52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #26 – Jacob H. Repsher

Relationship: 3rd Great-grandfather
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My childhood home was on Merriam Avenue which is in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, and was named for Henry W. Merriam. Mr. Merriam built a large shoe factory that he owned from 1873 until his death in 1900. At the height of its production, thousands of pairs of shoes a week rolled off the factory floors.[1] This factory was a far cry from the old world art of hand-crafting shoes and it made Mr. Merriam very wealthy. His gorgeous private residence still stands at 131 Main Street. My childhood home was not quite so grand!

Many years later, after the street had been named for him and Mr. Merriam was long gone, there was a humble shoemaker named Charley Williams. He lived on Merriam Avenue, the next block over from our house, just a short distance past Pine Street. He ran his shoe repair business out of his home. Back then, things weren’t as disposable as they are now. If your shoes needed new heels, you dropped them off to have the heels replaced. Occasionally, my mom would take my two sisters and me to his house to drop off shoes for him to fix. When you walked into what should have been his closed-in front porch, you were instantly surrounded by soles, forms, punches, stretchers, uppers, hammers, and heels. There were all manner of things hanging from the ceiling beams by hooks. Inhaling brought the warm scent of leather and polish deep into your nose. Abandoned shoes lounged on the window sills waiting for someone to claim them; gathering dust they longer they sat. No space was left unfilled.

What I didn’t know then was that I was probably looking at the very same things that my 3rd great-grandfather, Jacob H. Repsher, used in his own shoemaking shop in Bartonsville, Monroe County, Pennsylvania. Until I began my genealogy research I had no idea I would  discover a shoemaker hiding in my family tree.

Born to parents John Joseph Repsher and Polly [Mary] Doll, Jacob Henry Repsher arrived on this earth on 20 May 1831 in Pocono Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania,[2] with no shoemaking skills whatsoever. I’m sure, though, one of his first occupations involved teasing his many siblings. Jacob was the second child of eleven children born to John Joseph and Polly:[3]

  1. Catherine Repsher, born 15 December 1829
  2. Jacob H. Repsher, born 20 May 1831
  3. John Joseph Repsher, born April 1833
  4. Andrew Repsher, born 1834-1836
  5. Mary Repsher, born about 1837
  6. Joseph D. Repsher, born about 1839
  7. Simon Paul Repsher, born about 1841
  8. Michael Repsher, born 03 October 1843
  9. William Repsher, born about 1845
  10. Leonard Repsher, born about 1847
  11. Priscilla Repsher, born about 1849

When Jacob was 19 years old, he was still living in his parent’s household.[4] His occupation at this time was simply listed as laborer as was his 17-year-old brother John. Since Jacob’s father was listed as a farmer, it would be safe to assume that the two oldest boys were helping with the daily tasks involved with running a farm.

Shortly after the taking of the 1850 U.S. census, he met and married Susanna Williams. They were married on 11 December 1851 by the Justice of the Peace, Jno. D. Frailey in Jackson Township, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.[5]

Between December 1851 and 20 July 1860 when the U.S. census was taken, Jacob and Susanna had five children. They were living in Pocono Township. Their household consisted of Jacob (29), Susanna (26), Emmanel (7), John (6), Jacob H. (5), Aaron J. (4), and Samuel P. (3).[6] It would seem that Jacob was a shoemaker by now but the occupation listed is a tough one to read. One can barely make out Susanna’s occupation as servant and the enumerator’s handwriting leaves a lot to be desired.Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 7.15.04 PM

There seems to be a letter (M, perhaps?) before the occupation. It could be that Jacob was listed a cordwainer which is another name for shoemaker. But I am grasping at straws, just trying to decipher the handwriting. There was a “miller” (as an occupation, not a name) listed below on the same page along with the same mysterious letter in front of it.

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Jacob Repsher at his shop in Bartonsville.

This is a good spot to explain a little bit about the different types of professions involved with footwear. Shoemakers may produce a variety of items including shoes, boots, sandals, clogs, and moccasins.[7] A cordwainer specializes in making fine, soft leather shoes or other luxury leather footwear. The name is derived from the fine Cordovan leather produced in Spain.[8] Cobblers, in contrast, are shoemakers who specialize in the repair of shoes rather than the making of shoes.[9]

Whatever Jacob’s profession at this time, it had to be put on hold. The Late War of the Rebellion broke out and Jacob was drafted and served as a private on the side of the Union. According to his sworn affidavit, Jacob said he was drafted into the army in the fall of 1862. He and other draftees traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they remained for 10 days. At that time he said he contracted typhoid fever and thus returned home to Bartonsville to recover, about one year. When he returned to serve out his term he was stationed at Philadelphia where he did provost duty about the Schuylkill arsenal.  On 20 May 1863, Jacob was sent to Chattanooga, Tennessee. At that time, he was put into active service in Company I of the 147th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Infantry. He participated in Sherman’s march from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Atlanta, Georgia. It was in Atlanta, Georgia, that Jacob was discharged from service on 09 September 1864.[10]

Jacob made his way back to his family in Pennsylvania and settled in to practice his trade of shoemaking. He also expanded his family. In the 1870 U.S. census, Jacob (39) and Susanna (34) were found with children Emmanuel (17), John (16), Aaron (12), Samuel (10), Frederic (7), Firman (5), Josiah (3), and Armin (1) living in Pocono, Monroe County, Pennsylvania.[11] This time, Jacob’s profession was easily readable. He was a shoemaker with $800 in real estate and $300 in personal property. The real estate that Jacob owned in 1870 consisted of a lot of land about one acre in Bartonsville with an old house and a shoemaker shop.[12]

What doesn’t show up in the census was daughter Sally Ann. She was the only girl of the children born so far but did not live long. Born on 22 September 1861 she lived only 18 months and passed away on 26 December 1862.[13]

In 1880, Jacob’s household was smaller as the older children grew up and set out on their own. However, Jacob wasn’t done with his own family yet! Jacob (49) and Susanna (44) were still raising Josiah (12) and Arman (11) along with younger children Mary (7), George (5) and William (2).[14]

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Jacob’s handwritten sheet listing his children “one after the other and living.”

The list of Jacob and Susanna’s children looked like this in 1880:

  1. Emmanuel James, born 08 September 1852
  2. John Joseph, born 03 July 1854
  3. Jacob H., born 23 January 1856
  4. Aaron Jerome, born 03 November 1857
  5. Samuel Paul, born 04 September 1859
  6. Sally Ann, born 22 September 1861
  7. Charles Frederic, born 21 July 1863
  8. Pherman Johnson, born 21 July 1865
  9. Jesiah Kichlein, born 08 July 1866
  10. Armon S., born 27 July 1869
  11. Mary Elizabeth, 24 August 1872
  12. George A., born 12 March 1875
  13. William H., born 02 October 1877
  14. Stillborn child with unknown birth date

Most of the birth information[15] comes from a handwritten sheet that Jacob sent to the Pension Bureau when filing for a pension claim. Sally Ann, was not listed because she died on 26 December 1862 at 18 months old. Charles Frederic, was not listed since he died 04 October 1881.[16] Both died before The Act of 27 June 1890 authorizing the payment of pension to Civil War Veterans.

Jacob was last found in the 1900 U.S. census. Jacob (69) and Susanna (63) were still living in Pocono Township. Their son William (22) was the only child left in the household. Jacob’s profession was shoemaker and William was working as a day laborer.[17]

In the later years of his life Jacob suffered from rheumatism. He began suffering from pains in his legs, arms and hips shortly after his return from the war in 1864. Sometimes the attacks were so acute it prevented him from leaving his house.[18] As a result, Jacob filed an invalid claim for a pension for serving in the military. He was granted the pension and received $12 a month. On 05 February 1905, Mr. Scott, from the Committee on Pensions, submitted a report to the U.S. Senate[19] requesting the increase of Jacob’s pension up to $24 per month. The report listed all the things physically wrong with Jacob at the time:

  • Rheumatism
  • Disease of the heart
  • Hemorrhagic retinitis
  • Post polar cataracts (right and left)

The result of these ailments was that Jacob was virtually blind (vision of two two-hundreths in the right eye and three two-hundreths in the left), unable to labor, and so crippled with rheumatism that he was hardly able to walk. He required assistance in dressing and undressing.

Just two short years after the Senate bill, Jacob’s ailments proved too much for him. He died on 14 January 1907 at his residence. Peter Warner, the undertaker, picked his body up and embalmed him that same day. Three days later, on the 17th, the undertaker buried Jacob at the cemetery in Bartonsville.[20]

Jacob has a simple gravestone in Custard’s Cemetery which is also known as St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery.[21] I like that someone still takes the time to remember his military service by planting an American flag at his grave.[22]

REPSHER Jacob H - Find a Grave

 


[1] http://www.newtonnj.net/Pages/merriamshoefact.htm, “The H.W. Merriam Shoe Company: Shoes From Cradle to College”
[2] Tipton, Jim, compiler, “Stockholm Methodist Church Cemetery,” digital image, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 12 November 2011), entry for Jacob H. Repsher, memorial #17379662.
[3] Donald R. Repsher, “First Generation in America” (Bath, Pennsylvania:  self-published, 2006), 29. This a a copy of Mr. Repsher’s register report starting with Joannes Rebscher (1729 – 1807) and his descendants. Documentation sources are included but not attached to individual facts. There are numerous references to church records.
[4] 1850 U. S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Jackson Township, p. 25 (stamped), dwelling [unreadable], family 6, John Repsher; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 February 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 798.
[5] Jacob Repsher (Pvt., Co. I, 147th Pa. Inf., Civil War), pension no. W.C. 632,252; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Affidavit of Jno. D. Frailey, dated 28 December 1864.
[6] 1860 U. S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pocono Township, p. 153 (penned), dwelling 1062, family 1033, Jacob H. Repsher; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 November 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1142.
[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoemaking
[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordwainer
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobbler
[10] Jacob Repsher (Pvt., Co. I, 147th Pa. Inf., Civil War), pension no. W.C. 632,252; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Affidavit of Jacob Repsher, dated 05 November 1884.
[11] 1870 U. S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvannia, population schedule, Pocono Township, p. 6 (penned), dwelling 44, family 44, Jacob H. Repsher; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 November 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1376.
[12] Jacob Repsher (Pvt., Co. I, 147th Pa. Inf., Civil War), pension no. W.C. 632,252; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Affidavit of Samuel Musselman, dated 26 August 1907.
[13] Donald R. Repsher, “First Generation in America” (Bath, Pennsylvania:  self-published, 2006), 35.
[14] 1880 U. S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pocono Township, ED 223, p. 3 (penned), dwelling 24, family 25, Jacob H. Repsher; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 November 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1157.
[15] Jacob Repsher (Pvt., Co. I, 147th Pa. Inf., Civil War), pension no. W.C. 632,252; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Undated lined paper listing the children of Jacob Repsher.
[16] Tipton, Jim, compiler, “St. John’s Cemetery,” digital image, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 24 June 2014), entry for Frederick F. Repsher, memorial #93923398.
[17] 1900 U. S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pocono Township, ED 135, p. 2A (penned), dwelling 23, family 25, Jacob H. Repsher; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 November 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1442.
[18] Jacob Repsher (Pvt., Co. I, 147th Pa. Inf., Civil War), pension no. W.C. 632,252; Affidavit of Jacob Repsher, dated 05 November 1884.
[19] Jacob Repsher (Pvt., Co. I, 147th Pa. Inf., Civil War), pension no. W.C. 632,252; Calendar No., 3565, report no. 3697, dated 06 February 1905.
[20] Jacob Repsher (Pvt., Co. I, 147th Pa. Inf., Civil War), pension no. W.C. 632,252; Affidavit of Peter Warner, dated 25 February 1907.
[21] “Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards, 1777-1999,” digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 November 2011), entry for Jacob H. Repsher, St. John’s Cemetery, Monroe County, Pennsylvania; citing Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
[22] Tipton, Jim, compiler, “St. John’s Cemetery,” digital image, Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 12 November 2011), entry for Jacob H. Repsher, memorial #17379662

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