Monday, January 27, 2014

Madness Monday: An Amish Tragedy

One of the saddest stories I’ve come across in my Amish genealogy research is the story of Jacob Lambright (1840-1881).  Here’s what I know from the census records and the book “An Amish Patchwork” by Thomas Meyers and Steven Nolt:

Jacob was one of eight children of Elizabeth Hupperich and Johann Peter Lembrich, a/k/a Lambrick, a/k/a Lambright.  (Those German surnames were often spelled a dozen different ways in the early days.)  After Elizabeth’s death in 1845, Johann left Germany with the children and settled in Tuscarawas County, Ohio.  Jacob and a brother ended up in Lagrange County, Indiana, where Jacob became a member of the Amish church and, in 1862, married Sarah J. Yoder.  On the marriage license his surname was spelled “Lambrick.”  By the 1870 census Jacob and Sarah owned a farm in Newbury Township where they lived with their three children, and by the 1880 census they were living on a farm in Eden Township with seven children at home.
 

 Here’s what I know from other online researchers (thanks to Rena Markley via Ron Lambright):

In the autumn of 1880, Jacob was helping to harvest grain at a nearby farm, bundling it into sheaves.  After a thunderstorm came and went, he went back out to set up some sheaves and was bit on the foot by a rattlesnake.  He was quite ill for a long time.  Eventually his wife brought him to nearby Wolcottville to spend the winter with his brother.  He came home in the spring, but continued to be in a deep depression.  One evening when it was time to come in for supper, Jacob told the hired men to go on ahead.  When he didn’t come in, and they went to find him, he was found in the woods, where he had hung himself, his dog waiting nearby.

I hesitated to write about Jacob based only on the stories told by others.  What if the suicide story wasn’t true?  But recently I was contacted by Dalonda Young, who was digitizing old records for Lagrange County.  She wondered if I’d be interested in the coroner’s report for Jacob Lambright.  Of course I was!  Here was the documentation I needed, and it meshed with the stories I’d heard:


 “Are you one of the parties who found the deceased?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Where did you find him?”

“…We saw him hanging by the neck in a basswood tree about 2 o’clock this 25 day of April 1881… He was dead when we found him.”

“Had his mind been affected immediately before his death?”

“Sickness disturbed his mind, and deranged him and made him do things that gave symptoms of insanity...  He would rather die than live…  He had been affected similarly during the winter of 1879-1880.”

Other witnesses, including his wife, testified to the same, with Sarah saying, “His mind was much affected at times, and then at times he seemed all right and rational.  When alone he would be worse…  He said he wished he was dead and thought he would kill himself in some way.”

What a tragedy!

I visited Jacob’s grave recently, in an Amish cemetery in Shipshewana, Indiana, where he is buried with his wife Sarah, who never remarried.  His father Johann is buried nearby.  Seeing his final resting place made the story seem more real, and even sadder.  But Jacob’s name is in the history books today as the father and progenitor of all the Amish Lambrights—now a very common Amish name in Northern Indiana.  Today, in the Lagrange County area, he has hundreds of descendants, both Amish and “English.”  His life was short, but his legacy is enduring. 


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