Thursday, January 1, 2015

John & Margaret Reister

Though the exact date is unknown, 2015 will mark 300 years since the birth of town founder John Reister.
John Reister was born in present-day Germany, though the exact location, and his parents' names, are unknown.  At the age of 23, he came to the U.S., arriving in Philadelphia on September 16, 1738.  Sometime in the years following, he married Margaret Sohn of York, Pennsylvania.

On July 23, 1746, John purchased fifty acres of farm land in then-Frederick County (near present-day Westminster, Carroll County) from Francis Taylor for £30.  It was likely here that most of the Reister children were born.
On March 2, 1758, John received a land patent for twenty acres of land in Baltimore County, which he named "Reister's Desire."  The location, along the Conewago road coming out of Baltimore, made for a convenient stopping point for travelers and traders, and it was here that John soon established an inn.
In his early history, Dr. Isaac Dickson described the wilderness that would eventually become Reisterstown: "Nearly all this land was in forest, being covered with a dense growth of oak, hickory, chestnut, and gum... to dispel the surrounding gloom, there was nothing save an Indian path through this country, a dirt or mud road."

Over the following years, John acquired more land nearby.  In 1762, he patented an additional 54 acres of land named "Reister's Last Shift", and on January 1, 1763, purchased the adjoining 83 acres of "Brotherly Love" from Thomas Stocksdale for £120.

As other settlers moved into the area, there arose a growing need for a church and school.  On November 29, 1764, John received yet another land patent, this time for just three-quarters of an acre, which he named "Church Hill".  It was here that the log meeting house was built for the community, and the cemetery was established.  At the time, the nearest church burial site was St. Thomas in Owings Mills, and residents had to pay a tax to the Church of England to be interred there.  By establishing a free cemetery at Church Hill, local residents could avoid the tax.
As his children grew up, some moved away, but others settled on their father's land.  John's son Philip managed the inn, while his daughter Mary's husband worked as a blacksmith, and daughter Catherine's husband operated a general store.

In the 1770s, as tensions grew between England and the American colonies, John Reister took steps to ensure that Church Hill would belong to the local community, no matter the outcome of the Revolution or what happened to him.  On March 7, 1775, he deeded the land to six chosen trustees for safekeeping.
The Reister family definitively sided with the American colonies against England in 1778 by taking the Oath of Fidelity to the state of Maryland, required of all men over the age of eighteen.  John Sr., John Jr., and Philip Reister all appear on the list of men from Baltimore County who swore to "be true and faithful to the state of Maryland", and not be "bound to yield any allegiance or obedience to the King of Great Britain, his heirs, or successors".
In further support of the Revolution, Philip Reister joined Captain Nathan Stinchcomb's Company of the Baltimore County Militia, where he was commissioned a First Lieutenant.

By the late 1790s, the local population had increased to the point where a new, separate schoolhouse was needed.  To that end, citing "the Natural desire he hath for the Instruction of youth and for the Incouragement of Schools", John deeded a small parcel from his original Reister's Desire to four trustees, including his son John Jr., on September 28, 1793.
John Reister passed away sometime in the fall in 1804, at the age of 89.  His will, dated August 11, 1804 and proven four months later on December 13th, named his son-in-law and "trusty friend" Henry Wiest as executor.  To his children John Jr. and Catharine, he left $400 each.  For his daughters Elizabeth, Margaret, and Mary, John ordered that they would receive equals shares from the sale of his personal and real estate.  The heirs of his son Philip, who had passed away in 1792, were bequeathed $1 each.
An inventory of John Reister's estate completed in January of 1805 totaled over $1,380, including:
One bed, one bed bolster and one pillow, two straw beds, four linnen sheets two quilts & two coverlets, two bed steds and eight chairs, one coffee mill and one lot of puter, one lot of Queensware & glasses, five silver tea spoons one knife box & a lot of knives & forks, one lot of old bottles one lot earthern and tinware, one puter tea pot & pint can two candle sticks and other iron ware, one ladle flesh fork gridiron & wood ladle, one pair of iron shovel tongs & bellows, one pair steelyards four iron pots one dutch oven, one frying pan tea kettle and bake iron, one lot wooden ware one lot of books, one trunk two tables & one beareau, one stove with about six foot of pipe, one cupboard one old still & worn, two old hogsheads six old barrels & three kegs, one wooden bowl bread tray & copper kettle, one bed sted & two old salting kits, one cutting box & one old fighting cock, one spotted sow & one old looking glass, one quilt and two old sheets, one old basket & three boxes, one lot wearing apparrel.
Dr. Isaac Dickson's history of Reisterstown described John Reister thus:
"We have generally found Mr. Reister a man of great enterprise and sterling worth ... He was affable in manner, prompt in business engagements, energetic in action and truly firm in purpose.  When he gave an order, he expected obedience, and this noble trait he first taught amongst his children, who proved obedient and trustworthy.  He must have been a man well acquainted with human nature, and thoroughly constituted for his arduous position in life."
John Reister's Signature

John and Margaret's children were:
  • John Reister Jr., c1747-1814, husband of Mary Yohn
  • Catherine "Katy" Reister, c1749-1841, wife of (1) Roland Smith and (2) Francis Mayberry
  • Philip Reister, c1750-1792, husband of Eve Gardner
  • Margaret "Peggy" Reister, c1752-1845, wife of Peter Trine
  • Elizabeth "Betsey" Reister, c1754-1838, wife of Henry Wiest
  • Mary "Polly" Reister, c1757-1813, wife of John Beckley

Daughters of the American Revolution (John Reister Sr., John Reister Jr. & Philip Reister) (will & inventory)

Maryland Archives (land records & Oath of Fidelity)

Maryland Historical Society (signature)
Reisterstown Library
  • The Early Days of Reisterstown and Vicinity by Dr. Isaac Newton Dickson, 1869.
  • Reister's Desire by Lillian Bayly Marks, 1975.
Cemetery photos © AgateGS

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