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Lawrence County, PA Biographies




Adeline Israel Kroesen

Adeline Israel Kroesen, according to the family of her son, Robert Davis Kroesen, was a Jewess who was disowned by her family because she married out of her faith. All that is really known about her youth is that she was born about 1812, possibly in Maryland. Her parents were Joseph and Mary Witherspoon Israel. The family of Robert D. Kroesen thinks that she may have lived with a family named Church before her marriage to John Kroesen (1814-1844).

Whatever her heritage, Adeline Israel was a very remarkable little woman, small boned and slim. She gave much to her world. She was a very important person in the lives of many people as well as her immediate, well cared for family.

It is known that Adeline had great tragedy in her life when her husband, John Kroesen and two
of their sons were killed in a sand bank cave-in in Allegheny City, Allegheny County, PA about 1844. The date of this tragic event is not known, nor are the names of their sons. . Adeline was left with other small children.

John's older brother, William (1804-1888) was widowed about this time. He was left with small children and an infant it is believed. This information was remembered by Irma Pierce Buck in 1952. Irma was a niece of Mary Elizabeth Pierce Kroesen, who lived with her aunt and uncle "Bob" Kroesen from the time her mother died she was 6 until she was 13. Adeline told this to Irma during one of their talks. Irma relayed it to Ethel Winterhalter many years later, about 1954.

It was propitious for Adeline and William to marry to help solve their problems. They were married sometime before Robert Davis Kroesen was born in 1847. He must have proclaimed many times that he was "the ONLY SON of Adeline and William and then there were 7 girls," because his daughter, Lou remembered it very well. This doesn't quite work out without reaching back before 1847 for some more girls, but it is the best we can do with the information at hand.

Adeline was very adept in the use of herbs and natural medicines. In a day when doctors were practically non-existent in small, remote towns, "Grandma Kroesen" as she was known by her neighbors was in frequent demand to "look at" a sick or injured child or husband. She usually had the right elixir to ease their discomfort.

She helped to bring many children into the world and was skillful in giving the weak infants a better start by putting them into a warmed oven for a short time to conserve their energy and to help them over the trauma of birth. The incubator of the day.

Adeline and her son, Robert, worked day and night during the smallpox epidemic in New Castle, PA, about1882. Both Adeline and Robert had already had smallpox, so they nursed those who were ill. Fortunately none of their own family were involved. They stayed with the families they nursed and 
were away from home for over three weeks. They didn't go home at all during this time so as not to expose their own family to the dreaded disease.

Robert's daughter, Louise, remembered that they lived far enough away from the part of town where the epidemic raged that they prayed the dreaded pox would not affect them if certain precautions were taken. One of the most important being for ALL children to stay away from the affected area.

Curiosity got the better of seven year old Louise. She decided to slip into the off-limits part of town to see what an "epidemic" looked like. As she strolled the deserted streets, she was startled to hear her name called. When she located the source, she saw an apparition who sounded like her grandmother at an upstairs window. But she had never seen her beloved Grandmother so disheveled and unkempt. Adeline asked Louise to please bring her some more sheets, or have her mother send some over.

It was bad enough to have been discovered in the forbidden place, but her grandmother's appearance frightened Louise so much that she ran all the way home. She thought that her usually neat little grandmother looked like either a witch or a devil. She was trembling too much to be able to think which. Adeline, poor soul, had been on the go day and night for weeks, with little or no time for sleep or the niceties such as neatly combed hair. Her hair was straggling in a way Louise had never seen before. Louise didn't realize at the time what a grueling ordeal Adeline was having. Louise, naturally, was afraid to let her mother know that she had ventured into the infected area, so the message about the sheets never got through, unfortunately for the suffering patients. 

The sheets were needed to be soaked in cool water and used to wrap the feverish patients in, to help bring down their fever and to help ease them through the crisis.

Adeline grew many of the herbs and plants for her remedies in her own yard. Fox Glove, or digitalis, among them and she knew how to use them. She gathered the rest in the fields and woods at the proper time to harvest them, sassafras and many more. These she dried or processed as necessary and brewed into "tea" or made poultices for her patients.

Her granddaughter, Louise Kroesen Leathers was always delighted to meet her grandmother walking along a country road with a basket of herbs or medicinal plants she had just gathered. Louise happily helped to carry the basket home, always sure of a great treat, cool milk, freshly baked bread and Adeline's own home made apple butter.

In 1950, Louise also remembered, but with dismay, that Adeline often took her soiled clothes down to the creek to wash them and to beat them on the rocks to get them whiter and cleaner. This was not the way most people of the 1880's washed their clothes, but it was Adeline's way.

Louise thought the "modern" way of the 1880's, of washing clothes by hand in tubs of hot water, rubbing them on a washboard, then boiling the white clothes in a large "boiler" made for the purpose, lifting the heavy, hot, wet clothes from tub to tub for rinsing, then wringing them dry in a hand cranked '"wringer" before lugging the heavy basket full of still very wet clothes outdoors, then hang them on the clothes line to dry was much better and more "proper" than beating them out on the rocks in the creek.

April 6, 1896, at the age of 84, Adeline died of "La Grippe" and complications at the home of her daughter, Ellen Kroesen Sanford at 16 East Long Avenue in New Castle, PA. Dr. Linville was in attendance. She is buried in the plot in Savannah Cemetery, New Castle, Pennsylvania by a big tree near the church, along with her husband, William. Her sons-in-law, Sylvester Shoaff and Andrew Sanford dug the graves, which is the way it was done in those days according to her grandson, Bert Sanford.

This information was garnered from family memories from Adeline's grandchildren, gathered with love and admiration by her great, great grand daughter, Ethel L. Winterhalter.

Source:   Compiled and copyrighted © 2000
By Ethel L. Winterhalter
3705 Rosebriar Avenue
Glenshaw, PA 15116


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