Life in Lancaster County. Living in the Past

We had been vacationing in Pennsylvania for years. I had been bitten by that “Genealogy Bug” and we both loved the State and culture. Over ten years ago we made a decision to leave California and move to the Keystone State. Little did we know what life had in store for us because of that decision!

After living in Lebanon for two years, we migrated south to Lititz and lived there for four years.  Keeping with our migration pattern, we headed south again and after looking at a total of 38 different houses, found an 1880’s “City Home” in Lancaster.  The first time we walked through the front door we felt an immediate connection. As it turns out, there was a connection and I’ll explain that later . . .

Philip Kleiss’ name is familiar to anybody who reads the Lancaster newspapers or watches the evening news.  My 6th great grandfather was a Tavern keeper in the heart of the city in the 1700’s. Upon his death two of his sons inherited the Tavern and the building remained on the corner of Queen and Vine Streets.  Plans to build a Convention Center in Lancaster included demolishing the tavern . . . until they discovered an underground cistern between it and Thaddeus Steven’s home.

This is the cistern that saved both of the buildings from demolition. They were saved because an archeological dig discovered evidence that the cistern was probably used as a secret hiding place on the “Underground Railroad.”  The cistern, Stevens home and my ancestor’s tavern will now be incorporated into the Convention Center as learning center and museum.

Ludwig (Lewis) Leader, a sixth great grandfather, also, was one of the earliest settlers in Marietta, a river town about 15 miles from Lancaster.  We have gone to Marietta countless times for brunch, to cemeteries, and just to drive through the town, imagining what it must have been like when he settled in the area.  We have even gone through the home he built in the early 1800’s!  It was for sale, but had been a neglected rental and Jim said Absolutely No Way!!   

Look at it today. Whomever bought it did a wonderful job restoring it; so wonderful that it was on the Candlelight Tour as denoted by the bronze plate next to the door. 

Because Lewis’ son, Samuel married Susannah Bischoff, I am in Pennsylvania! After all, I have Susannah’s Bible.

John Niess was my third great grandfather.  I knew his name, his wife’s name and his childrens’ names.  I had no idea when or where he married.  We moved to Lititz because we had joined the Moravian Church.  I, naturally, became a member of the Archives Committee in this historic Church and looked thru old Church records in answer to genealogy requests.  Imagine my surprise to find John Niess’ marriage record while searching for somebody else!  Think he led me to this Church?  Not a doubt in my mind!

Michael Auxer(s), one was my fourth great grandfather, the other my fifth great grandfather. Both lived in Elizabethtown and both were weavers. I’ve been in the Church they worshipped in and walked on the streets they once did. I have found the graves of each of their wifes, but not either of theirs! My bucket list includes finding their graves and a coverlet that either of them wove.  Philip Kleiss Auxer, was Michael, Jr’s son and my third great-grandfather. In the 1860’s he owned a house west of Elizabethtown in Stackstown, a little elbow in the road.

Today this barn is at the elbow in that road, with maybe 15 other houses in the area.

Now the connection we felt to the house we purchased in Lancaster? While researching the deeds of previous owners, I discovered that my grandmother’s third cousin, Emma Grace Auxer,  and her husband Guy B. Eberly had owned the same property in 1923!  I was living in the past! I actually lived my life in the same home “shirt-tail” relative had!

The most important move was to Pennsylvania, not necessarily all the locations. It has allowed me to find the stories of my ancestors, walk into buildings they once had and see their lives in that third dimension. The move to Pennsylvania brought them to life, warts and all.  They were real people, not just names in my database. We go on with our lives in Lancaster, walking the streets my ancestors did, entering the same buildings they did and visiting the same graves they did. I love knowing that because of what these real people did in the past,

I can truly appreciate living in the present in Lancaster County!


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