Hagenbuchs and Sechlers Entwined
Back in about 1978, I first walked through the graveyard at New Bethel Union Church near the Hagenbuch homestead in Albany Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. I had been looking for the farm where Andreas Hagenbuch (b. 1715) had homesteaded in 1741. Bethel Union is just a few miles from where I eventually located the homestead and the first Hagenbuch family cemetery on American soil. I remember walking the Bethel Union Church cemetery, which is on a side hill, and finding some Hagenbuch graves. At that time, I did not knowing how they were related to us. Among the graves were also the final resting places of people with the last name of “Sechler.” Well, that name was very familiar to me too!
My father’s mother was born Hannah Margaret Sechler. My father’s middle name is Sechler in honor of his mother’s side. Along with the large Hagenbuch family I grew up among, my Sechler cousins were local and numerous. Each summer as a boy, we attended the Hagenbuch reunion and also the Sechler reunion. It was there that my Dad would sit and talk to his Sechler first cousins: Earl, Pete, Robert, Paul, and Harold. First cousins Myron Cromis and sometimes his sister Mary (Cromis) Springer—children of my great Aunt Grace (Sechler) Cromis—were also present. The Sechler first cousins, except for Harold, all had children (my second cousins) who I also knew since we went to the same high school.
Several articles have been written about my Sechler family: the love letters of my great grandparents, Samuel and Mary (Davis) Sechler; mentions of those unique characters, Harold Sechler and Myron Cromis; and numerous articles about my grandmother Hannah (Sechler) Hagenbuch. I gained a lot of pride in my Sechler family, through the many visits over the years that I had with Harold Sechler and Myron Cromis. Harold and Myron, although being first cousins, were raised as brothers when my Great Aunt Grace took Harold into her home after the tragic death of her brother, John Sechler, in 1928. Along with revering the graves of my Hagenbuch ancestors at the family church of Oak Grove Lutheran, I learned to honor the graves of my Sechler family buried several miles away from Oak Grove at the Upper Chillisquaque Cemetery. In fact, not only did I mow the grass in the Oak Grove cemetery for several years, but I also mowed the grass at the Chillisquaque Cemetery. One gets to know their deceased ancestors much better when one is mowing and trimming around their gravestones!
Research on my Sechler family started in the early 1980s. I found my Sechler great great grandparents’ gravesites, Thomas and Christina (Henry) Sechler, in Center Cemetery which is located across the valley from the Upper Chillisquaque Cemetery, near Pottsgrove, PA. While visiting Harold Sechler and Myron Cromis at their farmhouse one weekend, Harold brought from the attic a large portrait of Thomas Sechler. Before he passed away, Harold gave me that portrait which rests on a bamboo stand. It is one of my prize genealogical possessions. The interest in my Sechler clan had grown from attending the Sechler reunion and knowing my Sechler cousins to collecting Sechler memorabilia, just as I collect all things Hagenbuch.
One of my father’s Sechler first cousins was Robert Sechler. Robert was a large man, both in size, strength and character. He was a World War II veteran and after the war built skyscrapers in New York City. He was looked up to by the Sechler family, and he knew the Sechler history. It was Robert who first told me the story of our ancestor, John Sechler, Sr., who served in the Revolutionary War. Spending the winter of 1777–78 at Valley Forge, John had written to his wife that it was so cold one morning in camp that he awoke with his hair frozen to the ground! I have never seen that letter, but I believe Robert was telling the truth. Robert was a proud member of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR), and years later I first joined the SAR under my ancestor John Sechler’s lineage. Of course, my ancestor Michael Hagenbuch (b. 1746) was also a Revolutionary War soldier, so I claim two soldiers for the SAR.
By the way, my lineage through the Sechlers is: Johannes Sechler (b. 1700) > John Sechler, Sr. (b. 1739, the soldier in Washington’s army) > John Sechler, Jr. (b. 1774) > Thomas Sechler (b. 1819) > Samuel Sechler (b. 1855) > Hannah Margaret Sechler (b. 1889, m. Clarence Hagenbuch [b. 1889]) > Homer Sechler Hagenbuch (b. 1916) > Mark Hagenbuch (b. 1953).
Several weeks ago, Andrew was bopping around Beechroots and found that I had not included information about our Sechler ancestry—more work to be done in Beechroots! But, it also made me think about those Sechlers buried at New Bethel Union Church in the same graveyard as our early Hagenbuchs of whom I know their relationship to the patriarch Andreas Hagenbuch (b. 1715). I wondered, “Were the Sechlers buried there also my cousins?” Time to dig into the census and graveyard records. Remember, it’s all about connections!
There are ten Hagenbuchs buried at New Bethel Union Church cemetery:
- Magdalena (Knepper) Hagenbuch (b. 1789, d. 1846). She was the second wife of Jacob Hagenbuch (b. 1777), who was the grandson of Andreas (b. 1715).
- Lesina Hagenbuch (b. 1824, d. 1846). She was the daughter of Jacob and his second wife, Magdalena (Knepper) Hagenbuch.
- Timothy Hagenbuch (b. 1804, d. 1852). He was the son of Jacob and first wife, Magdalena (Wolf) Hagenbuch.
- Esther Hagenbuch (b. 1807, d. 1867). She was the daughter of Jacob and Magdalena (Wolf) Hagenbuch.
- Michael Hagenbuch (b. 1805, d. 1855). He was the son of Jacob and Magdalena (Wolf) Hagenbuch and last owner of the Hagenbuch homestead.
- Abigail (Stapleton) Hagenbuch (b. 1811, d. 1883). She was the wife of Michael Hagenbuch (b. 1805, d. 1883).
- Harrison W. R. Hagenbuch (b. 1835, d. 1857). He was son of Michael and Abigail (Stapleton) Hagenbuch.
- J. B. Hagenbuch (b. 1843, d. 1843). He was the infant son of Michael and Abigail (Stapleton) Hagenbuch.
- Amanson H. Hagenbuch (b. 1848, d. 1878). He was son of Michael and Abigail (Stapleton) Hagenbuch.
- Matilda Hagenbuch (b. 1846, d. 1849). She was the daughter of Charles (b. 1819) and Julia (Fosselman) Hagenbuch. Charles was a son of Jacob (b. 1777) and his second wife, Magdalena (Knepper) Hagenbuch.
Of course, we know that Jacob (b. 1777), grandson of Andreas (b. 1715), is buried at the family homestead cemetery. Although there are no gravestone inscriptions to prove this, we can be sure that Jacob’s first wife, Magdalena (Wolf) Hagenbuch, along with Andreas, his two wives, his son Michael (b. 1746), Michael’s wife, Eva Elizabeth (Kunz), and other early Hagenbuchs are buried at the homestead too.
There are 26 Sechlers buried at New Bethel Union. The research bears out that some of them are of the same clan to my grandmother’s Sechler family. Joel Sechler (b. 1817, d. 1895) and his wife Mary (Lutz) Sechler are the oldest Sechler graves at New Bethel. I quickly found confirmation that Joel’s great grandfather is Johannes Sechler (b. 1700), who is my 5th great grandfather! Two of Joel and Mary Sechler’s children are also at New Bethel: Levi Sechler (b. 1842, d. 1917) with his wife Catherine (Kunkel) and Rebecca Sechler (b. 1848, d. 1856). Also, two of Levi and Catherine (Kunkel) Sechler’s children are buried at New Bethel: Samuel (b. 1868, d. 1933, never married) and John (b. 1878, d. 1878).
Three Sechler brothers are buried at New Bethel: Wilson (b. 1846, d. 1932) with his wife Angelina (Keller), Jacob F. (b. 1867, d. 1954) with his wife Rosa (Greenawalt), and Oscar William (b. 1869, d. 1933, never married). Yes, there seems to be a large gap between the son Wilson and the other two sons, Jacob and Oscar (21 and 23 years). But, the census records bear out the birthdates. These three Sechler brothers’ parents were Jacob (b. 1819, d. 1888) and Catherine (Ulrich) Sechler. They are buried at the Jacobs Union Church cemetery in New Tripoli, Lehigh County, PA. After much research, I have not been able to tie Jacob (b. 1819) to the other Sechlers, but my guess is that he is the brother of Joel Sechler (b. 1817). If this is true, then along with Joel, his children Rebecca and Levi, and grandchildren John and Samuel, Jacob’s (b. 1819) three sons—Wilson, Jacob F., and Oscar William—are all cousins to me through our common ancestor Johannes Sechler (b. 1700).
So, what does all this mean for being “entwined”? Our Hagenbuch, who attended New Bethel Union Church beginning in 1761 when it was founded, would have known my Sechler family, who probably attended there beginning around 1845 after they moved from Montgomery County to Lynn Township, Lehigh County, and then to Albany Township, Berks County, PA. Granted, many of our Hagenbuchs had moved away from the Albany Township area by the mid-1850s, but there was overlap between the years that Andreas Hagenbuch’s grandchildren and great grandchildren attended New Bethel Union Church and when the first Sechlers arrived there. They knew each other, they sang hymns together, they communed together, and they probably would have socialized together. Little did they know that some 175 years later their names would be entwined together genealogically.
This is one of the many pieces of genealogy that makes the hobby fascinating! The connections that we find many years later between our common ancestors make the time and effort worthwhile and rewarding. We want those connections to continue as Andrew and I add more and more people to the living family tree of the Hagenbuchs and their allied families.