Monday, October 04, 2004 Article in Patriot - News Harrisburg, PA BY CARRIE CALDWELL Of Our Lebanon Bureau LEBANON - Buried in the aging cemetery next to Tabor United Church of Christ is a link to families who might otherwise be strangers.
It's the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier named Michael Krebs, whose wife had 15 children before he died in 1803.
Many of Krebs' descendants, now scattered across the country, gathered yesterday among the chipped and worn headstones to dedicate a bronze plaque inscribed with the names of Krebs and 14 other soldiers who fought in America's first war.
The visit was the first to the Lebanon churchyard for several of the 70 who attended the afternoon service.
"It's very easy to forget our history, to forget who we are and where we came from," the Rev. Joseph W. Hedden Jr. told the gathering. "This is a defiance of that forgetfulness. This is the act of remembrance.
"If you look at the word remembrance, it's the putting together that which had been pulled apart," he continued. "We're making something new in 2004."
Krebs' family had scattered in the centuries since his death. Some live on the East Coast, others on the West. Many live in between.
Jan Hawkins, of San Diego, never knew of Krebs until she began researching five years ago. She turned to the Internet to find her past, but she also found her future. Relatives in Indiana, Kansas, Oregon and West Virginia emerged from the Web.
Hawkins discovered a cousin in Oregon. Through their correspondence, she learned that Mae Neibert Nielsen had seen only one picture of their grandmother. Hawkins happened to have one and showed it to Nielsen.
"She started to cry," Hawkins said. "It was so nice to be able to do that for her. That was really a treat."
It wasn't until yesterday that Hawkins met her Kreps relatives -- Gary, Mark and Ron. Through them, she learned many things about her great-great-great-great grandfather, including his military service and how his name evolved over the years. The Krepses said their name changed from Krebs to Kreps decades ago because of a paycheck error.
"It opened up the world," Hawkins said of her research. "History is real now, because I know the people; otherwise it would be a fog. What a thrill."
The family's meeting might not have been possible if not for Mark Kreps of Indiana. Kreps' request to visit the grave prompted the church to research records for a complete burial list for its inactive cemetery.
Renee Haag, the church's genealogist, spent more than a year verifying the names of 15 Revolutionary War veterans through records kept by the Veterans Administration, the Lebanon County Historical Society and the Lebanon Community Library.
The work resulted in a monument to recognize their graves, though some don't have gravestones.
"He's like our George Washington" said Kreps, wearing his Sons of the American Revolution medallion around his neck. "This is our history." Mark Kreps