Catharina Schaeffer was born about 1774 to Johann Nicholas Schaeffer and Susanna DeTurk in Berks County, Pennsylvania. While many church records still exist and are available for the genealogist, it appears that none of Nicholas Schaeffer’s children are found in the existing records – at least none that I’ve been able to find.
Although we do have Catharina’s father’s estate documents, there is no final distribution that includes Catharina by her married name, nor a mention of her husband, Peter Gephart. In fact, there is no final distribution in that estate packet at all.
Catharina didn’t marry until 1799, half way through the estate settlement, so it’s not like she is absent in something where she should be present. However, given this tiny shred of ambiguity, I was very pleased to have autosomal DNA matches to descendants of Catharina’s parents and Schaeffer grandparents through other children.
Catharina’s father, Johann Nicholas Schaeffer, died on November 2, 1796, according to his estate documents.
A petition filed on April 3, 1798 relative to real estate lists Nicholas’s children, as follows:
John Schaeffer, Esther wife of Jacob Miller, Catharine, Daniel, Susanna, Mary, Elizabeth and Jacob, the 4 last of whom are minors. Nicholas’s widow is noted as Susanna.
Catherine is the anglicized version of the German Catharina. The one document where she signs her name with an X, her name is given as Catharina so that is the name I’m using.
The 1798 document from her father’s estate tells us that Catharina is at least 21 years old, meaning she was born before April 3, 1777. Furthermore, I suspect that these children are listed in age order, given that we know from other estate documents that John is the eldest (born on May 30, 1771) and we know from this document that the youngest are listed last.
If the children were born every 2 years, and none died, then the 4 youngest would have been roughly 19, 17, 15 and 13. By inference Daniel would have been 21 and Catherina 23. So we can comfortably say that Catherina was born about 1775 and unquestionably between 1773 and 1777, even if the middle three children are listed out of order.
Initially, Susanna, Nicholas’s widow, is awarded executorship, but she petitions the court to find another executor, at which point Valentine Gephart/Gebhart is appointed.
Nicholas’ estate mentions several Gephart men both in the list of accounts and at the estate sale, so these families were closely affiliated and probably near neighbors.
Catharina Schaeffer married Johann Peter Gephart Jr., known as Peter, on March 24, 1799 in Christ Lutheran Church in Berks County, known today as Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The church, built in 1743, is still functioning today and this beautiful photo is from their Facebook page. I would like to think that Catherina’s memories of this church were glowing and beautiful, full of the freshness and hope of new love. That chapter in her life wouldn’t last long.
Peter was born on June 10, 1771 and was the son of Johann Peter Gebhart and Eva, last name unknown.
On November 2, 1799, Catharina had daughter Elizabeth Gephart followed by son, John Gephart born on February 26, 1801.
It’s likely that Catherina had a child that was born and died in 1803, or perhaps the child didn’t die until 1804 sometime. It would be terribly unusual for a woman to not become pregnant at that age from 1802 through December 1804 without having a child in-between those dates. According to Peter’s estate papers and later guardianship records, there was no child born, that lived, after 1801. Neither was Catherina pregnant when Peter died in December 1804.
The Western Fever
According to research by Kierby Stetler and Gene Mozley:
In the year 1803, four men from Tulpehocken Twp., Berks County, went to Ohio to see the country and if they liked it, planned to buy some property and move their families onto it. They found some land they liked about 60 miles east of Cincinnati which was owned by a man in Virginia. They met with the owners’ agent in Ohio and contracted to purchase 1000 acres, then started for Virginia to close the deal with the owner. However, by the time they arrived at the man’s residence, he had died. Disappointed and exhausted from the trip, they returned to their homes in Berks County.
They gave such glowing accounts of the State of Ohio that the “western ern fever” became an epidemic in the neighborhood. As a result, 24 families decided to sell out and move to Ohio the following spring. A few in the meantime had moved to Center Co, PA but arrangements to join the group were made with them by letter. It was agreed that all would start as such a time as to meet in Pittsburgh on or about the same day. In this group from Berks County were our George Stettler, his children and grandchildren. George was nearly 65 years of age at this time.
The Stettler family would be Catharina and Peter Gephart’s neighbor to the south, in Montgomery County, Ohio.
In 1804, as one of the group of 24 families from Berks County, Catharina and Peter Gephart, along with their 2 young children joined the wagon train and made their way from Berks County, Pennsylvania to Montgomery County, Ohio.
The distance between Maiden Creek Township in Berks County and Miamisburg, in Montgomery County, near Peter Gephart’s land, is about 513 miles, which equated to about 51 days in a wagon. I would have been a long and tiresome journey, that’s for sure. However, there was a better route. The History of German Township, Montgomery County, Ohio tells us more:
The following are the names of those heads of families who came to this valley from Pennsylvania in the 1804 colony, some of whom, however, settled outside the present limits of German Township: Philip Gunckel, Christopher, John and William Emerick (who were brothers), George Kiester, Jacob Bauer, George Moyer, John Gunckel (who subsequently returned to Pennsylvania), John and Christopher Shuppert. Peter Gebhart, George Stettler and his five sons, William, Henry, Daniel. George and Jacob, John Barlet, Abraham Puntius and George Kern (who came with them as far as Cincinnati, where he remained two years, coming to this township in 1806). There were twenty-four families of them when they started from Pennsylvania, but they did not all get to the Twin Valley. Some dropped off on their way hither and settled elsewhere, while others remained so short a time that they cannot be claimed as pioneers of this valley. The names of all such have been omitted.
We can see from the above list that the 24 dwindled to 19, and then to 18 when one family returned to Pennsylvania, then to 17 with the death of Peter Gephart. The following year, in 1805, another group arrived that included Valentine Gephart, among others.
There is actually a very important clue in the History of German Township information, and that is that George Kern came as far as Cincinnati. This tells us that these pioneers only came part way by wagon, likely as far as Pittsburg, where they purchased rafts and floated downriver to Cincinnati. Had they come overland, they would not have dropped south to Cincinnati, as it would have been out of the way.
From Cincinnati, they would have headed north to what is now Montgomery County.
It’s “only” 270 miles to Pittsburg, or 27 days in a wagon, from Berk’s County.
From Pittsburg, the caravan of German settlers would have floated down the Ohio from Pittsburg to Cincinnati on a flatboat.
In Cincinnati they would have unloaded the flatboat and purchased or hired wagons once again in order to head for Montgomery County. It’s only 50 miles or so from Cincinnati to Miamisburg, in Miami Township, only a mile or so from where Catharina and Peter Gephart would settle, beside the Stettlers.
This “Miami Township” article by Jacob Zimmer, probably written in the 1880s, given that John Gephart died in 1887, tells us more:
It was in the spring or summer of 1804, that John Shupert, wife and six children, Christopher, Frederick, Jacob, Eva, Peggy and Tena, came from Berks County, Penn., locating about one mile southwest of “Hole’s Station,” where he and wife lived until death. Christopher was married and had one son, John, when the family located here, the latter of whom is now residing in the township. In the same colony from Berks County, Penn., came Peter Gebhart, wife and two children, John and Elizabeth, settling a short distance southwest of the station, where Peter died the same year. His son, John, now a very old man, is still a resident of Miami Township. Most of this colony from Berks County settled in German Township.
Hole’s Station became Miamisburg in 1818.
Another account of the 1804 journey is given in the book “Twin Valley” b J. P. Hentz, published in 1883:
They set out on their westward journey in the spring of 1804. Such a journey was at that time no small undertaking. It required many weeks for its accomplishment and was attended by no small degree of danger and hardship. The goods, women and children had to be conveyed by wagon over rough mountain roads. The country through which the emigrants had to pass was yet but thinly settled; wild beasts such as wolves, bears and panthers were still abounding in the forests; and Indians, more savage than savage brutes, were still lurking in forest and mountain fastness. At night they usually encamped by some stream, and whilst one party laid down to sleep, another kept watch around the encampment. Exposure and malaria often caused serious illness, and not unfrequently one fell victim to disease and was buried by the wayside. Our friends, on their way through Pennsylvania experienced many of these evils; they arrived however, at the time agreed upon in Pittsburgh without having met with any serious accident. Here they engaged river boats, on which they put their chattels and families, and then paddled down the Ohio River. Cincinnati was their destination by water. After a trip of about a week they landed at the latter place. This event occurred on the 20th day of June, 1804. From Cincinnati they went to New Reading, a hamlet not far distant where they arrived a fortnight, considering what next to do or where to next to direct their steps. A few of them found employment here and remained, but to the majority this did not seem as their Canaan.
They again took up their line of march, this time their course lay northward. They had heard of the Miami Valley and desired to locate in it, but they had no definite objective point in view, trusting rather to fortune and the guiding hand of Providence. Some distance north of Cincinnati they entered this Valley and were delighted with the country. It was so very different from the rugged mountain country which they had left in Pennsylvania. No mountains and rocks were to be seen here. The forests were much taller, the soil was more productive and the surface much more level than in the country from which they came. They passed over many an attractive spot where they might have located, but they moved on, doubtlessly prompted and guided by the invisible hand of Providence, until they reached the vicinity of the present site of Miamisburg. Here lived a wealthy farmer, whose name was Nutz, who spoke German. They were glad to meet a gentleman who spoke their own tongue. With him they stopped to rest and refresh themselves and after forming his acquaintance and finding him a genial and kindhearted man, they concluded to encamp awhile on his farm. It was now midsummer and the weather being warm and pleasant, they took up abode in the woods where they lived in wagons and temporary huts, for about two weeks.
A Mr. Philip Gunckel, being a man of superior intelligence and the only person among them who spoke the English language with any degree of fluency was for these reasons looked upon as a leader of the group. He searched the area looking for a proper location to build a mill, as he was by occupation a miller, “and at last found the object of which he was in search on Big Twin Creek, a branch of the Miami River. The precise point chosen by Mr. Gunckel was about 6 miles from the mouth of this stream, now within the corporate limits of Germantown. When he made known his decision to his companions, they all concluded to settle near around him. Upon this the encampment on the Nutz farm was at once broken up, the immigrants forded the Miami River, crossed over to the western bank ascended the steep bluffs adjoining and then traveled on in the direction of the Twin creek. And here, by the side of this stream, they rested at the end of their long and wearisome journey. Here now was their future home.”
Before winter set in, they had secured land and erected some sort of dwellings. The first winter was a long and lonely one. They had harvested no crops the previous year, nor had they earned anything with which to procure the necessaries of life, having spent nearly the whole summer in their journey. Provisions, even if they had the means would have been difficult to procure, as the settlers were but few and had just begun to clear away the forest, and did not raise more than their own wants required. Game was plenty, however. They did not starve during this winter, but they were obliged to live on a small allowance.
Early the following spring, they went to work to clear away the trees, turn up the soil and sow and plant. Their hardest work such as clearing, log-rolling buildings and harvesting was mostly done by crowds, collected together for the purpose from the entire settlement. They made, as they called it, a frolic of it; that is they united into a sort of one-family arrangement, and did their work by succession, first on one place, then on a second and third, etc., until they had made the round and had got through with all. They continued this habit of mutual assistance for many years and great harmony and good feeling prevailed among them.
Religiously, they were either Lutherans or Reformeds, and as in those days it used to be said that all the difference between the denominations was that in the Lord’s Prayer, the one said, “Vater Unser,” and the other said “Unser Vater.”
Unser Vater translates to “Our Father.”
Catharina’s husband Peter Gephart along with George Moyer filed a joint land claim after their arrival in 1804 and agreed upon how they would divide the land.
By December 1804, Peter was dead and Catharina, about age 30, was left in Ohio just months after arriving with 2 small children and few resources. Losing a husband is tragic, but losing your husband on the frontier just months after arrival and before becoming established, with no food or resources is a disaster. It’s a good thing there was a group of settlers, even though there were only 17 families, otherwise Catharina and her children might not have survived that initial winter. They obviously shared their food with Catharina and her children. By the winter of 1805, Catharina had remarried.
Were it not for the fact that Catharina was widowed, we would have little information about her life. For that matter, were it not for the fact that she was widowed, she would not be my ancestor.
Daniel Miller was appointed by the court to be the executor of Peter Gephart’s estate. We don’t know why, especially given that Catharina was Lutheran and Daniel was Brethren, but regardless of why, it was a fortuitous turn of events. It could possibly have been because Daniel also spoke German, although so did the rest of the Berks County group, although perhaps the Berk’s county group was not yet considered “established” or could not post the required bond. Furthermore, Daniel Miller may have spoken English as well, an important asset in dealing with the court. Daniel was also an Elder in the Brethren Church, so certainly considered to be a respectable man. And he lived close by.
Daniel’s son, David Miller, was 5 or 6 years younger than Catharina and either unmarried or a widower himself. I’d wager a bet that David set about helping Catharina with clearing her land and farm chores. After all, Catharina had a 3 and 5 year old child and couldn’t leave them alone to go out to chop trees and work the fields.
One thing led to another, and well, let’s say that human nature, being what it is, Catharina became pregnant in September of 1805, followed by Catharina and David’s marriage in Warren County, Ohio on December 13, 1805. Their first child, David B. Miller, was born the following June. In a small, conservative, community, that must have been somewhat of a scandal, because it’s not like no one would notice. Furthermore, while they were both German, they were religiously “mixed,” she being Lutheran and he being Brethren. That probably didn’t go over well with either group. However, it’s not like there were other Lutherans to choose from in terms of a spouse – the community was quite small, so maybe marrying a German was “the best” they could hope for at that time and both communities were more tolerant than they might otherwise have been. At least, I hope so.
Subsequently, David Miller was appointed guardian for Catharina’s two children, a very common event for a step-father. This guardianship would have been in relation to the land and any other resources that the children would stand to inherit from their father’s estate when they came of age, in 1820 and 1822, respectively.
The 1806 guardianship order records Elizabeth Gephart as being age 8 and John is noted as being age 5.
Probably about this time, Catharina would have converted to being Brethren from Lutheran. We know that David Miller remained a Brethren, as he would have been dismissed from the church had Catherina not converted. Whether she truly converted, or did so in name only to keep peace in the household and larger community, we’ll never know. One hint might be if we could determine whether or not her Gephart children were Brethren. If they were, she was. If they weren’t, then it’s unlikely that she converted in more than name only.
Given that Catharina’s son, John, is buried in the Stettler (Lutheran) Cemetery just down the road half a mile from Peter Gephart’s land and Elizabeth Gephart Hipple is buried in a non-Brethren Cemetery in Miamisburg, it’s unlikely that either child was Brethren. So, I’d wager that Catharina was technically Brethren, in name if not entirely in spirit.
In 1810, Daniel Miller as executor of Peter Gephart’s estate, Catherina Miller as his former wife and the mother of his 2 children, and David Miller as her current husband and guardian of her children petition the Montgomery County court and tell the court how Peter and George Moyer divided the land they patented together.
I wondered why this was done in 1810, and not before, or not later, for that matter. It turns out that the patent was applied for earlier, but not actually issued until October 1809 and then it was issued in the names of George Moyer and Peter Gephart’s two minor children, precipitating the need for a court order to sign deeds.
Montgomery Count court note on page 341 reflect the following:
May term 1810– Daniel Miller and Katharine Miller (late Katherine Gephart) with the consent of her husband David Miller administrators of the estate of Peter Gephart [state] that Peter together with George Moyer were [in] possession of 2 tracts of land as tenants in common in Township 2 range 5, section 9 and fraction of 10…land sold to Daniel Mannbeck, land sold to Christopher Shuppert…land sold to John Shuppert…to Miami River…corner George Moyer’s land…425 acres (Moyers share was 447 acres). Peter surveyed in his lifetime…sold quietly to George Jeaceable. Request to execute deed. Elizabeth and John Gephart are Peter and Catharina’s children. Daniel Miller, David Miller and Catharina Gephart sign.
This land is located on both sides of S. Union Road between Upper Miamisburg Road and Lower Miamisburg Road. Union Road divides sections 9 and 10.
Peter Gebhart/Gephart and George Möyer’s property ran between modern-day Upper Miamisburg Road and Lower Miamisburg Road from Jamaica Road east to the Great Miami River, across the river from Miamisburg. An irregular strip comprising a northern third of nearly 448 acres was allotted to George Moyer. Peter Gephart was allotted the middle third of over 445 acres. The southern third was arranged to be sold to Johannes “John” Shuppert (Shüppart), Christopher Shuppert, and Daniel Mannbeck, in three 106-3/8-acre parcels for $200 each, but Peter Gephart died prior to concluding the transactions, hence the petition to the court to complete the transactions as administrators of Gebhart’s estate.
Christopher and Hannah Shuppert sold their tract, the south-central tract, to Peter’s cousin, Heinrich “Henry” Gebhart, Sr., for $300 later in 1810.
The middle third is shown above, probably the area roughly demarcated by the brown field to the right of Union Road, if you drew lines east and west on the top and bottom of the field east to the Miami River and west to Jamaica Road. In fact, you can see the field lines, which likely followed the property lines, although the tract was irregularly shaped.
Interestingly, the Miamisburg Indian mound, attributed to the Adena culture, is located less than a mile away from the Schaeffer land. This would have been a familiar sight to Catharina. While cleared today, shown in a Google street view today, the area would originally have been forested as depicted in the drawing above.
1811 – A Year of Change
In 1811, Catharina served as executor for the estate of Peter’s uncle, Valentine Gebhart (1751-1810). This may have been the same Valentine Gephart that served as Catherina’s father’s estate executor, which would explain how Catharine met Peter. It’s unusual that Catharina was chosen to serve as Valentine’s executor. Perhaps she had a particularly close relationship with Valentine. Catharina and Peter’s cousin, Philip Gebhart sold three 160-acres tracts in Township 3, Range 5 East, Section 2 (Jefferson Township) around the town of Drexel. To me, Catharine settling the estate and affairs of Valentine feels like life coming full circle. Valentine probably functioned somewhat as a parental or favorite uncle role for Catharina.
Catharina’s mother died back in Pennsylvania on September 26, 1811. That sad news would have arrived by letter with the next courier coming to Ohio. It’s hard to imagine not being able to be with your mother at the end to comfort her, and to bury her once she had passed over. There was no closure, no life celebration, only the sad news and grieving alone or with anyone in the group who would have known her mother and shared Catharina’s sadness. To the best of my knowledge, none of Catharina’s siblings settled in Ohio, so other than Peter Gephart’s relative, Valentine, who arrived in 1805, Catharina was without family.
Fortunately, David Miller’s father, Daniel, lived just a couple miles away, so Catharina married into a new Brethren family when she married David.
Life on the Farm
Catharina’s life probably calmed down substantially and began to run much more smoothly after her marriage to David Miller, settling into the seasonal rhythmic routine of sew and reap, cooking and laundry, church on Sundays, marriages, births and burials in the churchyard. That never ending cycle.
From 1806 to 1818, Catharina had 7 children, so she was perpetually busy with 9 children and a husband to look after.
David Miller farmed the land that Peter Gephart owned, probably on behalf of the “orphans,” his step-children, and his wife’s share.
The 1810 tax list of Miller men shows David paying taxes on land in that same location, and the 1814 tax list is even more specific.
On this list, the last column indicates the individual who entered the land, meaning the original grantee. The land David is farming is listed as Moyer and Gephart – confirming that indeed, David is farming the Peter Gephart land. The second David Miller entry in Randolph Township is David’s uncle. Millers and Brethren Millers in particular are often very difficult to unravel, so it’s fortuitous that our David Miller did indeed farm Catherina’s land – because the location and land identifies the family uniquely.
That farming arrangement would work fine, until Elizabeth and John came of age, which happened in 1820 and 1823, respectively. At that time, the part of Peter’s land that was not Catharina’s dower right, typically one third of the value of the estate, would have become the property of the children, or would have been sold and the proceeds divided between the children.
That would leave David only to farm one third of the land, if that much, because the house would have been considered in that valuation as well, so the total acreage allotted to Catharina would have been less than one third of the total.
The 1820 census schedule in German Township, Montgomery County, shows us David Miller living beside John Gephart, his step-son.
David Miller has the following household members:
- Male 0-10 Samuel Miller b 1816
- Male 0-10 John David born 1812
- Male 10-16 David B. b 1806
- Male 26-45 David (the father)
- Male 45+
- Female 0-10 Lydia Miller b 1818 or Catharine b 1814
- Female 10-16 Mary b 1809 or Elizabeth b 1808
- Female 16-24 Susan b 1802 or Esther
- Female to 45 Catharina (the mother)
It looks like spaces for 3 daughters are missing, unless Esther has already married.
In 1822, David Miller’s father, Daniel dies. Apparently Peter Gephart’s estate has not yet been finalized, and David Miller along with Catharina both sign a receipt that was found in Daniel Miller’s estate papers.
This one “signature” of Catharina is her only known signature, and it appears that she cannot read and write. Obtaining Valentine Gephart’s estate packet might yield additional information about Catharina and additional signatures of hers as well.
Sadly, Catharina died about 1826, at about age 51, leaving 9 children in total, 7 of which had been born to Catharina and David Miller. Their youngest known child was born in 1818, when Catharina would have been about 44.
For a long time, for some reason, it was assumed that Catharine died in childbirth in 1826 – probably because so many women did. Now, based on her father’s estate records being located, we know that it’s very unlikely that Catharine died in childbirth in 1826, because she would have been roughly age 51, give or take a year. Given that her last child was born in 1818, this reinforces her birth year as about 1775 and reduces the probability that she died in childbirth 8 years later.
I wish we knew where Catharina was buried, but we don’t.
We can speculate a bit, based on what we know of the history of the area.
David may have buried Catharina near Peter Gephart. Of course, we don’t know where Peter is buried either, but the Gebhart cemetery was in use quite early – at least by 1815 and probably earlier. However, since Peter died so soon after arrival, it’s questionable whether a burial ground had been established in the location that would become the Gephart Church at that time.
David could have buried Catharina in a Brethren Cemetery, and if that is the case, it is likely Happy Corners, then known as Lower Stillwater, although that church was several miles away, in Randolph Township.
David could also have buried Catharina in the old cemetery on the land his father, Daniel owned up through 1815, which was only a couple miles away. It’s possible that if Catharine and David lost any children, they would have been buried there as well. However, since the Miller family no longer owned this land in 1826, this location is questionable as well.
David could have buried Catharina in the Old Lutheran Cemetery in present day Germantown. The cemetery was in use by this time.
David could have buried her in the Schaeffer Cemetery in German Township, although that’s probably not terribly likely either. It is unclear if and how Catharina would have been related to these Schaeffers.
A Miami Township map drawn in 2001 and copyrighted by Tom Midlam shows an unnamed cemetery on the northern part of section 10 of Miami Township which is the land owned by Moyer and Gephart. If the cemetery “cross” is located accurately, it would appear to be on the Moyer land. This cemetery is not named on the map, nor is it in the Miami County Cemetery Index. Given that information, it’s clear that this cemetery is an old family cemetery about which little information is available.
The area today is wooded, although it was likely cleared at one time. If Catharina was buried here, and the cross on Tom’s map is accurate, the cemetery would have been someplace in the forested area bordered on the northwest by Upper Miamisburg Road and South Union Road, at roughly the arrow below.
It’s also possible that Catharina was buried in the Stettler Cemetery, located about a mile to the south of where they lived. The Stettler Lutheran Church was formed when the Berks County group settled in the area and it’s also where Catharina’s son, John, is buried as well.
Hill Grove, where Catharina’s daughter Elizabeth is buried wasn’t established until 1863, so we know Catharina’s not there.
My gut feel would be that either Catharina was buried in the cemetery on the land just north of theirs that was presumably in George Moyer’s portion of the tract, or that she is buried in the Stettler Cemetery, because it was close by and her son is buried there as well. We know that the Stettler church was established very early and the residents would have had to establish a group burying ground as well, with perhaps Peter Gephart being the first – especially if the Gephart church wasn’t established yet.
One thing is for sure – wherever Catharina’s final resting place, it was a very sad day with a long line of stair-stepped children, ages 8 to 27, weeping for their mother.
The Early Churches
The Stettler Family tells about establishing the Stettler Church on the land owned by George Stettler who died in 1815 and is buried in the cemetery at the Stettler Church. This is also where John Gephart was buried in 1887.
There were two church congregations established early, the Lutherans and the Reformeds, commonly referred to as the Gebhardt Church and the Stettler Church, respectively. The land for the Reformed church was donated by the Stettler family in 1808.
The Stettler church is located just a mile south of the land owned by Peter and Catharine Gephart, as shown on the map above.
The Gebhart Church and cemetery is located East of Miamisburg, about 4 miles, and across the Miami River, from where Catharina and David lived.
There are marked burials here as early as 1833, and likely burials long before that.
It’s possible that Peter Gephart may have been the first burial at the Gephart Church in 1804.
Interestingly enough, according to the History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, Vol 1, the two churches shared a minister from 1808 until 1813. Lutherans living in Miamisburg declined to join either church, saying that the distance to Gephart Church was too great and the roads too bad, and that they were too poor to be ferried across the Miami River to the west side to attend the Stettler Church.
Catharina’s children with Peter Gephart:
Elizabeth Gebhart/Gephart was born November 2, 1799 in Berk’s County and died on August 29, 1884 in Miamisburg, Montgomery County, Ohio. Elizabeth married William Hipple on April 7, 1820 in Montgomery County, Ohio. She is buried in the Hill Grove Cemetery in Miamisburg, just a couple miles from where she grew up in Miami Township.
Elizabeth Gephart and William Hipple had the following children:
- Catharine Hipple (1821-1887) married Frederick Kolling (Colling) in 1842 and had 4 sons and one daughter, Mary Kolling/Colling.
- John William Hipple born October 5, 1822 and died November 20, 1893. He married Elizabeth Sherrits and they had 9 children.
- Sarah (Salone) Hipple (1824-1916) married John Tobias in 1846 and John Coleman in 1856. She had 2 sons and 3 daughters, Clara Elizabeth, Mary Hannah and Hallie Sue Coleman.
- Caroline Hipple (1828-1865) married Isaac Weidner and had 2 sons and daughter Amelia Aurora Weidner.
- Clinton Hipple (1830-1910) married Magdalena Tobias in 1849, Eliza Jane Stettler in 1852 and Catharine Stettler Shade in 1874. He had 14 children between all three wives.
- Jeremiah Hipple born in June 1834, married Matilda Tobias in 1849 and had 7 children.
- Rebecca Hipple (1826-1914) married William Roark and had 3 boys and two girls, Laura Jane and Ellen Roark. Rebecca later married Leonard John Dangler.
- Elizabeth Hipple was born in January 1839, married John Beck and had no children.
John Gebhart/Gephart was born on February 26, 1801 and died on January 19, 1887 in Miami Township, Montgomery County, Ohio. He is reportedly buried in the Stettler Cemetery, according to the family, although he doesn’t seem to have a marker. There are many unmarked graves.
John Gephart married Julia Ann Brosius in 1819. They had at least three children and probably more. This line is not well researched.
- Jacob Gebhart (1820-1902) married Sidney Ann Medlar and had 2 children.
- Peter P. Gebhart (1821-1856) married Sarah Shupert and had 5 children
- Magdalena Gephart (1823-1889) married George Schmidt Gebhart and had 17 children
- William Gebhart (1825-1891) married Mary Ann Bebhart and had 8 children.
- Margaret Gephart born in 1827 married Isaac Loy and died Nov. 23, 1900, age 73 years 6 months 17 days in Greenfield, Hancock County, Indiana. Margaret and Isaac had 9 children.
- Philip Gebhart (1829-1920)
- John Gebhart (1832-1904) married Elizabeth Kauffman and had 3 children
- Sarah Gephart born December 20, 1836 married Jacob Loy, died on June 1, 1913 in Pendleton, Indiana and had 7 children.
- Henry Gebhart (1837-1907)
- George B. Gebhart (1839-1907) married Nancy Cramer and had 5 children.
- Susan Catherine Gebhart (1843-1913) married George Washington Burnett and had 5 children
David Miller had two daughters whose mother is unidentified. We do have an avenue to determine whether their mother was Catharina Schaeffer or a previous, albeit unknown, wife. If a descendant of Esther or Susan Miller through all females from Esther/Susan to the tester, took a mitochondrial DNA test, we could compare it against a mitochondrial DNA test of a descendant of Catherina through all females descended from known daughters. If their mitochondrial DNA matches, they share the same direct maternal ancestor. If not, they don’t. Easy as pie. In the current generation, the tester can be a male but he must descend through all females.
Women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only the females pass it on. So everyone in the world carries their mother’s mitochondrial DNA that is passed to them directly from the matrilineal line, unmixed with any DNA from the father’s side.
I have a testing scholarship for anyone who descends from Catherina’s known daughters through all females to the current generation. I have bolded the candidate lineages for testing, above and below, through Catherina’s daughters.
The two indeterminate daughters are:
Esther Miller Lear/Leer was deceased at the time that her father David Miller’s estate was distributed in Elkhart County, Indiana beginning in 1853.
If Esther is Catharina’s daughter, she was likely named for Catharine’s sister, Esther Schaeffer. Esther is also a Biblical name.
We don’t know Esther’s birthdate, but one researcher shows her marriage to Abraham Lear (also spelled Leer) on December 30, 1824 and names their source as a DAR record.
We do know that Esther was married before 1827 based on her children’s ages. Unfortunately, these dates do little to narrow the range of her birth from “before 1806” to “after 1806” which is the dividing line in the sand that makes a difference in terms of the identity of her mother.
Esther Miller and Abraham Lear/Leer had the following children:
- Elizabeth Lear was born December of 1827 and died in August 16, 1913 in Holmesville, Gage Co., Nebraska. Her descendants show her birth date as December 5, 1825. She married Samuel Irvin in Elkhart County on May 11, 1845 and had 8 children including daughters Hilinda and Hettie Irvin.
- Susan Lear was born April 12, 1832 in Elkhart County, Indiana and died on June 5, 1907 in North Liberty, St. Joseph County, Indiana. She married Israel Irvin on April 23, 1852 in Elkhart County and had 7 children including daughters Mary Catherine, Matilda Jane and Dora Irvin.
- John W. Lear born in 1838. He married Samantha E. Shafer on September 18, 1872 in Elkhart County, Indiana. They had two children.
- Sarah Lear born in October 1840 (census indicated both 1840 and 1843 at different times) and died after 1910 in Marion County, Kansas. She married Israel Eliphet B. Riggle on October 2, 1862 in Elkhart County. They had 3 children including daughter Arvilla A. Riggle.
- Mary Lear was born probably about 1827 and died about 1850. She married John Liveringhouse on November 7, 1847 and had two children, William and Eliza Liveringhouse.
- Catherine Lear married Isaac Shively on December 26, 1852 in Elkhart County and died in 1886 in Allen County, Kansas. She had 8 childreni ncluding 2 daughters, Mary Alice and Sarah Shively.
- Hetty Lear married Henry Stutsman on April 30, 1857. They moved to Douglas County, Kansas and had 6 children, including 2 daughter, Mary and Martha Stutzman.
Susan Miller was born June 5, 1802 and married Adam Whitehead on February 17,1825 in Montgomery County, Ohio. She died on July 17, 1876 and is buried in the Whitehead Cemetery in Elkhart County, Indiana. Her birth is calculated from her age on the tombstone. If Susan is Catharina’s daughter, she would have been named for Catharina’s mother and sister, Susanna DeTurk and Susanna Schaeffer.
Susan Miller and Adam Whitehead had the following children:
- Mary Ann Whitehead (1828-1916) married Samuel R. Miller in 1847 and had 7 children including four daughters, Susan, Eva, Mary Jane and Sarah A. Miller.
- Elizabeth Whitehead (1829-1853) married Jacob Riggles and apparently had no children that survived.
- Esther Whitehead (1831-1910) married Daniel Shively in 1852 and had 3 children including 1 daughter, Susan Shively who lived to adulthood.
- John M. Whitehead (1833-1912) married Sarah Smith and had 6 children.
- Susana Whitehead (1836-1916) married Jacob B. Riggle and had 8 children, including 3 daughters, Catherine, Mary V. and Etta Riggle.
- Catherine Whitehead (1838-1919) married John Riggle in 1855 and had 3 children, including Lillian J. and Luna May Riggle.
- Margaret Whitehead (1841-1851)
Catharina’s Children with David Miller
David B. Miller was born June 3, 1806 in Montgomery County, Ohio, died on September 26, 1881 in Elkhart County, Indiana and is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery that is located on his father, David Miller’s, land. David B. Miller’s stone is 4 sided, with wife Christina buried on one side.
Two of their children are memorialized on one side. The third side is David and the fourth side is an inscription.
David B. Miller would have been named for his father. No one seems to have any record of what the middle B. stands for.
David B. Miller married Christina Brumbaugh before coming to Elkhart County and had 11 children.
- Catherine Miller who died before 1893
- William Miller born November 2, 1831, died November 4, 1831, buried in the Baintertown Cemetery.
- Jacob Miller (1832-1902) married Catherine Whitehead in 1855 and had 4 children, then married Catherine Harshman in 1871 and had 3 more children.
- Mary Miller (1835-1893) married Joseph B. Peffley in 1853. She died in 1893 in Manuel, Brazoria, Texas and had 9 children.
- Eve Miller born July 1836, died April 2, 1838, buried in the Baintertown Cemetery.
- John B. Miller (1839-1897), buried at Baintertown and was living with his parents in 1880 and was a physician.
- Michael M. Miller born December 1842 in Elkhart County, died Sept 5, 1854 and is buried in Baintertown.
- Elizabeth “Betsy” Miller (1844-1925) married Samuel Pagen/Pagin, a physician, in 1899, had no children according to the 1900 census and is buried in Baintertown.
- Daniel C. Miller (1847-1931) married Mary ? in 1885 and had no children according to the 1900 census. He then married Mary Kintigh in 1913 as a widower and is buried in Baintertown.
- Susannah Miller (1849-1948) married Josiah Rohrer in 1870 and had 4 children.
Elizabeth Miller was born on April 6, 1808 in Montgomery County, Ohio, died on January 16, 1891 in Elkhart County, Indiana and is buried at Baintertown. She would have been named for Catharina’s sister, Elizabeth Schaeffer.
Elizabeth married Michael Haney in 1827 in Montgomery County, Ohio. They patented land very near David Miller in Elkhart County and had 5 children.
- Matilda Haney (1834-1934) married John W. Baker in 1853. It appears that she died in Washington State. Children are unknown.
- Elizabeth R. Haney (1836-1900) married George Washington Alford and had 9 children including daughters, Eva, Jeanetta and Idealla Alford.
- Joseph Beane Haney (1838-1920) married Lucinda Whitehead and had 5 children.
- Mary “Molly” J. Haney (1844-1922) married Allen D. Gilkinson. Children are unknown.
- John Michael Haney (1847-1849)
Mary Miller was born in 1809 in Montgomery County, Ohio and married Jeremiah Bright on January 31, 1828 in Montgomery County, Ohio. Mary would have been named for Catharina’s sister, Mary Schaeffer.
According to the Elkhart County Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs, Mary and Jeremiah had five children, but I found evidence of 7 including two children who died young:
- David Miller Bright (1829-1905) married Elizabeth Rinehart, died in Leelenau County, Michigan and had 9 children.
- George W. Bright (1830-1852)
- John Bright (1831-1928), died in Fairfield, Ohio.
- Mary Bright (1833-1911) married John Garner Hall in and had one daughter, Sarah Jane Hall. Mary then married Jacob Alva Aurand and had 7 children including Mary Ellen Aurand.
- William Bright (1835-1917) married Catherine Wagner and had 5 children.
- Susannah Bright (1837-1838)
- Daniel Bright (1838-1840)
Mary then married Christian Stouder on September 11, 1842 in Elkhart County and had four more children:
- Lydia Stouder (1843-1893) married Samuel Neff in 1883 and had 6 children including Mary Alice, Anne and Desaline Neff.
- Christian Stouder (1845-1927) married Elizabeth Hohbein and her sister, Catherine Hohbein and had 6 children between the two wives.
- Samuel H. Stouder (1850-1891) married Margaret Rummell and had 5 children.
- Unknown 4th child
Mary died on October 22, 1863 and is buried at Union Center Cemetery, although her birth and death information was apparently never inscribed on her stone.
John David Miller was born April 6, 1812 in Montgomery County, Ohio and married Mary Baker there on January 24, 1832. They came to Elkhart County with or near the same time as David Miller. Perhaps John David is named for both Catharina’s father, Johann Nicholas Schaeffer and David Miller, his father.
Mary Baker and John David Miller had 10 children:
- John Miller – died as a child
- Catherine Miller – died as a child
- Samuel Miller – died as a child
- Unknown child
- Hester Ann Miller (1833-1917 married Jonas Shively and had 8 children.
- David B. Miller (1838-1922) married Susan Smith and had 9 children.
- Mary Ann Miller (1841-1915) married Michael Treesh and had 7 children.
- Aaron B. Miller (1843-1923) married Sarah Myers and had 5 children.
- Matilda A. Miller (1844-1935) married John Dubbs and had 6 children.
- Martha Jane Miller (1847-1935) married David Blough and had 7 children.
- George Washington Miller (1851-1917) married Lydia Miller and had 6 children.
John David Miller married second to Margaret Elizabeth Lentz, widow of Valentine Whitehead. They had four children:
- Evaline Louise Miller (1857-1939) married Hiram Ferverda and had 11 children.
- Ira J. Miller (1859-1948) married Rebecca Rodibaugh and had 2 children.
- Perry Miller (1862-1906) married Mary Jane Lauer and had 4 children.
Photo of John David Miller with Margaret and 5 of his children.
Catherine Miller was born March 17, 1813 and died September 24, 1876 and is buried at Baintertown. She was named for her mother.
Catherine married Conrad Brumbaugh in 1833 in Elkhart County and they had five children.
- John W. Brumbaugh (1835-1910) married Sarah Peffley and had 9 children. He then married Mary Kintigh and had 2 additional children.
- Lydia Brumbaugh (1838-1856)
- Eve Brumbaugh (1840-1891) married Daniel Riggle in 1857 and had 12 children, including daughters Laura Ann, Anna J., Sarah Lilie, Jennie and Kittie Riggle.
- Sarah A. Brumbaugh born about 1846, died after 1860.
- Joseph Brumbaugh (1856-1921) married Ellen Martha Hissong in 1889 and had two children who both died young.
Samuel B. Miller was born in 1816 and married Rose Ann Bowser. He died March 1, 1877 and is buried at Baintertown. They had seven children:
- Emanuel Miller (1838-1921) married Nancy Maurer and had 8 children.
- Mary J. Miller born (1840-1920) married James Alford in1857 and had 3 children.
- William H. Miller (1841-1915) married Delilah J. Alford in 1868 and had 5 children. He then married and Matilda J. Wahmeyer in 1898.
- Desaline Miller born (1845-1904) married Gustavoius Alonzo Latta in 1870, died of strangulation according to her death certificate, no children reported in the 1900 census.
- Albert J. Miller born (1846-1924) married Elizabeth Ulery and had 2 children.
- Charles C. Miller born (1847-1910) married Sarah and had two children.
- Cephus Miller born 1850, died after 1860.
Lydia Miller was born about 1818 in Montgomery County, Ohio and married John (Jonathan) Collier, also spelled Colyar, on September 18, 1834 in Elkhart County. She died about 1876. They had seven children:
- David Colyar born in 1837, died in 1916 in Kapowsin, Pierce County, Washington married Susanna and had 2 children
- Elizabeth Colyar (1838-1920), married Jesse Whitman and had one child, a son. She died in Lone Star, Douglas County, Kansas.
- Susan Louise Colyar (1839-1917) married George Jacob Hardtarfer and had 9 children including Lydia, Mary Louise, Minnie Bell and Ida Lenora Hardtarfer. Susan died in Douglas County, Kansas.
- Mary Colyar born in 1842.
- John Colyar (1845-1932) married Sarah Josephine Belden and had two children
- Catherine Colyar born in 1848.
- Louisa Emaline Adaline Colyar born in 1855.
Catherina Schaeffer’s Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA can provide us with an additional chapter in the life of Catherina Schaeffer Gephart Miller and her ancestors, taking us further back in time. Because mitochondrial DNA does not recombine with the father’s DNA, it’s passed intact from mother to child, but only female children pass it on. On the pedigree chart below, you can see that the red circles are the path the mitochondrial DNA is passed down to a brother and sister, both of whom will carry the matrilineal line’s mitochondrial DNA, but only the sister will pass it on. The brother’s children will carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.
In order to view Catherina’s mitochondrial DNA, we have to find someone descended from Catherina through all females to the current generation. In the current generation, the tester can be male, so long as he descends through all females from Catherina.
I have bolded female candidates in her list of children and grandchildren.
I have a DNA testing scholarship for someone who descends from Catherina Schaeffer through all females to the current generation.
I’m sure that Catharina didn’t mean to live such an adventurous live. Her life probably didn’t start out that way either. From the time she was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, until she left in 1804 on the wagon train, there’s a good possibility she was never more than a few miles away from home – maybe never even in another county.
That all changed in the spring of 1804 when she set forth on the adventure of a lifetime. By the end of 1804, Catharina’s life had changed entirely – and not in a good way.
The trip to Ohio must have been exhausting, and perhaps exhilarating too. I can’t imagine being on a flatboat with two young children. I would be constantly terrified that one of them would escape from my clutches and perish in a watery grave. Flatboats didn’t have guardrails. The only protection you had in that day and age was common sense and a dose of good luck thrown into the mix.
In general, the group knew where they were going, but not specifically. They knew they were going to Cincinnati, but beyond that, they were waiting on Divine Guidance to give them a sign. Flying by the seat of your pants, or in this case, riding in a wagon directed by the invisible hand of Providence must have been a bit disconcerting for Catharina. Maybe she just didn’t think of the danger. Maybe she didn’t understand the scope of the danger. Maybe she just gritted her teeth and clenched her jaw…and prayed for deliverance.
Regardless, not long after Catharina thought she can literally come through the Valley of the Shadow of Death unscathed and was finally safe, the danger became intensely real when Peter died before year end, leaving her on the frontier to fend for herself. I surely have to wonder how he died. He was a young man. Maybe he stood in the wrong place felling trees, or maybe there was some other type of accident.
A year later, in December 1805, Catharina was remarried and pregnant with her third child. On the frontier, an expeditious marriage was best for everyone. Being single meant survival was in jeopardy. Being a single mother was even worse. The answer was to join forces with another through the bonds of matrimony – and the sooner the better. Catharina did what she needed to do.
Catharina must have been somewhat of a renegade woman to be appointed as the executor of the estate of Valentine Gephart in 1811. The court obviously thought her capable, even though it was a very unusual move.
Catharina had small children in her life, sometimes several, from a few months after her original marriage in 1799 until her death in 1826. Her youngest child then was about 8 years old, but about the time that her own children were no longer toddlers, Catharina’s oldest children began blessing her with grandchildren. This could well have been the highlight of her life. Her golden years, so to speak, but they didn’t last long and there weren’t entirely golden either.
The blank spaces in-between known children’s birth years testifies to the 4 grandchildren Catharina likely buried. Two of those grandchildren were also probably born in 1826, which makes me wonder if there was some type of illness within the community that may have claimed Catharine’s life as well as two or more of her grandchildren.
It also appears that Esther Miller who married Abraham Lear and Susan Miller who married Adam Whitehead also lost children in or about 1826 as well. Esther may have lost two children. It wouldn’t have mattered if Esther and Susan were Catharina’s children or step-children, she raised them from the time they were toddlers one way or the other, and their children were assuredly her grandchildren as well.
If 1804 was tragic, 1826 was a grief filled year for the Miller and Gephart families as well, losing Catharine and four or five grandchildren in that timeframe in addition.
At the time of Catharina’s death she had 4 living grandchildren, three from daughter Elizabeth and one from son John. Additionally, it appears that Esther and Susan would have had three between them in the same time period, if they didn’t pass away at or immediately after birth. Catharina’s grandchildren fit right in at the end of her own stair-stepped children. There were always babies in her household, I’m sure. Laughing, giggling, lifting the spirits of the adults. There is nothing so infectious as a baby’s laughter.
Although Catharina didn’t know them, eventually she would have at least 78 grandchildren and 14 step-grandchildren through Susan and Esther, if they weren’t her biological grandchildren.
Get ready for a shocker here, because Catharina had more than 300 great-grandchildren and another 63 either step-great-grandchildren or bio ones, if Susan and Esther were her daughters. Wouldn’t Catharina, who only knew 4 of her grandchildren, briefly, be surprised. It’s sad that her grandchildren never knew her with her undauntable pioneer spirit.
As I reflect on Catharina’s life, I’m struck by both the tragedy and the tenacity that tragedy must have built in the young Pennsylvania Dutch wife in a foreign wilderness who didn’t even speak English. Whatever she had to do, she did it. Adversity separates those who would fail from those who would succeed, but success doesn’t mitigate either sorrow or fear, both of which had to be present on the Ohio frontier on a daily basis as she looked at her two children and wondered what would happen to them.
I’m sure Catharina wondered if she had made the wrong decision leaving Pennsylvania, whether they had let their heads full of dreams of the land tempt them into harm’s way, and whether she should go back to Pennsylvania and return home to her mother. Going back wasn’t nearly as easy as traveling westward, because there was no river to float down – the entire trip was by wagon. Men who went back typically just rode a horse, which was far faster but not an option for a woman with two children. For whatever the circumstances the future would bring, Catherina was firmly planted on the land above the bluffs near the Miami River here she would create a new life on the frontier, with a new husband, and build a family that would lay the foundation for the future of hundreds of her descendants.
Perhaps Catharina coped with tragedy by letting that “Invisible Hand of Providence” guide and comfort her not just during the trip to Montgomery County, but throughout her life and ultimately, through the experience of death.