American Generation 2
Andreas Kessler (1746 – 1809)
Andreas came from Germany with his family at age 5 and settled in Frederick Co., MD. There is little direct information about Andreas but his marriage and children are well documented. Edgar and I visited Frederick, Maryland in the 1990s and I observed a topographical map of the Jefferson area that identified three different Kessler farms in close proximity to each other. Unfortunately, we did not make a copy of that map for our records.
Andreas purchased some of his father’s land and some land for his farm on the edges of what is now called Jefferson, Maryland, 12 miles south of the City of Frederick. Andreas’ father, Johann George Bernhard died in 1792 and a few years later Andrew relocated about 150 miles northwest to Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1796. Donegal Township is located in Westmoreland County about 50 miles southwest of present day Pittsburgh. He lived and farmed in Donegal Township until his death in 1809. Andreas was a member of the Evangelical Reformed Church. He is buried in the Keslar Family Cemetery located near Salt Lick Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
Why Did Andreas Kessler Move from Frederick to Donegal in 1796?
Westmoreland County is located about 150 miles from Frederick, Maryland so it was no small decision to relocate from the family home of almost 50 years to the western wilderness that was to eventually become the Pittsburgh area. Roads were non-existent at the time and consisted of old Indian trails that had been somewhat widened when the British Army traveled to the region to fight the French and Indian War in the 1760s. So the decision to make the move was significant. The challenge is more complex because of the mystery in understanding why Andreas and some of his children made the move but others remained in Frederick.
It is clear that Andreas and his sons Peter, George and William relocated from Frederick to Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1796. John Newton Boucher in his book: “History of Westmoreland County Pennsylvania, Volume I” noted the following: “Among the old families was the Kistler family, the father, Andrew coming from Germany to Maryland, and then moving to Donegal Township in 1796. Other early settlers were Andrew Harman, who was killed by the Indians; William R. Hunter, the Millhofs, Virsings, Shaeffer, Havses, Gettemys, Jones and Blackburns.”
Donegal Township in Westmoreland County and Salt Lick Township in Fayette County are located near each other and about 50 miles southeast of present day Pittsburgh. During the late 1700s this region was still a wilderness and settlers often were attacked by Indians. Even though the French and Indian War took place in the 1760s at Fort Duquesne near Pittsburgh, Indian tribes continued to resent infringement by the settlers and would often attack, kill and burn settlements. Here is an example of a description illustrating this point: “In the later years of the eighteenth century small colonies of pioneers settled in the Ligonier Valley near Fort Palmer, Fort Ligonier and Donegal township. These were troublous times because the restless savages were a constant source of danger and the people built their cabins within easy reach of the forts and blockhouses to which they were compelled to flee for refuge from the turbulent Indians.”
In trying to understand why Andreas, Peter, George and William and their families relocated to this region there is anecdotal evidence that they were seeking to relocate to a less-developed area. In 1796 George Washington completed his second term as President. In the 1796 election John Adams, a Federalist who advocated a strong federal government defeated Thomas Jefferson who advocated a restrained federal government and who was an advocate for farmers such as Andreas. The Residence Act of 1790 had determined that the emerging federal government would be located on the banks of the Potomac and not far from Frederick, Maryland. It is entirely possible that Andreas resented what was happening and decided to seek a more rural and remote place to live.
In the Official Poll of the Presidential Election of 1796 Andrew Kessler’s name appears as a voter, substantiating his appearance in the Census of 1790. He is listed as a Federalist which is the same party as George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. I believe that this is Andreas’ son (also listed in this census are Andreas’ other sons, Jacob and John). It is possible that Andreas and his son Andrew had substantial disagreement over the election which might partially explain why Peter, George and William accompanied Andreas to western Pennsylvania but Andrew and the other sons did not.
Included below is a map of Donegal Township from 1876. There are numerous citing of relatives on this map who are mostly children of Peter Kessler and grandchildren of Andreas, including William J. Keslar, J. W. Kesslar, and E. Kessler. One of the maps has an insert of Donegal Township and one of the homes in the town is labeled A. Keslar. Many are buried in the Keslar Family Cemetery located in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. There is also a road in the areas named Kessler School Road which is named after William and his involvement with the local school district in the mid-to-late 1800s.
The names on the maps including William J. Keslar, J. W. Kesslar, and E. Kessler are likely the children of Andreas’ son Peter. William J. Kessler was born in Donegal on Oct. 20, 1817 and died in 1876. Agnes Kessler was born in 1805 but her death year is not known. She could also be the A. Keslar living in town in 1876. J.W. Kessler is John Wesley Kessler, Peter’s grandson and William J. Kessler’s son, born in 1845 and 31 years old at the time the map was made.
How did the Western Pennsylvania Kessler family become Keslar and Kesler?
Although there is not clear record of how the name evolved from Kessler to Keslar and Kesler, it is likely related to the fact that most of the ancestors were farmers who were either semi-literate or not literature. Farming ability was valued more than formal schooling. The first U.S. Census was conducted in 1790 as often those hired to collect census data, especially in rural areas, also were more likely semi-literate and likely to phonetically spell the names as they were communicated to them. Often older census content is difficult to read, reflecting the challenges and likely accounting for variations in surname spellings.
In April, 2017 I received an e-mail from Richard J. Kesler (Rich). Here is what he said:
“I recently received my Family Tree DNA report and it shows we are related. I saw your email address there. I am able to trace most of my family to Europe but am unable to get very far with my surname, Kesler with one “s.” Maybe you can help? Here is a brief version of my tree:
Richard J. Kesler – John P. Kesler – James C. Kesler – Richard C. Kesler – Jacob H. Kesler 1844 – 1916 – Jacob Ulery relation unknown (I am from Ohio and Jacob was from PA)
After researching the mystery, and knowing that we are genetically related, we concluded that Jacob H. Kesler’s mother was probably Elizabeth Ulery and his father was probably John S. Kessler who was born 1/11/1813 and died 3/6/1845, the year after Jacob was born.
Elizabeth was 28 in 1850 and that would make her 21 or 22 years old when Jacob was born in 1844. Her birth year would be something either 1822 or 1823. This suggests that John and Elizabeth married before 1844, parented Jacob in 1844, and then John died sometime in 1845. That likely explains why Elizabeth remarried a short time later, to Jacob Ulery.
According to the 1850 U.S. Census, Jacob Ulery was 5 years younger than Elizabeth. And according to the 1840 Census for Salt Lick, John Kesler lived only 3 or 4 properties away from a Peter Ulery in Saltlick. We can assume that John and Elizabeth Kessler knew the Ulery’s and that perhaps they even hired young Jacob Ulery to work on their farm. It is possible that they named their son after him. That would have created a sense of responsibility in Jacob Ulery that would explain his willingness to marry Elizabeth after John’s death and to raise his son.
In the 1860 Census Jacob & Elizabeth Ulery are 33 and 38, respectively. There children include Jacob Kesler, 17, Mary Elizabeth Ulery, 12, and Sarah A. Ulery, 10. It is not known why Mary and Sarah were not listed in the 1850 Census.
One curious fact is that both John S. Kesler and his older brother Elias Kesler died on the same day, March 6th, 1845. Efforts were made to locate newspaper or other obituary information explaining what happened to them, but no information could be located. This suggests that their deaths were not health-related but were in fact traumatic.
A final note related to this part of the family history. The preceding work was accomplished by “walking the roads” of Salt Lick. This means finding a relative in the Census for a particular year, and then going page-by-page through that Census, observing who lived near whom, and looking for relatives living just down the road. It takes a lot of time and patience to do this, but its fun.
While “walking” the 1850 Salt Lick Census it was learned that a third son had accompanied Andreas to Westmoreland County. Initially it was believed that Andreas traveled to Westmoreland/Fayette County with two sons …. Peter and George. By examining the 1850 Census it was determined that Peter was there – age 70 with wife Mary, age 69, and a young female named Martha, age 17. George was there at age 72. But another of Andreas’ sons was there too, William, age 66, and his wife Nancy Slater Kessler.
From studying the Census information that following likely family members were identified:
Many of the older Keslers and some younger ones lived just down the road from the Ulery family.
— Ulery’s with Jacob are on p 17
— There is a Henry Ulery, Blacksmith on p 16
— William Kesler, 66, and family are on p. 10
— Samuel Kesler, 38, and family are on p 9
— George Kesler, 72, and family are also on p 9
In Donegal Township there were:
— William J Keslar, 38, and family on p 2
— Peter Keslar, 70, with wife and one young girl, Martha, age 17 on p 4
— Eli Keslar, 44 (might be Keplar, but I doubt it), and family on p. 10
— Thomas Keslar, 57 (also might be Keplar), with wife Mary and young male, Absalom, age 19 on p 13
1810 Census Saltlick:
— George Kesler
— Henry Kesler
— Peter Kesler
— William Kesler
1840 Census Saltlick:
— George Kesler
— William Kesler
— Samuel Kesler
The following 1840 U.S. Census for Salt Lick Township shows that John Kessler lived very close to Peter Ulery, which is pretty significant evidence that he married Elizabeth, fathered Jacob in 1844, and died in March, 1845.
Kessler Family Migration from Frederick, Maryland to Botetourt County, Virginia
One particular topic of current genealogical interest to some family members involves Andreas’ son, John Kessler. The Virginia family line, currently managed (as of 2013) by Karen Kessler (email@example.com) traces itself back to Botetourt County, Virginia. Karen’s brother James (Jim) and I took a DNA test that concluded that we are related. Given that we have used science to prove the linkage between the Frederick, Maryland and Botetourt County, Virginia branches of the family, the question is how did the Frederick, Maryland or Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania Kessler family get to Botetourt County?
The answer was found by researching the family of John Kessler’s wife, Nancy Waskey (1779 – 1852). A book titled Botetourt County Virginia Heritage 1770-2000 by S. E. Grose provided a detailed history of the Waskey family. George Waschke (1712-1766) arrived at Savannah, Ga. on 7 April 1735 after a journey from Moravia to Germany to England. On 23 Feb 1736 his mother Anna and Juliana Jaeschke arrived at Savannah and George married Juliana on 10 Jun 1738. At the end of 1738 they moved from Georgia to Germantown near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their son George Waskey Jr. (1741–1787) married Margaret Heim (1744-1827) and they are documented as living in Frederick, Maryland. Their daughter Nancy Waskey married John Kessler in Frederick, Maryland in 1794.
In 1791 Margaret Heim Waskey purchased land in Frederick County, Maryland. On Jun 5, 1798 she subsequently purchased 378 acres of land from John and Mary Hamilton in Rockbridge County, Virginia near the location of the now famous natural bridge. She and Nancy Waskey’s father George Jr. relocated to Rockbridge County after making this purchase while John and Nancy Waskey Kessler remained on Margaret’s farm near Frederick.
John and Nancy’s first three children were born in Frederick, Maryland: Polly in 1794, Samuel in 1795 and Christopher Lee in 1802. The remaining children were born in Virginia: Margaret Agnes in 1803, John in 1804, Sophia in 1806 and Nancy in 1810. According to land records Margaret Heim Waskey sold her land in Frederick, Maryland to John Kessler’s brother Andrew Kessler on Oct 31, 1804. Based on this evidence it can be concluded that John and Nancy likely relocated from Frederick to Rockbridge County, Virginia and began searching for suitable acreage sometime in 1802 or early 1803.
On March 21, 1805 John Kessler of Rockbridge County, Virginia purchased 156 acres located in Botetourt County, Virginia from Michael C. Stevens named Cedar Ridge (now named Simmons Ridge). The acreage was on Catawba Creek, a tributary of the James River beginning at 2 White Oaks corner to Greenwoods. On November 23, 1808, an additional 73 acres was purchased from Frances Preston, William Kyle and Peter Crowder. It is important to note that this land was purchased in close proximity to land purchased by Jacob Kessler in 1785 and there IS NO KNOWN relationship between these two Kessler families.
Nancy Waskey’s brothers George Waskey III (1776-1850) and E. Christopher Waskey (1778-1850) also relocated to and eventually died in Botetourt County. Christopher Waskey purchased Beale’s Mill in 1818 and turned it into Waskey’s Mill which was operated there until at least 1846.
Included below is a map of the Catawba Creek area in Botetourt County dated 1885. Note that there are several Kessler homes noted on this map on or near the Fincastle-Covington Turnpike, north-west of Fincastle. These are likely our relatives since one home next to a Kessler home is labeled Dooley. John and Nancy Kessler’s daughter, Nancy Mary married Stephen Dooley on Oct. 8, 1832. This is likely her home.
American Generation #2
Andreas Kessler Wife and Children
||b: Sep. 27, 1744, Winden Germany
d: Sep. 24, 1809, Frederick, Maryland
|Anna Maria Rehman Kessler
(Married Andrew in 1769)
|b: Feb 23, 1752, Maryland
d: Dec. 16, 1840, Pennsylvania
||b: Nov. 2, 1770, Frederick, Maryland
d: Jan 1, 1860, Frederick, Maryland
|Johannes (John) Kessler
(Married to Nancy Waskey)
|b:May 24, 1772, Frederick, Maryland
d: Feb 1850, Botetourt County, Va.
|Mary Kessler (Married to Henry Schau)
||b: Oct 18 1774, Frederick, Maryland
||b: Apr 21, 1776, Frederick, Maryland
d: Mar 10, 1855, Fayette County, Pa.
||b: Apr 10, 1778, Frederick, Maryland
d: Jul 2, 1860, Donegal Township, Pa.
|Maria Barbara Kessler
||b: Sep 19, 1780, Frederick, Maryland
||b: Jun 25, 1782, Frederick County, Pa.
d: Apr. 1817, Frederick County, Pa.
||b: Mar 25, 1784, Frederick County, Pa.
d: 1864, Donegal Township, Pa.
||b:May 17, 1786, Frederick County, Pa.
d: May 9, 1830, Frederick County, Pa.
||b: Feb 1788, Frederick, Maryland
||b: Mar 1790, Frederick County, Pa.
d: Feb 11, 1839, Frederick County, Pa.
MATERNAL ANCESTRY: REHMEN OR RAMA or REIMAN
Despite extended and fairly heroic efforts, no additional information about Anna Maria “Mary” Rehmen Kessler could be located. Extensive effort was expended, but since she was born in 1752 and there were very few newspapers or government institutions at that time and since most business transactions were done in the male family member’s name, no additional information could be located.
 There is some confusion about Andreas’ actual birth year. There are baptismal records stating that he was baptized in Winden, Germany on 2 Oct 1746 and his sponsors were Andreas LaHoy, manager of Zweibrücken Compound and Anna Maria, widow of David Fitzinger. This is the same year indicated in the Keslar Family Bible. His tombstone, however, in the Keslar Family Cemetery, Fayette County, Pennsylvania states that he was 65 years old at death on 24 Sep 1809, which would make his birth year 1744.
 Waskey: Page 242. The Botetourt County Heritage Book, 1999. Walsworth Publishing Company with Shirley Grose, Publisher. Stories compiled by Botetourt County Heritage Commission.