Greely Expedition
Jacob Bender
(George Layerzapf)

By: Jim Urness
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George Layerzapf, member of the Lady Franklin Bay expedition, was born on July 5, 1852 at Friedburg, Darmstadt, Hessen, Germany. He was the son of Conrad Leyerzapf. According to his will he had 4 brothers, Conrad, Ernst, Carl, and Philip. He had gray eyes, light hair, fair complexion, and was a fairly small person, growing to a height of 5 feet and 6 inches.

He learned the trade of a tinsmith before immigrating to the United States with his brother, Carl, and Carl's wife Julia in 1869. There he lived in New York for 3 years before enlisting in the Cavalry, under the alias of Jacob Bender. There appears to be  no reason for the use of this alias. In 1877, he was discharged from the Cavalry and he reenlisted, still using the alias, Bender, this time in the Infantry. He was stationed in Wyoming when the opportunity arose for him to go on the arctic expedition.

Research indicates, that George Layerzapf was a very mild man, quiet, with lots of his feelings kept inside. He accepted  hardships as a matter of course, and rarely spoke up about his feelings on matters. When he did speak up it was usually in defense of someone else and usually in a losing cause. This rebuffing caused him to turn even further inward. Some of the members of the crew, many, who were extroverts, were quick to take advantage of his easy nature. Such as, at one point, Doctor Pavy was arguing with Lieutenant Greely over the matter of returning to Fort Conger when Leyerzapf came to Doctor Pavy's defense. Greely told Leyerzapf to shut up and when Layerzapf continued, Greely threatened to have him shot.

As a tinsmith, he was an important member of the expedition. He built the stoves by which they cooked and kept warm. He built and maintained lamps. He built the containers which housed the records when they departed Fort Conger, without which, most probably would have perished.

While there were many exploration trips, Leyerzapf rarely was involved. He did go on an expedition with Greely and a couple of other men to what are referred to as the U. S. Mountains. In his journal he states that he discovered an island on the trip which he named L. A. Garther Island. This same island was referred to in Greely's notes as John's Island. When Christmas presents, which were donated to the men to the expedition, were opened. Bender writes in his journal "I received a very nice present sent by Lizzie A. Garther of New York". Apparently Layerzapf  had wanted the island named after this lady. It is not known as to whether she was an
acquaintance of his or not. Layerzapf had sometimes served as substitute cook. He seemed to enjoy this duty. And was the cook on the trip to the U. S. Mountains.

Leyerzapf continued to do his share of work throughout the expedition. On June 5, 1884, apparently recognizing that death was emanate, he dictated a will to Lieutenant Greely. That day, Private Henry, who was one of the witnesses to the will, was shot for stealing food. The only food that remained was some sealskin shoes, which were now being rationed. The next day, June 6, 1884, Layerzapf and Doctor Pavy died. Greely made suggestions that Leyerzapf may also have been guilty of stealing food, as some sort of sealskin shoe was found in his bedding. But he also accused others, including Doctor Pavy of consuming the available medicine rather than rationing it out. Considering the conditions of all involved, including Lieutenant Greely, it is unlikely that any of them were rational at the time. A rescue team arrived less than 3 weeks later. George
Leyerzapf's body was never recovered.

Family Related Notes:

As for George Layerzapf's relationship to me (Jim Urness) it is distant. George Layerzapf's brother, Carl, had four daughters. Three of them were born in New York and the other was born in Boise, Idaho after they moved there in 1877. Two of the daughters, Lena and Lizzie died as children, Lena in 1883 when she was 13 years old and Lizzie in 1885 when she was just 8 years old. The other two daughters, Jennie and Anna Marguerite reached adulthood and married. Jennie married Martin Klinge in 1902 and Anna Marguerite married Carl Hipp in 1920. Carl Hipp had a brother named William (Bill) Hipp. Bill married my father's sister, Lena Urness.

Apparently Carl Leyerzapf's daughter, Anna Marguerite, took control of the journal when Carl died. Anna died before her husband, Carl Hipp so Carl must have had the journal. My Aunts husband, Bill Hipp was executor of Carl Hipp's estate, so Bill Hipp must have gotten the journal at that time. And Bill Hipp's daughter, Marion, my first cousin, who has the journal now, obtained it when her parents died.

Author's Notes:  I have obtained some records from the National Archives. I have a copy of the letter, which Carl Layerzapf wrote to General Hazen on May 21, 1886 acknowledging that he received the Journal and Memorandum book of this brother George Layerzapf. He states that the journal covers period from July 7, 1881 to July 31, 1883 and memorandum book from June 14, 1881 to May 12, 1884. I do not know what happened to the memorandum book, however, I am sure Carl Leyerzapf was wrong on the dates the memorandum book, which I received through the National Archives, as its first entry is on August 9, 1883 and the last entry on May 12, 1884 as he stated in the letter.

Jim Urness

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