John George Waltz was born on January 26, 1864, along with his twin sister, Mary Margaret. John was the son of Michael J. Waltz and Elizabeth Eichenlaub. John was baptized on February 4, 1864 at St. Augustine Church, St. Augustine, PA. His godparents were SM Douglass and Angela Wagner (Proxy for Maria M.). The officiating priest was Fr. John Burns.
John grew up on the Waltz family farm located in Chest Springs, Cambria County, along with his seven brothers and sisters.
Here is a photo of 6-year-old John George, taken ca 1870:
John followed in his father's footsteps and became a carpenter. He also worked in the car shops in Altoona, PA. I recently received a picture of men who worked in the Altoona Car Shops. On the back in very old handwriting it says: "Taken In The Year 1882 At 9th Ave. and 8th St., Altoona, Penna. These men are car builders for P.R.R." 18-year-old John George Waltz is in the back row--the 3rd from the left. John's father, Michael J. Waltz is also in this photo--the 6th from the left in the back row. Michael would have been 46 years old when this photo was taken. No other men were identified on the back of this photo.
Here are enlargements of Michael J. & John George:
When he was 22 years old, John married Margaret Ann McGovern on September 14, 1886 at St. Bartholomew's Church in Wilmore, PA. Margaret was the daughter of John McGovern and Catharine Moore, born on May 13, 1863 in Wilmore, Cambria County, PA. It is possible that John and Margaret met because of their families' involvement in the Civil War. John's uncle (Jacob Waltz), and Margaret's father (John McGovern) both served during the war with Palmer's Independent Silver Grays, stationed at Camp Curtin.
St. Bartholomew Church, Wilmore, PA
John and Margaret had 7 children:
This family lived in Wilmore, at least for a while. I found John Waltz living on Crooked Street in Wilmore, directly across the street from his in-laws, the McGoverns. This location is very near St. Bartholomew's Church. (from the 1890 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Cambria County) These maps are landowner maps, so John must have owned property at this time.
By the time that "Mert" was born, in May of 1890 they were living at 205 Willow Avenue in the 7th Ward of Altoona, and John was working as a carpenter. (this house was eventually torn down in the late 1990's due to poor condition). I found out from the 1890 Clark's Directory of the City of Altoona that the family was just boarding at this home. It was actually owned by John G.'s uncle, Michael Augustin Eichenlaub (his mother's brother). Michael was also Mert's godfather, and I'm sure that Mert was given the middle name of Augustin in his honor.
Four years later when Earl was born in 1894, they were living at 225 Howard Avenue. (this home was eventually torn down when they built the new hospital in Altoona). At this time, they attended St. John's Church in Altoona, PA.
On various documents over the years, John listed his occupation as carpenter, laborer, and "car builder." By car builder, he most likely meant that he worked as a carpenter in the Pennsylvania Railroad Altoona Car Shops (see photo of John and his father above). The car shops were a complex of RR shops parallel to Chestnut Avenue from roughly Seventh Street to First Street. Construction in this area began in the 1860's. At their peak, these shops totaled a floor area of 368,680 sq. ft. Today, you can still view several of these buildings as well as the Conrail operations.
Sometime before 1900, the family moved to Cresson, where John was the foreman of carpenters for the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke company.
I have a record of this family in the 1900 census:
Sometime early in 1904, the family moved back to Wilmore because the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company that John worked for purchased the Doran farm near Wilmore. John was transferred as the superintendent of the building operation to construct 40 houses for miners who were going to be employed in the new mine. Construction was to begin as soon as the weather permitted in the spring. I found notice of this move in the Cambria Freeman, Feb. 12, 1904.
Sadly, in that very same newspaper issue was an obituary notice for John and Maggie's oldest child, Clare Mary:
Maybe the death of their daughter was the beginning of their marital problems. I'm not entirely sure, but I did find a posting in the Altoona Mirror from 1905 concerning a court case:
From this entry, it is impossible for me to figure out what this was all about. At first, I thought that perhaps this was Maggie seeking support from John for herself and her children after John deserted them. But, as I found him listed with her in the 1910 census, I'm not so sure that is the case. I searched though following issues of the Altoona Mirror for more information about this case, but have not been able to find any other entries.
I have a 1906-07 city directory listing for John G. In this time frame, he was living at the corner of Park Place and 1st Street in Juniata, and his occupation was listed as "foreman". This was within walking distance of the Pennsylvania Railroad Car Shops, so he was most likely working there at this time. He did not own this residence--he was boarding --I'm not sure yet if it was a hotel or a house. Since I've located his family from the census living in Cresson from at least 1900 through 1910, I'm assuming that it was just John G. who was boarding at this place, and that his family was still back in Cresson.
1910 census, Cambria County:
Family stories say that John sometimes needed to travel out of town to find work, mostly building "company houses" for the railroad and coal mines. On one such trip sometime after 1910, John never returned home to his family. He deserted Margaret and their children and started another family, although he was never legally divorced. I have been unable to determine the name of his second wife or where they lived, but have heard several different rumors, including such places as Greensburg, PA; Washington, DC; Warren, OH, and some unknown place in the eastern part of the state. To date, I have been unable to locate John George and his second family.
Regardless of where John really went or who he ended up living with, he left his first family in bad financial condition. Young Mert had to become the breadwinner of the family.
Family stories had said that Mert was only 12 years old when his father deserted them, which would have been 1902--and as you can see above, he was listed as living with Margaret and children up to the 1910 census. Additionally, a cemetery plot was purchased in John's name on May 13, 1913 at St. Bartholomew's Cemetery. This is obviously after the date that I was told John deserted his family. I am hoping that I will soon be able to prove exactly when John G. left the family.
I am very curious about this black sheep in my family (he was my great grandfather), but unfortunately I do not have any photographs of John G., or of Margaret from the period that she was with him. If anyone reading this has any information, photos, or documents concerning this man, I would be most grateful if you would contact me through the "e-mail me" link on the navigation bar.
Here are a few photos that I do have of this family:
Mamertus Augustin Waltz - 1890
Left: Mert with an unknown friend in June of 1911 (although the name was not marked on the photo, I believe this was Earl Dilly, who came to Pittsburgh with Mert). Right: Mert, 1912
Catherine Waltz (in front)
Mert eventually moved to Pittsburgh to find work. After he was established, he moved his family to live with him. Mert was very bitter about his father's desertion and refused to speak of him. He told his own children that their grandfather was dead (before he actually was), and they therefore never even met him. This is the reason that no one in my family had any information on our ancestors--since the family was shut-off from John G., they were also shut off from their early Waltz aunts, uncles, and great grandparents.
Margaret Waltz - 1945
Earl Waltz died in May of 1913 from injuries related to a fall from a roof. He is buried in the family plot at St. Bartholomew's Cemetery in Wilmore, PA. Family recollections are that Earl fell off a roof sometime around 1910 and died. I believe this date to be incorrect, even though it is listed on the tombstone, for three reasons. First, this date was placed on the tombstone a long time after Earl died (actually done by Mert and Catherine's children after Catherine died), and the exact date was not remembered, so they just guessed. Second, I have in my possession an old book, Robinson Crusoe, which belonged to Earl when he was young. It is signed by Earl and dated August 1911. And finally, John G. & Maggie purchased a cemetery plot on May 13, 1913 and I believe that this was actually for Earl Aloysius, so I believe that he died shortly before May 13, 1913.
Here is a picture of Margaret McGovern Waltz on her last birthday, in May of 1950.
Although I have not been able to verify it, I have found from a new-found Waltz "cousin" that John G. died on December 8, 1938. I have no idea of where he was living at that time, and have been unable to locate him in either the 1920 or 1930 census. (This date was written in a family bible that she had access to--see Waltz documents. This is the same document that supplies the names of the twin boys who were born and died sometime before 1900, as I could not find them listed anywhere else.)
Margaret died on May 2, 1951 and is buried next to her son Earl in St. Bartholomew's Cemetery. (see "Waltz Documents" for copy of her funeral card) Mert and Catherine Waltz are also buried in this cemetery lot.
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