In the Catawba River Valley (Old Lincoln County)
“They came when plundering wars and religious persecutions had reduced the Lower Palatinate to a wasteland, when people ate grass and leaves, when passenger ships were loaded beyond capacity, when hundreds were buried at sea, when churning sea gales rose like mountains and tumbled over frightened migrants, when the unhealthy were unwelcome at the port in Philadelphia.”
— Rev. James R. Hawk (2016)
I attended the Shrum family reunion in Lincoln County, North Carolina this weekend, so I put together this quick timeline on some of the more notable connections between the Keener, Shrum, and other early German families in the Catawba River valley…
· 1738–41: In what has been called “The Year of the Destroying Angels” (1738), Jacob and Anna Maria (Kreafer) Schram (Shrum) arrived in Philadelphia aboard the Davy on October 25th with their 14-year-old son, Nicholas. A few days later, Casper and Anna Barbara Kühner (Keener) arrived aboard the Thistle. A five-year-old Christian Reinhardt arrived with his parents the following year (1739). Casper Keener’s son, Abraham, and his wife, Juliana Martin, arrived aboard the Lydia two years later (1741) as an outbreak of yellow fever and typhus (“Palatine fever”) was blamed on the conditions aboard these cargo vessels which were designed to carry laborers to the New World and cotton, tobacco, lumber and indigo back to Europe.
· 1745–50: They first settled in York (and Adams) County in Pennsylvania where John E. Keener was born (1745), with Nicholas Shrum likely sponsoring his baptism. Nicholas married Anna Catherine (“Koener” — likely a variant spelling of Keener) on Janurary 10th 1747, and Nicholas’s father, Jacob Shrum, died (1748) just months before Peter Finger arrived on September 9th (1749). Around 1750, dozens of these “Pennsylvania Dutch” families migrated down the “Great Wagon Road” through the Shenandoah Valley to the North Carolina Backcountry, including Christian Reinhardt, Casper and Abraham Keener, Daniel and Nicholas Warlick, Henry Weidner (Whitener), Henry Summerour (Summerow), Rhines (Rhyne), Welfong (Wilfong), Yoder, Seitz, Klein (Cline), Isenhower, Mull, Lineberger, Hilderbrand, Rudisill, Ramsour, Zimmerman (Carpenter) and others, to build a new “Pennsylvania” in the Catawba River Valley. Nicholas Shrum would remain in Pennsylvania with his newly widowed mother and his new wife.
· 1752–62: Casper Keener was granted 452 acres in what was then Anson (now Lincoln) County, North Carolina on “Leepers Creek” (also “Dutchmans Creek,” or “Lick Run Creek”). Nicholas Shrum’s mother, Anna Maria, died in Pennsylvania (1754) and his son, John Peter Shrum, is born (1754). Nicholas Shrum is naturalized at Dover township, York County, Pennsylvania on March 21. Peter Finger is naturalized at Annapolis, Maryland on October 10th (1762).
· 1767–80: Nicholas Shrum purchased land in Old Tryon (now Lincoln) County (1767), and a daughter (Maria Christina) married Jacob Finger (a son of Peter) in York County, Pennsylvania (1777). Peter Finger purchased land from Abraham Keener near his “trusty friend” Christian Reinhardt (1778). In 1780, Nicholas Warlick and others are killed at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill on Christian Reinhardt’s farm, in which Abraham Keener participated as a Tory. The following year, John E. and Martin Keener (Abraham’s sons) were delivered to the Continental Army as service to their country for being with the British. Now 20 years-old, Peter Shrum would serve his new country in a similar capacity.
· 1793–95: Nicholas Shrum died (1793) and left his land to his wife, “until my son Henry comes of age.” To his sons Peter and Nicholas, he left “the sum of five shillings.” Abraham Keener died (1795) and left his land to his wife, Juliana, and his son, John E. Keener.
· 1893: William Henry Keener, the husband of Dealie L. M. Fisher, and Daniel Scrum granted the Keener-Shrum Family Cemetery and adjacent land to the current owner’s ancestors. An old church building on the property was eventually replaced with a new structure, but the deed stipulates that the only building allowed on the property is a church named “Union.” Today it is the home of Union Baptist Church, but several Baptist churches in Lincoln County first held services there before building their own facilities. For many years the church was open to local German Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, and Baptist congregations, and was called the “Do as you please church” according to local residents.
“DO AS THOU WILT because men that are free…and at home in civilized company possess a natural instinct that inclines them to virtue and saves them from vice. This instinct they name their honor. — François Rabelais (1534)
For more about the Keener family in Amerika and my own philosophy of life…
Paperback versions of the book are also available in the bookstore of the Catawba County Museum of History in Newton, North Carolina.