Where Have All the Forebears Gone?
Years ago, during the time I was living in a one-room apartment in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, an elderly woman, a good friend of mine, habitually went to the cemetery where members of her family were buried to pull weeds, plant flowers in the spring, and set up decorations for special days of remembrance. She was very faithful in her ministrations, and often wondered aloud who in her family would take over, when she was gone. I had never known anyone who did things like that. It certainly was never a part of my own life, but then, I never knew where the remains of my deceased family members were buried. Nobody. Not even my own father.
Literally, there was no body for me to take care of, no family gravesites to maintain in any way -- no headstones to sweep bird droppings from, no vases to fill with fresh bouquets of flowers or the artificial ones that could weather the wind and rain for weeks on end. To my memory, the only coffin I ever witnessed being maneuvered for burial is the one that held the remains of my Uncle Frank, a story told in my feature about Deep Run. But I never witnessed the coffin being put into the ground and covered with earth, a procedure that often happens after friends and family have whispered their last goodbyes and wandered back to the waiting motorcade.
Of course, I have seen burials on TV and in movies. I remember a tragic scene in the film Dr. Zivago, where little Yuri stands bereft at his mother's burial, and all he has left is her balalaika to keep alive his memory of her. The music of the balalaika underscored the entire length of the film, through all Yuri's trials and tribulations. And the instrument even made a haunting reappearance in the very last scene -- held by the supposed grown daughter of Yuri and Lara. She had always had the balalaika, said the young woman, and her young man added that she had "a gift" in playing it. As the film fades and the credits roll, we are left believing the musical skill of the grandmother had been passed down to the granddaughter, and we are comforted. No one really dies, we think, as long as there is another generation to carry on.
am a projection of the hopes and dreams of all my
Above, you see my full name, and yes, there is a double Rose in it. Needless to say, each name has a story behind it, and the collection may end up in one of my articles one day. Let me share something about the name Fink, though. It is the surname of my adoptive father, Lee Roy Fink, who was born and raised in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, but whose ancestors came from Western Pennsylvania. His family are descendants of Mike Fink, whose pioneering daring-do as an Indian fighter and a keelboatman is remembered in legend and song. Several years after Lee married our mother, we siblings were adopted as adults, so there would be no question that we were his legal heirs. In the process, we did not have to change our birth names to Fink, but I began to add it in parentheses (to distinguish it from my married name) to honor our Dad. Upon marrying again, I continued the practice.
Most people know me as Karen Critchfield, and the Overholt part never enters a conversation, unless the subject is genealogy. However, if anyone is really interested, I will rattle off all my names and happily laugh at the jokes anyone cares to toss my way. Okay, so I have seven names -- given at birth, given at baptism, taken at Confirmation, taken in marriage, and accepted in adoption. And every name defines me in some manner, just as do the individual parts of my DNA. Granted, I am part of the Overholt family tree because of my father's place amongst the branches, but I am fully aware of the contributions of my mother's family, as well. Much of what I am came from the maternal line, and one of these days, if the information is out there for me to find, I will begin to write about my long-lost Italian relatives.
Long Time Passing
Years ago, when I purchased a copy of the Oberholtzer/Nash genealogies compiled by Rev. A. J. Fretz, my eyes were opened to the fact that my siblings and I were not alone, after all. In this book, page after page of relatives showed we were members of a very large family, indeed! And the Fretz publishing date for the Oberholtzer material was 1903, for heaven's sake! Surely, as time went by, hundreds more had been born into the family! I was stunned. However, it took the purchase of The Oberholtzer Book, compiled by Barbara Ford, for me to learn where most of my relatives were buried -- valuable data included in most of the genealogical notes. The next step, of course, would be to reach beyond the abstract and make tactile contact, but that would require getting out to visit the cemeteries in person. I never knew when that would happen.
The pictures on this web page were taken last summer, when my son Matthew and I were driving to West Overton for Founder's Day. Time and again, we ended up on the wrong road (Matthew was reading the maps), and when we were driving past the Alverton Cemetery, I pulled off the road and stopped. It was a quiet afternoon, and in the distance up the hill, we could see a man doing some lawn work. I pondered whether it would be wise to drive up the access road that curved toward the summit of the hill, and weighed in my mind whether it would be considered tresspassing. Apparently, my son's ESP was in high gear.
"Mom! We're not supposed to be here!" complained Matthew. "We'll get into trouble!"
"No, we won't! It's a cemetery!" I flashed a jaunty grin, hoping for the best, and turned the wheels toward the narrow road. After driving only a short distance, I was getting excited by the names on the monuments. "Look, Matthew! These people were family!"
About halfway up, I parked the car and grabbed my Kodak one-time-use camera. I was determined to explore closer, despite Matthew's sullen attitude. "No, I don't want to look around!" he pouted. "I'm staying in the car!" Alone, then, I began a quick trek all around, high and low, trying to capture on film the magic of serendipity.
Where Have All the Forebears Gone, Long Time Ago?
When I was rushing around snapping pictures, I had no time to jot down the names on the headstones -- I just pointed the camera at family groupings and hoped the pictures would be clear enough to pick out the vital statistics. The large monuments marking family plots helped a great deal, but it was not until my work began on the photos for this web page that I realized my great good fortune.
Was it pure luck that this particular family grouping caught my eye? Could the flags have made all the difference? If the damaged headstone in the middle marks the last remains of Anna Beitler, wife of Henry Oberholtzer, then these stones commemorate the lives of my g-g-g-g grandparents, and my g-g-g grandaunt, Sarah Oberholtzer, who died young. To whomever displayed the flags, thank you!
Henrich Oberholtzer (1739-1813) [also known as Henry Overholt] fought in the American Revolution, which may explain the flags at the cemetery. Henry was the son of Martin Oberholtzer (c1709-1744) and Agnes Kolb (1713-1786). Anna Beitler (1745-1835), according to a note by A. J. Fretz, was the daughter of "pioneer Jacob and Anna (Meyer) Beidler, of Lower Milford twp., Bucks Co., Pa., and granddaughter of Hans Meyer, pioneer, of Upper Salford twp., Montg. Co., Pa., (See Moyer and Beidler histories)."
Martin Oberholtzer was the seventh child of Marcus Oberholtzer (c1664-1726) and Elizabeth [--?--]. It was Marcus whose name was listed among 852 Germans from the Palatinate who came to England in 1709, when he was 45 years old and had a wife (Elizabeth), sons (ages 10, 8 and 3), and daughters (ages 6 and 1). As reported in The Oberholtzer Book, the family probably came to America on the ship MARY HOPE (Nov. 23, 1710). Martin may have been born in England, thus arriving in America as an infant. Reaching maturity, he married Agnes Kolb and had five children. On April 5, 1744, in his 39th year, Martin Oberholtzer died and was buried at Deep Run East. His oldest child, Barbara, was about 6 1/2 years old, and the youngest, Martin, was just four months old. It must have been devastating for Agnes to lose her husband, when she had five young children to raise.
The date is unknown when the widow Agnes Kolb Oberholtzer married William Nash, but when she did so, she abruptly became a stepmother to the three daughters from William's first marriage, and the son and daughter from his second marriage. Agnes then gave William another daughter (Elizabeth Nash, born August 3, 1751) and three more sons after that. When his half-sister was born, Little Martin Oberholtzer was four months away from his 8th birthday. If you take the time to sort it all out, Agnes had to have been an amazing woman! She was the mother of five Oberholtzer children and four Nash children, and the stepmother of five others. And she ended up being the "foremother" of two very long lines of descendants. What a saga would unfold, if we knew all the details!
The very old and marred headstone with the name "SARAH" on it, suggests a mystery to me, because the information I have found just does not make sense. Sarah was the ninth child of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835), and she either 1) died as an infant during the years her parents lived back east, in which case, she should have been buried at Deep Run, or she 2) died shortly after arriving with the rest of her family in Westmoreland County in the summer of 1800. Or she 3) died as an infant, was buried at Deep Run, then in 1800, her family transported her remains to Westmoreland County, where she was reburied. The last scenario, while certainly possible, makes no sense to me, therefore I vote for possibility #2.
A. J. Fretz reports Sarah's birthdate as February 11, 1781-2, then adds the identifier "S," which means she died single (i.e., unmarried). This suggests she was not an infant, because Fretz used "d infant" quite often. Therefore, Sarah was maybe 18 or 19 years old in 1800, and then she died (sickness? accident?) sometime thereafter in Westmoreland County, and was buried in Alverton Cemetery.
Gone to Graveyards, Ev'ry One
In the "Overholt, Henry" chapter of Along the Banks of Jacobs Creek, Winifred Paul writes, "Henry Oberholtzer's farm in Bedminster Twp. Bucks Co. PA was located next to the Deep Run Mennonite meetinghouse." She then quotes from "The Mennonites of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania," an article by Edward Yoder that appeared in The Mennonite Quarterly Review, Goshen College, Goshen Indiana 46526.
The 1903 account by A. J. Fretz includes more background in a chapter entitled, "Descendants of Henry Oberholtzer, Son of Martin Oberholtzer." The photograph below appears on the page facing page 1.
A. J. Fretz assembled his genealogical works through generations, for example, using the Roman numeral III to identify the children of Henry Oberholtzer, meaning they are the third generation from I. Martin Oberholtzer (1709-1744). Henry's children are designated IV, the fourth generation, and so on.
Winifred Paul listed the children as follows, using her own identifiers, with a few more that I have added using her own notes. Plus, to understand the meaning of the italics, "If it is known that a family member of the first three generations lived in the Jacobs Creek area and was married with descendants, his or her name is italicized. Thus at a glance it can be seen which families could be expected to have descendants in the area today."
On page 84 of Along the Banks of Jacobs Creek, you may wish to write in the following information, which is found in Winifred Paul's CORRECTIONS AND ADDITIONS, at the back of the book.
"Ov2c Susanna Overholt b 13 Jan 1789. The OVERHOLT & NASH book says she died single."
I have added another note in my copy, regarding Susanna. By my calculations, she must have been eleven years old in the summer of 1800, when the Oberholtzer wagon train journeyed west.
Barbara Ford's The Oberholtzer Book designates Henry Oberholtzer as MC72 -- the second child of MC7 Martin Oberholtzer (c1709-1744), who was the seventh child of MC Marcus Oberholtzer (c1664-1726).
To find more details regarding Henry's children in Barbara Ford's book, look for the following alpha numeric codes.
Peter Loucks (1760-1825) fought in the American Revolution (REF: DAR Patriot Vol I/425), again which may explain the flags at the cemetery. He was the son of [Johan Peter] Peter Loucks and [Catarina] Catherine Hoensin of Bedminster Twp, Bucks County. It is not known when Peter married "the neighbor girl" Anna Overholt (1770-1845), daughter of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835). However, their first child, Catherine, was born January 9, 1793, and three months later, Peter purchased a farm in Plumstead Twp. Six years later, he sold the farm to join his father-in-law's wagon train to Westmoreland County. By then, he had five children underfoot.
Peter and Anna eventually had nine children -- the youngest, Sarah, would marry Samuel Dillinger (see my feature, The Overholt-Dillinger Connection). When Peter died, Anna was 54 years old. About eight years later, Martin Stauffer (1780-1869) buried his wife -- the mother of his five children -- Elizabeth Overholt (1777-1832), at the Alte Menist Cemetery. Elizabeth was Anna's younger sister. Sometime after that, widower Martin Stauffer and widow Anna Overholt Loucks were married. Martin Stauffer survived the death of his second wife, Anna, and eventually married Elizabeth "Betsy" Stoner Sherrick (1791-1868), the widow of Christian Sherrick (1789-1845). Anna was buried at the Alverton Cemetery next to her first husband, Peter Loucks, the father of her nine children. Likewise, when "Betsy" died, she was buried at the Alte Menist Cemetery, next to her late husband, Christian Sherrick, the father of her six children.
Barbara Overholt (1775-1848) was another daughter of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835), the sister of Anna and Elizabeth. Barbara married Jacob Durstine (1773-1825), with whom she had nine children. The ruined headstone next to Barbara's may be Jacob's.
Nancy Loucks (born c1800), sixth child of Peter and Anna, died young [Fretz notes "d-young. S."]. The name Mary Loucks might refer to Mary Myers Loucks (1807-1821), first wife of Henry Loucks (c1794-1854), second child of Peter and Anna. Or this may be Mary Loucks (1797-1880), fourth child of Peter and Anna, wife of Jacob Shupe (1789-1870), with whom she had five children. Mary Myers Loucks was about 14 years old, when she died. Mary Loucks was 83 years old, when she died. Because the headstone is small, and much like the other small headstone, I am guessing the 14-year-old Mary Myers Loucks is buried here.
The Oberholtzer-Fretz & Overholt-Fretts Connections
The Fretz name features prominently throughout the Marcus Oberholtzer line, but also shows up in other family lines that took root elsewhere. A quick scan of the pages of A. J. Fretz' many genealogical works tells the tale, and anything I might say to suggest the importance of this now vast family tree would be an understatement. Barbara Ford's The Oberholtzer Book makes counting connections easier (at least for the first several generations of each line that are included), since it contains a very extensive every-name index. But A. J. Fretz, naturally, must be acknowledged the expert regarding all the Fretz interrelations.
You will note that the Fretz family from the Jacobs Creek area is also known as the Fretts family. Winifred Paul explains the spelling change on page 25 of her book. "About 1840 the entire family changed the spelling of the name from Fretz to Fretts." Therefore, when you visit the Alverton Cemetery, and you see a Fretz headstone next to a Fretts headstone, you will know they are all members of the same family.
The historic background for the Fretz family is reported in a chapter entitled, Descendants of Barbara, Daughter of Martin Oberholtzer, which is included in A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Martin Oberholtzer, by A. J. Fretz. The picture below is found on the page facing page 168.
Barbara Oberholtzer Fretz (1735-1823), daughter of Martin Oberholtzer (1709-1744) and Agnes Kolb (1713-1786) -- with her husband Christian Fretz (1734-1803) -- became another amazing "foremother" whose 12 children began a very long line of Oberholtzer-Fretz descendants, many of whom married back into the Oberholtzer/Overholt line one way or another over the years. A. J. Fretz dedicated his c1903 Martin Oberholtzer genealogical record to Barbara, "whose descendants [living and dead] now number more than 2,500."
When I studied the Fretz/Fretts genealogy for this article, the data quickly became very confusing. First, there were many Henrys, and Elizabeth "Betsy" Detweiler was married to two of them. The data below is an example of how complicated the genealogical details of close-knit families can be. The notation belongs to Winifred Paul, but I also used A. J. Fretz and Barbara Ford data as a backup.
The obelisk in the photograph above bears the name Henry S. Fretts, who died July 15, 1857. Winifred Paul identifies him as Fr124 Henry S. Fretts (1819-1857), who was married to Det16 Elizabeth "Betsy" Detweiler (1823-1890). Elizabeth was the daughter of Det1 Henry W. Detweiler (1793-1847) and [no designation found] Susannah Stauffer (c1799-1856). With Fr124 Henry S. Fretts, Det16 Elizabeth had five children, then as a widow, she married her father-in-law, FR12 Henry Fretz (see below).
Fr124 Henry S. was the son of Fr12 Henry Fretz (1791-1845) and Sher21 Susanna Sherrick (1792-1875), daughter of Sher2 John Sherrick (1767-1846) and St12 Nancy "Ann" Stauffer (1775-1857) [daughter of St1 Abraham Stauffer (1752/3-1826) and Anna Nissley (1752-1817)].
[See more information about the Stauffers in my article, Stauffer Generations.]
Fr12 Henry Fretts and first wife, Diana Myers, had four children. With his second wife, Det16 Elizabeth "Betsy" Detweiler (1823-1890), Henry had one child.
Fr12 Henry Fretz was the son of Fr1 Christian Fretz (1761-1849) and Ov21 Agnes Overholt (1765-1850), oldest daughter of Ov2 Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835). F1 Christian Fretz and his younger brother, Fr2 Jacob Fretz, were sons of Daniel and Mary Fretz [and grandsons of pioneer Christian Fretz of Tinicum Twp, Bucks County]. It appears the two brothers journeyed to the Jacobs Creek valley from Bucks County along with the rest of Henry Oberholtzer's extended family.
In the summer of 1800, Fr1 Christian Fretz packed up his wife, Ov21 Agnes Overholt, and their five children (another child would be born in Westmoreland County) into their Conestoga wagon, and followed his father-in-law to the "wild land" west of the Alleghenies. The following summer (May 1, 1801), he bought land for a farm "which later became a part of Scottdale [and] stretched roughly from the area of Stauffer Ave., Parker Ave., N. Hickory and N. Chestnut to Jacobs Creek."
And what ever happened to Fr2 Jacob Fretz, the pioneer who accompanied his brother, Christian, to Westmoreland County? Winifred Paul provides the answer. "Jacob Fretz, brother of Christian also emigrated 1800. He bought a farm in German Twp., Fayette Co. from his father-in-law, George Mumaw in 1806, DB E P96. There were 11 children. Descendants were still living in the German Twp. farm in 1900." See more about them and their children the the Mumma/Mumaw chapter.
In the two pictures below, you will see that Matthew finally did trot out to join me. Towards the center, you can see the three venerable headstones. With a click, the moment was preserved on film, with Matthew quite unaware of the significance, as he strides among the last earthly remains of so many forebears -- including progenitors Henry Oberholtzer and Anna Beitler -- in row upon row of genealogical connectiveness.
I found information about Susan Overholt and Christian Stauffer in the A. J. Fretz book, on page 141, in the chapter entitled, Descendants of Martin Overholt, Son of Martin Oberholtzer. Also, a good deal of information is found in Along the Banks of Jacobs Creek, in the Overholt, Martin chapter.Winifred Paul's notes on Ov124 Susan Overholt and St13 Christain Stauffer are on page 73 (which includes a list of their children) and page 105 in the Stauffer chapter (which does not list the children).
Susan Overholt (1808-1863) was the daughter of Jacob Overholt (1768-1847) and Elizabeth Detweiler (1775-1849) [an earlier Elizabeth Detweiler]. Jacob was the third child of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835), an older brother of Abraham Overholt (1784-1870). Therefore, Susan was Abraham's niece.
[Please Note: On page 82 of Winifred Paul's book, you may wish to correct a typing error regarding the date of death of Ov2a Abraham Overholt -- he died 15 Jan 1870.]
Christian Stauffer (1809-1886) was the son of Christian Stauffer (1777/8-1852) [son of Abraham Stauffer (c1752-1826) and Anna Nissley (1752-1817)] and Agnes Overholt (1773-1845) [daughter of Martin Oberholtzer (1743-1811) and Esther Fretz (c1748-1813)]. Christian and Susan had seven children.
Sarah "Sallie" O. Stauffer (c1843-1864) and Emma O. Stauffer (c1847-1864) were daughters of Susan and Christian. There must be a very sad story connected to their deaths, as well as their older brother, Abraham O. Stauffer (1841-1864). Abraham O. died January 18, 1864, at age 22. Then Emma died on March 12, 1864, at age 16. Then "Sallie" died on April 18, 1864, less than a month after her 21st birthday. Further search of a couple pages of Fretz material reveals a number of deaths in the fall and winter of 1863, and the spring of 1864. I wonder if there was a severe illness that hit the families, causing so many deaths in such a short period of time.
From the photograph, I could not make out the first name on the headstone of the Stauffer on the far right. Perhaps it is for Abraham O. Stauffer.
Sarah Bassler (1805-1880) was married to John Loucks (1802-1885), son of Peter Loucks (1760-1825) and Anna Overholt (1770-1845). The Basslers came from Bucks County in 1816. John Loucks and Sarah Bassler had nine children.
Abraham "Abram" O. Overholt (1811-1893) was the son of weaver Martin Overholt (1772-1835) [son of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler(1745-1835)] and Catherine Overholt (1781-1866). His mother, Catherine Overholt, was from eastern Pennsylvania, and not closely related to the branch in West Overton. Abram's wife, Mary Stoner (1820-1891), was the daughter of Abraham Stoner (1788-1863) and Mary Sherrick (1791-1851).
Abram was described as "a faithful supporter of the Mennonite congregation and active as a song leader. He died the year the church in Scottdale was built and his daughter was a charter member there." When she died, Mary was 71 years old. Less than two years later, Abram was buried by her side; he was 81. Abram and Mary had three children -- only Susanna S. Overholt, their oldest, married, and then she moved to Missouri with her husband, David Longsdorff, where they had three children.
Annie S. Overholt (1851-1920) was the second child of Abram and Mary. As mentioned, she was a charter member of the 1893 Scottdale Mennonite Church. John "Jacob" S. Overholt (b. 1856) was her younger brother. Both were single and lived all their lives on the family farm, the homestead of Martin Overholt (1772-1835), adjoining the Henry Oberholtzer farm.
The small headstone in the middle of this grouping bears the surname Loucks. The one at the right bears the name Peter Loucks at its center, but appears to have another name (--?-- Loucks) at the top -- the photo is not clear enough to make it out. There were several Loucks family members named Peter.
The Stoner Family History
The history of the Stoner family is significant to the town of Alverton. Winifred Paul's work includes the story in her "Stoner" chapter. Mary Stoner's grandparents, Christian Stoner (1757-1814) and Barbara Shenk (1759-1816), came to East Huntingdon Township from Lancaster County by way of Bedford County. Christian bought 169 acres of land in 1799, the first of several purchases. "The area where the Stoner family lived was called the Stoner settlement and Stonerville became the name of the town nearby."
In reference to Edward Yoder's History of the Mennonites in Westmoreland County, c. 1942, "Christian Stoner was the first person to erect a sawmill at the site of Stonerville. He also had a cabinet maker's shop, in which craft he was skilled. He is said to have been the first undertaker in the township. Skill in cabinetmaking in those days carried with it the business of constructing coffins and of burying the dead. Stonerville was later renamed Alverton."
It is possible that some of the earliest inhabitants of the Alverton Cemetery were fitted in coffins fashioned by Christian Stoner, and then were buried by him.
Matthew's presence allowed me to get a picture of myself standing at the Dillinger obelisk. I wanted this photo expressly for Sam Komlenic, to show that I had indeed "been there and done that," just as he had done in the experience he described to me. Unlike Sam, however, my touching the monument did not result in any sensation other than elation. It was a personal high for me and a real joy at accomplishing this visit, and while I kept saying "hello" to all my dearly departed relatives, the only "answer" I received was a beautiful day and wonderful pictures. But then, it had been a totally unexpected visit, which came to pass only because we lost our way heading for West Overton. An accident. Or was it? Logically, it was pure serendipity. Psychologically, it was the manifestation of my own unconscious desire. Spiritually, it could have been a planned outcome orchestrated by the spirits of my ancestors. Oh, the mind boggles!
The enlargement above shows how somebody in the past has dealt with erosion at the base of the Dillinger obelisk. I am wondering if this solution is sufficient, and if not, I am curious about how such a problem can be resolved. Would a lot of really bad rainstorms cause the obelisk to tip over or slide down the hill? To me, the condition of the whole cemetery showed signs of great care and attention to detail -- it was just lovely! But I wonder how much it would cost to shore up this massive and impressive monument? Perhaps this is a project that could be funded sometime in the future by The Extended Overholt Family Foundation.
The style of the stones above suggests to me that they have been made fairly recently, but what luck I had in photographing them! It turns out that Daniel and Mary Dillinger were the parents of Samuel Dillinger, who is highlighted in great detail in my feature article The Overholt-Dillinger Connection. The following is an exerpt from that web page.
You will note a discrepancy in the article, as it reports Daniel's death as occuring in 1847, while the headstone clearly shows 1845. Also, it appears Winifred Paul left out Sarah Dillinger on page 47 of her book. You may wish to write in the following note above the data on John L. Dillinger.
Lo194 Sarah Dillinger m. Jacob C. Fox
This correction means you will have to change the code for John L. Dillinger to Lo195, and Elizabeth L. Dillinger to Lo196, and so on.
Samuel Dillinger (1810-1889) was the son of Daniel Dillinger (1788-1845) and Mary Myers (1790-1871) [see photo above]. He married Sarah Loucks (1808-1898), and they had nine children. If you check out my feature, The Overholt-Dillinger Connection, you will learn more about Samuel Dillinger, who was a very interesting person. Winifred Paul notes he was a "farmer and distiller at Bethany," and that "an 1867 map shows Samuel Dillinger owning quite a few farms south and southwest of Old Bethany." My feature includes drawings of a few of these Dillinger properties.
Catherine Dillinger (1836-1918) was married to Moses Hixson (1832-1916), son of Moses Hixson (1793-1878) and Bridget Dugan (1802-1885). Son Moses was a younger brother of Joseph Hixson, whose marriage to Anna Dillinger [Catherine's older sister] ended upon her death a little more than a year after they were married. A. J. Fretz mistakenly misspells both husbands' surnames, each differently, so that Joseph is listed as "Hecksor" and Moses is listed as "Hickson."
In The Overholt-Dillinger Connection, you will find an article taken from John N. Boucher's Old and New Westmoreland, Volume 4, in which there is quite a bit of information about the Hixson family.
Jacob C. Fox (1892-1908) is the name on the tall headstone on the left, and Sarah Dillinger "Wife of Jacob C. Fox" is on the matching stone on the right. My photograph is clear enough to see the dates Sept 28, 1892 and May 18, 1908 on Jacob's stone, but I cannot make out the dates on Sarah's stone. However, of the ten people named Fox who are included in The Oberholtzer Book, none of them are Jacob C. Fox. Also, he is not one of the five Foxs who are listed in A. J. Fretz' work. But Fretz does list a J. C. Fox on page 85 of the Descendants of Henry Oberholtzer (see below). I plan to go back to The Overholt-Dillinger Connection and make corrections to reflect this data.
The Story of John Overholt, Distant Cousin
It is curious to me that someone wanted so much information carved on a headstone. You can see that many headstones at Alverton Cemetery did much the same thing. In fact, Henry Oberholtzer's stone included line after line of a fading narrative (in German, I believe), so perhaps this was a common practice among the Mennonites. Even so, this particular stone tells a very long story, a portion of which appears in Along the Banks of Jacobs Creek [exerpt below].
The story begins with the marriage of Martin Overholt (1772-1835) [son of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835)] to Catherine Overholt (1781-1866). Together, they brought seven children into the world. When Martin died intestate (i.e., not having made a will) and his personal estate was not sufficient to pay his debts, Catherine's brother John stepped up, and as the highest bidder, he bought the family farm for $4000. This farm was on Dexter Road (now called Overholt Drive), located north of Jacobs Creek and south of West Overton.
Abraham Sherrick (1800-1871) was the son of John Sherrick (1767-1846) [son of Joseph Sherrick (1734-1807) and Susan Strickler] and Nancy "Ann" Stauffer (1775-1857) [daughter of Abraham Stauffer (c1752-1826) and Anna Nissley (1752-1817)]. Abraham was married to Anna Overholt (1802-1855), daughter of Jacob Overholt (1768-1847) and Elizabeth Detweiler (1775-1849) [the earlier Elizabeth Detweiler]. Jacob was the third child of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835). Abraham Sherrick and Anna Overholt brought eleven children into the world.
Their son John Sherrick (1824-1843) died at age 18. Their daughter Anna Sherrick (1832-1839) died at age 5. Anna Sherrick's fraternal twin, brother Abraham H. Sherrick (1832-1892), reached maturity, married Mary Dillinger (1834-1934), and fathered eleven children of his own. Mary Dillinger Sherrick lived to be 100 years old.
John D. Overholt (1795-1878) was the son of Jacob Overholt (1768-1847) [son of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835)] and Elizabeth Detweiler (1775-1849) [the earlier Elizabeth Detweiler]. "J.D." was married twice, but his seven children were born to his first wife, Elizabeth Stauffer (1804-1842), daughter of Christian Stauffer (1777-1852) and Agnes Overholt (1773-1845) [second of 14 children born to pioneer Martin Oberholtzer (1743-1811) -- younger brother of Henry Oberholtzer -- and Esther Fretz (c1748-1813)]. Christian Stauffer was the son of Abraham Stauffer (c1752-1826) and Anna Nissley (1752-1817).
Winifred Paul reports that second wife Nancy Bixler (c1801-1894) was also known as "Mary" and "Betty," but the headstone and deeds call her Nancy. Regarding John D. Overholt, A. J. Fretz reports, "He was a minister of the Mennonite Church for 48 years, of which time he was Bishop 40 years. He preached at two brick churches every alternate Sabbath."
J.D.'s farm was located along Sherrick Run, about 1 1/2 miles north of Jacobs Creek. The land had once belonged to Peter Stauffer, then was sold to Martin Stauffer, who sold it to J.D. and Nancy.
Jacob Loucks (1795-1880), weaver, was the son of Peter Loucks (1760-1825) [son of Peter Loucks and Catherine Hoensin] and Anna Overholt (1770-1845) [daughter of Henry Oberholtzer (1739-1813) and Anna Beitler (1745-1835)]. Jacob's wife, Catherine Smith (1804-1902), was the widow of Christian Fretz (1802-1828) [son of Christian Fretz (1761-1849) and Agnes Overholt (1765-1850)], with whom she had one child, John L. Fretz (1828-1900).
Jacob and Catherine had six children, one of whom was Jacob M. Loucks (1839-1905), but the name on the stone above appears to have the initial "L," so I cannot properly identify him as their son. The Loucks family has several Jacobs. One clue is the month July, which is part of the first date on the headstone.
The photograph above is a portion of the larger one below (top right corner). Both the Stoner family and Ruth family are very much represented in the Extended Overholt Family, so I wanted to highlight these monuments. In the background, it appears the groundskeeper (notice the black truck) may have been checking out our parked car.
Daniel M. Stauffer (1859-1942) and Barbara E. (--?--) Stauffer (1858-1929) are not represented in my reference books, but this is a very fine monument.
John F. Stauffer (1819-1897) and his wife Catharine (1829-1888) could not be found in my reference books.
John M Stauffer (1857-1896?) could not be found, either. However, there must be some information somewhere that will shed light on these people. Perhaps someone will send me the details.
All Are Dedications to Life
It occurs to me that every one of these markers -- headstones, obelisks and monuments -- are dedications to life, as well as acknowledgements of death. The breath of life is so precious, after all. Someone we know or someone we love dies, and the tears well up, and we wail with grief from the bottom of our primal souls. The wail may be inaudible to others, waiting for a quiet moment all to ourselves, but the wail is always there. We are moved to stack up stones around the bodies bereft of life, as if the stones are given the task of "standing in" for the lost one. And we are moved to scratch a name, carve a cross, plant a tree -- do something to remember the life that is no more. If we do nothing, the pain never leaves, the hurt never heals, the broken heart never mends.
Symbolism is everything. It speaks to that which is beyond words. Older cemeteries at least have headstones, and seen from a distance, it is easy to identify all those stones as representatives of people who are no longer with us. Modern cemeteries often remember the deceased with a stone plaque on the ground, so nothing actually "stands up" in remembrance of a life lived on earth. It is the difference between a poem and a notecard.
I believe it is not enough that a loved one is remembered only by the family and friends who share the loss. It is better if anyone who walks by can -- at a glance -- see solid illustrations of lives gone by. We are all connected, after all, by the breath of life. And then at the end of our lives, we share -- what? Well, let us leave that question to be answered by the sages.
This web page will end with the full dedication written by Rev. A. J. Fretz for his volume, A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Martin Oberholtzer, because it says a lot of important things worth remembering.
End of Page . . . .
Return to Karen's Branches.