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By John W. Kercher, Sr.
John W. Kercher, III
here with permission.
Note: This is a
slightly edited version which was done to improve readability.
Editing done by:
John W. Kercher III, grandson of the author.
12 Dec 2005
descendants will be interested to know that the first thing I had to learn when
I started to country school known as District No. 6 in Elkhart Township of
Elkhart County in Indiana in 1892, was to speak English. This in spite of the fact that my three-times
great grandfather, Johan Philip Kercher, landed in
Philadelphia as a German immigrant on September 24, 1742 on the good ship
Robert and Alice; that my twice-great grandfather was a Revolutionary War
soldier and is buried in the cemetery of the Zion Lutheran Church in Manheim,
Pennsylvania. My maternal great-great
grandfather, George Buzzard, was also a Revolutionary War soldier from the
state of Pennsylvania and, so far as I know, I
have no ancestors who were not in America before the Declaration of
Independence. All of these ancestors
were of German origin except perhaps a small infusion of Swiss and Dutch. In spite of a hundred and fifty years and six
generations, my family still spoke German and Pennsylvania Dutch and I had to
learn English in school.
three-times great grandfather, Johan Philip who landed
in Philadelphia, made the three day journey from
Philadelphia to Lancaster
County, Pennsylvania, the same
trip the Baron Stiegel made eight years later and to the same part of Lancaster County.
What occupation Johan Philip Kercher followed
is something to which we have no information.
I do not know at what age Johan
Philip came to America,
whether he was married and had children at the time. I have no information about what part of Germany he came
from or what his German background may have been. It is evident that he was a Lutheran, as were
apparently all the Kerchers who came to America at
about the same time. Many of these early
Kerchers are buried in Lutheran cemeteries in Berks
and Lancaster Counties.
is a record of Martin Kercher who came to America earlier than Johan Kercher
and bought a tract of land in Berks
County, Pennsylvania. It is possible that he was a brother of Johan
part of the tract which he bought from the Proprietors (apparently the sons of
William Penn) is still in the possession of his descendants. It is located a few miles east of Kuntztown, Pennsylvania. There is an old stone house and an old stone
barn on the property which are still in use.
The mark on the house shows that it was erected in 1795.
are records of eight Kerchers who landed in Philadelphia in the
eighteen year period from 1733 to 1757.
They were no doubt related.
Johan Philip’s widow, Franica (?) Kercher, was buried at Trinity
January 12, 1788 - from Manheim and aged 68 years. She was born in 1720 and probably in Germany. She owned a lot in Manheim, which her son
Frederick bought, paying double to his older brother Jacob, who was in Europe.
who was my twice-great grandfather, was a soldier in the Continental Army. Of Frederick,
we know a bit more than we know of his father.
He was born February 6, 1754.
From that I infer that his father, Johan Kercher,
must have been a comparatively young man when he arrived in Philadelphia in 1742. Frederick
died February 24, 1798. This is recorded
on his tombstone in the Zion
at Manheim. He lived in Warwick Township and was a farmer. His will disposed of a fair amount of
property for his time and in a manner characteristic of the times. He served in the Continental Army. From the record "Under Captain Ab Forrey, Middle District, Rapho Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 3rd
Battalion, Col. Alexander Lowery, August 16, 1777". (See Pennsylvania Archives, 5 Series, Vol.
VII, page 194). His wife was Justina Kercher, nee Justina __________.
Justina was younger than Frederick, born August 17, 1766. She died February 19, 1843, which was
forty-five years after Frederick
died. Little is known about her other
than the provision made for her in Fredericks's
and Justina had a number of children, all mentioned
in the will. The oldest was John, who
received the largest portion of his father's estate. John was my great-grandfather. He was under twenty-one when his father died
and a guardian was appointed for him.
Kercher was born (probably) about 1785, which would
have made him twelve or thirteen when his father died in 1798. He was married on September 6, 1808. Of him, not much is definitely known. He died at an early age when my grandfather,
William Kercher, was only eleven years old. Since my grandfather, William Kercher, was born on December 31, 1813, this would make the
date of John Kercher's death about 1825.
About this John Kercher
I know little other than such stories as I heard as a young boy. My grandfather never willingly spoke of
him. When he was pressed, so my aunts
told me, he turned off the questions with the reply, "Er
wawr-nix waiirt". From the family stories, I gather that after
he came of age and received his inheritance, he lived a gay life, drank heavily
and wasted his property. At about the
age of forty, according to the stories, he committed suicide and was buried in
the middle of the road at a crossroad. I
have no confirmation of the tradition although it is in accordance with the
customs. I do know that my grandfather,
at the age of eleven and being the oldest child in the family, became the sole
support of his mother and two younger sisters.
The will of Frederick Kercher, 1754-1798, is evidence that John received a good
inheritance and that in some way he managed to dissipate it. Since my grandfather was the oldest child, I assume
that John was married about 1812. His
wife was _______________. They had three
children, my grandfather and two younger sisters. Perhaps my grandfather was right in refusing
to divulge much information about his father.
I have no joy in recording what I know about him, although he bore the
name of his grandfather and had received the fruits of the labor of his father
and grandfather, and I bear the same name he did.
grandfather, William Kercher, was born in Rapho Township,
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on December 31, 1813. Evidently the family was left penniless at
the death of his father circa 1825.
William became the support of his family at the immature age of eleven. What work he did, I do not know. Later he became a miller and he often showed
his grandchildren the bruises on his hands which he said came from dressing
millstones. Somehow the family must have
survived the trying years during which the children were growing up without any
visible means of support. Perhaps they
were helped by their grandmother, Justina, who did
not die until 1843, by which time grandfather was thirty years old and had
already moved to Ohio
where the next period, albeit a short one, occurred.
married Elizabeth Moyer in 1841 when he was twenty-seven years old. I have no information whether this was before
or after he went to Ohio. I am inclined to think that it was after he
went to Ohio inasmuch as the Moyer homestead
was near Mifflin in Ashland County, Ohio, which is where William kercher
bought his first Ohio
farm. He sold this farm and bought
another about five miles east of Ashland, Ohio along with what is now Route
#_____. This farm is today known as the
Studebaker farm because on it was located the original Studebaker blacksmith
shop where the Studebaker Brothers began to make wagons. This shop they rented from William Kercher.
Kercher died in 1900 and is buried in Violet Cemetery,
three miles south of Goshen.
father, Abraham Kercher, was born on the Ashland
County Ohio farm. There were at the time
three older children in the family.
There were four children younger than my father, all born in Indiana.
the summer of 1851, William Kercher sold the Ashland, Ohio farm and
moved to Indiana. His good friends, the Studebaker Brothers,
moved to Indiana
at the same time. They traveled together
and made the trip in wagons and with ox teams.
The trip, it is said, took three weeks.
I remember as a boy seeing the old tar bucket handing in grandfather's
wagon shed, which he used on this trip.
If grandfather had only kept a journal, what a book that would be for
the perusal of those who come after him and who can make the trip which took
him three weeks in about three hours.
And the earlier trip from Lancaster
County, Pennsylvania. What a trip that must have been! There is not the least scrap of information
William Kercher bought a farm in Elkhart County,
about three miles west of Waterford in Elkhart Township. He cleared the land, built the house and barn
and here he lived for the rest of his life.
The barn is still standing, but the house has been torn down to make way
for what some present-day farmers think is more modern. I now know that the old buildings, their arrangement
and style were based on memories Grandfather brought with him from Pennsylvania.
house was set back from the road approximately two hundred feet with a wide
yard to the road and planted with pine trees.
The house had a recessed porch, a comfortable living room, a parlor
toward the front of the house, a downstairs bedroom behind the living room, a
kitchen and several upstairs bedrooms -- I assume one for the boys and one for
the girls. Behind the house was a garden
and at the garden gate, an old Dutch oven, not used in my time but in which no
doubt many a loaf of bread was baked.
Behind the garden and surrounding two sides of it was the family
the house and the barn, which also sat back about two hundred feet from the
road, was a large yard and at the back of this yard, the wagon shed and corn
crib -- an interesting place for boys to explore. The old ox yoke and tar bucket hung in the
gable of this wagon shed. The barn
itself was a two-story bank-barn such as one can still see on almost every farm
in Lancaster County.
Between the large barn yard and the road lay the truck patch, about half
an acre. It served as something of a
second garden, although its principal crop was potatoes. A lane from the road came in between this
truck patch and the large house yard.
Here William Kercher spent the last fifty
years of his
life. He made it a beautiful place which
lingers in the memories of his grandsons who saw it before vandals destroyed
what he created.
Here his family grew to maturity;
here his grandchildren spent many interesting days; here grandmother died; and
here he himself passed on to the realms of his three generations of American
forbearers, in the year 1900 when I was fourteen years old.
William Kercher made the trek from Ashland,
Ohio to Elkhart,
with the Studebaker Brothers, they went on past Elkhart
County to South
Bend in St. Joseph
County, where they
planned to again set up a shop to manufacture wagons. They tried to persuade William to come with
them to South Bend
and throw in with them - he had more money than they did. This my grandfather did not do. He wanted a farm in Elkhart County. Even after the Civil War and war contracts
made the Studebaker Brothers wealthy and when no Indiana farm was properly equipped without a
Studebaker wagon, the remained good friends and frequently made the twenty-five
mile trip for visits.
was a stern and silent man. He read a
German newspaper and a German Bible. The
saga of his eight-six years from Pennsylvania
to Indiana is
something of which there are but flimsy records, and my generation must
reconstruct if from the history of the times.
Northeastern Indiana was the last section of Indiana from which the Indians were ejected. Land was cheap and this was the attraction
which brought settlers from the more mature parts of Ohio,
as it had earlier brought them from Pennsylvania. My maternal as well as my paternal
grandfather followed this pattern.
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