A Sketch of the Kaler Family for Three Hundred Years
By Samuel P. Kaler
March 15, 1899
Looking back nearly three centuries – the line of dissolving tradition and crumbling record is just entering the border line of descending night. There is the dim picture of one, who, like others of his line, has long since reached oblivion.
We do not point to him as a celebrity, or even the possessor of a coat of arms. He was a simple minded, sturdy, honest Switzer, whose blood still courses our veins, and beyond whom we do not even conjecture.
The archives of the churches and church yards of the little Swiss Republic are a marvel of accuracy, stretching back through the centuries, yielding information of priceless value. Otherwise, we could go back but one century with this narrative.
Heinrich Kehler was born in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, April 24, 1651. He was a weaver by trade, limited in means and knowledge though equal to his environments. He took part in the wars and disturbances of his country when past his seventy-fifth year. He died at the place of his birth October 3, 1755, at a little more than one hundred and four years; leaving one child, Johannes, the fruit of a second marriage late in life. Of his wives we have no account, save the one sentence of record: “Surviving him lives his wife Elizabeth and son Johannes.”
Johannes was born in the same Canton on July 26, 1714. In 1745 he married Catrout Millenbaugh, a stout, cheerful dame, his junior by several years, who contributed largely to his success in life. He was a devout Lutheran, a leader of the church and its record keeper for many years. He was well-to-do and one of the important personages in the quaint old village that nestled on the shore of Lake Zurich. He became a manufacturer of woven fabrics, or rather an employer of those who wrought by the simplest methods of the day. He was for some years, a member of the legislative body of his country, and for a time its presiding officer.
Three children were born to Johannes and Catrout Kehler. One daughter drowned in Lake Zurich during her childhood. A second married unhappily and died without issue. The only survivor of the line was Heinrich, the only son, who was born January 19, 1762.
Heinrich Kehler came to America, landing at Philadelphia in May 1781. It was in the gloomy days of the patriots that preceded their ultimate success. Heinrich went at once into the war and became the personal servant or attendant of General Nathaniel Greene, and was with that brilliant officer in his campaign against Lord Rawdon. In the retreat from Ninety-Six, neither the General or his servant stopped to eat or sleep for thirty-two hours. At the battle of Eutaw Springs Heinrich received a musket ball in the abdomen, but remained with his command until the cessation of hostilities and lived to see the new republic well established.
The close of the war left him without employment and his all in the world was about $1900.00 in continental money. The greater part of this worthless scrip he gave for a quart of cider and began life in the new world penniless. Gen. Greene secured him employment with a man in Baltimore named Leedon, where he worked and lived economically until 1788, when he married Catharine Frien, who was a domestic in Mr. Leedon’s family. This marriage was solemnized Feb. 16, 1788 by Rev. Gutschaff, and thereafter on the advice of the officiating clergyman he wrote his name Kahler. Within a few days after the marriage he went to Monheim township, York County, Pennsylvania and bought sixty-eight acres of land paying for it $240 in gold. In October of the same year Mr. Leedon took them to their new house in a wagon.
The married life of Henry and Catharine Kahler was without special event. They improved their farm and made a good living. They spoke the Swiss language with eh Pennsylvania corruption and became the parents of seven children, three sons and four daughters.
Mrs. Kahler died September 21, 1805, three days after the birth of her daughter, who was named Elizabeth. The child was raised by a woman named Mrs. Berry.* Henry then married a woman named Baily who led him a turbulent and unhappy life and thereafter he saw but little of his family. No children were born to this last union.
Henry Kahler is buried at St. Paul’s Evangelical Church near Green Burr about three miles from Loganton, Clinton County, Pennsylvania.
The children of Henry and Catharine Kahler were::
John, born June 11, 1790
Barbara, born October 17, 1791
Catharine, born February 14, 1794
Mary, born May 14, 1797
Jacob, born July 23, 1799
Henry, born January 20, 1803
Elizabeth, born September 27, 1805
*During the summer of 1806 John Kahler called at Mrs. Berry’s and found his sister with the family in the field. She was sitting in a wash basket when he kissed her good-bye and never saw her but once after and that was on his visit to Pennsylvania from Ohio. He often spoke about her bashful daughter (now Delia Smith) sitting on her lap.
The descendants of John Kahler are the diret line we are tracing. The other sons died without issue and all of the name living today are descended from John. We now make brief mention of the other children of Henry and Catharine Kahler.
Barbara married John Dangler and moved to Putnam County, Ohio, long before the middle of the century. She died December 25, 1877, near Ottawa, Ohio. She was the mother of twelve children. Two daughters are living today and numerous descendants , among whom are: Sarah Wing, Miller City, Ohio; John Hiram Dangler and Henry L. Dangerl, Antwerp, Ohio; C. A. Dangler and Jacob Dangler, Ottawa, Ohio, Jesse Dangler, Miller City, Ohio; Austin Dangler, Haviland, Ohio, and many others in North Western Ohio and Michigan.
Catharine married a man named Cooper Stay and moved to Cecil County, Maryland and has been lost to her relatives for more than fifty years.
Mary died at the age of sixteen, unmarried.
Elizabeth married a man named Lamey, and died at Loganton, Clinton County, Pennsylvania, April 19, 1876, leaving a large family. Her children still living are Delila Smith, Loganton, Pennsylvania; Michael Lamey, Millheim Center, Pennsylvania; Rev. William Lamey, Port-Treverton, Pennsylvania; P. H. Lamey, 2014 North Sixth Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Lydia Smith, Renoro, Clinton County, Pennsylvania, and Lizzie Mullaney, 93 East Main Street, Bradford, Pennsylvania.
Jacob Kahler was a quiet man and never married. In 1834 he went to Crawford County, Ohio where his brother John then lived. He came on horseback carrying some money. After staying some time with John he bought a piece of land in Richland County, some six or seven miles north-west of Mansfield. He later returned to Pennsylvania and made his friends a visit. He came back and worked near Bucyrus, on the Albright farm making brick, and while there visited his brother two or three times, but was never seen again by relative or friend. Sixty long years of waiting, longing, and looking has brought no tidings.
John made every effort to find his brother. He went to Ashland, Ohio about fifty miles to consult some spiritualists who were revealing wonderful secrets. Without telling them his mission they told him he had come seeking a lost brother. They bid him go home, saying that his brother had been murdered in Holmes County, Ohio.
Some years after John, in company with one Kincer and another neighbor was going to Monroeville on the old Sandusky, Mansfield and Newark railroad (now B & O). A gentleman approached and asked if he had not heard him called Kaler. On receiving an affirmative reply, the gentleman, a young Mansfield lawyer named Brinkerhoof, who afterward became a man of national reputation, asked him if he did not have a brother named Jacob, who went away mysteriously. He said: “I have been hunting you for five years. Lawyer Purdy, of Mansfield, sold your brothers land on Power of Attorney and has the money.” John engaged Brinkerhoof and Geddes and visited Purdy who could but admit the facts, but claimed Jacob was alive and in Sandusky City. Another fruitless search was instituted, after which Purdy paid the money without interest to John Kaler. It was thought Purdy knew something of Jacob’s mysterious disappearance.
Henry Kahler died Feb 2, 1825 at half past eleven at night. He was an extremely bashful young man. During the month of August 1824 he was working for a neighbor and at the dinner table he saw a louse in the butter. Too timid to pick it out he ate it and immediately took to vomiting, rupturing some internal organ and never recovered. He lingered until winter and died.
Many of the facts of this chapter are from the lips of John Kaler himself. I recall fragments of many conversations with him that have been of great value to me in this work which I took up before his death in 1875.
John Kaler was born in Monheim township, York County, Pennsylvania on the 11th day of June 1790, and on the 22nd day of August was baptized into the Lutheran church.
Elizabeth Kaler, nee Bieber, only daughter of John and Catharine Bieber, nee Folk, was born in Franklin township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, February 24, 1791, baptized into the Lutheran church April 24, 1791.
In his fourteenth year John learned the shoe maker’s trade with a man named Ruch in the same township. This man’s son, Charles Ruch, who was a child at that time died in Columbia City, Indiana, about the year 1896.
John readily learned the trade and soon made good wages as journeyman. He remained with Ruch until married. During harvest time he would go over into Maryland to reap wheat with a sickle. I have often heard him tell about his trips to the Chesapeake and to Havre-de-grace. In the fall of 1895 I visited that country and often wondered if he could know the place if alive.
March 10, 1810, John Kahler and Elizabeth Bieber were married and lived together more than sixty-three years.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century John Bieber was one of the wealthiest men of this country. He had large landed possessions in Berks and other counties, a store and large iron works.
He was separated from his wife at the time John Kaler married his only daughter, and in the estrangement, as is most natural, the daughter sympathized and lived with her mother on a separate and meager allowance.
Divorce proceedings were then pending but under the Vine and Fig Tree of William Penn, a decree could only be granted after long and vexatious litigation. The decree was finally granted with an allowance to the wife, but the daughter could only take by devise, by which she unfortunately only took one thousand dollars.
Catharine Biever married again, moved to Indiana, and raised another family, but her daughter only heard from her a few times through old friends in Pennsylvania, and we have no trace of her.
John Bieber married the woman through whose intrigue the separation from his first wife was brought about. A son was born to them within a few months of their marriage. Through reckless extravagance was installed in his home where formerly had been frugality be continued to accumulate wealth until his declining years.
Some years after John and Elizabeth had moved to Ohio, on the invitation of John Bieber, they returned to Pennsylvania on a visit. He received them cordially, but they refused to be the guests of his wife and he entertained them at a public house.
They coolly repelled his advances toward reconciliation, at the supreme moment. The son by the second marriage was a graceless and wicked profligate, and the father at the age when the forgotten ties of early years come thronging back on the memory. The parting was formal to a coldness. No communication ever passed between them again.
On his death bed he desired to will Elizabeth an equal share with the son, but the wife made the will for him and Elizabeth was cut off with a single thousand where it should not have been less than a hundred thousand. Friends offered to render all needed assistance in contesting the will. Henry, the oldest boy, urged and entreated his parents to contest it, but they would not do so.
The wife died in penury. The son did worse – died a wretch in an alms-house, and the fortune that would have made the Kaler family comfortable to the third generation was strewn to the winds.
Some of these facts seem to us of a more practical age like fairy tales and yet they are true. The contrast between the lives of a half century ago and those of this generation is as plainly discernible as the improvement that has convulsed the world.
Immediately after his marriage in 1810, John set up business for himself. No peg or nail was driven or thread pulled by machinery in those days and the trade was a lucrative and important one. He did a thriving business at once and in 1811 he bought a farm depending on continued good times to pay for it.
The second war with England came and this seemed his opportunity. He secured a contract from the government for three thousand pairs of shoes for the soldiers at a seemingly profitable figure, but prices rose and the material became scarce. He was drafted into the army and taken away for several months. Reverses followed rapidly one upon another, and his business went to waste. He lost all he had paid on the farm, nearly a thousand dollars.
He was resolved to go to the Wild West, as Ohio was then called, but could not go without some money and to secure it the energies of himself and wife were now bent. On the very spot of his ruin he begun to build anew. He began shoemaking as he said “on a small scale” and paid all his debts and bought another piece of land, about thirty acres.
During the married life in Pennsylvania, from 1810 to 1828, eight children were born to them. The oldest Peter and Catharine died in childhood, and no record was kept of either their birth or death. The others were Henry, John, Elizabeth, George, Jacob, and Charles.
In 1828 the long resolve was put to practice. The little farm was sold. The “h” was dropped from the name and John Kaler and family turned their faces westward. Peter Arter and family started with them. The Arters were too well known to the Kalers to need further notice here. They lived and died near the Kaler homestead in Crawford County, Ohio, and I think their original home is yet in the hands of their descendants.
John and Elizabeth desired to go to the Wilds of Ohio, purchase a large farm and keep their children about them. They succeeded quite well. Nearly all their children to the third generation followed them to their graves.
They left York County the latter part of April or early in May, 1828, and pushed westward as rapidly as they could with their wagons, fording streams and following Indian trails. The famous pikes had already been cut over the mountains, and that part of the journey was most pleasant and easy. As they were nearing the Ohio line, John Kaler fell sick and was scarcely able to ride in a wagon. Mansfield was the objective point, but his sickness determined them on a different course. He had a distant relative on his mother’s side named Sanbel, living in Harrison County, Ohio, and they quickly made for that place, quite a little out of their route. He reached Sanbel’s completely exhausted, sick and discouraged, and the children helpless and hungry. The Arters remained over Sunday and then pushed ahead for Richland, now Crawford County.
The sickness did not yield to rest and treatment, and the family gave up for the time, and not wishing to be a burden on their friends, rented a small farm, and Elizabeth with the boys put out a crop of wheat in the fall of 1828. It was thought the father could not recover and hope almost died out.
Toward spring of 1829, he began to improve and hope revived. Before spring opened up he began work at his trade and the boys put out a fair spring crop. He had determined to start forward after harvest of 1829, but owing to his good trade and good crops, it was finally abandoned until spring of 1831, when they again gathered up their effects to complete the long deferred pilgrimage.
The older boys always looked upon the residence in Harrison County as their golden days. It was well their young hearts were not crushed by the circumstances that compelled their stay.
My father has often told me of a large flat stone, large enough for the entire foundation of a barn, which was their favorite play ground.
It was during their stay in Harrison County that my father nearly deaf. When I was but a child grandmother told me he was the best boy to mind her she ever had, and her first notice of his deafness was when she told him to do some errand and he did not hear and did not go. She took a burdock root and cut it into small beads and strung them on a string and fastened it to his neck: three beads before and two behind, and left them there until it wore away and fell off. Poor grandma, she believe it sincerely, and I revere her memory too much to loose faith in her declaration that it entirely cured him. His hearing was good until two or three years of his death when it was somewhat impaired, though not seriously for one of his age.
Slavery existed in all its vigor in Virginia, now West Virginia, but a short distance from Harrison County, and to some extent lingered in Ohio. Henry, the oldest boy, here saw the most brutal treatment of a slave and it so fixed the evil in his mind that he became an abolitionist, and espoused doctrines so widely at variance with the opinions of the rest of the family, that they were never wholly reconciled.
Three more children were added to the household during the residence here: Mary Ann and Rachael, twins, and Samuel, after whom I was in part named.
When Samuel was three weeks old his mother went to the field to work, leaving the babe in my father’s care. When it cried he gave it some thick sour milk. It nearly caused its death but survived, and Uncle Sam was always the eccentric and runt of the family. Up to his death he was told it was owing to the sour milk.
The journey from Harrison County to Crawford County in the spring of 1831 was fullyas hazardous as the former journey through the Keystone state. The intervening country was very wild and covered by dense forests and numerous treacherous swamps and the woods were full of wild animals and Indians.
The trip took near three weeks and led through the then village of Mansfield, estimated by grandfather to contain about twenty-five houses. They stopped over night at the Old Weiler House, the proprietor of which was an old neighbor and acquaintance from York County.
Here they learned that their old friend, Arter, lived some twenty miles west and north from Mansfield. It was the same farm on which Arter and his wife died. The south-west quarter of section 19, in Vernon Civil Township. Being Congressional Township XXI, Range XX, west.
They procured a guide and made a very early start in a long day, with the intention of reaching Arter’s before nightfall.
They passed over the spot on which the town of Crestline now stands and about where Bucyrus street is now located, the wagon stuck in the mud and came near swamping the horses. It was all the whole family and guide could do to get them out and delayed them a full hour.
The exact location of the Arters was not known by the guide and darkness coming on they finally gave themselves up for lost, and prepared to spend the night as comfortably as they could in the woods. One of the boys, I think Henry, in wandering around saw at some distance a light from burning brush or logs. The pilgrims set up a yell which soon brought the Arters to them with hickory torches. They were within a quarter of a mile of Arter’s cabin. The guide returned to Mansfield in the morning and the family domiciled with the Arters.
Arter, knowing of their coming had been on the look out for a choice piece of land for them, and had bargained for one, subject to John Kaler’s approval on his arrival. The first day after the arrival it was inspected, the purchased approved and $150 in silver paid for eighty acres to a man named Varley.
He afterward sold the land to a family named Shutt, and it is still known as the Shutt farm. It was about four miles north west from Arters and entirely in the woods. It is the west half of the north-west quarter of section fourteen (14), Township XVII, Range XVI west. Sandusky Civil Township, one half mile north of the farm Henry Kaler sold when he moved to Indiana in 1861.
For three weeks the Kalers enjoyed the hospitality of the Arters in the one room log cabin, where the ten or a dozen children and four heads of families filled all the floor space at night, some of the boys sleeping out of doors on the brush. Within this time the scattering settlers for miles around came together on an appointed day, and built a house, fully as pretentious as any in the country, and did it between daylight and dark, without a cost of expense: the assistants bringing their corn bread in their pockets. It was a round log hut 18x20 feet with a split puncheon floor across one end for a sleeping room. The balance was without floor. The chimney was of mud and split sticks. The fire place built of green wood against green logs.
This was the first home of John Kaler in Ohio. I saw its ruins about 1867 or 1868. It was a tumble down shelter for swine. Within its walls in the summer of 1831, was gathered all the Kalers from which the numerous family of today descended.
My father used to tell me how proud they were of their own home. Mrs. Arter dismissed them with her blessing and a piece of “real white bread and butter” for each child.
The trials of the family now commenced in the wilderness. The father had hope with the lusty boys about him, that he could soon carve a comfortable home and establish the name in America, which thus far had been a failure.
There were but twelve families in a Congressional township of 36 square miles and all but three had come that same season. The swamps were full of wolves and they would come at night and sniff through the unstopped cracks in the cabin. Father said he saw wolves in daylight within a few rods of the house. Winter was now coming on and no food to eat, but the woods were full of wild turkeys, deer, squirrels, and other animals, and grandfather being a good hunter kept the larder supplied with these, else the family would have suffered continuously for food.
The family went to work in dead earnest and in the spring of 1832 they had several patches cleared and fenced with brush and planted them in corn, so that in the fall of 1832 they had plenty of Johnny cakes and as the game grew more scarce, farm products took its place.
There was no need to raise corn for the hogs. They subsisted and grew fat on mast and nuts. The hogs were very hard to keep as they would stray away and turn wild.
The laborious task of clearing the forest went on well with father and boys, though the father worked mostly at shoe-making and the family was getting along fully as well as their neighbors, and their farm was one of the best improved in the country; when they sold it in 1840 to the Shutts, for eight hundred dollars.
John again conceived the idea of going west, and with his son Henry and a neighbor we always called “Dutch Brown” took a trip through Mercer, Allen, Van Wert, Hardin and Williams counties on foot, carrying his silver with him.
When they reached the little village of Timochta in Wyandot County, they came upon a band of Indians on a drunken carousal, dancing and giving the war whoop. They were quite afraid but the Indians were so occupied with their orgies, that they gave the three travelers no notice. Just after passing the town, they were obliged to cross a stream on a foot log. Just as Henry stepped on at one end, a drunken Indian started on the other. They met in the middle and he pushed the Indian into the stream, where he lay with only his head out of the water as long as they could see him. The father chided him for so doing saying that he had perhaps imperiled all their lives. Then Brown became quite brave and said: “See what I have got.” He pulled out a large jack knife, which being hard to open, he had put a strip of cloth under the blade, leaving the ends so he could quickly pull it open. To show the success of his scheme, he gave the ends a quick jerk, cutting the cloth in twain leaving the blade shut and the pieces of cloth in his hand. He exclaimed: “Gots Hell now was de Kots um baum droven.”
It was on this trip they visited the Danglers. Barbara would not own him, even did not seem to remember she ever had a brother John. He finally said; “Do you remember your brother John sitting on the bed teasing you, when you threw a chisel, and cut a wound in his shoulder leaving an ugly scar.” She remembered and was convinced on seeing the scar. For many years thereafter the families frequently visited each other. I remember seeing Barbara Dangler and one of her daughters at our house as late as 1868.
On the return trip all three became so much fatigued carrying the silver that he left it with an Indian Inn keeper named Armstrong at Upper Sandusky without even taking a receipt for it. He told me this story himself, but I cannot remember that he told me why he did so foolish a thing, and I cannot see why Henry would allow him to do so.
When he reached home the general alarm of the family, caused him to see how foolish he had acted and returned on the second day following on horseback, and was overjoyed to have the Indian hand him the shot pouch apparently as he had delivered it.
He did not want to betray any fears by counting it over in the presence of the Indian, but hurried away to count it over and found every cent in its place.
He was satisfied to remain in Crawford County and purchased the north-west quarter of section 24, township 17, Range 16 west in Sandusky township. This is a half mile south and one mile east of his Shutt farm, and that much nearer the Arters.
This was a choice piece of land and he learned that a speculator named Leonard Case in Cleveland had it for sale for $800. He carried his $800 to Cleveland on foot, bought his land, paid for it and brought back his deed. He afterward made one or two trips to Cleveland on foot. This was in the fall of 1840 or early in 1841.
During the life on the Shutt farm two more children were born, Cyrus and Jesse.
The work of making a farm began anew, and by aid of the boys, there was soon transformed from primeval forest, one of the best farms in Ohio.
The first log house was much more pretentious than the one on the Shutt farm and answered the family until the present frame house was built in either 1849 or 1850.
The first definite recollection I have of the place was in 1858. It had a large commodious frame barn with sheds attached and a well and pump under the shed. This barn burned after I moved to Indiana, I think in about 1876 or 1877, and has been succeeded by another frame barn. At the period I mention the old house still stood, but was not used except as a receptacle for trash. My childish recollections is of going into crack and eat walnuts. The old people still owned and controlled the home and farm and were surrounded by all the comforts if not the luxuries of farm life.
The children were numerous, and had married into as many different families. Grand children were multiplying, and the large family grew away from itself, each into a different life circle.
The parents were quite old, grandfather about 68 and grandmother a year younger, and encouraged by some of the children, they sought to end the cares of farm and home and rely on some one else in life’s setting.
The old farm was dismembered. Five acres off the east side was given or sold to Charles. Jesse, the young, got 60 acres off the north side with the stipulation that he was to keep his parents one third the time, and Jacob got the rest to keep them the other two thirds of their life, and some settlement was made with other members of the family. I have never been curious enough to inquire into the exact terms of the arrangement.
Jesse transferred his contract to his sister, Rachael and her husband and they sold it in 1863 to a stranger. It subsequently sold for $95 per acre.
Jacob and wife were left the sole care of the parents, and they so failthfully executed the trust as to dispel all criticism and rendered their lingering days as comfortable as heart could wish. They were sorely afflicted. Grandma partially lost her mind, and though clearly rational on some subjects, was clearly insane on others. At the time her son Cyrus died of flux, she was severely afflicted with it and was singularly susceptible to several bowel attacks thereafter. It was an attack of this kind that seized her about the 28th or 29th of June 1873. Myself and wife visited her on July 1st. The following day she died, and was buried on the next, July 3rd at Sandusky, where now most of the bodies of their descendants gone before had been moved from Loss Creek cemetery.
The funeral service was by the old pastor Ruth, whose memory is so dear to us and whose life is a cherished book in my library.
Grandfather was almost totally paralyzed for over a year before his death. I would gladly banish his picture from my memory, as I see him yet sitting on his chair with just enough life to be living, and scarcely able to speak a word intelligently. His life went out so slowly and gradually that it was almost difficult to say where temporal life took on the spiritual. He died on January 11, 1875, which as I recollect was on Friday. He was buried on Sunday.
I regret that at grandfather’s funeral good old Father Ruth was fairly pushed aside by Adam Kline, an eccentric character of a minister, well known to the family, who by reason of being with grandfather quite a little in his last hours, was invited to assist in the services.