The Groft Family and the Census
1850-1930

copright 2003 by Jeffrey L. Thomas
jltbalt1@verizon.net

The Groft family has appeared in every U.S. census return from 1850 to 1930. Circa 1850 Charles L. Groft married Elizabeth Spencer, and they began raising a family of nine children, at first in the Reisterstown District of Baltimore County, MD, before moving to Westminster, MD in neighboring Carroll County in the mid-1860s.

Below you will find my short commentary on each census return from 1850 to 1930, along with a linked image of the actual return being discussed. I have also attempted to track the children of Charles R. and Elizabeth Groft, as they married and started their own families, although these census images are not included here.


1850 Census, 1st District, Baltimore Co., MD

In the census of 1850 we find Charles Groff, his bride-to-be Elizabeth Spencer, and his brothers John and Francis Groff all living in the 1st District of Baltimore County, Maryland. Evidence indicates that the family moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland between 1847 and 1850 and settled near Reisterstown in Baltimore County. Other Groffs living in the district may have been related to Charles. If so, their place in the family has yet to be determined. The 1850 census lists Charles Groff, (age 21), as a "Laborer" working and living in the household of John Stock, a wheelwright from Germany. Charles' wife Elizabeth Spencer is shown living in the district several miles away. Charles and Elizabeth were not living together, and there is no sign of their son Oliver who was supposedly born in 1847/48, hence the likelihood that Charles and Elizabeth were not yet married at the time the census was taken.

1860 Census, 4th District, Baltimore Co., MD

By 1860, Reisterstown had been transferred to the newly-formed 4th District in Baltimore County, and it is here we again find the Groff family in the 1860 census. By 1860 more Groff family members had arrived in Reisterstown and we finally see the family of Charles and Elizabeth Groff together for the first time (almost). The 1860 returns list Elizabeth Groff (age 35) as the head of the household, which includes her children Samuel, (age 7), Hester (Hesta age 4), Julia, (Juliann age 2), and Charles L, our next ancestor, (age 7 months). Charles Groff, (age 27), is next door, living and working with the family of blacksmith William Allen. His occupation is listed as "Fence Maker". Charles and Elizabeth's oldest son Oliver, (age 12), is living nearby with the family of Louis and Catherine Turfle. As such, the 1860 census accounts for Charles and Elizabeth Groff and all of their children for the first time. It is also significant because it all but proves that our next ancestor Charles Lawrence Groft was born in Reisterstown, Baltimore County, not Westminster in Carroll County.

1870 Census, Westminster, Carroll Co., MD

By the late 1860s Charles Groff and his family had moved from the Reisterstown District in Baltimore County to Westminster in neighboring Carroll County. Son Oliver Groft married in Westminster in late 1868, and we have land records evidencing the sale of property to Elizabeth Groft the following year in 1869.

The returns of 1870 are the first time we see the family of Charles and Elizabeth Groff living in Westminster. The family is living on a farm valued at $500.00, which was probably the piece of property purchased by Elizabeth the previous year. The returns include Charles Groff, (age 44), Elizabeth, (age 45), and children Samuel, (age 17), Esther, (Hester, age 15), Julia, (age 13), Charles, (age 10), John, (age 8), Joseph, (age 5), and Mary Ann, (age 3). Charles' occupation is listed as "Farmer". Interestingly, while all the children are listed as being born in Maryland, Hester is listed as being born in Pennsylvania in 1854/55. If correct, this is an indication that the Groff family was still visiting to Pennsylvania while living in Reisterstown. The returns for Westminster also show oldest son Oliver Groff and his wife Susan living nearby.

1880 Census, Westminster, Carroll Co., MD

In the census of 1880 we again see the family of Charles and Elizabeth Groff (Grofs) living in Westminster in Carroll County, Maryland. By the time of the census two additional children (son Samuel and daughter Julia) were married and had left their parent's family, and the family had added a son, James H. Groft, who had just missed being counted in the returns for 1870. The returns lists Charles, (age 48), as a "Fence Maker" the same line of work he followed while working for William Allen in 1860. The rest of the family included Elizabeth, (age 52), children Hester L., (age 24), Charles L., (age 20), John, (age 18), Joseph M., (age 15), Mary A., (age 12), and the aforementioned James H., (age 10). Sons Oliver and Samuel Groff, and daughter Julia Webster and their families are shown living nearby.

Mary Ann Groft would die four years later in 1884, and was the first family member buried in the original Groft family plot at the Westminster cemetery. Julia Groft Webster would die in 1895 at age 37, and was buried next to her sister. Since the 1890 census was destroyed by fire, 1880 would be the last set of returns for Mary Ann and Julia.

1900 Census, Westminster, Carroll Co., MD

Elizabeth Groft died in 1898 and was buried next to her daughters Mary Ann and Julia in the Westminster cemetery. Her husband Charles Groft would survive his wife by about a dozen years. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate Charles in the census of 1900. He was not living with any of his children, all of whom are accounted for by the returns, nor does he appear to be living in Westminster. I have also searched his former residence in Baltimore County, as well as select areas of Pennsylvania, all to no avail. Therefore, at this point in time he remains unaccounted for.

Our next ancestor, Charles L. Groft, married Alice J. Miller, daughter of John Q. & Amanda Frock Miller, in Westminster in 1881, and their first child Harry L Groft was born on 23 July 1882. By the time the census of 1900 rolled around the family of Charles (Charlie) and Alice Groft was complete with the exception of their last child Treva, born in 1903. The census shows the family of Charles and Alice living in their house on Manchester Avenue near the intersection of Manchester and Webster Street. The large house was previously owned by Alice's family, and was involved in the protracted and bitter settlement of the estate of her father. The returns list Charles Groft, (age 40), as the head of the household; his occupation is given as "Brick Maker." Next is his wife Alice, (age 37), followed by children Harry L, (age 17), Viola M., (age 16), Nellie L., (age 13), Lottie B., (age 10), Myrtle M., (age 7), Carl C., (age 5), Arthur S., (age 3), and Bertha A., (age 8 months). Harry Groft is listed as "Laborer, Brick Yard" while Viola and Nellie were working as "Shirt Makers".

Also living in Westminster were the brothers of Charles L. Groft and their families, including Samuel, Joseph, Oliver, John, and James (who was living with John and family). Samuel is listed as a "Brick maker", Joseph as "Laborer in Tannery," John as "Brick maker." James as "Brick maker," and Oliver as a "Farmer." These occupations, plus ones listed in previous returns make one thing clear - the first few generations of Groft family members definitely made their living in the construction and construction materials industries. It began with Charles R. Groft being a fence maker, and continued through his descendants and their association with the brick and lumberyards of Westminster. The Groft family even built several houses in Westminster that are still standing today.

1910 Census, Westminster, Carroll Co., MD

By 1910 some of the children of Charlie and Alice Groft had married and begun their own families, and the census returns for that year provide a wonderful window into the family. Living next door to Charlie and Alice Groft in a row of houses on the York/Manchester Road at the intersection of Webster Street, are daughter Viola and son-in-law Frank Tawney, daughter Lottie and her husband Charles Brown, and son Harry Groft and his family. Charlie and Alice are living in the same house they occupied in 1910 and their married children are living in the next three houses down. The house occupied by Viola and Frank Tawney had been built by the Groft family earlier in the century, and all of the Groft family houses along York St. were owned by the individual families.

Still living with Charlie and Alice were children Myrtle, (age 17), Carl, (age 14), Arthur, (age 12), and Treva, (age 4). Daughter Bertha died in 1906 at age 7 and was the only child not to reach maturity. Charles, (age 54), is listed as a "Brick Maker - Brick Yard," while the returns show that Carl, Arthur and Treva were in school. Next door Frank Tawney and Charles Brown are listed simply as a Day Laborers.

Living at the end of the row of houses was our next ancestor Harry L Groft, (age 27). He married Mary Etta Little, (age 25), in 1900, and by the 1910 census two of their three children had been born, Alice, (age 8), and Sterling Lawrence, (my grandfather), age 2. It's difficult to make out Harry's occupation in the returns although it appears that he was working at a local tannery, possibly as a "beam maker." We know that Harry was a carpenter so this occupation seems to fit.

Although the patriarch of the Groft family, Charles R. Groft, is missing from the 1900 census for Westminster, he resurfaces 10 years later in the census of 1910. His reappearance in the returns answers some questions, but raises others as well. By 1910 the children and grandchildren of Charles R. Groft had spread out across Westminster and had contributed to the growth of Carroll County's most important town in many positive ways. In his old age we would have expected the patriarch of the family to be living with one of his children or grandchildren, but this was not the case. Instead what we find is 77 year old "Charlie Groft" living as an "Inmate" at the Carroll County Almshouse in Westminster.

1920 Census, Westminster, Carroll Co., MD

As was the case in 1910, the census of 1920 reveals that Charles L. Groft and several of his children were still living on Manchester Avenue along what I will call "Groft Row." First we have Charles & Alice Miller Groft living in the large house at the corner of Manchester and Webster. Charles is listed as 60 years old, occupation, "Laborer - Lumber Yard". Next is his wife Alice, (age 56), and daughters Myrtle, (age 26), and Treva, (age 17). The returns show that Myrtle was working as a stenographer while Treva was working in the local shirt factory.

Living right next door is the surprise listing for this family group - 76 year old Mary E. Tawney, widow of James T. Tawney. James and Mary Lockard Tawney were the parents of Sarah Rebecca Tawney and James T. Little, the grandparents of Mary Etta Little who married Harry L. Groft. The returns show that Mary Tawney was living by herself, but next to her granddaughters Mary Little Groft, and Anna Little (wife of Milton Little). The passing of Mary Lockard Tawney in 1926 would bring to a close the story of our Lockard ancestors. (See the Tawney-Lockard section for additional information about these families.)

Next down the row was the aforementioned Milton and Anna Tawney Little, followed by our ancestor Harry L. Groft and his wife Mary Little. Harry's age is given as 37, occupation, "Salesman - Lumber Co." Mary is next (age 35), followed by daughter Alice, (age 17), and sons Sterling, (my grandfather - age 13), and Harold, (age 6). Alice's occupation is listed as "Stenographer - Ship Yard."

Webster Street intersects Manchester Avenue near "Groft Row", and it is here we find additional members of the family, including Charles and Lottie Groft Brown, and Joseph and Nellie Groft Brown. Lottie and Nellie were daughters of Charles L. Groft, (Harry L. Groft's sisters), and they married the Brown brothers. Rounding out the family of Charles L. and Alice Groft are their children Carl and Arthur Groft and their families, living further up on Webster Street. With family members on both Manchester and Webster, we can say the Groft family dominated this little corner of Westminster from the turn of the 20th century, into the decade of the 1930s.

The 1920 returns also show that Charles' brothers Oliver and Joseph Groft and their families were still living in Westminster.

1930 Census, Westminster, Carroll Co., MD

The 1930 census gives us a 4-generation look at the Groft family in Westminster. Charles L. Groft and his wife Alice were still living, as were their oldest son Harry L. Groft and his wife Mary Little. Their son Sterling Groft and his new wife Helen Staub make their first census appearance as husband and wife, and the 1930 returns are also the first for their daughter and my mother, Mary M. Groft. We begin with this family.

Sterling L. Groft married Helen C. Staub in Westminster in 1928, and on 13 February 1929 their daughter Mary M. Groft was born. The 1930 census shows that the family was living in Westminster on East Green Street, which had recently been extended beyond Washington Avenue. Sterling L., (age 23), is listed as the head of the household, wife Helen's is incorrectly given as 17 (she was 19), and daughter Mary is 1 year and two months old. The family is renting their home for $30.00 a month. Sterling's occupation is given as "Trimmer - Shoe Factory".

Living next door were Sterling's uncle and aunt Joseph and Nellie Groft Brown. Joseph Brown was also working at the local shoe factory. Next to the Browns were Sterling's brother-in-law and sister John and Alice Groft Peltz. John Peltz was working for a feed company at the time of the census.

A couple of houses up on East Green Street we find Sterling's mother and father, Harry L and Mary Little Groft. Harry is 47 years old and working as a "Driver - ???? Dealer". Wife Mary is 46, and their son and Sterling's brother Harold Groft, (age 17), is still living at home. Both are working at the shoe factory, Mary as a "Stitcher," and Harold as a "Helper." Harry Groft owned his home which is assigned a value of $3,000.00. This may be the house he built at 55 East Green Street, although unfortunately the census does not give the street address.

Back on Manchester Avenue we find Harry's parents Charles and Alice Miller Groft. By 1930 Charles was 71 years old and was still working, his occupation given as "Laborer - City Council." His wife Alice is 67 years old, and their daughter Myrtle, (age 36), was living with her mother and father. Myrtle Groft's occupation is listed as "Seamstress - Coat Factory." This would be the last set of returns for Charlie and Alice Groft. Charlie would die in 1938, and Alice died in 1940 before the census for that year was taken.

In 1930 Charles and Alice Groft's children Arthur, Treva, and Carl, were living with their spouses across the street from Charles and Alice on Webster Street. Arthur and Carl are working for a lumber company, and Treva's husband Roland Armacost is listed as an insurance salesman.

Going back a generation we see Charles Groft's older brother Oliver living with the family of his son and daughter-in-law, Irvin and Eugenia Groft Little. Oliver Groft would die in 1937 in his 90th year. Next we see the family of Joseph M. Groft living on East Green Street. Joseph's occupation is listed as "Laborer - City Government". Lastly we see the large family of Clayton Groft living Manchester Road. Clayton was the son of Samuel Groft.


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Text and photographs copyright 2003 by Jeffrey L. Thomas, with all rights reserved
e-mail: jltbalt1@verizon.net