German Origins of John Whitmer, Part 2

NOTE: The intent of what I am calling my family tree experiment is to encourage all genealogists to treat on line information as possible hints, clues or answers to empty branches on their family trees. I have been researching for 35 years and I still remember hearing stories about mistakes in books published in the 1800s(!) and how family historians were continuing to perpetuate myths that had been debunked years before. That was long before the internet was around. Errors abound in family histories found on line because the same thing is happening that happened in the 19th and 20th centuries. The difference is that the internet provides instantaneous contact with mistakes. My hope is that many of John Whitmer’s on line family trees will be updated so that future researchers have the benefit of accessing cited documents that they can read for themselves.

This is a continuing article, begun yesterday, of original research that I did in the 1990’s proving the German ancestral origins of John Whitmer of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. Please read yesterday’s post for further information.

Here is the next section of my article:

Johannes and Maria Elisabetha were part of a migration of Barbeloth citizens to Maryland in the 1750’s. Conrad Doll and the Holtz family were relatives of Maria Elisabetha who also settled in Frederick County.9

Johannes and his wife had been married for more than ten years, but apparently took only one surviving son, Johannes, with them to colonial America.

Although Schildknecht states that Johannes was in Maryland in 1753, the earliest written record of him that I have found is the Evangelical Reformed Church baptism of Elias “Widmer” on 20 Feb 1757, son of Johannes and Maria Elisabetha. Like four of his sisters, Elias probably died young because no further mention is made of him in any church or state records. On 28 Mar 1758, Johannes and Maria Elisabetha were sponsors at the Baptism of Maria Catharina, daughter of Conrad and Anna Catharina Dick.15

English speaking colonials had great difficulty with the spelling of German names, which were frequently anglicized. For discussion purposes, Johannes born in 1751 will be called John, but the various spellings of his name and the names of all others found in church and state records will be cited in this article as originally written.

Only one land deed has been found in Frederick County for Johannes Wittmer, and this deed is the link between Johannes of Barbelroth and Frederick, MD and John Whitmer of KY. On 22 May 1764, “John Whitmore” recorded a deed between himself and Daniel Dulaney of Annapolis, MD for Lots 230 and 231 in Frederick Town.16 This John Whitmore signed the deed as “Johannes Wittmer.” No further mention is made of Johannes in court, land or church records after this date, although wife Maria is on communion lists in 1766, 1773, and 1778.17 Also, a membership list of the Reformed Church in Frederick dated 1775 includes Margaretha, Maria Elisabetha and Johannes Wittmer.18 This Johannes is John, the son, as he was confirmed and received communion in 1768.19

There is an oath of allegiance administered to Frederick County men in 1776 that shows a John Whitmore Sr. and John Whitmore Jr.20 It is not known for sure whether either of these men is in this Wittmer family. However, there was a John among the family of Benjamin Whitmore of Frederick County, named in Benjamin’s 1769 will21 and the “Senior” and “Junior” designations on the allegiance list probably refer to Benjamin’s son, John, who was of age in 1769 ad “Senior” and John, the son of Johannes as “Junior.”

There was no mention of Johannes or how John came to own the land on 8 May 1779 when John Witmer, weaver, sold Lot 231 to Jacob Holtz, a cousin on his mother’s side.22 On 29 May 1784, John Wittmer, weaver, sold half of Lot 230 to Michael Wittmer, both of Frederick.23 On the second transaction, John’s wife, Catherine, released her dower rights. The final land deed transaction by John Whitmer in Maryland was in Apr 1785 when he sold Lot 230 to Jacob Koehler.24 (Jacob Koehler, limner, wrote a will dated 20 June 1785, which was witnessed by Michael Whitmore.25 The same man or possibly a son?)

There are numerous references to John Whitmer in Frederick church records. John first appears in these records on 16 Mar 1777, perhaps shortly before his marriage (his first child was born in Jan 1779). Johan Witmer was a witness to the baptism of John Meyer, son of Henry and Eva Meyer.26 On 23 Apr 1779, the marriage of Christian Juzler (Schustler?) and Elsabeth Dickkaut is recorded. Witnesses: Balthasar Dicckaut, Jacob Schnoutiget, Johannes Widmer and wife Catharina and Elisabeth Etschbergern.27 The third record, 9 Feb 1780, notes the marriage of Nicholas Klein and Margreth Schmid. Johannes Widmer and wife Catherine are again witnesses, along with Johannes Kaufmann and wife Catherine, Abraham and Magdalena Ditlo and Prt. (?) Schober.28 (One Johannes Kaufmann married Catharina Beckin at the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Middletown, Frederick, MD on 21 Apr 1776.) On 21 Apr 1782, Simon and Catharina Rapp baptized their daughter, Catharina, with Johannes and Catharina Wittmer as sponsors.29 Another record shows Johannes Widmer witnessing the 28 Sept 1783 marriage of David Schultz an Evan Mayern.30 Other witnesses included Conrad Doll and wife, Anna Maria, Rudolph Rohr and wife Anna Margreth and Maria Schustlern. Anna Maria Doll is the sister of Maria Elisabetha Holtz Wittmer. Catherine Whitmer may not have witnessed this marriage since two weeks previously she had given birth to her first daughter.

John Whitmer’s witnessing of Meyer and Schultz baptisms and marriages, along with a catechetical and communion list dated 177331 in the Frederick Evangelical Reformed Church listing Eva Margaretha Wittmer imply that Eva Meyer is his sister. He was a sponsor for her son, John, and he witnessed her second marriage to David Schultz. David and Eva Schultz were sponsors at the baptism of John and Catherine’s daughter, Catherine, in 1783. In addition, the will of Eva’s first husband, Henry Meyer, shoemaker, probated in July 1779, named wife Eva Margaretha, son Henry, daughter Anna Margaret, and was witnessed by Michael Whitmore.32 David Schultz was still in Maryland for the 1800 census but no other records have been searched for further information on Eva’s family.
Children of Henry and Eva Margaretha (Wittmer) Meyer:

i. Henrich, born 15 Aug 1776, bapt. 16 Mar 1777, Frederick, MD. Sponsor: Johan Witmer.33 Named in his father’s 1779 will.
ii. Anna Margaretha, born 20 Dec 1778; bapt. 3 Feb 1779, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.34 Named in her father’s 1779 will.

Children of David and Eva Margaretha (Wittmer) Schultz:

i. Maria Elisabetha, born 11 Mar 1784; bapt. 2 May 1784, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Valentin and Elisabetha Brunner.35 She apparently died soon.
ii. Maria Elisabeth, born 19 Aug 1785; bapt. 2 Oct 1785, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Valentine and Elisabeth Brunner. Died 11 Nov 1789, aged 4 years, 3 months, 9 days.36
iii. Catherine, born 9 Aug 1787; bapt. 23 Sept 1787, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.37
iv. Anna Maria, born 10 Jan 1789; bapt. 1 Mar 1789, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.38
v. David, born 3 Jan 1791; bapt. 25 Feb 1791, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.39
vi. Catherine, born 20 Nov 1792; bapt. 18 Dec 1792, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.40

No marriage record has been found for Michael Whitmer and his wife, Catherine, but preponderance of evidence points to her being a Steckel. Michael “Whitmore” is on the official poll list of the presidential election in Frederick County, MD from November 9-12, 1796. He was a Federalist.84

Administration of Michael’s estate was begun in October 1805.41 It included payment to Nicholas Holtz for Travel to Virginia to summon Michael’s children. Michael is not in the 1800 Maryland census, and having sold off the last of his land in Frederick county in July 179742, the family moved to Virginia. Michael must have returned to Maryland to complete some business and died there.

Children of Michael and Catherine (Steckel?) Whitmer:

i. Anna Maria, born 18 Aug 1784; bapt. 15 May 1785, Frederick, MD. Sponsor: Anna Maria Steckel, single.43
ii. Elisabetha, born 10 Apr 1786; bapt. 14 June 1786, Frederick, MD. Sponsor: Margaretha Steckel, single.44
iii. Michael, born 20 June 1788; bapt. 13 Dec 1788, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.45
iv. Catharina, born 9 Apr 1789; bapt. 20 Nov 1791, Frederick, MD. Sponsor: Jacob Kitweiler.46
v. George, born 20 Aug 1792; bapt. 19 July 1795, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.47
vi. Nicholas, born 15 Mar 1795; bapt. 19 July 1795, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Nicholas and Susanna Holtz.47
vii. Barbara Susanna, born 9 Nov 1797; bapt. 19 Mar 1798, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Joh. And Barbara Kopenhewer.48
viii. Margaret41

Widow Maria Elisabeth Wittmer died 6 June 1794,49 completing the information compiled in Maryland on John’s parents and siblings.

By spring 1785, John and Catherine Whitmer had three young children and had been active members of the church community in Frederick. Sometime between April 1785 and December 1786, when their son Valentine was born, the Whitmer family moved to Rockingham County, Virginia. Valentine’s baptism is noted in the records of the Friedens Church, along with that of his sister, Maria Elizabeth, baptized on 4 Oct 1788. The Friedens Church, located in Moutnt Crawford, is a union church, meaning that the building was held jointly by the Reformed and Lutheran faiths.50

John Witmore appears on the 1787 Rockingham County, VA tax list living near Jacob Witmore and Martin, son of Jacob Witmore.51 Jacob left a will naming sons Martin, Jacob, John and Daniel, but this John is well accounted for in Rockingham County, with a different wife and children born from 1802 onwards. Jacob arrived in Pennsylvania in 1754, was at Culpepper County, VA in 1761 and at Rockingham County in 1779.52 It seems strange that the two unrelated Whitmore families should be living near each other, but no link has been found between them in Maryland or Barbelroth.

John and Catherine were in Rockingham County at least until March 1792 when they were in court testifying in the Commonwealth vs. Keyser and wife, with John Whitmore and Catherine Whitmore each proving five days attendance for the defendant. (Valentine and Catharine Keyser were sponsors at the baptism of John’s son, Valentine.)53

By 1800, John Whitmore was taxed in Botetourt County for three white males over the age of 21 and five horses.54The third male is a mystery, since only John and his son, Jacob, born in 1779, were 21 or older. (Perhaps the male was his brother, Michael, who was not enumerated in Maryland?) In 1802, he bought 235 acres of land from Francis Greenlee.55 He also apparently changed his church affiliation to Methodist as his older children were married by Methodist minister Samuel Mitchell in Botetourt County in the first decade of the 1800’s. However, John must not have been happy in Botetourt County, or else land was too expensive, for in September 1808, he and Catherine sold 100 acres of land to son John Jr.56 and, in September 1809, another 135 acres were sold to Charles Seacutt.57 He and Catherine returned to Botetourt County from Kentucky in August 1810 to sell one remaining piece of land containing 100 acres to Catherine George.58 Perhaps son John sold his 100 acres back to his parents in an unrecorded transaction and John was ending his ties to Virginia.

The first land purchase in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky was recorded on 8 January 1810 when one John Whitmer bought 200 acres of land on Pond River from Daniel Landis.59 It is not possible to prove whether this purchase was made by John or his son. The tax rolls for 1811 and 1812 are unclear and an error may have been made in identifying each man. The 1811 tax list shows John Senior with no land and John Junior with 200 acres, but in 1812, the land holdings are reversed with John Jr. being landless and John Sr. with the 200 acres, even though no other land deeds are recorded in their names between 1810 and 1812.60 On 12 August 1812, one of the Johns sold 100 of those acres to Jacob Phillips.61 On 15 September 1814, Henry Hake recorded a deed in which one of the John Whitmers bought 8 ½ acres on Log Creek.62 This transaction may refer to John Sr. because in 1816, (the 1815 tax list is missing), John Sr. owned 110 3/8 acres of land.

The 1810 census listed John Whitmore as 11001-11001-0063, which would account for John, wife Catherine, son Michael, but it does not fit the ages of unmarried daughters Eva and Elizabeth and there is a male under 10 who may be an unknown son who died young.

Elizabeth Whitmer married Anthony Donohoo. Their family is not well documented, but they reportedly had a son, Michael, born about 1822 in Tennessee. Anthony Donohoo was from Sumner County, TN according to the 1810 census.65

In printed material about John Whitmer, the impression is given that John spent the rest of his life after 1810 in Kentucky. However, the Muhlenberg County tax rolls from 1811-1829 consistently list Whitmers being taxed until 1820. In that year, only John and Jacob were on the rolls. In 1821, not a single Whitmer was on the tax rolls, but in 1822, Valentine, Michael and Jacob reappeared. By 1823, John, John Jr., Michael, Jacob and Valentine were all listed. The 1823 Sumner County, TN land deeds show a land sale by Anthony Donohoo, no wife mentioned.66 Michael Whitmer reported that some of his children were born in Tennessee in the 1850 census enumeration.67This circumstantial evidence points to a trek to Tennessee in the early 1820’s by the whole Whitmer family.

On page 139 of the 1820 Muhlenberg County, KY census, John Whitmer’s household is enumerated as 000101-30101.68 John and Catherine were the oldest male and female. Son Michael was 24, and perhaps was the young male living with his parents, wife and children. He was taxed as a free white male over 21 with no land in 1819. However, less is known about John’s three youngest children than the others and the young couple and three young children could be any combination of those last three children, their spouses and young grandchildren of John.

Part 3 will be posted tomorrow.


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