Later Family Links by Asa W. CLIMENHAGA


By Asa W. Climenhaga (c1940)

Author photo from his book, "History of the Brethren in Christ Church. Nappanee, IN, 1942."
Author photo from his book, “History of the Brethren in Christ Church. Nappanee, IN, 1942.”

This memory book may be of some interest to a number of people, but it will chiefly concern the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Peter Martin Climenhaga and Anna (Winger) Climenhaga. To create an interest beyond this would require a complete history of the Climenhaga clan. Such an undertaking should be sponsored by the clan as a group. This work being an individual undertaking is necessarily limited. My readers outside of this family circle mentioned are asked to keep the above in mind. If the above is forgotten this work may appear rather selfish and unfair to the clan as a whole. This family circle is, however, interested in the clan relationship beyond that recorded here and hopes someday a more complete history will be written.

David Climenhaga, the father of Peter Martin Climenhaga, had two brothers and one sister. This family of four children were born to Martin Climenhaga and Elizabeth (Damude) Climenhaga. The firstborn was Moses. The year of his birth was 1820. Anna was born in 1823, David in 1826, and Martin Jr. in 1829.

The father of this family, Martin Climenhaga, Sr., was a minister in the Brethren in Christ church. In those days simplicity was necessary and desired. Clothes and footwear were not plentiful. Martin often preached barefooted which was no disgrace considering the time and simplicity of the situations. Everything else was in keeping. The preaching was not done in churches but in small gatherings in simple home surroundings. When Martin went to Fonthill where he obtained his wife, he drove oxen. He had to go by way of Lundy’s Lane, a distance of almost thirty miles. The Damudes of Fonthill treated him with dried cherries instead of candy.

Aunt Lydia (Climenhaga) Saylor, a sister of Peter M. Climenhaga, wrote what Jacob Engle of Pennsylvania told her about Martin Climenhaga when she visited Pennsylvania at the age of eighteen. He said that years ago when he attended a love-feast at Markham, Ontario, an old man came in. He wondered who he was. He walked right up and sat behind the desk with the ministers. He was asked to speak, and Jacob Engle said he was a deeply spiritual man filled with the Holy Spirit. His apparel was very plain, homemade of homespun cloth. Jacob Engle said you never know a man by his clothers or his looks, for they do not tell what is in his heart.

The family of David Climenhaga and Abigail (Barnhart) were ten in number. The mother was born August 5, 1830. Her firstborn was Peter Martin born March 7, 1850. Benjamin was born August 19, 1851. The remainder of the family and dates of birth are Esther Elizabeth, October 6, 1853; Susannah, August 7, 1855; Daniel, April 28, 1857; Elishe, June 7, 1859; Mary Ann, March 26, 1862; Sarah, November 6, 1864; Caroline, November 6, 1864.; and Lydia, September 6, 1868.

Many memories linger concerning this family circle. Only those concerning David and Peter will be recorded. David’s mother, never being physically strong found it necessary to have a neighbor girl come into the home to help with the work. Abigail Barnhart was there one day doing the washing. David’s mother said to her if you stay and iron David’s Sunday shirt he will take you home. She stayed and David took her home. She only lived one-half mile away so David took a round-about road to take Abigail home. On another occasion Abigail was sleigh riding with a group of young people when David came driving behind the sleigh in a new one-horse sleigh, which he built for himself. Some of the group dared Abigail to leave the big sleigh and ask David for a ride. Being young and jolly she accepted the dare and David was glad to grant her request. Out of these events grew a courtship which ended in Abigail being married when eighteen years of age. In the language of the older days David became Abigail’s laddie and Abigail became David’s lassie. In the language of l940, “The same old story, a boy and a girl in love.” David said she could not have been any better than she was so he saw no reason why he should have waited until she was older to get married. They lived together happily and their affections one for the other lasted until the end. David always wanted to live the longer so that he could see his wife through life. His desire was granted.

When David and Abigail were old in years and their children all had homes of their own they would help one another with the work. David spent some of his time in a cider mill. He had one of the old long beam-type cider presses. The community folks came for miles to have cider made. After the cider making season was over, David’s time was spent helping Abigail with her house work, working with the vinegar he cured and sold, and making useful articles for women and children. He made such things as little benches, stools, spool wagons, stirring ladles, and crutches. He gave these articles to people in the community and visitors passing through. Some of these home-made articles reached far sections even across the ocean. Another task which he took much interest in was braiding the best husk from the corn and after it was thoroughly dry he unbraided it and divided it into narrow strips. This he put in bedticks. He made these for his own use and for his children.

Toward the end of Abigail’s days she was not so well. David would get the meals and put away the things after the meal. He knew where the dishes belonged. For them everything had a place and everything was in the place planned for it. Articles in cupboards not often used were carefully marked. Letters and papers preserved were wrapped and marked so that anyone could tell the content of the package. Each key had a tag with information written on it concerning the drawer or door it unlocked.

Peter Martin Climenhaga grew up strong and ambitious to succeed in life. He and his brother Benjamin when but lads climbed to the peak of the barn to see if they could see the Fenians who crossed the Niagara River from .the United States to take Canada and the soldiers marching to meet them. These outlaws were a group who rallied under a leader with the idea they could conquer Canada and rule it as a country for themselves. One huckster drove rapidly through the countryside crying the Fenians are coming, thousands are over and hundreds are coming every minute. These young lads could not see the raiders from the barn peak but they were not afraid as those were who left their homes driving across the country to get away from the enemy. The raiders were driven back by the citizens and soldiers and were held for some time in the river on flatbottom boats until the United States readmitted them again.

Peter started to walk when one year old exactly on the day. Soon afterwards he was lost and could not be found. His mother was in bed at the time so could not join in the hunt. She from her bed looked out of the window into a nearby oats field. She saw the grain moving and informed the rest. They went and looked and found little Peter crawling through the oats field. To keep Peter from getting away his mother would lay him on his back. He was so fat that he could not get up alone from this position. A chair peddler came to the home and was showing his wares. Peter climbed on one of the chairs end claimed it so his parents decided to buy it for him. He started school at the age of seven. The schoolhouse stood across the road from the present Post Office at Stevensville. He knew his letters before starting to school so the teacher had him teaching the letters to other children. His father thought this not advisable so he kept him out of school awhile. He continued in school a short time each winter until he was twenty years old. He was only twelve years of age when he started to plough. He was married when twenty-three years old. He started housekeeping on the farm near Stevensville where he still lives past ninety years of age in 1940.

Peter cried on the day of his wedding. He had made arrangements with a minister to marry them and right at the last the minister could not come. Another minister was found and the wedding day kept. The farm on which they started housekeeping was over sixty acres. Enough land was purchased later to make it about one hundred acres. The town of Stevensville was growing at this time. When Peter was a boy the town did not have more than twenty homes.

The house on which most of his family were born and reared was built in 1880. Not counting his own work the house was built for about $1200. He bought the logs from Christian Bitner for $4.50 a thousand in the log. He had the logs sawed for $3.00 a thousand at Dean’s sawmill. Christian Bitner was to help measure the logs after Peter had cut and hauled them from the marsh owned by Bitner. Bitner would not come to see them measured. He said Peter can measure them alone. The men who helped build the house were paid according to their skill. The boss received one dollar and fifty cents a day, the others received one dollar and twenty five cents and one dollar a day.

Peter was a careful financer and he with his faithful companion as he called his wife reared their family of nine children and were always in a position to help others. One experience will throw light on his ability to run a home successfully. When a young man he surveyed land for his uncle Benjamin Baker. When Benjamin Baker was asked if the land was surveyed right he replied: “I think so for I had David Climenhaga’s lawyer to do it.” What he did he did well and this was especially true of his farming.

A general picture of the normal home life can hardly be put in a few words. The rising hour was about five A.M. in the summer and about six A.M. in the winter. “Time to get up, boys” came the call each morning from the foot of the stairs. Father’s word was law and the boys did the chores and milked the cows. The parents said “come” instead of “go.” Thus the chores were soon over and the large stable of cows soon milked.

Before breakfast as regular as the days rolled round the family met in a circle for Bible reading, in which they all took part verse by verse, and kneeling prayer. Each meal was opened with grace and closed with thanks. Threshing morning or market morning did not hinder the worship period. Tramps coming early in the morning for a bit to eat from sleeping in some neighbor’s barn were made to join in the family worship else not be fed. In case the phone would ring during family worship some member of the family circle would answer and softly whisper “We are having worship, please call later.”

The family generally retired between eight and nine P.M. with the children in bed first. Father and Mother before retiring would kneel by their bedside and pray audibly for each one of the children.

Father and Mother Climenhaga were converted in 1881 and became members of the Brethren in Christ Church. When Father mentioned his concern in relation to being a Christian, Mother said she was also concerned and was just waiting for Father to mention it. It was not unusual for Mother Climenhaga to go about her work singing Gospel songs. While pumping water she was heard singing, “Someone will enter the pearly gates, Shall you, shall I? Someone will knock and will not be heard, Shall you, shall I?”

Turning to Mother Climenhaga’s relationship we find a family of ten children. Those are the children of Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Winger. John was born June 16, 1848; Henry January 13, 1850; Anna, April 17, 1851; Elizabeth, September 21, 1853; Rebecca, May 24, 1854; Jonas, August 24, 1857; Sarah, September 11, 1859; Abraham, August 5, 1861; Jacob, September 21, 1866. Moses was born between Abraham and Jacob, out did not grow to manhood, dying when nineteen months old.

The grandparents of this family on the fathers side were John Sider and Anna (Climenhaga} Sider. The daughter Magdalene Sider married Abraham Winger. This Abraham Winger was the son of Henry Winger and his wife Elizabeth (Neff) Winger. From this it is clear that Peter Martin Climenhaga and his wife Anna (Winger) Climenhaga were cousins.

Abraham Winger, Sr., the father of the (ten) children mentioned, was Overseer of the Bertie district of the Brethren in Christ Church in Welland County. He was a sincere Christian man and faithfully served the church. At his death his son Jonas became Overseer. Abraham’s wife died when about fifty years of age. Later in years he remarried somewhat against the wishes of his children. It worked out in the end to be considered a satisfactory union by all concerned.

This family became quite scattered. Henry lived for a time in Northwest Canada; Rebecca lived in Kansas; Abraham lived in Northwest Canada and Jacob spent most of his adult days in Colorado and the state of Washington. In Colorado he was for a time a miner and later an engineer. The two in Northwest Canada were tillers of the soil.

A cane used by Peter Martin Climenhaga’s father David and a cane and powder horn used by Abraham Winger, the Overseer or Bishop as now called, is in my possession. They are part of a museum of articles used by members of the Brethren in Christ Church.

Asa W. Climenhaga”


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One Response to Later Family Links by Asa W. CLIMENHAGA

  1. I am David E. Climenhaga, son of John A. Climenhaga, grandson of Peter M. Climenhaga, & great grandson of David Climenhaga who married Abigail Barnhart and for whom I am named. I remember my grandfather quite well and grandmother more slightly. My parents returned from nearly 9 years of missionary work in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) Africa in October 1929. I was 10 years old in June that year. We lived with my grandparents in Stevensville for about 8 months. It was then that my grandmother died from the result of a fall and hip fracture. She spent about 6 weeks, I think it was, in bed at home (no hospitalization then) contracted pneumonia and expired. After her death grandfather, who died in early 1941, became senile. It was called senility then and became quite difficult to live with. There is much more I could say on the reason for grandmother’s fall, but I will let this suffice. I last saw grandfather in August 1940.

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