My 3x great-grandfather Levi Hocker was born on 17 January 1824, most likely in Swatara Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.1 His parents, George and Maria Magdalena “Molly” (Landis) Hocker, had been married for five years2 and had one other child, a daughter named Isemiah.3
His mother died the following winter on 22 February 1825.4 Her parents were also deceased,5 as was George’s father Johan Adam Hocker.6 Levi was likely raised by his father and, possibly, his grandmother Mary (Hershey?) Hocker, until George remarried. He married Catharine Cocklin, daughter of Jacob and Mary Margaret (Hoover) Cocklin, on 5 November 1835, when Levi was 10 years old.
Levi married Anna Frantz, daughter of Michael and Elizabeth (Walters) Frantz, on 6 February 1851. He was a farmer and the family lived in Upper Swatara Township. Levi and Anna had at least 9 children:
- Benjamin Franklin (17 Feb 1852—2 Dec 1919)
- Francis Michael (26 Jan 1854—1919)
- Mary Elizabeth (22 Aug 1855—25 Jan 1939)
- Emma L. (29 May 1857—14 Jul 1942)
- George Warren (8 Dec 1858—12 May 1868)
- Albert Curtin (9 Sep 1860—24 Jul 1940)
- Margaret A. (25 Jul 1863—1957)
- Herbert Hershey (9 Jun 1865-25 Jun 1946)
- John Edward (14 Oct 1869—1873)
On 31 October 1876, Levi mysteriously vanished from his home. Newspaper accounts state that he had gone to bed with his wife about 8 or 9 p.m., but when Anna woke around 2 a.m., he was nowhere to be found. One article stated:
Mr. Levi Hocker, a retired farmer of very considerable means, and unimpeachable character, well known in this city, disappeared mysteriously on Friday night. He retired with the family in good spirits about eight o’clock in the evening—no one having suspected anything, or noticed anything unusual in his conduct… No cause whatsoever is known for his very strange proceeding—no financial embarrassment. It is presumed that he is laboring under a slight aberration of mind.7
The writer described Levi as “about five feet seven inches, black hair and whiskers slightly mixed with gray, no moustache, dark eyes, about fifty-five years of age, wore a black soft felt hat, dark suit, no overcoat.”
His body was found the following April in the water at Fry’s dam, near Middletown.8 He died by drowning, a presumed suicide while “laboring under a fit of mental aberration.” He was buried 29 April 1877 in Churchville Cemetery.
I often wonder what happened. His family apparently saw no reason for his disappearance, no change in his behavior. But he’d lost two of his children—George and John—to early death, one just three years earlier.9 His father also died in November 1873.10 Would that be enough to drive him to suicide years later?
Or was there perhaps something else? His son Michael was listed as “idiotic” on the 1880 census11, but not the 1870 census12, perhaps indicating that his disability was not a lifelong condition. He would have been about 26—a few years younger when his father died—about the age when mental illness can emerge. Is it possible that Michael was having problems that impacted his father’s mental state? Without Michael’s medical records, I can’t be sure.
Regardless, Levi’s untimely death at the age of 52 was both mysterious—as we’ll likely never know what happened—and sad. He left seven children, the youngest only 11 years old, his wife and friends to try to understand his disappearance and apparent suicide, and to mourn his tragic death.
This post is part of an ongoing, blogging challenge entitled 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, created by Amy Crow of No Story Too Small. Participants must write about one ancestor every week. This is my sixth 52 Ancestors post and part of week five.
- Churchville Cemetery (Oberlin, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania), Hocker family gravestone, section not recorded, personally read and photographed, 2002. ↩
- Frederick S. Weiser, editor and translator, Records of Pastoral Acts at Zion Lutheran Church, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, 1795-1827 (Birdsboro, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania German Society, 1987), page 90. ↩
- Zion Lutheran Church (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), baptismal record, page 130, “Jeremiah Hocker, child of George Hocker,”1821; index and image, Ancestry.com, “Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985” (https://www.ancestry.com : viewed 4 Feb 2012); citing Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania). Subsequent documents, including George’s will and her gravestone in Graceland Cemetery, Sidney, Ohio, reveal her name to have been Isemiah. ↩
- “Deaths,” (Harrisburg) Oracle of Dauphin, 26 Feb 1825. ↩
- Henry Landis Inquest Awarded, dated 29 Apr 1829, “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” digital image, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ : accessed 14 Mar 2013); citing Dauphin County Orphans Court Book F:385, Dauphin County Clerk of the Orphans Court, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Henry’s wife was not mentioned in his will, written 23 October 1823. ↩
- Adam Hawker Guard Appt for minor Heirs, dated 13 Dec 1821, “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” digital image, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ : accessed 19 May 2013); citing Dauphin County Orphans Court Book E:257, Dauphin County Clerk of the Orphans Court, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. ↩
- “Information Wanted,” The Harrisburg Daily Patriot, 31 Oct 1876. ↩
- “The Missing Farmer Levi Hocker Found,” The Harrisburg Daily Patriot, 30 Apr 1877. ↩
- Churchville Cemetery, Hocker Family gravestone. ↩
- Churchville Cemetery (Oberlin, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania), George Hocker gravestone, personally read and photographed, 2002. ↩
- Anna Hocker household, 1880 United States Federal Census, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Swatara Township, enumeration district 114, sheet 10B (handwritten), page 186B (stamped), dwelling 90, family 90, lines 22-28; digital image, Internet Archive, “Population schedules of the tenth census of the United States, 1880, Pennsylvania” (http://archive.org/stream/10thcensus1124unit#page/n557/mode/1up : accessed 22 Nov 2012); citing NARA micropublication T9, roll 1124. ↩
- Levi Hocker household, 1870 United States Federal Census, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hummelstown post office, Upper Swatara Township, page 29 (written)/695 (stamped), dwelling 178, family 198, lines 16-26; index and images, FamilySearch, “United States Census, 1870” (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MZGV-X2F : viewed 10 Nov 2012); citing NARA micropublication M593, FHL microfilm 552834. ↩