Victoria Arrives

Victoria (Farabaugh) Bechel

Victoria (Farabaugh) Bechel

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.



One thought on “Victoria Arrives

  1. Tony Bentivegna Post author

    Nancy (Kirsch) Miller replies that the photo has Victoria’s name hand written on the reverse side. The photo was originally part of a family photo album. She also transcribed her obituary which confirms much of what I compiled from other sources:

    Mrs. Victoria Bechel
    Mrs. Victoria Bechel, relict of Frederick Bechel, of Barr Township, died at the home of her son, Henry Bechel, of Barr Township, on Saturday, April 15, at 9 o’clock p.m. The deceased had been ailing from lung trouble for twenty years, which finally developed into dropsy, which caused her death. The subject of this notice was born in Baden, Germany, Aug. 22, 1832. She came to this country in 1853 in company with her two nephews, Charles and Bernard Farabaugh. Her maiden name was Victoria Farabaugh, her brothers, Michael, Augustine, George and Mathias having preceded her to the grave. She was untied in marriage to Frederick Bechel in May, 1859 and he having died seventeen years ago. To their union were born the following children: Mathilda, wife of Anthony Brewer, of Pittsburg; Mary, wife of J. L. Sherry, and Henry, with whom she made her home, and also by eleven grandchildren. Mrs. Bechel was formerly well known in Ebensburg, having lived with the family of John A. Blair for a number of years. She was a life long member of the Catholic Church, a good kind mother and a model neighbor. Her funeral occurred on Monday, interment being made in the cemetery at Nicktown after a high mass of requiem had been celebrated for the repose of her soul by the pastor, Rev. Father Maximilian. May she rest in peace.

    We know, of course, that Matilda’s father was really Dennis Brawley. The photo was taken at the Kneeland Studio in Allegheny, Pa., which is now part of Pittsburgh. This can be explained by the fact that Matilda and her husband Anthony Brewer settled in Pittsburgh after their marriage in 1879. Victoria’s picture must have been taken during a visit there. I really have no doubts that this is her.


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