Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Johann Caspar Kieffer, Our 6th Great Grandfather (Williamson Line)

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!
Snow in Utah County on April 9. I suppose it isn't unusual. It's that strange time of year when one day it is in the 70's and the other snow. One doesn't know what to expect next.

Today in our digital family reunion we learn about our 6th Great Grandfather Johann Caspar Keiffer. Although there is some disagreement as to the exact birth and death dates, there is uniform agreement on the fact that he was born in Waldmohr, Kusel, Rheinland, Germany around 1704. He died in York County Pennsylvania in the mid 1700's.

Relationship Chart

Johann Caspar Kieffer and Maria Glockner
Anna Kieffer and George Phlegar
Abraham Phlegar and Anna Goodykoontz
Arabella Phlegar and Jonathan Willis
Margaret Ann Willis and George Matthew Williamson
William Jonathan Williamson and Effie Helen Victor
Charles Williamson and Elda Vercellino
Charles Williamson and Luella Mae Mattson

Johann Casper traveled from Waldmohr Pfalz Germany to Port Rotterdam in the Netherlands departing Rotterdam aboard the ship "Two Brothers" on July 20, 1748 and arrived in Philadelphia, PA on Sept 15, 1748 with Abraham Kieffer (brother), Johan Nicholas Kieffer (brother's son) of St. Wendel's, Saar, Abraham Kieffer Jr.(son) of Breitenbach, Johan Peter and Johan Theobald Kieffer(brother's sons) of Zweibrucken. The Two Brothers Ship log listed his name as Casper Kiefer.

Caspar was listed as a communicant of the First Reformed Church (in operation 1744-1761 and was called Trinity Reformed at Hellam from 1745-1757) at Kreutz Creek, Hellam Township., York County on 1 Jan 1754. On 24 May 1763 he was listed as a subscriber for building of the new log church. The Old Kreutz Creek Cemetery lies east of the present Kreutz Creek Church. In it, about in the middle, on the eastern side, the first log church building was erected in 1745. He is also listed in the records of Evengelical Reformed Church, Frederick Co., MD.

The Kieffer History:
In the later days of the 15th century, about the year 1470, there was born in southern France a male child who was named Michel. Near the turn of the century, approximately 1500, this Michel had a son named Michel. This young Michel came to be occupied as a barrel maker in Orleans near Paris. It was about this point in time that it became the custom for people to take surnames, and as was a popular custom, Michel adopted the name of his occupation, becoming Michel le Tonnelier, for in France, a 'tonnelier' is a barrel maker.

Around the year 1540, Michel had a son whom he named Thibaud. This Thibaud grew up about the time reformation was taking place throughout Europe, and Thibaud became a Huguenot (French Calvinist Protestant). The name 'Huguenot' is believed to have derived from Bezanson Hugues, a Swiss religious leader. The Huguenots followed the teachings of John Calvin and were identified with the Reformed Church.

When Thibaud le Tonnelier left France in 1563 (nine years before the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre when Queen mother, Catherine de Medicis, allied herself with the Duke of Guise, and together, on August 24, 1572, they slaughtered 3000 Huguenots in Paris and tens to hundreds of thousands more over the next several months - six days after the wedding of the king's sister to the Protestant Henry of Navarre), he crossed into Germany in the area known, by the Germans, as the Pfalz. It is also called the Rhineland Palatinate.

Thibaud is said to have settled at Kettenheim which is a very small village near Alzey, a bit north west of the city of Worms. There at Kettenheim, Thibaud became engaged as a blacksmith, changing his name to the German equivalent, Theobald Küfer meaning a 'barrel maker' in German (Küfer is the correct German spelling). More familiarly, he was called 'Dewald' which was the popular nickname for Theobald.

Theobald married late in life and had only one son, Michael, born abt 1600. This Michael, in turn, was the father of three sons, Jacob, Michael, and Dewald who supposedly came to America in 1683 with Francis Daniel Pastorius to help settle Germantown, now a part of Philadelphia. But there is no mention of them in any records of the group who were with Pastorius. They may have been on the same ship, but not with the Pastorius party. They returned to Germany in the spring of 1684.

In the year 1688, Kettenheim was in the total destruction area of the French invasion. Everything in the town was destroyed except for one building, known as the 'firehouse' (the 'modern' town of Kettenheim was built up during the 1690s). The Küfers probably scattered to nearby communities. The eldest son of Michael, Jacob, had five sons, Michael, Valentine, Frederick, Leonardt, and Jacob. Michael and Valentine supposedly emigrated to Canada. DeWald supposedly returned to America in 1689. According to the 'Ohio document', a paper handed down through the years in the Michael Küfer family, DeWald Küfer, the youngest of the three sons of Michael, had four sons, Abraham, Caspar, Martin, and Michael. Church records however identify Abraham and Casper as the sons of Leonardt.

Although the area where our ancestors lived in Germany is now referred to as the Rhineland Pfalz, in the days when Thibaud le Tonnelier first moved there, it was known as Palatinate. About 1620, this area was separated into the Upper and Lower (or Rhenish) Palatinate. It is the lower Palatinate, of which Speyer was the capital, which is now the Rhineland Pfalz.

According to historians, great numbers of Palatinates emigrated during the 18th century to avoid further war, to enjoy economic improvement, or to obtain additional religious freedom. Those who came to America settled mostly in New York or Pennsylvania, probably because these two states were the most like the homeland they had known. At some point while in Germany Küfer became Kieffer.

Historical Reference of Palatine, Germany
Religious persecution, political oppression, and harsh winters drove thousands to Pennsylvania. They came from Germany, France, Holland, and Switzerland. The Germans began to abandon their homeland as early as 1606. Persecutions and murders spurred from the Reformation and Thirty Years War (1619-1648) between Catholicism and Protestantism, paralyzing the Palatines.

As the Palatinate was ravaged by wars, their boundaries were also unsettling. Wars, like the War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697), and the war between Holland and France during (1674-1675) also negatively affected the Palatines.

As the devastation mounted so did the emigrations, resulting in approximately 100,000 Palatines to settle in Pennsylvania alone by 1750.

Why Pennsylvania?
William Penn traveled to Holland and Germany, in 1677, four years before obtaining a charter for Pennsylvania in 1681. A good reference to understand his philosophy and to understand why the Palatinates chose to follow him is explained in William Penn's Journal of His Travels in Holland and Germany, in 1677, first printed in 1694.

Genealogical Clues
From 1682 to 1776, Pennsylvania was the central point of emigration from Germany, France and Switzerland. Most of the 18th century German emigrants were from the Palatinate.

It was probably due to Penn’s tolerance for religious and political freedom that your ancestor emigrated to Pennsylvania. So, to connect this philosophy and the timing of your ancestor’s immigration, you may be able to pinpoint your ancestor’s homeland even closer.


  1. I stumbled upon this site while researching some of my family lines... apparently Johann Casper Kieffer is a shared relative. I'm a 7x Great Granddaughter in Ohio.

  2. I am the 7x Great Grandson of him also. I am desended from him through his son Abraham, his son Gorg Fredrich Kieffer, his son Henry Cooper, his son Thomas Cooper, his son Austin Cooper, his son Giles Cooper, and his daughter who is my grandmother, Alberta.

  3. I too am related to Michel le Toonelier via Abraham & George Frederich Cooper.My grandma was Zelma Cooper Graham (1883-1971) from Okla via Kent.

  4. One of Johann Caspar's daughters, Maria Elizabeth, married my 6X Great Grandfather, Nicholas (John Nicholas "Johannes") Beal.

  5. I don't have the paper in front of me at the moment (my grandmother has it) so I can't say how far out Johann Casper Kieffer is from me, but he is a distant relative of mine. The line leads straight down to my Cooper relatives. Love finding new relatives!!