Wayne County Bios

         The Shaffer Family Coming to America

Provided by Martha Shaffer Thompson

 Johanne (John) Shaffer was probably born in Hessen-Kassel, Germany, in 1745.  He came to America some time before the Revolutionary War.  According to family stories, John was a stowaway, hiding in a hogshead barrel until the ship was at sea.  After his arrival in America, he may have been sold into indentured servitude to pay for his passage. 

John Shaffer most likely lived in Pennsylvania with his sister and brother-in-law, Hans Ulrich Swingle, before moving to Orange County, New York, where he married Margaret Forbes, around 1771.  It is said that he was married three times.


John was the father of twin daughters, Catherine & Christiana, who were baptized in the Hebron Lutheran Church in the village of Germantown or Harrison Meeting.


John served in the Orange County Militia during the Revolutionary War.

 After the war, John heard from some hunters of some land along Middle Creek in Pennsylvania, and he (along with Hans Ulrich Swingle and Henry Curtis) traveled to South Canaan with their families (1783).  They spent their first night in Middle Creek Valley in what is now Varden, sleeping under a large spreading tree that remained a landmark until the 1940's when it was cut down for highway improvements.  The three men (John Shaffer, Henry Curtis, and Hans Ulrich Swingle settled within 4 miles  of one another, one at S. Canaan and the other two at Middle Creek.  They probably spoke German, not English.

The place where John settled was first known as the Dutch Settlement and later as Shaffertown or Shaffer's Hollow.  It was then named Millville because of the gristmills and finally was named Varden by William Rufus Shaffer who became postmaster in 1886.  It was here that John cleared the land and built a log cabin.  The cabin was later replaced by a one and half story frame house.  It is said that the house burned down sometime before the start of the Civil War; the chimney still stands.

The first election held in Canaan Township was held at the home of John Shaffer.  Community involvement began early with our ancestry. 

John built a gristmill on Middle Creek where corn and rye were sifted by the women folk through an improvised sieve made of buckskin.

The early settlers lived in an isolated wilderness and endured many hardships.  Their clothes were homespun and patched; their feet were bare.


John Shaffer died sometime between 1814 and 1820.  He is buried in Varden, with only an unmarked field stone for a marker.  His wife Margaret rests next to him.


John's legacy was his children:

The twins: Catherine & Christiana (b. May 14, 1772) N.Y.

Susan 1774 New York

Elizabeth 1777 New York

John, Jr.  1783 New York

Moses 1786 South Canaan, Pa.

Eve 1787 South Canaan, Pa.

Mary 1789 South Canaan, Pa.

*Samuel March 14, 1791 South Canaan, Pa. (from whom we descend)


Samuel Shaffer was a tanner and shoemaker and used large grindstones obtained from the nearby mountains to ground the tanning bark.  He married Rachel Wagner on April 20, 1809, and they built a home in Varden (AKA. South Canaan) in 1813.  They were members of the Methodist Protestant church.

Samuel and Rachel had 13 children: all born in Varden, Pa.

Elizabeth 1812

*Moses 1813 (from whom we descend)

Abraham 1815

Eli 1816

Amy 1818

Lydia 1820

Barzilla 1821

Oliver 1823

Mary 1825

Joseph 1827

Alexander 1830

Rachel 1831

Martha 1833

After his wife died in 1851, Samuel remarried Mary (Curtis) Reed in 1854.  Samuel died July 28, 1864 in S. Canaan Twsp.  It is said that it was Samuel who gave land to the Twsp. For a cemetery.
Moses was born in South Canaan September 20, 1813.

He engaged in farming and lumbering.  He and his wife, Priscilla Curtis had 15 children:

Minereva 1834

Sylvan 1836

Isaiah 1837

Angeline 1839

Henry 1841

Oliver 1843

Emeline 1845

*Sohpronius B.  January 30, 1846 (from whom we descend)

Lewis 1847

Ophelia 1848

Mary 1851

Norman 1853

Winton 1854

Oscar 1857

Willard 1858

Moses died at his home on July 4, 1875.  In his will, he provided for the support of his wife, Priscilla, and divided the remainder of his estate among his children.  Except for Sophronius.  His share was given to his wife Susan Carner, the wife of Sophronius Shaffer.
Sons of Moses and Priscilla Shaffer
Lineage of Priscilla Curtis
Priscilla Curtis was born April 08,1817 in South Canaan, Pa. To Jeremiah Curtis and Polly Wagoner.
Jeremiah Curtis (Born 1792 in S. Canaan Twsp. PA To Henry Curtis (Born 1743 in Germany). (Died Sept. 18, 1829 in S. Canaan Twsp)
Polly Wagoner (Born 1792 in S. Canaan Twsp. PA. To Adam Wagoner (Born cerca 1766)
Jeremiah Curtis married Polly Wagoner in 1811 in S. Canaan.
Polly Wagoner died 1837 in S. Canaan.
Jeremiah Curtis died December 1860 in S. Canaan.
Priscilla Curtis Shaffer died November 09, 1880.

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Compilation Copyright Linda Blum-Barton

August 2008 - Present  - All Rights Reserved.

This page was last updated on -09/26/2015