ROOTS-L ArchivesArchiver > ROOTS > 1990-03 > 0638494884-01
From: Roots-L List Operations <>
Subject: hunting weltys -- a tale
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 90 17:41:24 CST
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[somewhat long, and potentially not very relevant -- rpw]
this newsgroup tends principally to concern itself
with the technical details of genealogy (which is fine,
really; it's what the group is about). last weekend,
i was reminded of the reasons many of us are doing this
research, however. i thought that the following might
be of interest to some readers, so here it is ...
a couple of years ago, my father and i, independently,
but at about the same time, got interested in researching
his ancestors. this was in part inspired by our looking
over the research that my maternal grandfather did on his
family, which was fairly impressive. at the time, the
only clues that we had were that the name `Welty' is common
in Switzerland (around Bern Canton), and that a couple
of generations back, our direct Welty ancestors had lived in
after harrasing some of our relatives, we got a little more;
a bad photocopy of someone's mildly erratic research notes
listing relatives back to Christian C. Welty, (my great-great
grandfather), the most interesting bit of which had to do
with where he and his family came from.
Now we already knew that Christian, and his wife Susan
(Poffenburger) Welty, were buried in the Colo Cemetery,
in Colo, Iowa. this photocopy quoted obituaries for
both of them, and explicitly mentioned a connection with
the Antietam Battlefield near Sharpsburg, MD. the obit
for Christian claimed that he lost two threshing machines
to crossfire during the battle, and the obit for Susan
claimed that her girlhood home was on the battlefield, and
that it had been used as a hospital by the Confederates
after the battle. the author of the notes had apparently
found a Bruce Catton book which mentioned the name `Poffenburger'
with reference to the battlefield, and gushed about the
possible connection, but had apparently not felt the need
to do any further looking. i wasn't impressed, and dug
up my own copy of the book (i also study the Civil War
as a hobby) and checked. having found the reference, i
then dug up my copy of _Battles and Leaders of the Civil
War_, and immediately found a total of three Poffenburger
farms on the battlefield proper. a perusal of _Landscape
Turned Red_ yielded a fourth. the only one used as a hospital
was Federal, not Confederate, though, and there were no Welty
farms that i could identify.
My father had obtained death certificates for Susan
Poffenburger, but we only got a first initial for her
father, and that was of dubious reliability, particularly
because it was J., and neither of the two J. Poffenbu
were the hospital; the hospital was probably at the S.
Poffenburger farm. census records were of limited help.
a family bible that my grandmother had squirreled away
turned up this past summer; it gave a birthplace of Lancaster
PA for Christian's father Henry (this was also the first
mention of Christian's father's name we'd seen at all);
but it got some birth dates wrong, which didn't do much
to convince us of the bible's reliability. clearly much
more work would be necessary.
as it happens, during my annual christmas sojurn from
NY to Florida and back, i usually pass fairly close to
the Antietam battlefield, so my girlfriend and i planned
to stop there on the way back. an auto accident interfered,
and so when we went back down to pick up my (mostly repaired)
car last weekend, we *finally* made the stop. it proved to
be a wonderously useful trip, and taught me a few things
about genealogical research that probably should have been
obvious to me from the start.
arriving in the area at about 3pm saturday afternoon, we
starting looking for a place to stay. it turned out that
things were unusually busy, and finally someone suggested
that we stay at the Piper House, a bed-and-breakfast which
is located in the actual battlefield, at a house which
General Longstreet used as his headquarters for a time.
there was no one there, so we cruised up to the Visitor's
center for the battlefield to ask the rangers there for
lodging information. they suggested to try the Piper House
a little later, because the innkeeper was also a battlefield
tour guide, and we chatted a bit while waiting. i'd talked
to one of these rangers before, a few months back, and
something had clicked in his memory. he'd received a letter
from a woman who was looking for information about where
an ancestor had died after the battle, and she'd included a
postcard purporting to be of the ``Welty Mill''. the ranger
wasn't sure where the mill was, however.
we cruised on down to the Piper House, got a room, and i
spent an hour talking to the innkeeper. he turned out to
know quite a bit about the area. i mentioned the ``Welty Mill''
to him, and it didn't ring any bells with him. he told
me that one of the Poffenburger farms was still held by
an descendent of the family, a Mr. Kefauver, and that i
should probably talk to him, as the man was fairly familiar
with his family history, but that i should be careful, as
his farm was the S. Poffenburger farm, where Clara Barton
worked in the hospital, so he gets harrassed a lot by tourists
who don't seem to understand that the farm is still private
my girlfriend wanted to take a nap, and there was still some
light, so i drove out over the north section of the battlefield
in order to get an idea of the terrain. when i got back, the
innkeeper had called up a local historian, and she'd recognized
the ``Welty Mill''. the thing was, it wasn't very near the
battlefield; it was up on the other side of the MD-PA state
line (she'd at one point researched all the mills on Antietam
Creek and its tributaries.) the mill had been built by the
Stoners (the historian was Paula Stoner Reed, interestingly
enough,) and had passed into the hands of the Weltys sometime
in the 19th century. to get to it, we had to go north on MD 64
to a spot where the road came to a T near a creek, and that was
supposed to be the spot. the mill had been torn down some time
before, but the foundation had been left. i resolved to go that
way when we left for NY sunday afternoon.
the next day, allison and i toured the battlefield, which is
not really relevant to genealogy, except for the fact that
i was seeing an area where my ancestors had farmed, and where
a battle (the bloodiest battle of the civil war, in fact) had
been fought on their land. in the Visitor's center, i talked
again to the ranger, and mentioned the location of the ``Welty
Mill''. he didn't remember it, but did, rather fortuitously,
remember that up on MD 64 there was a ``Welty Bridge'', and that
it had been bypassed some years back and was still standing.
anothe ranger mentioned a potentially relevant fact; after the
war was over, there was a mass migration westward by local
residents depressed by the battle (the area was populated by
members of a pacifist German sect called the ``Church of the
Brethren''); this might account for the apparent mass movement
westward by members of the Welty family that census records seem
to indicate happened.
at this point, i was coming to the conclusion that the Welty
family was not in Sharpsburg for any length of time, but that
the area to the north, from Hagarstown up to PA was where we
should be looking.
the particular battlefield tour we were following (not the standard
park service tour, but a rather more thorough one developed by
members of the staff of the Army War College) ends up at the
National Cemetery in Sharpsburg. as we were leaving, i saw a
Poffenburger headstone in the town cemetery across the street, so
we went over there to look. it turned out that the cemetery dated
from 1888, which is rather after my ancestors left town. however,
there were lots of Poffenburgers there, unsurpisingly. no Weltys,
though, which rather reinforced my ideas about the extent of the
Welty presence in Sharpsburg.
at this point, we headed north on MD 64. about 5 miles south of
the MD-PA border, i looked up and saw ``Welty Church Road'' crossing
the highway. we didn't stop, but i memorized where it was for later
north of the border, as we crossed a fairly new concrete bridge,
i saw off to the right a 2 arch stone bridge which the road
had once crossed, and which had been blocked off. coming in
just past it was ``Welty Road''. we went past a little ways, turned
back, and stopped to look.
it turns out that this was the T intersection, but when the bypass
was built, the T was removed. there were no signs of a mill
foundation, but construction of the bypass could have destroyed
we didn't get much more that day, but we did find out a lot.
we have to write a letter to Mr. Kefauver, asking if he knows
of any source of Poffenburger family records that we could
see, and of the location of any Poffenburger family cemetery.
we also know that we have to look at some counties in southern
PA that we might not have checked right away. the general
lesson of the latter is that it's probably a good idea, when
you're running out of options, to check nearby counties; we're
going to look at records for one additional MD county, and two
PA counties, as a result of what we've learned (this is the
bit i think should have been obvious, but i had missed.)
the other thing i learned is that actually visiting these
places rather reinforces the desire to continue research;
it reminded me that these are real places, and that my ancestors
were real people, and not just names on papers and headstones.
richard welty 518-387-6346, GE R&D, K1-5C39, Niskayuna, New York
``Oh look, Patio Microwave Burritos! Yum, Yum!!''