Sunday, May 25, 2014

Think, Love, and Remember - Memorial Day 2014 St. John's Lutheran, Mahoning Valley

Today is a glorious day. 
We are alive: we have sunlight on our face, we have wind in our hair, and we have dew upon our feet (and sometimes rain that dampens our skin.)   

We have our minds that allow us to think, to love, and to remember. 
It is Memorial Day and to remember is what we must do, to honor those who served America.

Over the course of America’s history, 40 million soldiers have served.
If you could ask any of them, what they missed most while they were away, they’d tell you, they simply missed their home.  They missed things we take for granted: a hot bath, their own comfortable bed, and of course their mother’s home cooking.

We take many things, such as our home and our freedom, for granted.

We have no idea how much these mean to us until they are lost. 
So the next time you are tired, the next time you are hungry, the next time you think you had a rough day, I want you to think about, I want you to remember, the 40 million who have served, think of those who suffered and remember those who died. 

Not all who served died for our freedom, all gave a small, but mighty sacrifice of simply being away from home.

Think of all of them and you will appreciate your freedom all the more. 

This blessed and fertile Mahoning Valley has produced much.  It has produced a wealth of soldiers too.

We have both the living and the dead with us today.

We the living will all eventually join the dead.  It is for us, while we are living, to honor the dead, for their sacrifice, for they too once lived like us, enjoying freedom and all the comforts of home.

We are here to honor all who served our country. 
Look around, there are many among us:

Members of the UVO, Chester Mertz who served in WWII, and many others seamlessly hidden among us.   These men and women know sacrifice.  We the living, promise you, your service will not be forgotten.
Chester Mertz a Navy Veteran of WWII tends to flowers of the grave of
his parents at St. John's Lutheran in the Mahoning Valley.

The dead are also among us, they lay silently here on these grounds:

Oliver Musselman KIA at Antietam,
September 17, 1862.  He was 19.
Oliver Musselman died Sept 17, 1862 at Antietam.  He was only 19.  Jonathan Gombert, also a Civil War Veteran, is buried here too.  He made it home alive.  But he too made a sacrifice at Antietam, giving up his right arm.
The Jonathan Gombert farm today.

Merlin Hollenbach is buried up there.  He was thinking, I’m sure, of his home three days before Christmas.  He landed in Vietnam on his birthday, just a month before.  He was most likely thinking of his mother baking his favorite cookies, wondering how his father was doing setting up the family tree, surely he was thinking of his new wife Irene.  But on December 22rd, 1967, far from his home, Merlin Hollenbach as a medic among the forward observers, died in an ambush, in the swampy jungles of Vietnam.
Merlin Hollenbach was newly married,
twenty-one, and only in Vietnam a month,
serving as a medic, attached to forward
observers.  He was killed
in an ambush.
A memorial from Merlin Hollenbach's family at St.
John's Lutheran.  Hollenbach died three days before
Christmas in 1967.

But not all died from enemy bullets.  Moses Mertz has rested here for nearly 100 years.  He died in France but he lies right over there. We know he had a weakened heart, we know he was in a hospital in France, and he died far away from his family and loved ones.  It has been said of Moses that he died of a broken heart, from an unbearable homesickness…
Moses Mertz, son of Nathan and Sallie Mertz of Mahoning.  As his draft card below reveals, he was a blacksmith's helper in the Lehigh Valley Railroad Packerton Shops.  He listed an exception to military service as a "weak heart."  Some say he died of a broken, homesick heart in France on October 2, 1918, just days before the end of the war.

Today is a Glorious Day.

We are alive: we have sunlight on our face, we have wind in our hair, and we have the dew upon our feet.  

We have our minds that allow us to think, to love, and to remember. 

We have been summoned here,

To think about their sacrifice, to always love our freedom, and
To always, always remember…their sacrifice for us.

More Mahoning Valley Veterans:
WWI: Anthony Dougher was mentioned
in last years Memorial Day address
at St. Peter and Paul Cemetery while
Moses Mertz was mentioned this year.

Daniel Kressley served in Co F of the
132nd PA Regiment.  He was discharged
in January of 1863 due to disability but
re-enlisted in the 202 PA Regiment until
August 1865.

Here is a closeup of the 1907 plaque that stands in the current Mahoning Elementary School built in 1954.  It was originally posted in the wooden one room school house and was erected by friends and classmates of Civil War servicemen who originated from the school.  It contains the following names: Killed: Oliver F. Musselman (Sgt Co F 132nd), Otto Stermer (Co F 132; Antietam), James Eames, John Miller, John Callahan, William Nothstein.  Also listed: Henry Snyder, William H. Fulton (1st Lt, Co G, 132nd), Joseph Acherman, Samuel Eberts (27th), William Stermer, Nathan Stermer, D. W. C. Henline, Thomas Musselman (Co F 132nd; wounded at both Fredericksburg and Antietam), Jacob Nothstein (Co F 132nd; buried at Zimmerman Cemetery), Daniel Houser (Co H 11th), Thomas Strauss, Reuben Reinsmith (Co G 34th), Robert Sinyard, William Sendel, Amon Fritz (75th), Josiah Musselman (Sgt Co A 202nd), Daniel Kressely (Co F 132), Stephen Fenstermacher (Co G 34th), Peter Eberts (4th Sgt Co F 27th Militia), David Eberts (27th), William Eberts (27th), Henry Zellner (Co G 34th), Jacob Strauss, Aaron B. Miller, Moses Neyer (Co F 132), Aaron Snyder (Co A 202nd), Elias Hoppes, John H. Arner (Co F 34th), and James Kresge.  Also listed are teachers Joseph Fulton and James Swank.
Josiah Musselman is buried at the Zimmerman
Cemetery near the old Wos-Wit. 

Josiah Musselman was a seargent in Company A of the 202 Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers.  He was the son of Mary (Miller) and Charles Musselman, born November 5, 1837.  He married Emaline  He died on December 20, 1912 and was buried in the Zimmerman Cemetery, Mahoning Township on Christmas Eve.
Thomas Musselman buried at St. John's Lutheran in
Mahoning Valley.

Daniel Creitz of Co I 176th PA Regiment.

Daniel Creitz was born in May of 1836 and was a farmer from Lynn Township.  He served in Company I of the 176th PA Infantry Regiment from November 8, 1862 until October of 1863.  He was the husband to Mary Creitz (b. March 1840) and they had twelve children, nine of whom lived to adulthood.  One of their youngest children, Daniel Creitz had a farm near the Jonathan Gombert farm in Mahoning Township.  By 1900, Daniel Sr. and Mary moved onto the farm with their son.  By March of 1879 Daniel was declared disabled and by September 23, 1915 his widow Mary filed for widow’s benefits.

Henry J. Lange/Long was born in Germany February 16, 1833.  He served in Company G of the 132nd PA Regiment from August 15, 1862 to May 24, 1863.  Henry and many other veterans from the Valley in the 132nd hit a bees hive on the "Bloody Lane" during the Battle of Antietam.  The men had bees covering their bodies and inside their coats while taking hostile fire. He and his wife Sarah farmed the Mahoning Valley and had at least eight children: Henry, Anna, Mary, Alfred, William, Jenetta, George, and Edgar.  He died May 2, 1921.
Henry J. Long's tombstone
reads "Lange" as he was also
known.  His several
great grand son Henry Long
is bugler for the current
Lehighton UVO, and his son,
Kevin "Spike" Long is

George Arb's grave at St. John's Lutheran.
George Arb enlisted for a three year term on October 15, 1861.  He was wounded and discharged on a surgeon’s certificate.
Jonathan and Anna Gombert.  Jonathan lost his right arm at
Antietam and later became Carbon County Sheriff in 1900.  My
grandfather Zacharias Rabenold was hired as his servant when he was
just sixteen at that time and served as saddler on Gombert's farm as well
as "orderly" at the Carbon County Jail.

Henry Snyder served in Company I of 81st PA Infantry Regiment.  He enlisted for a three year term on October 15, 1861 and served until the company mustered out at the end of the war  on June 29, 1865.
Henry Snyder of Co I of 81st PA Regiment.
Justus G. Walton of Co I 67th PA Regiment.

Justus G. Walton was a sergeant in Company I of the 67th PA Infantry Regiment.  He enlisted for three years on October 22, 1861.  At some point he transferred to Company F.  He mustered out with Company F on July 14, 1865.  He was the son of Body and Polly Walton of Mauch Chunk and was second oldest of at least eight children (in order): Thomas, Washington, Wilson, Alfred, Peter, Joseph and Rebecca.  In 1850, his brother Thomas was a machinist and Justus was most likely an iron casting moulder. 

Valentine Newmeyer enlisted in Company F of the 132nd Infantry Regiment from August 15, 1862 until May 24, 1863.

Jonathan Gombert gave up his right arm at the Battle of Antietam.  He was born on June 19, 1835 to Philip (1792-1880) and Salome (1794-1878) Gombert He enlisted in Company H of the 81st PA Infantry Regiment.  He married Anna Loucile (Hontz) Gombert.  Her parents were Jonas and Sarah (Reinsmith) Hontz and lived from October 4, 1842 to June 7, 1920.  Three of their children were Sarah, Andrew, and Ella.  (Andrew would die in a tragic accident with his hay tedder at the age of  He died January 16, 1911.
William Grow of the 34th PA Militia most likely died in
June 1888, but little else is known of this veteran
buried alone at St. John's Lutheran.
William Grow 34th PA Militia served until August 24, 1864.  It appears on his government burial card that the granite company was contracted on June 9, 1888.

Henry Wehrstein was the son of John and Catharina Wehrstein.  In 1860 he was a twenty-one year old tailor living in Mauch Chunk. He served in Company F of the 132nd PA Regiment from August 1862 to May 1863.   After the war he and his wife Elizabeth settled in Mahoning Valley and raised a son James, where Henry continued on as a tailor.
Henry Wehrstein Company F 132nd PA Regiment.

Jacob Hoffman, born July 3, 1848 was able at a young age to serve in Co C of the 54th PA Regiment.  He died in 1909 leaving a wife, four daughters, and a son.  
Jacob Hoffman Comapany C 54th PA.

Moses Hontz/Hantz (1843 to 1907) served in Co. G of the 81st PA Regiment.  He was married to Sarah Hontz and they had eight of their eleven children grow to adulthood.  Of them alive and living with them in 1900 were: Carrie (age 17), Lizzie (12) and Raymond (10).  They also had their grandson Willie Eberts living with them too.  Moses was a well-known boatman on the canal as well as farming in the Valley.  Moses enlisted for three years on September 16, 1861 and discharged September 15, 1864.  His brother Amon Hontz also served in Company G. 
Moses Hantz also known as Moses Hontz, brother to
Amon Hontz.  Both were said to be born in Weissport
but are buried at St. John's Lutheran in Mahoning

Amon Hontz took a minnie ball at the Battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse.  Both brothers also fought at the Battle of Antietam. 
Ammon and his brother Moses were born in Weissport
but are buried in Mahoning.  Ammon took a minnie
ball at the Battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse, VA.
Nathan Gombert
Nathan Gombert was born on October 5, 1847.  He died on December 1, 1925.

Samuel Mertz lies in Lehighton Cemetery and is pictured
Daniel Kressley was born in Lynnport on January 18, 1844.  His parents moved to a farm in the  Mahoning Valley when he was just six years old.  He enlisted in Co F of the 132nd PA Regiment.  He was at the Battle of South Mountain and at Antietam where he was wounded at the "Bloody Lane."  After discharge for typhoid fever in Jaunary of 1863, Daniel re-enlisted and served out the war with the 202nd PA Regiment.  He returned to the Mahoning Valley where he taught school for thirteen seasons.  He also farmed, worked for the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company and the Lehigh Valley Railroad in between sessions.  He and his wife, the former Mary Dilcher had eight children, two sons and six daughters.  Both sons became ministers Clement Daniel and Thomas M, both serving in Schuylkill County.      
This 1914 veterans reunion in front of Lehigh Fire Co No. 1 marked the 50th Anniversary of the last year of the war.  Daniel Kressley is incorrectly identified as the second from left and is the third from left.  These photos appear
courtesy of the Thomas Eckhart "History of Carbon County" Volume IV, page 196.

Daniel Kressley, though sickened with typhoid fever in
Jaunary of 1863 and discharged, he later re-enlisted in the
202nd PA Regiment and served to the end of the war.
Merlin Hollenbach KIA December
22, 1967.

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