My Immigrant Ancestor

Frank William Rohleder

Frank Rohleder late in life. This picture hangs in the guest room of my uncle’s house.

With this week’s prompt of “Close Up,” I decided to take a closer look at my paternal second great-grandfather. New records are always becoming available; I might find something new!

Born 17 October 1833 in Bad Faulenbach, Bavaria, Germany, Frank William Rohleder (or more likely, Franz Wilhelm Rohleder) emigrated from Germany around the time of the revolution (1848-1849). Family stories say he came with a couple of brothers, one staying in Virginia and the rest going to Kansas. A cursory look at the Rohleders in Kansas revealed mostly those who emigrated from Russia and England. There are, however, oodles of Rohleders of German descent who settled in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. None of Frank’s brothers were ever named, and the few passenger lists I found listed an “F. Rohleder” by himself. Frank ended up in Petersburg, Virginia, where the record trail begins.

St. Patrick’s Day in 1860 was an auspicious day for Frank—he was getting married. There was a large German community in Petersburg at that time and Frank had met a girl from the old country. Augusta S. Bries, daughter of Jacob and Sophia Bries, was born in Germany (26 December 1830) and was living in Petersburg with her parents. I expect the couple was looking forward to a long happy life together.

Poor Frank, he had escaped conflict in Germany only to land in a country in turmoil. Less than a month after he and Augusta married, the Civil War began. Frank eventually enlisted, or perhaps was conscripted, and served in the artillery with Branch’s Battery (later Pegram’s Company), which was organized in May 1861. While Frank was away, Augusta’s health declined. Barely two years after her marriage to Frank, Augusta died of consumption on 22 April 1862. Five months later, Frank was fighting for his life in the battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam (17 September 1862), where he was wounded in the head and upper arms. Frank returned to Petersburg to heal.

Susan Ann Elizabeth Gentry (1842-1919) was from a long line of Gentrys going back to England. She and Frank met while he was home on furlough, or perhaps they knew each other before the war began. The courtship was swift and the couple married on 20 October 1862 at Grace Episcopal Church in Petersburg. It’s unclear whether Frank recovered enough to return to battle, but he was home in late 1863 because his and Susan’s first child, Mary Elizabeth, was born on 14 August 1864. On 4 June 1866, their second child, James F., was born. James only lived a year, dying from diptheria on 4 August 1867. Their third child, Joseph Lawrence was born on 2 April 1868.

At some point after Joseph was born, and before the 1870 census, Frank took his family to Wilson, North Carolina. This was during the reconstruction and jobs were hard to find. While in Wilson, Frank worked as a butcher. Their fourth child, Andrew Hamilton (my great grandfather) was born 31 July 1870 in Wilson. Less than two years later the family returned to Petersburg. Several children followed, all born in Petersburg: Frances E., b. 13 December 1872; Grace Irene, b. 12 December 1873; Susan D., b. 15 July 1876; and Richard Atherton, b. 19 August 1878. Sometime before 1880 Frances died.

By 1880 Frank was working as a tailor, and except for a stint as a policeman around 1882, he held that occupation the rest of his life. Two more children followed. Sadly, Rosa Adina (29 January 1881) was stillborn. The following year, Mortimer Emerson was born on 21 January 1882. In 1886, daughter Susan contracted meningitis and died on 1 September. Whether to escape the bad memories of dying children or for better work opportunities, the family moved to Richmond around 1888.

In the 1890s, the children began marrying and producing grandchildren for Frank and Susan. Andrew married Lillie Ford (1873-1941) in 1891 and welcomed their first child, Susie Dallas, on 7 December 1892. Mary married Samuel Walker Thacker (1857-1926) two days before Susie was born, and their daughter, Pemberton, was born on 10 February 1894 in Richmond. Fifteen months later, on 24 May 1895, Mary died. Samuel, for whatever reason, did not stay to take care of his daughter, and Frank and Susan raised her as their own. Andrew and Lillie had the rest of their six children before Frank died: Milton Earl (b. 5 April 1894), Eugene Carlyle (b. 22 April 1896), Grace Mae (b. 14 April 1898), Andrew, Jr., my grandfather, (b. 15 February 1900), and Frank Elwood (b. 13 September 1902). Joseph married Lizzie Hardy (b. abt. 1875) on 2 July 1902 and their son, Joseph Jr. was born 9 September 1903. Sadly, he lived just over a year, dying on 2 October 1904. Richard married Florence McAllister (1878-1958) on 3 May 1899 and they had two of their eight children before Frank died: Richard Ellyson “Dick” (b. 12 August 1903) and Audrey Hinchman (b. 4 May 1904). Frank had several years to enjoy his grandchildren.

As Frank aged, his war wounds began to hinder his ability to work. He applied for a pension in 1900, and was granted an annual payment of $15.00. In 1904 Frank had contracted dysentery and had evidence of senility. He died that year on 11 October, just shy of his 71st birthday. He’s buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Frank’s wife Susan applied for a widow’s pension in 1912, stating she had no income and lived with her children. She stated that Frank was on the pardon roll of Virginia, and “was a loyal soldier, and was wounded in battle.” A note from the Adjutant General of the War Department in Washington to the Auditor of Public Accounts for the State of Virginia, Richmond, has the following note, dated 13 July 1912:

The records show that one F. W. Rholetter (also borne as Frederick W. Rholetter, but not found as Frank Wm. Rohleder), private, Branch’s, subsequently Pegram’s, Virginia Battery Artillery, Confederate States Army, was enlisted March 19, 1862. On the roll dated October 31, 1864 (last on file), he was reported present. The name F. W. Rolletter, private, Pegram’s Virginia Artillery (probably the same man), appears on a register of refugees and other [sic] in the custody of the provost marshal, Washington, D. C., who were “received from City Point Apl. 12, 1865, and transportation ordered to Norfolk, Va.” No record has been found of the date or place of capture or surrender.

Even though the name doesn’t match, Susan was granted a pension, receiving a payment of $25.00 dated 31 August 1912. Susan died in 1919.

I came across the information about Frank’s first marriage several years ago, but wasn’t sure it was my Frank. I couldn’t find any information about Augusta, who was listed only as A. S. Bries with her parents, and couldn’t figure out how Frank could have married her in 1860 and then married Susan in 1862. It was taking this closer look that revealed Augusta’s death. And several weeks ago while researching his daughter Grace, I finally found a child I knew existed but knew nothing about: Rosa Adina.

This entry was posted in 52Ancestors, Ford, Gentry, Rohleder. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to My Immigrant Ancestor

  1. Eilene Lyon says:

    The tough 19th century lives never cease to amaze me.


  2. Pingback: The Black Sheep | Leafy Vines

  3. David Abernathy says:

    He was my great great grandfather through his son Andrew Hamilton Rohleder, my great grandfather, and his daughter, Grace Mae (known as Lady Mae). Andrew Hamilton Rohleder’s grandson Andrew Hamilton Rohleder III was a Navy pilot in WWII, and was killed in action In October 1944 over Formosa.

    Recollection of Andrew Rohleder’s life 
    Death of Andrew Hamilton Rohleder III


    • leafyvines says:

      David, that makes us second cousins!


      • David Abernathy says:

        That’s right. However, I only ever met two Rohleders, one of which was my great uncle Carlton Rohleder, who was a veteran of both world wars, and the other was my dad’s cousin Bill (I think) Rohleder, who was a Marine. I met him in Charlotte, which is our home area. My grandfather Paul J. Abernathy, moved from Atlanta to Charlotte for a few years sometime before 1920, where he met and married Grace Mae Rohleder. He moved back to Atlanta shortly thereafter, where they stayed for the rest of their lives. She died in November, 1934 and he died in February 1949, either of a stroke or heart attack. My father was the last child born to Grace Rohleder. Dad moved us to Charlotte twice when he was transferred by his company, and one of those times I stayed after he and Mom moved back to Atlanta.
        Incidentally, my sister in Atlanta married a fellow who was born in Bavaria, probably only 25 miles or so from Bad Faulenbach.
        Thanks for the photo of Frank (Franz) Rohleder. I am the de facto family history buff for my brothers and my sister, and I distribute things like what you posted about Frank Rohleder to the others.
        David Abernathy
        Waxhaw, NC


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