Frederick Cooper of Washington Co., PA

The following transcription was submitted by Karen Ermutlu for inclusion at the Genealogy in Washington Co., PA web site in June 2000.


How modern research has altered outdated assumptions. 

            Frederick Cooper of Washington County, Pennsylvania was of German ancestry and his paternal line has been proved to 1657.  However, he was not born in Germany but in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  The family's original surname was Kieffer.  This is proved on an 1810 deed in which he and his wife sold land to their son, George.  The deed is in the name of Frederick Cooper, but his signature reads Friedrich Kieffer.

            The Kieffer line has been traced to one Heinrich Kieffer (c. 1619-c.1669) who was a civil servant in the employ of Fridrich V, Margrave (Count) of Baden-Durlach in 1657.  His wife is unknown.  Heinrich had two known sons, one of which was Gall Kieffer (1639-1689).  Gall and his wife, Anna Regina Kessbohrer, were married in the village of Unterowisheim, Baden, Germany.  The Kessbohrer family was from Ulm, Germany and has been proved to 1613.

            Gall Kieffer had nine children.  The sixth son was Johann Friedrich, b. 1673 in Munzesheim, Baden, Germany.  He married Anna Maria Schueffelin in the neighboring village of Oberacker.  The Scheuffelin line has been traced to 1599 and originally was from Switzerland.

            Five of Johann Friedrich Kieffer's seven children gained adulthood: Jacob, Maria, Leonhard, Dorothea, and Elisabetha.  All were born in Oberacker.

            On 5 May 1732 Johann Friedrich, his wife, two sons, their wives, three grandchildren, one married daughter and son-in-law, and one unmarried daughter left Oberacker for America.  The other married daughter, Maria Kuhn, did not emigrate.  Their leaving is recorded in detail in the "Ortssippenbuch" for Oberacker, p. 235.  The Ortssippenbuch may be found in the library of the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah.

            The villages named are located N.E. of present-day city of Karlsruhe.

            The family arrived in Philadelphia 11 August 1732 on the Ship Samuel.  Everyone is listed except Leonhard's one-year-old daughter, Anna Maria.  It may be assumed that she died enroute.  A few of the ages of the family members are incorrect and the surname is incorrectly spelled Keffer.

            In 1737 the brothers, Jacob and Leonard, obtained warrants for lands in Bucks County (now Northampton County) "near Durham Furnace," near present-day Easton, PA.  Leonard's 150 acres on the Delaware River was surveyed November 1741.  The brothers and their families began to be recorded in the Williams Township Congregation, Jacob's first entry being 1737 and Leonard's in 1740.  They remained in the area approximately 12 years.  During this time seven of Leonard and Maria's children were born including Friedrich Kieffer born 21 January 1743.  This is recorded in "Pennsylvania German Church Records" Vol. II. p. 46.

            It was during this time that the English courts began using the name Cooper for the family, at one point misspelling it "Cowper."  Kieffer is an occupational name meaning in English "cooper" (barrel-maker).  Changing German names was the arrogance of the English courts.  Some families accepted the change while others did not.

            In 1750 Jacob Cooper is recorded as "tithable" in Augusta County, VA.  In 1751 220 acres was surveyed in Frederick Co. VA for Jacob Cooper.

            In 1752 Leonard Cooper's last child was born in Pennsylvania.  The exact year that he followed his brother to Virginia is not known but could be assumed to be about 1756 when the Williams Township congregation dispersed.  Leonard is recorded as a member of the Frederick County militia in 1758.

            Jacob Cooper died in 1758 and his heirs sold the property to Leonard in 1762.

            The first recorded mention of Frederick Cooper is August 1763 when he was a 20-year-old chain carrier on a survey.   This also is the year that he may have married his first wife.  This is based on a report of a turn-of-the-century reunion of descendants of Catherine Cooper Ward, Frederick's oldest child by Elizabeth Kyle.  It was reported that descendants were in the possession of a German bible dated 1763 with the name Margaret Cooper inscribed.  This cannot now be proved, but living descendants remember having known of the bible which was last known to have been in Stark Co. Ohio.

            The statements that have come down to the present that Frederick had three children by this first wife, namely John, Margaret and Elizabeth, are accepted though no trace has been found to substantiate this.  We estimate their births to be 1764-1770.  At least one, perhaps both, of the daughters by his first wife likely are on the 1790 census that shows Frederick Cooper with 5 females in his household.  Where and when the first wife died also is not known.

            What is the first year that Frederick Cooper is known to be in Washington Co?  One account says 1769, which is possible but not provable. In April 1771 Frederick Cooper bought a tract of land "on the north side of the Monongahela" river in what is now Allegheny County, Forward Township.  We do not know if he actually lived on this property as he sold it one year later in April 1772.  One month after that, June 1772, he bought 287 acres (called "Wrangle") from Jacob Froman.  This property remained in family hands for several generations.

            Of those early days, several questions may remain forever unanswered.  Did his first wife accompany him to Pennsylvania?  We deduce that she died 1770-71.  His second wife, Elizabeth Kyle, continues to be a mystery after 10 years of searching in Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Periodically, the search resumes.  We believe Elizabeth died about 1824 as that apparently is the year that the remaining slaves were manumitted.  She would have been about 70 years old at the time.

            Frederick Cooper owned slaves – various numbers in various years, the maximum number being 10 in 1790.

            Although born an Evangelical Lutheran, in 1794 Frederick is recorded as a vestryman of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in West Pike Run Township.

Frederick and Elizabeth had eight children all of whom with the exception of one daughter are well documented.   

Frederick is enumerated on the 1830 census in Fayette County, Washington Township in the household of his daughter and son-in-law, Catherine and Thomas Ward, being between the ages of 80 and 90.  He was 87 at that time.  We hope he made it to the ripe old age of 90 before he left us.

Karen Harper Ermutlu

Descendant of Catherine Cooper Ward 


Genealogy in Washington County, Pennsylvania
Last updated: 01/20/2006