The Family of Peter Zehler and Mary Differt

Second Generation

Charles and Mary

Peter and Magdalena Zehler - late 1880s

Peter Zehler was born in Nuhweiler, Rhine Province, Prussia, and came to America in 1852.  About 1859 he married Mary Magdalena Differt and settled in Bennington, New York, where they raised a family of fourteen children.  Tragically, seven of these children died young.

The children of Peter and Magdalena are:

Third Generation

i. Peter M. Zehler Peter was born on July 4, 18601, and he died on April 28, 193928.  Peter married (1) Hattie Mapes and (2) Eunice Rich.
ii. Michael F. Zehler Michael was born on November 20, 18611, and he died on December 23, 19362.  Michael married Mary Phillips.
iii. John Zehler John was born on June 5, 1863 1, and he died on August 4, 1946.  John married Mary Riedl.
iv. Joseph John Zehler Joseph was born on August 8, 18661, and he died on September 15, 192829.  Joseph remained single.
v. Frederick William Zehler Fred was born on November 2, 18701, and he died on November 6, 193130.  Fred married Theresa Sauer.
vi. Jacob Innocent Zehler Jacob was born on October 13, 18732, and he died on April 9, 18822.
vii. Maria Magdalena Zehler Maria Magdalena was born on December 27, 18752, and she died on April 29, 18822.
viii. Alois Martin Zehler Alois Martin was born on May 1, 18772, and he died in 18822.
ix. Philip Zehler Philip was born on November 22, 18782, and he died in 18822.
x. Catherine Zehler Catherine was born on March 4, 18802.
xi. Lawrence Joseph Zehler Lawrence was born on January 13, 18822, and he died on January 20, 193231.  Lawrence remained single.
xii. Martin Alois Zehler Martin was born on March 16, 18832, and he died in 18832.
xiii. Gertrude Maria Zehler Gertrude was born on March 30, 18842.
xiv. Thomas Edward Zehler Thomas was born on October 10, 18882, and he died on August 6, 196931.  Thomas remained single.

Baptismal Record
Peter's' Baptismal Record

Peter Zoehler was born July 31, 18335, in the tiny village of Nuhweiler, the second child of Peter Zehler and Anna Maria Klasen.  His birth was registered with the civil authorities at Wadern the following day5.  Peter's baptismal record, however, indicates that he was born and baptized on the same day, which is the first of August4.  This discrepancy would normally be considered an error in recording the baptism, expect the same discrepancy is also found in the records of four of his siblings.  In every case, the date of birth found in the baptismal record is the date on which the birth was registered in Wadern and in each case the actually birth date in the civil records is one day earlier.  It is very unlikely this was an error, but a choice.  Whether this was common practice or peculiar to the Zehler family is unknown.

Birth Record
Peter's' Birth Record

Peter grew up in Nuhweiler, where he received his education.  He then left Germany sometime in 185233, at the age of 19 and emigrated to America.  We can infer from his age and the apparent lack of family difficulties that Peter had fulfilled his military obligation before leaving.  Quite naturally, Peter joined his older brother, John, when he arrived in the States.  Likely, he found work as a farm laborer, since, in 1855 he was living in the Town of Murray, Orleans County, New York, working on the farm of John Myers (Meyer)24, not far from John and another brother, Michael.  Interestingly, John Myers came from the village of Mettnich in the Saar; the same village where several generations of the Zoehler family lived.  The Meyer family had immigrated in 18401 and settled in Sheldon, where they attended St. Cecilia's Church.  It seems that they later moved to Orleans county for a brief period, before moving back to Sheldon.  The help given to Peter nicely demonstrates the interdependence of immigrant families, even up to this day.

Sometime in the late 1850s, Peter married Maria Magdalena Differt.  They initially settled in Murray, where Peter continued to work as a day laborer on local farms.  His time as a laborer undoubtedly allowed Peter to save the money needed to purchase his own property and probably also allowed him to help when his parents and the rest of the family moved to Bennington.  In November 1860, shortly after the birth of his first child, Peter purchased a small piece of land in Bennington, bordering on the property owned by his father23.  This seven acre property, known as the Mill Lot, straddled the north branch of the Cayuga creek where it meets the Allegany road and was the site of a mill pond.  Today this property is part of the small wedge on the north side of Manley Rd. where it ends at Route 77.

With purchase of the Mill Lot, Peter became the owner of a saw mill powered by the waters of the creek.  Not surprisingly, the 1870 Census lists his occupation as Sawyer46.  At the same time, he probably also worked with his father on the family farm.  The location of Peter's house and the Saw Mill can be seen on the 1866 map of Bennington.

Then in 1875, Peter partnered with his father in the purchase of 130 acres of land lying on the west side of the Allegany road and across from their other property23.  Peter purchased the north half of the lot and his father purchased the south half.  It appears, Peter was concentrating on farming as his main occupation.  To complete this transition, Peter and Mary sold the Mill Lot to Elias Holt in 188023, apparently turning to full time farming with his father.  The reason for this change is not clear; it may have stemmed from poor economic conditions or simply a personal preference.

However, Peter was soon back in the sawmill business when, in 1887, he purchased the Mill Lot from the heirs of Elias Holt23.  This time, however, Peter was likely acting on behalf of his sons, to provide them with an economic livelihood as, in 1889, he sold the property to sons, Michael and John23.  Eventually, John sold his share in the operation to Michael, who maintained the business well into the 20th century.

In the early 1870s, Peter Zehler, Jr. was one of the leaders in founding the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish, leading to the building of the parish church in Bennington Center.  Prior to this time most families attended St. Cecilia's church in Sheldon or the small mission church, Mary Help for Christians, in East Bennington.

Peter apparently continued to farm for the remainder of his life.  He died on August 18, 19122, at the age of 79 years.  Mary Zehler died April 10, 19152.

Differt Church Record
Differt Family
1848-9 Church Record

Maria Magdalena Differt was born in 18401, in Unterlauchingen, Baden, the daughter of Aloys Tiehforth and Magdalena Denz.  The Differt family came to America in 1849 and settled in Sheldon, where they joined the growing German Catholic community.  Undoubtedly, it was in this setting that Mary met Peter, although they were not married at St. Cecilia's, nor has their marriage record been found.

Joseph Zehler:

Joseph Zehler was born about 1867, the fourth child of Peter and Mary Zehler and, like his siblings, grew up on the family farm.  Joseph remained single throughout his life and worked as a farm laborer.  In 1910, Joseph was still living with his parents, who were retired, and working at "odd jobs"52.  Then in 1920, he was living alone in a rented residence and working out as a farm laborer49.  Joseph died on September 15, 192850, from a subdural hemorrhage, possibly from a work related accident.  At the time of his death, he was working in the Town of Collins, although his address was still in Bennington.  Joseph was buried in the Hospital cemetery at Gowanda, New York.

Lawrence Zehler:

Lawrence Zehler was born January 13 18822, the eleventh child of Peter and Mary Zehler.  He was baptized Joseph Lawrence at Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in Bennington, New York.  Lawrence also remained single and worked as a farm laborer, although he may have spent some time as a sailor.  In 1900, Lawrence was living with his brother33, Michael and probably helping at the sawmill.  By 1910, however, he was living in Darien, New York on the dairy farm of Frank Mingle, working as a hired hand51. Then in 1920, he was living in Sheldon, New York on the farm of John Almeter52.  This time he is listed as a servant, but also as "working out", presumably as a farm laborer.  Lawrence died January 20, 193231, as a result of a farm accident.  His leg had been caught in a mowing machine and became infected40.  Lawrence was buried in Bennington Center, presumably in the Sacred Heart of Jesus cemetery.

Thomas Zehler:

Thomas Zehler, was born October 10, 188831, the youngest child of Peter and Mary Zehler.  He grew up in Bennington and, like his brothers Joseph and Lawrence, remained single throughout his life, working as a farm laborer.  In 1910, Thomas was still living with his parents, who were retired, and working at "odd jobs"52.  Then in 1920, he was living on the farm of Edward Beechler, working as a hired hand49.  Thomas continued to work as a laborer on various farms.  In 1930 the was residing on the farm of Clarence Graff as a hired hand57 and in 1940 he was working for Anthony Kaminski as a herdsman265.  Thomas died in Warsaw on August 6, 196931, at the East Side Nursing Home, after a lengthy illness.  He is buried in St. Michael's cemetery in Warsaw, New York.

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