Today, I was astonished to find this image of the immigrant Viktoria Fehrenbacher (1832-1905), aka Victoria (Farabaugh) Bechel). The picture is just what I imagined: stern, blue-eyed, intimidating, maybe even defiant.
Victoria was the kid sister who arrived from Kappel in 1853 with her nephews Charles and Bernard Farabaugh. With the help of Fr. Peter Lemke, Carrolltown’s founder, she lived and worked at the Blair House in Ebensburg, a “famous hostelry,” according to the obituary of its eminent proprietor, John A. Blair. Here, poor 23-year-old Victoria became pregnant by a resident rake, 48-year old Dennis Brawley. We know of their child Matilda from the birth record at St. Benedict’s in Carrolltown (in Latin, the record impassively says Matilda “ist illegitima filia”) and a privately published account of John Blair, by descendant Marilyn Horan Krall.
Just two weeks ago I was telling my wife about the liason while unsuccessfully looking for Dennis’ grave at Old Holy Name Cemetery in Ebensburg. Dennis did not marry the compromised mother, and by all accounts never moved from the Blair House for the rest of his life. Victoria moved on. In 1859, she married another older man, Frederick Bechel, and they raised Matilda and two of their own. They are buried together at the church in Nicktown.
I often wondered about Victoria’s 19th Century plight. Why didn’t any of her brothers take her in when she arrived? Why does she not appear in any of the early Farabaugh group photos? Once she was “in trouble,” did they all just shun her? The plight of an unwed mother then and there must have been terrible.
I was just casually surfing the internet for obituaries, noticed that researcher James Thomas Rosenbaum had a collection and then was amazed to happen upon this. This photo collection does not kick up if you google Victoria. Finding this was just serendipity beyond belief. The photo belongs to descendent Nancy (Kirsch) Miller. I think Nancy was in the color guard while I was in band at Bishop Carroll High in Ebensburg, so I emailed to learn more about this picture. Where has it been all of these years and are we 100% sure it is her? I hope to hear from Nancy soon.