Tag Archives: Wayne County

52 Ancestors #38 Kidron and Sonnenberg: Favorite Place of Swiss Mennonites

Last week, I got  a little sidetracked with maps of Tuscarawas County, Ohio and Switzerlands Bern region, to show how the ancestors of Kenneth Ross Badertscher‘s mother’s maternal line came from a small area in Switzerland, and clustered together in one area in Ohio when they came to America. It was their favorite place.

This week the challenge at 51 Ancestors is to talk about a “Favorite Place” and as I started looking at the maternal line of Ken’s father, I discovered the same kind of pattern as with his mother’s line, except that these people–The Amstutz, Baumgartner and Tschantz families in particular–settled around Kidron/Sonnenberg in Wayne County, Ohio. Kidron was the center of their favorite place.

Kidron Ohio

Kidron, Wayne County, Ohio on Google Maps–fields and forests.

Why?  Probably partly because it looked like the dairy country of Bern, Switzerland–minus the towering Alps in the background.

Wayne County Ohio

Farms in Wayne County, Ohio. Photo by Ken Badertscher.

Ohio Dairy Cattle

Kidron Ohio area dairy cattle. Photo by Ken Badertscher.

Amish Farm in Ohio

Haystacks on an Amish Farm in Wayne County, Ohio. Photo by Ken Badertscher.

Menno Simons

Menno Simons who gave his name to Mennonites

Despite the fact that most of Ken’s ancestors were dairy farmers, their principle reason for moving to America had less to do with rich pastures and scenery than with religion.  They were part of a reform movement of Anabaptists that was persecuted in Switzerland .  The last straw for the followers of Menno Simons, who believed in pacifism, came when the Swiss were instituted universal military service. These hard-working farmers with strong beliefs fled to protect their religion freedom. SImultaneously, an economic slowdown had men searching for work that would sustain large families, as we saw in the case of Anna and Samuel Schneiter.

If you want more information about the history of the Mennonite immigrants, I skimmed the history of the Mennonite immigrants in my article Swiss Immigrants Invade Wayne County, Ohio” . (A comment from a reader points out that the reason for the first Badertscher family to come to America was that their oldest son was of military conscription age.)  And although I generally steer clear of Wikipedia, I can recommend its coverage of the Mennonite church.

Abraham Amstutz

Abraham Amstutz, (One of many by that name). son of Johannes.

(One of many by that name).

In 1819, a small group founded the first Mennonite church in the area at Sonnenberg, named for a valley in Bern, Switzerland. Friends and family followed in 1821, and they formed the Sonnenberg Mennonite church.  Until 1834, they met in homes, and then built a log structure that served as church and school. As word went back to Switzerland, and as people saved money for passage, the communities continued to grow. A second community, Kidron, was named for the valley in Israel beside Jerusalem. Gradually, the communities merged as Kidron.

Meanwhile, they were clearing land, buying livestock and building log homes for their large families to live in. Ken’s paternal great grandparents lived in this house It reminds me of homes we saw in Switzerland where the farmers lived upstairs over the quarters for their livestock, so the livestock could keep warm in the winter. The Frederich Badertschers arrived about 1880.

Swiss Immigrants Frederick and Mary Badertscher

Frederich Badertscher Sr and wife Mary. Photo From Ancestry.com

John Tschantz and his wife and their son Abraham and his wife were one of the first four families to arrive in Sonnenberg.  Their cabin survived (barely) and has been restored in Sonnenberg Village, maintained by the Kidron Historical Society. (I am working on the relationship to see if this family is in Ken’s direct line. Since there were many Tschantz families and many named Abraham, this may take a while.) Here’s the before and after.

Abraham Tschantz cabin

Abraham Tschantz cabin before restoration.

TschantzLogCabin-After

Abraham Tschantz cabin after restoration. Photos from the Sonnenberg Historical Society website.

On this land map that shows (in the bottom of the southern half of the township) the land of Ken’s 2nd grandfather Abraham C. Tschantz, there are many other names that are part of his lineage such as Amstutz, Badertscher, Baumgartner, Sommmers, Lehman, Moser. Other names Ken recognized as schoolmates for neighbors: Gerber, Hoffstetter, Steiner, Eckard, Ressler, and Wertz.

You can double click on the maps to see the names more clearly on your computer. This map from Ancestry. com is dated 1897. If you disagree because of your own family information, please do share that information with me!

Paint Township Wayne County Ohio

Northern half of Paint Township, Wayne County, showing Dalton where Ken went to school. His family moved from Dalton to the intersection of Rt 30 and Kidron Road. Red marks J. H. Tschantz, a great-great uncle.

Paint Township, Wayne County, Ohio

Southern half of Paint Township, showing location of Kidron and land of Abraham C. Tschantz, and many different Amstutz families clustered around Kidron.

The Mennonite families, and the Amish families that also clustered in this area prospered over the years, and you will find many of the same family names.  The Kidron Community Historical Society  provides a valuable resource for anyone seeking to know more about family history of these Swiss immigrants who landed in Wayne County, Ohio. So why did the first four families settle the small community of Sonnenberg? I don’t know. Perhaps they originally thought to settle in Pennsylvania, but it was becoming too crowded. Land would have been cheaper in the very new state of Ohio (statehood 1803).

Why was Kidron/Sonnenberg a favorite place of Swiss immigrants in the early to mid 19th century?  Because family was already there.

If you are traveling through the Amish/Mennonite Country of Ohio, two places to look for clues as to why Kidron was a favorite place of the Swiss Mennonites are the Kidron Genealogical Center and nearby Sonnenberg Village in Wayne County, and the Behalt Cyclorama in Holmes County–a vivid depiction of the history of the Mennonite and Amish religions.

52 Ancestors: #30-Helen Stucky Bair Kohler Faces A Challenge

For the time being, I have set aside my own family research (except for occasional timely notes).Instead  I am searching for ancestors of my husband, Kenneth Ross Badertscher. Today–his maternal grandmother.

Helen Stucky (Bair, Kohler) 1890-1974

I am quite sure that Helen Stucky faced many challenges in her life, but one is so huge that I have trouble getting my mind around it.  I first met “Grandma Kohler” when my husband and I married.  She loved filling her farm house with family at Thanksgiving, and never tired of having grandchildren climb over her.

Helen Stucky

Great-Grandma Helen Kohler with Mike, Kenneth Paul, and Brent, in Ohio, 1966.

This picture was taken at Ken’s parents home (Agnes Bair Badertscher and Paul Badertscher) near Dalton, Ohio.  Agnes Bair was Helen’s first child from her first marriage.

Helen Stucky Bair Kohler was tall and had the big hands of a woman made for farm work. She’d fit right into Grant Wood’s American Gothic. But she did not look stern. She was sweet, modest, and welcoming to all, and a terrific cook. Knowing her in her old age, it was hard for me to imagine some of the hardships she had lived through. I’ll never know if these tragedies created her placid personality, or if her placid personality helped her survive adversity.

A Big Family

The oldest daughter born to Frederick and Ida Stucky, Helen grew up on the family farm in York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, near New Philadelphia.  Her father and mother were of Swiss heritage, and kept a dairy farm on Stone Creek Road. By 1910, when Helen was 19, she had seven siblings still at home ranging in age from 3 to 17.  Her sister Bessie, now 16, is not listed with Fred and Ida on that year’s census–probably working out of the home, as was Helen, although I have not found Bessie in a 1910 census report. (A 6-year-old brother had died in 1895, when Helen was just five years old. In 1915 one more sister came along to make it a family of ten living children.)

Around 1917, when Gladys (b. 1915) was a toddler, the family had this portrait made.

Helen Stucky family

Della, Bessie, Helen, Carl, Gertrude, Carrie, Bertha. Bottom row: John, Fred, Ida, Gladys, Frank Stucky
Circa 1917

Young Love

Helen Stucy

Helen Stucky/Adam Bair Marriage Certificate

In March 1912 when she was 21 years old, Helen married Adam Daniel Bair (22), who was known as Adam.  Like her father, he was a dairy farmer, although the Bair family came from Germany rather than Switzerland.  The couple must have had high hopes for their newly acquired farm, when they posed for this picture with some of Helen’s sisters and her first child, Agnes, who was born in 1913. It is a Dodge Touring Car from 1915.

Helen Stucky Bair

In the back seat Stucky Sisters, Bessie, Gertrude and Della. In front Helen and Adam Bair Sr. and Agnes Bair. Circa 1915.

The Challenge

In 1917, Adam Bair faithfully filled out his World War I registration card, showing he had a wife and one child. He was described as tall, stout, with dark brown hair and blue eyes.  But then, just a year and a half after filling out his registration card, the worldwide calamity that followed World War I hit Ohio, and Adam Bair, tall and stout as he was, fell victim to the flu that killed thousands. Adam died in January, 1919.

Helen was two months pregnant when her husband died. She may not even have realized that she was carrying another child.  At the age of 28, she was a widow and a single mother. I can imagine that having worked at the County Alms House that housed the old, the infirm, and those without any financial support, including mothers with small children, she was determined not to be sent to a place like that.

As much as she would not have wanted to be a burden on her parents, who still had five children at home, she really had no choice.  The oldest of the Stucky siblings still at home, Carl (24), was a steel worker, so he was contributing to the family income. The youngest child at home was Gladys (5), who must have been one of those midlife surprises–nearly the same age as Helen’s Agnes. A baby boy was born in August of the year his father died (1919),and Helen named him Adam Daniel after his father. Then Helen went looking for work. Like her sisters, she found domestic work, to help contribute to the budget, but instead of “working out” she lived at home with her parents and her children.

A Second Family

In 1921 the widow found some security when she married Ralph Kohler, seven years her junior, but like her from a large family of Swiss dairy farmers. In 1922, their first daughter, Inez, was born.  Three years later Richard was born and two years after Richard, the youngest, Hannah, arrived.  Her two Bair children and three Kohler children grew up on the Kohler Farm in Sugar Creek Township, Wayne County, Ohio.  The farm’s address was a rural route out of Dalton, Ohio.

The Kohler farm was a bicycle ride away from Ken Badertscher’s home in Dalton, where his mother Agnes had moved with her husband Paul Badertscher. As a young boy, Ken spent summer days working on the dairy farm. In 1959, Ralph (61) died. Helen’s oldest son, Adam, stayed on and ran the farm, even after he married.  And Helen lived in the same farm house for the rest of her long life.

Helen Esther Stucky (Bair) Kohler died in 1974 when she was 84 years old and was buried in Orrville, Ohio.

Helen Kohler

Helen and Ralph Kohler gravestone, Orrville, Ohio

The suggested theme for this week’s 52 Ancestors challenge was the word “Challenging.” Although the suggestion was to write about an ancestor that is particularly difficult to research, I picked one of my husband’s family who faced a terrible challenge of her own. The research was actually easy.

How Ken is Related

  • Kenneth Ross Badertscher is the son of
  • Agnes Bair Badertscher, who is the daughter of
  • Helen Stucky (Bair) (Kohler) and
  • Adam Bair

Research Notes

This post was inspired by photographs of the Stucky-Bair-Kohler family posted on Ancestry.com, and passed on by a cousin and some belonging to Kay Badertscher.

The ornate marriage license of Helen Stucky and Adam Bair hangs to the wall in our home.

Research at Ancestry.com, including

U.S. Federal Census Records: 1900 census, York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1910 Censuses, Goshen Township and York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1920 Census: York Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio; 1930 Census, Sugarcreek Township, Wayne County, Ohio; 1940 Census, Sugarcreek Township, Wayne County, Ohio.

Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962, Tuscarawas County, Adam Daniel Bair

Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962, Tuscarawas County, Helen E. Stucky

World War I Draft Registration, June 1917 for Adam Daniel Bair.

World War I Draft Registration, August 1918 for Ralph Kohler, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Registration State: Ohio; Registration County: Wayne; Roll: 1851302; Draft Board: 2, Ancestry.com

Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007, Certificate: 30310; Volume: 15762, Ancestry.com and Ohio Department of Health Adam Daniel Bair

Certificate: 088234; Volume: 21905, Helen Esther Stucky

Swiss Immigrants Invade Wayne County, Ohio

Whenever I shop for cheese, cook with cheese, eat cheese–I think of Switzerland and that makes me think of the Swiss immigrants of northeastern Ohio.

My husband, Kenneth Ross Badertscher is 100% Swiss.[Update–since I wrote this, I learned it is not true. See the series on the Manbeck and Bair families.]  If you were born in Wayne County, Ohio, before 1960, odds are good you descended from Swiss immigrants. Even now, the Swiss names predominate, as does the culture brought by immigrants in the 19th century.

Today I’ll focus on Ken’s grandparents, Swiss immigrants Frederick Badertscher (1871-1950) and Ida Amstutz Badertscher (1875-1949), who were among the children of that 19th century immigrant wave. Frederick came to Ohio with his parents, Frederick Sr.(1833 to 1909) and Mary( 1834-1926) when he was 9 or 10 years old.

Swiss Immigrants Frederick and Mary Badertscher

Frederick Badertscher Sr and wife Mary. Photo From Ancestry.com

Ida’s father came from Switzerland to Sonnenberg in Wayne County, Ohio. Her mother was born in Ohio, as was Ida, who was the oldest of ten children.

I don’t have a picture of Frederick when he was young, but found a family picture of Ida Amstutz (far left in this family portrait) on Ancestry.com

Swiss Immigrant Father of Ida Amstutz and family
Ida Amstutz and family from AncestryCom Her father was born in Switzerland and her mother and Ida and the other children were born in Ohio

Ida and Frederick were married in 1896. and we have this family picture, which must have been taken nearly 40 years after Frederick’s arrival (in the 1870s) in America.

Swiss Immigrants Badertscher

Frederick and Ida Badertscher and family about 1918

The seven children gathered around Frederick and Ida are: (smallest boy on left beside his father) Paul Theodore Badertscher, Ken’s father; then in the back,Monroe Badertscher; Amos Badertscher; Elma (Moser) –the oldest child, and then Edwin Badertscher; and the two younger girls in front,Mollie (McGregor) and Mildred (Wead)  .

Why Did Swiss Immigrants Come to Ohio?

When Ken and I visited the gorgeous countryside around Sigerswill where the Amstutz family originally came from, we couldn’t help wonder why anyone would want to leave.

Swiss Immigrants came from Sigriswil

Sigriswil, Canton of Berne, Switzerland, photo by Wayne Gamborski

The earliest immigrants probably were motivated by their pacifism and freedom of religion. Most Mennonites today are still pacifist and conscientious objectors. During the early 19th century, Switzerland went through some traumatic times, and enacted laws that forced every male to take part in the military. That caused the first wave of emigration by the Mennonites from their homeland.

However, the wave that brought the Amstutz and Badertscher family in this line, probably were motivated by economics.  Hard times for the farmers in the lowlands of the Canton of Berne, made the stories they were hearing from Swiss who had settled in America sound very attractive.  Northeastern Ohio, the location of Wayne County and Holmes County, as well as lands in other midwestern states with rolling hills and fertile farmland looked much like their home. But it was less crowded and the economy of the United States was booming. Finally, there were friends and family there, who had already established churches and schools that would be friendly to their culture.

A sprinkling of Swiss settlers came to the United States in the 18th century, including 4,000 Swiss Mennonites who settled in Pennsylvania. You’ve no doubt heard of the Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish communities in southern Pennsylvania.  The Amish there and in great numbers in Holmes County Ohio are an offshoot of the Mennonites, who in turn have many variations of belief.

In the first half of the 19th century, a large number of Mennonites settled in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.  By 1930, their were 7,000 Swiss listed in the Ohio census.

In 1819 a group of 27 Swiss Mennonites  from the Sonnenberg Valley in Switzerland (Canton of Bern) traveled to Ohio and established the farming community of Sonnenberg.  . The community was thriving, with a population of 300 by 1860. Ida Amstutz’ family and Frederick Badertscher settled in Sonnenberg when they came to Ohio in the 1870’s. 

What the Swiss Immigrants Brought to Ohio

When Ida and Frederick married, they lived on a farm between Sonnenberg and Kidron, two unincorporated communities. The old farm house still stands. Frederick was a farmer, the common occupation for Swiss immigrants–dairy farming and cheese making still predominates in the area.

Amish farmer at Kidron Auction

Amish farmer at Kidron Auction. Photo by Sofie Dittman

The Mennonite religion and the offshoot the Amish is the most common. Huge livestoock auctions in Kidron feature every kind of farmer’s need. Once a year there is a home-made quilt sale. A commercial claim to fame of Kidron is Lehman‘s a unique hardware store at which you can get both modern gadgets and vintage farm and home appliances and equipment. Need something for canning? An oil lamp? A Wood burner stove? You can lose yourself for hours in Lehman’s on-line catalogue.

And another tradition the Swiss immigrants brought with them is a love of music.  Churches, schools and community musical groups draw members from every family and turnouts for events like the annual Messiah in Orrville, Ohio draws enormous crowds. Ken’s father Paul sang in the Messiah chorus for fifty years straight. Musical competitions in schools were nearly as competitive as basketball, and both Ken and his sister Kay excelled in music.

Although I have concentrated here on Ken’s paternal line, his maternal line also ran to dairy farming, and as a boy Ken loved working on his Grandfather Bair’s farm, later worked by his mother’s brother Adam and their half-brother Richard Kohler.  Ken’s sister Kay Bass wrote about Richard Kohler’s Dari-ette here earlier. The heroine of the children’s book, Heidi’s grandfather may have raised goats in Switzerland, but in Ohio, the Swiss were all about cows.

Salem Mennonite Church

Salem Mennonite Church, Kidron Ohio, photo from Ancestry.com. Site of grave of Frederick Badertscher Sr.

Today in Kidron/Sonnenberg

The Kidron Community Historical Center is working to recreate Mennonite life in the 1800’s at Sonnenberg Village near Apple Creek, Ohio. Historic buildings, including the Sonnenberg Mennonite Church (actually the third one built on the site) are being moved to a 5-acre park. Anyone with ancestors in the region who wants to trace their roots can use resources at the Kidron Sonnenberg Heritage Center .

When Ken was in high school, his family lived on Kidron Road (Kidron being the newer name of the original Sonnenberg) attended the Salem Mennonite church, pictured above.

You can get the best Swiss cheese outside of Switzerland in Wayne and Holmes Counties, Ohio–Mennonite and Amish country.  Check  Guggisberg  just outside of Millersburg (Holmes), or Shisler’s Cheese House on the Kidron Road (Wayne) for two sources.

Now, be warned, these are not MY relatives, so I’m relying on research rather than family legends and passed down documents and pictures (except for the 2 family pictures that belong to Ken). So, please, if you’re a Badertscher or an Amstutz and have corrections to what I’ve written here–have at it.  Tell me in the comments what I left out or got wrong.

In reviewing this Swiss immigrant history, I learned that Baby Swiss, one of our favorite cheeses, was invented in Charm, Ohio just miles from where I grew up at the aforementioned Guggisberg. You can learn more about cheese, and perhaps be persuaded to explore the Swiss-made cheeses of Wayne and Holmes County Ohio, in this rant on cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti.