Monday, December 22, 2008

Pedigree Ornament No. 9, my Paternal Great grandmother.

Henrietta Hohnke, born 1842, probably in West Posen, Prussia (now Wielkopolska, Poland); died 1922, West Houtzdale (also known as West Moshannon or Cross Keys), Clearfield County, Pennsylvania; buried International Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery, Brisbin, PA.

Today’s Pedigree Ornament features an image of the former Saint John’s German Lutheran Church of Houtzdale, Pennsylvania. Like other “ornaments” is this series, I am choosing an image which is unique to a particular ancestor. Though not entirely unique to Henrietta, this image does characterize the religious community for several of my German ancestors and their neighbors who settled in Houtzdale, PA, in the early days. They included the STREICH, WAGNER, HOHNKE, TUSCHLING, KRAMP, and SROCK families among others. The early days actually began in 1870s when the area was a fertile resource for timber. Then coal was discovered on the lands by Dr. BRISBIN, and soon the Berwind and White Coal Company opened up mines into the Moshannon vein of the surrounding mountains as well as in the town itself. The soft coal was the perfect grade of mineral for powering the Steamships which were bringing hoards of immigrants to the New World. A system of railroads was built linking Houtzdale to New York to haul the coal.

In the 1990s, I visited the church office and discovered the Kirchenbuch (parish record book) which listed the baptisms and vital statistics for the congregation. Also recorded were early lists of communicants. The latter were helpful for grouping individual members together as family units. The marriage of Karl (Charles) Wagner to his third wife, Witwer (widow) Henrietta Streich, was recorded as shown below (click on image to enlarge):

I included this image to show why genealogists can go nearly blind during their research. The Wohnen (residence) of Karl is stated as “auf Pommern, jetzt Houtzdale” (“from Pomerania, now Houtzdale”) indicating Karl’s former and current residences. The column heads are not shown here in order to present a closer look at the individual entry. Karl’s birth date (Geborn) was 29 Sept 1849. The location and date of Henrietta’s birth is not stated. Oh well, she’s a female; it doesn’t matter. But, the female in this case was MY Great Grandmother. The opposing page 251 (not shown), listed the witnesses: “Rudolf Srock and Wilhelmine SROCK”. I have deduced that Wilhelmine was Henrietta’s sister who was married to Fredrick SCHROCK and Rudolf Srock was Fredrick's brother. HOHNKE was the maiden surnames of the sisters. The pastor was Detlef Ph. EBERT.

In St. John’s Kirchenbuch, in the section subtitled Gestorbenen (deaths), Henrietta’s vital statistics came to light, sort of. She was born 30 Aug 1842, (her tombstone was inscribed, 1841) at “P. Posen, W. Prussia”, Germany. She died 27 Jan 1922, at the age of 80 years, 4 months, 27 days, of cancer, and buried 31 Jan 1922, at Brisbin cemetery. John T. JENNINGS, pastor. Unfortunately, the birthplace is not too specific. “P. Posen” probably means the Province of Posen which was one of the largest provinces in Prussia at the time of Henrietta’s birth. The location “W. Prussia” is probably West Prussia which further confuses the issue because West Prussia was a Province just east of Posen. Incidentally, both West and East Prussia were far east of Berlin.

Since the church was only open on Thursday afternoons, I spent many hours on those days recording data from the Kirchenbuch. Fortunately, I discovered that the LDS church microfilmed the same Kirchenbuch many years ago. What luck, even if it was discovered a little too late. At least I could obtain photocopies to study the German writing.

The congregations of the former Bethel Swedish Lutheran and the St. John’s German Lutheran were merged in the 1970s and services were held at the Bethel Church whose name was changed to Faith United Lutheran to reflect the merger. However, when there was a fifth Sunday in a month, services were held at the old Gothic style, white clapboard, St. John’s. Unfortunately, in 1997, the water pipes froze and the cost of repairs was too much for the congregation to handle. St. John’s Lutheran Church was demolished. An outdoor gazebo and garden now stands on the former church’s foundation. The old church bell is mounted inside (see below):


1. A memorial plaque for the former St. John’s German Lutheran church, Houtzdale, PA, has been added to the gazebo and was shown in an earlier blog entry.

2. The Latter Day Saints library at Salt Lake City, has microfilmed the Kirchenbuch of St. John’s German Lutheran Church, Houtzdale, Clearfield Co., PA: Microfilm no. 1671236.

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