The new and the old
In the winter of 1787, Pennsylvania-German immigrant Johannes “Heinrich” Junghen died on his farm in Bucks County at the age of 70. His remains were placed into repose in the burying ground of what became Keller’s Lutheran Church Cemetery or St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, eight miles east of the town of Perkasie.
A small sandstone marker was placed on the grave, with his name and dates of birth and death inscribed in his native German in precise capital lettering perfectly aligned.
At the time of his death, Heinrich had been in America for about 26 years, a little more than a quarter of a century. He owned a farm of 118 acres which straddled Bedminster and Haycock Townships in Bucks County, not far from the plantations in Tinicum and Nockamixon Townships owned by his brother Herman. As a mark of his loyalty to his new country, Heinrich signed an oath of allegiance to the newly formed United States of America during the Revolutionary War.
Some 38 years after Heinrich’s death, in 1825, his widow Catharina (Scherer) Youngken passed away and was placed into repose in the same cemetery, about 50 yards away, with her inscription written in English.
And so their markers sat, upright, visible and legible to anyone who came. They remained in place for decades, then for centuries, strong and solid. The stones remained a mute and rare reminder that this husband-and-wife existed even as their living legacy of nine children fanned out to points west and produced 60 known grandchildren and untold numbers of great-grandchildren who made unique marks upon Americana.
The volunteer installation team at work
As their adopted nation was plunged into Civil War, more than 140 of their direct descendants and spouses are known to have taken up arms. The Junghens’ stones stood, motionless, as the nation evolved into Reconstruction, World War, Great Depression, world wars redux, the Sexual Revolution, the moon landing, Watergate, Music TV, The Internet, smart phones, The Donald and much, much more.
More than 15 of his direct descendants married into the Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor family prior to the Second World War.
And their offspring visited at times to pay respects. In 1937, Heinrich and Catherine were written about in a national Younkin family newspaper published by a double great-great-great-great-grandson.
In April 1977, at the request of her father Joseph Warren Thomas III – of the family of Michael Ansell Firestone – Philadelphia art student Deborah Thomas drove to Keller’s, photographed Heinrich’s marker and wrote out the German lettering on the grave inscription. She mailed them to her father, who in turn sent a copy to Loree (Morrison) Cross in Anderson, Indiana, of the family of Indiana pioneer Isaac Younkin.
Some 167 years after Catharina’s death, in 1992, Donna (Younkin) Logan — of the family of Aaron Schrock Younkin — and Loretta (Adams) Kelldorf — of the Col. John C. Younkin branch — visited the cemetery and videotaped their tour. (It was Donna’s second visit, the first of which she made with her father.)
In 2008, descendants Linda Marker (of the Frederick J. Younkin line) and Everett and Christine Sechler (of the Rev. Herman Younkin branch) paid their respects and captured images of the markers in higher resolution and quality. Others came on their own and quietly felt the spiritual connection, among them Barbara (Younkin) Park, of the line of Devil Jake Younkin, and Jill Younkin of the families of Weasel Jake Younkin and Frederick J. Younkin. No doubt there have been others.
Kneeling, L-R: Susan Moon, Jill Younkin. Standing, L-R:
Mark Miner, Nancy Koontz, Linda Marker, Laurel Piersel,
Barbara Park, Everett Sechler, Thomas Bitner, Randolph Henry
For cousin Everett Sechler, the experience of their legacy was profound, but also his recognition of the deterioration that time and the elements have wrought. He saw that the stone listed strongly to one side and that it was heavily chipped in places. He envisioned a time someday when the lettering would vanish into oblivion and with it the tangible evidence of the man’s existence and German heritage.
And so as treasurer of the Junghen-Younkin Reunion, Everett inspired a team of cousin volunteers to take a bold step. At the July 2018 reunion, attendees voted to proceed with installation of a second marker, to be placed next to but without disturbing the original. Arrangements were made, funding authorized, and on May 7, 2019, the new marker was installed by a group of 11 cousins who traveled from three states to be part of the experience. In addition to Everett and his wife Christine, the team included Thomas Bitner, Randall Henry, Nancy Koontz, Linda Marker, Susan (Younkin) Moon, Barbara Park, Laurel (Sanner) Piersel and Jill Younkin in addition to the author of this post.
As Everett wrote in an email to the group, it was the “fulfillment of a duty that has been needed to be done for future generations.”
The new stone itself measures 12 inches by 24 inches, weighs 150 lbs. and, appropriately, was quarried in Pennsylvania.
It was a humbling honor to be part of the team and to be asked to write the inscription for the marker. It’s also been my privilege to write a biography of the immigrant Junghens and post it on my website, helping propel their story with new communications technology further into the future where hopefully others will find meaning and inspiration.
Social media and the web will continue to educate an estimated quarter-of-a-million Younkin offspring alive today that these immigrants are responsible in part for every single one of our lives.