Ruth Elizabeth Melhorn Berkheimer

Ruth Melhorn Berkheimer front

The above photograph depicts Ruth Elizabeth Melhorn (1903-1989). York County, PA newspapers from the 1920s to the 1970s are full of mentions of Ruth as a pianist or organist, as the accompanist at weddings and other social events, and as organist and choir director at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. In the 1960s and 1970s Ruth was very active in the Hanover YWCA, serving as an officer of the Garden Club and teaching needlework and sewing classes.

Ruth was born in Williamsport, PA, the daughter of William H. Melhorn (1869-1905) and Anna (Annie) Kate Trone (1867-1942). William’s grandfather Simon was a German immigrant. William was a printer of the newspaper Grit which originated in Williamsport in 1882. Annie’s father, Henry Luther Trone (1835-1926) was York County’s oldest surviving member of the Grand Army of the Republic when he died.

After William’s early death, Annie and Ruth moved back to Annie’s hometown of Hanover, PA to live with Annie’s parents in the house at 136 Baltimore Street where she grew up. Annie worked as a stitcher in a shoe factory. Ruth was last noted living there in 1946 when she was listed as a saleslady at J. C. Penny Company, Inc.

Ruth and Clair Jacob Berkheimer (1901-1968) obtained a marriage license in Hanover on 29 December 1949, but I don’t know what day they married. Clair, who had also not previously married, was residing in the family home on Clarlisle Street in Hanover. The two apparently met through their involvement in church music. Clair spent 38 years as a clerk and salesman for the Hanover Hardware Company before retiring in 1962. Their home at 36 Clearview Road in Hanover and all its contents were sold in a public auction on 9 October 1989.

There is no good way to date this photograph. I’m lousy at judging a person’s age from their appearance. Joseph E. Poist took over John G. Feeser’s photography operation in 1907 and his children J. Elbert Poist and Francis M. Poist assumed control in 1929, so that leaves a wide window of years. We can assume that the photograph was taken before Ruth married because the inscriber went back later to add her married name and used a different ink:

Ruth Melhorn Berkheimer back

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Ruth Elizabeth Melhorn Berkheimer

Elizabeth Mary Boehm of Fitchburg, MA

E M Boehm front

According to the inscription on its back, the subject of the above photograph is Elizabeth Mary Boehm (1867-?1947?) of 15 Rollstone Street, Fitchburg, MA. In the 1880 Census, Ferdinand Adam Boehm (1821-1883) and his wife Mary Jane Dooley Boehm (1842-1880) lived on Rollstone Street with children Ida Frances Boehm (1860-1945), Louis Henry Boehm (1862-1931), Amy Louis Boehm (1877-1947), and Elizabeth who was enumerated as “Lizzie”. Ferdinand owned several properties in the vicinity of Rollstone and Baker Streets in Fitchburg. Ferdinand was an expert dyer and ran the Fitchburg Dye House until he died. Ferdinand was born probably in Wartenburg, Germany, and Mary Jane was born in England.

Elizabeth was born on 9 June 1867. She graduated from Westfield Normal School and became a teacher. She first appears as a teacher at a Fitchburg primary school on Rollstone Street in the 1895-96 school year. She continued there in the 1898-99 school year at a salary of $560. In 1901 she moved to Malden, MA to teach first grade at the Converse School on Main Street, at “about the same grade” and to “financial advantage.” Over the years she taught at several schools in the Malden district.

Elizabeth traveled to Haiti in 1931, apparently in the company of Mary Elizabeth Lyman (1862-1949) who resided at the same address, 52 Summer Street, Malden, MA. Lyman had been a teacher at Fitchburg High School prior to 1892, and after that she was a teacher at Malden High School. It turned out that Elizabeth and Lyman lived together at 52 Summer Street between 1906 and 1934 except for one brief period. Between 1935 and 1947 they lived at 88 Maple Street. The Malden City Directory and the 1940 Census indicate that Lyman held the lease on their apartment. Now both probably retired, they were enumerated as a household with Lyman as head of household and Elizabeth as “partner” in the 1940 Census:

1940 Census Lyman-Boehm detail

The following were instructions for the 1940 Census: 451. If two or more persons who are not related by blood or marriage share a common dwelling unit as partners, write head for one and partner for the other or others. There are online discussions about the meaning of “partner” in the 1940 Census.

I was unable to discover Elizabeth’s date of death or where she was buried. Her sister, Amy Louise Boehm, who resided in Washington, DC, died in Malden in July 1947. Amy’s obituary informed that she was the last surviving member of her family and that she and her husband were in Malden “in connection with an estate of which she was administratrix.” I think it is a safe bet that the estate was that of her sister, Elizabeth.

Speaking of Amy, she married John Davis (1877-1970) who, at the time of his death, was the last surviving Spanish-American War veteran to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Davis was awarded the medal for his role in “cutting the cable” during the Battle of Cienfuegos, Cuba in 1898. Now, more than a century later, warriors still debate if, when, and how to disrupt the enemy’s communications.

I tried, but was unable to find information about the jewelry which Elizabeth wears in the photograph.

I purchased this photograph for $4.00 from The Antique Shops in Westmoreland, NH while on vacation in the area in October 2017.

E M Boehm back

Elizabeth Mary Boehm of Fitchburg, MA