February 18, 2011

The Witzgall Family

Just as Philip Delph, my great-great grandfather, came west into Henry County, so did his future wife's family, the Witzgalls.  
 Elizabeth C. Witzgall, my great-great grandmother, was born in Manchester, Summit County, Ohio (just south of Akron) on May 4, 1849, to William Witzgall and Henrietta Smith.  She was their first child.

In the 1850 census, taken on November 13, 1850, Elizabeth was one year old, living with her father, William Witscold, 29, a weaver, and his wife, Henrietta, 27.  Both of Elizabeth’s parents were born in Germany.  Some time in 1853, William moved his family to Monroe Township, Henry County, Ohio, where he purchased land.

On June 25, 1860, the census taker found William and Henrietta Witzgall with a decidedly larger family.  William, now 39 years old, listed himself as a farmer with real estate valued at $1000 and personal property worth $310.  His wife, Henrietta, and oldest child, Elizabeth, 11, were joined by other family members – Caroline, 9; Sarah, 7; Harriett, 5; and little John, 2.

The year 1860 was an important year for William Witzgall; it was the year he was ordained as a minister for the Reformed Church (Lutheran.)  That was the first surprise found when I began my research on my great-great-grandmother.  She was a preacher’s daughter!  Although he called himself a farmer in every census and he was, William Witzgall also served some rural churches in Henry County as an ordained pastor. 
The Historic Manual of the Reformed Church in the U.S. (Joseph Henry Dubbs, Lancaster, PA, 1885, p. 418) lists William in the Necrology (pastors who have died):
“William Witzgall.  b. Voightland, Saxony, 1820.  d. Napoleon, O., June 22, 1870.  Lic., Tiffin Cl., 1859; ord. 1860.  Pastor of churches near Napoleon.”

Henry Harbaugh also honors Elizabeth’s father, my great-great-great-grandfather in his book Fathers of the German Reformed Church in Europe and America, Vol. 4, 1872:
“William Witzgall, 1820 – 1870. 
Mr Witzgall was a native of Voightland, Saxony.  He learned the trade of a weaver, and traveled much in Germany and other countries.  Some years ago he emigrated to this country and settled in the city of New York, where he worked at his trade,as also in several other places.  Finalley he removed to Napoleon, Henry County, in the state of Ohio, where he purchased eighty acres of land and commenced farming.

In the year 1859, being constrained by love to his Divine Master, hemade application for admission to the Christian ministry, and thorugh the kind interposition of the Rev. C. Bank, he was examined and licensed by the Tiffin Classis, at its meeting in the Second Reformed Church, Tiffin, Ohio.  In the following year, 1860, he was ordained to the office and work of the holy ministry by the same Classis.  He served two small congregations, and for a time three, in the vicinity of his home.   His sphere of usefulness was very limited, yet may he have accomplished much good by a faithful employment, of this single talent entrusted to his care.

We know not what the Lord has in store for us, or what way He employs us so as to accomplish most good through our feeble instrumentality.  Fidelity in the things entrusted to us, is what the Lord requires; and whether we are set over much or little, if faithful, we shall receive the blessed reward.

So, too, in the case of this humble servant of God.  Preaching in his own simiple way to a few small congregations, and maintaining his family by means of his labors on the farm, he did really discharge the duties of a faithful servant in the house of God. 
His sphere of activity in the Master’s cause was a humble one; still, by his quiet and unobtrusive piety, his earnest and devoted spirit, and by his lively faith in his Redeemer, his influence for good was felt, not only in his own family and in his congregations, but also as far as his acquaintance extended.  No one could be in his prescence any length of time without feeling that he was indeed a child of God. 

Long will his memory be gratefully cherished by all who knew him.  Mr. Witzgall died, in the bosom of his family, at Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, after six days’severe suffering from pneumonia, June 22d, 1870, in the 50th year of his age.  His funeral took place on the 24th of June, on which occasion a sermon was preached by the Rev. H. Wegert.”

The census taker came to the Witzgall door next on June 27, 1870, five days after William had passed away and three days after his burial.  Yet, William, strangely, was listed in the census with his family: William 49; Henrietta, 46; Elizabeth, 21; Caroline, 19; Sarah, 17; Henrietta, 15; John, 12; William, 9; and Armela(Amelia, Emma on other sources), 6. 
Suddenly Henrietta Witzgall was left to support seven children on her own.  Four of the children were in school and there were no older sons at that time to help with the farm. 
 Just a little over six months past her father’s death, my great-great grandmother Elizabeth married Philip Delph on January 30, 1871.  Maybe Philip helped the Witzgall family on their farm, while also trying to clear land for himself.  I never did find Philip Delph on the 1870 census, so it is a question as to where exactly in Henry County he was living and if he was enumerated at all.

By 1880, Henrietta Witzgall, 56, had five children left at home.  Sarah, now 27, was earning money as a seamstress.  Hattie (Harriet/Henrietta), at 25, was keeping house, while the two brothers John, 22, and William, 19, were now old enough to declare their occupations as farmers.  The youngest daughter, called Emma on this census, was 16 and a scholar.  Caroline, the second oldest daughter, had married Elias Shaffer in 1879 and by this time, Elizabeth and Philip already had four children.


L to R: Elizabeth Witzgall Delph and Philip Delph, my great-great grandparents, Faye Ordway (their granddaughter), Bruce Robinson (son-in-law), Phil and Fred Ordway (grandsons), Henrietta (Susie) Delph Robinson (their daughter), Marie Baker (granddaughter) and in front, Carl Delph (grandson)

Elizabeth Witzgall Delph, my great-great grandmother, lived until just a few months before I was born, so I just missed “meeting” her.  She died on September 3, 1947 at 98 years, 3 months and 29 days, twenty-eight years after her husband, Philip’s death. 

Her mother, Henrietta Smith Witzgall, died on November 26, 1896 at 73 years, 2 months and 1 day, twenty years after her husband, William’s, death. 

Elizabeth’s parents, are buried in the St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery in Flatrock Township on Road K.  I am assuming that may have been one church where Rev. William Witzgall served during 1860-1870.  In Row 9 lies “William Witzgall, 16 Feb 1821 – 22 June 1870” and in the tradition of the time, when folks were buried as they passed on and not in family groups, Henrietta lies in Row 3.  The stone reads “Henrietta Witzgall  25 Sept 1823 – 26 Nov 1896.”  In the same cemetery is their son, William F. and L. Nette Witzgall (yet to be linked in the family tree.) 

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