A Family Story: An Amazing Birth Miracle

I have never paid much attention to the Layman-Lehman-Lahman-Lemmon-Lamon (and several other variances of spelling) side of my family. Because it ties in through my Grandmother Heatwole’s mother, the Lahman name is only mentioned once in my family genealogy.

I was reminded of an amazing, fascinating story that I have heard about through my growing up years when we attended the “viewing visitation” this week for Laura Layman who passed away.  We were chatting with Martin, the son, and he happened to mentioned that we were fairly closely related. I never knew that. I went home, dug out the Martin A. Lahman  family history books and started to read.

My great-great grandparents, Martin A. Lahman and Catherine “Kate” Shank were married on October 29, 1874 when Kate was nineteen years old.  Kate, the fourth child of Michael and Lydia (Beery) Shank was a very teeny, tiny, preemie when she was born on December 2, 1855 at Edom, Virginia. It is reported that her face was the size of a silver dollar,  a kernel of corn covered her hand and she fit into a quart size cup. She weighed…..once source says  1-1/2 lbs. and another doesn’t mention her weight.  Her mother fed her with a medicine dropper, kept her warm beside the wood stove and tenderly nourished her to health. Until the age of six months she was carried around on a pillow wrapped in a blanket. At the age of nine she weighed 37-1/2 pounds and walked to Pennsylvania beside the wagon that was taking her family to the North to escape the Civil War. In adult life she reached the height of 4 feet 10 inches.

I did some internet research and discovered the following website: How Babies Grow: Part 2.   The following information and pictures I quote from them.

The circles below show the average head circumference of a baby from 16 weeks to 40 weeks of pregnancy. At birth, a baby’s head is about 1/4th of his or her body length, compared to about 1/8th for an adult. To help put these sizes into perspective, let’s compare them to some common foods:

  • 16 weeks: an apricot
  • 20 weeks: an egg
  • 24 weeks: a tangerine
  • 28 weeks: a lemon
  • 32 weeks: a large orange
  • 36 weeks: a grapefruit
  • 40 weeks: a small cantaloupe

 

We were never told how premature Kate was.  I also did some online research about the development of babies and found that doctors now consider 22 weeks the earliest gestational age when a baby is “viable,” or able to survive outside the womb. Even with today’s technology and advanced medicine, this is still considered extremely premature, and a baby born at this age will need a great deal of medical attention and the risk of permanent disability is very high.  The stats say a 23-week has a 20-35% chance of surviving. The earliest known record in the world is 21 weeks and a few days.

I took a string and cut it to 5 inches to represent the 16-week baby in the chart above and formed it into a circle. It went around a silver dollar perfectly which matches the stated size of Kate’s head.  A 16-week old baby is about 4-1/2 inches long from head to rump and weighs 3-1/2 ounces which would fit into a quart cup. By this time the arms and legs are fully developed,  the head is becoming more erect and toenails have started growing. The patterning on the scalp has begun but there is no hair. The heart is now pumping about 25 quarts of blood a day. The backbone is developing in strength and the nervous system is making connection with the muscles allowing the baby to move, flex, yawn, make facial expressions and suck it’s thumb. The skin is still translucent and you can see blood vessels under the skin and the eyelids are still closed. It makes me wonder, could Kate really have been that premature? It doesn’t seem possible. A fetus at 25 weeks is 13.62 inches long and weighs 1.48 pounds. The skin is beginning to smooth out and it is the size of rutabaga.  This is a more likely except the size of the face and hand do not fit.  However premature she was, whether 16 or 25 weeks, in time it was truly a miracle from God that she survived.

Now, stop and think about this a little. It is the year of 1855.  Babies were not born in a hospital. The baby would have been born at home and this mother was not going to give up on her precious little one.  It is winter, and there would be no incubator, no IV drip, no special lights, no tube feeding, no monitors, no sterile environment and no medical staff 24/7. This diligent mother accomplished an impossible feat. She created her own “incubator” by the wood stove. Can’t you just see her sitting there in her wooden rocker day and night as she nursed and prayed her little one to health and life.  I wonder,  how did she do it? How did she get enough nourishment into her tiny baby?  How did she protect the skin? How did she keep her baby consistently warm in a big old drafty farmhouse with wood heat? This is truly an amazing, God-given miracle. Kate grew, married, and gave birth to 15 children of her own. Her oldest, a daughter named Lydia Frances after Kate’s mother, is my great-grandmother.

Just a bit about Martin and Kate’s life…..

(This information comes from the “Martin A. Lahman Family” book by Helen F. Lahman).

They started housekeeping in Mt. Clinton, Virginia at a place near the crossroads where Mt. Clinton Pike crosses Muddy Creek. They later bought a farm about two miles south of Harrisonburg in the Stone Spring area where they operated a feed and saw mill. They produced large quantities of cane molasses, apple butter and cider. In later years, the city of Harrisonburg purchased the mill, house and 35 acres of land and built a disposal and sewage treatment plant on the property.

Martin was a member of the Virginia committee that compiled the “Church and Sunday School Hymnal” under the auspices of Mennonite General Conference.

In 1904, at the age of 58, Martin passed away and ten years later Kate married a childhood sweetheart, Henry Blosser.  Kate suffered a stroke in 1931 that affected her speech and died from a heart failure in 1932 at the age of 76.

Just a bit about the Lahman names…..

(This information comes from the “Martin A. Lahman Family” book by Helen F. Lahman).

The families of the Lehman-Lahmans came from Swiss-German descent. The first earliest records trace back to central Europe (Zurich, Germany and Berne, Switzerland) during the Protestant Reformation during the time of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. They probably fled and migrated to America because of severe persecution and in search of religious freedom.

According to records, Lehman is from the middle high German “leheman” meaning one who holds land on feudal tenure. This is a man who receives a piece of land as a fief (lehen) and not as his complete possession was called a Lehenman or later Lehman.

The name Lehman has many spelling variations including; Lehmann, Leman, Leeman, Leaman, Lemon, Laman, Lahman, and Layman. Numerous ancestors were found using different spellings on different official records of deeds, marriages and tombstone, even those obviously referring to the same person. This diversity may have been caused by illiteracy or English speaking clerks who tried to understand the thick German accent. The most commonly used variations of the name today are Lahman, Lehman and Layman.

Note: if any of the Lahman-Layman-Lehman  families know more of the story I would love for you to respond.  Also, it would be interesting to know other kinfolk among my friends that I didn’t know I had!

Descendants of Martin and Kate and how we fit together.

Martin and Kate had 15 children.  Listed below is a brief list of you descendants that I know and how we connect. Some of the family lines I do not know any of the descendants. I had no idea some of the folks that connected in-some are even my good friends or folks I have know all my life! An interesting note, all the boys in the family except for Byard changed the spelling of their name to Layman.

  1. Lydia Frances (James Shank):  Fannie (Joseph) Heatwole, Beerys (Old Orders), John Henry (Mary) Brenneman, Byard (Ruth Hertzler) Shank. An interesting note here is that my Uncle Byard married Gene’s Aunt Ruth. However, that did not make Gene and I related-we just had good taste in cousins!
  2. Ada Virginia (Perry Blosser):
  3. Charles L: Died at age 19
  4. Michael Abraham (Sarah Baker) Layman:
  5. John Calvin Layman (1st: Isa Beery, 2nd: Katie Horst): Nathan (Laura) Layman (See more of this story in the “Comment” by Martin Layman).
  6. Joseph Martin (Mamie Miller) Layman:
  7. Abbie Catherine (Daniel Shank):
  8. Emory Aaron: Died at age 9
  9. Hannah Mary (Joseph Brunk) : Gerald (Sophia) Martin, Donna (Nelson) Suter,  Mildred (Harry) Kraus
  10. Ottilla May (Luther Bowman): Brownie (Irving) Burkholder,  Vada (Dwight) Swartz,  Millard (Oma) Bowman, Lelia (James) Heatwole
  11. Byard Earl (Ethel Heatwole) Lahman: Harold (Evelyn) Lahman
  12. Della Pearl (Walter Hartman):
  13. Roy Jacob (Clarice Swartz) Layman: Emory (Luella) Layman
  14. Isa Dora (Emory Coakley):
  15. Clement Weaver (Nina Heatwole) Layman: Wilbur (Helen) Layman. Wilbur’s daughter Edith was my best friend during high school.

There were five of us second-once removed cousins in the 1970 graduating class at Eastern Mennonite High School; Eldon Heatwole, Dwight Layman, Dwight Burkholder, Edith Layman and myself.  And guess what, I never had a clue!

Credits:

  • “Martin A. Lahman Family” book by Helen F. Lahman,
  • “Martin A. Lahman Family History” by Mildred Brunk Kraus and Harry L. Kraus Sr. 1996.

6 Comments »

  1. Julia Said:

    Very interesting read and a good testimony of a mother’s love. When I first saw this picture, she reminded my right away of Jill, escepecially in the eyes.

  2. Martin Layman Said:

    Pat, I’m glad I could help you make the connection to the Layman family. There are a few more details of Kate’s life given on page 251-252 of the Martin A. Lahman Family History” book. This is part of the Layman story as given by my grandfather John C. Layman at a Layman Reunion in 1951. I quote a few paragraphs here…
    “In her early teens she went with the men to wheat harvest field at wheat harvest. When the cradle started, she could rake her own sheaf, make her tie, and bind the sheaf as quickly as anyone in the field.”
    “She was also very quick on her feet. The spring was down at the end of the yard. At dinner time when the men were at the table, and grandfather was ready to return tank, Kate was to go and bring fresh water for dinner. She made the trip before grandfather finished his prayer.”
    “When she was nineteen years old, a number of girls planned a trip to Broadway on Saturday afternoon. Kate asked her father if she could go along on this trip. He told her if she got her own horse ready to go she could go. He was surprised when he came to the house and found she had taken a two year old colt. My mother had power, influence, faith, and courage for anything that was in the program.”
    An item of correction if I follow your list of Martin and Kate’s children… Their son John Calvin’s first wife was Isa Beery. She and their two small boys died in a house fire at the site of the Layman homestead on Warwick Rd. in Newport News VA. He had stirred up the fire in the morning then went to the barn to do the chores. The house caught fire, but by the time he realized it, it was too late to save them. It is said he never really recovered from that experience. He then married Katie Horst with whom he raised nine children, my father Nathan being the youngest that lived.

    • Pat Said:

      I have read the fire story in the “Fifty Years, Building on the Warwick” book but never made the connection to your family.
      Thanks for the additional information. It is so interesting. You must have a Lehman history book I don’t have. Mine is only 89 pages and is a light blue paperback book. And thanks also for the correction.

    • Martin Layman Said:

      return thanks (not return tank)

  3. Ellen Shetler Said:

    I have a copy of the family history by Mildred and Harry Kraus…..I haven’t unpacked it yet as we just returned from our 2yr. (Plus) term in Jamaica., so don’t know if this is part of that print, but heresay has it that that they knit a cap for Kate that fit a door knob. Now I have seen some larger than typical door knobs in older homes, but even so very small when thinking of a babies’ head. She was definitely a miracle! Love your bog!

    • Pat Said:

      Very interesting. And if you think about it, of course they would knit her a cap. They wouldn’t/couldn’t buy one!!! They made all their clothes. Just some little details that we wouldn’t think about!!! Thanks for sharing.


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