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Quick Sketch by Gary Weeter 2013

Our earliest known German speaking ancestor Peter Weeter (1) was born in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania around 1759. It is not known where in Pennsylvania he was born.

Peter (1) enjoyed a long life – living into his early 80s. He died in the spring of 1843 while living at his long time farmstead south of the Clarion River in Licking Township, Clarion County (Pennsylvania). He will remain forever faceless to his present day descendants as photography was not available to the average family until some years after Peter (1)’s death.

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An examination of early records confirm that Peter Weeter (1)

           wrote and therefore presumably also spoke German

           could write his name rather than simply make his “mark”

           labored for most if not all of his adult life as a simple farmer

           was of the Protestant faith, most likely German Reformed

However, many questions concerning Peter Weeter (1) remain unanswered including:

           the names of his parents (and Weeter grandparents) 

           his Pennsylvania birthplace

           whether he had a middle name 

           whether he had any siblings

           where he lived for the first 30 years of his life – circa 1759 – 1790 

           when and where he and Catherine (Over) were married  

           where he and Catherine (Over) are buried 

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In all likelihood, the marriage of Peter Weeter (1) to Catherine (Over) took place in either Lancaster County (Pennsylvania) in the late 1780s or in Franklin County (Pennsylvania) in the early 1790s.    However, no record of their marriage has been found.

Catherine Over was born in 1766 in Cocalico Township, Lancaster County (Pennsylvania). She was the daughter of German speaking Mennonite parents and immigrant Mennonite grandparents – the latter having arrived in colonial America aboard

the sailing vessel Mortonhouse in 1729. By 1733, Catherine’s grandparents had settled onto a large farm in Warwick Township, Lancaster County.

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Peter Weeter (1) and Catherine (Over) were the parents to at least 11 offspring

including: 

>          Jacob                           b. 1793

>          Peter Jr.                       b. 1795 (est.)

>          John                             b. 1797

>          Elisabeth                     b. 1799

>          Catherine                     b. 1800 (est.)

>          Sarah                           b. 1801 (est.)

>          Christian                      b. 1805

>          HENRY (2)                b. 1807                                   

>          Samuel                         b. 1810

>          Christina Jane              b. 1813 (est.)

>          George                        b. 1815

All 11 children enjoyed extraordinary longevity – living well into their mid to late 80s. This was quite an achievement given that fully half the children born during this era died before the age of two.

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               The Franklin County Era

                        (1790 – 1805)

Hog Trough Valley

(1790 – 1798)

From early 1790 until the spring of 1798, Peter Weeter (1) lived in Hog Trough Valley, Peters Township, Franklin County (Pennsylvania).

His Hog Trough Valley purchase (a 126 acre tract acquired on 20 March 1790 during the presidency of George Washington) was about 11 miles southwest of the town of Chambersburg. It is worth noting that at the time of his purchase, Peter (1)’s Hog Trough Valley property bordered on land owned by his then (or soon to be) German speaking Mennonite father-in-law John Over.

Path Valley

(1798 – 1805)

In the early months of 1798 (9 April), Peter Weeter (1) sold his Hog Trough Valley property and acquired a 112 acre tract located in nearby lower Path Valley, Metal Township, Franklin County (Pennsylvania). The Path Valley tract, known as Landscape and situated about 20 miles northwest of Chambersburg, was bordered on the west by Tuscarora Mountain and on the east by Kittatinny Mountain and the west branch of Conocoheague Creek.  

During the 15 years that Peter Weeter (1) is known to have lived in Franklin County (1790 – 1805), deeds, tax books and other official documents list his name under varied spellings.

For example, the earliest known record pertaining to Peter (1) (a 20 March 1790 deed recording his Hog Trough Valley purchase) lists his name on the deed as Weeter. However, this spelling did not reappear in official documents for another 20 years (until the 1810 U.S. Census).

During the time he lived in Franklin County, Peter (1) signed nearly all official documents as Peter Widder; however, the court recorder in almost all cases entered his name on these very same documents as Witter.   The spelling Witter was also fairly consistent in Franklin County tax records for the years 1794 – 1805; however, the spelling Weater as well as Weter were observed in Peter (1)’s Franklin County tax records for the years 1796 – 1798.

Records show that by the year 1800, four Franklin County families with Weeter-like surnames lived in close proximity to our ancestor Peter Weeter (1) – one next door, another within a short walk and yet another a few miles away.

These were 

           Christopher Weiter

b. 1732

           John Wieder

b. 1744

            Christopher “Stophel” Witter

b. circa 1758

            our ancestor Peter Weeter

b. circa 1759

 DNA testing conducted in 2007 on known, present day, male descendants of all four turn of the century Franklin County residents showed with undeniable certainty that

           three of the four – namely John Wieder (b. 1744), Christopher “Stophel” Witter (b. circa 1758) and our ancestor Peter Weeter (1) share a common ancestor and are therefore related by blood.    However, the exact nature of their relationship to one another (i.e. cousin, uncle, nephew etc.) is not known.

The results of DNA testing also produced for the first time a DNA genetic signature – a signature unique only to male descendants in our direct Weeter family line.

                                             The Armstrong/Clarion County Era

                                                           (1805 – 1843)

The first white man did not arrive in what is today Clarion County until 1801. Some fifty years earlier (1753), a young surveyor named George Washington traveled through the wilderness area of what are today the Clarion County towns of Alum Rock, Turkey City, Lamartine and Emlenton. Upon seeing this area for the first time, Washington is said to have remarked that “... this country north of Kittanning would never be fit for human habitation ...”. Little did he know!

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In 1802, Peter (1)’s 20 year old  brother-in-law Christian Over set out from the Over home in Hog Trough Valley on an adventuresome and dangerous journey westward over the Allegheny mountains to the wilderness area of what was then Armstrong (now Clarion) County (Pennsylvania).

Accompanied by his dog, a heifer, packing an axe, shovel and mattock and armed with his gun, Christian traveled 6 weeks through the wilderness without seeing the face of another white man. On his arrival south of the Clarion River, Christian is said to have built a lean to, cleared land and set about building a rudimentary log house.

After spending two years alone in the wilderness, Christian returned to his home in Franklin County. On arriving back home, an enthusiastic and excited Christian undoubtedly told his older sister Catherine (Over) Weeter and her husband Peter Weeter (1) of his adventure and of the beautiful western Pennsylvania land that awaited the arrival of willing pioneer families.

The author is convinced that Christian Over (more than any other person or event) was responsible for convincing Peter Weeter (1) to pull up stakes after 15 years in Franklin County and move his family westward to the untamed wilderness of what was then Armstrong County (Pennsylvania).

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On the 23rd of February 1805, Peter Weeter (1) sold his homestead in lower Path Valley Franklin County and began preparations to move his family westward to the largely uninhabited wilderness reaches of what was then Toby Township, Armstrong County, (Pennsylvania).  

In the spring of 1805, 45 year old Peter Weeter (1) and his 23 year old brother-in-law Christian Over set out on horseback traveling along the crudest of forest paths and simple trails to their new home in northwestern Pennsylvania.

A passage from the book “Historical Sketch of Clarion County, Pennsylvania” captures the harsh realties of travel during these early times. The book observes that “ … it would be difficult for those of the present day to imagine how families could move upon horseback through an almost unbroken wilderness, with no road save an Indian trail… the women and children mounted upon horses, the cooking utensils, farming implements such as hoes, axes, ploughs and shovels, together with bedding and provisions placed in what was called pack saddles, while following upon foot were the men with their guns upon their shoulders, ready to take down any small game that might cross their path, which would go towards making up their next meal. After a long and toilsome journey, the pioneers halted on their course in what was then called Armstrong (now Clarion) County, and they immediately began clearing of their lands … there was not a single wagon in the county at the time …we must confess to a feeling of veneration for the character of those noble men who penetrated the wilderness and inaugurated civilization and its train of blessings in a region where savages and wild beasts maintained undisputed empire …we have concluded that the reason so few are willing to return from the western country is not that the country is so good but because the journey is so bad …

At journey’s end, Peter (1) and Christian arrived at their destination among the idyllic rolling hills south of the Clarion River. They were among the earliest white settlers to arrive in the area.

It is not known whether Peter (1)’s wife Catherine (Over) and their 6 or 7 children or Christian’s new bride Nancy (Whitmer) accompanied the twosome on this arduous 1805 journey. They may, as was the custom of the day, have stayed back east until the men had erected suitable shelter, planted a few crops and secured other necessary provisions to support a pioneer family.

Not long after his arrival, Peter (1) purchased a 124 acre tract about 1 miles east - northeast of what is today the town of Callensburg (Pennsylvania). On the very same day (20 May 1805), Peter (1)’s brother-in-law and traveling companion Christian Over bought a 289 acre tract that bordered on Peter Weeter (1)’s newly acquired land.

It is clear that our ancestor Peter (1) enjoyed a very close personal relationship with his much younger brother-in-law Christian Over. Christian’s father John Over died in 1793 when Christian was only 11. After John Over’s death, Christian’s sister Catherine (Over) Weeter (16 years Christian’s senior) and her husband Peter Weeter (1) appear to have taken young Christian “under their wing”. As the years went on, Christian and Peter (1) continued to maintain this close friendship – helping one another with nearly everything from building their respective homes and barns to raising livestock and harvesting their crops. A picture of Christian Over in his later years appears on page ___ of this Fact Book.

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In the years that followed, Peter Weeter (1) continued to expand his Clarion County holdings from the 124 acres he acquired in 1805 to more than 300 acres by the year 1823. In time, he also replaced his rudimentary log cabin and small barn with a handsome brick home and a larger barn. 

As the years past, the children of Peter (1) and Catherine (Over) Weeter grew to adulthood, married and raised families of their own. Eight of their 11 children never left the area, living their entire adult lives in what is today Clarion County. The remaining three children married, moved away and never returned home – Catherine (Weeter) Shoemaker to Ohio in the 1830s and then to Indiana in the 1850s; Christian Weter/Weeter to Iowa in 1853; and George Weeter to Nebraska in 1886.

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During the nearly 40 years that Peter Weeter (1) lived in Armstrong (now Clarion) County (1805 – 1843), deeds, tax book entries and other official documents list his surname under varied spellings.

For example, for a time early Armstrong County tax books (1808 and 1809) continued to carry the name as Witter and occasionally Widder as the name had frequently appeared during the time Peter (1) lived in Franklin County.

The spelling Weiter appeared for the very first time in connection with Peter Weeter (1)’s 1805 purchase of land in Armstrong County; and in two subsequent Armstrong County land purchases – one in 1822 and another in 1823.

As Peter (1) neared death in the spring of 1843, he prepared his last will and testament. Interestingly, the Clarion County prothonatary’s office entered the name in the Will Book index as “ Peter Weiter (Weeter)”; while, in the will itself, the name of both Peter (1) and his male beneficiaries appear as Weeter.

Other less frequent spellings were also observed in various Armstrong and later Clarion County documents to include Weter in the years 1811 and 1812; Weeter in 1841 and 1842; and Weater in 1843 to 1845. 

In the 50 + years that we can trace Peter Weeter (1)’s presence first in Franklin County and later in Armstrong (now Clarion) County, there was no consistent pattern to the spelling of our family name. To illustrate just how inconsistent things were, one only need examine the Armstrong County deed of 9 April 1823 recording Peter (1)’s purchase of some 80 acres and 30 perches from John Wooden. In this mere two page deed, the county recorder entered Peter (1)’s last name a total of 11 times – 5 times as Weiter, 4 times as Weter and 2 times as Weeter !

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Our earliest known Weeter ancestor Peter Weeter (1) passed away in the spring of 1843 at the age of 80 +.    In the month preceding his death, Peter (1) executed his last will and testament wherein he bequeathed portions of his estate to his surviving wife Catherine, his surviving children and/or their families and to his grandson Zachariah Weeter. 


In adapting this from a word document Gary sent I his footnotes and a lot of his formating.
Updated  12/25/2013   Doug