Old Economy and Al’s Family History

Al and I spent a delightful Saturday last week at Old Economy Village, for Erntedank Fest, a German Thanksgiving harvest festival. We enjoyed the beautiful gardens, the German food, and the high-quality vendor booths. We ended up spending a lot more money than we usually do at craft fairs!

But this was far from our first trip to Old Economy. We got married in the garden forty years ago, and Al’s family has roots there, through his paternal grandmother’s line.

Christian and Amy Loeffler

Christian Loeffler emigrated to the United States from Stuttgart, Germany in the mid-nineteenth century, along with his mother, Margaret. He married Amy Hazen and initially settled on property in Beaver County that belonged to her family. Christian was a stonecutter who did work for the Fort Wayne Railroad and for the Harmonist Society at Old Economy. He and Amy had six children before he died in a work accident in 1862.

Christian and Amy had been living with Margaret at the time of his accident. Apparently, the young widow became more interested in finding new male companionship than in caring for her children. Margaret struggled to care for them while working at the tavern that she owned. And she worried about how her grandchildren would fare if she died. She had connections with the Harmonist Society through relatives, and so she placed the children in their care. The six children were Joseph, Franklin, Christian, Benjamin, Rosina and Charles.

Franklin Pierce Loeffler and His Descendants

Franklin was Al’s great-grandfather. A harmonist family raised him, and he received schooling through the sixth grade. He then served apprenticeships in both shoemaking and cabinet-making. He also learned music and played in the first Economy Band and later the Beaver Falls Coronet Band.

As they became adults, the six Loeffler children all married and left the celibate Harmonist sect. Family lore says that the Harmonists loved the children, and sent them on their way with enough household goods to start their lives. In a published autobiography one of the Harmonists, John Duss, he mentions the children. He wrote, “The Loefflers were all above average in intelligence and ability, all good-looking.”

More than a century later, Al’s father, volunteered at Old Economy for many years in the cabinet shop, doing repairs and teaching cabinet-making. Al’s sister worked as a docent there for several years. The docents that we met on Saturday were delighted to meet a Harmonist descendant. Some of them fondly remembered Al’s father.

Al and Kathy Bashaar (that’s us!)

For us, of course, our afternoon at Old Economy brought back happy memories of our wedding day. In a future blog post, I will write more about the Harmonist Society and Old Economy. But I wanted to tell this more personal history first.

Like the Loeffler children, I lost my father at a young age. Revisiting this old family story made me think a lot about the differences between my experience and the Loefflers’. First, I had a mother who did put her children first and had zero interest in new male companionship.

But I also want to emphasize here that my mother had better choices than poor Amy Loeffler did. Mom received about $6000 a month (in 2023 dollar, about $800 in the early 1970s) in Social Security Survivors Benefits. Combined with her salary from a secretarial job, that allowed her to keep us fed and hang on to the family home. She didn’t face the painful choice of living with her mother-in-law or finding a new man willing to take on her children. You will never hear me complain about government social spending, because I know what it can mean to a family.

And how about Margaret just handing those kids off to the Harmonists? Imagine trying to do that today! Amy would be all over her mother-in-law with lawsuits! But I don’t blame Margaret, either. I can imagine her exhaustion, trying to run her tavern and care for six grandchildren, all while grieving her son. And she knew she wouldn’t live forever. In fact, she did die about four years after Christian. She did what she thought would be good for the children in the long run. It must have been very hard. I hope she visited them when she could, or heard of their health and progress via letters. I hope she’d be glad to know that her descendants remained devoted to the Society that took in her grandchildren.


Only one source for this post. I am indebted to my late mother-in-law, Katherine Schuring Bashaar, for the thorough family history that she wrote of both sides of Al’s family. And she did it back in the 1970s and 80s, when there was no such thing as the internet. She did it the old fashioned way: lots of trips to cemeteries and poring through dusty old records. Hats off to you, Muni!

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