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Old photos become modern treasure

A SCREENSHOT from the Marquardt-Wilch family photo website illustrates how site creator John Golen has made it user-friendly. Family members are clearly identified, and a link to the side of the photo offers options to search for additional photos and information on each person. (Photo provided)

A SCREENSHOT from the Marquardt-Wilch family photo website illustrates how site creator John Golen has made it user-friendly. Family members are clearly identified, and a link to the side of the photo offers options to search for additional photos and information on each person. (Photo provided)

By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Staff Writer
The family tree of Johann Georg and Elizabeth (Wilch) Marquardt just got a little easier to research.
A new website contains photographs and biographical information about the couple who were married in 1857 in Hancock County and had eight children.
“There’s still enough people in the area that are connected that I think would enjoy going on there and looking at the pictures and understanding where the pictures came from,” said website creator John Golen, a great-great-grandson of the couple. “There’s a story behind all of them.”
Golen, 56, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said he’s been thinking about doing a webpage for nearly 20 years.
“I got interested in genealogy around 1990,” he said. “When the Internet first came out and I started playing with it, I thought this would be a great way to post pictures.”
The only problem was, Golen didn’t have many pictures of his ancestors.
“I had some from my family, but I didn’t have enough to really do anything with,” he said. “It took probably 15 years of hunting down cousins in Ohio and beating the bushes and finding pictures.”
“I’m a Toledo boy, so I really didn’t have contacts with that part of my family, even though I’m probably related to most of the people in southern Hancock County,” he said.
Although he has connections to the Elder and Wolford families who came to Hancock County in the 1820s, not many photographs were taken.
“This particular branch, the Marquardts and the Wilches, for whatever reason, were really interested in having family photographs,” said Golen. “They were really just a tight-knit group.”
There are still many descendants in the area, he said.
“I would think there’s literally thousands of people that are related to that group. The main group was Georg and Elizabeth,” he said.
But there were others, he said, like Elizabeth’s father, Philip Wilch, who was one of the German immigrants aboard the Famous Dove. The ship, bound for Baltimore, Maryland, was caught in a storm just off the American shore on Sept. 16, 1831. The ship righted itself and the storm began to calm after a young girl on board began singing a hymn.
The saved passengers vowed to keep the day they reached shore, Sept. 17, as a holy day. Many settled in this area.
“I think they had prearranged to come to Hancock County, and it took various people maybe two to three years to economically and physically get there, but they all met up there. For the most part, they lived around the Jenera area,” Golen said.
He said many of those who located in southern Hancock County were Hessens who came from a fairly small area south of Frankfurt; the main city was Bensheim. The Wilches came from a village just north of Bensheim called Auerbach, and the Marquardts came from an area northeast of Bensheim with village names such as Elmshausen and Reichenbach, he said.
“Many of them left together and agreed to meet back up in Ohio when time and money permitted. Clearly the common Hessen dialect and shared customs were a great attracting force,” he said.
Golen’s records indicate that Johann Georg Marquardt was born in the principality of Hesse-Darmstadt, which today comprises the west-central region of modern Germany. Elizabeth Wilch was reported to have been born in Pennsylvania.
There is some debate as to whether Johann Georg came to Ohio alone or with his first wife, who later passed away, Golen said. But he was accompanied by his young daughter, Katharina. On June 27, 1857, he married his second wife, Elizabeth Wilch, in Hancock County. They had eight children, including five boys, Phillip, Johann Georg Jr., William, Charles and Edward; and three girls, Wilhelmina, Ida Marie and Lizzie.
Golen is descended from Johann Georg Marquardt Jr.
He said the elder Marquardt was a cabinet maker and lived in Findlay before later moving his family to Orange Township.
All of the children survived to adulthood. Elizabeth Marquardt lived into her 90s and died in Bluffton.
“All those kids had big families and they, for the most part, stuck around here,” Golen said.
“It’s kind of interesting that they came really to Hancock County probably in the 1830s, and they stayed together as a group,” he said. “And when that group started passing away, in 1911 they started having family reunions.”
For many years, reunions were held at family homes. But as attendance grew to several hundred people, they were moved to the Orange Center schoolhouse in 1942. Reunions continued to be held there until the last one in 1965.
Golen said he attended reunions in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“The last reunion, there was only 31 people there, so the numbers had diminished. Then they determined to stop it,” he said.
Golen’s great-grandfather, Johann Georg Marquardt Jr., moved to Kenton so that branch of the family wasn’t familiar with Hancock County, he said.
“I was looking through my grandmother’s letters and in one letter she said, Georg Jr., her dad, married in a house behind Keller Cemetery by Jenera. That land was originally owned by the McClellans,” Golen said.
His great-grandmother, Zarilda, had been adopted by the family.
“The house still stands there, and she described it in this letter. It’s quite a ways off the road. It’s a lone brick house sitting way back,” he said.
In 1992, Golen and his mother were driving through Ohio on their way to Alabama.
“I said we ought to drive through and see if we can figure out where it is,” he recalled. “So we’re driving down the road and I see the cemetery on the left, and then I see the house way in the back.”
The brick house was built by John McClellan after the Civil War. Zarilda grew up in the house, and in December 1881, married Johann Georg Marquardt Jr. there.
Golen and his mother found a man at the house doing some painting and discovered it was Wayne Marquardt, a third cousin. The property had been sold to Zebboth Keller in 1883. In 1946, the Keller heirs sold it to Clifford Marquardt and it has remained in the family since.
“So he was kind of the introduction into that area,” Golen said.
He also connected with second cousin Marilyn Maroscher of Bluffton.
“She’s one that had lots of pictures. She had the main picture for the website. Without her I never would have had the thing together,” he said.
Golen said he hopes people will use the website and enjoy the pictures of early family members.
“The biographical information took a long time to go through because anything I put on there is verified by some sort of public data,” he said. “All that information has been backed up, and I asked cousins (to look at it) to make sure I didn’t say anything that was incorrect.”
Golen, a retired automotive engineer who holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from Eastern Michigan University, took classes at a community college to learn how to design a website. The project took about a year to complete, and he purposely made the website easy to use “so people who are just average people could get on there and be able to navigate through it.”
He said that when he started the project he had never seen a “pure gallery photo site” online before and believes he has created a unique genealogical resource.
He hopes the information provided will help others with their genealogy research. There’s also contact information so people can ask questions, make comments or contribute photos.
“The whole point of it is sharing information,” Golen said.
Online: http://www.marquardtwilchfamily.com Wolf: 419-427-8419 Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf

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