Telling tale tales about spooky happenings are always fun this time of year. The Huffstutter family’s residence at Dyers Mill Forest in the Silver Run Valley of Maryland when the now legendary occurrences related below first happened adds a bit spice to the retelling.
My attention was drawn to a legend of hauntings at Silver Run mentioned in an article written Linda Morton for the Dec/Jan 2007 issue of Carroll Magazine. Ms Morton wrote: “As the story goes there is a lost silver mine on Silver Run. An early German silversmith who was friendly with the Susquehannock Indians learned the location of this mine with the stipulation he must never tell anyone about it. Among the items the silversmith created from his secret silver stash was a beautiful brooch given to his daughter on her thirteenth birthday. She was so delighted that she begged her father to show the location of the secret mine. Unable to refuse her wish he blindfolded her and took her to the mine. Along the way she broke branches to leave a trail and later returned to the spot with a friend. The Indians felt betrayed and killed both the German silversmith and his daughter. Their ghosts still wander the valley and the legend says they will continue until three persons have died looking for the mine. Thus far two have died in the search. There are many theories for the mines location but it remains a mystery to this day.”
Other accounts, in particular a children’s book by Lois Szymanski, called “Silver Lining” mentions a German settler on Silver Run named Ahrwed and his beautiful daughter Frieda. This account embellishes the story with the additional fact that when the Indians found out Ahrwed told the location of the mine to Freda and she in turn took her friend to the mine they became hopping mad. Not only did they bury the mine thus hiding it forever but Ahrwed along with Frieda and her friend were never seen again.
The legend continued to be retold as over the years a mysterious lantern light was reported gleaming eerily near Rattlesnake Hill, a local landmark where many people believed the mine was hidden. Some residents talked of headless bodies wandering aimlessly in the area.
Local newspapers have also kept the legend alive.
April 25, 1883 Hanover Spectator added more material to the legend.
“….A light, as of a lantern carried by someone was said to have often been seen moving across the hills toward the mine, which, if followed, would disappear; this light always moved in a uniform course, and was never seen to pass beyond the mine. A well authenticated story comes from a man who must have seen Old Ahrwud himself. This man was one night walking along a post fence, not far from the mine, when he noticed a stranger just on the other side of the fence, wearing a long gray beard, a big broad-brimmed hat, and carrying a lighted lantern. The stranger moved quietly with him until they reached a cross fence bounding the next field, when the stranger passed through the fence without raising his lantern and vanished. When this man was asked why he did not talk with the stranger, he answered, “He didn’t look as if he wanted to talk!” A farmer who lived near the mine said that he often saw this light and that he was one night coming down the Hanover road with his team when, at a point in the road where the woods reach from the road to the mine, his horses stopped and refused to go a step. He got off the saddle horse, and went forward, but could find nothing in the road; he then whipped the horses, without making them move, until he felt a breath of cold air across his face, after which the horses moved on as if nothing was wrong. He did not see anything himself, but the horses snorted as if in great fright. Another person spoke of a time when he was a boy, and was one night going near by the mine with his father…when his father with a sudden start said: “Did you see that woman without a head? She was nearly as tall as the trees!” The boy did not see the headless woman, but said that he saw a big fire burning on the top of the trees that same night.”
This article appeared in the February 7, 1885 issue of the American Sentinel
“The famous Myers’ District silver mine, about a mile and a half east of this place, was reopened a couple weeks ago by a young German who has only been in this country two months. The vicinity of the mine still sustains its reputation for queer appearances. The miner says that on Friday morning, 30th ult., at nine minutes past eleven o’clock, the hour the moon fulled, three curiously clad Indians carrying a lantern, appeared on the hill by him and disappeared in the woods beyond. One evening while he was digging by moonlight, they also made their appearance.–T.”
The (Silver Run) News, May 9, 1885. “Monster Seen”
“A Pennsylvania chap, whose sweetheart lives near Rattlesnake Hill, was wonderfully frightened one night a few weeks ago by seeing a large white fiery-eyed monster near the haunted silver mine in this district”.
What’s the truth behind the legend? One source hints that a family kept their savings safe from creditors in a chest buried on Rattlesnake Hill, scaring people away from the real treasure by using ghostly charades. While no ghosts have been reported prowling the haunted silver mine for a hundred years or more it is fun to ponder this old legend attached to the area where our ancestor Ulrich Huffstutter lived. You can’t help wondering if Ulrich and his family told the tale around the campfire one dark Halloween, long, long ago.
What did Ulrich do after he arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1749?
While this time period of his life is very sketchy we can surmise that by the mid 1750’s he joined other Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants as they moved into the then undeveloped areas of what is today Carroll County, Maryland. Since his first marriage occurred about 1757 he was probably hoping like many of the settlers to lease land from Lord Baltimore for one cent an acre, clear and plant crops and eventually purchase a small farm for his growing family. The first record we have for him is in 1766 when he purchased 100 acres from Joseph Dyer. This acreage was part of a tract of 1,169 acres called “Dyer’s Mill Forest” patented to Joseph Dyer in 1763. Several German families resided on portions of “Dyer’s Mill Forest”. They included the Bankert, Yingling, and Leman families. We can speculate because settlers often traveled in closely related family groups that one or all of them may have been related to Ulrich either from Switzerland or through his first wife whose surname, regrettably, we do not know. Our best guess then is that between 1749 to 1766 Ulrich was working hard, clearing land for a farm and beginning a family.
The tiny community growing up on Dyer’s Mill Forest took its name from a creek that flowed through it called Silver Run. Social activities revolved around common interests and included gathering in homes to worship God although several different denominations were represented. As they grew the lack of a local church was remedied in the autumn of 1761 when a small log building was erected along Silver Run using 15 acres from Dyer’s Mill Forest deeded to the “Dutch Congregation of Silver Run” by Joseph Dyer. The church, called St. Mary’s, was known as a Union Church because it served two different congregations, Lutheran and Reformed. The crude log structure was well built and survived for almost 60 years until 1821 when replaced by another building. While there is no evidence Ulrich Huffstutter ever belonged to a church we can be certain he participated in community activities around Silver Run and in the log church thus providing a small insight into his life during this time.
Continuing with the research clues provided by a study of Dyer’s Mill Forest it is good to examine old maps showing the patent tract names for surrounding farms. Close by was the adjoining tract called “Lewis’ Luck” just to the northwest of “OHaras Inheritance”. They were near “Youngblood’s Choice” which has a date of 1743, and “Resurvey on High Germany” 1752/53. Further details of the surrounding tracts are given by a deed made in 1837 when Abraham Koontz sold real estate to Joseph Warner for $1,188.77. The land in this sale included tracts totaling over 172 acres neighboring each other. These included Dyer’s Mill Forest, part Shumaker’s Lot, part Brown’s Neglect, and part Lewis’ Luck. Also mentioned are a boundary corner of St Mary’s Church [sic Silver Run] and lines running to the beginning of Bell’s Choice. Another detail was a stone on the south side of the turnpike leading from Westminster to Littlestown. [Carroll County, Maryland – Land Record Abstracts Liber WW-1 – 1837-1838 243]. The land tracts offer an interesting clue to Ulrich’s background by studying the owners surnames. For example “Brown’s Neglect” was owned by Daniel Brown who died and left a will in Frederick County, Maryland. Witnesses to Brown’s will included, Henry O’Hara, George Koontz, Mathias Snyder and Jacob Yingling who was named executor. Looking more closely a consideration of the possible Brown inter-connections reveals Henry OHara Jr., b.1767, married Margaret Brown, the daughter of Henry Brown, born circa 1740. Henry's sister was Rachel Brown, b. l742, who married Capt. Michael McGuire discussed in a previous blog on this site. It was to Michael McGuire that Ulrich Huffstutter sold his acreage in Dyer's Mill Forest.
These families were neighbors of Ulrich providing more names to consider for kinship to Ulrich, his first wife as well as a glimpse of how he may have met his second wife Mary Baxter, whose mother was a Brown. Perhaps, through learning more about the “neighborhood” of Silver Run we can discover the details of Ulrich’s personal life between 1749 to 1766.
You may remember the blog [11 August 2013] where some of our correspondence with Clay Jones concerning his ancestor William Washington Jones was discussed. To refresh your memory here is a bit of background from Henry Rideout’s book William Jones, Indian, Cowboy, American Scholar, and Anthropologist in the fields, p 7. “William Washington Jones–…By Katiqua the Fox chief’s daughter, he had three children, of whom only one is living, a son, born in Iowa in 1844. This son Bald Eagle, as his mother’s clan called him took from his father the name of Henry Clay Jones.”
Additional information regarding the family of William Washington Jones was received from Jacob Case Family Data, Clay Jones & Martha Louise Case, shared via e-mail from Clay Jones 7/22/13, 7/23/13.). “William Washington Jones …is said to have served in the Black Hawk Indian War acquiring his Sac and Fox wife and my g-grandfather Henry Clay Jones was born on the Iowa river near Tama, IA in 1844. There was a daughter as well who had moved to San Francisco but contact was lost after 1906.”
This is where things stood when we received independently of the previous research of Clay Jones another inquiry from family researcher Ron Schulz that offered more information on the Sauk and Fox Indians of Iowa and a tantalizing clue to the Jones family. Ron Schulz wrote: “I only just came across your Huffstutter Family website & this is the first I’ve been in touch. My ancestor, Sophia Jones was born in 1832 in Iowa according to the 1900 census. The story passed down was that she was part Indian. She, with or without any of her birth family, turned up in St. Charles County MO, where she married a 1st time to Jacob Crandle, before running off with my own ancestor William Ontis and eventually marrying him. In fact, she is the mother of all the Illinois branch of the Ontis family. Unfortunately I cannot find her on the 1850 census after years of trying, but I find that Indians and even many whites living with them in Indian reservations or territories were missed or left off before the 1900 census and tribal rolls did not begin until late 1880’s. A dearth of records to document her origins, except that a John “William” Jones born about 1843(?) married to Mary Pujol had 2 boys before supposedly dying in the early 1870’s, one of whom, Lewis Andrew Jones described as a nephew, turns up on the 1880 census in Jersey Co. ILL as a 12 year old boy with the Ontis family, his brother was raised by the Navarre family in Calhoun County ILL.
I’m just wondering if William Washington Jones, who also I cannot find on the census, might figure into the mysterious origins of my Sophia’s Jones. The only white people allowed in Iowa in the 1830’s & early ’40’s were traders or married into the Sac-Fox or Ioway tribes. Could WW have had other children before Clay?”
I was intrigued with Ron’s little puzzle and couldn’t resist hunting and pecking around the internet. That led to what appears to be another grandson of William Washington Jones through his only known child Henry Clay Jones and first wife Sarah Penny. Unfortunately I didn’t find any additional children for William Washington Jones and Kah-te-quah. The book about his life written by William Rideout mentions there were three children. Was one of them John William Jones, born about 1843? Who was Sophia? Could she be Kah-te-quah or was she the missing daughter mentioned by Jacob Case?
The mystery continues and awaits further proof.
June 26, 2014
Ever wonder what kind of ship Ulrich sailed on in 1749? It seems the most common type of ship in the seventeenth century for emigrants to America was a Northern European merchant vessel called by the Dutch a “Hoecker”, by the French a “Houcre” or “Hourque” and by the English a “Hawker” or “Hooker”. The vessel was described as having bluff rounded bows and sterns, with a high rudder and tiller fitted over the bulwarks. Some hoekers had pole masts, while others had the more usual separate mainmast with tops, shrouds and the rest. Here is an engraving to give you an idea of how crowded the ship must have been with all those emigrants on board.
Update Mathew Hofstatter gravesite
Background: Mathew’s grave was located by Ray Huffstutter in the Knupp Cemetery, Wayne County, Ohio in August of 2012. After much grass cleaning and some dirt removal with his bare hands Ray revealed the headstone for Mathew as well as establishing the graves for two of his daughters buried a few yards away.
New information on the markers at the Knupp Cemetery in Wayne County, Ohio was recently shared by Pat Houglan whose great-grandmother Jane Hoffstatter, married Abraham Weldy or Welday. Pat visited the cemetery and was able to dig around a few of the barely visible stones near Mathew’s marker.
Pat wrote: “I spent yesterday at Knupp’s!! and I found Matthew’s grave. What a pretty stone, ornate…I dug at the other two stones too. The one closest to Matthews was broken with no inscription, possible it was upside down? I could not lift it to see. The last stone was only the base for a stone. Matthew is there with at least two daughters and three grandsons.”
Now, all of us are curious about the heavy stone Pat was unable to lift and turn over. Who is buried there?
Thanks Pat for your efforts and this new information.
I couldn’t resist sharing with you some of the facts about one of the interesting relatives in the family tree of Mary Baxter Huffstutter, the wife of Ulrich Huffstutter. Mary’s aunt was Rachel Brown the wife of Michael McGuire Jr. an early Indian trader, hunter and trapper on the frontier. The McGuires lived near the Huffstutters both in Frederick Co MD and Huntingdon Co PA. It was to Michael McGuire Jr that Ulrich Huffstutter sold his farm “Dyer’s Mill Forest in Frederick County, Maryland in 1782. When the Huffstutters settled in Huntingdon Co it was near the McGuires. Doubtless the early explorations of the frontier by Michael McGuire furnished first hand accounts that influenced the Huffstutters in their move westward into Pennsylvania.
from The Benedictine Fathers in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, by the Rev. Modestus Wirtner, O.S.B. (1925), pages 11 and 12:
“The First Settlement on the Allegheny Mountains
“The history of Catholicity on the Allegheny Mountains begins with the first permanent settlement in Cambria County. Up to the year 1768 Frankstown, at the foot of the mountains was the last frontier settlement. Captain Michael McGuire, a hero of the Revolutionary War for Independence, was a noted trapper and hunter. Before the revolutionary struggle broke out, he was accustomed to start at intervals from his home in Taneytown, Md., and to make expeditions far into the interior of Pennsylvania.
“By a law of Pennsylvania, such as built a log house and cleared a few acres of land acquired a presumptive right to purchase at $5.00 per 100 acres. On one of his trips, about the year 1768, traveling up the Kittaning or Indian Trail, he crossed the Alleghenies and established his hunting camp near the present Chest Springs, on land later owned by Mr. Robert Sisk, then for over 20 years by Lawrence Sutton. This location is to be seen on an old draft of the country made as far back as 1793, which shows the exact location of “Captain McGuire’s Camp.” It is practically beyond all dispute that the Captain was, as Robert L. Johnston, the historian of early Cambria wrote, ‘The first white man who settled within the present bounds of Cambria County.’ Records, deeds, papers, etc., in the possession of his many descendants are more than sufficient to verify this statement.
“When the Land Office was opened Captain McGuire was among those who ‘took up’ land on which he subsequently planted the ‘McGuire Settlement.’ His first and for several years his only neighbors, were the settlers at Blair’s Mill, more than 12 miles away, with a dense, unbroken forest between.
“According to the Rev. Edwin Pierron, O.S.B., of Patton, John McGuire (who built the McGuire grist mill, about the year 1845, on the site which is now within the borough of Patton) in relating his reminiscences stated that his grandfather, Captain Michael McGuire, built a second log cabin near Ashville, which later became the homestead of Augustine Hott, Father Gallitzin’s hostler. No doubt the majestic oak trees at Loretto indicated better land, so he built, with the assistance of his nephew, Michael McGuire, a third cabin in 1784, at Loretto.
“The exact spot, chosen by him for a settlement was the valley just below the present town of Loretto to the east. In a short time a few log cabins were built, and these served for shelter and protection until more permanent structures could be erected. This land is now part of the tract owned by the Franciscan Brothers.
“Captain McGuire brought his family to McGuire’s settlement in the year 1788. In 1790 Luke McGuire, eldest son of the captain, took up his residence on the farm now owned and cultivated by his grandson, George Luke McGuire. He completed his house in 1794 and at present it still stands well preserved. Captain Richard McGuire the younger son of Captain Michael McGuire, was married in 1800, located and built in the vicinity of his brother.
“Taking advantage of the law, Captain Michael McGuire lost no time in providing for the church, for which his wonderful faith alone could have given him hopes, and took up 400 acres of land which he made over to Bishop John Carroll, who had been just consecrated, and returned to the United States. On this land Prince Gallitzin built the first church, used for divine services, between Lancaster, Pa., and St. Louis, Mo.
“The settlement founded by Captain McGuire attracted other pioneers to the Alleghenies, and he was soon followed by Cornelius McGuire, Richard Nagle, William Dodson, Richard Ashcraft, Michael Rager, James Alcorn and John Sturm. These were followed by others. John Trux, John Douglas, John Byrne, William Meloy and many others whose names together with the names of their descendants, are preserved in a Register of St. Michael’s Parish, Loretto. …
“In the summer of 1796 Father Gallitzin came here on a sick call. Mrs. John Burgoon, a protestant woman, was taken very ill (5), and begged so hard to see a Catholic priest, that Mrs. Luke O’Hara McGuire, a good Catholic neighbor and another lady set out on horseback through the wilderness of Conewago, 130 miles distant, to find a priest who would be able and willing to visit her. The message came to Father Smith, now revered as Father Gallitzin, who returned with them, and received the sick woman into the church. He said Mass in Luke McGuire’s log house, administered baptism to a number of children, and even to one or two adults, exhorted them to faith, prayer, courage and perseverance. After that he made several visits.
“In the beginning of 1799 there were ten or twelve families at the McGuire settlement, sometimes also called Clearfield, and also Allegheny. These people with those of Frankstown and Sinking Valley petitioned Rt. Rev. Bishop Carroll, D.D., to give them a resident priest. Father Gallitzin made this request his own and the Bishop cordially acceded to it. On March 1, 1799, Bishop Carroll appointed him pastor of Clearfield, Frankstown and Sinking Valley.”
Additional notes on Michael McGuire
In 1775, Michael McGuire, joined the Continental Army. He served as a captain directly under General George Washington. In 1787, he was awarded a land grant as payment for his service during the Revolutionary War. This meant he could claim all the land around which he could walk his horse from sunup to sundown. He had previously traveled through Central Pennsylvania and decided to stake his claim there.
At the time, he was co-owner of a tavern in Taneytown, Maryland. His partner, also a veteran, traded his land grant for Michael’s share of the tavern. Now Michael had two days in which to block out his territory. Naturally, he chose the time of the summer solstice! Upon taking possession, he became the first white man to inhabit that part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This land is largely in what is now Cambria County, Pennsylvania. Captain Michael McGuire died in 1793, bequeathing one-third of his property to Bishop Carroll of Baltimore, to be held in trust for resident clergy. Part of it became the Borough of Loretto. In 1796, Rev. Demetrius Augustine Smith (the alias used by the Russian prince/priest, Demetrius A. Gallitzin) arrived at McGuire’s Settlement, as it was then known. He saw the potential of the area as a sanctuary for Catholics and invested $150,000 of his personal fortune in land adjoining that which Michael McGuire had given to Bishop Carroll.
It is mainly because of McGuire’s largesse that Catholicism flourished in this region of the state, but Gallitzin’s legend of trading princely robes for priestly ones gets more attention. The town of Loretto has been under church control for centuries. It once included St. Francis Seminary, which was sold to the federal government when vocations to the priesthood faltered. It still boasts Prince Gallitzin’s Chapel House (historic site), the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, St. Francis University, and the Carmelite Monastery (strangely named, since it houses nuns). Retired Franciscans live at the former estate of Charles M. Schwab, steel magnate.
Prince Gallitzin is much revered locally. Presently, he is under consideration by the Vatican for canonization. The small town of Gallitzin was, of course, named in his honor.
Haven’t written for a while but it wasn’t due to laziness. The website has been busy exploring the outer reaches of the universe for answers to questions of curious researchers asking “Who am I and how am I related to the Huffstutters.” The answers weren’t easy to find and quite frankly we had to dance around in circles and still came up empty handed.
C. W. wrote the blog asking about one of my more colorful ancestors who managed to be murdered and in whispering voices we swapped family tall tales about the incident and hopefully laid some of the more messy details to rest forever. Lest the story become replicated ad infinitum on the internet I will refrain from repeating it here. For the curious who want the salacious details you know the drill—e-mail me!
B.B. from Tulsa, OK wrote wondering about some Oklahoma Hufstutlers that he has traced back to Hamilton County, Illinois. They are not related to our Ulrich as far as we know and within recent memory say the last 300 years or so but we do like to track anyone with the surname if for no other reason than to find out we are not related. (This is where the tap dance routine comes in.)
B.B. mentioned his direct relative George Hufstudler b 1833 married Martha Gunter b1846 in IL in 1863. In the 1860 Census, she is living at home with her parents on the farm/home next to John Huffstutler Jr. who has a 14 year old George W. Huffstutler living in his household. This George W. Huffstutler is not to be confused with George Washington Huffstutler b~1820, son of John Huffstutler, Jr or George Washington, Huffstutler b~1844, son of Solomon Huffstutler b~1819 and brother of above.
(Well B. B., I am confused already. Is that a tap dance you are doing too? Hmmm.)
Connie replied: The Huffstutler (all spellings) do seem to love the name George W. It is confusing. Just off the top of my head I checked the 1840 census for Hamilton Co IL and found 3 households for Hufstutler. There was John Hufstutler (age 50-60); Washington Hufstutler (age 20-30); and John Hufstutler Jr (age 20-30). Best guess is Washington Hufstutler is the same as George W. b 1820-1822, however his household in 1840 did not have a male in the age group to be your George. Neither did John Jr have a male in the household to fit age of your George. That leaves us with John [Sr?] who was age 50-60. He had 4 males under 5 and 1 male 5-10 so perhaps anyone of them might have been your George ba 1833. Now that does not mean they were sons of John (50-60). They might be grandsons just visiting for the day or something but it is significant that there were 5 males in his household in the approximate age to be your George. Certainly the 1860 census where your George is living in the household of George b 1820 shows there is a family relationship here.
Too early for conclusions but just wanted you to know I was working on your puzzle and thinking out loud.
Well folks, I am still dancing in the dark on this one. Perhaps the county records for Hamilton County, Illinois might shed some light. Have any of you dug in the Hamilton Co. IL records that might add to our knowledge? Does anyone know what happened to John Hufstutler? This family in Hamilton Co IL has a rather colorful history that goes back to Logan/Barren Co KY.
We’ll keep you posted on how it turns out, if we ever make the necessary connections and find out WHO were the parents of George W. Hufstutler.
In the meantime I will keep on my twinkle toe dancing slippers.
There is another piece to the “westward ho” story of those Giffin barrels mentioned in my previous blog. It appears very likely they did accompany Mormon wagons on the trek to Utah. At least we know Mary Jane Hoffstatter had a brother Elias Solomon Hoffstatter (1828-1903) and he married Luanna Bird Bybee. The significance of this is Luanna’s father was Byram Bybee an early Mormon pioneer to Utah.
Byram Bybee was a shoemaker by occupation and also a farmer. He and his family were living in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844 the same year as Mary Jane Hoffstatter’s marriage to Isaac Giffin. That was also the year Joseph Smith was murdered in Nauvoo and Luanna and her family attended the funeral.
The Bybee’s then moved to Missouri where Luanna married Elias Hoffstatter in 1847. Elias and Luanna Hoffstatter eventually settled in Davis County, Iowa but most of Luanna’s family went west to Utah. In fact, Byram Bybee, a man of many talents, built the wagons for his family make the trip. Is it any wonder we surmise the goods and supplies in those wagons were carried in Giffin barrels?
Thanks again to Margaret Schweda for alerting me to the Bybee family and their interesting history as well as the connection with our Hoffstatter family.
October 6, 2013
Farming was the most common occupation for the Huffstutter family for centuries and as far back as we can trace. So I am delighted to tell you our most recent discovery of a branch of the family who for several generations were members of the cooper trade. They were a dynasty of barrel makers.
This discovery that a Hoffstatter was connected to the cooper trade was made by Molloy family researcher Margaret Schweda related to the Huffstutter family through a marriage several generations back. Margaret is the great-grand niece of Douglas Giffin who married Annie Molloy and Margaret’s great grandmother, Margaret Molloy Nee (1863-1921), was Annie’s sister.
Margaret Schweda found that Douglas Giffin was the son of Isaac Giffen and Mary Jane Hoffstatter. Examining her discovery Margaret thought it very likely that Isaac Giffen’s wife Mary Jane Hoffstatter was the grand-daughter of Mathew Hoffstatter son of Ulrich Huffstutter. Accordingly she e-mailed the Huffstutter Family website and offered to share the Giffin family research.
Up until this time Mary Jane Hoffstatter was a mystery in our family database. Her line had not been traced and very little was known about her other than the fact she was born about 1826 in Ohio the daughter of John Hoffstatter and Sarah Taylor. Going over Margaret’s excellent documentation Ray and I heartily agreed with her conclusions. Thanks to the efforts of Margaret Schweda we have a complete picture of Mary Jane Hoffstatter [I 944] and her descendants who were coopers.
What is a cooper?
A cooper is a craftsman who builds wooden slatted containers such as barrels, buckets, or butter churns. There are different kinds of coopers. Although all are referred to by the term cooper, individually they are craftsmen with varying levels of skill, who produce specific containers for use in the home as well as business. For centuries no one could move or store commodities on land or sea without something functional, strong and dependable to put them in and wooden barrels were the best way to accomplish it. A skilled cooper was as necessary to any community as a blacksmith.
The “aristocracy” of the cooper world are the most highly skilled called “tight coopers”. Often referred to as a “Master Cooper”, the casks they produced were designed to keep moisture out for a long storage period. Working with oak wood their casks hold important items such as gunpowder, flour or whiskey. The Giffins were Master Coopers.
Mary Jane Hoffstatter’s family
Mary Jane’s husband, Isaac Giffen, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio where Giffins were among the earliest settlers. Located on the Ohio River, Cincinnati quickly grew into a major shipping and transportation center. The variety of goods passing through the city economically demanded active communities of skilled craftsmen whose services were required for commerce both overland and on the river. This offered .Isaac Giffin the opportunity to learn his craft of cooperage by serving a long apprenticeship. As a young man he followed the river traffic along the Ohio River and up the Mississippi River honing his skills as he journeyed westward. By the time he met Mary Jane Hoffstatter he was a “Master Cooper”, skilled in all types of cooperage.
They were married in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois 4 May 1844. This was during a very historic era in Nauvoo history. The Mormons under the leadership of their founder Joseph Smith had settled in Nauvoo about 1840. There is no evidence that Isaac and Mary Jane were Mormon but at the time of their marriage the Nauvoo Mormon community was embroiled in disputes with their non-Mormon neighbors. These conflicts led to the murder of Joseph Smith by an angry mob on 27 June 1844 a little over one month after Isaac and Mary Jane’s wedding. The violence and harassment caused the Mormons under the leadership of Brigham Young to move west and eventually settle in Utah. It is easy to imagine that some of the items on that wagon train were contained in barrels and casks made by Isaac Giffen.
Mary Jane and Isaac settled in Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa located on the Des Moines and Mississippi Rivers directly across from Nauvoo, Illinois. Keokuk was a major center for outfitting Mormon travelers for the trail to Utah and coopers skills and products were in great demand. The Giffins operated a successful cooperage, remaining in Keokuk the rest of their lives and producing 11 children. At least four of their sons (James W., John, Douglas, and George) became Master Coopers and one of their daughters Amanda A. married William M. Lucas, a cooper.
Unfortunately, during the lifetime of the sons the need for cooperage declined and wood barrels were replaced by metal, cardboard and plastic. But the romance and long history of their craft can be admired and happily included as a chapter in the Huffstutter family saga.
30 September 2013