Caroline’s Circle

I remember…

Sitting in the one room schoolhouse in New Mahoning, Pennsylvania and staring up at the wall plaque commemorating the Civil War Veterans from Mahoning Township. Mrs. Bertha Sensinger, the teacher, saw my interest and showed me a booklet that explained the meaning of the information contained on the plaque. Oliver Musselman, one of the men who died in the war, came from a neighboring farm.

The Annual Memorial Day Services that were held at St. John’s Church Cemetery. The members of the local American Legion would come on Sunday to blow taps and make speeches. After the ceremony some of the congregation would walk around the cemetery reading the stones and noting the names of the people they had known.

Driving around Mahoning Valley and thinking about who lived at each farm, and listening to my father explain how they were related to us and to others in the valley.

“Look Beyond the Blue Mountain” If you think your ancestors were “Pennsylvania Dutch”, and you have not been able to find them in the areas usually regarded as Dutch, it is time to look “Beyond The Blue Mountain.” This mountain North of Northampton, Lehigh, and Berks Counties was a physical barrier to northward migration into the early eighteenth century. The area North of the Blue Mountain includes what is now Carbon County.

I started my research into my own family history many years ago. The earliest readable records I could find were the Pre-Revolutionary War Tax Records. Mahoning was first identified as Towamensing and then Penn Township in Northampton County. It finally became Mahoning Township in Carbon County. I continued by collecting copies of the Federal Census Reports. I also found it necessary to include the many special Federal Census Reports such as the Mortality Census, the Agricultural Census, and the Veterans Census of 1890. Over a period of years, I analyzed, cross-referenced and learned the idiosyncrasies of the penmanship of each enumerator. I then corrected and re-corrected these hand-written sheets into census table reports. The mound of paper copies overflowed my desk and reached the dining room table. In desperation Burt, my husband, began copying these records into the computer.

Active Members of St. John’s Church told me that there were no existing public records of the burials in the church cemetery. With the help of my sister and her husband, James and Jane Zimmerman Shindel, we made a list of the tombstones and the people buried there. We later added some names from a list of burials provided to us by John and Shirley Waugh of Lehighton. You will also find burials listed from the Zimmerman, Nothstein, and Strauss Cemeteries. I hope listing the locations of the graves in the cemeteries will help you find some family relationships that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Wayne and Marian Miller Smith gave support to the whole “Beyond The Blue Mountain” series by being a treasure trove of information on families and relationships and giving us research assistance during our many trips to Mahoning Township. In the last ten years, I accumulated a bounty of information. Burt printed a few copies to give to the people who had helped me along the way. I realized that everyone should have the thrill of finding his or her own ancestors, and that I can be of the best service by providing this information in the form of these research aids.

The most frustrating part of this undertaking was to refrain from correcting the spelling of the enumerators to the modern and, of course, “correct” spelling of the names. Sometimes I found that by saying the name out loud as it seemed to be spelled, and imagining how it would have been spoken in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, I could identify letters that were badly smudged. Please take the time to skim the index for names that may vary from the anticipated spelling because they sounded different to the ears of the enumerator. From decade to decade different enumerators heard the same names with different ears.

When I was a freshman in Lehighton High School, a very formidable Pennsylvania Civics teacher, Miss Mame Pilz, asked her pupils to each write about the village or township they were from, and to explain why it was a good place to live. I wrote about the farms, the trees, the streams and the people who lived in Mahoning Township. At the last minute I added that I loved it most of all, because it was “home”. Over 50 years later, as it’s great individuality is being threatened by what can be called urbanization, I am still very proud to say that I still feel I am coming home, every time I cross over the Blue Mountain.

I hope you can find your family in Mahoning Township, and then use the combined full name index to follow them through their lives and on to other generations.

– Caroline Zimmerman Johns – August 2001


Caroline’s Circle offers a place to share information about rural life in the valleys beyond the Blue Mountain. Generally, this includes West Penn Township in Schuylkill County, and East Penn and Mahoning Townships in Carbon County, Pennsylvania.

Your stories of school days, family customs, or old printed materials can evoke memories for all of us.


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