Franz’s older brother Nicholas had just turned eight; his sister Magdalena was five; his sister Katharina had just turned 4; and his brother Johann was 21 months old. The children’s father, Jacob, was probably a coal miner or working in some connection with the coal mines of that region.
Just after April 1834 when the last brother in the family, Ludwig (known as Lewis when they lived in the United States), was born, the family emigrated to America. They probably left from Le Havre, France, the nearest port city. They ended up settling in East Norwegian Township in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, an area rich in anthracite coal mines, which is where their father found work.
Indeed, it seems that all of the children and their mother too worked for a mining company, as when the family were counted on the 1840 United States Census, six of them were working in the mining industry, and as Katharina was married and Magdalena was not counted with them, that means every one of the family at home was working, including young Frank at the age of 13 and even Lewis who was just six.
Changes and developments in the mining industry gradually ended the employment of the women and children over the next decade.
When Frank was about 23 or 24 years old, he married a girl from France, Susannah Deach, whose original name was probably the more Germanic spelling Dietsch, and whose people came from the same region as his, the area west of the River Rhine that had been Germanic, then governed by France and then by Germanic states and so on, back and forth through the centuries.
Susannah had been born in 1830 and at the time of their marriage was about 19 or 20. The 1850 census taker found Frank living in a hotel and working as a carpenter, not married yet in August of that year. It is likely that he and Susanna were married later that year or early the next. Ten years later Frank was a carpenter in New Castle, Pennsylvania, at the time the 1860 Census was taken. He and Susannah had five children then:
- Lewis, born 20 October 1851
- John J, born 3 August 1853
- John Franklin, born September 1855
- Jacob, born 4 June 1857
- William Francis, born 14 February 1860
In August 1861 Frank went off to war and in early 1862, Susannah bore their last son, Joseph. On 3 July 1862 their five-year-old son Jacob died, whether by accident or illness is not known. It must have been very hard on Susanna to be without Frank when this tragedy happened.
Frank enlisted as “Francis Selgrath” in the 108th Regiment, 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Company E on August 7, 1861 in Philadelphia under Captain Hartman. On August 21 Major Ruff took over the Regiment and in October marched them to Washington, D.C., 137 miles away. On 28 November 1861 Frank was promoted to Corporal and with his company was moved through Annapolis, Maryland to Monroe, Virginia. On 22 October 1862 he was promoted to Sergeant in Portsmouth, Virginia, the Company having been moved there back in May 1862. Frank reenlisted 25 December 1863 in Portsmouth. Once he was wounded pretty badly.
His military records show he was mustered into service in Norfolk, Virginia, on 1 Jan 1864; the record says in its notes that he had reenlisted as a sergeant 31 August 1864 under Captain Gould and was promoted to 1st Sergeant on 13 October 1864. Something happened and he was relieved of 1st Sergeant’s duty on 1 January 1865 and reduced to ranks 13 February 1865—perhaps that was when he was wounded. But then he was promoted back to 1st Sergeant 21 May 1865. The notes also show that he purchased a Colt revolver and a saber for $11. His horse was worth $140, the arms he already owned were $200, and he was paid $94.53 in cash and clothing. He was mustered out with his company on 13 August 1865.
After the war, Frank moved his family to Mahanoy Township in 1865. The 1870 Census enumerator found him and Susanna there with their sons. Frank’s occupation is a little obscure, according to this census taker. There’s something scribbled that looks like “U.S. Navy.” Was he employed by the United States Navy in Schuylkill County? How so? What navigable water is there to speak of? None! This is pretty interesting and deserves more research.
Frank’s real estate was valued then at $1500 and his personal estate at $300. The census says he attended school within the past year, and unless that’s a mistake, maybe the Navy had sent him to school?! More interesting things to research.
His sons Lewis and John had left school, and at the ages of 19 and 17 were working as laborers. Frank Jr. at 15, and 12-year-old William, and 9-year-old Joseph were all in school. Interestingly, Susanna is marked as being unable to read or write. This may explain why the family’s ages seem to jump around, if she couldn’t do the math and was answering the questions.
The next ten years found Frank back to working as a carpenter, although the census taker in 1880 noted that Frank had been unemployed for two months out of that year. His son John, age 26, was a machinist, and Frank Jr. was a cigar maker. They were employed steadily, but the younger boys, William at 19, a fireman, and Joseph, at 18 a laborer, had both been out of work for three months.
Lewis had gotten married when he was about 25, to Barbara Schaeffer, who had been born in New York City to German immigrant parents. The Shaeffers had moved to Pennsylvania, and there in Mahanoy Township Lewis and Barbara were living. Their first two daughters were born in 1878 and 1879, named Susan and Mary. Lewis was working as a colliery engineer for the Primrose company, which meant he was involved with the design, building, and maintenance of the machinery used in the coal mines. This is the trade he followed the rest of his life.
I expect that Susanna was thrilled to have two granddaughters after all those sons. It’s nice to see that they were named after her and young Mary Deach—so perhaps Mary wasn’t a troublemaker. She was probably as angelic as Polly in Tom Sawyer after all. Maybe she made the boys a lot of treats as they were growing up.
|If anyone knows what "CH Constellation" means, let me know!|
Ten years later he was boarding with the Irish Toole family, Sylvester and Sadie, also in Mahanoy Township, the date of the census being 11 April 1910. There was another widowed man boarding there too, and the couple had three daughters and a baby son. They at least knew the facts about Francis, unlike the “niece” ten years before, who had his age way off, his profession wrong, his name mangled, and his year of immigration way off. In 1910 the truth emerged: Frank was 86 years old, he had his own income; he had come to the United States in 1834 and was a naturalized citizen. In fact, he owned the home where he was “boarding” and Sylvester Toole was renting it from him! But I’m sure that in the sense that Sadie Toole was providing the meals and doing his housework, perhaps he liked being known as their boarder.
Whatever was the reality, he was taken to the country hospital at the end of May suffering from a stroke, and he died nine days later. The supervisory nurse filled out the paperwork and did not know his birth information, but she guessed he was around 80 years old. She knew he had been born in Germany, that he was a widower, and she knew he had been a carpenter, so it is probable that his people had been to visit in those nine days. After his burial, he was given a Civil War veteran’s grave stone in the cemetery in Ashland.
Frank’s son Lewis had eleven children that we know of, but only seven are identified so far:
- Susan, born November 1878
- Mary, born November 1879
- John Adam, born 12 December 1880
- William F, born November 1882; married; died June 1969
- Catherine E, born August 1884
- Gertrude D, born February 1888; married Frank Klitsch; died August 1973
- Louis F, born 1907; married Harriet M Mehl in 1940
Frank’s son John J Selgrath, a machinist by trade, was married 1 June 1886 to Elizabeth Kopf Reishan of Mahanoy Township. Elizabeth was a widow, but it is not known if she had any children by her first husband. John and Lizzie had three children:
- William J, born 26 May 1887
- Anna F, born 21 September 1888; married Joseph Wehinger; died of pneumonia 19 December 1918
- Henry, born 14 November 1889 and died 5 January 1910 of pneumonia
Frank and Susanna’s son John Franklin, who always went by Frank, who had started early on making cigars, eventually became a machinist and married twice. Nothing is known yet about his first marriage. His second was to a woman named Margaret Eade who went by the nickname Maggie. They were married in 1894 or 1895. Their son John Ed Selgrath was born January 29, 1896 in Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. John became a telegraph messenger and then a pipe borer. The family lived near Philadelphia—perhaps they didn’t have a lot of contact with Frank’s father, and Frank did not long survive him. When John registered for the draft in 1917, his father was dead, and John was the sole support of both his wife and his mother. Margaret Eade Selgrath died in 1933.
Frank and Susanna’s next son after the little boy Jacob who died during the Civil War, was William Francis Selgrath. William had been a fireman in his teens after leaving school, but that was in 1880 and there were no further records available until 1900. That year, William had become a carpenter like his father and was living in the household of his father-in-law, Nicholas Krauter, in Mahanoy City. William was married to Carolina Krauter, who had been born in June 1865 in Germany and whose parents and family came to Pennsylvania when she was about ten years old. William and Carolina Selgrath married about 1885 and had the following children:
- Nicholas Edward, born 23 April 1892
- Agnes Elizabeth, born 14 February 1894
- Susanna, born August 1896; married Thomas Killian
- Joseph, born 16 June 1899
- Barbara, born in 1902
- William A, born in 1905
In 1910 William had a woman named Bessie Entwhistle working for him, taking care of the children. He fell in love with her and they were married in 1916. Bessie’s parents came from England. No record has been found to indicate that William and Bessie had any children together, nor do we know when either of them died. Since they lived in Mahanoy, it is possible that William and his family may have visited his father, Frank, but with the death of his wife in 1908 it is understandable that he could not take his aged father into his household.
The youngest son of Frank Selgrath and Susanna Dietsch, Joseph Selgrath, grew up in Mahanoy and stayed there after he was married. He became a carpenter, working for a colliery company. He married Elizabeth Hess in 1880 when they were both about 18, and their son Frank was born the next year. Their six known children were as follows:
- Frank, born August 1881; died in 1918
- John, born in April 1884
- Gertrude, born in October 1887; married Lewis R Nieswender and had two daughters
- Harry, born 27 May 1890; married Elizabeth; died 5 November 1950
- Hattie, born in April 1893; married Thomas Freil and had several children—but there was one born in 1922 whose father is Thomas Freil and one born in 1923 whose father is John Friel. This is a mystery! Stay tuned, there will be more to come on this!
- Blanche, born 1 July 1906; married Samuel Tulin; died in 1994
There you have it—the known and unknowns about Frank and Susanna Selgrath’s ever-expanding family. Their story has no ending . . . yet.