AUSMUS FAMILY ROOTS SPRING FROM GERMANS WHO FLED TO HOLLAND TO ESCAPE PERSECUTION
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
On October 4, 1752, Peter Johann Assum (Ausmus), along with his two sons, Philip and Benjamin, entered this country at the port of Philadelphia. The Assum family had landed at this seaport simply because Germans were more humanely treated here. They left Rotterdam, Holland, along with Captain John Mason, on the ship "Neptune." The four of them, along with their possessions, weighed 1,000 pounds. Johann's wife died on the way over and was buried at sea. Their route from Rotterdam to America was by way of Cowes, England.
Peter apparently married a second time about 1760 and they had two daughters. Peter married a third time and had two more daughters, these daughters being listed on the tax list for 1782.
Family researchers assume that Peter Assum was born in 1711 and lived to be 95 or 105 years old. He abruptly ceased to pay taxes in 1802, and in all probability died the same year, making him only 91.
This family belonged to the Tunker or Dunkard's religious group. This as-assemblage first appeared in Germany at Schwartzenau in 1708, located on the banks of the River Elder in Westphalia. They were later driven by persecution to Crefeld and Holland. Between the years 1719 and 1729, ninety-five percent of this devout sect had traveled to America. Most of them were men of education and intellect. By 1850 there were over 200,000 along with 1000 ministers that had traveled to the new country.
The place of residence of the Ausmus family up to the year 1760 is unknown. The first account of this household is in Augusta County, Virginia, where Peter Assum paid tithables in 1760. There is a gap of eight years of the family residence where possibly they lived in Pennsylvania.
An early researcher traced the family of Peter Assum in America to April 30, 1770, where Peter purchased 110 acres of land on this date, lying between Peaked Mountain and the Shenandoah River in Augusta County, Virginia. Peter Asam also bought 31 acres on March 10, 1773, in Augusta County on the headwaters of Humes Run, a branch of the Shenandoah River.
Spelling of the family name apparently differed every time the tax collector was changed. (One descendant says that the name Ausmus means "unchangeable" while another researcher says that the name means "stubborn.")
One-account states that in 1778, the northern part of Augusta County was divided to help form Rockingham County, and that Peter Osmus paid taxes on the Humes Run property. This said County lists, in 1782, that Philip Asmus paid white tithes on one person, indicating he had no children 16 years of age. He paid taxes on three horses and five cattle.
The will of Benjamin Ausden, who died on January 19, 1807, listed a bill of sale of goods from Shenandoah County, Virginia. His name was later found and spelled Ousmas. Benjamin was an herb doctor and never married. He was George Washington's personal doctor while George was a young surveyor in Western Virginia.
Philip Ausmus, son of Peter, moved to Claiborne County, Tennessee, in 1795. He perhaps persuaded his sister, Elizabeth, and her husband John Hunter, Jr., along with John's brother, William, to relocate to the same area. Elizabeth brought their seven children to Claiborne County in 1807 and purchased a farm for $800 about three miles from Ausmus Fort.
Philip Ausmus and two of his sons, Henry and Peter, traveled to Powell Valley in 1792 or 1793 where they surveyed and staked off 600 acres of land. Their first act was to fell the virgin trees to construct a fort-like house. In due time they began clearing and cleaning land for crop planting. After these everyday jobs were completed, Philip moved his family into the wilderness fort type home. The house was a double log home minus a floor or window at first. The dwelling had three portholes on each side, which was reached by a ladder running up the wall on the inside to the loft. These portholes were used to shoot through when suppressing the Indians. When the attacks came from the Indians, all the neighbors would run to the Ausmus fort because of its safety factor.
The Ausmus house was 28 feet by 18 feet with a four-foot front door. Another dwelling was built about 10 feet away, which was used as a kitchen. It was a single story house, its size being about 12 feet by 15 feet with a loft for sleeping.
Philip and his two sons met at Yoakam Fort (Claiborne County) in 1795, along with other pioneers. Here they resisted William Blount, Governor of the Territory South of the Ohio River (Tennessee), who had ordered them to get off Indian property. These hearty pioneers agreed to die before leaving their homes and crops, so informing the Governor.
In 1797, Philip Ausmus donated the land for the Davis Creek Church, and was so agreed to by the settlers. Philip was a Dunkard preacher and would carry his German gun along with him whenever he preached. He preached in this church until his death.
This is just a short story on the Ausmus family. Some of this family migrated to the area of Campbell County. The family stands out in time and progress as one of East Tennessee's finest.
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