The Grandfather They Never Knew
Recently, there have been several articles written about Hiram Hagenbuch (b. 1847, d. 1897). Dying as he did, at age 50 due to typhoid fever, there has been little information to pass on to the family. Although 9 of his 12 children were living when he died, those children rarely spoke of him. And, his grandchildren knew basically nothing about him. Thirty-three people, his grandchildren, never had a chance to meet him.
Only two photos and one drawing survive of Hiram. Considering the time period in which he lived, one would think there should have been more photographs taken of him. Surely, if he would have lived longer, we would have many more likenesses of him to enjoy. It is a shame that stories weren’t shared and handed down from his children to his grandchildren.
My father Homer (b. 1916, d. 2012) only had one comment about his grandfather which came from his father Clarence—a son of Hiram. My father would say, “they always say he wore boots.” That’s an enigmatic statement which has always made me wonder: Is that the best we can do?
There are several newspaper clippings from the time period that mention Hiram, but they are short on information. There are the two articles which have been published previous to this article—the two that describe the death and funerals of Hiram and his son, Henry Bruce. There are a few other news articles about Hiram that have been found.
Two articles, one from January 1896 and another from January 1897, are about Hiram harvesting ice with others. The text mentions 152 loads of ice harvested on one day and an average of 35 loads of ice cut on each of several other days. Therefore, we know he was in the business of cutting ice on local ponds, so it could be packed away in ice houses and used during the summer months.
Another article, this one from September 1894, reveals the community spirit that Hiram possessed by providing “millet” for a wagon ride to be enjoyed by local young people. (Millets are small seeded grasses that would be more desirable for a hay ride instead of itchy straw or hay!)
A MILLET RIDE
From the Miltonian — Friday, September 7, 1894
A pleasant party of young folk took a jaunt on Monday night last to their many friends at Montandon and vicinity. [Montandon is a small village located south of Milton, PA.] It wasn’t a straw but a real millet ride, the first that has ever been known in this section. Hurely Buss with his shining and spirited blacks attached to a wagon of wide racks well and comfortably packed with millet, just cut from the field by farmer Hiram Hagenbuch, drove about town collecting the merry guests whose names we are unable to learn. The ride was a most delightful one and the entertainments at the numerous places where they stopped will long be remembered.
However, the most interesting news article is the one which describes a surprise birthday party held for Hiram in 1894 when he turned 47 years old. The article is filled with words and phrases unique to the times, descriptions that we now wonder about, and people’s names from long ago who mostly can be identified. With all the sadness which is about to happen to this family within a few years, this article is a testament to the fact that Hiram and Mary Ann (Lindner) Hagenbuch, with their children, relatives and friends, were happy and successful.
From the Miltonian — Friday, March 9, 1894
A very pleasant and delightfully entertaining gathering occurred at the home of Hiram Hagenbuch, near Church Lane, on Thursday evening last. It was the intention to keep the affair quiet and from the head of the family, as in addition to its being held in honor of the 47th milestone in the Agricola Hagenbuch’s industrious life, it was likewise to be a surprise to him.
But good eatins’ and plenty of them took baskets and bundles to carry them in and when you meet your relatives and intimate friends, whom you are not frequently accustomed to see getting off trains and wagons and wending in a suspicious and embarrassed way toward your own home thus laden down, there is a kind of weird, strange, feeling comes over you and you begin to connect this fact with an unusual fuss at home the smell of rich and sweet odors, the hearing the crank of the ice cream freezer turn in an off room, and a queer expression on your family’s faces for a day or two and putting all these together. That must have been about the way that Hiram untied the strings and saw the cat jump out of the bag, resulting, if not altogether in a surprise in plenty of fun and hearty good cheer on the part of those, who arrange them and those for whom they are made.The guests, who were quite numerous, began to assemble early and when the representative of the 47th anniversary himself, entered it was with some little feeling of queerness singling about him and with the question “What’s up?” “What’s going on here in these diggins now?”
The information was not long in being communicated to him what the real and true purpose of the occasion was for which he had partly guessed from his own intention. After the many explanations and congratulations were exchanged, an elegant supper prepared by Mrs. Hagenbuch, his wife, daughters Kate and Julia assisted by some of their relatives and intimate neighbors, was tendered to those present. It was handsomely gotten up and was of richest and choicest viands abundant and varied in their kind. Mr. Hagenbuch is one of the substantial, reliable and respected farmers of Northumberland Co., and he and his better half are happy in the possession of ten bright, healthy children to crown their remaining years. Percy a strong lad of some 12 summers, although away spending the winter with an aunt, was brought home for the pleasant event and helped to do honor to his worthy sire.
Among those present were Commissioner F. W. Lindner and B. F. Lindner, brothers of Mrs. H.; Julia A. Hagenbuch, West Milton, now in the 72nd year; Chas. Kint and wife; M. Chamberlin; Mrs. Tilman Foust and daughters Alice, Sarah and Elizabeth; Capt. J. Wilson Hess and wife; Mrs. Eliza Gehrig; Miss Mehala Kelly; Harry Foust; Mr. Frank Coleman, wife, and children; Mrs. Paul and son; Miss Fannie Lambert and others. Everyone present expressed themselves as delighted with the quiet, but pleasant hours passed and after wishing the generous host as many birthdays as the kind Providence has it in his power to bestow, good night and homeward bound was the finis.
Industrious, substantial, reliable, respected, and generous are all terms that are used to describe Hiram. In addition, he is called an “agricola”, a word used to reference a businessman farmer. Ten “bright and healthy” children are present at the party. They would have been Henry Bruce, Francis Eugene, Kathryn “Kate”, Percy, Israel, Julia, Hiram Jr. “Harry”, Clarence, Franklin, and one year old Mary Ann. The “elegant” supper is prepared by wife Mary Ann and the two daughters, Kate and Julia. Kate was 15 and Julia was 9 years old on March 1, 1894. The other child mentioned is Percy, 12 years old, who came to the party after living with an aunt for the winter. Most likely this aunt was Hiram’s sister, Emma Frances (Hagenbuch) Reichard. She and her husband John had a farm near Buckhorn, Columbia County, PA.
The news article mentions that Hiram and the family are living on Church Lane. There is presently no Church Lane or Church Street in Milton, Pennsylvania. However, on an old map of Milton, Church Lane is shown which is now present day 4th Street. It is located in the north end of town several blocks from the area where Hiram eventually built his house on the hill in 1896 (next to the present day Milton golf course). Further research may find if the the house where the surprise party was held is still standing!
Identifying others that attended the party: F. W. Lindner and B. F. Lindner are the brothers Franklin and Benjamin Lindner. They are also the brothers of Hiram’s wife, Mary Ann. In addition, Mary Ann’s sister, Sarah Coleman, is present along with her husband Franklin and children. Hiram’s sister, Mrs. Tilman Foust (another Mary Ann) is present with her son, Harry Foust, and her daughter, Mrs. Paul (Ella, who was married to William Paul).
But then there is a mistake. The article’s author names the three other daughters of Mrs. Foust as “Alice, Sarah, and Elizabeth.” However, Tilman and Mary Ann (Hagenbuch) Foust had daughters named Ella, Mary Alice, Sarah, and Lillian. The author most likely got the name wrong for Lillian and identified her as Elizabeth.
Of the other folks mentioned in the article, Fannie Lambert, Eliza Gehrig and Mehala Kelly are all familiar names of friends that have been found in family notes. J. Wilson Hess is not known but will be researched because Hiram had a half sister Eliza, who was married to John Hess from Bloomsburg, PA.
There is one other guest that stands out: Julia A. Hagenbuch, 72 years old. This is Julia (Landbach) Hagenbuch who was married to Peter Hagenbuch who died in 1875. He was a first cousin once removed to Hiram. Peter owned land that was north of Milton, which Hiram may have farmed. For sure, Julia was at the party because of her and her husband’s importance to Hiram and his family. In fact, it is believed that Hiram’s daughter, Julia, was named for this attendee at the surprise party.
The description of the preparation for the party, the surprise that it was for Hiram, the gathering of the guests after disembarking from trains and wagons, the representation of the sweet smells, “the richest and choicest viands,” the baskets and bundles of “good eatins’,” and the significance of naming only one food—homemade ice cream: All of these paint a scene that can only make one smile. My favorite phrases are: “Hiram untied the strings and saw the cat jump out of the bag” and Hiram’s supposed exclamations of surprise, “What’s up?” “What’s going on here in these diggins now?” Looking at photos of my own father, Homer, whom I believe resembled his grandfather Hiram, and knowing my father’s joy when he was at parties with friends, I can picture my great grandfather, Hiram, excitedly exclaiming those words, similar to my father’s actions.
Hiram Hagenbuch (b. 1847) has more than 250 descendants. Although we know so little about him, we can be sure that there were many happy times experienced by this family. There were proud times and busy times too, given the ten children, all of whom had interesting personalities. However, even at this party there might have been foreboding in the air. Although it is the language of 1890s, knowing what happens to the family just a few years down the road makes two other phrases in the article jump out at us: “[Hiram] and his better half are happy in the possession of ten bright, healthy children to crown their remaining years” and “wishing the generous host as many birthdays as the kind Providence has it in his power to bestow.”
No one knew that only three short years were left for all of them to enjoy success and happiness together.