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Civil War Blog

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Gratz During the Civil War – Zacharias Laudenslager House

Posted By on October 12, 2011

The original purchaser of Lot #46 from Simon Gratz in 1818 was Joshua Ossman.  In 1820, Ossman left Gratz and sold the lot to Charles Coleman who owned it until he died in 1839 whereupon it is listed through his estate until 1852 when it was obtained by Jacob Laudenslager (1796-1869).  During the estate period, the house, believed to have been built sometime before 1840, was rented by John Workman, a gunsmith.

In 1859, at a sheriff’s sale, the property was conveyed to Isaac Moyer who also owned Gratz Lots #45 and #47 just across Market Street.  Moyer was a successful flour and feed merchant who was known for his adventures during the California Gold Rush of 1849.  Moyer rented the property to Zacharias Laudenslager (1834-1901), whose father has lost it in the sheriff’s sale of 1859.  About one year later, Zacharias was able to purchase the property back from Moyer.  The family of Zacharias, including the father, Jacob, lived or visited here throughout the Civil War.

The earliest found picture of this house is shown above, taken in the second half of the twentieth century.

Zacharias Laudenslager

Not much is known of the activities conducted at this property during the Civil War.  The 1860 and 1870 Censuses list Zacharias as a farmer.  Jacob Laudenslager died in 1869 and by 1872, Zacharias sold the property to Cyrene T. Bowman (1843-1919), a Civil War veteran.  Since Bowman only owned the property for about 10 days before he re-sold it, he most likely did not live here.  Other Gratz properties owned by Bowman were Lots #5 and #7.

Peter M. Kembel (1819-1891) purchased the building and land in 1872.  Kembel had been living at Fort Jackson, well south of Market Street, and probably farmed the land around the fort prior to moving onto Market Street with his large family.  Neither Peter Kembel or any of his children have yet been associated with Civil War service, although some of the sons were of age to have served.  Fort Jackson and the farm land around it have been previously associated with the Gratztown Militia.  The 1880 Census indicates Peter Kembel was a laborer.

After Peter Kembel died, his son John Kembel sold Lot #46 and its buildings through auction to Isaac Hepler (1838-1918), a Civil War veteran, who with his wife Amanda [Harper] Hepler was associated with many other properties in Gratz.  The Hepler family held the property, probably renting it, until 1897, when it was sold first to Harvey C. Fidler, and then in 1900, to Aaron S. Ritzman (1858-1928) and his wife Amelia Laudenslager (1857-1931), a daughter of Civil War owner Zacharias Laudenslager.  Amelia had lived in the house as a child during the Civil War as the Census of 1860 shows below.

Thus, coming full circle in three generations, the Zacharias Laudenslager House was owned by the father Jacob Laudenslager, lost at sheriff’s sale, repurchased by the son Zacharias, sold again, and finally re-claimed by the daughter Amelia [Laudenslager] Ritzman who was raised here as a child during the Civil War.  The Ritzman’s owned the property until 1911 when it was sold back to another previous owner, Harvey C. Fidler.

This is part 20 of an ongoing series on Gratz during the Civil War.  Some of the information for this post was taken from the book A Comprehensive History of the Town of Gratz Pennsylvania.

Other posts on Gratz During the Civil War can be accessed by clicking on the tag, “Walking Tour” in the “Topics” area of the blog.


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