Grave encounter in Hilltown leads to friendship
By Theresa Hegel Staff writer | Posted: Monday, May 27, 2013 5:00 am
Dennis Loux was on a mission.
The Rhode Island man came to Hilltown last weekend searching for the final resting place of his great-grandfather, Mahlon B. Loux, a sergeant in the Civil War.
He found much more than he was expecting.
Loux, 64, is the youngest of 11 children. One of his older brothers had begun documenting the family history 40 years ago, and now the task of maintaining the archive has fallen into Loux’s lap.
Armed with a genealogy and a copy of the poem inscribed on Mahlon’s grave, Loux took to the back roads of Bucks County, searching for the German Reformed Church.
“Once you get off the main road, you’re back in the 18th century,” Loux said. “I could actually see the Bucks County countryside as my ancestors saw it.”
However, the reformed church is long gone. In its place for the last 75 years is the Hilltown German Hungarian Sportsman’s Club.
That is where Loux met Hilltown locals Mike McMackin and Steve Wiater, who took him to the small graveyard behind the club. “A stranger walked into the club and asked if anyone had information as to the location of an old churchyard he was searching for”, McMackin said.
Most of the 46 headstones date back to the 1800s. The German club used to maintain the cemetery, back when it received a small fee from descendents. However, as family members died off, the money stopped coming in, the graveyard was forgotten about, McMackin said.
“The cemetery just started to fall into disrepair,” he said.
The headstones have all toppled over, some cracked in two, some half-buried in the ground.
In the back of the cemetery were two sturdy stone slabs that had fallen face-first into the dirt. Loux had a feeling they were the tombs of Mahlon and Katharine Loux, his great-grandparents.
Therefore, McMackin, Wiater and other members of the German club grabbed some tools and levered the graves upright. Sure enough, they belonged to Loux’s ancestors.
What followed was an emotional experience for everyone involved.
“I recall drawing in my breath,” Loux said. “I could see some of the gentlemen, all strong working men, wiping a tear from their eyes.”
Loux knelt by the graves and asked for a moment to be alone with his great-grandparents.
After reconnecting, Loux spent the next two hours chatting with McMackin and Wiater, thanking them for their help.
“We did a simple little deed to help the guy out, and he acted like he won the lottery,” Wiater said.
Loux returned to Rhode Island with two new friends.
“I’ve always had a connection to Bucks County where my great-great-great-great grandfather, Johan Peter Laux, lived in 1748. I was born in Providence, but my heart lies in Bucks County,” he said. “Sharing this, they connected immediately to the same emotion I was feeling. It really is an incredible thing. I feel very close to the folks that I met.”
McMackin and Wiater, for their part, have made a promise to Loux to restore Mahlon and Katharine’s headstones, and get them reset properly in their foundation. The encounter also sparked a renewed interest in restoring and maintaining the other graves, especially those belonging to other Civil War veterans.
“I just felt this was such an important find,” McMackin said. “These soldiers here would have gone unknown.”
His Tombstone Reads: "He sleeps his last sleep, He has fought his last battle, No sound can awaken him to glory again. One less on earth his pain his sorrow and trials to share. One less Pilgrims daily cross to bear. One more crown of the blest to wear. At home and in heaven. 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers"
“The Intelligencer”, Memorial Day May 27, 2013
It was decades ago on Independence Day, as a child of five and the youngest of eleven siblings, that my father walked with me to Prospect Terrace the great precipice overlooking the ancient City of Providence and the forested hills rolling westward into the green New England countryside. He said from that vantage we could view the fireworks not only close by but from every Rhode Island village and town to the very Western horizon. My father spoke that night for the first time of our family line and of its long storied history and of our role in Europe, the Colonies and later America. In 1610, my family was forced to flee France and the extreme persecution of French Huguenots seeking refuge in the German Palatinate where the Counts had been ardent supporters of the Protestant cause during the conflicts in France. It was from Kirberg, Hesse-Nassau that Johann Peter Laux my great, great, great, great grandfather and lineal progenitor arrived in Philadelphia in 1748 and quickly established himself in the many German communities of Eastern Pennsylvania. Johann Peter was in Philadelphia 237 years ago today, July 4, 1776 for the signing of the Declaration of Independence and he was among the crowd during the first public reading of the bold document on July 8, 1776. My father told me that his business had already begun clandestinely sewing uniforms for the soon to be established Continental Army. This man knew Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and Washington.
I can feel the excitement John Peter felt and sometimes I can actually see the event through his own eyes just as I can still see the excitement in my father’s eyes and just as my daughter and later my sons saw the excitement in my eyes. Tonight, as always, I will view the celebrations and the fireworks from Prospect Terrace, the precipice overlooking Old Providence and reflect on the courage of my ancestors, their Revolutionary Spirit and the knowledge that my sons will carry this American Spirit into the eight generation of the Laux family in America.
Dennis James Laux
July 4, 2013
I discovered her this summer past in an old wheelbarrow so tiny and nearly imperceivable except to the most keenest of observers. I watched her all summer; I watched her hatch her eggs giving life to her offspring. One morning, as Autumn approached, I found her web empty. She never returned. I made this image so the world would know she lived and that she was beautiful.
Dennis Laux, 2017