Wolfensparger Family History
Grandma Pilcher's parents were Joseph Hooker Williams and Mary Ellen "Molly" Sparger. Joseph Hooker Williams was born 11 Nov 1861 in Whiteland, Johnson, Indiana to James Thomas Williams and Elizabeth Ann Hull. My grandmother told me, when I was a child, that she was a direct descendant of Roger Williams; although this has not been substantiated. One of the statements attributed to Roger Williams was the belief he held that there was no one on earth at the time he lived who had the authority to officiate in the church as Christ established it. He said that if he found one who held that authority, he would join that church. Joseph Williams name was given to him in honor of his uncle, General Joseph Hooker, who was a Union officer during the Civil War.
An interesting, and rather embarassing story that I learned about Joseph Hooker was his attraction to women, who would follow his camp from site to site during the Civil War. They were given the name "Hooker's women". It is apparently from this name that the term "Hooker" was derived that is still used today to denote loose women.
Mary Ellen Spargur was born 20 May 1868 in Villisca, Montgomery, Iowa to Thomas W. Spargur and Julia Ann Bennett. During her life she went by the name of "Molly". My mother told me that life was not easy for Grandma Williams. She developed diabetes at a time when there was no cure, and died only a year or two before Insulin was discovered.
The Wolfensberger dynasty began with a Knight in 1230 AD. He appears for the first time in documents as the freeman, Griefensberg. As the Knight Baldebert Von Wolfsberg, he was the Lord of Rapperswil, Zuricher Sea. The name Wolfesberger meant "Hill of the Wolves". The family crest bears a wolf standing on three green peaks. The coat of arms before 1500 was red, bearing a silver wolf on three green hills - a silver wolf head with red and silver cape upon the helmet. The ancient form of the word is "Wolfesberg" or Mount of the wolf (or she-wolf). In its earliest written form, the name is Wolfensberger, although this later took on many differing spellings.
Not far from Old-Landersberger, upon a steep hill, at the village Ober-Wolfensberg, the castle Wolfensberg stood. The Knight Baldebert of Wolfsberg, who died circa 1259 as shown by the earliest records, was from Rapperswil and a subject of Briefenberg, a possession of the Count of Rapperswil, who held feudal tenure from St. Gallen. Baldebert and others of his family endowed the cloister (monastery) Rute, where their coat of arms were held, and where they now lie buried.
Another castellated hill by the settlement in Bad, westerly between upper and lower Wolfensberg, is also still listed in the Book of Castles (Zurich castles).
On November 16, 1315, Hermann Von Wolfensberg, while serving Duke Leopold of Austria, was slain in the battle of Morgarten, fighting the Swiss.
It appears that in 1439, Wolfensberg Castle was freed from the Cloister Rute, since from that year on, no tax entries appear in the local tax books. A few years later, the old Zurich War broke out. Therefore, it is understandable that the inhabitants in that area, through the development of rights of citizenship, attempted to guard and protect the city of Zurich. At about this time we begin to lose traces of the individual Rappersweeler, Von Wolfensberg, and we begin to find Wolfensberger used more frequently, which has continued to current times in its varied forms. Charts and records of individuals appear from here on. (65th Vol. German - Swiss Genealogy - by Dr. Herman Escher, Director, central library, Zurich, 1929)
The Swiss record is carefully documented from old records with all dates and places. These records are located in Zurich, as the original family always resided there. (also called Palatines)
The American branch of the Wolfensberger family tree began with John (Hans) Wolfensberger, who, with his wife and three small sons boarded the "Thistle of Glasgow", in Rotterdam, Holland. They had come from Alsace. The ship's passenger list stated they were "Phalzers" or came from Phalz, a region west of the upper Rhine. History shows that in those days groups of passengers assembled from rather narrow areas, congregating with others of similar customs, backgrounds, and language. This gave rise to the mistaken belief they originated in Germany.
The "Thistle of Glasgow" listed 77 Palatines, who, with their families totaled 260 persons. The Captain of the Thistle of Glasgow, Colin Dunlap, sailed from Rotterdam in late spring of 1730, arriving in Dover, England on June 19th, 1730. After sailing an additional 73 days it arrived in Philadelphia on August 29th, 1730.
At the courthouse at Philadelphia, on August 29th, 1730, the list of passengers was presented, which includes the name of Wolfes Spargar (John Wolfensberger I). This information was taken from minutes of the Provincial Council, printed in colonial records, vol. III, p. 285.
John Wolfensberger swore allegiance in Philadelphia in 1730, and received citizenship from the Province of Pennsylvania in 1744. He and his wife, Margreda, and their children settled initially in Lancaster, Pennsylvania among the Moravians. They belong to the Reformed Church and spoke German. This fact is given as the reason that the Scottish captain, who spoke no German, mistakenly entered his name as Wolfer Sperger and not Wolfensberger, which was correct. They came to be regarded among the prominent families of the Lebanon Valley in Pennsylvania. The first record of John Wolfensberger is in the Moravian Archives in Winston-Salem. John later bought 300 acres of land near Freedberg, Surry County, North Carolina. He died in 1761, and his wife, Margreda, died in 1775.
John Wolfensberger II (1724-1778) married Hannah Sumner. (Heritage of Surry Co., NC, vol. 1, by H.B. Jackson, 1983). John W. II and his wife, Hannah, were the parents of John III, Catherine, Anna Maria, Peter, Frederick, and Phillip. Phillip Wolfensberger was reported to have been bodyguard for George Washington during his entire career as Commander-in-Chief of the American Armies during the Revolutionary War.
John III married Christina Frei/Frey. Their children were John IV, Reuben, *Joseph, Phillipp, Henry, William, Hannah, Nancy and Sally. He was born August 17th, 1754 in Pennsylvania, and died November 17th, 1840 in Ohio. He moved to North Carolina in 1775, was married in 1777 in Surry Co., NC. He lived there until the death of his wife, Christina, in 1832. The story of how the name was changed from Wolfensberger to Spargur, relates that John III was asked to serve on a jury in Surry Co. circa 1800. Distances were great and the Sheriff rode to John's home to give him the jury summons. John spoke no English, and when John gave his name, the Sheriff wrote it down as John Wolfen Spargur. The name was easier to remember that way so he adopted this version. He was the first Wolfensberger to change his name to Spargur. The remaining children of John W. II retained the original spelling of the family name.
For several generations both male and female descendants carried the initial W. preceding Spargur to represent "Wolfen" which had been omitted by John W. III.
Joseph W. Spargur, son of John and Christina, married Rachel Sumner. They had a son Bowater W. Spargur who married Mary Beavers. They, in turn, bore Thomas W. Spargur who married Julia Ann Bennett. Their daughter, Mary Ellen W. Spargur (Mollie) married Joseph Hooker Williams, who were the parents of my grandmother, Floy Elizabeth Williams. Borter Sumner, Joseph's brother-in-law, came out to help him move, and in the fall of 1805 brought his family out to Ohio and settled down in what became Paint Township.
Joseph Spargur's sons often ran the mill grinding corn. The hand mill for the corn was double rigged, and two could work it at the same time. The boys soon discovered that the coarser the mill was set the easier it was to work. They frequently ground the meal so coarse that it would almost do to shoot woodpeckers!
In 1815 the brothers sold their mill and Reuben went back to North Carolina, while Joseph packed his goods and moved, cutting a road through the forest as he went to the Rocky Fork of Paint Creek. There he built a saw mill, a grist mill, and a wool-carding and fulling mill. He also built a substantial brick home that was still in use in 1937 by H. D. Beaver, his great-grandson and family.
Joseph W. Spargur was the father of 18 children, all reared to adulthood. All were present at the death of their father who died in 1845, at the age of 64 years.
Phillip Spargur, a brother of Joseph, came to Ohio in 1809 and settled on a large tract of land near the present site of New Petersburg. He brought with him his wife and 10 children.
In 1833, after the death of his wife, Christina, John W. Spargur II and his son, Henry, joined the family in Ohio. Henry, his bride, and his father made the entire trip on horseback. Reuben, *Joseph and Phillip had already migrated to Ohio. What hopes, what fears, what hardships that couple suffered! They overcame all obstacles and lived to a ripe old age raising a family of 12 children, thus making 40 children in all for the three brothers, Joseph, Phillip, and Henry.
In 1875 the three families began to hold reunions, which were not only for the Spargurs, but for all who wished to come. These reunions grew rapidly, and by 1886 the crowd was estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000 people! They came in wagons, buggies, on horseback, and on foot. Dinners were spread on the grass in the shade of the trees. What fun to see how gracefully some of the women sat down on the ground! There was a band that came from Greenfield, Ohio in a four-horse band wagon painted red, with gold striping, the men in uniform, and the horses with red plumes in their bridles. There was nothing like that in those days except at county fairs and the Spargur Reunions!
The Spargur reunion grounds were situated at the western edge of Rainsboro. From 1906 to 1929 this was also where the Highland County Fair was held. The date was always the Saturday or Sunday nearest the 20th of August, since that was the anniversary of Joseph W. Spargur's arrival in the Northwest Territory, August 20th, 1804.
Paint Township, about 13 miles east of Hillsboro on US 50, near the junction of Rocky Fork and Paint Creeks was established in the 1800's. The first school building cost $69.00 and was built on Phillip spargur's farm.