Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys


A Family History donated by: Harry Windecker

The Keller Connection.

Frederick I Windecker married Barbara Keller, daughter of Jacob or Johannes Keller. John Windecker and Frederick II Windecker, sons of Frederick I, both married daughters of Henry Keller, son of Jacob or Johannes, and therefore, probably Barbara Keller's brother. Thus we have a case of cousins marrying cousins. Although marrying cousins is not practiced today, it was a common practice throughout history, especially with nobility. The Palatines, in general, were known as a family of "cousins".

Additional complications arise as Anna Barbara Windecker is married to John Keller, possibly Henry and Barbara's younger brother, but probably a different, but related line. This line marries back into the Windecker clan at a later date (descendants of John Windecker, above). Thus, the Windecker-Keller connection is not a branch, but an intertwined vine!

The Keller line of New York Palatine Germans apparently starts with Frantz Keller. Both Jacob, and/or Johannes are likely, his sons. Christian Keller, also a probable son, was naturalized at the same time as Frantz, in 1715. The birth of Johann Wilhelm Keller was reported in West Camp in 1715. Connections with these individuals could not be reasonably established at this time.

Language Barrier.

By the second or third generation, although still spoken, German was dropped as the primary spoken language, in favor of a local dialect called "Mohawk Dutch", a combination of German, Dutch, English and Indian. During this time the Palatine German-Americans were essentially illiterate. Few could spell their names, and far less could read.

Manheim-Fairfield Homesteads.

Frederick, son of Hartman, left the Minden homestead probably in the 1740s, settling in Manheim (Rheimesnyder's Bush). In addition to Frederick, two other sons of Hartman, Jacob and Conrad, left the Minden homestead and settled in the Manheim-Fairfield area. During much of the 1800s, John F. Windecker occupied the Manheim homestead of Frederick. He was the son of Frederick II, Frederick's (I) youngest son. John F. was a prosperous farmer and a founding member of the "Old Yellow Church" of Manheim.

Two Windecker "estates" are notable in the vicinity the Old Yellow Church. One, located to the west, on the Fairfield-Little Falls Road, was more recently the homestead of J. W. Windecker of Fairfield. He was descended from John Windecker (son of Frederick, 1722-1806). This estate is probably the original homestead of John (son of Frederick I) and is located in Fairfield, as the Fairfield-Manheim town line passes between this homestead and the Old Yellow Church. The John F. homestead lies east of the Old Yellow Church in Manheim. A photograph, taken in the mid-1880s, shows it as a large, well-maintained structure.

Marietta Thompson, wife of Leonard Windecker, was reported to be a beautiful singer. On at least one occasion, she sang a few solos at the home of John W. Windecker, beside a huge fireplace with marble mantle. The home was described as a "mansion" with a winding driveway, bordered by maple trees and lanterns. The house was lost during the 1930s. J. W. Windecker owned two farms in the area, Butternut Grove and The Maples. Butternut Grove is the likely home described above, as the buildings were reported to be in "first class" condition as provided by an 1886 description of the property.

The Old Yellow Church burial grounds have interred 26 Windeckers, including five generations of our ancestors, Frederick, John, and Frederick's daughters, (but probably not Frederick II), John F., George Willard, and William (born Willard) Eugene. Their wives, and other children, including Alice (Windecker) Welch, our grandfather's sister, are also buried there. The grounds are in reasonably good condition, and most stones are legible. The stone (limestone) of Frederick I is barely legible, however, and may become unreadable in a short time. Unlike granite or slate, limestone weathers somewhat rapidly when exposed to air, especially if it contains acid particles (acid rain), which primarily originates from industrial activities.

In all, Manheim and adjacent, Fairfield, was the home of six generations of our Windecker ancestors, starting with Frederick, and ending with our grandfather, Harry Newkirk Windecker, who moved on to Schuyler, New York, to pursue his love, Elizabeth Farrington, our grandmother. In addition to our relatives in Schuyler, Windeckers still reside in Fairfield, Manheim and Little Falls, amongst other locations in upstate New York. Our grandparents are buried in Middleville, a village located in the Town of Fairfield.

Important evidence of our family ties is also found in Herkimer County wills. The will made by Frederick (I) Windecker in March 1803 and probated in February 1809 listed legatees that included: wife, Barbara; sons, Henry, John and Frederick; and daughters, Anna Barbara, Gertrout (or Gertraut), and Catherine (Catharina Jacobu). Grandchildren, including John F. were also mentioned. This will, a will of Frederick (II), John F. and one of Nancy Windecker are on file in Herkimer County.

John F. Windecker married Magdalena (Lany) Hayes (probably Hase in an earlier form) and had several children. The youngest is George Willard, our great great grandfather. John F., Lany, and their children are buried in a family plot within the Old Yellow Church Cemetery, which contains a large headstone with the names of most of the children. The grave of George Willard and his wife, Melissa Klock (born Amanda Melissa) are immediately adjacent to this plot. Of particular interest here is the Klock family name. Frederick Hyer, husband of our aunt Helen on our father's side, and Erwin Hyer, husband of our aunt Lulu on our mother's side are brothers. Their mother was a Klock, and possibly distantly related.

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