JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Ulysses Grant Was My Great-Grandfather

Not this Ulysses Grant!

In years following the Civil War, David and Elizabeth Zeller were certainly feeling proud of the great general who had secured a victory over the traitorous general of the south and who was now a great president of the United States. So when their son was born on July 6, 1871 in Bethel Township in Lebanon County, PA, they named him Ulysses Grant Zeller (or possibly Grant Ulysses Zeller; I’ve seen it both ways).

Whichever way they chose to name him, he was therein-after known as Grant.

I don’t have many details about his early life, but on September 13, 1890, he married Emma Salinas Schaeffer, daughter of John and Sarah Schaeffer, in Sherksville in Lebanon County. Census records reveal they remained in Lebanon County, although they moved around a bit, as they gave birth to 13 children, the first being Anna Mary in 1893.

Grant and Emma Zeller. I don’t know who she is holding but it might be my cousin Randy

Then came Sallie Rebecca (1894), Elizabeth Carrie (1896), Grant Jr (1898), Harry John (1900), Mabel Mae (1904), Charles David (1907), Katie Ida (1909), Edith Jennie (1911), Margaret Emma (1913), Walter Leroy (1916), Elmer Martin (1917), and last but not least Edwin Adam (1920). Whew! Just coming up with all those names must have been a chore, let alone actually carrying them to term and giving birth to them in the days before modern medicine. Well done, Emma!

Emma and Grant Zeller. See my cousin Kathy and me peeking between them, and in the background on the left is my aunt Jane and grandmother Tillie. (Click to enlarge)

By the way, most of them lived reasonably long lives, with my great uncle Eddie, their last born, having just died in 2016.

Anyway Harry J. Zellers (he added the “S” for some reason to his last name, as did several of his siblings, possibly to indicate there were so many of them) went on to marry Tillie Esther Reed in 1920, and they had a mere five sons and one daughter, that daughter being Arlene, my mother, which is why I proudly claim Ulysses Grant Zeller as my great-grandfather.

(My mother suffered from dementia in her final years, but just a few years before she died, she was still able to name all of Grant and Emma’s children!)

I do vaguely recall visiting my great-grandparents when I was very young (under seven), but mostly all I recall is playing Chinese checkers (probably with my uncle Reed or cousin Kathy), or maybe regular checkers, in the middle room while the adults played cards (probably pinochle or their other fall-back hasenpfeffer, which I think they usually called haussy or somesuch) in the front room.

I don’t recall the occasions when any of these pictures were taken, and I can only name a very few of the people in the Zellers Clan photo below.

On April 21, 1956, Emma died, and Grant went to live with my grandparents, Harry and Tillie. That I do recall. He was very ill and didn’t last long. On June 19 he followed his wife to the grave.

This photo of the entire Zeller(s) clan (one of three taken that day, but it’s the most complete) was most likely taken on Labor Day weekend in 1955. I think my uncle Allen (far left in yellow shirt) took it with a time delay, which is why he looks blurry. Next to him are my uncle and aunt Mark and Joan; he’s holding their son Randy who had been born a month earlier, and my father Arthur is directly behind them. Next to them is great uncle Eddie (Edwin) holding my sister Donna with his wife Clara peeking over his shoulder, and then come my grandparents, Harry and Tillie (my mother’s head is just visible between Clara and Harry). I don’t know the next two people, but peeking between them is my aunt Jane (married to Allen). Sitting in the kiddie row third from the left is Barbara (daughter of Ray and Arlene Light (Arlene’s in the dark dress fourth from the right; Ray’s just a head at the right hand window)). Next in the kiddie row is my cousin Kathy, then me in short pants. Don’t know the next guy, but next to him is my uncle Reed. Of course, those are my great-grandparents sitting right behind the kids, and that tall kid in the white blouse directly in front of Tillie is Helen Fortna, whom we finally figured out is Donna and my second cousin. Her parents are Betts and Barney Fortna (and I’m stopping after this); Barney is second row far right and Betts is wearing a green blouse standing behind Arlene Light, I think. Oh, and Elmer (next to last son of Grant and Emma) is the guy in the horizontal striped shirt second from the right. [Deep exhale]

Oh, yeah, Kathy’s mother Fumiko is completely hidden (that’s the danger of a time lapse photo) and her father Neal’s head is mostly obscured by my sister Donna (being held by Eddie).

(Click on the pic to enlarge and hover the mouse pointer over the pic to see this caption; move the pointer away to remove the caption)