The Children of George and Elizabeth Bittinger Hollabaugh
Eliza Jane (1838 - before 1918)
Mary Elizabeth (1840 - 1941)
George W. (1844 - 1924)
David William (1847 - 1936)
Alice Catharine (1849 - 1916)
Jacob B. (1852 - 1943)Georgianna Hannah (1856 - 1944)
Mary Elizabeth, the third daughter of George and Elizabeth Hollabaugh was born on June 7, 1840 in Adams County, Pennsylvania.
She married William Andrew Hennigh in Philadelphia on August 9, 1862. In The Gettysburg Times, September 13, 1937, a column entitled "Seventy-Five Years Back" had this news:
"On the 9th ult., in Philadelphia, by the Rev. Mr. Sheeleigh, Mr. William A. Hennigh, of Capt. J. F. McCreary's company, P.V. (Pennsylvania Volunteers), to Miss Mary E. Hollabauch, of Carlisle."
According to Civil War records, William enrolled in the Union Army at Gettysburg on August 7, 1862 and mustered in on August 16, 1862 at Harrisburg. So just two days after he signed up, he and Mary were married. So, did the couple elope to Philadelphia?
When William enlisted, an intense recruitment campaign was going on in Pennsylvania. His term was to be for three years in the 138th Regiment, Company B. Leaving his new bride behind, William and the regiment moved to Baltimore where he was assigned to guard the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and given the job as clerk. However, in June 1863, his regiment was ordered to active duty and began having encounters with the enemy.
On November 23rd, the regiment set forth on the Mine Run campaign, meeting the enemy on the 27th at Locust Grove, Virginia. From History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-65:
"The fighting soon opened on its front, at close range, and buck and ball were hurled with telling effect against the advancing enemy... The loss in the engagement was seven killed, forty-five wounded, and three missing. During the night, the enemy withdrew to his fortified position behind Mine Run. After advancing to, and reconnoitering his ground, it was decided to abandon the campaign, and the army returned to camp near Brandy Station, where the regiment was soon settled in comfortable winter quarters."
William A. Hennigh was one of the wounded that day. He died three days later on November 30, 1863 of wounds received in the Battle of Locust Grove. In the U. S. Register of Deaths of Volunteers, 1863, the entry reads:
"Hennigh, William - Pvt. Co B, 138th Pennsylvania Infantry, Date of Death, November 27, 1863 at Rappahannock Sta., Va. - Cause of Death, Vulmus Sclopet."
The date of death differs from his actual government card and other sources. Vulmus Sclopet refers to a gunshot wound.
So, Mary E. Hollabaugh Hennigh was left a very young widow, and one who had only spent a few precious days with her young husband. However, Mary was pregnant with her only child, Minnie Margaret Elizabeth Hennigh, born December 9, 1863, according to the Pennsylvania Town and Church Records, only a week or so after her father's death. (We can calculate that probably William had a furlough in March 1863, before his regiment was sent out into the field of battle.)
Minnie was baptized on April 1, 1864. In February 1864, Mary filed for her widow's pension.
In the 1870 census, she and Minnie were enumerated with her parents, George and Elizabeth Hollabaugh, in Butler Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania. Mary was 29 and Minnie was 6.
By 1880, Mary and her daughter had moved to Carlisle in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania where Mary, at 38, was keeping house and Minnie, 16, was at school. Perhaps Mary was supporting herself on just her meager pension at this time.
In 1882, Mary and her daughter embarked upon careers with the Bell Telephone Company that lasted a very long time. At first, she and her daughter alternated shifts as operators for the company, Mary being the Night Operator. Eventually, Minnie advanced herself in the company to manager of the Carlisle Telephone Company in April 1891. I'm sure their lives improved when both had secure jobs and an income along with the pension (which was very little).
In the 1910 census, both Mary E, 68, a widow, and Minnie, 46, single, were both agents for the telephone company. They lived on East Louther Street in Carlisle.
The 1920 census found them in the same place, only now Mary had retired and was 79. Minnie, 56, was a cashier at the telephone company.
In the McKean County Miner (Smethport, Pennsylvania) paper of February 2, 1928, the article below appeared discussing Minnie Hennigh's long career.
The rest of the article reads:
"A life of service dedicated to the telephone-using public is the epic story of Miss Minnie M. E. Hennigh, who on December 27th completed forty-five years of service with The Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania.
Operator, Chief Operator, Manager and now Cashier in Carlisle, Pennsylvania are the highlights that are reflected in a career that aimed at the highest in the rendering of a public service to an intimately known public.
A slender slip of a girl on December 27th, 1882, when Miss Hennigh committed her fortunes and her happiness to a life of useful service, she still retains the youthful spirit of forty-five years ago. Life has touched her, of course, but its drama and comedies coming to her over the telephone switchboard has only softened her innate kindness.
There were but eleven telephones connected with the first switchboard in the Drug Store at Louther and Fitz Streets, Carlisle, when Miss Hennigh became the operator. Today there are more than 2000. Many telephone employees have passed through the office since she began her career there. Some have passed on and others have achieved great success in life. Miss Hennigh has watched and observed with calm eye and nimble mind. She has retained all through these years an integrity of thought and spirit and a paramount desire to offer an excellent brand of telephone service to the people served at her switchboard. She has been the pillar on which have beat the storms of change and sometimes the waves of unfortunate conditions, but the shining tide has always shown her strong and steadfast in what she considered her duty to her telephone public.
"The first switchboard was very different from the delicately adjusted apparatus that it is today," Miss Hennigh said. "We simply inserted small plugs in narrow brass strips to make connections, and when general groups of subscribers were talking, the switchboard reminded me of a chessboard. When a subscriber wished to make a call," she continued, "he lifted the receiver and turned a hand generator, a small handle attached to his telephone, causing a shutter on the switchboard to drop with a heavy click. No numbers were used in those days, and we rang the called party's bell with electrical power supplied by a hand generator."
On April 1, 1891, Miss Hennigh succeeded Mr. Leonard Kinnard as Manager of the Carlisle Telephone Exchange. Mr. Kinnard is now President of the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania. As Manager, Miss Hennigh struck out to do her first real soliciting and secured about seventy-five subscribers. A new switchboard was then installed to accommodate the added telephones.
In a lifetime of service such as has been enjoyed by Miss Hennigh, there are many contrasting episodes of the early telephone days. Once, when a line was being built, the Foreman sent word that more dynamite was needed to blast holes for telephone poles. As Manager, it was part of Miss Hennigh's job to take care of these details, and instead of entrusting the high explosive to a boy who acted as her assistant, she helped to load a wagon with the dynamite and then drove the team.
Miss Hennigh now resides with her mother in Carlisle. In the early days, the mother was of great assistance in alternating at the switchboard and in acting as Night Operator.
But this story of Miss Hennigh is not complete without some reference to her life outside of the Company. She is a well-known member of the community in which she lived, both through business contacts and through her active interest in various civil and church organizations. She is interested in people as individuals and exemplifies that which is best in the telephone slogan, 'the spirit of the service.'"
|Miss Minnie Margaret Elizabeth Hennigh|
The 1930 census found the location and mother and daughter and their situation unchanged. Mary E., now 89, rented their home for $20 a month, and Minnie, 66, still worked for the Bell Telephone Company as cashier.
The 1940 census gives us the information that Mary E. completed 4th grade, while her daughter was a high school graduate. By then, both were retired; Mary was 98 and Minnie was 76.
On June 7, 1940, Mary E. turned 99 and photos were taken which I have been given permission to print.
|Mary Hennigh and her birthday cake #99|
|From left: unknown neighbor, Minnie (standing) and Mary Elizabeth|
Mary died on June 3, 1941, just before her 100th birthday on the 7th of June. She made quite a splash in the newspapers of the time due to her telephone career. She even made The New York Times!
The Indiana Evening Gazette ran this AP story on June 4, 1941:
Carlisle, June 4 (AP) - Mrs. Mary Hennigh, a 'hello girl' in the infancy of the telephone, died at her home here last night. She would have been 100 next Saturday. The Bell Telephone Company announced at Philadelphia that its record indicated she was the oldest retired telephone operator in the United States. She served at Carlisle for 16 years."
The Daily News of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania reported on June 4:
"EARLY TELEPHONE OPERATOR DIES
Carlisle, Pa., June 4 - Arrangements were completed today for burial Friday of this community's first telephone operator, Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Hennigh, who died of a lingering illness last Monday - just five days short of her 100th birthday. Mrs. Hennigh, a widow since her husband died in 1863 of wounds inflicted during the Civil War battle of Locust Grove, Va., was the oldest retired employee of the Bell Telephone Company of Penn. She left the switchboard in 1914 when she was 73."
Mary's obituary appeared in The Gettysburg Times on June 4, 1941:
"MRS. MARY ELIZABETH HENNIGH
Funeral services for Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Hennigh, 99, oldest retired employee of the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, will be held Friday morning at 10 o'clock in the First Lutheran Church, Carlisle, conducted by the Rev. Dr. Harry L. Saul. Interment in the mausoleum of Westminster Cemetery, Carlisle. Friends may call at the Lutz funeral house in Carlisle from 6 until 8 o'clock.
The deceased, who would have observed her one hundredth birthday June 7th, was born in Gettysburg 22 years before the battle of Gettysburg.
Most of her adult life was spent in Carlisle where she became the first Bell Company telephone operator. She was the widow of William Andrew Hennigh, Union soldier, who was wounded November 27, 1863, at Locust Grove, Virginia, and who died three days later. The deceased was a member of the First Lutheran Church, Carlisle.
Surviving are a daughter, Miss Minnie M. E. Hennigh, Carlisle, one sister, Mrs. George Pensyl (Georgeanna), Iowa, and one brother, Jacob B. Hollabaugh, Biglerville."
Her daughter, Minnie, died in December 1956 and was buried near her mother. In her will she left her estate largely to the First Lutheran Church in Carlisle, with a portion going to the National Body of the Lutheran Church of America for missionary ventures in India and Africa and another small portion going to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg and the Carlisle Young Men's Christian Association.