Low Dutch Cousins Reunion
Descendants to meet in Madison
to honor ancestors
Local resident Rogers
to take part in the family event
(September 2013) – Lee Rogers of Madison, Ind., did not become interested in genealogy until he retired. Now at age 88, he’s gearing up to attend what promises to be a huge reunion of sorts.
After retiring from his job as a Medical Technologist, he volunteered at a local museum and his interest in history “snowballed from there,” he said. Since 1985, Rogers has volunteered at the Jefferson County (Ind.) Historical Society and has acquired a “special interest in local history.”
Along with his brother, Lynn, and other family members, Rogers has spent time researching their ancestors in the Jefferson County area, compiling a wealth of information. He was a member of the Ryker Historical Society for several years.
Rogers’ ancestor, Gerardus Ryker, was a Revolutionary War patriot and part of the Cornstalk Militia of the War of 1812. He married Leah Smock, and they had 14 children.
Ryker helped build a fort at age 12, stood guard at age 14 and spent his 15th birthday on the Second Expedition of Gen. George Rogers Clark to the Miami Indian towns on the Little Miami River in Ohio, said Lynn Rogers.
Leah was as brave as her husband. She was scalped by the Indians but lived and “wore a little leather cap the rest of her life,” he said. The couple is buried at the Ryker Ridge Cemetery.
“One of Leah’s brothers was Samuel Smock, the founder of Smockville, located at the intersection of State Road 62 and Hwy. 56, west of Hanover,” said Lynn. He was the first postmaster in Jefferson County, a judge, a member of the state Constitutional Convention and a significant contributor to the start of Hanover College.
Gerardus Ryker and his two brothers settled in Jefferson County, Ind., by 1810. Between the three brothers, they had 20 sons, “giving the Ryker name a large presence in early Jefferson County,” said Lynn. His ancestors’ “hardships are pretty much typical of all early Indiana and Kentucky pioneers,” said Lynn.
The Ryker family were descendants of the Low Dutch community, so-called because they originally migrated from the lowlands of Europe or the Netherlands. In the 1780s, 200 men, women, and children who were living in Pennsylvania, risked their lives to form a Dutch-speaking colony along the Kentucky frontier.
Both Lee and Lynn Rogers will be attending the Sept. 20-23 Low Dutch Cousins 2013 Gathering at Clifty Inn in Madison. “It is going to be an unforgettable three days,” said Carolyn Leonard, one of the organizers of the event.
The event will kick off at 9.a.m Friday with a Memorial Service for Low Dutch Veterans of the War of 1812. This will include the Rogers’ ancestor, Gerardus Ryker.
Special guest speaker, Vince Akers, will present a program titled, “After Kentucky – Migration to Indiana,” at 7 p.m. Akers is a well-known expert on the Low Dutch community. Some of his ancestors were of Low Dutch descent and settled in Henry County, Ky.
Lee Rogers said the part of the event that he is most looking forward to is “Vince Akers and his program. I’m interested in the settlement of frontier Indiana.”
A full day is planned for Saturday, with a 10 a.m. welcome by Madison Mayor Damon Welch. Attendees will be able to “Meet Your Cousins,” swap family genealogies and network. The guest speaker for the evening will be Patsy Harris, who will present a program on “Low Dutch and the Underground Railroad.”
Sunday will include a caravan to Six-Mile, Pleasureville and Harrodsburg, Ky. The latter location is where the Old Mud Meeting House, a restored church built by the Low Dutch more than 200 years ago, is located. A special worship service is planned for 2:30 p.m.
Pleasureville in Henry County, Ky., is where the second Low Dutch meetinghouse was built in Kentucky. It is located near the Shelby County line on what was the old Low Dutch Tract containing around 8,000 acres, which the Low Dutch purchased from Squire Boone, younger brother of Daniel Boone. Akers will speak again at this site about the history of the church and the Low Dutch Tract.
Due to conflicting land claims and continuing Indian hostilities, many members of the Low Dutch community decided to move north of the Ohio River into present day Indiana in the early 1800s. By 1817, a Low Dutch Settlement had formed around Pleasant, near the Switzerland-Jefferson County line. It didn’t take long for some of the families to settle near Madison, Canaan, Manville and Hanover.
Rogers says this is going to be the experience of a lifetime for him. “I’m looking forward to it and to meeting people,” he said.
• The public is invited to attend most of the programs at no charge, and registration for the full three days is only $25 plus the cost of meals. For information visit www.DutchCousins.org.
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