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.


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