For the final month of 2023 the prompt is “New Horizons”. The first person who popped into my head is a relative who is not a direct ancestor for myself, but someone I’ve been curious about learning more about. Her name is Rachel Snell Morgart, she is the younger sister of my 2nd-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart. She was born in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania and made her way to North Dakota to teach.
Rachel Snell Morgart was born 24 February 1863 to Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. She was named after her father’s older sister, Rachel Morgart, who married William Snell. Rachel was the 8th of 10 children to her parents, her siblings including Katherine Amanda, George Washington, Mary Elizabeth, Rebecca Jane, Arabelle, James Henry, Sarah Ellen, William Baltzer, and Ida Florence.
When Rachel was just 7 years old, her father died 19 August 1870.
Not much is written about Rachel in the newspapers to find out what her life was like after her father died. I did find an article from 13 September 1881 stating that she scored a 91 3-5 attending the Prof Bachtel English and Classical Institute.
I then decided to find out what kind of school this Institute was, and so I found this, and it may have been a similar article in the newspaper that convinced Rachel to attend.
The other puzzle is how Rachel ended up undergoing instruction in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and ending up in North Dakota as the next document I can find her in is the 1885 Dakota Territory Census where she is listed as a teacher. In the 11 April 1883 the Everett Press lists how they had received a copy of the North Dakota version of the Daily Minnesota Tribune to review. I tried to see if this was a part of Newspapers.com or even Genealogybank.com but I did not find the newspaper listed. I was curious to see if there was any sort of advertisement for teachers.
By continuing to use newspapers I was able to discover that Rachel taught at the Ypsilanti and Montpelier schools in what was originally the Dakota Territory as North Dakota did not become a state until 1889. I found her with the following timeline:
1885 – Listed on the Dakota Territory 1885 Census
1886 – Teaching at Ypsilanti
1887 – Teaching at Montpelier School #5
1888 – Teaching at Montpelier School #2 (she had 15 students)
In the Dakota Territory school began in late April and went for 6 months. In some winters Rachel attended the Valley City Normal School for additional instruction, in the winter of 1887 she returned to Pennsylvania and visited with her family.
Marriage & Family
On 31 July 1895 Rachel Snell Morgart married Daniel Halfpenny.
After getting married children came, daughters to be exact, 4 of them over the course of 10 years. First was Dorothy Evangeline who was born 8 June 1896, then Ruth Morgart born 1 April 1901, and finally twins born on 7 May 1906 Margaret Rebecca and Mary Kathryn.
All 4 girls took on teaching as their vocation at some point in their lives. Ruth Morgart and Mary Kathryn lived their entire lives in the North Dakota area, (Mary Kathryn actually lived her final years in Montana). Dorothy Evangeline and Margaret Rebecca both ended up moving to the San Diego area.
Reverend Daniel Halfpenny died on 21 January 1928 at the age of 75. Within 10 years on 29 September 1937 his bride would die from injuries she sustained in a car accident earlier in the month when her back broke in two places.
Ever since I discovered a couple of years ago from a distant cousin who descended from Rachel Snell Morgart of her journey, she has intrigued me. I wish I had more information in regard to her move to North Dakota, it amazes me that no newspaper was impressed with her moving across the country. I tried to see if she had any siblings that may have gone that way and maybe she tagged along, but that is not the case. Her brother, William Baltzer, does end up settling in Idaho, but was living in West Virginia in the 1880’s when Rachel moved to North Dakota. Such gumption she had to do such a thing. And it was a decade before she married, simply amazing!
Did you have any sort of “pioneers” in your family tree? If you do I’d love to know where they went, and if they didn’t go anywhere, maybe they did something that made them a pioneer. Share your ancestor in the comments.
Strength is such a valuable commodity. You need both physical and emotional strength to get by in today’s world. For the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompt of “strength” I’m going to discuss my great-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Ritchey.
Mary Ann Ritchey was born on 19 June 1851 in Rays Hill, Bedford County, Pennsylvania to Daniel Ritchey and Anna Cypher. She was the sixth of eleven children they had, with George being a well-known farmer in that end of Bedford County.
On 27 June 1872, Mary was united in marriage with George Washington Morgart in East Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Like her father, George was a farmer and had already purchased the farm when his dad, Andrew Jackson Morgart, passed away on 19 August 1870. While George worked the land, Mary Ann kept house, raising their five children: Charles Jackson (born 1873, and my great-grandfather); Edward Daniel (born 1875); Anna Rebekah (born 1878); Stella Mary (born 1886); and Altie Pearl (born 1888).
The Loss of Loved Ones
Mary Ann’s strength came on 5 May 1895 when her husband of almost 23 years died. George had not been feeling well for a bit but was able to continue to work the farm despite his issues.
Losing your husband at any age has to be devastating but Mary Ann powered through. She had it a bit easier as three of her children were grown adults. However, this was not the last of her sorrow for the year 1895. Her youngest daughter, Altie Pearl died just a few months after her father.
And within 3 years her father would pass away at the age of 88 on 19 November 1898.
My great-great-grandmother suffered a great deal of loss in a very short period of time when she lost her husband, daughter, and father within three years.
On 16 February 1898 she did what women were supposed to do and married her neighbor, Bartley Hughes, and the properties were merged. (A side note, Bartley’s mother and George Washington Morgart’s grandmother were sisters, so in a way it was keeping the property within the family).
Mary Ann Ritchey’s strength ran out on 14 August 1908 when she took her own life. Her death certificate was quoted as “Suicide by shooting in left breast with rifle – death was almost instant”.
She was laid to rest next to her first husband, George Washington Morgart at Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery. Her parents are buried there as well.
I have no proof but I always wondered if my great-great-grandmother suffered from depression after losing her husband and youngest child in less than 4 months. She had another daughter, Stella Mary that was born in 1886 and appears to have died just a year later. I have no true proof of how many total children she may have had, she did not answer that question on the 1900 census.
When finding the obituary of my great-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart, there was always a part of it that interested me:
” The Knights of the Golden Eagle, of which he was a member, turned out in a body at his funeral”
Who are the Knights of the Golden Eagle? That is what I set out to learn this week.
The Knights of the Golden Eagle
The Knights of the Golden Eagle is a fraternal organization that began in 1873 in Baltimore, Maryland (I say is as via a Google Search there are claims it is still handing out scholarships in areas of Pennsylvania). The group was set up in Philadelphia by 1876 (with the help of the Odd Fellows).
The KGE local chapters were “castles”, state castles were “grand castles” and the national headquarters were “supreme castles”.
The castles were set up like the Crusades and had 3 degrees:
The first degree had you as a pilgrim where you “were taught fidelity to God and man”.
The second degree had you as a medieval knight where you “revered religion, fidelity, valor, charity, courtesy, and hospitality”
The third degree was based on a crusader where the member was “equipped against the evil of his enemies”.
To become a member the following qualifications are to be met:
Over the age of 18
Have no physical or mental handicaps
Ability to write
Able to support themselves
Sound moral character
Of the Christian faith
Meetings were held in an orderly fashion with songs mixed in.
The group tried to do good things for their community and help members widows and orphans when they need protection.
* The above information was found on Wikipedia and The National Heritage Museum
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.
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.