The JERGENS Family Essay

 

The Jergens Family Essay (1936-37)

 

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Preface

Our research for the history of the JERGENS Family of Dayton, Ohio began with the essay, “The Ancestors of the Present Jergens Family,” written by Margaret Jergens in 1936 and Maryann Jergens in 1937 for a high school English class assignment. Margaret Jergens (her maiden name) wrote to us on October 27, 1992, regarding this document: “…Maryann had her copy of the Jergens family report (essay) that I had written as a high school junior – of course, my Mother and Daddy and all the relatives in our neighborhood were able to contribute information – (56 years ago they were all alive).”

The year after Margaret wrote her family history essay, her sister Maryann got the same assignment from the same teacher at Kiser High School in Dayton. (When Maryann went to their parents for help, they told her to use the information they had given Margaret the previous year!) Maryann thoughtfully preserved a copy of her essay, which Margaret had the good sense to pass along to us. Our thanks to both Jergens women for sharing this priceless resource.

Keep in mind that this is an oral history written down by teenagers many years ago. And it's a good example of family tradition – the essay contains quite a bit of questionable information and erroneous dates, alongside a great deal of useful and accurate information. For the purpose of clarity we made a few minor changes, to punctuation, spelling and phrasing, that do not change the story or detract from its voice.

One item in the essay that we should view with a healthy dose of skepticism is the family lore about the Jergens family of Dayton being “cousins of the Andrew Jergens family of Cincinnati, the manufacturers of Jergens Lotion.” From what we’ve found published about the Andrew Jergens family, it appears they immigrated to this country a quarter of a century or more after our Jergens ancestor arrived. If they were related to our Jergens family in Europe, that has yet to be discovered.

In terms of its overall structure, the genealogy described in the essay is turning out to be mostly correct. Some of the names got a little confused, and many dates in the essay are erroneous (they obviously were working from memory). Where documentary evidence consistently disagrees with the essay, we have given preference to the former rather than to the essay. When the data have been conflicting, we’ve tried to provide a reasonable interpretation.

References to living descendants have been removed or omitted from both "The Ancestors of the Present Jergens Family" and the narrative history in order to protect the privacy of these individuals.

Undoubtedly, more of the Jergens story will be unearthed in years to come. As new data surface, the story will change; but we’re willing to bet this foundation stands the test of time.

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Essay: “The Ancestors of the Present Jergens Family”

On both the paternal and maternal sides of my ancestors, little is known. My great-great-grandparents were the first to travel to this country. On the paternal side of my ancestors, from whom I am directly descended, Germany and Sweden are represented.

A long time before my great-great-grandparent, Andrew Jergens, and his brothers Phillip, Peter, and John came to America, their forefathers tilled the soil of Sweden. While in Sweden, these ancestors spelled their surname as Jergenson, but somewhere along the line the "on" was eliminated, and the spelling remained as it is spelled today. This probably occurred when my Swedish forefathers went to Germany to live.

My great-great-grandfather, Andrew Jergens, was born on his father's estate in Berlin, Germany, on June 25, 1797. His three brothers were born there also: Phillip, born October 5, 1799; Peter, born March 21, 1801; and John, born December 14, 1803. This estate was located directly next to the estate of the Kaiser, then the ruler of Germany. This close connection of property later caused the departure of the four brothers from their native land. Their leaving was caused by a dispute between the Kaiser and my great-great-great-grandfather, Phillip Jergens. The dispute grew out of the shooting of the Kaiser's prize deer. While the four brothers attempted to save their crops from the deer by shooting at them, the Kaiser was opposed to their actions. After being warned three times, they left the country. Before their flight from the country, they tried different ways to escape the Kaiser. Andrew evaded the Kaiser's men through his knowledge of witchcraft. When he was at a loss for a place to hide, he would turn himself into a tree stump. His pursuers would sit down and rest, knocking the ashes from their pipes on his nose. At another time he escaped capture and death by simply disappearing. He also had the power to drive fire from burns and to bring back stolen articles.

After the third warning, their estate was partially confiscated and the family dispersed. The mother and father remained in Germany on what land was left for them. Their four sons, Andrew, Phillip, Peter and John, came to America.

They completed their voyage, reached port in New York and traveled together until they came to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here they parted, never to see one another again. This was about the year 1818. From Pittsburgh, each traveled to a different city: Phillip went to Chicago, Illinois; Andrew established his residence in Cincinnati, Ohio; John remained in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the exact city of Peter's settlement was never known. From the day of their parting they never again renewed family ties.

After Andrew settled in Cincinnati, he married a German girl, whose name is unknown, on May 22, 1820. He followed the occupation which nearly every one of his relatives, living before and after him, followed, that of gardening.

The exact number of children reared by him and his wife is unknown, although it is known that on February 8, 1822, Phillip Jergens was born. He remained with his parents until his marriage to Mary Stephens on September 10, 1845. Mary Stephens was born in Cincinnati on July 27, 1823. Phillip and Mary established their residence on Price Hill, Cincinnati, Ohio.

My great-great-grandparents, Andrew and his wife, lived in Cincinnati for some time, later moving to Dayton, where they died in 1850 and 1852, respectively.

Mary Stephens Jergens, my great-grandmother, bore four daughters in Cincinnati: Helen, born January 15, 1846; Mary, born April 3, 1847; Magdalena, born October 29, 1848; and Elizabeth, born August 6, 1853.

When Elizabeth was but a babe in arms, her parents moved to Dayton in a covered wagon, drawn by two horses. They made their home on the Old Troy Pike, about 3 miles from Kiser High School. Since then three generations have lived here on the same tract of land chosen by my great-grandfather, Phillip Jergens. This land has been held for 83 years under the name of Jergens. After they had settled in Dayton, five sons were born to them. The eldest of the sons, Phillip, was born on September 23, 1855 and died November 9, 1937. The next son was Peter, my grandfather, born on November 6, 1857. The three other sons were William, born August 18, 1859 -- William died 21 years later, in Dayton, on October 10, 1880; Jacob was born on November 23, 1861 -- he lived for about six weeks and then he died; and the next and last son was Joseph who was born on May 16, 1863.

Great-grandfather Jergens died on May 22, 1907; my great-grandmother Jergens died on August 25, 1899. All the daughters of the family are dead. Helen married Jacob Zink, raised a family of twelve children, and died in Dayton on February 7, 1925. Mary married Joseph Zink, raised a family of twelve children, and died in West Milton, Ohio, on January 11, 1906. Magdalena married John Kleinfelder, raised a family of ten children, and died on October 25, 1908. Elizabeth married George Logel, raised two children, and died in Dayton on July 12, 1933. Just one son of the family is dead. Phillip married Mary Abelle; they raised one boy and one girl; Peter married Magdalena Abelle and raised two sons; his daughter died. Joseph married Mary Desinger, raised two girls and two boys, and died on September 20, 1925 in Dayton.

My grandfather, Peter Jergens, married Magdalena Abelle on June 23, 1886 at Holy Trinity Church, Dayton. Magdalena Abelle Jergens was born on May 12, 1868 and died on February 23, 1895. She was the daughter of John and Barbara Funkmeyer Abelle. She had one brother, Joseph, and three sisters, Mary, Cynthia and Barbara. Their birth and death dates are unknown. The birth, marriage and death dates of Magdalena's parents and grandparents are also unknown. Magdalena bore three children. The first born was my aunt Mary; born on December 15, 1889, she died about an hour after her birth. One year later my uncle, Henry, was born on December 9, 1890. On May 8, 1912 Henry married Bertha Rediess in Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Dayton. They had eight children and one daughter died. Three years later my father, Peter, Jr., was born on November 23, 1893. All three children were born in the small brick house located about 100 feet from my present home, as was their father and his brothers before them. The brick house is still standing to this day. Peter married Cecilia Leyes on May 10, 1917 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Dayton.

The members of this generation of the Jergens family are the third cousins of the Andrew Jergens family of Cincinnati, the manufacturers of Jergens Lotion.

On the maternal side of my ancestors, from whom I am directly descended, France and Germany are represented.

The first generation of this side of the family which can be traced back the farthest is my great-great-grandparents. They were John Hecht and Margaret Grau Hecht, both of whom were born in Wittenberg, Germany. The dates of their births, marriage and deaths are unknown. They are the parents of Henry John Hecht, my grandfather. John and Margaret Grau Hecht came to America in 1844. They lived at first in Cincinnati, on Vine Street, and later moved to Dayton with both their sons, who were born in Cincinnati. Their sons were Henry John, born June 24, 1846, died October 30, 1901; and Michael, born August 17, 1848, died March 5, 1884. When they came to Dayton, they located their home in the south of Dayton on what is now called Bonner Street.

Henry John Hecht married Elizabeth Ziegler on August 11, 1864 at St. Mary's Church in Dayton. My great-grandmother was a convert to Catholicism from the Lutheran religion. She was the daughter of Joseph and Dorothea Slatz Ziegler. She was born in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 30, 1846. She died on December 9, 1918. The birth, marriage and death dates of her parents are unknown. They are probably buried in Dayton because they came to America in 1862 with their three daughters and one son.

Henry and Elizabeth Ziegler Hecht reared a family of ten children. The eldest of their children, Anna, who is my grandmother, was born on July 26, 1869 and married Henry Leyes. She is the sister of four more girls and three boys. Two other children died in infancy. Charles, born August 10, 1876, married Molly Linich. Mary Agnes, born May 2, 1878, died six weeks later. Dorothy was born April 23, 1880. Michael, born November 20, 1883, died two years later. Gertrude, born December 6, 1885, has been a nun in the convent of St. Francis of the Poor for the past 25 years. Henry was born November 12, 1887 and died March 27, 1930. Clara was born June 15, 1888.

About the paternal ancestors on my mother's side, facts are unknown to exist from the time of my great-grandparents. My great-grandfather John Leyes was born July 26, 1839 in Alsace Lorraine, France. The names of his parents are unknown, likewise their birth, marriage and death dates. John Leyes married Margaret Seager on June 15, 1855. She is also a convert to Catholicism from the Lutheran religion. She was the daughter of John and Mary Seager. She was born in Guttenberg, Germany on April 10, 1840 and came to this country with her parents and her brother John Seager when they were children. Her parents died when she was young. They were buried at Greencastle Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio. More than this we do not know of my great-great-grandparents.

My great-grandparents Leyes raised a family of ten children. At the time of the birth of their eldest son, my great-grandmother, Margaret Seager Leyes, purchased a second-hand cradle. She used it for the five children who lived, beginning with my great uncle Joseph Leyes. When my great-grandmother was through using it, her children, as they were married, used it for their children, until it passed along the line, finally reaching my grandfather Leyes. My grandparents used it for their seven children. It then went to my mother who used it for her eight [surviving] children…. We are to this day preserving it for future use, although its rockers are worn thin and a new bottom has to replace the older warped one. It is made entirely of walnut, with a dark walnut stain and finish. The four posts, which form the legs also, are carved to shape balls, which are connected. The side pieces are fashioned the same way in a smaller pattern. As far as we know, it is of the Queen Anne style of furniture. Its value in the family is untold, because of its rare beauty and age which is estimated to be about 100 years.

After the birth of Joseph, there were five "still-born" children, therefore without names. The dates of their births are also unknown. The remaining five are: Joseph, born February 10, 1856, married Mary Kinzic, died November 3, 1934; Catherine, born July 30, 1858, married Andrew Stick; Carolina, born August 6, 1880, married three times, first to Louis Stick, second to Charles Kramer, and third to Carl Coates, died on September 13, 1929; Phillip, born January 26, 1886, married Mary Niehous, died November 30, 1934; the last child was Henry, born May 23, 1871, married Anna Hecht on May 11, 1892 at Emanuel Church, Dayton, Ohio. Henry Leyes is my grandfather and Anna Hecht Leyes is my grandmother. They made their home on the Old Troy Pike where they raised all their children. They are still living there. They raised a family of seven children of whom my mother is the eldest. My mother, Cecilia Leyes Jergens, married Peter Jergens, Jr. on May 10, 1917 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Dayton, Ohio.

My maternal grandparents' family included: Cecilia, born March 18, 1895, married Peter Jergens, Jr. on May 10,1917, has eight living children, one deceased son; Louise, born May 11, 1897, married Louis Clayton on March 7, 1919, has three children; Andrew, born April 19, 1899, married Irma Hill on January 17, 1925, has four living and four deceased children; Dorothy, born March 26, 1901, married Charles Leidig on September 12, 1924, have no children; Catherine, born April 20, 1903, became a nun in the convent of St. Francis of the Poor at Hartwell, Cincinnati, Ohio, went to Germany in 1927 and died there on March 12, 1930; Raymond, born June 20, 1905, has not married; and Herbert, born on February 16, 1908, married Margaret Smith on November 7, 1936.

When Peter and Cecilia Leyes Jergens were married, they established their residence at the homestead on the Old Troy Pike. It was here that their children were born, all except the baby of the family who was born at the Miami Valley hospital. My father is following the occupation which his father and grandfather followed before him, that of gardening, although today he has eight acres planned and worked in a more modern manner. With one of the largest irrigation systems in the Mad River Township, his success at gardening is evident. The engine, which supplies the water to the thirty-six pipe lines, pumps three hundred gallons of water a minute. The pipe lines to which the water is pumped have an average of one hundred and ten nozzles, or openings, in them. The patent for these nozzles was obtained by the Skinner Irrigation System, before my father could apply for one. My father had also perfected these nozzles. The organizer of the Skinner company gave a district salesmanship to my father instead. He has held this position for 26 years. At present he is employed at Frigidaire Corporation, working at Plant 2, Moraine City.

Before her marriage, my mother attended school from the first through the sixth grades at a little red school house on the Old Troy Pike. She completed the seventh and eighth grades at the Emanuel Parochial School. Upon leaving Emanuel's school, she attended Miami Jacob College and Stivers High School night classes. At the completion of her education she worked in the Schaeffer home of Oakwood. She was employed for six years before her marriage to Peter Jergens, Jr.

Therefore with the family, of which I am a member, being descended from ancestors who have come from Germany, France and Sweden, we form a family of mixed traits. Some of these traits are strongly prominent. We are all staunch Roman Catholics, about evenly divided between the dark and light complexioned, and all fairly largely built, physically.

 

© 2018 Elaine Schenot and Marianne Farrell

 

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