When in doubt, go to the primary sources...
I had a grand time doing just that on Tuesday. As I wrote about the Harter line, I questioned my original data and had "decided" that John's parents were George and Elizabeth, not John and Mary. However, I had only census data and on line information to go on. Tuesday I drove to Columbia City to see what I could find.
I started at the health department, and indeed they had the abstract from the death certificate for John Harter. His parents are given as George Harter and Elizabeth Geiger. John died on August 24, 1902 of heart disease and was buried at Eel River Cemetery. This is our guy!
Next I went to the file management section, in the basement, and looked at an administration packet for George Harter, who died in 1854. Imagine! I was touching papers that were almost 160 years old! I got copies of the estate sale (Elizabeth bought some things, as did John, and other family members, although I haven't fully analyzed it yet) and of the final settlement of the estate. No will was found.
Finally, I went to the recorder's office, and looked at the deed where George and Elizabeth sold land to John in 1851, shortly before his marriage. I also accidentally found a deed dated November 1, 1851, where George and Elizabeth sold land to the trustees of the United Brethren in Christ church (actually, they donated it, because the price was $1), and George Harter was a trustee. Anthony Geiger was also a trustee, but I haven't figured out yet whether this was Elizabeth's father, or her brother. So we now know their religion, at least in Indiana.
Finally, I went to the Peabody library and found this obituary for John, dated August 27, 1902, from the Columbia City Post:
"Death of Another Pioneer
John Harter, one of the oldest settlers of Smith township, died Sunday evening after a long spell of sickness. His wife preceeded him to the eternal world several years, and from the time of her death, he made his home with the different grown children that survive their parents. Mr. Harter had by industry and hard work accumulated much of this world's goods, and by his honest dealings had made a host of friends. He was a staunch church member, and a strong believer in democracy.
The deceased was in his seventy-second year, having spent the most of his life in this county. The funeral occurred Tuesday forenoon at the Eel River church, and the remains were laid to rest in the church cemetery."
There are few specific facts in the obituary, but it does give us a sense of the character of the man and the way he lived his life.
I'm glad I found all this information, and you can bet I'll be going back to the Recorder's office. I have a lot of people in the Harshbarger line who may or may not have owned land, and I want to trace them, $1 at a time. (Copies are $1 a page, and I didn't take nearly enough money with me on this trip. I know better now.)
Also I can now continue working on the Harter, Geiger, Miller, Kitterman, Kirk, and other lines as I have time. All those names, and more, are on the on-line trees, so this will really be fun! Happy dance again!
The line of descent is:
George Harter and Elizabeth Geiger
John Harter and Mary Bennett
Clara (Clarissa?) Harter and Emanuel Harshbarger
Grover Harshbarger and Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger and Mary Margaret Beeks