The Family of Jacob Greff and Maria Zehler

Second Generation

Charles and Mary

Jacob and Maria Greff - late 1880s

Maria Zehler was born in Nuhweiler, Rhine Province, Prussia, and came to America in 1856, with her parents.  She married Jacob Greff at St. Cecilia's in Sheldon.  Jacob and Mary settled in Bennington, New York, where they raised their children.

The children of Jacob and Maria are:

Third Generation

i. William Graves William was born on December 10, 18651.
ii. Ida Graves Ida was born on July 27 18671, and she died about 1904.  Ida married Fred A. Jenss.
iii. Mary E. Graves Mary was born on November 27, 18691, and she died in 19501.  Mary married Theodore Martin.
iv. Frederick William Graves Frederick was born on May 26, 18721.  He married Helen Mooney.
v. John August Graves John was born on July 28, 18772, and he died on September 8, 196518,34.  John married Clara Amelia Schwatz.

Baptismal Record
Maria's Baptismal Record

Maria Zehler was born May 14, 18395, in Nuhweiler, Rhine Province, Prussia, the fifth child of Peter Zehler and Anna Maria Klasen.  Her birth was registered the following morning at the district administrative center in Wadern5.  This record is the source for her date of birth of May 3rd.  Maria's baptismal record4, however, gives her date of birth as May 15th, a discrepancy which is common for four of her siblings.  (see Peter for additional comments).

Birth Record
Maria's Birth Record

Maria grew up in Nuhweiler, where she received her education and training on the family farm.  She came to America in 185697,98, along with her parents and siblings.  As the oldest child on the voyage, she was undoubtedly a great help to her mother in caring for her eight younger brothers and sister.  (Maria is listed as the second child on the passenger list of the ship.  For some mysterious reason, the boy's names and ages were falsified.) After joining the parish community at St. Cecilia's, Maria would have busied herself on the family farm or worked as a servant in another household.

On February 13, 18651, Maria married Jacob Greff at St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church in Sheldon.  Jacob was the son of William Greff and Anna Gaugle.  The Greff family had arrived in Sheldon about the same time as the Zehler family and joined St. Cecilia's.  The Greff family came from the Germanic area of Belgium, near its border with Germany and Luxembourg.

After their marriage, Jacob and Maria began a life of farming.  In March 1866, they purchased land on Center Line Road just East of Sheldon Center23, where their first children were born.  Then in January 1870, they purchased the Tharnish farm on the Allegany road in Bennington, just north of the Sheldon Town line23.  In the early 1880's, Jacob and Maria opted for a new start when they moved with their family to Iowa40.  This period was one of economic difficulty in America and many of the local families moved west in hopes of a better life.  This included the Jacob's relatives, who homesteaded in Plymouth County, north of Sioux City.  Life on the frontier was difficult, however.  Pioneers lived in sod huts with few amenities and with few neighbors and friends nearby.  Jacob and Maria were unsuccessful in their pioneering effort and after about a year, Jacob and Maria moved back to Sheldon, New York, minus their oldest son, William, who remained with his relatives40.

The surname of Jacob and Maria's children as listed above is Graves, a clear departure from the original family name of Greff.  Hilda Graves, granddaughter of Jacob and Maria, related a family tradition that the name change came about because a school teacher insisted that, since they lived in America, the Greff children should have an American name40.  This may not, however, be the reason, since the family name is rendered as Graves in the 1870 U.S. Census46, when the oldest child was only four and not yet in school.  In addition, the obituary of Maria uses the name Graves for both her and her husband96.  This all suggests that Jacob and Maria may have decided on the change for some unknown reason.

After returning to New York, Jacob and Maria lived in Sheldon, though it is not clear whether he resumed farming.  Jacob's died on April 26, 19001.  Maria continued to live in Sheldon with her son, John, and when John moved to Lancaster, New York, Maria moved with him.  She died there on December 27, 19031,99.  Jacob and Maria are buried in the cemetery at St. Cecilia's in Sheldon.

William Graves

William Graves

William Graves - early 1880s

William Graves was born December 10, 18651, in Sheldon, New York, the oldest child of Jacob Greff and Maria Zehler.  William grew up on the family farms in Sheldon and Bennington.  Then, in the early 1880's he moved with his family to Iowa.  When Jacob and Maria decided to move back to Western New York, William elected to stay in Iowa with relatives40.  The 1885 Iowa State Census lists William, age 19, living in the Town of Meadow, Plymouth County, Iowa271, with his cousin, John, and his family, and working as a laborer.  Nothing further is known about his life.

Frederick William Graves:

Frederick Graves

Frederick Graves - early 1880s

Frederick Graves was born May 26, 18721, in Bennington, New York, the fourth child of Jacob Greff and Maria Zehler.  As related by Hilda Graves40, Fred worked for the Nickel Plate Railroad and they lived in Conneaut, Ohio.

From the available information, it appears that Fred left Sheldon sometime in 1890's and probably began work with the railroad at that time.  About 1898102, he married Helen Mullen, the daughter of Thomas Mullen and Catherine Shea100.  Helen was born on February 11, 1871, in Conneautville, Pennsylvania100.  Fred and Helen's whereabouts is unknown until 1920, when they are living in Conneaut, Ohio in a house they owned on Depot Street101.  Fred was working as a conductor for the railroad.  In 1930, Fred was a widower and retired102.  He was still living in Conneaut, in a boarding house near the Nickel Plate Railroad.

Helen died in Conneaut on February 12, 1927100, and Fred died in Cleveland on April 9, 1938100.  They had no children.

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