While researching for my article on the Rake Cemetery part two, I came upon one Philip Kaffitz who married into the Sergeant family. Knowing next to nothing about him, I checked on the abstracts of the Hunterdon Republican newspaper compiled by Bill Hartman.
While clicking on the name Kaffitz, I kept getting hits for one Martin Kaffitz, a blacksmith in Glen Gardner. (The photograph above is of James A. Harned, blacksmith of Sergeantsville. I couldn’t find any other.)
The Kaffitz name is not very common in Hunterdon County, so I was intrigued and began collecting all the references there were to Martin. (There was next to nothing about Philip.)
What I found was a life’s story displayed in the newspaper over a seven year period. The level of detail was due to the Republican’s very observant correspondent who contributed items to a feature called “News from Glen Gardner.” This is the kind of local news that is no longer available to us today, and is a reflection on how much closer communities used to be in the 19th century. (And of course, how different things were when we had no internet.)
So, here is the story of Martin Kaffitz and his wife Hattie Fritts, with the help of records available on Ancestry.com and Find-a-Grave.
As the notices made clear, Martin Kaffitz came to New Jersey from Germany. He was born on May 29, 1865 at Marnheim, Bavaria, and baptized in the Lutheran Church there on June 11, 1865. His parents were named in the baptismal record as Johann Kaffitz and Katharine Margarethe Kaffitz. When Martin was only 15 years old in 1880, he emigrated to America, which is too bad because that means he missed being counted in the census of that year.
Kaffitz found work as a blacksmith in Lebanon Township, and became acquainted with the Fritts family. They were also originally German, but had emigrated a hundred years before Martin Kaffitz did.
David Fritts, born August 1, 1828, was the son of Jacob Fritts (1799-1866) and Elizabeth Apgar (1803-1886). David probably married his wife Mary Elizabeth around 1851 or 1852.
In 1870, David Fritts was a 41-year-old farm laborer in Bethlehem Township. His wife Elizabeth was 39. He owned some real estate, worth $1500, which may have been a property sold to him by George Osmun in 1864.1 The 1870 census listed his children as Mauda 17 (b.1853), Sarah 13 (b.1857), Lavinia 12 (b.1858), Emma 5 (b.1865) and Hattie 1 (b.1869).
In 1880, David Fritts, age 50, was a cradle maker (a tool used to harvest grain), and his wife Elizabeth was also 50. They were again living in Bethlehem Township with daughters Lavinia 22, who worked as a nurse, Emma 15 and “Hatta” 11, both at school. The Hunterdon Republican stated that the family lived at Norton, which is located just north of Route 78, near the north-south Charlestown Road, also known as Route 635, in Bethlehem Township. It is about 4 miles southwest of Glen Gardner.
How immigrant Martin Kaffitz came to meet Hattie Fritts remains a mystery, but as the Republican reported, on November 23, 1889, Martin Kaffitz and Hattie W. Fritts were married by Rev. Stephen H. Jones. Martin was then 26 years old and Hattie was 20. They had one child, a son named Horace B. Kaffitz, born in 1890. I do not have the exact date of his birth (his death certificate said only 1890), but I would not be surprised to learn that it was less than nine months after the wedding.
Martin Kaffitz never bought any property. He remained a tenant all his life, so it is hard to know where he and his family were living. The first clue comes in 1893 when the Republican reported that he had moved into the Bell homestead and had gotten work in the blacksmith shop of William Crater of Glen Gardner. Kaffitz would remain a blacksmith for the rest of his life.
The Bell Homestead House
As is typical of me, I had to find out more about the Bell homestead. And once again, the Hunterdon Republican and its reliable correspondent from Glen Gardner provided the answer: the house was owned by Stewart T. Bell, constable of Glen Gardner. With the help of census records and Find-a-Grave, I learned that Stewart’s father, James A. Bell, a tailor, died in 1856 at the age of only 43, leaving a widow Rebecca and four young children. Rebecca Bell (1814-1896, maiden name not known) raised her family in Glen Gardner, but in 1868, she remarried to George Fritts, who was 18 years her senior. The marriage lasted until his death in 1878.
George Fritts was a first cousin to Jacob Fritts, father of David, grandfather of Hattie W. Fritts.
In 1889, Mrs. Fritts decided to “vacate the house opposite the blacksmith shop and occupy rooms with Miss Eliza Force.” This may explain how Martin Kaffitz the blacksmith came to meet Hattie Fritts. Having a family connection with Mrs. Fritts, would likely mean Hattie came to visit from time to time.
Mrs. Fritts died on April 20, 1896 at the age of 81 years 6 months and 6 days, and was buried in the Fountain Grove Cemetery in Glen Gardner. Her son Stewart, who never married, seems to have taken over the house for a time, until 1893 when he leased it to John Tunison. Actually, he seems to have owned two houses, as reported in the Republican:
1893 Apr 5, John Tunison moved into the Bell house on Friday. He is now ready to do teaming and plowing lots and gardens on reasonable terms. Stewart T. Bell is repairing and painting the interior of the Bell homestead house; also the house in which Tunison lives.
It was the homestead house that Martin Kaffitz moved into, as the Republican reported:
1893 Apr 12, Martin Kaffitz occupies the BELL homestead. He is employed in the blacksmith shop of William Crater in Glen Gardner.
Stewart Bell seems to have been a good landlord. In May 24, 1893, the Republican reported that “Stewart T. Bell is having new chimneys placed on his mother’s residence which adjoins the hotel lawn and is also building a new fence in the front.” Stewart T. Bell was Lebanon’s town clerk and road commissioner for Glen Gardner in 1889, and Constable of Lebanon Township from 1890 to at least 1899. He was the indispensable man, as seen in this item:
1890 Sep 10, That safe and reliable officer, Stewart T. Bell of Lebanon Tp., was honored yesterday with the charge of the Grand Jury. He now holds the offices of Constable, Road Commissioner, School Trustee, &c. What next, Stewart?
Returning to Martin Kaffitz
The item dated Nov. 14, 1894 described an unfortunate accident for Martin Kaffitz. It is hard to imagine today people being advised to jump from a slow-moving train if they want to get off, but apparently that was standard procedure in 1894.
Martin Kaffitz, of Glen Gardner, visited the Red Men’s Lodge at High Bridge on Friday night. To return home, he boarded the express at that place. The train does not stop here, but slows down and he was told that he could jump off. Well he did and ended up with a dislocated shoulder, a cracked shoulder blade, 2 severe cuts on his head and the skull was slightly fractured.
As you can see from the map below, the train ran from High Bridge through Glen Gardner on its way to Junction and other parts north.
After such a serious accident, Martin Kaffitz had to give up blacksmithing for a time, which meant spending a lot more time at home. Perhaps this is what brought out the worst in him, because his wife Hattie got sick of it and left him the following January.
1895 Jan 30, Mrs. Hattie W. Kaffitz, wife of Martin Kaffitz, left her home on 22 Jan. 1895 and went to Easton, PA, where she will hereafter reside.
Apparently, she did return. The NJ State Census for Lebanon township in 1895 states that Martin Kaffitz, foreign born, was living with Hattie Kaffitz, Horace Kaffitz age 5-10 and a young girl named Mary Weber. Maybe Hattie came back because Martin was able to get back to work, but in May she became ill, as the paper announced.
1895 May 29, Mrs. Hattie W. Kaffitz, wife of Martin Kaffitz, is very sick, with little hope of recovery.
I wish the correspondent had told us what illness Hattie had. It seems she did recover after all, enough to realize that she and Martin could not live together, as this item from June 12, 1895 states:
1895 Jun 12, Martin Kaffitz moved from opposite the Post Office to the house of Joseph Fritts, on the Changewater road near Bell’s Crossing. His wife, Hattie W. Kaffitz, will go elsewhere, as they have dissolved their partnership, a second time.
Joseph Fritts does not seem to have been directly related to David Fritts. He was probably Joseph A. Fritts (1835-1908) married to Susan Huffman in 1856, and resident in Clinton Township in 1880. Bell’s Crossing is located north of Glen Gardner, halfway to the town of Hampton.
Martin Kaffitz must have been pretty devastated by being abandoned by his wife. Two weeks later, the Glen Gardner correspondent reported (on June 26, 1895) that Kaffitz “posted bills for the sale of his household goods, the sale to take place on June 29, 1895. He will return to Germany to avoid trouble with his wife. They have parted.” On July 3, the paper reported that the sale had taken place and Kaffitz would “return to his native land, Germany.”
Passenger lists on Ancestry.com confirm that the trip was made. Kaffitz arrived at Liverpool on July 26, 1895, on his way to Germany. (The date is a little odd, since Kaffitz supposedly held his sale three days later.) Apparently his plan to remain in Germany did not work out, because on November 27, 1895, Martin Kaffitz, age 30, arrived back in New York, having departed from Antwerp, Belgium. His return was duly noted.
1895 Dec 4, Brief News from Glen Gardner. Martin Kaffitz arrived here on Wednesday after a voyage of 11 days, leaving Antwerp on 16 Nov. 1895.
[Same date] Edward C. Shuler of Warren Co., has quit blacksmithing for William Crater and Martin Kaffitz has taken his place.
So Martin had resumed his old life in Glen Gardner, and had somehow gotten custody of his son Horace, as implied in the next item.
1896 Jun 24, Martin Kaffitz thought he would climb a cherry tree to get a few cherries for his boy on Monday afternoon. He climbed on a rotten limb which broke and he fell about 12 feet onto a pile of stones. He was much hurt.
The man seems slightly accident-prone. Even so, he only took about a week to recover.
1896 Jul 1, Martin Kaffitz, who broke a rib by falling out of a cherry tree last week, is out again.
The next item shows that Hattie Kaffitz was living in Glen Gardner, but probably not with Martin.
1896 Aug 5, David Fritts, an old resident of Norton vicinity, has taken up his residence with his daughter, Mrs. Hattie W. Kaffitz, in Glen Gardner. Mr. Fritts makes and repairs grain cradles and repairs wagons and all farming implements requiring mechanical skill.
The item said nothing about Hattie’s mother, even though she was still alive in 1896. David A. Fritts died in Phillipsburg on December 11, 1897, and 6 days later, so did his wife Mary Elizabeth Case. He was 69, she was 66, and the two were buried in the Spruce Run Cemetery in Lebanon twp. But during that last year, they were apparently on their own, because it appears that Hattie and Martin had reunited and moved to Riegelsville, PA.
1896 Nov 18, Martin Kaffitz left here Sunday for Riegelsville, PA, where he intends to make his future home.
1896 Dec 9, Martin Kaffitz moved his family to Riegelsville, PA last week.
Since they were no long residents of Glen Gardner, reports on the family in the Hunterdon Republican ceased. The next thing I know about the couple is that in 1897, they were registered at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Riegelsville. But the directory only said “Mrs. Kaffitz.” Was it Hattie? or was it a second wife? I suspect that by this time Martin had remarried, which means he had gotten a divorce from Hattie.2
I could not find Martin Kaffitz in the 1900 census, but the city directory for Easton, PA that year listed Martin Kaffitz, blacksmith, living at 480 S. Main, Keen’s Hotel, in Easton. Hattie was also living in Easton, but at a different address. She was counted in the 1900 census living in an apartment at 716 Northampton St. She was only 31 years old, born March 1869, and divorced. She earned money by doing housework for private families, but had been unemployed for 4 months. Son Horace, who would have been ten years old, was not living with her. He was probably living with his father and new step-mother.
By 1905, Martin Kaffitz had returned to New Jersey, settling at Phillipsburg. The NJ state census reported that he was 40 years old, living in an apartment at 29 Mercer Street and working as a blacksmith. With him were his wife Clara, age 25 (born May 1880 in Pennsylvania) and his son Horace B. Kaffitz, age 15, who was still at school. Also in the household was an infant, Emanual Garsier [?], born in NJ in November 1903.
Five years later, according to the federal census of 1910, Martin and Clara were still in Phillipsburg, having moved up the street to 82 Mercer St. Clara’s father was born in Switzerland and her mother in Pennsylvania. Horace was still at home, now 20 years old, working as a laborer at a freight house. Also there was “nephew” Manuel Garcy age 8. That must have been the child reported in the 1905 census.
Martin and Clara Kaffitz remained in Easton through 1914, according to Easton City Directories, but they moved once again, this time to 117 Mercer St.
Martin Kaffitz died on December 29, 1916, age 51, and was buried at the Phillipsburg Cemetery.3 It would not surprise me to learn that he died from an accident. I found no information on the death of his wife Clara.
Hattie Kaffitz died on August 7, 1921, age 52 at Easton, and was buried in the Easton Cemetery.4
Their son Horace B. Kaffitz never married. He lived in Easton until his death on December 10, 1928 when he was only 38 years old. According to his death certificate, he was getting a tonsillectomy, and died from the procedure.
So ends the story of the Kaffitz family of Glen Gardner. Martin Kaffitz’s employer, William Crater, also had an interesting life, thoroughly recounted in “News from Glen Gardner.” His story will come next.