Courtesy of Richard Koontz
Who is Richard Koontz? A member of the Koontz family, obviously, and also interested in his family's colorful history. But more specifically, as of this writing, for the last 2 ½ years he has been developing a new and still growing software package for the Interior Design industry. Years ago Richard decided that being an executive was less enjoyable than doing the actual work. Consequently, since he has always been proficient with software, he moved back to the trenches, where he is the sole developer and code writer for the software application under development. His business partner has developed software for the Interior Design industry for the last 25 years. Richard worked for his firm several years ago; now they are partners. Their goal is to provide interior designers, showrooms, and high-end manufacturers with a suite of Internet-enabled tools that help them run their businesses. His company's website is at: studionavigator.com
The Koontz family information provided below is essentially in the form received, but with minor editing for clarity, and is presented here in the form of a blog. It is Richard Koontz's intent that more information will be forthcoming as time and his busy schedule permit.
I share the feeling about dealing with forgotten or embellished or otherwise modified family legends. We cannot ask the original story tellers what really happened back then. Instead we have to work with third-and fourth-hand retold stories. And then piece together one clue from here with another from over there. The discoveries are addicting, but difficult to come by. A series of hard puzzles.
Our own last names are something that throws us off the scent. We assume there was some form of continuity in the last name, when that is not always true. For example, it took a while to find out that George Kinsey, Jacob KeKouze, and that fellow Longhill are all cousins with the same last name (Kountz) --- all of which were written down “as they sounded.” George Kinsey was actually George Kuentzi. A “Kuentzi” is the German diminutive name for a small Koontz, and he was the son of a Koontz, enrolling in George Washington’s army. Jacob KeKouze was a fellow in Kentucky with a stutter talking to a census-taker. Only locating the same family in a later census in the same home with the same kids but a “corrected” last name reveals the connection. That guy Longhill was the fellow who registered with the militia and said he was a Counce living near the Long Hill. Ah, but that is another story.
Kitterman, Kettermann, Geddemann. So many ways to describe the same person. So easy to scan right over that one missing link we seek.
Maryann Kitterman married Martin Koontz (also recorded as “Kountz”) in the thriving town of Dahlonega in Wapello County, Iowa, back in the 1840s. We think of Martin and his clan as being Germans coming from somewhere in Germany. Well, that family assumption turned out to be wrong. Martin Koontz did come from a line of German-speakers. The entire Koontz clan was Germanic, but technically, they were French. Their original name was Counce. They were from Saarewerden, France.
And where, one asks, is Saarewerden? Well, it is a town on the French side of the original 1647 Saare River border between France and Lothringen (Lorraine). France of course took over both Lorraine and the Alsace in 1648. Despite being really superb cooks, the local folk apparently got a bit of indigestion 85 years later.
They and their fellow Protestants had been 'invited' by the Catholics living in Saarewerden, France to "please settle over there across the river" in the new town of New-Saarewerden. This new town was created especially for the French Protestants in 1734. I guess it was to help protect the Catholics from temptation. The invitation was for a limited time only. I have not read what the alternative was.
By the time the Counce's left the region, they had been "French" for three-quarters of a century. Their blood relatives living 100 miles further east, of course, were Swedes. Which makes perfect sense. That is, if your mind is already handling the fact that KeKouze, Kinsey, and Longhill were cousins. You see, those relatives were living in territory administered by the Swedes. So if you hear someone talk about that universal “3 brothers from Sweden,” well, just don’t make assumptions.
Old man Counce was married to old lady Counce, and he was 57 when he came over to the colonies. I believe she was only a few years younger, but would have to find my notes. She was holding their most recent baby the whole voyage over. That must have been a story. They, and the three- or four-hundred other people who boarded the creaky old wooden sailing boat (tourist class was really packed even in those days), all emigrated to ‘the Island of Pennsylvania’ in 1734 and settled along the German Monacacy Trail in Maryland, north of Frederick. The rest of his kids were getting up to marrying age, so the first marriages and the first generation of American-born second generation kids happened soon after they arrived. Those would be grandkids of the two originals, so that makes them third generation counting from the first pair, right?
Several of that “third” generation had briefly settled, then got chased out of, the South Branch of the Potomac River settlements in the 1760s by the second French and Indian War. More specifically, they ran for cover along with most other survivors of the initial Indian attacks. [Side note: The first French and Indian War had occurred in the 1600s in Connecticut. The name of the original one was changed over the years, and we no longer hear of it.] They then settled in the Shenandoah Valley near Rockingham, Virginia in the 1770s.
Was it just a coincidence the Counce family bought their land from Sevier, the famous French trapper? And that one of the third-generation sons married a French Huguenot? And that Martin’s side of the clan moved to Gallipolis, Ohio when it was but a clearing along the river? Gallipolis, of course, means something like “the city of France.” And that the patriarch of the Ohio clan was none other than Adam Richabaugh, also recorded as Richeboyer (pronounce that with a French accent, please). Which was the theme of the promoters who brought that sorry boatload of French citizens to a wilderness and then dumped them there. Maybe these were all coincidences, and maybe they were just more clues related to the fact that the Counce clan may have as much French blood in them as they do German.
Guess that is what drives people to keep looking. Clues, a small connection here, an interesting person there. And surprising discoveries all along the way.
When faced with the discovery that I was French instead of German, my entire world view shifted. Suddenly I realized... I must be a great cook!
Ah, and the story just keeps going and going.
The Ruffner family, the Koontz family and the Woods family celebrated annual reunions into the 1950s, maybe even the 1960s, before everybody forgot why they still held reunions? I don’t know when they stopped meeting, but some folks I’ve talked to remember them.
I found out these three families have traveled together at least since the late 1700s. Through the Shenandoah, into West Virginia when it was still Virginia, into Gallipolis, Ohio (where there are a mess of Counts and Kountz and Kounze families that don’t know we are all cousins), to Indiana (The Kittermans stopped there either before or after the Koontz’s. One joined the other.). Thence to Iowa in 1844. Then Oregon in 1852.
The Ruffners and a couple of Koontz’s actually made it to a ranch just north of Prescott [Arizona] back in the 1870-1880s time-frame. They are still there today, and still having annual reunions. One of the Koontz’s became the model for "When a Man’s a Man," a novel about ranch life. And Sheriff Ruffner is still celebrated today in Prescott. I think I met the last Koontz in that area. He passed on, and is buried in the Ruffner / Koontz cemetery north of Prescott.
Some Koontz’s stayed in Washington. Others (Ruffners and Koontzs) are still living in the Dalles [Oregon] area. A friend here in Poulsbo [Washington] turns out to have been adopted by a Koontz doctor in Lebanon, Oregon. Another group stopped in Central California. Your group made it to Santa Fe Springs.
And a tiny bit of trivia: right about the time the Koontz family settled in Santa Fe Springs, there were more people living in Ottumwa, Iowa than were living in Los Angeles. I think it was the biggest city in the Midwest outside of Chicago back then, or something like that.
I think I’m one of about three primary Koontz researcher for all clans and branches in the US. The most diligent was Marie Koontz Arrington of Tenth Legion, Virginia. She was a lifetime researcher of the families in the Shenandoah, and contributed her research on microfilm to the University of Virginia. She lived on the original Peter Counce property in the Shenandoah. This Peter Counce was son of the son of the original Old Man Counce who came to the Island of Pennsylvania in 1734.
The log cabin that was built back in the late 1700s by Jacob Koontz, his brother, is still standing... although it is invisible. How does one make a log cabin invisible, you ask?
Easy: enclose it inside a frame home. Marie Koontz Arrington clambered into the attic of the frame home, worked her way over to where she thought it would be, and could see it surrounded by the rest of the house.
Tenth Legion, Virginia, is situated on the Long Grey Trail, a few miles north of Rockingham, Virginia. The Long Grey Trail was an Indian Interstate... back when everybody ran the distance. One could run on the Trail from the tip of Virginia, up through the Shenandoah, up through Maryland past Frederick, on past Gettysburg, on through eastern Pennsylvania, and up into New York. It was the primary Indian trail that connected the many tribes up and down the region.
I mention running because that was the preferred method of travel in the early days. It was quicker to get from the Shenandoah to the Ohio River by running than it was to go by horse. Try riding a horse through dense forests that carried only footpaths. Or better said, try picking yourself up off the ground a hundred times if you tend to forget to duck.
That trail become a series of roads, and carried hundreds of thousands of people to the west. [It was either use this road system, or take the old Braddock Road that went west out of central Pennsylvania until you got to the Ohio River at Pittsburgh.] And those hundreds of thousands of emigrants all passed by the Koontz farms... occasionally picking up one or more of the clan, and depositing them in Kentucky and then Ohio.
By 1810 wagons had finally made it over the primitive trail system, and entered Gallipolis, Ohio. This news appeared in the local papers. Imagine the astonishment they encountered. Kids had been born and grown up in Ohio, and never seen a wagon. A wagon: an amazing thing where the back wheel keeps going round and round, but never catches up to the front wheel. It wasn’t natural, that.
Many things we take for granted did not exist back then. Something as simple as a match was a small revolutionary invention that was still in the distant future. The ‘Lucifer’, aptly named with the double meanings of the old fiery character from the dark side, and also of the morning star Venus, the bringer of light, the herald of dawn. Instant fire in your pocket.
The Counce’s and their neighbors saw the first wagons to enter parts of the Shenandoah Valley back in the 1760s. Almost fifty years later, their offspring’s offspring experienced their first wagons in the Ohio River Valley. Forty or so years after that, they were walking from Iowa to Oregon alongside a long line of wagons holding the Kitterman, Ruffners, Koontzs, Woods, Wilson, and Gates family heirlooms. (If you valued your backside, you did NOT ride those wagons all the way to Oregon.) Not quite thirty years after that, one of the Koontz brothers living in the Seattle area traded his oxen for a patch of land in Santa Fe Springs, California, and headed south with many of the clan. But this time, they rode on horseback all the way.
To continue this story and learn how the Koontz's relate to the Hathaway Family please go to the Life History of Jesse and Lola Hathaway, and particularly the section titled Lola Mary McCarric, whose mother was Sarah Isabell Koontz.