Appel-Wolff Tomb, Lancaster Cemetery

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On the front side of the Appel-Wolff tombstone at Lancaster Cemetery the names of Theodore Appel D.D. and his wife, Susan Burton Wolff are engraved. Theodore and Susan had 4 children, two of which are buried with them. The name of their youngest and tragically deceased son, Bernard Wolff, is engraved on the left side of the monument and the name of their daughter Charlotte Wolff on its right side. What might be interesting to notice here is that Bernard and Charlotte were also the names of Rev. Theodore’s mother and father in law, whom the Appels share their final resting place with. Bernard C. Wolff and his wife Charlotte have their names engraved on the backside of the tombstone. I will now briefly present the historic information that I collected in my investigation of the lives of this prominent Lancaster family. I will focus on biographies of Theodore Appel and his father in law – Bernard C. Wolff, the two men who shaped much of mid. 19th century history of newly merged Franklin and Marshall College.

Rev. Theodore Appel A.M., D.D. was born on April 30th 1823, in Easton, Pennsylvania. He was one of the 13 children in a family of German and British origin. He started his education when he was just eight and eventually earned an A.M (Artium Magister) degree from Marshall College in 1842, with the honor of delivering the Latin Salutatory on commencement day. He continued his studies at the Theological Seminary at Mercersburg, while serving as a tutor at Marshall College. In 1850, he became the pastor of the Reformed church in Mercersburg and a Professor of Mathematics and Mechanical Philosophy at Marshall College, until this school was moved to Lancaster to form a union with the Franklin College. Dr. Appel moved to Lancaster then to become part of the first F&M College faculty. Here’s an interesting extract from one of the letters that Rev. Appel wrote upon moving to Lancaster to facilitate the merge of the Franklin and Marshall Colleges: “The impression which Lancaster makes upon us all is a very pleasant one […] For my part I feel as some of the people here feel, that we shall have some day or other a big college at Lancaster. With the smiles of a kind providence upon our labors we shall doubtless realize our expectations as we have such a good foundation to rest upon and so many other advantages in our favor.” Dr. Appel continued his professorship in mathematics, physics and astronomy at Franklin and Marshall College until 1877, when he officially retired. Throughout the years spent at F&M he occupied various positions in the College Board of Trustees and the Alumni Association. He was also the first librarian of the college and for many years the last survivor of its original faculty. Even after he retired, Dr. Appel remained unofficially affiliated with the College. Throughout his career, Rev. Appel published numerous books and texts, of which to our interest the most notable are: Recollections of College Life at Marshall College and The Life and Work of Dr. John W. Nevin (president of F&M College 1866-1876). It is important to note that in 1871, Rev. Appel received an honorary D.D. (Divinitatis Doctor) degree from University of Pennsylvania. One of his students described Dr. Appel as a man whose “[…] principal characteristic was his cheerful and hopeful spirit. He saw the bright side of things; he perceived and recognized goodness, and believed in the power of it.”

Rev. Theodore Appel married the 27-year old, Miss Susan Burton Wolff on April 14. 1854. She was the daughter of Dr. Bernard C. Wolff, a Reverend of Baltimore City, where the couple got married. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about Dr. Appel’s wife, except that she was a housewife and probably a painter as well. F&M College is in possession of a diary/personal notebook that belonged to Susan Wolff. This journal includes various writings and newspaper articles on how to be a good housewife, which is what she apparently devoted herself to. These interesting articles include numerous culinary receipts as well as tips on how to “drive away rats”, or how to “use the soap efficiently”. As I have said before, Theodore and Susan had a family of four children: Miss Charlotte; Elizabeth, wife of Theodore W. Nevin, of Pittsburg; Bernard W.; and Theodore B., a practicing physician of Lancaster. Two of their children: Bernard Wolff and Charlotte Wolff were buried under the same family tombstone along with their parents and their grandparents (from mother’s side.) Bernard died tragically, aged nine after a short illness in 1871. Charlotte, who probably never married, was buried here as well, when she died in 1940. It was bit of a challenge to investigate the life of this woman. Not to say that there was no data available, because Special Archives of the Franklin and Marshall College own a full box of Charlotte’s diaries, letters and notebooks with poems that she wrote in the early 20th century. If only I could have read her interesting handwriting, I would have much more to say about Dr. Appel’s daughter. Here’s, however, one particularly interesting and historical piece of writing from her diary:

Friday April 6. 1917

Good Friday-

A cheerless dark and stormy day. At 3.a.m (?)., after a stormy session U.S Congress declared war against Germany. I feel sad and depressed that I am in anguish of mind.

 

Rev. Bernard C. Wolff D.D was born on December 11, 1794 in Martinsburg, Virginia. His great-grandfather immigrated to the USA in 1739, from a small town in Germany and he eventually settled in Lancaster area. According to the book on fathers of the German Reformist Church, Dr. Bernard C. Wolff  “[…] belonged to a family whose religious history confirms the Divine promise and beautifully illustrates the enduring presence, power, and efficiency of God’s covenant mercies […] His ancestors, for ages past, were pious, Christian people, wonderfully sustained and preserved in the faith once delivered to the saints.” Dr. Wolff was a prominent leader in the Reformed Church and he helped to form the Reformed Seminary in 1820. For many years he served as a minister in Easton and Baltimore. During that time, as a prominent member of the Reformed Church, he was very influential person in the establishment of Marshall College and its later unification with the Franklin College in 1852. From 1854-1864, Rev. Wolff was a professor at the Theological Seminary in Mercersburg. In 1864, he moved to Lancaster, where he continued to work at the Franklin and Marshall College until his death in 1870. A whole lot more about Dr. Wolff can be learned from Charles E. Schaeffer’s book on this man’s life. The book is called: A repairer of the Breach, The Memoirs of Bernard C. Wolff. Dr. Wolff was married to Miss Charlotte Wolff, of Chambersburg, who was also a member of the Reformed Church and even a distant relative of him. It is said that their house was a true home for the various clergymen who passed through Martinsburg, but unfortunately very little is known about this woman, a life partner of Dr. Wolff, who was buried with him and the family of their daughter Susan Burton Wolff under this tombstone.

As we could see, the story behind this, and probably behind any other beautiful tombstone at the Lancaster cemetery is fascinating. The monument itself most probably dates back to 1860 when Bernard C. Wolff died. The other members of Wolff and Appel families were probably buried later on and their names were added to this tombstone. The last person to be buried under it was Charlotte Wolff as late as in 1940. When my partner and I were choosing the tombstone to draw, we focused on the architectural beauty of the monument itself, not even imagining the story behind it and lives of the people who were buried under it. It was amazing to find out that these people, who lived in the 19th century were actually deeply affiliated with the Franklin and Marshall College, a school with amazing tradition that we are continuing today. It was astonishing to discover how well their lives were documented and thus preserved. Franklin and Marshall College itself is in possession of several boxes of documents, biographies, letters and personal diaries of this family. For some reason, while doing this research, I felt unusual connection with the people who are now resting below a tombstone that I’ve randomly chosen to draw in class. I’m guessing that all of you who engaged in the examination of another tombstone felt the same way.

Resources used:

Biographical Annals of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Beers, 1903

Theodore Appel Family Papers, F&M Archives and Special Collections

Obituary record, F&M Alumni Association, 1901

The Fathers of the German Reformist Church in Europe and America, Sprenger and Westhaeffer, 1857

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