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Archive for January, 2012

The further back I get in my family’s history, the harder it gets to find a headstone for an ancestor. This week I had a total of two to choose from for my headstone of the week. My 4th great grandfather, Samuel Leader is my choice this week.

Union Meeting House, Marietta, Pennsylvania

As you enter Marietta you see it. The Old Union Meeting House, a large brick building, surrounded by aging headstones, some you can read, some you can barely read and some you can’t read at all. And then there are those that are no longer where they once stood tall and proud. Samuel Leader’s is among those in the last category, with one exception. His is in pieces, some remain and other pieces have either vanished or are buried under sod, leaves, or whatever it is that blows through a cemetery, year after year, after year.

The person in the spotlight is the easiest person to research, but information on an ancestor who just gets by day to day, gets harder to find the further back you go. Samuel falls into the second category.

Samuel was the 1st of at least 9 children born to Ludwick (Lewis) Leader and his 1st wife, probably Catharine Miller. He was born the same year our country was, in York County, Pennsylvania. Since his father and family moved from York County to that new developing area of Marietta on the other side of the Susquehanna River by 1804, it is assumed that Samuel followed him shortly thereafter. He kept below the radar up until 1811 when he was listed as a Joiner (carpenter) on tax lists. The fact that he was a carpenter is no surprise since there were many Lumber Mills in Marietta. He and his wife, Susannah Bischoff (Bishop), had three children, his eldest and only daughter would become my ancestor. He signed petitions, was active in Marietta affairs and bought a house and then lost the house in foreclosure. 1839 is the first year he does not appear on the Tax Lists. This is Samuel’s life in a nutshell, that dash on a headstone between the dates . . . . which brings us back to those broken pieces of his headstone.

Next to the fence, far from Samuel’s original burial site is a neatly stacked pile of broken pieces of stones that once marked the passage of a life. I believe Samuel’s headstone to be in this pile, and I have several reasons why.

  • 1820 Census shows Samuel Leader in Marietta with one male 45 and over
  • 1830 Census shows Samuel Leader in Marietta with one male 40 -50.
  • When the Cemetery was transcribed in the 1950’s there was a broken stone transcribed right after Lewis and Sarah Leader.  It showed a  person aged 63 yrs, d. 4 ? 1839.  
  • Newspaper article found in “Marietta Scrapbook” at Lancaster County Historical Society, lists Samuel as eldest son of Lewis.
  • Bible in my possession belonging to Samuel’s widow, Susannah has a date of April 15, 1839.  Susannah was illiterate and had no reason for a Bible. (my theory is it was given to Susannah at Samuel’s funeral.)
  • 1839 is the first tax year Samuel does NOT appear on the tax list for Marietta Borough.  (falls right into line with the above Bible and headstone date)
  • Susannah purchases a home in a neighboring town taking possession in her name only in 1840.
Those stones are way too heavy for me to move, and Jim said he do almost anything in the world for me, but moving heavy pieces of rock is not one of those. Since I sincerely believe Samuel’s headstone is in that stack, I’ve decided to bestow him with the honor of being

Linda’s Headstone of the Week for Week #5

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My selection for headstone of the week is Joseph Britton Carvell, my great-great-great grandfather.  He is buried in cemetery at Otterbein United Methodist Church in East Salem, Juniata County,  Pennsylvania, next to his 2nd wife, Mary Hile Carvell. Born on 1 February 1821 in Snyder County, Pennsylvania, he was the first son out of 14 children born to William Carvell and Mary Britton. He was named for his grandfather, Joseph Britton, a veteran of the Revolutionary War.

When Joseph was 20 years old, he married Rebecca Mark who bore him at least 5 children, my great-great grandfather, Jeremiah Mark Carvell, being one of them. In November of 1847, Rebecca passed on to glory, leaving Joseph with 3 children under 5 years of age. It is of no surprise that he had remarried by the following September. The marriage to Mary Hyle lasted 44 years until Mary died in 1887. She had borne him at least 12 children.The picture is a copy of a copy, and therefore not a good one, but it shows the couple and shows Joseph as who he was – a hardworking man, doing his best to support his family. The work boots on his feet show he was just a working man.

Joseph and Mary Carvell lived in Thompsontown, Delaware Township in Juniata County. Delaware Township is just 29 square miles with under 2,000 residents today. During their life time the population was probably a lot less. Another researcher tells of two of his granddaughters who remember their grandfather living in a house directly off the square in Thompsontown. He made his living by making brooms and peddling them throughout the countryside. Although several things point to the couple owning property, nothing conclusive can be found, and it is doubtful the couple ever did.

My selection for Headstone of the Week is for a man I know little about. What I do know however makes me respect his values. The process of making a broom from growing, harvesting, and drying the broom straw thru the assembly on specially cut and finished wood handles and then peddling them yourself would make anyone worthy of being my choice for

Linda’s Headstone of the Week; Week #4.

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In keeping with the theme (and it wasn’t really a theme, it just kinda happened) my headstone of the week belongs to one of my great-great-grandfathers. Picking just one was the hard thing this week! I had a couple of great candidates to pick from! Which one should I pick? My great grandmother’s father? He has a great story and and had an obituary a column and a half long and accomplished a lot in his short 51 year life, or would I pick her father-in-law who was a common working man, just getting by in life? Well, after a lot of thought, I picked her father-in-law, Ephraim H. Niess, and for a very good reason, as you will soon see.

Ephraim, the oldest son of John and Elizabeth Hauenstein Niess, was born October 21, 1841 in Lititz, Pennsylvania. He  died on November 25, 1915 and is buried in Harrisburg Cemetery along with his wife and 5 of his children. His very devout wife’s diary had four short words to mark his passing: “He took my husband.”

During the Civil War, Ephraim enlisted in Pennsylvania Volunteers, 122nd Regiment, Company E in August of 1862. He was 21 years old. When he mustered out in May of 1863, as a Private, he had just seen the action in Chancellorsville and experienced the horrors of war. A year later he married Catharine L. Auxer, a marriage that lasted over 50 years and produced 10 children, 4 of which lived to adulthood.

Ephraim H. and Catharine L. Auxer Niess

Harrisburg City Directory lists his occupation as Laborer, Bricklayer, Furnace Maker, Furnace Builder, Fireman and finally, Foreman. Want to know what he really did for a living?

Each day he walked to his job at Bailey Iron Works, just across the tracks from his home. Since the huge brick furnaces were essential to their operation, letting a furnace cool down to change bricks that needed replacement was not an option.  Somebody had to put on 6 layers of clothing and go into that furnace to change the bricks, and that somebody was my great-great grandfather. Yet he kept going to work, day in and day out. He had a job, a commitment and an obligation.

Life was not easy for the family. Catharine’s diary tells of past due bills, family deaths, illnesses, and depression.

He had no fancy education, just the bare minimum to get by, but his children were all educated. His daughter got piano lessons along with her schooling and his son got a University education before furthering himself with a law degree.

A man’s position in life, be it owner of a business or the lowest paid worker is not the total of his worth. His experiences, his values, principles and stick-to-itness speak more of who he is than piles of money and/or degrees attached to his name.

My great-great grandfather went thru Hell and back, from Chancellorsville to the furnaces at Bailey Iron Works, but he didn’t give up. He raised a successful family, celebrated his 50th anniversary with the bride of his youth, and kept going into that furnace, changing those bricks, day after day after day.

. . . and that is why I selected his headstone for

Linda’s Headstone of the Week for Week #3

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Finding a candidate for my “Headstone of the Week” isn’t hard for me. I have literally thousands of headstone pictures in my database. Narrowing it down to just one is what is hard! This week, I decided on another Grandfather ~ a Great-Grandfather, this time!William Adolphus George von Breyman was born in Harburg, Hanover, Germany in 1835 and died in Cortina, Colusa County, California in 1901. He is buried in a cemetery in the small town of Arbuckle, California.

Headstones tell a part of the story, a very small part! By the time my great-grandfather was 15 years old, he was in California. Family legend has it that his older sisters got him employed on a ship that was sailing to California where he jumped ship in San Francisco. For a short while he panned for gold, as many did, and then decided the real way to make money was to pack in supplies and sell them to the gold seekers. He became a naturalized citizen in 1859. References have been found to him being a packer, farmer, vet surgeon, postmaster and at one time even co-owned a Fence Company in Sacramento. He spoke his native German in addition to English and Spanish and could write in each language, as well.

In 1854 when he was in this country for about 4 years, Wilhemine Sophia “Minnie” Goda was born in New York. Their paths crossed in California and in 1877 they would marry and become the parents of 10 children, with the 9th one being my grandmother, Bertha Emma. She was six years old when her father died at the young age of 66.

With many thanks to his children and their children, his story has been preserved. His eldest son was a prolific letter writer. Copies of his letters with tales of W.A.G. von Breyman’s values, work ethic and exploits have been shared with me. My great-grandfather’s diary, written in English and at times, Spanish, has also been shared. Life offered him many opportunites and he grabbed them as he passed thru.

That is why his headstone is my choice for Headstone of the Week #2.

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Since we visited Arlington National Cemetery for Christmas, my first headstone of the week is one I specifically went to first ~ that of my grandfather. Interestingly enough, I knew exactly where it was, even though it had been a number of years since I’d been there. (over 10 to be exact!)William Francis Sherman, II (according to him) is buried in Section 12, Site #1415, within view of the Tomb for the Unknown Soldier.When I got to the grave, I wondered about the dip in the ground and what appeared to be dead grass around it, until it dawned on me about all the recent news stories about errors in burials in that cemetery. If the grave falls behind the headstone, the one reinterred was not my grandfather, but the veteran who’s headstone is in front of his. It was hard to photograph what the naked eye saw, but I tried.

As I stood at my Grandfather’s final resting place, I asked him “Who are you??” He had told my father that he had lied about his age to join the service because he was too young to enlist but doubtful that was the reason. I think he also lied about his name. He has entered several different dates of birth on documents I have found, different birthplaces and now my brother’s DNA does NOT match any other Sherman on record! The closest match we can find is to the Ziegler family and that is within 5 generations!

He is my very own grandfather, and my very own block wall!  Since my grandparents got a divorce the family never spoke of him. His death certificate information was not factual since it was completed with information he had furnished his family. And you would think that the Veterans Department would have a great file on this man and they probably did . . . until that dreaded fire in St. Louis.

This man took his secrets to the grave with him and I wish he’d tell me just a couple of them . . .

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