Few surnames on this website have as many variations and spellings as our “Mauer” moniker, and so a controversy exists as to its European area of origin: Germanic or the British Isles. Since our ancestors’ eventual destination was Quemahoning Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, home of many German-speaking settlers, it usually assumed that the spelling has always been “Mauer,” “Maurer,” or “Mowry,” but the Stoystown area also had English speakers, some of whom spelled their name “Moore.” Although at this time we doubt that the English Landed Gentry ancestry of our Catherine Mauer, George and Thomas Moore, as found on Ancestry.com we have laid on the table this possibility along with the many spellings, the various meanings, and some of the interesting stories associated with our Somerset County Mauer family.
Mauer is the Austro-German word for “wall.” Add an “r,” making it “Maurer,” the more popular surname, and the meaning becomes, “one who builds the wall” or “bricklayer.” Central Europe has many towns named Mauer, including one near Vienna. Perhaps the two most famous uses of the name are, “Mauer 1,” the fossilized jawbone of a prehistoric human found near one of the towns, and “Berliner Mauer” of course, the Berlin Wall. A search for famous persons with the name turned up mostly politicians and athletes. However, mention the name “Maurer” today in West-Central Pennsylvania and folks will immediately say, “Oh, you mean B.J. Maurer Ford Sales near Boswell.” Yes, the dealership is owned and operated by descendants of our early Quemahoning Township Mauer family. Going back generations, this Mauer insitution is a household name around here. I’m presently and proudly driving a Ford Ranger pick-up truck purchased from them.
Other apparent forms of the name come from the British Isles, as we said above, and in American colonial times could have been pronounced similarly, thus causing confusion. The surname “Moore” means “a marsh” or “people living near such open land,” and in Ireland may be spelled “O’More.” In Scotland, the slightly different “Muir” means “great” or “stately and noble.” Other forms of the name have interesting French and Scandanavian origins.
The early church and government records of Quemahoning Township contain many of the following of what we believe are variations of our surname Mauer: Maurer, Maurus, Mohren, Mower, Mowry, Mourer, Moyer, Mayer, Muir, Moore, More, and others. While we aren’t certain of the connection between my wife Susan’s 4Xgreat-grandmother Catherine Mauer (1775-1861) and what certain family trees at Ancestry.com say are Catherine’s father, George Moore (1743-1813), and his father, Thomas Moore (1698-1762), much of the documentation makes sense. As with all of our families, research is ongoing. Catherine Mauer Sartorius, her husband William, Jr., and his parents appear to have been charter members of the German Reformed Lutheran Church in Stoystown and are all buried in the Old Union Cemetery to the east of town. The family was involved in making moonshine during the Whiskey Rebellion or “Insurrection” of 1792, but apparently somehow avoided being fined by the new Federal government under General George Washington. Other extended family, including Mauers (Michael Moury), were caught and fined. For more information, see the Introduction: Sartorius or Catherine and William’s Vitals page.
Aside from being a farming neighbor, the person and relationship of Michael Mowry to our Zimmermans remains a mystery. In the Orphan’s Court of Somerset County, beginning in 1827, a brother or cousin to our Michael Zimmerman (1798-1878), Jacob (b.1795?), had died intestate (without a will). Apparently his wife Elizabeth (Mauer-sp?) had died earlier, leaving the couple’s eight children and their farm, called “Mansion Place,” in limbo. The court awarded Mowry guardian of the kids and our Michael Zimmerman’s son John the land. John had to pay the heirs for the property, as was the custom. Was Michael Mowry Elizabeth’s sister and the children’s uncle? Very likely, but what a task to raise that many youngsters. One of the great insights into carefully reading the edict of the court was to see the names of Zimmerman’s neighbors in describing the boundaries of the property in question: Miller, Kuntz, Horner, and of course several Zimmermans.
In conclusion, coming to America has usually meant losing all or part of ones original ethnic identity through the immigration process. Sometimes the European surname is anglicized at the naturalization desk, and more often than not, the stories from the homeland become lost, blurred, or forgotten across the centuries. Both situations are unfortunate, but perhaps on the bright side, they leave us family historians and genealogist lots of work to do, however frustrating it can be at times. So check back from time to time and read about what we uncover. By all means, if you have something to add or a question, please respond below.
“Mauer.” Wikipedia.com. 20 Dec. 2016
“Mauer.” BehindTheName.com. 3 Jan. 2017 http://surnames.behindthename.com/names/usage/german/2
“Moore.” Wikipedia.com. 3 Jan. 2017
“Moore.” Surnamedb.com. 3 Jan. 2017 http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Moore
Various Public Member Family Trees & other documents. Ancestry.com
Last revised: 3/14/18