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Grandson of Thomas Umberger Guards Inheritance but is Arrested

Posted By on October 27, 2017

A brief item in the Harrisburg Telegraph of 20 November 1913 noted the following:

DalmatiaThomas Umberger, 78 years old, a well-known farmer and veteran of the Civil War, died very suddenly of apoplexy on Monday night.  He is survived by one daughter.

Thomas Umberger died on 17 November 1913.  He was born 4 July 1835 and had honorably served in the Civil War, Company B, 172nd Pennsylvania Infantry, as a Private, from 10 October 1862 through 1 August 1863.

In researching Thomas Umberger in the newspapers of the time, more articles came up about what happened with his estate than with events that happened during his life.  This was because his grandson, who was said to be demented and who lived in his household, took it upon himself to seize the estate assets and hold them at gunpoint from the authorities.

The story broke early in 1914 with a series of articles, some giving more detail than others.

From the Harrisburg Daily Independent, 26 January 1914:

GUARDS TREASURE CHEST

Herndon Man Overpowered After Three Weeks of Armed Waiting

Herndon, 26 January 1914 — After standing guard, gun in hand, over a treasure chest containing $1,800 in gold for three weeks, John Enders, 25 years old, of Dalmatia, was overwhelmed by William High, a constable, and placed in jail.

Enders lived with Thomas Umberger, his grandfather.  The latter died three weeks ago and during the funeral service Enders stood at the stairway with his shot gun, threatening to shoot any person who should attempt to pass him.  He has since refused to let anybody near under penalty of death and has lacked sufficient food.

Enders is the sole beneficiary under the will and he labored under the hallucination that he was to be robbed of the money.  His sanity is questioned.

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From the Harrisburg Daily Independent, 28 January 1914:

GUARDED GOLD WITH GUNS

Beneficiary Under Will Watched Treasure for Three Weeks

Sunbury, Pennsylvania, 28 January 1914 — After standing guard, gun in hand, over a chest containing $1,800 in gold for three weeks, John Enders was overpowered by William High, a constable.

Enders lived with Thomas Umberger, his grandfather. The elder man died three weeks ago.  While a preacher said a funeral service Enders stood at the stairway with his shotgun and threatened to shoot the first person who would attempt to pass him.

He refused to let anybody come near him.

High put a dog to barking at the rear and while Enders was watching it he sneaked up behind him and easily overpowered him.

Enders is the sole beneficiary under the will and he labored under the hallucination that he was to be robbed of the money.  His sanity is questioned.  He was half-starved and thin after his long watch, during which, he said, he took little food.

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From the Danville Morning News, 26 January 1914:

YOUTH GUARDED THE CASH BOX

Demented Lad Took Charge of His Grandfather’s Savings

The arrest of John Enders, a 19 year old lad of the lower end of Northumberland County, who lived with his grandfather, the late Thomas Umberger, between Paxton and Dalmatia, reveals a rather romantic and somewhat tragic story.

The youth’s grandfather died several moths ago.  The boy, who was reared by him and who was never allowed to leave the farm of the elder member of the family, was somewhat demented.  After the death of the grandfather he went upstairs by the side of an old chest in which were stored the valuables of the grandfather, including $1,800 in cash.  No will had been made by Mr. Umberger, but the grandson was determined that no one would take the belongings of his grandfather from the house and with all of the shot guns and revolvers that he could find around the premises he guarded the treasures.  He threatened to kill instantly any person coming upstairs and for three months [sic] no one ventured near him.Finally, relatives swore out a warrant for his arrest and Constable William High, of Dalmatia, went to the boy’s and grandfather’s home, near Paxton, and placed the young man under arrest.  The constable used strategy to get his man and had no difficulty in placing him under the law’s strong arm.  He was then taken to jail at Sunbury and Constable High and several others with the keys obtained from the boy, will open the box to get the contents.  The boy refuses to say whether the money and other contents are still there.

The young man will be held in the county jail and a petition for the appointing a lunacy commission to examine him will no doubt he submitted to the court by relatives.

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From the New Oxford Item, 29 January 1914:

Heir Guards Gold Three Weeks

After standing guard, gun in hand, over a treasure chest containing $1,800 in god for three weeks, John Enders, twenty-five years old, of Dalmatia, near Herndon, Pennsylvania, was overpowered by William High, a constable, and placed in jail.

Enders lived with Thomas Umberger, his grandfather, who died three weeks ago.  While a preacher said a funeral service Enders stood at the stairway with his shotgun and threatened to shoot the person who would attempt to pass him.  He has since refused to let anybody near the treasure under penalty of death.

Constable High put a dog to barking at the rear, and while Enders was watching it he stepped up behind and overpowered him.  Enders is the sole beneficiary under the will and he labored under the hallucination that he was to be robbed of the money.  His sanity is questioned.  He was half starved.  He said he ate little during his three weeks’ watch.

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From the Reading Times, 26 January 1914:

STARVES GUARDING HIS CHEST OF GOLD

Herndon, Pennsylvania, 25 January 1914 — After standing guard, gun in hand, over a treasure chest containing $1,800 in gold for three weeks, John Enders was overpowered today by William High, a constable, and placed in jail.  Enders lived with Thomas Umberger, his grandfather, who died three weeks ago,  while a preacher said a funeral service Enders stood at the stairway with his shotgun and threatened to shoot the person who would attempt to pass him.  He has since refused to let anybody near the treasure under penalty of death.  Today High put a dog to barking at the rear and while Enders was watching it he stepped up behind and overpowered him.  Enders is the sole beneficiary under the will and he labored under the hallucination that he was to be robbed of the money.  His sanity is questioned.  He was half starved.  He said he ate little during his three weeks’ watch.

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From the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, 27 January 1914:

 

HALF STARVES AS HE GUARDS GOLD WITH GUN

Beneficiary in Will Watches over His Treasure for Three Weeks

IS OVERCOME BY RUSE

Constable Used Dog to Attract Attention of the Apparently Insane Man

Sunbury, Pennsylvania, 27 January 1914 — After standing guard, gun in hand, over a treasure chest containing $1,800 in gold for three weeks, John Enders, 25 years old, Dalmatia, was overpowered by William High, a constable, and placed in jail.

Enders lived with Thomas Umberger, his grandfather.  The elder man died three weeks ago.  While a preacher said a funeral service Enders stood at the stairway with his shotgun and threatened to shoot the first person who would attempt to pass him.  He has since refused to let anybody near.

High put a dog to barking at the rear, and while Enders was watching it, he sneaked up behind him and easily overpowered him.

Enders is the sole beneficiary under the will, and he labored under the hallucination that he was to be robbed of the money.  His sanity is questioned.  He was half starved and thin after his long watch, during which he said, he took little food.

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And, what is the rest of this story?  No record has been seen that John Enders was declared insane.  In the 1917 World War I draft, he registered and gave his occupation as track patrolman; nothing was stated as to any mental disability.  In 1920, he was single and living with the Jonathan Zerbe family as a boarder in Northumberland County, while being employed as a railroad laborer. In 1930, still single, he was boarding with the same family and working as a laborer on the railroad tracks.  In 1940, still single and living with the same Zerbe family, he was engaged in farming.  For the 1942 World War II Draft, he was living with an Enders relative, but was employed as a farmer by John Zerbe.  In 1943, in Harrisburg, he married Martha E. Shoop.  On 1 November 1952, he died in Northumberland County, leaving as survivors his wife and five siblings.

The statement in the news articles that John Enders was the only heir is obviously incorrect.  John’s mother, Marietta [Umberger] Enders, was still alive at the death of her father Thomas Umberger, and she did not die until 1923.  Whether Thomas Umberger had a will is still to be determined.  The obituary at the top of this post did mention that Thomas was survived by one daughter [the aforementioned Marietta].  Marietta [Umberger} Enders also had 7 other known children, who, presumably had a right to the estate.

Perhaps a blog reader can clarify some of the inconsistencies in the above articles?

 


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