What One Obituary Doesn’t Tell, the Other Does. Abraham Auxer, Beloved Son and Brother

The Obituary:

Harrisburg, Feb 15, 1873

AUXER-On February 13, 1873, ABRAHAM AUXER, in the 24th year of his age.

We heard his sufferings, heard his sighs,
With throbbing hearts and weeping eyes,
But now he calmly sleeps at rest,
All pain, all grief and suffering past.

The relatives and friends of the deceased are respectfully invited to attend the funeral from the residence of his parents on Boas street above Elder, on Sabbath, the 16th inst., at ten o’clock a.m.  Services in the Fourth street Bethel.

The Story:

The thing is, we really don’t know the story!

Abraham Auxer was the youngest child born to my great-great-great grandparents, Philip K. and Maria Leader Auxer.  He was born into a family with four older sisters.  Another son had died years before when the child was less than a year old.  Years after Abraham’s death, one of his sisters, Catharine, still mentioned him from time to time in her diary.

We know he lived, worked in the Car Shops, as did his father, and was planning on getting married.  He was well loved by his family and is buried with them.

What we do know, is the sensitive side of Abraham, and we know that only from an obituary that was published in the Church of God Newspaper* a month after his death.

The Second Obituary:

AUXER. February 13th, in Harrisburg, Abraham Auxer, in the 24th year of his age

Bro Auxer was awakened some four years ago by the sudden death of a young Christian lady of the church and of his acquaintance, and he became the subject of converting grace.  He united with the church in this city soon after under the labors of J.C. Owens.  After the opening of the west Harrisburg mission he identified himself with that work, where he remained faithful at his post as an officer until prostrated by sickness.  He was cheerfully submissive to the divine will during his illness, and while passing through the dark valley and across the narrow stream he helped to sing “I’m going home to die no more.”  The only son in family of six children, and shrouded in his intended wedding suit, he is greatly mourned, but as they are all Christians they can say:

“Thou art gone, but we will not deplore thee;
For God was thy ransom, they guardian and guide.
He gave thee, he took thee, and he restored thee,
And death has no sting, for the Saviour hath died.”

His funeral was largely attended in the bethel on Sabbath, the 16th inst, by the I.O.O.F., Knights of Pythias and companions of the car shops in all of which he was an active worker.  Services by the writer:

D.A.L. Laverty.


He is buried in Harrisburg Cemetery, next to his parents, grandmother and in the shadow of his sister and her husband.

*The Church Advocate, Lancaster PA., March 5, 1873.

Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 9:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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How Much Was That Bucket Worth, John Niess?

The Obituary:

Lancaster Daily Intelligencer
Thursday, July 15, 1886

An Old Man struck By a Locomotive and Killed at Mountville
John Neiss, a man aged seventy-seven, was struck and killed by extra engine west, No. 374, of the Pennsylvania railroad, at the east end of the village of Mountville, this forenoon.  The property on which the deceased lived is situated along and extended back to the deep cut through which the railroad passes.  Between 10 and 11 o’clock a. m. his wife sent him out to empty some potato parlings down the railroad embankment.  The bucket containing them fell out of his hand and rolled down upon the track.  He went after the vessel, and while standing on the track was struck by the engine.  He was not mangled, but died in less than a half hour after he was struck.  Coroner Honaman was notified, and he left this city at 2 o’clock for Mountville to hold an inquest.
The deceased had resided in Mountville for some years, and besides a wife leaves several grown children.  One of them, a daughter, lives at home.  Neiss was crippled in one of his arms and was a laborer.

The Story:

It took me 20 years to find a death date for my great-great-great grandfather’s death date. . . . and then I just stumbled across the obituary while looking for another obituary.

Elizabeth Niess, his wife died in June of 1905.  Her obituary stated “Her husband preceded her in death nineteen years ago.”  That was the only clue I had about his death.  Going through newspapers from 1886, page by page by page was not an option but it was something I was going to do “someday.”

Of course, “someday” never came.  There was always something else that was more important.  One of those was looking for an obituary for somebody else.  Thank goodness that obituary was in July of 1886!

I know it is John S. Niess’ obituary.  It is 19 years before his wife died, he lived in Mountville area and his oldest daughter, Mary Ann, never married and always lived at home.  He was a laborer according to census data, but I never heard about the crippled arm.  It matches my John S. Niess

After reading my ancestor’s obituary, several questions come to my mind.

  • How much was that bucket worth that he would give his life for it?
  • Didn’t he either see that train or hear it?
  • Why didn’t the obituary name his other children?  Nuts!
  • and why on earth didn’t it mention where he was buried?

Does it sound like I want it all?  You bet!

Don’t we all?

Published in: on November 6, 2008 at 3:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ephraim H. Niess

The Obituary:

The Church Advocate, Harrisburg, PA.,
February 16, 1916
NIESS –Ephraim H. Niess was born October 21, 1841 and died November 25, 1915, aged 74 years, 1 month and 14 days.
Brother Niess was a faithful member and a loyal supporter of the Nagle Street Church of God, Harrisburg. His life for Christ was earnest and consistent. The church honored it. He was for a number of years an elder and the treasurer of the church. In 1862-63 he served in Company E., 122nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He was a member of Post 58 G.A.R., Harrisburg, and had attended the national encampment at Washington, D.C.  During the illness which caused his death he suffered intensely, and often expressed the desire to go home. Like Abraham, “he looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God.” The end came peacefully. God had led “through the valley and the shadow.” He is survived by his wife, three sons, a daughter, four brothers, two sisters and many relatives and friends.
The funeral services were conducted by Rev. G.R. Hoverter, assisted by Rev. Wm. N. Yates, Rev. Jay C. Forncrook, Rev. E. A. Mell and the pastor. Interment in the Harrisburg cemetery.

Albert L. Kriner

The Story:

Ephraim was my great-great-grandfather and there is a lot that is not said in this obituary.  I’ll attempt to tell just a little of it.

Ephraim H. Niess and Catharine L. Auxer Niess, 50th Anniversary, 1914

Ephraim H. Niess and Catharine L. Auxer Niess, 50th Anniversary, 1914

Ephraim and Catharine L. Auxer were married in May of 1864, a year after he was discharged from the service in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Their life was a struggle, but full of faith and the promise of a better life to come. They lost six children and four lived to have families of their own.

Although he was only 5’6″ his hard work supported his family.  What type of work did he do? Picture this:  Huge brick furnaces at an Iron Works.  Hot?  Well, somebody has to change the bricks inside of them when they start going, and Ephraim was the guy!  Since it was not efficient to let the coals burn out, they kept the coals going, and Ephraim would wear six layers of clothes, summer and/or winter, and enter the furnace to change the bricks!  Now whether the story is exaggerated a bit is unknown.  The “family legend” is in a letter my aunt had written as relayed by my great-grandfather, son of Ephraim.  I do know that he worked at Bailey Iron Works (when he would work) and would walk to work, so the story is plausible.

Ephraim did carry his demons.  Whether they were a result of the Civil War or whether they were a result of something else is unknown.  You see, there were no “Focus Groups” or “Therapy Sessions” for Civil War veterans, and Ephraim turned to the age old medication found in a bottle.  The 122nd had seen action at Chancellorsville, among other places, and perhaps he carried this with him.

His wife kept a journal in the late 1800’s and I have transcribed a copy of it.  Money was always a problem.  He lost his wallet with his pay in it, they were behind on their bills, Christmas was meager, etc., etc., etc.  The couple owned a farm “west of the River” and had a Farmer on it who brought them produce from it.  Ephraim is the man in the middle with Catharine standing next to him.  My great-grandfather is the oldest child in the picture.  I believe the young man in the picture may be his farmer.

During the years of journal keeping, his wife prayed constantly for her husband.  She wanted him to attend Church with her and get rid of “his devils,” so if the obituary above is accurate, it looks like her prayers were answered.

My favorite part of the obituary is the fact that he “had attended the national encampment at Washington, D.C.”  Why?  The Encampment had been held from September 27th to October 3rd and Ephraim while attending the Encampment was able to see his first great grandchild.  My father was born in Washington D.C. on September 4th of that very year!  I wish there had been a picture taken of this, and if one had been taken, I wish it had been saved!

Harrisburg Cemetery, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania

Harrisburg Cemetery, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania

Ephraim was laid to rest in the Harrisburg Cemetery, along with his six young children who did not get to enjoy more than a few months of life.  Catharine joined her husband in glory six years later.

Rest in Peace, Ephraim.  Your’s was not an easy life.

Published in: on October 24, 2008 at 12:12 pm  Comments (3)  
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W.A.G. von Breyman, Around the Cape to California! 1849

The Obituary:

The Daily Colusa Sun
Wednesday, April 17, 1901

Wm. A. Von Breyman, an old and respected citizen of Cortina, died suddenly Tuesday morning. The deceased has been the Cortina postmaster for years. He was 65 years of age.

The Story:

Wow!  Two sentences for a man who left Germany, traveled around the Cape to California, spoke Spanish, English and German fluently, had a profitable business traveling from Los Angeles to Stockton to sell supplies to Gold Miners, was the father of nine children . . . . and I could go on and on in this sentence!  . . . but I’ll reserve my great-grandfather’s story for the rest of this blog!

von Breyman family crest taken from a sheet of Bertha von Breyman Lindgren's stationery

von Breyman family crest taken from a sheet of Bertha von Breyman Lindgren's stationery

William Adolphus George von Breyman was born in Harburg, Hanover, Germany, the youngest son of Frederike Caroline Breymann and Adolph Ludwig Ferdinand von Breymann.

Page from Family Bible

Page from Family Bible

Family legend has it that his sisters, not wanting him to go into military service, secured a position for him as a carpenter on a sailing ship bound for America.  The ship sailed around the tip of South America eventually arriving in the Port of what is now Los Angeles, California.

In 1860 he is found in Placer County as a Packer, which indeed he was.  I’ll get in to that later.  He was 25 and born in Argentina with his personal property being $2000.  It is unknown why his birthplace is listed as Argentina, perhaps he spoke in Spanish to the census taker!  $2000 is a rather high personal worth for that time period, but not when you know how he earned his living.  He did need money to purchase supplies to turn around and sell, so that figure probably took that into account.

WAG von Breyman’s eldest son, George, was a prolific letter writer and sent many letters chronicling his father’s early days in California.  A lot of the information I have comes from copies of these letters, which others in the family have been kind enough to share with me.

According to these letters his father jumped ship in San Francisco.  It was the height of the gold rush.  He made his way to Sacramento and eventually up to Placerville where he mined for a while.  He had a log cabin on the Yuba River which he called home.  Somewhere around this time he bought a pack train and made his living by packing groceries in and out to the miners.  Since they also need meat he would go down to Los Angeles and buy a herd of long horn cattle which he paid $5 a head.  He hired Mexican Vaqueros and packed what provisions they needed for the cattle drive from Los Angeles to Stockton.  The letters are very descriptive as to what the men experienced on these drives.

William Adolphus George von Breyman, entrapuner exordinaire

William Adolphus George von Breyman, entrepreneur extraordinary

Shortly after he arrived in California, his bride-to-be was born in New York City.  Their paths would not cross for another 20 or so years.

He eventually ended up in Sacramento where an advertisement was found for a fencing company he owned.   The von Breymans married in Sacramento on 24 August 1877.  After his marriage the family lived in Woodland, California, eventually moving to Cortina Valley where he was a Veterinarian, Post Master in Cortina,  and a Farmer.  The marriage produced nine children, three sons and six daughters, with my grandmother, Bertha Emma, being the second to the youngest.

WAG (my nickname for my great-grandfather) died on 17 April in 1901 in Cortina, California.  He is buried in Arbuckle Cemetery, just north of Dunnigan. He was only 66 years old.

After his death, his oldest son, George, the letter writer, took on the responsibility of supporting the family.  The house that they lived in still exists in Dunnigan.  The town of Cortina, however, does not.

Wilhemine "Minnie" Sophia Goda von Breyman

Wilhemine "Minnie" Sophia Goda von Breyman

His wife did not die for another 33 years.  She never remarried.  She is buried in Ventura, California.

Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 10:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Oh Susannah! Were you really a Woman’s Libber?

The Obituary:

KAYLOR-At Harrisburg, Pa., Feb. 4, 1884, Sister Susannah Kaylor, in the 93d year of her age.Her mortal remains were taken from the residence of her son-in-law, Brother Phillip R. Awxer(sic), of Harrisburg, to the Fourth street bethel. After several impressive addresses by the brethren, ministers, and the last earthly look upon the cold remains of one so aged, and so much loved by all who knew her, the body was conveyed for interment to the Harrisburg cemetery. While old age is honorable, it is only a long life of devotion to God and consecrated to his service, that surrounds the end thereof with a halo of glory which outshines the glittering diadems of earthly monarchs. Such was the life, and such the closing hours of our aged grandmother. None feel her loss so much as Brother Awxer(sic) and family; except one son, now residing in Independence, Missouri. C. Price

The Story:
Taking in mind that this was published in a Church of God publication, the emphasis was of course, on Susannah’s saintliness. It appeared in the February 27, 1884 issue of The Church Advocate. Whether she was that saintly or not, went to the grave with her. Susannah’s story is a fascinating one.

Susannah was born in July of 1792 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. By 1813 she was married to Samuel Leader of Marietta and the mother of a daughter, Maria, my ancestor. She went on to have at least two more children, Jacob in 1814 and Frederick in 1821. With a seven year spread between her 2nd and 3rd children, odds are she had other children who may have died young.

  • Fact: The 1820 census shows 2 girls under the age of 10. This accounts for Maria and one other. Only one girl appears in the 1830 census, so chances are Susannah had a daughter who died in that period.

The 20 year period between 1820 and 1840 was a tough period in Susannah’s life. Marietta, Pennsylvania was a River Town and was known for more Taverns than Churches. Her father-in-law, Lewis, owned a tavern, one block from the river and one block from a lumber yard. Since Samuel was a Joiner and probably worked at a lumberyard, chances are Samuel frequented his father’s business.

  • Fact: In October of 1819, Samuel was in Debtor’s Prison. Notice of this appeared in the Lancaster Journal on 2 November of that year.

Lancaster Jail, October 21, 1819
That we, the subscribers, have applied to the judges of the Court of Common Pleas, in and for the county of Lancaster, for the benefit of the several acts of insolvency of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and they have appointed Monday the 8th of November 1819, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, to hear us and our creditors, at the court house in the city of Lancaster, where you may attend.

How this situation happened is unknown, however, with a wife and two young children at home, life must have been tough for the family. Five years later, the family’s home was sold in a Sheriff’s Sale. By this time there was another child, and it was not the era that women worked.
  • Fact: Notice of the sale appeared in the Lancaster Journal on 20 February 1824:

By virtue of a writ of levari facias to me directed, will be sold by public vendue, on Friday, the 27th day of February, inst. at the public house of James McClellan in borough of Marietta, a Lot of Ground, situate in that part of Marietta, called New Haven, No. 58, with a one story house, thereon erected, adjoining lots of John Depler and others, fronting on Locust street.

Sale to commence at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Seized and taken in execution as the property of Samuel Leader, and to be sold by Frederick Hambright, Sheriff.

It is unknown where the family lived after they lost their home, but it is assumed they remained in the Marietta area, since that is where Samuel’s extended family lived. Frederick was still in school in 1831 and appeared on the “Poor Children’s List” for that year.

The “Poor Childrens List” is the list kept by the County, for the Children who’s parents cannot, for one reason or another, afford school supplies or to contribute to the salary for the teacher. The County picked up the tab for those students. Frederick owed for 3 sheets of paper.

In 1839, Susannah’s life took a turn. For the period starting in 1829, Samuel is listed on the Tax List for Marietta alternately as a Joiner or a Carpenter. In 1839, he does not appear.

This is the year she receives a Bible. It is dated April 15, 1839. Susannah does not read, so chances are the Bible was given to her on an important ocassion in her life. . . . perhaps even the death of her husband.

In the 1950’s when the cemetery was transcribed there was a broken stone in Zion Union Meeting House Graveyard, Waterford Ave., Marietta, PA. It showed a person aged 63 yr, d. 4 ? 1839. This falls into line with Samuel’s age, the date in Susannah’s Bible and the absence from the tax list. I’m assuming Samuel died in April of 1839.

In March of 1840, Susannah bought a home in Elizabethtown, just east of Marietta. Since her family was from this area, she probably went where her support lay. Susannah seemed to do better on her own than she did sharing her life with Samuel.

In January of 1844, Susannah decides to remarry. She must have sensed something since she and her prospective bridegroom, George Kaylor, also a widower, fill out a prenuptial agreement, whereby their respective properties are their sole and separate properties, to do with as they pleased.

1844 and a prenup!! Was my ancestor a Woman’s Libber or what?

A nasty divorce started just 10 short years later. George called her names, she called her witnesses. She was awarded alimony since George had more than just a wandering eye. Her witnesses included her daughter, Mary and her sister Barbara. Both testified as to George’s advances toward them, “trying to make connection with them.” He even tried to collect his rent from a tennent in the same manner and the tennent also testified on Susannah’s behalf.

Susannah was 62 and on her own again. She had one son in Jackson County, Missouri, one in Philadelphia and her only daughter lived close by in Conoy Township. She went to live with Mary and is found there on the 1860 census.

She is still living with the Auxer family when they move to Harrisburg in 1866. She appears on the census with them in 1870 and is living with them when her daughter died in 1877.

Instead of Susannah being the saintly one, I would think it was her son-in-law, Philip Kleiss Auxer. After his wife died in 1877, Philip continued to care for Susannah. He cared for her for seven years before she died in 1884 at the age of 91 years old.

Susannah had lived a long and hard life. She had experiences in her life that would have broken an average person, but she picked herself up and went on.

They made them tough back then.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 10:26 pm  Comments (1)  
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Emaline Auxer, From Marietta to Brooklyn, a long, convoluted road


The Philadelphia Inquirer
8 Sept 1917
Marietta – Mrs. Emma Hendrickson, 78 years old, daughter of the late Squire Auxer, a pioneer of Marietta, died from infirmities of age at the home of her daughter in Brooklyn yesterday. She was a member of the Episcopal Church.

A short little blurb for such a full life. Is this all she gets?
Her father, John Auxer, was Justice of the Peace in Marietta, Pennsylvania. Emaline was the fourth out of five children born to John’s marriage to Jane Park. She would have been considered a “spinster” by the time she married, since she was 34 years old when she married Harry Linville Hendrickson.
The couple were both Sunday School Teachers at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Marietta when they married in her parents’ home on July 26, 1876. She was 34 years old and he was only 21. She had joined the Church in 1873 and he had joined a year later.
On November 21, 1877 their only child, Highland Linville Hendrickson, was born. His aunt, Catharine Auxer Harry, and his parents were his sponsors when he was baptised at home on on March 28, 1879. Church records indicate the “child being sick.” Highland died the following month of Scarlet Fever. He was buried on Easter Sunday in the Presbyterian Cemetery. Since the Cemetery no longer exists, it is likely his remains were transferred to the Marietta Cemetery, however no record exists indicating so.

History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men
Chapter XXXIV. Borough of Marietta
The Mariettian was established on the 11th day of April, 1854, by a joint-stock company, with the view of advancing the material interests of the borough. It was neutral in politics. It was published by Israel Goodman; James P. Wickersham, late superintendent of the schools of the State, then principal of the Marietta Academy; John Jay Libhart, one of the associate judges of the County Court; Abraham N. Cassel, formerly a member of the Legislature of the State and a prominent business man; and Samuel Patterson, a prominent business man; and in 1856, Dr. William K. Mehaffey became sole editor, and Frederick L. Baker publisher. In 1860, Mr. Baker purchased the outstanding stock and became sole proprietor, and he published it as an Independent Republican journal. Its name was changed to Marietta Register. In 1874 he sold the paper to Joseph L. Wolfensberger, who was one of the publishers of the Columbia Spy. In 1875 he sold the paper to Percy P. Shrock and Linville Hendrickson, and in 1880 the latter sold to Mr. Schrock, who is now the sole editor and owner.

In March of 1880, Linville sold his interest in the newspaper to his partner due to health problems. The article that appeared in the Columbia Spy stated that he had accepted a job in Florida with the hopes that the change of climate would be beneficial to him.  No records have been located in Florida for him, and it is not certain when or even if he ever moved there.  There was no trace of him found until 1910 when he is found in Brooklyn with his wife, Emma (Emaline.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, so to speak, Emaline appeared on the 1880 and 1900 census living in the household of her sister, Mary Rowe.

1880 Census, Phoenixville, PA:
Evline Hendrickson, age 29, married, sister-in-law, with family born in Penna as were parents
(she has only aged 4 years since the 1870 census)


1900 Census, Phoenixville, PA:
Hendrickson, M.L., boarder, born July 1855, age 45, married for 20 years, born in Penna as were parents.
(This seems to be a compilation of H.L. and Emaline.  His initials, her birth month, his birth year and his age.  This would lead me to believe both of them were there, and when the census records were transcribed the transcriber lost track of where he was and sort of winged it.)

1910 Census, Brooklyn, NY:
Household of Rosa A. Bowman
Henry H. Hendrickson, lodger, age 57, married 35 years, born in Pennsylvania, as were parents, was a printer for a newspaper
Emma R. Hendrickson, lodger, age 67, married 35 years, had one child, none living, born in Pennsylvania as were parents.
(This couple is in all probability Emma and her husband. The newspaper trade, the fact that she is 10 years older than he is and the fact that they were living in Brooklyn, sort of seals it.)

The next mention of Emaline would be in her obituary.  . . . and they couldn’t even get that right!

Poor Emaline Auxer Hendrickson.  Nobody remembered her name and she never remembered her age!  No matter who she was, Emmaline, Emma, Eveline, or Emily (as she was on the 1870 census) she was always close to her sister.

So close that she died in her daughter’s home in Brooklyn.  . . .and they couldn’t even get that right!  How could she have died in her daughter’s home?

Emaline never had a daughter.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sarah and Susan sisters; and both were married Jacob!

The Obituary:

Lancaster Daily Intelligencer,
Tuesday, July 12, 1882:
COLE – In this city, July 11, Susannah, relict of the late Abraham Cole, in the 82nd year of her age.
Her relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend the funeral, from the residence of her son-in-law, T.A. Albright, No. 337 West King street, on Friday afternoon at 2 o’clock.

The Story:

Susan Ward and her sister, Sarah, probably shared toys as children. As adults, they shared a husband, although not at the same time.

Sarah was the oldest, she was born in May of 1784 and Susan as born in September of 1800. When Susan was only 14, she watched her sister marry Jacob Axer and become the mother of three of his children. Every two years, she had a child, John in 1815, Catharine in 1817, and in 1819 another child. This child didn’t even live a full day, and Sarah only lived until the next day. It must have been a real tragedy to everybody around the young family.

Susan, it appears, may have been a caregiver, both to the children and their father, as Jacob and Susan were married two years after Sarah’s death. Jacob and Susan married on September 27, 1819. Less than a month later, their first child, Sarah, was born. Their young daughter, was named in honor of Jacob’s first wife and Susan’s sister. Alas, this young daughter, did not live to see October end. She, too, had a short life.

Four more children were born to this marriage, Jacob Jr. in 1822, Sarah in 1828, George in 1832 and Frederick in 1836. In 1843, Jacob died and was buried next to Sarah in Lancaster Cemetery.

Susan had three children at home and was on her own and less than a year later, she married widower, Abraham Cole who was a tanner in Lancaster. The couple must not have owned property because in 1857, they boarded at the Keystone Tavern according to the City Directory for that year. In 1860 the Coles lived with the Albright family, Susan’s daughter, Sarah and her husband.

Fact: Newspaper obituary published 30 November 1864:

Abraham Cole died on November 28, 1864 and was buried next to his first wife in Lancaster Cemetery. Susannah (Susan) continued to live the remainder of her days with the Albrights.

Susan died on July 11, 1882 and her will left her entire estate to the Albrights, after her debts were paid. She was buried in Lancaster Cemetery next to her 2nd husband Abraham Cole.
See anything funny about this picture? You only see Susannah’s inscription, right? Guess what? Abraham Cole and his first wife’s stones face forward; Susannah’s faces backwards! Did his kids insist on this? Was it a mistake? I’d love to know the story behind this!
. . . and this is why I love cemeteries and the “stories” they tell! Rest in Peace, Susan.
Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Varied life of Samuel Auxer, Plane Maker, Bibliophile and Entomologist.

The Obituary:

The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer
Wednesday, January 6, 1909
Samuel Auxer, a well known resident, died on Tuesday afternoon at his home, No. 150 South Prince street. he was in failing health for a year. He was born near Elizabethtown, a son of the late Jacob and Catherine (sic) Auxer, but he lived in this city since childhood. He learned the trade of plane making, but retired many years ago to engage in the secondhand book business with the late Samuel H. Zahm. Subsequently he conducted the business on his own account until two years ago when he retired. He was a member of the First Reformed church. His wife survives. Miss Mary B. Auxer and Mrs. Frank Faesig are sisters of deceased.

The Story:
The obituary does not even begin to tell the story. His accomplishments aren’t even touched in his obituary.
Samuel was the nephew of my ancestor, Michael. He was born on September 17, 1834 in Elizabethtown, as his obituary notes. The following month, he was baptized in The Reformed Church in that place.
His name is first mentioned in the census in 1850. Samuel was 16 years old and the family was living in Lancaster. He was confirmed in the First Reformed Church, also in Lancaster, in October of the same year.
In 1860 the family is still together and none of the children have married even though they are all in their 20’s. The 1870 census reflects Jacob’s death by his absence. Samuel is living with his mother and sisters and is 35 years old and still single. He doesn’t marry until 1875 at which time he and Rebecca Nolty marry at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster.
Census data is good, but it doesn’t reflect what went on in Samuel’s life between birth and 1875. During that period he apprenticed himself to Emanuel Weidler Carpenter, the renown Plane Maker in Lancaster at that time. Along with Samuel, Carpenter’s nephew, William Keifer, was also an apprentice.  Eventually, Keifer and Auxer formed a partnership and today, there planes are highly collectible.  Very recently an auction sold one of their more unique planes for over $12,000.
This is one of their planes from my collection. The handle is smooth from many hours of use, and their are chips, notably that one on the left front. This is probably one of the more common planes made by the partners.
Each plane made by Kiefer and Auxer bore this stamp in the front of the plane. Samuel was also in partnership with a Mr. Remley. I have not been able to determine exactly which Remley in Lancaster was in business with him since there are several Remleys who were listed as “carpenters” and several listed as “gunmakers.” None of them, on tax lists, city directories or census records, list an occupation as “plane maker.”

Samuel was still associated with Kieffer in the 1869 Directory of Lancaster County. It was during this period of his life he became interested in entomology, and was known to have a “very fine collection of insects.” A little blurb appeared in an article in “The Brief History of Lancaster County,” chapter XVIII covering the natural history of Lancaster. In 1862 he was instrumental in the formation of “The Linnaean Society of Lancaster City and County,” an organization that was concerned with “the cultivation, development and advancement of natural science, and for the investigation of the character, quality and habits of the animals, plants and minerals of Lancaster County. . . . .”

In 1877 he became a partner with Samuel Hensel Zahn and started his new career as a bookseller. Mr. Zahn was renowned for being an avid bibliophile and our Samuel acquired the same reputation.

Samuel died in January of 1909 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery next to his wife and her family. Interestingly enough, he bought the family plot his sisters and parents are buried in, but he is not even buried in the same cemetery. Is there a story here?

The Academy of Natural Sciences noted his passing in volume XX of their 1909 issue:
Mr. Samuel Auxer, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, died on January 6th last. He was born near Elizabethtown seventy- four years ago. In early years he was a plane maker, but later became engaged in the book and stationery business. Mr. Auxer was a great lover of books, but probably loved nature better. He was an ardent collector of entomological specimens and had a large collection and exchanged with many scientists in America and Europe. He was a valued citizen of his town and had the respect of many persons, who admired him for his modesty and knowledge of nature in general. He is survived by his wife, but had no children.


A Rhode Island newspaper published the following article on June 1, 1910. It appears that the estate was being settled at this point.

His interests were varied and it would appear that anything he attempted, he excelled in. I wish I had known Samuel.

I was one century too late.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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I am so fortunate that Catharine kept a journal, and the family kept Catharine’s Journal


NIESS.-Mrs. Catharine L. Niess, died at her home, 117 Dock street, Harrisburg, Pa., May 27, 1921. She is survived by three sons: Edwin A., and John E. Niess, both of Washington, D.C., and B. Frank Niess, of Harrisburg, Pa.; on daughter, Mrs. Lewis (sic) J. Houseal, of Harrisburg; also by two sisters. Mrs. Niess was a charter member of the Nagle Street church of God. For many years she was deaconess of this church, and in this capacity she served with unusual efficiency. She lived an exemplary Christian life, and will be missed many days. Funeral services were held at the above address on June 1st, conducted by her pastor, assisted by the Rev. George R. Hoverter. Interment was made in the Harrisburg cemetery.


In 1844 Catharine Leader Auxer Niess was born into a family of three older sisters. Maria Leader and Philip K. Auxer had lost a son four years before she was born. A sister and a brother were born after her.
The family was a religious one and it set the stage for Catharine’s life. When she was 15 years old, she appeared on the census as a domestic in the home of Christian Graybill in East Donegal Twp, Lancaster, County. The year was 1860.
Catharine (on left) and three of her sisters.

Four years later she married Ephraim Niess in Harrisburg. They were married for over 50 years when he died in November of 1915. They buried six young children and watched four grow and have families of their own. My great-grandfather, Edwin A. Niess, was the oldest of these. She chronicles her prayers for her children, and especially for her husband.

Philip Auxer's home in Harrisburg
Home of Philip K. Auxer, Catharine’s
father in Harrisburg as it is today

I am so fortunate that Catharine kept a journal, and the family kept Catharine’s journal! It covered four years of her life in the late 1880’s and chronicles the ups and downs in the family and neighborhood. Her life was basically not a happy one. Her husband, a Civil War Veteran, was a servant to liquor and Catharine was a servant to the Gospel. She was continually praying for him and referred to him only as “my husband” in her journal. Money was in short supply and she would go around and pay the creditors.

Ephraim and Catharine Niess on their 50th Anniversary
Ephraim and Catharine Niess on their 50th Anniversary

On the plus side is the giving, caring spirit that lived within Catharine. She loved her children and missed them when they were gone. She was always caring for an ill neighbor or sharing her table with somebody. She always had guests, some for a week, some overnight.

Her journal covers historic events as well. She tells of viewing the devastation of the Jonestown flood. She tells of the flood in Harrisburg where they moved everything to the second floor and then waited weeks for rugs and floors to dry out. She wrote about a train derailment down the street from her home and the deaths caused by it. Another story was the 1893 collapse of the floors in the old Ford Theatre in Washington DC,where my great-grandfather was working. Twenty two people lost their lives, but my great grandfather, being meticulous man he was, rolled down his sleeves, put his jacket and hat one before he walked outside. After all, a well dressed man would never go outside in his shirt sleeves!

Her Church was very important in her life. She was happy when her children were baptised in the Susquehanna River and she was disappointed when they chose to join another Church. She shared her religion with her neighbors and family. Her Pastor was revered.

She took trips. She traveled to Williamsport, PA to visit her brother-in-law’s family. She traveled to Washington DC to visit her son and his family and she traveled to Altoona to visit her niece and her family. She visited her sister in Camden, New Jersey and she often went to visit her cousin in Marietta. She did not let grass grow under her feet.

Catharine experienced the death of both of her parents, her brother, two of her sisters, her grandmother, her brother-in-law, six young children and finally her husband. The home she raised her children in is now gone. The Dock Street Bridge now takes it’s place. The home was on Dock Street in the Shipoke District of Harrisburg.

Catharine and her older sister, in mourning clothes
Catharine and her older sister in their Mourning Clothes.

Catharine outlived her husband by six years. She died in May of 1921 at her home in Harrisburg. She was finally going home to join her family.

Her prayers were answered.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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