• Kristin Wenger

"All But One" (#52Ancestors week 12: Misfortune)

Allow me to introduce you to a young, thriving family.

[1]

On 15 June 1880, the family consisted of a couple in their late twenties: Frank and Amanda (Hornberger) Dussinger and their four young children: Wilson (age five), Alice (four), Clara (two), and baby Sallie, who had just been born in February. Amanda’s widowed mother, Christianna Hornberger, also lived with the family, most likely providing extra care for her grandchildren. Frank’s occupation as the village blacksmith indicates that he was probably able to provide well for his growing family. With four children under the age of five, we can imagine that this home was a busy place full of the joy that such little children bring.


By March 1882, less than two years later, the house would only hold sorrow and silence.

The family’s misfortune began in January 1881, when baby Sarah (Sallie) died.[2]

The newspaper erroneously reported Sarah's age as 9 months rather than 11 months.

[3]

Seven months later, Amanda died of consumption, meaning that her body wasted away from pulmonary tuberculosis.[4]


[5]

Having lost his beloved wife and youngest child, Frank somehow managed to carry on through the fall and winter of 1881-1882. Perhaps his mother-in-law continued to help with the three remaining children while he pounded out his heartache in his blacksmith shop. But just as spring began, unimaginable misfortune fell upon their home as scarlet fever claimed the lives of Wilson, Alice, and Clara.[6]



Wilson's gravestone. The stones for Alice and Clara are nearly illegible from weathering. [7]


How much grief can one human soul bear? I cannot fathom losing my spouse and all of my children. I had to find out what happened to Frank. Did he ever find happiness again?

Two years later, Frank did remarry.[8] Frank and his second wife, Susan, moved to Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania and had four children together: May, Calvin, Margaret, and John.[9] Frank lived for more than 20 years with his second family before he died in 1905.[10]

There is one final twist to this story. One would assume that after more than twenty years of marriage, Frank would be buried with Susan in Reading. However, he chose to return to his first love, Amanda, and their four little children in his final resting place. The family of six is buried together at Salem Lutheran Church of Kissel Hill, with the children’s graves hemmed in by their parents on either end.[11]



What does Frank’s choice reveal? I believe the cumulative sorrow of losing his wife and four small children in quick succession was so great that he longed to reunite with them so that it could finally be “well with his soul.”


I could not help but think of the man who wrote the lyrics to the well-known hymn “It is Well With My Soul” as I told Frank’s story. Horatio Spafford penned the words after the loss of his four children in 1873. He and his wife had previously lost their only son to scarlet fever.[12]

This video shares the story behind “It is Well With My Soul”


Some final notes:

  • My local friends in Warwick School District will recognize New Haven, now called Kissel Hill. This map depicts the area in 1875, shortly before Frank became a blacksmith there. If you zoom in on the lower left corner of the map, you will see the village of New Haven as it was in 1875. Some of the Dussingers’ closest neighbors in the 1880 census can be found on the map.[13]

  • I found Frank, Amanda, and their children while researching members of the Hornberger family (my maiden name) who are buried at Salem Lutheran Church of Kissel Hill. This church is quite near my children’s elementary school and I drive past it on almost a daily basis. In fact, I taught in Warwick’s Religious Release program inside this church before I ever realized that my 4x and 5x great-grandparents worshipped there and were buried there![14]

  • This church was organized in 1823 and built in 1824.[15] My 5x great-grandparents, John and Sabina (Conrad) Stormfeltz appear to have been some of the earliest members, with their names appearing in the records as early as March 1826 for the baptism of one of their children.[16] It is amazing to realize that, nearly 200 years later and without knowing it when we moved, my husband and I chose to live in the exact same area where my ancestors lived!

  • Although I often wish I could experience living in the past, when I think about illness and disease, I am extremely thankful to live in the present day. Modern medicine has given us vaccinations against many contagious illnesses that previously took the lives of so many children. Even though we've made great progress, we can never take life for granted. Hug your spouse and kids today and tell them that you love them!


More Misfortune:

A number of my #52Ancestors stories from previous weeks would also qualify for this topic. If you missed any of them, click the links to read more. Whatever you are facing today, hopefully their challenges will put things in perspective!


Sources:

[1] 1880 U.S. census, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Warwick Township, Village of New Haven, ED 118, p. 25 (penned), p. 307 (stamped), dwelling 215, family 241, Frank Dussinger household; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 March 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1140.


[2] “Died: Dussinger,” The Lititz Record (Lititz, Pennsylvania), 28 January 1881, p.3, col. 5; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library (http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slchs-lnp1/id/23247/rec/2 : accessed 19 March 2018).


[3] Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery (26 Owl Hill Road, Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), Sarah Dussinger gravestone; personally read, 16 March 2018.


[4] “Amanda Dussinger,” The Lititz Record (Lititz, Pennsylvania), 2 September 1881, p.3, col. 4; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library (http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slchs-lnp1/id/23666/rec/19 : accessed 19 March 2018). For definition of consumption, see “Consumption, definition 3,” Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consumption : accessed 19 March 2018).


[5] Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery (26 Owl Hill Road, Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), Amanda T. Dussinger gravestone; personally read, 16 March 2018.


[6] “All But One,” The Lititz Record (Lititz, Pennsylvania), 31 March 1882, p. 3, col. 5; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library (http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slchs-lnp1/id/23030/rec/22 : accessed 19 March 2018).


[7] Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery (26 Owl Hill Road, Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), Wilson, Alice, and Clara Dussinger gravestones; personally read, 16 March 2018.


[8] “Married: Dussinger-Behmer,” The Lititz Record (Lititz, Pennsylvania), 23 May 1884, p. 3, col. 5; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library (http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slchs-lnp1/id/23460/rec/24 : accessed 19 March 2018).


[9] “Former Resident of Neffsville Died at Reading,” The Lititz Record (Lititz, Pennsylvania), 17 August 1922, p. 6, col. 2; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library (http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slchs-lnp1/id/14205/rec/3 : accessed 19 March 2018). See also, 1900 U.S. census, Berks County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Reading, Ward 7, 2nd Precinct, enumeration district (ED) 68, sheet 2-B, dwelling 39, family 40, Frank Dussinger household; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 March 2018); citing National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) microfilm publication T623, roll 1426.


[10] “Native of Kissel Hill Dies in Reading,” The Lititz Record (Lititz, Pennsylvania), 17 November 1905, p. 3, col. 3; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library (http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slchs-lnp1/id/8206/rec/3 : accessed 19 March 2018).


[11] Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery (26 Owl Hill Road, Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), Frank C. [Z], Amanda T., Wilson, Alice, Clara, and Sarah Dussinger gravestones; personally read, 16 March 2018.


[12] Aaron Francis, “It Is Well With My Soul: The Story Behind the Hymn - Horatio Spafford,” 17 July 2014, video, YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvq3pYsHidA : accessed 20 March 2018).


[13] “Warwick,” Lancaster County 1875 (Everts & Stewart, 1875); digital image, Historic Map Works: Residential Genealogy (http://www.historicmapworks.com/Map/US/14361/Warwick/Lancaster+County+1875/Pennsylvania/ : accessed 20 March 2018).


[14] Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery (26 Owl Hill Road, Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), Samuel Hornberger, Catherine (Stormfeltz) Hornberger, John Stormfeltz, and Sabina (Conrad) Stormfeltz gravestones; personally read, 16 March 2018.


[15] A. Hunter Rineer, Jr., “Warwick Township,” Churches and Cemeteries of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania: A Complete Guide (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Lancaster County Historical Society, 1993), 414.


[16] Salem Lutheran Church of Kissel Hill (Lititz, Pennsylvania), register of baptisms, entry for Henrietta Stormfeltz, born 13 February 1826, baptized 16 March 1826, parents John and Sabina Stormfeltz, page 37; church office, Salem Lutheran Church of Kissel Hill.

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