I was hoping to have this posted on Friday, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I’m running a little late. I hope to be back on track for week 5.
The prompt for week 4 is Invite to Dinner. I decided to view this as an ancestor whom I would like to invite to dinner – for food and conversation. It was really hard to choose. I would love for this opportunity with each and every one of them. In the end I decided to write about my father’s paternal grandmother (my great-grandmother) Rachel Boughter Dilliplane.
Rachel was born December 3, 1862 in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Henry Boughter and Rachel Levengood.1 In both the 1900 and 1910 census, my 2x great-grandmother Rachel Levengood Boughter states that she was the mother of nine children. but I have only been able to identify eight.2,3 The eldest, Elizabeth, died young, as did a son George.4,5 The remaining children were Catherine, Amanda, Sarah Ann, Mary Ann, Rachel and Henry. Thus my great-grandmother Rachel was the second youngest of the known children. It was a family of girls except for her younger brother Henry. I should also note that the family originally spelled their last name Buchter, but switched to the more anglicized spelling of Boughter in the 1880s.
My great -grandmother Rachel grew up in rural (and somewhat insular) eastern Berks County, Pennsylvania. In both 1860 (a couple of years before her birth) and 1870 her family was enumerated in Douglass Township with her father’s occupation listed as carpenter and inn keeper, respectively.6,7 By 1880 the family was in neighboring Earl Township and her father was listed as a farmer.8 It was on his farm in the fall of 1880, when a incident happened that I am sure was a memorable and much talked about experience. It was the day the hot air balloon landed in a field on their farm!
During our dinner I would ask Rachel to tell me about that day. Through newspaper accounts I learned that in the fall of 1880 the gas-powered hot air balloon of Professor John Shearer broke from it’s tethers at the Reading Fair Grounds. Dangling from a bar (no basket) the good Professor had a thrilling, but at the same time terrifying, 14 mile ride across the mostly rural eastern Berks County countryside before tangling in a tree and touching down on the farm of Henry Boughter (Rachel’s father). About a dozen men, women and children saw the balloon coming down and ran across the fields to help pull the balloon out of the trees. Apparently both the professor and the balloon survived the ordeal relatively unscathed. Professor Shearer walked back to Reading that night. He hired Rachel’s father Henry to bring the balloon back in his wagon the next day.9
I know first hand how exciting it is to see a hot air balloon coming in for a landing since over the years more than one balloon has buzzed over our house to land in a nearby field. But whereas my kids ran excitedly to meet the downed balloon knowing exactly what it was, the Boughters and their neighbors had likely never seen such a site. Of the people who gathered when the balloon touched down, the newspaper article quotes the professor as saying that they looked at him with amazement. One of the women thought he rode inside of the balloon. A boy asked (in German) how many more people were inside. I wonder if Rachel was there. Was the young boy her brother Henry or perhaps one of her nephews? Rachel would have been about 17 when this occurred. If she wasn’t there she surely would have heard all about it from her family.
About a year and a half after the balloon incident, in January of 1882, Rachel married Charles Dilliplane.10 She had just turned 19 and he was 25. I would love to ask Rachel how they met. I would also like to hear about their courtship and wedding.
Within a few years of their marriage, Rachel and Charles moved from rural Berks county to the bustling town of Pottstown where Charles found work in the steel mills. By 1900, Rachel and Charles were the parents of seven children ranging in age from 18 to 2. Their children were William, Laura Estelle, Herbert, Pearl Eva, Charles, W. Leonard and Alvin. (An eighth child died in infancy.)11 I would like to ask Rachel about the child that died. I can only imagine the heartbreak. I would also like to ask her how she felt about the move. Was it difficult for her to transition from living on a farm to living in town? Was it hard for her as a young mother to move away from her family? Granted, it was a relatively close move, but it was well beyond walking distance and she likely didn’t get to see her parents very often.
I would think that one of the most difficult times in Rachel’s life was when she had to send her two youngest sons, Leonard and Alvin, off to fight in WWI. She wouldn’t have known at the time if she would ever see them again. (I previously blogged about their WWI experience here.) As it turns out, Leonard (my grandfather) survived the war, but his brother Alvin was killed in action.
The last Rachel heard from her son Alvin was a letter he wrote to her on August 18, 1918. It was reprinted in the local newspaper when a descendant found it while cleaning out a house several years ago. In the letter Alvin says that he has written home several times. He hopes his letters have gotten through as he has not yet received any letters in response.12 Alvin died in battle on September 7th, just a couple of weeks after he wrote the last letter.13 I hope that he was able to hear from his mother before he died. I feel certain that she must have written him. His death must have been absolutely devastating for her and the entire family.
Rachel’s husband Charles (my great-grandfather) died on May 10, 1922,14 and Rachel died just four years later on June 19, 1926.1 They both died relatively young – he at age 66 and she at age 63. My father was not yet born when Rachel died. [In fact, all four of my father’s grandparents died before he was born.] And so the last thing I would like to talk to Rachel about at our dinner would be to tell her about my family. I would start with telling her about my father — the grandson she never met.
Sources / Footnotes
- Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Death cert for Rachel L. Dilliplane
- Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Census Place: West Pottsgrove, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1443; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 0221; FHL microfilm: 1241443. Household of Henry Boughter.
- Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.Census Place: Pottstown West Ward, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1378; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0132; FHL microfilm: 1375391 . Household of Henry Boughter.
- Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 28 January 2018), memorial page for Elizabeth Buchter (22 Jun 1849–14 Jun 1852), Find A Grave Memorial no. 134653091, citing Saint Pauls Church Cemetery, Amityville, Berks County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Randy VanFleet (contributor 47930261) .
- Ancestry.com. U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Archive Collection: M1838; Archive Roll Number: 1; Census Year: 1859; Census Place: Douglas, Berks, Pennsylvania; Page: 2. Entry for George Buchter
- Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Census Place: Douglass, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1075; Page: 229; Family History Library Film: 805075. Household of Henry Buchter
- Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Census Place: Douglas, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1305; Page: 235A; Family History Library Film: 552804. Household of Henry Buchter
- Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census[database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Census Place: Earl, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1099; Page: 230C; Enumeration District: 014. Household of Henry Buchter
- “Ballooning in a Wind Storm,” Reading Eagle, Reading, Pennsylvania, 30 September 1880.
- “Marriage Notices,” Montgomery Ledger, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, 31 January 1882, Marriage of Charles W. Dilliplane and Miss Rachel Boughtle [sic].
- Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Census Place: Pottstown, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1445; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0275; FHL microfilm: 1241445. Household of Charles W. Dilliplane
- “Alvin Dilliplane Letter,” undated clipping, from The Mercury, Pottstown, Pennsylvania; Newspaper Clipping Collection; privately held by Janis Tomko, [address for private use].
- “Alvin Dilliplane Obituary”, undated clipping, from unknown newpaper; Newspaper Clipping Collection; privately held by Janis Tomko, [address for private use].
- Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Death cert for Charles W. Dilliplane