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JUST LIKE OLD TIMES - John Roeder first German settler in Vermilion

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:50 PM

Vermilion city and township in Erie County are served by Maple Grove Cemetery on Mason Road. The casual stroller there might come across the tombstone marking the grave of John Roeder. The inscription tells us he was born in 1794 and died in 1883, and that he was the "first German settler in Vermilion, Ohio."

This statement piqued my interest of course, but Roeder left little information behind about himself. He was born in Prussia and came to Vermillion (as it was then spelled) as early as 1837 when he bought a farm at what is now the southwest corner of the city of Vermilion. Like most German surnames, John's underwent many spellings. He bought land as "Rohter," was "Rider" in the personal property tax list, was "Reder" in the 1850 census, and "Rooder" on his death certificate. His son Henry used the Roeder spelling so I presume that was the correct spelling.

Very little other record is found of Mr. Roeder or his life. His wife, Anna, died in 1845 leaving two children. Only his son Henry survived him, and was living in Whatcom, Washington, when his father died in 1883. He settled his father's estate by selling the Vermillion farm in 1883 to one John N. Roeder of Erie County, who must have been a relative of some degree.

We can't argue that perhaps John Roeder the elder was the first German to migrate to Vermillion and settle there, but there were other very early settlers of German extraction. George Sherarts brought his wife Margaret and their large family to Vermillion in 1809 and located at what is now the west edge of Vermilion City, where he cleared a farm and made it bloom in the wilderness just as most pioneer settlers did.

The Sherarts were Pennsylvania Germans, descendants of the many German families (mostly from the Palatinate area) who established fine homes and farms in Pennsylvania. They are sometimes called Pennsylvania Dutch.

A true Dutchman, Peter Cuddeback, arrived in 1881 at Vermillion with his wife "Aunt w," and opened a farm two miles west of the river. He was a true Dutchman in that he arose early and worked all day improving his farm while also holding public office.

It is said of Cuddeback that on winter evenings he would work at his cobbler's bench until 10:00 or so and then read for a half-hour or more. Just before retiring he would go to the barn and make sure all was well with the animals. He believed that biddy should not trespass on porker, nor vice-versa. His industry and economy and his wife's excellent domestic habits enabled him to accumulate a large estate before his death in 1833.

The stories of these folks are typical of many of the early settlers, most of whom did not have the disadvantage that John Roeder had of having to cross the ocean and then learn the English language besides opening up and developing a farm in the wilderness. Their main tools were axes and their own strength and determination.

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