Joseph Kern of Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Joseph Kern was born in York, Pennsylvania, on 30 Aug 1772, the son of Jacob Kern and Catherine Funck. He died in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, on 23 May 1846. He was married about 1799 to Margaret Steinbach/Steinbaugh. Margaret was born abot Oct 1779 either in Pennsylvania or Maryland and died 16 Apr 1856 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Joseph grew up in York County and apparently stayed there until his mother died in 1806. The household of Joseph Kern in York County, Pennsylvania, in 1800 includes a female over forty-five. "Widow Kern" is said to be on the York Borough, York County, tax rolls in 1800 and Joseph is said to be on the York tax rolls for 1800 to 1805. 1 In addition, the abstract of Joseph's obituary says he was born in 1772 and moved to Greensburg at the age of 35.2

After Joseph's mother Catherine died, Joseph joined his brothers Jacob and John in Westmoreland County. Joseph appears first on the tax list for Westmoreland County in 1808. He is listed on both the Borough of Greensburg and Hempfield Township tax lists in 1810.3

In 1815, Joseph was assessed and taxed as follows:
Kern, Joseph, Hatter $60, 1 house and lot $700, 1 horse $40, 1 cow $10, Total $800. Tax 1.33.4

He is also on the tax list for 1817.5

In 1810 his household is on the census in Greensburg, apparently including a male apprentice or boarder age 16 to 25. In 1820 his household numbered thirteen, apparently including a number of apprentices or boarders. Joseph was engaged in commerce.6

The Joseph Kern, on the Mt. Pleasant Borough tax rolls in 1829 is more likely his brother John's son Joseph, since they were in Mt. Pleasant.

I have not yet found Joseph Kern on the 1830 Census. By 1840 his household, now in Hempfield Township, had become smaller. The census figures only allow for Joseph, Margaret, and their two youngest children.7

On June 18, 1834, John Taylor, Daniel C. Morris (who was Joseph Kern's son-in-law), and George W. Kern (Joseph Kern's son) bought nineteen acres of land in Johnstown from Shepley Priestly for $800. On July 7, 1840, Joseph Kern himself purchased the two-thirds interest held by Taylor and Daniel Morris' estate. The Kern land, now belonging to father and son, lay below Dibert street and east of Apple Tree alley, which was between Franklin and Napoleon streets, extending to the Stonycreek river. This was known for a time as Kernville, and was part of the fifth and sixth wards of Johnstown.8

In Joseph's will, written 15 May 1846 and probated 26 May 1846, he discusses this property, improvement needed to it, and a possible purchase from a Joseph Haynes to make the improvement possible.9 Instead the land was sold to Joseph Haynes, being described as beginning at a point on "the road leading from the bridge to Amish hill, along the west side of Apple Tree alley." This deed bears the date of August 2, 1847.10

Something in the will or some action of the executors led to Sarah's son, Jacob S. Kiel petitioning as heir of Sarah against the executors in Westmoreland County Orphans Court on 6 November 1867. A look at Jacob's petition would help here.11

The land in Johnstown is also mentioned in a letter from Joseph's granddaughter Elizabeth Extine (Kiel) Hamilton to her brother Daniel Morris Kiel on 31 Aug 1890. It seems from the letter that Eckie thought the executors had not yet sold the land. The letter says, in part:

"When [their sister] Celia came home from your place, she stopped at Derry and asked  [Mr. Gorgas, one of the executors] about that land in Kernville and he says they were all in debt to him. Where did he get his share? I see in the Johnstown papers they are going to make Stoney Creek wider. So I suppose they will get a chance to get something for the land, but I hope it will never do them any good."12

A transcription of Old German Cemtery, Greensburg, says that Joseph Kern died May 23, 1843. This is in error since his will was not written until May 1846.13

Joseph's listing at states that he died 23 May, 1846 and is buried in Old German Cemetery.14

A Biographical Sketch

The following reference to Joseph Kern appears in a biographical sketch of his son-in-law Timothy Hunt of Johnstown, who married Eleanor Kern:

". . . Mrs. Hunt is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, as were also her parents, and her father, Joseph Kern, was born at "Little York," this State, and settled at Greensburg, the county seat of Westmoreland, where he died May 23, 1846, aged seventy-four years.

Joseph Kern was a hatter by trade, and carried on hatting at Greensburg for many years before combined capital, improved machinery and specialized piece work drove the individual manufacturer from the market by cheaper but not better work. Mr. Kern was a man of forsight and judgment, and in the early years of Johnstown's history, perceiving its future importance, invested largely in real estate in what is now the Fifth ward, where his son George was the first settler. When buildings were erected and the town commenced to grow on his land it was named Kernville in honor of him, and continued to hold that name until it was made a part of Johnstown as the Fifth ward.

Joseph Kern married Margaretta Stinebaugh, who died April 16, 1856, aged seventy-six years and nine months.

The Hunt and Kern families are among the sturdy, substantial and useful families of Western Pennsylvania, although not so old or numerous as many other families west of the Alleghanies."15

For more about Joseph Kern see the article Joseph Kern of Greensburg, Pennsylvania--Methodist or Lutheran?.


1 Ed Morrill, "In Reply to: KERN family of York Co., PA," posted at York County message board on 30 Nov 2003.
2 Mary Jane Mains, compiler, Newspaper Accounts of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1808-1929, not all inclusive, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania (Greensburg, Pennsylvania: Westmoreland County Historical Society, 1994, citing the Westmoreland Republican and Farmers' Chronicle).
3 Tax Lists, Westmoreland County, PA, 1786-1810.
4 "1815 Tax list of Westmoreland County", as found in The Old Westmoreland, Vol 9, No 5, August 1989, Laughlintown, PA: SW PA Genealogical Services.)
5 "List of Taxable Inhabitants of Greensburg in 1817, with tax assessed," from History of Greensburg, Westmoreland Co., PA, B. F. Vogle, (Greensburg: Vogle & Wensheimer, c. 1899).
6 1810 Census: Greensburg Borough, Westmoreland, PA. Series M252 Roll 51 Page 183, and 1820 Census, Greensburg, Westmoreland, PA Series M33 Roll 112, Page 98.
7 1840 Census, Hempfield Township, Westmoreland, PA, Series M704, Roll 498, Page 384.
8 Henry W. Storey, History of Cambria County, Chapter 13, "Land Titles", pages 290-310, as found at
9 Transcribed will of Joseph Kern found at:
10 Henry W. Storey, History of Cambria County, Chapter 13.
11 Frank W. Kiel, Hendrik Gerrit Kiel, Dutch Immigrant to Pennsylvania (Comfort, Texas: Skyline Ranch Press, 2000), page 43, citing Westmoreland County, Orphans Court Records, 6 Nov 1867, No 31.
12 Transcribed in Kiel, pages 66, 67.
13 This transcription is in an article entitled "Tombstone Inscriptions" contributed by Mary Ellison Wood on page 26 of Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, Vol. VI, No. 1 (March, 1915). The image is found at
14, contributed by Kim Frye
15 Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Cambria County, (Spartansburg, SC: The Reprint Company, Publishers, 1980). Originally published in 1896 by The Union Publishing Company of Philadelphia, pp. 46, 47. Images now at Google Books.)

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