Sunday, July 13, 2014

An Ocean Away and Back: Carl “Charles” Muth’s Twenty-Year Pennsylvania Saga

For my cousin Kathy

When Carl Muth[1] stepped onto the sailing ship he lost his land balance.  His body, like his soul, moved with the water, uncertain and changing.  Gone the stability of the ground, of his extended family, the parish of Holzappel where his ancestors had lived for two hundred years, all that was familiar and safe.  Traded for hope and optimism, floating on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Carl Muth's son Philip Wilhelm[2]

He took with him his wife and five small children. Together they held onto their past in the Duchy of Nassau (now Germany) and anticipated their future in Pennsylvania. The thinnest of threads, handwritten letters also carried by sailing ship, would connect them to those they had warmly embraced and the smiles last received.

Carl left behind the mines and the smelting furnaces that fueled German industrialization and provided his livelihood. While other men wore lamps and descended the shafts to mine ore, Carl had worn a heavy leather apron, protection from the sparks and molten splatters of the smelting furnace. He had tended the ovens that transformed ore into iron, the smelter’s labor in heat, smoke, and sweat, in all seasons.

The Smelting Oven[3]

He had followed the occupation of his father, a foundry worker, and married the chief smelter’s daughter.[4] It was a family occupation, and his sons would have taken up work at the smelting plant, too. That’s where the jobs were where they lived. But Carl had other dreams for them. They could have an inheritance of land. Some folks from his parish had already emigrated to Pennsylvania and probably sent back word of good soil available to men who would clear and work it.[5] With a dream of farming, Carl Muth followed their lead.

The time was right. The Holzappel mine and foundry, sold in 1853, was in a period of management transition.[6] Carl was forty and able-bodied. His widowed father had died the previous year.[7] His wife’s parents were also deceased.[8] The Muth family was free to go. They traveled to Antwerp, Belgium, and embarked on the ship Elizabeth Denison, for the journey to New York. On 14 November 1853 they regained their land balance, setting foot on U. S. soil. There Carl became known as Charles.[9]

Charles’ plan took his family first to Clarion County, about fifty miles northeast of Pittsburgh. He had likely heard about the huge demand for iron for railroad construction in the U. S. Some twenty furnaces operated in Clarion County, producing about half of northwest Pennsylvania’s pig iron output.[10] Here was work that would sustain his family. Charles again put on his leather apron and hired on at the iron furnace, probably as a smelter, the job he knew. 

A Clarion County Furnace about 1877[11]

His job paid a good wage of twenty to twenty-six dollars a month. Depending on his salary, ten to twenty dollars was payable to the company store for the family’s purchases.[12] Charles would see five to thirteen dollars a month in cash. If the family was frugal, they could save for his greater goal of land for his sons.

Two more children were born in Clarion County, two more boys. Charles’ wife Elizabeth died shortly after, a setback to his plans.[13] His eldest sons were not yet teens, the two girls under ten, and the three little boys just toddlers. Charles’ girls were young to manage a household themselves, and he never remarried. Still, somehow, he stayed true to his plan.

In 1856, three years almost to the day after his arrival in the U. S., Charles bought ninety-one acres of woods in Jefferson County, the next county to the east.[14] Savings of five dollars a month for the three years spent in Clarion County covered the purchase price of $170.50. He traded his leather apron at the furnace for an axe and woodland. His two eldest sons, Philip Wilhelm and Philip Charles, then thirteen and twelve, set to clearing the land with him.

Woods in Jefferson County, about 1878[15]
The next year, 1857, Charles began paying tax in Jefferson County, a poll tax on himself, and he owned one cow.[16] The following year he was designated “farmer.”[17]  Over time he established his farm, clearing fields and building a house, barn, and out buildings.[18] He had successfully transitioned from laboring for someone else to farming on his own account, owner of the wherewithal to sustain his family.

As Charles and his children grew older he began to provide for their future. In 1869, when he was fifty-five, he sold his farm to second son Philip Charles. The transfer was made on the condition that Philip Charles meet the following requirements:
·      He would care for his father on the farm, providing him a room, his furniture, food, clothing, expense money, all things necessary to his happiness and take care of him in his sickness;
·      Pay his father $200;
·      Pay his next younger brother Christian Charles Muth $400;
·      Pay his sister Ernestine (Muth) Reiter $300;
·      Pay his sister Henrietta Muth $300.
The sum of all payments to father and siblings equaled the purchase price, $1200.[19]

The deed made no provision for eldest son Philip Wilhelm or the two youngest, Ludwig (then about 14) and Adam (about 12). Philip Wilhelm had purchased his own hundred-acre farm in 1863.[20] Perhaps Charles bought it for him or contributed to the purchase price. Philip Wilhelm was well established and his farm worth $1000 in 1870.[21] The same year the census taker found Charles living with Philip Charles and his young family, as specified in the deed. At fifty-eight, he was a “retired farmer.” [22]

In 1873 Charles, then sixty, bought an eighty-acre parcel of woods for $2300. It had no dwelling house, only out buildings.[23] Timber covered the land, and it lay just a short way from the neighbor’s lumber mill.[24] Possibly this parcel was intended to complete a plan to provide cash or tracts of land for the younger boys, who were still minors.
Woods in Jefferson County, 2014. Courtesy of Bruce E. Kelly Sr., Williamsport, Pa.

 When Charles Muth was in his early sixties, his wife long deceased, and his children nearly all of age, he made a pilgrimage back to his homeland. He wished to see the village where he was born and his remaining close kin. This time he left the stability of his farm, children, and grandchildren and went toward another familiar place where he was known as Carl and folks greeted him in German. Now he belonged to both places, the passage just a temporary transition between his two homes.

Carl’s younger sister had married five years after his departure. Her husband owned a forge in Holzappel, and Carl surely was keen to see it. [25] Being in that environment meant visiting with workers and retirees about the days when he worked there and sharing his Clarion County experiences. On a summer day he visited his brother-in-law’s forge, feeling again the heat and smelling the familiar smoke. That day, 4 September 1875, he suffered a fatal, “violent hemorrhage.” The ironworks of his native Nassau took him back. Carl Muth was buried two days later in the cemetery of Horhausen, the village of his birth sixty-two years earlier.[26]

Horhausen, Germany, 1995. Photo by the author.

Carl “Charles” Muth lived in America about twenty years, breaking the Muth family tie to the smelting furnace and leaving a legacy of land ownership for his children. No Jefferson County probate file records Charles’ death or the disposition of his estate.[27] His farm and woods came into possession of eldest sons Philip Wilhelm and Philip Charles.[28] His daughters married.[29] Younger sons Christian, Ludwig, and Adam all owned their own farms in townships close to each other.[30] All his children raised large families. While Charles’ German homeland claimed his last days and his remains, America kept his descendants and the memory of this thrifty, hard-working man with dreams of land ownership and family stability. Dreams he turned to reality.

[1] Pronounced moot.
[2] Oval detail from P. W. Muth family photo, copy in possession of the author. Location of original unknown.
[3] Eduard Heuchler, Die Bergknappen in ihren Berufs- und Familienleben: bildlich dargestellt und von erläuternden Worten begleitet [Miners in their work and family life: with pictorial illustrations and accompanied by explanatory words] (Dresden: Rudolf Kuntze, 1857), plate 39; digital images, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte [Max Planck Institute for the History of Science], Library, ECHO, Cultural Heritage Online ( : accessed 14 June 2014).
[4] See Evangelische Kirche Holzappel [Holzappel Lutheran church], KB [Kirchenbuch (church register)] 10, Heiraten [marriages], 1817-1841, p. 95, no. 19, Muth-Eckhardt, 1841; Zentralarchiv der Evangelische Kirche in Hessen und Nassau, Darmstadt, Germany; Family History Library [FHL] microfilm 1,577,006, item 4.
[5] “Descendants of Henry Peter Henneman Observed Centennial on September 1st,” article from a Jefferson Co., Pa., newspaper, after 1 September 1951; privately held by the author. 
[6] “Grube Holzappel [Holzappel mine],”Wikipedia ( : accessed 9 July 2014), “Geschichte und Technik [History and technology]”; citing Rainer Slotta, Technische Denkmäler in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland [Technical monuments in the Federal Republic of Germany], Band 4, Teil 2, “Der Metallerzbergbau [Metal ores]” (Bochum, Germany: Deutsches Bergbaumuseum [German mining museum], 1983), 955–77, and Rudolf Scheid, 200 Jahre Erzbergbau in der Esterau—Die Grube Holzappel [200 years of ore mining in the Esterau—The Holzappel mine] (Holzappel, Germany: Förderverein „Heimatmuseum Esterau eV“ [Friends of the “Esterau eV local history museum], 2008 .
[7] Evangelische Kirche Holzappel, KB 15, Tote [Deaths], 1848-1869, p. 48, Johann Mathias Muth; FHL microfilm 1,577,089, item 2.
[8] Evangelische Kirche Holzappel, KB 14, Tote, 1817-1848, p. 172, no. 30, Johann Conrad Eckhardt (1837), and p. 249, no. 19, Marie Sophie (Meinecke) Eckhardt (1845); FHL microfilm 1,577,089, item 1.
[9] “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, (, manifest, Elizabeth Denison, Antwerp to New York, arriving 14 November 1853, unnumbered pp. 6-7, C Muth family of seven; citing NARA, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, Record Group 36, microfilm M237, roll 133, list no. 1143. The ship manifest clearly reads Eliz Davison, Master Jas. H. Tucker, from Antwerp, 644 59/95 tons. This ship was probably the Elizabeth Denison, also 645 tons, used by the Regular Line that provided twice-monthly service from Antwerp and New York. Her master, Jas. H. Tucker, also worked for the Regular Line. See Carl C. Cutler, Queens of the Western Ocean: The Story of America’s Mail and Passenger Sailing Lines (Annapolis, Md.: United States Naval Institute, 1961), 398.
[10] A. J. Davis, ed., History of Clarion County, Pennsylvania, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers (Syracuse, N. Y.: D. Mason & Co., 1887), 114, 116-20; digital images, Internet Archive ( : accessed 16 June 2014); from Open Library ( ).
[11] “Furnace Grounds & Lands of Judge Keating & Son,” Caldwell’s Illustrated Historical Combination Atlas of Clarion County, Pennsylvania, From Actual Surveys (Condit, Ohio: J. A. Caldwell, 1877), 42-43; Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, ( : accessed 16 June 2014).
[12] Davis, History of Clarion County, 114.
[13] Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania, Including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and of Many of the Early Settled Families 2 vols. (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1898), 2: 1125-26.
[14] Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, Deeds, 9: 267, Alexander Colwell et al. to Charles Muth, drawn 18 November 1856, recorded 16 February 1857; Recorder, Brookville; FHL microfilm 923,845.
[15] Caldwell’s Illustrated, Historical, Combination Atlas of Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, From Actual Surveys (Condit, Ohio: J. A. Caldwell, 1878), 37, detail, "Res. & Farm of A. Ferman"; Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, ( : accessed 21 June 2014).
[16] William James McKnight, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, Her Pioneers and People, 1800-1915 (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1917), 512; digital images, Internet Archive (http:/ : accessed 15 June 2014).
[17] McKnight, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, 513.
[18] Commemorative Biographical Record, 2: 1125-26.
[19] Jefferson Co., Pa., Deeds, Book 21: 416-17, Charles Muth to Philip Charles Muth, drawn 1 January 1869, recorded 10 May 1869; FHL microfilm 573,879.
[20] Jefferson Co., Pa., Index to Deeds, K-M, 95, Zufall to Muth; FHL microfilm 923,835.
[21] 1870 U. S. Census, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Henderson Township, p. 2 (penned), dwelling 16, family 15, Philip Moot household; digital image, ( ); from NARA microfilm M593, roll 1592; FHL microfilm 552,851.
[22] 1870 U. S. Census, Jefferson Co., Pa., pop. sch., McCalmont Twp., p. 87 (stamped), dwell./fam. 4, Charles Mooth household; digital image, (; from NARA microfilm M593, roll 1352; FHL microfilm 552,851.
[23] Jefferson Co., Deeds, Book 9: 267, Alexander Colwell et al. to Charles Muth, drawn 18 November 1856, recorded 16 February 1857; FHL microfilm 923,845.
[24] Caldwell’s Illustrated, Historical, Combination Atlas of Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, From Actual Surveys (Condit, Ohio: J. A. Caldwell, 1878), 105.
[25] Evangelische Kirche Holzappel, KB 11, Heiraten, 1842-1875, p. 70, no. 3, Helsper-Muth, 1858; FHL microfilm 1,577,006, item 5.
[26] Evangelische Kirche Holzappel, KB 16, Tote, 1869-75, p. 81, no. 33; FHL microfilm 1,577,089, item 4. "Muth Carl, farmer, born and residing in Horhausen, residing in Jefferson Co[u]nty in the State of Pennsylvania…Came from America to see his homeland and relatives once more and died here from a violent hemorrhage. It was his wish to be buried in the Horhausen cemetery” (author’s translation).
[27] Jefferson Co., Index to Registers’ and Orphans’ Court Records; Clerk of Court, Brookville.
[28] Jefferson Co., Index to Deeds, K-M, 95, Philip Wilhelm and Philip Charles Muth; FHL microfilm 923,835.  See also Jefferson Co. Deeds, Book 128: 177-78, W. T. Muth et al. to Mary J. [sic, I.] Muth et al., 1910.
[29] “Family Tree,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 13 July 2014), for Jacob Heilbrun, K2XT-LQ8, and wife “Henrieta” Muth, L4B4-NBM; also John Reiter, K69J-DL4, and wife “Earnestina” Muth, K64J-XN9. Also, Commemorative Biographical Record, 2: 1125-26.
[30] For Christian and Ludwig, see Jefferson Co. Index to Deeds, C. C. Muth, citing Deed Book 25: 434; and Ludwig (also Ludwick) Muth, citing Deed Books 38: 270, 271 and 49: 138, 160. For Adam, see 1910 U. S. census, Clearfield Co., Pa., pop. sch., Troutville Precinct, Brady Twp., ED 54, sheet 19 (penned), dwell./fam. 37, Adam Muth household; digital image, (; from NARA microfilm T624, roll 1330; FHL microfilm 1,375,343.

© 2014 Judy Kellar Fox,