52 Ancestors: #26 The Kaser Bachelor Farmers: Otto and Wilbert Kaser

Otto Kaser 1883-1938

Wilbert Kaser 1886-1946

Garrison Keillor frequently talks about the Norwegian Bachelor Farmers, and the Kaser brothers Otto and Wilbert fit a similar description for much of their lives, except they were German. I think of them as the Kaser Bachelor Farmers.

Sometimes reading official reports, it looks like they have moved, but actually the farm stays the same and the address, township names and town names change. The farm that the Kasers lived on was on R.D.#2 out of Clark, Ohio, earlier known as the Sugarcreek Road. Although they were enumerated in the German Township, Holmes County census, their mailing address was Baltic, Ohio, a village which is in a corner where Holmes, Coshocton and Tuscarawas Counties meet. The geography is even more confusing than Clark, Ohio which is split by the Holmes County/Coschocton County line. The farm was reportedly two miles from Baltic.

I imagine that Otto and Wilbert were close brothers from the start, since they were sandwiched between two older sisters and a younger sister.  The two boys were just three years apart in age, but their older brother Henry was ten years older than Wilbert.

Otto and Wilbert, lived  with their mother Mary Rost Kaser and the other siblings when their father Cornelius Kaser died in 1900 in his early 50s. Although their older brother Henry married and older sister Ellen (Ella) married Robert Kleinknecht, the two brothers remained unmarried and stayed with their mother through their twenties and thirties.

Another tragic death in their family occurred in 1917, when their older sister Ellen (Ella) died, leaving five children and her husband. For a time, their mother Mary Kaser and the two brothers were joined by Ellen’s oldest daughter, Florence, who was nine years old when her mother died.

It seems that Wilbert, who only went to school through the fifth grade, was a farmer all his life. Otto, on the other hand, started as a day laborer (probably on neighboring farms) when he was a teen, but spent at least a short time working at the local railroad station before he took up the occupation of “timberman,” as his obituary described him.  Since the Kaser farm had timber in addition to farmland, he may have gotten his start on their own farm.

When their mother died in the 1920’s (probably late in that decade), and the only sister still at home, Elsie, married Allen Winklepeck, the two sons continued to live on the farm. Although Otto was listed as head of household, it was Wilbert who was doing the farming, while Otto worked as a lumber man.

They were both strapping young men–six feet tall and heavy set.  They were fair, Otto  blond and Wilbert with light brown hair. Unfortunately, I have no idea what they did outside of work on their farms. At least they did not participate in activities notable enough to make the newspaper as far as I can find.

It seemed to be a good arrangement for both of them, until Otto suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died at 53 years old.  Wilbert, just turning 50, married a woman 18 years younger than he was.  Had he long wanted to marry Della and put it off because of his responsibilities? Or did he need help on the farm now that he was alone?  Was his health beginning to fail?  I can only wonder why he married so soon after Otto’s death, and after being a bachelor farmer for so long.

At any rate, Della May Lockhart and Wilbert Kaser were married by 1940. Still tall (6′) and hefty (170 lb), in 1942 when World War II broke out and he filled out his draft card, the now 54-year-old Wilbert had turned gray.  Della moved in to the Kaser homestead.

I hope they had a happy time in their short marriage, because by 1945 just six years after they were married, Wilbert was stricken with heart disease and he was hospitalized in Massillon, Ohio, when he died in March, 1946. He was buried at the New Bedford Lutheran Church cemetery where so many Kasers are found.

I don’t know if my father ever knew the Kaser Bachelor brothers who were his cousins, and I have not followed the breadcrumbs to discover what happened to that farm that had been tended by Cornelius and Mary and their two sons.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the son of
  • Clifford Kaser, who is the brother of
  • Cornelius Kaser, who is the father of
  • Otto Kaser and Wilbert Kaser

Notes on Research

Census records from  1900 German, Holmes Co. Ohio); 1910, German Twp, Holmes Co, Ohio; 1920, Clark, German Twp Holmes Co, Ohio, 1930, Clark, Holmes Co., Ohio, 1940, Clark, Holmes Co., Ohio.

Democratic Standard Newspaper, Coshocton Ohio 13 July 1900, page one, “Fractured His Neck.”

Death Record.U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1700s-Current; Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1800-1962

World War I Draft Registration Card for Wilbert Kaser. United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.

World War II Draft Registration Cards for Henry J. Kaser, Willbert Ralph Kaser and Otto Kaser

United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. Records of the Selective Service System, Record Group Number 147. National Archives and Records Administration.

Wilbert Kaser Obituary, Piqua Daily Call, March 21, 1946

Otto Kaser Obituary, Coshocton Tribune, “Native of Holmes County Taken by Death in Hospital”, January 15, 1938, page one.

All of these records were accessed through Ancestry.com

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