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A Short History of the
 Felix Family of Emmitsburg

Kirk Felix

Beginning in the mid 1700s, a number of immigrants from Germany and other European countries, located to the rich and fertile area called the Tom's Creek Hundred to build and raise families. Some came by way of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and settled in Adams County, Pa in the towns of Cumberland, Gettysburg and a small village called Zora. Many became landowners and developed large tracts of land into working farms. A few of these immigrants were the Felixes.

The genealogical history is not precise or as accurate as I would like, but as close as I can get to possible ancestors living in the area is about 1811. On a recent excursion my brother Keith took to Emmitsburg, it revealed some interesting finds in the St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery. Several burial plots have the name of Felix. This led to a possible connection to past relatives, which lived in and around the Emmitsburg area.

The Emmitsburg Area Historical Society was founded in 1996 and has many writings, which have been submitted from area residents who had ancestors who lived in the town and surrounding villages in the late 17 and early 18 hundreds. Searching a number of writings, I came upon several, which were of interest. One in particular was titled "The Women of Main Street" by Ruth O. Richards. She begins by saying that the title sounds lewd, but goes on to assure us that these women or "Ladies" as they were referred "were all good citizens of Emmitsburg and went about their womanly duties in much the same way as did each of their neighbors with few variations: cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and tending children."

There was a reference to the Felix house as being the operations center for the local telephone company. Though Ms. Richards did not know Miss Felix very well, she did give me some interesting leads to further research. Another writing entitled "My phone number is Hillcrest 7" by Michael Hillman discusses the early formation of the telephone company in 1882 and its subsequent failure due in part to the lack of participation by residents and its closure in 1891. "The first legal mention of telephones was recorded in 1895 when the first telephone poles were installed but ordered removed by the town government. On February 26, 1903, out of concern over the proliferation of power and telephone poles, the town passed Ordinance 104 which gave it power to regulate the placing of telephone poles and wires in the streets and alleys of the town. The ordinance, according to town minutes, specifically prohibits poles on the main street of the town".

Mr. Hillman goes on to mention in specific detail the first telephone exchange that operated in the town. He further describes the type of equipment used and how the phone exchange was operated relative to locations within and out of town. Then he discusses "The era of the switchboard".

I found this most interesting because Mr. Hillman mentions in detail the first operators as well as the subsequent operators of the phone company. "The phone exchange for the first phone company was opened in Emmitsburg in the Adolphus Harner building on West Main street in 1884. The switchboard operator was Theresa Ziegler, the daughter of Mr. Harner.

When the second try was made at introducing telephone service to the town, the Harner building was once again selected. It remained this until 1921 when it was moved to the front room of the Felix house, 200 West Main street (just west of the present Laundromat), which at the time was Troxell's Feed and Grain run by Chick, Hen and Peep Troxell.

The exchange was run by the three Felix sisters, Anna, Nellie and Mary. The room quickly became a favorite gather spot, as it was the one place you could go to get the very latest on who was doing what with who and where they were doing it."

This was interesting stuff. It's nice to know about the towns' history, but what is more interesting is that now I had real names to research in my hunt for my ancestors.

As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, Keith took a trip to Emmitsburg and called me while standing in the middle of the St. Josephs' cemetery. He found several plots and gravestones with the name of Felix. He rambled off names to me as I wrote them down. Several days later I began to piece together the bits and pieces of our roots. It appears that the Felix sisters may have been cousins to our great grandfather. The three sisters were Nellie S., born in August 1888 and who in 1954 was married to a Sullivan; Anna, born in October 1890, whose actual name was Elizabeth Anna; and Mary A. Felix, born in May 1896. I currently have no additional information about the later two's wedded status. They did have a brother, Joseph W. Felix, born in November 1893 and who was buried in St. Josephs in 1936. The parents of this group are Pius J. Felix (as marked on his gravestone), though information at the Family Search web site lists him as Paris J. Felix born in 1854 and passing in 1923. His spouse is a Sarah W. Felix. There is no indication of her age. They are buried together.

According to the 1850 US Census of Cumberland, Adams County, Pa (a small town about 15 miles north of Emmitsburg, across the Mason-Dixon Line, a Leda M. Felix, born in 1828, age 22 with two children a son, David R., born 1839 age 11; and Sarah M., born 1846 age 4. No husband is listed but were residents in Cumberland, Pa in 1850.

Additionally, Keith gave me the names of two other Felixes. A Joseph Felix, who according to the St. Joseph Catholic Church records was born 1811 and died on May 13, 1883 at the age of 72. His place of birth was only listed as Adams County, Pa. His spouse was a Sarah Felix, born in Adams County, Pa. in 1817 and died June 3, 1888 at the age of 71. There is a Gertrude Stoner Felix buried in the Felix gravesite. According to the 1880 US Census, she is listed as a resident of Emmitsburg, Maryland being born in 1870. Church records indicate date of birth was 1869 and she died on September 10, 1933 at the age of 64. She was married to Joseph S. Felix, born in 1851 and died in 1920. He was a farmer by occupation. Both he and Gertrude are buried in St. Josephs also.

While listing names on the Family Search website for various US Census years, I have come across a number of other Felix names from different locations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. These are too numerous to list and I cannot make a definitive connection to my current lineage.

A point of interest that was related by Aunt Doris some years ago about Joseph S. Felix comes to mind. "During the Civil War, Emmitsburg was to be a staging point for Union Troops and was fortified to stop the Confederate invasion of the North in June 1863. Half the town was burned to the ground in a mysterious fire on the night of June 23. Folklore has it that the 'Great Fire", as it is known, was started by a Union sympathizer to prevent advancing Confederates from taking supplies from the town. However fate spared the town a battle between opposing forces, which instead took place 12 miles north of it in Pennsylvania near the town of Gettysburg". During the Confederates advance north, they pillaged a number of farms along the way. One of these farms was that of Joseph S. Felix. They killed his chickens and killed his cows, taking them for food. To say the least, he was extremely angry and never had a good word to say about the "Johnny Rebs" that stole and pillaged his property. That apparently, is the only historical information about any Felix involvement in the War between the States.

During this entire process of looking back into the genealogical archives, I have attempted to put together a "Family Tree". Portions of this 'tree' can be seen among the bindings of this family manuscript. It has been fun, interesting and above all, at times confusing to put it together. If any of us had money to burn we would hire a professional genealogist to conduct a more in-depth search. We all know there is more out there to be discovered and we really hoped we could go further back (at least before the Revolutionary War), but I do not think we will make it. Aunt Doris told us all at one time or another we were of Blue Blood and somehow related to John Adams. That was all she told us and nothing more. Maybe someday we will find out, but for now, I think going back to 1811 is quite a fete, that's nearly 200 years.

Emmitsburg has grown and gone through many changes. It now lays claim to a Roman Catholic Saint (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton); it still has Mount St. Mary's College, which is now a University and of course is steeped in Civil War history and best of all, the three of us have relatives buried there who helped make Emmitsburg what it is today. And that is quite a fete in itself.

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