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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 not quite three months old, on Jan. 30, 1824, he was baptized by Rev. Benjamin German, a local German-speaking pastor. The godparents standing with the family at the ceremony were godparents were Heinrich Diefenderfer and his wife Susanna. A record of the event was written, in German script, 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."

As a young man, Benjamin was united in holy matrimony with Maria Mensch (April 30, 1827-1905), daughter of John "Adam" and Catharine (Gruber) Mensch of nearby Hereford Township, Berks County, PA. When she too was an infant, of an age of about a month-and-a-half, she received Christian baptism on June 10, 1827 by the hand of Rev. C. Herman. Only one godparent stood at the ceremony, the unmarried Magdalena Unterkoble.

The Gaumers resided near Lehigh Church in the Alburtis community of Lehigh County. They produced these eight known children – William Gaumer, Henry "Benjamin" Gaumer, Christiana Helfrich, Elvenia H. “Ella” Hopkins, James Henry Gaumer, Maria L. “Maryan” Wenner, Hannah R. Gaumer and Laura Elizabeth Sigfried.

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

Benjamin was an early iron ore miner and farmer. Iron mines were scattered all throughout the region, with the ore processed at a furnace such as the Lock Ridge Furnace in Alburtis. He also learned the trade of blacksmithing and earned a living with that work over the decades.

 

Top portion of Benjamin's hand-colored birth and baptismal certificate, written in German and known as a taufschein. Below: the English translation of the German writing. Courtesy David Helfrich.
Birth and Baptismal Certificate.
To this couple, Johann Adam Gaumer and his wife Christina née Wescoin, was born a little son on the 5th day of November in the year of our Lord 1823. This little son was born in Macungie Township, Lehigh County, State of Pennsylvania, North America, and was given the name Benjamin Carl at his Holy Baptism on the 30th day of January in the year 1824, the Reverend Mr. B. German officiating. The godparents were Heinrich Diefenderfer and his wife Susanna.

 

 

Top of Maria's taufschein. Below: the English translation. Courtesy David Helfrich.
Birth and Baptismal Certificate.
To this couple, Master J. Adam Mensch and his wife Catharina née Gruber, was born a daughter on the 30th day of April in the year of our Lord 1827. This daughter was born in Hereford Township, Berks County, State of Pennsylvania, North America, and was baptized and given the name Maria on the 10th day of June in the year of our Lord 1827 by Pastor C. Herman. The godparents were Magdalena Unterkoble, single.

 

 

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

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.

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 (1855-1880) was born on Dec. 2, 1855 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.

During their brief married life, they produced two known sons -- Edgar "Harry" Wellington 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 on Jan. 10, 1880 at the age of 24. 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 moved back into his parents' home in New York.

After two years of grieving, Daniel wedded again in 1882, in New York City, to Maria S. Hoffman (1855-1917). They lived in New York and bore two children of their own, Ada Cecil Sassaman and Harry Martin Helfrich.

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 "Harry" Wellington 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. 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 1897-1984). 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. Hattie lived for another 18 years. She passed away in 1984.
  • Grandson Elwood V. Helfrich (1903-1934) was born on Aug. 25, 1903 in Allentown. He wedded Mary Ann Butz (Oct. 9, 1903-1956), daughter of J. Treichler and Florence M. (Hartman) Butz of Allentown, the father a local county health official. They were the parents of Leonard W. Helfrich and lived at 518 North 24th Street in Allentown. Elwood was employed as a salesman by the Lehigh Valley Paperhouse. Mary Ann pursued a career in teaching and graduated from Kutztown State Teachers College and Muhlenberg College. In his early 30s, Elwood 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. Mary Ann spent the next baker's dozen years as a widow and supported herself as a teacher in the school in the Garber-Horne Building. Circa 1947, she lived in the Amerucis Hotel in Allentown. Then on Sept. 13, 1947, she married a second time to 46-year-old Allentown physician Fernando F. de la Vara (March 5, 1901- ? ), son of Ramon and Dolores (Pi Rojas) de la Vara of Gibara, Cuba. Rev. S.F. Custard officiated at their wedding. The couple relocated to New Jersey and made a home at 112 Chambers Street in Phillipsburg. Mary was ill for the last four years of her life and received treatment at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg. She died in their home on Feb. 21, 1956 at the age of 52. An obituary was printed in the Allentown Morning Call.

Great-grandson Leonard W. Helfrich ( ? - ? ) resided in Allentown in 1956. He was married and the father of three sons -- Douglas Helfrich, Leonard Helfrich and Keith Helfrich.

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 Effenger G. Hopkins (1852-1927), also spelled "Efinger," son of William and Abigail (Stein) Hopkins of Pottstown, PA.

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

Their home in 1903-1927 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.

Effenger was employed for 35 years by H.C. Vogel & Company, commission merchants. Their home in 1927 was located at 208 Lincoln Road, Brooklyn.

Sadly, Effenger was burdened for the final year of his life with heart problems. He passed away in their home at the age of 75 on Valentine's Day 1927. Word of his death was sent to relatives in Allentown, and the Allentown Morning Call printed an obituary which said that he "was well known to many Allentown people..." His remains were shipped via the Lehigh Valley Railroad back to Allentown, with burial taking place in the mausoleum of Greenwood Cemetery.

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 Morning Call said that she "lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the greater part of her life."

Daughter Laura Rebecca Hopkins (1880-1956). In about 1905, she wedded Peter Howard Burkey ( ? - ? ). The couple is known to have borne a son, Kenneth Leslie Burkey. Their addresses over the years included 1925 Tilghman Street in Allentown (circa 1938) and 234 Fenimore Street in Brooklyn (1927-1956). Laura is believed to have been a member of the Brooklyn Woman's Club.

  • Grandson Kenneth Leslie Burkey (1909?-1990) was born in about 1909 in Brooklyn. As a young man, in June 1930, he received a bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University in New York. He then went on to obtain a bachelor of science in engineering from Columbia in June 1933. On April 14, 1934, in a ceremony held at the Episcopal Church in Stratford, CT, he was joined in wedlock with Edith Hazard ( ? - ? ), daughter of Z.C. and Margaret Hazard of Stratford. The wedding was covered in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The children born to this union were Kenneth "Steele" Burkey, Peter H. Burkey, Carolyn Blacker and Joan Baralt Schulkers. The newlyweds made their initial home in Charleston, Kanawha County, WV, where Kenneth worked as a chemical engineer, likely with Union Carbide Corporation, where he spent a long career. He enjoyed singing and, as a bass, performed with the Trinity Lutheran Church Choir in Charleston at Christmas 1934. At some point he was transferred to a Union Carbide plant in Whiting, IN. Circa 1947, Edith is known to have been a member of the Whiting Women's Club, and in 1954 Kenneth served on the scholarship committee of the Whiting Lions Club. Their address in the 1960s was at 1637 Davis Avenue. Upon retiring in 1975, they relocated to Winter Park, FL where the spent the balance of their lives. Kenneth joined the Orlando Downtown Lions Club and the University Club of Winter Haven, and they were members of First United Methodist Church of Orlando. Their address in 1990 was 1551 Highland Road. Kenneth died at the age of 81 on July 23, 1990. An obituary in the Orlando Sentinel said that memorial services were held at the family church, officiated by Rev. Bob Bushong.

Great-grandson Kenneth "Steele" Burkey ( ? - ? ) was born in (?). On Aug. 31, 1957, he married Patricia Lynn "Pat" Binkley (Nov. 30, 1936-2018). They were the parents of Clinton Steele Burkey, Clayton Wade Burkey and Robert Bauer. Steele served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. He was assigned to the USS Oak Hill, a dock landing ship, with a homeport in San Diego. After leaving the Navy in 1969, the family settled in Columbia City, IN.

Great-grandson Peter H. Burkey ( ? - ? ) studied physics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Circa August 1970, he is believed to have been united in matrimony with Lynette Marie Dostatni ( ? - ? ), daughter of Walter J. Dostatni Jr. of Whiting. He resided in Holland, MI.

Great-granddaughter Carolyn Burkey married (?) Blacker. Her home in 1990 was in Italy.

Great-granddaughter Joan Burkey ( ? - ? ) was born in (?). She attended Indiana University in Bloomington. She then moved to San Diego where she obtained a job with Fed. Mart Corporation. On June 20, 1970, in nuptials held at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Whiting, she wedded Jack Lopez Baralt Jr. ( ? - ? ), son of Jack L. Baralt Sr. of Coral Gables, FL. Jack held a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Miami and had been employed in San Diego with Security Pacific National Bank. The newlyweds first lived in Coral Gables on Calatrava Avenue. Later, she married (?) Schulkers. She dwelled in Largo, FL in 1990.

 

~ 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 her great-nephew, Harold W. Helfrich. 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 Elizabeth (Gaumer) Siegfried ~

Daughter Laura Elizabeth Gaumer (1870-1889) was born on June 13, 1870 in Lower Macungie Township.

At the age of 17, on Christmas Eve 1887, she was joined in wedlock with 21-year-old flour miller Sylvester F. Siegfried (1866- ? ), also spelled "Sigfried," the son of Peter Siegfried of Kutztown, Berks County. Rev. A.R. Horne officiated at the ceremony held in Allentown. Because Laura was legally underage, her father had to sign his consent to the union.

Tragically, their marriage was short-lived. After a little more than a year, on Feb. 3, 1889, she succumbed in Lower Macungie at the age of 19. She rests in Lehigh Zion Church Cemetery in Alburtis. No obituary has been found to date in Allentown newspapers, and her grave is not known to be marked.

 

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