Harry J. Staub (1870-1937)

McSherrystown, Adams Co., PA

copright 2003 by Jeffrey L. Thomas

Harry Joseph Staub was born 30 Sept 1870, probably in Conewago Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania, where he spent most of his life. He was the only child of Daniel Staub and his second wife Margaret Adams, and had one half-sister, Rosanna, from his father's previous marriage to Mary Sneeringer. Our first glimpse of Harry is in the 1880 census for Conewago Township, where we find Daniel Staub, (carpenter - age 47), wife Margaret, (age 39), and son Harry, (age 10). I know of no surviving family traditions regarding Harry's early life, and the next record we have of him concerns his marriage.

In 1892 Harry married Sarah Anastasia (Sallie) Eltz in nearby Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. She was born on 24 Dec 1869, and was one of eleven children of John and Savilla Weaver Eltz. She likely spent most of her young life in White Hall, also in Adams County. During the next 21 years Sallie Staub would give birth to no less than 13 children, 11 of whom lived to maturity: Roy, born 1892, married Goldie Shorb, Grace, born 1893, married Gilbert McMaster, Margaret Ruth, born 1895, died before her 2nd birthday, Mamie G., born 1897, married David Shanabrook, Edwin Daniel, born 1899, Eugene Ellis, born 1900, married Louise Stonesifer, Marguerite, born 1902, married Edward Blettner, Thelma Agnes, born 1904, married Arthur Stauffer, Ruth Margaret, born 1906, married Earl Leppo, Rodney Joseph, born 1908, married Marion Reeves, Helen Cecelia (my grandmother), born 1910, married Sterling Groft, Robert Francis, born 1911, and Joseph C., born 1913 died a few days following his birth.

Several years ago while going through the Quarter Session dockets at the Adams County Courthouse in Gettysburg, I came across the case of "The Commonwealth vs. Harry Staub" from January 1896. It seems that Harry was accused of badly beating a man on New Year's Eve, 1895. Given the date it would be logical to assume that he was drunk at the time. Unfortunately the man Harry was accused of beating was none other than the District Attorney for Adam's County! The reason for the altercation, which took place on the streets of McSherrystown, is not given. As a result, the Adams Co., D.A. quickly brought assault charges against Harry.

Prior to the actual trial the court ordered an inventory of all of Harry's possessions, supposedly to determine if Harry had enough wealth to pay compensation to his victim. Fortunately this gives us a rare (but sad) opportunity to see our ancestor's net worth at the time. The grand total of all of Harry Staub's possessions was about $100.00, consisting of clothing and cigar maker's tools. As such, there was nothing of value that could have been sold. At the actual trial a jury of 12 men found Harry Staub guilty of assault and battery. The judge in the case sentenced him to 30 days in jail and fined him $5.00. Assuming that Harry was working at the time, missing a month's worth of wages would have placed a great burden on his family.

The fact that Harry Staub was in trouble with the law and spent at least some time in jail, tends to support the notion that our ancestor was perhaps of questionable character. Family tradition claims that Harry Staub was a gambler and a drinker. It is thought that his parents Daniel Staub and Margaret Adams had money (possibly from Margaret's side of the family), but over the years Harry lost what money he got from his parents through a combination of drinking and gambling.

Shortly after their marriage, Harry and Sallie Staub settled in McSherrystown, Conewago Township in Adams County. For most of his life Harry Staub was a cigar maker, following his trade for over 40 years, many of those with the B.P. Topper Company in McSherrystown. Our first glimpse of Harry, Sallie and family is in the census of 1900. The returns show them living in McSherrystown (Conewago Township) next door to Harry's parents Daniel and Margaret Staub. At the time the family included Harry (age 30), Sarah A. (age 30), and children Roy (age 8), Mary Grace (age 6), Mary Gertrude (age 3), and Daniel (age 1). Harry's occupation is given as "cigar maker".

There is another interesting aspect regarding Harry Staub that I recently discovered (April 2006). Now that certain Adams County newspapers are available via the Internet, I have managed to collect various tidbits of information regarding the Staub family, including information about Harry and some of his children. Beginning in 1910, a Harry J. Staub from McSherrystown starts appearing in the "Adams County News" and "Gettysburg Compiler" as being associated with the local Socialist Party. In fact, Harry is mentioned as one of the party's founding members and its first financial secretary. During the next few years his name is mentioned in the local papers several times in association with the party, including several advertisements urging readers to vote for local and state Socialist candidates. Since the census reveals that there was only one individual named Harry J. Staub in McSherrystown at this time, we have to assume that this was indeed our Harry.

Since I have no knowledge of the history of the socialist party in Adams County, it is difficult at this point in time to make an informed judgement regarding our ancestor's involvement in this organization. History tells us that while sometimes socialist organizations were closely aligned with communist ideals and populated with communist sympathizers, often these organizations were little more than extended unions, formed to help protect the basic rights of workers. Harry Staub, champion of the worker or subversive? Perhaps one day this question will be answered. Either way, given this new information, we now have to consider the possibility that Harry's involvement in the party perhaps contributed to his questionable reputation.

By the 1910 census the family had moved to a house on 2nd Street (or Church street) in McSherrystown. By then the family included Harry, Sallie, Roy, Grace, Gertrude, Edwin, Ellis, Marguerite, Thelma, Ruth, Rodney, and Harry's 69 year old widowed mother Margaret Adams Staub. The census was taken about a week before the birth of my grandmother Helen. Sallie's mother, 76 year old widowed Savilla Eltz, is living next door with the family of her daughter Mary Small. We have a wonderful picture of the Staub family taken in 1912, that includes most of Sallie's children, at least one grandchild, and Sallie's mother-in-law, Margaret. Harry is not in the photograph. Unfortunately the family would be shattered by a tragic event not too long after this photograph was taken.

Sallie Staub died 28 Jan 1913 from childbirth complications following the birth of her son Joseph (who also died shortly thereafter). She had just turned 43 on Christmas Eve the previous month. Her death certificate lists her cause of death as "pneumonia caused by acute nephritis," a kidney problem which in those days frequently killed women following childbirth. Her obituary appeared in the Hanover Herald, 1 Feb 1913, and reads as follows:

Mrs. Harry J. Staub

Mrs. Sallie Anna Staub, wife of Harry J. Staub, died at her late home No. 103 Church Street, McSherrystown, Tuesday evening, Jan 28, following the birth of a child on the Friday previous. She was aged 43 years, 1 month and 4 days. The deceased was a daughter of the late John and Sevilla Eltz of White Hall, and was married Nov. 20th 1892 to Mr. Staub, after which they moved to McSherrystown. Besides her husband, she is survived by 12 children, as follows - Chas. R., Midway, Grace M., Mamie G., Marguerite M., Thelma A., Ruth M., Helen C., Edwin D., Ellis E., Rodney J., Robert F., and Joseph C., an infant; three brothers, Thomas of York, John and Francis Eltz, and two sisters, Mrs. Ellen Small and Mrs. William Zinn of McSherrystown, also survive. She leaves one grandson, Donald Staub, of Midway. Funeral Saturday, Feb 1st, requiem high mass in St. Mary's church, McSherrystown, at 9 a.m., Rev. L Aug. Reudter officiating. Internment in St Mary's cemetery.

The following week, the infant son who had been the cause of Sallie's death also passed away, his death being noted in the February 12th edition of the Gettysburg Complier, as follows:

Clyde Joseph Staub, infant son Harry J. Staub of McSherrystown, died Thursday evening, Feb 6th from spasms. The mother of the child had died about a week previous. The child was buried beside the mother on (in) the family lot in St. Mary's cemetery, February 7th.

Following the death of his wife, Harry Staub found himself unable and/or unwilling to cope with the responsibilities of raising his family, a decision that had disastrous consequences for most of his children. In Harry's defense, it has to be admitted that, with a full time job and without a wife, raising a family would have been quite difficult. We also know that at the time of his wife's death, Harry's mother, Margaret was living with the family and apparently in need of much care as she approached the end of her life, which ended a few months later on 22 May 1913. Margaret's obituary appeared in the local paper, as follows:

Gettsyburg Compiler, 28 May 1913

Mrs. Margaret E. Staub, widow of Daniel F. Staub, died at the home of her son, Harry J. Staub, in McSherrystown, at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, after an illness of over four weeks. She was aged 72 years, 17 months and 17 days. She was the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Jacob L. Adams of Conewago township, and was married to Daniel Staub about 46 years ago. Her husband died about five years ago. She leaves one son, H. J. Staub, with whom she resided, and two brothers, George Adams of Hanover; Thomas Adams of McSherrystown. There are also eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Funeral Monday, May 26th, from St. Mary's church, high mass of requiem at 9 a.m., Rev L. August Reudter officiating. Interment at Conewago Chapel.

Despite the possible hardships created by the loss of his wife and mother, it nevertheless appears that following the death of his wife Harry Staub had little interest in keeping his family together, a notion that is supported by family tradition and certain records. Family tradition has always claimed that most of Harry's underage daughters were taken by relatives in the area, while the boys were sent away to an orphanage. This notion is supported by the 1920 census, which reveals the following information regarding the children:

Roy Staub, age 27, was grown and already busy raising his own family by the time his mother died in 1913. In the 1920 census we find Roy and his family living on Commerce Street in nearby Penn Township, York County. His occupation is given as "wood worker - furniture factory." Mary Grace Staub, age 26 was living with her husband Gilbert McMaster on North Street in McSherrystown. Her younger sister Marguerite Staub was also living with the family. Mamie G. Staub was living with her husband David Shanabrook in Parkville, Penn Township. The family included her sister Thelma Staub, age 13. Daniel Staub, age 20, was living with his wife Annie on Pine St. in Penn Township, occupation "wood worker - furniture factory." Ellis Staub, age 19, was living close to Daniel on Pine Street with his wife Louise, occupation, "laborer - furniture factory." Ruth Staub, age 13, was living with the family of Eli & Amanda Shanabrook in Penn Township. It is likely that the Shanabrooks were related to Ruth's brother-in-law David. Rodney Staub, age 13 (s/b 11) was living with his adoptive parents Edward & Elizabeth Korab(?) in Erie County, New York. This confirms that at least one of the boys did indeed end up in New York. Helen Staub, age 9, was living with her foster father Jacob Althoff (widowed), in Akron Ohio. She was the only daughter not to remain in the McSherrystown area, although she would return later in the decade. Robert Francis Staub was adopted and his name was changed to Claire Pistner. In 1920 he is living with his adoptive parents Charles and Selina? Pistner in St Mary's Township in Elk County, Pa. The 1920 census confirms family tradition claiming that most of the daughters remained in the area, while some of the boys were scattered among non-related families. My grandmother Helen always said that while she knew most of her sisters, she really didn't know any of her brothers, something she said she always regretted.

There exists a somewhat sad record of the fate of Harry's sons Ellis and Rodney following the death of their mother, in the form of a remarkable local newspaper account, as follows:

Adams County News, 20 Dec 1913:


Ran Away From Paradise Protectory Near Abbottstown Twice.
Beats His Father Home the Second Time.
Chased by Schoolmates

"Because he was home-sick and did not like the daily routine of the Protectory near Abbottstown, Ellis, the 10-year-old son of Harry Staub, of McSherrystown, ran away from that institution for the second time and returned to his house."

"The mother of the lad is dead, and two weeks ago Ellis and a younger brother, Rodney, were placed in the orphanage near Abbottstown. After being there for about a week, the older boy became restless and told his little brother he was going home. He ran away early in the morning and a few hours later was at his home in McSherrystown."

"Later the father took his son back to the school. The little fellow waited until his parent had left the institution when he again gave those having him in charge the slip and started for Abbottstown. He was observed by several of the older boys, who gave him chase, but Ellis outdistanced them and continued on to Hanover, then to his home in McSherrystown."

"After having walked half the distance between Abbottstown and Hanover, a farmer took him in his wagon as far as New Baltimore. He arrived home about 5:30 p.m., half an hour before his father reached there, as he made several stops with friends along the way. When the father went into the house he was told the boy had beaten him home and was now in bed."

While the story above can be seen as both sad and amusing, the fate of Harry's youngest daughter Helen is simply sad. Perhaps because she was the youngest, Helen was the only daughter not taken in by relatives, and instead was placed in an orphanage, where she was eventually taken by foster parents. Unfortunately Helen's foster parents were very cruel to her Helen endured both physical and psychological abuse for many years, until the foster parents were brought up on charges of child cruelty in 1925, and Helen was removed from their custody.

Although I have been unable to identify Harry J. Staub in the 1920 census, it is likely that he was still in or near McSherrystown. He reappears in the 1930 census as a lodger living with the family of Carrie Weaver in York, close to McSherrystown, where he is described as widowed, 53 years old (s/b 60) and a cigar maker.

Sometime between the 1930 census and his death in 1937, Harry moved in with his daughter Grace McMaster and family at their home on 313 Ridge avenue in McSherrystown. This is the only indication that Harry ever reconciled with any of his children. Even though he apparently spent the last decade of his life in McSherrystown and in nearby York, there are no indications that any efforts were made by Harry to reconcile with the rest of his children, most of who lived in the immediate area.

Harry Staub died on 17 September 1937 at the Eagles Club in McSherrystown, two weeks short of his 67th birthday. His death certificate tells us that he suffered a "sudden cerebral hemorrhage" that caused immediate blindness. He died a half an hour later at the local hospital. His obituary appeared the next day in the Hanover Evening Sun, as follows:

Cigarmaker Dies at Fraternal Home

Harry J. Staub, 66, Passes Away From Heart Attack At McSherrystown Eagles' Headquarters.

Harry Joseph Staub, 66-year-old cigarmaker, 313 Ridge avenue, McSherrystown, died suddenly last night at 11:30 o'clock in the Eagles home, McSherrystown. Death was due to a heart attack, according to Dr. E.A. Miller, Gettysburg, Adams county coroner. Mr. Staub, a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, was visiting the lodge home last evening when he was stricken. Dr M.N. Harris, Hanover, was summoned but the man died within a short time.

The deceased was the son of the late Daniel and Margaret (Adams) Staub. Surviving are the following children, Roy Staub, Mrs. Gilbert McMaster, Mrs. David Shanabrook, Edwin Staub, Ellis Staub, Mrs. Edward Blettner, Mrs. Arthur Stauffer, Mrs. Earl Leppo, and Mrs. Sterling Groft, all of Hanover and McSherrystown; Rodney Staub, Buffalo, N.Y. and Robert Staub, St Mary's Pa. Twenty-eight grandchildren also survive. Funeral arrangements have not been completed.

Harry Staub was buried next to his wife in St. Mary's cemetery in McSherrystown, and his death certificate and obituary actually give us a remarkable insight into his last few moments on earth.

So, in the end, what is there to be said about my great grandfather Harry Staub? Although no man is perfect, what we know about Harry via family tradition and official records does not paint a very flattering picture. A family reputation as a drinker and gambler, in trouble with the law on at least one memorable occasion, and failing to live up to his responsibilities as a father following the death of his wife, all point to a greatly flawed individual. While I suppose if one looks hard enough, one can find some redeeming value in nearly every human being, I find it difficult to excuse Harry's lack of responsibility in regards to caring for his children. In particular, I hold him responsible for the harsh childhood endured by my grandmother Helen at the hands of her abusive foster parents.

Jeffrey L. Thomas
April 2003
Updated April 2006

Sarah Eltz Staub and her children, circa 1912.
(Click here or on image below for a larger photograph)

Below: the grave of Harry J. Staub, his wife Sarah Eltz, and their son Edwin,
St Mary's Cemetery, McSherrystown, Adams Co., Pa

The Commonwealth vs. Harry Staub - 1896
Death Certificate of Harry J. Staub
Obituary of Harry J. Staub
Death Certificate of Sarah Eltz Staub
Obituary of Sarah Eltz Staub

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