Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mr. Steffy Wants Half A Million

This week I discovered this wonderful treasure in the Gettysburg Times. The subject of the article is David Franklin Steffy, husband's 1st great grand uncle. Here we find David being interviewed about his claim on the estate of a distant relative. Along the way sharing lineage and detailed family history. It is truly amazing the amount of genealogical gold packed into this article!

Next order of business is to track down the results of the Steffy family court case. Whether the Steffy family has a legitimate claim to the Wendel fortune, this resource has given me a wealth of information.

Gettysburg Times - March 30, 1932

Native of Adams Is
Seeking A Share
In Wendel Millions
David Frank Steffy, 91, Former Register And
Recorder, Claims He Is One Of The Heirs
And Entitled To Part of Estate Valued
At More Than 100,000,000.

Resides With Daughter In
Philadelphia, Many Claimants

     A native of Adams county, David Frank Steffy, 91, a former register and recorder here, now residing in Philadelphia, is one of the claimants to the Wendel fortune, according to a feature article written by Vivian Shirley, which appeared recently in a Philadelphia newspaper.
     Mr. Steffy, a native of Littlestown, served as resister and recorder of Adams county from 1906 to 1908, and is the only Philadelphia claimant and heir to the 100,000,000 fortune left by the late Miss Ella Virginia von E. Wendel, New York city.
     Sergeant William Steffy post United Spanish War Veterans, of Gettysburg, is named after a son of the claimant to a share in the Wendel fortune. Sergeant Steffy died of spinal meningitis during the Spanish-American war.
     Miss Shirley's story, which is of particular interest to residents of Gettysburg and Adams county because the 91-year-old man has numerous relatives in the county, follows:
     What would you do with a million dollars-if you had it?
     That is exactly what David Steffy is figuring out today-not only what he would do, but also IF he had it.
     Mr. Steffy is 91. He lives in a small neat house in a row of other small, neat houses on South 51st street, Philadelphia, with his daughter, Marie, and if you are wondering by now what is the connection between David Steffy and a million dollars, the answer is easy.
     He is the newest claimant, and also the only Philadelphia claimant, to come forward as the nearest of kin and thus an heir to the $100,000,000 fortune of the late Ella Virginia von E. Wendel, the rich spinster who lived alone with her servants and dogs in the great gloomy Wendel mansion in New York.

Has Vision of Riches

     Imagine passing a long and busy life, reaching the seasoned age of 91, and then having a vision of wealth beyond your wildest dreams suddenly thrust upon you.

     That is what happened to David Steffy, and I must say that the dreams of millions have not turned his head in the slightest or made him lose any of his calm or poise.
     Most of us in our youth pondered over tales of glittering treasure and wondered wistfully exactly what we would do with a million or two, but that as I said, was in our youth. When we pass from our teens, we usually find ourselves too busy working for $10 to dream of $10,000.
     Even the fairy books of our childhood with their tales of caves full of gold and jewels glistening with curious subterranean lights no longer grip us so that we forget it is dinnertime.

Hundreds of Claimants

     Age is a practical time and David Steffy is practical, even though he feels certain that he is the closest living relative to the eccentric spinster who was the heir of all the Wendel fortune. Numerically, he is about the 300th heir to appear, but, relatively speaking, Mr. Steffy feels that he is pretty far up in the front rank.
     It was in the dinning room of his daughter's home that I talked with Mr. Steffy, who is bright and alert at 91, with a crisp head of white hair and eyes still hopeful beneath his glass spectacles.
     "You see, it was this way," he said, "My grandfather, Peter Steffy, married Myra Wendel. She was the sister of John Gottleib Wendel, Sr., the founder of the fortune, and the aunt, naturally of Miss Ella Wendel, who has just died and left her fortune to charity. That would make my father John Gottleib's first cousin, and it would make Miss Ella and me second cousins."

Letter Aids His Claim

     "We have always known we were related to the Wendels and my lawyer now has the various documents which still exist, among them a letter written by Ella Wendel, to my sister, Margaret Steffy, about eighteen years ago, which begins: "Dear Cousin:"
     "My sister died a little more than a year ago, but I still have one brother, John Steffy, of Baltimore, and a sister, Mrs. William Starr, of Littlestown, who would share in the fortune if the will is broken."
     "Ella Wendel used to be fond of my sister, Margaret, and visited her

(Continued on Page Two)

Native Of
(Continued from First Page)

      in Littlestown. That was quite a bit ago, I guess thirty or forty years. After her visit she wrote for quite a while and then suddenly stopped writing. We never knew why. My sister wrote her a couple of times more, and when she didn't answer my sister stopped."

Family Was Proud

     "You know how it is with rich relations and we were proud. My two sisters were in business in Littlestown then and owned property there. As a matter of fact, I don't think they ever counted on inheriting any money from the Wendels; they didn't think about it at all."
     "But when Ella Wendel died and it came out in the papers how much money she had and how she had no relatives, why, we knew she had and so we started talking about it, but we didn't do anything. You know how you plan to start tomorrow."
     "Finally my granddaughter, Mary, who works in a lawyer's office, talked to the lawyer. First he was not interested, then when she brought him the documents and the letters, he said he thought I and my brother and sister were really the nearest kin and he took up the case."
     "Do you expect to get the money?' I asked.

Engaged in Politics

     "Well, I don't know" said Mr. Steffy. "It would be nice for the girls. I've had a long life myself and a pretty busy one. I was in politics in Littlestown. I was magistrate for twenty years. I always wanted to get further in politics, but I never did because I didn't have the money to keep it up, though," he added with pride. "I was register and recorder in Adams county for a time. That was when I moved to Gettysburg," he continued. "It was the county seat."
     "I think my greatest ambition was to be a big political figure, but even if I should get the money it is pretty late for that now. I was pretty free with money when I had it. That's why I haven't more now."
     "And what would you do with it now, if you had it?" I queried.

Wants Half A Million

     "Well," he said thoughtfully, "I wouldn't want all of it. I think half a million would be enough for me."
     "Say", broke in a friend of the family "from the way the girls are hollering, you'd better say a million."
     "No, I think I'd get along nice with a half million", he went on "I'd be charitable and help my friends that need money."
     "Most friends are in that condition right now" he smiled. "And I have three grandchildren I'd like to put through college. I wouldn't spend it foolishly, I can tell you that, and I wouldn't need much for myself"
     "I think the thing I'd like the best of all would be to see my grandchildren in comfortable circumstances. That always takes a lot of worry off a father's mind."

Ancestors At Valley Forge

     "To go back to the past, Mr Steffy", I said, "how long have your people been in this country".
     He replied after thinking a bit. "I know I have heard my father say that my two grand-uncles, my grandfather's brothers, froze to death. They were with Washington at Valley Forge and the winter was too much for them; their names were Jacob and Ephraim Steffy. Now, whether their father, my great-grandfather, was born in the United States, I don't know rightly. I think our family came from Switzerland."
     "My son kept up the military tradition; he organized his company in Gettysburg in the Spanish-American war, and went south, but he died of fever before he saw any actual service. I have another son, Richard, who is now in West Virginia, and two daughters, Marie, whom I spoke of be-

      fore, and Mrs. Frances Frommeyer, who also lives here in Philadelphia."
     "It will be a wonderful thing for all of us, but especially for the children, if we get our share of the Wendel fortune."  * * * And the little old man nodded emphatically and smiled with dreams of a golden future in his faded eyes.

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