Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy 178th Birthday, Hiram Cramer (1833-1909)!

Wally Cramer's grandfather

Teenage Hiram, lured from Pennsylvania by the irresistible excitement of the Gold Rush, traveled to California and brought back enough gold to make his bride's wedding ring.  His grandson Wally was a convert to the LDS church, so this Cramer line interacted with American history in ways other than did the pioneers.

Hiram and his wife Mary Adeline are the only great-great-grandparents of whom I have no photo--so he is the focus of frequent searches on ebay and Dead Fred.  Hiram, I'm still looking for you!  Someday I hope to add you to my Photoloom collection and basement wall.
headstone photo from

Hiram came from Pennsylvania German heritage, and was the third of nine children.  A family story says that at age 17 in 1850, Hiram walked to California, where he stayed for three years prospecting. Then he walked east until he reached the end of the railroad line, and rode a train back to Pittsburgh.

Another account given by Hiram's neighbor (Neil McNeil)'s relative says that Neil and his boyhood friend, Hiram Cramer, left New York City to sail around Cape Horn to San Francisco and became part of the Great Gold Rush in California and Nevada. Neil returned home in six years.  I have been unsuccessful thus far in locating Hiram (or Neil) on any ship records to verify details, but would like to believe in a combination of the stories--that they sailed there together and Hiram walked/rode the train home.  Wonder what he thought when he went through Utah?

The gold Hiram brought back for his sweetheart Mary Adeline's wedding ring may have helped woo his seventeen year old German bride (seven years his junior).  They married in 1857, and had eleven children.  Soon after the wedding, Hiram joined the Lutheran church.  He was a devout participant there, serving as a deacon and elder.  He was also active in community events as a director on the school trustee board.

Tenth child Minnie remembered her father getting up at four in the morning and walking eighteen miles to town with a backpack to get supplies for his store and returning the same day.  Hiram also farmed, and in one letter he noted his "corn orchard being the best in the country."

handwritten letter from Hiram to son Joseph 
The irony of not having Hiram's photos is that I do have a genealogical treasure--his original letters from the 1880s to his son Joseph (my great-grandfather).  They deal primarily with crops and business issues, although I love some choice lines such  as "You let Uncle see this" in a postscript, and in a letter to an in-law: "Respected Brother in-Law why don't you write me a Long letter some day when you aint Bussy." Hiram wrote a fair hand and often expressed gratitude for good health and crops; he seems to have been a positive and upbeat man.

However, Hiram noted in 1886 that "times are verry hard and money close under this Democrat administration" (Grover Cleveland was the president) and that he was "ded broke as the saying is."  Undoubtedly influenced by theses economic conditions, the Cramers moved west to Nebraska in 1890, where Hiram then owned and ran a general store.  In fact, I just found that his store's cash register is for sale on this site.  (Go google!  It was actually ordered three years after Hiram's death, by sons who continued to run the store.)

Hiram and Mary celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1907, and "a regulation Penn. dinner" was served and enjoyed by the guests.  When Hiram died two years later, his friends said that he would be greatly missed by the Sunday School and that his kind fatherly advice during the sessions of the council would make his place hard to fill.  His funeral was attended by all of his living children and thirty grandchildren, including (presumably) my nearly-one-year old grandpa Wally.

Since I so long for a photo, I would give Hiram a camera for his birthday--or at least a portrait sitting!


  1. sounds like he could use a gift card, maybe for a new pair of shoes after all that walking!

  2. Anita, this blog rules, thanks for doing this! Lunch was fun today!

  3. i would probably give him a car. that would save him all that walking!

  4. I'd get him a computer so that he could just order the stuff for his store online, as well as send emails with spell-check!