November 23, 1891: Organist Absconds with Choir's Soprano Leaving Families Bewildered


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

November 23, 1891: The elopement of St. John’s organist John Zuber and 20-year-old Della Wentzel, the leading soprano in his choir, has created quite a sensation in Boyertown and is the topic of the day among town gossips.

They left town on the 2:55 train to Pottstown and no one knows where they are, including Miss Wentzel’s parents and the organist’s wife, five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. Zuber had emptied his children’s piggy banks, sold his wife’s organ and taken her meager savings, as well as $27 of church funds to finance their abrupt departure.

It was not Zuber’s first disappearance; he had pulled a vanishing act on March 1, 1890, to avoid his many creditors. Miss Wentzel’s father Augustus went to Reading to search for her but found no trace. He subsequently employed a detective to continue the pursuit. Della’s little brother, four-year-old Jimmy, a dwarf, misses his sister so much that he is not eating or sleeping, longing for her return.

Zuber’s wife is much distressed about the affair, being left with very little money, but the community soon rallied around the family and held another surprise “donation party” to provide them with plenty of food and necessities until she is back on her feet.

The church council is not likely to reinstate him, if the culprit is ever found. Della was located in Reading and ignominiously dragged home, while John continued to incite trouble, in and out of jail.

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