Friday, June 28, 2013

Heritage Trail: Mendells in Pennsylvania

Our two generations of Mendell ancestry in Pennsylvania make up the lone not-German line, and in fact has its own ethnicity mystery. Civil War vet George Henry Mendell (my second-great-grandfather) was raised in Ligonier where his parents, Colonel Noah Mendell and Mary were innkeepers. Massachusetts- born Noah presumably gained his title in the War of 1812, when he was 22, although I haven't found any evidence of that, and he is of old New England descent. Mary is our Indian legend; born in Nebraska in 1800, on DNA testing she matches with names like "Long Crane Chocsaw" but the ethnicity match is Spanish/Italian/Portugese, and her son George has blue eyes. Conquistador heritage? We came no closer to solving the mystery, although I was tempted to exhume the grave for more info :-)  

Ligonier is a charming town which almost resembles a movie set. A library, city hall, and churches surround a central grassy area with gazebo, fountains, and statues. Fort Ligonier, an outpost from the French and Indian War, is located right there, and the main cemetery is across the highway on a hill (but that's not the right one to find).  

Ligonier town square 
Fort Ligonier
Our Mendells are buried in the Old Ligonier cemetery, which is behind the Covenant Presbyterian Church.  Their headstones are deteriorating rapidly.

both headstones together, about middle of the lawn
Noah Mendell's headstone

Mary S Mendell's headstone
George, orphaned at a young age, married his childhood sweetheart Margaret Miller in Laughlintown, which is just a few miles down the road from Ligonier. He then served in the Civil War as a Union soldier, and was reportedly wounded at Gettysburg (still trying to sort out some conflicting military records).  

remembering our own soldier
The Mendell family eventually settled in Nebraska, where George and Margaret are buried.  
Perhaps he connected with his mother's heritage there?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Heritage Trail: Cramers in Pennsylvania

Our Cramer roots extend back in Pennsylvania to the eighteenth century: Adam Cramer, our German emigrant ancestor, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.  These early Cramer, King, and Rambo lines settled in the western highlands of Pennsylvania, a wooded hilly area.  Adam and his son Samuel lived in the Milford Township area of Somerset County.  Samuel's son John and his wife Sarah (my third-great-grandparents) are buried in Kingwood (same cemetery as the Kregers).  John's son Hiram was born in Centerville, had a farm and store in Ursina, but ultimately moved west to Nebraska where he is buried.  His grandson Wally is my grandfather.

However, following their footsteps was a little tricky.  We found John and Sarah at the Kingwood Mount Zion Lutheran Cemetery on Route 281 just past the Humbert Road junction; their headstone is fading fast and is in the far back corner by the trees.
this cemetery, not the small one behind the church
John S. Cramer's headstone
Sarah's inscription on the side
I have a 1964 letter from my grandpa's cousin, giving directions to Cramer locations he visited in 1948.  He said, "Hiram Cramer's farm is between Ursina and Kingwood, closer to Ursina (maybe 2-4 miles).  I believe his store was in Ursina.  Traveling this route (north) the house (brick) is on the left and the barns on the right. At that time [now 65 years ago] the buildings were very well cared for and well painted, even to the shutters on the barns."  With our limited time (and the patience of my kids wearing thin) we were not able to pinpoint this location.

Our other destination was the Cramer-King Cemetery to see Revolutionary War vet Adam Cramer's grave.  Findagrave says this cemetery is located on Route 53, and their photo shows a large identifying sign. We approached on a foggy morning, and drove back and forth, asking several people for directions. We learned that the cemetery  is actually on Route 281 West, just north of the town of New Centreville.
Cramer cemetery (back by tree) viewed from the road when it's clear
What you have to do is start with a very patient husband.  Then you park at Zambo's Country Cottage restaurant, on the east side of the road (a cash-only establishment featuring ham-loaf dinner).

Then you have to be brave enough to unwind the chain on the cow pasture (don't touch the electric fence), and walk through the mist and manure.

Have faith that your destination is where the fireman pointed, somewhere in that fog (and that there are no cows in your way)

It's by the big evergreen tree

The sign is no longer there
But Adam Cramer's grave is.  Success!  

Now good luck finding your car again...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Heritage Trail: Kregers in Pennsylvania

My grandpa Cramer's parents and all four of his grandparents were born in Pennsylvania and have deep roots there.  Three of his four lines emigrated there from Germany, including the Kregers.  Henry and Elizabeth Kreger left Oldenburg, Germany, with most of their children in the early 1800s and settled in the western highlands of Somerset, Pennsylvania. This densely wooded area may have reminded them of their homeland. 

Their son Johannes Barnhart (sometimes anglicized to Barney) Kreger and his wife Catherine lived in Upper Turkeyfoot Township, and a hill there is nicknamed "Barney Kreger Hill" in his honor.  There are still Kreger descendants living in the area, and this is the "Hexie" area chronicled in distant relative Samuel Miller's book, A Place Called Hexie.
sign on Route 281 for Upper Turkeyfoot Township
Hexie sign
Barney Kreger hill, down Humbert Rd off of 281 by Kingwood
The town of Kingwood, PA, on Route 281 is where Barnhart and Catherine are buried.  There is a cemetery to the side of the Mount Zion Lutheran Cemetery (not the one behind the church, which also has lots of related Kregers, but across the parking lot).  Their headstone is the fourth row, fourth from left, about in the middle.
Kingwood cemetery, north of the Church of God cemetery
John Bernard Kreger headstone
inscription fading and hard to read
The rectory by the church was built by Barnhart and Catherine's son Jacob Kreger, who lost a leg fighting in the Civil War.  It is still occupied by the current pastor, who is helpful and friendly.  As an earlier church burned down, they saved some stained glass windows which honor various Kregers and are now part of the newer church.
Kreger window tribute
Barnhart and Catherine Kreger's daughter Mary Adeline (my ancestor) married Hiram Cramer, and this couple eventually moved west to Nebraska along with her widowed mother Catherine.  Thus while Catherine's name is inscribed on a headstone in Pennsylvania, she is actually buried in Hardy, Nebraska, which has confused a number of descendants.
Catherine's unfinished inscription

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Heritage Trail: Jacob Broom

The Signer statue at Norris Court in Philly
Constitutional signer Jacob Broom from Delaware is my husband's fifth-great-grandfather, and an intriguing man in part because he is the only signer without a portrait.  An excellent recent examination of the lives of the signers called him "the invisible signer"and noted that although he was normally a quiet man, Jacob saved the Constitutional Convention from shutting down at a critical juncture  (Kiernan & D'Agnese, 2011, p. 135). 

Jacob founded Wilmington's first public library and left money for two societies after his death, one helping women in need and the other educating black children. Jacob Broom's home is still standing in Wilmington, Delaware; it became part of the du Pont empire and is now a private residence.  (We haven't seen that yet.)

In 2009 we visited the National Archives and National Cathedral in Washington DC, where one can admire Jacob's signature on the Constitution and his name on a  plaque.

National Cathedral, Washington DC

This summer, we were in Philadelphia and saw Independence Hall where he worked with the other signers in a sweltering summer, and City Tavern where the signers celebrated the Constitutional completion.  Jacob didn't miss attending a single session of the Convention.
Independence Hall
the upstairs (rebuilt) room at City Tavern where the signers celebrated the signing of the Constitution
138 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA
We also visited Christ Church on 2nd Street, where Jacob is buried (he died while in Philadelphia on business in 1810).  However, his exact gravesite is uncertain and thus there is only a memorial plaque in his honor.  We were humbled and honored to learn more about him and his exemplary life.
Christ Church, Philadelphia

Emulating their sixth great-grandfather!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Heritage Trails

On a recent trip to Pennsylvania, we kept passing signs like this one above on US Route 30 West.  It felt appropriate, as we were also on a heritage route seeking some ancestral sites.  I began to realize how many similar explorations I've already done, and how many I hope to yet pursue, and thought it could be helpful to chronicle the details for future seekers of headstones, homesteads, ancestral memorials, views, and sites.  Someone else should know that the Cramer-King cemetery is missing its sign, and you have to hike through a cow pasture to find it!  So I'm adding a page to this blog on the left hand side entitled Heritage Trails, and plan in the next few months to post some reports which will be linked there.