Oatyar/Etcher Family of Virginia

Peter Oatyar, the originator of the family in Virginia, went by many spellings of his surname. Oatyer, Oatyar, Oatyear, Eytcher, Etcher, and Atcher are some that show up in Loudoun County records. His signature appeared in a 1776 petition for ending the established church (Anglican) in Virginia1

and, at least in 1776, he spelled his name Oatyar. His oldest child, John, appeared in some records as John Oatyer but John's son Peter appeared as Peter Etcher as did all his descendants. Peter Oatyar's other four children were daughters who married and did not carry on the surname. However, one reference2 to him stated "My father, George Grimes, being pretty well grown, did not accompany the family to Ohio. After leaving his mother's home, he found a friend in the person of one Peter Atcher, a wealthy German farmer and stock raiser, who was noted particularly as a breeder of fine horses. He remained with him during his minority after which he found his way up into Loudoun County, and lived among the Friends or Quakers. This was called the Goose Creek Settlement of Friends, and the meeting house is about six miles west of Leesburg, the county seat of Loudoun County." It is likely that Peter is of Germanic origin.

Peter first appeared in the tithables list for Cameron Parish, Loudoun County in July 1775 and he continued to appear, though not every year, in the tithables and personal property tax lists until his death in 1834.

A research trip to New Jersey in 2008 produced new information on Peter Oatyar and his family. Prior research on the Atcher family and it's relation with the Oatyar family showed that John Oatyar, son of Peter, was born between July 1772 and July 1773, based on all previously available records and indirect evidence.

The new research uncovered the parish register of the German Reformed Church of Alexandria (Alexandria Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey) and revealed that John was baptized on 23 May 1773 in the Church, (witnesses were John Becher and Elis Becher, possible grandparents or relations of mother Anna Maria "Mary" Becher). The transcribed entry showed that child Johannes was born 10 Oct 1772 and baptized 23 May 1773, with parents Joh Peter Oettgen and Anna Maria. A search for the original records in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), where they were supposed to be located, showed no results. Further investigation into the archival records of the German Reformed Church and the historical societies in New Jersey also showed no results.

This entry in the parish register confirms independently the birth date of John as well as the "Baker" presumed surname for Peter's wife Mary. This Baker surname came from an entry by Goldie E Maffett, who researched her family in the early to mid-20th Century. Goldie was the 3rd great-granddaughter of Peter Oatyar. The transcribed spelling of Oettgen cannot be confirmed without the original documents but resembles the Oatyar/Etcher/Eytcher spellings/pronunciation, and it may be that the actual spelling was Oettyer with the "y" mistaken for a "g" and the "r" for an "n".

Many Germans arrived in New Jersey in the 1700s and a considerable number appeared in Hunterdon County, displacing some of the earlier settlers, some of whom were English and Dutch. A good history of Hunterdon appears on-line at http://www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/depts/c&h/275years.htm. Peter's obituary has him born in New Jersey and the new research lends some credence to this. But, could Oatyar/Oettgen/Oettyer be Dutch (from New Amsterdam) rather than German? Only one reference to an Oettgen in Germany in the 1700s has been found on an Ancestry.com message board.

Peter appeared in the Loudoun County, Virginia, tithable list in July 1775 and his daughter Susanna was born in Virginia 1774-5, so Peter and his family left New Jersey a short time after John's birth, undoubtedly traveling through Pennsylvania to Northern Virginia.

A possible link to Peter can be found in an account book of John Mehelm (1733-1809) and Sydney Berry (1745-1820), merchants of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. An entry for "George Eytcher" appeared as "1772, Aug 1 - ballance from Ledr A, Fol 100, 7-14-4." On August 1, 1773 interest was charged with a new total of 8-4-4. A George Atcher/Aytcher appeared in the Loudoun County personal property tax lists from 1782-1787 and lived in the same area as Peter. This George Atcher is discussed in the File Research Report on the Atcher family.

The report on this work is in a file report on Peter Oatyar/Oettgen of Hunterdon County, New Jersey and Loudoun County, Virginia.

1. "Account Book 1772-1774", John Mehelm and Sidney Berry, 1772, Manuscript Group 847; New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, 210.
2. Peter Oatyar will (23 Feb 1829), Will Book V: John Oatyer is mentioned in Peter's will as having pre-deceased Peter before 23 Feb 1829, Loudoun County Clerk of Circuit Court, Leesburg, Virginia.
3. "File Research Report: Oettgen of Hunterdon County, New Jersey", Robert L Stoy Jr, 2 Nov 2008; R Stoy Genealogy Binders - Oatyar, Aliso Viejo, California.
4. Henry Race, "Parish Register of The German Reformed Church of Alexandria, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, 1763-1802," The Jerseyman 3 (June 1897): 44.
5. Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Church Records of the German Reformed Church, of Alexandria Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey: 19; Film No. 441,466, item 2, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. The baptism register was abstracted by John Woolf Jordan (1840-1921) and was filmed 25 Aug 1965 by the Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania; the manuscript was not located at HSP during a search Nov 2008.

Peter Oatyar's obituary appeared in the Genius of Liberty newspaper of Leesburg, Virginia in 1834. 

Peter Oatyar's wife has been another mystery but the Hunterdon County documents show that her name was Anna Maria Becher, which agrees with the one Loudoun County document that states her name as Mary Baker. In Virginia documents, Peter's wife's given name was Mary based on a bill of sale for land in Shenandoah County.3 He had been granted a 247-acre tract from Thomas Lord Fairfax 31 Aug 1779 but seems to have never used the property, which he sold in 1802 for 300 pounds to Abraham Barb. Mary was listed in the sale document. Again, more research is needed on the family in Hunterdon County.

The Broad Run district of Loudoun County lies between Broad Run and Goose Creek with the Potomac River on the north. This is the area where Peter owned his property with much of it near Waxpool and Ryan. Because the Lee family owned much of this land (Thomas, Thomas Ludwell, George and Ludwell Lee all owned property at various times), Peter's name shows up on deeds as a purchaser, seller and witness along with various Lees. He was well-enough known to have served on a panel in 1803 to assess damages to several farmers for the Little River Turnpike running through their farms [now Route 50 - John Moseby Highway].

Peter was very well-off for his time - at his death he owned about 3000 acres in the Broad Run area (see sidebar map) and it took about 20 years for his estate to be resolved because of the many children and grandchildren that had scattered beyond Virginia. His daughters married men who migrated from Virginia to Ohio and points west but his grandson, Peter Etcher, lived and died in Loudoun County and his descendants remained, for the most part, in Loudoun and in Washington DC, where some still reside.

Oatyar/Etcher Family Migration

The Maffett, Bridwell, Lefever (Lefevre) and Etcher families were nothing if not prolific. They have spread from Loudoun County to the midwest and far west in the past 190 years.

Because two of Peter's daughters married Caylor brothers, their migration paths are the same as those shown on the Caylor migration map. For the rest of the Oatyar/Etcher family, many remained in the Northern Virginia, Greater Washington, area with many descendants still living there. Others moved to Missouri (Howell and Oregon counties), others to Kansas (Bourbon County), Nebraska (Douglas and Nuckolls counties), Illinois (Douglas County), Iowa (Des Moines County) and Montana (Carbon, Gallatin and Silver Bow counties).


1. Library of Congress, "October 16, 1776, Miscellaneous, Ten-thousand name petition by Dissenters from whole state, for ending established church, and for institution of religious equality," digital image, American Memory (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html : 30 Jul 2008), entry for Peter Oatyar, image 221 of 250, column one, middle of page; original at Library of Virginia.

2. Mary A Grimes, The Grimes Family (1946), 3-4; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 Jun 2006).

3. Shenandoah County, Virginia, Deed Book, Vol N:118-9, Peter Oatyer entry, 3 May 1802; FHL microfilm 33,893.