Fayette's Native Son







America's Focus on Fayette's Native Son: A Descendant of Sterling Pioneers and Prominent Community Leaders in Gorham Township, Fulton County, Ohio

By Pamela Pattison Lash

[The 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 census, p351).

            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 attention.

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 to-date.

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 in 1916.

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 to hear.


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