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.

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.

1 comment:

  1. This post was fascinating!! I recently found out I am a Graver, and can't wait to fit all this info into my family tree! Thanks so much for posting this!