Abraham Stauffer's Will

One thing that continually amazes me among home-grown genealogists is their generosity with one another. Nothing seems too sacred to share. One fellow descendant sent me an "ear mark" related to the cattle of our common Connecticut ancestor shortly after the Revolutionary War. And a fellow Stauffer descendant has shared with me a copy of the 1823 will of Abraham Stauffer (1748-1823). At the time of his will and apparently his death, he was 75 and had been in Canada 18 years.

What one can learn from a will, especially an old-fashioned one in the days before lawyers and Internet forms, can be most interesting. 

Since multiple records indicate that Abraham's wife Elizabeth died in childbirth in 1802, at least three years before he went to Canada, the Elizabeth he refers to as his "beloved wife" in his will must have been a second wife by the same name. I am impressed by the care and provision that he made sure was given her. I smile when I read that the first thing he bequeathed was to her "one bed, one chest, my stove" (his stove?), as well as one third of his remaining property. He gave a detailed list of the food, cash, and other provisions that were to be made to her each year, and she was to have use of the pump and the garden. Though the will called for son Daniel to inherit the property, Elizabeth was to have the use of the house as long as she wanted it.

All this provision was to apply as long as she remained Abraham's widow, but "if it should be her pleasure to marry again," Daniel was to make her a cash settlement in place of the "dowry and provisions." I'd like to give Abraham a high five for the words "if it should be her pleasure."

We gain two important pieces of information from his will. One is that he names all nine of his children, including the three who had remained in Pennsylvania. This suggests there had been communication with those three and that Abraham knew they were still alive. The other weighty piece is that he says Elizabeth remained in Pennsylvania, with the married name of Helmuth, and Susannah was the one who married Christian Bomberger. How the records got mixed up on these two sisters is hard to guess unless it was simply that the one in Canada left no descendants for Ezra Eby to gather information from at the end of that century.

Since Abraham had four sons with him in Canada, I've wondered why he chose to leave his property to the third of those four and next to youngest of his children. Well, let's crunch some numbers. The year Abraham died, son Samuel was 41. He already had ten of his eleven children and would have been well established on his own property. About the same for his son Abraham, then 35, with at least five of his six children already born. The youngest son, Joseph, had just turned 21 and was newly married with his first child born the year Abraham died.

That leaves Daniel at age 27. He may have been married as few as four years, and he had just two children at that point, but he was clearly into adulthood. While the two older brothers were established on their own lands and Joseph was just beginning his life as an adult, Daniel was a nice solid age in between.

Another interesting fact is who Abraham chose as his executors--his son-in-law George Clemens and his son Abraham. In leaving his property to Daniel, he delineates the exact dates and from whom he bought the two sections in 1806 and 1811, all helpful information from a genealogical standpoint..

I now know more about this progenitor than I do about his grandson two generations closer to me. I wish I could know as much about many more of them.

Here is a transcript of the will.

of the Township of Waterloo, in the county of Halton, in the District of Gore, 
in the province of Upper Canada. 
Signed 22nd day of October 1823.

First I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Elizabeth one bed, one chest, my stove, and one third of the remainder of my personal property.

My will is that my executors keep the money of the among of the other two-thirds of my personal property in their hands for the widow if she shall come in need as long as she remains my widow I will make and order that my said wife have the house I now live in during her life if she chooses to live in it. If she does not live in it, then it goes to my son Daniel and his heirs.

She is also to have the use of the pump and garden—I will order that my son Daniel shall yearly and every year furnish my wife Elizabeth with the following articles, that is to say:

  • cow kept with his cows in pasture and hay
  • one quarter of an acre to be sown with flax-seed put in good (linen textile)
  • 15 bushels of good wheat, to be delivered to her house in flour and bran
  • 13 pounds of good pork
  • 4 pounds of wool
  • Forty pounds of sugar
  • 5 bushels of potatoes
  • Firewood cut small, sufficient for her use and
  • 5 pounds in cash

…all these article to be given to her so long as she remains my widow, but if it should be her pleasure to marry again, then in lieu of her yearly dowry, my son Daniel is to give her 66 Pounds, 13 Shillings, and 40 Pence by her giving up her yearly dowry and possessions.

– I further give and devise my son Daniel Stauffer, all my messuage [dwelling house with its outbuildings and adjacent land used by the household] and freehold estate which I purchased from Thomas Hilborn, deed bearing date 22 day of March 1806 and also of John Biehn having deed bearing date the first day of February, 1811, making together 195 acres in the township of Waterloo aforesaid and lastly to all the rest residue and (jnmaudez??) of my real and personal estate, goods and chattels of what kind and nature I give and bequeath to my sons and daughters viz:

  • David Stauffer (did not come to Canada)
  • Samuel Stauffer
  • John Stauffer (did not come to Canada)
  • Abraham Stauffer
  • Daniel Stauffer
  • Joseph Stauffer
  • Susanna (Stauffer) Bomberger
  • Elizabeth (Stauffer) Helmuth (did not come to Canada)
  • Esther (Stauffer) Clemens

to have and to share alike the above legacies to be paid by my executors 12 months after my decease, and I hereby appoint George Clemens, my son-in-law, and Abraham, my son executors of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me made.

Signed and sealed … and declared by the above named Abraham Stauffer to be his last will and testament in the presence of us who have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses in the presence of the testator, 

Abraham Stauffer

–William Scollick                –Abraham Cressman                  –Daniel Rudy