Thursday, July 31, 2014

Faith and Religious Tradition in the Family

Throughout my research, I’ve been looking for evidence of the religious affiliation and faith of my ancestors. Regarding the Harman, Waggoner and Troutman families, I’ve found a few hints.

Adam Harman’s “German Lutheran Bible”[1] and its records were handed down through the family until it was finally given to the Virginia State Historical Society in Richmond. It contains several expressions of faith. For one, Adam wrote, “Lord Jesus for you I lived. Yours I am in death and alive.” Also, Adam quoted his wife Louisa Katrina’s last words: “I know that my Savior lives, and he will support me when leaving the earth. . . .”[2] Adam and Louisa seem to have shared a strong faith in God.  

Adam’s brother Jacob told Moravian missionaries that his grandfather was Moravian and had left Germany because of persecution, which the missionaries dutifully recorded in their journal.[3] The Harmans were mentioned several times in Moravian records in North Carolina, where the families located after being driven from Virginia by Shawnee warriors.[4] Later in Virginia, Harman families became associated with the Methodist Church. The story goes that Bishop Asbury and other Methodist missionaries came through the area preaching and teaching God’s Word and were welcomed at the Holly Brook home of Elias and Polly Harman, son and daughter-in-law of Henry Harman, Sr.[5] Thus, many of the Harman families embraced the Methodist Church and its teachings.[6]

Jacob Waggoner’s first ancestor to America, Adam Waggoner was also reported to have fled Germany to escape “religious persecution and economic hardship” in the Palatine region of southwestern Germany,[7] but his religious affiliation is not mentioned in any of the sources I’ve found so far. The persecution and poverty in Germany at that time is hard for us to imagine, but it must have been terrible for the people to have taken the chance on surviving several weeks floating down the Rhine to Rotterdam, long delays there and in Liverpool, and then eight to sixteen weeks sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.[8] Despite the unimaginable filth, disease, and death on the ships, Germans were pouring into the Americas. From 1708 through 1760 an estimated 100,000 Germans came to these shores.[9] The prospect of religious freedom and an opportunity to own land was a tremendous motivator for these staunch and determined people.

By the 1860s, Jacob and Ann Waggoner were associated with the Methodist Church. In 1867, Jacob, Elias Repass, and Felix Buck, acting as trustees, purchased land on which to build a church and school. The church became known as Doak’s Chapel.[10] The name of the church was later changed to Bethany United Methodist Church and a new building was erected in 1880.[11] Located at Ceres, Virginia, it is still an active congregation today.

Bethany United Methodist Church, Ceres, Virginia; photo courtesy of Find A Grave volunteer Ronnie Mallory.

Grandpa Clint’s father Daniel Troutman came from a Lutheran tradition in North Carolina. At Troutman Family Reunions in the old school on the Troutman Cemetery grounds, I’ve been impressed by the hymns of faith sung and the sermons preached by the Lutheran pastors. Yet Daniel also converted to the Methodist Church while living in Rich Valley, Virginia. However, three of his children joined the Rich Valley Presbyterian Church, and he and America and several of their children are buried in the cemetery next to the church.
Rich Valley Presbyterian Church (1836); Daniel and America Troutman and many Pratt/Troutman ancestors are buried here. Photo by Z. T. Noble.

Riverside Church, where Daniel and America Troutman were members. Photo by Z. T. Noble.

This Methodist tradition on both sides in the family histories of my grandparents Mary and Clint Troutman explains why they raised their children in the Methodist Church. Today, some of their descendants are still Methodists--we even have one ordained Methodist minister who has written a book about John Wesley: The Form and Power of Religion --but some have embraced other Christian traditions, including Lutheran, Catholic, Unitarian, Church of God, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, and so forth, each one seeking his or her path to God. 

© 2014, Z. T. Noble

[1] John Newton Harman, Harman Genealogy (Southern Branch) with Biographical Sketches and Historical Notes, 1700-1924 (Radford, Virginia: Commonwealth Press, Inc., 1925), 49.

[2] Harman, Harman Genealogy, 50.

[3] Mary Kegley and F. B. Kegley, Early Adventures on the Western Waters, Vol. 1 (Orange, Virginia: Green Publishers, Inc., 1980), 223.

[4] Kegley, Early Adventures, 223.

[5] Harman, Harman Genealogy, Vol. 1, 202.

[6] Kegley, Early Adventures, Vol. 1, 223.

[7] Thomas Hatcher & Nancy Nash, The Adam Waggoner Family of Tazewell and Montgomery Counties of Virginia, 1750-1996, (no place: no publisher, 1996), 1.

[8] William A. Probst, The Probst Chronicles: The History of Early Probst Families in Pennsylvania, 1999, Probst Family History and Genealogy ( : accessed 31 July 2014), Ch. 2, “The History of German Immigration to America.”

[9] William A. Probst, The Probst Chronicles: The History of Early Probst Families in Pennsylvania, 1999, Ch. 2, “The History of German Immigration to America.”

[10] Bland County, Virginia, Deed Book 1: 296-97, Robert and Margaret Doak to Elias Repass, Felix Buck, and Jacob Waggoner, Trustees, 4 November 1867; County Clerk’s Office, Bland.

[11] “Bethany United Methodist Church, Ceres, Virginia, 1880-1980,” 100th Anniversary celebration pamphlet published by the church; digital copy sent to the author by the Bland County Historical Society, 2 July 2014.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Troutman Reunion 2014: Connecting with Living Family Members

Cousins, cousins, and more cousins, about 52 all told, showed up at the family reunion in Omaha on July 20, all descendants of Clint and Mary (Waggoner) Troutman. Clint and Mary would be proud. Neville, James, Carl, Verne, and Virginia would be proud. We’re still gathering together every other year to carry on the tradition they started. It takes commitment and work, and it’s worth every effort.
A few years ago when I was working on my MFA in writing and participating in workshops, one of my classmates posed a question about my research and writing on the subject of ancestors: “What do you do to get to know living relatives?” That question had actually been nudging my elbow for some time, but I had been trying to ignore it. To hear it from someone else seemed like a challenge.
Okay. What do I do? At that time, the answer was not much—other than my immediate family, not much. We had moved away from the Troutman clan in Nebraska when I was not quite 14, just when I was reaching the age when relationships with my cousins might begin to take on more meaning and depth. Consequently, I felt out-of-touch with them.
After Myron and I married and settled in Indiana, we made a trip or two to the family reunion in Nebraska, not enough to give our children a sense of belonging with the Troutmans. The busy-ness of our lives and our finances kept travel at a minimum. Plus, Mom and Dad lived in Virginia, the opposite direction from Nebraska, so we chose to go that way every summer.
So how would I get to know my Nebraska cousins again? I had to make a plan. That’s when I learned about and the opportunity it offered to connect online, so I joined and invited cousins to join. It also gave me an opportunity to share my research. That worked fairly well for a while, but it failed to engage as many as I’d hoped, especially the young people. Why would they want to participate, anyway, when they had Facebook? That’s where the action was.
Despite concerns about privacy, we gave up our password-only MyFamily web site and opened a family group on FB. Even though not many family members post on the family group page, having them as “friends” allows us to at least interact with each other a bit more than otherwise.
Critics of this method of communication say that it is superficial, but isn’t superficial better than nothing? At least the children of my cousins know my name and face and I theirs—and the names and faces of their children. For years we have kept in touch through the annual Christmas letter, and it has been a wonderful record of family happenings. But a once-a-year report on the events of our lives is less engaging than the immediate participation of seeing graduation photos when the event happens. Or seeing pics of the bride and groom, or of the new baby.
But the family reunion is a very special time when we can gather in person for hugs, good food, conversation, and fun, so I am committed to it. Facebook can never take its place.
Didn't get all the cousins on camera, but here are a few pics of our happy event.
Julie, Beth, Ralph, Kirk, Darrell, Bill

Rogene and Jill

Brenda, Bryce, Shirley, Dara

Ruth and Larry

Connee and Harold

Jason, Brock, and Melissa

Genise and Mark

Dwight and Wes

Lee, John, and Verna

Anna or Lydia, Judy, Luke, and Davinia (Matt and Anna or Lydia in water)

Beth, Mark, and Julie--Siblings

Lydia, Anna, Grace, and Jared (Davinia under water)

Lee and Rogene

© 2014, Z. T. Noble

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Car Wreck and A Will

"As for a man, his days are like grass, 
he flourished like a flower of the field; 
the wind blows over it and it is gone, 
and its place remembers it no more." 
--Psalm 103:15

The car wreck that killed Grandma Mary’s Uncle George and Aunt Willie Wagner happened on a Saturday when they were on their way home from the grocery. It was April 1, 1939. Their car collided with another vehicle at an intersection. I’m not sure which car was at fault (still can’t find the article, but I’ll do my best to recall what I read a couple of years ago), but Willie was thrown from the car and killed instantly. A few days later, George died from his injuries.

On a warm day in May just one month after they died, George and Willie’s personal property was sold at auction. Can you picture the rolling Missouri hills, the first leaves of spring turning the countryside a clean, new green? The fresh morning air fills your lungs. Dew is still wet on the grass. Standing in the yard of the Wagner home you watch neighbors and friends meandering among tables laden with jars of home canned goods, pots, pans, dishes, empty canning jars, a skillet, books, pictures, baskets of miscellaneous. The grass is lined with rows of larger items: a plow, a rake, a hoe, a scythe, hay forks, an ice hook, barrels, baskets of soap, buckets, a churn, a quilt frame, a ladder, shovels, and more. Looking at the list of personal property is like peering into the barn or into the kitchen or into the cellar where all the canned goods were stored. Can you imagine buying jars of tomato preserves or peaches or apples or meat? The auctioneer's chant echoes across the hills. A couple's lifetime accumulation of worldly goods is carted off to the highest bidders like poofs of dandelion seeds scattered to the winds. 

One of our family stories was that Grandma Mary, being George’s niece, received $500.00 from his estate. Of course, I wanted evidence. That seemed like a lot of money. I wondered if other nieces and nephews received as much. My sister Verna lives near Liberty, Missouri, so recently, I asked her to go to the Clay County Court House to get me a copy of George’s will, which she did. Thank you, Verna!

In his will, George had left everything to Willie, but she was gone. His only child was long ago deceased, as well. Consequently, his estate, which was rather sizeable, went to his siblings and half-siblings, and in the case of deceased siblings, to their children.

George had written and signed his will on 9 July 1921 leaving everything to Willie. A man 24 years older than his wife doesn’t expect her to die first. He added a codicil on 8 October 1927 leaving $200.00 in trust to the Board of Deacons of the Mount Olivet Christian Church for the care of the cemetery located near the church.[1] George and Willie were buried in that cemetery. Find A Grave memorial.

Photo courtesy of Find A Grave contributor, Rob Beun.

Photo courtesy of Find A Grave contributor, Deb.
Photo courtesy of Find A Grave contributor, Rob Beun.
Since George’s brother/Grandma Mary’s father Eli was deceased, Mary did, indeed, inherit $500.00, as did each of her siblings, plus Gordon’s son James, since Gordon was also deceased—that is, if I understand the will correctly. The children of George’s other deceased siblings, Elias, Missouri Alice, and Amanda V. received an inheritance, as well. There were 26 heirs, all told, and although the amounts and language of the will are a bit confusing, at least the nephews and nieces named below seem to have received $500.00. Readers, please correct me if I have interpreted this page of the will incorrectly.

A page from George W. Wagner's will.

© 2014, Z. T. Noble.

[1] Clay County, Missouri, Probate Record Book M: 457, George W. Wagner; Office of Probate Department, Liberty.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Wagner Feud

 Well, that was exhausting! Writing that family history of Jacob and Ann and Jacob and Fannie, that is. So exhausting that I had to take a couple of weeks off from the blog. Actually, we’ve been on vacation—visiting the grands and celebrating the second year of the Mt. Gretna (PA) School of Art, launched by our son, Jay. Kudos to Jay!

A few details have surfaced since I posted my last blog. I’m grateful for family members who help me out now and then. This time, my sister Verna contributed a little more information on George W. Wagner—his will. More on that later. And some of the following just didn’t fit into the previous narrative, so here it is.

At some point in time, ill feelings developed in the Waggoner family between Anna’s sons and Fannie’s sons. Whatever the problem, it prompted Anna’s sons to leave Virginia. Not all at once, but over a span of about 27 years, they all left. Not all left in anger, but the feud seems to have, at least, involved George, Hezekiah (H.H.), and Willis. I’m not sure who was involved among Fannie’s sons.

According to Elias’ obituary, he left first—in 1882. He married and took his bride, Jane, to Pierce, Nebraska, and that’s where they raised their family.[1] Whatever motivated him to go there is a mystery. Elias’ obituary calls him a pioneer of that town, which was founded in 1869 by Wisconsin Germans.[2] Eli, George, H.H., and Willis left Virginia later, but not all at once.

According to H.H.’s grandson Fred (not his real name), H.H. first went to Texas and lived for five years before coming to Missouri.[3] George and Willis may have gone there, too. Fred says “they” lived in Kentucky and Arkansas, too, but he didn’t make clear who “they” were.[4] Finally the three brothers settled in Clay County, Missouri about 1892—at least George did—not 1882, as stated in the bio of George in the Clay County history book, and as stated in my earlier blog. Fred corrected me on that.[5]

In 1900, George, H.H., and Willis were living together on George’s recently purchased farm; George and H.H. were still single, and Willis was married, but his wife Ollie was still in Virginia.[6] On the next farm lived the Isaac Whistler family, who had an 18-year-old daughter named Willie.[7] This young lady caught George’s eye, and he married her in 1901. He was 43.

Not until 1909 did Grandma Mary’s parents, Eli and Rachel, leave Virginia, and the reason they left is unknown. I think they were just looking for better opportunities. Maybe the other brothers convinced them that Missouri was the place to be.

To the credit of the Wagner brothers, the cause of their grudge was kept secret from the next generation, but cousin Fred told me that his mother, Evelyn, witnessed residual effects of the fury. In April of 1939, when George and Willie died in a car wreck, several of Fannie’s sons came to Missouri for the funeral. Afterward, they all gathered for a family dinner, and after dinner, the children were sent outside to play.[8]

Something sparked H. H.’s anger, and Evelyn heard shouting from inside the house. She heard Green Wagner shouting that H.H. needed to “forgive and forget, & come back to Virginia.” H.H. shouted that he “never would forgive nor forget and would never set foot in Va. again.”[9] That was all Evelyn knew about the feud. The Virginia brothers seem to have kept the secret, too, for a few years ago, Green’s granddaughter told me that she knew nothing about it—not even that there had been a problem.

© 2014, Z. T. Noble

[1] “Former Pierce Resident Dies in Missouri,” Pierce County Call, Pierce, Nebraska, May 23, 1935, p. 1.
[2] “History of Pierce,” Pierce Nebraska ( : accessed 8 June 2014).
[3] Fred Cousin, Kansas City, Missouri, to Zola Noble, letter, 28 April 2003, information on Wagner bothers; Waggoner, Jacob binder, Waggoner family; privately held, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] 1900 U. S. census, Clay County, Missouri, population schedule, Galiton Township, enumeration district [ED] 18, p. 50 (stamped), sheet 1-A, dwelling 6, family 6, George Wagner; digital image ( : accessed 8 June 2014); NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 849.
[7] 1900 U. S. census, Clay County, Missouri, population schedule, Galiton Township, enumeration district [ED] 18, p. 50 (stamped), sheet 1-A, dwelling 5, family 5, Isaac Whistler family; digital image ( : accessed 8 June 2014); NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 849.
[8] Fred Cousin, to Zola Noble, letter, 28 April 2003.
[9] Ibid.