The Old Homestead

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God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

- Romans 5:8


    The Graff family came from Germany.  John Michael Graff came to the United States in the early 1850s.
    See Victor P. Nye.

    John Michael Graff was born in 1820 in Bavaria. (1)
    Married Anna Margaret Mertz, who was born in May 1822 in Germany. (2)
    Children: (3)
    Clara Dorothy Graff, born Jan. 15, 1845.  Married Charles Knobloch.
    Anna Margaret Graff, born April 8, 1750.  Married Robert Ecke.
    George Adam Graff, born Dec. 15, 1854.
    John Michael Graff, born about 1857.
    Katherine Graff, born about 1860.
    Mary A. Graff, born Nov. 22, 1862.  Married George Dohla.
    The 1900 Census indicates that Margaret gave birth to eight children and that six survived until that year.     The Graffs probably immigrated in 1845.  According to family tradition, Clara was born during the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.  This appears to be borne out by the 1880 Census, which says “Annie Noblock” was born “on the ocean.”  However, it should be noted that the censuses for 1860, 1870 and 1900, as well as her death certificate, say she was born in Bavaria or Germany.
     Michael applied to become a naturalized citizen of the United States on Nov, 20, 1848.  When the papers were filed in Oct. 13, 1851, they note that he had lived in the United sates for at least five years. (4)
     In 1850, the Graffs were living in Economy Township, Beaver County, Pa., according to the U.S. Census.  Michael Groff  is listed as a 29-year-old farmer who owned real estate valued at $2,800.  His household also contained Margaretta, age 28; Dorothy, 3; Margaretta, 1 months; and Gotleip Pfifer, a laborer.
    The family moved to Allegheny County a few years later.  On Feb. 9, 1856, John Michael Graff of Allegheny County bought 60 acres in McCandless Township from the estate of John B. Questa of Cincinnati for $1,175.  Then on Feb. 11, Michael took out a mortgage from the Questa estate to cover the sale.  He paid it off on May 18, 1857. (5)
    The 1860 Census for McCandless Township lists Michael Groff as a 40-year-old farmer who owned $1,500 worth of real estate and $400 in personal property.  The family included Michael’s wife, Margret, age 38; Doratha, 14; Margret, 9; Adam, 7, and Michael, 3.  In addition to the Graffs, the census indicates the same residence include the family of Gotlip Piper, certainly the same man who lived as a laborer in the family’s household in 1850, as well as Dixon Bigly, 22, and John Bigly, 18, who were gardeners.  Since Michael is the only one listed as owning real estate, it appears likely that all of the families lived on the farm and that the Graffs actually owned the land.
    The family worshipped at Brandt Church, which was a Lutheran congregation, according to family tradition.  The burials are listed at Trinity Lutheran Church.
    Michael died in 1867. (6)
    Following Michael’s death Margaret continued to live on the farm with the children.  According to the 1870 Census for McCandless Township, Marga Groft was 49 years old and owned real estate valued at $5,000 and personal property valued at $800.  Margaret’s son Adam is listed as a 17-year-old farmer while she is listed keeping house and as a widow.  The family also included Margaret, age 13; Catherine, 10; and Mary, 8.  The household also contained Margaret’s daughter Clara, age 23; her husband, Henry Noblock, 33; their daughter, Anna, 3; as well Christ Crouse, a farm hand.
    By 1880, Margaret had moved in with her daughter Annie Ecke’s family in Killbuck Township, Allegheny County.  In that year’s census, Annie M. Graff is listed as a 58-year-old widow.  The household also included Robert Ecke, a 35-year-old blacksmith; Annie M., age 30; Robert, 7; Agust, 5; Emma J., 2; and Annie M., 1 month. Finally, Margaret’s daughter Kattie, age 19, also lived in the household.
    In the 1900 Census, Anna M. Graff is listed as living with her daughter Mary and son-in-law George Dohla on Hale Street in Pittsburgh, Pa. She is listed as a 78-year-old widow.
    Margaret died in 1901. (7)
    The Graffs are buried at Trinity Lutheran Church in Wexford, Allegheny County. (8)
    (1) Some information was supplied by Ethel May Graff, Adam Graff’s granddaughter, in 1991.  Birth year comes from “Allegheny County, Pa., Cemetery Records,” compiled by Sharon Kraynek, page 49, and 1860 Census of McCandless Township, Allegheny County, Pa.  Michael’s naturalization records indicate that he has been a subject of the king of Bavaria.  In addition, the 1870 Census indicates that Margaret was born in Bavaria.  It should be noted that other census listings for the Graffs’ children erroneously indicate their parents were born in other German states.  In each case, it’s obvious that census taker didn’t gather complete data for each person in the household.  (2) “Allegheny County, Pa., Cemetery Records,” page 49.  The 1900 Census of Pittsburgh, Pa., lists her as “Anna M. Graff” and lists her birth month as May 1822 and says that she had been married 52 years.  Her surname is listed as Mertz on the death certificates for her daughters Anna Margaret and Mary.  Clara’s death certificate says her mother was named Margaret Meigl.  The death certificates are available at “Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964,” at  When considering the 1900 Census and Clara’s death certificate, it appears possible that Michael was married twice: first to a woman named Margaret Meigle, who gave birth to Clara, and then to Margaret Mertz in 1848.  However, when all of the records are examined together, it seems that he was married only once and that these references are incorrect.  (3) Children are listed in 1860 and 1870 censuses under McCandless Township, Allegheny County.  The specific birth dates for Clara, Margaret, George and Mary appear in Pennsylvania death certificates.  The names of Clara and Mary’s husbands appear in their death certificates.  The name of Margaret’s husband comes from comparing her death certificate and Allegheny County census records.  An estate partition issued by the Allegheny Orphan’s Court on Aug. 2, 1933, lists a number of John Michael’s children and grandchildren.  The living children were John Michael and Mary A. Dohla.  Adam’s birth date also appears in the Graff family Bible, as recorded by Justice of the Peace Fred St. John in 1948.  (4) The papers appear in “Pennsylvania, Naturalization Records from Circuit and District Courts, 1795-1930,” available at  (5) Allegheny County Deed Book 122, page 226.  Mortgate is in Mortgage Book 28, page 572.  (6) Although “Allegheny County, Pa., Cemetery Records” says J. Michael Graff died in 1967, this was obviously a typographical error.  Michael is not in the 1870 Census so the logical conclusion is that the “9” should be an “8.”  (7) “Allegheny County, Pa., Cemetery Records,” page 49.

    George Adam Graff was born Dec. 15, 1854, in Allegheny County, Pa., to John Michael and Margaret (Mertz) Graff. (1)
    Married Mary Ann Gerwig. (See below.)
    Children: (2)
    Emma Kathern Graff, born July 9, 1876 and died in October 1879.
    Sadie Margaret Graff, born Nov. 15, 1880 and died in February 1881.
    Albert Emil Graff, born Oct. 13 1884.
    Robert John Graff, born Feb. 18 1886.
    Austin Leran Graff, born June 15, 1887.
    Stella Melvina Graff, born Nov. 1 1888.  Married Harry Goehring.
    Mary Louella Graff, born March 23, 1890.  Married Victor P. Nye.
    Adam, as he was usually known, married Mary Ann Gerwig on May 27, 1874.  The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Winters at the home of Mary’s parents near Harmony, Pa. (3)
    Mary was born July 22, 1852, to Jacob and Sarah (Erb) Gerwig in Beaver County, Pa. (4)
    The Graffs lived on various farms in western Pennsylvania.  For the first five years of their marriage, they lived on the Graff family farm in McCandless Township, Allegheny County.
    In the 1880 Census, Adam Graff is listed as a farmer in that township.  In addition to his wife, Mary, his household contained Matilda Erb, 10, who is listed as a “Domestic.”
    Adam’s granddaughter, Ethel May Graff, wrote down some facts about her grandparents in 1991.  She said they then moved to Callery in Butler County, where they rented a farm.  The Graffs then rented a farm in the Camp Run section of Franklin Township in Beaver County.
    The 1900 Census lists the Graffs in Perry Township, Lawrence County, which adjoins Franklin Township, Beaver County.  George Graff is listed as a farmer who was renting his farm.  In addition to his wife Mary, age 40, his household contained: Albert, 15; Robbert, 14; Austin, 12; Stella, 10; and Mary, 9.
    Finally, the Graffs bought a farm in Franklin Township where Adam produced apples, peaches and milk.  “George A. Graff of Butler County” purchased 112 acres in 1902 for $3,500.  According to one account, the farm eventually covered 1,000 acres, which was later developed into the village of Hardyville. (5)
    The 1910 Census lists Adam Graff as a 57-year-old farmer who owned a farm Fombell and New Castle Road in Franklin Township.  In addition to Mary, age 57, his household contained: Albert, 25; Robert, 24; Austin, 23; and Stella, 21.  The census notes that the Graffs had been married for 35 years and Mary had given birth to seven children, five of whom were still alive. Albert and Robert worked in a “forge works” and Austin worked on the “home farm.”
    In 1917, a directory of Beaver County farmers says that G.A. Graff farmed 112 acres and his main crop was corn.  He also sold milk.  The family lived in Franklin Township in Ellwood City’s rural delivery area 2, off Highway 21. (6)
    The 1920 Census lists Adam Graff as a 67-year-old farmer who owned a farm on Wurtemburg and New Castle Road in Franklin Township.  (The family hadn’t moved.  The road was described differently in 1910, 1917 and 1920.)  In addition to Mary, age 67, his household contained his son Austin, 32, a farm laborer.     The Graffs often spoke German at home.  Adam’s parents were born in Germany, as was Mary’s father.     The Graffs attended Lutheran churches in the Ellwood City area.
    “When living at the Hardyville farm, Adam Graff and his family went to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, where they are buried,” Ethel May Graff wrote.  “They had church every two weeks.  The same minister preached at St. Marks and Trinity Lutheran Church in Ellwood City.  Trinity in Ellwood had church every Sunday.  Grandpa Graff and one of the other members of St. Mark’s couldn’t agree on the interpretation of some passages of scripture [concerning creation], so the Graffs joined Trinity Lutheran. ... Grandpa Graff was active in the church.  He [served as an elder and] went to church conferences with the minister.
     “He was also quite musical. He never had lessons but in his younger days, he played the violin by ear. ... His sons were quite musical, too.  They never had lessons but played by ear.  Albert played the mandolin, Robert, the guitar and Austin, the violin.  They played for all the square dances around the neighborhood.”     “He also was a constable in Franklin Township for several years,” Ethel May Graff said.  One of his tasks was to stop people from fishing on Sundays, which was prohibited at the time.
    Mary had a reputation for being a good cook.  She set the table each Saturday night so she could have everything in order for a large Sunday dinner.  She usually invited the families of her children or her pastor over for Sunday dinner.
    Adam was a pleasant old man and enjoyed his grandchildren, according to later generations.     Mary died Sept. 13, 1925 of breast cancer. (7)
    After Mary’s death, Adam moved in with his daughter, Mary Nye.  Each day, his granddaughter Alma Nye read him the 91st Psalm, his favorite passage of Scripture.
    Adam died Aug. 5, 1929.  The Graffs are buried at the cemetery at the former St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Franklin Township, Beaver County. (8)
    (1) Birth date comes from the Graff family Bible, as recorded by Justice of the Peace Fred St. John in 1948.  Adam’s birth year is listed as 1852 in his death certificate, available at “Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964,” at  His parents are identified through the 1850 and 1860 censuses.  Some information in this item comes from a letter from Ethel May Graff in 1991, newspaper clippings and interviews with Mary Bowers in 1989 and 1990 and Alma White in 2004.  (2) Names and dates come from the family Bible transcription.  The Bible transcription originally said Emma Kathern died in 1879 but “76” was later written over that.  If 1879 is the correction year, it opens the possibility that the child’s grave is in Allegheny County.  The tombstone of a Sarah M. Graff, daughter of Geo. and Mary A. Graff is in “Allegheny County, Pa., Cemetery Records,” compiled by Sharon Kraynek, page 49.  This children died Oct. 7, 1879 at 3 years and 3 months of age.  The birth dates for Albert, Robert and Austin are also listed in their Pennsylvania death certificates.  The birth dates for Stella and Mary are listed in “U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014,” at  The husbands of the daughters are listed in a newspaper item about the couple’s 50th anniversary.  “Golden Wedding Is Celebrate,” New Castle News, May 16, 1924, page 30, available at  (3) In addition to the newspaper item, the event is listed in “St. Peter’s Evangelical Protestant United Church in Zelienople, Butler County, Pennsylvania,” transcribed by Gertrude M. Ziegler, page 8.  This record calls her “Anna Maria” and lists the date listed as 1875.  The family Bible referred to in Note 1 says the couple were married May 10, 1870, which is certainly incorrect.  (4) There appears to have been uncertainty over Mary’s year of birth.  The family Bible says 1853.  Baptismal records in “St. Paul’s German Lutheran and Reformed Church, Zelienople, Butler County, Pennsylvania,” by Gertrude M. Ziegler, page 64, say that “Anna Maria” was born July 22, 1852.  However, Mary’s tombstone says she was born in 1853.  Her Pennsylvania death certificate originally stated 1854 but has 1852 written over it.  (5) Ethel May Graff provided the basic information for this paragraph.  The 1880 Census finds the family in McCandless Township.  The 1902 land purchase is in Beaver County Deed Book 180, page 220.  The “one account” for the Hardyville information comes from undated clipping from the Ellwood City Ledger.  (6) “1917 Beaver County Farm Directory,” reprinted for the Tri-State Genealogical Society, page 51.  (7) Obituary in Sept. 14, 1925, edition of the New Castle News, available on  (8) Adam’s death is recorded in Beaver County Register’s Docket 17, page338.   Adam’s will is in Beaver County Will Book 28, page 292.

George Adam and Mary (Gerwig) Graff and their children, taken May 27, 1924, during Graff's 50th anniversary at the Graff farm outside Ellwood City, Beaver County, Pa. Back row, from left: Mary L. Nye, Stella Goehring, Austin Graff, Bob Graff and Al Graff. Seated: Mary Ann (Gerwig) and George Adam Graff. Woman in hat on the porch is Della Graff, Al's wife.