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The Matter/Motter Family History

Abraham and Leonhart (Leonard) Motter were brothers who came to Ogle Co., Illinois in the 1850's from their home state Pennyslvania. They were descendents of a large family who originally came to America in 1751 settling in Dauphin Co., PA. Abraham was my 2nd great grandfather.

I have done research both in Illinois and Pennsylvania and have corresponded with several researchers who have helped me assemble a history that goes back to the year 1614. One of these researchers, Sally Beckstine Glisan, Portland, OR has found extensive early family history by studying old German church records and tracing the entire family back to the early 1600's. I have a copy of Mary DiNinni's book "Legacy of Life" that includes much of the family history from the early days after the family arrived in Pennsylvania. I have also corresponded with many Matter/Motter descendents from all over the country who have contributed to my database of family relatives.

The exact reason is unknown as to why the Matter name was frequently changed to Motter in later generations. It is usually pronounced MOTter so one would assume the spelling was changed to reflect the way it sounded. There are Matter descendents living in nearby Stephenson Co., IL from a different branch that still use the Matter spelling.

Abraham and Leonard Motter were sons of Balthaser and Catherine Ritzman Matter living in Gratz, Lykens Twp., Dauphin Co., PA. My research indicates Abraham left for Illinois in about 1852 with Leonard following in 1859. They both settled in Ogle Co., IL with Abraham originally living in Forreston Township according to 1860 census records and later moving to Maryland Township. Leonard settled in Leaf River Township where he lived the rest of his life. His farm was located in western Leaf River Township next to the farm owned by his mother and father in law, John and Margaret Woodside Schott, who also came from Dauphin Co., PA. Their farms were just east of Abraham's farm which was in eastern Maryland Township a short distance away.

Abraham served in the Civil War from 1863-1865 and was a prisoner of war at some time during that war. I have obtained copies of some of his military records and his wife's pension records.

I was unable to find birth records for Abraham Motter but have prepared a list of evidence that should prove the relationship to anyone studying the family. Birth records found in Pennsylvania for Leonard match exactly his birth dates from his gravestone here.

It is well known to anyone researching the Matter/Motter family that they are related to the Eisenhower family. The Matter and Eisenhower families both lived in Dauphin Co., PA. President Dwight Eisenhower's grandmother was Margaret Rebecca Matter, who married Jacob Eisenhower. Margaret's father was Heinrich (Henry) Matter who was a brother to Balthaser Matter, father of Abraham and Leonard Motter.

Guy Edwin Matter, known in the 1950's as the "family genealogist" in Pennsylvania was in contact with Leaf River descendents including my grandmother, Addie Motter Schelling, and William Franklin Motter. William left Leaf River in 1909 for South Dakota. I have copies of some of his letters and a newspaper article showing William looking at Guy's research findings.

The North Grove Christian Cemetery located northwest of Leaf River on Mt. Morris Road is the resting place for Abraham and many of his closest relatives. Two of his children, Sarah and Nathaniel are buried next to their parents. Nathaniel was born in Pennsylvania in 1849 and his birth records have been found. Most of Abraham's adult children are buried in North Grove Christian Cemetery including my great grandfather, Riley Motter, my grandmother, and most of their immediate families. Leonard Motter is buried in nearby North Grove Evangelical Cemetery, about one mile south.

I have been unable to find birth documents showing Abraham Motter (1828-1895) was the son of Balthaser and Catherine Ritzman Matter, but I have found overwhelming evidence that Abraham, my 2nd great-grandfather was their son:

1. There are publications showing Balthaser had "known" sons named Abraham and Leonhart. However, in all my contacts with researchers or those with documented information, I found little mention of Abraham.

2. There are documents showing that parts of the Matter family moved "west" from
Dauphin Co., PA to Stephenson Co., IL. which is the next county and very near to the Ogle Co. area where Abraham lived and died. Other branches of the family still live in Stephenson Co.

3. The 1860 Illinois census lists Abraham and Elizabeth Motter having a son, Nathaniel, born in Pennsylvania, and other children born in Illinois. The gravestone of Abraham Motter in Ogle Co., IL lists two children, Nathaniel (1849-1871) and Sarah (1852-1870). They are buried next to their parents. There is a record at St. Peters (Hoffman) Reformed Church in Lykens Township, Dauphin Co., PA of a son, Nathaniel, born to Abraham and Elizabeth Schmeltzer Motter on July 11, 1849. This church is in the same area that the Balthaser and Catherine Ritzman Matter family lived.

4. I have a copy of my great grandfather Riley Motter's Ogle Co., IL death certificate showing Abraham and Elizabeth Schmeltzer Motter as his parents. It lists them as coming from Pennsylvania. Riley Motter and his wife are buried near Abraham Motter, his wife and two of their children in the same cemetery.

5. Leonard (Leonhart) Motter is buried in the North Grove Evangelical Cemetery about one mile from the North Grove Christian Cemetery that Abraham is buried in on the same road. Both cemeteries are located in Leaf River Township, Ogle Co. The date of Leonard's birth (March 8, 1826) on his tombstone matches what is documented in Pennsylvania and there are documents showing him to be the son of Balthaser and Catherine Ritzman Matter. There is also information documented that Leonhart moved to Illinois. His wife's obituary indicates they moved to Illinois in 1859.

6. I found a May, 1895 Leaf River, IL newspaper obituary of Abraham Motter's death. It states he was born June 3, 1828 in Lykens Township, Dauphin Co., PA and died May 23, 1895 near Adeline, Maryland Twp., IL in Ogle Co. He was married to Elizabeth Schmeltzer in 1848 and had eight children.

7. I found a February, 1916 Leaf River, IL newspaper obituary of Elizabeth Schmeltzer Motter's death. It states that she was born in Dauphin Co. coming to Maryland Township, Illinois in 1853 with her husband, Abraham. Maryland Township is in Ogle Co. but very near Stephenson Co. She died February 25, 1916. Census records indicate that their second child, Sarah, was born in Illinois in 1852 so they may have come earlier to Illinois.

8. I located Abraham's military records from the State of Illinois. He served in Co. A of the 64th Illinois Regiment during the Civil War from December, 1863 to May, 1865. He was a prisoner of war at some time during his service. His records state that he was originally from Dauphin Co., PA. The records list his occupation as blacksmith.

9. My grandmother, Addie Motter Schelling received a "family tree" from Guy Edwin Matter in Pennsylvania researching the Matter family back in the late 1950's. Guy Edwin Matter was considered the "family genealogist" at that time. He concluded that Abraham was the son of Balthaser Matter although he was also unable to locate his birth record. The connection to himself also appears in his family tree. I found an article in the May 22, 1959 issue of the Leaf River, IL "Register" newspaper re: someone from the Pennsylvania Matter family asking for descendent information from the Abraham and Leonard Motter families. This request for information came from Guy Edwin Matter as I have copies of some of his letters. This article also has information on a 1958 Matter family reunion held in Millersburg, PA and includes information about a message from cousin President Eisenhower to the reunion committee.

10. The 1850 Dauphin Co., PA census records provide some other clues. They show Balthaser and his wife Catherine Matter living in Lykens Twp. on page 398. There are children listed for Balthaser and Catherine as Sarah and Edward, younger siblings of Abraham and Leonard, with ages that check out from prior research. It also shows Abraham Motter living with the Thomas Battorff family on page 397. Thomas Battorff was a blacksmith and it also lists Abraham as a blacksmith so it is surmised he was learning a trade with the other family as was often done. NOTE: Military records and the 1860 Illinois census also list his occupation as blacksmith. Because of closeness of census page numbers, it appears he was living only a few houses away from Balthaser and Catherine. His age is listed as 21 which would be correct if the census was taken before his birthday in June. The obituary for Abraham shows him being born in Lykens Twp.

Abraham was married by this time (1848) to Elizabeth Schmeltzer. There is a record of Elizabeth living with Michael Schmeltzer with a child Nathaniel, age 1 on page 405 of the Mifflin Twp., Dauphin Co., PA census record. Her age of 22 and the baby's age check out with other research. It appears Elizabeth and baby were living with Elizabeth's father, Michael, while Abraham was learning a trade with the Batdorff family. Elizabeth's mother had recently died. We know that Nathaniel was their child because there is a record at St. Peter's (Hoffman's) Church in Dauphin Co., PA and he is buried next to his parents here in Ogle Co., IL with a birth date of 1849 on the grave marker.

Attended St. Peter's (Hoffman's) church when son Nathaniel was born in 1849.
Moved to Illinois about 1852.
Occupation listed in 1850 and 1860 census and military records as blacksmith.
Occupation listed in 1870 and 1880 census as farmer.
Served in Civil War from 1863-1865. Was prisoner of war during part of that time.
Living in Forreston Twp., Ogle Co. in 1860 according to census.
Living in Maryland Twp., Ogle Co. in 1870 and 1880 census.
5' 7-1/4" tall, dark hair, hazel eyes, fair complexion according to military records.

Submitted by Roger Cramer 2nd great grand-son

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