Franklin Edward Cover

Franklin Edward Cover

Franklin Edward Cover  is a descendant of Jason Jerome Cover, one of  the  siblings of Tom Cover (and also Mary Margaret Cover). He was born in 1928 in Cleveland and died  in Englewood, New Jersey in  2005 at the age of 77. At the time of his death, he was staying at the Lillian Booth Actor’s Fund of America home while recuperating from a heart condition.

While Franklin had a long acting career, he was best known for his role as George and Louise Jefferson’s white neighbor, Tom Willis,  in the long-running TV sitcom, “The Jeffersons.” The Jeffersons ran on TV from 1975 to 1985.   In his nearly six decades in show business, Cover made numerous appearances on television shows, including “The Jackie Gleason Show,” “All in the Family,” “Who’s the Boss?” “Will & Grace,” “Living Single,” “Mad About You” and “ER.” He began his career on the stage, appearing in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “Henry IV,” and later in numerous Broadway productions, including “Any Wednesday,” “Wild Honey and “Born Yesterday.” But Cover was best known for his role as Tom Willis, who was in an interracial marriage with a black woman, in “The Jeffersons.” He and his wife lived in the same “deluxe apartment” building that Sherman Hemsley moved his family to after making money in the dry-cleaning business. There, Cover often played a comic foil to Hemsley’s blustering, opinionated black businessman. The show ran from 1975 to 1985. Cover also appeared in several films, including “The Great Gatsby,” “The Stepford Wives” and “Wall Street.”

Franklin graduated from Denison University in 1951. He has a son who is also an actor.


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Josiah Cover

Josiah Cover

My Dad and I are avid readers of western paperback novels.  Perhaps, that is why I am so fascinated with the exploits of Tom Cover and his brothers, Josiah and Perry, all of whom left Ohio, went west and had many adventures before ending  up in Riverside, California.  Before he reached California,  Josiah Cover lived for a time in Baxter Springs, Kansas.  From approximately 1870-1873,   Josiah Cover,  his sister, Mary Margaret Cover Biddle, her husband, George Washington Biddle, and their children, including Martha Ellen Biddle, who later married Henry Albert Snyder,  all lived in Baxter Springs. Josiah  Cover was known to all as “Uncle Si.”

In recently doing some research about Baxter Springs, I was reminded about how much Baxter Springs resembled the western towns depicted in the paperback novels and cowboy/western movies that I enjoy. Baxter Springs is located in the far southeast corner of Kansas.  Following the Civil War, Baxter Springs sprang up as the first Kansas “cow  town.” The town was laid out in 1865 on 80 acres. The town incorporated in 1868 with 1,500 residents and the population grew to 6,000 in two years.  As Missouri became off limits to Texas cattle due to quarantines, Baxter Springs became the terminus for cattle drives from Texas. The cattle drives ended in Baxter Springs, which was a railroad junction for cattle being shipped east. The community built corrals capable of holding 20,000 cattle and provided range land with ample water and grass for grazing. Baxter Springs gained a reputation for being one of the wildest “cow towns” in the West.

After the long cattle drives from Texas, cowboys found the town a welcoming sight after several months on the dusty trail, making the most of Baxter Springs’ numerous saloons. Offering up flowing liquor, card games and available women, every third business in Baxter Springs was noted as being a saloon, gambling hall or brothel. Public hangings, gunfights and saloon brawls became common occurrences.  In 1872, the mayor of Baxter Springs shot and killed the city marshal in a dispute over an arrest warrant. At one point, every bank in Baxter Springs had been robbed, including one bank that was robbed by the James Gang (Jesse James).  Ultimately, the rail spurs were pushed south into Texas and the fortunes of Baxter Springs declined.

Against this backdrop, we know that George Washington Biddle and Mary Cover Biddle moved to Baxter Springs in 1870 with their young family. Their daughter, Martha Ellen Biddle, would have been seven (7) years old at the time they moved to Baxter Springs.  It is unknown what took them to Baxter Springs but we know that George and Mary operated a boarding house. Recently, a very nice lady from Riverside, California contacted me after reading some posts on my blog about the Covers. Interestingly, while not a relative of ours, she has been researching Josiah  Cover and his long-time  friend and business partner, Samuel McCoy,  and she graciously has provided me with  additional information and documentation  about Josiah  Cover and  Samuel McCoy. While I already knew that George and Mary operated a boarding house in Baxter Springs, I have now learned that they called the boarding house, “The Ohio House.” I have also now learned that Samuel McCoy built the boarding house and stayed there as well. Actually, Samuel McCoy’s obituary refers to this house in Baxter Springs that he built  as being a “hotel.”Josiah Cover was the cook for the boarding house. Josiah  was apparently quite a cook.  Some Cover family history materials I have just obtained describe Josiah  as “being a first rate cook” and indicate that “the canned fruit he put up was the envy of many a female house wife.

Tollie Cover Biddle was the son of George Washington Biddle and Mary Cover Biddle. I found the following in the Biddle Family History book about Tollie’s experiences in Kansas:

“Tollie Biddle was 9 years old when his family moved to Baxter Springs, Kansas. The country was just opening up to settlers and there was much open prairie where the Indians lived. The Biddles, like most people in the town, had a cow that was turned loose each morning to graze at will over the prairie. Some days she wandered considerable distances among the prairie bushes and was hard to find. It was young Tollie’s job to bring the cow in at night which he did with a great deal of apprehension because shortly after arriving in town, he was standing in front of the hotel when a large Indian brave came by, took hold of Tollie, pulled out a big knife and pretended to cut Tollie’s throat! Needless to say, he was frightened but the bystanders had a good laugh.”

George Washington Biddle and his family moved back to Ohio in 1873. It is unknown why they moved back to Ohio but their move may have been related to the decline of Baxter Springs as a booming cow town.  So, the next time you watch a TV western, don’t forget that we had ancestors who lived  for a while in an actual, rip-roaring, wild cow town. I wish I knew a lot more about their time in Baxter Springs—-I am sure that their time there was very interesting!






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Eliza Jane Cover

Eliza Jane Cover

As readers of this blog may have realized by now, I am fascinated with the Cover branch of our family, especially Thomas  W. (“Tom”) Cover. Tom had many siblings, including a sister, Eliza Jane Cover, who I knew virtually nothing about. Several weeks ago, Sara Judson, a descendant of Eliza Jane Cover, left a comment on this blog. I exchanged some e-mails with her and she graciously agreed to write a post about Eliza Jane Cover and other nuggets of information that she has about the Cover family. Sara now lives near Fort Collins, Colorado. Thanks to Sara for this post and the photos that she provided of Eliza Jane Cover and her parents, Rev. Daniel Cover and Lydia Stevenson.




Thank you to Brad Snyder for inviting me to do a guest post about the Cover family. The more I learn about them, the more intriguing they become. Growing up, I was never told a detailed story about them, just little facts here and there. But now, with the internet, I’ve filled in some of the gaps.

I remember when my grandmother mentioned the name, she always used a certain emphasis and precision.

Her mother Verdie probably used the same emphasis. The granddaughter of the Reverend Daniel Cover and Lydia Stephenson, she was the daughter of Eliza Jane Cover and Isaac Markward.

Lydia Stevenson

Lydia Stevenson

Verdie’s parents both died within a few years of each other when she was a child…her mother died of edema, and her father died of typhoid. She was raised in the family of her Uncle Upton Cover.

Her cousins Martha, Emma and Perry became her siblings. I have an autograph book that she gave to Emma in 1881 when Emma was 22 and Verdie was 17.

It is filled with beautiful handwriting, little poems and a few sketches. There is one from M.E. Biddle, who is probably Martha Ellen Biddle Snyder, who would have been 18.

There is an autograph by “Katherine Deane Cover, aged 7”, the daughter of Jason Jerome. She became an accomplished artist, and I have inherited some of her watercolor and pastel paintings that belonged to my great-grandmother.

At the top of one page, in 1884, someone wrote, “Ho for the West!” Since Tom, Josiah and Daniel Perry had already moved to Riverside, California, the west was on their minds. Verdie and her fiancé actually traveled to Riverside to get married…a destination wedding! That was in 1886, just 1 ½ years after her Uncle Tom went missing.

Emma died just a few years after she collected these autographs. Her sister Martha died five years after that. Verdie named her two daughters after them: Emma Ivalena, who was born in Nebraska, and my grandmother, Martha Alverda, who was born in Colorado.

A few years ago, my husband and I were driving home through northwestern Kansas when we stopped to look at a little G.A.R. cemetery (Grand Army of the Republic, a cemetery for Civil War veterans) near St. Francis. There was a D.M.V.B. Cover buried there, with the inscription “55th Ohio Infantry, Company K”. When I looked him up online, I found he was Eliza Jane’s first cousin…the son of her father’s brother Joseph.

The Reverend Daniel Cover lived near Mansfield, Ohio around the time that Johnny Appleseed was there. Johnny Appleseed would plant little orchards and then return after a time to sell the trees and surrounding land. One of the things my great-grandmother passed down to us was a walking stick inscribed, “Made from one of the trees planted by John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed.”

I’ll finish with this story, from the 1871 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, about Johnny Appleseed. It mentions an “itinerant missionary”…probably not Daniel Cover, but who knows?

Rev. Daniel Cover

Rev. Daniel Cover

“Toward the latter part of Johnny’s career in Ohio an itinerant missionary found his way to the village of Mansfield, and preached to an open-air congregation. The discourse was tediously lengthy, and unnecessarily severe upon the sin of extravagance, which was beginning to manifest itself among the pioneers by an occasional indulgence in the carnal vanities of calico and “store tea…” There was a good deal of the Pharisaic leaven in the preacher, who very frequently emphasized his discourse by the inquiry, “Where now is there a man who, like the primitive Christians, is traveling to heaven barefooted and clad in coarse raiment?” When this interrogation had been repeated beyond all reasonable endurance, Johnny rose from the log on which he was reclining, and advancing to the speaker, he placed one of his bare feet upon the stump which served for a pulpit, and pointing to his coffee-sack garment, he quietly said, “Here’s your primitive Christian!” The well-clothed missionary hesitated and stammered and dismissed the congregation. “




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From left to right, Ora Otis Snyder with shovel, Philip Snyder, Trent Snyder, Dennis Snyder, Dick Snyder and Paul Snyder

From left to right, Ora Otis Snyder with shovel, Philip Snyder, Trent Snyder, Dennis Snyder, Dick Snyder and Paul Snyder

The following article, written by Dutch Collins, appeared in the Bellville Star on May 11, 2000:

As the speaker for the Bellville Historical Society meeting on April 15, J. Paul Snyder addressed the gathering. Snyder gave a broad overview of the family business, added some humor along the way and related some of his own experiences as a Bellville funeral director for more than 20 years.

Snyder began the history of the Snyder family dynasty with the marriage of his parents, Ora O. Snyder, Sr. and Marion Idella Lucas in February of 1916. The wedding took place at the farm home of Paul’s grandfather, Thomas Lucas on Bellville-Johnsville Road, the last farm before you reach U.S. Route 42.

Ora and Marion Snyder began their married life on that farm and operated it in partnership with Paul’s grandfather, Tommie Lucas. Marion’s mother, Cora Idella Lucas, died when Marion was only six months old.

Ora Snyder’s parents were Henry Albert and Ella Biddle Snyder, who lived on a farm just outside Johnsville, where Hersh’s Countryside Restaurant now stands. For many years, it was known as Mar Guy’s Restaurant.

Ora was one of four children-he had a brother and two sisters–one of whom was Gladys Snyder Hoeflich Rinehart, wife of Ed Hoeflich and mother of Ruth Ellen, Mary Louise and Lee Edward.

Henry Albert Snyder raised Percheron horses on this farm and in 1916, Johnsville undertaker, Lee Lewis, bought a team of horses from Henry Albert to pull his horse-drawn hearse and other carriages. But when the team of horses proved too frisky, Lewis hired Ora Snyder to drive the team for him.

In those days, when a death occurred, the undertaker would be summoned to the house where he would embalm the body. Later a casket would be taken to the home and the wake or visiting hours would be held in the home and the funeral service would be either at the home or the church. Paul said that on cold winter nights his father would go into the family home to assist Mr. Lewis in preparing the body for burial.

In 1919, Ora Snyder enrolled in the Columbus School of Embalming, where he received his embalmer’s license. By this time, Lee Lewis had sold his Johnsville funeral home to Dale Craven and in 1922, Ora Snyder purchased that funeral business from Mr. Craven and established the first Snyder Funeral Home in a big brick building on Delaware Street in Johnsville.

In those days, the undertaker had a full schedule on the day of the funeral. He would start out the day by preparing the grave and taking a wooden vault to the cemetery. He then would take his chairs and equipment to the family home.. Most funerals then were held in the afternoon and it would be late before Ora returned home with all his equipment.

In 1926 while the Snyder family was still living in Johnsville at the funeral home, Ora Snyder purchased the former Lexington Academy building on Delaware Street in Lexington and converted it into a funeral home.

A cousin of Marion Snyder, Mary Shortess, served as hostess at the new funeral home in Lexington and Paul’s two oldest brothers, Donald and David, moved to Lexington to assist at the funeral home and to drive the ambulance. (Donald later invented the Hi-Lo trailer in 1954 and built a factory in Butler. He died in 1978.)

Lexington businessmen encouraged Ora Snyder to come to Lexington and in 1939 he moved his family from Johnsville to Lexington into a big house a block south of the funeral home. By this time, the Ora Snyder family had grown to 13 children–10 boys and three girls.

“No history of Snyder Funeral Home would be complete,” said Paul “without mentioning Henry L. Hosler–a long time friend and associate of the Snyder family.”Henry was a native of Johnsville and the former postmaster of the Shauck Post Office. He had obtained his embalmer’s license and was at this time assisting in the operation of both the Johnsville and Lexington funeral homes.

In 1941, Ora Snyder purchased the A.A. Shafer funeral home on Main Street in Bellville. Some of the older Snyder children had already graduated from school and several others chose to stay at the Lexington funeral home when Ora and Marion moved their family  to Bellville.

Ora O. Snyder, Jr. (Pete) was the first of the Snyder children to complete his studies at Bellville High School, finishing in 1946. Seven other Snyder children followed, including Philip (1946), T. Arthur and H. Arden (1951), J. Paul (1952), Janet (1954), James (1955) and Patricia (1957).

Al Shafer had established his funeral business in Bellville in 1907. The large brick home across from the Bellville Historical Museum was built in 1910. Mr. Shafer had served the Bellville community for 34 years.

In early America, it was the custom for the undertaker to also operate a furniture store along with the undertaking business. When he wasn’t busy making caskets, Mr. Shafer would build furniture and his store was located where the business “Somewhere In Time” is located and operated by Ron and Jeanie Roberts. Al Shafer sold his furniture store to Mike and Rosemary Myers in 1944.

Along with the purchase of the A.A. Shafer funeral business, Ora Snyder acquired Al’s horse drawn hearse. The hearse was built in 1885 by the Hess and Eisenhardt Company in Lima, a company that is still in business today building funeral hearses and limousines.

The Snyder funeral home on Main Street in Bellville was quite a building in its day, according to Paul. “Many of you,” Paul told his Historical Society audience, “will recall the large open oak stairway that led to the second floor. The first floor was used for the funeral home and the family lived on the second and third floors. I remember as kids in the summer time, when there was no funeral taking place, we would sit on the front porch in wicker rockers and count the cars going by.”

He also remembers when his father came upstairs to remind his youngsters to be quiet during a funeral service.

When World War II broke out in 1941, three of Paul’s older brothers—David, Richard and Robert–as well as Henry Hosler, were drafted into the service. Paul’s mother, Marion began the necessary training to receive her Funeral Director’s license so she could assist in the operation of the funeral homes in Johnsville, Lexington and Bellville.

Paul said that back in those days his father also operated an ambulance in each of the communities where there was a Snyder funeral home. It was necessary to keep someone at the funeral  home on 24 hour call to respond to a call for an ambulance.

Paul remembers the air raid drills during World War II when all of the lights were blacked out and anyone not complying was subject to a heavy fine. Someone was always posted as a lookout at the cemetery in the old chapel and when the “all clear call” came into the funeral home, one of the air raid wardens was sent to the cemetery to advise the lookout that all was clear. Paul said that it was quite a concern back then that Bellville could be bombed by the Germans or Japanese.

In 1946, all of Paul’s brothers came home safely from the war and Richard and Robert joined their parents in the family business and the elder Snyder purchased the Ira George funeral business in Butler. Mr. George had operated his funeral business as part of his furniture store. Ora Snyder then purchased the home of Dr. Rommel on Cleveland Street in Butler and located the funeral home there. Paul noted that D. D. Rommell was born in that house on Cleveland Street.

In 1953, the Howard Meredith funeral business and furniture store was purchased in Fredericktown. The Kelly Walter home on College Street in Fredericktown was bought to house the funeral home. Paul’s brother, Richard, took over the funeral home in Fredericktown and Paul ran the furniture store. In 1962, the funeral business was incorporated and became known as Snyder Funeral Homes, Inc.

The Snyder family opened a funeral home in Mt. Gilead in 1963 in the former Tucker laboratory building. Dr. Tucker was famous for having perfected a cure for asthma and people came from all over the state for the asthma “medicine.”

Three years later in February 1966,  Ora and Marion Snyder celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It would be the last time the entire family was together as Marion died unexpectedly in her sleep in August of that year.

In 1969, the family firm decided to cease the ambulance service in all of the communities where the Snyders were operating funeral homes. Paul said this decision was made for several reasons. One being that a new federal regulation stated that all ambulances had to have 54 inches of headroom. The combination funeral car and ambulances the Snyders were using did not meet this requirement. “Also, ” Paul said, “ambulance operators now had to be trained and certified in life saving procedures which we were not.”

He also recalled several humorous incidents about the ambulances, which drew some hearty laughs. My mother called me out of school one day to run an ambulance trip and I grabbed Tom Ridenour to help me. We had to go up to the second floor of this house in Bellville and carry this rather large lady down the stairs to place her on our cot. All she had on was a silk nightie and every step down the stairs, she slipped a little out of our hands,” he chuckled. Another funny incident occurred when Dr. Betty Reed called from Butler for an ambulance and when Paul’s brother, Arthur, got there and saw all of the blood, he passed out and had to be revived by Dr. Reed.

“As most of you know, ” Paul told his audience, “the ambulance service was taken over by the Jefferson Township Fire Department and this community can consider itself very fortunate to have this free Rescue Squad service manned by a dedicated, competent and trained group of men and women who volunteer their time and service to provide us with a first class rescue squad as well as fire department.”

At that point in his talk, he spotted Bernie Hollar in the audience, a member of the Bellville Rescue Squad. “The next time you see a member of the Rescue Squad” Pauil remarked, “stop them, shake their hand and tell them what a good job they are doing.”

In the early 1970’s, several other second and third generation family members entered the family funeral business. Three of Paul’s nephews and he himself became funeral directors. Those nephews were Dennis and Dan Snyder, sons of Richard Snyder, andClarence and Bessie Banks,  Trent Snyder, son of Philip Snyder. The 1970’s would also see Bob Snyder and Phil Snyder leave the family business to pursue other interests.

In 1971, the Snyder family constructed two identical funeral home buildings in Bellville and Lexington. The Bellville site on Mill Road, on land purchased from Clarence and Bessie Banks,  was built to serve both the Bellville and Butler communities. The Lexington home was built on Lexington Avenue between Lexington and Mansfield to service those two communities. The Butler funeral home  was closed in 1972.

Ora O. Snyder, Sr. died in September of 1973 and both he and Marion are buried in Bellville Cemetery.

In 1984,  J. Paul and Shontell  Snyder’s son, J. Todd Snyder, and Phil Snyder’s son, C. Clay Snyder, both completed their training at the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science and entered the family business as third generation funeral directors.

Up through the middle of the 1980’s, the Snyders were keeping each funeral home equipped with a hearse, family sedan and flower car. Paul said the cost kept escalating each year, so the decision was made to sell the hearses and sedans and rent hearses from a livery service as they were needed. This proved not to be as reliable as anticipated and over a period of time the decision was reversed.

In the early 1990’s, the DeVore Funeral Homes in Marengo, Sunbury and Delaware were purchased, making a total of ten Snyder Funeral Homes. These include Bellville-Butler, Lexington Avenue, two in Mt. Gilead, Fredericktown, two in Mt. Vernon and Marengo, Sunbury and Delaware.

J. Todd Snyder, now directs the Richland County Division. Trent A. Snyder directs the Morrow County Division, C. Clay Snyder directs the Delaware County Division and Dennis L. Snyder, R. Dan Snyder and Weston Snyder collectively direct and operate the Knox County Division.

IN 1996, Ohio Funeral Support Services, Inc. was started. This corporation erected a building in Mt. Vernon to house a crematory and livery service. This crematory handles all of the cremations for Snyder Funeral Homes as well as a dozen other funeral homes in the area.

Three hearses and limousines are kept in Mt. Vernon and dispatched daily to where they are needed. Paul made mention that Everett McClarren drives for the Bellville funeral home.

The most recent fourth generation entry into the family business is Ora’s great-grandson, Weston T. Snyder, son of Dennis Snyder. Weston graduated from the Cincinnati Mortuary College and now works with his father and uncle in the operation of the Knox County Division.

Paul recalled there have been several humorous things that have happened that he enjoys relating to people. “One time, I was leading this 40 car funeral procession to a cemetery in another town and I drove right by the cemetery. Naturally, everybody kept following me. I found a nice big barnyard to turn around in and went back to the cemetery. Upon arriving at the cemetery, the widow came rushing up to me. (I was bracing myself for a good chewing out) but she said—-Oh, thank you!  You turned around on the old farm we used to live on and he would have loved it.”

In February of 1997, J. Paul Snyder retired from full-time service but still helps out when needed. But he said, “Shontell and I enjoy our retirement and we love traveling, camping and loafing.”

In conclusion, Paul said, “Although I am now retired, I am proud of having been a part of guiding a business that my parents started in 1922 to the place where it is today.”


Since the above article was published,  Snyder Funeral Homes has continued to grow and flourish, acquiring additional funeral homes in Marion, Delaware and Galion and fourth-generation funeral directors, Chad Snyder,  Sean Snyder, Hannah Snyder and Gideon Snyder, have joined the family business.




















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San-Dar Smorgasboard

San-Dar Smorgasboard

I recently had an interesting conversation with my Dad about how the business community in Bellville was much different when he was growing up in the 1940’s and early 1950’s. During that post-World War II era, travel to the “big city” of Mansfield was not as common and Wal-Mart type stores  simply did not exist. As a result, the business climate of Bellville was much more varied and  different than in recent times.

I was surprised to learn that Bellville had five (5) different grocery stores on Main Street: Kroger’s, Stoodt’s, Central Market, Collins Meat Market and the Little Red Grocery. Bellville had two car dealerships at that time. One of those dealerships was a Kaiser-Frazier dealership owned by Elmer Hardin, which was located on Ogle Street. The Kaiser-Frazier automobile company was formed in 1945 and my Dad recalls that the Bellville dealership closed in approximately   the late 1940’s. The other auto dealer in Bellville at that time was George Bowers Ford, which was located in an alley between Huron and Main Streets. My Dad can recall new Fords being delivered shortly after World War II that still had wood bumpers because chrome and steel were still not available after the war. The George Bowers Ford dealership closed in about 1950-51.

Bellville had two pool rooms, both located on Main Street. One of them was Ballet’s.  My Dad can remember Gong-Gong (his mother),  telling him and his siblings not to go to the pool rooms.

The legendary San-Dar Smorgasboard opened in Bellville in the 194o’s. I was surprised to learn that Bellville at that time had two attorneys, Carl Swadner and Vance Stull, two doctors, Dr. Buker and Dr. Blackstone,two dentists, Dr. Wilson and Dr. Jackson, and one eye doctor, Dr. Reel.

Surprisingly, Bellville had five gas stations at that time: Shell, Standard Oil, Mobil, Glick’s Garage and one south of Bellville. Notably, these gas stations were full service stations unlike today’s gas stations. As soon as you drove in, the gas station attendant would come running out and would offer to check your oil, clean your headlights, check your tire pressure and clean your windshield in addition to pumping your gas.  Of course, this was all for 18 cents a gallon.

Other businesses in downtown Bellville at that time included a shoe repair shop, Patrons Mutual Insurance Company, Snyder Funeral Home, Keil’s General Store, Hursh Drug Store, the Dairy Belle, Henline’s Clothing store, Myers Furniture Store, including the Wishmaker House and an annex across the street, the Bellville Star, the V & M Restaurant, a plumber, at least two barber shops, the beauty shop owned by Majora Smith where Gong-Gong went,  a hotel where the Mechanics Bank is now located,  Farmers Bank , one veterinarian, Dr. C..B. Stanley, Bony Paxton’s auto repair shop located across the alley from Bowers Ford, a blacksmith, A.J. Snyder, who was located on Hines Avenue, and several insurance agencies, Beveridge & Hall and Sterrill & Mishey.

Bellville had a bakery, Scheff’s Bakery, that had a talking parrott. Bellville had two different farm supply businesses, B, C & S Elevator,which was located by the railroad tracks, and Farm Bureau, which was located on Ogle Street. Other businesses were Leo Robinson Jewelry, Clever Greenhouse, which was right next to the railroad track, Ida Myers’ restaurant, which was located in the building previously occupied by the Bellville Fire Department and a John Deere franchise located on Main Street. There was a big Carnation milk and cream receiving plant located on Ogle Street—they would pick up the milk from all the farms surrounding Bellville. Bellville also had an appliance store, Keckler’s Appliance.

Ed Hoeflich, husband of Gladys Snyder Hoelflich , repaired shoes in the basement of his house and also sharpened lawn mower blades. There were two hardware stores in downtown Bellville, Worner’s Hardware and Stevens Hardware, and two “beer joints.”
Many of these businesses were open in the evenings and,  as was common in those times, virtually  all of the businesses were closed on Sundays. There were no pizza shops, no convenience stores,  no Subway sandwich shops and no fast food restaurants.  How did the Bellville faithful get along without those necessities of life?








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cc0bd013-e1c2-4a13-b269-fc367b797a49Christopher Stull was born in Frederick, Maryland on January 1, 1741.  He died on February 10, 1790 in his hometown at age 49. He married Philippina Staley in 1763. He was a Captain in the 1st Company of the Frederick County Militia during the Revolutionary War. There were 91 soldiers in his company.  Christopher was appointed as one of the fund raisers for Middle Monocacy Hundred  to raise funds for the war.

Christopher was a farmer and the his farmstead is designated as a historical property today. Christopher is related to us through the Poland branch of our family. Simon Poland married Susan Stull.

Christopher was the son of Johan Hans Adam Stull and Anna Maria Margaretha Saber. He is buried in the Stull Family Cemetery, Mountaindale, Chestnut Hill, Frederick County, Maryland. His wife is buried in Pine Hill Cemetery, Rochester Monroe County, New York.

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We have many ancestors who were pastors, especially in the Biddle branch of our family. Many of them were pastors in the United Brethren church, which eventually merged with the Methodist church. One of our ancestors who was a circuit-riding pastor was Alexander Biddle (1810-1899). Alexander was the 10th of 12 children of John Jacob Biddle and Rachel Todd.  Alexander and his wife, Magdalena Noftzgar had two children, two of whom, John and William Rinehart, served in the Civil War.   Alexander  was the uncle of George Washington Biddle, who was the father of Martha Ellen Biddle, who married Henry Albert Snyder.   Alexander  was born in Bedford, Pennsylvania and died in Galion, Ohio. He became a traveling minister or “circuit rider” at the age of 21.

I found an interesting but long article about Alexander in a book published in 1908 that was titled “Our Heroes: Or United Brethren Home Missionaries.” Here is the article:

“Among the many gifted and heroic men who have devoted their lives to the cause of pioneer mission work in the United Brethren Church, none have met with more distinguished  success than Alexander Biddle.  His paternal grandfather was a native of Hesse-Cassel, Germany, who, with his three brothers, Peter, Thomas and Andrew,  emigrated to  America about the year 1760, settling in the colony of Maryland, from which Andrew served with distinction as an officer in the War of the Revolution.  His mother was of English descent, her people having emigrated from England with the second Lord Baltimore about the year 1647.

Alexander Biddle was born in Bedford County, Pa., April 24, 1810.  When five years of age, his  father cut his way through the dense forests into Beaver County,  where he  moved his family.  In  that lonely region of pure air and rugged scenery, the boy grew to manhood.  Thus, at the very outset, he was inducted into the experience of pioneer life.  To settle in a new county and to go forward in the face of obstacles came natural to him.  From his parents he inherited a hardy constitution and the highest principles of independence, industry, and downright honesty.  His school advantages were very limited.  The tuition of an Irish schoolmaster for two winter seasons gave him the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but  in after years he applied himself closely as a student and built up  and education of surprising breadth and thoroughness.

Until he was about eighteen years of age, young Biddle gave the matter of religion but little thought.  He occasionally attended the services of the  Episcopal Church with his mother, of which she was a member.  On a summer evening, in the year 1828, while leisurely walking one of the streets of Pittsburgh, he passed a plain church building in which services were then being held by the colored people.  He was attracted within by the loud voice of the minister, who  was picturing in livid colors the sufferings of a lost soul.  The sermon made a profound impression upon the young man.  Indeed, it was the turning-point in his life.

While attending a  Methodist camp-meeting some time later, a mighty conviction of sin came upon him, but not until the fourth of October of the following year did he experience the peace of forgiveness, at which time he joined the United Brethern Church, and was baptized in the Ohio River by Rev. Jacob Geisinger.  Describing his experience, he says:  “As we came up out of the water, the glory of God seemed to appear.  The sky flamed with supernatural  brightness;  the hills about me were transformed into mountains of gold;   the river was as the River of Life, and the trees as the trees of Paradise.  Heaven was opened and in its splendor my soul was bathed.”   He  believed  he had seen the King in his beauty, and in the strength of that faith he walked all his days.

Mr. Biddle at once began religious work, and at twenty years of age his ability as a preacher  was attracting much attention.  He joined the Muskingum Conference in 1831,  and was  licensed to preach by Bishop Henry Kumler Sr.  His  first  circuit to which he was appointed by that conference covered Harrison, Guernsey, and Monroe counties.  It was two hundred miles around, with twenty-four appointments.  There being but two little church-buildings in the territory,  he held services in private homes, in barns, or in the  woods, as seemed best.  His father gave him a horse, saddle, and the indispensable saddle-bags, while his mother  furnished his wardrobe.  His library consisted  of a Bible and hymn-book.  A little later he added Walker’s Dictionary and Clark’s Commentaries.  He had a clear, ringing, majestic  voice and was a sweet singer; but, above all, he had his marvelous personal experience to tell and tell it he did with boundless enthusiasm.  At the end of the year he reported fifty additions to the Church and a salary of fifty-four dollars.

The following year he was appointed to the Lisbon Circuit.  It was three hundred miles in circumference, with twenty-four appointments and no church houses.  Four new societies were formed, out of which grew the Western Reserve Conference.  Seventy-two new members were added to the church during the year, and for his work  he received seventy-two dollars.   Four years later he was appointed to this same charge, which then included four hundred miles of travel, with forty-nine appointments.  James McGraw was appointed to assist in the work.  It was a year of marvelous success.  A meeting was held in Beaver County, conversions, of who three became preachers.  A wonderful manifestation of power was also  witnessed at a camp-meeting in Stark County, Ohio.  A band of wicked men organized  to break up the meeting.  McGraw was preaching when the mob appeared.  He hesitated  for a moment, when Mr. Biddle arose, and, lifting his massive  form to its great height, he cried with a mighty voice, “Lord God Almighty, let thy power come.”   The people responded, “Amen,” and come it did.  The leader of the mob fell upon the ground, crying for mercy, while his  followers fled, and a harvest  of souls was gathered.

“In the Western Reserve, distances between settlements were generally great, and the roads very bad – mere paths, made by cutting out the underbrush and marking the trees.  As the soil is composed of rich clay and loam, and as much of the country is flat, the roads in all seasons became very muddy; and half frozen in the spring and fall, our horses suffered extremely.  In passing across a prairie from one ridge of the timbered land to another, in foggy or snowy weather, one was often out of sight of timbered land, and the paths were so dim, especially in snowstorms, that the traveler risked losing his way and perishing of the frost before he could reach a human habitation.  To increase the danger, these prairies were frequently covered with water, and if frozen, but not so as to bear man or beast,  both were liable to be wounded by the ice.  We had but  few bridges and were obliged to ford streams, or to cross the ice.  Somtimes we took saddle and saddle-bags to a canoe and swam the horse by its side; sometimes when unable to  get our horses across we went to our appointments afoot rather than disappoint  a congregation.  Preachers were often lost in the woods.  Lemuel Lane was attacked one night by wolves; sticks, clubs, shouts proved ineffectual;  he bethought him of music charming the savage beast; he sang, and the retreating wolves left him to sleep in the snow.”  These words of a missionary, written in 1832, may give some idea of the difficulties encountered by Mr. Biddle on his first mission fields.

This veteran hero of the Cross recognized the period from 1837 to 1847, when he served as presiding elder, as the golden years of his ministry.  They were fruitful of toils, trials, and conflicts and most marvelous victories.  In the year 1841 he found a community dominated by a Mr. Dilk, who professed to be  God.  He was a large man of most commanding presence, piercing eye, thrilling voice and overmastering  will.  In the  face of the greatest opposition and threats of injury, Mr. Biddle conducted a meeting in that community, which resulted in completely breaking the power of this false prophet, and adding many of his delivered followers to the Church.  Returning  from this triumph, he found his home in ashes and his family homeless and brokenhearted.  He rode by the ruins, unmoved, to where his family was stopping, but when his little boy, John, climbed upon his knee and placed his arms about his neck and with sobs said, “Papa, we have no home,”  the mighty spirit of his father gave way, and rising from his seat, he turned his face to the wall and wept like a child.   But his poverty and privations were soon forgotten in his purpose to glorify God and save souls – an aim which he  constantly pursued like a giant of destiny, with no regard for losses, defeats, or obstacles.

As a preacher and evangelist, Alexander Biddle stands in the history of the early missionary work of Eastern Ohio without a peer.  A few of his triumphs are here given:

At the dedication of a church in Richester, Pennsylvania, seventy were at the altar at one time and over one hundred were added to the church.

One of his greatest triumphs came at a camp-meeting held on his father-in-laws farm.  It was a veritable Pentecost.  On Sunday morning the service began at eight o’clock and continued throughout the entire day.  It seemed that nothing could stop it.  Sinners flocked to the altar, found peace, and went away to bring others.  All day and all night the glorious work went on, and not until the new day opened could the preacher stop for rest.  The spoils of that day and night were over one hundred souls.

Near Canton,  Ohio, he began a mission in a new community and held services in a wagon shop.  The first week but little impression seemed to be made, but on the second Sabbath the congregation was mightily moved.  The preacher swept everything before the torrent of his eloquence.  Thirty-five persons came to the altar during the sermon.  The  whole community was reformed,  a class of seventy-five members were added to the church.  He closed his fifteen years of service in the Muskingum  Conference with a wonderful revival in Stark County, Ohio, where scores of souls were converted and united with the church.  When he joined the conference in 1831, there were three itinerant members; when he left in 1848, there were twenty-eight ministers and charges.  Most of this increase is due to his powerful influence and work.

There were times when Mr. Biddle and his family were in great want.  In 1850 he endorsed notes for friends and was compelled to pay them.  One of his children thus speaks of that occasion:  “I was in my ninth year when the sheriff came to attach father’s property.  He asked how many horses we had, how many sheep, and all about his property.  Father told him the truth to the letter and gave their probable value.  We had some twenty or thirty sheep and mother thought a great deal of them.  After the papers had been made out and a neighbor went on his bond for the property, mother said to him, with tears in her eyes, “Why did you not save out a few of the sheep?”  He made no reply.

In 1847, Mr. Biddle moved to Crawford  County, Ohio, and the following year joined the Sandusky Conference.  His distinguished ability and leadership  were  at once recognized.  He represented the  conference in the General Conferences of 1857, 1861, and 1865.  In these gatherings he always took a prominent part, and on each of these occasions he was prominently spoken of for bishop.  He identified himself with every progressive movement of the Church and  was a close student of theology and history.  He saw his Church changing, but he kept abreast of his age and was always young and receptive.  His loyalty to his Church was one of his chief characteristics.  He was one of the Lord’s prophets, who saw things that were to be and spoke of them as if already present; hence he was a leader of God’s hosts.  In the midst of discouragement he was always brave; in counsel, always wise; in service, always ready.  His son, an attorney in Fort Scott, Kansas,  says;  “I never saw father
weep but twice.  One morning, as he was spreading the clothing of my mother’s death-bed over  a pile of stones in the yard and hanging some on the trees, while her body was in a coffin in the room, I, a boy of nine years old spoke  to him about my mother, and it so affected him that he wept aloud, and  caused me to shudder.  I could not conceive how so strong a man could give way as he did on that occasion, but it was like tearing an oak-tree out by its roots.  On another occasion, father’s district as presiding elder was in western Ohio, quite a distance from home, and he was away from home on each trip nine weeks.  This was shortly after my mother’s death in 1857, and our house was kept by a housekeeper.  When he left us on the first trip, as he bade us good-bye, great tears coursed over his cheeks.”

One of the great occasions of Mr. Biddle’s life, showing his power over men, came to him while residing in Galion, Ohio.  One of his parishioners, a railroad engineer, had been killed in a railway collision.  When the people began to gather for the funeral, it was apparent that the church would accommodate but a small per cent of the gathering throng, so he suggested that they adjourn to the public square.  Using a carriage as his pulpit in the center of the square, he addressed the assembled multitudes.  He was in good condition, and his great thrilling voice rang out over the vast throng.  The people hung upon his eloquent words for one hour, and began to stir only when he sat down.  A prominent attorney who was present  gives the following description:  “The  square was literally packed with people.  Every office and every building around the square was filled.  Everyone could hear him distinctly, and he seemed to speak from inspiration.  He held this vast assemblage for one hour.  Not one person left, and he had perfect order from the beginning of his discourse to the end.”  Mr. Biddle was a man of large mold in body and mind, full of vigor and hope.  He was fearless, independent and industrious, positive and progressive.  He grew with the people and was always abreast of the foremost ranks of his time.

Mr. Biddle was an optimist of the noblest type.  He was wholly given up to God and absorbed by his prospects, which constantly expanded before his vision.  God and the world passed before him in greatness.  He had the divine ability of heart to separate the grandeur of earth from its infirmities, to hear strains of beautiful music rising above its harshest tumult, and thus the road of life was taken up by his great heart and transfigured until it became like Jacob’s ladder – a way to heaven.

The discipline of life  served to broaden and deepen his faith, so that at last he stood as nearly a perfect specimen of fully-rounded character as could be found.  He belonged to a class of men who seem to be chosen of Heaven to illustrate the sublime possibilities of Christian attainment – men of seraphic fervor and devotion, and whose one overmatering passion is to win souls to Christ and to be holy like him themselves.

Father Biddle retired from active service in 1876, but did not cease to preach until he had passed his eightieth year.  He was for sixty-eight years a minister in the United Brethren Church, and at the time of his death was the oldest living preacher in the denomination.  The burdens of those years were exceedingly heavy, but his physical endurance kept pace and he had reason to be thankful that he was of the hardy race of American pioneers.

On the first of February, 1899, having reached the mature age of eighty-eight years, nine month, and seven days, he exchanged earth for heaven and everlasting life.  Awhile before his death he wrote:  “I am feeling keenly the burden of almost eighty-seven years, but I am enjoying fair health.  As to the future, I am living by the day, with a bright prospect of the heirship of eternal life.  In the quiet of my lonely home,  my soul feasts on the riches of divine grace.  The time of the sunset has come, and its tints are those of a golden autumn day.  The sun is going down without a cloud, and as the earthly is fading out of sight, the heavenly breaks upon my vision and I long to be at home in the bright, eternal  day which has no sunset.”  His body sleeps beside the Biddle Church, a few miles from Galion, Crawford Co., Ohio.

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