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Sylvester Gallitzin Hurd


Posted By: David Ladely (email)
Date: 1/19/2011 at 21:36:18

Sylvester Gallitzin Hurd, Mar 24, 1861, on his parent's farm in Iowa County near what is now the town of Keswick, Keokuk County, Iowa. He was known as "Glitz" Hurd, was named after Father Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin, a Catholic priest who was was brought to the "McGuire's Settlement" in 1796 to minister to Mrs. John Burgoon, a Protestant, and who returned to the settlement often and later founded a church, St. Michael's, nearby. This settlement was founded by Captain Michael McGuire, who cleared land and built a log house in Allegheny Township; he purchased several hundred acres of land near what is now the town of Loretto, Pennsylvania (1).

According to the Wagner Family History, Mrs. Burgoon begged so hard and repeatedly to see a Catholic priest that Mrs. Luke McGuire and a companion undertook a long and dangerous journey of one hundred and thirty miles through the wilderness to Conewago, near the Maryland border, to see if a priest would come. The trip took many days on horseback, but the good Mrs. Burgoon lived to be converted to Catholicism and remained faithful until her death. (Other children in the area were also named after this highly regarded priest, for example: William Augustine Adams, whose daughter Emma Catherine Adams married into the Wagner line when she married Ambrose George Maloney, son of Elizabeth Jane Wagner and James Henry Maloney. [2]).

"Father Gallitzin returned to the area and said the first Mass at the little church which he had founded high in the Alleghenies on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1799, and placed the only house of God from the Susquehanna to the Mississippi under the protection of St. Michael, at the place now known as Loretto, Pennsylvania" (2). Father Gallitzin named the streets of the town after saints. The chapel of St. Michael, founded by Father Gallitzin, was replaced by a second church, and lastly in 1897 by St. Michael the Archangel Basilica, built by Charles Schwab, a steel magnate from Pittsburgh (1). Mr. Schwab's mansion is now the priest's residence. The Franciscans founded St. Francis College in the town.

Gallitzin, a small town close to the tunnel a few miles west of Loretto, was named for this respected priest who had a profound affect upon this area which continues to the present.

"Glitz" Hurd's wife, Martina George, was born near Chest Springs, a village located only a few miles north of the present day villages of Loretto and Gallitzin. Families, friends,and neighbors depended on each other in those days and due to their shared Catholic religion, the McGuire, Wagner, George, Hurd, and other families in that area of Pennsylvania were especially close, some of them moving and settling in the same area of Iowa.

"Glitz" Hurd inherited his parent's farm near what is now Keswick, Iowa and continued the tradition. The house was built around 1880. He started a country store around 1885 for the accommodation of other farmers and ran it off and on over the years, serving the farmers well. He bought eggs and cream from the other farmers. His niece, Margaret Wagner, who provided a biographical sketch for the Wagner family history, remembers watching with great interest while the cream was being tested for butter-fat content, and comments, "How fast that machine did whirl! "Tean was my mother's sister and one of my favorite people. She and "Uncle" Glitz became the parents of twelve children." [2.] For a short time, between about 1890 and 1895, Glitz and 'Tean lived in Bertrand, Nebraska, where his parents moved. Glitz and one of his sons and a son-in-law ran a hardware store. They moved back to Keswick, probably after the deaths of Glitz' parents.

Glitz built a country store facing the road near the house about 1916. Although the store was very small, it was piled with goods and what they didn't have, they would order. Lambert recalls that their mark-up was only 15%. For orders, they would mark up 5% if they didn't pay the shipping, 10% if they did. Glitz's son Lambert Hurd ran the store for years, from 1938 until 1942, when Lambert was called into the service in WWII. As of 2000, Lambert still lives on the farm.

Glitz was a big man, about six foot one inches, and about 240 pound and he never grew a paunch, and not a man to be trifled with or insulted. Lambert says anyone who called Glitz a liar or a "son of a bitch" would be on the ground the instant the words were out of his mouth. Lambert recalls an incident where an Irishman by the name of Tom got into an argument with Glitz and crossed over the line. When Glitz told the Irishman that he as much as was calling him a liar, and the Irishman said that was what he was calling him, Glitz laid him out on the ground with one punch. The Irishman went to lawyers to try to sue Glitz for "humiliation" and for "drawing blood". The matter came before the priest at Armah, who asked if they would abide by his decision. Glitz said he would and the Irishman said he "would if it suited him." That was the end of it.

Verna Van Dee relates that in the old days, some Irish from nearby "Irish ridge" to the north east would come into Deep River on July 12, the day the Protestant Orange won in battle over the Catholics in Ireland, to fight with the Catholics.

Glitz was a fiddler and played at country square dances. A dance hall, Dayton Hall, was just up the road on Hurd land about an eighth of a mile up from the store. There tended to be some excess drinking at the dances, providing a recipe for fights. One time when Lambert was there, he said he saw three fights going on at once. Lambert, not a person to run away from a fight, was known to be in a few himself. Lambert Hurd related a story about his father and George Ladely getting into a scrap at one of the dances. Seems George hit Gritz' mother Lucinda at the dance, so Gritz took a chair and swung it at George's head. The chair hit the ceiling and Lambert says, "George lived to see another day." The hall was seldom used after WWII. Lambert Hurd recalls that the last dance at Dayton Hall was probably a "kegger" with a local band in the late '50's after a marriage.

A house stood next to the dance hall. "Red" Icenbice tells about a time when a family lived there with two boys who owned two "screwtail" bulldogs. One day, the boys decided to run away and came down to the store with their dogs. Glitz decided the boys needed their hide tanned for running away and proceeded to do so. Unfortunately for Glitz, he forgot to lock up the dogs and they lit into him, tearing up his clothes as they did so. The boys mother advised Glitz to send the boys home for a licking if they ran off again.

Lambert recalls his family moved to Sigourney, Iowa, when he was about 12 years old, staying for about 2 1/2 years, then they moved back to the farm.

Glitz and Martina attended services at Immaculate Conception Catholic church in Armah. The church was eventually abandoned as being too small. Glitz and Martina had a big celebration of their Golden wedding anniversary; Verna Van Dee relates that she played the church organ for them that day. Glitz died on March 11, 1940 on his farm at 3270 C Ave. near Keswick, Keokuk County, Iowa, and was buried at the Armah Catholic Cemetery in Iowa County near Deep River, Poweshiek County, Iowa as are other Hurds.
The farm is still in the family; son Lambert lived in the same house he was born in, remained there until his death, when his children inherited the farm.

(1) "Bicentennial History of Loretto"; Damin Printing at Cresson PA;

Library and Cambria County Historical Society, Ebensburg, PA

(814) 472-6674.
(2) "Wagner Family History", by Margaret Wagner, a relative, provided by Poweshiek County

Historical Society, Montezuma, Iowa.


Iowa Biographies maintained by Steve Williams.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen

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