Tag Archives: Shaner

Tuesday’s Tip – Bound Apprenticeship/Indentured Servant Records

Summer is definitely upon us where I live and the temperature combined with the humidity is making the outdoors suffocating. So what better way to beat the heat than to sit in the air-conditioning and do a little internet genealogy! That’s exactly what I was doing yesterday when I came across a very interesting article in Google’s Newspaper Archive.

The Reading Eagle newspaper of June 30, 1895 featured an article entitled “An Old Indenture – A Relic of the Apprentice System of the Last Century Now in Possession of Warden Kintzer.” The upshot is that a gentleman named L. Y. Kintzer purchased a bureau at the estate sale of Daniel Sohl of Womelsdorf. Inside the bureau was an old legal document. It was an Indenture binding a child named Thomas Shaner to an apprenticeship with “Wintel” Weant. The contract was entered into by Thomas’ step-father Philip Cole and his wife Mary, on January 7, 1793 with the term of the apprenticeship being 17 years, 1 month and 9 days!

In addition to expressing what I interpreted as a bit of shock for the practice of binding out a child for such a long servitude, the article provided a full transcription of the Indenture. I was actually quite interested in the document because the Shaner family is one that I’ve researched pretty extensively. But Indentured Servant documents were new to me. And my knowledge of the practice of binding out children as apprentices was limited. I couldn’t help thinking that there was significance to the term of the indenture. Generally speaking, I would not have thought it legally possible for a parent to bind out a child past the point of the child attaining the age of majority. It has been my understanding (for the time period in question) the legal age for a male was 21 and for a female was 18. But that would mean Thomas was being bound out prior to the age of 4! Would or could parents actually do that??

A Google search turned up an article on Indentured Servants written by Karen Mullian  for the Albuquerque Genealogical Society in Feb 1999 [link]. She writes that the average age for a child to be bound out was 14, but that poor children may have been bound out as young as 18 months to 3 years old. She further states that the indenture could have been as long as 18-20 years – until the child reached the age of majority. It appears to me that this is what happened in the case of Thomas.

While it makes me sad to think about the practice of binding out young children, finding this transcribed Indenture document has shown me that these documents can be a valuable resource for gathering information on poor families. Being that they are poor, they probably aren’t buying property or leaving wills, so this might be one of the few types of documents from which to glean information.

This particular Indenture provided the following facts: 1) Thomas Shaner’s parents were Henry and Mary; 2) Henry Shaner died prior to January 1793; 3) Mary remarried prior to January 1793 to a man named Philip Cole; 4) Philip and Mary lived in Marlborough Township in Montgomery County, PA; 5) Thomas was apprenticed to be a carpenter.

There was an addendum to this particular indenture dated March 27, 1807. It states that Thomas Shaner disliked the carpentry trade because he could not learn it. He and Mr. Weant mutally agreed that Weant would sign Shaner’s indenture over to John Soll and that Thomas would be bound to him for the balance of the term. So an additional fact we know is that Thomas was definitely still alive as of March 1807. And, in addition to the above facts, we can conclude that it is likely Thomas was born February 16. 1789 since his indenture is up on February 16, 1810.

On a personal research note, I have a Thomas Shaner with unknown parents in my database. On February 25, 1810 he married Elizabeth Kurz. The marriage was recorded at Falkner Swamp Reformed Church in Montgomery County, PA. One other bit of information in Karen Mullian’s article is that indentured servants and bound apprentices could not marry until there indenture was completed. Notice that Thomas married Elizabeth Kurz about a week after the indenture ended. While I can’t say with 100% certainty that Thomas, son of Henry and Mary, was the same Thomas who married Elizabeth, it sure is looking like a good possibility!

So, getting back to the Tuesday Tip – be sure to add Indenture documents to your list of resources.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (a day late!!)

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings suggested this on his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun blog post. The mission was to list your 16 great-great grandparents, determine the country and/or state in which they resided at their birth and death, and for extra-credit make a pie chart. Well, first of all, we were out shopping for a bike rack last night (long story), and I never saw his post until very late. So I’m posting a day late! (Better late than never, right?) Since every single one of my great-great grands were born and died in Pennsyvlania, in the good ole USA, I’m skipping the pie chart. It would just be a circle!! I would break it down by counties, but living at the junction of three counties and with my ancestors moving around, I’m afraid it might not be all that accurate.

William Dilliplane, son of Thomas Delaplaine and Mary, born 1820 in Berks County, Pennsylvania; died March 18, 1897 in Berks County, Pennsylvania; married Rachel Yoder Weidner about 1845 probably in Berks County, PA,

Rachel Yoder Weidner, daughter of William P. Weidner and Susanna Yoder, born November 1824 in Berks County, Pennsylvania; died April 1902 in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Henry Boughter, son of Martin Buchter and Elizabeth Baer, born February 5, 1825 in Berks County, PA; died March 22, 1887 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA; married Rachel Levengood in August 1, 1847 at New Hanover Lutheran Church, Montgomery County, PA.

Rachel Levengood, daughter of Matthias Levengood and Elizabeth Reinert, born March 9, 1825 in Oley, Berks County, PA; died May 26, 1911 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA

Henry M. Sassaman, son of Andrew Sassaman and Lydia Moser; born October 15, 1835 in Berks County, PA; died August 29, 1922 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA; married Harriet Garver on April 4, 1859 at Trinity Reformed Church, Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA

Harriet Garver, daughter of Jacob Garber and Ann Campbell; born December 14, 1836 in Berks County, PA; died May 26, 1906 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA.

Augustus L. Bechtel, son of George Bechtel and Catherine Levengood; born August 11, 1832 in West Pottsgrove, Montgomery County, PA; died July 23, 1900 in Glasgow, Montgomery County, PA; married Catherine Bucher about 1851.

Catherine Bucher, daughter of Henry Bucher and Hannah Moser; born February 18, 1836 probably in Pottsgrove, Montgomery County, PA; died July 19, 1905 in Stowe, Montgomery County, PA.

David Garner, son of John Garner and Mary Pennypacker, born July 22, 1831 in Chester County, PA; died October 1, 1918 in Phoenixville, Chester County, PA; married Margaret Youngblood on January 31, 1861 at Brownback’s Church, Chester County, PA

Margaret Youngblood, daughter of Isaac Youngblood and Sarah Whiteside, born April 7, 1836 in Chester County, PA; died October 13, 1914 in Phoenixville, Chester County, PA.

Charles Morgan James, son of Benjamin Franklin James and Margaret Liggett, born July 3, 1837 in Marsh, Chester County, PA; died August 1, 1908 in Coventryville, PA; married Emma E. Ibach on February 28, 1861 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA.

Emma E. Ibach, daughter of William Ibach and Sarah Wien, born October 20, 1835 in Berks County, PA; died July 3, 1884 in Philadelphia, PA.

John P. Evans, son of Amos Evans and Catherine Keeley, born July 12, 1840 probably in Limerick, Montgomery County, PA; died October 3, 1906 in East Coventry, Chester County, PA; married Mary Newman on January 2, 1867 in Limerick, Montgomery County, PA.

Mary Newman, daughter of Abraham Newman and Rebecca Derr, born on September 3, 1846 probably in Montgomery County, PA; died August 1, 1916, probably in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA.

Enos H. Shaner, son of Daniel Shaner and Mary Ann Hoff, born May 1, 1845 probably in North Coventry, Chester County, PA; died July 15, 1897 in Cedarville, Chester County, PA; married Adeline E. Miller January 22, 1868 at Brownback’s Church, Chester County, PA.

Adeline E. Miller, daughter of George K. Miller and Mary Ann Evans, born April 7, 1848 probably in Limerick, Montgomery County, PA; died June 28, 1923 in Cedarville, Chester County, PA.

And there you have it – my great-great-grands. Thanks, Randy, for the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun suggestion!!

Thriller Thursday – the Life and Death of G.O.P. Shaner

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a Thriller Thursday post about lightning striking of the home of John Shaner and killing his wife Rose and daughter Lizzie [link]. Today’s Thriller Thursday posting is about the life of John’s nephew – George Oliver Prutzman Shaner.

George Oliver Prutzman Shaner was born July 27, 1850 at Ringing Rocks, Pennsylvania (near Pottstown).  He was the son of George H. Shaner and Susannah Prutzman. He was their only known child. When he was just 13 years old, his mother died. About a year and a half later his father married Sarah Levengood and had three more children.

As a young man, George appeared to have a bright future. He attended preparatory school at Mount Pleasant Seminary in Boyertown and in September of 1871 entered the freshman class of Muhlenberg College at Allentown. He left there in December 1872 to pursue a teaching job. He followed this profession most of his life. He taught at a school in Schuylkill Township and was also a principal at a school in Marshalton, near West Chester, Pennsylvania. It was said that he was a well-known Prohibitionist.

There were, however, breaks in his teaching career where he sought alternative employment. And to a casual observer, George’s life appears to be a series of ups and downs. From 1875-1877 he was a station agent for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, and in 1885 he was a shipping clerk for Pencoyd Iron Co. At the time of his death he was living in Bridgeport, PA, apparently unemployed and seeking a job at a glass factory in Spring City.

In 1874 George married Catherine “Kate” Hartenstine. Together they had at least 9 children, but seven died young with six of them predeceasing their father. In 1886 his oldest child, Mary Alice, contracted diphtheria and died at the age of 12. By that time the family was apparently experiencing hard times as two of her younger siblings, a sister Bertie and brother George, had been “adopted out” to the family of Israel Scheffey. Bertie and George visited their sister Mary Alice when she was sick and they also died of diphtheria several days later. In addition, two other children are known to have died as infants in 1889 and 1890.

George’s life ended on January 17, 1894. By that time he was no longer employed by the school in Marshalton, Chester County and had moved his family to Bridgeport, near Norristown. Earlier in the day he had gone to Spring City looking for work in a glass factory. He was presumably returning to his home in Bridgeport, walking along the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was a short distance above the borough when he was hit by a passenger train. It was reported that he was run over by the locomotive and that his body was “badly mangled.” He was killed instantly.

George was 43 years old when he died. He was survived by his wife and 3 children. The youngest was Ida, a baby of 6 months. She died February 2 – just a couple of weeks after her father.  Shortly thereafter George’s widow Catherine moved to Pottstown, PA. She died in June of 1909. George and Catherine are buried in Pottstown in Edgewood Cemetery. George was my second cousin, 4x’s removed. Feel free to contact me if your are also related.

Thriller Thursday – Lightning Strikes!

With summer here I’ve been a little lax about posting on this blog. But when I woke up and saw the headlines about the devastation caused by a severe storm that passed through our area yesterday, I knew that I had to write about another storm that wreaked havoc some 136 years ago…

It was Sunday evening, June 27, 1875 when severe thunderstorms hit southeastern Pennsylvania. The next day the Reading Eagle led the story with this description: “The elements were in high glee in this vicinity last evening. About seven o’clock the heavens became overcast with inky black clouds, and a few minutes later such a storm of wind, rain, lightning and thunder broke upon us to cause the strongest to tremble and the weak to quail with fear. At times the sky would be one sheet of fire, and the next moment the earth would be shrouded in Egyptian darkness. Rain fell as though the very flood gates of Heaven were open, and our streets were turned into miniature rivers. The lightning was sharp, vivid and blinding, and at time terrifically grand. The electric fluid leveled trees, destroyed buildings, scattered fences to the four winds, and left death in it’s wake.”

One of the casualties of the horrific storm was the Shaner family of Limerick in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Their house was destroyed and two family members left dead. The June 30th edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer provides these details. ” When the storm commenced Mr. John Shaner was at the barn. His wife, Mrs. Rose Shaner, his father, Mr. George Shaner, his two daughters, and a nephew, were in the kitchen of the house. The mother sat near the middle of the room, and the youngest daughter, Lizzie Shaner, about 12 years old, sat near the fireplace. The bolt of lightning that struck the house seemed to divide in the second story, one portion passing down near the fireplace and killing the little girl, and the other coming down through the floor above Mrs. Shaner, and striking her. The peal of thunder that followed the flash of lightning was terrific. The other inmates of the room were slightly stunned, but not hurt. The death of Mrs. Shaner was instantaneous; that of her daughter nearly so.”

The Reading Eagle account claims the lightning bolt struck an upstairs window, shattering the shutter and setting fire to a bed. There was also a hole two inches in circumference in the ceiling above where Mrs. Shaner was standing, presumably where the bolt of electricity passed through from the upper story before striking her dead. The walls on one side of the house were cracked and broken and the posts holding the porch roof were “forced from their places.”

John Shaner, the husband and father of the two who died, was my first cousin, 5x’s removed. The maiden name of his wife Rose was Hetzel. She was 48 years old when she died. In addition to 12-year old Lizzie the other daughter mentioned in the article was 15 year-old Ida. The Shaners also had three sons: Franklin H., William Milton and Henry Warren. They were older than the girls and were not at the house when the tragedy occurred.

George Shaner, John’s father, was my 5x’s great-uncle. He was married to Mary Hartenstine who had passed away in 1850. George died March 22, 1881 – less than 3 months from his 90th birthday. He had just turned 84 at the time of the lightning strike.  John Shaner died in Pottstown, PA at the home of his daughter Ida and her husband John Gensch in July of 1892. He was 69.

As always, if you have any connection to this family, I would love to hear from you.

Thriller Thursday – The Carver Bakery Explosion

It time for another Thriller Thursday, a prompt suggested by members of Geneabloggers. This week’s post is about the explosion of the Carver bakery that rocked Boyertown, Pennsylvania back in February of 1902.

It was just before 11 o’clock on the evening of February 3, 1902 when flames were spotted by the bakers working at George Carver’s Bakery on Philadelphia Avenue in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. The building was an L-shaped structure which housed the bakery in the rear and residence of the Carver family in the front. The fire had originated in the basement of the bakery, possibly in an over-heated flue.

As soon as the fire was detected, Friendship Hook and Ladder Company was summoned. The Carver family and the others in the building quickly evacuated, closing all the doors and windows so as not to provide oxygen to the fire. While waiting for the hook and ladder company, they attempted to put out the flames. However, despite their best efforts, the fire continued to spread and had reached the second floor by the time the fire fighters arrived at the scene.

At this point, the flames, which were fast approaching the roof line, were only visible from the rear of the building. So as a crowd gathered out front, the fire fighters focused their efforts and their hoses upon the rear. What no one realized at the time was that pressure was building up inside the closed building. With little or no warning, the  brick front of the building blew out in a deafening roar. The unsuspecting on-lookers were showered with bricks, timbers and other debris.

When the dust settled, four were dead and many others were injured. The dead were Henry Shaner, aged 38, who left a widow and 3 young children; Lawrence Shaner, his 14 year-old son; George Grimm, aged 35, who left a widow and 6 children; and Irvin Hough, the 13 year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Hough.

In addition to the loss of life, damage to the Carver residence was considerable. The residence portion of the building had been built the previous summer at a cost of $4000. The estimated damage was $2500. The rooms on the upper floor were gutted and the sitting room and dining rooms also damaged. The store suffered from smoke and water damage. Despite the damage, George did rebuild and continued with the bakery business.

While my main connection to this tragedy is to the Shaners. I also have ties to the Carvers. George Carver and his wife Rosa Dellicker were the parents of two sons. The elder son was Newton D. Carver. Ironically, he was born in 1888 and was about the same age as Lawrence Shaner and Irvin Hough, the two boys who died in the bakery explosion. In 1908 Newton married Susan Burdan, daughter of Henry S. Burdan and Catharine Bryan. Susan was my 4th cousin, twice removed. Coincidently, Newton and Susan named their first child Lawrence.

As for the Shaners, Henry S. Shaner was my 3rd cousin, 3 times removed. He was the sexton of Fairview Cemetery. His wife was Amanda F. Renninger. A very sad post script to this story is that Amanda and two of her remaining children, Paul and Charles, died in the Boyertown Opera House fire about six years later in January 1908.  And in November 1910 Edgar, who survived the opera house fire and was the last remaining child of Henry and Amanda, died of “lung affection.”  Though Edgar was only 17 years old when he died, he fathered a child named Catherine. Unfortunately she died of membraneous croup in 1915 at the of 5. Catherine was the only grandchild and the last member of the ill-fated family of Henry and Amanda Shaner.

If you have any connections to these families I would love to hear from you.