Terms that have been used to describe just the ordinary people of Curtin are dogged, fiercely independent, rugged, tough as nails. I search for an apt way to refer to Nancy Agnes (Tate) Barger.
Thanks to Roland Curtin Foundation Board Member Phil Ruth for calling attention to an 1895 newspaper article (Ref 1) about Grandma Barger. Born in Cumberland County on Sep 14, 1791 according to this article – several other accounts and her obituary cite Sep 17, 1792 as her date of birth -- she was the fourth of 10 children of William and Rebecca Tate. She fell for George Barger, and in spite of disapproving parents, ran off and married him when George returned from serving in the War of 1812.
George was a forgeman, and he was recruited by the Valentines of Chester County to move to Centre County to work in their new iron business soon after the conflict ended. George, Nancy, and their infant son Samuel made a three-week wagon journey to Centre County and settled first in or near Bellefonte. [The date of the journey indicated in the article was 1812, but their oldest son wasn’t born until 1816, give or take a year. Either the date of the trip or the son’s age given in the article is wrong; otherwise, Baby Samuel was not along for the ride.] In 1820, Roland Curtin hired George. Apparently, after working for Mr Curtin for a time, George moved his family to Mill Hall in order to labor at another forge. The Bargers settled permanently back at Curtin, then known as Roland, in or around 1832. George died in 1852, survived by Nancy and seven grown children.
At the time of the 1895 article, Nancy would have already been a mature 103, give or take a year. She is described as having her faculties and being remarkably functional. She was seated by a crackling fire and eagerly posed for a photo. She regaled the interviewer with stories drawn from her long life.
She recounted that she was away the day that convicted murderer James Monks was hanged in Bellefonte [at a public execution on January 23, 1819]. When she returned home, however, she heard from her husband about all the excitement the event engendered.
She indicated that four sons fought in the Civil War. John was killed, but three returned home. Her oldest son, Samuel, never was called into duty. He remained at home to look after his mother and sisters. Samuel never married, and in fact remained his mother’s provider and care giver in her last years. His picture is reproduced in the same article, appearing to be a sprightly 79, hauling firewood, perhaps, with the help of his mule.
An article later the same year cites Nancy’s memories of Judge Charles Huston (1771-1849), PA Supreme Court Judge appointed in 1826 (Ref 2). Judge Huston had lived nearby and had told her about the excitement of joining the militia as troops marched through Carlisle on the way to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. The day the newspaperman interviewed Nancy for this article, she got on her knees to pray with a visiting parson and was able to get back to her feet with surprising agility.
Nancy “Grandma” Barger’s life ended in 1898 at 106 years, 1 month, 14 days, but she was a determined tough old bird and had survived an astonishing two months after breaking her hip in a fall (Ref 3) The article amusingly relates, “She was a free user of tobacco so far as smoking was concerned.”
On a personal note, it is fascinating to me that my grandparents, Curtinites Jeremiah (1874-1936) and Rebecca Parker Glenn (1876-1963); my great-grandparents Andrew Curtin Glenn (1834-1902) and Rachel Aikey Glenn (1849-1927); and, for that matter, my great-great grandparents Jeremiah Glenn (1791-1876) and Margaret Curtin Glenn (ca 1808- ca 1875), who immigrated from Ireland and settled in Roland (Curtin) in 1831, would certainly all have known Nancy Barger and her family. In fact, the Bargers returned to Roland from their stint in Mill Hall shortly after my great-great grandparents arrived. I wonder if they were friends.
1 – Meek, GR: A remarkable old woman who lives with her 79-year-old son at Curtin’s Works. “Democratic Watchman”, 7 Jun 1895.
2 – Remarkably old woman. Mrs Nancy Barger of Roland, Centre County, over 104. Altoona Tribune, 30 Dec, 1895.
3 – Centre centenarian dead. The Times (State College), 3 Nov 1898
Jerry is a retired general surgeon and a new Board Member of the Roland Curtin Foundation. He has Curtin roots extending back to 1831, through four previous generations.