52 Documents in 52 Weeks #14 – Samuel Stanley Repsher’s Obituary

Person of Interest: Samuel Stanley Repsher Sr.
Relationship: 1st cousin 4x removed (grandson of John J. Repsher, my paternal 4th great grandfather)

Source Citation: “Samuel Repsher, contractor, dies,” obituary, Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania), 27 March 1938, p. 18, col. 6; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/274863294/ : accessed 09 April 2017), Historical Newspapers Collection.

Document Description: This is the obituary for Samuel Stanley Repsher that originally ran in the Morning Call (an Allentown, Pennsylvania, newspaper) on 27 March 1938. While this is a digital copy and clipped from the page that it appeared on, it has not been altered. The entire page has been digitized and resides at Newspapers.com, a pay website, that specializes in old historical newspapers.

Document Scan/Transcription: 

Samuel Repsher, Contractor, Dies

Samuel Repsher, 75, Bethlehem businessman, contractor and builder, died at 7:40 p.m. Saturday at the late home, 112 W. Fairview St., Bethlehem. He had been ailing for the past 15 years.

He was born Sept. 21, 1862, in Freemansburg, Pa., a son of the late Joseph Repsher and Matilda Buss Repsher. His father served in the Civil War and was killed in the battle of Cedar Creek.

During his active career as a contractor he built 75 houses and 22 garages in Bethlehem and vicinity. He resided in Bethlehem for the past 60 years and was engaged in addition to being a contractor, in the real estate, coal, meat and hauling business.

In addition to erecting many dwelling throughout the city, Mr. Repsher also razed many buildings in the city during the building boom.

A brother, William H. Repsher, also a contractor and one sister Matilda Kratzer and three children preceded him in death, Elizabeth, Herbert Henry and Paul George.

Survivors are his wife, Caroline Bartlieb, Kunkletown, whom he married 55 years ago and the following 13 children:

Samuel Stanley Jr., Honesdale; Raymond Robert, Arthur Layton, Chicago; Roy Russell, Chapman’s Quarries; Mrs. Clarence Dieter, Bethlehem; Charles Roland, at home; Mrs. Walter Fink, Bethlehem; Joseph Peter, Baltimore; Mrs. Harry Bader, Earl Edward, Bethlehem; Mrs. Carl Robinson, Mrs. George Grube, Calvin Repsher, Bethlehem.

Funeral services will be held on Wednesday at 2 p.m. Entombment will take place in Memorial Park mausoleum.

Analysis: I picked this recently found obituary for a few reasons.

First, highlights how prolific the Repshers truly are with a listing of 16 children for Samuel and Caroline (Bartlieb) Repsher. Samuel wasn’t the only one with a large family. Samuel’s grandfather John Joseph had 11 children, his uncle Jacob Henry had 14 children, his first cousin John Joseph had 14 children, and his first cousin Emanuel James had 10 children.

Second, it a great example of all the different types of information found within an obituary. All of these bits of information provide opportunities to research and order more records related to the family.

  • Military: Samuel’s father, Joseph Repsher, fought in the Civil War and was killed in the battle of Cedar Creek.
  • Occupation: Samuel’s occupation was a contractor and builder but he also had his fingers in real estate, coal, meat and hauling businesses.
  • Medical: Samuel had been ailing for 15 years.
  • Economic: Bethlehem experienced a building boom.
  • Sibling’s occupation: Samuel’s brother William H. Repsher was also a contractor.
  • Residence: Samuel lived at 112 Fairview Street in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
  • Parentage: Samuel’s parents names were Joseph and Matilda (Buss) Repsher.
  • Birth date and place: Samuel was born 21 September 1862 in Freemansburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Marriage date: Samuel was married in 1883 to Caroline Bartlieb.
  • Residence of children: Arthur Layton lived in Chicago, Joseph Peter had moved to Baltimore, Samuel Jr. lived in Honesdale, etc.
  • Burial: Samuel was interred in the Memorial Park mausoleum.

Third, it provides a good lesson in analyzing the names found within an obituary. Based on the information on the obituary, some basic family groups can be constructed:

Joseph Repsher and Matilda Buss had the following children:

  1. William H. (died before 1938)
  2. Matilda (died before 1938 and was married to someone named Kratzer)
  3. Samuel

Joseph and Matilda’s son Samuel married Caroline Bartlieb and had the following children:

  1. Elizabeth (died before 1938)
  2. Herbert Henry (died before 1938)
  3. Paul George (died before 1938)
  4. Samuel Stanley
  5. Raymond Robert
  6. Arthur Layton
  7. Roy Russell
  8. _________ (daughter who married Clarence Dieter)
  9. Charles Roland
  10. _________ (daughter who married Walter Fink)
  11. Joseph Peter
  12. _________ (daughter who married Harry Bader)
  13. Earl Edward
  14. _________ (daughter who married Carl Robinson)
  15. _________ (daughter who married Charles Grube)
  16. Calvin

A good researcher would not assume, however, that Joseph and Matilda only had three children. Samuel may have had other brothers and/or sisters, they just weren’t listed as survivors in this obituary. Most likely Samuel’s daughter Elizabeth died young and was not married as she is not listed under a husband’s name like her four surviving sisters. It is unfortunate that the common custom of listing a daughter under the husband’s full name was followed in this obituary; we don’t even get their first names. However, the full name of each husband does allow for some solid stepping stones for locating the names of the daughters and their marriage information.

This is an original source in that it’s just a straight scan of a newspaper page hosted on a pay website. Since it doesn’t look to be altered, it can be considered the same as if I had examined the newspaper in person.

The information found in this source is mostly secondary. The small pieces of primary information are Samuel’s death date, his funeral service and his burial place in that it was reported to the newspaper very close to the time it happened. Everything else is secondary in that it is hearsay and the newspaper is relying on what was provided to them about marriages, names, residences, etc.

The evidence is a mixed bag of direct and indirect depending on the research question asked. For example, direct evidence is found when asking “When and where was Samuel Repsher, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, born?” The direct answer is “21 September 1862 in Freemansburg, Pa.” No other evidence is needed to answer the question. Now, don’t get that confused with correctness. This evidence could be totally wrong. Other sources must be consulted before it can be conclusively stated that there is enough proof that Samuel was born on this day. Another example of direct evidence is found when asking “What was Samuel Repsher, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, wife’s maiden name?” The question can be directly answered as “Caroline Bartlieb.” An example of indirect evidences is found when asking the question, “What was the first name of the daughter, married to Walter Fink, of Samuel Repsher of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania?” This obituary cannot answer this question directly. Some other source (marriage certificate, marriage announcement, etc.) must be found related to her first name.


This is a particularly robust obituary in that it tells the reader exactly when Samuel was born, the names of his parents including his mother’s maiden name, details about his father’s military service, children, wife’s maiden name and residences of many of the people listed. It was well worth digging up in order to flesh out Samuel’s family group.


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