You Have My Grandmother’s Eyes

Julia Bott’s school photo circa 1900: even in this black and white photo, her blue eyes are evident
For years I believed this was a photo of my grandmother Evelyn Kaasch (McGuffin) and her grandmother Martha Zartman Bott. I now realize it can’t be Martha as she died the year Evelyn was born. We think this is likely Martha’s sister Elizabeth…who has a strong family resemblance to Evelyn’s mother Julia…and of course  those Zartman blue eyes

Last August, I talked my mother and my husband into attending our first Zartman Family Reunion, an annual event that takes place on the second Sunday each August. We were vaguely aware of these reunions, but despite living less than two hours away from the location, we never quite made the effort to find out any further information. But last year, I happened upon the “Zartmans Are Best” Facebook page and discovered the details of the when and where…so off we went to spend the weekend with the family we never realized we had.

By Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in a room filled with a multitude of newly-found cousins…perhaps fifty or sixty of them. (We were told this was light attendance). The rain had forced us inside…but we were enjoying a good old fashioned picnic of German staples…bratwurst, sauerkraut, multiple varieties of potato and marinated beet salads…with farm fresh corn, tomatoes, deviled eggs and rhubarb pie for dessert.

It was while we were eating and getting to know some of these new cousins that we found ourselves sitting across the table from cousin Bill…when the expression on my mother’s face suddenly tightened, as if she were holding back tears. My mother is not an overly emotional person—I can probably count the number of times I’ve seen her cry—so  I was taken aback when she blurted out “you have my grandmother’s eyes” to cousin Bill, who’s startled expression matched my own.

Growing up I was acutely aware of these characteristic blue eyes. My mother has them, my sister has them…I would recognize them in my nephew. In fact, if you place toddler-aged photos of my grandmother, mother, sister, and nephew side-by-side, you might be hard pressed to determine who’s who.  The likeness of these individuals is so strong that as a child my older sister had me convinced I was adopted, as I looked nothing like any of them. (The fact that it took weeks for my mother to unearth a single baby picture of me certainly did not help me feel any better…but that’s an entirely different story.) It seems my quest to “find myself” somewhere in those family photos started at a very early age.

While I have never quite recognized myself in the faces of my maternal ancestors, I have been surprised to find just how precisely some of these genes have been passed on to others, especially my only nephew. When cousin Becky recently emailed me a photo of my maternal grandfather (Clifford McGuffin), I was startled to find my nephew Jason staring back at me. When I compared Jason’s high school graduation photo with my maternal grandparents’ photos, I could see a road map from point “A” to point “B”.

My grandfather Clifford McGuffin circa 1926 in high school
My nephew Jason in high school circa 1999
My grandmother Evelyn Marie Kaasch, high school photo c1927

The photo of my grandmother Evelyn (Kaasch) McGuffin best showcases those eyes of which I speak. I had never given much thought to where those intense blue eyes came from…they were sometimes referred to as “the Kaasch eyes” as that was my grandmother’s maiden name.  But here we were sitting in a room full of our Zartman cousins—surrounded by individuals who had those eyes—what  my mother had just called her “grandmother’s eyes.”

Those of you who have been following my blog were introduced to this particular grandmother previously… Julia Bott Kaasch.  She is my maternal great-grandmother, my mother’s beloved grandmother with whom she spent a great amount of time as a child, and the person responsible for dismissing her son-in-law’s family legacy as nothing more than a bunch of drunken Irishmen (see Tales of Stoic Germans and Drunk-Ass Irishmen). As I stated previously, Julia would have something to say about her own family and she informs me that she’s waited long enough for this blog to focus on her family story.

Julia Bott was born on the fourth of August, 1883 in Schuyler Nebraska. She was the youngest of the eleven children of Gottlieb Bott and his wife Martha Zartman Bott. I’ve uncovered relatively little on the Bott side of the family, but the Zartman family has a well-documented and proudly celebrated history.

The first official reunion of the Zartman family in America was held August 29, 1908 at St. Paul’s Reformed Church in Glenford, Ohio.  Of the event the following was recorded:  “About 300 members of the Zartman family were present, and it was estimated that 1200 or more people assembled for this happy occasion.” Such reunions would be held sporadically throughout the first fifty years of the twentieth century until the late 1960’s when the events were reorganized and have occurred annually ever since.

The fifth reunion was held on August 14, 1913 at the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville, PA. (Brickerville has been the permanent location of the Pennsylvania reunions since about 1938.) This fifth reunion was a noteworthy event as it was at this time that the Memorial Monument to Alexander and Anna Catharina Zartman—the original founding members of the American family—was dedicated. The monument acknowledges the original arrival date of the Zartmans in America in 1728. The following was recorded about that reunion: “366 attended, Josephine Deam Zartman recited “Under the Buggy Seat,” Ezra Zartman played the ‘Cello, Sadie Steiner sang a solo, the Ezra Zartman Family played orchestral music, and Harry Zartman spoke Deutsch und English.”

The monument in honor of Alexander and Anna Catharina Zartman at Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brickerville PA. One of the oldest cemeteries in the county, Continental and Hessian soldiers are buried nearby
The Zartman Memorial behind the church in Brickerville
The cemetery behind the Brickerville Church, the resting place for several Zartmans

The seventh reunion, held on August 19, 1920—also at the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville—holds interest because of the topic recorded: “Cousin Rufus presided, spoke on Zartmans and Patriotism, 280 attended.”  This would be the first family reunion held after the end of the Great War (later referred to as World War I). While the Zartmans were proud of their German heritage, they were also patriotic Americans whose ancestors had served during the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars.  America had joined the Allies who were fighting against the Germans.  I wonder which family members had their patriotism called into question during this conflict?

Cousin Rufus, was the Reverend Rufus C. Zartman, the self-proclaimed family historian and president of the Zartman Association of America. It is thanks to cousin Rufus that we have such detailed documentation of our family, as he researched and wrote the first and second editions of the Zartman family genealogy book (in 1909 & updated in 1942). It seems that cousin Rufus was the personification of all things Zartman: devout, sober, scrupulous, and modest. Cousin Bill told me that what he likes best about the Zartmans is that they are by nature, not extravagant or overly impressive, but rather simple, grounded folk who worked hard at building a new country.  Floyd’s Northumberland County Genealogy references the Zartman family as “the best element in that region for several generations past.”

Cousin Rufus’s book has been updated, there is a family website, a Facebook page, and countless genealogy-related forums to be found online. I am just getting to know some of these new-found cousins…several are now Facebook friends and all seem as genuine and accommodating as our ancestors were reported to be…but let’s start back at the beginning…at least at the family’s arrival in America.

My 7x great-grandfather, Alexander and his wife, Anna Catharina Zartman, and their five year old son Jacob (my 6x great-grandfather), came to America from the province of Wurttemberg, Germany, in the summer of 1728. They made their way down the Rhine River to Rotterdam, and from there, on June 22, 1728 sailed for America, arriving at the Port of Philadelphia on August 31, 1728, aboard the ship “Albany.”

After swearing their allegiance to King George II, Alexander and Anna Catharina left Philadelphia, following the pike toward Hamburg, ending up in the Tulpehoeken region southwest of Reading in Berks County, Pennsylvania. They worshiped at the Muddy Creek Lutheran and Reformed Church for the rest of 1728 into 1729. They eventually relocated in Warwick township in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In 1738, they purchased a tract of land—197 acres—near Brickerville, the patent for which was given to Alexander by William Penn’s sons in about 1750.

The Original Zartman Homestead in Brickerville, PA
Site of the original Zartman Homestead as it is today (photo taken August 2011)

Son Jacob, my 6x great-grandfather, received his inheritance from his parents in 1754, when they deeded him seventy-one acres of the original homestead. Jacob Zartman sold this land to George Graffe in 1759 for £280. My understanding is that something happened to this great-grandfather—some sort of falling-out or disagreement—that caused great distress. Whatever it was, it was serious enough that Jacob, his wife Anna Margaretha, and their first son Henry (my 5x great-grandfather), left the rest of their family behind in 1768, traveling up the Susquehanna River and settling in Dornsife, Mahanoy township, Northumberland County.  Jacob purchased a 122-acre tract at the foot of Line Mountain. He would later acquire an additional 100 acres from John Adam Shaffer for £11. Jacob and Anna Margaretha would have seven more children, five sons and three daughters. Jacob would serve as a Private in the Revolutionary War in Ensign Simon Herrold’s Northumberland County, Pennsylvania Militia. On June 8, 1791, Jacob was issued one pound, fifteen shillings for his tour of active duty.  Jacob and Anna Margaretha both died about 1793. They are reported to be buried in a meadow west of the original family house in a private family burial ground. There are no tombstones.

This second Zartman Homestead would remain in the family for over 140 years (into the early 20th century), first passing through Jacob to his sons, Henry, Martin, and Peter. Henry would buy out his brothers and it would later go to Henry’s son Martin, Martin’s son Daniel and finally to Daniel’s son Samuel S. The homestead was continually developed. At some point a church was built on the property, the United Evangelical Church, but usually referred to as Zartman’s Church. A second graveyard was added next to the church. A second—presumably grander—house was built by Daniel around 1861. I am told this house still stands today. I don’t know if any of these buildings are in use today…but taking a drive out to Dornsife is on my “to do” list sometime in the next few months.

This is the second house built on “Henry’s Delight” which was built c 1861 by Henry’s grandson Daniel

Henry (my 5x great-grandfather) and his wife Elizabeth Hauser married in 1771 and had 12 children.  One interesting tidbit about the children of Henry & Elizabeth…of their 8 sons, 4 are named John-  John Martin, John Henry, John Peter, and John Jacob. (Why? I haven’t the foggiest idea.) My 4x great-grandfather, Samuel, was born in 1788, the youngest of Henry’s dozen. Henry & Elizabeth both died around 1803 and are buried in the cemetery at Zartman’s Church. Henry obviously loved his farm which was referred to as “Henry’s Delight” in his will. When Henry died, his two youngest boys were 15 (Samuel) and 17 (Alexander) years old. There obviously wasn’t enough land to go around to all his sons so the two boys were bound out to a trade “to such masters as the boys shall choose” under the terms of their father’s will.

It is unclear what masters each boy chose. I found some indication that brother Alexander learned the blacksmithing trade which he would later teach to Samuel’s son Israel (my 3x great-grandfather). Regardless of the trade Samuel learned, he left the family homestead in the summer of 1810 and headed to Ohio. Samuel, his wife Catherine Fisher, and their infant son Jacob, joined with Sam’s brothers Alexander and John Henry, a cousin Benjamin Zartman, their uncle Peter Zartman, and other relatives. As many as twenty Zartmans were said to have traveled by wagon on the long, tedious trip of more than 550 miles. They settled near Somerset, Perry County, Ohio. (Just east of present day Columbus.) On June 23, 1814, Samuel bought a quarter section of land in Reading Township, Perry County—the land patent bears the signature of President James Madison.  Sam and Catherine would raise ten children on their land. Catherine would die in 1850 and Sam in 1857. They are buried in the New Lebanon Evangelical Lutheran Burial Ground in Junction City, Ohio. As I was searching through the various cemeteries in this area, looking to locate Sam and Catherine, I found almost one hundred Zartmans buried in the following nearby cemeteries; Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery, the Lutheran Cemetery in Somerset, the Lutheran Reformed Cemetery in Thornville, Mount Zion United Brethren Cemetery, Zion Cemetery, and Old Zion United Brethren in Junction City.

My 3x great-grandfather Israel Zartman was born in 1812, the third son of Sam and Catherine. As stated earlier he learned his trade as a blacksmith from his uncle Alexander. By age 21, he was married to Elizabeth Ridenour. She would die two months after giving birth to their son Jonathan in 1834. It appears that Israel married Elizabeth’s sister Anna Mary five days after Elizabeth died. Perhaps this was a necessity so that the baby would have a mother to care for him. Unfortunately, baby Jonathan would die weeks later. Israel and Anna Mary seem to take this in stride as the first of their own eleven children, a son Solomon, would arrive in July of 1835. At the age of 46, Israel would relocate his entire family to Illinois—first to Dewitt County and several years later to Logan County. I haven’t yet figured out the reason for this move. Israel would die in August of 1863 and is believed to be buried in the Mount Pulaski Cemetery in Logan County, Illinois. Anna Mary appears to have outlived her husband by at least nineteen years. I assume she is buried near her husband but I haven’t confirmed that yet. It is with Israel that my male ties to the Zartman name ends. Of Israel’s eleven children, seven would be daughters, and only one son would outlive him.  Israel and Anna Mary’s fourth child is my 2x great grandmother Martha Zartman.

Martha Zartman Bott is a bit of a mystery. I have no firsthand knowledge of her…but from what I can deduce she must have been some sort of character…I would say strong-minded to say the least. At age 24, Martha marries Gottlieb Bott, a tailor who appears to have immigrated to America from Württemberg, Germany at age 10. (Alone or with family members?) The 1870 Federal Census shows them living (presumably the place they met) in Mount Pulaski, Illinois with their first four children. Their next door neighbors are a tailor named Gustave Widenbacher, also from Württemberg, and Christian Miller, a tailor from Saxony. I wonder if Gustave could be a clue to how Gottlieb got to America in the first place? (To be followed up at a later date.) By the 1880 Census, now in their forties with nine children, Gottlieb and Martha are living on a farm in eastern Nebraska. We don’t know why the couple decided to buy a farm in Nebraska, but it appears that Martha’s brother Peter, a Veteran of the Civil War, her sister Elizabeth who had married Joseph Smith (another Civil War Veteran), and her sister Mary who was married to another German immigrant by the name of Frederick Rentschler, all had property in Colfax County, Nebraska. Martha appears to have had a close relationship to these particular siblings as she named her first born Peter and her second born Mary. We don’t know if one followed another or they moved all at once, but moved they did. As Zartman offspring, they all certainly had farming in their veins and Nebraska was offering land. Their tenth and eleventh children were born in Schuyler, Nebraska.

My favorite Federal Census is the one taken in 1900. On it we find Martha living on her farm (listed as “head of household”) with five of her children, the youngest being my great-grandmother, Julia Bott. Martha has reported herself as “widowed”…a particular detail which sent me on the trail of finding where my great-grandfather Gottlieb was buried. I couldn’t find his grave anywhere in Nebraska. For a good reason. He wasn’t dead in 1900. Rather, he was living halfway across the state with his daughter Anna, now married to a George Poole, a granddaughter Frieda Poole, and his daughter Clara Bott. It should be noted that Gottlieb reported his status as “Divorced” to the census takers, although I have yet to find any legal records that prove that they actually did get divorced. What did Gottlieb do to get kicked out of his home? We may never know. In the end, Gottlieb would die in June of 1909 at the age of 73. He appears to have died in Colorado, burial place yet to be determined. Martha died in June of 1910. She is buried in the middle of nowhere, among the farm fields in a tiny isolated plot called Zollman Cemetery. It’s a bit curious as she seems to be the only family member buried in this location. Her siblings are buried in the nearby Leigh Cemetery and several of her children are buried in the Schuyler Cemetery. Perhaps she wished to remain close to her farm. In the 1880 census I saw that the Zollman family lived on the farm next door. If she is buried in the Zollman Cemetery, she is likely as close to her land as possible.

The headstone of my great-great grandmother Martha Zartman Bott
Zollman Cemetery in the middle of the farm fields outside Schuyler Nebraska, my great-great grandmother is one of about 31 people buried here, and perhaps the only famiy member here.

This brings us all the way back to my great-grandmother Julia Bott Kaasch…the one who’s blue eyes appeared at that Zartman family reunion last August. So now I suppose it’s time to tell you a bit more about Julia…and I find I am not ready to do so. Sure, I can tell you the basics… the year she was born, the fact that she was the youngest child of eleven, the year she died, the man she married, where she lived…and even a few less basic things… like the fact she made baby clothes for my sister and my sister’s Barbie doll, or that she attended a German school as a child. But what about all the things I don’t know? What was her favorite color? What was her favorite food? I think I owe it to her to find out more. There  is only one person left on this earth who can answer these questions…why have I never asked my mother more about her grandmother? Her grandfather? Her mother? I will see my mother next Sunday for Mother’s Day…I already know what we’ll be doing that day.

6 thoughts on “You Have My Grandmother’s Eyes

Add yours

  1. Wonderful read – Alexander Zartman is my 7x Great Grandfather as well (who’d a thunk it?)

    I only have a minor comment, and this seems to be a common mistake.

    In the paragraph that starts with “It is unclear what masters each boy chose.” you indicate the family settled in Perry County, Ohio, and procured land in 1814. Prior to March 1st, 1818, Perry County did not exist. Perry County was formed from parts of Fairfield, Washington, and Muskingum Counties on that date.The section on which the families settled (Binckley, Zartman, Spohn, Anspach, etc.) was part of Fairfield County.

    Great work – I’d love to compare notes on our familial intersection some time.


    1. Gary- so nice that you have reached out…I love that I have so many “cousins” out there in the universe. It is mind-boggling when you really think about it. At some point I would love to start following up with the relatives I have met through this blog-writing process to see what we all have in common or not. I find it fascinating. Thank you also for pointing out the Perry Co/Fairfield Co. issue. I usually don’t take the time to correct my posts…but hopefully the next person who reads the blog will also read your comment. I believe the information came from a history of Perry County…and I must have missed where it stated that Perry was not always Perry. It’s so difficult to keep track of these changes. I never realized how many times in history that the names of towns, counties etc. have changed through time. I have a number of ancestors in Virginia…parts of which became West Virginia…those get really complicated! I have not been focused much on this project of late…but plan to refocus in the coming months. Yes, please stay in touch and let me know if I’m missing anything important!!


  2. Mickey-
    I recently became a DAR member and Henry Zartman is my revolutionary ancestor thru whom I am connected. I am doing a presentation for one of our DAR chapter meetings to talk about Henry so I have enjoyed finding your writings as I prepare for this. I found it very uncanny to hear about those intense blue eyes. My father and grandfather as well as one of my sons have those eyes as well! The fact that you used the word “intense” is interesting as that is the same adjective used by my father when he speaks of the family blue eyes. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed the articles you have written!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reaching out Jenn! Very cool. I would love to hear/read your presentation. And expand my knowledge of the Zartman family. The blue eye DNA is incredible… wow. I recently joined the Colonial Dames through another family line, so haven’t thought about DAR. One if enough, right? LOL. Are you in a PA chapter?


  3. I purchased a copy of the photo of r original Zartman Homestead in Brickerville, PA at an an antique store in Brandywine with the hopes of returning it to a family member. Would you be interested in this image?

    Kate Kelley “The Photo Angel” as seen on NBC’s The Today Show


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