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A Brief Autobiographical Sketch

By Franklin D. Lefever

Co-compiler of
THE PENNSYLVANIA LEFEVRES

"I would like to see parents talk to their children about our heritage."



 

Background and Early Life

     I Franklin D. Lefever was born July 5, 1905 on the corner of Pine and Spruce Streets in the city of Lancaster, Penna. where my father Harry kept a little corner grocery store.  At age 1 1/2 we moved to a larger store at the corner of West Walnut and Elm Streets.  At age 7 my parents separated and I was put out on a farm 6 miles east of Lancaster with my father's sister and husband, Emma and Enos Landis.  The farm is now a tourist attraction known as the Amish Farm and House.

     I received my primary and grade education in a school at Smoketown.  At 16 years of age I had a bad fall and injured my back.  At age 20 I left the farm and went back to the city to live with my maternal grandmother at 142 Fairview Avenue.  I found employment in a toy factory where I had no heavy lifting.  Several years later I went to work for C. Z. Martin who operated several Smoked Meat and Cheese stands in the city markets.  Around the first of 1929 I left that job and enrolled in a Business College where I studied bookkeeping.  In December of that year I was employed as bookkeeper for the Ezra W. Martin Co., a meat packing plant one mile east of Lancaster.  I remained here until they closed up in 1979, 50 years later.

     In the meantime I was married to Naomi Ruth McConnell of Altoona.  We have two children, Marlene who works for David C. Cook Publishing Co. now located in Colorado Springs, CO, and James who lives 13 miles east of Lancaster and has spent most of his life with IBM.

     My uncle and aunt who raised me were Mennonites and I got to Sunday School and church every Sunday.  When I was 15 we had revivals in our church . My aunt said she felt I was old enough now to join church and they arranged for me to get there every evening.  I clearly remember the night the minister spoke on the Second Coming of Christ, but I walked out as usual.  Standing out on the pavement I began to think -- If Christ should return tonight, I would not be ready.  So I went back in and gave them my name.  I went home and slept like a baby thinking all was well.  In due time I was baptised with all the others, but I was not saved -- I had simply joined the church.

     It was 13 years later when I had the opportunity to go to a Mennonite school in Harrisonburg, Virginia for a 6 week study of the Bible.  I think I got saved down there -- down on my knees with a counselor talking with me.  At any rate, my life changed at that point and within a couple of years I was teaching Sunday School.
 

My Involvement in "The Pennsylvania LeFevres" 

     In the fall of 1937 I purchased a beautiful 2 1/2 story frame house for $4700.  It was located one mile east of Lancaster City, the first house on the north side of the Old Philadelphia Pike.  Then I was married January 1, 1938.

     One Saturday morning the following summer I happened to look out the west kitchen window and saw a tall elderly man walking up the pike.  I dismissed him from my mind but a few moments later he was knocking on my front door.  He introduced himself as George Newton LeFevre of Strasburg so I invited him in.

     He explained that he had compiled a record of the LeFevre family and to prove the point he rattled off the names of my ancestors back to Mengen LeFevre born 1510 in France.  But I was not impressed.  I was not interested in my ancestors.

     He continued by explaining that he was forming a Corporation for the purpose of printing his records and to take care of the cemetery on his farm.  He wanted me to serve as Secretary of the Corporation.  I laughed in his face.  But that didn't bother him. He named me as secretary and instructed me to attend a meeting of officers at the Cemetery the following Saturday afternoon.  So you see, I was railroaded into this.

     I attended the annual meetings and recorded the minutes but my interest stopped there.  Then George passed away in 1943.  It was several years later when we officers began to realize that we had a responsibility to do something about these records.  They were lying dormant in the big brick house along North Star Road where George had lived with his son Merle and daughter-in-law Bertha.

     One Sunday afternoon I went over and picked up the records.  Sitting in the shade of a big tree at my home I began to look at them.  The first thing I saw was that the records were very incomplete.  They were not up to date since George had died some years before.  What can be done about this?

     After thinking it over I decided to bring my father's family records up to date.  Then I would contact my uncles and cousins.  When I later got at this and opened the telephone book, I saw something I had never noticed before.  There were several columns of Lefevers listed.  Who were they?  How many of them were related to me?  I decided to find out.  My interest took a jump forward.

     This was a very slow process.  I worked on it every evening after supper, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  I first had to find out if these people were related to anyone in the original records.  If they were, then I would type an inquiry letter requesting the information needed to complete their family record.  A stamped and addressed envelope was enclosed for a reply.

     Each letter was numbered to correspond with the identification numbers in the original records.  This kept everything under control as the time came when I was working on more than 100 families at the same time.  It also served to show me where the new information should go when letters came back.  Occasionally some data would be missing on the returned letter.  Then I had to contact some other member of that family to get what I needed.  A form letter could not be used because every family was different.

     Many of these people had close relatives living in other states.  When I wrote them I requested they give me names and addresses of all the LeFevres listed in their telephone books.  This got me in contact with many different relatives who no longer had any correspondence with anyone in the East.  A man in the middle West said he often wondered what became of George and his records.  He was happy to hear from me.

     Well all this began to snowball and my interest increased.  Letters were coming back faster than I could record them.  The pile was 3 inches high sometimes.  But it also had its bad side.  My wife bundled up our 2 children and went to Florida where she stayed with a sister for the winter.

     After more than a year had passed, I had typed 1400 letters.  The last entry was 14-198, one of George Newton's great granddaughters.  Beside those living in Lancaster County, I found Cousins living in other parts of Pennsylvania and in 36 other states.  This enabled me to add over 1000 names to those the Original Compiler had.

     At this writing, I have been in contact with Cousins in 48 States and have sold 2400 books.  In December of 1998 I had another 1000 reprints made.  Then in March of 1999 I had a 5 by-pass operation and felt the need to relieve myself of this responsibility.  Books are now handled by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.
 

Franklin D. Lefever
August 1999