The Stiltner Family Genealogy

Frederick Charles Stegler (Stiegler)

The First Stiltner

Frederick Charles Stegler was born about 1751 --- 1765 in Germany. His father was reportedly Christopher Columbus Stegler, born 1701 in "Dressen" (Dresden?), Germany. No mention is made of his mother. He "Americanized" the Stegler to Stiltner. He died after 1810.

Little fact is known of this man, but there are many tales of him and I will try to relate those that I know. I will start by telling what my own grandfather, Ross Stiltner, had to say about him. Many times my mother and I walked the trails on Lane Mountain with Ross while my dad worked on machinery, built road, etc. Always interested in history, I loved to get him to talking about this "first Stiltner" as he called him. I wish I had written it all down at the time, which that I had asked more questions, I wish, I wish, I wish!!! I remember that Ross could name off his grandmother Stiltner's back to Marian Widner --- that would be four generations back. This is rather surprising as women were not very important in those days. Well, this is what Ross had to say about Frederick Charles Stegler/Stiltner:

Frederick Stegler changed the name to Stiltner because he deserted from the Revolutionary war and had to hide out in the hills for a long time. He thought the British, Americans, and Indians were all after him. He hid in a haystack one time while people stuck pitchforks in it to see if he was there. None of the thrusts hit him and they continued searching elsewhere. He was hiding under a log one time when three British solders sat on it, but he managed to stay quiet until they left. Another time, they were searching for him with dogs and when the dogs caught up with him, he smeared butter or grease of some kind on their noses so they couldn't continue to track him.

He had a wife, Marian Widner, and ten children, but it was ten years before he felt it was safe to send for them or live with them openly. Ross did not say which side of the war Frederick was deserting from, but I am inclined to think he was probably on of the 29,867 Hessians brought over by the British; paid soldiers who were not too interested in the war. In fact, many of them were carried from their homes by press gangs, having been literally sold to the British by their greedy Prince Frederick. None the less, 7,555 gave their lives for the British cause. Another 5,000 deserted, or arranged to stay in America at the end of the war.

Another Stiltner family historian, Burton Stiltner, says in his journal on the Stiltner family that Frederick Charles Stegler/Stiltner was born in Germany, sailed to America when young. Married in the Borough of Norfolk to name unknown, enlisted in the American Army of the Revolution, deserted the army, and fled to the wilds of what is now Southwest Virginia - Tazewell County. Married Marian Widner, date unknown.

Frederick Charles Stegler/Stiltner and his wife had nine children as follows -

I have added a few dates to the above. The Eastern Stiltner Researchers found that a Charles Stigler married an Elizabeth Widner on 25 March 1788 in Wash. County, Virginia. They feel that is the true marriage record of Frederick Stiltner and Marian or Elizabeth Widner.

This is possible. Frederick Jr. was supposed to have been born 4 February 1788, in which case he would have been one month old when his folks married. It was not unusual in those days for couples to "marry" themselves and perhaps have several children before a minister came through their remote area and would sometimes marry a dozen couples in a group. Jacob states on his marriage records of 1857 in Russel County, Virginia, that his father was Frederick Stigler and mother was Elizabeth.

One book on the first settlers of Buchanan County, Virginia, says: "Frederick Stiltner (patriarch of the large Stiltner clan had been a German mercenary in the British army during the war, participating in some campaigns around Norfolk before he deserted and made his way to this county. He is said to have reached Sword's Creek in Russell County where he spent a few weeks with a widow and her two children. When he left there, he crossed the Sandy Ridge and traveled down the Lavisa River to the lower end of where Grundy now stands."

"The traditional tale is that Stiltner, also called Stinger, and Stitner, spent the winter in a hollow poplar tree near the mouth of Slate, (allegedly near Grundy Junior High). With his rifle, and two hunting dogs, he survived until spring when he returned to the widow and married her, and brought her and her children back to Watkins Branch (now Royal City) where they built a cabin."

"There are several variations on this story. Despite the discrepancies, the Stiltners are still credited with being the first permanent white settlers in Buchanan, then called Sandy."

This same book, "The Bountiful and Beautiful, A Bicentennial History of Buchanan County, Virginia," 1776 - 1976, by Nancy Baker, also states that some of the earliest to settle in this area were war deserters, using the forbidding terrain as a sanctuary. Most probably several families settled about the same time, with no particular family being the first. There is no way to prove anything, since the first settlers did not have official land grants.

Frederick Stiltner was on the personal property tax list from 1801 through 1810; there is no mention of him after that. The name is spelled variously and he did not own slaves. His personal property tax for Tazewell County is as follows -

An annotated enumeration of taxpayers, 1801 ... 1820, Stiltner, Frederick paid personal property taxes 1801, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 1810.

Woodrow R. Clevinger's 1971 book, "Cascade Mountain Clan" states that Frederick was names after Frederick the great, the King of Prussia at this period in the history of Germany. It is possible he was one of the many young Germans emigrating to the American colonies at this time to escape the severe military conscription and wars that Frederick the Great was administering.

He came to the port of Norfolk, Virginia just at the beginning of the American Revolutionary war in 1775.

Frederick C. Stegler, so goes the legend, became involved in or accused of misappropriating funds of the Virginia Militia. The legend states that he had gold coins that were to be paid to the troops. The story continues that he became a refugee and to save his life he took refuge in the wilderness frontier of the Blue Ridge and Cumberland Mountains.

We will never know his true story, whether he was a good man or bad. I am sure that while he was making his way across country and hiding out, he must have had to steal food, etc. from the farms he passed. If he was a new immigrant with little knowledge of the English speech, just think what a vast empty, lonely wilderness this country must have been to him.

Burton Stiltner wrote this on the back of his Journal of the Stiltner Family:

"The Stiltner Generation is a cross section of humanity, some are good, and some are bad, and some are worse, but we are all chips off the same old block. When one gets to be such a terrible rascal, we change his name to Stilton. I suppose among us there have been men and women in many walks of life, preachers, hunters, soldiers, tradesmen, businessmen, doctors, lawyers, liars, horse thieves, and bushwhackers and the like."

S. Stiltner
Copyright ©2000, 2002 S. Stiltner

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