Water Under the Bridge

By John F. Oyler
Copyright © 2017



The Oyler Reunion
June 29, 2017



Thanks to my nephew Paul I was able to get to the Oyler Reunion, in Chambersburg this year. He volunteered to drive his parents (my brother and his wife) and me down and back, an offer that was greatly appreciated.

Another passenger on the trip East was his niece Michaela, who had spent the previous week with her grand-parents, and would meet her parents at the Reunion.

The event is actually the reunion of the descendants of my father’s parents – Adam Douglas Oyler and his wife Annie Malinda Smith. After the last of my father’s generation passed away, my cousin Harry initiated an annual reunion of our generation and our families.

Originally this consisted of six cousins, their spouses and children. Three of the cousins and four of the spouses are gone, but those of us remaining are happy to get together regularly. This year the gathering amounted to thirty of us.

Harry is now ninety seven years old and lives in Menno Haven, a retirement community run by the Mennonites; that facility served as a perfect venue for the event.

The Oyler roots run deep in the Chambersburg/Waynesboro area. Four of Harry’s children and their families live in Chambersburg; his eldest child, Rick, and his wife Koko live in Maine, but made it a point to schedule a trip here for the Reunion.

I was especially happy to see Alson Bohn, who is now ninety two. He married my cousin Jeanne after he returned from World War II. Three of his children and theirfamilies were there, having a Bohn mini-reunion.

The trip was full of nostalgia, being one that has been made many times for as long as I can remember. Before the Turnpike was constructed, our itinerary was a combination of Routes 51 (which lacked a nickname), 31 (the William Penn Highway), and 30 (the Lincoln Highway) to McConnellsburg where we were faced with a decision – How should we tackle Tuscarora Mountain?

Although Allegheny Summit was at a higher elevation, somehow Tuscarora seemed to present a more difficult challenge. Ascending its western face one invariably passed numerous cars stopped along the highway, emitting clouds of steam because “their radiator had boiled over”, hoping our 1937 Ford wouldn’t encounter the same fate.

At McConnellsburg we could continue on Route 30 to Fort Loudon and then Chambersburg or take Route 16 (the Molly Pitcher Highway) to Mercersburg and Waynesboro. Our ultimate destination, Quincy, was about halfway between Chambersburg and Waynesboro. Both routes promised adventure climbing Tuscarora; I have no idea what ultimately dictated our choice.

Our rest stops were at the Ship Hotel, beached precariously on the southeastern face of Allegheny and either Shorty’s or Bill’s Place on the high valley between Rays Hill and Sideling Hill. At each place we pestered our parents for money to buy souvenirs.

After the Turnpike was opened, a new family of nostalgic sites was added to our memory bank, especially in the stretch between New Stanton and Donegal where my father had worked. He is deeply in my consciousness each time I pass through that section.

As always, popping out of the Blue Mountain tunnel and seeing the Cumberland Valley, Oyler family heartland, spread out before us produced a big thrill. I could hear my father pronounce “Now, we are home!” as he honked the Ford’s horn.

Updating the family tree is a regular event at these reunions. Years ago my brother drew up a neat diagram and mounted it on foam board. Cousin Harry is the keeper of this official artifact and brings it to each annual event. At the top are the names of Johan Georg Euler and his wife Anna Pobb (accompanied by the modifier Ressler?).

Four levels down are Adam Douglas and Annie Malinda Oyler, followed by their six (surviving) children, then the six cousins of my generation, then our seventeen offspring, and finally twenty three members of the next generation. This year we added the first member of a new (tenth) generation – Macon Oyler. He is Harry’s first great grandchild, via son Bill and grandson Zachary.

Because this document has survived this long and been re-dedicated so many times, it is easy to believe it is correct and even easier to dispute any disagreements with its contents. Unfortunately there are several areas where information on it may be incorrect.

A few years ago I was contacted by a professional genealogist, Joseph Klett, seeking information on Johan Georg Euler, whom we believe to be our progenitor. Our family tree leads through his son, “John”, and his wife. “Marie Wetzel”, to their son Andrew Oyler. We know enough about Andrew to be confident of our information. We also know that his mother, Marie, is buried in the same cemetery as Andrew and his wife, at Grindstone Hill.

Mr. Klett was studying a family named Weaver in Pilesgrove, New Jersey, and learned that George Iler was their next door neighbor and presented enough evidence to prove that he was indeed the Johan Georg Euler who came to the New World in 1737 on the “Billinder Townsend”, the same gentleman we claim. He also proved that George Iler’s son John married Catharine Weaver and couldn’t possibly be the gentleman in our family tree.

When Mr. Klett published his findings in the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, January 2013, he courteously mentioned his discussion with me, in a footnote, and reported the apparent error in our document.

An interesting possibility is the fact that he has no information on one of George Iler’s sons, Jacob. The Oyler family tree mentions the fact that someone thought Andrew’s father was Jacob, not John. The German custom was to give all sons the first name Johan and then give them a specific middle name; perhaps his name was Johan Jacob.

A separate possible error is listing Jonas Eyler as Andrew’s brother. Jonas is a well-documented person, a Revolutionary War veteran. He is also claimed on another prominent family tree, the descendants of Conrad Iller, with a different set of parents. I’d be willing to concede him to the Illers, if we could retain Johan Georg as our patriarch.

Like so many other things since I have gotten older, the idea of making this trip seemed like too much trouble, but once we were committed it turned out to be quite rewarding. Family heritage is important and I am impressed that we now have ten generations of Oylers in America.

Water Under the Bridge

  • "Water Under the Bridge" is a column written by historian John Oyler. It appears weekly in the Bridgeville Area News, a TribTotal Media publication, as well as in a more expanded form on his blog.

The Author

  • Aside from being Bridgeville's foremost historian, Dr. John F. Oyler is also an associate professor at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh, where he teaches classes in civil engineering.

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