,182 (U.S.), filed Oct. 11, 1927; patented Apr. 7, 1931) is shown below.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed another Canadian patent application on September 11, 1928, while living in New York, NY. He was the sole applicant on this patent application (for a “typewriting machine margin stop adjusting mechanism”). The 11-page application (patent application 290,433D (Canada), filed Sep. 11, 1928; patented Nov. 6, 1929) is shown below. G2 Gilbert’s signature can be seen at the bottom of both illustration pages and at the bottom of page 10.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed another patent application on November 8, 1928, while living in New York, NY. He was the sole applicant on this patent application (for a “carriage mechanism for typewriting machines generally and for machines of analogous arts”), but he is noted as being an “Assignor to Royal Typewriter Company, Inc.” The five-page application (patent application 1,813,321 (U.S.), filed Nov. 8, 1928; patented Jul. 7, 1931) is shown below.

Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) filed what appears to be his last patent application on January 23, 1930, while still living in New York, NY. He was the sole applicant on this patent application (for a “platen for typewriters and analogous machines”), but he is noted as being an “Assignor to Royal Typewriter Company, Inc.” The six-page application (patent application 1,820,164 (U.S.), filed Jan. 23, 1930; patented Aug. 25, 1931) is shown below.

A 62-year-old Gilbert Scherer was still living in Manhattan with his 52-year-old sister Ivy at the time of the 1940 census, enumerated on April 9, 1940. They lived together in one unit of a multi-unit building at 610 West 113th Street, and according to the census, they were both living there five years earlier as well.

Gilbert was recorded as working 40 hours per week as a “Typewriting Inspector” and was earning a very respectable $4,000 income (higher by $1000 than anyone within 3 census pages of him). Gilbert was listed as having only an 8th-grade education, while his sister Ivy had attended a year of college.

In 1942, a 63-year-old Gilbert was still living at 610 West 113th Street with his sister Ivy when he registered for the WWII draft in New York. He was still working for the Royal Typewriter Company, now working out of their 20 Park Avenue location. He stated that he was born on June 7, 1878, in Perryville, Missouri. Gilbert’s signature can be seen at the bottom right of the draft registration form, pictured below.

At 5:20 pm on August 14, 1965, Gilbert M. Scherer (G2) died of coronary heart disease at the Presbyterian Hospital in Denver, Colorado. The informant for the death certificate was Gilbert’s sister Ivy. She recorded his father’s name as William Scherer and his mother’s name as Emma Zink. She also recorded his occupation as a retired typewriter designer.

The local Registrar recorded that Gilbert’s body was to be removed to St. Louis County for burial.

Also recorded on the death certificate is that fact that seven years before his death (so, in 1958), Gilbert and his sister Ivy moved to Denver, Colorado (where Leslie, the brother of the G1 Gilbert, worked as a barber). Before he died, Gilbert and Ivy were still living together, this time at 30 East 14th Avenue in Denver.


So now that I’ve presented nearly all I know about the two Gilbert Scherers, how do they  compare? Is it possible that they were the same person? The following table shows the near-perfect match between the two personas:

“G1” Gilbert “G2” Gilbert
Name Gilbert Michael Scherer Gilbert Michael Scherer
Birthdate ca. 1878 June 7, 1878
Birthplace Presumably Perryville, Missouri
(was living there at 2 years old)
Perryville, Missouri
Mother Emma B. Scherer Emma B. Scherer
Mother’s maiden name Emma B. Fink Emma Zink
Father William Scherer William Scherer
Sister Iva “Ivy” L. Scherer Ivy L. Scherer

In addition to the above similarities, it is also significant to note that the two Gilberts were never found in the same place at the same time.

I have not yet been able to find some records, most notably the 1920 and 1930 federal census returns, but I do not envision any data on these records changing in any substantial way the emerging picture of the G2 Gilbert Scherer.

While the claim that Gilbert’s “death” just before 1900 was merely a ruse, and that his grave in Edmund Cemetery sits empty, the alternative is even more unlikely. It strains credulity to conclude that there were two Gilbert Michael Scherers born in Perryville, Missouri, in 1878 to parents named William and Emma (Fink/Zink) Scherer, with a sister named Ivy.

Given the available evidence, I must conclude that someone (perhaps Gilbert, or his wife Mary Belle, or even his mother Emma) concocted the story about Gilbert’s death, allowing him to escape his old life and reinvent a new life for himself in a new city. If his mother and sister weren’t in on the ruse at the beginning, they certainly knew about it by the early 1910s, as they were living with Gilbert in New York City in 1915.

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