Stories From The Grave
Frederick, Emma & Madeline Dambacher
Final Resting Place Row 4, Plot #10
As a Dambacher myself, I was excited to begin my research on a family member. I knew that the first Dambacher in Tuolumne County settled In Columbia. His name was John Henry Dambacher, an immigrant from Germany. His third child was reportedly the first white male child born in Tuolumne County and his name was Frederick John Dambacher. As you stroll through the cemetery between rows three and four , on your left you will see the plot of Fred and Emma Dambacher along with their daughter Madeline. Frederick was born August 14, 1856 in Columbia, educated at the Columbia Grammar School, he later moved to Sonora, where he worked as a stockman and then engaged in the blacksmith business with partner Frank J. Ralph. As a mechanic, he ranked among the best. He became particularly known for his exceptional strength, a trait seemingly passed down from his father.
In 1880 he married Emma Steinmetz, the daughter of George Steinmetz ,also from Germany, who crossed the plains to California in 1851( buried in Row 3). At this point in his life, Fred was a blacksmith in Sonora. 1880 was also the year his first child was born. All in all, I found reference to 10 children born to Fred and Emma. Their names were, Laura, Irving, George B., Harold Ernest, Madeline, Frederick Earle, Russell (1891-1892), Clifford Isaac, Lloyd and Emmett. Fred and his family did make a move to Stockton, where he was engaged in the butcher business and later returned to Tuolumne county to work as a stockman. He was involved with the local Odd Fellows fraternity and served as a past Noble Grand. Politically, he was a Democrat and was also a prominent member of the N.S.G.W. of Sonora.
As I began my research, I surmised that being from such an old pioneer family , I would find endless information on Fred and his family. Sadly, that wasn't the case. I searched the local archives and also visited the Tuolumne County Genealogical Society to see what could be found and was able to come up with very little information. There were no probate documents that would fill in missing information and no photos to add to the story. In my own research, I did find a perplexing situation that I have yet to resolve. According to the 1920 census, Emma is listed as a widow and is living in Los Angeles with her son Lloyd. Fred is listed in the 1920 census as married and living as a hired man, for a divorced woman named Gladiss Hand and her 5-year old grandson, in Tuolumne County. I found no mention of a separation or divorce and can only wonder if Emma decided it would be better to be listed as a widow, rather than a woman living separately from her husband. As they were buried together, it makes things a bit more confusing. I have written to family members and hopefully I can update this story with their input. Sadly, as is often the case with women in this age, little information could be found about Emma. I know that there is much more to tell of a woman that has birthed 10 children and buried 2. I know there were joyous times, as well as those of intense sorrow. Through her children, she has left a legacy that continues on. Emma died January 24, 1933, at the age of 76.
Fred passed away at the age of 84, during a visit to Modesto, with his son Clifford. His death certificate states that cause of death was due to coronary occlusion. His body was returned to Sonora and buried with his wife and daughter. According to the 1940 census, Fred had been living at the County Home for the Aged at the end of his life. I was personally so happy to know that he was with family at the time of his death.
The other question that arose for me, in this research, was why young Madeline had passed at such a young age. The Union Democrat, dated March 24, 1906, ran an article that stated that Madeline died following an operation for appendicitis while attending Notre Dame convent in San Jose and “was taken down with the disease in such a violent form that an immediate operation became imperative. “ She was brought back to Sonora to be buried here.”She was a splendid girl in every sense of the word, and no eulogy could be said over her that she was not deserving of”(The Union Democrat)
Written By: Pat Dambacher
Memorial and Biographical History of Merced, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Mariposa Counties, p.393
The Union Democrat: March 24, 1906
Family oral history