The Rasors

Henry Ehrstine’s wife, my great-grandmother Susie Rasor, is from another Montgomery County pioneer family.

Some accounts contend that this line was originally Amish. If so, the connection was short-lived, for the Amish movement began in 1693 in Alsace with their separation from the rest of the Mennonites, a movement originating around 1525. Less than a century after the appearance of the Amish, the American Revolutionary War service of John (Daniel) Rasor presents a major distancing from their pacifism. Some Amish were prominent, though, in the formation of the United Brethren in Christ denomination in 1800, and when Raysor’s Church was established in what was the outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, it was that German Wesleyan denomination’s fourth oldest.

Although my Rasor line relocated to Ohio about the time the United Brethren denomination formed, John Rasor (born 1-1-1789; died 8-31-1850, buried at Raysor’s Cemetery near Penbrook, Pennsylvania) is described as “a local pastor; did not itinerate,” meaning he did not ride a circuit as most Wesleyan ministers of the time did.

In Montgomery County, Ohio, many of the Rasors were active United Brethren members, including Susie Rasor Ehrstine.

*   *   *

Turning first to the Amish connection, which also reflects other aspects of the Palatine immigration to the New World. From John A. Hostetler’s Amish Society (Third Edition):

Just when the first Amish came to America remains unknown. There is a possibility some may have arrived with the Swiss Mennonites in 1710 when they bought from William Penn ten thousand acres of land comprising an area in Lancaster County known as Pequea (pronounced peck-way) Colony, but documentation is lacking. However, the area is heavily populated by the Amish today. Some Amish individuals likely arrived in America between 1717 and 1736. Then, as now, the Amish did not formalize the movement of their members. Families were not prevented from moving if they wished. The Amish as a whole were very reluctant to leave their native Switzerland. … It may well be that the first to come to America were those who were least dedicated and most opportunistic. … The period of heaviest migration [in the first wave] appears to have been 1737-1754. By 1770, with the dawn of the Revolutionary War, Amish migration had almost ceased, and few new immigrants came until the nineteenth century. …

Immigration records between 1717 and 1736 contain names typical of the Amish … but it is virtually impossible to prove that they were Amish. … Arriving in Philadelphia on October 2, 1727, the ship Adventure had on its passenger list several typical Amish names … Beydler (Beiler), Kurtz, Leman (Lehman), Mayer, Miller, Pitscha (Peachy), Riesser, Snyder, Stutzman, and Swartz. Names typical of the European Amish were Bowman, Hess, and Histand. … When Amish-like names appear on ship lists in clusters, they are thought almost certainly to have been Amish.

There is also a consideration of location, since the Rasor family is from what is now Dauphin County. Hostetler lists the Amish settlements of the Colonial period, and the most likely one for the Rasors, the Tulpenhocken Valley settlement, in western Berks County,

in what is now Heidelberg and North Heidelberg townships, was occupied by Amish families from about 1764. A few families lived west of the town of Womelsdorf. A small cemetery is located on the farm that was occupied by John Kurtz, the deacon. There is evidence from land records that many Amish families settled in Lebanon County in an area extending from the Tulpenhocken community all the way to Dauphin County. The strong proselyting influence from other religious groups appears to have eventually destroyed the Amish in this area.”

Lebanon County was carved out from Dauphin and Lancaster counties in 1813. Dauphin was created in 1785, out of Lancaster County.

The Amish families were neighbors to other immigrants of other religions, including German Reformed, French-speaking Huguenots, and various pietistic sects, especially the Dunkards. As a result, many Amish joined the Dunkard or Church of the Brethren religion. The Methodist revival movement that swept through Pennsylvania attracted the Amish and some became leaders in that denomination. An Amish minister, Abram Draksel (Troxell) of Lebanon County was silenced for making “too much of the doctrine of regeneration” and became a leader in the revival movement [United Brethren]. When the young began marrying non-Amish, the most devout of the Amish leaders began to regroup … Amish genealogist Joseph F. Beiler writes: “… most of our initial ancestor families in America have not raised more than one son to remain in the old faith. Some have not kept any sons in the faith, some have kept a few … After the [Revolutionary] war there was a steady flow of Amish converts to the Tunkers or Brethren, German Baptists and even the Lutherans as well as the Moravians.” Before the Revolution, Beiler states, not one family pedigree showed that all the children had remained with the Amish church. …

The Amish, unlike the Quakers, generally paid the war tax but disclaimed any responsibility for its use. …

The letters written with an umlaut, such as o or u, are not pronounced with lip-rounding as in modern Standard German, and were never pronounced in such fashion in the Palatine vernacular. Thus frolich (“joyous”) is pronounced fray-lich

So, there is a possibitiy Rosser or Russer could become Ray-ser!

Hostettler calls 1749 “the banner year for Amish immigration in the 18th century.”

Thus, this perspective lends credence to the possibility of Amish roots for the Rasor family.

*   *   *

Later correspondence with Paul Rasor tells of his line’s movements from Montgomery County, Ohio, to Saskatchewan around 1914 and then to Steubenville, Ohio, and northern Michigan. “Interestingly enough, my father’s maternal grandparents belonged to the Old Order German Baptist church in Ohio, also in Montgomery County.” Her surname was Bowser.

Paul included sections from an undated paper, Family and Forefathers, by Paul Geo. Stomberger, that points back to Johann Rasor “who was the son of Nicolas Scherer (translates to ‘shearer’ in English). Apparently Johann took the Latin translation of his name, Rasoria … and later shortened it to Rasor. The Rasors were mostly druggists, lawyers, and bureaucrats in Germany, but were never true nobility. However, a Johannes Rasor (born 1486, ‘sometimes called Allendorf’) married a noblewoman and adopted a modified version of her family crest as his own.”

Other researchers believe this Rasor line leads back to Nobleman Rasor Von Allendorf, living about 1400. One new volume that may be related is Frank A. Raezer’s A Partial Genealogy of the Raezer Family (Lancaster, Pennsylvania., 1992-93), with a copy available at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.

Another version appears in this 1934 Dayton newspaper clipping found in Susie Rasor Ehrstine’s possessions, presented here in its entirety:

MEMBERS OF RASOR
CLAN GATHER SUNDAY

Members of the Rasor clan, pioneer Montgomery county family, will hold their 25th annual reunion Sunday at the residence of Warren Rasor, near Wengerlawn, with 200 or more descendants of the Rasor and Reed families expected to attend. Charles M. Rasor is president of the association.

The family has been represented in this county for 125 years, having been established here in 1809 when Daniel Rasor and his son, John, moved to Swanktown, near Salem on U.S. highway 40, from Dauphin county, Pa.

The original family emigrated from Germany in 1743. Mr. Rasor has traced this line of ancestors back to Nobleman Rasor von Allendorf, a landholder at Bavaria, near Munich, living about 1400 A.D.

A chicken dinner will be served and there will be entertainment, including a talk by Samuel E. Rasor, professor of mathematics, Ohio State university.

I am doubtful about the Nobleman Rasor origin, for several reasons – for one thing, the Thirty Years’ War in the 1700s makes German genealogy especially difficult. Besides, just about every genealogist seems to want to uncover nobility in the ancestry, yet few were. On top of it, we still need to get these Germans into a Swiss migration through the Palatine, or a similar locale where the Amish were found. Samuel E. Rasor may have his facts may be completely right – but then again, oral histories can become tangled. In addition, the ensuing warfare resulted in large upheavals, which may have left the family in another place and reduced economic circumstances. In addition, we should note that in contrast to its rural image, the Anabaptist movement started primarily in larger European cities; urban Zurich, for instance, was a hotbed of Anabaptist formation in the 1520s.

The earliest movement of the family in America is currently unknown. Possible origins include Jacob REYSOR and wife Elizabeth, who arrived in 1729 in Philadelphia aboad the Mortonhouse, as well as the 1743 arrivals of Philipp ROESHER on the Phoenix and Phyt REYSNER on the St. Andrew.

*   *   *

The known American line to Montgomery County goes like this:

John RASOR ( – October 1, 1798), married Magdalena (unknown) of what is now Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. If Montgomery County tradition holds, he was Amish, possibly arriving as a minor with his family in 1743.

R1. John ROSSER (in will, dated Oct. 1, 1798, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, it is spelled Rassor) – wife, according to will: Magdalena. Twelve children, according to family Bible and will:

  1. R1A. Peter
  2. R1B. Abraham
  3. R1C. Jacob
  4. R1D. Kati (Catharina, married Joseph Strit)
  5. R1E. Annie
  6. R1R. Frances
  7. R1G. [*] (John) Daniel – see below.
  8. R1H. Magdalen
  9. R1I. John (the United Brethren minister)
  10. R1J. Susanna
  11. R1K. Barbara (married George Ewigh)
  12. R1L. Christina

*   *   *

John (Daniel) RASOR (1755, Germany or Pennsylvania-1816 or 1818, Montgomery County, Ohio); married (1) Katherine FORNEY, widow of John Forney, in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, 1782; and (2) Barbara HARSHBARGER, daughter of Jacob Hershberger, in 1790. Barbara was born August 4, 1757, perhaps in Germany.

R1G. * John Daniel RASOR (in legal records he is sometimes recorded as John Rasor, but by Ohio it is definitely Daniel; also referred to as Daniel Rasor Sr.) born March 30, 1756 – by tradition, in Germany – married (1) Katherine (Elizabeth) Forney, widow of John Forney, 1782, in Dauphin County; (2) Barbara Harshbarger (born August 4, 1757, possibly in Germany; died 1821, Ohio; daughter of Jacob and Catharina of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.); married in 1790; he died 1816 or 1818, Montgomery County, Ohio. They are buried in the orchard on the family homestead, ¾ mile north of Swankton on the old National Road; Revolutionary War veteran. (According to one version, all children born and reared in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania., rather than Dauphin.)

(Narrative has him dying at age 62 or 63, rather than at 70, as records would have it; his death coming two years after locating in Clay Township, Montgomery County, Ohio; he moved to Montgomery County, Ohio, in 1805 or 1806. Got homesick, walked back to Pennsylvania, returned and then settled in Clay Township.)

The Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists Newsletter, Fall 1997, names Daniel Rasor Sr. (and children Catharine Rohrer, Barbara Wiles, Daniel, Christina, Fanny, John, Ann, Sarah, and Elizabeth) as 1806 Brethren pioneers to Montgomery County.

*   *   *

His son, Daniel RASOR Jr. (R1G1), came to Ohio first and his reports encouraged the rest of the family to migrate. In 1816, with David Hoover, he founded the town of Union in Randolph Township, Montgomery County, and with (unknown partner) built a distillery and mill before moving to Clay Township. He had at least nine children:

  1. R1G1. Daniel (Jr.) (1784 – February 26, 1859), married (1) Elizabeth Weybright and (2) Barbara; among their children is a son, David (March 30 or April 30, 1817-May 1, 1863) who married a Mary Herr (born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. October 6, 1819-December 1, 1886; came to Ohio in 1830) at Englewood (then Harrisburg), Ohio November 28, 1838. (He was a successful cooper.) She was the daughter of Samuel and Francis (Long) Herr. They had four children: Lavina (1839-), Samuel (1841-), Josiah (1844-), and Daniel B. (March 16, 1848-) who married on January 29, 1872, Lydia Fetter (April 9, 1851), daughter of Peter and Mary Ann. (This information from Mennonite records). This line appears to have been Brethren in Christ (River Brethren) and United Brethren. (David and Mary, in 1850 Census, Randolph Township, valued at $5,800, are listed next to Daniel Rasor, 68, value $2,300 and (we assume, his wife) Barbary, 49 – both born in Pennsylvania.)
  2. R1G2. Barbara, married Peter Miles.
  3. R1G3. * John (Aug. 25, 1790 – June 19, 1866 or 69), married Hannah Michael (November 2, 1797, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,-January 26, 1875), daughter of Jacob and Mary (Myers) Michael; 12 children. See below.
  4. R1G4. Catherine (Katie), married John (Joseph?) Rohrer.
  5. R1G5. Sarah (Sally) (1798-1851), married Jacob Swank as his first wife.
  6. R1G6. Annie, married Abraham Shower.
  7. R1G7. Frances (Fanny), married (1814) George Niswonger.
  8. R1G8. Elizabeth (Lizzie) (1801-1875), married {1822} Henry Shank.
  9. R1G9. Christena, married Martin Weybright Jr. )

*   *   *

R1G3 * John RASOR (August 25, 1790-June 19, 1866 in Ohio), married Hannah MICHAEL (November 2, 1797-January 26, 1875), daughter of Jacob and Mary (Myers) Michael in 1815 or 1820. He was about 16 years old when he came to Ohio.

(Son Henry gives John’s birth as 1791 and death at 1869; he gives the marriage date as July 9, 1815.)

John and Hannah were United Brethren, homesteaded 280 acres, and gave an additional 1,600 acres to their children.

Their children include seven sons:

  1. R1G3A * David (January 17, 1821-March 2, 1911). Buried at Parish Cemetery. Married (July 2, 1843) Delilah (Elizabeth) Swank (1820, Perry Township, Montgomery County-March 4,1894), daughter of John and Susannah (Nicewanger) Swank. Seven children grew to maturity: Mary Ann Pierson, Henry, Martha Jane (went by “Jane”) Leese, Sarah Ann Carmony, Ephraim (died at age 21), Amanda Elen Scott, and Susannah “Susie” Ehrstine They settled in Salem (now Clayton) on 120 acres and stayed two years. He built it to 245 acres, plus land in Brookville.
  2. R1G3B. Peter (April 15, 1817 – October 22, 1904). Buried at Parish Cemetery. Married (May 23, 1839) Anna Marcia or Maria (Polly) Limbert. 13 children: John Henry, William F., Susannah Heeter, Edmund, Joseph W., twins Adam S. and Salome E. Turney, Hannah Catharine Harshbarger, Ezra Milton, Martha Ann Meyer, Marietta Smith, Ira, and Clarence. See Montgomery County Almanac material, including the quarry.
  3. R1G3C. Elizabeth (December 8, 1819-). Married (May 31, 1838) William H. Reynolds. 12 children: Henry, James R., Andrew J., Molly Kuns, George F., Joseph, Hannah Catharine Caylor, Susannah Colver, John W., William H., Daniel R., Mary E.
  4. R1G3D. John Jr. (July 15, 1818 – April 23, 1894). Married (October 14, 1841) Sarah Jane Hooven (Hoover?). Eight children: Nathan, Mandus, Aaron, Mary Ellen Horner, Hannah Alice Confer, Warren, Jesse, Franklin.
  5. R1G3E. Daniel (December 31, 1822-December 27, 1890). Buried at Clayton Cemetery. Unmarried.
  6. R1G3F. Jacob (November 2, 1824-). Married. Three children: Ezra, Jacob, Sarah Ellen.
  7. R1G3G. Samuel (February 15, 1829-). Married. Three children: Samuel, Andrew, Malinda France.
  8. R1G3H. Henry (March 21, 1827 – 1903). Wound up owning the place where he was born; married Melinda Baker (1832-1918, daughter of Benjamin and Frances [Niswonger] Baker of Clay Township). They were the parents eight children: Levi, Sadie Woolery, Cicero, Noah, John Henry, Martha Mohr, Hannah Francis (went by “Francis”) Young/Mackay, and Samuel Eugene. He was a Democrat and a member of the Brethren in Christ (at time of Almanac) 23 years.
  9. R1G3I. Noah (December 25, 1835-). Married. Two children: Melvina, Aaron.
  10. R1G3J. Mary (or Polly) (November 14, 1833-). Married Henry Overholser. Five children: Amanda Whisler, Alvin, Mary Ann Limbert, Elmer, Noah.
  11. R1G3K. Catherine (Katie) (March 22, 1831-). Married (unknown) Arnold. Two children: Zachariah, Amanda Berk.
  12. R1G3K. Sarah (died in infancy).
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7 thoughts on “The Rasors”

  1. Thank you…I am a decendant Of Daniel Rasor..My 4th Great grand parents are John and Katherine(Rasor)Rohrer..of Milford Indiana died the,My 5th great grandparents Are Joesph and Mary (Rasor)Rohrer. they died in Montgomery Co. ohio in 1841..

    Thanks Darren Rohrer

  2. I am a descendant of Rev Levi Rasor who appeared in Armstrong Co Pa about 1825. He had daughters who married brothers David and John Bowser. Levi was said to be pastor of The German Baptist Brethren. The girls were Mary and Margaret Rasor. Does anyone have information on this branch of the Rasor family?

    1. Let’s hope your query here prompts some additional researchers to add their bits to the puzzle. My Rasor posting has about everything I’ve turned up so far — while other postings here go into more detail about the German Baptist Brethren (or, in its main stream today, the Church of the Brethren) and its ways.
      From my experience with other branches of the family, I expect that filling in the period from our Dauphin County Rasors to Levi in 1825 will be difficult. Western Pennsylvania was simply in a lot of flux, especially as households moved on to Ohio and points west once those lands were open for settlement.
      By the way, Levi would not have used “Reverend” or “pastor.” The old Brethren had elders and ministers in their leadership positions, and both were lay rather clerical by profession.
      And, if we can rely on traditional naming patterns, there’s a strong likelihood that Mary and Margaret were named for their grandmothers. Sometimes that helps in the search.

  3. i was not aware of the lay clergy aspect of the church. I only know the old Bowser History Book lists him as Rev. With what you told me I seriously doubt he ever used that title.

  4. My name is Reeser and I descend from John, Derry Township, Dauphin County who died there 1799. The name in his time was spelled Raser, Resor, Raysor and about any variation possible, but the German handwriting shows Riser or Risser. The Risser Anabaptists descend from Reusser or Ryser of canton Bern, Switzerland. Daniel appears in Lebanon Township as a taxable in 1755. He took out a land patent on December 4, 1766 on the eastern banks of the Quitaphahilla Creek, Lebanon Township, but today within North Annville Township. He may have married Christiana Harshbarger, a daughter of Jacob Harshbarger, Cocalico Township, Lancaster County. I have not been able to connect Daniel with my ancestor John. I agree he was originally Amish, as was my ancestor and he lived in an Amish community that came under Abraham Drachsel’s leadership. So, my opinion is that he is probably a brother of John Raysor 1760-1832, who according to my research, is the father of John Raysor 1789-1850, the United Brethren preacher of Raysor’s Church, Harrisburg. This is a lot of info, but searching for these connections have been a lifelong hobby.

    1. Thank you very, very much! Your work adds greatly to my understanding of this phase of the line.
      I am curious about what happened to those early Amish in America, of whom I’ve heard only that they didn’t continue in the faith.
      The multiple versions of surnames didn’t affect German-Americans alone, as I learned of the Hodgson and Hodgin variants of my English Hodson.
      Feel welcome to pipe up here anytime.

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