A Brief History of the Speicher Family

June 2, 1941
by
Paul Speicher

The origin of the Speicher family dates back to the period between the years 1558 and 1603. At this time Queen Elizabeth of England, being a staunch protestant, persecuted those of the Catholic faith. Our Speicher ancestor, who was a Catholic priest was forced to flee to avoid being beheaded.

In Switzerland, near the French border, he took refuge at a farm. Here he hid in a granary and implement shelter called a “Speicher” in the German language. While in hiding here, he was sustained by the owner of the farm. His priestly locks were cut off and he was clothed as a farm hand, wearing wooden shoes and coarde clothing.

A search was conducted for the priest on the premises, but it was not suspected the coarsely dressed farm hand was the priest for which they were searching.

To avoid further trouble, he changed his name to Speicher in remembrance of the building which had sheltered him and saved his life. His real name is not known, although it is thought the name might have been Wesley. Whatever the name might have been, it was kept secret to avoid any trouble.

He was a highly educated man and was soon asked to teach the children of the family. Later the neighbors wanted their children educated, so he became the village school master.

When death came to the community, the schoolmaster was turned to for funeral advise, and the community found he could preach as well as teach. Thus he also became their minister.

At a later date he married a princess from a family of high standing. One of his sons became the body guard of the Ruler.

Upon the death of the first Speicher, his body was highly embalmed, placed in a vault and laid away for one hundred years, at which time it was taken out and looked upon, as was the custom among Royalty. It is said the grandson kissed the face – his grandfather.

The sons married along the royal line, but were not wealthy.

During the Austrian Invasion into Switzerland, a descendent of the first Speicher broke ranks when the Swiss were about defeated. He turned back to his comrades and said, “Remember my family if I fall”. He rushed forward with his rude instrument which was something like a spear, mowing down the enemy until he was standing alone, waist deep in blood and dead bodies. His companions, seeing his bravery and courage, rushed forward and the Austrians were defeated.

One of the finest avenues in the City of Berne, Switzerland, is called Speicher. The father of John Speicher was mayor of the city of Berne for many years.

In the family of Mayor Speicher, there were three boys and two girls. He decided to give all of his wealth to his youngest son, Benjamin, so the others, having to shift for themselves, went to Germany and later to America. After the death of the father, the children, by contending to it, received one thousand dollars each.

It is the descendents of the youngest son, Benjamin, who are now to be found in Switzerland. Joseph Speicher visited Switzerland in the year , and found the family occupying the old castle and family buildings. The family had been extravagant, having had seervants, coaches, receptions, etc. without much income and had been reduced to poverty.

After John Speicher has served in the army, he determined to go to America, since he had heard stories of freedom, plenty, and opportunity. Leaving Switzerland by himself, he went to Germany, and from there to France, and there took passage on a three masted schooner. After a perilous voyage lasting sixty days, land was sighted and the grateful passengers gave a prayer of thanksgiving.

John Speicher went at once from New York City to Holmes County, Ohio where he secured a job in a grist mill. Here he remained four years, learning the trade, and learning the English language.

He soon determined that America was the land of opportunity and he thought of his friends at home who were toiling against adverse circumstances, so he returned to Switzerland. With glowing accounts, he induced about one hundred people to return to America with him. Among those returning with him was his sweetheart, Elizabeth Kreps. He married her soon after reaching Ohio. This was October 11th, 1834.

In a short time he purchased forty acres of land in Holmes County and built a grist mill, where he soon came to be know as “Honest John, the Miller”.

In 1852 he disposed of his property in Ohio and moved to Indiana, locating in Wabash County, where he founded the Speicher settlement. He made this journey westward via the Erie and Wabash Canal. He purchased about two hundred acres of slightly developed land about a mile east of Urbana. He made this his home where he died in 1879.

The entire county was in the early stage of development at this time, there not being any railroads in the county and Wabash was a small village. Shopping was done in Huntington and Fort Wayne.

John Speicher was energetic, ambitious and a good business man. At one time the tax valuation of 2500 acres of land owned by the family was $91,000.00.

He had strong political convictions, and although he identified himself with the Whig party, at the advent of the Anti-slavery party, he cast his vote for their candidate, John C. Fremont. Two sons, John and Frederick, gave their lives for their country in the war of rebellion which followed.

John Speicher was deeply religious, and when he spoke the name of God, he always uncovered his head in reverence. The Bible was very sacred to him. On one occasion a minister called at the home and laid his hat on the Bible which was on a stand. John Speicher brushed the hat aside saying that nothing should lie on the Bible. Through his generosity, he founded the Speicher Church, which was a fine brick building located near his home. He also founded the Speicher Cemetery.

Some time after his death, due to a schism in the church over the question of what tongue should be spoken, the church broke up, and those wishing English services came to Urbana. The church was later sold to the Wesleyan Methodists at Wabash who dismanteled it and reconstructed it in Wabash. The original windows and the original bell were used.

John Speicher was primarily of teutonic origin. He was a happy admixture, having the solidity of the Germans and the temperment of the Celts. He was a good man, a Christian gentleman whose advise was always good and wholesome.

He lived close to the green verdure of the soil. He was a wholesome liver, a practical idealist. He was a devotee of nature and humanity, unadorned by sanctity, pretense or austere mysticism.

The family was of the highest type of citizenship. They were industrious, religious and musically inclined. The family was in possession of a pipe organ, perhaps the only one in a country home of America at this time. They were Swiss Bell Ringers, having brought the bells from Switzerland. The dialect spoken in the home was German.

The funeral of John Speicher was held in the Speicher Church, one year, four months and five days after the dedication. His body was the first interment in the Speicher Cemetery as he had predicted.

Following is a list of the children: Samuel, Christian, John, Fredrick, Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, William, Catherine, George, Henry, David, Rose, Simon Peter, Daniel and Phillip.

Work Cited

Paul Speicher. “Brief History of the Speicher Family.” Wabash Carnegie Public Library in Wabash, IN. 2 June 1941                http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.northam.usa.states.indiana.counties.wabash/798/mb.ashx?pnt=1

5 Responses to A Brief History of the Speicher Family

  1. This is a most interesting history. I had heard that the reason for the immigration of my father’s family was due to religious issues, but I never understood the historical facts. I have a copy of the 3rd edition of A History of the Speicher Spicher Spyker Family. This history is so interesting. I understood that the Speichers immigrated from Berne, Switzerland, due to religious persecution, but I had no understanding of the historical details. I also have a copy of A History of the Speicher Spicher Spyker Family 1737 – 1983. This is a most interesting history. I also have a copy of A History of the Speicher Spicher Spyker Family compiled by Paul Speicher and published by The Speicher Family Association in 1961 and revised in 1970 and 1983. I am a descendant of Ulrich Speicher who arrived in Philadelphia on October 8, 1737, aboard the ship Charming Nancy. Ulrich settled in the western part of Berks County. Thank you so much for this interesting history. A Catholic priest in our family no less!
    Betsy Speicher
    Lexington, Massachusetts

    • Tiffany Rains Bell says:

      I’m curious if anything is mentioned in your books about a John Spiker (b1807 or 1812 in Prussia)? He shows up in the 1840 census in Sabine Parish, Louisiana and died there approx 1882.

      Tiffany Rains Bell
      Trbell214@gmail.com

      • admin says:

        Hi Tiffany,
        I can find nothing in my materials on a John Spiker. Of course most of the folks here in Somerset Co, PA, and Accident, MD, spell it “Speicher.” Also, many of the early Germans used two names in front of their surname: a Christian name (Johannes=John), which everyone in that family had, and a unique personal name to separate them from the rest. That makes it tough for historians. I also don’t know any family that wondered that far south. Let me know if you find anything. Thanks,
        Larry

  2. Dwayne E. Speicher. says:

    My name is Dwayne Spiecher. I live in Kelso,Washington. I’d love to know more about my last name. I was born in the COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, county of SOMERSET. On 07/28/1972. I have a cell phone number that is (360)56031-04. Call me I’d love to hear any thing you’d have to say on my FAMILY name please

    • admin says:

      Hi Dwayne,
      Perhaps you found the “Brief History” through my “Introduction: Speicher” ( http://e-gen.info/?page_id=4228 ), but have a look there for more info. How did you get out to the West Coast? I’m presently trying to connect my wife’s Dunkard Speichers from Berlin, PA, and Accident, MD, to her Amish Great-grandfather Christian Lee who married Laura Speicher. How did they meet? How did their daughter Annie then meet and marry a Lutheran? Love conquers all, I guess. Stay in touch,
      Larry

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