Joseph H. VIRKLER – Cheese Manufacturer, Sewing Machine Agent, “Segar” Salesman, and Real Estate Builder – 52 Ancestors (Ancestor 18)

I have been halted by perfectionism while writing an article about a different ancestor. It seems like it will never get finished, as I’ve been “working on it” for nearly two years. It will, but will it take another year? I don’t know.

In the meantime, I thought I’d write some short (well, relatively speaking) yet fruitful (my wishful thinking) articles about other ancestors, one every now and then. They say that if you’re going to have a blog, you should write everyday. Yeah, right. That’s me [insert sarcastic tone]. At least you should write once a week. Lately, I’ve been lucky to get something out every 4-6 months! It’s not for lack of starting articles, and this is one of those which had a nice title and no text. It has the research. Now, it will have the write-up.

A quickie with good sources and no citations. I’m appalled.

Joseph H. VIRKLER – Cheese Manufacturer, Sewing Machine Agent, “Segar” Salesman, and Real Estate Builder

Joseph’s Ancestry

Joseph H. VIRKLER was one of the many VIRKLERs out of Lewis County, New York. Joseph’s paternal grandparents were Rudolph and Anna (BRECKBEIL) VIRKLER who emigrated in 1834 from the Alsace-Lorraine area of France and settled in Lewis County. Rudolph’s grandfather was Rudolph WÜRGLER, born circa 1725 in Emmental, Bern, Switzerland, and died after 1794 in Mattenmühle, Sarrebourg, Lorraine, France. At least these locations are the information I have from the published VIRKLER genealogy by Laura Emma Virkler Farney, Julius Farney, and Julia (Julia Eleanor Virkler Nuspliger) Karcher, Genealogies of three large families of Lewis County, New York; reminiscences, sketches of history, births, deaths, marriages, occupations, religious and political views, memoirs, educational advantages, addresses, etc. of the Farney family, 1795-1988, the Rev. Rudolph Virkler family, 1792-1988, the Zehr family, 1789-1988, 2 volumes (Interlaken, New York: Heart of the Lakes Publishing, 1989).

Christian VIRKLER was Rudolph and Anna’s second child, a fraternal twin born 14 March 1819, in France, and whose sister died at birth. The rest of the children of Rudolph and Anna were boys, for a total of 9 on record, and the youngest was the only one on record to have been born in the United States.

Christian VIRKLER married Catherine YANCEY probably around 1842. Catherine and her family were also from France. I do not have information on her parents at this time.

Christian and Catherine had only two children: Joseph H. VIRKLER, the subject of this article, and his older sister Anna, who married Joseph S. FARNEY (yes, also born in France) and who, with Mr. FARNEY, had 11 children.

VIRKLER, FARNEY, ZEHR, and others, were (and still are) common surnames in Lewis County, New York. If you meet somebody in the USA with the VIRKLER surname, chances are he or she descends from Rudolph and Anna (BRECKBEIL) VIRKLER. In France, the surname was WÜRGLER, and YANCEY was JANTZI, or variation.

I actually got lucky with this ancestor, Joseph H. VIRKLER, and his first wife, my ancestor, Martha J. BLUE, as quite a bit of research had already been completed on both of their ancestries. The VIRKLER genealogy does not reference its sources, and the BLUE genealogy does, but not with individual fact citations. The BLUE genealogy is William H Blue, compiler, Descendants of John Blaw (Blue), d.1757 Somerset Co., NJ, 5th Edition, PDF on CDROM (Seattle, WA: National Blue Family Association, April 2003), [CD]. In both genealogies, for my line, Joseph and Martha is where they stopped, so I had to take it from there. It’s been fun [insert genuinely excited tone here].

Joseph’s Children

I know neither Joseph’s nor Martha’s middle name. Maybe, like my uncle, neither had one. Doubtful, though. But, I digress.

Joseph H. VIRKLER, one of my eight 2nd great grandfathers, was born in Croghan, Lewis County, New York, on either the 24th or 27th of September 1847. The sources that I currently have for his birthdate are not from original records, so whichever is wrong could have been a transcription error, as the numbers 4 and 7 when written in longhand can look quite a bit alike. Or they could both be wrong. That’s always the rub, right?

For some reason, between 1865 and 1867, he went to Illinois where he married Martha J. BLUE (one of my eight 2nd great grandmothers), who was from Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. It is a mystery to me how they both ended up in Illinois for a little while, although I have found what could be relatives of each of them in the area at that time. More will be revealed, I’m sure.

They married 8 December 1867, in Livingston County, Illinois. By 1870, they were back in Croghan County, New York, in New Bremen, where Joseph started the first cheese factory in the area, and where, probably in Lewis County, Martha gave birth to their first child, a daughter, Mabel E. VIRKLER. At times, Mabel’s first name, or nickname if you will, can be found as “Maty” or “Matey.” On public record in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, is the marriage of Mabel to Orvis Winifred NAYLOR on 30 January 1912, when Mabel was 41. There is no record that Mabel had any children. Orvis had been married previously to Minnie A. JACK and had two daughters, Della M. NAYLOR and Norma E. NAYLOR.

Joseph’s and Martha’s second child was their only son, Albert Howard VIRKLER, born in 1872. Albert was married twice, first to Jessie Rex HAFLEIGH, with whom he had four sons and one daughter, in order as follows: Norman Albert VIRKLER, Edith Virginia (VIRKLER) JAMES, Albert Howard VIRKLER Jr., Walter VIRKLER who died at 2 days old, and John Clifford VIRKLER who died 12 days shy of turning 3. Albert Howard VIRKLER, son of Joseph and Martha, married second to Sarah FERGUSON and with her had two sons: Gorden Robert VIRKLER and Howard Albert VIRKLER (not to be confused with his half brother, above).

Joseph’s and Martha’s third child was my great grandmother Carrie. Carrie D. VIRKLER was born 28 August 1873 in New Bremen, Lewis County, New York, and died 31 January 1969 in Clifton, Passaic County, New Jersey. During her life, she had three marriages that I know of, and only one child, a son and my paternal grandfather, Earl Lawrence TRAUTMAN. I have written about him before. Carrie’s marriages, the first two ending in divorce, were with Charles William TROUTMAN (a topic of several of my articles: here, here, here, and here), George A. DILL, and James PHILP. The last marriage lasted 44 years until James’ death in 1945.

Finally, the fourth and last child of Joseph H. VIRKLER and Martha J. BLUE was their daughter Maude Julia VIRKLER, born in 1875, who was married twice but had no children. Her two marriages, in order, were to Clyde Emerson PRATT, ending in divorce, and Edward Percy ROBBINS, ending at his death.

Sewing Machine Agent

By March 1879 in a Reading, Pennsylvania, newspaper, there is an ad for Singer sewing machine store where a J. H. VIRKLER was the manager. As an adult, Joseph used J. H. VIRKLER as his business name in more than one source. However, I have yet to find evidence that our Joseph H. VIRKLER, cheese manufacturer in Lewis County, is J. H. VIRKLER, Singer sewing machine salesman in Reading, Pennsylvania.

In the 1880 U.S. Federal Population Schedule in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, there is a Joseph VERKLER with wife Resena whose occupation is a “sewing machine agent.” I think this is at least good enough evidence to show that it’s probable that our J. H. VIRKLER the year prior in Reading is one in the same, making our Reading guy’s name Joseph H. VIRKLER. I’ve searched online for Resena and have had no luck yet finding her. I’m sure she’s out there somewhere, as are the relevant records of a marriage or divorce, or at least some sort of additional records of their living together.

The next year, in 1881, we find him in Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvia, in the newspaper also as a manager of a sewing machine store. He left for a little while, but came back there (also from an article in the same paper) the next year.

I am not falling for the “name’s the same” trap. Just go with it for a minute, though. I currently can’t find him anywhere else during those 5 years, and there were things happening in Martha’s life that suggest Joseph was gone from it before 1880.

The Fifth Child

I have an article to write about Martha J. (BLUE) VIRKLER. She appears to have been quite the independent and strong-minded woman. Not to go into to too much of this now, but to make sure there is no confusion, a fifth child of Martha was Edwin Benjamin “Ed” VIRKLER. My suspicion followed by a descendant’s Y-DNA have shown that Ed was not the son of Joseph H. VIRKLER, but was instead the son of somebody with ancestry from the Isle of Man. Ed was born in 1885. Twelve years later, in 1897, Martha married Edward Brown CLUCAS. CLUCAS is an Isle of Man surname. Edward Brown CLUCAS was born in Peel, Isle of Man. It appears that Ed VIRKLER was the son of Mr. CLUCAS, not of Joseph. I like to joke that Martha had a fling with the plumber because Edward CLUCAS was a plumber. Apparently, it was more than a fling.

Rewind about 5 years before Ed’s birth when we find Martha and her children living in New Bremen with Christian and Catherine VIRKLER, her in-laws, without Joseph in the household. She was reported as married. As we have already seen, at that time, a Joseph VERKLER, sewing machine salesman, was residing in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, with a woman named Resena. If this is our Joseph H., then it appears that between 1875 and 1879 when he’s found in the newspaper ad for Singer sewing machines, he and Martha had parted ways. Most likely, we will not know the exact reasons their relationship ended, but one can suspect infidelity or desertion given the circumstances.


What’s a “segar”? Pronounce it “SEE-gar” and it’s who-knows-what. Pronounce it “suh-GAR” and it makes much more sense. In the 1886 Philadelphia city directory, a Joseph H. VIRKLER was in the “segars” business, or for our purposes, the cigar trade. Joseph was selling cigars in Philadelphia.

Final Marriage

On 2 July 1888 in Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey, at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Broad Corner Market, Joseph H. VIRKLER of Philadelphia married Mary C. RIGHTLY, also of Philadelphia, when she was 39. Joseph’s occupation was given as a builder.

Mary’s previous marriage was to Samuel George HILL, and with him, she had one son and two daughters, in order: William O. HILL, Anna R. HILL, and Florence W. HILL. Anna was the informant on Joseph’s death certificate with her married surname of WHITMAN. I have found no record of any children born to Joseph H. and Mary.

This marriage appears to have lasted until Joseph’s death in 1920.

Real Estate Builder

In the 1887 Philadelphia city directory, Joseph H. VIRKLER was listed as a builder. Here’s where it really gets good.

Word of advice: in your genealogical research, never pass up checking old newspapers or old county histories. They can contain gems that tie your ancestors from one place to another, or can provide proof that this guy was also that guy. That’s what happened for me with the article I’m now going to share.

On Genealogy Bank’s website, about 4 years ago, I did a search for the VIRKLER surname and hit the jackpot with a small article about J. H. Virkler, Builder. This article confirms that he was born in Croghan, New York, owned a cheese factory there, and came to Philadelphia in 1885. It has a drawn likeness of him as well. It does not mention any time selling sewing machines or cigars. It does say that at the age of 19, he went out west for awhile and learned carpentry. Perhaps that was his time in Illinois when he met Martha.

The article, in part, is as follows.

“A Builder’s Record: J. H. Virkler’s Extensive Real Estate Operations,” Philadelphia Inquirer (Pennsylvania), 2 September 1891, 7, from (accessed 6 July 2014).


“J. H. Virkler was born in Croghan, N. Y., in 1847, began life on his father’s farm there and remained until 19 years of age. He then migrated West and began life anew by serving an apprenticeship as a carpenter. Owing to many changes in the East he was induced to return and again locate on the old homestead and then erect and operate a large cheese factory. He came to Philadelphia in 1885 and began building in 1886.”

Death and Burial

Joseph died at age 72 on 24 June 1920 in Philadelphia of “myocarditis.” The age on his death certificate is incorrect. The informant was his step-daughter Anna R. WHITMAN (relationship given as daughter). His birth location was stated as Croghan, Lewis County, New York, and his father as Christian VIRKLER, birth location Alsace with a question mark. There is no name for his mother, but her birth location is also given as Alsace with a question mark.

Joseph’s death certificate gives his place of burial as Arlington Cemetery, which I think is probably the one in Drexel Hill, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. I added a record to Find A Grave several years ago and put in a photo request. That request still has not been picked up.


Joseph was an exciting ancestor to research because of the VIRKLER history which I have really not gone into in this article. I would enjoy a trip up to Lewis County to see where all this happened. Perhaps someday. If you come upon this article and are related to or descended from Joseph, or if you are of a family from Lewis County or area, I’d love it if you’d comment.

Thanks for reading.


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1 Response to Joseph H. VIRKLER – Cheese Manufacturer, Sewing Machine Agent, “Segar” Salesman, and Real Estate Builder – 52 Ancestors (Ancestor 18)

  1. Pingback: Previous Post Link — Correction | Diggin' Up Graves

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