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Samuel S. Zehr b. 24 Feb 1870 Lilly, Tazewell Co., IL d. 31 Mar 1943 Fisher, Champaign Co., IL: The Schrock-Birkey Connection

Samuel S. Zehr

Male 1870 - 1943  (73 years)


Personal Information    |    Notes    |    Sources    |    Event Map    |    All

  • Name Samuel S. Zehr  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    Residence 1856  Tazewell Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    • Home near Mackinaw River
    Born 24 Feb 1870  Lilly, Tazewell Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • near Goodfield. On a farm near Mackinaw.
    Gender Male 
    Baptism 2 Feb 1886  Goodfield, Woodford Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    • by his uncle, Bishop Jacob Zehr
    Occupation Farmer And Deacon 
    Residence 1889  Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    PURC 18 Apr 1891  Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3
    • Eighty acres two miles west of East Bend Mennonite Church, purchased at the cost of $1500. A small house was moved to the land for their home. The original land deed to War of 1812 veteran Sidney Quinn, was signed by President Franklin Pierce.
    Ordained Jun 1906  Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    • Deacon, East Bend Mennonite Church, by Peter Zehr. He was the only person to be ordained a deacon in this particular church.
    Religion Amish Mennonite 
    Died 31 Mar 1943  Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • at home of son Samuel
    Buried Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • East Bend Mennonite Cemetery
    Person ID I319  Schrock-Birkey Connection
    Last Modified 22 Sep 2019 

    Father Peter Zehr, Sr.,   b. 30 Dec 1818, Manried, Bavaria, GR Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 6 Apr 1886, Slabtown, Woodford Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years) 
    Mother Elizabeth Oyer,   b. 23 Apr 1828, Niderhoff, Moselle, FR Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Mar 1896, Foosland, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 67 years) 
    Married 12 Aug 1845  Farmdale, Tazewell Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F314  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Magdalena A. (Lena) Unzicker,   b. 11 Aug 1870, Bavaria, GR Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Mar 1939, Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 68 years) 
    Married 27 Sep 1892  Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3
    • Daniel Grieser’s home, by Bishop Christian Nafziger of Hopedale. “Samuel wore a black tie for his wedding, but he never wore it again. George Grieser was 15 years old at the time and he recallls the wedding. At that time, it was customary to pass out cigars following a wedding. The cigars were given out, and he thought that he was old enough to try one. This resulted in one pretty uncomfortable boy!”
    Notes 
    • Marriage index gives date as 6 Sep 1892.
    Children 
     1. Aaron Everett Zehr,   b. 22 Nov 1896,   d. 14 May 1974  (Age 77 years)
     2. Samuel M. (Milo) Zehr,   b. 1901,   d. 4 Mar 1988  (Age 87 years)
     3. Albert R. (Raymond) Zehr,   b. 19 Feb 1906, Foosland, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 25 Aug 1980, Foosland, Champaign Co., IL Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 74 years)
    Last Modified 24 Jun 2008 
    Family ID F136  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1856 - Tazewell Co., IL Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 24 Feb 1870 - Lilly, Tazewell Co., IL Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBaptism - 2 Feb 1886 - Goodfield, Woodford Co., IL Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - 1889 - Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsPURC - 18 Apr 1891 - Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 27 Sep 1892 - Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOrdained - Jun 1906 - Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 31 Mar 1943 - Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Fisher, Champaign Co., IL Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Notes 
    • Obit: Gospel Herald, April 1943:
      " Samuel S., son of Peter and Elizabeth (Oyer) Zehr, was born near Goodfield, Ill., Feb. 24, 1870; departed this life March 31, 1943, at the home of his son, Sam M., near Fisher; aged 73 y. 1 m. 7 d. He had been in failing health for the past 18 months and for the last 10 months has been bedfast. He lived in this vicinity for the past 53 years. In his early youth he accepted Christ as his personal Saviour and united with the Mennonite church, of which he was a faithful and consistent member until the time of his death. He was united in marriage to Lena Unzicker Sept. 27, 1892, who preceded him in death March 1, 1939. He was the youngest of a family of thirteen, one sister Pheobe Zehr, Manson, Iowa, surviving him; also three sons (Aaron E., Foosland; Sam M., Fisher; and Albert R., Foosland) and six grandchildren. He was ordained to the office of deacon June 1906 at the East Bend Mennonite Church in which capacity he served in the Church, also assisting in the ministry until his health failed and he asked to be relieved from this responsibility. Funeral services were conducted at the home of his son by Bro. Harold Zehr, and at the East Bend Mennonite Church by Bro. J.A. Heiser. Text, Job 14:15. Burial in the East Bend Cemetery. The room is quiet, all is still; the place is vacant, 'tis God's will. Soon long you have waited for your rest, our blessed Lord knows what is best."

      (Read at East Bend Mennonite Centennial)
      “I am Deacon Samuel Zehr. I was born in Tazewell County in 1870 and am the youngest of 13 children, but mother and father had to part with six children before they were two years old. Only seven of us became adults. Father was Peter Zehr, mother was Elizabeth Oyer. Mother was born in Lorraine, France and came to America when she was two years old with her parents and eleven brothers and sisters.

      “Father and Mother met near East Peoria where they were married. A little later, Father bought a farm near the Mackinaw River where I was born. We lived near the rocky ford of the river and our house stood on a high hill overlooking the valley. I loved to play along that river. I would set some fishing lines at night and the next morning I would usually find some nice catfish. I would stay close to home at night, frightened at the sound of the prairie wolves howling in the woods nearby. Our farm lay where three counties met. I lived in Tazewell County. On my way to school I would walk past Uncle Jake Zehr’s farm in Woodford County, to the schoolhouse where I got my limited education in McLean County.

      “The many Amish Mennonites in the area were all part of the Mackinaw Meeting District. Later, it became three groups; the North Danvers Church, the Roanoke Church, and the Goodfield Church. We were part of the Goodfield Church and my Uncle Jacob Zehr was bishop.

      “I’ll never forget the year 1886. In April my Father died and we buried him in the Slabtown Cemetery on that high hill. Also, my sisters Phoebe and Mary, and brother David were married, leaving Mother and me alone in the family home. And that year I made the most important decision of my life. I accepted Christ as my Savior and was baptized at the Goodfield church by my Uncle Jacob.

      “In 1889, brother Peter who lived near us, decided to move to Champaign County to start a new church. Mother and I felt still more lonely and soon I became interested in Champaign County as well. Sister Mary, who had married Joseph Beacher, had moved to East Bend Township too, so now mother was also ready to move. In 1891 I found 80 acres of land that I could buy for $42.50 an acre. I had to borrow $1500 to purchase the land from Morris Lateer. There was no house on the land so I moved a small house from nearby and started living there.

      “I was interested in a young lady I saw at church. Her parents had died so she and her brother, originally from Germany, came to America to live with their aunt, Mrs. Daniel Grieser and family. I asked Rev. Grieser to ask Lena Unzicker if she’d marry me and was joyful when she accepted. We were married in the Grieser home on September 17, 1892 by bishop Christian Nafziger of Hopedale and we started housekeeping on my farm.

      “It was in 1896 that my mother died. She was the second burial in the East Bend Cemetery.

      “Our Amish Mennonite settlement grew very fast. In 1892, eleven families moved into the community and in 1895 we built our first church house. Later, I served as Sunday School superintendent and also as chorister. One song I led very often was, “Jesus, Jesus”--in German of course. In 1906 the church choose me to serve as deacon and I took this new responsibility very seriously. Among my duties as deacon, I was to visit the sick, look after the welfare of the widows and needy, and talk to those who lived their Christian lives carelessly.

      “I was in charge of the Alms Fund. The money for this fund was given during communion as a special offering for the poor and needy. Although I was only a deacon, I took my regular turn at preaching. One reason for this was that the English language was needed for the benefit of the young people who were learning English in school. I was able to preach in English, so this was a need I could fill. I served with seven of East Bend’s ministers and we loved each other very much.

      “One event at East Bend that was an exciting time for me was when the Western District Amish Mennonite Conference was held at the church in September of 1909. About 600 people came, some from as far away as Oregon. The Illinois Central Railroad used a special car to accommodate the Amish Mennonite travelers. One hundred guests came to the depot at Foosland on the first day, and fifty to fisher. We furnished transportation, food, and lodging for all of them. We used two tents on the church grounds, one for the meetings and one for the meals. It was a very busy time, all the traveling to and from church was by horse and buggy.

      “One of the last things I helped with during my preaching days was to help organize the Christian Workers Band. We were wanting to help our young people become more involved in church work, so in 1938, J.A. Heiser, Dr. Troyer, Harold Zehr, and I met in the Troyer home with a committee of young people. This was the beginning of the Extension Committee, the Industrial Committee, and so on.

      “Lena and I were blessed with three sons born into our family--Aaron, Albert, and Samuel, Jr. We had many good times together with many happy memories. However, it was a sad day for US when Aaron was called to serve in the Army. He went as Conscientious Objector, the way we had been taught. On his discharge papers it says he was a Conscientious Objector who had done no military duty and who had refused to wear a uniform. He left home on Sept. 6, 1918, and served four months.

      “I remember very clearly buying my first car. Of course our young sons couldn’t understand my decision to leave the car in the shed that first Sunday for fear of offending someone. In 1936, Lena and I moved to Fisher to live. After she died in 1939, I went to live with my sons. My son Bert and wife Bertha lived on the farm I bought and in the house I moved. I did not ever regret my work in the church. It gave me great satisfaction to serve in God’s Kingdom in this way. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 107:31, “Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” [2, 3, 7]

  • Sources 
    1. [S539] Centennial History of the Mennonites of Illinois 1829-1929, Harry F. Weber, (The Mennonite Historical Society, Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana).

    2. [S345] Richly Blessed--The Life and Memories of Bertha Zehr, Bertha Mae Reedy Zehr, (Campbell Copy Center, Harrisonburg, VA).

    3. [S397] Biographies of Mennonite Leaders: Samuel S. Zehr, E. Jack Stalter.

    4. [S457] Biographies of Mennonite Leaders: Samuel S. Zehr, Margaret Oyer.

    5. [S973] Brief History of the Family of Samuel S. and Lena (Unzicker) Zehr.

    6. [S223] Where the River Bends, A 100-year History of the East Bend Mennonite Church, Verle C. Oyer.

    7. [S222] Pilgrims of the Past.


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