Alternate Spellings of Surname: Schwenzer, Schwentzer
A son of Nicholas and Regina (Huffnagel) Schwenzer, Peter Schwenzer was born on 9 November 1829 in Thulba (now Oberthulba), a village located in Lower Franconia in northwestern Bavaria, Germany (roughly 35 miles north of Würzburg and 10 miles west of Bad Kissingen). Departing aboard the Charles Hill from Le Havre, France on 20 April 1853 as an emigrant from Germany, he arrived in the United States as Spring turned dormant buds to a fragrant floral rainbow.
On 2 July 1853, he settled in Allentown, Lehigh County—the community where he would continue to reside for the remainder of his life (except for the years of his Civil War military service)—he promptly joined the Allentown Brass Band (now known as the Allentown Band). According to historian Charles Rhoads Roberts, the ensemble was led in 1853 by Major Amos Ettinger, a member of the community who was reportedly involved in the formation of a local militia unit known as the Lehigh Fencibles—the forerunner of the Allen Rifles, an Allentown-based militia unit which would later come to play a key role in the founding of the 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Also per Roberts, one of the band’s earliest rosters included the following musicians:
Able, John Ruhe, Edward
Barber, Allen Ruhe, Henry E.
Breinig, Henry Samson, Carlos
Desch, Jonathan Sieger, James
Ettinger, William Schwenzer, Peter
Fry, George Weiss, Frank
Good, T. H. Weiss, Joseph
Gangewere, Abraham Wenner, Peter S.
Kramer, Horatio Wolf, Frederick
Miller, Walter Yeager, Theodore
Newhard, Allen Yingling, Israel
Band historian Jack Baker notes that, “all but two were native born” (Peter Schwenzer and Frederick Wolf), and that:
The average age of the band members in 1853 was about twenty-five years. Most were tradesmen, and all lived within a few blocks of Center Square, Allentown. Although German language use was beginning to decline, mid-nineteenth century band members probably all spoke the Pennsylvania German dialect in their everyday lives. Undoubtedly a closely knit group, they often saw one another in their normal course of activities … [and] also met and interacted at a rehearsal each Monday evening, as the Allentown Band still does to this day.
Per Baker, the band’s 1853 conductor (Ettinger) “was a flute player.” However, the “band was organized in late 1850 or early 1851, as their first concert was held on 5 April 1851 … at Odd Fellows Hall and was directed by a noted trombone player, twenty-six-year-old Anton Heinicke.” During the ensemble’s first year, its members “performed in another concert at Odd Fellows Hall on May 3, and led the Independence Day Parade through town.”
By 1853, according to Baker—via a translation of the Allentown Friedens-Bote (Peace Messenger)—the bandsmen were partnering with members of the local militia to help their community celebrate the Fourth of July with music, a “prize-shooting contest with muskets on targets,” and fireworks.
Two years later, Peter Schwenzer became a family man when he wed Katarina Anna Herman (1835-1917) in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania on 14 August 1855. Born on 29 July 1835, she was a native of Volkertshausen in Baden-Württemberg, Germany; her given name was anglicized to “Catharine” sometime after immigrating to the United States in 1851. Over the next several years, they welcomed the Allentown births of son Henry (circa 1856) and, on 14 August 1857, daughter Annie E. Schwenzer (1857-1941), who was shown as “Ellen” on some records of that era and who later wed Henry Seebold.
The Allentown Brass Band continued to thrive as well. By 1859, per Baker, the ensemble had raised enough money during a “Benefits Ball” to purchase new instruments for its members.
That same year was also another milestone one for Peter Schwenzer, who became a naturalized American citizen on 13 February 1859 via the Common Pleas Court of Lehigh County in Allentown. He and his wife also greeted the arrival of daughter Francis.
In 1860, U.S. Census records confirmed that Peter Schwenzer, a miller, and his wife, Catharine, were Allentonians residing in the city’s 1st Ward with their children: Henry (aged 4), Ellen (aged 2), and Francis (born in October 1859). On 30 August 1861, Peter and Katarina Schwenzer greeted the arrival of a daughter—Katarina (1861-1912)—at their Allentown home. As she grew, she would come to be known as “Kate.”
Newspaper accounts of Peter Schwenzer’s life—penned in later years—noted that, sometime before the start of America’s Civil War, he began operating a saloon business at Fourth and Hamilton Streets, the site which would ultimately become the home of the Allentown Brewing Company (1866-1902) and, later, The Horlacher Brewing Company (1902-1921).
Civil War Military Service
Leaving the comforts of hearth and home in the Lehigh Valley, Peter Schwenzer traveled to the City of Harrisburg in Dauphin County, where he enrolled for Civil War Military service at Camp Curtin on 14 August 1861. Also joining him in this enlistment was 26-year-old “Henry Schwentzer,” who was shown on other records as “Frantz Swentzer,” “Francis Schwentzer,” and “Frank Schwentzer.” This was his younger brother, Franz Henry Schwentzer (1835-1918), who had been born in Bavaria in February 1835, and had emigrated from Germany and arrived in America in 1854 (a year after his brother arrived in the U.S.).
* Note: According to the 1860 federal census, Franz Schwentzer operated a restaurant in 1860, and resided with his wife, Anna, in Allentown’s 2nd Ward, where on 18 March 1861, they welcomed to the world a daughter—Anna (1861-1942)—who later wed William H. Medland.
The Schwenzer/Schwentzer brothers were then transported to Washington, D.C. by rail where, on 24 September, they both mustered in at the rank of Musician with the Regimental Band of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which had made camp with the bulk of the regiment’s infantrymen just outside of the nation’s capital three days earlier. That same day, they and their new comrades from the 47th were also officially mustered into service with the U.S. Army. The band was led by Professor Thomas Coates, “The Father of Band Music in America.”
Encamped at Camp Kalorama on the Kalorama Heights near Georgetown, the 47th Pennsylvanians were stationed roughly two miles from the White House. On 27 September, they were assigned to Brigadier-General Isaac Stevens’ 3rd Brigade, which also included the 33rd, 49th and 79th New York regiments. By afternoon, they were on the move again. Armed with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State and led by the Regimental Band, the 47th Pennsylvania marched to Camp Lyon, Maryland on the eastern side of the Potomac. At 5 p.m., they joined the 46th Pennsylvania in charging, double-quick, across a chain bridge, and marched on for roughly another mile before being ordered to make camp.
The next morning, they broke camp and moved again. Marching toward Falls Church, Virginia, they arrived at Camp Advance around dusk. There, about two miles from the bridge they had crossed a day earlier, they re-pitched their tents in a deep ravine near a new federal fort under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). They had completed a roughly eight-mile trek, were situated fairly close to General W. F. Smith’s headquarters, and were now part of the massive Army of the Potomac. Under Smith’s leadership, their regiment and brigade would help to defend the nation’s capital from the time of their September arrival through late January when the men of the 47th Pennsylvania would be shipped south.
Company C Musician Henry Wharton recapped the regiment’s activities, noting, via his 29 September letter to his hometown newspaper—the Sunbury American—that the 47th had changed camps three times in three days:
On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp [Camp Advance near Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia], one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.)….
We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning…. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks….
There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville [sic], a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment….
Sometime during this phase of duty, as part of the 3rd Brigade, the Schwenzer/Schwentzer brothers and their fellow 47th Pennsylvanians were moved to a site they initially christened “Camp Big Chestnut” for the large chestnut tree located within their lodging’s boundaries. The site would eventually become known to the Keystone Staters as “Camp Griffin,” and was located roughly 10 miles from Washington, D.C.
On 9 October 1861, Franz Schwentzer penned his own letter home, noting:
I must now conclude my writing to my dearest wife and dear little daughter. Also I greet you with all my heart, never forgetting that it is for your welfare that I have gone into this war so that you can keep your lives. I am not fearful of death. Living would be difficult for us without my going to war. To move forward could not have been thought of. When I, however, have served a number of months, then we will be so far as to be able to say that the house is ours, which $200 it would have been … difficult to make up.”
Two days later, the 47th Pennsylvanians were on the march again—but this time as part of a review at Bailey’s Cross Roads in Virginia. Also around this time, companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left-wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate troops. In his letter of 13 October, Henry Wharton described their duties, as well as their new home:
The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut [sic] trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.
Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for…unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time….
Wharton also reported that all members of the regiment were healthy but, sadly, he was mistaken. On 17 October 1861, the regiment lost its first “man” when 13-year-old drummer boy John Boulton Young died at the Kalorama eruptive fever hospital in Georgetown, where he had been sent for treatment of Variola (smallpox). A favorite of the entire regiment, the passing of “Boulty” was mourned in letters home by his superior officer, C Company Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin.
On Friday, 22 October, the Schwenzer/Schwentzer brothers and their fellow bandsmen provided the music and drum cadences for their regiment’s performance during a dramatic Divisional Review displaying roughly 20 cannon and their artillerymen operators, a thousand cavalrymen on horseback, and 10,000 infantrymen “all in one big open field,” according to regimental historian Lewis Schmidt. Following the spectacle, which had been designed as a display of force and warning to Confederate States of America leaders and their troops, the Union forces disbursed and returned to their respective encampments.
Stationed once again at Camp Griffin in Virginia, Musician Henry Wharton revealed more details about life there for the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers via his letter of 17 November:
This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements [sic], clothing, knapsacks, etc., all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen [sic], of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle….
The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet [sic] duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Sam supplies us plentifully….
A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet [sic]; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets [sic]….
Since the success of the secret expedition, we have all kinds of rumors in camp. One is that our Brigade will be sent to the relief of Gen. Sherman, in South Carolina. The boys all desire it and the news in the ‘Press’ is correct, that a large force is to be sent there, I think their wish will be gratified….
On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review overseen by the regiment’s founder, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, founder and commanding officer of the 47th Pennsylvania. This pageantry as then followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.” As a reward—and in preparation for bigger things to come, Brannan obtained new Springfield rifles for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania.
In January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered to Annapolis, Maryland and then to the Deep South, a voyage which they made from 27 January to February 1862 via the steamer Oriental.
Upon arrival at Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida, they were assigned to strengthen the fortifications of the federal installation and protect civilians loyal to the Union who resided in and beyond the neighboring community.
During the weekend of Friday, 14 February, the Schwenzer/Schwentzer brothers and their fellow bandsmen introduced their presence to Key West residents as the Regimental Band led the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers in a parade through the streets of the city. That Sunday, many of the regiment’s soldiers attended to their spiritual needs by participating in services at local churches.
Members of the regimental band then took center stage, according to a letter penned by Henry Wharton on 27 February 1862, when the 47th Pennsylvania commemorated the birthday of former U.S. President George Washington with a parade, a special ceremony involving the reading of Washington’s farewell address to the nation and the firing of cannon at the fort, and a sack race and other games on 22 February. The festivities then continued two days later when the 47th Pennsylvania’s regimental band hosted an officers’ ball at which “all parties enjoyed themselves, for three o’clock of the morning sounded on their ears before any motion was made to move homewards.” This was then followed by a concert by the regimental band on Wednesday evening, 26 February.
During this phase of duty, soldiers from the regiment also felled trees, built new roads and helped to strengthen the fortifications at the federal installation while continuing to drill and hone their fighting skills. The 47th Pennsylvania’s Regimental Band also became a favorite with the various other Union military units stationed at the fort, as well as throughout the community, for the increasing number of outstanding concerts it performed while stationed in Key West.
From mid-June through July, the 47th Pennsylvanians were ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina and attached to the Beaufort District, Department of the South. Assigned duties, at times, were hazardous as men were sent out on picket assignments, risking injury or death from sniper fire.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., the bean counters were busy tallying up the costs of a war now entering its second year. Deeming regimental bands an unnecessary expense in light of those rising federal expenses, the U.S. Congress passed legislation on 17 July 1862 ordering that all such bands be promptly, but honorably mustered out. Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. War Department effected this change via General Order 91, issued on 29 July 1862. As the musicians of the Regimental Band of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry packed for their return home in early September 1862, the 47th’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Tilghman H. Good, expressed both disappointment and respect in a letter to the ensemble:
Headquarters 47th Regt. P.V.
Beaufort, S.C., Sept. 9, 1862
Gentlemen of the Band,
In accordance with an enactment of Congress and an order from the War Department, you have been regularly mustered out of the service of the United States, and are consequently detached from the regiment. I had vainly hoped when you were with us, united to do battle for our country, that we should remain together, to share the dangers and reap the same glory, until every vestige of the present wicked rebellion should be forever crushed, and we unitedly return again to our homes in peace, and receive of our fellow creatures the welcome plaudit, ‘well done’.
But fate has decreed otherwise, and you are about to bid ‘farewell’, and in taking leave of you, gentlemen, I beg leave to compliment you on your good deportment and manly bearings whilst connected with the regiment, and when you shall have departed from amongst us the sweet strains of music which emanated from you and so often swelled the breeze during dress parade, shall still ring in our ears.
Invoking heaven’s choicest gifts upon you collectively and individually, I bid you god speed on your homeward voyage and through all your future career. May your future course through life be as bright and happy as your past has been prosperous and safe.
I am, Gents,
Your obedient servant,
T. H. Good
Col. 47th Regt. Penna. Vols.
As a result, both Franz Schwentzer and Peter Schwenzer were discharged by General Order, and returned home to the Lehigh Valley area.
Resumption of Civilian Life
Following their return to the Lehigh Valley, the Schwenzer/Schwentzer brothers resumed their lives in Allentown, and began to expand their family trees. In September 1863, Peter Schwenzer and his wife greeted the arrival of a son—Martin P. (1863-1882)—followed soon after by the births of sons Joseph (1865-1941) and John (1867-1872), daughter Emma (1869-1953), and son William (1871-1872).
And Franz Schwentzer greeted the July 1863 arrival, with wife Anna, of daughter Lillie (1863-1928). Son Ferdinand (1867-1952) arrived in February 1867, followed by daughter Lena (1874-1952), who opened her eyes in Allentown for the first time in September 1874.
Sadly, Peter Schwenzer’s sons John and William did not survive childhood, passing away on 17 March and 27 August of 1872, respectively. They were laid to rest at Allentown’s Immaculate Conception Cemetery.
Meanwhile, Peter, who had moved his saloon business from its original Fourth and Hamilton location to the family’s home at 603 Front Street, continued to operate his bar until 1876 when, according to the 1907 edition of The Allentown Leader, he “started in the grocery business at the same place.” During this time, he and his wife also greeted the arrival of two more sons—Adam (1874-1967) and George Henry Schwenzer (1876-1947). A daughter, Florence, followed in April 1879. She would later come to be known as “Flora.”
* Note: The Schwenzer family surname was spelled by family patriarch Peter Schwenzer as “Schwenzer” on his U.S. Passport Application in 1900 and is spelled that same way on his gravestone; however, it was frequently spelled as “Schwentzer” on various census and military records (and in newspaper mentions of him throughout his life). His son, Adam, spelled his own surname as “Schwentzer” (as documented by his gravestone), as did Peter’s brother, Franz.
By the time of the June 1880 federal census, Franz Schwentzer was a laborer residing at his Liberty Street home with wife, Anna, a native of Kurhessen, Germany who had been born sometime around 1840, and their Pennsylvania-born children, Lillie (aged 17), Ferdinand (aged 13), Frank (aged 9; shown as “Francis” on other records), and Lena (aged 6). Residing nearby were his daughter, Anna (aged 20), and her husband, William H. Medland, a 34-year-old office clerk at a local rolling mill, and their children: George (aged 6), Alfred (aged 1), and Charles (born in May 1880).
Meanwhile, Peter Schwenzer continued to operate his corner grocery store while residing with his wife, Catharine, at their home at 603 Front Street in Allentown. Residing with them at this time were their children: Annie (aged 21), a dressmaker; Martin (aged 17); Joseph (aged 15); Emma (aged 11); Adam (aged 7); George (aged 5); and Florence (aged 1).
Sadly, just two years later, Peter’s son Martin was also gone, having passed away just four days into the New Year of 1882. Unlike his late brothers who were buried at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Cemetery, Martin was laid to rest at Allentown’s Fairview Cemetery.
A beloved member of his community as the 19th century began to ebb, Peter Schwenzer was honored with multiple celebrations throughout the latter part of his life. In 1893, The Allentown Leader noted that he was “Surprised on His Birthday”:
When Peter Schwentzer, the grocer, at 603 North Front Street, returned from church yesterday he found his house crowded with friends. They had gathered in honor of his sixty-fourth birthday. The assemblage enjoyed a fine dinner. Mr. Schwentzer received many presents. The guests included people from Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Mountainville and Allentown.
His brother, Franz, also continued to reside in Allentown, according to the 1890 U.S. Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War.
On 15 May 1895, Peter and Catharine Schwenzer’s son, Adam, wed Clara Schleicher, a daughter of John Schleicher, in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. The next year, on 30 April 1896, their 25-year-old daughter, Emma, a clerk in a local store, wed William J. Becker (1870-1904), a 26-year-old wire worker and son of Daniel Becker, in Allentown. They were united in marriage by Rev. G. F. Gardner.
Three years later, several former members of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and other veterans from the area banded together to help support soldiers returning from the Spanish-American War. Peter Schwenzer was appointed to serve on the group’s Finance Committee, according to The Allentown Leader’s 5 September 1898 edition, while his son, George Schwenzer, was assigned to the Refreshments Committee:
The Committee of Fifty appointed by Colonel Lehr to arrange a fitting reception for Companies B and D upon their return from the war met on Saturday evening in council chambers. Col. Lehr presided and George G. Blumer was made secretary. Col. Lehr stated the object of the meeting and then it was decided, in view of the possibility that some may be sick and all of them fatigued by their long journey, that they should be escorted to the armory and allowed to go to their homes, and that, at some later period, they should be formally received and entertained at a banquet, to be held at such time and place as the committee might see fit. The citizens of Allentown and surrounding country, as well as the different organizations, are invited to join in the proposed street demonstration. The citizens are requested to decorate the buildings. On motion the following resolutions were adopted, the chairman to appoint the committees at his convenience: ‘That a committee of 10, one from each ward, be appointed as a finance committee, the committee to be composed of gentlemen not members of the general committee; that a committee of five be appointed to ascertain the time of leaving New York and arrival in Allentown, to report the condition of the companies as to their health and report at once to the chairman of the committee; that a committee of five be appointed on music that a committee of 10, one from each ward, be appointed on banquet, time for holding same to be fixed in the future and committee appointed later; that a committee of five be appointed to procure fireworks, if the soldiers return in the evening; that a committee of five be appointed to provide carriages; that a committee of 10, one from each ward, be appointed to provide coffee and sandwiches for the members of the Fourth Regiment in case they pass through or stop off in Allentown; that a committee of five, the chairman as a member, be appointed to arrange route and formation of parade; that a committee of five be appointed to furnish quarters in case the Fourth Regiment should stop off at Allentown; that the chairman have power to appoint any other committee that he may deem necessary; that the Soldiers’ Families’ Relief Committee be appointed a special reception committee and be provided with carriages for the parade; that the members of the Soldiers’ Families’ Relief Committee be provided with badges.’ An invalid committee has since been appointed to take charge of the sick.
The following committees have been appointed by Chairman Lehr: Finance-Hon. Fred E. Lewis, Wilson Arbogast, E. M. Young, Colonel H. C. Trexler, L. H. Yeager, S. B. Anewalt, Peter Schwentzer, Frank W. Weil, Edwin Kinkaid, R. E. Wright, Thomas P. Wenner. Railroad and transportation Hon. H. W. Allison, J. Harry Lawfer, Dr. P. L. Reichard, Wesley Harper, L. L. Roney. Music Hon. W. H. Sowden, Captain L. P. Hecker, C. W. Laros, M. S. Weidner, Patrick Costello. Fireworks Hon. Edward Harvey, Louis Soleliac [sic], Captain H. C. Wagner, E. C. Shimer, Charles Gehringer. Carriages Hon. Jeremiah Roth, John F. Weiler, William Roth, Francis Daeufer, H. W. Hunsicker. Refreshments William J. Reichard, Capt. B. C. Roth, Nathan Haas, John T. Kramer, Edward Ruhe, C. C. Engleman, George Schwentzer, E. J. Lumley, Lewis Deifer, Charles W. Grossart. Parade Colonel S. D. Lehr, Major J. R. Roney, Captain James L. Schaadt, George G. Blumer, Arthur R. Bowen. Quarters Adjutant Arthur G. Dewalt, M. C. L. Kline, James M. Seagreaves, Harry Sheldon, Hon. M. N. Bernhard. Badges James F. Hunsicker, H. J. O’Neill, Hon. James Kimmett, Burgess Hoxworth. E. R. Wilson. Invalids Dr. Otto, J. R. Gopsler, Henry F. Cole, Daniel H. Gerhard, J. J. Egge and the Ladles’ Auxiliary of the Allentown Hospital Association.
The following citizens have been named as an honorary escort: Hon. Edwin Albright, Hon. Fred E. Lewis, R. E. Wright, James K. Mosser, Geo. O. Albright, Hon. C. J. Erdman, S. A. Butz, J. E. Durhan, John H. Birchall, R. P. Steckel, Rev. Dr. S. G. Wagner, Rev. Dr. J. A. Singmaster, John E. Lentz, Rev. M. H. Diefenderfer, W. F. Yeager, A. B. Ellsworth, William M. Douglass, D. W. Trexler. Captain George Roth, Lieutenant Frank Roth, Hon. William H. Alney. Hon. E. S. Shimer, Colonel H. C. Trexler, E. M. Young, John Taylor, E. H. Reninger, W. R. Kline, James B. Deshler, Rev. George C. Williams, Rev. G. W. Richards, A. S. Shimer, Maj. M. L. Kauffman, Rev. Thomas J. Hacker, C. M. W. Keck, W. H. Taylor, D. R. Malcolm, Henry Leh, Colonel J. H. Harris, George W. Seagreaves, Hon. Edward Harvey, George T. Ettinger, Hon. James S. Blery, Hon. Harry G. Stiles, A. P. Zellner, Dr. A. S. Rabenold, Dr. H. H. Herbst, W. J. Hartzell, W. A. Hausman, Charles H. Ruhe, Joseph Ruhe, Joe H. Hart, Thomas J. Fretz, Frank Qulnn, W. H. Gabriel, Milton Gabriel, C. J. Craig, Stephen Neumoyer, J. C. Nagle, Joseph Lieberman, J. F. P. Birkenstock, John Schwartz, Clarence H. Stiles, C. H. Schunn, William Hunsicker, A. F. Walter, Samuel Cole, Dr. C. D. Schaeffer, Rev. J. F. Pollock, Dr. F. J. Schlough, Dr. J. X. Christman, Elias Bittner, Charles H. Edwards, Bryan O’Neill, Christopher O’Neill, Dr. O. Fegley, Edwin Keller, Frank W. Koch, Dr. W. H. Hartzell, Dr. W. A. Hassler, Dr. H. A. Grim, Prof. F. D. Raub, Rev. Dr. T. L. Selp, John Lent.
As the century began to slip away, more changes were in the air—for the community and for the Schwenzer clan. As America’s Industrial Revolution continued to diversify the types of mills and other factories and businesses operating in the city, Allentown and the greater Lehigh Valley were transformed into an established hub for banking, finance and commerce. On 19 February 1897, Max Hess, a German immigrant, opened what would become one of the “go to” destinations for 20th century shoppers on the hunt for high quality goods—the Hess Department Store at Ninth and Hamilton Streets. The first of what would become a chain of 80 successful stores by the 1980s, the main Hess store became renowned for its mesmerizing window displays at Christmas and its dazzling flower and fashion shows, which attracted attendees from all over America. Performing that day at the store’s 1897 grand opening were members of the Allentown Band.
In the midst of this prosperity, Peter and Catharine Schwenzer’s daughter, Flora, wed Charles A. Hersh, a son of Benjamin and Agnes Hersh, in Allentown on 30 November 1899.
A New Century Dawns
Franz Schwentzer and his family greeted the arrival of the new century as residents of 144 Liberty Street in Allentown. Described as a “rustic worker,” he was engaged in crafting Fraktur-decorated items of furniture which would, nearly a century after his death, fetch princely sums at auction and come to be highly sought by collectors and decorators for their artistry and vision. Residing with him at this time were his daughters, Lillie and Lena, aged 33 and 26 respectively, and son Ferdinand, aged 32, who assisted his father with his furniture-making business. Daughter Lena was employed as a bookkeeper for a local photographer. Franz’s granddaughter, Isabella Medland, who had been born in Pennsylvania in November 1882, was also residing at his home at this time, and was employed as an apprentice dressmaker.
* Note: A son, Frank, was born in August 1872 to one of the Schwenzer-Schwentzer families. He was documented on the June 1900 and April 1940 U.S. Census rosters as a resident of the Lehigh County Almshouse, on the 1910 U.S. Census Roster for the State Hospital for the Insane at Norristown, Montgomery County, and on the 1930 U.S. Census Roster for the Allentown State Hospital for the Insane as an “Inmate.” Several of these census records also noted that Frank was unable to read or write throughout his life, signaling that his disability may have been developmental rather than mental illness-related.
Meanwhile, as the first year of the new century waned, retired yeoman Peter Schwenzer and his wife, Catharine, resided alone at their home at 603 Front Street (now in Allentown’s 6th Ward), but were by no means slowed down by the aging process, according to the 27 December 1900 and 28 December 1901 editions of The Allentown Leader:
CHRISTMAS PUTZES. SOME VERY PRETTY BOXES ON EXHIBITION IN ALLENTOWN. One of the prettiest Christmas putzes in the city can be seen at the home of Harry E. Frederick, No. 1017 Turner Street. It fills nearly half the parlor. The background consists of a handsomely decorated Christmas tree flanked by a pretty mountain scene. In the foreground is a beautiful farm encircled by a railroad, on which a train of cars runs. Then there is a fountain, in the basin of which a number of small live fishes disport. To the left of the farm is an oil well in operation. The putz is a very ingenious piece of work and is much admired. Another handsome putz is on exhibition at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Kramer, 209 Plum Street. The features include a mountain scene, bicycle riders, merry-go-round and fountain. The Schwentzer home at 603 Front Street is the scene of another beautiful putz, which embraces a handsome Christmas tree, water wheel and wind mill in motion, electric lights, trolley cars in operation and the city of Jerusalem lighted by electricity. The putz was made by the Schwentzer brothers and their brother-in-law, Wm. J. Becker.
A FINE PUTZ. Schwenzer & Becker, the grocers at 603 Front Street, have a beautiful Christmas putz in a back room of their store. It is unusually elaborate and contains something unique in the shape of a village street. There are about 30 well-built houses, together with a Town Hall. Every house is lighted by incandescent lights. A real electric car runs through the street and up and down the hill, the entire putz being wired. The street is also lighted. The room is kept dark and the effect is very fine.
During their long marriage, Peter and Catharine Schwenzer had brought 12 children into the world—nine of whom still survived, including daughters Kate (Schwenzer) Lippert and Flora (Schwenzer) Hersh, who traveled with their parents to Europe during the opening years of the 1900s. In 1900, Peter Schwenzer’s U.S. Passport Application noted that he was a 70-year-old, 5’ 6” tall man with brown gray hair, brown gray eyes, a light complexion, a full face with a full nose, and a forehead, mouth and chin all described as “medium.” Per the 25 September 1900 edition of The Allentown Leader:
Mrs. F B. Hersh and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Schwentzer and Mrs. Kate Lippert, who sailed for Europe on July 25, sailed for home on Sept. 22, and are due in New York October 4.
That same newspaper’s 11 November 1907 edition also reported that, in 1904, Peter Schwenzer had taken “a trip to the Fatherland, in company with his wife, spending six months in Europe, and visiting the Paris Exposition. In 1905, the couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.”
* Note: That same year (1905), he had also performed his civic duty by serving on the Grand Jury, according to November editions of local newspapers. A year earlier (1904), he and his wife had also celebrated the marriage of their son George H. Schwenzer, a 27-year-old grocer, to Katie E. Heffner, a 30-year-old dressmaker from Mertztown, Pennsylvania in Allentown on 16 August 1904. They were united in marriage by Rev. G. F. Gardner.
On 20 February 1907, Peter Schwenzer received a renewal to his U.S. Civil War Pension at the rate of $20 per month. His original pension had been awarded in 1890. Before the year was out, family, friends and colleagues were joining together to help Peter Schwenzer celebrate his 78th birthday—an event covered by The Allentown Leader in its 11 November 1907 edition:
Peter Schwentzer, one of the best-known residents of the Sixth Ward, was surprised Saturday evening in honor of his 78th birthday anniversary. The party comprised his 12 children, 17 grandchildren, four great grandchildren and some friends. Among the many beautiful presents was a bouquet of 78 American Beauty roses. A native of Bavaria, Mr. Schwentzer came here at the age of 18 and cast his first vote for Buchanan. He has never missed an election and has always voted the Democratic ticket. He enlisted in the Civil War as a member of the 47th Regiment Band, of which he is the only survivor. He is a member of Yeager Post. Before the war he conducted a saloon at Fourth and Hamilton and on his return launched into the saloon business at 603 Front Street, where he still resides. He continued in this business until 1876, when he started in the grocery business at the same place, where he remained 20 years, when he retired, and his son Joseph took up the business. In 1904 he took a trip to the Fatherland, in company with his wife, spending six months in Europe, and visiting the Paris Exposition. In 1905, the couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Mr. Schwentzer has never had use for a doctor and looks to be good for 100 years.
By 1908, newspapers were reporting that he was one of the last six surviving members of the original Allentown Band:
ORIGINAL ALLENTOWN BAND. Only Six Survivors of the City’s First Musical Organization. In the booklet, recently issued by Martin Klingler, director of the Allentown Band, some of the early history of this now widely known musical organization is told. The band was organized in 1853 by the late Amos Ettinger, father of Dr. George T. Ettinger, of Muhlenberg College, and Professor Alfred H. Ettinger was also its first leader, Anthony Heineke being the first teacher. Of the twenty-five original members, only six survive. They are Edward Ruhe, Henry E. Ruhe, former Alderman George Fry, Frank Weiss and Walter Miller and Peter Schwentzer. The band was composed of the following members: Amos Ettinger, leader and organized; Edward Ruhe, Henry E. Ruhe, Joseph Weiss, Colonel T. H. Good, Allen Barber, Frederick Wolf, Wm. Ettinger, Peter Schwentzer, Abraham Gangewere, George Fry, John Able, Israel Yingling, James Sieger, Carlos Samson, James Rees, Peter Schiffert Wenner, Frank Weiss, Theodore Yeager, Walter Miller, Horatio Kramer, Allen Newhard, Jonathan Desch, Henry Breinig and Anthony Heineke, teacher or instructor.
Deaths and Final Resting Places
Sadly, the newspaper’s prophecy that the elder of the Schwenzer-Schwentzer brothers would live to be 100 was much too hopeful. Peter Schwenzer passed away on 28 May 1909, and was laid to rest at Allentown’s Fairview Cemetery.
The Allentown Democrat reported his passing in its 29 May 1909 edition as follows:
SUNDAY Peter Schwenzer. The Sixth Ward lost one of its oldest and most prominent residents this morning, when Peter Schwenzer passed away at his home, 603 Front Street, aged 79 years, 6 months and 19 days. The deceased had been in good health until March 4, when he was taken ill with stomach trouble. He was given the best medical attention, but obtained no relief and the end came shortly after 7 o’clock to-day. He was a patient sufferer. Mr. Schwenzer was born Nov, 9, 1829, at Thulba, Bayern, Germany, and his parents were Nicholas and Regina (Huffnagel) Schwenzer. He spent his boyhood days in Germany and sailed for America April 20, 1853. He arrived in Allentown, July 2, 1853, and lived here ever since. Oct. 14, 1855, he was united in marriage with Anna C. Herman and the union was blessed with 12 children, three of whom Martin, John and William preceded their father in death. The couple celebrated their golden wedding anniversary three years ago. He is survived by his wife and these children: Anna E., wife of Henry Seebold: Mrs. A. Kate Lippert; Mrs. Emma M. Becker; Florence, wife of Charles W. Hersh; Henry, Joseph, Adam and George Schwenzer, all of Allentown, and Frank Schwenzer of New York. There are also 18 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren and one brother, Franz Schwenzer of Allentown. Mr. Schwenzer was one of the leading musicians of Allentown in his time. He was the organizer of the old Allentown Band and the Citizens’ Band, of which Amos Ettinger was leader. At the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted with Coates’ Band of Easton. In 1870 the deceased engaged in the saloon business in the Sixth Ward, which he continued until 1876 when he opened a grocery store. He was very successful and retired from active business pursuits in 1896. Mr. Schwenzer assisted in building the Lehigh Valley Railroad in the early fifties and was a passenger on the first passenger train that passed through Allentown. He took a great interest in public matters and served several terms in City Councils. He was a member of Yeager Post No. 13, G.A.R. The funeral services will be held at his late home on Tuesday afternoon, Revs. C. F. Althouse and W. A. Lambert officiating. Interment will be made in Fairview Cemetery.
The 2 June 1909 edition of The Allentown Leader then ran this thank you notice from the Schwenzer family:
THEY ARE GRATEFUL. The family of the late Peter Schwenzer thanks Yeager Post No. 13, G.A.R., firing squad of Co. E, Second Regiment, S. V. R., Allentown Band and neighbors and friends for their many kindnesses during their bereavement.
The Allentown Democrat then reported on the June 1909 resolution of his estate, noting:
Will Probated. Under the will of Peter Schwentzer, which was probated yesterday by Register of Wills J. Herbert Kohler, the entire estate goes to the widow. After her death it is to go in nine equal shares to Henry, Joseph, George and Adam Schwentzer, Mrs. Anna Seebold, Mrs. Anna M. Becker, Mrs. Flora L. Hersh, Mrs. Lippert and one share to the Lehigh Valley Trust & Safe Deposit Co. in trust for his son Frank. The will appoints the widow, Catharine Schwentzer, and the sons Henry, Joseph, George and Adam as executors. The will was made May 6, 1902.
Peter Schwentzer’s widow, Catharine, followed him in death eight years later. Passing away on 20 March 1917, according to The Allentown Leader, she was then interred next to her husband at Allentown’s Fairview Cemetery:
Mrs. Catherine Schwentzer. Catherine Anna, nee Herman, widow of Peter Schwentzer, died at 2 o’clock a.m. Tuesday at her home, 603 Front St. Her age was 81 years, 7 months.
A year later, Peter Schwenzer’s brother, Franz, also followed him in death, passing away on 24 May 1918. The next day, The Allentown Democrat reported his passing as follows:
DEATH OF AN ORGANIZER OF THE ALLENTOWN BAND In Later Years Franz Schwentzer Became Widely Known for His Rustic Furniture. Franz Schwenzer, veteran of the Civil War, one of the oldest residents of the city, widely known over many states in the east as an artistic designer of rustic furniture and one of the very few remaining original members of the Allentown Band, died at his home, 114 Liberty St., at 9:15 o’clock last night, aged 83 years, 3 months and 12 days [due to] a heavy cold contracted early in fall which was aggravated four weeks ago by another, the latter causing a congestion of the lungs caused his death. At the age of nineteen years Mr. Schwenzer came to this country from Bavaria, Germany, where he was born a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Schwenzer. On his arrival in America, he immediately [moved] to this city where he located with the friends of his parents. Remaining here a short time he began roaming the country, following his vocation of stone mason. Tiring of this life he returned to this city where until thirty-five years ago he worked at masonry and then took up the manufacture of prettily designed rustic furniture work. During this time he and his son Ferdinand Schwenzer became known throughout nearly all the eastern states, their work having attracted the attention of some of the largest furniture houses in the east and from whom the father and son had more work than they were capable of handling. Annually in the fall of the year they were to be found on the Lehigh [mountain] or along the river where they gathered to wood from which they later [made] oddly designed chairs … benches and other pieces of furniture. Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, Mr. Schwenzer, first becoming a member of the Easton band which was connected with the 47th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. (After fifteen months of active service Mr. Schwenzer was honorably discharged. Later he was instrumental in the organization of the Allentown band. He is survived by these children, Mrs. W. H. Medland [Anna Schwentzer, who became Mrs. William H. Medland], Chicago, Mrs. T. T. Lenhart [Lena Schwentzer, who became Mrs. Thomas T. Lenhart], Northampton, Lillie and Ferdinand at home. Four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren also survive. The funeral arrangements will be announced later.
* Note: News reporter Bill Gernerd documented the auction of one of Franz Schwentzer’s creations, noting the following for The Morning Call’s 8 September 1986 edition:
Collectors of antiques and antique fire equipment will turn their attention to two special auctions in the Allentown-Bethlehem area within the next two weeks.
One auction features a shelf with an unusual, signed, hand-carved shelf backplate from the late 1800s….
The first auction will be staged Monday evening by Hamilton Auctions at the Holiday Inn East.
There, the 8-foot 10-inch shelf, carved by Franz Schwenzer when he arrived in Allentown from Germany, will go on the auction block.
The shelf was made by Schwenzer as an exact fit for a living room wall in his Liberty Street residence, which had been continuously occupied by his family until now.
Arnold Finkel of Hamilton Auctions said the shelf is being sold as part of the liquidation of the family estate.
The ornate backplate includes a number of scenes, including a shepherd with his flock, a hunting scene, the interior of a beer hall and one of a woman brandishing a stick as she chases her husband home, presumably from the beer hall.
The Schwenzer family’s sense of humor is shown in another piece, an extraordinary family photograph entitled, ‘Women’s Rights on Washing Day, 1907.’
Schwenzer is shown as the man hanging the laundry on a clothesline as his son scrubs the clothing in a tub.
The concept of the photograph, apparently anticipating the modern women’s rights movement by a half-century, shows the women of the family at their leisure, playing a violin and reading Motor Magazine, while the men do the chores.
Two twig chairs, one of them appearing in the photograph, will be auctioned at the 6 p.m. sale, which also will offer a collection of fine cut glass from a retiring Bethlehem collector….
Photographs illustrating Franz Schwentzer’s artistry are available in the Spring 2003 edition of Folk Art (see Collection of Carvings by 19th Century Folk Carver Franz Schwenzer on p. 21 of the publication, images 22-23/84 of the online photo spread at the top of the article).
2. Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, vol. 1. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.
3. “Christmas Putzes and A Fine Putz.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 27 December 1900 and 28 December 1901.
4. Civil War Muster Rolls, in Records of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs (Record Group 19, Series 19.11). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1861-1862.
5. “Collection of Carvings by 19th Century Folk Carver Franz Schwenzer,” in Folk Art, Spring 2003. New York, New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2003.
6. “Death of an Organizer of the Allentown Band” (Franz Schwentzer’s obituary). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 25 May 1918.
7. Gernerd, Bill. “Auctions to Feature Antique Fire Gear, Carving” (auction of furniture hand-made by Franz Schwenzer). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Morning Call, 8 September 1986.
8. “Meeting of the Committee of Fifty: Colonel Lehr Appoints Committees Which Are to Meet This Evening: All of the Fourth Regiment to be Taken Care of If It Stops Off at Allentown.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 5 September 1898.
9. Obituary (Catherine Schwentzer). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 21 March 1917.
10. “Original Allentown Band: Only Six Survivors of the City’s First Musical Organization.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 18 April 1908.
11. “Party for Peter Schwentzer: Surprised in Honor of 78th Birthday Anniversary.” Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 11 November 1907.
12. Roberts, Charles Rhoads. “History of the Allentown Band,” in Proceedings of the Lehigh County Historical Society. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Lehigh County Historical Society, 1936.
13. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Self-published, 1986.
14. Schwentzer, Adam, in United States Social Security Death Index. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Social Security Administration, September 1967.
15. Schwenzer, Adam, in World War I Draft Registration Cards. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1917-1918.
16. Schwenzer, Adam, Clara Schleicher, John Schleicher, and Peter and Catharine Schwenzer, in Marriage License Docket. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans Court, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 1895.
17. Schwenzer, Emma M., W. J. Becker, Daniel Becker, Peter Schwenzer, in Marriage License Docket. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans Court, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 1896.
18. Schwenzer, Flora, Charles W. Hersh, Benjamin F. and Agnes Hersh, and Peter and Catharine Schwenzer, in Marriage License Docket. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans Court, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 1899.
19. Schwenzer, George H., Katie E. Heffner, and Peter and Catharine Schwenzer, in Marriage License Docket. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans Court, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 1904.
20. Schwenzer, George H., Kathryn A. Rattler, William Rattler, Emma Steitz, and Peter and Catharine Schwenzer, in Marriage License Docket. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Clerk of the Orphans Court, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 1920.
21. Schwentzer, Henry and Schwentzer, Peter, in Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State Archives, 1861-1862.
22. Schwenzer, Peter and Katarina Schwenzer and Katarina Lippert, in U.S. Passport Applications (vol. 925 July 20-31, 1900; NARA Series M1372, Roll 561). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1900.
23. Schwenzer, Peter and Schwenzer, Franz, in Pension Payment Cards. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Veterans Administration, 1907 and 1918.
24. Snyder, Laurie. “Professor Thomas Coates, Regimental Band Leader, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers,” in 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story, retrieved online 1 September 2016.
25. Swentzer, Franz (Musician Third Class, Company F&S, 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry, Union; NARA microfilm publication M554). Washington D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
26. “Surprised on His Birthday” (Peter Schwentzer’s 64th birthday party). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 13 November 1893.
27. “They Are Grateful” (thank you notice from the Schwenzer family to the Allentown community). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Leader, 2 June 1909.
28. U.S. Census (1860, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940) and U.S. Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War (1890). Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
29. “Will Probated” (death and estate resolution of Peter Schwenzer). Allentown, Pennsylvania: The Allentown Democrat, 16 June 1909.