Casper Durst

The following information about Casper Durst is copied, with permission, from Wayne Bittinger's book The Bittinger, Bittner, Biddinger, and Bidinger Families--and Their Kin--of Garrett County, Maryland. Minor formatting revisions have been made to accommodate this web site.

In 1922, George M. Durst reported that Casper Durst's father "emigrated from Switzerland and settled in Southern Pa., just about 200 years ago." George (born in 1846) said that Casper was born in Pennsylvania in the year of George Washington's birth, 1732. Casper was named in the 1765 assessment for Heidelberg Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Casper's first wife was Anna Elizabeth ---. In 1767, their infant son John was baptized at St. John's (Hain's) Reformed Church in Lower Heidelberg Township, Berks County. The baptismal record spelled the family name Dorst.

Children of Casper Durst and first wife, Anna Elizabeth:

(1) John "Lightfoot John" Durst (1767-1839 or 1840). Moved to Garrett Co. late in life. Married 1) Eva Margaret Glotfelty (born 4/12/1769), daughter of Solomon Glotfelty and Maria Eva Friend. Married 2) Margaret Robison, a widow.

(2) Henry Durst (born about 1769). Married Barbara Garlitz (born about 1762).

(3) Jacob Durst (born in 1774). Married Mary "Polly" Knoyer (born about 1789).

(4) Susanna Durst (born about 1776).

(5) Elizabeth "Betsy" Durst (May 1780-1863). Married Christian "Christly" Garlitz (born about 1777; died in 1845). Southeast of Grantsville.

(6) and (7) children? (born prior to 1785).

Casper "Dorst" was assessed in the 1768 "proprietary Return" for Heidelberg Township; he was taxed for two horses and two head of cattle. During the late 1760s or early 1770s, he moved to the section of western Bedford County, Pennsylvania, which later became Somerset County. The name Casper "Durst" was included in the second assessment for the area that is now Somerset County; this assessment was for the 1774 taxes.

Jacob Brown wrote the following about Casper Durst in the late 1800s: "Little is known of old Caspar. Tradition says he was a man of remarkable agility. It is said of him that he could spring a wolf trap with his feet and jump out without being caught. This is a pretty tough story and is not vouched for...."

It is possible that Casper was soldier in the Continental army for a time during the Revolutionary War. He may have joined a unit across the state line in Washington County, Maryland. (When this county was formed in 1776, it included all of the territory that is presently Washington, Allegany, and Garrett counties.) The name "Gaspert Dust" appeared on the roll of Capt. Daniel Cresap's colonial company from Washington County.

Casper was taxed in Bedford County--in the part that is now Somerset County--during the following years: 1776; 1779 (assessed for 200 acres); 1783 (200 acres, two horses, four head of cattle, seven sheep); and 1784.

Although he was assessed in Brothersvalley Township in the available tax lists from 1774 through 1784, Casper was presumably living in the section that would soon become Elk Lick Township. Historian Eber Cockley commented, "Elk Lick township was erected in 1785 from part of Brothers Valley. Clement Engle, Casper Durst and Solomon Glotfelty families were neighbors in the Elk Lick settlement. These early families rode horseback 20 miles over narrow pack horse trails in dense forest to the nearest churchhouse, a log schoolhouse located in Berlin. Erected in 1777 on the western frontier of that day, provided for the instruction of children and was also used for occasional religious services.... In 1789 Lutheran and Reformed families formed congregations in Elk Lick and erected a church for joint use by the two congregations."

Two of Casper's children and several of his grandchildren were baptized at the Lutheran and Reformed Union church in Elk Lick Township.

Casper and his sons John and Henry were named in "A list of inhabitants of Elk Lick Township" who were required to perform militia duty. This list was dated February 7, 1789.

As noted above, George M. Durst recalled the tradition that Casper Durst was born the same year as George Washington. George reported, "Old Casper would say in his broken English (at least it was told of him), 'I'm Fedtheral [Federalist], I voted for Voshington.'"

Jacob Brown said that Casper was one of the first settlers in what is now the Grantsville region of Garrett County, Maryland. It is possible that he moved across the Mason-Dixon line to the Grantsville area about 1790, for his name did not appear in the Pennsylvania schedules at the time of the 1790 census. (That year's schedules for what are now Garrett and Allegany counties were destroyed when the British burned public buildings in Washington, DC, during the War of 1812.) It was presumably during the 1790s that Casper, a widower, remarried; his second wife was the Widow Knoyer. This marriage would have taken place no earlier than about 1789.

Children of Casper Durst and second wife, the Widow Knoyer:

(1) Michael Durst (born 11/7/1800). Married Mary Hensel.

(2) Lydia Durst (born 1/2/1804). Married Archibald Sterner.

When the 1793 assessment lists were drawn up for Bedford County, Casper still owned land in Elk Lick Township, but he was not living on this land and was termed a "nonresident property holder." The sum that he was taxed shows that he owned a parcel on the order of about 50 acres. On 3/11/1795, John Durst patented a tract in this township, adjacent to land that Casper owned.

Casper may have returned to Elk Lick Township by the time the 1796 assessment was drawn up. That year, he was taxed for 45 acres (including five acres cleared), two horses, two head of cattle, and one house in the township. The total assessment value was $159.

In 1797 and 1798, the Elk Lick Township assessments listed Casper with 50 acres but no personal property. It is likely that he was a Maryland resident during this period, as the first assessment for western Allegany County (now Garrett County) included his name. This assessment, dated 1798, taxed him for a fair amount of possessions (primarily five horses and 14 "black cattle") but no real estate. In 1799 and 1800, he was taxed for 50 acres of "unseated" land in Elk Lick Township--land on which he was not then residing.

Casper's name was removed from the Allegany County tax lists in 1800. He was in Elk Lick Township at the time of that year's federal census; he was taxed for 50 acres there from 1801 through 1808, and was taxed for one horse and two head of cattle from 1802 through 1806. Finally, in 1807 and 1808, he was taxed only for his acreage in the township.

Casper may have died prior to the 1810 census, for he was not named as head of any household that year in census schedules for Pennsylvania or Maryland. In addition, no Durst household in Somerset or Allegany counties in 1810 (or that of his son-in-law Christian Garlitz) included a male of his age. Casper and both wives were reportedly buried in the old Reformed church cemetery on the east side of Salisbury, in Elk Lick Township.

This page was created November 26, 1999. For more information about western Maryland family history, visit Walt Warnick's Western Maryland Family History Home Page. Comments about western Maryland Durst families are welcome.