Select Kaiser Miscellany

Here are some Kaiser stories and accounts over the years:

Kaiser, Kiser, Keyser, and Kayser in America

The principal American spellings have been Kaiser, Kiser, Keyser, and Kayser.  The household numbers today are approximately:
  • Kaiser – 15,000, with a high concentration in Midwest states such as Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
  • Kiser – 9,000, with the largest numbers today in North Carolina.
  • Keyser – 4,000, with the largest numbers today in Pennsylvania.                                                        (these were among the earliest arrivals, including some from Holland and England).  
  • and Kayser – around 2,000, the smallest contingent with the highest numbers in Ohio and Iowa.

Dirck Keyser, Early Settler in Germantown, Pennsy;lvania

The following words were attributed to Dirck Keyser, an early settler in the Germantown community in Pennsylvania.

I have lived a life of great change.  Our Dutch family of Keyser, descended from our Bavarian line, was first represented in Amsterdam by my grandfather, Gerrit Keyser.   I was destined to lead our family to the new country where I became the founder of the Keyser family in America.

My grandfather on my mother’s side was a Mennonite minister.  I too am a Menist or Mennonite.

Yes, I knew William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.  Penn visited Germany and Holland to invite all to join him in his new settlement in America and to enjoy free religious thought.  My sons Dirck and Pieter Dirck and my daughter Johanna joined me and other Amsterdam Mennonites in our 1688 emigration to Germantown, Pennsylvania.

In Holland I was a manufacturer and dealer in silks and had enjoyed being a man of some prominence.  Our strong work ethic contributed to making our new hometown become a prosperous center of trade, a most unusual distinction for a rural town near Philadelphia.” 

Dirck Keyser was born in Holland in 1635 and died in Germantown in 1714.  During his time in Germantown he was said to have always worn a silk coat, something which his neighbors initially found as too showy

The Keysers in the Schoharie Valley

In the 1750’s two German families – the Keysers and the Schaeffers – made a new settlement at Keyser Kill, now called Breakabeen, where the Breakabeen stream fed into the Schoharie river.  Barent Keyser built a small grist mill there around 1765.

Barent’s family being large, he “worked out” by the month among the farmers of the valley.  He thereby managed to put away a few dollars each month with which in time he was able to be the owner of the farm.

While his labor began on the farm, he said that the woods around him abounded with deer.  During one winter, when the snow was very deep, a neighbor killed over seventy deer with his ax.  Bears were also numerous and plagued the farmers by killing their hogs and sheep.

Lucien Kaiser in Northern Michigan

Lucien, born in Switzerland in 1852, had come with his parents Frederick and Martha Kaiser when they had emigrated in America in 1869   They were among the first settlers of the Elk Rapids township in Antrim county when it was still virgin country.  Their first task was to build a log cabin and clear the land, making some money from the sale of the timber.  Lucien would frequently walk to Elk Rapids for supplies which he would carry on his back, often bearing a load of as much as 150 pounds.

Lucien later secured his own tract of land in Milton township and began clearing the land.  His first major purchase was a yoke of oxen, for which he paid two hundred dollars.  His homestead comprised 192 acres.  He grew crops and raised cattle there.   He had married in 1873 and his son George continued to farm on the land after Lucien’s death

Henry J. Kaiser's Upbringing

Following their marriage in 1872, Franz and Mary Kaiser settled in Sprout Brook, New York where Frank as he became opened a cobbler’s workshop.  After three daughters were born, Mary gave birth to a son in 1882 who was given a Protestant baptism two years later with the name of Heinrich Kaiser.

There are no indications from any element of Henry Kaiser’s subsequent career that his German origins were at all important to him.  How early his family’s assimilation was completed is underscored by the quick change of his first name, from Heinrich to Henry.  Although it can no longer be dated precisely, it must have occurred well before World War One.

In 1943 Kaiser’s oldest sister recalled that in her childhood she never ate a meal without saying a prayer, and as the first-born she often had to lead the benediction.  It was initially in German, but soon in English.  Though his father was Catholic, Henry Kaiser was raised in his mother’s Protestant faith and attended services at the local Methodist church.

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