Focus on Fayette's Native Son: A Descendant of Sterling Pioneers and Prominent
Community Leaders in Gorham Township, Fulton County, Ohio
Pamela Pattison Lash
author is a teacher at Gorham Fayette High School, a post which she has held for
almost 34 years. She is the President of the Williams County Genealogical
Society and enjoys historical and genealogical research.]
Ripped from the headlines of today's
events comes a story so emotionally touching and historically significant that
our nation, having just celebrated Veterans Day, is focusing attention on the
poignant tale of a World War II airman, found frozen in time within a
glacier-entombment on Mount Mendel in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Though some
78,000 Americans missing in action from this war were lost in crashes over
oceans, this discovery is special for many reasons. This story touches a local
chord; the discovery of this airman's identity may bring closure to the mystery
of what happened to Second Lieutenant William R. Gamber, Fayette's native son.
One of the first questions posed in this genealogical detailing is not so
much who was this man, as doubtless other accounts have and will be written, but
who were his ancestors who nurtured him and fostered his obvious patriotic
spirit which led this local man to serve his country.
John (b. 3 May 1785, son of John and
Susannah Miller Gamber) and Elizabeth Swarner Gamber, Jr., (b. 6 Sept 1786,
daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Swarner), natives of Berks now Schuylkill Co, PA
and Perry Co, PA, respectively, were married c1807 in Perry Co, PA, and were the
parents of at least seven children, Henry, Margaret Stahl, Elizabeth Shankweiler,
Sarah Ann Schaeffer, Mary Ann Kuney, John III, and George. John, Jr. died in
Fayette, Seneca Co, NY on 5 Mar 1825, and was buried in the Dutch Reformed
Church. His will specified that his beloved wife Elizabeth was to have the
"profits of my farm together with farming utensils as long as she remains
my widow." Elizabeth Gamber, enumerated in the 1830 Varick Twp, Seneca Co,
NY federal census as living alone, remarried c1832 to Henry Kuney, after his
first wife, Susan Brown Kuney died, and Elizabeth Swarner Gamber Kuney died in
Seneca Co, NY on 29 Dec 1850.
Contrary to Fulton County, Ohio
histories, such as Mikesell's History of Fulton County, 1905, p218-221,
which states that son John Gamber and several of his siblings settled in the
Gorham Twp area in 1852 or later, federal census records show that the Gambers
were here at least by the 1850 enumeration (Gorham Twp, Fulton Co, OH federal
John Gamber, III, b. 12 Feb 1819 in Seneca Co, NY, settled in Fulton Co
c1846 (Fulton County, Ohio Atlas, personal histories, p38) with a post office
address of Fayette, owning Lot No 1; furthermore, there is every reason to
believe that his westward bound siblings came with him or shortly thereafter.
The cemetery in Fayette, known as Pleasant View, was formed in 1852 from an
older section of family burial plots on land owned by John Gamber, with the
first burial speculated to have been as early as 1836. John Gamber was a
carpenter, farmer, businessman, real estate entrepreneur, street commissioner at
the time Fayette was incorporated, and village treasurer; however, this
genealogical detailing deals with older brother Henry whose great-great
grandson, William R. Gamber, has recently been the subject of nationwide media
Henry Gamber, b. 11 June 1808 in
Perry Co, PA, eventually settled in Fayette with his wife and children. Mikesell
(p 372-374) states that "he and his wife made the entire trip with a team,
a heavy wagon, and a one-horse buggy, being thirteen days enroute." Henry
had married Anna Maria "Polly" Hartrauft/Hartranft on 26 Jan 1832 in
Fayette, Seneca Co, NY ("Seneca Farmer and Seneca Falls Advertiser",
Jan 1832, p50). It is interesting to note that the Gambers left Fayette, Seneca
Co, NY and settled eventually in Fayette, Fulton Co, OH. Perhaps they held some
sway in naming this NW Ohio community.
Polly was also a Pennsylvania
native, b. 7 Aug 1809, the daughter of Jacob and Mary Geiger Hartrauft.
According to the 1860 Fayette, Gorham Twp, Fulton Co, OH federal census, p410B,
Polly was enumerated as the head of household along with children, John J.,
Elizabeth, Sarah, Lorenzo, and Susan plus her father Jacob who was 81 years old.
It would appear that Jacob Hartrauft/Hartranft moved to Ohio to be near his
widowed daughter and his grandchildren; whether he died here has not been proven
The Gambers were the parents of the
following seven children, six of whom were born in Seneca Co, NY: (1) William,
(1833 - aft 1870; m. bef 1848, Mary Jane Buck); (2) John J, (11 Sept 1835 - 18
Mar 1916; m. Elvira Sayles, 4 Mar 1861 in Lenawee Co, MI); (3) Maria, (1837 - ?;
m. *** Tuesly); (4) Sarah, (1841 - 1932; m. bef 1863, Myron Smith); (5) Lorenzo,
(1845 - 1928; m. Jane ***); (6) Susan, (3 Dec 1847 - 17 Jul 1937; m. Charles L.
Allen, a First Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 38th OVI, service
during the Civil War, in 1864, Gorham Twp, Fulton Co, OH); and (7) Francis
Christian, (c.16 Sept 1849 - 5 Oct 1855 @5Y 11M 19D).
Henry, a Democrat and member of the
Lutheran Church, owned 80 acres of land on each side of Fayette. He died on 29
May 1854 @45Y 9M 8D in Fayette and was buried in the Pleasant View Cemetery; his
wife Polly died @75Y in Fayette on 1 Aug 1884; she was buried beside her husband
and youngest son in the Third Circle at the center of that cemetery. Subsequent
direct ancestors of William R. Gamber were also interred in that cemetery.
Henry and Polly's second son, John
J. Gamber, lived on the northeast side of Fayette. J.J.'s wife, Elvira (1843 -
Sept 1898) was the daughter of another Fulton County pioneer, George W. Sayles
(1807 Oneida Co, OH - aft 1880) and his wife Sarah Mace (1811 NY - aft 1880),
who settled in Gorham Twp in 1838. Sarah's parents, Wendell and Mary Mace, were
early settlers by 1858 in Sec 18, Gorham Twp, Fulton Co, OH and were buried in
the Snow Cemetery as WA Mace (1777 NY - 16 July 1851) and wife Mary (1784 NY -
31 Dec 1863). JJ Gamber was enumerated in both the 1900 and 1910 Fayette, Gorham
Twp, Fulton Co, OH federal censuses as a widower, living alone until his death
The Gambers were the parents of one
son, Leighrichmond D. Gamber (16 June 1862-1938). On 14 Oct 1886 in Fulton Co
(Marriages, V5 p76) Leighrichmond married Clara M. Coffin (7 Mar 1865-17 Nov
1951). Clara's grandparents, Freeman and Hannah Whitmarsh Coffin, natives of
Edgartown, Duke Co, MA and Cummington, MA, respectively, had married in
Williamsburg, MA on 1 Jan 1828. Freeman, b. 4 Oct 1786, was the son of Captain
Eddy and Sarah Vincent Coffin; Eddy was a Revolutionary War soldier and his
descendants would be eligible for membership in the DAR and the SAR.
Within a span of 17 days the Freeman
Coffins left Williamsburg, MA in March 1835, traveling by stage to Albany, NY;
then Freeman and his family sailed through the Erie Canal to Buffalo and Lake
Erie to Monroe, MI where they caught a stagecoach to Adrian, MI. They made a
further journey to Woodsworth Corners, west of Morenci, MI, by oxen-led wagon,
often cutting a road for their wagon as they progressed.
Freeman initially purchased 40 acres
in Section 22 of Gorham Twp on 18 Mar 1837. Later on 10 Dec 1853 he bought
another 80-acre parcel in Section 16. Clara's parents were George Williams and
Emily Hill Coffin, who married in Fayette, OH on 1 Jan 1856. Freeman Coffin died
on 3 July 1854 and his will was probated in Fulton Co, OH on 5 Aug 1854 leaving
wife Hannah one-third of his real estate as long as she remained a widow and
bequeathing son George W. the remaining two-thirds of the real estate. Hannah
Whitmarsh Coffin (29 Sept 1798 - 23 May 1880) was buried in the Pleasant View
Cemetery along with her son and daughter-in-law, George W. Coffin (5 Oct 1829-1
Dec 1914) and Emily Sofia Hill Coffin (8 Sept 1832-30 Dec 1913).
Leighrichmond and Clara's family
included an unknown son, deceased by the 1900 federal census, John Howard (4
July 1889 - 21 Feb 1970, Morenci, Lenawee Co, MI) and Virginia Louise (19 Feb
1897 - 24 Sept 1962, Dayton, OH; m. 18 Oct 1921, Fulton Co, OH to Raymond Andrew
Christian). Clara Gamber's obituary ("Fayette Review", 25 Feb 1970,
p5) stated that she was a member of the Methodist Church, a charter member of
the WSCS, the Good Cheer Sunday School Class, and the Fayette Women's Club.
John Howard Gamber married Nellie A.
McGowan (17 Aug 1889, Franklin, Fulton Co, OH - 23 Apr 1974, Dayton, Montgomery
Co, OH) in Fulton Co on 4 July 1912 (Marriages, V10 p221). Nellie was the
youngest daughter of William McGowan (Dec 1843 MI-1925 Fayette, OH) and his wife
Altha Marandi Salsbury (15 Feb 1854 Dekalb Co, IN-3 Jan 1922 DeKalb Co, IN). The
couple was married in MI on 27 Dec 1874. William McGowan's father, John Magowin,
was born 1797 in Dumfries, Scotland and his mother, Lydia Celia, born c1820, was
a native of Vermont. John and Lydia Magowin were enumerated in the 1840 Medina,
Lenawee Co, MI federal census. Land records show a John Magowin had purchased
land there as early as 1835. It appears through subsequent census records for
that area that John, a cabinetmaker by trade, had at least four children,
Charles, William, John, and Emma. John died sometime after the 1870 census for
that Michigan community, and Lydia resided with her children, John and Emma, as
listed in the 1880 Franklin Twp, Fulton Co, OH federal census.
Altha's parents were Daniel and
Fanny Isbell Salsbury; they were married in Noble Co, IN c1840. Daniel Salsbury
(13 Oct 1816, Conneaut Twp, Erie Co, PA - 7 July 1892, Kendallville, IN) was the
son of Daniel and Elizabeth Seeley Salsbury, both natives of Rutland, Vermont.
Fanny Isbell (26 Sept 1824, Wooster, Wayne Co, OH - 15/18 Oct 1898,
Kendallville, Noble Co, IN) was the daughter of Charles and Adah Tryan Isebell,
both natives of NY. According to Daniel's obituary he moved to Adrian, MI with
his parents in 1830. Daniel and Fanny were buried in the Lake View Cemetery in
Kendallville, Noble Co, IN.
The John Howard Gambers in turn were
the parents of Millicent (c1913), William R. (1919 - Nov 1942), Elvira Ralston
(c1922-2004), and Raymond Dick (1924-1925). Millicent, 92Y, of Van Wert, OH is
the only surviving sibling of her airman brother, who was a graduate of Gorham
Fayette High School, Class of 1937; Millicent married W. Paul Ewing on 7 June
1942 in Fulton Co (Marriages, V20 p166), making her a new bride at the time of
her brother's demise.
William R. Gamber's parents were
extremely active in the Fayette community and were an intregal part of the
Eastern Star; in fact history records Nellie Gamber as "Mrs. Eastern
Star" for her commitment to Eastern Star, Fayette #77, to which she served
in various capacities including president and past matron. Nellie and John
Howard, a local barber for 46 years, toured around Ohio and surrounding states
to fulfill her duties to this organization; despite the duties elsewhere, their
home was always described as warm and welcoming to everyone. For several years
as part of August birthdays, Nellie would host a potluck for other Fayette
residents who also had August birthdays; she served cake, punch, and warm
hospitality to her honored guests.
John Howard's activities included
the United Methodist Church, the Lions Club, the Wauseon Elks Club, the Wauseon
Sportsmen's Club, the Fayette Chapter OES, Masonic Lodge, Wauseon Chapter and
Council, and Montpelier Commandery; John was also a 32nd degree Mason
and an avid sportsman. Taking his civic duties seriously he helped to develop
the Fayette Memorial Park. ("Fayette Review", 25 Feb 1970, p1). Such
was the legacy of a family, deeply committed to friends, neighbors, and the
Fayette community at large.
There is a long-standing tradition
at Gorham Fayette High School where a photo composite of each graduating class
lines the second floor walls. As visitors stroll through that hall, they often
stop and reminisce about the whereabouts and doings of their classmates, close
friends, and relatives. Such is the case in small towns. If those walls could
talk, they could surely tell some interesting tales. As a student at Gorham
Fayette High School, William R. Gamber participated in the following
extra-curricular activities: track, basketball, baseball, band, orchestra,
Student Council, school plays, the yearbook, and the school newspaper. The Class
of '37 now has another story to relate, one that has the entire country poised
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