Skeletons in the family closet: The Demented LoitererPosted on July 15th, 2013 2 comments
Every family probably has them. Black sheep. Disgraced cousins. Uncles that nobody talks about. Skeletons in the family closet. Here’s one of ours: Ova Surfus, the demented loiterer.
Orva J. Surfus was born about 1847, son of Calphenus Surfus (what a wonderful name!) and Catherine Eliza Gray. Catherine was eldest daughter of Thomas Gray and Sarah (Houser) Gray and grand-daughter of Gray patriarch William Penn Gray. The family farmed in Noble Country, Indiana, where according to the 1880 US Census Calphenus worked for his father-in-law as a farm laborer.
Orva, youngest son of four little Surfuses, gained brief notoriety in 1921 at about age 47. Old Ova was arrested for loitering… while carrying a package of 10 sticks of dynamite tucked casually under his arm!
As described in The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel (Friday, Feb. 25, 1921, page 23, col. 2):
MAN BELIEVED DEMENTED TOTED LOT OF DYNAMITE
Rode Around on Street Cars With Enough Explosive to Blow Them to Bits.
Judge J. Frank Mungovan, in the city court this morning, Ordered Orva Surfus. giving Columbia City as his home, held until Monday morning for investigation. The man, who is believed to be demented, was picked up Thursday by Detective Donald Wood, of the Pennsylvania [Railroad Company] special police department, who found that a package which he carried under his arms contained 10 sticks of 40 percent dynamite, weighing five pounds.
Many Fort Wayne people who calmly rode city street cars yesterday would have lost considerable of their complacency had they known that a man thought to be mentally unbalanced, was riding with them armed with enough dynamite to blow the car to atoms.
The authorities learned that Surfus had ridden on many city street cars yesterday and that he had also spent considerable time hanging around the plants of the S. F. Bowser & Co., and the Western Gas Construction company, always carrying the mysterious package under his arm. Surfus, according to the police, was unable to explain where he had gotten the dynamite or what he intended to do with it.
The state law makes it unlawful to carry dynamite on any conveyance which carries passengers. The railroads even refuse to transport 60 percent dynamite, according to a member of the Pennsylvania special police department.
Poor confused Orva, wandering around town with his package while back on the farm the home folks are grubbing stumps and wondering where he’s got to with that dynamite?
Stop by the family tree to check out the Surfus family and find their relation to the Grays. Anyone with further information about this incident, and about the family, is welcome to comment on this article.
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