David Wilson Fegely’s Hand-Colored, Pennsylvania-German Birth & Baptismal Certificate from 1851

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Among of the most enduring cultural contributions of Pennsylvania Germans of the late 1700s and 1800s were highly decorated birth and baptismal certificates, known as “taufschein.” Originating in Berks County, PA — where Friedrich and Eva Maria (Weber) Meinert Sr. settled in the 1730s — the art form is highly prized today for originality and color as well as valuable genealogical information about the child and his or her parents and sponsors.

This taufschein was commissioned by the Meinerts’ great-grandson and his wife James and Mary (Bernhardt) Fegely of Longswamp Township, Berks County for their son David “Wilson” Fegely. Born on May 30, 1851 in nearby Lower Macungie Township, Lehigh County, Wilson was baptized at age four months, on Sept. 25, 1851, by Rev. Jeremias Schindel of the Lutheran wing of Solomon’s Church. David and Sallie (Trollinger) Hertzog stood for the infant as his sponsors.

As a teenager, Wilson received formal religious instruction and was confirmed by Rev. D.K. Humbert in the Longswamp Church.

This taufschein measures 16¼ inches by 13¾ inches and was pre-printed in black ink, as a fill-in-the blank form, by Plumer, Butch and Co. of Allentown. It was hand-colored by the artist using decorative figures of angels, an eagle and birds using gold, red and green watercolors. The layout not only includes a central rectangular space with Wilson’s hand-lettered birth and baptism particulars, but also smaller rectangular spaces above to the left and right, and below, with pre-printed inspirational writings. Approximate translations into English are provided below, with thanks to Linda Marker — of the family of Frederick J. and Delilah (Faidley) Younkin — for her work on the translation, applying her knowledge of the oddities of Pennsylvania German dialect.

To study detailed scans of this taufschein, including the handwriting as well as the inspirational texts, visit the Minerd.com Photo of the Month for March 2019.

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Speckled Legacy: Tom Custer in American Pop Culture

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The Little Big Horn Associates’ Research Review Magazine

When first becoming aware of our Minerd-Miner family’s connection with General George Armstrong Custer’s brother Tom, I was deeply moved by the fact that the general was not the only Custer to die at Little Bighorn. In fact four of his immediate relatives – two brothers, a brother in law and a nephew – also gave their lives on the field that fateful afternoon. It should have been an American tragedy for all time. Instead, at best, the story has been treated in American popular culture as a mere footnote.

The Little Big Horn Associates, a national organization devoted to promoting the exchange of knowledge on the life and times of the general and the battle, is changing that discourse. In fact, its Research Review Magazine has just published my article, “Speckled Legacy: Tom Custer in American Pop Culture.” The piece surveys the photographs, news and magazine articles, books, stage plays, and television and movie films which have influenced Americans’ limited perceptions of Tom.

The Custer disaster at Little Bighorn mirrors the epic story of the five Sullivan brothers whose dramatic tale is much better known. The siblings – George, Frank, Joe, Matt and Al – all perished together after their U.S. Navy cruiser, the Juneau, when torpedoed at Guadalcanal during World War II. Their saga was trumpeted nationwide in news stories and wire photos and even became a 1944 Hollywood film, The Fighting Sullivans, starring Anne Baxter and Thomas Mitchell. It led the U.S. War Department to bolster its rules about separating siblings in military service, known as the “Sole Survivor Policy.” And the policy was central to Steven Spielberg’s 1998 blockbuster film Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Tom Sizemore.

Beyond his death at the Bighorn, Thomas Ward “Tom” Custer, younger brother of General George Armstrong Custer, made his mark on Americana in many ways – as a Civil War hero who won two Medals of Honor; as a brother-in-law who charmed the general’s wife Elizabeth “Libbie” (Bacon) Custer; and as a fighter for the U.S. Seventh Cavalry on the Great Plains during the Sioux Wars.

In death, Tom has not been ignored in American popular culture, but his presence has been more speckled and uneven. He just never has received his “big break” into the limelight until the dawn of the 21st century, and even then, the effect has been limited.

Tom could have been a posthumous folk hero. Perhaps the best known legends about him, which could have become larger story lines, are his feud with Chief Rain in the Face, who vowed to cut out and eat Tom’s heart (and may well have); the run-ins with lawman/gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok in Kansas; and his well-earned reputation as a heavy drinker and womanizer, including a sexual relationship with my own cousin, Rebecca Minerd.

In the most famous Custer film of all – They Died with Their Boots On, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland – Tom’s persona is noticeably absent. The film reportedly was Warner Bros.’ second biggest hit of 1941 and has inspired many to become interested in the Custer story. Despite intimate scenes where the general made important decisions, settled barroom brawls and planned for battle, where Tom could have played a meaningful big screen role, he was not written into the script.

Any legend typically has a core of truth which has staying power as it takes on new meanings and twists over time. A legend often requires that others, perhaps motivated to exploit the story to make money, add their own interpretation and shadows. All of these factor into Tom’s legacy. Some of what we know today bears little resemblance to actual facts, but the paper archaeology tracing the development and continuance of Tom-related stories in our culture’s mass media is fascinating and enhances our understanding.

It was not until 2002 – some 126 years after the Bighorn battle – that Tom’s story was featured in two full-length biographies. One was authored by Carl Day, Tom Custer: Ride to Glory. Roy Bird also published a lesser known biography about the same time, In His Brother’s Shadow, later re-issued under the title The Better Brother: Tom & George Custer and the Battle for the American West.

This study could not have been possible without early encouragement from Beverly (Hansen) Miner, Carl Day and the late Brian Pohanka, and over the years from LBHA friends Fr. Vincent Heier, the late Joan Croy, J. Jefferson “Jeff” Broome, the late John “Jack” Manion, the late W. Don Horn, Don Schwarck, Bill Serritella, Bruce Liddic, Lowell Smith and Vicki Trego Hill.

Minerd.com Annual Review 2018: A Report for Family and Friends

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Now in its 19th year online, the main focus for Minerd.com in 2018 was bringing to life more of the lost stories of forgotten Pennsylvania German families and their impact on Americana. The numbers bear out the incessant activity of adding new material, up in some areas, down in others but always in motion generating content.

View the Annual Review 2018: A Report for Family and Friends >>>

The 2018 focus primarily was in four ways – biography research for the Pennsylvania German family of Elizabeth (Meinert) Gaumer of Berks and Lehigh Counties, Pennsylvania and Muskingum County, Ohio, and creation of the online Gaumer Archives – research of newly discovered Civil War soldiers in the Minerd-Miner, Younkin-Younken and  Hinerman families, including National Archives soldier pension research in Washington, DC and a tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield – completion of publication the Nett-Helen Letters, a project which has taken seven years to complete – and a deeper dive into the German-ness of our forbears with an examination of the remarkable endurance of the culture and values over many generations.

I love sharing this obsession with any who share even a sliver of interest. To my continuing amazement, the stories never stop coming, nor the images, thanks to sharing by our cousins far and wide. The site remains a source of fascination, surprise, exhaustion and eye-opening learning, proving more than ever how inter-connected our Pennsylvania-German families are, despite the passage of some 300 or so years since our ancestors arrived in America.

If you wish to contact me, I’d love to hear from you. My response may be slow, as I’m juggling two self-employed businesses, plus a few non-profit boards. I’m hoping to have more time in 2019 to devote to the work. So please be patient.

Thank you again to everyone who has contributed your special part from your own family’s trove of family treasures. This site is for you, and would not be possible without you.

Ziegfeld Follies Showgirl Hazel Forbes

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Less than a year after the death of his first wife, wealthy cosmetics executive Paul Owen Richmond was introduced to Ziegfeld Follies showngirl Hazel Forbes, and they quickly agreed to marry. The son of Owen and Matilda (Hoyman) Richmond, of the family of Rev. John and Susanna (Sturtz) Hoyman, Paul was a native of Prospect, Marion County, Ohio and had left home at the age of 18 to work for R.L. Watkins Company. He eventually was promoted to vice president of the Cleveland-based firm and was considered by the press as a millionaire. At its height, the Watkins firm employed 1,000 people and produced 150 different brands of soap, medicines and cosmetics in 11 different U.S. cities.

The 46-year-old Paul and 21-year-old Hazel were joined in holy wedlock in April 1931 in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Kennedysville, MD following a cruise on his yacht, accompanied by her mother. Hazel was divorced from her first husband, an automobile salesman, and in agreeing to marry Paul, pledged to give up her career and become a “musical comedy prima donna.”

But fate cruelly intervened. Less than a year later, Paul was stricken with double pneumonia and treated in Harbor Sanatorium in Manhattan, NY. Hazel sat at his bedside throughout the ordeal until his death on Jan. 16, 1932. His remains were transported to his Ohio hometown for burial. Their marriage had lasted for a mere nine months. Said a newspaper, “Since Richmond’s death … she has refused to accept offers for parts in new Broadway shows, saying that she will continue to obey the wishes of her husband and never return to the stage.”

Hazel’s promise did not last. She inherited Paul’s millions in cash and Watkins stock and lived a long life. For a time, she tried to participate in Watkins management but the business world was not to her liking. She sold her stock and pursued movie parts with poor success. She got her break in 1934, when she was cast in the RKO Pictures comedy film Down to Their Last Yacht, starring Mary Boland, Polly Moran and Ned Sparks. The plot features a wealthy family turned poor in the 1929 Wall Street crash who become so desperate that they rent their yacht for a host of misadventures. This image is a publicity photograph to promote that film, showing her at the entrance to her Hollywood Hills home. Enlarge this image>>>

She married for a third time in Miami Beach in 1938 and then a fourth in the early 1940s. More>>>

Warm Weather’s A-comin’ — Mark Your Calendar

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Our family is massive, probably numbering 50,000 or more walking the planet today. Our 2019 national reunion will be a time for you to meet all-new cousins, make new friends and share some of the history of your branch. We won’t gather again until 2021.

Not all 50,000 will come. If they did, we’d have to rent Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers. That would break our budget.

Our main event will be the Saturday picnic at the Day’s Inn Hotel in Donegal, PA, located just a few hundred yards from from Exit 91 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and a two-hour drive from the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Attendance at our 2017 “Selfies” bash was 51 guests, who came from nine states, including the furthest-traveled from Texas, and from 16 towns in southwestern Pennsylvania. Surely we can do better. Let’s see if we can double this number this year! Are you game?

Use MapQuest to map your route. Or set your GPS to 3620 State Route 31, Donegal, PA.

~ Friday Evening Dinner, June 21 ~ We will plan to meet for our traditional “pre-game” meal in the early evening at a local restaurant, Out of the Fire, just a short distance from the Days Inn. Stay tuned for details.

~ Traditional Saturday Picnic, June 22 ~ 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ~ If you live locally, please bring a meat dish, side dish or a dessert to share, while we will provide cold soft drinks and hot coffee. No alcoholic beverages allowed, as per longstanding policy. Keepsake prizes will be given away, such as small quilts, magnets, potted plants and books. Tables will be set up so that you may display keepsake heirlooms old photo albums, letters, artifacts — for all to enjoy.

~ Sunday Morning, June 23 ~ We are making plans for Sunday morning which may include attending the 10:40 a.m. worship services at the historic Indian Creek Baptist Church in Mill Run, where the father of us all, Jacob Minerd Sr., rests for eternity, as does his daughter Martha (Minerd) Imel Harbaugh, many grandchildren and scores of great-grandchildren and beyond.

~ Why the Pittsburgh Region? ~ Southwestern Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh are the epicenter of our clan’s founding in the United States of America following the American Revolution. In 1791, patriot and war veteran Jacob Minerd Sr. settled there near Maple Summit on the mountainous border of Fayette and Somerset Counties. He and his wife Mary had a dozen children, who in turn spawned 87 grandchildren, 469 great-grandchildren and 1,344 great-great grandchildren, for a total of 1,912 lives, virtually all born before the year 1900. Today, their descendants and spouses number an estimated 50,000 or more, and are scattered all over the world — but regardless of a cousin’s homeplace today, their roots are here.

~ Details ~ >>>more

Howard Lepley and His Doomed Crewmates of the B-24 Bomber, ‘Little Sheppard’

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Howard stands 2nd from right

Howard Philip Lepley (1923-1944) stands second from right with fellow crew members of the doomed World War II B-24 bomber, “Little Sheppard,” otherwise known by its identification number 44-40107 of the 714th Bomber Squadron, 448th Bomber Group. The aircraft was shot down over Evreux, France on June 10, 1944, just four days after D-Day. Howard and four other crewmen were killed in the action, while five survived and were taken as prisoners of war. His body was recovered and buried in Europe.

Others in the image, killed in action unless otherwise marked — front, left to right: pilot Ray Towles of Vernon, TX, co-pilot Hugh Harries of Hays, KS (POW), navigator Art Zander of Chicago (POW), bombardier John Bloznelis of New York City (not on last mission). Back, L-R: tail gunner Cyrus Packer of Clinton, OK, right-waist gunner Andy Novak of Chicago (POW), flight engineer/gunner Mabron Johnson of Frisco, TX, ball turret gunner Earl Taylor of Santana, KS (POW, later died of injuries) and left-waist gunner Bob Johnson of Boston (POW). Not pictured: bombardier Thomas K. Foster of Spokane, WA.

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A descendant of Jacob and Elizabeth”Betsy” (Sturtz) Comp, Howard grew up in Wellersburg and was a seventh generation resident of Somerset County, PA. He learned the trade of carpentry and was employed by Consolidation Coal Company in or around Hyndman, PA. He was a member and taught Sunday School in the Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church in Wellersburg. During World War II, on Dec. 4, 1942, the 19-year-old joined the U.S. Army Air Force and trained as a radio operator, holding the rank of technical sergeant.

News of his missing in action status was printed in the Pittsburgh Press and Altoona (PA) Mirror, among others. Four years after his death, his parents and Uncle Jesse Lepley made a significant donation in his memory to the Zion church, consisting of hand-crafted chancel furniture and furnishings including an altar, altarcloths, pulpit, lectern, cross, candlesticks and vases. A story about the gift was published in the Cumberland (MD) Evening Times on July 8, 1948. After the war, Howard’s remains were among those shipped back to the United States for re-interment. In July 1949, a funeral service was held in the family church, with graveside military honors provided by the Old Rail Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Mount Savage. He rests for all time in Cook Cemetery near Wellersburg.

This rare image graciously has been provided by Jason Danielson.

Santa Claus and the Missouri Pacific Lines Railroad

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Santa Claus watching over sleeping kids graced the cover of the December 1927 issue of the Missouri Pacific Lines Magazine of the St. Louis-based railroad which made significant expansions into Texas and Louisiana in the 1920s and ’30s. The publication was edited by Edward Harlan “E.H.” McReynolds, an early Missouri newspaperman, who was hired in 1923 as assistant to the president and director of publicity-advertising.

Over the span of his 14-year career, his name graced the masthead of each and every issue. Edward once wrote of his gratification in the “continuous publication of what has come to be widely acclaimed as one of the outstanding employe magazines in America.”

The MOPAC magazine was a substantial production of work, sometimes totaling as many as 88 pages. It carried articles about the company’s financial performance, operations and personnel as well as reports from its individual sections, from St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha to Memphis and Houston, and many smaller towns in between. Inside the inaugural edition’s front cover was a message to all employees: “The Missouri Pacific Magazine is yours! We need your help to make it the best of its kind in America… We want lots of pictures!” It included a letter to all employees by new President Lewis W. Baldwin.

Included over the years were pieces on charitable organizations such as the Boy Scouts and apple blossom festival organized by the Missouri River Apple Growers. The railroad’s booster clubs all along the rail lines contributed articles, and there were numerous photographs of employee sports teams, children’s photos and various special interest groups. Stories promoted safety, chess tips and an honor roll of deceased employees. The inaugural issue also contained a political cartoon showing a snake — labeled “Bolshevism” — threatening “your liberty” – “your home” – “your job” – “your money.”

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View the MOPAC magazine archive on Minerd.com >>> 

More about Edward’s tragic end >>>