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Carl Kayser
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The German immigrant Carl Kaӱser, later known as Charles Keyser, settled on the west side of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River between Massanutten Mountain and the river bend at the mouth of Hawksbill Creek in 1765.

Carl Sebastian Kayser was born around 1:00 a.m. on 16 January 1726 and baptized the same day in Möckmühl, Württemberg. Today the town is situated in the Heilbronn District of the German state Baden-Württemberg, and lies about thirty eight miles north of Stuttgart. A note from the birth record states, “a son of Andreas Kayser, citizen and butcher and of his wife Catharina”. Several local shopkeepers were witnesses to the baptism, including a Sebastian Öffinger, who may have been the inspiration for Carl’s middle name.

According to the research of Mark Kiser and German researcher Friedrich R. Wollmershäuser, Carl’s parents were Andreas Kayser, and his second wife, Anna Catharina Schuhmacher, who married on 21 April 1721 in Möckmühl. Andreas was a citizen and butcher, from a family line of butchers and inn keepers, and his pedigree has been traced back to the mid 1500s.

Andreas’ first marriage occurred 27 May 1710 to Catharina Schreibeisen, daughter of the late Sir Johann Jacob Schreibeisen, formerly a member of the municipal law-court and shoemaker in Möckmühl. Andreas is listed as a citizen, butcher and a son of Johann Caspar Kayser, also a butcher, in Möckmühl. Catharina Elizabetha died on 3 March 1721 at age 34 years, only one son of this union surviving. Andreas quickly remarried to Carl's mother Anna Catharina.

At the time of Carl’s birth, Möckmühl was a part of the Duchy of Württemberg in the southwestern part of the Holy Roman Empire. During Medieval Times, the Catholic Church held spiritual dominion over the people and nations of Europe. In 1517, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther, nailed to the church door in Wittenberg a list of 95 criticisms of what he saw as the corruption and false doctrines of the Catholic Church. The result of his actions started a movement known as the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation spread throughout Europe and resulted in a tumultuous cultural and religious rebellion that overturned the thousand year domination of the Catholic Church. These actions left no one in Germany untouched, and in the year 1542 Möckmühl officially became Protestant.

Further conflict arose from the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Rooted in the ongoing religious and imperial ambitions of the House of Hapsburg, it was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. The war was fought primarily (though not exclusively) in Germany, and at various points involved most of the countries of Europe, resulting in extensive destruction of entire regions. Armies were expected to be largely self-funding and generally ravaged the countryside, taking whatever they could. This encouraged a form of lawlessness that often imposed severe hardship on inhabitants of the occupied territory. Württemberg was a central battlefield and suffered severely from the Thirty Years’ War and from repeated French invasions in the 17th and 18th centuries. Episodes of famine and disease significantly decreased the population while bankrupting most of the warring powers, and when The Plague broke out in Möckmühl in 1635, 80% of its inhabitants died.

Over the years, thousands fled religious persecution, war, famine and economic instability, leaving their homelands to repopulate these devastated regions. But this does not seem to have been the case with the Kayser family, who records reveal to have been relatively wealthy and living a stable existence in Möckmühl for generations. We are fortunate to have so many records preserved, which translator Aaron Fogleman says is because they participated in enterprises the government regulated, and did not leave or die out.

By the late 17th and early 18th century, the people of the region had endured generations of severe hardship. Lured by the promise of generous land grants and political and religious freedom, many left their homelands and set sail for the English Colonies. Most came from the southwest region of Germany, the areas known as the Rhineland, Palatinate, Württemberg, Baden, and German Switzerland.

Among the first Germans to settle in the American Colonies were the Mennonites, who arrived to Philadelphia in 1683. Numerous other German groups followed, including those who settled the Germanna Colonies. New researchers, like Sharon Lemkuil, are taking a fresh look at some of the conflicting information written about Germanna in the past, and finding some of the legends associated with the group to be inaccurate.

Members of the Germanna Colonies arrived in Virginia in the early part of the 18th century. Although the settlers of the Germanna Colonies are commonly thought of as one group, there were actually two unrelated groups who were only together briefly. The members of the First Germanna Colony were German Reformed Protestants who arrived in 1714. They came from villages near Nassau-Siegen in North Rhine Westphalia in 1714 and had their own resources and were given a land grant. At first they were settled in a five sided fort about twenty miles west of present day Fredericksburg, but moved away in about 1718-19, specifically separating themselves from the second group, and located in what is now Fauquier County, Virginia.

Members of the Second Germanna Colony arrived in 1717. They were Lutherans who came from the Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg. In London they made a contract with Captain Andrew Tarbett to be taken to Pennsylvania on the ship Scott, but when Captain Tarbett proved to be a man of poor moral character and was thrown into debtors' prison, the passengers lingered on board, consumed their supplies, and were forced to spend their passage money on more food. The captain was released and the voyage was undertaken, however he treated the Germans poorly, stole their supplies and hijacked them to Virginia. [Germanna History by John Blankenbaker.] Lt. Governor Spotswood took pity on them and purchased their service for the debt. This group worked for Spotswood for seven years and Johann Caspar Stoever, Sr. was recruited as pastor. The legend that the Germans were recruited by Spotswood to mine iron and silver has been proven inaccurate, though later some mining was done. They were colonists and farmers, and the new research indicates that the governor was engaged in land development and wanted the German immigrants to settle further into Virginia, which at the time was seen as extending vaguely as far as the Mississippi River.

Some researchers have confused other immigrants with similar names from these early groups with our Carl Sebastian Kaӱser, who arrived to the American Colonies thirty-two years after the second Germanna group, but they are unrelated.

German Emigrant

A history of Möckmühl indicates that things were not going well economically for its citizens in 1734. In 1746 the people were plagued by severe weather. Carl's father died that winter, and on the 28th day of March 1746 an Inventory of his estate was recorded. Carl Sebastian and the other children of the second marriage were named, all of which were under age twenty-five, and given a guardian in accordance with the Guardianship Court. Carl's mother, Anna Catharina, was also given a guardian. These may have been some of the factors for Carl's decision to leave home.

The proceedings of the Württemberg Privy Council of 28 February 1749 include a short note that some families from Möckmühl district were willing to immigrate to America. Although their names are not listed, Carl Kayser was one of the ones who obtained permission to leave, paying a fee of 2 Pfennige in order to give up his citizenship and move away. At the time of Carl's departure he received in cash 15 fl. from his father's inheritance. Additionally, he borrowed 171 fl. from Gabriel Eberle of Brettach, no doubt to help finance his voyage to Pennsylvania.

At the age of twenty-three, Carl Kayser and several other residents from Möckmühl, including a relative named Johann Heinrich Magatsch, set out on what would be a several months long journey. They traveled up the Rhine River Valley to Rotterdam, Netherlands, where they boarded the ship "Patience" to Cowes, Isle of Wight, England, before continuing on to the British American Colonies. They arrived at the Port of Philadelphia on Sunday, 19 September 1749 and docked at Penn's Wharf. Captain Hugh Steel escorted the immigrants a few blocks up Market Street to the Philadelphia Courthouse, where Carl took the Oath of Allegiance to Britain's King George II and signed himself "Carl Kaӱser".

Philadelphia Pilgrim

In March of 2002, Mark Kiser visited the Palatines to America Library in Columbus, Ohio. In a source he checked, “The Earliest Records of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, Lancaster, Pennsylvania Vol. 2” translated by Frederick S. Weiser, p. 347-349 and 370, he found two interesting entries.

1. “From January 1, 1750 on, the following announced themselves for Holy Communion: #55 Carl Sebastian Kayser, recently arrived. Servant of Jacob Eichholtz.” [Carl is noted here as a new arrival and parishioner.]

2. “Those who have announced themselves to go to Holy Communion on Estomihi Sunday, February 17, 1751: # 21 Carl Sebastian Kayser, with Jacob Eichholtz.”

Those were the only two entries for Carl and the last confirmed record of him in Lancaster Co. There is no further indication that Carl was under Jacob Eichholtz's employ, and no marriage record for him has been found at this church.

Jacob Eichholtz was mentioned several times; the birth of children and his death on 25 July 1760. One interesting note on the above information is the “recently arrived” statement recorded in January 1750. So we do know that shortly after landing in Philadelphia, Carl moved west to Lancaster, Co. and is found in records there four months later.

Further research on Jacob Eichholtz revealed that he was born Johan Jacob Eichholtz on 26 March 1712 in Bischoffsheim, Germany, as recorded on his tombstone. He arrived at the Port of Philadelphia on 30 August 1737 aboard the ship “Samuel”.

On 27 March 1739 Jacob Eichholtz and Elizabeth Klein were married in Lancaster Co. by Johann Casper Stoever, Jr. This is the only mention of Eichholtz in Stoever's records. Because of Eichholtz's association with Carl Kayser, Stoever's records were thoroughly checked, but there is no mention of Kayser in his marriage or baptism records. [Records of Rev. John Casper Stoever, Baptismal and Marriage 1730-1779, p. 57.]

Soon after marriage, Jacob Eichholtz purchased land in the Lancaster Township of Lancaster Co., Pa., on 14 January 1740. He became an innkeeper and butcher in Lancaster. This information fits well with an incident that occurred while Carl was still living in Lancaster Co. under Eichholtz's employ:

"Maj. Andrew Keyser also informed the author that an Indian once called at his grandfather's [should read father's], in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, appeared to be much agitated, and asked for something to eat. After refreshing himself, he was asked what disturbed him. He replied, 'The Southern Indians have killed my whole nation.'" [A History of the Valley of Virginia by Samuel Kercheval.]

That would not be the last encounter Carl Kayser had with an Indian. While the British authorities wanted to populate the Piedmont of Virginia with Protestant colonists loyal to the King, they also sought to block the Catholic French from encroaching on lands west of the Blue Ridge, and to protect existing settlements against hostile Indians (and potential French supporters).

Forts were built and staffed with local militia on guard against the arrival of Iroquois or other tribes. They also relied upon “tributary tribes”, who were dependent upon the Virginia government, to block occupation of the backcountry by “strange” Native Americans. This strategy avoided open warfare and the cost of having the militia attack Indians on hunting or raiding parties through the Piedmont.

Ultimately, this strategy did not peacefully resolve the conflict between the settlers and the Indians. Lt. Governor Spotswood recognized that the main potential conflict in the Shenandoah Valley was with the Iroquois, who lived in New York and traveled through the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley on raids against the Cherokee. Spotswood came up with a new strategy for frontier security, "defense-by-settlement". This required recruiting new immigrants to move onto the land west of the mountains who would effectively become a barrier against French occupation and Indian raids against settlements to the east. In 1722 Spotswood helped negotiate a treaty in which the Iroquois agreed to stay west of the Blue Ridge. As there was still vacant land available east of the mountains, immigrants and indentured servants who had served their terms and gained their freedom had no reason to push westward. The solution was to import more immigrants, even if those immigrants were not English. London officials encouraged using foreign Protestants to settle the frontier, rather than depopulating England itself. The source of potential new settlers for Virginia’s back country became the immigrants of Pennsylvania. Lt. Governor Spotswood and Governor Gooch calculated that land-hungry immigrants who reached Philadelphia and moved west to Lancaster were willing to keep moving, and they were right. Virginia offered what those immigrants sought - high-quality farmland at low prices, and that is the way many early German settlers found their way to the Shenandoah Valley. [Encouraging Settlement and Land Grants West of the Blue Ridge.]

Virginia Pioneer

It is not known exactly when Carl Kayser left the service of Jacob Eichholtz or Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania. He certainly would have been aware of the recruiting of German immigrants to settle west of the Blue Ridge, and sometime after 17 February 1751, he probably joined a group migrating along the Great Wagon Road into the Valley of Virginia. By the Spring of 1755, Carl was living in Frederick Co., Virginia.

Records found by Sharon Lemkuil indicate that Carl Kayser, (Charles Kyzar/Kyzer on the lists), was a member of the Frederick Co. Militia, and served under the command of William Bethel, Captain of Foot Company. [Virginia Colonial Soldiers by Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck, p. 346.] [“Records of Frederick County, Virginia, Militia in the French and Indian War Period” by Mrs. Anna Strickland Milbourne, Charles Town, WV, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. XXVII, March, 1939, No. 1, p. 56-57.]

A court martial, held on “Fryday the 2d. day of September, 1755” issued the following judgment:

"Charles Kyzer fined 5 shillings and 50 pounds of tobacco for missing one general muster."

This court proceeding confirms that Charles Kyzar was a soldier in the British Army during the French and Indian War, and that he was present at Braddock's Defeat, which took place near Pittsburgh on 9 July 1755. From it we know that Charles Kyzar, along with his neighbor John Countz, who was also on that list, were probably among a group of "Virginia levies" selected from local provinces for the purpose of augmenting Braddock's two regiments of "regulars", and would have made up the rear guard during the Battle of Monongahela. We also know that these two men were definitely living in Frederick Co. by 1755.

While this evidence confirms the family tradition that Charles Keyser served in Braddock’s Army, no evidence has been found to confirm the story that he served as a butcher and supply wagon driver.

The Braddock Expedition was a failed British military attempt to capture the French Fort Duquesne in the summer of 1755. That Spring General Edward Braddock had arrived to the Colonies with two regiments from Ireland and added to them by recruiting local British Americans to increase his troops to roughly 2,200. He was accompanied on this expedition by Colonel George Washington and Sergeant Daniel Boone.

Braddock lacked command experience, and was scornful at Benjamin Franklin's advice for the need to recruit Indian scouts. Franklin cautioned the general that he was badly underestimating the rigors of the American wilderness and the dangers therein – especially the French-allied Indians, and later wrote that Braddock had "smiled" at his ignorance. Braddock's abrupt dismissal of Franklin's advice would prove fatally misguided.

They set out from Fort Cumberland, Maryland on 29 May, following the wilderness route that Washington had blazed a year earlier, but the expedition was beset with difficulties from the outset. The route, which was little more than a primitive track, traversed five mountain ranges and crossed innumerable watercourses before reaching the French Fort. Braddock sent an advance detachment of 600 men ahead to clear the "road", which was in constant need of widening in order to move artillery and supply wagons along it.

Frustrated at his slow pace, he split his force in two, with the slower force following with the cannon and wagons in the rear. The forward column crossed the Monongahela River on 9 July within ten miles of Fort Duquesne. Despite being very tired after weeks of crossing extremely hard terrain, they anticipated a relatively easy victory. The French and Canadians sent out around 800 troops to check the British advance. Seeing the enemy in the trees, the British advance guard fired and succeeded in killing the French captain, at which time the Indian warriors took up positions to attack. They were fighting on Indian hunting grounds which favored their tactics. Indians employed a form of “psychological warfare” against the British forces. During the battle, they made a terrifying “whoop” sound that caused fear and panic to spread to the British infantry. After killing British soldiers, they would nail their scalps to surrounding trees.

The advance guard came under heavy fire and began taking casualties and withdrew. In the narrow confines of the road, they collided with the main body of Braddock's force, which had advanced rapidly when the shots were heard. Despite comfortably outnumbering their attackers, the British were immediately on the defensive. Most of the regulars were not accustomed to fighting in forest terrain, and were terrified by the deadly musket fire. Confusion reigned, and several British platoons fired at each other. The entire column dissolved in disorder as the Canadian militiamen and Indians enveloped them and continued to snipe at the British flanks from the woods on the sides of the road. At this time, the French regulars began advancing along the road and began to push the British back. General Braddock rode forward to try to rally his men, who had lost all sense of unit cohesion.

Following Braddock's lead, the officers tried to reform units into regular order within the confines of the road. This effort was mostly in vain and simply provided targets for their concealed enemy. The cannon was used, but due to the confines of the forest road, was ineffective. Braddock had several horses shot under him, yet retained his composure, providing the only sign of order to the frightened British soldiers. Many of the Americans, lacking the training of British regulars to stand their ground, fled and sheltered behind trees, where they were mistaken for enemy fighters by the redcoats, who fired upon them. The rearguard, made up of Virginians, managed to fight effectively from the trees, something they had learned in previous years of fighting Indians.

Despite the unfavorable conditions, the British began to stand firm and blast volleys at the enemy. Finally, after three hours of intense combat, Braddock was shot in the lung, possibly by one of his own men, and effective resistance collapsed. He fell from his horse, badly wounded, and was carried back to safety by his men. As a result of Braddock's wounding, and without an order being given, the British began to withdraw. They did so largely with order, until they reached the Monongahela River, when they were set upon by the Indian warriors. The Indians attacked with hatchets and scalping knives, after which panic spread among the British troops and they began to break ranks and run, believing they were about to be massacred.

Colonel Washington, although he had no official position in the chain of command, was able to impose and maintain some order, and formed a rear guard, which allowed the remnants of the force to disengage. By sunset, the surviving British forces were fleeing back down the road they had built, carrying their wounded. Behind them on the road, bodies were piled high. The Indians did not pursue the fleeing redcoats, but instead set about scalping and looting the corpses of the wounded and dead, and drinking two hundred gallons of captured British rum.

A number of British soldiers and women were captured in the battle. Some of the soldiers were spared, as were most of the women, but around a dozen soldiers were tortured and burned to death by the Indians that night.

Daniel Boone was among the soldiers involved in the battle and acted as a wagoner. In the Battle of the Monongahela, Boone narrowly escaped death when the baggage wagons were assaulted by Indian troops. He escaped, it is said, by cutting his wagons and fleeing. Boone remained critical of Braddock's blunders for the rest of his life.

Of the approximately 1,300 men Braddock led into battle, 456 were killed outright and 422 were wounded. Commissioned officers were prime targets and suffered greatly: out of 86 officers, 26 were killed and 37 wounded. Of the 50 or so women that accompanied the British column as maids and cooks, only 4 returned with the British; about half were taken as captives. The French and Canadians reported very few casualties.

Braddock died of his wounds on 13 July, four days after the battle, and was buried on the road near Fort Necessity.

Colonel Thomas Dunbar, with the reserves and rear supply units, took command when the survivors reached his position. Realizing there was no further likelihood of his force proceeding to capture Fort Duquesne, he decided to retreat. He ordered the destruction of supplies and cannon before withdrawing, burning about 150 wagons on the spot. His forces retreated back toward Philadelphia. The French did not pursue, realizing that they did not have sufficient resources for an organized pursuit.

The battle of Monongahela was a devastating defeat, and has been characterized as one of the most disastrous in British colonial history. [Battle of the Monongahela.]

Family tradition has always maintained that Charles Keyser was a soldier in the French and Indian War and was present at the Battle known as Braddock's Defeat. [Mead Relations.] About 120 years after the battle, great-grandson, Isaac C. Dovel, recorded that Charles Keyser was a soldier in Braddock’s unfortunate campaign, and added the following note: that he "returned unhurt". Considering the details of the battle, that was quite remarkable.

Charles Kyzar's military record is as follows:

  • Name
  •    Charles Kyzar/Kyzer

  • Birth
  •    16 January 1726
       Möckmühl, Duchy of Württemberg

  • Death
  •    Before 28 May 1778
       Shenandoah, Virginia, United States

  • Allegiance
  •    Great Britain

  • War
  •    French and Indian War

  • Campaign
  •    Braddock Expedition

  • Battle
  •    Battle of Monongahela
       Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
       9 July 1755

  • Unit
  •    Frederick County Militia

  • Commander
  •    William Bethel, Captain of Foot

  • Rank
  •    Foot Soldier

  • Time of Service
  •    Probably for One Engagement

  • Military Proceedings
  •    Court Martial Frederick County, Virginia
       2 September 1755
       Fined for Missing One General Muster

    Charles Kyser next appears by deed of 6 April 1765, when he paid five shillings for 108 acres just across from the mouth of the Hawksbill Creek near the present town of Luray in Page (then Frederick) Co., Virginia.

    Lewis Rhinehart and Matthias Rhinehart of Frederick County, Virginia, conveyed unto Charles Kyser, of the same place, a parcel of land on the South Fork of the Shenandoah, being the lower end of two tracts of land granted to Matthias Rhinehart by deed of 8 February 1764 from the Proprietor’s Office of the Northern Neck of Virginia. This firmly puts Charles Keyser in Frederick Co. before the Spring of 1765, as the deed states he was already living in Frederick Co. at the time. According to a letter written in 1892 by Charles' step-grandson, Adam Strickler, Charles Keyser "came to our Valley and lived on Mill Creek". [Mead Relations] [Forerunners.] This is confirmed by the military information above which placed him in Frederick County in 1755, as the men in Captain Bethel's district were drawn from what is now Page Co., which is exactly the same area where Charles Keyser is found ten years later.

    6 April 1765
    Deed Book No. 10, page 248

    This Indenture made the sixth Day of April in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty five Between Lewis Rhinehart and Matthias Rhinehart of the County of Frederick in the Colony of Virginia of the one part and Charles Kyser of the same place of the other part Witnesseth that the said Lewis Rhinehart and Matthias Rhinehart for and in Consideration of the Sum of five Shillings Current Money of Virginia to him in hand paid by the said Charles Kyser at or before the Sealing and Delivery of these present Have granted Bargained and sold and by these present Doth grant Bargain and Sell unto the said Charles Kyser Certain piece or parcel of Land Containing One Hundred and Eight Acres Situate in the Parish and County of Frederick in the said Colony on the South fork of Shanandore it being Part of and the lower end of two tract of Land the one Granted to Matthias Rhinehart by Deed bearing Date the Eight Day of February 1764 from the Proprietors Office of the Northern Neck of Virginia but entered and taken up by Michael Rhinehart father of the said Lewis and Matthias and the other part of a Greater Tract Originally Granted by Pattent from the Kings Office to Stover and by him Sold to one Stone who sold the same to Michael Rhinehart the father of the said Lewis and who by his Last Will devised the same to him Lewis and be it as follows viz Beginning at a small sycamore and walnut on the Bank of the said River and Runing from the River from the line of Fence to 23 degrees Et 122 poles to two white Oaks on a Branch in the old pattent line thence that line N 80 deg. Et Ninety Six poles to a white Oak Chestnut Oak and Lowest on the River Bank thence up the Several Courses of the River to the Beginning and all Houses Buildings Orchards Ways Waters Water Courses ??? Commodities ??? unto and Appurtenances whatsoever to the said Premises hereby Granted or any Part these of belonging or in anywise appertaining and the Reversion and Reversions Remainder and Remainders Rents ??? and Profits there of To have and to hold the said One Hundred and Eight Acres of Land be the same more or less with in the Deserved Bounds and all and Singular other the Premises hereby Grants with the Appurtenances unto the said Charles Kyser his Executors Administrators and Assigns from the Day before the Date here of for and During the fall Term and Time of one whole Year from thence next Consuming fully to be Complete and ended yielding and paying therefore the Rent of one pepper Corn on Lady Day next if the same shall be Lawfully Demanded to the Intent and Purpose that by Virtue of these present and of the Statute for Transferring Acres into possession the said Charles Kyser may be in his Actual Possession of the Premises and be thereby enabled to Accept and take a Grant and Release of the Reversion and Inheritance thereof to him and his Heirs In Witness whereof the said Lewis Rhinehart and Matthias Rhinehart have here set their Hands and Seals the Day and Year first above Written. [Mark Kiser]

    The early settlers in the Valley lived at peace with the Indians until 1754, but from that time until 1765 Indian incursions and raids were frequent. In the summer of 1758, several settlers were attacked by Indians at the Hawksbill Settlement:

    "In 1758 John Stone of White House in the Hawksbill settlement, was killed by the Indians and his wife, son, aged seven, and George Grandstaff, were taken prisoner. Mrs. Stone could not keep up with the party, so was killed further up the mountain. Grandstaff came home after three years' captivity, but the boy remained with the Indians until grown, came home, and sold his father's property and returned to the Indians."

    Another account tells us:

    "The family while at breakfast was attacked by the Indians, the wife Maria and the two daughters were tomahawked, the baby girl was picked up by the heels and its head dashed against the log wall. The Indians were amused at the futile defense put up by the three small boys so they were carried off into captivity."

    And one letter says:

    "We were thirty-nine Mennonite families living together in Virginia. One family was murdered and the rest of us and many other families were obliged to flee for our lives, leaving all and going emptyhanded." [Massacre at Hawksbill Settlement]

    Another incident happened one late summer afternoon in 1764, when a Swiss Mennonite minister, John Rhodes, along with his wife and several of his children, were massacred not far from where Charles Keyser bought his Hawksbill farm just a few months later.

    There was more evidence of Indian relics in Page County than any other county in the Shenandoah Valley, and more evidence of Indians from the upper end of Massanutten to the mouth of Hawksbill Creek than in any other part of the county. In 1830 there were still remains of Indian mounds on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and on the Hawksbill. An Indian mound on Noah Keyser’s lands near the mouth of the Hawksbill was found to be literally filled with human skeletons. [“Massanutten” by Harry M. Strickler.]

    As the Massanutten settlement was unprotected, many inhabitants built stone houses with fort cellars, the only known cases of this type of architecture in Virginia. According to the terms of the Rhinehart-Kyser deed, all houses and buildings were conveyed with the land. This included a structure called the Michael Rinehart Home and Fort Cellar. This house was built prior to 1735 and was still standing in 1936 when the W.P.A. Historical Inventory Project compiled a thorough and very interesting report about the old house and its history, which included secret closets, a port hole through which to fire at marauding Indians, and a secret trap door leading to the fort cellar below. Also mentioned was a two room log building used for slave quarters, although there is no evidence that Charles Keyser, Sr. ever kept slaves.

    Charles Keyser was a very capable and self sufficient man. In 1765 he built another house on his land. The Virginia Works Project Administration report on The Charles Keyser Home notes that it was in a fair state of preservation at the time of the report (1936). As in the case of the Michael Rinehart House Report, it is very interesting to read, however there are some errors in the report.

    The house was oblong in shape, built of logs out from the banks of the river, fastened together in dovetail fashion and sealed with red clay and cut straw. On front was a low porch. The house consisted of three rooms on the first floor and two on the second. As you entered the house, there was one long narrow room, with an immense chimney in the center and a stairway on the north wall. The fireplace opening was four and one-half feet deep, seven and one-half feet wide and five and one-quarter feet high. On the fireplace were iron cranes, one on either side, which swung back and forth. From that room, you entered another room fourteen by sixteen feet which had a small fireplace. From that room you entered another room, probably used as a bedroom. The front door was divided and hung on long narrow hinges and fastened with iron latches.

    A very steep stairway led upstairs, where an impressive chimney measuring three and one-half feet square stood in the center of the first room. The ceiling was fifteen feet at the highest point and made in a "V" shape. The log walls were sealed with boards cut with a broad axe, hand finished and hand tongued-and-grooved. The rafters were made one at a time, numbered with Roman numerals, and then put in place. At the head of the stairs was a crude drying rack that suspended from the ceiling on four poles.

    On the west end of the main room and about six feet from the front door was a trap door opening to a stairway that lead to the fort cellar below. It had a vaulted ceiling and was built of blue limestone, laid in a keystone style. The spaces between the stones were filled with mortar, so as to present a smooth surface. The report notes that at the time, two hundred years after the house's construction, that the mortar was in excellent condition and as smooth as if it had been put on "by an expert present-day plasterer". The ceiling was arched, and measured eight and one-half feet high in the center. The vault was twelve feet wide by eighteen feet long. In the south and west walls were openings called port holes, which were narrow on the outside and widened inwardly, allowing the pioneer in the vault ample room for shooting. There was a door at the front of the stairs which made it more secure from attacking enemies. Just outside the door was a niche, used to hold a pine torch. Also inside the cellar on the south wall was another niche, larger than the outside one. In the southwest corner was a clear spring.

    Tradition says that prisoners, when being taken to the jail in Woodstock, were kept overnight at the old Keyser home. In the wall of one of the upstairs rooms can be seen places where iron hooks fastened to the walls.

    Here in this house, Charles Keyser and his wife raised their family of ten children. The name of Charles Keyser's wife is not known for certain, but thanks to records supplied by Mark Kiser, we do know that he was married in America:

    "Carl Sebastian, went almost 7 years ago to the English island Pennsylvania and is said to have got married there." [Inventory of Anna Catharina Kayser, Möckmühl, 31 Oct 1755, Inventory and Real Distribution.]

    There are two ongoing theories about who the wife of Charles Keyser was.

    The first theory has been popular for over a hundred years, and originates in the notes of Charles' great-grandson, Isaac C. Dovel. In the Fall of 1876, Dovel attended the U.S. Centennial in Philadelphia. During that time he, "embraced the opportunity to visit relatives in Shenandoah and Page Counties, Virginia". The renewal of family connections apparently inspired him to begin collecting his family history, which was "compiled from old records all of which will soon be inaccessible". In the beginning of his manuscript, Dovel wrote that Charles Keyser, "married a lady in Philadelphia by the name of Shelly". [Dovel Family Record.]

    Researcher Mark Kiser believes that Carl Kaӱser and Mary Shelly were married in 1751 while he was still a servant of Jacob Eichholtz, living in Lancaster Township, and that their first son, Charles, Jr. was born there in 1752. Mary's family, Christian and Magdalen Shelly, were living in the Manheim Township of Lancaster County as well.

    Mark has uncovered several documents surrounding Charles Kayser and Mary Shelly, including a deed her parents recorded in 1759 conveying 78 acres to their oldest son Jacob, and her father's will, dated 22 April 1760. But the most interesting record Mark found was a deed dated 6 June 1761 of Charles Kyser to Elizabeth Shelly. Because Jacob Shelly had died intestate and unmarried, Mary Shelly and her sisters had inherited his 78 acres, and this deed was in effect selling her portion of the inheritance to her sister Elizabeth. The deed refers to "Charles Cayser and Mary, his wife", and what is so interesting is that he signed his name "Carl Kaӱser" in the document. In 2003 Mark wrote an "Update on the Carl Kayser Research" in which he outlined his findings and conclusions. Currently, Mark is working on further proving this theory and tracking down any other traces of Carl Kaӱser in Lancaster Co.

    The second theory, also derived from Isaac Dovel's notes, gives a different name for Charles Keyser's wife:

    "Charles Kaiser was a native of Wurtemburg near Stuttgart Germany, his wife's name was Elizabeth Grossglose, also a native of Germany."

    Much confusion has come from the fact that the names in both these theories came from the same source - Dovel.

    In 1892, Adam Strickler, the step-grandson of Charles Keyser, wrote a letter to Ephraim Keyser outlining a brief history of the Keyser family. It contained the information about "Miss Shelley" found in the book, “The Keyser Family: Descendants of Dirck Keyser of Amsterdam” by Charles S. (Shearer) Keyser, which had just been published three years earlier in commemoration of the bicentennial reunion in Philadelphia for a different Keyser family's arrival in America. Adam Strickler's letter was copied in Harry M. Strickler's book, "Forerunners", published in 1925, and again in 1933 in A.M. Prichard's, "Mead Relations", and eventually became absorbed into the family narrative.

    Opponents of the Mary Shelly theory note that it has been proven that the Charles Keyser, descendant of Dirck Keyser of Amersterdam, is not the Charles Keyser who settled across from Hawksbill Creek in 1765. It is possible that while Isaac Dovel was in Philadelphia, he shared information with someone from the Dirck Keyser Family who was working on the book for their upcoming reunion, that information was shared, and that is how the name Mary Shelly came to be in his notes early on. Later, after further research, Dovel may have corrected the name to Elizabeth Grossglose.

    No documentation of a marriage between Charles Keyser to either Mary Shelly or Elizabeth Grossglose has been found. Two "Large Dutch Bibles" that could confirm the name of Carl Sebastian Kaÿser's wife, and the names of his children, are said to have been taken to Ohio by the sons of Charles Keyser, Jr. after his death, but to date they have not been found, and so the debate continues.

    Charles Keyser and his wife lived on their farm for the rest of their lives. They were buried between the Rhinehart Fort Home that originally stood there, and the Fort Home that Charles built when he purchased the land. The dates of their deaths are unknown. A memorial marker for Charles was erected by later generations which gave, incorrectly, his year of birth as 1702.

    Charles Keyser died intestate sometime before his estate was probated on 28 May 1778, making him age 52 at the time of his death. The Shenandoah County Circuit Court appointed Bryant Breeding, Martin Comer, Matthew Mattocks and Peter Ruffner to appraise the estate of "Charles Kizer, dec'd,", and a List of Inventory was recorded in Will Book "A" page 179. Charles Keyser, Jr. was made administrator of his father's estate. The record indicates that Charles Keyser, Sr. died a wealthy man. His estate, totaling over 509 Pounds, was divided between his ten children, but no names were listed. [Mead Relations.]

    The children of Charles Keyser and his wife became pioneers in their own right. While some eventually moved farther west, others stayed close to where they were born. A map of the Springfield Magisterial District of Page County, (the old Massanutten area), made in 1885 is covered with the names of the many Keyser descendants living there at that time.

    Of the ten Keyser children, nine have been positively identified. Their names are listed below, however their birth order and all data has not been confirmed. Further research is ongoing.

  • CHARLES, JR.
  • JOHN
  • CATHARINE
  • ANNA
  • JOSEPH
  • ANDREW
  • MARY
  • ELIZABETH
  • ESTHER
  • CHILD X

  • A very unusual incident happened after Charles had been laid to rest. While Isaac C. Dovel was in Virginia visiting his relatives, a conversation with some of them arose as to where Charles and his wife were buried. Some inclined to the opinion that both were placed in the same grave, so they decided to open it. On 9 October 1876, his grave was opened by Peter and Henry Keyser, sons of Andrew Keyser, Jr. Also present were Charles Keyser, (grandson), Isaac C. Dovel, Capt. Joseph Keyser, (son of Noah Keyser), Joseph W. Keyser, (son of Peter Keyser) and Uphemia Richardson, (daughter of Andrew Keyser Jr.). The skull, teeth and hair were found to be in a wonderful state of preservation after having been buried 98 years. [Dovel Family Record.] Apparently, after they reburied him they did not mark the spot, and currently, there is no marker designating his exact place of burial.