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Benjamin Charles Gaumer
(1823-1909)

 

Benjamin and Maria (Mensch) Gaumer

Warmkessel Studio, 131 North 7th Street,
Allentown - courtesy David Helfrich

Benjamin Charles Gaumer was born on Nov. 5, 1823 in Lehigh County, PA, the son of Johann "Adam" and Christiana (Wesco) Gaumer.

When Benjamin was just a few months old, on Jan. 30, 1824, he was baptized by a local German-speaking pastor. A written record of the event was made, in German, on a special hand-colored certificate known as a taufschein. A study of the document shows that the baby's name was written as "Lanjamin Caol."

He was married to Maria Mensch (April 30, 1827-1905), daughter of Adam and Catharine (Gruber) Mensch.

They resided near Lehigh Church and produced these children – William Gaumer, Henry "Benjamin" Gaumer, Christiana Helfrich, Elvenia H. “Ella” Hopkins, James Henry Gaumer, Maria L. “Maryan” Wenner, Hannah R. Gaumer and Laura Gaumer.

Sadly, son William is believed to have died young, during the decade of the 1850s.

Benjamin was an early coal miner and farmer. He also learned the trade of blacksmithing and earned a living with that work over the decades.

When the federal census enumeration was made in 1850, the young couple and their infant son William dwelled in Lower Macungie Township, Lehigh County, just a few doors away from his parents. At that time, Benjamin's occpuation was blacksmith.

 

Top portion of Benjamin's hand-colored birth and baptismal certificate,
written in German and known as a taufschein.
Courtesy David Helfrich.

 

 

Maria at her spinning wheel
Hunsicker Studio, Allentown - courtesy David Helfrich

The 1860 U.S. Census shows the family in Lower Macungie, near the Breinigsville post office, with Benjamin continuing his trade as a blacksmith.

In 1870, the federal census lists the Gaumers in Lower Macungie, with Benjamin laboring in a coal mine.

Benjamin eventually retired but stayed active in farm work.

In January 1905, the 75-year-old Maria slipped on ice and fractured her hip while on her way to attend services at the Lehigh Church, a short distance from their Alburtis home. Sadly, she died the following month, on Feb. 6, 1905, at the age of 77. She passed "after an illness of four weeks," said the Allentown Morning Call. Funeral services were held at Lehigh Church, with Rev. C.E. Sandt preaching the sermon.

Benjamin celebrated his 82nd birthday in November 1905. In reporting on the milestone, the Morning Call said that “During the past season he harvested his own crops and in addition has done the blacksmith work for a neighboring stone-quarry and is a remarkably well-preserved man. Mr. Gaumer has four brothers and sisters older them himself.”

In August 1909, Benjamin suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died eight days later on Aug. 24, 1909. Interment was in Lehigh Church Cemetery.

 

~ Son Henry "Benjamin" Gaumer ~

Son Henry "Benjamin" Gaumer (1853-1929) was born on Feb. 18, 1853 in Alburtis.

In about 1877, at the age of 24, he married Martha A. Haas (Aug. 3, 1857-1923), daughter of Peter and Maria A. (Arner) Haas of Haas Valley, Whitehall Township and granddaughter of Abraham and Sarah Haas.

Their only known chidren were Victoria M. Zellner and Efenger Steward Samuel Gaumer.

Benjamin earned a living over the years as a millwright. They lived in Lowhill Township, Lehigh County in 1876 at the birth of their daughter and in 1884 at Hoffmansville, Montgomery County, PA at the birth of their son. They dwelled in 1909 in West Coplay, Lehigh County.

Martha and her father were mentioned in a Haas family history printed in the Allentown Morning Call on Aug. 21, 1911.

Sadly Martha suffered apoplexy and died at the age of 65 on Jan. 8, 1923. Funeral services were held in the home of her daughter Victoria Zellner, with interment in West Coplay Cemetery.

Burdened with hardening of the arteries, he died in Allentown State Hospital at the age of 76 on April 25, 1929. Burial was beside his wife.

Daughter Victoria M. Gaumer (1876-1935) was born on Dec. 30, 1876 in Lowhill Township, Lehigh County. In about 1898, when she was age 21, she married Edward Frank "E.F." Zellner (Aug. 7, 1876-1956), son of Tilghman and Sarah (Newhard) Zellner. The couple bore a son, Clarence Gaumer Zellner. Their home in 1929 was on Poplar Street in West Coplay and in 1935 at 140 Maple Street. Frank earned a living as a contractor but eventually went into farming full-time. He retired in about 1940. He was a member of the Masons lodge in Allentown, the Lehigh lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows and the Coplay Fire Company. He is believed to have attended the national convention in Memphis, TN of the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America in 1930. Sadly, suffering from chronic heart disease, Victoria passed away at home on Feb. 16, 1935, at the age of 58. Her remains were placed into repose in Coplay Cemetery, with Rev. Harry T. Sell and Rev. B. Werkheiser officiating. Her pallbearers included Floyd George, Marcus George, Edward Rader, George Gaumer, Oscar Ritter and George Zellner. Edward survived his bride by more than two decades. He moved to a new residence at 117 North Sixth Street. He contracted prostate cancer and succumbed on May 25, 1956. An obituary was published in the Allentown Morning Call. Erma Reinert signed the official Pennsylvania certificate of death.

  • Grandson Clarence Gaumer Zellner (1896-1969) was born on Sept. 21, 1896. In 1920, he married Rachael Maude Newhard (1898-1975). While in Northampton, Northampton County, PA, Clarence passed into eternity at th4e age of 73 on Oct. 3, 1969. Rachael joined him in death six years later, on Apri 4, 1975.

Son Efenger Steward Samuel Gaumer (1884-1946) was born on Dec. 8, 1884 in Hoffmansville, Montgomery County. In 1904, when he was about 20 years old, Efenger was united in holy matrimony with Mary Elizabeth Williams (July 4, 1883-1937), a native of Hokendauqua, Lehigh County. Their only known son was Dr. George W. Gaumer. Efenger was employed by C.Y. Schelly and Bro. as a bookkeeper circa 1911. In August 1912, he accepted a federal government position in Washington, DC with the postal saving department. Reported the Allentown Morning Call, "Out of a total of five hundred applicants, Mr. Gaumer was twelfth upon the list." Circa 1923, they dwelled in Philadelphia. Mary Elizabeth passed away first, on June 26, 1937, just a few weeks before her 54th birthday. He died on Nov. 3, 1946 in Abington, Montgomery County. Burial was in Whitemarsh Memorial Park in Ambler, Montgomery County.

  • Grandson Dr. George W. Gaumer (1911-1956) was born on June 27, 1911 in Allentown. At the age of about 24, in 1935, he was joined in wedlock with Miriam Fretz Smith (1909-1993). They were the parents of three children. George received his education in medicine at Hahnemann Medical College in Center City Philadelphia. During World War II, he served with the U.S. Medical Corps and attained the rank of captain. He went on to a career as a staff physician, employed by Atlantic Refining Company on Passyunk Avenue. Their home was in Oreland, PA at 3144 Twining Road. Sadly, at the age of 45, George collapsed at work and died on July 16, 1956. An obituary was printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

 

Christianna Helfrich
Courtesy David Helfrich

~ Daughter Christianna (Gaumer) Helfrich ~

Daughter Christianna Gaumer (1856- ? ) was born in 1856 in Lower Macungie Township, Lehigh County.

She wedded Daniel P. Helfrich (April 15, 1855-1917), son of Charles and Amelia (Hoffman) Helfrich of Kutztown in nearby Berks County.

Their known children were Edgar H.W. "Harry" Helfrich and Vincent A. Helfrich.

The family relocated to New York City, where Daniel was engaged as an “expert accountant” and bookkeeper with several businesses, including an egg dealership where his father and brother also worked. He also was a member of the Diamond Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF).

Grief blanketed the young family when Christianna died between 1878 and 1880. Her young sons were taken in by her parents and are shown in their household in Lower Macungie in 1880, when the U.S. Census was made.

Daniel then moved back into his parents' home in New York. He eventually wedded again to Maria S. Hoffman ( ? - ? ). They lived in New York circa 1882 and bore two children of their own, Harold W. "Harry" Helfrich and Ada Sassaman.

After retirement at age 60, Daniel moved to Emmaus and then in October 1916 relocated to 608½ North 12th Street in Allentown.

While visiting his son Edgar in early May 1917, Daniel complained of not feeling well but “appeared to be in good spirits,” said the Allentown Democrat. He was felled by a stroke of apoplexy and died while seated in a chair a day or two later on May 5, 1917. After funeral services at the Helfrich home, his remains were transported to Flushing, Long Island on the Lehigh Valley Railroad for burial in Cedar Grove Cemetery. Obituaries were printed in Allentown newspapers.

 

New York City as seen from the Singer Building, circa the 1910s

 

Son Edgar H.W. "Harry" Helfrich (1876-1933) was born on Nov. 11, 1876 in Lower Macungie. He was but a very young boy when his mother died. As a young man, he attended Keystone State Teachers College in Kutztown and went on to teach in Lower Macungie for four years, from 1897 to about 1901, including at Brookdale School. He married Emma M. Wehr (Jan. 5, 1877-1944), the daughter of Joel A. and Matilda (Metzger) Wehr of Heidelberg Township, Lehigh County. The Helfrichs produced two sons, Harold W. "Harry" Helfrich and Elwood V. Helfrich. They dwelled in Allentown, where Edgar was involved with several businesses, initially involving coal, ice, building construction and life insurance. In 1912, he was a partner with the firm of Helfrich, Geary & Company, engaged in constructing "modern" houses on Tilghman Street. He also was a member of a school board and helped organize the John Hay Republican Club, of which he was secretary. Their home in 1917 was at 939 Tilghman Street. In 1917, he went into the floral business by forming the Sawyer and Helfrich Flower Company with his partner Otto J. Sawyer. Otto left the firm within a few years, and Edgar ran it by himself until about 1926 when his health forced him to stop. He was a member of the Salem Reformed Church, where for 23 years he taught the English Bible Sunday School class and became secretary of the congregation. He also was active with the Jordan lodge of the Masons, the Allen Camp of the U.V. and the Knights of Friendship. Suffering from angina and heart ailments, Edgar passed away on July 30, 1933 at age 56. Burial was in Greenwood Mausoleum, with son Elwood, of 708 Turner Street in Allentown, signing the death certificate. Emma survived her spouse by 11 years. She dwelled at 518 North 24th Street. At the age of 67, having suffered from hardening of the arteries and heart disease, she died on Nov. 23, 1944. Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery.

  • Grandson Harold W. Helfrich (1897-1966) was born on New Year's Eve 1897 in Pleasant Corner, PA. At a young age he learned to play the piano and entertained at family events. He married Hattie M. Diehl ( ? - ? ). He attended law school and spent his career in the practice of law. In 1944, they lived at 133 South 15th Street in Allentown. Circa the mid-1960s, their address was 922 North Ott Street in Allentown. Just a few days after his 68th birthday, on Jan. 3, 1966, he suffered a heart attack and was dead within minutes. Interment was in Greenwood Cemetery.
  • Grandson Elwood V. Helfrich (1903-1934) was born on Aug. 25, 1903 in Allentown. He wedded Mary F. Butz ( ? - ? ). They lived at 518 North 24th Street in Allentown. Elwood was employed as a salesman by the Lehigh Valley Paperhouse. In his early 30s, he began to show signs of dementia. Tragically, on Oct. 23, 1934, he shot himself in the left chest and head and died instantly at home. His remains were lowered into eternal rest in Grandview Cemetery.

Son Vincent A. Helfrich (1878-1939) was born on March 3, 1878 at Lehigh Church. He never married but lived with his aunts over the years. When a young man, he graduated from the Keystone State Normal School and at the age of 21, in 1899, taught in the Saul School in Hensingersville, Lower Macungie. He left that work to accept a position as traveling auditor for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Circa 1909, he and his aunt Ella Hopkins lived in New York City, possibly in Brooklyn. He was an accountant in 1911-1912 with the Metropolitan firm but, plagued with poor health, returned to Allentown to recover and live with his brother at 939 Tilghman Street. He left the Metropolitan and sold real estate for eight years in the Allentown area. Later, he was employed as a tire sales manager by the Pennsylvania Independent Oil Company. Over the years, he was a member of the Charity Lodge of the Masons in New York and the Palestine Commandery of the Knights Templar and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Vincent’s address in the late 1930s was 1925 Tilghman Street in Allentown. Afflicted with heart disease at the age of 60, he succumbed on Jan. 11, 1939, with a death notice printed in the Allentown Morning Call. Burial was in Lehigh Church Cemetery.

 

~ Daughter Elvenia H. "Ella" (Gaumer) Hopkins ~

Daughter Elvenia H. “Ella” Gaumer (1857-1938) -- also spelled "Ellaminda" and "Ellen" -- was born on May 19, 1857 in Alburtis, Lower Macungie.

She married Efenger G. Hopkins ( ? - ? ), son of William and Abigail (Stein) Hopkins.

They were the parents of an only child, Laura Berkey.

Her home in 1903-1921 was in Brooklyn, NY, and she belonged to the Central Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn. Her daughter as well as nephew Vincent A. Helfrich may have resided with her about that time. She is known to have spent several weeks in June-July 1921 at the home of her brother Henry on Maple Street in Coplay.

Efenger died in about 1928, likely in Brooklyn.

With her health failing, Elvenia relocated back to Allentown in September 1937, making her residence with her daughter at 1925 Tilghman Street.

On June 7, 1938, at the age of 81, she passed away after having been felled by a cerebral hemorrhage. Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery mausoleum. Daughter Laura Burkey signed the Pennsylvania certificate of death. An obituary in the Allentown Morning Call said that she "lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the greater part of her life.

Daughter Laura Hopkins ( ? - ? ) wedded Burkey ( ? - ? ). Their addresses over the years included 234 Fenimore Street in Brooklyn and 1925 Tilghman Street in Allentown circa 1938.

 

~ Son James "Henry" Gaumer ~

Son James “Henry” Gaumer (1863- ? ) was born in 1863.

Nothing more is known.

 

~ Daughter Maria "Maryan" (Gaumer) Wenner ~

Daughter Maria "Maryann" Gaumer (1864-1914) was born on Sept. 8, 1864.

She wedded Alvin P. Wenner ( ? - ? ). The couple did not reproduce.

They moved to Allentown in about 1895. There, they resided at 19 North Madison Street along with her sister Hannah R. Gaumer and Vincent A. Helfrich.

 

The Midway at the Allentown County Fair, early 1900s, complete
with a Ferris wheel and "See the Whale" attractions

 

Maryann suffered a stroke and became paralyzed and was bedfast for the last 15 weeks of her life. At the age of 49, she succumbed at home on March 14, 1914. Said the Allentown Morning Call, “She is well and favorably known in this city, having been a resident here for the last nineteen years.” Interment was in Lehigh Church Cemetery, following funeral services held at home and then at the church. Helfrich was the informant for the official Pennsylvania certificate of death. The Allentown Leader printed an obituary.

 

Hannah R. Gaumer
Courtesy David Helfrich

~ Daughter Hannah R. Gaumer ~

 

Hannah Gaumer and unknown boy
Courtesy David Helfrich

Daughter Hannah R. Gaumer (1867-1919) was born in on Sept. 8, 1867 at Lehigh Church.

She never married, and for many years, she lived at home with her widowed father near Lehigh Church.

She was a member of the Lutheran congregation of the Lehigh Church. Hannah was known for her cake-baking and displayed a lemon sponge cake at the Great Allentown Fair in September 1898.

In Sept. 1902, when she turned 45, friends threw a surprise birthday party. “The surprise was complete in every respect,” said the Allentown Leader. “An elegant table had been set of which all partook freely.”

Circa 1909, after the death of her father, she relocated into Allentown to 19 North Madison, where she kept house for her widowed brother-in-law Alvin P. Wenner. She was named executrix of her father's estate and in April 1910 oversaw a public auction of his real estate and belongings. The property included four acres of land, a frame house and barn in addition to a frame house on Church Street in Macungie.

At the age of 51, she suffered a stroke and died on May 15, 1919. Her nephew Vincent A. Helfrich, with whom she lived, signed her death certificate. Burial was in Lehigh Church Cemetery.

 

~ Daughter Laura Gaumer ~

Daughter Laura Gaumer (1871- ? ) was born in about 1871 in Lower Macungie Township and is listed with her parents and family in the 1880 U.S. Census.

 

Copyright © 2000, 2009, 2017-2019 Mark A. Miner