Tuesday, May 15, 2012

John Scharf 1778-1859

Heather's 5th Great Grandfather, Paternal Line

John Scharf, Clockmaker

  • Johannes Evangeine Scharf
  • Born December 12, 1778 in County of Auror, Switzerland
  • Died January 19, 1859 in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania
  • Married
  • (1) Klara Wunderline
  • born 1778
  • died 1817, at sea

  • Children:
  • Xaver Scharf 1806 – bef 1830
  •  Katherine Scharf 1807 – 
  • John Scharf 1808 – 
  • Gabriel Scharf 1812 – 
  • Valentine Scharf 1817 – 1817 died at sea

  • (2)Anna Katharina Wonfiedler 
  • Born 1779
  • Died
  • Children:

  • Joseph Scharf 1821 – 1863 

Time Line

1850 Census
in 1850 he lives with his son Joseph- 
 Name: John Sharp
[John Scharf] 
Age: 72
Birth Year: abt 1778
Birthplace: Germany
Home in 1850: Penns, Union, Pennsylvania
Gender: Male
Family Number: 1015
Household Members:
Name Age
Joseph Scharp 29
Anna E Scharp 28
John Scharp 8
Sarah A Scharp 5
Maria C Sharp 2
William Sharp 1
John Sharp 72
Mary Jarret 15

Ships List

Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1945 about John Scharf

Name:  John Scharf
Arrival Date:  20 Dec 1817
Port of Departure:  Amsterdam, Netherlands
Ship Name:  William
Port of Arrival:  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Microfilm Roll Number:  M425_25


State of Pennsylvania
Union County PA

I Joseph Stitwell prothonotary for the court of common pleas in and for the county of Union aforesaid in the eighth judicial district of Pennsylvania do certify that as a court of common pleas held at New Berlin for the county of union aforesaid the 10th day of September  AD 1833 John Scharf late of the republic of Switzerland presented his petition to the said court praying to be admitted a citizen of the United states conformably to an act of congress papered the 14th of April 1802 entitled “An Act To Establish a Uniform acts of Naturalization, and to repeat the acts here to ……. Papered on the subject”, and is appearing to the said court that the several provisions and conditions contained in and required by  the said act of congress in such cases. has been complied with by the said petitioner and he having declared on his solemn oath before the said court that he would support the constitution of the United States and that he did absolutely and entirely renounce and abjurn  all allegiances and fidelity  to every foreign prince, potentate state and sovereignty whatsoever  and particularly to the republic of Switzerland of which he was before a subject.  The said court therefore submitted the said John Scharf to become a citizen of the United States. And ordered the proceedings  aforesaid to be recorded by the clerk of said court which is done accordingly—In testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of the said court at New Berlin the thirty first day of August AD 1835.

Joseph  Stitwell, Prothy

A Brief History of John Scharf, Clockmaker,in America
By Howard Joseph Scharf, Candor, New York, February 1997
Johann (John) Evangelist Scharph (Scharf-my great, great grandfather) left his village of Zeiningen in Northern Switzerland on April 5, 1817. When they set out, the whole family consisted of Johann Sr., 38 years old; his wife Klara Wunderline Scharph, also 38 (both were born in 1778, she in August and he in December); eldest son Xaver, born the 5th of "Wine Month" (October?) 1806 (10 years old); daughter Katharina, born November 12, 1807 (9 years old); son Johann Jr., born December 9, 1808 (8 years old); daughter Gabriel, born March 24, 1812 (5 years old); and son Valentine, born January 14, 1817 (not yet 3 months old!). 

We don't know where the family lived or what they did until about the end of October, when they boarded the British Ship Brig William in the port of Amsterdam, Netherlands.(It is a question why they started on this long and difficult journey with such a young child. They probably traveled by boat down the Rhein-Rhine-River and through canals to Amsterdam, a distance of about 500 miles, but why it took almost six months to board the ship is also a mystery.) The Atlantic crossing took about two months, with F. Arrowmoth as Ship's Master. (Such a long time at sea was not unusual, especially in winter, when strong northwest winds could prevent sailing ships from approaching the American coast for weeks.) The ship arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 20, 1817 with 89 passengers aboard. (Family legend has it that John's wife Klara died on board ship and was buried at sea.) John had no baggage listed on the ship's manifest, so it would appear that the only belongings they had were what they could carry with them. (In John's case, this no doubt included his tools, and the movement of his regulator clock, a mechanism of known accuracy which he needed to calibrate new clocks and watches. This clock works was relatively small and is presently in a "grandmother's" clock owned by John's great, great granddaughter who lives in Maryland.) In 1818 John was living at 265 Frank Street in Philadelphia. He wrote a letter to his brother Konrad Scharph back in Switzerland in April. Konrad's reply wasn't mailed until June of 1821. By that time, John was living in Danville, Penna. Fortunately the letter reached him anyway. (This letter was preserved in one of the family's Bibles and exists today.)

The Federal Census of 1820 recorded John and his family as living in Mahoning township, Columbia County, Penna. His name was inserted between the lines of the regular alphabetical listing. The family may have arrived too late to be in the first count. John apparently volunteered the information. He was registered as an unnaturalized citizen over the age of 45 (?—-he was actually 42). His wife (he had apparently remarried) was listed as under 45 years of age. His son (John Jr.) was placed in the 10-16 year—old bracket (he was 11), and two daughters were listed as less than 10 years old (Gabriel was 8, ` but Katharina would have been 13-?). Xaver, who would have been 14 and Valentine, who would have been 3, were not listed and probably were deceased. (John Sr. was not counted again until the Federal Census of 1850 when he was 72. It was a common practice to avoid the census taker if possible. In 1850, John was living with his son Joseph, 29, who was listed as head of household. (Avoiding the census was one thing, but the tax man cometh!) There was a tax collected each year in Pennsylvania for real estate, occupation, and sometimes personal property. John was listed in 1820 as a watchmaker and he paid an occupational tax of 25¢. He paid no real estate tax that year because he rented a house. The next year, 1821, he was taxed 36¢ for real estate, indicating that he owned some real property (perhaps the house he had rented?).

My great grandfather, Joseph Scharf, was born May 14, 1821 in Danville and was baptized September 15, 1821. (This is recorded on a preprinted form in German and is preserved in a family Bible.) Early in 1822, John took his family to Selinsgrove, Penna., where again he was only taxed 25¢ for his occupation. The records indicate that in 1823 he had rented a "log house and stable" from Thomas Armstrong, tavern owner. In 1824, John paid a tax of 75¢ on his personal property. The next year, 1825, John Scharf and Margret Elsman (?) were taxed together, I but this appears to have been an error as the entry was crossed out. It was recorded that on April 5, 1825 John bought Lot No. 55 on the corner of Market and Chestnut Streets (now in the center of Selingrove's business district) from Jacob Long for $180. "...in lawful money of the United States."

 In 1826 John was taxed 33¢ for a log house and stable. "John Scharf, single," was recorded, but then crossed out. This was probably John Jr. who was then 17 years old. In 1828, John Sr. paid an additional tax of 6¢ for a horse and 3¢ for a cow. His occupational tax continued to be 25¢. His real estate was assessed for $150.

On December 15, 1828, John Scharf Sr. made initial application to become a citizen, 11 years after he arrived in America. (The document, with John's scrawling signature, is in the court house in
Lewisburg, Penna.)

On May 11, 1831, John lent $100. to Suffin Sharf (sic), to be repaid with interest in May 1834. The note was witnessed by John Scharf Jr., Catharine Ann Scharf (?), who made her "X" mark, and Anna Thomson (?). Eighteen hundred thirty one was also the first year that John Scharf Jr. paid an occupation tax (50¢—-double the usual amount, but this may have included John Sr., who was not listed that year). John Sr.'s property was assessed at $250. in 1832.

On September 7th and 16th, 1833, John Scharf the elder petitioned the court for naturalization. On August 31, 1835, he became a citizen of the United States. At this time, John Jr. was living near
Mifflinburg, a small town about 30 miles north of Selinsgrove, where he was recorded as a clock and watchmaker and silversmith. The 1838 tax records indicate that John Sr. had moved to Front St., next to the Susquehanna River. Front St. was on the Isle of Que, a large island that extended for about three miles parallel with the main river bank and was separated from it by a canal.
John's assessed valuation in 1839 was $400., indicating that the value of his property had increased considerably. (We know that a three story brick building was built on the corner of Market and
Chestnut Sts., and that it was called Union House or Scharf Hotel, so it may be that John  temporarily lived on Front St. while the "hotel" was being built.) In 1840 John was assessed for two lots; the Market St. location (No. 55) and Lot No. 21 on the Isle of Que, valued at $40. The next , year, 1841, he was recorded as owning a "clock shop" (apparentlyadjacent to the hotel).
John had a listed income of $250. in 1843, with a "work shop" outside his home (probably the hotel; these income figures were  apparently estimates for tax purposes only). In 1845 his income was down somewhat, at $200. That year his son Joseph, 24 years old, was listed as a tobacconist (dealer in tobacco), also with an income of $200.

On February 12, 1844, Daniel Witmer, a merchant who sold clocks, wrote a letter to "John Scharf watchmaker," asking John to come to his store in Misors Mill, a small settlement about fifteen miles south of Selinsgrove, to "set three clocks agoing" and bring some parts for others. The clocks had been sold to Witmer by one John Leach, peddlar. The letter was never sent. (It was found sealed and being used for a bookmark and in June 1963 Charles Stroup and Harold Walter opened and read the letter, about 119 years too late!)

 A William Leach (connection if any to John Leach unknown) of Easton, Penna. sometimes sold Scharf clocks under his own name.

On January 4, 1853, John Scharf sold Lot No. 55 on Market St. to his son Joseph for $500. and on the same day, Joseph bought his father's clock business and accounts for $100.

In 1857 John sold Lot No. 21 on the Isle of Que to Joseph for $100. (This property may have been used for recreation or perhaps it was a speculative investment.) That year Joseph Scharf's  occupation was listed as "butcher." John was apparently still working at his clocks as his income was listed at $150.

Johann Evangelist Scharph died on January 19th, 1859 at the age of 80 years.


Published 1955
Local Clockmaker
Listed in New Book
A Selinsgrove man is mentioned in a new book "Pennsylvania Clocks & Clockmakers" written by George H. Eckhardt of Philiadelphia, and scheduled for Publication next week.

John Scharf, described as "a Swiss clockmaker who came to Selinsgrove about 1836" is one ove over 2,000 men included in teh annotated list which is part of the new book.  It deals with the history, care, restoration, and evaluation of the fine case clocks which were perfected in Pennsylcania, and contains numerous photographs and drawings to supplement the research.

Inside the clocks:

A circa 1830 Pennsylvania late Federal mahogany shelf clock having a scrolled crest with stenciled floral motif, over a white painted face, signed "John Scharf, Selinsgrove"; 

I found this one in an estate sale listing from 2013 - I so wish I had seen this in time to go to the sale.

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