I don't often write about women in the family, simply because they are not easy to research. I think about them a lot, though, and when I find a bit of information about someone I rejoice.
This is the obituary for Catherine Mentzer (Mancer), who married Lewis Harshbarger on February 26, 1852 in Summit County, Ohio. It comes from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, of Tuesday, September 1, 1914, page 2.
"Whitley County Resident Dies."
"Mrs. Catherine Mancer Harshbarger, widow of the late Lewis Harshbarger, who made her home with her daughter, Mrs. Samuel A. Smith, near the Compton church in Union township, died Monday morning from heart troubles that afflicted her for over two years. Katherine Mancer was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, on April 30, 1830 and was in her 85th year. She moved to Summit county, Ohio with her parents and was married to her deceased husband, who passed away forty years ago. Nine children blessed the union, five living, they being Milo, Emanuel and Henry Harshbarger, Mrs. Samuel Smith, all of this county, and Mrs. George Beatty, of Fort Wayne. Funeral Wednesday at 2 o'clock p.m., Rev. L.A. Luckenbill officiating. Interment in the Egolf cemetery, Thorncreek township."
I knew most of the facts in the obituary but it's always nice to have them written down so neatly, and it allows one to wonder. First, I wondered exactly when the Mentzer family moved from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to Summit County, Ohio. I don't know exactly when it was, but the family was there in 1840, in Franklin township, under the name Coaured Mincer (don't ask, I don't know how the name got so mangled.) It looks like her mother, Elizabeth Tullepen, may have been dead by then because Conrad is listed as being 40-49, but there is no one in the right age group to be Elizabeth. Lea and Caroline, Catherine's sisters, are there, and a male aged 10-14 who may or may not be brother Joel (age is off by a couple of years. Perhaps Joel had already left home and there was another son of whom I know nothing?)
So Catherine would have been just a young girl when the family left Lancaster County and went to Summit County. Did they go by river, or canal, or overland? At any rate, it must have been a very interesting trip, and I hope Catherine learned to like traveling. A few years after her marriage to Lewis, the family moved, in about 1859, to Union Township, Whitley County, Indiana. Again, this would not have been an easy trip, although it is possible that much of the trip was by canal. Lewis was joining his brother John and the families lived side by side in Union Township. They had to build their homes and farms from the ground up, as it was basically wilderness with at most, a log cabin and a few acres of cleared field when they arrived.
The obituary mentions 5 living children for Catherine and Lewis, but doesn't mention the three children that didn't survive. Burying three children was not unusual for a pioneer family, but it wasn't easy, either, especially for a mother. It also wasn't easy to lose a husband, but Lewis died in 1875. Most women with young children in the family would quickly remarry, but Catherine stayed single. The 1880 census shows her with three children still at home, ranging from 10 to 14 years old. They were old enough to help with the farming by then, but those first five years of widowhood must have been physically very demanding. How did she do it? She stayed on the farm as long as she could, it appears, for she is still there in 1900, by herself now and 70 years old. Even in 1910, she is still there, although daughter Lovina, now 53, is with her. Could she have supported herself by renting out the farm, or did she have some other means of making an income? Did her children support her financially? I would like to know how she survived, and how long she managed to stay in her own home before dying at her daughter's home.
Meanwhile, I'd like to honor this ancestor of my children. She is a woman to be admired for her stamina and strength, and her determination to raise her family herself.
The line of descent is
Lewis Harshbarger-Catherine Mentzer
Emanuel Harshbarger-Clara Harter
Grover Harshbarger-Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks