On this day, 19 January 1863, Leah (Blecher) Huffer, my 4th great-grandmother, passed away.
Born on 7 January 1805, in Washington County, Maryland, Leah was the daughter of John Blecher and Barbara Furry.
Two years later, brother Jacob Blecher was born on 5 June 1807.
When Leah was only nine years old, her mother Barbara (Furry) Blecher died at the age of 34 on 23 July 1814. She was buried in Keedy Cemetery in Washington County, Maryland.
It is certain that John, who had at least two young children to raise, might have remarried not long after his wife’s death. At the very least, he would have had a female family member move in to help with the children. This supposition is supported by the 1820 U.S. Census. In 1820, the John Blecher family was enumerated in Election District 1 of Washington County, Maryland. Living in the household were one free white male under the age of ten (name unknown), one free white male age 10 to 16 (Jacob), one free white male age 26 to 44 (John), two free white females under the age of ten (names unknown), two free white females age 10 to 16 (one of whom was Leah), one free white female age 26 to 44 (name unknown, perhaps a second wife). According to the census, John worked in manufacturing.
Several years passed. When Leah Blecher was 24 years old, she married John Jacob Huffer on 21 May 1829, in Washington County, Maryland. John Jacob Huffer was the son of the Rev. John Huffer and Elizabeth Line.
On 9 October 1831, about two years after their marriage, daughter Ruan Huffer was welcomed to the couple’s Washington County, Maryland home.
Daughter Elizabeth B. Huffer (my 3rd great-grandmother) arrived two years later on 1 February 1833.
Amidst all of these glad tidings, sadness struck when Leah’s father John Blecher died on 10 November 1834, Washington County, Maryland.
Leah, who was pregnant at the time, was grief-stricken. When her son was born a few months later circa 1835, she named him after her father.
About a year after baby John’s birth, another son joined the Huffer household, Alfred C. Huffer, who was born on 8 October 1836.
A third son, Jacob W., was welcomed to the Huffer’s Rohrersville, Washington County, Maryland home on 23 July 1838.
Then, on 4 March 1839, tragedy befell the Huffer household when son John, who was only around four years old, died. Heartbroken, his parents laid him to rest in the Mount Hebron Cemetery located in Keedysville, Washington County, Maryland.
A year later, on 14 June 1840, another son named Jonas Q. Huffer was born.
That same year, the John Huffer family was enumerated in Pleasant Valley, Washington County, Maryland. Residing in the household were three free white males under the age of five (Alfred, Jacob, and Jonas), one free white male between the ages of 30 and 40 (John Jacob), two free white females between the ages of five and ten (Ruan and Elizabeth), and one free white female between the ages of 30 and 40 (Leah).
Then, on 8 October 1842, the couple’s final child, Mary Catherine Huffer, was born.
On 7 August 1850, the Huffer family was enumerated in Election District 1 of Washington County, Maryland. Living in the home were John, a farmer (age 44), Leah (age 45), Ruan (age 18), Elizabeth (age 17), Alfred (age 13), Jacob (age 12), Jonas (age 9), and Mary C. (age 7). Also residing on the property was a 19-year-old farmhand named Corbin Adley. The Huffer farm was valued at $12,300.
Later that year, circa 1850, daughter Ruan married George Henry Motter.
Several years passed without incident until 1 September 1858, when daughter Mary Catherine Huffer, just one month shy of her 16th birthday, died suddenly. She was buried beside her brother John in Mount Hebron Cemetery, Keedysville, Washington County, Maryland.
The next year, son Alfred C. Huffer married Sarah Ann Toms on 2 December 1859.
On 2 August 1860, the Huffer family was still living on their farm in the Boonsboro District of Washington County, Maryland. Residing in the home were John Jacob (age 55), Leah (age 55), son Jacob (age 22), son Jonas (age 20), and servant Jane Keller (age 16). The farm was valued at $22,000 and their personal property was worth $3,000.
Meanwhile, nearly 500 miles away, discord was brewing. On 12 April 1861, a shot was fired on Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War had begun. Western Maryland was divided with sympathies between neighbors and within families split between Union and Confederate causes.
Soon, the War Between the States would arrive on the Huffer’s doorstep. On 1 January 1862, Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson marched north from Winchester to Bath to disrupt operations on the B&O Railroad and the C&O Canal. On 5 January 1862, Jackson’s force reached the Potomac River opposite the garrisoned town of Hancock, Maryland. His artillery fired on the town from Orrick’s Hill but did little damage. Union garrison commander Brig. Gen. F.W. Lander refused Jackson’s demands for surrender. Jackson continued the bombardment for two days while unsuccessfully searching for a safe river crossing. The Confederates withdrew and marched on Romney, Virginia (now West Virginia) on 7 January 1862.
Meanwhile, Gen. Robert E. Lee, after invading western Maryland, marched on Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) on 14 September 1862. The Army of the Potomac under Major Gen. George B. McClellan pursued the Confederates to Frederick, Maryland, then advanced on South Mountain. Pitched battles were fought for possession of the South Mountain passes—Crampton’s, Turner’s, and Fox’s Gaps. By dusk, the Confederate defenders, suffering severe casualties, were driven back. McClellan attacked Lee’s Army before they could regroup. However, McClellan’s limited activity on 15 September 1862, after his victory at South Mountain, allowed Lee time to unite his scattered divisions at Sharpsburg and capture the garrison at Harpers Ferry.
Then, on 17 September 1862, less than ten miles from the Huffer home, the Battle of Antietam was waged. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, pitting the Army of the Potomac, numbered at 87,164, against the Army of Northern Virginia, numbered at 38,000. After the last shot was fired and the dust and smoke had cleared, 2,108 Union soldiers were dead, 9,549 were wounded, and 753 were captured or missing. For the Confederates, 1,567 soldiers were dead, 7,752 were wounded, and 1,018 were captured or missing.
The new year heralded the abolition of slavery throughout America when on 1 January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Unfortunately, not long after this historic occasion, Leah (Blecher) Huffer died on 19 January 1863; she was 58 years old. Leah was buried alongside her children in the Mount Hebron Cemetery, Keedysville, Washington County, Maryland.