Christian Bucher Koehler
Eva May Stoner Koehler

 Christian Bucher Koehler was born Jan. 8, 1903 near Pennville (now Elm) in Penn Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth child of Hiram Diehm Koehler and Kate Bomberger Bucher Koehler.

His formal education consisted of eight grades at the Doe Run School, about a mile from his home.

Starting at age nine he was “hired out” to his sister Alma where he worked the first year for board only. The second year he was paid $15. Alma, who was born May 8, 1892, was married to William M. Koser and a son of theirs, John Valentine Koser, would play prominently in Christ’s future.

His other siblings included Elam Bucher Koehler, born September 9, 1894 who had married Bertha Greenly on October 30, 1913. Elam died in an early automobile accident on Doe Run Road on April 28, 1933. Sister Ella Bucher Koehler who married Chester G. Brock was born March 10, 1898 and was the first of the family to die on January 7, 1919,

Younger brother Paul Bucher Koehler, who was born September 8, 1905, married Miriam Bishop on June 1, 1929. Paul and Mim lived in Penryn their entire lives as he worked as a pattern maker in Manheim. When she died in 2007 the book was closed on the Koehler family of Penn Township as there were no sons born to any of this generation.

The youngest child was Lloyd Bucher Koehler and was called “Boobie” by his brothers and sisters. Born on March 12, 1910, Lloyd was a self employed upholsterer who operated shops first in Lititz and then in Lancaster.

On one occasion a young Christ was hired out to Phares Wenger. As an extra job he cleared poison ivy from a section of Monroe Todd’s land. The price for the day’s labor was dutifully entered into the youth’s “book.” After not having been paid for some time, the young Koehler was encouraged by Mr. Wenger to ask for his just payment and he approached Mr. Todd for the money. The gruff Todd said, “Why I already paid you for that work!”  The retort scared the youngster so bad that he went right home and marked the debt paid.

As a teen he was active on the social scene attending parties, dances and carnivals. Among his friends was a young farm boy from Manheim named Harry Hossler who was dating Miss Lillian Stoner. It was Hossler who introduced Christ to Miss Stoner’s sister, Eva.

Eva May Stoner was born December 2, 1901 in Rapho Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in a house across Elizabethtown Road from Chiquies Church of the Brethren.  The land for the Fairview Church of the Brethren and its cemetery had earlier been donated by a relative of Mariah Stern Nauman, her maternal great grandmother.

In March her parents “went to housekeeping” taking Eva and her twin sister Ada May along. Ada succumbed to Whooping Cough on May 30, 1902.

Eva’s father, Aaron Weidman Stoner, died November 3rd of the same year. During his illness, which began in June when a thrashing machine mashed his toe giving him lockjaw, she was taken in by her maternal grandparents Henry and Elizabeth Nauman Ulrich, on the farm where she had been born.

Her mother, Annie Ulrich Stoner, was pregnant at the time of Aaron’s death and gave birth to sister Lillie Stoner on May 14, 1903. Lillie soon joined Eva on the Ulrich farm as their mother moved to Manheim to grieve and heal, at one point returning to the farm.

Raised by her Pennsylvania Dutch speaking grandparents, Eva knew little English and upon entering first grade her teacher, Alice Osman, thought her to be dumb. The feisty student, with the help of her teacher, eventually learned English and forbade the speaking of Dutch in her home. Alice Osman became a life long friend whom they would visit frequently in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Lillie remained her only true sibling but their mother soon married Elmer T. Christ and they had five children.  Eva did not like her step father and generally referred to him as “Old Grischley”.

The eldest of the Christ children was Myrtle Anna Christ, born April 3, 1914 who married John Parker Gilbert, of Carlisle, on March 23, 1932 and set up housekeeping in Lititz. Myrtle and Eva, and their attendant families, were lifelong friends and companions.

Viola E. Christ was born August 3, 1915 and married a Rollman. Leroy T. Christ, born March 19, 1919 was married to a lady named Eva. Elizabeth A. Christ, born on April Fools Day 1920, was known as “Bets” by most people.

Youngest sister Maybelle Christ was born May 22, 1922. She married James Earl Hockenberry Jr. and lived in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania. The Knight, Gilbert and Hockenberry men would go deer hunting in Potter County, Pennsylvania in the 1950s and 1960s and the families would get together for picnics, cards and oysters every week or two at one of their homes in Lititz.

On the Ulrich Farm, Eva and Lillie worked and played into their early teens. The farmhouse’s basement would flood in heavy rains so while the adults were out tending to farm chores the two little girls would find wash tubs and battle each other in their basement ocean. Eva would later note how close they came to death during these unsupervised adventures.

Eight year old Eva was suffering from a sore tooth and complained to her grandparents who were busy with their daily work. Grandpa Henry Ulrich made mention that she would have to see the dentist. Dutifully the youngster and her younger sister took off across neighboring fields to the dentist’s office in Mastersonville, some four miles north. The dentist also operated the general store and after having her tooth pulled she picked out some candy and informed the proprietor to put it all on her grandfather’s account.

In the mean time their mother and grandparents had found them missing and were searching franticly for them, including “calling down the phone line” to alert neighbors.

By 1918 Eva and Lillie were helping out with farm chores and doing much of the cooking for their aging grandparents. That was also the year of the great flu epidemic and nearly every able-bodied person in the neighborhood was down with the flu. Single handedly Eva cared for the cows on three farms, milking twice a day, until the illness passed and the farmers could resume their chores.

In the 1970s, a family meal of pig stomach was a real treat and we all ate heartily of the boiled sausage and potatoes in the pig stomach casing. All of Eva’s grandchildren grew up eating the delicacy prepared in that manner. At one point grandson Glenn B. Knight was telling grandma Koehler that many of his friends didn’t know how to make pig stomach as they ate it baked, not boiled. She calmly looked around and informed him that, “Your friends are right, we are wrong.”  She learned to make pig stomach on the Ulrich Farm and her grandfather, Henry, couldn’t chew baked pig stomach because he had no teeth. “We learned to boil it for Pappy Ulrich and never bothered to change,” she announced.

As a teenager she too attended carnivals and on an early date with Christ Koehler he took her to a carnival. At some point in the evening he won a small porcelain dog with puppies and presented it to her. At that point she later explained, “I decided he was a keeper” because on a previous date with another young man he too won a prize but he kept the trinket for himself.  She kept both Koehler and the trinket for the rest of her life.

By late 1921, sister Lillie married Harry Hossler and moved from the Ulrich Farm. Both grandparents were too old to be of much help and Eva was the sole hand. She moved to Manheim and found employment in the Noggle Shirt Factory as a sewer and brought her grandparents to live with her.

Christ and Eva were married on August 26, 1922 in Manheim, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Rev. W. B. Fahnestock officiated at the ceremony which was conducted in his home. After the ceremony they repaired to the Manheim Train Station for a brief honeymoon to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The couple “went to housekeeping” on a farm owned by druggist H. F. Ruhl, near Manheim just after their only child, Dorothy Irene Koehler, was born at Manheim on March 30, 1923.

Starting with one horse and buggy and $200 in savings, they built up their farm to about 10 head of livestock and the necessary equipment. Troubled with bad luck from the beginning their livestock succumbed to a series of accidents and diseases. One horse, while in the pasture stepped on something and died later of lockjaw. One cow got “milk-fever” and others died of various ailments.  All together either four cows and five horses or five cows and four horses died.

As a tenant farmer they were required to also work the apple orchard of the landlord. This often interfered with proper planting and harvesting times. To supplement their declining income Christ also worked as a rural route letter carrier.

On one occasion Eva was sent out to “knock down” the tops of the onion plants—an action necessary for the proper growth of the plant. As it was getting late in the day and the plants were nearing the point where they would spoil without the procedure, the young farm wife laid down next to the onion bed and rolled down the hill to get the job done quickly.

His mother, in 1927, encouraged them to continue farming despite their bad luck so they worked at it for two more years. It was then he realized his options were to sell out and try to pay off his growing debt or enter into bankruptcy.  He chose the former.

So in 1929, the young farmer and his wife and daughter sold everything they owned. With the proceeds of the sale he first paid off the “small” bills. Just prior to the sale the grocer, Mr. Sharbone, visited him while working in the “hill field” at the end of Charlotte Street, coming from Manheim, to remind him of the $35 bill at his store.

After the sale Koehler went from creditor to creditor paying off as many bills as possible. When he got to the veterinarian’s office he waited his turn in line, as he had always done. When admitted to Dr. Harry Bender’s office Koehler handed him the $50 he owed.

The doctor was surprised and said, “What is this?” The now former farmer replied, “It’s the money that I owe you from my sale.”  Dr. Bender told him that considering the string of bad luck he had endured he never expected to get the money and had written it off his books. For the honesty shown by the young man the doctor proposed that the bill be cut in half. “So I gave him $25 and he gave me a paid receipt,” remembered Koehler.

Having made friends with Charlie and Minnie Miller who were living in nearby Lititz and renting a house for $9 per month, the Koehlers mentioned that they would like to find a house renting for that amount. Their friends told them that Wayne Gantz would soon have a house to rent and that $9 was what he was asking. Koehler implored them to “speak a good word for us” and they got the house at 13 S. Spruce St., Lititz.

“We moved from an 8-room farm house into a 4-room rented house, and we had no bathroom—only an outhouse behind the house,” recalled Eva.

Bill Nelson who was the foreman at Baddorf Shoe Company in Lititz, where he had found employment, approached Christ at work one day and said, “Do you want to know what I think about you?” Upon gaining a positive response, he continued, “I think you are a damned fool—you could have taken bankruptcy, resolved your debts and could be saving money right now toward a house rather than spending it to pay your debts!”  Taken aback Koehler had no response.

The next day Nelson repeated his statement and the third day said it again. At this point Koehler responded, “Now that’s enough, how would you feel if you were one of the people I owe money to and I had gone bankrupt?”  Nelson replied, “I never thought about that.”  The harassment ended.

“I can remember the first time I had a bath in a bathtub,” remembered Christ. John Gilbert, his wife Myrtle (Eva’s half sister), their daughter Carol JoAnn and a friend, loaded themselves into Koehler’s 1936 Chevrolet and drove for the 1948 Labor Day weekend to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

“We were talking and visiting as we drove down Route 13 when we had a blow out,” he recalled. “After fixing the tire I decided to stop at a gas station to get another tire, just in case.” While in the station he asked how far it was to Rehoboth Beach and the startled service man asked from which way they were coming. When he found out the service man said, “My God man you missed your turn miles ago; you’re in Salisbury, Maryland.”

The travelers, rather than re-trace their route took an alternate drive to Ocean City, Maryland then north on the Ocean Highway to Rehoboth Beach. “In those days you paid about $2 to $3 per person per night to stay in a room and we were looking for a place to stay but not having much luck. I stopped and asked some fellow on a corner where we could find room and the fellow said, ‘Why that bungalow was just vacated and hasn’t been rented yet.’ I thought, my gosh we don’t want to rent a house but the rest were afraid we couldn’t find anyplace and got me to check.”

The bungalow was rented for $30 for the long week end. “Each family paid $15,” recalled Eva. With a kitchen they saved money by only eating out for one meal. The grocery bill for the week end came to $5 plus the steaks they bought for Sunday’s lunch.

The bungalow’s bath tub was the first one Koehler ever got to use.

But back in 1929 the Koehlers were living at 13 S. Spruce St., Lititz and nephew John Valentine Koser was living with them.  Koehler was working for Baddorf Shoe Company and his wife was then working for the Linden Underwear Company, both in Lititz. He had also joined the Lititz Volunteer Fire Company Number One.

“I took care of the cases at the fire house (on Broad Street) and we were out of smoking tobacco so I was on my way to Raders Tobacco Store to buy some tobacco to hold us over until the salesman came. As I parked on the curve with little Dorothy in the car, the fire siren blew,” he reminisced. He then told Dorothy to go home and jumped on the fire truck which took him to his own house—the object of the response.

He explained, “We had a coal oil heater in one of the rooms and I had turned it on to heat the room so we could take baths in a bucket.” Coal oil heaters had a tendency to flare up once they warmed up and then had to be turned town. Christ had waited and turned it down before leaving that day. “Apparently it flared up a second time and caught a mattress on fire, then a door.”

The fire destroyed most of John Koser’s clothing, which they replaced with the insurance money so that he could attend a job interview in Baltimore in the budding aviation industry. He got the job, and his lifetime vocation making model aircraft for use in wind-tunnel tests.

During the depression years work was not always available so one day Koehler and a few friends who had no work that day decided to walk the 10 miles to the Lancaster County Courthouse, “to see what court was like.”

It was also about this time that the turnpike between Lititz and Lancaster was being constructed by a local company that would later become Long and Bomberger Lumber Company. He was, as he recalled, just one of the laborers hauling and spreading stone, mixing and pouring concrete. Decades later, toward the end of the 20th Century, while a guest of the Lititz Rotary Club he was introduced by one of the aging company principals as “My foreman on the turnpike construction.”  In relating the facts to his grandson, then president of Lititz Rotary, Koehler suggested that he should probably ask for his foreman’s pay with interest.

Eva first found employment in Lititz as a folder at the Linden Underwear Company. Then she joined her husband at Baddorf and eventually gained work at the Tiny Tot Snowsuit Factory as a sewing machine operator. She was an active member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

She would also seize every opportunity to “spear” tobacco for extra income as she claimed that she was better at the farm chore than most men. Her metal lath point was kept sharpened and at the ready her entire life.

By 1934 they felt they needed more room and moved to Center Street in Lititz where they paid $15 per month in rent.

Two years later they learned of a vacancy at 26 S. Spruce St., Lititz and rented that house for $9 per month from Bessie Linebach. The rent was later raised to $10 monthly. “That house had no electricity and Bessie said she would have it put in but will have to raise the rent or I could put it in and she would keep the rent the same,” Koehler remembered. He got a part time electrician to install the wiring and bought the light fixtures from Sears and Roebuck. He beamed, “The whole thing cost me $50.”

Their neighbors on Spruce Street were Jacob and Anna Singley and their adult son on one side and Anna Heilman sharing the middle of their triplex. Jake Singley was the town blacksmith and constable.

Still in need of money he started sharpening lawn mowers and knives. The first year he filed 50 lawn mowers by hand, the next year he bought a machine to do the sharpening and continued providing the service until he “retired” in the mid-1970s.

In the early 1940s the Koehlers took in another needy boarder—Glenn F. Knight, from Lancaster, who their daughter Dorothy was then dating.  He moved into their “back bedroom” until he entered the service in 1942. Glenn and Dorothy were married on June 20, 1942 at Arlington, Virginia before he shipped out to serve in World War II. Claude and Lucille Steffy were their attendants and life-long confidants.

Also in 1942 Christ quit his job at Baddorf and took a wartime civil service position with the fire department at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation near Annville. He and Emory Wagner worked three days on and three days off until after the war ended in 1946. Wagner served several terms in the next decade as Chief of the Lititz Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 while Koehler was a driver and company officer—eventually serving 13 years as president and nearly as many as treasurer.

By December of 1946 he had all of the paperwork and authorizations to open a grocery store in the front room of his rented home at 26 S. Spruce St. By the end of January he realized that Eva truly was not going to tend the store while he responded to fires and took care of his duties at the fire house (as she had first told him), and closed the store.  In business only during December of 1946 and January of 1947 he often told people, with a wink, that he was in the grocery store business for two years.

He then took a job as a maintenance supervisor with Lancaster Malleable Castings Corporation. Within the year he quit and went to work, with his half brother-in-law, John Gilbert, for Lowell Stengel setting tile and floor coverings.

During the Lititz Community Show of 1948 he decided to set up a booth selling plastic tile (a product that had been declined by Stengel) and “got all kinds of work.” From this point on he was a self-employed businessmen.

The family name Koehler had been Anglicized from Kőhler but retained the German pronunciation of KA-ler. When Chris’ younger brother Lloyd started his upholstery business he began to pronounce his name KO-ler so that customers could more easily locate him in the telephone book.  “C. B. Koehler, Wall Tile” began using the same pronunciation while brother Paul, living in Penryn, retained the German.

1948 was also the year that they bought their first, and only, house—113 S. Cedar St., Lititz—for $5,470, at public auction.

Koehler added Venetian blinds to his business, then changed from plastic to ceramic tile. Later he added aluminum storm doors and windows and siding to his lines.

On a trip to California in 1977 to visit their grandson, Air Force Master Sergeant Glenn B. Knight, they made a trip to the home of a family legend.  Aunt Susan Bucher tired of farm life in the 1920s and set out across country to Los Angeles, California. On the way she worked as one of the first female Rangers at Yellowstone National Park. Aunt Susan was then in her 90s, still living alone in her apartment in Los Angeles.  She would grocery shop by taking two busses to and from the store and she volunteered at a local “old folks home.”

By then Eva was the matriarch of the family and after a delicious lunch prepared by Aunt Susan, she reached into her purse and retrieved an apron. While placing it over her shoulders Aunt Susan asked what she was doing. Eva said that she was going to help with the dishes, to which the near centenarian responded, “Put that away, I don’t get a lot of company to enjoy and I will do the dishes after you leave.”  Eva quietly returned the apron to its place in her purse.

Aunt Susan eventually died at the age of 102 from not having a doctor. In her life the only medicine she ever took was an aspirin. One day while tending her flowers she slipped and hit her head on the concrete stoop. An ambulance was called but they would not treat her until they talked to her doctor—she had no doctor. By the time they understood that fact she had passed the point of no return.

Christ was an active fireman serving 13 years as president of Lititz Fire Company No. 1 while at the same time fighting fires actively as first a Driver and eventually Captain. He was a delegate to the Lancaster County Fireman’s Convention for more than 40 consecutive years. When the new fire house was built it was dedicated in his honor.

While the Fire Company held its annual Corn Soup Festivals, Koehler was the “official dipper”.

He maintained a garden at his home and always strived to raise the largest vegetables possible—supplying many neighbors and friends with food from his garden.

In his later life Christ remained active in the fire company by serving as Captain of the Fire Police.  It was during this time that the decision to buy a new, expensive piece of equipment was being debated and the arguments were visceral. Most of the older members thought the purchase excessive while the younger members drooled over a hot new piece of equipment.  Long time member and president Lester Bingeman, owner of Bingeman’s Restaurant on Broad Street, quit as a result of the argument.

Christ was particularly hurt one day while walking on Main Street. One of the younger members of the fire company was walking toward him and upon spotting the senior member, the younger crossed over the street to avoid having to speak to him.  Once passed the young man again crossed the street. The long time firefighter commented to a companion, “What happened that we can’t argue and be friends anymore?” He was recalling a day, then past, when men would argue vehemently but when the vote was taken they would accept the outcome and re-kindle their friendship.

He was also a charter member of the Lititz Sportsmen’s Association twice, having been on the original charter and on the committee to reorganize the association in the 1980s.

Eva was not entirely happy with the Sportsmen’s Association as, in the early part of the 20th Century. they introduced the grey squirrel for sport. Later the town fathers made hunting illegal inside the borough limits and the squirrels, with no natural enemy, flourished. They frequently attacked her flowers and garden vegetables and she would pick up Chris’ 22 rifle and take shots at the varmints from the back stoop of their various homes.

While the Lititz Community Show Association was in operation Christ served as vice-president. He was an officer when it ceased operation and voted to use the remaining funds to replace the Roebuck Fountain, which was dedicated in 1895, at the community square with a modern stone fountain and re-dedicate it the men of the Grand Army of the Republic.  When the fountain was re-dedicated in 1995, Christ and Bill Young, one time owner/editor of the Lititz Record-Express were the only surviving members of the board of the Community Show Association.

During the Bicentennial Celebration of Lititz in 1956 he was in charge of the local business section of the parade.

When the American Business Club of Lititz started the Warwick Ambulance Association, Christ was one of its charter drivers, working a volunteer schedule for decades while still remaining active in the fire company. One of his favorite stories was of the heavy-set lady in an upstairs bedroom who they strapped to a chair and then strapped the chair to him to extract her from the house.

They were both members of the Lititz Church of the Brethren and the Crusaders Sunday School Class. They were active members of the Lititz Senior Citizens where he served as president and treasurer on a number of occasions and was the group’s Tour Director. When the Senior Citizens group folded a portion of the money in the tour account was used to purchase a Dogwood tree in the Lititz Springs Park to honor the pair.

During the 250th Celebration of Lititz, Christ was selected as one of the Outstanding Citizens of the community and his name was included on a monument at the Spruce Street entrance to the park.

 Christ died September 19, 1996 and Eva joined him just over two years later on November 22, 1998. They are at rest in the cemetery of the Fairview Church of the Brethren, outside of Manheim—on land that was once owned by her family.

 During his funeral both the Warwick Ambulance and Lititz Fire Company No. 1 were placed out of service in his honor. As the funeral cortège approached the cemetery it drove under an arch made by the ladder trucks of the Lititz and Manheim Fire Companies.


Seeking anecdotes, changes and corrections. Please send complete information to:

Glenn B. Knight
411 N. 6th St. #1436
Emery, SD 57332

 [Direct quotes from an April 14, 1981 interview with Christ and Eva Koehler by their grandson, Glenn B. Knight, at their home at 113 S. Cedar St., Lititz as well as other recorded conversations.]

© Copyright 2007, Glenn B. Knight