Michael Layman was born in Marietta, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on October 10, 1818. He was the oldest of eight children born to Michael Layman and Sarah Klein. His father was born in Centre County, and his mother in Lancaster County, both of German heritage. Michael, along with his brothers and sisters, Catherine, Christina, Elizabeth, George, Henry, Sophia, and David lived in Lancaster for most of their lives. Michael was the third in a line of Michael Laymans, beginning with his grandfather who commonly went by Leyman.

Lancaster County was one of the seven original counties of Pennsylvania, formed only 46 years after the originals. Farming flourished in the rich carbonate soil with relatively little slope, moderate climate, and evenly distributed rainfall. Nearly two-thirds of the area was farmland  and still is today.

Marietta began as a small Indian trading post in the early 1700s. By the 1820s Marietta experienced a cultural and economic boom. The construction of the Pennsylvania Canal at Marietta attracted entrepreneurs and made it easier for farmers to sell their crops for higher prices in cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore, and even downstream to New Orleans. The flatboat was popular with farmers of that time to transport their crops. The boats were only twelve to sixteen feet wide but could be up to 100 feet. Steamboats and the railroads soon offered a quicker and less hazardous means of getting their crops to market.

As a child, Michael probably worked the family farm. He no doubt accompanied his father on one or more of the journeys transporting their crops to market. Corn, wheat, hay, tobacco, and vegetables were the main cash crop of the area. Michael and his father could load up to 1,500 pounds of crops on their flatboat, which could garn around $5,000 in the larger cities. That would be around $80,000 by today’s standards, a good payoff for the year’s wages. As time went on, Michael became enchanted by a young woman in Elizabethtown, about nine miles from Marietta.

Elmira Elizabeth Raymond, daughter of John Reiman and Barbara Elizabeth Rouse, was born January 17, 1824, in Maytown, York County, Pennsylvania. John and Elizabeth both had German ancestry, and Reiman was typically anglicized to Raymond. Elmira’s grandfather John Henry Reiman was fought for American Independence in 1782. At some point between Elmira’s birth and when she met Michael, the family moved the six miles from Maytown to Elizabethtown. It’s possible John was also a farmer and bought a farm in the predominantly farming community of Elizabethtown.

John and the elder Michael may have been business acquaintances, partnering in the flatboat to take their crops to market. This could explain how the young couple met. With their families in the same business, Michael and Elmira may have had ample time to fall in love. John and Elizabeth moved from Elizabethtown back to York County at some point, to Lower Chanceford.

Perhaps as John and Elizabeth saw the love kindling in their daughter, they wanted to avoid a marriage because of the different faiths of the families; Elmira’s family was Lutheran, and Michael’s family was Methodist. Or maybe it was the age difference with Michael being six years older than Elmira that spurred the move. But true love cannot be kept apart. Shortly after their move, John passed away in 1841 when Elmira was seventeen. Michael and Elmira surely kept in touch, writing love letters to each other. Michael was pledging his undying love and Elmira was torn between her love for Michael and not wanting to leave her mother alone.

As fate would have it, love always wins. The young couple was married on April 3, 1845, in Christ Lutheran Church in Elizabethtown with the approval of her mother. They most likely lived on the Layman family farm in Marietta after they wed. Elmira must have converted to the Methodist religion after her mother passed away—sometime after 1841—as she and Michael were both buried in the Bethel United Methodist Cemetery in Lower Chanceford.

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