Tombstone Tuesday: Weimer Jonas Wetzel and Iona Mary Conrad

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Christmas day was especially exciting in 1880 for the Wetzel household as presents were not the only addition in the house this day.  The Christmas birth of Weimer Jonas Wetzel was an exceptional present for Henry and Catherine (Kissinger) Wetzel and their four children.  Weimer was born in the family’s Trevorton, Pennsylvania home.

 

Not only was Weimer’s birthday easy to remember but so was his wedding anniversary.  On July 4, 1904 he married Iona Mary Conrad at Zion’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Trevorton.  Iona Mary was born in Trevorton on March October 12, 1881 to parents Frank and Harriet (Miller) Conrad.

 

Through his life, Weimer was employed by Philadelphia and Reading Coal & Iron Company as a carpenter in the local colliery.

 

Weimer passed away on the morning of February 28, 1933 at the couple’s Coal Street home in Trevorton after battling sarcoma of the abdomen wall for the previous six months.  The 80th anniversary of his death is in two days.  Iona passed away in Sunbury on Christmas Eve of 1952.  Weimer and Iona are buried together in Northumberland Memorial Park, Stonington.

Northumberland Memorial Park - View from Weimer and Iona's grave.

Northumberland Memorial Park – View from Weimer and Iona’s grave.

Wordless Wednesday: Horsing around

Little Howard Wetzel (ca 1940).  The Strawberry Mansion (Philadelphia) photographer often used ponies in photos of young children.

Little Howard Wetzel (ca 1940). The Strawberry Mansion (Philadelphia) photographer often used ponies in photos of young children.

Tombstone Tuesday: Carrie Agnes Wetzel

Carrie Agnes WetzelLutheran Cemetery; Trevorton, Pennsylvania

Carrie Agnes Wetzel
Lutheran Cemetery; Trevorton, Pennsylvania

 

The 1900 federal census told me that Carrie was still living at home with her parents, five of her siblings, and her niece (my great grandmother); it also told me that she was 25, single and did not have an occupation.  When I moved on to the 1910 census for the family unit, I was not surprised to see her absent; I just chalked it up to yet another female relative lost to marriage.  Oh, but wait…the 1910 census for a neighboring county lists a Carrie A Wetzel who is 35, single and without an occupation.  Could this be my ancestor…an inmate at the State Hospital for the Insane?  Whoa, what did I miss?

 

A federal census record for a woman with a similar name does not prove that she is one of mine so I had to just sit on this for a spell.  When Pennsylvania made death records for certain years available as public records at the beginning of 2012 the first this I did was to go through the death index year by year looking for any listing for a Carrie Wetzel.  There she was, or so I hoped, in that same neighboring county of Montour just six short years later.  The two and a half hour drive to the State Archives seemed to take forever…I just wanted to get there and see this death certificate (along with a few others).

 

Carrie A Wetzel…yeah, yeah, yeah…parents…Henry and Catherine Wetzel of Trevorton.  It was her!  Cause of death, phthisis pulmonalis; contributory cause, epilepsy…she was Epileptic.  But why was she in the State Hospital?  Examining the death certificate further for any additional clues, I saw that she resided at the institution for 12 yrs, 3 mos, 6 ds; this meant that she has been there since August 17, 1904.  Ah, now it is becoming clearer.  Her mother passed away in February of 1904.  Her mother must have been the caretaker and after her passing, the family may not have been able to provide adequate care.  I like to think that they made a go at it since Carrie remained at home for another six months.  I don’t know if a decline in her health or the fact that all of the adults in the house were working the mines which kept them out of the house for much of the day but it must have been a very difficult and painful decision for all.  Thankfully, Carrie’s death certificate also provided her place of burial, which was unknown to this point; now the family can visit this woman whose final years were so tragic.

 

Mappy Monday: The Jordan Township farm

2012 was the year that I just had to find where my 4x great grandfather Peter Wetzel lived in 1860.  Based on the census records, this was the same farm that the Wetzel family lived 10 years prior.  Could this also have been where my 3x great grandfather Henry was born?  I searched…and searched…I spent so many hours scouring through records and microfilm but I wasn’t coming up with anything but I was not about to give up.

While preparing for a trip back up to Northumberland County to go cemetery hopping, I did a quick search for township maps for the county to help me get around (sometimes maps are just the preferred method over a GPS).  A few clicks later I was looking at an 1858 land owner’s map of Jordan Township and there it was in flashing neon “P Weitzel”.  Oh, but how could I be certain this was my Peter?  The map showed the landowners and the Federal Census lists the “Value of Real Estate owned” so let’s compare.  Ha…his neighbors match up!  I found Peter’s home…at least on this roadless, streetless map from 1858.

1858 Jordan Township land owner's map

1858 Jordan Township land owner’s map

Luckily, I have been using the U.S. Geological Survey’s website www.usgs.gov for quite a few years so I immediately used their site to pull up a map of the general area.  From there it was a matter of matching up natural and man-made features to find the right location.  I actually got really lucky with this as the nearby features were the same then and now but the nice feature was the line of Troutman owned houses in 1858 with was easily found on the current day map as Troutman Lane.  I now knew the exact location of the farm my family owned so many years ago.

2010 USGS street/topo map

2010 USGS street/topo map

Now you didn’t think I was going to be in that general area and pass up tracking this farm down now did ya?  Once the coordinates were in the GPS it was not only easy to find but it was also exactly where I thought it would be based on the maps.  What to do once there…uh, knock on the door?

Original barn and outbuilding in background

Original barn and outbuilding in background

It turns out that the property was purchased from my ancestors by the current owners ancestors…how cool is that!  For an hour and a half they shared with me all they knew about the property, the buildings (two of which are original), the area as well as local cemeteries I may find my family buried.  Before leaving, they invited me to look around and take some pictures.

I am so thankful that someone thought to make these maps in 1858 and that others have protected them and made them available to others over the past 155 years.

 

The original house is underneath some nice upgrades.

The original house is underneath some nice upgrades.

 

Map source: 1858 Jordan Township map, http://ancestortracks.com/; 2010 road/topo map, http://www.usgs.gov

 

Those Places Thursday: My Wetzel homestead

My first time I found documentation on my 3x great grandfather was in 2000 and it was purely accidental.  I had been tracking my great grandmother backwards and was hoping that the 1910 census would show her married and possibly with a child or two.  While I was very happy to find this was the case, I was not surprised by the information.  The surprise that I found in this census was that not only was she living with her husband and child but was also living with her grandfather who was listed as the head of the house.  There he was, Henry Wetzel aged 64…living right where I knew our people were from.  At that instant, not only did I feel connected with Henry but I was also drawn to Trevorton like never before.

In a relatively short period of time I found that Henry had moved to Trevorton by 1870.  At some point between 1880 and 1900 he purchased the home where multiple generations of my family would be born, live and die.  It is this home where I found him in 1910.

The family home in 1891.  The woman in the picture is Catherine, my 3x great grandmother.  This is the only photo I have ever seen of her.  The young girl in front of her is my great grandmother.

The family home in 1891. The woman in the picture is Catherine, my 3x great grandmother. This is the only photo I have ever seen of her. The young girl in front of her is my great grandmother.

To say I am obsessed with this house might just be an understatement.  After Henry’s death in 1913, his son Howard purchased the home from the estate and in turn raised his family in the place he grew up.  Though I was not certain what happened to the house after 1940, I never stopped looking or searching for more information on it.

In 2012 I met many of the descendants of Howard and was incredibly happy to find out that the house remained with the family until after Howard’s passing in 1957 and that everyone had many wonderful memories and stories of the “Wetzel Homestead”.  Through this portion of the family I have had the privilege to view many old family photos that clearly show the importance this house played in the lives of so many.  It was also through these photos that I realized that I knew this house.  This was the green house directly across from the school I attended in my youth.

I have made the three hour trip back home many times for genealogical research and always make sure to take a quick drive by though always refraining from knocking to ask for a looksie.  Can you imagine my surprise when I opened my RSS reader a couple of weeks ago only to have the address of my ancestors home jumping off the screen at me.  The news article was about the “life change” the owners were experiencing and while I feel bad for them, I couldn’t stop my first thought from wondering if my house was going to be put up for sale.

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