John Nuwer's Farm

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by Michael Nuwer
June 24, 2020

Jean Kieffer and most of his family arrived in New York City from Soufflenheim, Alsace on September 20, 1843. His son John Kieffer, Jr. had arrived a few months earlier, on May 29, 1843. Thirty-one days after disembarking, Jean Kieffer was in western New York and had purchased land in Lancaster.

The lot of land was originally purchased by John Foust from the Farmers Land & Trust Company on October 19, 1838. In the early 1830s a number of New York City firms were interested in the Holland Land Company’s unsold lands, and the Company began to liquidate its business interests in western New York. One of the interested firms was the Farmers Land & Trust Company. In 1835 this firm purchased about 89,000 acres of land from the Holland Company in Niagara, Erie, Orleans and Genesee Counties. Payments were completed in the summer of 1838 and the Holland Company’s interests were closed in these four counties. (Paul D. Evans, The Holland Land Company (1924), pp. 393, 422-423.)

John Foust’s deed specifies that he paid the Farmers Land & Trust Company $1,001 for 127 acres of land. It included a handwritten diagram of the lot, which is reproduced below. On that diagram, the lot was identified as “L 4 Sec 1 T 11 R 6” which means lot number 4, section number 1, township 11, range 6 of the Holland Land Company survey. Township 11, range 6 was the survey area north of the Buffalo Creek Indian reservation and became the northern two-thirds of the Town of Lancaster.

Image 1

The southern and northern boundaries of John Foust’s lot were 20 chains wide. A chain is 66 feet and contains 100 links, making the lot 1,320 feet in width from east to west. It was bounded in the south by lot number 3 and in the north by lot number 3 in section 2. The lot’s eastern boundary was 63.66 chains (or 63 chains, 66 links) bounded by lot number 2 and the western boundary was 63.39 chains. The diagram specified that the lot contained 127 acres of land.[1]

Image 2

The railroad that gave its name to Erie road did not exist when John Foust purchased this land. The Attica & Buffalo Railroad Company was chartered in 1836 and was buying land in Lancaster in the early 1840s. John Foust sold the slice of land cutting through lot number 4 on July 5, 1843, just about four months before the lot was sold to Jean Kieffer. The Attica & Buffalo Railroad Company purchased one and one-half acres of land. It was a strip 50 feet wide and 20 chains long. They paid $130 for the strip. This road became part the New York & Erie Railroad Company in 1850, seven years after Jean Kieffer purchased the lot.[2]

Jean Kieffer purchased these 127 acres of land on October 21, 1843. He paid $2,646 for the property with money he brought from Soufflenheim. Foust had held the land exactly five years and one day. Over that period of time its market value had increased 164 percent or 32.8 percent per year.

We know that the land was unimproved when Foust made his purchase, but we don’t know whether he made improvements while he was its owner. Did he add any structures? Did he clear any forests? Did he till any fields? We don’t know. Foust was probably not a land speculator. He was a resident of Erie County when he purchased the land (speculators most often lived in eastern seaboard cities). Moreover, he was not recorded as a buyer of other land in Erie County between 1828 and 1859. Nevertheless, we don’t know for sure what his plans were.

Jean Kieffer’s neighbors on Erie road were already owners when he and his family arrived in 1843. To the west, Andrew Wenner had purchased from the Farmers Loan and Trust Company the eastern part of lot 6 section 1 in 1838. He had 50 acres of land to which another 30 acres were added between 1854 and 1865. Andrew Wenner, his son Andrew, Jr. and his daughter, Abigail would own this land for almost 100 years, retaining it into the early decades of the twentieth century.

To the east was lot number 2 of the first section. The western part of that lot had been purchased by James Crill in February 1837. That land was purchased from the Holland Land Company the year before Farmers Loan & Trust took ownership of the Holland Company’s unsold land in Erie County. Crill sold his land in 1854. John Nuwer will eventually become its owner.

Jean Kieffer was 59 years old when he purchased the Lancaster land in 1843. Two years later he transferred parts of his land to his heirs. On June 24, 1845 there are three deeds recorded consecutively in the Erie County archives where Jean Kieffer conveyed parts of lot number 4 to his sons and son-in-law. The first deed was from John Kieffer and Barbara his wife to Lawrence Kieffer (“son the John Kieffer”). The second was from John Kieffer and Barbara his wife to John Nuver (“son in law to the said John Kieffer”). The third deed was from John Kieffer and Barbara his wife to John Kieffer (“son the said John Kieffer party of the first part”). Each deed conveyed 31.5 acres of land for the sum of $800. The width of the original lot was 20 chains. Lawrence was given a width of 5 chains “of uniform breadth,” bounded by the western side of lot 4. John Kieffer, Jr. was given the next 5 chains of land, followed by John Nuwer’s slice.

Each individual then owned one-quarter of the lot. John Kieffer, Sr. retained the remainder of the land, comprising 32.5 acres (127 – (31.5 x 3) = 32.5). Each of four subdivided parcels had road frontage of 5 chains, or 330 feet and each parcel had 0.375 acres belonging to the railroad.[3]

The 1850 Agricultural Census corresponds with this distribution of land. That document reported three Lancaster farms as follows: Lawrence Kieffer working 31 acres of land, John Kieffer working 31 acres, and John Nuwer working 63 acres. We assume John Kieffer was John, Sr. because the 1850 population census placed him, Lawrence, and John Nuwer in Lancaster. Further, that Census found another John Kieffer working 71 acres of land in Alden. We assume this was John, Jr. because the population census found him in Alden along with Anton Nuwer and Frank Nuwer. It appears that John Kieffer, Jr. owned land in Lancaster and John Nuwer farmed it, while John Nuwer owned land in Alden and John Kieffer, Jr. farmed that parcel.

One puzzle concerning the distribution of Jean Kieffer’s land was why his son Alexander did not receive a share of the real estate. One possible reason was that Alexander Kieffer may have been, in today’s language, a person with special needs. He was born in 1815 and was seven years older than his brother John. In 1845 he was 30 years old. But he never married. He was found in the 1850 and 1860 Censuses living with his sister, Catherine Kieffer Nuwer on Erie road and he was listed as a laborer on John Nuwer’s farm. Records from St. Mary’s church registered his death on November 20, 1871. He was 56 years old. These demographic characteristics in combination with not receiving a share of his father’s real estate are consistent with the possibility that Alexander had special needs.

Jean Kieffer died March 24, 1852 at his home on Erie road. The microfilm image of Jean Kieffer’s Last Will and Testament is too poor to read, but Lynda Goldman summarized it as follows:

“John’s Will, dated 19 February 1852, leaves his real estate in the Town of Lancaster to his (2nd) wife and his son Alexander during the lifetime of his wife. Upon her death, the property is to go to his son-in-law, John Nuwer, with a provision that Nuwer financially compensate his sons, John Kieffer & Alexander Kieffer of Lancaster and Lawrence Kieffer of Illinois for the real estate.”

Barbara (Voegele) Kieffer died fifteen months after her husband, on June 11, 1853. As specified by the Will, John Nuwer inherited a legal interest in the 127 acres of land contained in lot number 4. Lawrence Kieffer gave-up his interest in the lot in 1859 and John Kieffer, Jr.’s did the same in 1873.

The first deed states that Lawrence Kieffer conveyed to John Nuwer “all the right, title and interest which we now have … by virtue of being heirs at law of John Kieffer late of Erie County, New York … in and to all real and personal estate situate in the town of Lancaster, Erie County.… [F]or a description of said real estate reference is herein made to the Last Will and Testament of said John Kieffer.” In an odd way, this document does not specify the 31.5 acres of land deeded to Lawrence in 1845. Instead it specifies all his interests in lot number 4. The next year John Nuwer was found in the 1860 Agricultural Census and he reported farming 126 acres of land, which was the entirety of lot number 4.[4]

The document from 1873 by which John Kieffer, Jr. conveyed his interests in lot 4 to John Nuwer was worded differently than his older brother’s deed. There was no mention of his father’s Last Will nor was there mention of the specific 31.5 acres he received in 1845. The deed simply described the entirety of lot number 4.

Both Lawrence Kieffer’s 1859 deed and John Kieffer, Jr.’s 1873 deed were quitclaim deeds and it appears that each of them simply terminated any rights or claims to the property. Legally, this allowed the rights to transfer to John Nuwer.[5]

The twenty years between Jean Kieffer, Sr.’s death and John Kieffer, Jr.’s surrender of his interests in lot number 4 seems like a long time. One possible explanation for the delay might be related to the interests of Alexander Kieffer. John Kieffer, Jr. may have retained his interest in the land to assure Alexander was cared for. After Alexander died in 1871, perhaps that assurance was no long needed.

The Erie road farm was acquired in 1843. John Nuwer was farming all the land on that homestead by 1860. He legally owned the land, free and clear as they say, by the end of 1873.

Part 2

John Nuwer was 41 years old in 1860 and it appears he was the de facto, but not quite the de jure, owner of 127 acres of land on lot number 4 in section number 1 in the Town of Lancaster. It wasn’t long before he started expanding his farm beyond this lot.

In June 1863 John Nuwer purchased land in the town of Elma. He paid $2,650 for lot 32 which contained 72.78 acres of land. It is not clear what attracted John Nuwer to this lot, as it was five miles away from his home on Erie road and travel time would have been at least 45 minutes. Nevertheless, John Nuwer retained ownership of this property for the rest of his life.[6]

The next year, in May 1864, John Nuwer purchased the farm directly east of lot number 4 in Lancaster. He acquired 90 acres of land in lot number 2 section 1.

Image 3

As we noted in Part 1, James Crill purchased the western part of lot number 2 section 1 on February 20, 1837. The parcel contained 78.5 acres of land. The eastern part of the lot was purchased from the Farmers Loan & Trust Company by John Boyd, Jr. in April 1839. That parcel contained 50 acres of land.[7]

After the Attica & Buffalo Railroad Company purchased a right-of-way through lot 2, James Crill acquired the south-eastern piece of land from John Boyd, Jr. The parcel was subdivided out of Boyd’s 50 acres of land and was the piece south of the railroad tracks. According to the deed, it contained 11.4 acres. Crill then owned 89.9 acres of land which was shaped like the letter “L”.

Crill owned this parcel of land until October 1854, when it was sold to Lorenzo Crippen. Crippen held it for only a year, selling it to Nelson Stewart in November 1855. Stewart’s deed claimed the parcel contained 90.9 acres of land, but calculation of the dimensions from the original deeds and from Stewart’s deed supports the original number of 89.9 acres.

In 1864 Stewart failed to pay some of his debts which led to a State Court ordering a foreclosure sale of his land. Foreclosure sales were sold as “Shariff’s deeds” because they came with no warranty of a clear title. At the Shariff’s auction John Nuwer was the high bidder with an offer of $2,860 and became the next owner of the 90 acres of land in lot 2 section 1. Henry Nuwer would eventually inherit this piece of land.[8]

Thus, by 1865, John Nuwer owned four parcels of land: 127 acres in lot 4, 34 acres in Alden, 73 acres in Elma, and 90 acres in lot 2. The total acreage was 323. The agricultural census schedules from the 1865 New York Census reported that John Nuwer was farming 220 acres of land.

John Nuwer purchased another farm in October 1870. This parcel was located in lot 1 section 1 and contained 84 acres of land. He paid $2,650 for the property. The house and barn were at the south end of the farm, on Main street in the Village of Town Line. The northern boundary of the property adjoined the southern boundary of lot number 2.[9]

Image 4

As has been discussed in other essays, John Nuwer, Jr. occupied the farm in lot 1 section 1 from at least 1875 to the early 1890s. He then moved to his father’s farm in Elma. John Nuwer, Sr. increased the size of the Elma farm in December 1891 when he purchased 25.5 acres of land in lot 26 from Louis Ambrust for the sum of $1,560. That land was on Schwartz road, around the corner from the main farm on Clinton street in lot 32.[10]

Also in the early 1890s, John Nuwer, Sr. sold his 34-acre parcel of land in Alden, land which he had owned since 1847. In March 1893 Ferdinand Mathis purchased that property for the sum of $2,300. John Nuwer’s estate (probated in 1897) included a mortgage to Ferdinand Mathis for $1,400.[11]

When John Nuwer died in 1897, his Last Will and Testament clearly laid out his wishes and his heirs proceeded to execute them. His legal heirs with interests in his real estate were his second wife Clementine and his seven surviving children. They all inherited an equal share of John’s interests in the Village house and the four farms. John Nuwer’s Last Will restructured that inheritance.

The Last Will gave Clementine the Lancaster Village house and stipulated that that would replace her interests in the remainder of John Nuwer’s estate. Furthermore, under the Will, Anthony was given the farm at lot 4 section 1, Henry was given the farm at lot 2 section 1, and John, Jr. was given the Elma farm. To honor his Last Will, then, the seven children conveyed their inherited interests in the Village house to Clementine while Clementine conveyed her inherited interests in the four farms. These transfers were all made via quitclaim deeds on December 28, 1897.[12]

1) Seven children to Clementine, the Village house
2) Clementine to Anthony, lot 4, section 1 (the first Erie road farm)
3) Clementine to John, Jr. the Elma farm
4) Clementine to Henry, lot 2, section 1 (the second Erie road farm)
5) Clementine to the seven children, lot 1, section 1 (the Town Line farm)

John Nuwer's Last Will also assigned an assessed value to each of the farms. Anthony's farm at lot 4 was assessed for $7,500, Henry's farm at lot 2 was assessed for $6,000 and John, Jr.'s Elma farm was assessed for $5,000. The equal value of the inheritance for the seven children was about $4,500 each, which meant Anthony owed the estate $3,000, Henry owed it $1,500 and John, Jr. owned $500. The Will specified that each of the three brothers would have four years to pay this balance into the estate.

These payments were completed in 1901, and so on December 27, Henry Nuwer, Theresa Jehle, John Nuwer, Mary Nichter, Catherine Schwartz, and Christina Pautler conveyed their interest in lot 4 section 1 to their brother Anthony Nuwer. Similar transactions on the same day conveyed the land in lot 2 section 1 to Henry and the land in Elma to John, Jr.[13]

The Last Will was silent about the last farm, the land contained in lot 1 section 1 in Town Line. Henry and Anthony, as the administrators of the estate, were empowered to sell the real estate “in such manner as to them shall seem to be for the best interest of my Estate.” So, that farm was given to the four sisters. On December 27, 1901 we find a fourth deed in which the three brothers surrendered their interests in lot 1 section 1. Henry, John, Jr., and Anthony quitclaimed their interest in that property, leaving the ownership rights to Mary, Theresa, Catherine, and Christine. This property was valued at $3,000, and each of the sisters held an equal share. Thus, each of the four sisters received from the estate $750 in real estate and $3,750 cash. (John Nuwer’s estate included a $1,000 loan to Mary Nichter’s husband, and so Mary probably took that loan, the real estate, and only $2,750 cash.) [14]

Although their father’s estate was settled, Mary and Christine liquidated their interests in the Town Line farm on April 12, 1904 by selling the interests to their sister Theresa. As a result, Theresa owned three-quarters of the farm while Catherine (Schwartz) owned the remainder. Theresa and Catherine remained joint owners of that land until 1913 when they sold it outside the family. On October 27, 1913 Theresa Jehle and Catherine Schwartz each conveyed their respective interests in the Town Line farm to William Schlung.[15]

John Nuwer, Jr. remained at his Elma farm the rest of his life. His 25-acre parcel of land on Schwartz road was sold in January 1916. John Nuwer, Jr. died in 1924 and his children sold the land on Clinton street. On August 21, 1924, lot 32 in Elma was sold to Louis Wolf. The property had been in the Nuwer family 61 years.[16]

So, then, by the second quarter of the twentieth century, the Nuwer family farm was reduced to two parcels on Erie road, viz., 127 acres in lot 4 and 90 acres in lot 2, both in the first section of the Town of Lancaster.

Part 3

Henry Nuwer married Elizabeth Nichter on June 18, 1867. He was one-month shy of his 22nd birthday. Their first child, John George Nuwer, was born in 1869 and Katherine Nuwer was born in 1870. Henry and Elizabeth had a total of nine children. Henry Nuwer reported in the 1875 agricultural census schedules that he was farming 70 acres of land. This was probably some part of his father’s Lancaster farm, but we don’t know for sure.

Two years later, at the age of 33 years, Henry purchased land of his own. On March 16, 1878 George and Andrew Heckel sold Henry Nuwer 75 acres of land on the south side of Westwood road in Alden. Henry paid $3,750 for land contained in lots 36 & 42.[17]

Henry’s neighbor to the west was Louis Schwartz, Sr. Louis Schwartz lived in Looneyville, but he had purchased the Westwood road property in 1873 from the estate auction of Peter Bachman. (The assets in Bachman’s estate were not sufficient to pay his debts, and the court ordered the auction.)[18]

Image 5 (Map 3.1)

Map 3.1 is a close-up of lots 36 and 42 in Alden and was taken from the 1880 Atlas of Erie County. Louis Schwartz’s 1873 purchase included the parcels labeled #1 and #2 on Map 3.1. Parcel #1 contained 50 acres of land while parcel #2 contained 25 acres, but they were separated by the parcel labeled #4 in the map. Henry Nuwer’s 1878 purchase consisted of the parcels labeled #3 and #4—50 acres in parcel #3 and 25 acres in parcel #4. Henry Nuwer and Louis Schwartz knew each other as more than neighbors. They were both members of St. Mary’s parish and Henry’s sister Catherine married Louis Schwatz’s son, Louis Jr. in 1882. These relationships perhaps had an effect in June 1883 when Louis Schwartz and Henry Nuwer traded parcels #4 and #2.

The original image of Map 3.1 shows Henry Nuwer (misspelled as Noover) owned parcels #3 and #2, but in 1880 that was not the case. According to the Erie County real property archive, in 1880 Henry Nuwer owned the parcel labeled #3 and #4. Be that as it may, after 1883, Henry Nuwer owned the 75 acres of land represented in the original image shown as Map 3.1—a 50-acre strip on the west side of lot 36 and a 25-acre piece in the south-east corner of lot 42. Moreover, the Erie County real property archive contains a June 1900 lease for oil and gas exploration on this property, and that document confirms the boundaries of the land. In the 1880 Agricultural census we find Henry Nuwer working his 75 acres of land in Alden plus another 65 acres of his father’s land in Lancaster. The value of these 140 acres was reported as $8,100.[19]

Image 6 (Map 3.2)

In April 1888 Henry Nuwer acquired another piece of farmland on Westwood road in Alden. He purchased 50 acres of land from George Lohr for a sum of $3,000. This parcel was contained in lots 49 and 43 on the north side of the Westwood road, and it will become John G. Nuwer’s farm after his 1893 marriage. But in 1888 when Henry purchased the land, John G. Nuwer was only 13 years old.[20]

As we have discussed in other writings, Henry Nuwer inherited a 90-acre farm from his father in 1897 and the title was transferred to Henry in 1901. This was the land contained in lot number 2 section 1 in Lancaster. Henry and his family lived on that farm, and it is where he died in 1911.

John G. Nuwer was the first of Henry Nuwer’s sons to marry and leave the Lancaster farm. He moved to the 50-acre parcel of land in lots 49 and 43 on the north side of Westwood road. Henry Nuwer’s next two of sons were married in 1900, Andrew in May and Henry C. in November. Both sons moved to Westwood road after their wedding. The 1905 and 1910 censuses show the two brothers as next-door neighbors and that Andrew was living west of his brother Henry. No doubt Henry C. was living on his father’s land. Andrew may have also been living there or he may have been renting the Louis Schwartz farm next door. I don’t know for sure. Land records show that Henry C. will eventually own this Westwood road land and that Andrew purchased a farm on Clinton street in Elma in January 1913.[21]

Anton Nuwer was married around 1904 and in April 1910 he purchased a farm in Alden. The farm was composed of 48 acres of land located on Broadway plus 25 acres of land located around the corner on Two Rod road at the Erie Railroad crossing. By 1910 it was common that deeds did not disclose the selling price of the land, so we don’t know how much Anton paid for these parcels. Nor do we know whether Anton’s father help finance the purchase in any way.[22]

Henry Nuwer died in May 1911 at the age of 66 years. On March 1, 1912 his estate conveyed title of his three farms to three of his sons. The 75 acres of land contained in lots 36 and 42 went to Henry C. Nuwer; the 50 acres of land in lots 43 and 49 went to John G. Nuwer and the 90 acres of land in lot 2 section 1 went to Edward W. Nuwer. Unfortunately, digital versions of these deeds are not available. Nor is there a digital copy of Henry Nuwer’s probate file. Inspection of those documents will require a visit to the Erie County Clerk’s office and the Erie County Surrogate’s Court.

It is possible that Henry Nuwer’s Last Will and Testament was structured similar to his father’s Last Will. Specifically, each of the three farms were assigned an assessed value and that value was charged against John G., Henry C. and Edward’s shares of the estate.[23]

Further readings

For more details see Planting Roots: A Nuwer family history by Michael Nuwer

See also
The Nichter Family farms
Frank X. Nuwer's farm
The Voegele and Halter Farms


  1. Farmers Land &Trust Co to John Foust

  2. Foust to Attica and Buffalo Rail Road Company

  3. To Lorentz Kieffer; To John Kieffer; To John Nuwer – three consecutive deeds

  4. Lorentz Kieffer to John Nuwer, March 14, 1859

  5. John Kieffer to John Nuwer March 19, 1873

  6. Allen French to John Nuwer

  7. Wilhem Willink & others to James Crill

    Farmers Loan & Trust Co. to John Boyd, Jr.

  8. Nelson Stewart to John Nuwer

  9. Elizabeth Tobie (widow) to John Nuwer

  10. Louis Ambrust to John Nuwer

  11. John Nuwer to Ferdinand Mathis

  12. 1) Seven children to Clementine, the Village house

    2) Clementine to Anthony, lot 4, section 1 (the first Erie road farm)

    3) Clementine to John, Jr. the Elma farm

    4) Clementine to Henry, lot 2, section 1 (the second Erie road farm)

    5) Clementine to the seven children, lot 1, section 1 (the Town Line farm)

  13. Six siblings to Anthony, lot 4 section 1

    Six siblings to John, Jr., the Elma farm

    Six siblings to Henry, lot 2 section 1

  14. Henry, John, Jr. and Anthony to their four sisters, lot 1 section 1

  15. Mary Nichter and Christine Pautler to Theresa Jehle

    Theresa Jehle to William Schlung

    Catherine Schwartz to William Schlung

  16. John Nuwer to William H. Gorenflo

    John Nuwer, Jr. heirs to Louis Wolf

  17. George and Andrew Heckel to Henry Nuwer

  18. Peter Bachman to Louis Schwartz

  19. Lease for oil and gas exploration

  20. George Lohr to Henry Nuwer

  21. Nellie M. Eiss to Andrew Nuwer
    Index record only

  22. Henry Frantzman to Anton Nuwer

  23. The heirs of Henry Nuwer to Henry C. Nuwer
    Index record only

    The heirs of Henry Nuwer to John G. Nuwer
    Index record only

    The heirs of Henry Nuwer to Edward W. Nuwer

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