March 12, 2023 Blog

A friend of the Foundation, Chris Schilling, reached out to us with his family history in Bolivar and some delightful photos from the past. He wrote to us:

“My 2nd great-grandfather (Joseph Paul Schilling) was a grocer from Bolivar. His father came over from Bavaria and settled there around 1840. Joseph was married to Mary Cavalier, one of the daughters of Joshua Cavalier who was a prominent farmer in Bolivar. In fact, I have some distant Cavalier relatives who are still in Bolivar. After the Civil War, Joseph and his family lived in the Stonewall Jackson home. But Joseph died young andMary sold it in 1888, a year after his death. A year later in 1889, one of Joseph’s daughters, Katie Schilling, died from a typhoid fever outbreak in Jefferson County. By 1910, two of Joseph’s children, Robert and Oliver Schilling, left the area. The other two, Frank and Carrie, remained until their deaths despite never marrying or having children. They lived in and operated a small store in what until recently was the Canal House Café. They also owned several other properties in Bolivar and were very active in community life and politics just like their father had been. Frank also owned and ran The Merritt Farm and sold goods out of his store from the farm.

Unfortunately, we were told the Great Depression really hit those in Bolivar hard. Frank and Carrie sold most of their properties. Frank let people buy food on credit even though he knew most could not pay him back to keep people from starving in Bolivar. Frank died rather suddenly in 1931 and Carrie remained in that house/store until her death in 1948. After some years renting it out, my family sold it in 1966. My grandfather inherited the farm and had a man named Mr. Ring operate it until he sold it to developers in the late 80s. Although my grandfather lived in Pittsburgh, he spent his childhood summers in the 1930s helping his aunt Carrie on the farm and was also involved in the Bolivar community.

As far as the Cavalier side of my family, they owned a large farm in Bolivar and had some grocer and butcher shops throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. While much of the farmland was sold to develop US-340 and the Harper’s Ferry National Park, the Cavalier farmhouse still stands.

I came across your organization a few years ago when I began doing genealogy work on my family. During my research, I also found archived copies of The Spirit of Jefferson and since then, I have read countless articles dating from the mid-1800s through the 1940s about Bolivar. I became very fascinated about the history of your town because it helped me understand the time and context in which my family lived.”

Sometimes the past can feel so detached from the present, but Chris’s summary and pictures provide a bridge between these two worlds that feels both warmly personal and relatable.  The Foundation extends thanks to Chris for being so generous with his research!

If you have any pictures or historical documents that you would like to share with the Foundation, you may reach us at

Click on the actual gallery to see the full images along with captions.

Written by Rachel Meyer