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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