THE SHIRER FAMILY HISTORY

Lois June Powell Orton 1979

"People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors." --Edmund Burke

I've read somewhere that everyone should write down his or her family memories in case someone, sometime, is interested in reading about the "olden days".

The Shirers were Pennsylvania Dutch (or Deutsch, meaning German). The name in German was spelled Scheurer originally. It means "one who had charge of the barn or granary.

John Shirer was born in 1735 and died 7 March 1817. His wife Elizabetha, born in December 1741, died on 26 February 1829. Both are buried in the old cemetery at Salisbury, Pennsylvania. (There is also a new cemetery.) Salisbury is in Somerset County, Elk Lick Township, and was formerly called Shirerstown.

Close to Salisbury is Mt. Davis, highest spot in Pennsylvania. Of the eighteen points in Pennsylvania having elevations of 3,000 feet or more, Elk Lick Township has eight of these points.

Peter Shirer, Sr., son of John and Elizabetha Shirer, arrived in Salisbury sometime between 1790 and 1798. It is said that he came up Route 40 with a peddler's pack on his back.

Peter Shirer, Sr. was born in December, 1769, in Maryland, possibly near Frederick. His wife, Gertraut was also born in Maryland on 12 February 1772. Sometime between 1800 and 1810 Peter's parents, John and Elizabetha, came to Salisbury to live. By this time Peter and Gertraut had at least four children. Peter bought land in 1798 and built a general store and tavern on the corner which is now the site of the Thomas Funeral Home.
In 1800 there were only seven families living in Salisbury. In 1815 Peter helped lay off the first addition to the town. He was appointed the third Postmaster of Salisbury on 5 January 1825. In the Salisbury Centennial Book, printed in 1962, is a picture of the document naming Peter Shirer, Esq. as the Postmaster.

During his lifetime, Peter, Sr. was a successful merchant and owned considerable properties. By the tone of his ledger, he seemingly filled the role of local financier as he loaned considerable sums of money with interest. At his death in 1846, his total worth was roughly $20,000.
Gertraut died 11 November 1843 and Peter, Sr., died 10 March 1846, with both being buried in the old Salisbury Cemetery. Buried between Gertraut & Elizabetha Shirer is Catherina Derr (1749-21 July 1822), possibly Gertraut's mother.

The family spoke German and Peter's son John gave German lessons. They were either German Lutheran or German Reformed. The two groups shared one church building. Among the items sold when Peter, Sr. died, was a German prayer book.

Peter and Gertraut were parents of five daughters and two sons, John and Peter, Jr. They were:
Born Married: Margaretha May 1794 Adam Shultz; Salome 6 March 1796 Peter Haldeman[ John 5 March 1798 Salome Wagner; Anna Maria "Polly" 30 Jan 1800 William Pence; Peter, Jr. 24 Oct 1803 Charlotte Newman; Lydia 19 March 1809Michael Kimmel; Elizabeth 18 Feb 1813 Samuel Engle

Margaretha Shirer, oldest child of Peter Sr., died at age 24, leaving four children. Her husband Adam Shultz remarried Nancy _____ and settled in the Cumberland, Maryland area. He had nine more children. Margaretha's daughter Lydia, married Charles Wagner. She also died quite young, leaving four children who were placed under the guardianship of Elijah Wagner. Elijah was not the grandfather of these children, as a tombstone in the Salisbury Cemetery states that the child (a girl) was the only child of Elijah and Eve Wagner. It is presumed that this was an uncle or great-uncle of theirs.

Peter and Gertraut's second child, Salome Shirer, married Peter Haldeman, son of Jacob Haldeman, on 24 Jan 1813. The Haldeman family is believed to be from Yverdun, Switzerland. Salome and her husband were parents of six sons and five daughters. Both are buried at Old Tent Cemetery, Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Salome lived to be 69 and Peter Haldeman 78 years of age.

A Somerset County History Book tells this story. The store and tavern of Peter Shirer, Sr. was broken into by way of the window one night, and a sum of money was stolen. When the theft was detected, Peter, Sr. called the local authority. It was discovered that the thief was his son-in-law Peter Haldeman. The case was dropped as it then became a "family affair".

Their third child, John Shirer, was born 5 March 1798 in Salisbury and married Salome Wagner previous to 1820. They had at least nine children. John was always referred to as John Shirer, Esquire, in the tax assessments of Somerset County. John was a Justice of the Peace in 1829. He served as one of the first school teachers of the Salisbury area, teaching at one time in a farm house. At that time there was no public school system and anyone wishing to educate a child bargained with the school master to teach the child for a certain sum. Most families saw fit to educate only the sons. This was seemingly true of Peter, Sr., as all the daughters signed necessary documents with an X, whereas John and Peter, Jr. were accomplished penmen.
After his father's death in 1846, John moved to Jockey Valley, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, purchasing 360 acres of land which was then known as Wolf Hill. It is presumed that he and Salome died and are buried there, but their graves have not been located. A portion of their land was probably flooded when the Yough Dam was formed and the graves could have been there. A descendant recalls that there were some tombstones on the farm which is now owned by Fred Myers, but they were "plowed over long ago". Fred Myers recalls that there were some unmarked stones there.

A small portion of the 360 acres purchased by John Shirer in Jockey Hollow remains with his descendants. Mrs. Carl Shirer, widow of John's great-great-grandson maintains a farm there. John Shirer died 1 Jan 1862.
Born Married: Cathren Ann Shirer 1821 Daniel Glotfelty Barney Shirer 1824 (D 1825) Francis Peter Shirer 9 July 1826 Harriet Thomas
Charles Shirer 19 Sept 1829Susan Thomas Susanna Barnes Clarasey Shirer 30 Sept 1830John K. Tishue Sarah Ann Shirer 1832 Polly Margaret Shirer 1834 Christian B. Shirer 1836 Martha Ann Conway Lyda Shirer 1838 Andrew J. ? Elizabeth Shirer 1840

"Polly" or Anna Maria, fourth child of Peter and Gertraut, married William Pence. She died at the age of 31 leaving five children. Polly and Margaretha are buried close to their parents in the old Salisbury Cemetery. Next to Polly's grave is a child's grave marked "Daly Pens" (Pence), no doubt a child of Polly's who died.

Peter Shirer, Jr. was born 24 Oct 1803, in Salisbury, Pennsylvania. He was the fifth child of Peter Sr. and Gertraut Shirer. He married Charlotte Newman on 27 April 1828 and they had six daughters and five sons. He was a small man, always dressed to the hilt with a stovepipe hat. He worked with his father in the mercantile business and in 1832 bought the business (not the property) from his father and paid for it in $150 installments. In 1838 he went to Evansville, Preston County, Virginia (now West Virginia), 15 miles east of Grafton on Route 50 and opened a store. He thought Route 50 would be the main highway west, but after 1-1/2 years, he moved back to Red House, Maryland, establishing a store there on Route 50.
A voucher found among the intestate records of Peter Shirer, Sr. states that John was paid for washing, sewing, etc., for Peter, Sr. for the year preceding his death. From the Salisbury store ledger, we know that Peter, Jr. paid rent to his father for all the years preceding his move to Evansville. Therefore it is obvious that John saw to the care of his father after his mother died in 1843 and after Peter, Jr. moved away.

Lydia, sixth child of Peter Sr., married Michael Kimmel and settled at Evansville, Virginia (now West Virginia). They had nine children and lived long lives. Lydia was 76 and Michael 93 when they died. They are buried in the Methodist Church Cemetery at Evansville, lust east of Grafton.

Elizabeth, the seventh and last child of Peter Shirer, Sr., married Samuel Engle and settled a large area of land in northern Allegany (now Garrett) County, Maryland. By the time of her death at age 35, Elizabeth had borne Samuel six children. Samuel married twice after Elizabeth's death and had three or four more children. Samuel owned a large area of sugar maples and engaged in the manufacture of maple sugar. Late in life, he fell with one arm into the boiling syrup and he never completely recovered from his burns. Elizabeth and Samuel are both buried in the Engle Cemetery on Hare-hollow Road near Jennings, Maryland.

Return to Samuel Engle biography.