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