Korns History/Traditions, Southampton Township

On July 19, 1998 I visited for the last time with Lester Korns, a much-loved Somerset County patriarch, who was well versed in local Korns history and genealogy. This is a partial record of that visit. Lester died of pneumonia on Saturday Dec. 5, 1998, on his 89th birthday following a barnyard fall that broke his hip. He was a Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA farmer, and the son of Earl T. and Ella (Lepley) Korns. The photo of Lester (above) was taken July 19, 1998; that's me beside him. You may see a frail old man in the photo--and indeed he could only walk at a slow shuffle--but the fact that he was still living by himself and making trips to the barnyard should tell you something of his mettle, and zest for living!

Lester told me that Dan Korns, Jr. (father of Wilse Korns) lived on a farm back in Richy Hollow, (My father hiked back there many years ago with Allen Korns to see the foundations) and said that the Daniel "Dan" Korns, Jr. family moved to the Sturtz farm when Dan's son Wilse was 12 years old (which, judging from the birthdate on Wilse's tombstone, would have been circa 1870-71). We know from the 1876 F.W. Beers & Co. "Atlas of Somerset County Penn." that Daniel Korns, Jr. was already living on the farm by 1876, because on the map of Southampton Township, the house is labled with his name. Click here to see an enlargement of the relevant portion of the map. Lesterís statement is supported by a 1993 statement to me by my father (Allen Kornsí son-in-law Roy Dietle), who reported that Allen took once took him on a hike into the woods, leaving from Allenís farm and heading generally toward Compís Corners to visit the "original" Korns farm. Dad said that all that was left of the buildings at that time was foundations.

Lester also said that Dan Korns, Jr. sold the Richy Hollow farm for three thousand dollars and bought the Sturtz farm for four thousand dollars after the Sturtz's died. The man who bought the Richy Hollow farm had only paid Dan Korns, Jr. two thousand dollars, than moved on to Philadelphia. Dan Korns, Jr. went to Philadelphia after the debt, and came back with the one thousand dollars he was owed. Lester said that Dan Korns, Jr. was born in a house that was located just before the Cook Cemetery, and Danís father Dan Korns, Sr. was born at the Michael Korns house (the Blubaugh place). According to the 1949 book "The Genealogy of Michael Korns, Sr. of Somerset County Pennsylvania", Daniel Korns, Sr., the eldest son of Michael Korns, Sr., was born Dec. 24, 1782. If he was born in 1782, then it doesn't seem possible that he was born on what we know as the Blubaugh place, because we don't know of Danial Korn, Sr's father Michael Korn owning any land in that area of Pennsylvania in 1782.

Lester said that the house on the Michael Korns farm (which he once owned) was in fact the house of Michael Korns, Sr., but he thought that the stone barn there may have built later. He said that the stone barn originally had a date stone, however when the corner of the barn caved in and was repaired with brick, the date stone was among the pile of stones that he sold to someone. He did not remember the date on the date stone. It was Lesterís opinion that the white glazed bricks used on the top of the chimney of the house on the Michael Korns, Sr. farm were original. He said that the chimney on the house had been white for as long as he could remember, and Lester certainly had an exceptionally good memory.

Lester had an apple butter stirrer in his living room which he said was a replica of one that his father owned that had once belonged to the immigrant ancestor Carl Korn; the original was destroyed in an outbuilding fire when Lester was young. Lester hired someone to build the replica; it's design was based on his recollections of the original. The replica apple butter stirrer had a cross that rested on top of a kettle. The cross supported a vertical shaft with two paddles that went down into the kettle. A wooden peg gear at the top of the vertical shaft was driven by another similarly sized gear on a long horizontal shaft that had a hand crank at the opposite end. The purpose of the device was to enable one to be remote from the hot fire while performing the stirring operation.

Click here for a photo of an 1839 blanket, made locally, that Lester owned.

L. Dietle

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