Life in Pennsylvania

I wish we had more information about their life in Pennsylvania.  We do know that Lizzie wore a prayer cap, and her grandchildren tell us that she was Amish.  However, the Ebersole family was an established Mennonite family.   We do have this photo of John and Lizzie in Amish/Mennonite dress.


It is often difficult to identify what Anabaptist sect a person is from based on dress because every congregation could set their own standards and the Amish and Mennonites had so much in common.  Even people who grew up among them might determine they are one only to later learn they are another.  I did notice that Lizzie’s prayer cap is white and the ribbons are black.  I spent a lot of time researching this detail and finally came across a reference stating that “the Old Colony Mennonites wear white head shawls until they are married and it is changed to black. Similarly, Old Order Mennonite single women wear white strings on a white cap, then the strings are changed to black after marriage. (Source: Bree Komiske ).  This is the only reference I have found of the black ribbons with a white cap, which makes me believe they were Mennonite.

Another indication that they were Mennonite is the fact that Amish men more beards, without a mustache, after marriage, and John Jacob does not have a beard in this picture or in the family picture below, which was likely taken about 1913 before they moved West.  I believe the picture was taken before they moved west because their son, Ted, wrote a short history and talked about a  picture of “Mother Dad and our family in Penn,”  and I believe this family photo was one of those pictures that was taken in Pennsylvania


In fact, I have not seen a single photo of John Jacob with a beard.  Mennonite men were either clean shaven or wore beards along with mustaches.  In addition to John Jacob not wearing a beard is the fact that none of their children are dressed in traditional Amish clothing.  Amish children would usually have traditional dress, including caps, whereas Mennonite children were typically not dressed in traditional clothing.  Note that none of the female children are wearing prayer caps.

A final thought is that Amish do not have their pictures taken, whereas Mennonites are not against photos.  So the fact that John and Lizzie have several intentional photos, including one where they are wearing traditional clothing, is another indication that they were likely Mennonite and not Amish.

Again, we don’t have a lot of info on their life before they moved West.  However, I was happy to find a short history, which appears to be a rough draft, written by John and Lizzie’s son, Ted, that includes a little bit of information about his life in Pennsylvania. He’s the boy in glasses in the bottom right corner of the photo above.  Here is what he wrote in his own hand, which I have transcribed without correcting spelling, grammar, or punctuation:

“Spent the first 9 years of my Life in Penn.  The Last 3 of them we lived on a tobacco far[m] and raised tobacco Acorn and Hogs. We had one white mule that my Dad used to cultivate with Drove by jerk line and Ge and Haw also had 2 more mules Tobe and Pet leaders of a 4 horse hitch and 2 horses,Jack and Mike. I drove this four horse hitch in tobacco harvest by Jerk Line and Ge and Haw–Ge to the right Haw to the left.  The wagon had a rack 4′ high four standard and 2 long poles one on each side.  Tobacco lath was five foot long sharp on one end.  We would put Five tobacco stalk on each lath and hang them between the poles on wagon and haul them to tobacco shed hang them up to cure.  In the winter we would strip the tobacco leafs and bail them Ready for the auctioneer to come sell them to the tobacco companys to the highest bidder besides this I had to help gather the acorns for hog feed. Are home was beautiful around the house and fences yard we had Vine trelles’s covered with Hop’s grape and morninglories Vines a big beautiful yard. We had two miles to walk to school.  And always had fun going to and from school we would pick poposis that Grew along the Fences on both side of the road.  We had a herd dog name Spot that would go with us kids to school.  I also plaid a 5 string bango and sister Emma plaid organ…We would all go to uncl[e] Martin Eberso[l]e Mother’s Bro at Mount Joy to his farm and for a family Reunion once a year.  And would we have fun”

A good explanation of the tobacco growing, harvesting, curing, stripping, and selling process can be found at  Go to page 10 to read about the process that Ted describes above.  You’ll learn why the plants were hung and why they waited until winter to strip the leaves. The pdf as a whole is interesting to scan over.  It also talks about the early settlers of the area and why Lancaster, PA was such a good place to grow Tobacco.  Here’s a 1939 photo of a Mennonite farmer taking tobacco to the barn.


I am so happy to have this little bit of information.  It allows me to picture a little bit of what their life was like.  Our own lives may seem rather ordinary, but writing down a little bit about our daily life may be the only information our posterity will have about us in the future.

Work, Homes, and Children

Over the next several years after John and Lizzie married, John Jacob worked as a hostler, a clerk, and a stableman.  The City Directory show that he worked as a clerk for the Grand Union Tea Company in 1898.   And the 1899 city directory shows that he is a clerk for the H. Y. H. Tea Co.  Did the tea company change names?  No, the manager, John M. Young, of the Grand Union Tea Company resigned in 1899, becoming a partner in the H. Y. H. Tea and Coffee store. John must have been a good employee for the Grand Union Tea Company because it appears he left the company and went to work for Mr. Young and the H. Y. H. Tea Co. when it opened. John Jacob must have been recruited by the manager to leave the company and follow him to the new store.  Interestingly, the new company enjoyed a profitable business for two years and then closed up.  Mr. Young then returned to the Grand Union Tea Company as manager. (Source: Biographical Annals of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania)

Here’s a photo I found online of the Grand Union Tea Company store in Lancaster, PA.

grand union tea company store lancaster

You can read more about the Grand Union Tea Company, and see some great photos, at

The 1900 Census lists John Jacob’s occupation as Hostler. The 1903 City Directory shows that he is a driver. And the 1910 Census shows that he is a stableman. According to an obituary written by his granddaughter Joy, he drove drey for the Tea Co. and the Hershey Candy Co.  So it’s possible that instead of a clerk, he was a driver/hostler.  Later, before the family moved to Montana, John lived on a farm and grew tobacco, a very common crop of the time.  More info about John’s employment after moving to Montana will be shared in later posts.

Jacob and Lizzie seemed to move frequently.  Remember they married at the end of 1887, and they stated on the marriage license that they were both from Whitmer.  Here are their homes as listed in the City Directories over the next few years:

  • 1890-Whitmer
  • 1896-Rockland (possibly with John’s father)
  • 1897-31 N Arch
  • 1898-21 Hazel
  • 1899-216 N Arch; John’s brother Harry is listed at the same home
  • 1903–522 Dauphin; John’s brother Luther is listed at the same home
  • 1905-601 Rockland
  • 1907–Not listed in Lancaster City
  • 1911–725 N Christian

I love that Pennsylvania still has so many old homes in use today.  Some of the homes where John and Lizze lived have since been demolished and replaced with parking lots or other structures.  But here are some photos of homes they lived in that are still in use today.


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Amidst the various jobs and homes, their family grew as children were born.

  • Roy ‘E’–born and died in Aug 1888
  • Esther Mae–Born 19 Oct 1889
  • John Solomon–Born 13 Jul 1891
  • Hirom Franklin–Born 19 Dec 1893
  • Amos Lester–Born 3 Mar 1895
  • Sarah Alberta–Born 3 Dec 1896
  • Edgar Elwood–Born Oct 1898 and died 1900
  • Emma Margie–Born 30 Sep 1900
  • Theodore Apple–Born 3 Apr 1904
  • Violet Amelia–Born 26 Nov 1906

Names are interesting.  Generally, children were named after family members, or the doctor who delivered the child.  If the child was the first baby delivered by a doctor, the child often received the doctor’s name.  Of course there are exceptions, or naming after friends, or famous people.  John Jacob himself is likely named after each of his grandfathers–John Parmer and Jacob B. Eckman.  I found a reference that said traditional naming, during that time period, of children is a follows:

  1. First son is named after father’s father
  2. Second son is named after mother’s father
  3. Third son is named after father
  4. Fourth son is named after father’s eldest brother


  1. First daughter is named afer mother’s mother
  2. Second daughter is named after father’s mother
  3. Third daughter is named after mother
  4. Fourth daughter is named after mother’s eldest sister

I like to look at families to see how much they followed this traditional naming.  So let’s look at John J.’s family. We’ll start with the sons.

Their first child, Roy, died shortly after birth.  I don’t see the name “Roy” in any family names.  So perhaps he was named after the doctor.  Yet it’s interesting to note that John J.’s brother, William, who was just 1.5 years younger than John J., named his oldest son Roy.  Could it be there is a family member we don’t know about?  Or did William name his son after John’s deceased child?  Or did they use the same doctor?  Something to think about for sure!

Their third child is named John Solomon.  John, of course, was a very common name, so determining who John Solomon was named after can be tricky, but it definitely doesn’t follow the traditional naming pattern.  None of John’s children are named after his father, Samuel.  But John Solomon seems to combine the traditional 2nd and 3rd son naming into one name.  John is the name of John Jacob’s grandfather, as noted earlier, as well as Lizzie’s grandfather, John C. Diffenderfer.  So John Solomon could have been named after them, or after his father, John Jacob.  Solomon is the name of Lizzie’s father, Solomon Rutt Ebersole.  So the middle name is easy to trace.

The next three boys–Hirom Franklin, Amos Lester, and Edgar Elwood–could be named after someone or could be just common names of the time.  There are a few Amos’s in the family–Lizzie has a brother named Amos and John J.’s sister married an Amos.  And John J. has a brother whose middle name is Elwood.  I’d be interested in seeing a birth certificate for them to see if they are named after their doctors.  That is what happened with the youngest son, Theodore Apple.  He was named after the doctor who delivered him.

Moving to the daughters, John J.’s second child, Esther, is likely named after his mother, Hetty.  Hetty is a nickname for Esther, which is what Hetty’s given name was.  So they skipped naming the first daughter after the mother’s mother, which would have been Sarah, but they did name the second daughter Sarah.  So they flipped the traditional order for their first two daughters.

Their third daughter is Emma Margie.  Emma was one of Lizzie’s sisters.  Lizzie was the oldest daughter in her family.  Emma was the next oldest.  So it’s likely that they skipped naming a daughter after Lizzie and went to the mother’s eldest sister in the traditional naming pattern.  Emma’s middle name is Margie, which is John J.’s oldest sister.  So Emma Margie is named after her two oldest aunts.

The youngest child, and last daughter, is Violet Amelia.  I’m not sure where Violet comes from, but Amelia is one of Lizzie’s youngest sisters, who were twins-Ella and Amelia. So a traditional pattern is mostly followed for John and Lizzie’s daughters.  Knowing this traditional naming pattern can sometimes help in family history research.

We don’t have a lot of information about their life in Pennsylvania, but we do have a little.  Be sure to read the next post for those details.

A Secret Society

Have you ever heard of the Ancient Order of the Knights of the Mystic Chain?  It was started by some Freemasons, possibly as an offshoot of the Knights of Pythias. John Jacob became a member of the secret society on June 19, 1889.  A funeral benefit was incorporated in the society in 1889, which may have been a factor that drew John Jacob to the group, which was started in Reading, Pennsylvania.  Here is a picture of his membership card.




The Ancient Order of the Knights of the Mystic Chain (A.O.K.M.C.) was a fraternity based on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  The purpose of the group was to assist one another in illness and employment and to promote good citizenship.  You can read more about the A.O.K.M.C here.

John J. Gets Married

Somehow, somewhere, John Jacob met Elizabeth “Lizzie” D. Ebersole.  They fell in love and got married on Christmas day 1887. John Jacob was 20 years old, and Lizzie was 22. Their marriage license shows that they both lived in Witmer.  Their minister was D.W. Gerhard, a minster of the Reformed Church.  Many of John Jacob’s siblings were married by Rev. Gerhard.  Here are a couple images of their marriage certificates.  The pictures of them on the horses were taken many years later in Montana.




They were married in Lancaster, PA at 131 South Duke Street.  When I visited Lancaster a few years ago, I took a video and walked along the street where they were married 128 years prior.  You can watch the video at my previous post at Marriages, the Minister, and the Church.

Things change over the years–modes of transportation change, types of jobs change, ways of communicating change–but family relationships continue.  It’s likely the wedding ceremony that John and Lizzie had was different than wedding ceremonies today, even if just a little different, but the purpose remains the same–uniting two people in marriage, as husband and wife.  Certainly they experienced the same joy, excitement, and love that married couples experience today.  By remembering their story, I feel that I get to share a little bit in that excitement.  Hooray!  Congrats John and Lizzie!

John Jacob Parmer’s Youth

John Jacob was 13 years old in the last post about him.  Thirteen years old and boarding at someone else’s home.  If you missed that post, you can find it at Bits about John Jacob.  We don’t know much about his early years.  But we can get a little information from the census records.  In 1870, when he was 3 years old, he lived with his parents and younger brother on his grandfather’s property in East Lampeter, Lancaster, PA.  Here’s a snip of a map that shows where the property was located.



Also living there is his Aunt Ann and her three small children, and his two uncles, Abraham and Emanuel.  All of the men are listed as “Laborers”, which means they probably worked for the farmers in the area.

Ten years later, in the 1880 census, John, at 13, is boarding at a neighbor’s home and is also listed as a “Laborer”.  The census was taken in June, and he had been attending school during the year. That was likely the last year he attended school.  According to the 1940 US Census, he had attended five years of elementary school.  If he started school when he was eight years old, and attended for 5 years, he would have turned 13 years old the April before the June 1880 census was taken.  Interesting to note is that Pennsylvania didn’t start compulsory education until 1895 and only required 16 weeks of education for ages 8 to 13 ((Source: Pennsylvania State Education Association Website).  How would your kids feel about attending school for only 4 months a year?  Makes you wonder if all the schooling required today is necessary!  With it being June and summer when the 1880 census was taken, he was likely working on the neighbor’s farm where he was living.


A Little More of Robert Tibbles

Some time ago, I promised a post with more information about Robert Tibbles was coming soon.  Here’s the post.  I know it wasn’t really soon after the first post on Robert, but I guess “soon” can be a matter of perspective.  Anyway, if you didn’t read my earlier post about Robert and the great Alaskan earthquake that caused a giant tidal wave, as well as a landslide that took Robert’s life, be sure to read it.  I’ll post the link at the ned of this post.

Robert Tibbles was born in Lakeview, Montana on March 3, 1913 to Walter Stillman Tibbles and Esther E. Rote.  Esther is the daughter of Margie Parmer, who is Samuel and Hettie Parmer’s daughter.  Lakeview, MT,  which today is near the entrance of both Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, is about 90 miles from Dillon, MT. In 1913, there was no wildlife refuge or national forest, but there was a community of ranchers, railroad workers, and ordinary folks.  The Dillon Tribune reported news from the surrounding areas, including Lakeview.  I always like browsing through old newspapers.  The ads are especially fun to read.  I found copies of The Dillon Tribune at, which is a website of the Montana Historical Society.  The Lakeview section of the March 7, 1913 paper has a short announcement of Robert’s birth, shown below.  Small town newspapers are full of gossip.  You want to know who went to the big city to go shopping?  Just read the paper!

tibbles birth announcement

I have not researched if Joe Buck is a relative of the family, or why they were at the Joe Buck home.  However, that name will come up again in Robert’s history.  We do know from some other records that Robert’s parents were “squatters” on a home in the area.

Robert is found in the 1920 census, at the age of seven, living with his family in Grayling District, Gallatin County, Montana.  He lived next to his great aunt and uncle, John and Lizzie Parmer.  It is possible they had lived there for some time because Robert’s younger brother, Howard, was born in the area in 1915. Howard’s birth was not registered until 1941.  In the birth registration, he is listed as being born in the rural part of Gallatin County, MT, with Lizzie D. Parmer as the attendant for the birth.

Walter and Esther divorced in 1923 after Walter became abusive and abandoned the family.  From the court papers, we know that Walter and Esther had 160 acres they were homesteading five miles West of West Yellowstone.  Life in the West was difficult, required hard work, and was subject to the harsh elements of the Montana winters.  There were no modern conveniences.  I’m sure even at 7 years old, Robert was put to work helping the family with chores and such.  At some point, his mother remarried and moved to Wyoming.

In 1930, Robert is 17 years old and living with an aunt and uncle in Lima, MT.  He was working as a farm laborer.  In 1932, he had moved to Monida, a short distance from Lima, and was worked as a ranch hand for Joe Buck.  Remember Joe Buck?  Robert was born at Joe Buck’s home!  He worked for Joe Buck for six weeks, then he got into trouble.  He burglarized a pool hall and stole $24.  As a result, he spent two years in the state prison.

We next find Robert in Alaska.  I wonder–what took him to Alaska?  He must have liked it because it seems that’s where he spent the rest of his life. In 1939, he married Dorothy Pauloff, a Native Alaskan Indian.  They were both living in Kodiak, Alaska at the time, and that is where they are found in the 1940 census.  He had had appendicitis at some point because his WWII draft registration on January 22, 1941 tells us that he had a scar from an appendicitis operation.

Robert and Dorothy had at least two children, but eventually Robert and Dorothy divorced.  In 1947, Robert married Eveline V. Sly.  And the rest of the story is told in my previous post at A Tragedy in Alaska

Life can be rough, and have ups and downs, good days and bad days.  Robert likely had plenty of bad days–witnessing abuse (and possibly being a victim of it himself), abandonment,  burglary, prison time, surgery, divorce, etc.  At the same time, I’m sure Robert had his share of  good days–friends, fatherhood, wedding days, and eating fresh picked berries.  Learning from the bad days, and savory the good, even amidst the bad, is what life is all about.  Savor the good, and all that is before you. Today can be anything you make it.  What will today be like for you?


Luther in Londonderry

Remember, Luther went to the market to buy a pig and he came home having bought a farm.  If you haven’t read about that, it’s at Of Pigs and Farms…   The farm he bought is in Londonderry Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.  He bought the farm in June 1926.  That’s 94 years ago!  Amazingly, the family retained the newspaper clipping of the public sale of the farm.  Here it is:



Photo courtesy of Ronald Parmer Scott

What a treasure!  We know from this clipping that the house had 5 rooms.  You can see a video tour of the house in it’s present state, with commentary by Luther’s Grandson, Ronald, at Tour of Luther and Edna’s Farm Home

Here’s a photo of the property, likely shortly after it was purchased in 1926.


Photo courtesy of Ronald Parmer Scott


In 1926, things were not too bad in the United States of America.  The economy and industry were growing and farming was decreasing.  So it seems a little odd that Luther bought a farm and began farming.  But having done so may have been a blessing.  Just over three years later, the stock market crash began on October 29, 1929 and ushered in The Great Depression.  The mortgage on the Londonderry farm was just $25 a month, which would be about $360 in today’s dollars.  Luther and Edna struggled to pay that $25 mortgage during those difficult Depression years.  But they were successful!  They farmed.  Edna used some of the farm goods to bake cookies, pies, and other yummy baked goods.  Then every week they went to the Farmer’s Market to sell their goods–farm produce and baked items.  Undoubtedly they struggled, pinched pennies, went without, and were frugal.  And they managed to keep the farm.  How would their lives had been different during the Depression if they had not bought the farm?

The farm continued to be their home until 1957.  It was time to retire from the farm.  They sold the farm, and then had an estate sale, and moved to be closer to their children.

Here’s a newspaper clipping announcing the estate sale:


It’s fun to read what they were selling….cows, a hog, a sow due to farrow in a week, furniture and bedding, pots and pans, sewing machine, etc.  They had accumulated things that they no longer needed or wanted.  And such is life.  I think I would have been interested in the kraut cutter!





Farm Life

Not too long ago, the majority of the United States was made up of farmers. People had gardens and farm animals to produce the food, clothes, and shelter they needed to survive, preserving what they could in root cellars so they had food for the winter.  And they typically grew or raised a little extra, and sometimes a lot extra, to sell and earn some money.  Samuel M.’s father, John Parmer owned land, and John’s father Emanuel owned land, and Emanuel’s father Henry owned land.  But during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s people began to abandon the farm and move to the city.  It was the Industrial Revolution.  Farmer’s were having a harder and harder time making money by farming, in part from overproduction, tariffs, and monetary policy.  But the cities, with their factories, drew people to them.

Such was the case with the Parmers.  Samuel M. had farmed with his family, and as a hired hand, but at some point, he moved to the city for employment.  Eventually, his parents followed him to the city.  But the farm, working the land, and the beautiful country can be enticing. Such was the case with Samuel M.’s youngest son, Luther.  I’ve already shared a lot about Luther, so if you haven’t read the previous posts about him, take some time to read them.  In Of Pigs and Farms… I talk about Luther’s city life and his move to the farm sometime after 1917.  There’s even a photo of the home where he lived in Highland Township, Chester County, PA, where he worked a farm until 1926, when he went to market to buy a pig and came home having bought a farm.

What was farm life like in Pennsylvania in 1925?  Probably a lot different than farm life today, but maybe not in everything.  Luckily, we have some photos of Luther and his early 1920’s farm life.  Let’s take a look!



Luther at the farm in Highland Township, Chester County, PA.

Looks a lot like some farms might look like today!.

This next picture, I just love!  I love the child surrounded by the animals.


I bet she had some food she was giving them.  Look at all those chickens….and some ducks!  It’s not too common for people to have ducks today, but it once was not uncommon.  I remember having chickens growing up.  We had quite a few that we ended up putting in the freezer eventually.  A few years ago my family had some chickens, but only a few.  We had six, but after the neighbor’s dog had an afternoon in our yard, we ended up with two survivors.  I love the fresh eggs!  I miss having chickens.




Is that a big enough garden?  I love that the two girls, Jean and Mae (Dollie), were enjoying farm life too.



What would a farm be without cows!  Notice her mouth wide open?!  I can almost feel her excitement and joy.




Luther and Mary are on the back row at the right, with their daughters, Dollie and Jean in front.


And that’s what we have to show farm life for Luther and his family.  Although there are a few differences, I suppose much of it would be the same today for those who have gardens and animals. Thank you, Ronald P. Scott, for sharing the photos.  There’s just not a lot of people today who farm, at least not compared to the number of people who farmed a hundred years ago.  Now people pay money to visit farms.  I wonder what Luther would have thought about that!


William and Bessie

Remember William? If you didn’t read my earlier posts about William, you should. I think his life must have been quite interesting, although he likely didn’t think it so special. He married, moved to Florida, became a widower, and moved back to PA. You can read about it all in these three posts:

William’s Beginnings in Lancaster

Orange Groves and a Ghost Town

Cousins and Spouses

After William became a widower, he married his cousin’s widow, Bessie. Here’s a newly found photo of William and Bessie.


Photo courtesy of Ronald Parmer Scott

This photo was likely taken at William’s brother’s, Luther’s, home in Highland Township, Chester County, PA. Notice William holding a croquet mallet and ball. I love seeing little bits of insight into their lives by that little detail. It helps to relate to their lives. I imagine a family gathering much like today–food, games, fun times. The photo is from an album whose photos were taken in 1924-1926. That helps narrow down possible dates for when William and Bessie were married. Notice also that William has his tie tucked into his shirt. He’s wearing the tie like that on another photo at Orange Groves and a Ghost Town. My research found that others during that time period had photos taken with their ties tucked in. Although I couldn’t find a lot of information about tucked in ties during that time period, I did discover that soldiers wore their ties tucked in when they didn’t have a jacket on. I’m happy to have this moment in history preserved and available for us to enjoy.