Richard Sharpe Shaver was born on October 8, 1907, in Berwick, Pennsylvania. His father, Ziba Rice Shaver (1875-1943), was descended from Philip Shaver (1762-1826), a native of Vienna, Austria, who lived and died in Pennsylvania. Shaver's mother was Grace T. (Taylor) Shaver (1871-1961), an author of verse and true confession stories. She was the daughter of Thomas Benton Taylor (1837-1915), a Pennsylvania cavalryman of the Civil War era. (1)
Richard S. Shaver was one of Ziba and Grace Shaver's five children:
- Donald Shaver (b. Sept. 27, 1899; d. Apr. 29, 1979), a U.S. Navy man (Oct. 4, 1917-Aug. 19, 1919) and a railroad brakeman. He married Marion Harder.
- Catherine Claire Shaver Haughton (b. Nov. 26, 1901; d. Aug. 22, 1993). She married Henry Osburne Haughton.
- Taylor Victor Shaver (b. Nov. 9, 1903; d. Feb. 24, 1934, Detroit, Michigan), a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps, a Pennsylvania state trooper, chairman of the Board of Inquiry for the U.S. Immigration Service in Detroit, and an author of stories for Boys' Life and The Open Road for Boys.
- Richard Sharpe Shaver (b. Oct. 8, 1907; d. Nov. 5, 1975), the subject of this series. He was married three times and had a daughter by his first wife.
- Isabel or Isabelle D. Shaver (b. April 23, 1915; d. April 20, 1988), a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers and an advertising copywriter in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
All were born in Pennsylvania.
In the chronicle of public records, you will find Ziba Shaver in the 1900 U.S. census in Philadelphia, where he was employed as a laborer. He had been married for about a year and a half when the enumerator found him. By 1910, he had made his way up in the world and was working as a press operator in a steel plant. In his household in Berwick, Pennsylvania, there were his wife and four children, plus five boarders and a servant. Richard S. Shaver, age two, was the youngest of the four. When he filled out his draft card in 1918, Ziba Shaver was still in Berwick and working as a salesman for Prince Furniture Company.
Things changed greatly by the time of the next U.S. census, for in 1920, Ziba Shaver and family were living in Bloomsburg, Columbia County, Pennsylvania. His oldest son Donald, then only nineteen, was working as a clerk in a restaurant. There was no occupation listed for Ziba Shaver. Change had come again by the next census when, in 1930, the enumerator counted Ziba, his wife, and his youngest child Isabel or Isabelle in Philadelphia. Ziba was at the time employed as a chef at a college.
If a newspaper article from the Detroit Free Press is accurate (2), the Shaver family moved to Detroit in about 1930. They may have followed Taylor V. Shaver there, for he was pretty gainfully employed with the U.S. Immigration Service in that city during the early years of the Great Depression. Tragically, Taylor Shaver died on February 24, 1934, after a brief illness. By 1940, Ziba Taylor was back in Pennsylvania, in Douglass Township, Montgomery County, where he ran a restaurant. His wife was with him, but their children were out on their own. All but Richard Shaver, that is, for he was being cared for by someone else in a faraway place. That's a story for another part of this series.
Ziba R. Shaver died on June 10, 1943, at his home in Barto, near Niantic, Pennsylvania. Also at home were his wife Grace and his son Richard, who helped bear his casket to the grave. Richard S. Shaver was at the time between marriages. His first wife had died in a bizarre accident. His second was still on the horizon. Shaver's seminal letter to the editorial staff of Amazing Stories was still five months off, too, but if he was telling the truth when he claimed that he had been working on his decoded alphabet for "a long period of years," then the death of his father in 1943 and that of his brother nine years before could only have confirmed him in his suspicions about the secret meanings behind the English language. After all, Taylor V. Shaver had died in Detroit, while Ziba R. Shaver had succumbed, according to his death certificate, to pulmonary edema due to cardiac decompensation.
Disentigrant energy--de--was evidently going about its detrimental work within the Shaver family.
To be continued . . .
(1) Ziba Rice Shaver was born on November 1, 1875, Dallas Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and died on June 10, 1943, at home, in Barto, near Niantic, Douglass Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, at age sixty-seven. Although there is a Shaver cemetery in Dallas Township, Shaver was buried at Fairmount Springs Cemetery, Fairmount Springs, also in Luzerne County. Ziba's wife, Grace T. (Taylor) Shaver, was born in August 1871. In the 1900 census, while her husband was in Philadelphia, Grace was counted with her parents and her infant son Donald in Fairmount Springs. Thereafter, she was counted with her husband in the U.S. census (1910, 1920, 1930, 1940). After his death in 1943, she presumably lived with Richard Shaver, though perhaps not continuously. She died at his home in Lanark, Portage County, Wisconsin, on July 21, 1961, at age eighty-nine and was buried with her husband in Fairmount Springs.
(2) "Taylor V. Shaver" (obituary), Detroit Free Press, February 26, 1934, page 3.
Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley