Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The W A G N E R Family

Thanks to Nan Dixon, who contributed the following article on The Wagner Family. Check out the Jefferson County Gen Web site, Nan is the coordinator. Many of the valley people settled in the Jefferson County area. Fort Wagner photo and another article by Nan.

Peter Wagner, born 4 Oct 1687, was the only surviving son of Georg David and Anna Ottilia (Geissig) Wagner of Dachsenhausen, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany. Georg was a small farmer, possessing at least some land and a house which was passed to young Peter at the death of his parents. Georg came from a nearby hamlet, Hinterwald, middle son of a large family. His father, Hanss Wagner had his children baptized in the church at Dachsenhausen. Of Georg's mother, we do not know even her name.

The founder of the Wagner family which built Fort Wagner was baptized Johann Phillips Peter Wagner, but that name was for his christening only. We never see the Phillips anywhere else. In 1708, as Johann Peter Wagner, he married Maria Margaretha Laux, his servant, who was baptized 1686 in nearby Kirberg. With their year old son, Georg David, they emigrated to the new world by way of the Netherlands and England, arriving July 1710. Their child died soon after. By October of 1710 they were settled in Elizabethtown, which is no longer on the map. It was part of the West Camp settlement of Palatines indentured to make tar for Britain's navy. Their second known child, Anna Margaretha, was born 15 Apr 1712 in Elizabethtown. She was the only one of the Wagner children to be born in the camps.

Good research makes for sound genealogy. So far, the births, marriages, and emigration of the Wagners are supported by church records and the Hunter subsistence lists, all part of a written record of their lives. We do not speculate about Peter's birth: it is recorded in the Dachsenhausen church records, where we also find that he mortgaged his house and land to finance his trip to the new world. His marriage and his son's baptism are likewise recorded on the church books. Subsistence records prove the existence of a surviving child in July 1710, and fail to find him thereafter, hence we assume his death. The government was careful about those records because they expected repayment per head for all expenses Peter and his family incurred. Their residence in Elizabethtown is supported by the same subsistence and other records.

The recent insistence in giving the newly arrived Wagners a surviving son, supposedly born after Georg David, is an instance of finding a couple of vacant child bearing years for Maria Margaretha, and then supplying her with a son unaccounted for in any record. Despite the other unrelated Wagner families in the same emigration, and the frequency of the Wagner name in German records, family historians too lazy to do the research simply tack a child onto a well rooted family tree. The erroneous supposition that Anna Margaretha was born in New Paltz, which has persisted without any substantiation, is a figment of some overzealous would-be genealogist's desire to put a place and a date for every birth, even if it made no sense. Since it has appeared in print, the naive assume it must be truth even when conclusively disproved by later research.

History, as recorded in Governor Hunter's letters and other official and unofficial correspondence, as well as church census records, points to the Wagners' flight from Elizabethtown in the fall of 1712, and after a brief stay at either Albany or Schenectady, their subsequent removal to the Schoharie Valley, their "Land of Schorrie," early in 1713. Here their residence is proved by Simmendinger's register of the inhabitants of Gerlachsdorf in the Schoharie Valley, made in 1716. Gerlachsdorf exists today only as an historical sign on the highway through the Schoharie Valley. On 18 Aug 1714, according to a record found in the Stone Arabia Lutheran church, listing each of the Wagner children and their date of birth, Maria Catharina, named for her mother's mother, arrived to join her young sister. Following the history of the Palatines, it is a safe assumption to place her birth at Gerlachsdorf.

Ottilia was also born in Gerlachsdorf, 16 Aug 1716. The only Wagner child to have a single name, she was known as Delia, among other nicknames, and finally as Oletea on her will. She was followed by Catharina Elisabetha 10 Sep 1718 and Maria Magdalena 4 Jan 1720. These children all came the usual two years apart. History again records the Wagners' purchase of land in the Mohawk Valley. We cannot pinpoint their move, so though we place Johann Peter's birth 8 Jan 1722, we cannot tell whether he was born in Schoharie or in the Mohawk Valley. The final child, Maria Elisabetha, 24 Jan 1724, was probably born in the Mohawk Valley.

The survival and marriage of every child in those years of privation certainly proclaims a healthy family. The hard work and thrift of the Wagners is shown in their eventual stone house, still standing today. Since the stone house was probably not erected until after 1745, certainly the whole family of the immigrant never lived there. According to the chart given below, all of the daughters were married before 1750, one as early as 1735. Peter, as well as maintaining a successful farm to feed his family, scouted out good property for the wealthy men who invested in New York Provincial land grants. Since this necessarily took him from the farm for extended periods, Margaretha must be given the credit for keeping the home as well as tending land and stock. If they had black slaves at this time, they would not have had more than a single man, or a couple. There is no record of slaves in the immigrant's family, and the probability is that they could not afford them.

For those interested in the surnames this family of six daughters produced, a chart is the most efficient method of display. Most of the spouses, if not all, lived within walking distance of the Wagner homestead.



OTTILIA WAGNER married (1) before 1745 JOHANN JOST HAUS (2) before 1753 ISAAC REIT, whose children were known as WRIGHT (3) after 1756 FREDERICK PLANK




MARIA ELISABETHA WAGNER married about 1745 HENRICH SALTSMAN, half brother of GEORG.

With the exception of one family, all of the Wagner children supplied great grandchildren for their parents. The one exception is Maria Catherina, who had three known children with Georg Rosner, who so far have left no trace. The Wagners were prolific. Peter and Margaretha had 56 grandchildren. I am endeavoring to trace the genealogy of the family; and so far, the fifth generation alone I find at least 1,067 descendants. A few more are waiting to be entered into the data base, and many more have never been found. If you think you descend from the Wagners, please contact me at with particulars. No gedcoms, please. We are capable of using them, but our email is not capable of receiving them. I am always happy to share my research on your family! Please be aware that the name can also be spelled Wagoner, as my branch has, or Waggoner, or any other phonetic variation. The Van Wagoners, however, are likely to be descendants from the Dutch Van Wagenen clan of the Hudson Valley. Remember that a German name supplied to a Dutch or an English clerk before spelling became a science rather than an art, is likely to be spelled just as the clerk hears it: Vogoner is my favorite, but there is also Wagener, and Waagener, to name a few.

Copyright 1999. Nan Dixon. e-mail:
1999, Fort Klock Historic Restoration & Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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