Saturday, November 12, 2016

Eugene Gochenour's Memoirs: Alger Gochenour


Alger Jordan Gochenour
Today I share my father Eugene Gochenour's memoirs of his father Alger Jordan Gochenour, with added information from my genealogy research.

The Gochenour family were Swiss Brethren who came to America for religious freedom. They first arrived in Philadelphia and went west to Lancaster. So many Germans were coming to Pennsylvania there was less land available and it was becoming expensive. Some like my ancestor followed the Susquehanna River south into Virginia. 

Our ancestor Jacob Gochenour was in the second wave of Swiss Brethren in the Shenandoah Valley, and married Elizabeth Rhodes, daughter of one of the first settler families. I wrote about the massacre of the Rev. John Rhodes family here. 

The first Gochenours were German speaking Anabapists, separatists and pacifists who did not fight in the Revolution. They did give horses to the cause, and started the first church and school in the area. 

Many of the Brethern were converted by a popular Baptist preacher. My ancestor married a Baptist and joined that church.
Samuel Gochenour, 1926-1901


Susannah Hammon Gochenour
My second great-grandfather Samuel Gochenour was conscripted into the Confederate Army and worked in manual, non-combat work. His son was David Henry, father of my grandfather Al Gochenour.

 Henry David Gochenour, Mary Ellen Stultz Gochenour and family

Henry David and Mary Ellen Stultz Gochenour,
Clarence and Alice Gochenonur
The Shenandoah River near Woodstock 


The Gochenour family homestead in Woodstock, VA
where Al Gochenour was born

Al Gochenour, Sherdian Park Volunteer Fireman Chief
Here is what Dad wrote about his father:

"Father Alger Jordan Gochenour was born on March 25th, 1904, on a farm at the community of Fairview, Virginia, located in the Shenandoah Valley.

"The first Gochenours came to America in 1735, years before we were a nation. Jacob Gochenour and his family were Mennonites, and came to America to avoid religious persecution. He acquired 400 acres in 1735 in the valley.

"I never met my grandparents, as they had died before I was born. Henry David Gochenour, Dad’s father was born on December 5th, 1861 and died on May 28th, 1924. Dad’s mother’s maiden name was Mary Stultz. She was born on June 4th, 1864, and died on April 23rd, 1927. Her nickname was Mollie.

"Dad’s father had operated a tanyard, which had been operated by his father. Most of my father’s decedents of his lineage are buried at the Mount Zion Lutheran Church cemetery, located near the farm.

"Father never told me why he ran away from his home as a youth, but I was told that he only had an eighth grade education. He and a friend ran away together and their travels took them to New York City. They earned money by cleaning and polishing office furniture far business people.

"Dad was a good salesman, and he and his friend had unique skills. Dad, dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase, would go into an office building and ask the receptionist if he could talk to the person responsible for cleaning the office furniture. Since no one had ever done this service for them before, he would often be taken to talk to the owner or manager of the office. Dad knew that their office was the showplace where business people met with their clients, and that their office furniture and desks were very expensive. Many of their chairs were upholstered with leather, and the desks were made from cherry wood.

"After he introduced himself, he gave them a demonstration on one of the office chairs. To show that the cleaner would not harm the finish, he drank some of it. This impressed the customer, but it was harmless, since it was only water with baking soda. I don’t know where Dad learned about the cleaner, but it did a great job. After he cleaned the chair, he took a clean white cloth and wiped it dry, and showed all the dirt he had removed. Then he applied the polish, and when he buffed it, it looked like new. He explained that he was aware how important the clothes business people wore were, and that the polish he used would not soil them. Dad told them he would work in the evening after they had left for the day, and would not expect to be paid until the job was finished.

"Dad and his friend had many jobs at New York City, but eventually he went to Tonawanda, leaving them behind. I don’t know why father left New York City, or how he came to live at Tonawanda, but once there he became an insurance salesman. In those days insurance salesman went from door to door to collect the money for the policies, and that is how I suspect he met Mother. "

In my genealogy research, I learned that my grandfather Al Gochenour was 15 years old and living at home in 1920; his father died in 1924; in 1926 he appears in a Buffalo city directory working as a salesman for F. Becker Roofing. I do not have an F. Becker in my family tree so I do not know if he is a relation to my grandmother.  

In 1927 at age 23 when Al married Emma Gochenour he was an insurance collector. He was on top of the world with a family, new house, new car, and I was told even had a maid.

Dad said that when his father's customers could not pay their insurance premiums he would cover the cost for them. As the Depression wore on his clients were unable to keep up with the premiums. Al could not pay the taxes on his house, and was arrears for several years when he lost it to the bank and moved to an apartment in the Military Road house. 

I have shared about Al's building a garage, volunteer fireman experience, and leader as a boy scout in previous posts.