For week 45 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the theme is Stormy Weather, and I’m choosing to write about the the struggle my two paternal great-grandmothers, Bertha Childers and Margaret Dora Wise, endured when suddenly becoming widows.
When I think about rough time that my great-grandmother, Bertha Childers, must have faced when her husband, Andrew Jackson Blair, passed away on 16 November 1926.
As was written about here, my great-grandfather was killed instantly when a coal mine collapsed. But as horrible as his death was, I can only imagine what life must have been like for my great-grandmother, who was left a single mother of 4. Granted, Genevieve had just gotten married to Earl Vivian the week before Andrew passed, but Vada, Leroy, and Donald were still at home (Vada was 19, Genevieve 16, Leroy 14, and Donald 9).
I know from the 1930 census that Bertha was still a single mom of Donald, and the late 1920’s, early 1930’s was a tough time for a single mom (as it still is 90 years later).
Working for a Coal Company, more than likely Andrew and Bertha lived in a company home, he was paid with company money, where all purchases were from a company store, and when he died she probably lost everything.
I know in the late 1920’s my grandfather, Leroy, began working in the mines as well, but after having an accident in the same mine where his dad died, he found something else to do.
But I can’t imagine what life was like for my great-grandmother. Bertha had to have been devastated to lose the man she loved, her home, basically her life as she knew it. She did eventually re-marry William Chappell who was also a coal miner.
Margaret Dora Wise
Life changed for my other great-grandmother on my dad’s side of the family when on 24 July 1917 Charles Jackson Morgart committed suicide leaving Margaret Dora Wise alone to care for 3-children ages 7, 6, and 3.
To my knowledge no one knows why Charles took his life. My mom had thought she had heard he was ill, but my dad heard that infidelity could have been involved (not on Charles’ part). But regardless of why, it had to be a huge shock to lose your husband, even if your situation wasn’t idyllic.
Unlike Bertha, Maggie Wise ended up getting married to Irie Earl Custer by 1920 (according to the 1920 Federal Census). Earl was a coal miner and she stayed married to him until he passed in 1949. They never had any children together.
Having younger children Maggie probably had to pick up the pieces more quickly in order to raise her kids. I know she ended up raising her children in the town of Saint Michael a stones throw from South Fork where coal mines were located (Saint Michael was built where the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club was located before the huge Johnstown Flood of 1889).
I feel Maggie had the better end of things when she married Earl Custer. My Grandma (Anna Maria Morgart) always spoke quite highly of her Step-Daddy as he basically raised her (she was 3 when her dad died), and chose Earl to be my Dad’s middle name.
Both of my great-grandmother’s survived the hardships they faced, but both of their husband’s died so unexpectedly. It’s never easy to loose someone you care about, but having my own mother die out of the blue, I know how hard it can be when you don’t have the closure of saying goodbye, and even I love you one last time.
This week’s theme for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “In the City”. I’ll admit this one was hard, because most of the relatives I have focused my research on were born and died in Pennsylvania, in one of the following counties: Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon, or Somerset. Granted on my mom’s side they either came from England and settled in Ohio or they were born in Massachusetts and moved to Potter County, Pennsylvania. But finding someone who was born in a small town and moved to a big city was not anything my ancestors did.
But then I remembered my 5th-great-grandfather, Ebenezer Oakman, who was born in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts
With land purchased from the Indians, Lynn, was founded in 1629, specializing in the manufacture of leather shoes, eventually becoming the ladies shoe center of the world, even getting Congress to place a protective tariff on the shoes.
In 1850 Lynn officially became a city and they had another claim to fame as the General Electric Company was born in 1892 by the merging of Edison Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric.
Today, Lynn is the 9th largest city in the state of Massachusetts and is close to 4 miles north of Boston located on the Atlantic Ocean.
Ebenezer Oakman was born 8 August 1775 in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts when it was still a part of British Colonial America, to Isaac Oakman and Elizabeth Lathe. He married Hannah Stocker on 13 October 1796 and they went on to have six children: Rebeca, Hannah, Elizabeth, Ebenezer Phillip, Sally, and Squires, all born between 1797 and 1805 (this was found using a document I found at AmericanAncestors).
In 1802 Ebenezer began a shoe factory in East Saugus with large expansions in 1807 and 1810, where he then had the largest shoe factory in the area. He would make the shoes in Massachusetts and then take them to be sold in Philadelphia, however in 1818 he moved the entire business to Philly.
One of the reasons for the move was that Ebenezer’s wife, Hannah, died on 27 March 1812. He then met and married Anna Bruce Ansley in approximately 1814 where they then had seven children between 1815 and 1832: Joseph, Robert, Agnes, Jane, Isaac, John, and William.
It appears around 1850 Ebenezer and Anna separated and he moved to and died in Lynn, Essex, Massachusetts at the age of 78 on 6 September 1854 (she moved to Illinois with Isaac).
I am related to Ebenezer Oakman through his oldest son, Ebenezer, through his daughter, Mary Elizabeth who was born in Philadelphia to his wife, Mary Catherine White. Mary married George Henry Fesler and their oldest daughter is my 2nd-great-grandmother, Sara Jane Fesler. She married Randall Childers and had Bertha Childers, who married the younger Andrew Jackson Blair and their son Leroy was my grandfather.
As a girl who was quite fond of trendy shoes back in my college days (well, we can just sum it up as the 1990’s in general) I was really excited when I learned of my ancestors owning a leather shoe store. I’ve not yet uncovered what happened with the shoe store (one of the online blurbs I read stated they traded the store for land in Bedford County but at this time I have nothing to back this up), but I would love to know if maybe this company turned into a brand that I myself wore.
My dad has always been a low-key kind of guy who prefers books to most people (this is not that he doesn’t like people, he just loves to read!). So with this week’s theme being Father’s Day and me not knowing a whole lot about my Pappy (aka Leroy Blair, my dad’s dad) I took a moment before the day began today to ask my dad some questions about his dad.
A little background on him. Charley Wilmer Blair was born 13 February 1912 in Todd Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania to Andrew Jackson Blair and Bertha Childers. He was their oldest living son. I’m not sure how long he had the name of Charley Wilmer before his mother decided she liked Leroy better, but this was the name he went by the rest of his life (I always think it’s funny she just decided she liked something better).
My dad didn’t really have one particular favorite memory of his dad, but was always amazed how quickly he could make up a meal. They would often go for a drive in nature and his dad would stop the car and pull out the Coleman stove and a pressure cooker and could have a meal made up in moments.
So funny that he had this memory because when I was scanning my grandmother’s photos, she had noted on the back of a photo of how they had stopped and Leroy had made a wonderful beef stew in the pressure cooker.
My favorite memory my dad had told me was how Pappy went to my dad’s school one day and excused him from class and decided to drive across the country to Arizona with him. What a trip that had to have been for the two (his older sister Vada lived in Arizona with her husband Charles and daughter, Darlene).
What Leroy Was Like
My dad has always described his dad as being a fairly simple man. They would go fishing but it was more of it being a quiet hobby because he (Leroy) never caught any fish. This is something that my dad must have inherited as he doesn’t catch fish very often either (luckily I am able to catch a fish but just about always throw them back).
My dad told me in the past that Leroy was also an excellent hunter. I had actually asked him about this because I know his (Leroy’s) brother Donald did. It surprised me to hear this as my grandparents house was never filled with the heads and other trophy animals that his younger brother’s house had. My dad then went on to tell me that once my grandfather was able to provide for his family and buy meat at the grocery store, he no longer went out and hunted for food.
I do know that he liked farming. My grandfather had a farm in southern Ohio and oddly enough where his potato fields were was the same spot that I always wanted to build an A-frame home. The field is surrounded by apple trees and the smell is so wonderful when they are in bloom. And it’s nice and quiet. My dad was always the buzz kill because he always made sure to tell me it would cost a million dollars just to build the driveway.
How I Wish I Had Gotten to Know Him
Of all my relatives I wish I had gotten a chance to speak to, my Pappy is at the top of the list. I wish I could have known him, as my Grandma Blair always said I was just as stubborn as he was, and that I had inherited his odd shaped feet.
I know he (Leroy) wasn’t always fond of my mom but even she was always upset that I never had a chance to know him. He always wanted to go in and see me when he visited, it didn’t matter that my mom had just put me down, I was always miraculously awake when he came out to the kitchen asking if he could hold me. “The baby’s awake” he would say.
I often wonder if he would have been the strong, silent type with me as he was with my dad. Or would have been a little more forthcoming with his granddaughter? I’ll never know. He died of a heart attack on 14 May 1975.
Luckily I have always had a good relationship with my dad. He is the best buddy a girl could ask for as we always did stuff together when I was growing up such as fishing, going to the movies, playing catch with a baseball in the backyard (despite my never trying out for little league or anything) and I’m sure a ton of other things that were just so commonplace they aren’t standing out. But he was always this strong presence. Still is today.
So as I write this on Father’s Day, I know my dad had a good dinner (we had cheesy brats and hamburgers with some calico beans and potato chips with cherry cupcakes and vanilla marshmallow frosting) and it was a good day with family.
Wishing all of the dad’s out there a very Happy Father’s Day!
For this week’s theme for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the topic is “cousin bait”. Where I sometimes look ahead and in my mind begin processing what I’m going to write about for the upcoming week, this week I was a bit hesitant as I wanted to make sure what she meant by “cousin bait”. I know it’s meeting cousins essentially, and for all intents and purposes what I wrote about on my DNA week would work for this week too. In that post I wrote about the cousins that I have connected with that are DNA matches. But this week I will discuss 2 cousin’s I’ve met because of my blog.
My Morgart Cousin
It’s been close to two months since I was contacted via Facebook Messenger by Linda. I was surprised as they were doing some research on Peter Morgart and came across my blog. It caught me by surprised, but I suppose it shouldn’t have.
I wrote about Peter Morgart early on as I was so excited to find out my 5th-great-grandfather fought in the American Revolution at the battle of Yorktown and saw Cornwallis surrender to George Washington.
And here I had a fellow Morgart descendent find my post and then contact me!
I was just a little excited. Linda was away on vacation when she contacted me so we haven’t really delved into our families but we got as far as my 2nd-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart, is the brother of her great-grandmother, Rachel Snell Morgart. There is about a 13.5 year age difference between the two, George being the oldest male, and Rachel being the second-youngest female (there were 10 total children born to their parents, Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal).
George Washington Morgart
George Washington Morgart was born 20 Aug 1849 in Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of a farmer, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as he became a farmer, too. When his father died 19 Aug 1870, George inherited his father’s land and the role to take care of the family as he was the oldest son. His brother, James Henry, was also to assist in taking care of the family, but he was just 12 when his father passed.
On 27 June 1872 George married Mary Ann Ritchey. They had at least 5 children that I can confirm, Charles Jackson Morgart, Edward Daniel Morgart, Anna Rebekah Morgart, Stella Mary Morgart, and Altie Pearl Morgart.
He died unexpectedly 5 May 1895 at the age of 45. He was a well-respected citizen and a practical farmer who “died tilling the same soil where he was born”.
Rachel Snell Morgart
Rachel Snell Morgart was born 24 February 1863 in Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. She was the 8th of 10 children born to Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal. But unlike George who farmed the land he was raised on, following the steps of his dad, Rachel went west.
In the 1885 Census for North Dakota Territory, at the age of 22 Rachel Morgart is listed as a teacher. In 1895 she married a farmer and minister, Daniel Halfpenny, who was also Canadian. In 1908 he became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States.
Rachel and Daniel went on to have 5 daughters: Dorothy, Ruth, Margaret, Mary Kathryn (Margaret & Mary Kathryn were twins) and Rebecca between 1896-1908.
She passed away 29 September 1937 in Fargo, North Dakota after being in a car accident on 5 September 1937. It notes that the car was driven by her son but I don’t see a son on any of the censuses from 1900 to 1920. Perhaps it was a son-in-law?
My Childers Cousin
I think I spooked this cousin off because he had once done genealogy and found my blog as well. Our common ancestor is Randall Childers who I wrote about on the week that the theme was Multiple. We will keep him anonymous and just call him “He”, but he messaged me about 2 weeks after Linda and I was so excited about the brick wall he mentioned that I sent him my Thrulines of what options were being suggested for where the line stops and I never heard from him again.
Stupid, stupid, Becky.
But I have been a good girl and haven’t emailed him again. I’m here should he want to talk again. He descends from Randall Childers and Sara Fesler’s youngest son, Charles Peter Childers, while I descend from their daughter, Bertha. Bertha is also on the younger end of Randall and Sara’s children being seventh out of 9 children, with Charles being #9.
I am so happy I have met both He and Linda. I look forward to being able to touch base more with Linda to put more pieces of our genealogical puzzle together. I am hopeful I hear back from He at some point. I really need to control my enthusiasm sometimes.
I enjoyed learning what I have about Rachel Morgart Halfpenny and find her so brave to head west to teach. I could never do something so adventurous. I wonder if her reason for moving west is something that has been passed down through her family. Her younger brother, William Baltzer Morgart, also headed west and was buried in Idaho, perhaps he has something to do with it?
As for George, his family fell apart shortly after his death. His daughter, Altie, died 3 months after he did with heart issues, his wife committed suicide 13 years later, and his oldest son did the same 9 years after his mom. Just sad. I don’t think my great-great-grandmother ever got over the loss of her first husband (she re-married Bartley Hughes who owned the farm next door a few years after George passed away) and daughter. I have yet to find anything to figure out why my great-grandfather, Charles Jackson Morgart hanged himself.
It was a sad day for my family 94 years ago today. My great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Blair (also referred to as AJ) was killed when he was caught beneath falling rock within a coal mine owned by the Forks Coal Mining Company located in South Fork, Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Andrew was a pick miner and the tragedy happened between 12-1pm.
Andrew Jackson Blair left behind a widow, Bertha Childers Blair: two daughters, Vada (age 18) and Genevieve (age 16); and two sons, Leroy (my grandfather, age 14) and Donald (age 9).
When I was younger I knew my great-grandfather had died in the mines, but I never knew the detail involved. It makes me cry to think of what his last moments must have been like.
Thirteen years ago on this very day I lost one of the greatest human beings I ever knew. My paternal grandmother, Anna Maria Morgart died at the age of 93 years and a part of me has been lost ever since. On this anniversary of her death I will honor her.
Anna Maria Morgart was born on 2 April 1914 in Broad Top Township, Pennsylvania at 11:55am to Charles Jackson Morgart and Margaret Dora Wise. She was named after her maternal grandmother, Anna Maria Leighty Wise. By the time she was 5 years old, her father would commit suicide and her mother would re-marry. From the many stories I heard, my grandma thought the world of Irie Earl Custer, so much so my dad’s middle name was his middle name, and the name he (Mr. Custer) used, Earl.
She always told me about how much she loved school, and though she didn’t get the best of grades, she did love English and handwriting. She loved to write. Her handwriting was so distinctive, you can see it below in the “Blondie” on the photo on the right.
Anna Maria Morgart, about 1925 or 1926 or earlier
Below red school house. Looking at Geo Wise
One of her first jobs, she told me, was how she cleaned a bank. She claimed she got down and cleaned the floor with a little brush. She may or may not have said tooth brush but as a little girl that’s always what I pictured so that might be where I got that idea in my head. When I visited Pennsylvania last Summer my cousin, Hope, was so nice to show me where the bank was – and here it is – it’s where you pay your utilities in Saint Michael now.
The photo below was taken of her in 1933 – she was just 19 years old. It’s odd how much my dad looks like her in these photos.
I never quite knew when my grandparents met, I’m still not certain how they met either. I think I asked my dad but he isn’t entirely sure either. However I did come across this article from the Everett Press from 7 July 1933 where it shows they attended a Fourth of July picnic together at my Grandmother’s aunt’s home (Mrs. Bartley Noggle was Anna Rebekah Morgart, sister of Charles Jackson Morgart).
My grandparents got married on 24 April 1937 in Elkhart, Indiana. I’ve not found any wedding photos or even a marriage announcement, but I have found a copy of their marriage license on FamilySearch.
My grandparents moved to Indiana because my grandfather, Leroy Blair, was offered an apprenticeship in sheet metal. This was a much-preferred occupation as his father had passed away in the coal mines when he (Leroy) was just 14 years old, and according to my dad, Leroy also had an accident in the same “room” where his dad had died.
My Grandfather’s older sister Vada also lived in Gary, Indiana and she and my Grandma were best friends. I often talked to Darlene, Vada’s daughter, and she always remembered how close they were.
Despite living in Indiana, my Grandma still found a way to go back to Pennsylvania and visit her family. She was very close to her family. Her mom, Margaret Wise and brother, Charles Edward “Eddie” Morgart lived in Pennsylvania, but she would also head up to Detroit Michigan to visit with her older sister, Virginia. (Below are photos from 1940 of my Grandma, her with her brother-in-law, Joe Dipko, and lastly one of her and her sister, Virginia).
My Daddy Makes 3
On 11 January 1943 my dad was born. My Grandma was so happy to have a little one, and my dad was her only child. They were still living in Gary, Indiana when he came along, and since World War 2 was taking place, amongst the photographs was the ration book that was used for my dad.
In the 1950’s my grandparents moved from Gary, Indiana to Akron, Ohio. Initially they lived in a trailer but by 1955 they had money to move into a house. My Grandma had never been so proud of a house as the one she made her home. I couldn’t tell you how many photos she had of her house on Roslyn Avenue. That’s her standing in the door below. (She lived here the rest of her life).
My favorite was the photo she had of how there was nothing in the yard so my Grandfather, aka Pappy, decided to grow ears of corn in front of the living room window (however I am not finding that photo at the moment).
Another story of how they found their house was that as long as my Grandma could walk to a store she was going to be happy (she didn’t drive, apparently when she was younger a suitor attempted to teach her but she ran off the road and never got in the driver seat again). Pappy did well, he found a home for her and my parents got her a shopping cart that she could push her groceries home. She was also a master of coupons, and this was before couponing was a thing (or at least before I knew couponing was a thing).
As She Grew Older
My Grandma always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. She loved birds and family. The below photo I shared before. My Grandma and Pappy (right side) are playing with their bird, Skippy #1, while my Grandma’s mom, Margaret “Maggie” Wise, is laughing along with them, and Bertha Childers, Leroy’s mom, is just as grumpy as can be.
My Grandma was one of the most generous people I knew. During the summer months she would get up super early in the morning and go to a lady’s home, Mrs. Juhas was her name, she was the mom of one of my dad’s best friends growing up, and she would help her in her garden. She shared green beans and tomatoes with my grandma as payment (though we use to go over weekly for my dad to help my Grandma with a very small garden she had in her backyard). Until my Grandma got macular degeneration and could no longer can green beans, which was around 1997, I’d never had green beans in an aluminum can until about the year 2000.
Leroy/Pappy died on 14 May 1975 so I don’t really have any recollection of him (I was born in 1973). But Grandma went everywhere with us. She spent the night before Christmas so she was there to watch us open our presents. She was always invited over to functions on my mom’s side of the family (she was 1 of 5 kids so there was always something going on). My husband for the longest time didn’t believe this, especially when I began having trouble going places after my Grandma passed. I realized Grandma was who I sat with at these functions so I could entertain her, and frankly so she could entertain me (I’m quite the introvert at times). But after my maternal grandma passed, my aunt gave us a bunch of photos that we were in that she had, in every photo was my Grandma Blair beside me. I laughed so hard to prove my husband wrong.
When She Turned 93
The last six weeks of my Grandma’s life were not the best. She had gotten a case of shingles on her legs and didn’t tell anyone. It got into her bloodstream and made her pretty sick and she ended up in the hospital. This is where she was on her 93rd birthday. I remember my dad and I going to visit her on her big day, 2 April 2007.
From there she was moved into a nursing home not far from my house to go through therapy so she could walk and move around again. I would go and visit her often and slowly her appetite was decreasing. My husband made her sweet potatoes and it was the last solid food she ate. About a week later, I did what I didn’t want to do, which was tell her it was okay if she wanted to go “home”.
I’ve hated myself for 13 years for doing that. I know it’s what she needed, I know it was probably the right thing to do, but a selfish part of me hates myself for doing it because my kids never got to know her. My son was 7 months old and my daughter just 3 years. She has vague recollections, but that’s it.
But the thing is my kids have gotten to know her. I’ve shared with them all the wonderful stories I have of my Grandma Blair. Just today I told my daughter of the time when my Grandma was watching my sister and I in 1976 after my cousin Tracy was born. My mom helped drive my Aunt Barb to Texas to be with my Uncle who was in the Air Force. Aunt Barb had been in my room so I was staying in Kellie’s room on bunk beds. My sister had finally let me up on the top bunk and very quickly she decided I had overstayed my welcome. She went to take me off the top bunk by force but I quickly pushed her off the top bunk and on to the floor. My Grandma came back to see what was wrong, there was me on the top bunk and there was Kellie on the floor. My Grandma reached up for me and told me it was time to leave Kellie alone. As Kellie cried Grandma just told her that she would be okay and to get up off the floor. I really dodged a bullet that day. Don’t worry, some day I’m sure you’ll hear part 1 of this story when Kellie dragged me around the walls of the living room by my feet giving me rug burn (there is no love loss between my sister and I, even to this day).
A little over 2 years ago as I sat at a band concert with my mom, I can’t even remember what we were talking about but my mom looked at me and said that every day I reminded her of more and more of my Grandma Blair. It was the greatest compliment she could have ever given me. And sadly she (my mom) passed away a few weeks later, so I’m glad she said it when she did.
My favorite photo from my family history journey? I have to pick just one? I have so many that seeing an ancestor seems to have changed my life that picking just one seems so difficult. Until I realize it isn’t.
The photo I chose is actually (at the present anyhow) a part of my header here on my blog.
I’ve included it just as it was scanned off my dad’s flatbed scanner that he is allowing me to use. This photo includes 2-great-grandmothers and my paternal grandparents. It was taken at my grandparent’s house in Akron, Ohio in 1961. From left to right is Bertha Childers, Margaret “Maggie” Wise, Anna Maria Morgart, and Leroy Blair. This photo just seems to exemplify the personalities of them all and just looking at it brings a smile to my face.
I’ve heard from more than one person that Bertha (aka Mrs. Chappell, the last name of her second husband) was always mad at someone. So seeing her cross on the end of the sofa makes me wonder which of my other relatives was she upset with? Bertha is the mother of my grandfather, Leroy Blair. I never had the chance to meet Bertha, she passed away in 1963.
Margaret “Maggie” Wise
Next up is Maggie Wise, my Grandma’s mom. I actually have very fuzzy memories of visiting Gammy (that’s what her grandkids called her) in the nursing home when we went back to Pennsylvania to visit. I only recall meeting her a few times, and she passed away at the age of 96 in 1987 (I was 14 at the time). She always seemed happy and I remember her playing the “mouth organ” or harmonica.
My Paternal Grandparents
I love seeing my grandparents (Anna Maria Morgart and Leroy Blair) so happy in this picture. Now it’s hard to make out, even with the original photo in your hand, but from the note on the back of it, they are playing with a bird (not just any bird mind you, Skippy #1. My Grandma Blair went on to name every bird she had Skippy over the years, so it’s rather cool to see the original). Not having ever met my grandfather, I never knew that much about him, and stories seemed to fall all over the place. Seeing him having a good time with my Grandma makes me happy.
Anna Maria Morgart
My Grandma Blair was probably the best friend I will ever have. I could talk to her about anything and she never judged, just listened, and gave me the best advice she thought I needed. Gosh, I miss her. She passed away almost 13 years ago but sometimes the pain seems like it was yesterday.
My grandfather, affectionately called Pappy, died when I was 2-years-old so I really don’t have any recollections of him. My mom’s favorite story of him was how every time he came over to our house, I’d be asleep and he would say “I just want to go in a look at her” and somehow I always woke up. I have heard from other relatives how he just loved little girls and he would have probably spoiled me rotten (not that he wasn’t fond of my dad). I wish I could have had him in my life. He seems like he was just a good man, and in the end, isn’t that what you want from your relatives?
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
If you are interested in doing your own writing journey, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is where you can sign up and see the listing of all the prompts for this year’s challenge.
From July 15-17 my husband and I traveled to Bedford County, Pennsylvania so I could research my family. It was such an honor to know I walked where they walked. It was a great trip that was full of adventure and I’ll be honest, spending one on one time with my husband was a nice treat.
As I recount my trip I just want to add that I suggested to my husband that maybe we should take my car as it would get better gas mileage. I’ll be honest with you, I have a 2013 Chrysler 200. I love my car (the first car I ever purchased was a 1993 Plymouth Sundance, and if my Sundance would have evolved, it would be in the realm of the Chrysler 200). Even my father thought we should take it for the same reason, better gas mileage. But believe me, my front-wheel-drive vehicle could never have conquered the hills of Cambria, Bedford, Huntingdon, Fulton and Somerset counties like my husband’s Ford F-150. As we headed from one cemetery to the next in Cambria county, we went up a hill so steep it was at a 15-degree incline (well, that hill we didn’t have to go up – hubby did it for fun). My car would never have survived either hill. I attempted to take a photo but my phone doesn’t do it justice.
First Stop: South Fork Cemetery
We left Ohio on Monday morning and traveled to Pennsylvania. It only took us about 3 hours and our first stop was South Fork Cemetery in South Fork, Cambria County. Here I found 2 out of 3 of my direct line relatives, and the grave of my Great-Aunt Vada. The person I couldn’t find was Susan Jane Foster Blair, my Great-Great-Grandmother. I was really bummed. I remember seeing her name as a teenager and you know how sometimes you have a relative that just pops out at you? That was Susan Jane Foster for me. We searched all around but were unable to locate her grave. South Fork was probably the largest cemetery we visited, but I am hoping to contact someone who could possibly have a map or layout of the cemetery, as it is one without an office, which explained the lack of information on the internet. (I’ll note here, none of the cemeteries we visited had an office).
Second Stop: Mount Hope Cemetery
Our next stop had us taking the above hills to arrive at Mount Hope Cemetery. This was a much smaller cemetery, and luckily because of websites like Find A Grave someone had already uploaded a photo of my Great-Grandmother’s gravestone so I had some idea what to look for shape-wise.
Below is the headstone belonging to Margaret Wise Custer, though I knew her as Gammy. She is the only one of the relatives I searched for on this day that I had met. I have vague memories of her playing the “mouth organ” in a nursing home. She passed away in 1987 at the age of 96. My Grandma, her daughter, lived to be 94. Good genes.
Third Stop: Hopewell Cemetery
When we looked up Hopewell Cemetery on Google Maps attempting to get something of an address for this location, it looked rather flat. We could see it had sections but never dreamed the slant that the cemetery was created on. It was the next largest cemetery we visited. I didn’t find my Great-Great-Grandparents that were buried here. Since I had no cell service I wasn’t able to consult Find A Grave to see if either of them were listed. Turns out that my Great-Great-Grandfather, Philip Wise did have a photo on the website, but his wife, Barbara Waite Wise, did not.
Hopewell is filled with old graves that are very worn. We tried to look all over in the older section of the cemetery, thinking that is where they may be (Philip passed in 1878 while Barbara passed in 1881).
I did find my Great-Great-Aunt Elizabeth Childers Whitfield’s grave in my search and took a photo of it (she was my Great-Grandmother Bertha Childers older sister). I figured it made the stop somewhat worth it. But looking at the photo – look at how angled the ground is! This was another spot I’m not sure my car could have survived.
Stop Four: Duvall’s Cemetery
Duvall’s Cemetery was built on land that belonged to my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Basil Foster. So this one had a little extra charm for me, I was going to walk on land that I knew belonged to my ancestors. I’m a geek and think that’s thrilling. I think everyone else thinks I’m nuts in these situations (you should see me at Yorktown and Mount Vernon knowing I’ve walked where George may have stepped, it gives me goosebumps).
But Duvall’s Cemetery is also where many of my direct line relatives are buried. I actually found out 2 days after this visit it held one more grave, that of Andrew Jackson Blair, my Great-Great-Grandfather, father of the aforementioned Andrew Jackson Blair, and husband of the aforementioned Susan Jane Foster (yes, as in Basil Foster). I actually looked for Susan here but was unsuccessful.
Here are my relatives buried in Duvall Cemetery: Andrew Jackson Blair (1851), Charles Jackson Morgart (my Great-Grandfather, first husband of Margaret Wise, aka Maggie Custer), Basil Foster, Richard Lewis Foster, Charity Johnstone Foster, Thomas Foster, Eliza Horton Foster – just to name a few. These are my direct line ancestors as on my first trip, I’d have to spend all day in each cemetery to find everyone.
I was unable to find Thomas Foster, my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, or his wife, Eliza Horton Foster, my 3rd-Great-Grandmother. There were many worn graves and some that had fallen apart off the screws where the tops were face down into the grass. It was so sad to see so many graves this way. These were someone’s people, and my husband told me straight off that no, he could not lift them alone. He knows me so well.
Stop Five: Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery
As we were driving, on our way to what ended up being our sixth stop, I saw a road and it turned out we were near Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery, where a majority of my Fesler and Childers family members are buried. I was not able to find everyone, but I did find 2 of the 5 that I was looking for – the first being my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, George Henry Fesler who fought in several smaller battles during the Civil War and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Oakman Fesler. My Great-Great-Grandmother, Sarah Jane Fesler Childers is reportedly buried there as well, but I was unable to find her. The area where the Fesler’s is an older portion of the cemetery in the back corner under a huge tree. Where George’s has been maintained – his wife and children’s are very worn.
Others we were unable to find were my 3rd-Great-Grandparents, Abraham Childers and his wife, Mary Ann Green. This was another spot where Find A Grave would have been helpful as it has one of theirs listed, but again, no service (I’ll know to save the photos ahead of time for future visits).
Stop Six: Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (aka Rays Hill Cemetery)
When we pulled alongside the road to Mount Zion Lutheran Church and Cemetery, the parking lot was blocked off with metal gates. As we sat in the car we saw huge gravestones saying “Ritchey” which was one of the names I was looking for. We searched for a while and then it hit me – I’d seen the headstones on Find a Grave and began looking for white. Here, if we had just started in the front (translated, not far from where we parked) my Great-Great-Grandparents were in the front row, and my 3rd Great-Grandparents were in the row directly behind them.
Stop Seven: It’s Not a Cemetery, it’s a Tavern
So as we drove along the Lincoln Highway I hoped we would drive by the Morgart Tavern, which was started by my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Morgart, and then run by my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Baltzer Morgart. The building was constructed in the 1760’s and the walls are to be 2-feet deep. I was so excited when we found it. We knocked on the door before taking photos but no one was home. It’s when you find the places and even buildings where they lived that tickles me the most, a feeling of they were here.
Stop Eight: Providence Union Church Cemetery
This was our favorite cemetery, primarily because when we arrived we parked the truck, opened the door and there was my 5th-Great-Grandfather’s resting place front and center. He and his wife were our easiest finds of the day. We probably spent 5 minutes here. Captain Solomon Sparks fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. His daughter, Mary Sparks, was married to the before-mentioned Baltzer Morgart.
Stop Nine: The Morgart/Morgret Family Cemetery
This was a fun one as it’s literally in the middle of someone’s backyard. I don’t think the family is a Morgart, I would like to think they would have asked more questions about my being related to them (or not, being an uber-introvert my husband knocked on the door and asked if it was okay to go look at the cemetery, they were very nice and told us we could even pull up in the driveway next to the pole barn. I also want to add that seeing as it was mowed to the same height as the rest of the yard, this family took excellent care of the cemetery, you could easily read things, the gravestones we were weed-whacked, just really impressed).
So here I had many relatives buried, my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Morgart, and his wife, Christiana Hess (my 5th-Great-Grandmother), my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Baltzer Morgart and his wife (and my 4th-Great-Grandmother), Mary Sparks, and lastly my 3rd-Great-Grandparents, Andrew Jackson Morgart and his wife, Rebecca O’Neal.
Last Stop: Dudley Methodist Cemetery
Our last stop was to find my Great-Great-Grandparents, Jonas and Anna Maria Leighty Wise. I was so excited to find them as 2 days later I was able to take a photo of a picture that my second cousin Hope had of them that was left after a Wise Family Reunion back in the 1990s. My Grandma Blair (her married last name) also talked so fondly of her “Granny Wise” that finding their graves had a lot of importance. But my husband and I must have looked at every single tombstone in the cemetery and we were unable to find them. I was so disappointed. I had no cell service so I was unable to look them up (it would have done me no good, there are no photos on Find A Grave). They were the parents of my Great-Grandmother, Margaret Wise.
Since returning home I did email the Dudley United Methodist Church on a hope they had a layout of the cemetery but I’ve not heard back from them. I could kick myself as it didn’t occur to me when I was there, but my husband found 9 graves of Wise’s but I didn’t recognize the names. Only later did it register that my Great-Great-Grandmother had a total of 15 children, but only 5 survived. Nine graves he found – I wonder if they are 9 of the 10 she lost.
Wrapping It Up
Since this post is ever-so-long I’ll stop here and do another post for the next 2 days. Cemetery hopping is fun. It gave me an opportunity to be near my ancestors. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. It’s just so fascinating to learn their names and to do my best to learn about them and who they were. Just trying my best for them not to be forgotten.