Martha Plank

Martha (Plank) Lantz,1 whose life spanned nearly the entire 19th century, was an older sister of my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Plank. Her obituaries appeared in the Mennonite publication HERALD OF TRUTH for 1 Apr 1891, page 109, 110, 111, and 15 Apr 1891, pages 124 and 125, and are noteworthy not only for the description of her life, but for including the story of the Plank family's unwilling arrival in America. The story is also the subject of a well-researched article in the Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage magazine. To the best of my knowledge, the version which appears in Martha's obituary is the earliest telling of the story in print.2

LANTZ. - March 10th, 1891, in Champaign Co., Ohio, of the infirmities of old age, Martha Lantz (widow of Samuel Lantz), aged 96 years, 5 months and 13 days. Funeral services occurred on the 13th, conducted by Bish. Jonas C. Yoder in German and A. Miller in English. Although the weather was very inclement, nevertheless many were present to see our dear old mother in Israel laid away. Obituary notice will follow. COR.


Died March the 10th, 1891, near West Liberty, Logan Co., Ohio, Martha Lantz, widow of Samuel Lantz, at the advanced age of 96 years, 5 months and 13 days. Grandmother Lantz was born Sept. 25, 1794, in Berks Co., Pa. She was the daughter of Christian and Barbra Planck, she being the second or third oldest of a family of six sons and two daughters, and has outlived all the others.

Christian Blanck (as he used to write his name), was the son of Melcher Blanck, who emigrated from Europe to Berks Co., Pa., in the latter half of the 17th century, under the most trying circumstances. It seems that he and his newly married wife, accompanied some of their friends, who were coming to America, to the vessel, and while on board the captain of the ship prevailed on them to remain with their friends until morning, as the ship would not leave port until the next day. But alas! While they were sleeping the ship set sail, and by daylight, land was already out of sight. They were brought to America and sold to a Mr. Morgan, in Berks Co., Pa. Here they served to the extent of their passage the ocean.

The writer of this notice has in his possession a highly valued relic, a well worn prayer book, the fly leaf of which bears the following inscription upon it. "This little book is the property of Melcher Blanck, in the year 1777." The subject of this notice lived with her parents in Berks and Lancaster counties, until about the year 1818, when they moved to Mifflin Co., Pa. Martha early united with the Amish branch of the Mennonite Church, and remained an earnest adherent to its principles until her death.

About the year 1819, she married Samuel Lantz with whom she was permitted to live a little over fifty years. Under the blessing of God they brought up a family of ten children to man and womanhood, of whom eight survive their mother. They live in Pa., Ohio, Ill., Mo. And Kansas. In 1851 they moved from Mifflin Co., Pa. to Champaign Co., Ohio. Here by patient industry, and economy they succeeded in securing for themselves a beautiful earthly home, where they both exchanged time for eternity.

After the death of her faithful companion in 1870,3 mother Lantz lived with her son Levi Z. on the homestead.4 She suffered much physically in her declining years, and most intense the last few days of her life, but she bore her afflictions with Christian meekness, relying only on God for help. Death claimed his victim, but the victory was hers through the Lord Jesus Christ in whom she had a living faith to the end. For the last seven years grandmother Lantz was deprived of the use of her lower limbs. Notwithstanding her many afflictions, she had much to be thankful for. She had a beautiful and pleasant home, kind and loving hands to minister to her many wants, and her children, friends and neighbors visited her often. It was indeed a pleasure as well as profit spiritually to visit her. God blessed her with a strong and clear mind, and a wonderful memory.

Now that mother Lantz has passed away, who can think of the changes that occurred in her lifetime. When she gave herself to God and his church there was only one Amish Mennonite church, and that within the borders of the state of Pa. How many divisions and sub-divisions are there now? Then there were no church or meeting houses, meeting being held in private houses. Her sister Barbara frequently told the writer that they used to go to church on a cart. But not a fancy cart like the one used in our day and time both for business and pleasure, but an old fashioned dump cart.

Her remains were laid away on Mar. 13th 1891. Services were conducted by J. C. Yoder and A. Miller. Her decendants number 33 grandchildren, and 43 great-grandchildren. D.

1 Martha is listed in Gingerich and Kreider's book on page 350 as Magdalena, but with a footnote giving Martha and Mattie as alternate names. It would appear that the writer of her obituary knew her well and that Martha is the name by which she was known during most of her life.
2 A fellow Plank descendant, Peggy Plank Wennerlind, is trying to determine just what is the earliest printed version of the abduction story, and to trace its spread through various branches of the Plank family. The appearance of the story in Martha Plank's obituary suggests it was a tale which Martha may have heard directly from Melcher Plank, who was her grandfather, and enjoyed repeating to younger generations of Planks, possibly including my own grandmother, who lived in West Liberty near Martha, and who was nine years old at the time of Martha's death.
3 In contrast to this lengthy tribute, the death notice for Martha's husband in the Herald of Truth for April 1870 stated only: "On the 11th of March, in Champaign county, Ohio, SAMUEL LANTZ, aged 70 years, 10 months and 20 days."
4 In the 1880 census, Martha was enumerated with Levi's family in Salem township, in Champaign county, just across the county line from West Liberty.
This page was last updated 28 Mar 2008.