My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Sunday, July 21, 2013

SATURDAY'S STRUCTURE - St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The original St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church
site of the wedding of Thomas and Charlotte McCaffrey - 1853
On Monday, August 15, 1853, Thomas Joseph McCaffrey (1832-1896) and Charlotte Elizabeth McCluskey (1838-1917), my 3x-great-grandparents, were married. Next month marks the 160th anniversary of their wedding.

They were married at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in her hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thomas was 21 years old; Charlotte was just 15. They were married by Reverend Patrick Rafferty (1791-1863). Their witnesses for the ceremony were Henry Donahue (1830-1890) and Isabel Maddon.

The McCluskey family lived less than four blocks from the church, in the Fairmount area of the city, on Hamilton Street.

History of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church
[taken from]

Interior of Old Church
NOTE: Joseph & Charlotte took their wedding vows here
"Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was founded in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred Thirty Nine. At the time of its establishment the diocese of Philadelphia was only a little more than three decades old and included all of Pennsylvania, western New Jersey and the state of Delaware.

The new Saint Francis Xavier Church was only the seventh Catholic Church to exist within the city. The site purchased for the new church was at the southwest corner of 25th and Biddle streets -- not far from the grand front steps of today's Philadelphia Museum of Art. The erection of the new church was directed by (the first Pastor of the parish) Father Michael O'Connor. At least part of the money used to build the church was raised by a city-wide collection. The cornerstone of the new church was laid on June 10, 1839. Mass was celebrated there for the first time on Sunday, December 1, 1839.

Portrait of Rev. Patrick Rafferty
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In 1842, Father Patrick Rafferty was appointed pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Parish. Father Rafferty took up residence in a small house at 402 North 25th Street, very near to the church. In 1844, during the anti-Catholic unrest which afflicted the United States, two Catholic churches and the homes of thirty Catholics were destroyed by fire in Philadelphia. Because of the unrest, by order of Bishop Kenrick, on Sunday, May 12, 1844, Catholic churches in the city were closed. Various accounts of the parish history indicate, however, that in spite of that situation, Mass was celebrated by Father Rafferty in our church on that day. During the month which followed, the church was guarded day and night by militia sent by the civil authorities, and by a number of parishioners who volunteered their services.

In 1845, Father Rafferty opened Saint Francis Xavier School in the basement of the church. Father Rafferty died in March of 1863.

Father James Maginn was appointed pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Parish in 1863. Prior to being appointed Pastor he had served for eight years as an assistant to Father Rafferty, and for a brief period after Father Rafferty's death he served as Administrator of the parish. Almost immediately upon his appointment as pastor, Father Maginn began to make improvements to the parish property. He had erected a new rectory just south of the church; he added transepts, stained glass windows and a dome to the church. He also enlarged the galleries of the building. In spite of all the improvements, it soon became obvious that the rapidly expanding parish was outgrowing its church, and especially, its school. In the late 1860's Father Maginn had constructed a three story brick school building at the southeast corner of 24th and Green streets. He also purchased two adjoining houses which would eventually become the first Saint Francis Xavier Parish convent for the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM).
Map of second church location

The idea of a new church became imperative when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad decided to change the grade of its track which ran near the church at Biddle Street. Because tunneling was involved in the project, the blasting of rock was necessary. That process resulted in significant damage to both the church and the adjacent rectory. Father Maginn then purchased the land at 2321 Green Street, where he constructed a rectory (this building is now the residence of our Oratory of Saint Phillip Neri community). As soon as the rectory was completed, Father Maginn began to negotiate the purchase of property to the west of the new building. That site would be the site of our present church. Father Maginn had secured three of the four properties needed when he suddenly became ill. On July 25, 1890, Father Maginn died at the new rectory.

Immediately after the death of Father Maginn, Reverend Michael Gleeson was appointed pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Parish. Father Gleeson wasted no time in taking up the work of constructing a new church. The purchase of the final ground needed was completed by 1894; the ground was cleared and the digging of the new church's foundations began that same year. On October 6, 1894, the corner-stone of the new church was laid by Archbishop Ryan. On December 18, 1898, the now completed church was dedicated by Archbishop Ryan and a Pontifical Mass was celebrated by Bishop Prendergast. At just about the time of the church's dedication, Father Gleeson was afflicted with a form of paralysis that was finally to cause his death on January 25, 1904, after a long, painful illness. In March of 1904, Father Thomas F. Shannon was appointed the sixth pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Parish.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church
(current church - built 1898)

It would be Father Shannon's task to rally the parish in one of its most difficult moments. On March 31, 1906, a building then located at 24th and Wallace streets caught fire and was completely destroyed. During that event the fire managed to leap to the newly opened church at Green Street and it too was severely damaged. The roof of the church was completely destroyed, and a great deal of damage was done to the interior when the roof fell. [See newspaper story of church fire below.]

Almost immediately after the fire, reconstruction of the church began. A temporary alter was erected in the school on Green Street and Mass was celebrated there until the Church reopened on April 5, 1908. The cost of the reconstruction had been one-hundred thousand dollars."

To get a complete 360 degree view - top to bottom - of the present church please go to,-10.07,69.6 at 360cities website. It is simply awesome. The church is described here: "St. Francis Xavier is a striking asymmetric Romanesque church at 24th and Green Streets near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia.  It was originally built in 1893-1898 to designs by architect Edward Durang, extended to its present size in 1906, and rebuilt in 1908 after being damaged by a fire that started in a nearby hat factory.  Unlike many Catholic churches, it did not modify its old High Altar following the liturgical reforms of Vatican II in 1962."

St. Francis Xavier - The Oratory
Fire Ruins Beautiful St. Francis' Church
[from The Philadelphia Inquirer; April 1, 1908; page 1-2]
Priests Risked Lives Saving Valuable Contents of Roman Catholic edifice That Ignited From Hat Factory Blaze

    "The beautiful interior of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Francis Xavier, at Twenty-fourth and Green streets was swept by a spectacular fire yesterday afternoon that originated in the hat factory of Henry Roelofs & Co. adjoining the rear of the edifice.
     When the firemen, after a hard battle of nearly three hours, finally had the flames under control, only the walls and the steeple of the church remained standing, the hat factory had been destroyed, and several residences nearby had been badly damaged. The total loss was estimated at $150,000. 

    The fire was replete with sensational incidents. Again and again the firemen bravely risked their lives in their efforts to subdue the flames, scaling the burning and treacherous roof of the church with lines of hose, dodging falling masses of debris and narrowly escaping being buried beneath toppling walls. Three of them were badly bruised and cut as one of the walls of the hat factory fell. They were taken to the German Hospital. They were Asst. Fire Chief Waters, Charles H. Porter, Jr., assistant foreman, and Robert McClellan, both of Engine Company No. 4, Seventh and Sansom streets. Other firemen received various minor injuries, but all refused to leave their posts while there was danger of the flames spreading eastward to the residences on Green street.
     Remarkable courage was shown by Rev. John J. Fleming, acting rector of the church aided in carrying many objects ices, vestments and other articles of value that were in the sacristy or on the altar when the church caught fire. Rev. Mr. Fleming risked his life by running into the smoke-filled edifice and bearing away from the altar the Blessed Sacrament. Many of the men parishioners of the church aided in carrying many objects of value from the burning structure until the quickly spreading flames made further efforts of that sort too hazardous.
     The fire started at the storehouse of the factory of Henry Roelofs & Company, 609-19 North Twenty-fourth street. There were fifty men at work in the factory at the time, all of whom got safely out.
     The flames spread throughout the factory with remarkable swiftness. The south wall of the two-story brick structure was but three feet from the rear of the church in which were five large stain glass windows overlooking the sacristy. These glass in these windows were shattered by heat of the flames that rose from the burning factory. The wind was blowing toward the windows and through them the flames swept into the church. In vain did the firemen try to save the church, an immense granite pile upon a high terrace.
     The wind fanned the flames and they swept along the walls of the church and up through the slate roof. From the top of nearby house the firemen poured streams of water upon the burning structure, but the wind was so strong that at one time grave fears were entertained for the safety of the immediate neighborhood....

Page 2
    As great tongues of flames shot through the roof of the church , above which rolled great clouds of smoke, the rays of the setting sun seemed to intensify the glare. Now and then the bells of the church steeple, probably as a result of the vibration of the walls or of water descending upon them, would peel forth melancholy notes with weird effect.
     Although the interior of the church was wrecked a large crucifix over the altar and one or two effigies of saints remained unbroken. The $6000 organ was ruined while several pains were broken in the circular stain glass window in the front of the church, which was a gift of Archbishop Ryan...."

Monday, July 15, 2013

MONDAY'S MOTHER - Louisa Elizabeth Waetcher Horst (1838-1933)

Louisa Waetcher Horst
ca. 1900
Louisa Elizabeth Waetcher was born September 14, 1838, in Schildesche, Bielefeld, Westfalan, Prussia, a town that was formed in the year 939. [Schildesche is now a part of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany]. Her parents were Johann Frederich Waetcher (1807-1883) and Anna Catherina Illsibien Horenberg (1813-UNK). Louisa had a twin sister, Hanne Friederieke. They are two of the ten siblings that immigrated with their father and step-mother, Hanne Friederiecke Luise Hartman, to the United States, arriving on November 9, 1852, in the Port of New Orleans. Louisa was just 14 years old. [NOTE: Louisa's step-mother gave birth while on the ship.]

The Waetcher family settled in Massac County, Illinois. On October 19, 1856, Louisa married Charles Horst (1836-1900), an immigrant from Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany. She just turned 18; Charles was 21. Charles was the youngest brother of Martin Horst (1830-1878), my 3x-great-grandfather. Charles, who changed his name from Carl after arriving in America, had arrived with his father and siblings and step-mother in August 1846 when he was just 11.

Charles and Louisa Horst are my 4x-great-aunt and uncle.

Charles and Louisa set up their home in Metropolis in Massac County. Charles was working in 1860 as a Cabinet Maker. After the Civil War was over he wrote his brother Martin, now living in Mobile, Alabama, to ask for a loan to help him purchase a mill in Metropolis. Martin wasn't able to help him at this time but by 1870 Charles listed his occupation as a "Flour Miller" according to the U.S. Census. He remained a miller throughout his lifetime.

Charles and Louisa had their first of twelve children in early 1856. [NOTE: This date is before the known date of their marriage but this may be an error in the transcription of the old records.] Over the next 26 years Louisa would give birth to eight more daughters and two sons; the name and sex of their twelfth child is not known. Their children were:
  • Kunigunde Elizabeth Horst (female), called Gundy, was born in March 1856. She married Frederick William Rieke (1854-1922) in 1880. Together they had five children: Gertrude Augusta (1881-1970); twins Bertha Wilhelmina (1883-1953) and Maude L. (1883-1963); Charles Grover (1885-1969); and Romona (1890-1986).
  • Bell Horst (female) was born in 1858. She died before 1880.
  • Tell Horst (male) was born January 28, 1861. He died before 1880.
  • Eleanora Horst was born 1866. She died before 1880.
  • Fannie Caroline Horst, born March 1869. She married George Mehaffey (1864-1957) in 1901. Fannie died during childbirth, giving birth to twins Francis Carl Mehaffey (1908-2003) and George James Mehaffey (1908-1994). [NOTE: older sister Gundy helped care for the infants boys for a time immediately after their birth.]
  • Twin Nellie Horst was born in 1871. She died before 1880.
  • Twin Nettie Horst was born in 1871. She died before 1895.
  • Lillie Dale Horst was born January 1, 1875. She married Morton Burnette Card (1878-1950) in 1914. They had one daughter, Flora Louise Card (1914-1996). Lillie died January 20, 1972.
    Cassie Horst
    ca. 1900
  • Twin Callie Emma Horst was born August 16, 1877. Callie never married; she died March 11, 1964.
  • Twin Cassie Anna Horst married Elwin Arba Magill (1874-1947) in 1902. They had two children Calina Magill (1903-1989) and Elwin Arba Magill, Jr. (1914-2001). Cassie died June 10, 1956. 
  • Walter Earnest Horst was born July 12, 1882. In 1910 he married Anna J. Murray (1880-1953). Walter died November 1, 1959. They had no children.
Callie Horst
ca. 1900

Louisa's twin sister, Rieke, as she was called, also had twelve children with her husband William Frederick Rixie (1836-1888).

In 1895, Charles and Louisa left Illinois with their surviving children and moved to Pomona, in Los Angeles County, California. Charles died in 1900. Louisa lived with her unmarried children in Pomona, supported by their various incomes. One by one they married and moved away. All but daughter Callie. Callie worked as a Bookkeeper at a Laundry in town. Their last residence was at 678 Gordon Street in Pomona, which Louisa owned.

from Los Angeles Times
May 6, 1933; page A-6
On May 5, 1933, Louisa died in her home. She was 94 years old. She is buried at Pomona Cemetery.

In her 94 years Louisa had lived quite a lifetime.  Born in Prussia, she lost her mother as a young girl. She traveled to America at the age of 14, in steerage class. Speaking only German she settled with her family in the town of Metropolis, Illinois. She married at the age of eighteen and bore twelve children over twenty-six years. She was the wife of a flour mill owner. She buried four young children while living in Illinois. At the age of 56 she packed up her home and her family and traveled across country by train to California before the turn of the century. She left behind her home of forty-three years, her friends, and her family - including her twin sister.

In California she lost her husband of forty-four years and saw at least four of her children marry, leave home and have children of their own. She buried four more of her children before she herself died. She was survived by four children, ten grandchildren and at least thirteen great-grandchildren. What kind of mother was she? I don't know for sure, but there's no doubt that she was a hardworking mother, a supportive wife and a woman devoted to the well-being of her family.

TWINS MUST RUN IN THE FAMILY: Louisa was born a twin (1838). She gave birth to two sets of twins, in 1871 and 1877. Her oldest daughter gave birth to one set of twins in 1883, and another daughter died giving birth to her own set of twins in 1908. In a time when there were no fertility specialists, this is quite a legacy.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

THURSDAY'S TREASURES - Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

On this, the 237th birthday of the United States of America, it seems the perfect time to celebrate not only our country's birth but also the gifts that were passed down to us from our ancestors who made it possible for us to celebrate as Americans.

Irish Immigrants Leaving Queenstown Harbour
The Illustrated London News, September 1874

For each of us there were great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers who left their homeland, their neighbors, the culture and very often their own families to take a chance in this new country of which they knew very little. They gathered up all they could carry with them, said good-bye to their friends and families, and left the only home they had ever known and most likely one they would never return to. They travelled by cart or by foot to a sea port where they would board a small packet ship. Once aboard they would climb down into the hull of the vessel with one hundred, two hundred, or more strangers to travel for several weeks across the Atlantic Ocean. With all of the multitude of people stuffed into the ship's steerage area [see post "Packet Ship Gladiator", January 1, 2012,  for more information about steerage] they all shared one common dream - a better life in America.

Many left behind poverty, with little chance to ever change their circumstances. Most left countries with governments that held a tight rein on their individual rights and freedoms. Towns where they weren't allowed to speak, or protest, or gather freely. Where they couldn't vote to choose their own leaders. Where their children faced forced conscription into the military. Where the right to practice the religion of their own choosing didn't exist.

"Irish Immigrants Leaving Home"
Harper's Bazaar, December 1870
They each knew that a better life existed - for themselves and for their children. And for their children's children. They wanted more for their life and for their family. They wanted to be free to choose their own path in life, and be treated as human beings with God-given rights. They wanted to work hard and be rewarded with just compensation. They wanted to have a say in their government and in the laws they lived under. They wanted to freely practice their faith. They wanted the freedom to have a dissenting opinion about their leaders, share it openly, without the fear of reprisals. They wanted this for themselves. But most of all they wanted this for their children.

"From the Old to the New World"
German Emigration
Harper's Weekly, November 1874
They left everything behind for a promise of a better life. They sailed on a ship across a wide ocean, not knowing if they or their family members would survive, or if the ship itself would make it safely. They landed in a port where they couldn't speak the language, maybe had no one waiting for them, had little direction on where to go or what to do next. But they paved the way for each one of their children, each one of their grandchildren - each one of us - to enjoy those unalienable rights we each possess, endowed for us by our Creator.

Among these - Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

America wasn't perfect then and it isn't perfect now. But it's the best there is. And we have our ancestors to thank for giving us the opportunity for a better future. So it's nice today to remember those that made it possible:

Patrick McCloskey (1810-1855) who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1838, at the age of 28, from his home in Ireland. His wife Mary Ann (1805-1871) also immigrated from Ireland, date unknown. They are my 4x great-grandparents.

Thomas McCaffrey (1799-1890), arrived in New York Harbor in June 1825 from his home in County Tyrone, Ireland. His wife Susan (1793-1869) also immigrated from County Tyrone, date unknown. They, too, are my 4x-great-grandparents.

Johann Eckard Horst (1802-1852), my 4x-great-grandfather, arrived in August 1846 in New York City Harbor at the age of 43 with his second wife and five children. This included my 3x-great-grandfather Martin Horst (1830-1878), who was just 16 years old when he arrived. Later my 5x-great-grandfather Johan Conrad Horst (1780-UNK), Martin's grandfather, also arrived here, in May 1860. He was 80 years old when he arrived. They were from Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany.

"Irish Emigrants Leaving Home - The Priest's Blessing"
The Illustrated London News, May 1851

Apollonia Weinschenk (1829-1908), my 3x-great-grandmother and wife of Martin Horst, arrived in the port of New Orleans around 1843, at the age of 14, from her home in Forst, Bavaria, Germany.

 My great-great-grandfather Patrick O'Donnell (1823-1911) arrived in this country in December 1849 from Ireland, along with five of his 7 brothers. He was 26 years old. His wife Bridget Kennedy (1838-1893) immigrated from her home in  County Tipperary, Ireland, sometime in the early 1850's.

Phillip Huber (1847-1901), also my great-great-grandfather, arrived in New York in June 1867, at the age of 19, from Florsheim, Hessen, Germany.

My 3x-great-grandparents, John Michael Baptiste Brunett (1818-1863), and Barbara Frisse (1822-1893) traveled onboard the same ship, from their homes in Seingbouse, Moselle, France, arriving in the port of New Orleans in July 1846. Traveling with Barbara were her parents (my 4x-great-grandparents) Joseph Frise (1796-1864) and Marguerite Lang (1802-1868), as well as several siblings. Marguerite was 44 years old; Joseph was 50.

[NOTE: My Fortier and DeGruey ancestors arrived from France to Canada and then settled in Louisiana before the United States was formed. I have no information yet as to when my Flemming or Jackson family ancestors arrived in America.]

"Immigrants Behold the Statue of Liberty"
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, July 1887
None of these ancestors arrived as we might imagine - coming into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty, stepping off their steamship onto Ellis Island to be officially inspected in long lines. [The Statue of Liberty wasn't dedicated until 1886.] None of these ancestors settled on the east coast - most made their new homes in southern cities. And somehow, through happenstance or through fate, their offspring met other offspring of these immigrants and eventually, over time and over years, my mother and her siblings were created from a combination of all of these immigrants. And that made it possible for me to sit down, in my home in Birmingham, Alabama, and celebrate Independence Day and my great-grandparents' dreams for a better life.