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A History of Casper Keener

By Dorothy Keener Sprinkle

Casper Keener, whose name has many  variations in spelling  -  Caspar, Gasper, Gaspar, Kuhner, Kuehner, Kenor, Kienar, and others  -  was born in Germany in the late 1600's.  Along with a group of other Palantines from along the Rhine River, he arrived in Philadelphia on September 19, 1738 on the "Thistle" where he took the oath of allegiance to the Province and State of Pennsylvania.  The "Thistle", under the command of John Wilson, first sailed from Rotterdam and last from England for its long journey across the Atlantic.

The next documented record of Casper Keener is found in a history of land transactions within a portion of York and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania, which in the mid-eighteenth century, was known as Digges' Choice.  In the book, "Digges' Choice 1724-1800", Pastor Frederick S. Weiser wrote in the Foreword:
"This area was in dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania for many of the years involved in this analysis, a fact which clouds the picture of the actual patterns of settlement dates more than is true in many communities, for one can rarely determine the arrival date of a settler simply from the dates of his land transactions in most of southeastern Pennsylvania.  The dispute caused murder, lawlessness, confusion, and probably some of the emigration from the area in the eighteenth century."

Because of the many land disputes and transactions, settlers were unable to obtain deeds from John Digges until after 1750.  Often individuals settled on a tract of land for a number of years and then moved away leaving no record of an official deed, warrant or patent.  Perhaps this is the reason no record of property has been found for Casper Keener during this time period; however, Casper and his wife Anna Barbara are documented in Rev. Stover's records.

On page 115, Pastor Weiser wrote:  "The first clergyman of a Protestant confession to perform ministerial acts of whom we have record in the Conewago settlement was Johann Caspar Stover (1707-1779), a Lutheran who was enroute to a visit with his father, a pastor in western Virginia. Fortunately, for historians and genealogists, Stover kept careful records of the ministerial acts he performed on his travels.  His journal of baptisms for children in areas in which a congregation had not yet been organized has been printed in translation and has been widely followed by many persons.  The original document is in the historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia."

Page 118  -  "Joh. Jacob Jungblut, son of Jacob Jungblut, b. 13 May 1739, bp. in Nov 1739, sp. Leonhardt Bernitz; Casper Kuehner; Anna Catarina Kuntz; Hanna Jungblut"

Page 119  - "Joh. Casper Heim, son of Johannes Heim, b. 9 Sept 1740,
bp. 19 Sept 1740, sp. Casper Kuehner"

From "Records of St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, Pennsylvania 1741-1831", translated by Frederick S. Welser:

Page 13 "(C)  Anna Barbara Kuhner, Born:1743, Christened: November 1743,
Father: Casper, Sponsors: Martin Wagner and wife Anna"
Page 13 "(K)  Kuhner, Anna Margaretha, Christened: April 10, 1745, Father: Casper, Sponsors: John Schaumann and wife"

Pastor and schoolmaster who kept records: (C) David Chandler 1743-1744 and (K) Johann Valentine Kraft 1745-1749.

Casper and Anna Barbara or Casper Kuhner were listed as sponsors:
Page 8   "Sank (Alexander?) Bortman, a son John Willhelm, Born: March 31, 1743, Sponsors:  Casper Kuhner, George Weidner"
Page 13  "Martin Gledy, a son Johann Martin, November 27, 1743,  Sponsors:  Casper Kuhner, wife Anna Barbara"

The archivist at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Hanover searched the church records for 100 years and found no further records of Casper and Anna Barbara or of the two girls.

"York County Pennsylvania church Records of the 18th Century":
Page 187  "John William of Frank Bortman born 31 March 1743; baptized 1743, Witnesses: Caspar Kuhner, George Kreider."
Page 189  "Anna Margaretha of Caspar Kuhner, baptized 10 April 1745.  Witnesses: John Schauman and wife"

Casper Keener and Anna Barbara were born in Germany where one known child, Abraham Keener, was born in 1717.  The span of years between the birth of Abraham and the two girls, Anna Barbara (b.1743) and Anna Margaretha (baptized in 1745) raises some doubt.  However, if Anna Barbara, the mother, was born in the very late 1690's or 1700 (exact date of her birth is unknown), she could have been the mother of all three.  Another possibility  -  Was Anna Barbara a second wife?

On April 7, 1752 Casper Keener applied for a grant of 600 acres in Anson County, North Carolina.  On March 27, 1753, he received 450 acres located "on head waters of Leepers Creek"  -  Grant #821.  This acreage included the land where he was residing.  It has been said that Casper never moved from here, but the county boundaries moved.  Casper is mentioned in a number of deeds where his land served as a boundary.

The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road was used by most German and Scotch-Irish settlers who settled in Rowan and surrounding communities:  Philadelphia  -  Lancaster  -  York  -  Gettysburg  -  through the Shenandoah Valley  -  Salisbury  - Charlotte.  No doubt this is the route that Casper followed.  Hanover, where St. Matthews Lutheran Church is located, lies between York and Gettysburg.

On October 11, 1754, Casper Keener was naturalized in Salisbury, Rowan County which was the seat of government located in the middle of North Carolina during its early days.  The following abstract was taken from the minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Session:
"Gasper Keener, Alexander Clingerman, Steffel Goodheart, and Mathias Beever came into open court and took the oath as by law appointed and subscribed the testimony.  Court adjourned until tomorrow at 8:00."

After Casper Keener's death in 1762, wife Barbara was issued letters of administration to his estate as shown in the following court abstract:
"October 21, 1762  -  On a motion of Mr. Dunn ordered P (probate) court that Barbara Keiner have letter of administration of her decd husband, Gasper Keanor.  Securities was George Saifor and William Armstrong, in the sum of 200 pounds."  On April 13, 1763 an inventory for the sale of his estate was accepted by the court.

Casper and Anna Barbara Keener are buried in the old Keener-Shrum Family Cemetery a short distance up the road from Keener Creek.  This plot of land was donated by a Keener ancestor for the establishment of a church and cemetery.  Today a small Baptist Church occupies a corner of the land and it is now know as the Union Baptist Church Cemetery which is located between Denver and Pumpkin Center.

At the eighty-fifth birthday celebration of Peter Keener at his home on Leepers Creek, Alford Nixon, in part of his address, paid tribute to Gasper Keener.  ''In 1750, the single 'skirmish line of civilization' in its ever westward march, had crossed the Great Catawba and established its outuposts in the primal wilds of what was then Anson County, now the old county of Lincoln.  Among the bold spirits of the adventurous pioneers was Gasper Keener.  The touch of time has
obliterated most of his history, but the dates of his land grants assuredly give him a place among those who encountered the dangers and the hardships incident to frontier life, and entitles his name to be treasured among the honored heroes who subdued the foes of husbandry in a wild unsettled region.  That he was not only one of the path-finders, but a path maker is evidenced in an early grant to John Boyd on Lockhart's creek, for a body of land including in its boundaries 'the fork where Keener's path crosses, running up both sides of the creek, including a deer lick'."
The Lincoln County News, Lincolnton, North Carolina, Tuesday, October 13, 1908.

Margaret Brasher of Pell City, Alabama submitted the Casper Keener information where he is honored on Panel #219 on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor.
"The Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. proudly presents this Official Certificate of Registration in The American Immigrant Wall of Honor to officially certify that Casper Keener who came to America from Germany is among those courageous men and women who came to this country in search of personal freedom, economic opportuntiy and a future of hope for their families.
Signed: Lee Iacocca, the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

 
 

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