ABRAHAM STERNER ? 1832 Abraham is a figure only a little less shadowy than his father and grandfather. Misled by Uncle Henry, I didn't even suspect his existence for years till my cous- in Willard Fritz, the source of most of my information about Paul [Sterner, later in this book - Todd] wrote his sister Mrs. Rittner in Harrisburg. Her reply reads in part - "What I know about grandfather (Paul) Sterner's Fam- ily. His father's name was Abraham Sterner. Grandfather Sterner's name was Paul, born near Allentown, Pa. March 16th 1821. His father died when Paul was eleven years old. Paul had two sisters; their names were Sally and Polly; one brother by the name of George died at the age of 12. So grandfather was the only boy of Abraham Ster- ner. Do not know his mother's name." So this letter tells us that, since Paul was eleven when his father died, then Abraham must have died in 1832. His death, assuming again that Henry meant Abra- ham when he referred to his grandmother's first husband, was caused by blood poisoning resulting from an injury. Now, while her descendants in Harrisburg did not know Paul's mother's name, Uncle Henry did and thanks to him she is the first of the line to emerge from the sha- dows as a real flesh and blood person. Her maiden name was Elizabeth Yukel (actually Yeakel) and this is what he tells us - "I first met Grandmother Sterner in May 1862 - only her name was Hauser then for she had married three times and this was her third husband. We were living at Indian Hill then and I stopped off to see her on my way to Uncle Solomon Hoyberger's; I was there only a few days on that trip. How lovely was that first trip in May from Mauch Chunk (now renamed Jim Thorpe - Oh horrible, horrible) to Unionville where Grandmother lived - green fields, bloom- ing orchards, cattle, calves, colts, sheep feeding in 20
ABRAHAM STERNER pastures - it seemed every house had flowering bulbs in bloom. It was like a ride through fairy land." "Uncle Solomon's wife Matilda wanted me to look af- ter her children - think of a boy of not eight years taking charge of a brood of little ones. Uncle was a carpenter, away during the working days - home Sundays. I was there six weeks. It was a summer of terrible fresh- ets in the Lehigh region - the Canal destroyed, many lives lost. I remember the rains - every day of the week! The Canal was washed out from White Haven to Easton." "When mother heard of the Flood she had no rest till Father fetched me home. Indian Hill was in Franklin Town- ship, Carbon County, a hamlet four miles southeast of Mauch Chunk, back from the Lehigh. Trains and boats were not running and we walked - fifteen miles plus - my ear- liest and longest walk!.... I remember the havoc visible along our line of march." "At the beginning of the winter of 1862 I made my second trip to Grandmother Sterner. Both trips were made by stage - as common then as are taxis now in the city. It was a cold, dreary day in December, this time with some falling snow. The effect of the Civil War was every- where visible or felt - as a season of hardship from 1861 to at least 1875. Children didn't know it though. Those old enough could hear the tales of wars that were past. The old people talked in a matter-of-fact way as if it were nothing new. They did not seem worried much, I remember." "By the way, Grandmother Sterner was not only married three times but survived her third husband many years... She had three children by Abraham - Mary, Sarah, and Paul. ..... Her second and third husbands had means and each left Grandmother in good circumstances, considering the times in which she lived. I well remember three differ- ent parties coming once a year to pay her the interest on 21
ABRAHAM STERNER the `Dowery.'" "She lived in a little farm of three acres. On it were a small stone house with four rooms and a cellar; and a summer log house with two large rooms. A barn, a corn-crib, hen house, and pig stable, a large fenced gar- den, and four little fields well fenced. She kept cows, pigs, chickens. She had an orchard of eleven apple trees; four cherry trees, two quinces, two large chestnut trees. She always planted wheat, rye, corn, potatoes, besides the garden. She had a long bed of many kinds of flowers run- ning the whole length of her garden. Of course no garden would be complete or worth the name without cur- rants, rhubarb, and gooseberries." "Grandmother had lost one eye - cause, I do not know. She was a taker of snuff - inhaled it. She kept a bottle of brandy on hand constantly. She told me never to taste it for I was sent to the store a quarter mile distant to buy groceries and brandy and some candy with the butter and eggs. She was a devoted member of the Lutheran Church and made me go to Sunday School whether I would or not. I took a fancy to that brandy bottle and, when chance fa- vored, sampled the stuff. I did not like the burning li- quid and soon let it alone. The only intoxicating drink I ever did like was wine - the home-made kind." "Grandmother's childhood was spent in `Druka Land,' a place not far from Bethlehem. I know from her talk with German people that her ancestors had long been in America - father, grandparents, and earlier." "....Disabuse your mind at once if you think she `drank.' She did not. She took a tablespoonful of li- quor once or twice a day - never more, to my knowledge. She was imperious, critical, exacting, impatient, and un- sympathetic in her treatment of children and the young, but industrious, thrifty and energetic." 22
ABRAHAM STERNER "We know which of these two characters is the more congenial and companionable, but we cannot say who is good or who is better. But if I may venture an opinion upon myself and others of the same blood, I think we have more of the Sterner or Yukel stuff than any other." As you will see when you come to Uncle Henry's let- ters, he praises highly the other side of his family, the Ritters. All this may be quite so but, when we turn this page, we shall soon see that all was not sweetness and light with Elizabeth Ritter, the daughter who married Elizabeth Yukel's son Paul Sterner. 23
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Todd L. Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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