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John William 'Emery' Younkin


Emery Younkin

John William "Emery" Younkin was born on Sept. 16, 1881 near Kingwood, Somerset County, PA, the son of Daniel Martin and Elmira (Zimmerman) Younkin. Enduring the deaths of his first wife and teenage daughter, and surviving a maiming workplace injury, he was employed for nearly a half-century with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

On Dec. 20, 1907, when he was age 26, Emery married his first wife, 18-year-old Mary Virginia Garlitz (Nov. 21, 1889-1920). She was a native of Maryland and the daughter of Shadrich and Barbara (McKinzie) Garlitz.

The Younkins went on to produce a family of three daughters – Georgia Marie Younkin, Gertrude Etta Christner Eckert Donaldson and Geraldine Virginia "Mickey" Newcomer.


B&O locomotive in Somerset County

In 1898, Emery began working for the B&O as a "hostler" at Rockwood, and later was promoted to brakeman. While at work on the Somerset & Cambria Branch of the railroad at Somerset, however, in early March 1903, he was injured in a terrible, crippling accident. Reported the Connellsville Courier: "He was out on his first regular trip as brakeman, and while the train was shifting at Somerset station a sudden starting of the engine threw Younkin from the top of a box car to the ground. The car passed over his left leg at the ankle, crushing the foot off and over the side on his right foot, crushing it badly and severing three toes."

He was rushed to Mercy Hospital in Johnstown, PA for treatment. While recovering there, he received a visit from B&O officials, who offered him a substantial amount of money as compensation for his injury. With remarkable long-term vision, he declined, but asked that he be guaranteed a job with the B&O for the rest of his life or as long as he wanted it.


Gertrude, Mickey and Georgia

Thus during the Depression, unlike a majority of families in the area, Emery had steady work. To keep him active, the B&O sent him to various places to perform a diversity of jobs, including Connellsville, Rockwood and Sand Patch. The Somerset County Leader once said  that "Transferred to the job of repairing water stations and plumbing installations, he has performed these duties … from Hyndman to Confluence and from Rockwood to  Johnstown."

Among Emery’s work accomplishments was working on the construction of the B&O’s major railroad tunnel at Sand Patch, Somerset County. The family resided on-site there for some time.

Emery used a prosthetic leg, and kept three extras on hand – one for work, one for dress-up and one extra just in case. He was nimble and could climb tall ladders of water towers.

Later, he was transferred to Somerset, and then was sent back to Sand Patch, where they resided in the Sand Patch Hotel. Daughters Gertrude and Geraldine were born in Sand Patch in the early 1910s.


Above: pastoral view of the town of Somerset circa 1910. Below: Sand Patch Hotel, where the Younkins lived circa 1920 and where Mary died.



Mary and the older girls, 1913 Minerd Reunion

In 1913, with his widowed father, Emery and Mary and their elder two daughters attended the first annual Minerd Reunion, held at Ohiopyle's Ferncliff Park in nearby Fayette County. Clothed in beautiful light dresses and hats, Mary and the girls posed in a group photograph taken that day. At the event, cousin Allen Edward Harbaugh, whose grandmother was a Minerd, recited a landmark history of the family that he had authored, which has survived to this day and is a vital key to our understanding of the early family and its many branches. Red ribbons were worn by the women, while the men apparently wore a white or lighter version. Attendance at the inaugural reunion was was "exactly 125," according to an article in the Uniontown, PA newspaper.

Heartache struck on Jan. 14, 1920, during an infleunza epidemic when the family was making its home in the Sand Patch Hotel. The 29-year-old Mary contracted a deadly case of pneumonia, leading to an acute enlargement of her heart. As she lay dying in her room, her daughters were called home from school to say their final goodbyes. Emery worked feverishly at the wood stove in their room, boiling water for hot compresses. He refused to give up, holding out hope that she would recover, but his effort was in vain.

The Angel of Death swept away Mary on Jan. 14, 1920. Interment of her remains was in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery in Rockwood.

Emery was left alone to raise their three daughters, Gertrude, Mickey and Georgia. As a widower, he scheduled his work primarily on the day shift so he could be home with his daughters in the evenings. Every so often, he would get called out at night when “someone was out of water,” recalled a daughter. Later, Emery was transferred from Sand Patch back to Somerset.


Obituary, 1924

Grief again enveloped the family in October 1924. Strikingly attractive daughter Georgia underwent dental surgery a few days before her 16th birthday. A septic infection developed in the gums, leading to acute heart infection ("myocartidits"). She succumbed to death at age 16 years and four days on Oct. 2, 1924. On her death certificate, her mother's maiden name was written as "Mary Jones." Burial was in the Rockwood IOOF Cemetery.

The story was major news in the Somerset Herald, and while the article mis-identified her as 'Margaret,' it went on to say:

Miss Younkin appeared to improve following her admission to the [Somerset] hospital and on Thursday morning when one of her younger sisters called on the telephone she was told that Margaret had passed a comfortable night and that she would be safe in attending school. A few minutes later Mr. Younkin received a telephone call from the hospital advising him that his daughter was in a dying condition, having taken a sudden change. Before Mr. Younkin reached the hospital, distant three or four blocks from his home, he was intercepted on the street by a messenger who told him that his daughter had passed away.


Emery and Elsie, front page news

Emery spent seven long years as a widower. At the age of 46, on April 15, 1927, he married his second wife, 48-year-old Elsie Eleanor Zufall (1879-1961). She was the daughter of John and Rebecca (Houpt) Zufall of Somerset, PA.

Emery and Elsie did not reproduce. She was a member of the First Christian Church of Somerset.

Skilled in water management, Emery was “a member of the Rockwood Volunteer Fire company for many years,” said the Somerset Daily American. Each Christmas, he received a crate of apples from his cousin Alfred Arthur Younkin, who owned an orchard in the lush growing valley of Wenatchee, WA.

In June 1947, Emery finally retired from the B&O after 49 years of service. He was toasted at a surprise dinner held at the Reformed Church in Rockwood, and it made front page news in the Somerset County Leader. At the dinner, stores department head J.M. Minick said that Emery “had earned the respect and good will of all of the men on the division because of his reliability and never-failing good humor in any kind of emergency.”


Booklet naming Emery

As a retirement gift, Emery received a platform rocking chair. Said the Leader, “It now occupies a prominent spot in the Younkin living-room where the genial railroader plans to sit back and take things easy.”

Emery and Elsie enjoyed a baker's dozen years of retired life together. Their address was 711 East Main Street in Rockwood.

As he aged, Emery was burdened with hypertension and heart disease. After an acute heart attack, at age 79, Emery died on Feb. 18, 1960. He was buried near his parents, first wife and daughter at the Rockwood IOOF Cemetery.

Elsie outlived him by a little over a year. During that time, she fractured her left femur. Suffering from hardening of the arteries, she passed away on June 7, 1961, at age 82, and is buried next to Emery.

Emery and his father are mentioned in an "old time railroader" list in the 1957 commemorative book, Rockwood Centennial: 1857-1959, and in the 1906 History of Bedford and Somerset Counties by William H. Koontz.

His daughters were pictured on the front page of the July 1993 issue of the Younkin Family News Bulletin, published by the late Donna (Younkin) Logan.


Graves of Emery and Elsie, Rockwood IOOF Cemetery


~ Daughter Geraldine Virginia "Mickey" (Younkin) Newcomer Cheverton Martin ~


Sisters Gertrude (left) and Mickey

Daughter Geraldine Virginia "Mickey" (Younkin) Newcomer Cheverton Martin (1917- ? ) was born on Aug. 8, 1917 in Sand Patch, Somerset County.

As a young woman, she worked for the Somerset County Leader, handling legal notices and obituaries. 

Her first husband was Donald Davies "George" Newcomer (Oct. 1, 1905-1960), the son of John Charles and Margaret (Davies) Newcomer and a native of Meyersdale, Somerset County.

Their three daughters were Gwendolyn Ankeny, Deborah Lee Miller and Donald Davies Newcomer Jr.

Donald served in the U.S. Marine Corps “and was wounded in the Chinese Rebellion,” said the Daily American. He earned a living over the years as a bartender in Rockwood. Their address circa 190 was 711 East Main Street.

Donald was afflicted with central artery problems known as "Leriche Syndrone" onto which he suffered gangrene of the bowels and septic shock. He was admitted to St. Francis General Hospital in Pittsburgh, but could not rally over a six-week stay. He passed away there at the age of 55 on Nov. 12, 1960. His remains were brought back to Somerset County for burial in the Younkin plot in Rockwood.

Mickey later wed (?) Cheverton ( ? - ? ). Mickey was a member of the First Christian Church of Somerset and the American Legion Post 181 Auxiliary. She also served as First Pennsylvania State President of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Auxiliary.

After an apparent divorce, she wed again to Jack Lowell Martin ( ? -1987). They are believed to have spent parts of their years together in Port Charlotte, FL. Mickey was rendered a widow again at Jack's passing on March 3, 1987.

She and her sister Gertrude attended at the 1991 Younkin Reunion at Kingwood. In the mid-1990s, she and daughter Deborah Miller entertained a visit from the founder at this website in Mickey's apartment in Somerset. As she aged, she lost her eyesight and used a super-magnifying device for reading and looking at photographs.

Mickey died at Somerset Hospital on April 12, 1999 at the age of 81. Interment was in Somerset County Memorial Park, with Rev. Daniel F. Nicksich officiating. An obituary was printed in the Somerset Daily American. The family asked that any memorial contributions be made to the Somerset County Blind Association.

Daughter Gwendolyn Newcomer was joined in matrimony with Lt. Col. Paul Ankeny. Their home circa 1999 was in Hilton Head, SC.

Daughter Deborah Lee Newcomer married Douglas I. Miller. Their two sons are Douglas E. Miller and David Scott Miller. They have lived in Somerset.

  • Grandson Douglas E. Miller resided in Somerset in the late 1990s.
  • Grandson David Scott Miller lived in Somerset after serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Son Donald Davies Newcomer Jr. was united in wedlock with Debra Panjaitan. They produced two children -- Paul D. Newcomer and Jamie L. Newcomer.

  • Grandson Paul D. Newcomer dwelled in Mullica Hill, NJ in 1999.
  • Granddaughter Jamie L. Newcomer made her home in 1999 in Wenonah, NJ.


Husband Cemetery, Somerset

~ Daughter Gertrude (Younkin) Christner Eckert Donaldson ~

Daughter Gertrude E. Younkin (1910-2008) was born on Dec. 9, 1910 in Sand Patch, Somerset County.

She was the last surviving member of the extended Minerd-Miner family to have been present at the clan's first reunion at Ohiopyle, Fayette County, which she attended with her parents and sisters at the age of about two-and-a-half in August 1913.  

Gertrude was married three times. Her first spouse was Paul W. Christner (Dec. 7, 1906-1937), son of George W. and Emma (Rector) Christner.

She and Paul bore two sons: Gerald Emery Christner and George Wayne Christner. 

They dwelled in a third-floor apartment at 118 South Center Street in Somerset. Paul earned a living for the final 13 months of his life as part owner of a restaurant and grill in partnership with Robert Ryan in the Vannear Building.


Husband Cemetery, Somerset

Tragically, he suffered from heart valve disease. Then, on the fateful day of Feb. 12, 1937, he suffered a heart attack while walking down a flight of stairs in the apartment building. He fell down the steps, with his head striking a post on the railing, severely bruising his head and face, and dying instantly at the age of 30 . Rev. Dr. George L. Roth of the Somerset Reformed Church performed the funeral service. Interment of his remains was in the Husband Cemetery in Somerset, with an obituary appearing in the Somerset Daily American.

Gertrude was left as a single parent with two young boys to raise and feed. She wedded her second husband, John Eckert ( ? - ? ), son of Alvin Eckert. Circa 1953-1954, the Eckerts resided in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, OH and in 1955-1960 were in Phoenix, AZ.

She and John often spent several weeks of vacation at a time with her parents in Somerset during the 1950s.

Then during the 1980s, she was joined in matrimony whth her third spouse, William Richard Donaldson Jr. (Sept. 18, 1919-1986), a native of Pittsburgh and the son of Dr. William Richard and Mae (Marshall) Donaldson Sr.

During World War II, he had served as sergeant in the U.S. Army, and was deployed overseas with the 79th Infantry Division. He brought two children to the union, W. Richard Donaldson III and Mary Deeter.

The Donaldsons made a home on West Church Street in Somerset. William was a member of the Somerset posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Meyersdale lodge of the Masons.


Husband Cemetery, Somerset

William is believed to have suffered from cancer. He died in Somerset Community Hospital at the age of 66 on Sept. 2, 1986. Rev. George E. Bowersox Jr. officiated at the funeral service, with additional rites provided by local VFW members. He was laid into eternal repose in Gertrude's family plot in Husband Cemetery, with the Daily American publishing an obituary. The family asked that any memorial donations be made to the American Cancer Society.

Gertrude was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Somerset and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. In 1991, she and her sister Mickey went to the first Younkin Reunion-East, held at Kingwood Picnic Grove in Somerset County.

As she aged, she became "one of the first residents of the Somerset Towers," said the Daily American. She was active socially at the Towers. In 1982, she was pictured in the newspaper presenting a check to the Somerset Volunteer Fire Chief as a donation from Towers residents, and again and in 2001 was pictured with other members in receiving a check from the Eagles for social activities.

Gertrude passed away at the age of 97 on April 20, 2008, at The Patriot in Somerset. At the National Younkin Reunion held in Somerset County in July 2008, a candle was lit in her memory at a religious service held at the historic Mount Union Church near the town of Casselman. Her name was read aloud by reunion official Everett Sechler, and she further was remembered in brief remarks by Minerd.com founder Mark Miner.


Gertrude (Younkin) Christner Donaldson was remembered with a lighted candle in her memory and in remarks during religious services in the historic Mt. Union church at the 2008 National Younkin Reunion



Husband Cemetery, Somerset

Son Gerald Emery "Jerry" Christner (1929-2016) was born on May 22, 1929. He attended Brooklyn Heights High School in the Parma area of Cleveland, and is said to have scored "the first touchdown as a member of their football team." He married Doris Decker ( ? - ? ). Their children were Janise Bayne, Amy Sanders, Debra Sandberg, Dana Vargo and Scott Sandberg. Gerald served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and held the rank of sergeant. The Christners later made their home in Canton and Strongsville, OH and then by 1999 were in Palm Harbor, FL. Suffering from Parkinson's Disease, Jerry died at the age of 87 in Palm Harbor on May 24, 2016. An obituary was published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. His body was transported to Somerset to rest for all time in the family plot in Husband Cemetery.

  • Granddaughter Janise Christner married David Bayne.
  • Granddaughter Amy Christner wedded Dannie Sanders.
  • Granddaughter Debra Christner was joined in marriage with Michael Sandberg.
  • Granddaughter Dana Christner was united in wedlock with Frank Vargo
  • Grandson Scott Sandberg

Son George Wayne Christner ( ? - ? ) was born in (?). On Jan. 16, 1955, he was united in the bonds of wedlock with Betty Jean Bowers ( ? - ? ), daughter of Cecil M. Bowers of Hobart, IN. Their nuptials were to have been held at the First Methodist Church of Hobart. At the time of marriage, George was in the U.S. Army and stationed at Fort Knox, KY, with plans to complete his senior year of college studies, while Betty Jean earned a living as s service representative with Illinois Bell Telephone Company. The couple were the parents of Lisa Ann Christner. Circa 1956, the family was in Hobart and in 1999 resided in North Canton, OH. He was still living in 2016 when named in the Somerset Daily American obituary of his brother.

  • Granddaughter Lisa Ann Christner ( ? - ? )


Copyright © 2002, 2007-2008, 2010, 2018 Mark A. Miner