Hiram B. (probably Bauke, “Baker” in English) Ferverda (1854-1925) married Evaline Louise Miller (1857-1939) on March 10, 1876 in Goshen. Indiana. At least, that’s where their marriage license was filed.
Beyond that, and knowing that they were both Brethren, until 2010, we knew absolutely nothing more about their wedding, except that Brethren weddings, like Brethren anything, tended to be very humble and austere. No color, no decorations, and maybe even no ceremony at all. Just you, your parents perhaps, the minister, a couple of required witnesses (dang those manmade laws anyway) and the Lord.
In October 2010, my cousin, Cheryl, arranged to have a family reunion in a church in northern Indiana, not far from where the Ferverda and Miller families lived. Cheryl’s father was Roscoe Ferverda, brother to my grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda.
I was looking forward the reunion because I had never met any Ferverda cousins except for Cheryl, her sons and her brother Don. My mother had moved away from the area as a young adult.
Upon arrival at the church that beautiful fall day, Cheryl said, rather nonchalantly, that she hoped that the person with the Ferverda Bible attended.
“WHAT FERVERDA BIBLE????????”
Had Cheryl been holding out on me?
No, Cheryl said, when she called some of the distant cousins to invite them, someone mentioned that someone had a family Bible.
Notice the number of “someones” in that sentence. I had been down this road before on other family lines. If in fact “someone” did have a Bible, it almost was never the right family line. It was almost always someone’s wife’s second cousin’s half sister’s Bible that was purchased at an estate sale.
Never, almost never, my line.
So when I heard Cheryl’s comment, I didn’t have much hope and went back to covering tables with white plastic lace covers and placing edible center pieces. This was, after all, the “sweet-tooth” Ferverda family, and “edible” is important.
People began arriving and chattering. I felt rather like a stranger in my own family, because while everyone else greeted people they recognized, I knew absolutely no one.
I introduced myself and told people who I was. Everyone was kind and cordial, but there was no spark of even remote recognition.
After all, it was 2010 and my mother had died 4 years earlier and moved away some 70 years before that.
Nonetheless, people brought photos with them and told stories, and we had a wonderful time eating and (no drinking) and sharing family stories. The Ferverda family certainly doesn’t lack in that capacity, either eating or storytelling. They may have been Brethren, but they were neither dead nor boring. In fact, they weren’t always terribly compliant, it turns out.
About half way through the reunion, I asked Cheryl who was supposed to bring the Bible. She found the person, and asked if they had remembered.
“Oh,” they said, “I forgot. Would you like me to run home and get it?”
“Well, no, you don’t need to do that…” Cheryl began, “but I quickly interrupted her with, “Oh, would you please?????”
The gentleman was perfectly willing, and off he went, returning a few minutes later with said Bible in hand. It was far more beautiful than I had expected. Given their Brethren faith, I was prepared for plain black and no decoration except for the words, “Holy Bible” in small gold letters. That’s certainly not what appeared.
Let me share with you the way we the story unfold that day. Cheryl and I, sitting side by side at the table after clearing the plates, on a beautiful fall day in Indiana, not far from where Hiram and Eva lived their entire lives, opened the cover and began turning the pages, one by one.
Hiram and Eva were Cheryl’s grandparents and my great-grandparents.
I’d wager Hiram and Eva were never more than an hour or so from home, maybe 2 hours on a long trip. Transportation was by horse and buggy.
Look at that beautiful leather tooling. Cheryl opened the cover of the Bible, not knowing what to expect.
Opening their Bible transported me to another time and place. But, was it actually their Bible? We held our breath!
Glory be! It IS! How did we never know this Bible existed?
What a lovely gift from Hiram to his wife. I surely wish he, or she had added a date. Was this gift for a birthday, Easter, Christmas perhaps? Is this his writing, or hers? Looking at the shape of the letters, in particular, after 1925 when he died, I believe that this is Eva’s writing, not Hiram’s.
Genealogists always look for the Bible’s copyright date because you know the Bible wasn’t in use before that date.
This page is interesting, because we always thought her name was Evaline Louise Miller. Imagine that…all these years we’ve all had ner name backwards!
This writing is clearly Eva’s, based on the shape of the Ms, compared to the entries after Hiram died.
Furthermore, they were married at 6 in the evening. Their witnesses were Mrs. Bigler and Miss Bigler, and the minister was Reverend Bigler of Goshen, Indiana.
According to the History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, there were two early churches, one called Union Center (which is where Hiram’s father is buried,) and the other in Elkhart, founded in 1830 as the first Brethren Church in Indiana.
The Elkhart church later became known as “West Goshen.” The Bigler name appears in both churches as deacons, but the Goshen Church also shows Andrew Bigler as an elder, serving with Daniel Stutsman who died in 1887. The book indicates that Andrew served as elder during the later years of Elder Stutsman. The Stutzman and Miller families immigrated from Switzerland to Germany together in the 1600s, and then from Germany to Pennsylvania in the 1720s, then on to Maryland before 1750, then to Ohio around 1800 and Indiana about 1830.
It’s very likely that the marrying minister was indeed Andrew Bigler, shown in the 1880 census with his wife Lydia and daughter Elizabeth. The Bigler family had been migrating with this same family group since they were first noted together in 1738 in the Little Conewago Church in Pennsylvania.
The church today probably incorporates the original building.
Eva and Hiram would have traveled about 5 miles from where Eva’s parents lived, together in the buggy. Was it cold that early of March day, or was it a glorious spring day? Where did the newlywed couple go from there? Were they married in the actual church building, or in the pastor’s home?
I do wonder why they were married in this church, because we know that there once stood a church in the cemetery on the land where Eva’s Miller grandparents lived, although her grandfather, David Miller, died in 1851.
Perhaps that church was too small to have a minister licensed to marry. Brethren ministers were generally farmers who preached “on the side.”
We know from the deed of Edward Clark who bought the land where the cemetery now stands from the estate of David Miller that the church existed in 1877 when he executed a deed to “Trustees, German Baptist Church” and stated that when the property was no longer needed for that purpose, that it be turned over to the cemetery trustees. By 1931, the Miller church was no longer in existence.
The next page in the Bible is a record of marriages, apparently overflowed from the marriage page of the Bible. When you have 11 children who all lived to adulthood, there are lots of marriages to record.
Next, we find births.
This Bible was given to Eva in 1895, so either she was pregnant for her 9th child, or she had an infant, plus children ages 18, 16, 14, 13, 11, 9, 4 and 2. This list makes me wonder what happened between 1886 and 1891. Did Eva have a couple of miscarriages, or did they bury a baby whose birth is not recorded?
Eva would have recopied her children’s births from an earlier Bible, pages probably worn thin and now long gone.
With 11 children, not to mention siblings and their children, Eva probably did a lot of praying.
This page is indeed sad, but all things considered, it’s actually amazing that it’s the shortest page. Although I have noticed that Eva did not record grandchildrens’ information.
I’m glad the deaths page was blank for 30 years, but I can see Eva saddened and tearful, slumped and slowly writing Hiram’s name into the book. Did she pause as she wrote the word, died? Did she sit and recall the day he had given her the Bible, those three decades before? How long after his death did it take until she was able to bring herself to write those words.
Was she with Hiram as he died from a heat stroke. His death certificate says he also had chronic bronchitis, so his end would have been quite difficult, that 3rd of June on a hot Indiana day.
The deaths of two of Eva’s children would follow, before her own.
Irvin, a farmer, died at age 52 of cardio-renal disease, according to his death certificate. He was buried just down the road in the Salem cemetery, probably close to his father.
Donald, a bank cashier, died at age 37 of cancer of the kidney and lung. Two months before his death, surgery had removed his cancerous kidney, but without chemo, there was no chance and it was too late. He too was buried in the Salem Cemetery, beside the Brethren Church.
Finally, in the early fall of 1939, Eva joined her family in the Salem cemetery, succumbing to what would earlier have been called old age. Her death certificate says she died at 82 of acute myocarditis nephritis and hypertension, along with arteriosclerosis. We all have to die of something. I wonder who recorded her death in the Bible, closing that final door after Eva took up residence on the other side.
Eva lived a long and full life. My mother remembers her arriving, in someone else’s car, as she never drove, to take care of her grandchildren when they were ill. Eva had enough grandchildren that she was busy all of the time.
The fact that no further deaths were recorded after Eva herself died confirms that indeed, this was her Bible, and it was probably retired and kept as a keepsake after this. Her children and grandchildren would have wanted her record of life events recorded in this Bible in her own hand for almost 45 years. Nearly half a century.
Eva recorded the deaths of her parents, John David Miller and Margaret Elizabeth Lentz here as well. I’m sure she visited their graves often in the little cemetery where her grandfather’s church used to be. This also tells us that her mother’s middle name was Elizabeth, another tidbit we never knew.
What Eva didn’t tell us is that her mother was also married to Valentine Whitehead who died before Margaret Elizabeth Lentz Whitehead married John David Miller almost 5 years later, on March 30, 1856 and had 3 more children.
Next, we find a paper enclosed in the Bible noted as “Mother’s half sisters.”
What? One of Grandpa Miller’s sons was in the Civil War? Say what? A Brethren man fighting in the Civil War?
Ok, who is whom where? Mother Miller would be Eva, so Grandpa Miller was John David Miller, and his sons by his second wife were born in 1859 and 1862, so it’s clearly not them in the Civil War. John David Miller’s sons by his first wife, Mary Baker who were old enough to serve were:
- John N. Miller, in the cemetery, but not in the 1850 or 1860 census
- Samuel Miller in the cemetery, but not in the 1850 or 1860 census)
- David B. Miller born in 1838 and died in 1922 (probably not him because nothing is stated about him serving in the Civil War the local history) age 12 in the 1850 census, was clearly Brethren
- Aaron B. Miller born in 1843 and died in 1923 (Chicago, Illinois), age 7 in the 1850 census, 18 in 1860 census, moved to Chicago later in life
No Millers by these names are shown as having enlisted in Elkhart County.
I’m unable to find any record of either David or Aaron serving in the Civil War. That doesn’t mean they didn’t serve. It only means I can’t find the record. Perhaps as pensions are eventually scanned, indexed and brought online through the National Archives, this mystery will be solved.
That said, I can only imagine the dissention a son serving in the Civil War would have sewn among the family and the Brethren church family as well. Perhaps this is a clue as to why Eva and Hiram were married in the Elkhart church instead of Union Center church.
A Secret Family Tragedy
The family had another secret, however. A hint was found in Ira Ferverda’s obituary, obviously tucked into the Bible after his death in 1950.
It’s interesting that Ira wasn’t Brethren. Of Eva’s children, I know John was Methodist and I don’t think Roscoe was Brethren either.
Ira’s obituary states that he had been ill for 20 years and died in an institution, not at home. Why would that be?
Well, this is a bit delicate.
I wonder if the family knew why Ira was ill. Death certificates are now online, and Ira’s reveals what I suspect was a family secret. Ira died of gangrene of the left foot…caused by untreated syphilis. Obviously, this document wasn’t found in the Bible.
Neurosyphilis is an infection of the brain or spinal cord caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum. It usually occurs in people who have had chronic, untreated syphilis, usually about 10 to 20 years after first infection and develops in about 25%–40% of persons who are not treated. Syphilis can be dormant for 10-20 years. Given that Ira married in June of 1904, it was either dormant at that time, or he hadn’t yet contracted the disease.
My suspicion is that Ira probably contracted the disease while serving in the Philippines during Spanish American War where he rescued General John Pershing from drowning, according to newspaper accounts. Ira was subsequently promoted to the rank of quarter-master-sergeant by Pershing, but his military career ended in March 1904 after he suffered a broken leg. Ira enlisted in the Spanish American War in March of 1901 and didn’t die until 1950.
If that’s when Ira contracted the disease, he lived with syphilis for half a century, and miserably, I’m sure. Ira married in June 1904, three months after he was discharged from the service, and by 1910, had moved with his wife and 3 year old child to Wyoming.
However, by 1918, Ira and family were back in Kosciusko County where be both signed up for the draft and filed for an invalid pension based on his prior service.
In 1920, a child born to Ira and his wife died of toxemia a few hours after birth as a result of “Bright’s disease of the mother.” Bright’s disease was a polite name used in some earlier records for syphilis. By 1920, according to the census, Ira was a salesman selling “home products” and in 1930, had a chicken hatchery.
I can’t find the family in the 1940 census, but in 1938, the Lafayette Courier reports in an article that Mr. and Mrs. Ferverda were among 5 persons from the “Soldiers Home” that were injured in an automobile accident. In 1940, “Mrs. Ira Ferverda received word that her brother died suddenly and she has gone to Leesburg,” followed in 1944 by an article indicating that Mr. and Mrs. Ira Ferverda were on furlough. In 1945, the same newspaper reported that they had gone home to Leesburg for the summer. Of course, Ira died in 1950 and the death certificate gave his wife’s address as Leesburg. For all the world, it looks like both Ira and his wife were resident at the “camp” at the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home in Lafayette for many years.
Ira’s wife’s death in 1972 at age 89 indicates that she had chronic nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys, but says nothing about syphilis. Perhaps she was treated after the introduction of penicillin in the 1930s, but Ira was not. Or perhaps his disease had progressed too far by that time.
Eva may or may not have known that her son had contracted syphilis. Given the death of Ira’s daughter in 1920, I’m guessing that Eva knew something, or perhaps the cause of his illness and the cause of the child’s death was carefully hidden from her.
Regardless, I’m sure Ira, along with the rest of the family, had many regrets and a great deal of shame, pain and sorrow. Today, I have only compassion for Ira and this family, no shame necessary. People are human, after all. Ira paid a terribly dear price for his humanness.
It’s amazing the history that this detour caused by an interesting sentence in an obituary revealed.
Pictures in the Bible
Next, Cheryl and I find photographs tucked safely into the Bible pages.
Thank goodness there’s a name on the back!
Robert Dean Ferverda, son of Gerald Dean Ferverda (Ira’s son born in 1907) and Dorothy E. Lloyd was born on April 6, 1932. Love these first baby pictures.
The next photo of Eva at left is both charming and mystifying.
Imagine my disappointment to turn this photo over and discover….nothing. I suspect, but don’t know, that this was Eva’s sister. Two of her half-sisters lived into the 1930s. Matilda “Tillie” Miller married John Dubbs and died in 1939, just a few months before Eva. Martha Jane Miller married David Blough and died in 1935. Eva’s half sister, Mary Jane Whitehead married John D. Ulery and died in 1930.
I love the wheel to wench the bucket up from the well on this farm, along with what looks like a school bell behind Eva. I do wonder where this was taken. The stone on the ground beside the bell looks like a millstone.
If I could read the city of the photographer, on the back below, I might be able to at least find a hint of who might be in the photo. I bet the photographer never dreamed someone 85 years in the future would be trying to find them!
Below, Eva on the porch of the home in Leesburg, on the farm, with the three crosses in the window indicating three sons serving in WWI. Extremely unusual for a Brethren family.
Eva’s sons who served in WWI were George, Donald and Roscoe. Eva was clearly proud of her sons and their service.
The article in the Fort Wayne paper, above, identifies the 3 Ferverda sons.
This photograph was taken during WWI. One son is in uniform, in the back row. Eva is standing at left, with Hiram behind her. Their children are identified in this photo, but neither their children nor grandchildren are identified in the photo (above) in the Bible, and the spouses are absent as well. My mother’s brother was born in 1915, so he could have been one of the small boys, but I don’t recognize him, and he’s not with my grandfather in the back row, third from right.
Again, nothing on the back of the photo.
There were a few items in the Bible at the reunion that weren’t scanned at the library.
Who is Henry P. Lentz?
Not one person at the reunion had any idea who Henry P. Lentz was, but a little sleuthing tells the story.
Henry P. Lentz died on January 3, 1915 in Adrian, Bates Co., MO. Clearly, Eva’s mother, Elizabeth Lentz Miller had kept in touch with family members, because there would be no other way for this obituary to have been in Eva’s Bible. Henry’s FindAGrave Memorial is here.
Henry’s father was Johann Adam Lentz, born on August 30, 1819 in Cumberland Co., PA and died on August 4, 1906 in Bates County, MO. Adam was Elizabeth Lentz’s brother, so Eva’s uncle. Henry would have been Eva’s first cousin.
According to FindAGrave, Adam married Margaret Whitehead, the sister of Valentine Whitehead. Margaret Elizabeth Lentz’s first husband was Valentine Whitehead, Margaret Whitehead’s brother. Adam Lentz, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz’s brother, migrated with the Whitehead/Miller group to Elkhart County, Indiana. Adam’s wife, Margaret Whitehead, died the following year, probably in the “malarial fevers” outbreak that also killed Elizabeth Miller, David Miller’s wife. Adam Lentz remarried and then migrated to Illinois and on to Missouri, the next frontier.
Mystery solved – and according to FindAGrave, one more piece of information as to where in Pennsylvania Margaret Lentz may have been born.
More Reunion Pictures
Other goodies from the reunion include photos and items that Cheryl and I had never seen before.
Photo of George Miller Ferverda with daughter Peg at the gas station where he worked.
No one had any idea whatsoever who this is and true to form, nothing on the back. The family does not look Brethren. The man has no beard and the woman no prayer bonnet. If you know who this family is, please let me know. I would think they are somehow connected.
Death of Ira’s daughter, Mary Evelyn. I can only imagine the words that passed between Ira and his wife on this terrible day.
Three Ferverda brothers serving in WWI.
Eva in an out-of-focus photo in 1936 with her daughter, Margaret Ferverda Glant.
And with that, we leave the reunion and close Eva’s Bible, with much gratitude to Eva for preserving these memories and those family members who have been stewards of her Bible for the past 79 years.
Eva’s Mitochondrial DNA Legacy
It’s somehow ironic that while we have Eva’s Bible, one single item with no copies, often very difficult to find, we don’t have her mitochondrial DNA, passed by mothers to all of their children, but only passed on my daughters. In order to find Eva’s mitochondrial DNA, we need to look to Eva’s daughters and those of her sister’s on her mother’s side, or, her mother’s sister’s offspring.
Eva’s mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz had three sisters:
- Mary Lentz (1829-1918) who married Henry Overlease
- Fredericka “Fanny” Lentz (1809-1897) who married Daniel Brusman
- Maria Barbara Lentz (1816-1899) who married Henry Yost
Eva had only one half-sister by her mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz, who had a daughter:
- Mary Jane Whitehead (1852-1930) married John D. Ulery and had daughter Margaret Elizabeth Ulery.
Eva had 4 daughters:
- Edith Estella Ferverda (1879-1955) who married Tom Dye
- Elizabeth Gertrude Ferverda (1884-1966) who married Louis Hartman
- Chloe Evaline Ferverda (1886-1984) who married Rolland Robinson
- Margaret Ferverda (1902-1984) who married Chester Glant
If you descend from any of these women through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female, I have a free DNA test for you.
I was thrilled to discover that Eva’s Bible still existed, to be allowed to touch it, open and lovingly caress the very pages she turned, garnering the gems of family history she recorded for the future there. We are that future.
A debt of gratitude to the Ferverda family member who allowed this Bible to be borrowed, scanned and repaired.
Thanks to Cheryl Ferverda, now retired from the Allen County Public Library, and the Allen County Public Library for scanning the Bible before returning it to the family.
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