Emma Carter Sharpe Zeis

(Original owner of the JCHA Museum and Library)

Emma Carter was born in 1879, at Titusville, Pennsylvania,  one of 5 children born to John Joyce Carter and Emma Gibbs who were married in 1866.  Only four of the children survived to adulthood;  Charles,  Luke,  Emma and Alice.

Emma died on October 16, 1962 at Ohio Valley Hospital in Steubenville. She suffered from chronic leukemia for seven years and had been treated in Columbus and Steubenville for three years before her death.  She was educated in the public schools of Titusville, Pennsylvania and attended Walnut Hill College in Massachusetts.

This history must include some of the life of her father, who was born on June 16, 1842 at  Westport, Ireland as he was also an exceptional person. He came to America in 1846 and lived at Troy Center, New York. John’s mother had died when he was a year and a half old and he was raised by his older sister, until she married. He later lived in Buffalo and Portageville, New York and Cleveland, Ohio. John’s father was a traveling salesman and John was shuffled among several different families as a youth.

At age 19, on April 12, 1861 he answered President Lincoln’s call for men and entered the Union Army as a private and was discharged in August, 1865 as a Lieutenant Colonel.  He served in the Civil War with the 33rd New York Infantry and was awarded the Congressional Medal of  Honor for personal valor at the battle of Antietam, Maryland, on Sept 17, 1862.

His Citation reads:
While in command of a detached company, seeing his regiment thrown into confusion by a charge of the enemy, without orders, made a counter charge upon the attacking column and checked the assault. He penetrated within the enemy’s lines at night, and obtained valuable information.

After the Civil War ended, John Carter went to Titusville, Pennsylvania where Edmund Drake had drilled the first successful commercial oil well in 1859.  John worked in the mercantile business until 1877 when he sold the business and went to work in the oil fields learning the oil drilling business.

He bought property known as the Whipple Farm, on Kendall Creek, near Titusville, for sixty thousand dollars which his friends thought was an outrageous amount.  But after the land produced a million and a half barrels of oil, his friends thought he was a genius. This made John Carter a millionaire. He also developed other properties that made him one of the largest oil producers in the North East. He was chosen as president of the Bradford, Bordell and Kinzua Railway Company and within 18 months he had returned eighty per cent, in dividends, to the stockholders.

His home in Titusville was said to be the finest,  west of New York.

Colonel John J. Carter  then went to West Virginia, in 1893, where he bought producing oil properties in Tyler County, at, and in the vicinity of the town of Sistersville, which were known as the Victor, Shay, Ludwig, Mooney and Gillespie holdings.

On May 1, 1893, The Carter Oil Company was incorporated and organized as a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), and Colonel Carter’s holdings were transferred to the new company, its officers being, Colonel John J. Carter, president and general manager, and George A. Eckbert, secretary-treasurer. He was involved in an experimental process of converting natural gas to gasoline and the Carter Oil Company held patents on these processes.  The main office was at Titusville, Pennsylvania, until August, 1915, when Col. Carter retired at age 73.  Also, in 1915,  the Eastern and Western Divisions were created.  The Eastern Division comprised Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee and the Western comprising Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming.

In 1915 The general offices were moved to Sistersville, and in 1918 to Parkersburg, West Virginia. From that period the company extended its holdings until it became one of the largest oil producers in West Virginia, its principal operations being in Wetzel, Tyler, Pleasants, Ritchie, Doddridge, Roane, Jackson, Lincoln, Calhoun and   Kanawha counties, also with large operations in Ohio and Kentucky, in addition to the operations of the Western Division in Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming and New Mexico.

Colonel John Joyce Carter died in December, 1916 and is buried in Titusville in the family mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery.

But his daughter Emma is the subject of this story.

She married Alexander Beatty Sharpe in 1906 at Titusville,  and they had 3 children;
Sarah 1912-1912;  Mary Alice 1914-?  and  Alexander Jr. 1920-1998.

Emma’s husband, Alexander Beatty Sharpe Sr,  was born in Steubenville, on North Fifth Street, April 1, 1871. He was 35 and she was 27 when they married.  Alexander was 41 when Mary Alice was born and when Alexander Jr. was born in 1920, he was 49 years old.

Alexander Beatty Sharpe Sr. was president of the family business, The Ohio Foundry, then located between Slack & South Streets near the railroad, in Steubenville.  They made gas stoves, pots and pans and farm implements, and it was a very successful business.

The business was founded in 1846 near the location of the old High Shaft Coal mine by Alexander’s grandfather, William Linton Sharpe. In 1853 the company expanded and opened a foundry at 118 North Fifth Street. A fire destroyed this site in 1891 and the foundry was rebuilt between the railroad and Seventh Street near Slack Street. Alexander Beatty Sharpe Sr. became the 3rd generation to operate the foundry.

In 1918-1919, the Sharpe Mansion at 426 Franklin Avenue was built at a cost of $35,000.  This area of  Steubenville is known as Salmon & Mooney’s addition and the original deed that conveyed the property from the US government was signed by President John Adams to Bezaleel Wells on January 15, 1798.
On November 20, 1799, Bezaleel Wells sold the property to James Ross who conveyed it to  J.B. Salmon and W.H. Mooney.  On May 25, 1873,  Salmon and Mooney conveyed lot 18 to James Turnball.  Lot 18 is located in Range 1, Township 2, Section 30 of Salmon & Mooney’s Addition.

Shortly after Turnball bought the land, a frame building was erected and a Sunday school mission was conducted here under the auspices of the Second Presbyterian congregation. This stood for about twenty years when it was replaced by a more modern building.  In the fall of 1896 the building was leased to the St. Stephens congregation who occupied it until the completion of their new church, in 1903.

The mission school was soon discontinued and the building was leased to a society of evangelists known as “The Brethren”  who also had a tent church on South Street during the warm weather.  It later became the property of the Hon. J.J. Gill who conveyed the property to Emma Carter Sharpe in 1916 for the sum of one dollar plus other considerations. A copy of this deed is now displayed in our museum, complements of Mr. David Fortunato.

The house was designed by Mr. Edward Frantzheim of Wheeling and  Mr. Jefferson Bushfield of Toronto was the contractor while the Guy Johnston Lumber Company supplied the labor and materials.

History states that the home was built as a wedding gift for Emma and Alexander, but their son Alexander Jr. denied this rumor when he visited Steubenville in the 1980s.  And, later research has found that John Joyce Carter died in 1916,  2 years before construction began and since the mansion was constructed in 1918-1919 and Emma was married in 1906 it would have been a very belated wedding gift.

We do know his other daughter, Alice, had a similar home in Titusville but that house was razed several years ago.  When Emma and Alexander married in 1906, they resided at 310 Clinton Street until the house was finished in 1919.  Emma’s home is of classical English Tudor style having 19 rooms and five bathrooms on three floors and a full basement.

After Emma’s death in 1962, the house was purchased by Mr. David Fortunato for $35,000, and he and his family lived here while David conducted his business here, until 1976 when the Jefferson County Historical Association  purchased it and turned it into a museum & library. Our cost for the building was $65,000 and we presently have 19 areas in historical displays.

Emma was very civic minded and became involved in several areas of charity during her lifetime. Her first charitable act was in 1907 when she worked with the local Grand Army of the Republic distributing clothing and food to those affected by the flood of 1907.

In 1911 she felt there was a need to co-ordinate the financial assistance to the poor in Steubenville and she helped form a group known then as the Social Service Union. This later became the Family Service and later still, became a part of the Community Chest after its formation in 1931.  Today, it would be considered a part of the United Way. Emma was a charter member and served on its Board of Directors until her death.

The Jefferson County Red Cross was formed April 30, 1917 with Mrs. Sharpe being one of the charter members and a board member which she served for 45 years, also until her death.

She also served as chairman of the home service and civilian defense committee before World War I.

She participated in the International Tuberculosis Association Conference in Amsterdam, Holland and contributed to having the Jefferson County  Tuberculosis Association started.

In 1922 when the Ohio Valley Hospital was starting a fund drive they hired an outside consulting firm to advise the hospital on how to raise the needed funds.   The consultants reported that there was no way the desired funds could be raised in Steubenville and “not red cent could be raised here”.   The Ohio Valley Hospital directors asked Emma to organize a Women’s Advisory Board. She became the president with 30 other volunteer women members and they exceeded their goal.
The next year she suggested starting the hospital “Twigs” which was patterned after a similar group in Wheeling. The Twigs still exist today and they have been a very successful organization in supporting the hospital.

She also served on the board of directors of the old Gill Hospital, located on North Sixth Street.

The Community Chest was started in 1931 and Emma, along with R.C. Kirk, were the first co-chairpersons, Emma heading the Women’s Division and she remained on its board until her death.

She served on the boards of the First National Bank and the Ohio Foundry.

In 1930 the Steubenville School Board could not pay for a health nurse so Emma paid the costs for a public health nurse, for the schools, for three years.

But in 1927 tragedy strikes again………..Her first born, Sarah, had died shortly after birth in 1912 and now, in 1927,  Alexander Sr. suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered.  As part of his rehabilitation he and Emma were on an Atlantic Ocean cruise in 1930 when he took a turn for the worse.

They disembarked  the ship at Gibraltar and returned to New York City where Alex died March 9, 1930.  The body was returned  to Steubenville, by train, and he was buried from the home.

(Dorothy Sloop was pianist at the services)

Emma and Alex were married 24 years and she had lost her first born child in 1912 and now her  husband in 1930.  Her children were 9 & 15 years of age but she did have a live-in caretaker for assistance and she continued with her civic duties.

She offered her home to the Boy Scouts as a meeting place, often having as many as 50 young men attending the meetings. Needless to say, the meetings were constructive and very educational.  In 1935, after the death of her husband Alexander, and Mrs. Sharpe was living alone, she let a group of little neighborhood boys use her sun porch as their club room and they would visit her almost daily.

She operated a home for young working girls, on North Fourth Street, where they could stay for 25 cents per night with access to a kitchen and laundry facilities.  When the YWCA was formed, she turned it over to them.

She was an active member of St. Stephen’s and St. Paul’s Churches for 56 years.

Emma held membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and was a Vice Regent. She was a member of the Query Club, The Steubenville Women’s Club and the Garden Department of the Club.

One of her favorite associations was with the 134th Machine Gun Battalion, made up of local men who served in World War I. Emma and several other local women would send packages to these men during the war and in March, 1919 when the men were returning home, Emma heard that several of the soldiers had no money. She sent a check for $100 to Major John Axton, Chaplin, with instructions that the money be used for those men who may be short on cash when they arrive in New York City.  The men adopted Emma as their “Godmother” and she would attend their annual reunions as a guest of honor.

A picture of the 134th Machine Gun Battalion hangs on the wall in our military room.

But, coming as a surprise to even their most intimate friends, was the news that the widowed Emma Carter Sharpe and the Rev. Harold Cleaver Zeis, rector of St. Paul’s Church, were quietly married at Bexley Hall, Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio on January 3, 1936.  Emma’s son Alexander was the best man and only attendant.

After an undisclosed wedding trip, they lived at the home on Franklin Avenue until Harold Zeis died suddenly in August, 1942 of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 46.  Harold had resigned as pastor of  St. Paul’s Church and was working for the Ohio Foundry as a Vice President in Sales.  He was 17 years younger than Emma.

Emma was at the summer home on Lake Muskoka in Beaumaris, Ontario, Canada when he died.  This is about a hundred miles north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and several other local residents had summer homes there including, J.J. Gill.  Her summer home was located in an area known as “Millionaires Row.” Emma and Rev. Zeis had no children.

Her children by her first husband, Alexander,  were—–Sarah, who had died shortly after birth in 1912,  Mary Alice, born in 1914, was educated in Steubenville Public Schools, and attended Spence School in New York for 6 years. She studied at Paris and Rome and met her future husband, William Yalden-Thomson of Somerset, England in the summer of 1933 in France. They were married at St. Stephen’s Church in December, 1933 and a reception was held in the Sharpe home.

The couple spent a few weeks in Steubenville after their marriage and then left for England. Her husband was a member of the British government and served in England, South Africa, Switzerland and Canada.  He was later appointed the assistant to the Director of the United Nations.

However,  Mrs. Zeis’ obituary notes that in 1962, her daughter was now,  Mrs. Douglas Bantick, of London, England.  Mary Alice had 2 children, a son and a daughter, Judith Ann and Peter, to her first husband.   Bill Croskey relates the story of when he met Mary Alice and her children in the 1950s at St. Paul’s Church, that when Mary Alice’s daughter, Judith, was introduced to Bill, she curtsied.

Alexander Jr., born in 1920,  attended Aiken School in Aiken South Carolina for 3 years, spent two years at LeRosy school in Rolle, Switzerland;  one year at Fessenden School in Newton, Massachusetts and one year at Exeter, New Hampshire and several years at Orford  Academy in Pleasantville, New Jersey with plans to enter Kenyon College in 1938.

He served in the United States Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater during WW II attaining the rank of Captain. After World War II ended, he returned to Steubenville and worked for the Ohio Foundry as a Vice President. He remained in the USMC Reserves and on February 19, 1953, when the local Marine Corps Reserve unit was organized, Major Alexander Sharpe was appointed the first commanding officer.  At this ceremony, the Steubenville High School band played and Congressman Wayne L. Hayes and  Mayor Walter C. Sterling gave addresses.  Alexander Jr. later moved to Woodstock,  Illinois where he was involved in sales of the products produced by the Ohio Foundry.

After the Ohio Foundry was sold,  Alexander moved to Canada where he lived until his death in 1998.  He was survived by 2 sons; Alexander III and Stephen, both of Florida.

In 1950 Emma was appointed chairman of the Steubenville Planning Commission Board, a position  which she served faithfully,  even taking a course at The College of Steubenville on “Zoning” to become more proficient.  At age 71,  she began taking college classes to learn more about zoning. In 1953 the city passed their first zoning ordinance and Emma worked with the Chamber of Commerce Streets and Highway Committee to get improvements made to the Ft. Steuben Bridge.

She estimated that she had spent over 1000 hours, by the end of her 3rd year, on this committee which saw her traveling to Boston, Columbus, Cincinnati and Lima. The Provisional League of Women Voters was organized in early 1953, at Emma’s suggestion because the Planning Commission needed the support of the local women.

Emma was said to have been witty and found humor in her work as serious as it may have been.  She enjoyed reading and had a large collection of cook books and, she played bridge.


Emma was remembered by the Reverend Kevin Keelan for her acts of charity to the Franciscan College in its early days and in 1951 they awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree. She would throw open her home and bear the expense of entertaining the early graduating classes because the College had neither the finances nor facilities to provide for them.  She gave financial aid to students (unknown to them) when they needed it and she was active in organizing young women’s groups on campus.

In 1960 the College of Steubenville awarded her its Poverello Medal for,   “One who exemplifies the Christian Spirit of Charity that filled the life of St Francis of Assisi.”

At the Founders day Dinner, when Emma was awarded the medal, she said,  “If you only knew the fun I had doing the things I have done, you might not see fit to give me this award.”

Emma died October 16, 1962 at age 83 and in later years her sister, Alice, now the widowed Mrs. Dixon Boardman, and her daughter, Mrs. W.E. Reigel, Emma’s niece, lived with her at the Franklin Avenue home.

Emma Carter Sharpe Zeis continued her charitable ways after her death as her will reveals that generous donations were left to The Ohio Valley Hospital,  Jefferson County Red Cross,  The Family Service Association and St. Paul’s Church. Also remembered were her current and former employees, Burton Ball, Plummer Collier, Nettie Skilliter, Samuel Styles, Louise Melvin and Anna T. Lewis.

The will also reveals her grandchildren and great grandchildren;
Judith Ann Duff, granddaughter;  Peter Cron Yalden-Thompson, grandson;  Alexander B. Sharpe III, grandson;  Stephen R. Sharpe, grandson;  Colin Duff, great grandson and Jennifer Ann Duff, great granddaughter. Marjorie K. Sharpe, her daughter in law and John J. Carter, a nephew,  are also mentioned.  The bulk of the estate went to her son, Alexander B. Sharpe Jr. and her daughter, Mary Alice Bantick.

The will ordered that, within three years, the property at 426 Franklin Avenue and the summer home in Canada  be sold and the proceeds split evenly between Alexander and Mary Alice.

David Fortunato purchased the house in 1962 and used it as his home and business until 1976 when  it was purchased by the Jefferson County Historical Association for $65,000.  In 1989 it was appraised for $135,000.

An auction was held in the home, after Emma’s death, and all her possessions were sold. Nothing in the house today belonged to Emma. Everything that is on display is the result of our generous Jefferson County residents who want to see Jefferson County artifacts preserved in Jefferson County.

Today, we have 247 members, scattered around the country, and we exist with their donations and support.

Our genealogy library staff assists visitors who search for their roots in Jefferson County and we answer about a 100 letters and phone calls each year for those having questions about Jefferson County’s history.  Our library contains over 2,800 books on local, state and national genealogy and history.

We conduct tours for school children and adults and our museum has been used for card parties, showers and various social functions. We recently purchased a copy of a video tape about the lives of the seven men, born in Ohio, who became president and  this Ohio Historical Society film is shown to the elementary school children who visit us.

JCHA holds an annual dinner meeting each year, usually in October, where we report to our members on the past year’s accomplishments and, our future goals.  We also have an annual Open House celebration, each Spring, which announces our opening.

We keep a historical presence in the community  by sponsoring different events each year. Our 2001 Open House celebration saw Mr. Lewis Anile of Weirton loan his Civil War artifacts for a display.

In 2002 we hosted a Civil War Symposium with six speakers being brought in, from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a successful program at Jefferson Community College.

In May, 2003 we held a piano recital by former Steubenville resident, Dr. Marcella Branagan and in June, 2003 our historical society participated in the city’s Bicentennial celebration.

The founding members of JCHA were;  Vivian Snyder,  William Brandt,  George Barthold,  Katherine Minor and  J. Sheldon Scott while Attorney John England acted as legal counsel.  It was this group who directed the first election of officers which saw Attorney John England elected President and elected Vice President was  J. Malcolm Irwin;  Mrs. Robert Helsley, Secretary;  Mrs. Earl G. Snyder, Treasurer and  Mrs. Stephen G. Krawson, Assistant Treasurer.  There were one hundred members present for the first election and the first annual  meeting.

The formal  museum opening and ribbon cutting took place on May 15, 1977 with several local and state dignitaries present. A flag was presented by American Legion Argonne Post 33 which was raised by  Earl G. Snyder as a bugle and gun salute was performed by the color guard.

We are a non-profit, 501C (3) all volunteer organization that anyone, having an interest in the history of Jefferson County, can join. We meet the second Wednesday of each month, at 4PM in the museum to conduct business.  Our Officers and Board members are listed in the newsletter and we welcome you to visit us at our museum home.

And our goal as a historical organization is,

“To preserve, protect and promote the artifacts and history of Jefferson County.”

Compiled by JCHA board member