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Mary (Weyand) Rhoads


Mary and Joseph Rhoads - courtesy David Rhoads

Mary (Weyand) Rhoads was born on Feb. 12, 1823 in Somerset County, PA, the daughter of Michael and Mary Anne (Ream) Weyand Sr. She never learned how to read or write.

Mary was joined in wedlock with Joseph A. Rhoads (1821-1881), also spelled "Rhoades," son of Abraham and Susanna (Wingerd) Rhoads.

The couple produced these eight known children -- Ephraim Rhoads, Sarah Rhoads, Manasseh J. "Manassas" Rhoads, Frank Samuel Rhoads, Abraham "Lincoln" (or "Link") Rhoads, William Michael Rhoads, Julia A. Rhoads and Mary A. Rhoads.

When the United States Census was made in 1850, Mary and Joseph lived next door to his parents in Somerset Township, Somerset County. In addition to their young children, 14-year-old Sarah Rhoads and 21-year-old Joseph Musgrave, a laborer, were under their roof that year.

The federal census enumeration of 1860 shows the Rhoadses living as farmers near Benford's Store, Somerset Township.


Mary's badly faded grave marker,
Wills St. Johns Cemetery

The family dwelled on a farm in Lavansville in the township in 1870, when the census next was taken. That year, 45-year-old Samuel Frank and his son Lincoln lived under their roof, and residing next door was the family of Mary's brother Joseph.

In 1870, after the death of his father, Mary was bequeathed $939.17 as an inheritance.

When the census again was made in 1880, only daughters Julia and Mary remained under their roof, with Julia having suffered from diphtheria during the past year.


Joseph's grave marker, Wills St. Johns

Joseph passed away in 1881 at the age of about 60.

Mary died on May 28, 1897 in Somerset County. Interment took place in Wills Church Cemetery. [Find-a-Grave]

A number of the Rhoades' adult children were among 300 relatives who attended the 17th annual reunion of the Abraham Rhoads family in July 1933, held at Edgewood Grove. Reported the Somerset Daily American, "A bountiful dinner was served at noon. Mrs. Sue Horner, 93, of Friedens, was the oldest descendant in attendance." Among the entertainment at the picnic was a play, "The Anybody Family on Sunday Morning," the Rinick string orchestra of Berlin and readings by Mrs. John Riniew of Berlin. Kinsman D.W. Rhoads of Somerset was elected president, Aaron Heiple of Geiger vice president, Wilson Rhoads as secretary and Harrison Zarefoss as treasurer.


~ Son Frank Samuel Rhoads ~

Son Frank Samuel Rhoads ( ? - ? ) was born in (?).


~ Son Abraham Lincoln "Link" Rhoads ~

Son Abraham "Lincoln" (or "Link") Rhoads (1861-1913) was born on Nov. 13, 1861 in Somerset County.

He left home as a young man and circa 1880 lived in the home of Joseph and Mary S. Coleman in Somerset Township, labeled by the census-taker as a "son" of the couple. Within a year or two he "came west and settled in Kansas," said the Haddam (KS) Clipper-Leader.

On April 28, 1885, in nuptials held in Haddam, Washington County, KS, the 24-year-old Lincoln was united in matrimony with Sadie Bowman ( ? - ? ).

They produced five offspring -- Grover Rhoads and Homer Rhoads (born in Kansas) and Greta Rhoads, Coila Rhoads and Vivian Rhoads (born in Oklahoma).

Early in the married years, Lincoln was employed in Haddam by Yoder Bros. and was widely known as "Link." He also owned a drug store which in 1886 he sold to Al Tansel. Then in 1887, he ran the opera house billiard hall but discontinued the work on May 1, 1887. Seeking more, he traveled throughout Kansas in August 1887, and upon returning, told the Haddam New Era that "towns in Western Kansas are springing up as if by magic and that people are rolling to their borders and building magnificent blosk upon beds of permanent sand. He tells us that two towns in Logan county are each bidding to secure the county seat with a $40,000 purse."


Land run speculators in Guthrie, Oklahoma, 1889, where Abraham "Lincoln" Rhoads and friend Calvin Morrow staked claims on the first day.


Sensing opportunity in the newly opening lands of Oklahoma, he and friend Calvin Morrow took part in the famed land run of April 1889 and staked claims in what became the town of Guthrie. Said the Washington (KS) Weekly Post, "They were at Guthrie on the opening day and say it was a sight to see. At twelve o'clock, noon, the people seemed to spring up from all parts and within a very short time the town contained a population of ten thousand. Link was on the ground early and got a choice lot for which he realized $140.... They are loud in their praise of the country, and the people down there. The report coming from there of famine, disorder and carnage, is emphatically denied by those who have been in the territory." They staked a claim in Canadian County, and Lincoln "was among the first to help in the founding and upbuilding of El Reno," said the Clipper-Leader. He is known to have occasionally returned to Haddam and told friends that the Oklahoma expanses were "still on the boom." When the federal census enumeration was made in 1900, the family home was on Evans Avenue in El Reno, with Lincoln earning a living as a saloon proprietor.

Of his nature, the Clipper-Leader once said he "made many friends and to those who were his friends he was a friend indeed. He was human and had faults like every other mortal, but the man who needed assistance or help of any kind no matter what his condition never appealed to Abe in vain." Although they probably did not know of the connection, distant cousin Warren DeMoss -- of the family of Archie DeMoss -- served as postmaster of El Reno during the years the Rhoadses lived there.

Overnight on May 22-23, 1913, at the age of 52, Lincoln passed away in his sleep in El Reno. Said the El Reno newspaper, "The many friends of Abe Rhodes were greatly surprised this morning to learn of his death.... He was on the streets yesterday and seemed to be in perfect health, according to his family he retired early last evening and had not complained of being unwell. This morning he was found dead in bed, and it is supposed that a sudden attack of heart failure caused his death. That the end came peacefully was indicated by the appearance of the body when found by relatives this morning, the deceased apparently passed from a deep sleep into the Valley of the shadow." Burial was in El Reno Cemetery. [Find-a-Grave]

The widowed Sarah survived another 37 years as a widow. She passed into eternity on March 5, 1950 and rests beside her husband.


El Reno, Oklahoma, where Abraham "Lincoln" Rhoads operated a saloon


Son Grover Rhoads (1886-1931) was born on Feb. 20, 1886 in Kansas. As a boy, he relocated to Oklahoma with his parents when the territory was opened to peaceful settlement. He lived in San Francisco in 1913. During World War I, he served as a corporal in the 357th Oklahoma Infantry, also known as the Oklahoma National Guard, and is believed to have been wounded slightly. He was wedded to Denna ( ? - ? ). In the late 1920s or early '30s, he made a home in Florida and in April 1931 was in Longview, Gregg County, TX pursuing some sort of business connected with the oil boom. At the age of 44 ,on April 4, 1931, he died in Longview at a "home in which he had been staying," said the Longview News-Journal. "He was a clerk by occupation." His remains were transported back to Canadian County to rest in El Reno Cemetery

Son Homer Rhoads (1889-1973) was born on Sept. 20, 1888 in Haddam, Washington County, KS. He resided in 1913 in Haddam. As with his older brother, Homer joined the American Expeditionary Force during World War I as a member of the 357th Oklahoma Infantry, Company K. Homer was joined in wedlock with Opal (?) (May 17, 1898-1978). Circa 1931, he lived at 2201 West 13th Street in Oklahoma City. He passed into eternity on March 13, 1973. Burial was in El Reno Cemetery. Opal lived for another five years. She joined him in death at the age of 80 on Nov. 18, 1978.

Daughter Greta Rhoads (1894- ? ) was born in 1894 in Oklahoma. She made a home in El Reno, Canadian County in 1913.

Daughter Coila Rhoads (1896-1989) was born on Nov. 12, 1896 in El Reno. She dwelled in 1913 in El Reno. Coila appears to have been married twice or perhaps even thrice. One of her husbands was (?) Sullivan ( ? - ? ). They produced a son, Dr. E.L. Sullivan and daughter Pat McKenna. Coila later married Henry Owen and (?) Lynch ( ? -1964). For many years, she resided in Hays, KS. Sadly, Henry died in 1964. Coila survived as a widow for a quarter of a century. She was a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church of Hays and its altar society. Coila is known to have taken a month's vacation in the autumn of 1971, seeing loved ones in Springfield, MO; Oklahoma City and Claremore and Tonkawa, OK. While in Oklahoma City, she met up with her son Dr. E.L. Sullivan who traveled from his residence in San Benito, TX. In 1980, Coila moved to her married daughter's home in St. Louis. She died on May 23, 1989 at the age of 90 in Evergreen Nursing Home in St. Louis. An obituary was printed in the Salina (KS) Journal which reported that her survivors numbered eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Rev. Paulinus Karlin officiated at the funeral service, with interment in St. John's Cemetery in Russell.

Daughter Vivian Rhoads lived in El Reno in 1913. She was united in matrimony with (?) Dumler ( ? - ? ). Her home in 1989 was in Russell, KS.


~ Son Ephraim Rhoads ~

Son Ephraim Rhoads (1845- ? ) was born in about 1845. He lived on the family farm in Somerset Township as a boy.


~ Daughter Sarah Rhoads ~

Daughter Sarah Rhoads (1848- ? ) was born in about 1848 in Somerset Township.


~ Son Manasseh J. "Mannasses" Rhoads ~


Wills St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery

Son Manasseh J. "Mannasses" Rhoads (1849-1904) -- also spelled "Rhodes" -- was born on Oct. 9, 1849 in Somerset Township, Somerset County. His birth name of Manasseh is of Old Testament vintage. But after the famous Civil War battle in Manassas, VA, when he was a teen, his name may have evolved to a closer version of that usage.

At the age of 16, he was confirmed by Rev. John Tomlinson and joined the Wills Evangelical Lutheran Church. A newspaper once said he "was a faithful christian until his death."

Manasses was twice wed. In 1869, he was joined in marriage with his first bride, Lucinda Long (1843-1882).

The children born to this union were Nannie G. Hensell and Nelle Jane Will.

Sadly, Lucinda died on June 25, 1882, at the age of 39, bringing their marriage of 13 years to a close. A brief death notice appeared in the Somerset Herald.

Then in November 1887, Manasses was united in matrimony with his second wife, Caroline "Carrie" Stoy (June 19, 1852-1908) of Shade Township. She was the daughter of German immigrant Conrad Stoy and his wife Mary Bouzer. News of their marriage was printed in the Herald. The couple spent their lives living near Wills St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church, Somerset Township.

In September 1897, Manasses is known to have sold wheat from his farm to the Somerset County Directors of the Poor and was paid $5.00.

At the age of 54, in the dead of winter in 1904, he went to dig some coal at a mine owned by Oran Beachley. Said the Somerset Daily American, "As he and his neighbors were loading coal, it was noticed that he was sick. As he was in the act of falling, some one caught him and assisted him to the house of Mr. Beachley. There he spoke a few times, then lapsed into unconsciousness. He passed peacefully away Friday morning [Feb. 19, 1904]. A paralytic stroke was the cause of death." Funeral services were held in the family church, officiated Rev. Robert L. Patterson of Somerset, followed by burial in nearby Wills Church Cemetery. Said the Daily American, "A large gathering of friends followed him to the grave."

Carrie outlived her spouse by four years. Stricken with cancer of the colon and right ovary she died just a few weeks before her 56th birthday, on May 28, 1908. John Stoy of Husband, PA was the informant for her Pennsylvania certificate of death. Manassas and Carrie rest together in Wills St. Johns Cemetery.

Daughter Nannie G. Rhoads (1874-1965) was born on Oct. 21, 1874. She wedded Simon Wesley Hensell (Feb. 8, 1868-1949), a native of Indiana County, PA and the son of John and Elizabeth (Stoy) Hensell. The couple bore one daughter, Katharine Tomb. They dwelled for many years on 820 Ferndale Avenue in Johnstown, Cambria County, PA. Simon earned a living with his work for Kolb Baking Company, retiring in 1941. He was a member of St. Paul's Evangelical and Reformed Church of Johnstown and belonged to the Woodmen of the World. Burdened with an enlarged prostate, emphysema and diabetes, Simon was admitted to Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital in Johnstown. He succumbed there at the age of 81 on Sept. 27, 1949. Rev. Albert M. Wright officiated at the funeral service, with burial in Johnstown's Grandview Cemetery. His death was reported in the Somerset Daily American and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Nannie outlived him by 15-plus years. Her home in the 1960s was at 1587 Reamer Street in Pittsburgh. On Feb. 24, 1965, at the age of 90, Nannie died at home from the effects of coronary artery disease. Daughter Katharine Tomb of the home signed the death certificate. Her remains were tranported to Johnstown to rest in Grandview Cemetery. Katharine was married to James Tomb and resided at 1587 Reamer Street in Pittsburgh


Wills St. Johns Cemetery

Daughter Nelle Jane Rhoads (1879-1961) was born on Dec. 15, 1879. She married Harvey Sylvester Will (Dec. 1 or 10, 1879-1948), son of William and Mary (Fox) Will of Somerset. They are believed to have been the parents of Ralph William Will, Harold R. Will and Clyde E. Will. Over many years, the Wills lived in the rural Wills Church community east of Somerset and were longtime farmers. When the Wills Grange was formed circa 1916, Harvey was elected secretary of the organization. Nelle served as treasurer of the Wills Missionary Society. Then in mid-October 1948, stricken with widespread cancer, Harvey was hospitalized at Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh's Oakland section. He died there on Oct. 25, 1948, at the age of 67. As a widow in 1961, Nelle lived with her son Ralph at 1747 Jamestown Place in the Penn Hills suburb of Pittsburgh. Having borne hardening of the arteries for the last five years of her life, she contracted influenza and died at home at the age of 81 on Jan. 8, 1961. Burial was in Wills St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery in Somerset Township.

  • Grandson Ralph William Will Sr. (1905-1995) was born on Nov. 20, 1905 in Somerset. He married Hilda Link (Nov. 2, 1921-2010). He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. They lived in Pittsburgh in 1947 and were the parents of Ralph William Will Jr., Margaret "Peg" Stanford and Betty Miller Griffith. Ralph and Hilda moved to Florida and lived in Jacksonville, where he was a sales manager for RCA Distributors and a member of St. Matthews Lutheran Church, West Jacksonville Rotary Club and Armed Forces Communication Association. He died in Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville at the age of 89 on Jan. 6, 1995. His remains were transported back to his hometown to rest in Wills Cemetery, with Rev. Lynn M. Sanner preaching the funeral service. An obituary was printed in the Somerset Daily American, which noted that he was survived by 11 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. Hilda survived her husband by 15 years. She succumbed in Pittsburgh on May 9, 2010. Daughter Margaret was a 1948 graduate of Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh and married Lester F. Stanford. Circa 1947, the Stanfords lived in New York City, where Lester, a fellow Carnegie Tech graduate and World War II Air Force veteran, was employed as assistant producer with Christopher Smith II Productions.
  • Grandson Harold R. Will (1910-1971) was born in 1910. He was united in marriage with his cousin, Susan Jane Zarefoss (1907-1987), daughter of Harrison and Hattie (Rhoads) Zarefoss. See their biography elsewhere on this page.
  • Grandson Clyde E. Will ( ? - ? ).


Brothers and their wives, Wills St. Johns Cemetery


~ Son William Michael Rhoads ~


William and Susan Rhoads - courtesy David Rhoads

Son William Michael Rhoads (1851-1923) was born on April 14, 1851 in Somerset Township, Somerset County.

In 1870, at the age of 19, he was united in marriage with 25-year-old Susan Gumbert (Feb. 25, 1846-1917), who was five years older than he. She was the daughter of John G. and Barbara (Penrod) Gumbert, the father an immigrant from Germany. The couple lived next to William's parents and widowed uncle Joseph Weyand in Somerset Township in 1880 and were longtime farmers.

Their five known children were Rev. Henry S. Rhoads, Cora B. Brant, Hattie G. Zearfoss, John H. Rhoads and Charles W. Rhoads.

He may be the same "Wm. M. Rhoads" who, in September 1874, received a prize for "best Early Rose potatoes" at the second annual Somerset County Agricultural Society exhibition, with the news reported in the Somerset Herald. The United States Census enumeration of 1900 shows the family in Somerset Township, living next to the families of Roseann Saylor, Nelson Berkley, Charles Frank and Joseph Zerefoss.

The Rhoadses would have felt great pride in November 1903 when their son Henry, a student at Gettysburg Theological Seminary, preached one Sunday in Somerset, first at the Lutheran Church at Friedens in the morning and then at the Wills Church in the afternoon. Then in 1910, census records show that the couple were empty nesters, with only 14-year-old servant Jennie Baker living under their roof, although married son Wilson resided next door.

Sadly, Susan was struck down by angina pectoris -- chest pain -- and died suddenly on Feb. 9, 1917, just a few weeks before her 71st birthday. Burial took place in Wills Church Cemetery.

William spent the final six years of his life as a widower. During that period of time, he moved into the household of his married son Wilson. He was stricken with cancer of the rectum, which led to acute and painful obstruction of the intestines. Unable to recover, he passed into eternity at the age of 71 on Feb. 12, 1923. [Find-a-Grave]


William and Susan Rhoads and family. Front, L-R: Susan, William and Henry. Back, L-R: John, Hattie, Cora and Wilson. Courtesy David Rhoads



Rev. Henry Rhoads
Courtesy David Rhoads

Son Rev. Henry S. Rhoads (1871-1941) was born on April 6, 1871 in Somerset Township. He spent 37 years of his career in Lutheran ministry. After receiving his grade school education, he became a teacher in the Somerset area and later was named assistant county superintendent of schools and served under the leadership of Elmer E. Pritts. Feeling the call to ministry, he graduated from California State Normal School and then Gettysburg College and Gettysburg Theological Seminary. He boarded in the Harrisburg home of William and Isabella Howard circa 1900 and earned income as a railroad laborer. On Nov. 9, 1904, when he was age 33, he was united in marital union with Sudie E. Seacrest (July 24, 1874-1946), a native of Greencastle/Waynesboro, Franklin County, PA and the daughter of John C. and Charlotte (Hoeflich) Seacrest. They were the parents of Paul Henry Rhoads. Once Henry was ordained as a pastor, the United Lutheran Church's home mission board dispatched him to New Jersey to organize Trinity Church near Newark. While in Newark, their son was born in 1907. From there he was assigned to Johnstown, Cambria County, where he founded Moxham Lutheran Church. Said the Somerset Daily American in 1941, "Both the Newark and Moxham churches are now large active congregations." The 1910 federal census shows the family in Johnstown. With those successes under his belt, he went on to pastor Lutheran congregations in Leipsic, OH and Lebanon and Springtown, PA. He is known to have attended the 17th annual reunion of the Abraham Rhoads family in July 1933, at Edgewood Grove in Somerset County, and to have been the principal speaker that day. He retired in about 1939 and maintained a residence at 206 Hamilton Street in Harrisburg. In the fall of 1941, Henry was hospitalized in the Polyclinic Hospital in Harrisburg for chronic heart problems and rheumatic fever. He succumbed there on Oct. 8, 1941, at the age of 70. In an obituary, the Daily American said that local "church and educational leaders were shocked" to hear of his passing. Funeral services were held at the home of his son in Harrisburg, with burial following in Shoops Church Cemetery. Sudie outlived her husband by five years and moved into her son's home at the address of 101 Paxtang Avenue. She was felled by a heart attack and died on June 24, 1946. An obituary appeared in the Harrisburg Evening News and a shorter one in the Daily American. In addition to her son and grandsons, she was survived by sisters Mrs. Frank B. Wickersham of Harrisburg, Mrs. Dickson Geiser of Pittsburgh, Mrs. John Bosserman of Mercersburg, PA and Samuel C. Seacrest of Greencastle. Rev. Dr. S.W. Herman, of Zion Lutheran Church, led her funeral service.


  • Paul H. Rhoads
    Courtesy Dauphin
    County Bar Association

    Grandson Paul Henry Rhoads (1907-1984) was born on May 15, 1907 in Newark, Essex County, NJ. He graduated from Gettysburg College in 1928 and then the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1931. While in law school, he served as editor of the college law review. He went on to practice for many years in Harrisburg, Dauphin County. Paul was united in holy matrimony with Mary B. Bertolet ( ? - ? ). They were the parents of three sons -- John Bertolet Rhoads, Henry W. Rhoads and William B. Rhoads. Paul is known to have attended the 17th annual reunion of the Abraham Rhoads family in Edgewood Grove in July 1933 and to have made brief remarks. In 1941-1946, the Rhoadses' address was 101 Paxtang Avenue. The early years of Paul's career were spent in the office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, followed by employment with the Public Service Commission (PSC), later renamed the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Then in 1935, Paul went into a partnership with John Fox Weiss, former chief council of the PSC. Their firm prospered, and in October 1946, they added a new partner Frank A. Sinon, former Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General and son-in-law of former Pennsylvania Governor Arthur H. James. At that point the firm name changed to Weiss, Rhoads and Sinon, later shortened to Rhoads & Sinon. The law firm grew to become one of the largest in Harrisburg and built a reputation for furnishing sophisticated services for corporation, municipal and government clients in the region.

    In the profession, Paul is known to have been president of the Dauphin County Bar Association in 1952 and to have chaired its special projects committee circa 1949, and in alumni affairs, buildings & grounds, and synod relations for Gettysburg College. He also was editor of the Dauphin County Reporter from 1935 to 1946. A layman preacher, he was a speaker in 1948 at Rally Day at Grace Evangelical United Brethren Church. In the early 1950s, he and other clergy helped found the Lutheran Service Society of Harrisburg and eventually established a Lutheran home for aging citizens. Other community stewardship roles Paul held were the boards of Gettysburg College, the Court of Adjudication of the Lutheran Church of America, Harrisburg Hospital, Harrisburg Public Library, Dauphin County Historical Society, Tri-County United Way and the publications board of the United Lutheran Church in America. Heartache blanketed the family in July 1959 when 24-year-old son John, a medical student at Boston University School of Medicine, died of leukemia, with burial in Harrisburg Cemetery. Sadly, Paul died in Harrisburg on April 9, 1984. The Dauphin County Bar Association issued a memorial resolution, which said that "The success of his law firm is evidence of the leadership and guidance of this unusual and exemplary legal scholar." In the decades following Paul's death, Rhoads & Sinon continued to be a pre-eminent, influential firm. In fact, Paul's son Henry, armed with a law degree from Harvard, joined the firm and became a partner. Henry served as president of the county bar association in 1988, as a trustee of Harrisburg Academy, leader with Harrisburg Area Community College Foundation and a board director of the McCormick Family Foundation. But as law firm economics changed dramatically in the early 2000s, the firm struggled financially. The partners voted to cease operations in January 2018, after eight-plus decades of business, and its lawyers joined or formed a host of other firms. Its last office was located in One South Market Square.

Cora Brant
Courtesy David Rhoads

Daughter Cora Belle Rhoads (1873-1933) was born on July 7, 1873 in Somerset Township. She wedded F. Oliver Brant (May 26, 1870-1958), the son of Francis and Mary (Hauger) Brant. The couple resided in Brothersvalley Township, Somerset County. They produced two known offspring -- Maurice Brant and Alma Shober. When Oliver was 21, he joined the Valley Grange and remained a member for the rest of his years. He is believed to have been politically active and in 1933 was a candidate for supervisor of the township on the Republican ticket. They were members of the Beachdale Church of the Brethren. Heartache blanketed the family in January 1932 when Cora was diagnosed with cancer and sigmoid growths of her descending colon and liver. She suffered through an enduring illness and, less than 14 months later, succumbed at the age of 59 on April 1, 1933. Following funeral services conducted by Rev. B.F. Rudisill, her remains were lowered into eternal repose in the Wills Church Cemetery. Oliver outlived his wife by 25 years and maintained close ties with his late wife's family. At his 80th birthday, in May 1950, his daughter Alma Shober hosted a family dinner in his honor. Among those attending were Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Rhoads, Mr. and Mrs. John H. Hentz, Amy Beal, Pearl Pritz, John Rhoads, Harrison Zarefoss, Ray Zarefoss, Rev. and Mrs. A. Jay Replogle, Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Brant, Mr. and Mrs. Leo Bittner, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Phenicie, Evelyn Nave, F.O. Brant, James English, Frank Phenicie Jr. and Clifford Lee. In reporting on the event for its gossip columns, the Somerset Daily American said that Oliver remarked that he "enjoyed the occasion very much and he received many greetings and messages of good will." In June 1956, at a meeting of the Valley Grange, Oliver received an honor as oldest father present, and his great-grandson Frank Phenicie gave a reading, "My Secret," and great-grandson Gary Phenicie pinned a flower on the lapel of Oliver's jacket. Sadly, at the age of 87, Oliver died at home on Feb. 21, 1958. Rev. Fred Seese officiated at the funeral service, with interment beside his wife in Wills Church Cemetery. An obituary published in the Daily American called him "a well known farmer of Brothersvalley township..." It also noted that in addition to his two adult children, he was survived by four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and siblings Minnie Buechly of Carlisle, A.R. and Grace Hentz and Amy Beal of Berlin.

  • Granddaughter Maurice Brant lived with his parents in Brothersvalley Township in 1933 and in Berlin in 1958.
  • Granddaughter Alma Brant was joined in marriage with Galen Shober. They dwelled in 1933-1958 in Garrett, Somerset County


Hattie Zarefoss (Courtesy David Rhoads). Above, her grave. Below, the unnamed infants' graves, all at Wills St. Johns Cemetery

Daughter Hattie G. Rhoads (1876-1945) was born on Feb. 9, 1876 in Somerset Township. When she was age 26, on April 17, 1902, she married 25-year-old neighbor Harrison "Harry" Zerfoss (June 13, 1876-1957), also spelled "Zearfoss" and "Zarefoss," the son of Charles and Mary (Stutzman) Zerfoss. In reporting on the wedding, the Meyersdale Republican said that the nuptials were led by Rev. M.L. Young and were held "at the pastor's study, Meyersdale." The couple produced these known children, all of whom used the "Zarefoss" spelling -- Dr. Albert H. Zarefoss, Roy W. Zarefoss, Clifford H. Zarefoss, Susan Jane Will and John Zarefoss. They also bore three others who died at or near birth. One was an unnamed daughter, only six months' gestation, on June 10, 1914, with the physician writing of the cause: "Do not know, probably a fall of mother." Another child died as an infant as did a son, Clifford H., who died of jaundice at age three days on May 21, 1915. Relatives and friends helped bury the babies in Wills St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery, where small, still-legible markers stand at the gravesites today. The Zearfosses were dairy and produce farmers over the years in rural Somerset Township. In February 1933, during the heart of the Great Depression, Harrison was among 300 farmers who attended the Somerset County Farm Institute and captured awards for yellow dent corn and buckwheat. They belonged to the Wills St. Johns Church, with Hattie active with the congregation's Womens Missionary Society and hosting meetings at their home. Circa 1930, they lived next door to her married brother Wilson. The Zarefosses attended the 17th annual reunion of the Abraham Rhoads family in July 1933, held in Edgewood Grove, with Harrison elected treasurer of the organization. Stricken with cancer of the lungs and uterus, just a few weeks before her 69th birthday, Hattie passed away in Somerset on Jan. 18, 1945. Her remains were lowered into eternal rest in Wills Cemetery, with Rev. Martin Foutz officiating at the funeral. The Somerset Daily American printed an obituary. Harrison survived his wife by more than a dozen years. He was gathered in by the Grim Reaper at the age of 80 on May 4, 1957. Rev. Robert Carl preached the funeral sermon, with an obituary appearing in the Daily American.

  • Grandson Dr. Albert H. Zarefoss (1903-1996) was born on Nov. 16, 1903. He studied at the Overbrook School for the Blind, Doughty-Marsh Chiropractic Clinic and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Medicine. Upon received his medical degree, he became a licensed chiropractor and physical therapist in Somerset. On Christmas Day 1934, Albert married nurse Nettie M. Middlesworth (Aug. 31, 1912-1993). The wedding was held at Mt. Bethel Reformed Church in McClure, officiated by Rev. E.H. Dechman. News of the happy event was published in the Meyersdale Republican. They were the parents of two -- Larry K. Zarefoss and Elva L. Haigh. He was a member of the Lutheran Church and the Somerset Lions Club. In 1972, they retired to Kissimmee in Central Florida and and spent the balance of their lives there. Nettie passed into eternity in Kissimmee on Oct. 5, 1993. Albert lived for another two-and-a-half years and was gathered by the Angel of Death on May 13, 1996. His remains were cremated. Their red barre granite marker stands in Wills St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery east of Somerset. An obituary was published in the Somerset Daily American which said he had seven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Daughter Elva Haigh made her home in Harper Woods, MI and son Larry in Christmas, FL.


Graves of the Zarefoss brothers and wives, Wills St. Johns Cemetery


  • Grandson Roy W. Zarefoss (1905-1980) was born on July 26, 1905 in Somerset Township. In 1945, his home was with his parents. At some point he wedded Pearl Gnagey ( ? - ? ). They did not reproduce. Roy was employed by Somerset Door and Column Company. They were members of Faith Lutheran Church and made a home on East Main Street in Somerset. Roy was admitted to Somerset Community Hospital where he was swept away by the Grim Reaper at the age of 74 on March 14, 1980. Rev. Roger Forry led the funeral service, with interment in Somerset County Memorial Park.
  • Granddaughter Susan Jane Zarefoss (1907-1987) was born on Sept. 17, 1907 in Somerset Township. As a young woman, she taught school in the Somerset area. Then for four years, she was employed in the chiropractice office of her brother, Dr. Albert H. Zarefoss, in Somerset. On Aug. 8, 1934, the 26-year-old Susan wedded her cousin, Harold R. Will ( ? -1971), son of Harvey Sylvester and Nelle Jane (Rhoads) Will. Rev. Martin F. Foutz officiated at the ceremony held at Wills St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church. In reporting on the nuptials, the Somerset Daily American noted that "The bride wore a white crepe wedding gown, a white turban and veil, white shoes and carried deep pink roses." At the time, Harvey worked at Mussey's Bakery in Somerset. They went on to produce two sons -- Robert Dean Will and Fred W. Will. They were members of the Faith Lutheran Church and the Wills Grange, and Susan was a charter member of the Eighth Society of Farm Women. Sadly, Harold died on June 22, 1971. Susan outlived him by 16 years. Toward the end of her life, she went to live in Siemon's Lakeview Manor Estate. She succumbed there at the age of 79 on Jan. 6, 1986. The Daily American noted that funeral services were held in the family church, officiated by the Rev. Charles J. Hartbauer, followed by burial in Wills St. Johns Cemetery. Their son Robert (1937-2019) was born on Dec. 4, 1937 and married Tomalee A. Stouffer ( ? -living). They did not reproduce over their 55 years of marital union. Said the Daily American, Robert, was "an active member of Faith Lutheran Church where he taught Sunday School, was a member of the choir, church council and leader of Lutheran League. Bob was a member of Wheeler & Dealers square dance club, and the Wills Grange. He was owner of Wills Acres, a dairy farm until his retirement in 2012, his love for animals and farming was evident for anyone to see when they visited the farm. In June 1992 his farm hosted Day On the Farm with an attendance of 3500 people, an accomplishment Bob was very proud of." He died on June 11, 2019, with burial at Wills St. Johns Cemetery. The following month, in a twist of circumstance, Tomalee assisted the founder of this website who was photographing family graves at Wills St. Johns.
  • Grandson John William Zarefoss (1909-1990) was born on May 12, 1909 in Somerset Township. He dwelled in Somerset for decades. John was twice wed. His first bride was Olive M. Combecker (1908-1971). They did not reproduce. Grief enveloped the family when Olive succumbed to death in 1971. His second spouse was Dorothy M. (Saylor) Knepshield ( ? - ? ). He was employed for 29 years by Agway Inc. and retired in 1971. He was a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Wills. He passed away at the age of 71 in White Star Residence in Jennerstown on June 2, 1990. Burial was in Wills St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery with Rev. Melvin A. Kirk preaching. An obituary was printed in the Somerset Daily American.


Today's Wills St. Johns Evangelical Church, renamed Faith Lutheran Church



John H. Rhoads
Courtesy David Rhoads

Son John Howard Rhoads (1883-1971) born on July 7, 1883 in Somerset Township. He owned a farm next to the Hillcrest Grange Hall in Berlin, Somerset County. He was known for giving honey and vegetables he raised to friends. His primary occupation however was as a clerk at the Goodtown Mine. Later, he served as a health inspector for Somerset County, investigating restaurants and issuing quarantine orders during sickness. When his brother Henry was a church pastor in Newark, NJ, John traveled there for a visit in August 1905 and spent the time touring New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlantic City and Washington DC before returning home. His excursion made news in the gossip columns of the Somerset Daily American. He married Daisy Werner (Aug. 17, 1888-1940), daughter of J.C. and Lydia Werner. Daisy was confirmed by Rev. W.E. Brown in girlhood and admitted into membership in the Lutheran Church at Pine Hill. The couple went on to bear two children, Anna Catherine Rhoads and William J. Rhoads. Said the Somerset Daily American:

Her interest in her church continued unabated during the years and was marked by a rare loyalty and devotion. All departments of the church won her support. She was a member of the choir, for many years a teacher in the Sunday school, and served in a varied capacity in the Missionary Society, of which she was also president. This missionary interest extended beyond the local society, and found her, when her life ended, the secretary of literature of the Somerset conference of her denomination. Nor were her interests wholly confined to her church. In her early years she taught four terms in the public schools of Brothersvalley township. And ever after continued her interest in school activities. This interested manifested itself in the work of the Parent-Teachers Association, at Pine Hill, of which she was the president for several years, and always a loyal worker. After the school system was consolidated she became a member of the board of directors of the Community Association, and also served on the membership committee. The grange, too, found a large place in her life. Possibly no other member of her grange was better versed in the duties and privileges of grange membership than she. She served in many capacities in the local grange, as the master and lecturer, and also as master of the degree team for a number of years. For a long time she held an office in the Pomona grange. She was the Pomona lecturer for six years, and at her death served as one of the graces. The community chorus, sponsored by the local grange, also was numbered among her activities.

In the late 1930s, Daisy served on the board of directors of the Somerset County Fair. Grief swept over the family when she died after a brief illness at the age of 51 on June 17, 1940. Funeral services were held in their home, led by Rev. Charles I. Rowe, with burial in the Berlin Odd Fellows Cemetery. John lived on as a widower for 31 years. In January 1942, he and his unmarried daughter Anna Catherine hosted a turkey dinner at their residence near Berlin. Among the attendees were Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Zarefoss, Mr. and Mrs. W.C. Rhoads, Oliver Brant, Mr. and Mrs. Morris Brant, Mr. and Mrs. Galen Shober, Mr. and Mrs. John Zarefoss, Dr. and Mrs. Albert Zarefoss, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Will, Mr. and Mrs. John Suder, Roy Zarefoss, Mabel Rhoads, Edna Brant, Doris Shober, Dorothy Brant, Ray Rhoads, Bobby Will, Larry Zarefoss, Elva Zarefoss and Raymond Shaffer, with the list of names printed in the gossip columns of the Daily American. John was a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin, and Meyersdale lodge of the Masons, the Berlin lodge of the Odd Fellows and the Hillcrest Grange. As his health failed, he was admitted to Meyersdale Community Hospital, and died there at the age of 87 on June 3, 1971. An obituary in the Daily American reported that Rev. Robert Ardell Miller officiated at the funeral, with burial in the Berlin Odd Fellows Cemetery

  • Grandson William J. Rhoads was educated at Bliss Electrical College in Washington, DC. He then was self-employed as a defense contractor in Maryland and, after the outbreak of World War II, joined the U.S. Army. In Dec. 1944, he was united in wedlock with Catherine Musser ( ? - ? ), a resident of Deep Spring Farm in Berlin and the daughter of D.J. Musser. The nuptials were held in her home. Catherine was a graduate of Margaret Morrison College in Pittsburgh and at the time of marriage was employed by the County of Westmoreland (PA) as a home economics extension representative. In 1971, he lived in Adelphi, MD.
  • Granddaughter Anna Catharine Rhoads wedded Willard Flick. Their home in 1971 was in Irwin, Westmoreland County, PA.


Wilson Rhoads (Courtesy David Rhoads); grave at Wills St. Johns

Son Charles "Wilson" Rhoads (1879-1970) -- also known as "W.C." -- was born in May 1879 or on July 13, 1879 in Somerset Township. In 1900, unmarried at the age of 20, he earned a living as a mine laborer. He married Margaret "Maggie" Baer (Aug. 19, 1882-1963), daughter of Peter D. and Harriet (Judy) Baer. The children born to this union were Ray W. Rhoads and Mabel Walker. After Wilson's mother died in 1917, he and Maggie took in Wilson's widowed father. Wilson was a life member of Wills Lutheran Church and a charter member in 1916 of the Wills Grange. For 16 years, he served on the school board in Somerset Township and for four years on the county board of education. He was considered in 1941 to be a "prominent Somerset township farmer," said the Somerset Daily American. Wilson was elected secretary of the annual reunion of the Abraham Rhoads family and is known to have attended the clan's 17th annual gathering, held in July 1933 in Edgewood Grove. For 55 years, he earned additional income as an insurance agent for Farmers Union Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Circa 1963, their residence was at 925 East Main Street in Somerset. Maggie was burdened for many years with hardening of the arteries. Sadly, she was stricken with a cerebral vascular accident and passed away two days later, in Somerset Community Hospital, on April 2, 1963. Wilson outlived his wife by seven years. His remained in their home on East Main Street in Somerset. On March 3, 1970, while a patient in Somerset Hospital, he died at the age of 90. Rev. Gary Bilbie preached the funeral sermon, with interment in Wills St. Johns Lutheran Church Cemetery.

  • Grandson Ray W. Rhoads (1913- ? ) was born in about 1913. He dwelled in Wickliffe, OH in 1970. His son Larry Rhoads and granddaughter Jacquelyn Rhoads were pictured in the Somerset Daily American on June 6, 2016 for their work preserving the history of the Wills Grange.
  • Granddaughter Mabel Rhoads (1918- ? ) was born in about 1918. She married John A. Walker. In 1970, their home was in Somerset.


~ Daughter Julia A. Rhoads ~

Daughter Julia A. Rhoads (1853- ? ) was born in about 1853 in Somerset Township. At the age of 27, in 1880, she lived at home and was suffering from diphtheria, which had caused her to be unable to work for three months.


~ Daughter Mary A. Rhoads ~

Daughter Mary A. Rhoads (1855- ? ) was born in about 1855 in Somerset Township.


Copyright 2002, 2009, 2012, 2014-2015, 2017, 2019 Mark A. Miner