Saturday, March 31, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 13

Schwein home
This week’s writing prompt, the old homestead, took me back to my visit to Steinweiler, Germany in September of 2013. Steinweiler is a small (current population around 2,000) town in the Rhineland-Palatinate region. The area was first populated in 968, though it was not called Steinweiler until 1585.

It was there that I saw the home of my 6th great-grandparents, Johann Ulrich Schwein and Margarethe (Erbauer) Schwein. Ulrich, as he was known, was most likely born in Steinweiler though I have been unable to find information about his parents or date of birth. I do know, however, that in 1717 he married Margarethe Erbauer in Steinweiler.

The couple built their house in Steinweiler of half timber construction, which was common in both rural and town locations in Germany at that time. The frame of the building was made of timber, usually oak as it was plentiful. Triangular bracing was added to give additional support. The space between the timbers was filled with a mixture of branches, clay and straw. Plaster was then layered over that. The timber often remained visible both inside and outside the building.

As was popular, Ulrich had his name and the year his household was established etched into the facade of the house. The symbol between his name and the date let people know that Ulrich was a blacksmith. As Schwein indicated the occupational name for a swineherd, the family most likely had pigs as well. The construction of the house would indicate that animals were kept there as well, as you can see from the photo in the bottom right.

While I was photographing the outside of the house, the owner arrived home from work. My German guide explained to him why I was taking pictures, and he invited us to see the inside. It was beyond thrilling to cross the very threshold that my ancestors had crossed hundreds of years ago. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

Schwein house kitchen and courtyard

Saturday, March 24, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 12

When I saw the writing prompt for this week, misfortune, I immediately thought about my paternal great-grandfather, Albert Hungler. Born in Covington, Kentucky on 17 October 1869 to John Hungler and Anna (Hightower) Hungler, Albert was the oldest of two boys born to this couple. (Anna died fairly young, and John went on to marry Mary Elizabeth Carver in 1892. They had twelve additional children.)

Catherine Cramer ~1887
Albert married Catherine Cramer on 3 July 1894 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Catherine, daughter of Michael Cramer and Anna (Williard) Cramer, was born in 1877 in Cincinnati. Albert was 24 and Catherine 17 when they married. Their daughter Lillian, my grandmother, was born in 1895, son Corry in 1897, and twins Alice and Albert in 1898. Unfortunately, Albert died at birth.

Catherine contracted tuberculosis and died 16 April 1900. She was just 22 years old. At the turn of the century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the United States. It was also referred to as TB, consumption, phthisis, and the white plague. Cincinnati had the first publicly funded tuberculosis sanatorium in the country. Between 1900-1903, 1,253 residents of Cincinnati died from TB. Sadly, Catherine and Albert’s son Corry also succumbed to tuberculosis on 10 October 1900. He died at the age of 3, just six months after his mother passed away.

Albert was no doubt still grieving the death of his wife when his only living son was also taken from him. One can only imagine what it would have been like to lose two important family members in such a short time period. I’m certain that Albert never imagined himself a widower at age 30 trying to adjust to the death of a wife and child while attempting to deal with his two remaining grief-stricken children. Lillian was only 5 and Alice just 2 at the time. That was a whole lot of misfortune for a young man to deal with on his own.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 11

The writing prompt for this week, Lucky, can be taken many ways. With all my Irish heritage, it would be easy to default to writing about my Ireland roots since it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, I think I’ll write about how luck played a part in finding out more about my Kubler heritage.

My dad always said that our Kubler family was from Germany. He didn’t know what part of that country we came from, only that he had heard Germany was the homeland. But I wasn’t having any luck finding a link between the family and Germany.

My grandfather, Joseph Henry Kubler, was born in Connersville, Indiana, and my great-grandfather Henry Kubler was raised in the same town. My 2nd great-grandfather, Vincenz Josef Kubler, had moved to Connersville with his wife and children around 1870.

On several occasions I traveled to Connersville, and I was able to piece together the lives of the family members in this town. Vincenz, who was known as Joseph in the community, operated a grocery store in town. In an account that was written about his store, they mentioned that Joseph was a native of Switzerland. This was my first inkling that the Kubler family came not from Germany but from Switzerland.

Joseph Kubler stone
Through a search at the local cemetery, I was able to locate the Kubler headstone, and determine when Joseph Kubler died. That led me to the library to look through the local newspaper, where I found a story about Joseph’s death. The article stated that he dropped dead after mass on a Sunday morning at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church. He was 38 years old. It went on to mention that Joseph was born in Büsserach, Canton Solothurn, Switzerland.

Finding that death notice was the missing piece I needed to determine the ancestral hometown of my 2nd great-grandfather. That knowledge led to a trip to Büsserach several years ago, culminating with a family gathering in a nearby castle. Now THAT was some luck!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 10

Marie, right front, with her family
When I saw the writing prompt for this week, Strong Woman, I immediately thought of my mom’s older sister, Marie. The firstborn of eight surviving children of Michael Crusham and Mayme (Metz) Crusham, Marie was born 28 March 1912 at the family’s home on Rosemont Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio. Michael and Mayme had purchased the home sometime after they married in 1911.

Pogue's Cincinnati
Marie dropped out of high school when she turned 16 to take a job to help support the family, which at that time numbered seven. She went to work at Pogue’s, an upscale department store located on Fourth Street in downtown Cincinnati. She would walk up the hill on Rosemont Avenue to Glenway Avenue and catch the bus each day. She never learned how to drive or got a license her entire life. She worked her way up in the business office at the store, and remained there until she retired with a nice pension. Unfortunately, that pension was later stripped away when Pogue's was purchased by another conglomerate.

Marie on the left with
sisters Stell and Catherine
Though she was an attractive, friendly and outgoing person, Marie never married and rarely dated, according to family members. My parents often wondered if a man had gotten “fresh” with her, and that’s why she stopped dating. She lived with her parents her whole life, and supported them and took care of them as they aged. Michael died in 1961 and Mayme in 1969. Their will stipulated that Marie could remain in the house on Rosemont until she no longer wanted to live there or until her death. Then the house was to be sold, with the money divided among the surviving children.

Marie’s hobbies were reading, quilting, and embroidery, and she was known to make a baby quilt for each of her new great-nieces and nephews. I still have the one that she made for my son in 1985. She also loved to travel and would take the bus to visit us in Chicago and Des Moines. After my mom and dad moved back to Cincinnati in 1984, they took her on a few road trips with them.

Unfortunately, a fall from her front porch around 1999 resulted in her being paralyzed from the neck down. She had to be placed in a nursing home, and could no longer do any of the things she loved. It was an unfair occurrence for someone who had never harmed anyone. But despite this, she never lost her easy-going manner, and never complained about what had been taken away from her. She celebrated her 90th birthday at the facility in March of 2002, and died there on 2 July 2002.

We all loved Aunt Marie, and I never doubted the love she had for me as well. She was the epitome of a good Christian, of a person who honored her mother and her father, and one who gave of herself without asking anything in return. Despite the number of years that have passed, I miss her every day. Here is the poem I wrote for her, which was displayed at her funeral.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 9

The writing prompt for this week is Where There’s a Will. This was a tough one for me as I have very few ancestors for whom I have been able to locate a will. The one will I did find was for Josephine (Hillenbrand) Ashton, my 2nd great-grandmother, and I wrote about her and the will in a previous blog post, which can be found here.

Obviously the word will could be used to express determination, persistence or willfulness as well. I think my 3rd great-grandfather, Andrew Hungler, fits this description, as does his wife Malinda.

Andreas, known as Andrew, was born 22 November 1827 in Niederrimsingen, Baden, Germany to Lawrentz Hungler and Katharina (Willig) Hungler. He was the oldest of 4 children, 3 of whom were born in Germany. Early German and passenger records lead me to believe that the name was spelled Hunckeler or Hunkeler back in Germany. The family of 5 traveled from the port of Havre in Germany to the United States on the ship Orleans, arriving in New Orleans on 28 October 1833. From there they made their way to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Andrew’s younger sister was born.

Andrew married Malinda Harcourt in Cincinnati on 3 December 1848. The couple had 6 children, 4 of whom were born in Cincinnati where Andrew worked as a brick maker. The last two were born across the river in Covington, Kentucky.

On 19 August 1864, the 3rd year of the Civil War, Andrew enlisted as a seaman in the U.S. Navy. His commitment was for 2 years. He was 35 years old, 5’4” tall with hazel eyes and dark hair. The registrar indicated that he had a scar on his right foot. It is curious that he would have enlisted, first due to his own age (the average age of a sailor at that time was 25), but also because his children were 14, 9 and 6 years old, and his wife was 6 months pregnant with their 4th child.

USS Milwaukee
Andrew served aboard the USS Grampus from August 19-21, then on the USS Great Western from August 22-27, and then on the USS Milwaukee from 28 August 1864 until 14 April 1865. An interesting side note is that the Milwaukee was built by James Eads at Union Iron Works Carondelet in St. Louis. She was commissioned on 27 August 1864, and traveled from St. Louis down the Mississippi River.

On the Milwaukee Andrew’s military designation was quartermaster. His duties would have involved navigation and the maintenance, correction, and preparation of nautical charts. He began to experience pain in his legs while aboard the Milwaukee in December of 1864, and by the early part of 1865 he was limping and complaining of overall body pains. He spent time in the sick bay and was barely able to function in his job.

The ship entered Mobile Bay on 1 January 1865. Mobile Bay had been taken by the Union in August of 1864, but the city of Mobile was still in Confederate hands. The Milwaukee encountered a mine while in the area on 28 March 1865 and blew up, but was able to remain afloat. The crew managed to escape with no loss of life, and they were rescued by the USS Kickapoo. On another side note, scrap metal from the Milwaukee was returned to St. Louis, where it was used in the construction of a bridge across the Mississippi which bears the name of the builder, James Eads.

Eads Bridge in foreground

Following the loss of the Milwaukee, Andrew was transferred to the USS Rose, where he remained until 28 July 1865, when he was taken to a hospital in Mobile, Alabama. One can only hope that he was treated appropriately since he was with the Union and the hospital was in Confederate territory. He left the hospital after 3 or 4 weeks. At one point he was listed as a deserter, but once it was determined that he had been in the hospital, he was honorably discharged.

Due to health issues caused by his service he returned home to Covington in September of 1865, crippled and on crutches. He told his family and friends that he had contracted rheumatism while onboard the Milwaukee. The symptoms of the disease were certainly there, with pain, stiffness, and limited motion of joints. Once home, he needed to be lifted in and out of bed and could barely use the crutches as his legs, arms and shoulders were all crippled. He had to be dressed and bathed, and never recovered from his illness. This did not prevent him and Malinda from having another child in 1867, however.

Andrew died 3 May 1869 at the age of 41 following a week of being unable to leave his bed at all. For a month before he passed he had complained of pain in his heart and shortness of breath. His physician, Dr. Frank Noonan, listed heart disease brought on by rheumatism as the cause of death.

Malinda was 37 when her husband died, and her children were 19, 14, 11, 6, 5, and 2. She became a housekeeper to support the family, and was still working in that capacity when, on 26 November 1888, she filed for a Widow’s Pension for Andrew’s service in the military. As with many government applications, things did not move very quickly on her request. Finally, affidavits were filed in April of 1895 asking that the case be expedited as Malinda was feeble and destitute. Finally the government began taking depositions in the case, requiring testimony from Malinda and her surviving children, shipmates, doctors, neighbors and people who knew Andrew before and after his military service. It was not until 1896 that Melinda began to receive $12 per month as the widow of a sailor, and $12 per month for each child who was under the age of 16 when her husband died. In her case, 5 of the 6 children met that criteria. As Malinda died 11 December 1896, she certainly did not receive financial aid for very long.

Andrew was determined to serve his country in the Civil War, and it took a huge toll on his health and ultimately led to his death. His widow, Malinda, showed great persistence in keeping her family together and fighting for her rights as the widow of a Civil War soldier.