George Shank of Hummelstown

George Shank of Hummelstown was a weaver who died in 1826 leaving a wife Maria and eight children. Two of the children named in his will were Elizabeth and George, who were probably the two of that name who appear in Huntingdon County by 1820. The elder George signed the will on the 28th of February 1826; it was probated on March 27. He was obviously in his final illness when he wrote it.1

He left several pieces of real estate: two lots on Market Street and a tract of woodland in West Hanover.2 Maria was to have the use and occupancy of the house, and any profits from it, as well as the woodland tract. She was also to have the choice of the four beds, with the bedsteads, also the tables, kitchen dresser, stove from the dining room, eight chairs, a spinning wheel, the family Bible, a prayer and hymn book, as well as a cow, and all the beef, tallow, flax and tow linen in the house. After her death the real and personal property was to be sold to pay the debts, and any remainder was to be shared equally among the children. The exception was the son David, who was to have the weaver’s loom, which was not to be deducted from his share of the estate. A trusty friend Frederick Hummel was the executor.

The will suggests that George was prosperous, since he owned the real estate. It suggests that Maria would continue to receive an income from the house or the woodland. There is no mention of selling anything to pay debts until after her death.

It is believed that this George served in the Lancaster County militia, Seventh Batallion, the same company that a Daniel Conrad served in.3 This could be the father of Elizabeth Shank’s future husband, also named Daniel Conrad.4 It is important to be cautious, however, since there were other Shank families around, and even other men named George Shank. A different George Shank married Maria Brandt; they had children baptized at Hummelstown Lutheran Church between 1804 and 1819.5 These are later than the children of George and Maria of Hummelstown. Perhaps the Georges were cousins. Nothing definite is known of the parents of George the weaver.6

Children of George and Maria (the one who died in 1826):7

Elizabeth, b. 1775, d. 1853, m. Daniel Conrad, lived in Huntingdon County

John, b. 1776, d. Aug 25 1836, m. Mary Bower (1781-1839), bur. at Hummelstown Zion Evangelical Lutheran8



George, b. Nov 1786, d. June 1868 in Warriors Mark, Huntingdon County, m. Nancy Funk, had a large family9

Jacob, moved to Centre County, at least 3 children10

David, b. 1802, d. 1864, buried at the Old Cemetery, Hummelstown Zion Lutheran Church11

  1.  Dauphin County Will Book D, 1812-1847.
  2. He bought the land in 1813 from George Bagastow or Bagastoss for 55 pounds. (W. Mills Davis, History of the Davis, Eichelbarger… Families, 1911. Davis gave the name as Becastora, which was some clerk’s rendering of Bagastow. Bagastow died in 1844 and is buried in Hummelstown (FindaGrave).
  3. W. Mills Davis.
  4. A story was passed down in the family that Daniel Conrad and his wife Elizabeth Shank were first cousins. Without more information it is impossible to say. (Ref: W. Mills Davis)
  5. They had a daughter Elizabeth, born in 1804.
  6.  He can’t be the son of George Shank of Lancaster County who died in April 1777. His children were listed in birth order in an Orphan’s Court record in 1784. He did have a son George (with his second wife Maria Margaretha Friedel), probably born in 1763, but this is too late to be the George of Hummelstown, who was having children by 1775. It could be the George who married Maria Brandt.
  7.  Assuming that Elizabeth and George were the ones who moved to Huntingdon County. The dates for John and David are from burials at Hummelstown Zion Lutheran.
  8.  Online at:
  9. He was in Warriors Mark, in the census of 1820 though 1840. There are mentions of his family in Nearhoof, Echoes from Warriors Mark, but it is not always clear whether they refer to the father or his son, also named George. After his death letters of administration were granted to his son Martin. (Huntingdon County Wills & Admins, book 6, p. 295)
  10.  In the 1850 census there were two Jacob Shanks in Centre County, one born about 1768 and one in 1796. Either one could possibly fit in here.
  11.  Online at:

Daniel Conrad and Elizabeth Shank

Daniel Conrad was a German-speaking ironworker from Lancaster County, who moved north to Huntingdon County and raised a large family there. He was part of a movement of Germans out of Lancaster County. German farmers had prospered in Lancaster and York Counties, but farmland had become expensive by the late 1700s. Some moved up to Huntingdon for opportunities in the iron industry. There the rolling hills were dotted with small villages that grew up around each forge or furnace. The Germans often married other German families, but not exclusively.

It is generally believed that Daniel Conrad of Huntingdon County was the son of another Daniel Conrad who lived in Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County. The older Daniel owned 150 acres of land there, served in the Lancaster County Militia in 1781, and appeared in the census through 1810, with his family mostly of sons.1 He made his will on August 19, 1811; it was probated in January 1812.2 He provided for his beloved wife Barbara with household furniture, a cow, and yearly cash payments. The farm implements were to be sold to cover his debts. After her death the estate was to be divided equally among his ten children: a girl and her nine brothers.3 There was no mention of the land. Presumably he had already disposed of it, and he and Barbara were living with one of their children.4

Some lore about Daniel Conrad Senior was passed down through the family. W. Fisk Conrad, a grandson of the younger Daniel, was keenly interested in the family history and wrote an account of the family in his Bible. He wrote that “My great grandfather immigrated to Lancaster County from Germany, I think Saxony. He was [the] father of five boys and six girls.”5 This could apply to Daniel of Mt. Joy if you generalize it to mean that he had a large family of children.

The younger Daniel Conrad appeared in Franklin Township around 1795, as a young man. Jacob Conrad and Michael Conrad showed up in records about the same time, and it is believed that they were his brothers.6 Daniel of Mount Joy, the man with the nine sons, named sons Daniel, Jacob and Michael in his will.

Daniel was probably drawn to Huntingdon County by the opportunity to work in the iron forges there. Some say that he went with George Anshutz, the iron master from Alsace.7 Anshutz set up an iron forge and furnace and became the biggest landholder in Franklin Township.8

Daniel’s wife Elizabeth Shank was from Lancaster County as well, so they may have been married before they moved.9

They were Lutherans. At first they worshipped in the Dry Hollow meeting house. After 1805 they went to the Lutheran Church at Seven Stars, close to where they lived on Eden Hill.10 Seven Stars probably took its name from a log cabin tavern that stood there for many years. Early families in the Lutheran Church included Mattern, Anshutz, Adam Mong, Daniel Conrad, “a number of the latter being workmen at the nearby Huntingdon Furnace.”11

Daniel and Elizabeth raised a family of ten children. Some of them stayed nearby, while others moved further west and north in Pennsylvania.

Daniel wrote his will on January 1, 1824; he died on March 11, and the will was probated in April. The will was written in German; a translation accompanied it in the will book.12 It was witnessed by Samuel Conrad and John Watson (Daniel’s son-in-law). Was Samuel one of Daniel’s sons? The will specified the care of Daniel’s “weak-minded” daughter Elizabeth, who never married, as well as the education of the five youngest children. It also provided for his wife Elizabeth, referred to as “Mother” in the will. It implied that the dowry for the older girls was a bed, a cow, and a sheep. His wife Elizabeth Conrad and George Shank were to be the administrators. There is no clue in the will where Daniel and Elizabeth were living at the time, and no mention of land.

“January 9 the year 1824. My wish is that my wife shall sell all that she don’t need for to pay the debts; and when the same is paid all shall remain in her hands so long as she is my widow. Elizabeth shall have her bed and cow and one sheep as the other girls and one hundred dollars shall remain at interest as long as she lives and the child that keeps her shall draw the interest for to buy Sunday clothes. My will is that the two little girls shall be put out to a virtuous place to be raised in the fear of God. And John has his choice to choose his trade now or in two years after my death if he don’t take up with loose company and then he must go directly to a trade. Jacob shall remain two or three years with Samuel with wages what he earns for schooling and clothes with good instruction if he has not a notion of going directly to a trade. Mother can keep the ?moll mare and her saddle and bridle if she will one cow, three sheep, one heifer, other household goods that she needs, one hog. All the rest big and little shall be sold at public vendue as soon as convenient. Daniel shall remain with his mother till he is schooled if she lives, or as long as she can keep him. And after Mother’s death each child shall have their share if anything remains. And Elizabeth’s hundred dollars shall that child inherit after her death with [whom?] she lives and dies with good attendance. This is the last will and testament in my life in earthly terms.”

Elizabeth outlived Daniel by almost twenty years, dying on May 7, 1853. They are buried together at Seven Stars Cemetery.13 He died at age 49; she died at age 77. According to W. Mills Davis, Daniel was a frail man, while Elizabeth was robust and stout, and blind before she died.

Children of Daniel and Elizabeth:14

Samuel William, b. 16 March 1796, d. 1866, m. Catherine Mattern, from a large German family. Samuel became a minister and moved his family to Indiana County, Pennsylvania. He and Catherine had ten children.

Margaret Jane, b. 3 June 1799, d. 10 April 1877, m. David Henderson in 1821. He was a successful farmer in Franklin Township and a shoemaker with a large business, employing men to work for him. He did work for the ironworks, got paid in iron, and took it over the mountains to Pittsburgh twice a year.15 He and Margaret had nine children, and also took in her sister Elizabeth after Daniel died.16He was a Democrat and a Methodist. A man of “genial disposition, social habits, and kindly nature”, he died in 1882.17

Elizabeth, “Betsy”, b. 1800, d. 1872, “weak-minded”, did not marry. She lived with her sister Margaret Henderson for at least part of her life.

Catherine, b. 1803, d. 1872, m. James Dickson. They lived at Eden Hill, Birmingham, Huntingdon County at first, later moved outside of Tyrone. He worked as a miller all his life. They had 11 children. James died in 1872 or 1873; Catherine died in 1893.18

Mary Ann, b. 1 January 1806, d. 1877, m. John Watson, an iron worker. She was short and slender, had dark eyes and dark hair, smoked a pipe. She was exceptionally kind and affectionate.19 They had ten children.20

John, b. 11 March 1809, d. 1855, m. Mary Ann Stonebraker in 1831. They kept a store in Franklinville, selling shoes, dry goods, and groceries. John went to Philadelphia for his goods, bringing them back on a canal boat, “which was the only way of traveling with a heavy load in those days”.21 He and Mary Ann had colorful sons Fisk and Fletcher. 22 Mary Ann had her last child on May 31, 1853; the baby died the same day and Mary Ann did too. There were two doctors on her case, Doctors Irvin and Bates. Bates accused Irvin of murdering her and her body was exhumed a week after the funeral to search for traces of poison but nothing was found.23John’s mother Elizabeth had died earlier that month. John died at McAlevy’s Fort, Jackson Township in 1855.

Jacob, b. 1813, d. 1844, m. Catherine Markle, buried at Franklinville. He was only 31 when he died.24

Susan, m. George Dinsmore, moved to Sharpsburg, Allegheny County.

Nancy, d. 1897, m. William Hunt in 1837, moved to McAlevy’s Fort.25 They had no children.

Daniel, b. July 1818, d. 1877, m. Mary Ann Lowe, had seven children, including Elizabeth who married Hunter LaPorte, son of John & Mary Ann. Daniel and Mary Ann lived at Eden Hill, where he was a farmer. He died in 1877. Mary Ann died in 1896 in Tyrone at the home of one of their daughters.26

  1. PA Archive, 3:17, p. 514 for the 1779 tax list. PA Archive 5:7 for the militia list. The 1782 tax assessment is in W. Mills Davis, History of the Davis, Eichelbarger, Watson, Conrad, Shank Stonebraker and Hyskell Families, 1911. He is in the 1800 census as Daniel Curade. There were other Conrad families in Lancaster County at the time, including a Conrad Conrad with wife Rosina, but Daniel of Mt Joy is the most promising candidate as father of Daniel of Huntingdon County. W. Mills Davis proposed Conrad Conrad as the father, but he admitted that there was no evidence the claim. Jesse Sell, in Twentieth Century History of Altoona & Blair County supported the claim of Daniel of Mt. Joy, based on information from W. Fisk Conrad, a grandson of Daniel of Huntington County. Fisk was born in 1838. His grandfather Daniel died before he was born, so he could not have heard any stories from him. Perhaps his grandmother Elizabeth Shank Conrad was his source; she died in 1853.
  2. Lancaster County will abstracts online give the probate date as May 1812. The witnesses appeared twice, on January 28, 1812 and again in May. Daniel obviously died before January 28. (ref: the original is posted on the Ancestry message board for Conrad, on August 1, 2000 by Ann Gedmark.) She shows the date of the writing as 1811, while others, including Davis and the Lancaster County will abstracts online, give it as 1807.
  3. At the 1760 baptism of Catherine at the Swamp Church in Cocalico, Rosina Schanck was one of the sponsors. Was she a relative? Was she related to Elizabeth Shank who married Daniel Conrad Jr?
  4.  Lancaster Count Will Book L, Vol 1 pages 73-74, quoted online.
  5. W. Mills Davis.
  6. Jacob was in Huntingdon Borough in the 1800 census with four young sons, gone by 1810. Michael was in the 1812 tax list for Franklin Township, with no land. (J. Simpson Africa, History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, 1883, chapter on Franklin township. Michael was in the 1820 census, with eight children in his household, but gone by 1830. He was also in the Franklin Township tax list of 1805 with one cow, taxed two cents. (Records on microfilm at the Huntingdon County Historical Society). A Jacob Conrad, possibly different, is in the tax list of Woodberry Township, Huntingdon County, sporadically through the 1820s.
  7. Sell, pp. 959-960, the biography of W. Fisk Conrad (son of John and Mary Ann).
  8.  Anshutz was born in Zinswiller, Alsace, a town noted for its ironworks. He immigrated about 1775 and was drawn to Huntingdon County by its rich supply of iron ore. By 1819 he was an owner or part-owner of 40,000 acres. (Jesse Sell, History of the Juniata Valley, p. 319) In the 1812 tax list he was listed with a furnace, forge, two grist mills, two saw mills, 23 horses, and 1000 acres.
  9.  One of their granddaughters, Elizabeth Henderson Waite, claimed that they were first cousins. (W. Mills Davis)
  10.  W. Mills Davis.
  11.  Elizabeth Nearhoof, Echoes from Warriors Mark.
  12., Pennsylvania Probate Records 1683-1994, Huntingdon County wills, Book 3-4, pp. 93-95, image 77
  13. The tombstone dates are from the Spangler notebooks. Adella Fink Spangler was a long-time Centre County historian who collected many records, which were gathered into notebooks and indexed on 250,000 cards, now held at the Centre County Library in Bellefonte. Some of her primary sources no longer exist. She was more accurate than some later transcriptions, such as the one on Huntingdon County PA GenWeb (Daniel was obviously not 19 years old at his death). The stones read: Daniel Conrad died 11 Mar 1824, age 49y 7m, and Elizabeth Conrad died May 7, 1853, age 77y 9m.
  14.  W. Mills Davis, with dates and information added from Ancestry trees and other sources.
  15. Africa.
  16. Biographical Portrait Cyclopedia of Blair County and Africa’s History of Huntingdon…, which give different dates of birth for him.
  17. Africa.
  18.  Commemorative and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Juniata Valley, pp. 230-231, on the USGWArchive for Huntingdon County.
  19. W. Mills Davis
  20.  The birthdate for her is from W. Mills Davis. Her marriage and children would fit more smoothly if she were born a few years earlier.
  21. W. Mills Davis
  22. Wilbur Fisk Conrad, son of John, was known as Fisk, had a millinery business in Tyrone, ran the first theatre there and was a personal friend of Horace Greeley. In 1861 Fisk met Abraham Lincoln at Harrisburg and discussed a plot against his life in Baltimore. In 1872 when Greeley ran for president, Fisk went to a convention of the Bourbon Democrats as a delegate from the 17th PA district, hoping to disrupt the convention (which was meant to support Charles Francis Adams, Greeley’s opponent). Fisk’s supporters cheered and hooted during the speeches, and “threw the convention into an uproar”. Some of the delegates attacked Fisk but his brother Fletcher got him safely away to their hotel. Fletcher opened a haberdashery store on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia with his brother Benson. As Conrad Brothers they made shirts, which won the first prize at the Centennial Exhibition. He was short and stout and never married. (Source: W. Mills Davis, their nephew)
  23. W. Mills Davis.
  24.  The last name of his wife is from W. Mills Davis; other sources give it as Moore, with no evidence.
  25. Card file of marriages at the Huntingdon County Historical Society
  26.  Her obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald, 15 April 1896.

John Watson the iron forge man and Mary Ann Conrad his wife

John Watson first appears in Huntingdon County records in the 1830 census. He was an ironworker. Many ironworkers moved up from Lancaster County in the early 1800s as the iron forges were set up in Huntingdon. He may have been one of them. 1 Years later one of his sons wrote that John was the son of another John, who lived in Lancaster County and had sons John and William.2  Is there any independent evidence for the older John? The only John Watson in the 1790 or 1800 census of Lancaster County is the physician John Watson, who can probably be ruled out as the father.3 By 1810 there were two John Watsons in Lancaster County, both in Donegal Township, one with a large family and one with a small family. There is no way to connect either of them with the John who came to Huntingdon County. If the older John was really a veteran of the Revolution, then the second John would have been a rather late son.4

In any case, John Watson was supposedly born about 1796, raised by a relative, “perhaps an aunt”, after his father died, and moved to Huntingdon County about 1813.5 The only Watson in Franklin Township in 1820 was George Watson, living close to Daniel and Samuel Conrad.6 Was George an uncle of John’s?7  George and his wife were between 26 and 45, with three sons in the same age range, and a daughter 10 to 16. This is a mature family, where John could fit nicely, as a nephew, probably not as a son since John did name any of his sons George.

By 1830 John was married to Mary Ann Conrad, daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth, and they were living in Warriors Mark Township.8 John and Mary were both aged 20 to 30, with four young children and one girl age 10 to 15.9 Since Mary Ann was born in 1806, they could not have been married before about 1823. The girl over 10 may have been a niece (or a servant). She was still with them in 1840. By 1840 John and his wife had five children, plus the girl now age 15 to 20. They were in Franklin Township, the area that includes Spruce Creek. They were a few houses away from Jacob Conrad, a younger brother of Mary Ann.10

John was a worker in the iron forges as well as a farmer. He was exceptionally strong. The story was passed down in the family that the men of the town had a contest of strength, where they pushed a wheelbarrow filled with pig iron. John wheeled a total of 2,240 pounds which was considered remarkable.11 Where John was strong, Mary Ann was short and slight. She was kind and affectionate, and had dark eyes and hair.12 In 1832 John bought 112 acres from Henry Kreider. This was in Warriors Mark, near George Mong. It cost $600.13

By 1850 six children were still at home with John and Mary Ann in Warriors Mark, where he was called a farmer .14 By 1860 they were in Franklin Township, where John was a foundry worker.15 In 1864 two photographers, Burchfield and Buttorf, traveled around Pennsylvania and took photographs. John and Mary Ann had their photograph taken, and thought this was better than their son Jerry’s paintings. “The father of the artist naturally thought that photographing was a marvelous improvement over his son’s slower way of painting portraits.”16

In 1870 John and Mary Ann were living with their son-in-law Anson LaPorte and his wife Nancy.17 John is listed as a foreman or forgeman in a blow furnace, still working at a rigorous job even at age 70 or more. John died on June 23, 1871 and was buried at the Lutheran Cemetery at Seven Stars, Franklin Township. In his will, written two months before his death, he left his estate to his “beloved wife Mary Ann”. He signed it by mark.18 After his death Mary Ann went to live with her youngest daughter Elizabeth Salkeld in Washington DC, where Elizabeth’s husband John was a policeman. The bustling city must have been a change after a life spent in rural Huntingdon County. Washington had expanded dramatically after the Civil War, partly because of the growth in the bureaucracy serving war issues such as veteran’s pensions.19 Mary Ann died on April 12, 1877 and is buried with her husband at Seven Stars.20

Children of John and Mary Ann:21

Elizabeth, b. Aug 14, 1824, d. Nov. 4, 1901, m. 1842 Samuel Davis, lived in Altoona where he was a farmer. Samuel fought in the Civil War.22 He and Elizabeth were grandparents of W. Mills Davis.

John B., b. ab. 1827, d. March 18, 1892, m. Elizabeth Haslett, moved to Harrisburg, where he was an express messenger and later managed an express stable.23 He died in Harrisburg.24

Daniel, died of typhoid fever as a young man.

William, b. ab. 1829, d. 1903, m. Elizabeth Buck of Warriors Mark, moved to Lee County, Illinois.

Mary Ann, b. ab. 1833, d. 1915, m. 1861 Framton (“Frank”) Bloom, lived in Sunbury, Northumberland County, Frank was a farm laborer there in 1910.25 She died in 1915.26

Jeremiah, b. Feb. 1836, d. June 23, 1888 in Tyrone, m. 1863 Rachel Hall; he was a portrait painter and a veteran of the Civil War.27 He and Rachel had four children including a son Claude.28 He died of a pulmonary disease, probably tuberculosis, contracted during his service in the war. For the last five years of his life he was unable to walk, but continued to paint.29

Samuel A., b. April 29, 1838, d. May 20, 1917, lived in Bradford, later in DuBois, Clearfield County,  served in the Civil War, married, had a son Claude. Samuel wrote to W. Mills Davis in 1911 giving information about the family, unfortunately not including the name of his wife. In May 1901 Samuel and his son Claude visited Nancy Ann LaPorte in Tyrone, “whom he had not seen for twenty-nine years”.30

Priscilla, b. ab. 1840, d. before 1888, m. John Martin, r. Osceola Mills, Clearfield County, died there, had five children.

Nancy Ann, b. 1843, d. 1906, m. Anson LaPorte, lived in Franklinville, had two sons and five daughters

Mary Elizabeth, known as Lida, b. ab. 1847, d. Jan 5, 1892, m. John L. Salkeld, lived in Washington DC31

  1.  Not all of the people of Lancaster County were German. There was a large Scotch-Irish population. They moved up to Huntingdon County for the same reason, to find jobs.
  2. W. Mills Davis, History of the Davis, Eichelbarger, Watson, Conrad, Shank Stonebraker and Hyskell Families, 1911
  3. Dr. John Watson, a physician, was born about 1762. He fought in the Revolution, married Margaret Clemson, lived in Donegal Township, died in 1843 and was buried in the cemetery of the Donegal Presbyterian Church. References: Cemetery records of the Donegal Presbyterian Church online, census records of 1820; Jacob Ziegler, An Authentic History of Donegal Presbyterian Church, 1902, p. 67. However, he is not known to have a son William, he did not die when his son John was young, and his son John is supposed to have died unmarried.
  4.  Watson is a common name, both in Lancaster and Huntingdon Counties. There are many of them in the Lancaster County tax lists and the land warrants in Huntingdon.
  5. W. Mills Davis, based on the information from Samuel A. Watson in a letter of 1911. Watson was a son of John Watson of Huntingdon County. John Watson of Lancaster County would have been his grandfather.
  6. 1820 census, Franklin Township, Image 1.
  7. There is no obvious record of George Watson in the census of 1810 in either Huntingdon or Lancaster County.
  8. 1830 census, Warriors Mark township, Image 7. This was the only John Watson in Huntingdon County, and the only Watson in Warriors Mark or Franklin Township.
  9. The age was probably given wrong for John. He was more likely born about 1796.
  10.  1840 census, Franklin Township, Image 9, John and his wife both 30 to 40, 1 girl 15 to 20, 1 son 10 to 15, 2 sons and 1 daughter 5 to 10, 2 sons under 5.
  11. W. Mills Davis.
  12. W. Mills Davis.
  13.  W. Mills Davis.
  14. 1850 census, Warriors Mark township, Image 7
  15. 1860 census, Franklin township, Image 13
  16.  W. Mills Davis. The photograph of John and Mary Ann is not known to have survived.
  17. 1870 census, Franklin township, Image 19
  18. Wills of Huntingdon County, book 7, number 168.
  19. Wikipedia has a fine picture of Washington DC in 1874.
  20.  Cemetery record of Seven Stars, in the Spangler notebooks, Centre County Library; Findagrave index.
  21.  From Davis, with information added from census records. The order here does not quite match the information that Samuel Watson wrote to W. Mills Davis. He gave it as Elizabeth, John, Daniel, William, Jeremiah, Mary, Samuel, Priscilla, Nancy, Eliza, swapping Jeremiah and Mary Ann, otherwise reliable.
  22. Davis said that Samuel was a man of good humor but with a violent temper. He was a spendthrift, but his wife Elizabeth was economical and thrifty. Of their eight children, five died young. They are buried at Asbury Cemetery near Altoona. (W. Mills Davis) There is an obituary for Elizabeth.
  23. 1870 census, Dauphin County, Harrisburg Ward 8, image 28, and 1880 census.
  24.  His obituary in the Tyrone Herald, March 24, 1892. His middle initial is sometimes given as D.
  25. The date of marriage is from the card file of deaths and marriages at Huntingdon Historical Society. The census is Sunbury ward 5, district 0115, Image 20.
  26.  Her death certificate shows her death of birth as Nov. 10, 1836, but this is contradicted by several census records.
  27. His dates of birth and death from his obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald, June 21, 1888. (online)
  28. His son Claudius became a railroad conductor in Harrisburg. (census records)
  29.  His obituary.
  30. Tyrone Daily Herald, May 23, 1901
  31. Her brief obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald of Jan. 7, 1892. In 1880 they were listed in the census in Washington, with children Eugene, Raymond, and Lida. He was a police officer.

Harry and Jessie LaPorte

A train locomotive with its crew, posing for a portrait.
Harry is the engineer, in the front on the left.

Harry Watson LaPorte was a railroad man. He was a young man on the move, which must be how he met his future wife over in Mifflintown.1 As their marriage notice put it, “He is a very refined young man of Tyrone. He has friends wherever he goes.”  In 1897 he was the Chief Engineer for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Tyrone Division, organized six years before. There were about 40 members and they met at the Odd Fellow’s Hall twice a month.2 The Pennsy was a big employer in Tyrone at its peak payroll of over 500. There were three branches in the Tyrone Division: The Bald Eagle Valley line ran northeast to Bald Eagle Creek at Lock Haven; the Tyrone & Clearfield ran over the Allegheny Mountain to Osceola, Philipsburg, Clearfield, and Curwensville; and the Lewisburg & Tyrone ran to Scotia. Other lines connected Tyrone to Pittsburgh and Harrisburg and points east. The Division offices were in Tyrone. “In a room on the second floor may be heard, not the clack of tongues, but the click of keys. Here sits A.A. Witter, the Division Operator, in the focus of a network of wires, like a spider in the midst of his web and, with the aid of his assistants, watches the motions of each train that is out upon the road. Unlike the spider his work is not to devour but to save…”3

1893 map of part of the PRR system (from Wikipedia)

Harry and Jessie were married in 1891, by Rev. Davies at the Presbyterian Parsonage in Tyrone.4 Their first child was born six months later. The newspaper account described Harry as a fireman on the Clearfield and Tyrone branch railroad; he was not an engineer yet. They lived in Osceola Mills, north of Tyrone in the iron ore country, where their first child was born. They apparently moved to Tyrone before 1894, when the next child was born.5 They were members of the First Presbyterian Church in Tyrone, where their children were baptized.6

In 1900 Harry and Jessie were living in Tyrone. He was now a railroad engineer. They had four children living with them: Ada, Ira, Virgil and Richard. Blanche Pannebaker, a sister-in-law, age 14, was living with them, and probably helping with the children.  By 1910 they had moved to Rush Township, Centre County. This must have been a company town, since they were surrounded by other trainmen, foundry workers and coal miners. Five of the children were living with them: Ada, Foster, Virgil, Harry, and Karl. Richard had died in 1906 of diphtheria.

Harry died in 1928 in Tyrone. Jessie survived him for many years. She lived her last years with her son Karl and his wife Katie in Tyrone, and died there in August 1953. Harry and Jessie are buried at Grandview Cemetery in Tyrone.7 All of their children are buried in the Tyrone cemetery as well.

Children of Harry LaPorte and Jessie Pannebaker:

Ada Lyons, b. July 8, 1891, bapt. 1897, d. September 1976, m. John W. Long, son of  David & Elizabeth.  She was born in Osceola Mills, up north of Tyrone in the iron ore country.8  She grew up in Tyrone, married John Long in 1913 and had four sons: David, Joseph, Harry and Richard. She lived in Tyrone until the very end of her life when she moved to a nursing home in Hollidaysburg. She and John are buried in Tyrone.

Ira Foster, known as “Foss”, b. Nov. 11, 1894, bapt. July 1897, d. Jan. 3, 1975, m. Mildred “Mick” Sprankle in 1923. Served in the First World War, in France from May 1918 to May 1919. His unit was there for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the principal battle of American soldiers during the war. Did he learn electrical work while in the army? Foss worked as an electrician for the Pennsylvania Railroad for 42 years.9 He married Mildred Sprankle, known as “Mick”. Foss and Mick had no children together, but Foss adopted a son of Mick’s from her first marriage, William Plowman (who took LaPorte as his last name). Mick and Foss spent their winters in Arizona, where he died in 1975, and she died in 1980.10 They are buried in Tyrone.

Virgil Corbett, b. Jan. 14, 1896, bapt. July 1897, d. Sept. 1960, m. Zelda Hartman. Virgil grew up in Tyrone. In 1918 he was inducted into the army, like his brother Foss, and sent to France. He later claimed that he had been exposed to phosgene gas while there, either in the St. Mihiel sector or the Argonne forest.11 When he returned he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a machinist in the signal department. He married Zelda Hartman, daughter of David and Charlotte, before 1930, and moved to Perry County where he worked as a signal helper.12 Zelda died on Dec. 30, 1930. There were two stories in the family about her death: an ectopic pregnancy or an unspecified ailment due to food faddism.13 Virgil never married after her death. He was well-known in Tyrone for his athletic prowess, as an amateur wrester (system champion of the PRR competition), coach for swimming and basketball teams, and referee.14  He died in 1960 and is buried with Zelda at Eastlawn Cemetery, Tyrone.

Long man in a wrestling pose.
Virgil LaPorte as a wrestler (studio portrait)

Richard Porter, bapt. July 2, 1899, d. August 29, 1906 of diphtheria, buried in the Tyrone cemetery.15 There were other contagious diseases in Tyrone at the time of his death. The Tyrone Daily Herald reported a daily list of persons quarantined, and on August 31 Virgil LaPorte and Ada LaPorte were both quarantined. The State Department of Health published strict rules. People who died of certain diseases, including cholera, meningitis, diphtheria, yellow fever, scarlet fever had to be buried within thirty-six hours and there could be no funeral for them.

Harry Alvin, b. 1902, bapt July 1904, d. May 1969 in Pompano Beach, Florida, buried in Tyrone. Harry lived in Florida and never married. He travelled with a circus until he retired, then worked as a short-order cook.16 He died in Florida in 1969, but is buried in Tyrone.

Karl Eugene, b. Jan. 22, 1906, d. December 1976, m. Louella Kathleen Kaufman, “Katie”. Karl grew up in Tyrone, graduated from Juniata College, and became a teacher. He taught in the Tyrone schools for 39 years.17 He was an outstanding athlete, and coached football, baseball and basketball for the Tyrone teams. In December 1940 he married Louella Kathleen Kauffman, known as “Katie”, the daughter of Harry and Anne Eyer Kauffman.18 Karl and Katie had two children, Nancy and Terry.19 Karl died in 1976. Katie died in June 1982. They are buried together at Eastlawn Cemetery.

  1. Jessie Pannebaker had two brothers who ended up in Tyrone, Van and Alton, but not until later. She was the oldest of nine.
  2. Rev. W. H. Wilson, Tyrone of Today: Gateway of the Alleghenies, 1897, p. 58
  3. Wilson, pp. 76-77.
  4. Morning Tribune, Altoona, January 19, 1891, a license issued to Harry W. Laporte, of Tyrone, and Miss Jessie M. Pannebaker, of Mifflintown.
  5. The dates of birth are from the family Bible, originally David Long’s. When it was passed down to Ada LaPorte Long, she wrote in the dates of birth for her and her brothers, but apparently got two of them wrong, for Virgil and Karl. There are other sources, such as obituaries, to help settle the question.
  6. Penna. Church & Town Records 1708-1985, on Ancestry.
  7. They are not listed in Findagrave, which seems incomplete for the Tyrone cemetery. This is from his death certificate.
  8. Recollection of Harry H. Long.
  9. His obituary, Tyrone Daily Herald, Jan. 4, 1975
  10. She is in the 1920 census of Tyrone, living with her parents, a widow, teacher in a public school, mother of two young sons, William and Harold. Her married name was Plowman. (1920 census of Tyrone, Blair County, ward 6, District 122, image 23.)  No further records of Harold.
  11. His veteran’s pension application in February 1934.
  12. 1920 census
  13. From Harry H. Long and Nancy L. Jusick.
  14. Numerous mentions in the Tyrone Daily Herald, including 3/26/1921; 3/18/1927; 7/27/1936; 1/30/1937.
  15. Tyrone Daily Herald Necrology for 1906.
  16. Recollections of Harry H. Long
  17. His obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald of Dec. 10 1976.
  18. Anne died in childbirth and Harry later married Mary Dixon. (Recollections of Nancy LaPorte Jusick and Terry LaPorte).
  19. Nancy married Stephen Jusick, son of Stephen C. and Mary Jusick of Philipsburg. Stephen and Mary owned the Ramsdale Hotel in Philipsburg for years. Nancy and Stephen Jusick have two children, Stephen Kent and Jill. Jill married Mark Bentley in 1993. They have three sons. Terry LaPorte died in 2016 in Bel Air, Maryland.

Anson and Nancy LaPorte

Anson LaPorte as an older man, with a white mustache.

Anson Parson LaPorte was the grandfather of Ada LaPorte Long, and she remembered him, along with his brothers Hunter and Dolf. According to her, Anson worked for the Carnegie Company at one time and had an opportunity to go to Pittsburgh with Carnegie, but refused, thereby missing a chance to make the family fortune.1 She also believed that Anson drank too much. There is no evidence for either of these stories.

Anson was born in 1842 in on the family homestead in the Spruce Creek Valley. He learned the trade of wagon maker from his father John, and worked as a wagon maker or carpenter all his life.

When he was 21 he enlisted in the Civil War, where three of his brothers would also serve. His enlistment papers describe him as 5′ 8″, with gray eyes, light hair and a fair complexion. He served in two regiments. The 46th Regiment Militia Infantry was organized at Huntingdon on July 1, 1863, for the protection of Pennsylvania during Lee’s invasion. It was mustered out on August 18, 1863. The 205th Infantry Regiment, his second enlistment, saw more action. It participated in siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond, constructed fortifications at City Point, Virginia, supported the Weldon Railroad Expedition, fought at Fort Stedman and in the Appomattox Campaign, served at the assault on Petersburg, pursued Lee to Burkesville, and was mustered out on June 2, 1865. Anson rose to the rank of corporal and apparently survived the war with minimal ill effects, although years later he claimed a pension based on a fractured ankle caused by a fall at the Battle of Fort Stedman in Petersburg, on March 25, 1865.2

Between the two enlistments Anson married Nancy Ann Watson in Altoona in 1864. They moved in with her parents John and Mary Ann, in Franklin Township, and were still there in 1870, with three children: Harry, Ella and Charles. They owned no real estate and had just $200 in personal property.3  They moved to Orbisonia, down in Huntingdon County, for a few years, perhaps in search of more prosperous trade, then moved back up to Rock Springs, Centre County, not far from Spruce Creek. They were there in 1880, with six children, but moved to Tyrone the next year, about the time that Nancy had their last child.4

Five young women in their best dresses.


Daughters of Anson and Nancy Ann: probably from left to right, Ella, Carrie, Maggie, Mamie, Flossie. 5

Anson and Nancy lived on Bald Eagle Avenue in Tyrone. In 1900 they owned their house outright, with no mortgage. He was still working as a carpenter.  In 1898 he had the index finger of his right hand amputated; was this a woodworking accident?6

Seven of the children were living. Two of the daughters were still at home. Ella was “plain” and did not marry.7 Flossie was the youngest and not yet married. At some point Anson became a laborer in the paper mill.

Three old wood frame houses in a row.

Their house was the second from the corner (in the middle).

Nancy died in July 1906 of tuberculosis. After she died, Anson stayed in the house, with Ella to keep house for him. He died on July 22, 1913 at age 71.8 After this Ella moved to Altoona and worked as a seamstress in a dress shop.9 Anson and Nancy are buried in Grandview Cemetery in Tyrone.10

Children of Anson and Nancy:11

Harry Watson, b. 1865, d. 1928, m. 1891 Jessie May Pannebaker, dau. of Moses & Martha. He was an engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad, active in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Tyrone Division. He and Jessie had six children, five sons and a daughter. Jessie survived Harry by many years and died in 1953.12

Ella Irene, “Ella Rea”, b. 1868, d. 1944, wore her hair bobbed, did not marry, kept house for her father until his death, then moved to Altoona and supported herself as a seamstress in a dress shop .13 She sued her brother Harry at some time, for reasons no longer remembered, possibly over an inheritance from their parents.14

Charles Emmett, b. 1871 in Rock Springs, d. 1934 in Juniata County, m. ab. 1896 Minnie Goss, had one son, Ambrose. In 1910 they were living in Juniata Township, Blair County, where Charles was a car builder for the railroad. Ambrose went to college in Philadelphia to study pharmaceuticals, possibly the first child in the LaPorte family to go to college. Charles and Minnie lived in Altoona through 1930.15 In 1931 Minnie died. Charles went to live with his son Ambrose and wife Mildred in West Mont, Cambria County, where he died on May 17, 1934.16 He was clean-shaven and good-looking.17 He and Minnie are buried at Grandview Cemetery in Tyrone.

Caroline Carlton, “Carrie”, b. 1872, d. 1955, married David Mingle.  Caroline, known as Carrie, was very much a lady.18 She married David Mingle in 1895 and had sons David Blair, known as Blair, and Chester. In 1900 they were living in Tyrone, where David kept a general store with his brother. They sold groceries and dry goods on Pennsylvania Avenue, just below Eleventh Street.19 By 1930 Caroline and David moved out of town into Snyder Township, where David was working as a real estate broker. Blair was killed in a plane accident in 1919, while he was serving as a “naval flier”. David died in 1943 of a heart attack while driving his car near the paper mill in Tyrone.20 On July 2, 1949 Caroline was admitted to a nursing home in Altoona.21 She died in February 1955 in Vermilion, Ohio, probably in Chester’s home, but was buried in Tyrone.22

Sarah Margaret, “Maggie”, b. May 18, 1875 in Orbisonia, Huntingdon County, d. January 27, 1948, m. Frank Gardner on December 25, 1894.23 They lived at first in Snyder Township, Blair County, and started their family there. By 1910 they had moved into Tyrone and had three more children. In 1930 they were still on West 15th Street in Tyrone, where Frank was a manager for a planing mill. Most of their children had moved out. Frank died in January 1937. The contents of his estate, a meat cooler, slicer, cases, and more, suggest that he was running a butcher shop by then. Maggie died in 1948. She and Frank are buried at Grandview Cemetery.

Mary Ann,“Mamie”, b. 1878, m. Frank McIntyre of Pittsburgh. They were married on January 16, 1900 in Pittsburgh.24 He worked at first as a brakeman for the railroad. In 1900 they were in the lodging house of the widow Elizabeth Rush on Arch Street in Allegheny City. Ten years later they were still in Allegheny County. They In 1930 they were still there, with a daughter Nancy, age 16. Frank was a superintendent in a telephone company.25 No records have yet been found for them in the 1940 census or the PA death certificates.

Emma Florence, “Flossie”, b. 1881, d. 1966, m. David B. Shimer. She was the youngest of the children, and the one who moved farthest away from Tyrone. She married David Shimer on June 24, 1903, and they moved to Wilwaukee, where he was a foreman in a sheet metal plant. In 1930 they were living in Cleveland, Ohio, where David was still in the sheet metal business. She died in 1966 in Elyria, Ohio. David died in 1971. They are buried at Maple Grove Cemetery.26

  1. Is there any family in central Pennsylvania that does not have this story as part of its lore? Could she have confused Carnegie with George Anshutz, who operated an iron forge and later moved to Pittsburgh?
  2. 1890 veteran’s schedule for Blair County, on Ancestry.
  3. 1870 census, Franklin Township, image 19.
  4. The 1880 census and her obituary, which listed them as living in Rock Springs for a time.
  5. The picture is from cousin Richard Gardner. Maggie was his grandmother. Nettie Goss Bashore, daughter of their brother Charles, remembered them as “beautiful”. Ada LaPorte thought they were good looking, except for Ella. 
  6. Tyrone Daily Herald, Dec. 13, 1898, on Ancestry.
  7. According to Ada LaPorte. In the picture of the five daughters she is slightly less pretty than the others. Nettie Bashore said that all of the daughters were fast talkers.
  8. His death certificate: Anson Parson La Porte, widowed, born Feb. 12, 1842, laborer, paper mill, father, John LaPorte, mother Mary Jones, died July 22, 1913, from convulsions, apoplexy, nephritis, buried in Tyrone, July 24, 1913, died in Tyrone, information from Miss Ella Rea La Porte.
  9. 1920 census.
  10. LaPorte stones in the Tyrone cemetery. Anson P. LaPorte, 1842-1913. His wife Nancy A. LaPorte 1843-1906.  Veteran 61-65.
  11. From his veteran’s papers, with Ada’s recollections added. Some information is from Nettie Goss, sister of Minnie Goss, in a letter to her great-nephew Charles LaPorte.
  12. I remember her. In old age she was living with her son Karl and his wife Katie in Tyrone.
  13. 1920 census.
  14. Recollection of her niece Ada LaPorte Long.
  15. 1930 census, listed and indexed as Laport.
  16. Death certificate for Charles. 1940 census for Ambrose, indexed as LaPart.
  17. His picture on an Ancestry tree.
  18. Recollections of Ada LaPorte Long. 
  19. 1900 census, recollections of Nettie Goss, Tyrone of Today, online.
  20. His obit in the Huntingdon Daily News, Jan 21, 1943.
  21. Tyrone Daily Herald, July 2, 1949.
  22. Altoona Mirror obituary index, online. I have no records for Chester after the 1940 census. 
  23. Her obituary in the Huntingdon Daily News, Jan. 28, 1948.
  24. Tyrone Daily Herald, Jan. 18, 1900. 
  25. 1930 census. I cannot find them in the 1920 census. Nancy is the only known child in her generation named for the grandparents Anson and Nancy LaPorte.
  26. Ohio Obituary Index, on Ancestry, citing the Vermilion Photojournal newspaper of March 31, 1966; also Findagrave.