Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lehighton Gravers: Lewis and son Henry: Farm to Canal to Bricks to Pools (Post 2 of 4)

At the time of his death, no one had lived in Lehighton longer than Lewis Graver.
He came here as a boy, with his brother Andrew and his father Heinrich, to timber the Moravian lands at the south end of town when he was twelve.  The two brothers would live out their lives here.
A long way from his Weissport farm and canal roots:  Henry Graver rests on an early jaunt to Palm Beach,
Florida in 1917.

Lewis Graver’s 1892 obituary referred to his parents, Henry and Elizabeth, as “farm people.”  They were also known as hide tanners.  The family’s first homestead “almost opposite” of the first boatyard to be established along the Lehigh Canal in Weissport.  It went on to say that this original boatyard got it start with Lewis and Andrew Graver.

The beginning: The Recluse of Gnaden Hutten/Lewis Graver lands 
~Graver Post 1: Alvenia and Adaline Graver Millinary
          ~Graver Post 3: Graver's Bathing Casino 
~Graver Post 4: Henry Graver's Diminished Dream
As with any research of this kind, there are a few anachronism in the records of Lewis’ life: His 1893 obituary versus information written by noted local historian Ralph Kreamer in 1993 as well as contradictory information from the 1905 "Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of the Lehigh Valley" by Jordan, Green and Ettinger.

Kreamer maintains that Lewis started the Lehighton brickworks in 1834 when he was just twenty.  However, according to his obituary, Lewis was still working on the canal until 1841.  The 1905 biography states he was born in 1811 while his tombstone maintains that it was 1813.

1834 was the year of a major flood that caused severe damage to the canal.  The canal was out of commission long enough to cause Lewis to seek other work.  From that point forward the obituary contends that Lewis devoted himself to farming.  The 1905 biography notes that Lewis sold off his interest in the boat yard to his brother Andrew at about the time he bought the approximately 200 acres that would become "Graverville."

Brick making seems to be one of a few of Lewis's pursuits at this time.  The facts do bear scrutiny that the Graver brick manufactory was the oldest in the county.  He was also known to have established a milk route to Mauch Chunk and other markets.  
This shot of the Graver Brick works, dated 1899, shows the Lehighton Cemetery as well as a product of their labors: the First Ward school building on the horizon right.  It was built with Graver bricks in 1896.  It was one of many in town built from Mahoning Creek clay.  The man with the 'x' is very likely Henry Graver.

One other brick yard operated for a time in the borough.  W. S. Koch started one also using Mahoning Creek clay at the present day site of Blue Ridge Pressure Castings.  It was later purchased by Ira Seidle and Dallas Bowman.  It ceased operations in 1920.

It was soon after the flood that Lewis Graver married his wife, the Leah Lauchnor.  They wed on January 3, 1842 when he was twenty-eight and she was twenty-one. 

They had a large family of five girls and six boys: Martin, Elizabeth Seiler, twins Adaline Wehr and Alvenia Lentz-Westlake-Weiss (see previous post), Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin, Henry, Lafayette, Edward, Emma Thomas, and Annie Graver.  (More on them appear under the footnotes below.)

It was Henry, the middle son, who took over the family enterprise of brick making and would convert this industry into the ice industry, which eventually led to their swimming, real estate, and skating enterprises. 

There are a number of sources that give the sum of the Graver lands was said to be 175-acres.  Of course, these sources could all be citing from the same source.  It encompassed all of what came to be known as the hamlet of “Graverville.”  One early account from the Lewis days referred to this estate as “The Pines.”
Here is Henry Graver (right) with his mother over his shoulder.  The others
are presumed to be siblings taken at "The Pines," the Lewis and Leah
Graver homestead, in South Lehighton.

Slate was said to be quarried there as well.  A June 1877 article said Graver’s men removed “seven to eight feet of top rock” to expose some “A-1, Vermont quality slate of uniform thickness.”  The remaining piece reads more like a paid ad by stating that customers should “invest in the company’s stock without delay.”
At far left is the current American Legion Post #314 and the original Lewis Graver homestead.  The double brick
home at right was built by Graver in 1889.

The earliest reference of the Graver Brick business devolving from Lewis to Henry can be found in a June 1882 article describing it as “H. A. Graver’s” brick yard.  Lewis would have been sixty-nine years old.  The 1905 biography tells of Lewis's retirement after eighteen years in the business in 1881.  The biography later contradicts itself stating that Henry took over the brickworks in 1884.

Certainly as Lewis gave more and more of the work to Henry, settling more into retired life, he most likely was there to provide a constant voice of both promise and woe to Henry as he advanced his business pursuits. 

In the beginning, Lewis and his family were hardworking farmers over the ancillary brick works.  But the ensuing years were good to the industrious Henry.  And yet still, as farm work revolves around the cycles of the seasons, so too did the operation of the brick works. 
From August 18, 1888 "Carbon Advocate,"
a Lehighton newspaper.

Judge D. W. Neeley visited here for the month of November in 1881.  Henry and his brother-in-law, Charles W. Lentz, received Neeley as their guest from Colorado.
 
At the time, C. W. Lentz was serving as Carbon’s coroner with several murder investigations under his belt.  In time he became a popular sheriff of the county, doing so directly after returning home from his expedition with Judge Neeley back to his hometown of Poncha Springs.

This trip points to two things: Henry’s early and apparent wanderlust as well as speaking of him as a businessman who had accumulated enough to avail himself such a trip.

Graver and Lentz traveled with Neeley and expected to stay until spring as long as “all went well.”  Lentz was newly married and left two young children back home with Henry’s sister Alvenia, a milliner in town.  (Click here for post of Alvenia and her twin sister Adaline.)   

Henry remained a bachelor until his thirtieth year, marrying Catherine “Cate” Hoats of Washington Township, Lehigh County on September 30, 1887.  He represented the first ward on the Lehighton Board of Education and was also known to be a member of the Knights of Malta.
Newly weds in front of their newly built home at 105 East Penn St.  The
Henry and Cate Graver home remains today, it's detailed woodwork intact.

Brick season started as the earth began with winter's thaw in March or April.  According to an article from October 4, 1890, early October was the month operations closed out for the year.

One of the first mentions of Lewis Graver bricks going into a Lehighton building was reported in the Carbon Advocate in August of 1879.  It stated that “J. A. Hom’s new hotel building is progressing finely…bricks being furnished by Lewis Graver of South Lehighton.”  (See footnotes below on more of the fire that consumed Hom’s first hotel.)
The Henry Graver home as it appears today at 105
East Penn Street, it's charming woodwork still in tact.

J. T. Nusbaum built his clothing store, known as “The Original Spot Cash Store” on First Street, with Graver brick in 1888.  Other notable buildings built with Graver bricks were: The old “Carbon House” which stood at the corner of First and North Streets, First Ward elementary school built in 1896, the Baer Silk Mill in 1898, as well as Third Ward built in 1902. 

Bricks were also used for many homes throughout Lehighton.  The “Carbon Advocate” reported that Lewis built a “two and a half brick home opposite the old homestead” in June 1889.  Henry Graver later built his own home of at 105 East Penn Street in the spring of 1891. 

The brickyard employed about seven men in the late 1890s and early 1900s.  Another article of 1889 mentions that Henry Graver had enough orders to keep the men “humping all summer long.” 

This clay was drawn from the banks of the Mahoning Creek at the same location where the “Graver’s Bathing Casino” would be built in 1925 (see future post).  This is the current location of  “Snyder Tire” today.

The Gravers were known for their horse corral.  Horses were kept there into at least the 1950s.  The Lehigh Coal and Hardware Company of town trusted the Graver’s to take care of its “valuable sick horse” at the “meadows of Graver’s brick yard” in August of 1891.

According to an article by local historian Ralph Kreamer, “two horses rotated a long plank in a wide circle” to power the mill.  This action crushed the clay into a malleable and pack-able material suited for filling the brick molds. 

The excess clay was scraped off, and being too pliable to be handled, the bricks were dumped onto the ground to dry over night.  The bricks made here were both the “pressed” and “common” types. 

Rain was known to come at this most critical juncture.  In June 1882 heavy storms ruined 10,000 Graver bricks.  In May 1885 storms wrecked 30,000 waiting to be fired in the kiln.
From the "Carbon Advocate" - June 3, 1882

After one day on the ground, these bricks were placed in an unheated drying shed for one week.  These drying sheds were still on the property into the 1960s, used by the Graver ice plant as garages and storage sheds.

The kilns were fired for seven days according to Kreamer.  Workers were careful to keep the temperature steady or else the brick might crack.  Bricks farthest from the fire often times lacked uniformity of size.  The ovens were at first fired with wood and later anthracite coal. 

The bricks took another seven days before they were cool enough to handle.  Thus multiple kilns were necessary.

Certainly the Gravers kept close ties to their farming roots.  Just two years before his death, the paper reported Lewis had grown a strawberry “that measured seven inches in circumference” (June 22, 1889).  Henry Graver had built a wooden truck body on top of an old jalopy truck chassis.  On the side he had painted “Gnaden Hutten Fruit Farm.” 

The Allentown Democrat reported in January 1914 that “Henry Graver is loading a car with apples and potatoes to be shipped to some part of New Jersey.”  It is unclear whether the car mentioned was Henry’s truck or whether it was a rail car.  Remnants of the orchard are still visible in the 1959 aerial photo accompanying this article.
Always innovating business ventures this April 1893 news clip shows
the beginning for what would become "Graverville."

On January 3rd, 1892, the Graver family honored their parents for their Golden Wedding Anniversary.  Gifts from their children included: a silver tea service from Miss Alvenia Graver, a silver fruit dish and cake stand from Mrs. Lewis (Adaline) Wehr, a china dinner set from Mrs. T. D. (Emma) Thomas, a plush rocker from Henry and a chest from Ed Graver.

The article stated, despite Lewis being seventy-nine and Leah being seventy-two, that both were “still enjoying excellent health.”  But just three weeks after such a hearty celebration, Lehighton lost its oldest of the pioneer residents. 

The Carbon Advocate of January 30th gave a detailed account of Lewis Graver’s life.  It also stated that his demise was the result of a “short illness with acute pneumonia.”  He had thirteen grandchildren and the paper suggested the following epitaph:  “…well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Leah survived her husband another sixteen years.  Her death came “suddenly and unexpectedly” though she was near ninety years of age.

Leah’s February 1908 obituary referred to Henry as “the retired brick manufacturer.”  Other sources say it closed in 1910.

Certainly some of these dates could be approximations.  However it was clear that by 1910, crushed shale bricks began to replace the irregular, more prone to cracking, clay bricks made by Graver.  And so the Graver yard is said to have drawn to a close. 
October 1938 aerial shot: Here we see the pool, skating rink and
large "tadpole" shaped ice dam built by Henry Graver in 1909.
The pool was built in 1925.  Note the symmetry of Henry's fruit
orchard at bottom center.

However, the industrious Henry Graver had other plans: to manufacture ice.
Here is a 1938 aerial shot of the Graver Bathing Casino.  Note the
roof line near center top of frame which is the large roller-skating
rink.  The pool's nine-foot deep end is at top near the
Mahoning Creek.  Note the change houses and refreshment
stands squaring off the pool.  The shot was taken in October as the
pool is partially drained.  The lower extreme of the ice dam is also
seen here.  The various other buildings are all Graver homes
and the beginning of what came to be known as "Graverville."
The site of the pool and change houses have been converted
into the Snyder Tire operation.

 On November 5, 1909, it was reported that Henry was building a “large icehouse on his property.”  Just two weeks later, it was reported that he was building a second one as well as an “ice dam, which covered two acres.”  Henry gave “proprietor” of an “ice house” as his occupation in the 1910 Census.

In 1911, it was reported that the Graver Ice Company filled the Stegmaier Beer Cold Storage on the Lehighton flats with ten inch ice.  A February 1912 report said Graver’s Ice House was filled with 45,000 tons of ice.
This 1959 aerial shot once again shows the pool partially drained and the
skating rink.  The newly built Route 443 bisects the ice dam.

At first the ice was simply harvested from the dams, an offshoot of the Mahoning Creek.  However the next generation of Graver’s would build a year round production facility (future post). 

A large, gas powered, circular saw was used to cut the ice into 30” x 48” pieces in the 1920s.  A channel was cut up the middle to float the ice toward the storage house.  The blocks were conveyed thirty-feet up to the top of the icehouse where successive layers were separated with sawdust to keep the blocks from melting and re-freezing together.

The ice was sold in increments of twenty-five pounds up to one hundred and sold in increments of five, ten, twenty and fifty cents respectively.  

One of the early deliverymen for Graver’s other than Stanley and Ralph Graver was Bill Rex of Lehighton who lived in one of Graver’s bungalows on the side of the mountain.
Graver Brothers Ice sign customers would hang in their
windows to indicate the amount of ice they needed as
the delivery man approached the house.  The cost for
the above increments went from five, to ten, to twenty,
to fifty cents for the above weights.

Though long out of use, the remnants of the far end of this ice dam can still be seen today.  Down the bank from “Pizza Hut” at the base of the Mahoning Mountain is a stagnant pool of water that was the far extreme of this dam. 

The near end started at the rear of today’s Snyder Tire and is now under a substantial pile of fill.  Route 443 was part of the eventual demise of this dam as it bisected these two areas in the late 1950s. 
Bill Rex delivered ice for the Gravers.  The large building to the left was the Graver Skating Rink.  The Henry Graver
home was to the right and to the rear of this photographer out of frame.  (Photo one of many courtesy of Larry Graver.)

The business was built up sufficiently enough that by 1920, Henry was retired.  Son Stanley was living with his parents and listed his job as “ice peddler.”  Henry listed “none” for his.  This business must have been profitable enough for Graver to begin to feed his passion for travel. 

In February 1917, a Palm Beach Florida paper related the following information:

“A vehicle which attracted much attention in Palm Beach and vicinity was a house-auto which had toured from Lehighton, Pa.  It is a chain driven type, capable of a speed of about fifteen miles an hour.  It is really a comfortable room, 6’x12’ in dimensions, in which are three beds for the occupants, a complete set of cooking paraphernalia, and ‘all the comforts of home.’” 
Henry Graver is center with his two friends in Palm Beach: On the chair is Daniel "Jacob" Kistler of Lehighton, the
liveryman and hotel proprietor and Frank Schwartz, originally of Lehighton and later a Mauch Chunk furniture dealer and undertaker who is on the ground right.

“The car is the property of H. A. Graver, known in Lehighton and vicinity as the man who proved that peaches could be raised on the mountainside of his locality.  With him as guests were Frank Schwartz and D. J. Kistler.”  (Kistler owned the livery in downtown Lehighton as well as the Exchange Hotel - click here for a post of those and other Lehighton businesses.)
It looks like Henry in the doorway of the modified version of his jalopy once again in Florida.  That's his wife Cate between the two life guards in the center of the picture.  This is where Henry would be inspired to build his pools.

It also mentioned that the “tourists” had complained that they had to pay an additional ten dollar license fee even though the one they had did not expire until the next Thursday.  However they did have a compliment for the Florida roads, stating that they “on the whole in excellent condition.”
This looks to be Bertha Graver, daughter of Henry and Cate with an unidentified male sight-seeing in the cotton
fields of the south during the height of the share-cropping days.
Another tourist shot of the Gravers and Frank Schwartz in an orange
grove somewhere in Florida.

The article concludes with other Lehightonians living at least part of the year in Florida: Pierce F. Rehirg (click here for the murder mystery surrounding his death), George A. Esch, Thomas Graham, George Hartung, Jacob Kistler, Frank Schwartz, Rev. H. L. Straup, George Johnson, and F. P. Semmel besides others permanently located.
This appears to be how the jalopy traveled to Florida.  However, the first trip in 1917 may have been over the entire 1,200 mile journey.  Close examination of this shot seems to show Henry and perhaps Cate and most likely their grandson
Reuben Graver.

Henry's "home-auto" on a barge crossing some Florida water.

The earliest photos show this “house-auto” next to what look to be a ramshackle home, an area of which had a framed up, walled in patio area with palms used as sheathing. 
Sometime between 1917 and Henry’s death in 1926, Henry and wife Cate would  spend most if not all their winters in Florida in perhaps a more permanent home.

Henry and Cate had three children: Ralph Henry Graver (born 1892), Stanley (born 1894) and a daughter Bertha (born 1898).  In at least one photo, it looks like Ralph in his life guard suit with his sister Bertha, Henry and his oldest son Reuben at about seven years of age in Palm Beach.

It appears that the wooden body of the jalopy mentioned in the 1917 article gets renovated at some point before 1926.  In later pictures, the wooden frame looks to have been altered and there is a lower entry step.  The tongue and groove slats on the outside look newer, of a darker stain, and the “Gnaden Hutten Fruit Farm” is gone. 
Here we see Ralph Graver with his sister Bertha along with Henry seated at a more permanent winter home in Florida.  The youngster could be Ralph's oldest son Reuben.

It is unknown for sure whether Henry drove the 1,200 miles to Florida at fifteen miles per hour on what had to be mostly dirt roads in a truck with hard tires and without shock absorbing mechanics.  

However there are two interesting pictures of his remodeled jalopy: One on a barge crossing a bay or a swamp and another on a flatbed of an “Auto Transfer” train, both of which are of the newer version.

Regardless of how he arrived there, the auto-house was featured in many pictures, pictures that give a glimpse of their lives in Palm Beach.  It looked like a life of ease, of surf and fishing, but with some adventure and a business discovery.

The Palm Beach Post article of 1917 also mentions that the Henry Graver “party visited Gus’ Baths, and motored south to Miami.”  This innocuous and incidental stop would prove pivotal to the future of Graver family business.
Here is a picture of the Gus Bath House from Palm
Beach.  The Gravers would pattern much of their
 pool enterprise uponGus's design, right down to the
wooden boardwalkand surrounding change houses.

Peter “Gus” Jordahn was born in Denmark in 1881, nine years older than Henry.  He and his wife honeymooned in Palm Beach where he eventually relocated.  He built his first bath house in 1914, and shortly thereafter built Gus’ Bath House at the east end of Worth Avenue.  It was the first bathing pools in Palm Beach to be open year round.  The pool had a wooden boardwalk around it.
"Gus" Jordahn of Palm Beach Florida.
 Picture appears courtesy of Palm Beach County Historical Society.

“Gus” was known to dive off the pier into the ocean and swim with the sea turtles.  He also had several saltwater pools where he would house sea turtles from time to time. 

There is one picture from the Graver family photo collection showing a manatee, referred to as a “sea cow,” being scrubbed down inside a drained pool from the “Kennedy Sea Aquarium.”
One of many pictures in this post from the personal collection of the
Graver family, appearing courtesy of Larry Graver.  A "seacow" or manatee
from the Kennedy Aquarium in West Palm Beach, Florida in the 1920s.

It is puzzling that Henry’s oldest son Ralph is absent from both the Lehighton and Palm Beach, Florida census records in 1920.  It is possible that he was living in Palm Beach as it is known that Ralph was employed as a life guard at Gus Jordahn’s Bathing Casino in Palm Beach, Florida.
Henry is in the surf left, his son Ralph is center standing while Cate
is seen middle right with her grandson Reuben in front of her.
The woman in the far right is a constant companion in most
pictures of Catherine.  She appears to be either a caretaker of sorts
as she is always nearby, often at Cate's feet or is perhaps a niece.
She is a family mystery.

Thus Henry had one more business venture lurking in his brain.  He was inspired by Jordahn’s Casino in function and design.  The business model also intrigued him. 
Henry, with his sons, set out to build not one but two of the largest pools in Pennsylvania at the site of the former brickworks. 




Here Henry and Kate pose to the rear of their 105 East Penn Street home with the brick yard drying sheds to their rear.
Route 443, otherwise known as the "Lehighton-Tamaqua Highway, would later be built behind them.  Again, the woman
at Cate's feet appears in many family photos whose identity is a bit of a mystery.  The woman over Henry's shoulder looks to be their daughter Bertha, born in 1898 and who died in 1933.
And here, a few years later, it appears to be the same woman with Cate on the ground.  Henry is at right.  The couple at center, could possibly be the parents of Cate Graver.  Her parents were
George and Mary Hoats of Slatedale.
The Lehighton replica of “Gus’ Baths” was built first, in 1925.  The Lebanon version, built to the same specs as the 100’ by 150’ Lehighton pool was started in 1926 and completed in 1927. 

Henry placed this new venture in the hands of his two sons.  Ralph would take charge of Lehighton while Stanley lived the summer months in Lebanon.  The pools were the largest in the state and were wildly hailed in the local papers both here and in Lebanon County.

This also led to the building of a larger skating rink larger than any currently around Carbon today.  And, subsequently, this directly led the “Graver Brothers” in the real estate industry that would carry them into the 1970s.

Henry would live to see the first but not the latter.  He passed away in his West Palm Beach winter home, his wife Cate and daughter Bertha at his side when his end came.  He was sixty-nine but led a full life.  

Cate passed at the age of sixty-three in 1931. 

Bertha, who never married, followed in 1933.  She was thirty-five. 

Please stay tuned for Post three on Ralph and Stanley Graver soon.  Happy Holidays everyone!









Footnotes  -
Lewis and Leah Graver’s Children:
Their oldest son Martin moved to Packerton and worked on the railroad, Elizabeth Seiler married and moved to the Lehigh Valley, Adaline and Alvenia took on a millinery shop with Alvenia eventually moving to Emporia, Vrigina and back to later run a boarding house on Bridge Street.  Son Lafayette farmed the Owl Creek area of Franklin Township, the current home of Graver’s Orchards, which is run by Lafayette’s great grandson Richard Graver.

T. Jefferson Graver was prone to epilepsy and lived with his mother until the day he died of an attack and drown in the family outhouse in August of 1902 at the age of forty-seven.  At the time of his death the only siblings alive were Henry and Edward, and Emma, Elizabeth and Alvenia. 


Henry and Catherine Graver’s Children:
On his 1917 draft card, Stanley stated his occupation as “farmer.” He first married Verna Nansteel in October of 1912.  They were divorced by 1918. In 1920, Stanley was living at home with his new wife, the former Sadie Dreher.  It appears that by 1930 they were separated, Sadie living alone in a boarding house and working as a cook in Manhattan while Stanley was living in Lebanon, owner of “Turkish Baths” and living with his widowed “maid,” Pauline Cole.

The fact that he was married three times in addition to a few anecdotes of Stanley attests to the nature of Stanley’s temperament.  He was fond of the horse kept on the Graver pasture and he was known to take one as far as Lake Harmony where he would allegedly entertain himself with spirits until his horse would either runoff or he would otherwise lose track of it to the point where family members would be called in the next day to help find it.  He was also known to be quick to fire workers at the ice plant without much cause, requiring his brother Ralph to re-hire the worker before he ever left the grounds.
Ralph Graver learning the ropes of the pool
business with Gus Jordahn in Palm Beach Florida.

A February 1930 advertisement for “Dr. White’s Lon-ge Hai-la Cough Medicine mentions Ralph working for Gus.  The ad builds Graver’s credibility by mentioning he and his brother manage the Lehighton and Lebanon Bathing Casinos, as well as “large ice houses, and refers to Ralph as “one of the best swimmers in the country and a former life guard at Palm Beach.”  

There was also a similar ad that appeared In November of 1926 for “Dr. White’s Lung Healer,” available from First National Laboratories of Lehighton.

The Jonas Hom Hotel Fired and the Mansion House Hotel:

Hom's wooden hotel was first converted from a barn by M. H. Barol in 1868 at the intersection of First and Ochre Streets.  Jonas Hom took over the wooden hotel after Barol and on May 23, 1879 it was ruined in a fire.  The “Lehigh and Schuylkill Railroad” depot ran behind it and it was alleged the fire started by a spark landing on the roof from a passing train.  Others said it started from within.  This hotel was later renamed “The Mansion House” and was run by Jonas Hom’s son C. A. Hom after Jonas’s death of consumption at the age of fifty-eight in 1882.  At some point in the 1880s, it was said to have been run by A. P. Claus (born 1842), a son-in-law to Jonas.  Claus was married to Sarina Hom (born 1849) who was the eldest of the Hom children.  Jonas's son Columbus H. Hom ran it until he too died of tuberculosis in 1893.  His brother Zacharias H. C. Hom ran it until retiring around 1906.  The Carbon Advocate apologized for not running the story in the next day’s edition due to the fact that the staff was assisting Hom remove valuables and helping to extinguish the blaze.
In 1906 it was run by Kistler and in 1912 it was purchased by the Central Jersey Railroad.  The Central planned to demolish it and build a station there.  However, those plans never materialized and it functioned as a hotel until February 13, 1928.  (Many thanks to Lamont "Mike" Ebbert for his research.)

Above: The proximity of the Mansion House Hotel in relation to the Central Jersey freight station at the Ochre Street where it intersects with First.  Below: First Street view looking toward the Packerton Yard.  The bricks came from the Graver brick yard.



The grave of Andrew Graver - Lewis
Graver's older brother and boat building partner-
as it rests at the Bunker Hill Cemetery in East Weissport.
~ 4 May/22 April 1809  to 10 March 1886 ~
Graver family records use the May date while
Andrew's obituary used the April date.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Lehighton Gravers: Alvenia and Adaline (Post 1 of 4)

A colored advertisement for Alvenia Graver's Millinery
Shop in Lehighton.  She first opened with her twin sister
Adaline as "Mrs. L. Wehr & Sister."  Unlike her sister,
Alvenia kept her maiden name for business though she
married Sheriff C. W. Lentz.  (Courtesy of Larry Graver.)
The Graver family literally built Lehighton.  They not only serve as a link from the Moravian and Frederica Misca days, their descendents continue to be part of business life in this area today, even though Lewis and his brother Andrew Graver came here nearly 200 years ago.
The Penn Lace Building, on the site of the former Daniel
Olewine tannery, was most likely built with bricks from the
Graver family brickyard of South Lehighton.


Lewis Graver came to Lehighton when he was just twelve.  His father, Heinrich Graver brought his young family to timber the Moravian lands with both Lewis and Andrew in 1825. 

As a young man, Heinrich Graver’s father (“Andreas Graber” born in 1735) emigrated from Germany to the Montgomery County area and later to Lehigh County. 
The beginning: The Recluse of Gnaden Hutten/Lewis Graver lands
Eventually the Graver’s conducted a brickyard in the south end of Lehighton on those old lands.  They eventually also had a fruit orchard, skating rink, ice dam and ice factory and the largest swimming pool in Pennsylvania. 

The 175-acres also included bungalows for vacationers.  These eventually turned into the homes of permanent residents known as “Graverville.” "Graverville" is a term nearly gone from the Lehighton lexicon.

This post is the first of a series featuring the various Graver family business ventures in Lehighton. 

Here, we begin with Lewis Graver’s twin daughters Alvenia and Adaline Graver. 

Alvenia and Adeline Graver were born on May 3, 1853.  They conducted their “millinery and notions” shop on South Street Lehighton.  They announced their opening for “new and fashionable CHEAP CASH Milinery and Dressmaking” store in the building “formerly occupied by Dollenmayer’s Jewelry” in May 1880.

They began as “Mrs. Wehr and Sister” as Adaline was married to Mr. Lewis Wehr.  And though Alvenia at first was just the “Sister” end of the partnership, by 1883 it had become the shop of “Miss Alvenia Graver,” an agent for “King’s Dyeing Company.”  The sisters would make trips to Philadelphia to purchase materials for their shop.

It appears that Adaline’s husband Lewis had an ice cream parlor on Bank St as a June 1884 ad attests: “Son, take thy best girl to an ice cream parlor…get the best, and thou art probably aware, the best cream is kept by Lewis Wehr.” 

(Curiously, another powerful Lehighton and Weissport millinery businesswoman, Maria Culton, also had a husband, Ben Culton, who owned an ice cream confectionery shop in downtown Lehighton.  Click here for their story.)

In July of 1892, the family Adaline Wehr was joined by the families of her sister Emma (married to town druggist T. D. Thomas) and their brother Ed Graver for a week of rest and play at Towamensing’s "Lake Harmony."    

A 1900 census showed Lewis Wehr’s occupation as “hide tanner.”  In 1902, Adaline was forty-nine and had a “rheumatic” attack that lasted several weeks.  According to her April obituary, these “seemed to be moving round to different parts of her body” which affected her heart. 
The Graver family plot at the Lehighton Cemetery - Centers upon family
patriarch Lewis Graver.
From the "Carbon Advocate," printed in Lehighton, Saturday,
November 5, 1887


Adaline left four children: Gertrude, Mabel, Leah, and Vesicon.  She was also outlived by her mother, Leah (Lauchnor) Graver.

Gertrude went on to marry Harry A. Andrews.  It is unclear what happened to Vesicon.  They also had two brothers die as infants.
"Carbon Advocate" ad from July 1883.

Leah Wehr would later move in with her Aunt Alvenia.  Mabel Wehr, the spinster sister, would live the rest of her life with her father.  Lewis Wehr buried her after her apparent suicide from mercury poisoning in 1919.  She was thirty-nine and is buried on the Graver plot with her parents.   
A "Carbon Advocate" ad for Alvenia Graver after
she continued with the business she and her
sister Adeline Wehr started.  This one from April 1891. 

Alvenia Graver was thrice married (Maria Culton too, was thrice married.)  She was first married to Charles W. Lentz.  Their only child to live to adulthood was son William Graver Lentz who was a veteran of the Spanish American War.  They had a daughter, Mattie, who died in 1884 at the age of five.  However there is a mystery here.

Searching William’s military paper work, his death certificate and more, his birth date is listed as August 11, 1878.  His baptism record at Zion UCC in Lehighton was in November 1878.  His sister’s birth date on her tombstone states November 13, 1878 which is confirmed on her January 1879 baptismal record.

Lentz and Graver married on April 4, 1878, just four months before William Graver Lentz was born on August 11, 1878. 

Obviously if these two dates are correct, they cannot both be natural born children of Alvenia born just three months apart.  In census records in later years, Alvenia claimed having just one child with “none” living. 

Mattie Minerva Lentz’s tombstone says she is the daughter of Alvenia.  One answer to this mystery lies with William's death certificate.  It says his mother was "Elizabeth Graber."  

Alvenia had a sister named Elizabeth who married Samuel Seiler and lived in Allentown.  She died in 1927.  Her death certificate states indicates "unknown" in the box entitled "If married, widowed, divorced" as well "unknown" in the box "Birth date."  

Census records for Elizabeth state she had three children, two who survived.  It looks as though she had a son Edgar and and daughter Emma.  None of the records indicate that William Graver could have been a Seiler but it is one possible explanation.  

The most likely mother to William would be Alvenia's sister-in-law Elizabeth married to her brother Martin Graver, but they had a son named David born in 1884 and a son named Martin born in 1885.  Martin later lived with Alvenia after her second marriage.  No other sons are known to have come from Martin and Elizabeth.


Sheriff Lentz and his brother in law Henry Graver (subject Post 2) entertained Judge D. W. Neeley of Poncha Springs Colorado in November 1881.  In early December, the three men left Lehighton for Colorado.  
From the "Carbon Advocate" December 1881.  The above article
contains a typo - the town is "Poncha" Springs.

According to the press, Lentz and Graver didn't "expect to return east until spring, if all goes well.”  Nothing further could be found on Judge Neeley beyond this one obscure newspaper article.

Perhaps the leaving of his wife and two young children at home for this trip can be seen as the type of behavior that led to the couple's eventual estrangement.

Lentz and Alvenia ended their marriage by March of 1884.   At about this time, he must have been romantically involved with Atlas “Addie” B. Kuntz of Millport (today’s Aquashicola) as they had a daughter (Naomi Lentz) born by December 1884. 

Sheriff Lentz died an untimely death.  According to his obituary of 1902 his greatest enemy was himself, as he was generous to a fault.  One obituary stated he fell six feet over a rail at Rehrig’s Saloon in Mauch Chunk, striking his head on the stone. 

On May 22, 1894, Alvenia Graver married her second husband: a Mr. William H. Westlake of North Charleroi.  North Charleroi, a small town north of Pittsburgh, is also known as the town of “Lock #4” on the Monongahela River.  

Alvenia appears to be Westlake’s second or third wife, as he had children prior to 1894 and records seem to support at least one other wife.

Perhaps Alvenia intended to move to Pittsburgh with Westlake, as the papers stated, since it appears this is the time she closed her millinery shop.

Westlake was an agent for the P. V. & C. Railroad (Pennsylvania, Virginia & Chesapeake, a forerunner to the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad) at the time.  He also, just the month before the wedding, became the patent holder for a water and dust proof folding trunk.   

The Pittsburgh papers announced that the wedding was a surprise to his friends.  After the ceremony he returned to his home town alone, expecting Alvenia to join him by July. 

However things must have bent to Alvenia’s will as they were residing in Lehighton by 1900 with Westlake’s school teacher son Earl.  Westlake listed his occupation as “landlord” while nothing was noted for Alvenia’s profession.

By 1910, she still listed her last name as Westlake even though she was living without him.  It is unclear where Westlake was living in 1910.  In the censuses of 1920 to 1940, he lived with his son Earl in San Fransico as a “widower,” though Alvenia was alive until 1932.

Alvenia was living with her twenty-three year old niece Leah Wehr (sister Adaline’s daughter) and twenty-two year old nephew “Raymond” Graver on Bridge Street as a “keeper of a boardinghouse.”  

Martin “Raymond” Graver, the orphaned son of Martin and Elizabeth (Straussburger) Graver, mentioned earlier.   

Alvenia married Henry Weiss sometime after 1910. 

Weiss was born in Lehigh County and raised a family including sons Henry Jr. and Jefferson Parades Weiss.  They all moved to Emporia Virginia by 1900 and engaged in various enterprises.

Jefferson worked at his own garage and his brother Henry was a surveyor for his father’s real estate firm.  

All this changed when Alvenia moved from Lehighton to Emporia when she wed Weiss, her third husband.  She lived with Weiss and Henry Jr, now divorced, and Jefferson, now widowed.

Weiss seems to have made a name for himself in Emporia by 1900 as he had three African American servants, was proprietor of the “Emporia Hotel” and listed his occupation as “publisher.”  In 1897, he was active in trying to lure a sugar factory to his town for economic development. 

Weiss was born in 1844 and lived in Lehigh County.  Apparently widowed of his children’s mother, he married a second wife, Matilda Grim of Northampton County North Carolina on May 3, 1885. 

He was in Emporia Virginia by February 1884, a small town just south of Petersburg and Richmond, when he wrote a letter to his old commander. 

Colonel Tobias B. Kaufman was in command of Weiss’s 209th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment.  Kaufman was born in Boiling Springs but had moved to Iowa after the war.  

It seems Colonel Weiss enjoyed chatting and reminiscing with the former confederate soldiers he met as well as strolling around at Fort Stedman and through the battlefield at Petersburg, known as the “Battle of the Crater.”    

In the letter, he refers to a “Johnny” (as in “Johnny Reb”) he met by the name “Britton” who was “seven feet tall” who had captured Colonel Kaufman and who took Kaufman’s sword and revolver.  Britton was known to have worn the sword until the end of the war. 
This book contains the letters between Weiss
and Kaufman as well as those with Britton, the
"Seven foot tall" rebel officer.

Colonel Weiss’s chance meeting led to an exchange of letters between Kaufman and Britton and in time, led to the return of both the sword and his revolver.  The letters attest to the cordial and respectful manner these two old foes held for each other.

Even though Kaufman’s capture led him to be sent to the Confederate Libby Prison in Richmond and later shipped out to Danville Prison, a friendship flowered and endured.  Kaufman was returned to his unit on April 14, 1865 as part of the surrender signed by Lee and Grant.

As was the case with her second husband from Pittsburgh, it is unclear how Alvenia met husband number three in Virginia, but it appears that they were married sometime after 1910. 

Where Weiss adopted the title “Colonel” is uncertain.  He served in Company H of the 209th Regiment as a private throughout his enlistment from September 3, 1864 to May 1865.   

The term must have been bestowed upon him as a social convention due to his standing in the community, since no other military record can be found.

“Colonel” Weiss died and was buried, apparently in Virginia.  By 1930, Alvenia was back in Lehighton living with her niece, nephew, and her twin sister’s widowed husband Lewis Wehr. 

She lived until 1932 as the “Widow Mrs. Alvenia Weiss.”


And although she was married three times, her grave stone still refers to her as “Graver,” even though it concludes with: “Wife of Colonel H. W. Weiss.”  She was seventy-nine.

And here is where a comma must be placed on the story of the Lehighton Gravers.  Please click this link on Post #2, a more thorough look at Lewis and his son Henry Graver.  Post 3 is also in development.

 Footnotes:
William Graver Lentz survived the Spanish American War, came home, and married his wife Jane.  He was a salesman for National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) living in Bloomsburg.  His 1950 death certificate, completed by his wife, listed his mother as “Elizabeth Graber.”

Sheriff Charles W. Lentz and his second wife Addie had one daughter together, Miss Naomi Lentz born in December 1884.  She was only thirty-three and single when she died in October of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. 

Her mother Addie apparently never remarried and died alone, an invalid at Good Shepherd, crippled by arthritis.

U.S. Army Retired Captain William H. Westlake is buried in Gold Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno California.  Alvenia Graver’s widow lived with his warrant officer son Earl until his death 1945.

A Few Other Untimely Graver Deaths:
One of Lewis Graver’s grandsons, Henry, the son of Layfayette Graver, was killed when the gasoline stove in his apple cellar exploded, catching his clothing on fire.  He was burned to death on their Pine Run farm on June 10, 1931.  He is the great uncle to Richard Graver who runs the Graver Apple Orchard today.  He was just twenty-five.  (Perhaps this was actually an exploding distillery?)

Another branch of the Graver tree that endured a chain of unfortunate deaths was that of Lewis Graver’s eldest son Martin, born in 1845.  Martin lived in Packerton and was drafted into the Civil War while he was a laborer on the Lehigh Canal.   He died and buried among the Graver family plot in the Lehighton Cemetery in 1884.  He was thirty-nine.

Martin had a son named David Graver who was an engineer on the Lehigh Valley Railroad.  He was killed at 6:00 am on February 27, 1943 while crossing First St.  He was while walking to the Packerton Yard and struck by a car.  He died of a broken neck and left leg. He was fifty-nine.

David Graver had a son Paul, who stood trial for the murder of his boss’s wife.  Paul Graver was an amusement operator at Gilhool’s Harverys Lake Casino.  Dorothy Gilhool’s body was beaten to death and found half frozen near the lake in 1954.

Witnesses swore that the forty-two year old Graver was one of the last people to see her at a late night party.  An expert on fibers testified that hair found in Graver’s room matched those of Mrs. Gilhool.

Another son of Martin’s, Martin “Raymond” Graver, who lived with Alvenia at her boarding house, died of influenza in 1941 at the age of fifty-five.

Charles Thomas, grandson of Lewis Graver and son of town pharmacist T. D. and Emma (Graver) Thomas died in November 1954 of smoke inhalation when his home burned.