John Beachler (1844-1921) settled in the newly-founded
coal mining town of Houtzdale, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania in the 1870's, where he married
Margaret Jayne Bickelman in 1874. In the 1880's, probably because of labor disputes and strikes
in Houtzdale, the family moved to Colorado, and later to Wyoming. When John Beachler died
in 1921 at Frontier, Lincoln County, Wyoming, his death certificate recorded his name as Jean
Jennier Beachler, birthplace France. We would like to know more about the movements of the
family, but he seems to have succeeded in evading census takers in 1900, 1910, and 1920.
An old photograph identified by the family as Anne
Haller, mother of John Beachler, seems to have been the clue that led to the identification
of his parents, Jean Pierre Bichler and Anne Haller of Hottviller, a small commune in the
Département of Moselle, France. (We have not located the record of John Beachler's arrival
in the United States. It is possible that Anne Haller accompanied him, and that the
photograph was made in the US. To the best of our knowledge, there are no marks on the
photograph that would help to determine its origin.)
Working from microfilms of the church records and civil registration of Hottviller and nearby communes, we have traced the ancestry of this couple, plus as many of the descendants as we could identify of the first Bichler/Büchler settler in Hottviller, one Johann Georg Büchler who came from Oberfrick (now the commune of Gipf-Oberfrick, Canton Aargau, Switzerland) sometime before 1700.
Most of the Bichler's of Hottviller were stone masons, working in nearby quarries. It is believed that a number of them left the Hottviller area to work in quarries and mines in adjacent regions, such as Belgium and Germany. A few census records for some of John Beachler's children give his birthplace as Belgium rather than France. Jean Pierre Bichler and Anne Haller, with all of their children, disappear from the records of Hottviller after 1842, just before John Beachler's birth. We have not discovered where they settled next. There are no gaps in the death records of Hottviller in the 1840's, so it is not likely that the whole family simply there died unnoticed.
At least a few other Bichler descendants reached the United States, settling in the coal mining areas of Pennsylvania. Nicolas Fey (1815-1895) and his wife Madeleine Decker (1819-1904), both Bichler descendants, settled in Mifflin Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. A photograph of Madeleine Decker's mother Christine Bichler Decker (1798-1888) has survived (left). Also, Nicolas Lang (b. 1805) and his wife Marie Elizabeth Fey (b. 1819), likewise both Bichler descendants, settled at Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. We are grateful for the assistance of Kathleen Molcan, who has scoured the records of the old Catholic churches and cemeteries in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, turning up ever more former residents of Hottviller! Her discoveries suggest to us that we are only beginning to untangle the story of a migration that was much larger than we first realized. The ever-growing list is given below:
We will be happy to add other names to this list if our readers will supply genealogical details to show the connections to other families in our database.