The Resting Place of Immigrant Alexander Klinger (1726-1802)
Klinger family lore holds that Alexander, my sixth great grandfather, was buried in the graveyard of TrinityLutheranChurch in Reading, PA. The current history of the church lists him as a contributor to the fund that built the first log church for the denomination. An earlier church history, The History of Trinity Lutheran 1751 – 1894 by Jacob Fry, 1894, states that he was installed as a deacon when the log church was consecrated in 1753. He was certainly a member of Trinity in it’s early years, as were his brothers Philip and Peter. Klinger marriage records in Germany indicate that the state church in the area was the LutheranChurch, so this all seems logical. I went to visit Trinity, where they were kind enough to go through the old hand written burial records with me. There are no Klingers listed. Many of the old graves are now buried beneath a church expansion, but there is a monument in the church wall listing the names, with no Klingers.
I was doing research at the Historical Society of Berks County, and one of the researchers suggested that I check the records of the First Reformed Church in Reading. It seems that our German ancestors weren’t very interested in the theological differences between Lutheran and Reformed, and switched back and forth between the two German speaking congregations based on their opinions about the pastors, or lack of pastors at many times, or arguments among members. There were some nasty disagreements among the Trinity deacons, and Alexander may have taken part. The history of both churches shows a good bit of conflict, and many periods with no pastor. When there was no pastor at one of the two German churches, the other pastor would fill in for key rites such as burials. When Alexander died, there was no pastor at Trinity, but other records in the same First Reformed log list the cemetery when someone was buried at cemeteries other than the First Reformed cemetery. HSBC also has Trinity records of a new Ordinance in 1772. It was signed by Philip and Peter, but not Alexander. The evidence is not as conclusive as I would like, but I believe that Alexander left Trinity and joined First Reformed, probably before the Revolution.
From the burial log of Rev. Philip Pauli of First Reformed, now First United Church of Christ, 1802:
A 1986 transcription by HSBC translates his cause of death as consumption. It also shows Anne Klinger buried there after she died 27 Dec 1820 (no cause of death), and a three year old, Johann Klinger, son of Michael, buried there after he died 17 Jan 1801 of dysentery. Below is an old woodcut print showing the First Reformed Church from the time period of Alexander’s death, with the graves to the left. Standing there today, in the middle of the city, it is hard to believe that this is the same place. Below the church print is a drawing of the pastor, Rev. Pauli.
As Reading grew, so did the church. New buildings were built, and the area around it became a city. Property in the city became much more valuable. In January 1866, the consistory proposed to close the cemetery and sell the land to raise money for a building project. The congregation rejected the proposal. In August 1866, the proposal was reintroduced and approved by the congregation. In February 1869, an act of the legislature was requested, passed, and signed by the Governor to authorize the plan. Legal attempts to block the plan were unsuccessful. According to History of the Reformed Church in Reading, Pennsylvania by Daniel Miller, 1905: “All persons who had friends buried on the graveyard had the privilege of removing them. Those not removed were to be removed by the committee, under the direction of the consistory.” During the summer of 1869, the dead were removed from the cemetery. Those not claimed were reburied at a beautiful private cemetery in Reading, Charles Evans Cemetery. The church received a substantial discount from the cemetery, helping to make the transaction profitable for the building fund. Notes at HSBC indicate that only a partial listing of those transferred exists, but employees at Charles Evans insist that all graves have names in their records, and there are no Klingers. Unfortunately, all of the stones are badly weathered, with only a few names fully legible. From pieces of names and dates still showing, I can eliminate many of the stones from consideration. Assuming that Alexander and Anna would be buried together, there are only two pairs of stones that could be them, and only one pair with the shape of both stones matching each other and the basic shape of Johannes Klinger’s stone from 1800 at Klinger’s Church in Erdman. None of these stones have any writing legible, so it would be a big stretch to draw any conclusion. Below is a photo I took of the First Reformed section in Charles Evans Cemetery.
I also found a record in an index of graves on the internet from the Daughters of the American Revolution. They had a project to identify the graves of all patriots who served in the American Revolution, including those with militia active duty records, like Alexander. It indicates that Alexander’s grave was found in a “private cemetery” in the Klingerstown area in 1949. At the State Library, I checked the records that the DAR submitted to the US Congress, but there were no more useful details. I also contacted the Harrisburg DAR, who filed the report on Alexander, but they didn’t provide any further information. They said that in public cemeteries they left a bronze plaque, but in private cemeteries, sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. With our families in the Klingerstown area using church cemeteries, I can’t imagine that someone would go to the effort and expense to move remains from Reading and not rebury them in a church cemetery. Previous dedicated Klinger researchers working in the area, such as Irving, Mary, and Robert Klinger, and current researcher Steve Troutman, have no information on private Klinger burials to support even part of this claim. DAR and SAR family information, by nature, sometimes gives the benefit of the doubt to questionable claims. With so many Klingers with the same first names, including Alexander, it can be a lot of work to keep our ancestors straight. Someone doing a casual search could quickly be in over their head. In short, I am very skeptical of this claim.
At this point, I am out of ideas to proceed. I welcome any suggestions.