Catherine was born
about 1855, according to the 1860 census, and an affidavit
sworn by her mother in a Civil War pension application in
1884. Her birth location is uncertain. The
family was in Lebanon county in 1850, and Dauphin county
in 1860. A great-great granddaughter believes she
might have been born in Lancaster county
She was married three times. Her first husband was William Combrobst. (The exact spelling of this surname is in question. It appears as Comborst, Combrose, and. Compropst.) William and Catherine had two known children:
The 1880 census at Doutyville, E. Cameron Twp.
Northumberland Co., lists the Peter and Catherine living
near Catherine's parents, John and Catherine Deemer. The
following children are listed with the Heck surname:
Alice, Maggie, Mary A. and Peter.
It's possible that the older children were actually
children of William Combrobst. Emma, a daughter of
William and Catherine appear under the name Combrobst (or
something close to that -- handwritting!) nearby with
Catherine's parents. Mary E. who used the Combrobst
surname throughout her life does not appear in the 1880
records for Catherine's husband, Peter, include the burial
of 3 unnamed children who died 25 February1888. None
of these could be the Alice or Mary A. as their death
dates are lagter
The couple of Peter and Catherine Heck appear in numerous
newspaper accounts in 1894.
The Mount Carmel Daily News of 23 May 1894
reported that Mrs. Peter Heck of Greenridge and James
Dunson of Mt. Carmel, a married man with a family in
Shamokin left on an early morning west-bound train.
(Greenridge was a mining community on the western edge of
Mount Carmel.) The article states that Peter was a laborer
at the Pennsylvania colliery of the Union Coal company at
Greenridge. Mrs. Heck took with her the $200
"rainy-day" fund that she and her husband held. When
Dunstan came to the home to collect Mrs. Heck her children
tried to drive him away. The eldest, Maggie hit him
with a brick. He walked to Excelsior. Mrs.
Heck dressed in her finest and took the Lehigh Valley
train from Mt. Carmel to Shamokin. Mr. Dunson met
her on the train at Greenridge. The couple then departed
from Shamokin on a train, probably to Union county.
Peter Heck swore out charges against his wife charging
her with violating the 6th commandment, larceny and
desertion. The 28 May 1894 edition of the Daily
News reported that Dunson claimed to be drunk when
Catherine Heck boarded the same train, and that he had no
intention of eloping with her. He claimed that all
she had with her was $30. He further claimed that he
got off the train at Lost Creek 2 miles from Shenendoah to
the east of Mount Carmel. There he asked Mrs. Heck
to accompany him to his mother's house because of his
drunken condition. His mother raised a fuss about the
presence of another woman so they left. He claimed
that he did not know where Mrs. Heck went and had not seen
her since. He also claimed that every man in Mount
Carmel knew Catherine Heck. Mrs. Dunson stated she
believed her husband's story implicitly.
The 23 June 1894 edition of the Shenendoah Evening
Herald also reported the story. The story
stated that Mrs. Heck deserted her family at Mount Carmel
with Mr. Dunson, who a few days later returned to his
family at Shamokin. Catherine Heck was still missing
but said to be in Williamsport. She took all of the
money her husband had saved leaving him penniless with two
small children, ages 5 and 7. Dunson was reported by
neighbors for maltreating his wife.
The Mount Carmel Daily News of 18 July 1894
reported that Peter Heck of Greenridge was arrested on
charges of aggravated assault and battery on his
wife. He was released on bail awaiting an appearance
in criminal court.
Peter Heck's name appears in the newspapers again in a
tragic incident. At 7:30 a.m. on 11 October 1894 a
boiler explosion occurred at the Henry Clay Clay colliery
operated by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Co.
at Shamokin. The steam plant consisting of 36
boilers was destroyed. Five men were killed and many
other severely burned. One story reported Peter
Heck, a fireman, had the side of his head crushed and
suffered severe internal injuries from which he was not
expected to survive. Another said that his face was
scalded. The force of the explosion was so great
that one of the boilers landed 1/4 mile away.
However severe Peter's injuries were, he evidently
survived. The Mount Carmel Item reported
that Peter dropped dead on the street in Shamokin on 17
On 30 Aug 1898 Catherine married William Frederick Fabian.
He worked in the coal mines and was a widower who
immigrated from Germany with his wife sometime prior to
1880. The couple resided on South 7th St. in
Shamokin, along with Catherine's son William Heck.
Catherine died 4 July 1911 at Shamokin and is buried in
the Alaska Cemetery, Mt. Carmel. William Fabian died
23 March 1920 and is buried with his first wife, Marie, in
the Shamokin Cemetery.
Emma appears in the
1880 census living her grandparents, John and Catherine Deemer
in Doutyville, Cameron twp., Northumberland county, just
over the mountain south of Shamokin. She's listed as
11 years old making her birth year about 1869. Her mother
also appears in the 1880 census in Doutyville with her
husband, Peter Heck, and four children - Alice, Maggie,
Mary, and Peter. In the 1870 census Emma's mother,
Catherine appears as a 15 year-old living with here
parents, but no Emma is included. Perhaps Emma was
William Combrobst daughter be a previous marriage.
No other information about Emma has been located.
Mary E. Combrobst was born in West Hanover Twp., near Linglestown, Dauphin Co., PA. 10 Oct 1871. She married twice, first to Jeremiah Ebert, 21 Jun 1888. They had 7 know children. (Refer to the database for more about these children.) It appears that after Jeremiah's death Mary fell on some hard times. The 1900 census shows her as a seamstress living on N. 6th St. in Mount Carmel with her eldest and youngest children, Leah, age 12, and George, less than 1. Her other 5 children are found in orphanages in Reading.
She remarried Samuel
Steelfox, 17 June 1901, at Shamokin. They then
had two children. By 1910 most of the children were
back with their mother in Mount Carmel. Blanch appears as a
12-year-old telephone operator in Philadelphia. George, age 11, was a
boarding student at Philadelphia's Girard School.
Mary E. died in 20
Oct. 1918 in Philadelphia and was buried in
Westminster Cemetery in Montgomery Co. Samuel
returned to Mount Carmel. He died 19 Nov 1946 and was
buried in the Mount Carmel Cemetery.
Some information is available about Catherine's children with Peter Heck. Refer to the database for more about these children.