Joseph Geissler: Another Land in Crisis

As we continue the story of Joseph and Caroline (Mack) Geißler, we enter the 1860s with them farming their land in Prairie Township, Franklin County, Ohio with one son, Henry Joseph Geißler, and grieving the recent loss of their oldest son, Carl Geißler.

Interestingly, husband and wife are listed in the 1860 US Census as attending school.i Several adults in the community are as well. Perhaps they understood attending school as the German associations that provided English lessons to immigrants in German Village.

The family would grieve for almost two years before another child joined the family. Unfortunately, the birth of this daughter came at a perilous time for the German immigrant’s new homeland. The American Civil War had broken on 12 April 1861, when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter. Caroline would deliver her daughter Mary Elizabeth Geißler 12 days later on April 24th.ii At the time of Lizzie’s birth, their son Henry was shy of his second birthday.

Both Joseph and Caroline had been exposed to the turbulent times in Baden and Hanover with the revolutions of 1848. In their new homeland, they may have hoped to escape such turmoil and have a new life where they could farm and raise their children without fear. How would this new political dispute affect them? Would they still be able to live their simple farming life or would be Joseph be called upon to go to war? He was now officially a citizen of the United States residing in the north. Would he be expected to fight and leave Caroline at home with two small children?

In addition to the North fighting the South, farming life was made difficult in the spring of 1862 as torrential rains lead to flooding throughout the country. As Confederate troops pressed into Kentucky, the rains stopped and a perilous drought set in drying up much of the Ohio River that bordered the southern edge of Ohio. The severity of these drought-impacted farmers all over the country and would have had a profound impact on the Geißler and their neighbors in Prairies Township, who were all farmers. In 6 years since their land purchase, Joseph and Caroline may not have built up enough reserve in their new home to withstand this drought. What would they do?

A scan of deed transfer provided by David G Geiszler. Date (not visible) is said to be 13 December 1862

On 13 December 1862, Joseph and Caroline would sell their land back to James Kinnaird. Perhaps this sale was intended to be temporary. Caroline was expected another child in late spring, and Joseph needed the means to support his family. Perhaps he entered into a tenant farmer situation with the Kinnairds and used the proceeds of the sale to pay for food for his family. How difficult this must have been to this German immigrant family with two small children, a few nearby family members, and little financial means for support, many others in the Franklin County area were also faced with the same fate. Throughout the nation, the drought was causing shortages of food supplies and safe drinking water. Tensions from the war also didn’t help matters.

During this difficult time period, Catherine Caroline was born on 12 May 1863.  According to the Holy Cross baptism records, Catherine Caroline Geissler was born May 12, 1863. In total, Joseph, aged 27, and Caroline, aged 25, had three children aged 4 and under and no property that they owned.

In March 1863, the Enrollment Act (also known as the Civil War Draft Act) was passed by the United States Congress to raise new troops for the Union Army. The Act “required the enrollment of every male citizen and those immigrants who had filed for citizenship between the ages of 20 and 45.”   Franklin County, Ohio was in a sub-district where a ‘census was conducted by an enrollment officer to document every man eligible for the draft in the sub-district.’

Joseph Keezler's Civil War Draft Registration
Joseph Keezler is the last name on this document, right under John Kinnear.
These names are men from the small village of Prairie Township with the last name beginning with K.

At the age of 27, Joseph’s name was recorded in this draft census in June of 1863.iii The recorder spelled his name Joseph Keezler, most likely referring to what has been registered on his naturalization papers, as discussed before. Joseph is listed as a married farmer in Prairie Township.  The record lists him as 30 years old; however, it is believed that he was 27.  A definite birth date has not been established, so 30 might well be possible.

Additionally, John Kinnear is listed above him. Is it possible that John Kinnear is a relation to James Kinnard?

Now that Joseph’s enlisted, would he go to war?

i.  “U.S. Census Population Schedule, 1860” database, FamilySearch; (http:/, Census Place: Prairie, Franklin, Ohio, Post Office: Alton, Ohio, Page: 214, Family Id: 928, Joseph Gusler; NARA microfilm publication FHL 803962, Roll: M653_92. Digital images of originals housed at the National Archives, Washington, D.C.. FHL microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
ii. Family Search, “Ohio Deaths and Burials, 1854-1997” database, (http:/ : Entry for Mary Elizabeth Geizler, (accessed 11 November 2011)
iii. “U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865,” digital images, (: accessed 7 January 2014), Joseph Keezler; citing Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records), NM-65, entry 172, 620 volumes. ARC ID: 4213514; Prairie, Franklin, Ohio.
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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