William Duncan, the eldest son of Frederick and Catherine Duncan, was born after New Years of 1876 in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. He was baptized that same year at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and bore the name of his German grandfather, Wilhelm, anglicized as William. William’s father would pass when he was only five years old.
The building that housed the church was built in 1803 with the help of another similar but decidedly different religion, the German Reformed Church. The two denominations shared the building and its 65-acre grounds for almost 100 years. It would later be known as the Stone Valley Church.
William grew up in Sunbury with his two older sisters, Melinda and Sallie, and was followed by three more siblings, Gerty, Lilly, and Charley. Being the oldest boy, William probably preferred to follow his father as a laborer but settled into the blacksmith trade. William was working as a blacksmith’s apprentice when he met Charlotte Virginia Layman, called Lottie by her family and friends. The two were married in 1899—he was 23 and she was twenty. Both, according to the 1900 census return, were literate, able to read and write.
The following year, William started his own blacksmith business, but the business was short-lived as the Industrial Age made small blacksmithing enterprises all but obsolete. By the late 1800s, the railroads had linked the country and hardware was manufactured at plants and sold in hardware stores. In 1901, William was a laborer, possibly in the rail yards, providing for his wife and new son, Irvin Wilfred Duncan, born one day before Thanksgiving November 27, 1901. William would need to use the adventurous spirit instilled in him by his father, Fredrick, who left Germany to come to the New World to make ends meet.
Lottie was the second of fourteen children born to Joseph Layman and Rebecca Overlander Layman. Lottie was born on May 12, 1879 in Brogueville, York County, Pennsylvania. At that time in history, Brogueville was largely a lush agricultural area of mainly wheat and tobacco. It is speculated Joseph may have been a farmer of one or both crops. Being the second of fourteen children, Lottie was undoubtedly depended upon to look after her younger siblings and probably worked on the family farm as well. These experiences at such a young age almost certainly taught her confidence and self-reliance.
A devastating flood of 1884 effected the Layman family greatly. A rainstorm started on the night of June 25 and lasted until about three a.m. the next morning. A record twelve inches of rain fell in only seven hours. The devastation was realized the next morning when the Codorus Creek, usually about 85 feet wide, was now one-quarter of a mile wide. Bridges and train tracks were washed away, debris from up the stream—buildings, farming implements, furniture, dead and living animals—were seen in the passing waters. The cost of repairs to the county exceeded $700,000 with only $91,000 in temporary bridges. In today’s terms that would equal approximately a Billion Dollars. In addition, an earthquake rocked York County only two months later in August and shortly thereafter Joseph pulled up stakes in Brogueville and moved to Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
William was raised on Short Street, Sunbury so probably attended Second One-room school house in the Second ward on Arch Street between 3rd/4th Streets. He probably attended until age 12 or so as he was fully literate but needed to earn a living to contribute to family as soon as possible. Lottie was raised in Brogueville, presumably attended Brogue One-room school house, Muddy Creek Forks Road, until age 14 and was fully literate…
(continued in TFH volumes!)