This is really, really long and seemingly idiotic at times, but the payoff is huge at the end. So get comfortable. I stumbled upon some fascinatingly interesting family history in November of 2006. The first part of this has absolutely nothing to do with the rest, other than the ridiculous chain of events, but it's funny to me how I got there so I thought I'd relay that part of the story as well. Perhaps it makes the reward even that more valuable. Perhaps not. Let's begin.
I was cruising around on the internet one night on MySpace.com - which, among many other things, has a million different bands with their own "profiles" (essentially a mini-website within the realm of the MySpace.com kingdom of webpages, if you don't know what MySpace is). You can see tourdates, listen to songs, leave comments & more, on bands' MySpace pages. I'm a music junkie, so I "subscribe" to lots of band mailing lists and am constantly looking for new music to discover, etc. I also follow a lot of local Philadelphia area bands. I was checking up on a great band from the area called Brave The Day, who've been at different times based out of Philly and/or Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania in the middle of the state and about 2 hours from here. Brave The Day is fronted by an amazing singer named Rebecca. She's got serious pipes. She's also very interesting - she'll go off on strange tangents and is not afraid to speak her mind on just about anything. She has her own MySpace page. After listening to some new demos from the band and getting caught up on their touring schedule, I went over to her page to see what crazy things she might have written lately. (For instance, under her list of favorite movies on her page, she says "Oh, and porno. I prefer girl on girl." That's definitely interesting). While there, I noticed something I hadn't seen before. You have the option of listing a series of personal things about yourself on your profile if you want to - dating status, occupation, zodiac, etc. She had listed her "hometown" as Oberlin. No state. I thought... is she from Ohio? (Oberlin College in Ohio is the only Oberlin town I was aware of). Hmmmmm. I didn't think much else about it. A short time later I clicked on a "friend" of hers on her profile (a MySpace page lists some of your "friends" with links to their respective profiles) - which I thought was one of the guys in the band, though it turned out not to be - but anyway, this guy also had his hometown listed as Oberlin, but it said Oberlin, PA. There's an Oberlin town in Pennsylvania? Where, I wondered?
Turns out it's right next to Harrisburg (south side metropolitan area). I had no idea. It's not that big (~2,800 people), and not really a town itself. Apparently it's connected with two other "communities" as part of the township of Swatara within Dauphin County (it's called Bressler-Enhaut-Oberlin by some; Yahoo! Maps and some other sites call it Oberlin Gardens). Another describes it as a "small crossroads town". It was difficult to find much on the town or its history. When searching for more Oberlin, PA info I found a section of Oberlin College's website that discusses the various towns in the US named Oberlin. There is an Oberlin in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Oklahoma and North Carolina. The website claims the two in Ohio and PA were named directly after John Frederick Oberlin, whom Oberlin College was also named after - and the rest of the towns were later named after the college/town, and not the guy himself (directly). All of the others were actually named by people who were originally from Oberlin, OH or went to the college. Interestingly enough, the original Oberlin town in Ohio (and the college) were named after this guy John Frederick Oberlin on reputation - not by him or even with his knowledge or approval. He was German and lived in France, and never even ventured to America. I quote, sort of, from another part of Oberlin College's website, concerning the history of the town's founders:
"The town and college of Oberlin began as ideas in the minds of two ministers, John Jay Shipherd and his student, Philo P. Stewart. In 1832, they believed new towns and cities in the "west" were being settled by greedy, ignorant people who did not follow God's commandment to love their neighbors. They agreed to found a community of church-centered families who would live simply and according to God's commandments. This community would support a school, to be built for them, that would train preachers and teachers for work in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. Shipherd and Stewart decided on a name for both the colony and school after they had just finished reading a new book about John Frederick Oberlin, a minister in a little area called Alsace, then part of eastern France. Much of what Pastor Oberlin did for his village and village school was what Shipherd and Stewart wanted done in their new settlement on the frontier. They were so impressed by this kind and good minister, that the name "Oberlin" seemed just right."
Apparently, they like bicycles, too.
Right on. So, it was just these two dudes co-opting his name - they were so in awe of him they picked him as their town's namesake. Sweet! However, I couldn't find any info on how the Oberlin town in Pennsylvania came to be named directly after John Frederick Oberlin, as the college website said. Moving on.
Then I went looking for more info on this guy John Frederick. Now, I own a lot of Oberlin College merchandise. A couple t-shirts, a mug, a license plate frame... sort of out of irony, but also just because I like to represent the family name. And Oberlin College has a rather well-reputed Conservatory of Music at their school. Cool. I've never been there, though. I always thought it would be great if it turned out I was actually related to the person the college was named after. In fact, I often joke with people when I wear the T-shirt and they ask me about it, that my great, great uncle co-founded the college (though I never knew how it got its name until now). They always look at me with sincere interest and say "really?" - and then I say "no, I just bought the shirt". Always good for a chuckle. OK, so now at least I do know that we aren't related to the guys who founded the college - especially since John Frederick didn't even know it was being named for him. But then I stumbled upon a website with some more information on our boy Johnny Fred. His given name was Johann Friedrich Oberlin. He was a German Lutheran clergyman and philanthropist who established a ministry in Alsace, a historic region of northeastern France. The second son of Johann Georg Oberlin and Marie-Madeleine Feltz, he was born in Strasbourg, France on August 31, 1740 and educated at Strasbourg University. In 1767 he became pastor at Ban-de-la-Roche where he spent the rest of his long life in labor for the material and spiritual improvement of his impoverished parishioners. He practiced medicine, founded a savings and loan bank, introduced cotton milling, helped the people build better roads, and brought in modern agricultural methods. Orphan asylums established by "Papa Oberlin" were the beginning of the many "Oberlinvereine" for the protection of children. He was a man of rare spirituality, being frequently styled "a saint of the Protestant Church." In 1819, he was appointed "Knight of the Ehrenlegion" by King Ludwig XVIII. Johann Friedrich died June 1, 1826.
This website was, oddly enough, www.oberlins.com - created and ran by a guy from Fishers, Indiana named Steve Oberlin. It's a geneology website. I've been on other "family tree" sites before (though I never saw one strictly devoted to Oberlins) and whenever I looked for family members I might be able to recognize by name, I always came up blank. It's been some time since I tried looking for ancestors online, though. I decided to check this one out, but I wasn't expecting much. I clicked on "Oberlins geneology". That took me to a page with an alphabetical list of 770+ family groups, listed by surname, with a total of 2,300 individuals. The sheer number of last names shocked me at first. The Oberlin name in my experience was not a superbly popular name; there aren't a whole lot of us around. Indeed, I was the only one listed in the Philadelphia phone book when I lived in the city. This page had a list of 770 OTHER names that all fed off of the Oberlin family tree - seemingly well-researched, and extensively so. But which Oberlin family? It didn't even occur to me to click on an "Oberlin" link on that page (since it was an Oberlin website, I thought these were just all the other names that were related to Oberlins), and it was way down the page anyway (didn't see it right away) so inititally I thought I'd try to find a name from our family that might be connected... I looked for maiden names... and found Beerbower (which I know from the small amount of family history we have documented). Clicked it. And there's Great Grandma Mabel! Married to Granville Oberlin! Children - Keith and Clyde! Hey, that's us! Holy crap! There was a link attached to Granville Oberlin. I hit it. That took me back to Levi C. Oberlin, his father. And Levi's link went back to Abraham Oberlin, his father... and so on, as I clicked on father links all the way straight back & directly to a guy named John Martin Oberlin from Germany. Thus, he was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. How awesome is that!
Now, there's no information listed about my Grandpa Clyde being married or having children - so neither my Grandma nor my dad are on the page. For hundreds of the individual records on the website, they are listed as a name only, with details "UNKNOWN". Some say "private", which confused me - I eventually found out from the webmaster that this was how he listed family members who were still alive. Grandpa's said "private", so I offered to fill in the blanks for our family members to Steve and he welcomed our information. The "complete" records include date of birth, marriage, death, and locations for all three. All known children are also listed with the same, and some have notes with extra information (i.e. known military service).
Here's the short version of our history (of course, all of this info is according to this website, but it lists substantial research). John Martin Oberlin (born 1689 in Germany) and his two sons, John Michael and John Adam, left Liedolsheim, Germany (in the state of Baden, which is in the SW corner of Germany near the Rhine river and close to the French border; Karl Benz, the car guy, is from Baden) - and emmigrated to America sometime in the 1720s, prior to 1726. The sons were both only around 10-11 years old at the time. John Martin died in America around 1740. No information is given on his spouse. They came to the States through the port of PHILADELPHIA (yeah!!) and settled in Lancaster County, PA. [A 3rd son (another John Martin) and a daughter Maria are also listed but not much goes beyond their lineage and it is not stated explicitly that they made the initial trip, but both were eventually married in Pennsylvania.] Lancaster County is maybe 70 miles outside of Philadelphia. If Lancaster sounds familiar, it's because that's a very populous spot today for Pennsylvania "Dutch" (which are actually mostly German, or Deitsch). These people of various religious affiliations, most of whom were Lutheran or Reformed or of Anabaptist (Amish/Mennonite) origins, probably came to Pennsylvania because of William Penn's offer of freedom of religion. There's an amusement park called Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster. Lancaster County was also the location of that Amish school shooting that happened in 2006.
It's pretty crazy to me that from all I knew of my family history before now, we were all from Ohio - and very western Ohio at that. I absolutely love Philadephia, and feel very much like I belong here, almost spiritually (well, not really). And to now know that I have very concrete roots in this area is really kind of a mind-bender. It's like there was a reason I moved here. Freaks me out a little. Alright, onward.
There's no concrete information on the religious background of John Martin Oberlin or his sons. However, several generations later, a one Lemuel Oberlin (1872-1960) would recall in a letter to his family just prior to his death in 1960, that his grandfather Abraham (1812-1882, John Michael Oberlin's great grandson, also my great-great-great grandpa) was "an Amishman who wore a flat hat". His grandmother Mary, however, was Scotch-Irish. Lemuel stated that after a few generations in the States (around the 1830s), the children of the family began to marry outside of their sects - sometimes with disdain from the family elders - and that's how his grandparents got together. Lemuel said that his grandparents were ostracized but given a share of the communal property in money, and emmigrated to Ohio, settling in Stark County (near Akron) which in later years was incorporated into Summit County. (Several Oberlins who lived in Stark County had interesting biographies published around 1900.) And that's how we got into Ohio!
Abraham and his wife Mary had two children while still in Pennsylvania but by the time their third child was born they were in Ohio, according to birth records. Their sixth child (of ten!) was Levi C. Oberlin, Granville's father. [Lemuel Oberlin's father was John J. Oberlin, brother of Levi C. Oberlin (Granville's dad). So, Lemuel was Granville's cousin.]
Backtracking a little to the beginning, we all hail from John Michael Oberlin (1717-1788, one of the original two sons to emmigrate from Germany with their father John Martin), who settled in New Holland, PA in Lancaster County where he had 8 children with Chistina Barbara Zwecker (who was born in and whose family also originates in Baden, Germany). Their 5th child was John Jacob Oberlin, (1751-1821), who married Anna Margaret Harter in 1786 in Lancaster County. They had 7 children, the first being named Andrew (1787-1855). Andrew married Susanna Swigart in Lancaster County and had 4 children there, the first being Abraham (1812-1882) - the same Abraham from the previous story about the "Amishman who wore a flat hat", the guy who married Mary Stewart of Scotch-Irish descent and whom was at the top of the previous paragraph. It was Abraham and Mary who moved their family to Ohio (Manchester, now in Summit County, in Northeast Ohio just south of Akron) after the birth of their 2nd child. They moved around 1846. Manchester was a town primarily settled by Pennsylvania Dutch, formed in 1815, incidentally by two brothers named Mahlon and Aaron Stewart - same last name as Abraham's wife Mary. Also incidentally, prior to 1860 a well-traveled line of the Underground Railroad went right through Manchester, Ohio. Oberlin, Ohio also had station #99 on the same Underground Railroad - which led to freedom in Canada. Manchester exists today as a "village" within Franklin Township in Summit County. Abraham and Mary's sixth child was Levi C. Oberlin (born in 1860), who married Margaret Hinks. Both born in Ohio, Levi & Margaret had moved to Indiana by the time their first child was born - Granville, my dad's grandpa, who was born in 1891 in Butler. I can only guess they moved to Indiana because they had distant relatives already there (see next paragraph). Granville married Mabel Beerbower in 1914. They are listed as having two children, Keith Burton Oberlin and Clyde Wendel Oberlin (my grandfather). This is where our family tree ends on the website.
The other original brother from Germany, John Adam Oberlin, settled in Brickerville, PA in Lancaster County by the 1730s (15 miles up the road from New Holland) and began his own Oberlin line - he had nine children with his wife Catherine Stober, who was also from Baden, Germany (one of their kids was named Christopher Oberlin). His descendents eventually moved over into Ohio (early 1800's) and also Indiana (by the 1840's) - they preceded the Oberlins from our line in Ohio by 30 years and tons of them lived in Stark County (where Canton is), which is adjacent to southeast Summit County. A bunch also ended up in Williams County, Ohio. Most of the other Oberlins (that we don't know) from DeKalb & Steuben Counties are from this line. Lots of them are listed as having ended up in Butler and several are buried in Hamilton. Apparently, they moved en masse either with or to be near relatives (at one point in the middle of the family tree, the website states that "families lived and migrated from Lancaster, Shippensburg, Stark, and Dekalb together"). In the middle of downtown Butler there's a building on Broadway Street with our name built into the stone facade (a picture of it is on the website). Frederick W. Oberlin (1826-1898, great-great grandson of John Adam Oberlin) once owned the entire block. And I'm guessing that's where Oberlin Realty in Hamilton came from. And so, basically all the other Oberlins from NE Indiana/NW Ohio are very distant relatives of ours.
Steve Oberlin, who made the oberlins.com website, is a direct descendent of John Adam Oberlin, so we are also all distant cousins of his. He has also found that he is descended from a line that fed into his Oberlin tree (after we split off) that also includes Robert The Bruce (first King of Scotland) and also the Wright Brothers, Jackie Kennedy and Humphrey Bogart. I guess maybe we could say we're related to Bogey by marriage. ;-) You'll also notice a lot of first names are repeated in the Oberlin family tree. On the website you'll find 10 Adams, 15 Catherines, 17 Elizabeths, 11 Georges, 16 Jacobs, 32 Johns, 17 Marys, 12 Sarahs, 11 Williams. And 1 Daisy. The website creator mentions that boys would often be named after their father but called by their middle name (which was often just another repeat of yet another common family name). It gets kind of confusing - especially if you're doing geneological research.
Some other information from the website:
OBERLIN - "One who came from Oberlinden" (upper linden tree), in Germany. So, Ober doesn't mean "over" (as I always assumed), it's "upper". Virtually all the records of Oberlins in Europe originate in the German state of Baden-Wurtemburg and along the Rhine River between Strasburg (in France, barely across the German border) and Berne (Switzerland). Oberlinden is the name of a busy downtown street, as well as the name of one of the oldest sections of the city of Freiburg (Germany), which is located in the Black Forest section of Baden-Wurttemberg (where Black Forest ham comes from!). Liedolsheim, the town John Martin Oberlin emmigrated from, is now part of a town named Dettenheim. There are also three places in Bavaria (Southeastern German state, next to Baden, where Munich is located) named Oberlind. Our family crest (pictured at top) allegedly originated in 1415. It is one of four Oberlin shields that were listed in Johannes Rietstap's book Armorial General, which he compiled in the late 1800s containing detailed descriptions of the coats of arms of over 130,000 European families. In his research of our family, Steve Oberlin determined that this one was most applicable to our Oberlins. This particular crest was described in the book as - "blue with a gold merchant mark in the shape of a St. Andrew's cross with ends cut off, surmounted by a golden Latin cross; on each side of the St. Andrew's cross a gold star; on the base a silver rocky ground." It comes from a region north of Berne, Switzerland (see a few paragraphs below for more Swiss Oberlin connections). Two of the other three family shields contain unicorns, one of which is from Alsace, France (where Johann Friedrich, the Oberlin College guy, hung out). There were Oberlins living in Alsace (and in fact, there still are), but that crest was created in later years. In the early 1900s, another book was published well after Rietstap's death called "Les Planches de l'Armorial General", which contained drawings of all the crests that Rietstap had described, and here are those four Oberlin crests as pictured in the book:
In his book "Memorials of the Huguenots in America" in 1901, Reverend A. Stapleton writes, referring to John Martin Oberlin and his sons: "The Oberlins were distinguished in the history of France, notably the Reformer of Ban-de-la-Roche (Johann Friedrich Oberlin), who was a relative of the Pennsylvania Oberlins." So... technically, we have little information that directly links the Oberlin College guy to our forefather John Martin Oberlin from Germany... but if the Reverend is correct (and let's just gleefully assume that he is), then we ARE related to the guy the college was named after... so I can wear the shirt and sorta be right!
Also, in 1883, in the book "History of Lancaster County", the Oberlin (along with Stober and Fry) families are listed as "pioneer families" of the county. John Adam Oberlin (one of the original two sons) married a Stober. Oberlins.com states that the first three generations of the Oberlins in America were "typical Pennsylvania Dutch farmers". Lemuel Oberlin wrote in his letter to the family that many generations of our family were wagon makers, and also some were jewelers. He states that the "Conestoga" or "Overland" Wagon was first built by the Oberlin Clan in the Conestoga Creek area of Lancaster, Pennsylvania - and the forerunner of thousands of wagons that crossed the US in the trek Westward. The well-known Prarie Schooner (lighter, smaller) evolved from the Conestoga Wagon (heavier, sturdier). One family who intermarried with Oberlins during that time was incindentally the Wagoner family. Several Wagoner children married Oberlins.
Prior to John Martin Oberlin emmigrating from Germany, we don't have any information on direct ancestors. The first known appearance of the family name Oberlin in any public record concerns Christian Oberlin, who's name appears among a 1543 list of those who "were executed for their faith" in Berne, Switzerland. (Many Pennsylvania Dutch have Swiss backgrounds or origins. The state of Baden, Germany is where Germany is bordered by both France and Switzerland. The Rhine river partly serves as the border for all three.) Other Oberlins from Berne were recorded as having been imprisoned for their religious beliefs. One, Margaret Oberlin, escaped through Holland and became the first known Oberlin in America. In 1711, she emigrated to New York aboard the ship "Oberlander" (coincidentally). This was the beginning of a mass exodus of 30,000 Protestants to the Colonies, looking for religious freedom. John Martin Oberlin and his sons also probably traveled by boat on the Rhine River up to the Netherlands where they boarded a Dutch ship, which brought them to the new world. Many ships are known to have left from Rotterdam, sailing to Philadelphia in the 1700s. There are passenger lists for several of these voyages online, including a one Michael Oberlin in 1751, on the ship "Brothers", whose descendents settled in Pennsylvania separate from our line of relatives. Michael Oberlin is, however, reputed to be a relative of John Frederick Oberlin (the Oberlin College guy) - perhaps he is a cousin of John Martin's. Incidentally, he is listed as Michael Oberly on the ship's passenger list, and in fact many early-generation Oberlins had their names mispelled by English-speaking colonials (i.e., those who kept records of immigrants) as Oberly or Oberle. Immigrants often could not write and would simply sign an X [as Michael did] and have the official write their name as they thought it was spelled. The German pronunciation is 'Oh-bare-leen', so you could see how the 'n' might get dropped by someone recording your name, if you don't hit it very hard, especially since it was originally pronounced with the long "leen" as opposed to how we say it now, like "lynn". If you know any Oberly's, they're probably my cousin. Sort of.
Another early record is in the registry of the church in Sundhofen, a town near Colmar (France). The entry in the registry states that one Jacob Oberlin, an emigrant miller and baker originally from Messkirch (Germany), had presented his son Johannes to be baptized on June 7, 1574. It seems likely that Jacob, also a Protestant, had gone to Sundhofen because there wasn't yet a Protestant church in Colmar, where he resided. The Oberlin family tradition of Protestantism dates prior to when the faith was firmly established. In 1632, a second Johannes Oberlin, son of the Johannes baptized in 1574, moved his family to Strasbourg, probably because Protestantism was more firmly established there. Through two more generations the Oberlins were bakers. In the mid-1700s, a Johann Georg Oberlin married Marie-Madeleine Feltz in Strasbourg and fathered two daughters and seven sons. The second son, born in 1740, was Johann Friedrich Oberlin, the famous clergyman of northeastern France and namesake of Oberlin College.
One of the coolest things about our family is verified (in compliance with the Sons of the American Revolution) that relatives on the John Adam Oberlin line of the family served in the Revolutionary War. John Adam's son Adam (John Michael Oberlin's nephew, thus, my great-great-great-great-great-great Uncle's son - what's that mean, he's a 6th cousin or something?) - anyway, Adam Oberlin was a sergeant in the 1st Regiment Flying Camp of Lancaster County that served in the Revolution. He is known to have fought in the Battle of Long Island, when the British were attempting to take over New York, in August of 1776 - the first major battle after we declared independence. A copy of Adam's handwritten will is on the website. Adam's brother Christopher Oberlin (a corporal), and their brother Jacob also both served with this regiment in the Battle of Long Island. Their younger brother Michael served with the Lancaster County Militia as captain of the 3rd battalion, as did their unspecified relative John Oberlin (whom I couldn't identify from the online records); neither of them are confirmed to have been at the Battle of Long Island. Apparently, only some of the Lancaster Militia men were placed into "Continental Service" in time for this battle. They were sent to New Jersey on 13 August 1776 and were among the 10,000 Colonials opposing 30,000 British regulars and Hessian mercenaries in the Battle of Long Island, August 22-28. Their cousin Valentine Stober also served with them in this battle and according to his Army pension records, they were in the field at least one month before Valentine joined the Continental Army artillery in Philadelphia. Lancaster troops were also involved in the famous December 26, 1776 crossing of the Delaware River and subsequent assault on Trenton, New Jersey. The following year, virtually the entire Lancaster County Militia was activated during the defense of Philadelphia. Several Lancaster County units participated in the Battles of Germantown and Brandywine Creek with General "Mad" Anthony Wayne (Anthony Wayne is the namesake of Fort Wayne, IN). It is unknown which Oberlins specifically (if any) served in those events, but more than likely some did as part of the Lancaster County regiments.
According to family lore (Lemuel Oberlin notes this in his letter in 1960) and several other published accounts, many Oberlins (Lemuel says "6 Oberlin sons") served as bodyguards to George Washington during the Revolution (a biography of Michael Oberlin, written circa 1903, states that "two representatives of the family served as members of Washington's bodyguard"). One source further states the Oberlins were all over six feet tall (I wondered where I got my height). On 10 March 1776, Washington ordered that each regiment provide four trusted men to serve as his personal guards. Since a regular army did not yet exist (the very first two Continental Army units were commissioned in Lancaster County, 25 June 1776) the Oberlins, who were already "minutemen" in the Pennsylvania Military Association, may have been selected within their regiment to fulfill this request or serve as interim guards. Analysis of the Pennsylvania Archives and surviving records do not list any Oberlins as members of "Washington's Life Guard," which the men themselves referred to as "body guard." However, all of the Life Guard's official records were destroyed in an 1815 fire. General Washington was also known to frequent Curtis and Peter Grubb's iron works in Lancaster. Colonel Peter Grubb was the first commander of the Oberlin's militia battalion. The Oberlins may have therefore been involved with the General as a result of their militia duties. While it's uncertain to what extent, it's evident the Oberlins had the distinct opportunity to serve Washington in some personal capacity.
Oberlins crossed the Delaware with George Washington! (maybe.) And served as his bodyguards!! (probably.) We are awesome. And... if both are true, then check out that famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, standing up in the boat... that's our cousin riding shotgun!
There are also records of several Oberlins who served and were killed in action in the Civil War, including great-grandsons of Adam Oberlin (the above sergeant from the Revolution). Brothers Adam and Samuel Oberlin saw "considerable action" as part of Company F, 44th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. (They were living in DeKalb County at the time). It is their brother Frederick who once owned that block in downtown Butler. Their father (yet another Adam Oberlin) moved the family to a farm in Franklin Township (northeast corner of DeKalb county, north of Butler) from Stark County, Ohio in the late 1820s. Adam sold that farm to his son Frederick in 1872 for $2000 and moved to Williams County Ohio to live with his other son John until his death in 1881 at age 80. He's buried in West Buffalo cemetary near Bryan, OH. His other son David moved to Steuben County Indiana and is buried in Hamilton. (These Oberlins are all from the "other line" of descent, not directly in ours - just wanted to mention how some of them got over to NE Indiana and NW Ohio).
Other Oberlins in the Civil War: Previously mentioned Adam and Samuel's cousin Orlando Oberlin was killed in action in Tennesee, 1862 (also with 44th Indiana Volunteer Infantry). Orlando's brother Frederick served with the 53rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Another cousin, Orlando F. Oberlin, was wounded in action with the Ohio 38th Infantry. Isaac and Obed Oberlin (exact relation unknown) served in the Ohio 162nd infantry, and Isaac died in service in Columbus, OH in 1864. Two other Ohio Oberlins, John and Samuel (relation unknown) served in the Ohio 7th Independent Sharpshooters as part of General William Tecumseh Sherman's bodyguard.
Edgar Oberlin, yet another cousin a generation later (his great great grandfather was Revolutionay War Sergeant Adam Oberlin's brother Michael) - served in the 1st Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Troop D (out of Columbus) during the Spanish American War in 1898 (he enlisted at age 16!), later graduated from the US Naval Academy and eventually was Commander of the Philadelphia Navy Yard during World War I. And tons more Oberlins served in WWI & II, including Carl Oberlin (grandson of Civil War vet Adam Oberlin), who was killed in action on June 6, 1944 - D-Day - at Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy, aka Operation Overlord. Kenneth Oberlin (great great great grandson of Revolutionary War sgt. Adam Oberlin) received 6 bronze stars in Europe and Africa serving with the Army. Hurley Oberlin (great grandson of Civil War vet Adam's brother David), a Pearl Harbor survivor from the US Navy (Seaman, 1st Class), served on the USS West Virginia, a battleship sunk at Pearl Harbor (but later salvaged, repaired and served in battles near the Phillipines towards the end of the war), and also the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier that was at sea during Pearl Harbor and in service until it was sunk in the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942. [Dorie Miller, the cook portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the movie Pearl Harbor, served on the West Virginia at Pearl Harbor, where he helped the ship's dying captain, manned an anti-aircraft gun and downed at least one Japanese plane - with no prior artillery experience.] And Joseph W. Oberlin (nephew of Lemuel Oberlin), a Lieutenant in the US Navy, was killed in Air Action on 17 June 1944 at the Battle of Saipan in the Pacific. He received the Air Medal for actions on 16 June 1944. Piloting a TBM-Avenger, after destroying a Japanese ammunition dump, he broke formation and repeatedly strafed enemy positions to relieve besieged American infantry. He crashed into the sea during carrier takeoff on a combat mission the following day. He served with George H.W. Bush, who also piloted a TBM-Avenger as part of the same Task Force 58.
Wow. D-Day. Pearl Harbor survivor. That's intense. And makes me damn proud. It's just a small number of the Oberlins listed on Oberlins.com that have served, not to mention other listed relatives with non-Oberlin last names.
To sum up my lineage, here's the super-short version of the direct patrilineal descent from John Martin Oberlin of Germany, to me.
John Martin (from Germany, emmigrated to USA) ->
John Michael (born in Germany, married in PA) ->
John Jacob (Lancaster, PA) ->
Andrew (still in Lancaster) ->
Abraham (married in PA, moved to Ohio) ->
Levi C. (born in Ohio, moved to Indiana) ->
Granville (born in Indiana) ->
Clyde -> (Grandpa! Back in Ohio)
Dennis -> (Dad!)
I have spent hours and hours and hours going over these records, delving further & further out for more information to add & fill in, trying to compile stuff into a semi-coherent whole. (Most of the info is from the website, but I spent enormous amounts of time looking up stuff on my own). I have literally lost sleep, staying up until the wee hours of the morning (on nights when I have to get up at 7 for work), learning about our family's ancestors. And it couldn't have been more fun. I hope you've had anywhere near the enjoyment I've had. This has been by far the coolest thing to happen to me since my wife.
The original treatise only took five days (and maybe 25 hours total) to write. And since then I've spent at least another 10 hours on it, refining and adding details. I sent the first draft to all of the family members I have email addresses for, and the response was best summed up by my Dad: "all I can say is... wow!!" At that point he didn't even know his great-grandfather's name at all or much about his grandfather Granville, or where any of those earlier Oberlin relatives had come from. We knew we were German, but that's about it. This was all a big surprise for everyone. My sister Lisa was pretty psyched about it and her son Dustin was moved enough to take it to school to show off to his history teacher. That's pretty great. The best thing about the entire ordeal is that is has spurned a greater interest in our family's *very recent* history, specifically about my grandpa (Clyde) and great-grandpa (Granville) and great-uncle Keith. We've had input from a handful of other relatives, and we're making sure we get the history right. Just as a matter of principle and to contribute an update for the oberlins.com website. I've sent a very gracious letter of thanks to the webmaster, Steve Oberlin, and offered to update our family's information. We've been in touch and he is happily accepting any information we can provide. He's also provided greater detail about such things as the family crest. Many of the sentences and paragraphs on this page are entirely his. We owe him a large debt of gratitude.
After all of the above information was gathered, here's what my Dad, Aunt Beth, Grandma Oberlin & Aunt Kay have added to our family's great story, as told to me by my father...
"Grandpa (Clyde) was in the Army and was drafted shortly after Pearl Harbor. He was older than most inductees at the time having graduated from high school in Hicksville, Ohio in 1936, where he lived with his grandparents as a matter of convenience. His parents (Granville & Mabel) were on the farm at Montpelier - I think they moved there in the early 1930’s - where we moved to in March 1955, when I was 9. The farm at Montpelier was like 5 miles to the nearest high school and that may have been too far to travel to attend school every day. Those were tough, Depression-era ecomonic times. So that would have made him about 22 or 23 when drafted. He had learned to type in high school and he claimed that enabled him to get into the supply corps and probably kept him out of combat. He eventually made Master Sgt. I think he had his basic training at Ft. Dix in New Jersey and spent time in several locations in the States including Atlanta (where my older brother, Eddie, was born or stillborn in July 1944), Mississippi, Missouri, and Washington state. He was stationed in Hawaii when I was born in June of 1945 and was in The Philippines when the war ended. I think they were preparing to invade Japan when they dropped the atomic bombs. I think Grandma was with him in Atlanta, Mississippi and Washington state but not the other locations.
Uncle Keith ("Skeeter") was his only sibling and was like 16 months older than Grandpa. He joined the Merchant Marines to avoid being drafted into the Army. He spent time in the Atlantic ocean on a ship (not sure what kind) and his ship was sunk (blown out from under him) and he spent time in a lifeboat off the coast of Africa before being rescued. Uncle Keith quit high school at 15 or 16 and never graduated. He died from bone cancer. His son Ty (my cousin) lived in the Detroit area the last I knew.
My Grandpa Oberlin (Granville) died in August of 1955, shortly after my 10th birthday. I thought he died of lung cancer (although he never smoked), but Aunt Beth thought it was stomach cancer, and Aunt Kay was certain it was cancer of the pituitary gland - which upon hearing, Aunt Beth agreed. I believe he was 65 at the time. I know nothing about his parents but I do remember my dad telling about traveling to the Akron & Barberton, Ohio areas to visit relatives.
Great Grandma Oberlin (Mabel) had a brother named Julius Beerbower, who lived in Bryan, Ohio for many years. I think he was her only sibling. He was married (to Beatrice I believe) and they had 1 daughter who I believe also had 1 daughter. Not sure of names. All of Grandma’s family was from Michigan, in fact, she was eighth of 11 children (+ 2 stillborn) and when I was a kid she was the only one who had moved out of Michigan. Her parents, Verne and Mary (Kay’s namesake), lived in Osseo, a little bitty town not far from the Ohio state line. It was like 35 or 40 miles from Montpelier. They had like 55 or 56 grandchildren and hundreds of great and great, great grandchildren. A really big family. Grandma had gone to live with them when Grandpa got shipped overseas, and that's why I was born in Michigan.
On a side note, Kay said somewhere Grandma has Grandpa’s orders when he was shipped to the Philippines on the way to invade Japan. Also, she has his last uniform that he came home in. I have also seen the telegram that Grandpa got in Hawaii when he was informed of my birth – no telephones across the oceans then."
Wow. Thanks, everyone. That's priceless.