JOSEPH FILBRUN'S REALLY LARGE FAMILY - photo (click here)
by William S. Filbrun
25 years Joseph and Lydia Filbrun produced as many children - 15 - in
Ohio as it took six of Joseph's ancestors to beget during 175 years in
Germany. For Joseph,
Johann Peter Fillbrunn's oldest son, the United States really was the
fertile land of opportunity.
Joseph and Lydia's 13 children who lived to maturity, three were girls
and ten were boys. Having
ten boys created some interesting situations.
In his later years, Joseph J., the sixth oldest of the ten
boys, enjoyed telling stories of the boys' childhood spent in Clark
County, Ohio, and McCoupin County, Illinois.
Following are a few of these tales, as recalled by Joseph J.'s
grandson, D. O. Schechter, in "A Fillbrunn Family History".
ten boys loved to wrestle, although their father frowned on such
activity. When corn was
ready to harvest, the boys would clear a section in the center of a
field. Then they would
leave a ring of standing corn around the edges to hide themselves, so
they could wrestle without being seen by Joseph.
However, there was a room at the top of the house with a cupola
that offered an excellent view of the fields.
Their father just happened to own a spyglass that he did not
hesitate to use to check on the boys who were supposedly at work.
Joseph, who lived from 1823 to 1889, came by his serious, hard-working
nature from the hardships and deprivations he had endured growing up,
as much as from his strict German Baptist Brethren religious
upbringing. He was six
when he came from Virginia with his parents across the Appalachian
Mountains to Ohio. (His
father had left Germany in 1818 and was to be the forefather of almost
all of the Filbruns in the United States.
Once here, Johann Peter dropped "Johann" and
shortened the spelling of "Fillbrunn".)
family came in a Conestoga wagon in 1830, but since Joseph had two
younger brothers, John and Henry, he had to walk as much as his young
legs would allow. Sometimes,
if he was lucky, he got to ride the bony back of one of the oxen
pulling the Conestoga. The
Filbruns settled in Wayne Township, Montgomery County, Ohio, on land
that is now part of Carriage Hill MetroPark & Farm.
When Joseph was 22, he married Lydia Frantz of Clark County.
They lived in Clark County for 18 years (and had 12 children
there) before moving to Illinois.
- back on the farm - the boys all liked to play ball.
But at that time, it was quite improper for German Baptist
Brethrens to play ball on Sunday.
Being boys with nothing to do on long, lazy Sunday afternoons,
they would wait until Joseph had left on his Sabbath-day round of
visits. Then they would
begin to play ball. The
youngest brother was posted at the end of the farm lane in order to
alert the ballplayers of their father's return so they could disguise
their activity in time. Unfortunately,
the young guard fell asleep a couple of times and their father's
return came as quite a surprise.
wrestling and ball playing were not permitted, the boys thought surely
Joseph would approve of swimming.
He didn't object - after all, all boys should know how to swim
- but the boys needed a place to swim.
Their father firmly said, 'No!' to building a pond.
Of course, the boys were little deterred.
As soon as Joseph left for Annual Meeting of the church one
summer, the older boys got out teams of horses and equipment.
They set to work digging a hole by the barn.
By the time their father got home, the boys had themselves a
nice swimming hole filled from the nearby spring and creek.
This accomplishment was much to their father's consternation.
a little fun after bedtime, the mischievous boys would crawl
stealthily under each other's beds with their mother's long hatpins.
They would poke them through the straw mattress ticks, then
make a mad dash back to bed before one of their parents came to
investigate the yelping that ensued.
such activity led many times to their father's need to exercise some
authority over the boy or boys who had done such wrongs.
But often the boys would not tell on each other, so Joseph
would have to punish all the boys to ensure punishing the correct
wrongdoer - or doers. One
of the younger boys would be sent out to get a switch.
However, he had been instructed (more likely, threatened!)
beforehand by the older boys to make a little cut in the switch so
that when used, it would break. Then
the boys who had not yet been punished would look in awe of their
father, telling him, "See how hard you are beating him!"
They would plead that they needed only a stern lecture to
repent their ways. Joseph
was sorely (no pun intended) tested to be a match for ten such active
and enterprising sons!
and Lydia were members of the German Baptist Brethren church.
In 1874, the church held its Annual Meeting on Joseph's farm.
For a brief time, the already-large Filbrun household grew to
include church services held on the Illinois farm for 10,000 - yes,
10,000! - including 5,000 present for meals.
But that's another story.
(See "Religions of the Filbruns" in the
"History" section of this site.)
more sober tale about Joseph himself needs to be told.
In 1887 he decided to retire from the farm and return to
Montgomery County, Ohio, to live at his son Henry's farm.
It was said Joseph had brought a lot of money with him to
Illinois and was taking even more away.
He was known for his thrift and business ability (although he
never bothered to sell the rights to the coal on his farm - the sale
of which made his daughter, Lavina Filbrun Bowman Flory, quite "a
wealthy Dunkard lady" after she purchased most of Joseph's farm.)
Joseph, like his sons after him, had some unusual ideas.
As he had the gift for divining water, Joseph, now 65, also
thought he might be able to find gold or other treasure.
After his return to Ohio, Joseph and someone else, possibly his
youngest son, Daniel, received permission to dig for "buried
treasure" on a farm near New Lebanon.
William Yoder, who lived on the farm as a boy, recalled the
story his mother used to tell of Joseph's actions:
Joseph and the boy with him had some kind of instrument or rod
(a willow branch was often used for divining water) that they used to
detect metal, she reported. It
would draw to one side and they would dig where it pointed.
Finally it seemed to quit working.
They decided there must have been a hex placed on the treasure.
The boy with Joseph jumped down into the hole they had dug and
turned some somersaults. He
said that would undo the hex. But
they never did find any treasure (nor did anyone who later lived
home late in the afternoon from this failed expedition, Joseph's
spirited horse took fright at the signal whistle of an approaching
train. The horse became
unmanageable (as testified to by an eye witness) and started to run.
The boy jumped just as the horse pulled Joseph's wagon onto the
track. The engine ran
under the back part of the wagon and broke it into kindling.
Joseph was thrown about 40 feet.
He was picked up unconscious by the conductor and assistants,
placed on the train and taken to a Dayton hospital where he died in a
his will, Joseph made provisions for his wife and each child, his wife
receiving the real estate he still owned in McCoupin County, Illinois.
Apparently Joseph foresaw some problems with his headstrong
sons and wanted to make sure that no one stirred up trouble over the
will. He added a
provision that if any of his heirs (by now he had 13 living children
and 59 grandchildren) brought suit against the will, they would lose
all rights to their stated share and instead receive just $5.00.
So Joseph had the last word with his ten boys after all!
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