When we moved into the house on West Main Street in Richland, PA, in November, 1957, we were warned by the previous owners that the next door neighbors didn’t get along well with children and could get downright nasty.
Things actually got off to a pleasant start when we had an early snow, and during the process of cleaning off our porch and steps, I ventured to clean off theirs as well. For this I was rewarded by the woman of the house, a matronly woman in her early 60s, with a slice of cake. Her name was Mary Haak, and she shared her house with a fellow of about the same age named Paul Troutman. They were related in some way, but I wasn’t sure how, and as far as I knew, they weren’t related to us.
Battle lines were soon drawn, however, as they (and I believe it was Mary who set the rules) did not countenance children setting foot on their lawn for any reason. We had a tall maple tree in our yard, and when it shed its leaves, it paid no heed to lawn boundaries, and Mary was quite adamant that they were not responsible for the cleanup. So the upshot was that Mary was frequently yelling at us kids (and not just my sister and me but all the kids in the neighborhood who came near) and complaining about us to our parents.
But we didn’t take this lying down. We realized soon enough that Mary’s complaints were falling on deaf ears, so we pretty much declared war on Mary. In short, we behaved like brats. And pretty soon it was we, along with some other kids like the Gass boys, who were terrorizing Mary. As tensions mounted, eventually Mary cracked.
One day we found her sitting behind her house weeping. This led to a partial de-escalation of hostilities as we realized that she was, after all, a human being. Peace was never actually declared, but things did cool off a bit after that.
Finally, after about two or three years, Mary and Paul bought a little house in Myerstown and moved away.
By the way, although I don’t recall it myself, my sister remembers that Paul used to sit outside so quietly that the squirrels would come up to him and eat out of his hand.
I was reminded of Mary and Paul yesterday when I was researching something else and I came across an old article that referred to a Paul Troutman as a “popular street and water works superintendent of the borough.” Initially I couldn’t think who that might be, and then it hit me. Our old neighbor. He was popular?
So that got me on a search for more information about Paul. Using the date of the article and its reference to his birthday coming up on Thursday, I had his birthday. That gave me enough information to search for his genealogical records, which weren’t hard to find. But still I didn’t have his relationship to Mary.
A little more searching and I found the census records for 1920 where Paul Troutman was listed as a boarder of Aaron and Mary Hask! In those days of handwritten census records, misspellings such as that were quite common.
So now I had a lead on Mary. Mary Elizabeth Troutman was her birth name. I even found her and her husband’s marriage application, where another spelling error lists Aaron’s last name as Haag. It turns out that Mary married the 23 year old Aaron when she was 16.
Now that I had records for both Mary and Paul, it was possible (but a lot of tedious work) to trace back their common ancestors to Phillip Trautman (1787 - 1859) and Sara Salome Schrack (1786 - 1836). Ah, yes, Phillip with two L’s. Mary and Paul were both third generation descendants of Phillip and Sara, so that makes them second cousins according to the cousin table.
Mary’s husband died in 1954, and that’s presumably when Paul moved in with her. Mary Haak and Paul Troutman each died in 1974 within a month of each other, and they are both buried in the Richland Cemetery. Here’s Mary’s grave and here’s Paul’s grave.
So were they related to us? After some more tedious searching I came upon Johannes Trautmann (1713 - 1764) and Eva Elizabeth Bauer (1716 - 1794) of Germany. Old Johannes, I could tell you stories about him (if I knew any). And Eva Bauer. What can I say?
But they are our common ancestors with Paul and Mary. And it turns out that we are fourth cousins twice removed.
There are a lot of Troutmans in and around Lebanon, Berks, and Lancaster counties, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that most, if not all, of them can trace their ancestry back to Johannes Trautmann (1713 - 1764) and Eva Elizabeth Bauer (1716 - 1794) of Germany.