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John Henry Bodecker (1825-1879)

Mary ???? (1815 - 1893)

The Germanic spelling of this family name is BOEDECKER. However, there are many anglicized variants of the spelling, the most common being either Boddecker or Bodecker. My family preferred the Boddecker variant. It is a fairly large family group in Germany, and to date it is not known what the German origins of John are. The protestant branch of the family originated in Lippe, Alverdissen, while the Catholic branch comes from Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Schlagsdorf. It is clear from John's later records that he is of the Catholic line of Boedeckers.

John and Mary Bodecker were both born in Germany. John was born in 1825; Mary was born 1815.

It is not known when they arrived in America, but it is probable they first lived in Pittsburgh. John Singer, his great-grandson and my brother, told me that John Bodecker saw military service in the Civil War (he would have been about 30 at the time), but no military record has been found.

John and Mary purchased a farm in Sandy Creek Township, Venango County, Pennsylvania in 1858.

The 1870 State Census for Venango County lists John Bodecker, age 45, born Germany, laborer, with residence value of $1,200 and property value of $300; wife Mary, age 55, born Germany; Charles H., age 13, born U.S., schoolboy. Their oldest son, John Philip, was then 16 years old. That he was not listed suggests he had already left home.

John's will is dated 31 March 1879, and it is probable he died shortly thereafter. The will directed that he be buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Franklin PA. He bequeathed the sum of five dollars to his oldest son, John, with the farm of 9 1/2 acres and the remainder of the estate going to his wife Mary. Upon her death this was to revert to his son, Charles. (Charles, then 22, was evidently still living at home).

Mary sold part of the farm 12 Feb 1884, likely to raise cash. She died at the County Infirmary in 1893. Charles then sold the remainder of the farm in 1895 and moved to Buffalo NY.

There were only two children:

   John Boddecker    1854-1912 m. Mary Dooley
   Charles Boddecker 1857-?    m. Annie ?


John Philip Boddecker (1854-1912)

Mary Dooley (1849-1907)

A word, first, about the Dooley family. The daughters of William Dooley were born in the worst of times in Ireland. Lack of work and the great potato famine resulted in a mass emigration of the poor, most of whom came to America. In the Dooley family, Martin, the brother of William, was first to arrive in New York, eventually finding his way to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

William's four daughters followed, finding work as house maids. Mary arrived from Galway in 1868, Margaret and Sabina came in 1875, and Ellen in 1883.

Mary Dooley and John Boddecker were married in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1875. He was 19 and she was 24. They had five children:

   Ada Boddecker     1877-1959 m. Charles Mascott
   Martin Boddecker  1878-1939 m. Catherine Petryka
   John Boddecker    1879-1892
   Walter Boddecker  1881-1881
   Sabina Boddecker  1883-1965 m. Cyrus Singer

In 1892, the family suffered a terrible tragedy with the drowning of young John at age 12 in the Niagara River. My mother, Sabina, the youngest in the family was eight years old at the time. The area papers recount the story in the style of the time:

Niagara Falls Cataract and Journal
Tuesday, July 26, 1892

Out Too Far
John Boedecker of Niagara Falls, Ont.
Victim to the River's Mighty Currents

A sad drowning accident occurred early last evening in the river below the new suspension bridge on the Canadian side.

A number of boys whose ages varied from 14 to 18 went down to the shore of the river at this point and went in bathing. Among them was John Boedecker, a lad about 15 years old of Niagara Falls, Ont. He, in company of a boy named Schaat in diving off a projecting boulder went out into the stream so far that the current caught them, and in spite of their struggle both were carried out in the river. Schaat, however succeeded in saving himself, but the less fortunate Boedecker was beyond assistance, and soon sank to rise no more. The frightened companions of the poor lad hastily notified their friends and a search was instituted for the missing lad. It was of no avail, and in all probability he has gone down into the whirlpool. The drowned boy's father is employed by the Grand Trunk Railroad at Niagara Falls, Ont.

Niagara Falls Gazette
Saturday, July 30, 1892


The body of John Bodekker, who was drowned Monday night on the Canadian side, was secured from the river at 10 o'clock Friday morning by the boy's father not far from the place where the young boy lost his life.

Saint Catharines Standard
Saturday, July 30, 1892

The long and faithful vigil of the father of John Bodekker, who was drowned last Monday night on the Canadian side of the river near the new Suspension Bridge, was rewarded by the recovery of the body Friday morning.
When the accidental death by drowning of his son who was 12 years old was reported to him, the father hastened to the river bank and had passed the time ever since waiting for his loved one.

Niagara Falls Cataract and Journal
Saturday, July 30. 1892

The Father of John Boedecker
Watched Four Days for His boy

The long and faithful vigil of the father of John Boedecker who was drowned last Monday night on the Canadian side of the river near the new suspension bridge has at last been rewarded.

The body was discovered this morning about ten o'clock by the anxious and loving father in about the same place that the accident happened.

Mr. Boedecker, the father is an employee of the Michigan Central Railroad and works in the yards of the company at Niagara Falls, Ont., where the family resides.

When the drowning accident of his son who is a boy of about 17 years of age was reported, he hastened to the river bank and passed the time ever since watching for the body of his loved one. It has been a long wait these four days in the blistering sun, but the fatherly heart never wavered and was amply rewarded when he saw the remains of his dead son come to the surface. The body was taken in charge by Coroner Dr. McGarry, who had it moved to the parents' home where Undertaker Morse will prepare it for burial.


Sabina Mary Boddecker (1883-1965)

Cyrus Singer (1876-1956)

Eugene Singer (1998) remembers his mother:

I regret that my mother, Sabina told me little about her early life. What there was, I've long forgotten, and I admit to having seldom asked. All I can recall are anecdotes.

Like the one about the river. They lived in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and she and her teenage girlfriends loved to go over the bridge to the American side to visit the stores. When they had money to spend they would wear their old clothes and buy something new. In the store, they would ask to wear the new garments, leaving the old ones behind. This was so they would not have to declare the purchases to customs on the way back.

More than once they'd spend all their money and would not have the 5 cents for the return bridge toll. They'd wait until dark, then mix in with a group of people. When it was the group's turn to go through the gate the girls would make a run for it. Their crazy scheme must have worked.

On one such occasion during the winter this couldn't work, so faced with a dilemma they took a terrible risk. Even knowing their parents would punish them severely, they decided to cross the river on the ice bridge. That is, to cross the dangerous river on the rough surface of the ice. This was not only against the law but it was an act carrying great risk . . . many people lost their lives when the ice would fracture without warning because of the swift currents beneath.

But Mom the mother was quite different from Sabina the teenager when it came to the river. As a small boy growing up in Niagara Falls I remember the many admonishments from my mother to stay away from the river!!!. It was clear she remembered well the loss of her brother. And she likely remembered, too, the fascination that all kids, including herself had with the river and the rapids. Even now, so many years later I experience feelings of unease and foreboding mixed with fascination even thinking about that river. Her words were imprinted well.

About the year 1900 when she was 17 she crossed the border to live in the United States permanently. She found work at The American Sales Book Company (now Moore Business Forms). She lived in a rented room. There were no apartments then and no hotels for working people, so the people lived as boarders in rooming houses.

The single life did not last for long. She met and married Cyrus Singer in 1902 in Niagara Falls NY.

For further information on this family, see the SINGER section of this history.

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Updated 4-5-03