Monday, January 28, 2013

A Family Tragedy

According to his death certificate on file with the Concord town clerk, Herman J. Westfall was born 1 October 1877 in Waverly, New York.[1] He was raised in the town of Otto, once known as Waverly, in Cattaraugus County.[2] Herman’s father died just after his tenth birthday and his mother died before he turned eighteen. Herman was living in Perrysburg in September of 1895.[3] He may have been working there. 
the young Herman Westfall, ca. 1894, Cattaraugus, NY

In 1896 he was living with his married sister, Louise Heitman of Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York when it was reported in the Evening Observer newspaper that Herman, described as “lovelorn,” attempted suicide on 30 May 1896 by drinking carbolic acid but was expected to recover.[4] The name of the object of his affections that rejected him was not revealed in the newspaper article. The article explained that Herman “formerly met and loved a young, pretty, dark-haired German girl and when he left her at Cattaraugus, they were engaged to be married.” Soon after he went to stay with his sister, she also went and boarded with his sister until she found employment as a housemaid, but she then “decided that he was neither old enough nor earning enough money to support them and respectfully declined.”  

Herman eventually did marry and have a family. He was wed to Margaret Pfeffer about 1898. No record has been found on file with the Concord town clerk nor in the marriage records of St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church where her parents had some of their children baptized. Perhaps they were married in Chautauqua County. Ms. Pfeffer may have even been the dark-haired German girl that initially rejected him. Born in Augsburg, Germany on 18 June 1881, she was the daughter of Lawrence and Marie (Kelzer or Kilger) Pfeffer.[5] Maggie (as she was called), her brother Frank and her sister Teresa all had red or auburn hair.[6] Herman and Maggie lived next door to her parents in 1900. Her brother Frank and her two sisters Teresa and Mary were still at home.[7] By 1910, Herman was renting a farm on Horse Road in Concord.[8] In 1920, he rented another farm on the Genesee Road.[9]
The Herman Westfall family, ca. 1920
l-r: Fritz, Herman (holding Allen), Maggie, Theresa Pfeffer, Bertha Hauth (with son Bob),
Lawrence, Bob Hauth (holding daughter Jane), Fats

Around 1927, he purchased the Stanbro farm on the Genesee Road in East Concord. But not long after, tragedy struck. On Friday, 27 May 1927, Herman and two of his sons, Frederick and Allen, were killed when the truck they were riding in was struck by a Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh passenger train at the depot crossing in East Concord. The details were grim. Herman had recently purchased a new Chevrolet truck (his son Lawrence had sold it to him) and they were driving east on the Genesee road. The five o’clock flyer approached, though they apparently didn’t see it (it was also told that the train was late). The engine struck the car about in the middle and carried parts of it and the older son, Frederick, on the cow catcher for about seven hundred yards before the train was bought to a stop near the county asphalt plant. Frederick lived for a short time, but died after starting for the hospital in an ambulance. He was just twenty-two and newly married. He and his wife lived on the Benjamin Shippey farm on Vaughan Street. Herman and the younger son, nine-year-old Allen, were thrown clear of the track. Herman was killed instantly. Allen was taken on the train for the Lackawanna hospital, but died before reaching Orchard Park. His body was brought back on the seven o’clock train.[10]

The triple funeral was held from the family home on Tuesday afternoon at two o’clock with burial in the Maplewood Cemetery in Springville (Erie County), New York. The Reverend Northy of Boston officiated. Seventy cars made up the funeral procession to the cemetery, where they were laid to rest in a single grave.[11]

Maggie was widowed at the age of forty-six and outlived all but her oldest child. Before her death, she had several strokes and was in a nursing home in Springville. Her faculties were limited near the end and before she died about all she could say was the word “shit” which served her well on various occasions.[12] She died at the age of eighty-seven on 11 September 1968 in Springville, Erie County New York and was buried near her husband and children in the Maplewood Cemetery in Springville.[13]

Herman J. Westfall and Margaret Pfeffer had the following children:[14]

Lawrence, Bertha & Fritz
i.                     Bertha Elizabeth Westfall, born 30 October 1899 Springville, Erie County, New York;[15] married Clayton Hauth 18 February 1916 in St. Aloysius R.C. Church in Springville, Erie County, New York;[16] died 5 April 1990 of cardiac arrest, buried in Maplewood Cemetery, Springville.[17] Bertha and her husband lived on Shock(?) Street in the town of Concord in 1920.[18]
ii.                   Lawrence Louis Westfall, born 16 August 1901 Springville, Erie County, New York on Central Avenue;[19] married (1) Wilhelmina Filtenborg 10 September 1924 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois,[20] (2) Mabel Louise Smith 4 March 1926 Boston, Erie County, New York;[21] died 27 April 1958 Springville, Erie County, New York, buried in Maplewood Cemetery.[22]
Fritz & Fats
iii.                  Frederick Martin Westfall “Fritz”, born 10 August 1904;[23] married Mabel Faust; died 27 May 1927, buried in Maplewood Cemetery.[24]
iv.                 Albert Westfall, born 25 August 1906 in East Otto, Cattaraugus County, New York; married Genevieve Yates; died 15 May 1968 in Erie County, New York.[25]
v.                   Francis Raymond Westfall “Fats”, born 23 September 1911; married Freada L. Hintz; died 22 January 1962, buried in Maplewood Cemetery.[26]
Allen & his dog
vi.                 Charles Allen Westfall, born 15 May 1918 in East Concord, Erie County, New York; died 27 May 1927 in East Concord, buried in Maplewood Cemetery.[27]


[1]Death certificate of Herman J. Westfall, register no. 14, town of Concord, county of Cattaraugus, state of New York.
[2]Barbara Fuller Andera related to writer that Otto was once known as Waverly. The map accompanying the 1874 Child’s Gazetteer/Director of Cattaraugus County showed Waverly, Otto Post Office.
[3]Probate records for Sophia Westfall, box #254, Schedual “C,” p. 6, turned in by administrator Daniel E. Powell for services rendered indicated that on September 21, 1895 he paid $.80 “to car fare to Perysburg and return to serve notice of appraisal on Herman Westfall.” Surrogate Court records, Little Valley, New York.
[4]From “Genealogical Information reported in the [Dunkirk] Evening Observer” compiled by Lois Barris, 1997. Copies of Westfall, Heitman and Cobo entries sent to writer by compiler November 2001.
[5]Information from Mabel Smith Westfall. In a telephone conversation with Marie Westfall Rebbeor on 14 May 2001, she related that she had always heard that of her Westfall grandparents, one was born near the Austrian border and one was born near the Polish border. Augsberg is near Austria, so perhaps where the Westfalls came from in Germany was near the Polish border.
[6]Ibid. Maggie’s son Lawrence had the same color with curls when he was young. Lawrence’s daughter Marie told writer in 2001 that Lawrence still had curly hair when he went to Chicago and told a barber there to cut it all off. Marie never knew her father with curly hair. Lawrence’s grandson Charles A. Westfall always grew an auburn beard, although has blonde hair.
[7]Lawrence Pfeffer household, dwelling no. 312, family no. 321 & Herman Westfall household, dwelling no. 311, family no. 320, 1900 U.S. Census, Concord Township, village of Springville, Supv. Dist. 17, sheet no. 13, Enum. Dist. 235, dated 12 June 1900.
 [8]Herman Westfall household, dwelling no. 144, family no. 155, 1910 U.S. Census, Concord Township, E.D. 264, sheet 8A, online image 15 of 16 from (via subscription).
[9]Herman Westfall household, dwelling no. 59, family no. 59, 1920 U.S. Census, Concord Township, E.D. 284, sheet 3A, online image 5 of 11 from (via subscription).
[10]”Three Members of Westfall Family Die in Railway Crossing…” Newspaper article on the front page of the Springville Journal issue dated June 2, 1927 (no. 21). Copy from microfilm sent by newspaper office upon request for obituaries of those family members (copies of obituaries were also sent). Another brief newspaper article which included a photograph of each of the three had been saved in a photo album of Mabel Smith Westfall’s.
[11]Ibid. From what was understood in a conversation between Herman’s daughter-in-law, Mabel Smith Westfall and writer, the truck was newly purchased, Herman’s son Lawrence worked at the dealership and sold it to his father. Mabel also stated that the crossing where the accident happened had limited sighting and the train was late that day. Herman’s granddaughter Marie Westfall Rebbeor related that the family was quick to settle with the family. She later seemed to recall the three caskets in a room with flowered wallpaper but she was only a year old at the time.
[12]Ibid. (newspaper article). Maplewood Cemetery sexton’s records notebook compiled by Carrie M.Dudley (at the Cattaraugus County museum) confirm that he died of a fractured skull. All three were buried on 31 May 1927 in section 29, lot 909.
 [13]As related to writer by Barbara Fuller Andera in 2001, whose mother-in-law Caroline Ploetz Andera visited Maggie often while she was in the nursing home.
[14]Death certificate of Margaret Westfall from Concord town clerk. Visit to Maplewood Cemetery in Springville, New York with Francis Andera, 20 August 1993.
[15]According to the transcript of Lawrence’s birth certificate from the Concord town clerk, his mother had two previous children before him and both of those were living at the time; but only Bertha was listed in the 1900 census.
[16]Verified transcript from the register of births for Bertha Elizabeth Westfall, 30 October 1899, registered 10 November 1899, #609, transcribed 4 December 2001 by Valerie Piscitelli, Deputy Registrar, Concord Town Hall, Town Clerk’s Office, 86 Franklin St, Springville, NY 14141. F.H. Stanbro was the attestant. Spaces were blank for number of mother’s previous children and how many living.
[17]Marriage register for St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, p. 67. Clayton was not Catholic.
[18] Maplewood Cemetery sexton’s records notebook compiled by Carrie M.Dudley. Clatin G. Hauth household (online index listed as Elatin(?) G. Hauth), dwelling no. 30, family no. 33, 1920 U.S. Census, Concord Township, ED#283, sheet 4A, online image 7 of 9 from (via subscription).
[19]Verified transcript from the register of births for Lawrence Louis Westphal, 16 August 1901, Register no. 405, transcribed 7 March 1994. F.H. Stanbro was the attestant. Mabel Smith Westfall stated that Lawrence was born on Central Avenue in Springville. The transcript stated he was born in the town of Concord.
[20]Information from Mrs. Lulu Gold.
[21]Information from Mabel Smith Westfall.
[22]Obituary notice of Lawrence L. Westfall
[23] Transcript of microfilmed records 1853-1911 from St. Aloysius R.C. Church in Springville, New York. Computerized index by Carrie M. Dudley, Concord Historical Society. The baptisms of the first five of Herman and Margaret’s children were recorded here. 
[23]Maplewood Cemetery sexton’s records notebook compiled by Carrie M.Dudley (at the Cattaraugus County museum). Died of a fractured skull.
[24]Ibid. Birth information from entry form submitted to LDS church by Edward A. Stirling. Albert’s daughter Gladys married a Stirling.
[25]Ibid. Obituary stated that he lived at 100 Spring Street in Springville. HE died at the Bertrand Chaffee Hospital in Springville. He had been a restaurant operator since 1952. Weismantal Funeral Home took care of the arrangements with services from Salem Lutheran Church.
[26]Maplewood Cemetery sexton’s records notebook compiled by Carrie M.Dudley (at the Cattaraugus County museum). Died of a fractured cerebral vertebrae. These records give name as Charles A., tombstone engraved “C. Allen.”

No comments:

Post a Comment