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Samuel William Birch
(1862-1946)

 

Samuel William Birch was born on Dec. 5, 1862, the son of Samuel and Suretta (Wilson) Birch. Rendered motherless at a young age, he became a small business owner in Johnstown, Cambria County, PA. 

Samuel's mother died when he was about three years old, and at a time when the father had returned from military service in the Civil War. Within a few months, the father married again, to Susan A. Miner. Thus Samuel grew up in Greene County, PA, with a brood of nine younger half-brothers and half-sisters who came in following years.

Samuel struck out on his own as a teenager. When the federal census was taken in 1880, he was a boarder in the residence of McClain and Rachel Johnston in nearby Canton Township, Washington County, PA. He earned his room and board with the Johnstons as a farm laborer.

In about 1884, when he was age 22, Samuel married 23-year-old Mary Elizabeth Stollar (1861-1937) of Washington County. She was the daughter of William and Susan (Martin) Stollar (or "Staller").

The Birches had 10 children -- Nellie May Eichelberger, Reuben Warren Birch, James William Birch, Ollie Belle "Ola" Weaver, Harry Andrew Birch, Alta L. Hite, Harold L. Birch, Ralph M. Birch, Gertrude Uncapher and Josephine Thomas. Sadly, three of the children -- Nellie, Harold (1904) and Ralph -- are believed to have died young.

 

Devastation caused by the 1889 Johnstown Flood -- involving a massive rebuilding effort which may have drawn Samuel there for employment.

 

Occasionally using "William" -- his middle name -- Samuel obtained employment as a machinist in Johnstown, Cambria County, PA. Johnstown had reached world fame in 1889 when it was the scene of the horrific Johnstown Flood, killing more than 2,200 townspeople, "one of the most devastating 'natural' disasters America has ever known," according to David McCullough's best-selling book, The Johnstown Flood. Perhaps the opportunity to help the city in its massive cleanup and rebuilding effort is what drew him to the locale.

The 1900 census shows the family of Samuel and Mary and their eight children living in Stonycreek Township near Johnstown. Son Reuben worked that year as a laborer in an iron foundry. 

By 1910, the Birches had relocated to East Wheatfield Township in Indiana County, PA. That year, Samuel was employed in local coal mines as a machine engine "engineer," while son Harry, age 17, labored in local coal mines.

Samuel eventually found his way out of the mines -- as a drayman, hauling loads of goods using teams of horses. Returning to Cambria County, he turned that expertise into his own company, the Birch Moving and Transfer Company in Lower Yoder Township, near Johnstown. The site of the business today is where the Lower Yoder Fire Company is now located. The 1920 census lists Samuel as "transfer - moving & transferring" with son Harry assisting in the family owned firm.

When the federal census was taken in 1930, the Birches lived on Fairfield Avenue in Johnstown, and have been married for 47 years. Daughter Josephine, unmarried and age 23, lived under their roof that year. Married daughter Gertrude and her husband Carl Uncapher were next door neighbors. Samuel's occupation was "proprietor - general hauling."

In 1936, Johnstown again was hit by a devastating flood that destroyed 77 buildings and damaged 3,000 more. Click here for details. How the Birches fared during the 1936 flood is not known.

 

Flooding in Johnstown again in 1936 -- on Market Street at the post office building

 

Sadly, in her final year of life, Mary endured the death of her adult daughter Nellie May Eichelberger on Jan. 29, 1937. Just three and a half months later, Mary joined her daughter in death on May 15, 1937, at the age of 76, in Johnstown's Mercy Hospital. She was buried at Sandyvale Cemetery, following a ceremony conducted by Rev. William S. Crick of the third Brethren Church. An obituary in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat said Mary's death "was attributed to a complication of diseases" and that she was survived by 22 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Samuel outlived Mary by nine years, and was admitted to the Cambria County Home in the last eight months of his life. He was debilitated by chronic heart disease and senility. He died on Feb. 25, 1946, at the age of 84. He is buried with his wife. In his newspaper obituary, four of his adult children were listed as living in homes on Fairfield Avenue in Johnstown, but at different addresses on the street. 

 

Nellie, date unknown

~ Daughter Nellie May (Birch) Eichelberger ~

Daughter Nellie May Birch (1882-1937) was born on Nov. 19, 1882 in Washington County.

As a young woman, she resided in Kantner, Somerset County, PA.

At Kantner on July 3, 1907, when she was age 24, Nellie wed 24-year-old laborer Eli Essington Eichelberger (Feb. 28, 1883-1960), son of John W. and Mary E. (Wisor) Eichelberger of Hopewell, Bedford County, PA. The ceremony uniting them in holy matrimony was led by Rev. J.S. English.

The couple resided on Fairfield Avenue Extension in Lower Yoder Township in Johnstown, Cambria County. They had nine children, of whom four lived to adulthood -- Helen Ruth Goughnour, Edison Evan Eichelberger, Merrill William Eichelberger and Mary Etta Miller. Three died as unnamed infants in 1908, 1923 and 1925, with son Allen Wilson Eichelberger dying of peritonitis and whooping cough at age one year, nine months on Feb. 24, 1911 -- and son Harry Telford Eichelberger succumbing of ileo-colitis at age two years, six months on Aug. 18, 1917.

Eli was employed by the Harris Boxer Company. They were members of the Fairfield Street Evangelical Church.

Sadly, Nellie suffered a heart attack and died at home at 531 Fairfield Avenue, Lower Yoder Township, on Jan. 29, 1937, at the age of 55. Reported the local newspaper, "She had been in good health prior to being stricken late last night." On her death certificate, a physician noted "Acute dilation of the heart, died soon after arrival of Dr. ... overweight exertion." Following funeral services held at their home, Nellie was laid to rest in the Benshoff Hill Cemetery in Johnstown. [Find-a-Grave]

 

Johnstown newspaper, 1937

Eli survived his wife by 23 years. His final residence was at 453 Sheridan Street. On April 16, 1960, just three weeks before his own demise, Eli suffered the death of their son Merrill.

Having been stricken with Hodgkins Lymphoma of a duration of six months, he passed away at home on May 7, 1960, at the age of 77. Rev. Arthur Kaufman preached the funeral sermon, followed by interment in Benshoff Hill Cemetery. Noted the Tribune-Democrat, he was survived by eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Daughter Helen Ruth Eichelberger (1911-1966) was born on March 20, 1911 in Johnstown. She wed Robert Ethan "Bob" Goughnour (July 20, 1911-1977), son of Robert Wilson and Clara Beatrice (Goughnour) Stiles of Wehrum, Indiana County, PA who was raised by his father's parents. They had one known son, Robert Eli Goughnour. Circa 1937, their home was in Lower Yoder, and in 1960 at 531 Fairfield Street. At the age of 55, on the Fourth of July 1966, Helen died in Johnstown. Robert survived for 11 years and married again to Mildred Grace (Long) Griffith (1915-2000), daughter of Stephen and Annie (Borig) Long. He joined Helen in death on March 22, 1977. Burial was in Benshoff Hill Cemetery in Johnstown. [Find-a-Grave] Second wife Grace moved to Port Saint Lucie, St. Lucie County, FL where she died on April 12, 2000.

  • Grandson Robert Eli "Bob" Goughnour (1934-2010) was born on Nov. 13, 2010 in Johnstown. He was twice married. His first bride was Freda Gahagen ( ? - ? ). His second wife was Debra Flicker ( ? - ? ). He died on July 31, 2010 in the town of his birth, at age 76.

Son Edison Evan Eichelberger (1913-1967) was born on Jan. 20, 1913 in Johnstown. He made his residence in 1937 in Lower Yoder. He married Violet M. Chase (1916-1987), daughter of James and Mary Elizabeth (Rowland) Chase. Their children were Telford Gene Eichelberger and Nancy Marie Laslo. Their address in 1960 was 453 Sheridan Street. On Aug. 28, 1967, in Johnstown, Edison passed away at the age of 54. Burial was in Benshoff Hill Cemetery. Violet lived for another two decades after her husband's passing. She eventually moved to Annville, Lebanon County, PA to be near her daughter. There, she died on Sept. 6, 1987. Her remains were brought back to Johnstown for interment.

  • Grandson Telford Gene Eichelberger (1936-2009) was born on Oct. 25, 1936 in Johnstown. He was twice married. His first bride was Shirley Rager (1935-1967), daughter of Benjamin and Florence (Dill) Rager. After Shirley's death at age 32 on Feb. 18, 1967, in Johnstown, he married again to Dolores (Hill) Wilt. Telford succumbed in Johnstown on Jan. 18, 2009.
  • Grandson Nancy Marie Eichelberger (1943-2002) was born on May 21, 1943in Johnstown. She was wedded to Stephen Laslo ( ? - ? ). She died in Annville, Lebanon County on April 19, 2002. Interment was in Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.

Son Merrill W. Eichelberger (1918-1960) was born in 1918. He married Sarah Louise McMillan ( ? - ? ). Their home was at 323 Chancellor Avenue in Johnstown, where Merrill was employed as a stationery engineer. Sadly, at the age of 41, he suffered a "cerebral vascular accident" and died on April 16, 1960. Burial was in Benshoff Hill Cemetery in Middle Taylor Township, Cambria County.

Daughter Mary Etta Eichelberger married (?) Miller and in 1960 dwelled in Vintondale, Cambria County.

We extend our appreciation to Nellie's granddaughter Dolores "Dee" Edwards for her generosity in sharing her research findings for this biography.

~ Son Reuben Warren Birch ~

Son Reuben Warren Birch (1884-1947) was born on April 24, 1884 in Washington.

As an adult, he moved to Hooversville, Quemahoning Township, Somerset County, PA.

In about 1909, at the age of 25, he married 20-year-old Binnie Lee Kimmel (1889- ? ), a native of Stoystown, Somerset County.

They produced at least seven children: Harry "Warren" Birch, Althea Birch, Priscilla Phyllis Hostetler, Dorothy Phyllis Hostetler, Mae Ethel Keith, Maurice Birch and Robert Leroy ("Major" or "Red") Birch.

 

Unpaved Main Street in Hooversville, Somerset County, early 1900s

 

The census of 1910 shows the Birches making their home in Quemahoning Township, with Reuben working as a motorman in a local coal mine. Living under their roof that year were Reuben's newlywed brother and sister in law, James W. and Rosa Birch. 

In 1920, their home was on Water Street in Hooversville, with Reuben employed as a coal miner. 

During the 1920s, two more children were born, and the Birches moved to a new home on Railroad Street in Hooversville, with Reuben continuing his longtime occupation as a coal mine laborer. The 1930 census shows the family living on Railroad Street. In 1936, when their daughter Dorothy was married, he continued his work as a miner.

Tragedy enveloped the family in the late winter of 1947. While on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bridge in Hooversville, on March 8, 1947, the 61-year-old Reuben was killed when accidentally struck by a freight train, fracturing and crushing his skull. His broken remains were placed into repose in Hooversville. The coroner examined the facts and determined that the death was accidental, not suicide, as some may have suspected.

Binnie continued to make her home in Hooversville as a widow. More will be added when learned.

Son Harry Warren Birch (1909-1993) was born on July 5, 1909 in Hooversville. At the age of 24, on Sept. 16, 1933, he was joined in wedlock with 16-year-old Florence Virginia Fyock (March 19, 1917-1989), daughter of Charles "Joel" and Mary Ellen "Ella" (Hellman) Fyock. Their longtime home was in Hooversville, Somerset County. The Birch children were Betty Jane Hickman, William Leroy Birch, Shirley Ruth Kennedy, Charles Warren "Butch" Birch, Ruby Ellen Maxwell, Robert Earl "Clem" Birch, Nancy Carol Maxwell and Pamela Bernice Tedrow Hutzell. Harry served in the U.S. Army during World War II, having been drafted, and served as a military policeman at Camp Clayborn in Louisiana. At the age of 72, on Oct. 2, 1989, Florence passed away. Harry survived her by three years and joined her in eternity on Jan. 25, 1993. A short death notice was published in the Somerset Daily American. [Find-a-Grave]

  • Granddaughter Betty Jane Birch (1934-living) was born in 1934. She married Charlie Hickman ( ? - ? ). They live in Cleveland, OH.
  • Grandson William Leroy Birch (1936-2013) was born on Feb. 23, 1936. During the Korean War, he served in the U.S. Army. Later, he was employed with Emglo Corporation, a position from which he eventually retired. He also was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Hooversville. William was twice married. His first spouse was Frances Ripper ( ? - ? ). Later, he wed George Ann Repine ( ? - ? ). Over the years, he and his family resided in Hooversville. His only known offspring was Billie Michele Berkey. William spent his final years in company with Georgeanna. While a resident of Siemon's Lakeview Manor, he passed away at the age of 76 on Jan. 27, 2013. Funeral services were conducted by Pastor Nila Cogan at the St. Thomas Lutheran Church of Hooversville, and an obituary was published in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat. Their daughter Billie married Christopher Berkey of Hooversville and produced three children, Brogan Berkey, Brynlyn Berkey and Briar Berkey.
  • Granddaughter Shirley Ruth Birch (1939-2011) was born on June 8, 1939 in Hooversville. In about 1955, when she would have been about 16 years of age, she married Richard R. Kennedy ( ? - ? ). They remained wedded for 56 years until the separation of death. The Kennedys made their home in Stoystown and had only one son, Gary Allen Kennedy, who sadly died in infancy. Over three-plus decades, Shirley worked as a seamstress. As her health failed, Shirley was admitted to Siemon's Lakeview Manor Estates. She died there at the age of 72 on Aug. 14, 2011. Interment was in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Stoystown, with Rev. Sharon Fox leading the ceremony.
  • Grandson Charles Warren “Butch” Birch (1942-living) was born in 1942. He was united in holy matrimony with Suzanne Jones ( ? - ? ). His home is in Virginia.
  • Granddaughter Ruby Ellen Birch (1945-living) was born in 1945. She was joined in wedlock with Charles Maxwell ( ? - ? ). They have made their residence in Hooversville.
  • Grandson Robert Earl “Clem” Birch (1948-living) was born in 1948. He was wedded to Mary Ann Zoldey ( ? - ? ). They dwell in Hooversville.
  • Granddaughter Nancy Carol Birch (1950-living) was born in 1950. She married Dwayne Maxwell ( ? - ? ). They live in Hooversville.
  • Granddaughter Pamela Bernice Birch (1956-living) was wedded twice. Her first husband was Donald Tedrow ( ? - ? ). Her second spouse was Phillip Hutzell ( ? - ? ). They make their home in Somerset.

Daughter Dorothy Phyllis Birch (1916-2006) was born on Aug. 13, 1916 in Hooversville. She married coal miner Charles Edward Hostetler (Feb. 26, 1907-1979), son of Robert and Minnie (Minkimyer) Hostetler of Rockwood, Somerset County. Their wedding was held on Jan. 18, 1936 in Somerset County, when Dorothy was age 19 and Charles 28. Their four offspring were Clifford Birch, Donald Hostetler, Larry Hostetler and Sandra Shaffer. The Hostetlers resided on Roger Street in Hooversville, where Charles was a coal miner and a member of the United Mine Workers of America Local 3016 at Wilbur. They were members of the Hooversville United Methodist Church. Charles died at home at the age of 72 on Aug. 13, 1979. An obituary in the Somerset Daily American said that following funeral services led by Rev. Harry Bassett, burial was in the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America Cemetery in Hooversville. Dorothy outlived her husband by more than a quarter of a century. In her final years, she went to live in the Church of the Brethren Home in Windber, Somerset County. She died at the Home at the age of 90 on Oct. 18, 2006. A newspaper obituary named three grandchildren ande eight great-grandchildren.

  • Grandson Clifford Birch married Jane Kelly and lived in Mohnton, PA and in 2006 in Palmerton, PA.
  • Grandson Donald Hostetler wedded Audrey Sarver and dwelled in Hooversville RD 1.
  • Grandson Larry Hostetler was joined in matrimony with Joanne Meyers and resided in Hollsopple, PA. Later, after a divorce, he was a companion of Anne of Stoystown.
  • Granddaughter Sandra Hostetler was united in wedlock with Ray Shaffer. They made their home in Hooversville.

Son Reuben "Maurice" Birch (1923-1998) was born in 1923 in Hooversville. Following his father's trade, he was employed in young adulthood as a coal miner. At the age of 25, on May 28, 1948, he wed 21-year-old Susan Kohan (1927-1980), daughter of Andrew and Anna (Chardas) Kohan. Rev. Charles G. Clark led the wedding ceremony, held at Hooversville. A native of Braddock near Pittsburgh, Susan lived at the time in Hooversville and worked as a clerk. The couple went on to have six children -- Richard Lee Birch, Karen Lee Birch, Sharon Collins, Diane Birch and two sons who died in infancy. They were members of the Holy Family Catholic Church of Hooversville. The Grim Reaper swept away Susan at the age of 53 on Dec. 19, 1980 in Johnstown's Mercy Hospital. Kidney problems may have been the cause of death. Rev. S.J. Zubricki celebrated a mass of the resurrection in the family church, followed by entombment in Hooversville Cemetery. Maurice died at the age of 75 on Nov. 23, 1998. Burial was in the Patriotic Order Sons of America Cemetery in Hooversville. A short death notice was printed in the Somerset Daily American. [Find-a-Grave]

  • Grandson Richard Lee Birch
  • Granddaughter Karen Lee Birch
  • Granddaughter Sharon Birch (1953-2006) was born on Dec. 11, 1953 in Somerset. In about 1972, when she was about 19 years of age, Sharon was joined in marriage with 26-year-old Joseph G. Collins Jr. (Sept. 21, 1946-1999). He was the son of Joseph G. and Shirley (Cable) Collins Sr. of Johnstown, Cambria County. Their children were Connie West, John, Timothy, Hyla, Edwin, James and Amanda Collins, Clay Carrol and Tyler and Areona Collins. They also took in a number of foster children. Joseph earned a living working for the Church of the Brethren Home in Scalp Level, PA. Sadly, Joseph died in Pittsburgh on March 20, 1999 at the age of 52. His death ended a marriage which had endured for 27 years. Sharon survived him by seven years and  passed away in Cairnbrook, Somerset County on April 19, 2006. The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat published an obituary. Burial was in at Glade Reformed Cemetery in Glade, Somerset County, with Rev. James A. McCormick officiating at the funeral service. Inscribed on their grave marker is the phrase, "Gone But Not Forgotten."
  • Granddaughter Diane Birch

Son Robert Leroy Birch (1925-2000) was born on June 11, 1925 in Somerset. He earned the nicknames "Major" and "Red" over the years. He married Thelma Marie Kincaid (1925-1993), daughter of Catherine (Lyberger) Kincaid. They lived in Hooversville and produced two daughters -- Linda Diane Marshall and Virginia Marie Boncoski. Robert served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Later, he was employed by Bethlehem Steel in Johnstown. As a hobby, he enjoyed skeet shooting. Sadly, Thelma passed away at age 67 on April 28, 1993 in Mercy Nursing Care Center in Johnstown. An obituary in the Somerset Daily American noted that burial would be in Somerset County Memorial Park. Robert died at Laurel View Village in Somerset County at the age of 75 on Nov. 19, 2000. Rev. C.J. Ickes and Rev. Gary Anderson led the funeral service, followed by interment in the Patriotic Order Sons of America Cemetery in Hooversville. An obituary in the Somerset Daily American noted that he was survived by seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

  • Granddaughter Linda Diane Birch wed William Marshall and resided in Stoystown.
  • Granddaughter Virginia Marie Birch married Joseph Boncoski and dwelled in Stoystown.

Daughter Ethel "Mae" Birch (1919-2007) was born on May 26, 1919 in Hooversville. She was married to Clarence W. Keith (1913-2004), son of William and Susan (Ankney) Keith of Hooversville. They dwelled in Hooversville and were members of the Ridge Church of the Brethren. They had one daughter, Shirley Yonish. Clarence "enjoyed fishing and spending time at his cabin in Bedford," reported the Somerset Daily American. He also served as a deacon for more than a half century at the Ridge Church. They endured the death of their only child in 1997. Clarence passed into eternity at Somerset Hospital at the age of 91 on Aug. 4, 2004. Ethel died in Martin's Personal Care Home in Rockwood on April 24, 2007 at the age of 87. Rev. Brian Simmons officiated at the funeral service and burial in the Patriotic Order Sons of America Cemetery. [Find-a-Grave]

  • Granddaughter Shirley Keith (1939-1997) was born on April 6, 1939 in Hooversville. She wed (?) Yonish, and they had two children -- Leslie Bowman and Kevin Yonish. Later, Shirley took back her maiden name and resided in Friedens, Somerset County. She was a private piano and organ teacher and a member of the Ridge Church of the Brethren, and worked at Ribbon Outlet in Somerset. Shirley died at the age of 58 on Aug. 25, 1997. Burial was in Hooversville. 

~ Son James William Birch ~

Son James William Birch (1887-1973) was born on March 23, 1887. 

He married Rose Scott (1885- ? ), a native of Kansas, on April 3, 1910. Their marriage ceremony is believed to have taken place in Kansas in Paola, Miami County, when James was age 23 and Rose 25.

As newlyweds in 1910, the Birches made their home with James' married brother and sister in law, Reuben and Bonnie Birch, in Quemahoning Township, Somerset County, PA. James' occupation that year was "laborer - coal mine." 

Later, they migrated to Kansas for good. Circa 1935, they lived in Kansas City, Jackson County, MO, and by 1937, at the death of James' mother, they were in Fort Scott. The federal census of 1940 shows James and Rose, childless, living on Adams Street in Kansas City, Wyandotte County, KS. That year, James worked as a lumber yard laborer, and they earned extra income by having lodgers in their home.

Circa 1946, when he would have been age 59, James resided in Kansas City and was named in his father's newspaper obituary. 

James died on June 28, 1973.

~ Daughter Ola Belle "Ollie" (Birch) Weaver ~

Daughter Ola Belle "Ollie" Birch (1889-1972) was born on Nov. 3, 1889 in either Washington or Johnstown. If Washington, at a very young age, she migrated to Johnstown with her parents.

At the age of 26, on March 8 or 13, 1916, Ollie married 27-year-old William C. "Willie" Weaver (1889-1964), son of farmers Baldwin and Virginia Lee (Howell) Weaver. The ceremony took place in Cambria County, with justice of the peace Will J. Lamberd officiating. Born in Paris, Missouri, William earned a living at the time as an "agent" and resided in Uffington, Monongalia County, WV. How they met is unknown.

The Weavers went on to have at least three children -- Virginia May Thomas, Geraldine B. Mardis and Bernard E. Weaver. Sadly, daughter Virginia died at the tender age of two days on Jan. 24, 1917 of "melena" (gastro-intestinal hemorrhage). Interment was in the Sandyvale Cemetery.

 

Bird's eye view of Johnstown

 

Circa 1920, when the federal census was enumerated, the family made its home on Black road in Lower Yoder Township, Cambria County. That year, William worked as a helper with a transfer truck, likely part of a moving company. Their postal address was R.F.D. #5, Box 5B, Johnstown.

They lived on Fern Street near Johnstown in 1930, when the census was taken. William's occupation that year was as a life insurance agent with Prudential Insurance Co. Willie remained with Prudential for many years and eventually retired from the company.

By 1937, they dwelled at 524 Fairfield Avenue in Johnstown, and in 1972 was at 218 Nash Street. They were members of the Third Brethren Church, and Ollie was an honorary member of the auxiliary of the Lower Yoder Township Volunteer Fire Company, where her brother Harry was longtime chief. 

Willie died at home at the age of 74 on Aug. 21, 1964, just a week shy of his 75th birthday. Rev. Jerald Radcliff led the funeral service with burial following in Benshoff Hill Cemetery.

Ollie died on July 13, 1972, in Johnstown, at the age of 82. Burial was in the Benshoff Hill Cemetery, following a funeral where both Rev. Ronald Ritchey and the fire company auxiliary conducted services.

Daughter Geraldine B. Weaver (1918- ? ) was born in about 1918 in Cambria County. She married (?) Mardis. In 1964 she lived in the Coopersdale Homes section of Johnstown and in 1972 made her home at 158 Haws Street in Johnstown.

Son Bernard E. Weaver ( ? - ? ) wed Johanna Bubaus ( ? - ? ) and in the early 1970s they resided at rear 218 Nash Street.

Daughter Virginia May Weaver ( ? - ? ) married Lester Thomas ( ? - ? ). They dwelled circa 1972 in York, York County, PA.

~ Son Harry Andrew Birch ~

Son Harry Andrew Birch (1892-1984) was born on Oct. 19, 1892 in Johnstown. 

As a young adult, he was of medium height and build, with brown eyes and light brown hair. He lived in Johnstown at age 24 and was employed as an operator of a nail machine at Cambria Steel Company. His income helped to support his parents and siblings, and he claimed them as dependents when registering for the military draft in June 1917.

During World War I, he served in the U.S. Armed Forces. After the war, he returned home to the Johnstown area.

 

Cambria Steel Company, formerly known as Cambria Iron, located on the banks of the Conemaugh River near Johnstown

 

On July 6, 1920, Harry married Jessie Eppley (1888-1971), daughter of David and Sarah Catherine (Goughnour) Eppley of Cambria County. He was age 27, and she 32, at the time. She is thought to have been married once before, circa 1910, to millhand Clinton J. Hogue. 

Harry and Jessie had six known children -- Robert Birch, Betty J. Irvin, Freda L. Sherman, William S. Birch, Harry Andrew Birch and David Samuel Birch. Heartache shook the family twice in the early 1920s. On April 21, 1921, son Harry was stillborn. Then in the spring of 1923, after their son David was born, the baby suffered from "marasmus" (severe malnutrition) and died at the age of one month, 28 days on May 5, 1923. Both infants' tender remains were placed into eternal rest in Benshoff Cemetery.

Their home in 1923 was at 322 Chandler Avenue in Johnstown. The 1930 census shows the family making its home on Meadow Street in Lower Yoder Township, Cambria County. In 1937, Harry and his family, along with his sister Gertrude, lived at 523 Fairfield Avenue in Johnstown, and by 1946 had moved to a few doors away, to 519 Fairfield Avenue.

Harry worked during those years assisting his father as co-proprietors of the hauling business. He also was a charter member of the Lower Yoder Volunteer Fire Department and served as its chief for 32 years, with Jessie involved with the fire company auxiliary. She also was a member of the third Brethren Church and the National Bible Society.

Their home in final years was at 138 Blawn Street.

Jessie passed away at age 83 on Feb. 10, 1971, at Johnstown's Memorial Hospital. She was placed into eternal rest in Benshoff Hill Cemetery, with Rev. Ronald Ritchey leading the services.

Harry died in Johnstown on May 13, 1984, at age 91, at the home of his daughter Freda. Rev. Ira Gibble officiated the funeral, assisted by the local fire department, with burial following at the Benshoff Hill Cemetery. At his death, reported the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, he was survived by eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Son Robert Birch married Mary Brindle. In 1971 they lived at 160 Blawn Street in Johnstown.

Daughter Betty J. Birch married Samuel Irvin and lived at 111 Blawn Street in Johnstown.

Daughter Freda Birch married James Sherman and resided in Johnstown at 345 Cord Street.

Son William Birch wed Dolores Cramer. In 1971, they dwelled at 341 Cord Street in Johnstown.

~ Daughter Alta Laura (Birch) Hite ~

Daughter Alta Laura Birch (1895-1962) was born on May 18, 1895 (or 1896) in Johnstown.

At the age of 24, Alta married 23-year-old Guy Willard Hite (1896-1965) on June 27, 1919. He was the son of John L. and Annie (Spiegler) Hite of Johnstown.

They had three known children -- Kenneth W. Hite Sr., Dorothy Wisor and Lois Elaine Hite. Sadly, daughter Lois died in infancy.

Their home circa 1930 was on Fern Street in Lower Yoder Township near Johnstown. Alta's sister and brother in law, Ollie and William Weaver, lived next door. The Hites made their home in 1937- 1946 at 526 Fairfield Avenue, and in 1962 were at 217 Nash Street.

 

Franklin Street looking south, Johnstown, early 1900s

 

Guy was employed as a longtime laborer at the Wheel Plant of the Johnstown Plant of Bethlehem Steel Corporation. He retired from the company and received a pension. Following retirement, he was a member of the Retired Men's Club of Greater Johnstown. He was a longtime fire fighter with the Lower Yoder Volunteer Fire Company, of which his brother in law Harry A. Birch was chief, and Alta was a member of the fire company auxiliary. They also belonged to the Third Brethren Church in Morrellville.

Alta was stricken with paralysis on one side of her body added to diabetes. She passed away on July 3, 1962, in Johnstown's Raymond Nursing Home, at the age of 66. Her pastor, Rev. William Anderson, officiated at the funeral. Interment was in Benshoff Hill Cemetery.

Guy married again, to Mabel (Evans) Beynow. She had these adult children from an earlier marriage -- Dora Wallace, Thelma Robinson and Harry Beynow. Mabel moved into the Hite residence on Nash Street. 

Guy died at Lee Hospital at age 68 on March 19, 1965. Rev. Jerald D. Radcliff preached the funeral service, with burial following in Benshoff Hill Cemetery. 

Son Kenneth W. Hite Sr. resided in York, PA. 

Daughter Dorothy Hite married (?) Wisor and in 1962 made her home in Hollywood, FL.

We are grateful to Alta's grandson Kenneth W. Hite Jr. for furnishing important details for this biography.

~ Daughter Gertrude M. (Birch) Uncapher Steward ~

Daughter Gertrude M. Birch (1902-1997) was born on Nov. 28, 1902 in Johnstown. 

She married her first husband, Carl Uncapher (1900-1953) in about 1925. He was the son of Orlando and Florence (Apple) Uncapher.

They had two known children -- Betty Jean Price and Phyllis Rae Bracken.

When the federal census was enumerated in 1930, they resided next to Gertrude's parents on Fairfield Avenue in Lower Yoder Township, near Johnstown. Carl's occupation was listed as "electric craneman - steel mill."

In 1937, Gertrude and her family, and her brother Harry and his brood, lived at 523 Fairfield Avenue in Johnstown. By 1946, she made her home at 357 Chandler Avenue in the city and by 1953 was at 327 Chandler. They were members of the Third Brethren Church.

Sadly, Earl died at the age of 52 on Aug. 11, 1953 in Johnstown's Memorial Hospital. Rev. Earl M. Riddle officiated at the funeral. The remains were laid to rest in the Benshoff Hill Cemetery.

Later, Gertrude wed a second time, to John Steward ( ? - ? ). Her home in 1962-1972 was in Easton, MD. After John's passing, she returned to Johnstown and spent her final years there at Arbutus Manor. 

She died on Aug. 24, 1997, in Johnstown's Memorial Medical Center. Interment was in Benshoff Hill Cemetery, following services led by Rev. Jim Saunders.

Daughter Betty Jean Uncapher married Lester Price. They lived in Mount Union, PA.

Daughter Phyllis Rae Uncapher wed (?) Bracken. In 1997, she lived in Jacksonville, FL.

~ Daughter Josephine (Birch) Riffle Thomas ~

Daughter Josephine Birch (1905-1954) was born on July 13, 1905 in Somerset County, PA.

She was married twice. Her first husband was Thomas Riffle (1893-1944), son of Joseph and Laura (Baumbaugh) Riffle. They had no children.

Their home in 1937-1944 was on Fairfield Avenue in Johnstown. Thomas was employed as a janitor in the Lower Yoder Township Schools. 

Tragically, at the age of 50, Thomas was stricken with cancer of the stomach accompanied by gastric bleeding. He died on Sept. 12, 1944. Burial was in Grandview Cemetery.

By 1946, Josephine lived at 676 Fairfield Avenue in Lower Yoder Township near Johnstown. She was a member of the Third Brethren Church in Morrellville near Johnstown and of the Lower Yoder Volunteer Fire Company with her siblings.

Josephine's second spouse was Ralph Thomas ( ? - ? ). He had been married before and brought these children to his marriage with Josephine -- Grace Rodak, Roy Thomas, Betty Thomas and Lester Thomas. 

Josephine was burdened with Hodgkins Disease and endured it for four years. On Valentine's Day 1954, Josephine died in Johnstown, at the age of 48. Burial was in Johnstown's Grandview Cemetery, with Rev. Earl Riddle and Rev. Robert Whisler officiating. She was placed into rest in Johnstown's Grandview Cemetery.

Copyright 2001-2003, 2008, 2010, 2014-2015, 2017 Mark A. Miner