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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Annals of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania published in 1905 by The Genealogical Publishing Company.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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THOMAS M. DERR. The Derr family have been in Cumberland county for a hundred years or more. Peter Derr, a farmer, was upon the tax list of Frankford township as early as 1805, and from that date down to the present, the name has been continuously upon the county records. Peter Derr probably died young, for soon after 1805 his name disappears from the Frankford tax list, and nowhere reappears. In the absence of all family records the early history of the Derrs is hard to trace but enough data have been gathered from the public records to furnish a basis for plausible theories. It is probable that Peter Derr had the following sons: Henry, George, John, Jacob and Daniel. What daughters he had, or whether he had any, has not been ascertained. Of the sons here named Henry appears in West Pennsboro in 1811, taxed with two horses and three cows; and in 1814, and afterward, in Frankford township, where he owned land and engaged at carpentering and weaving, and later at farming. George was a blacksmith, and lived continuously in Frankford. John became a miller, and early in the thirties he and a man named Heterick engaged in the milling business in West Pennsboro, but afterward he was in that business by himself. In 1840 he quit milling and went to farming. Jacob became a stone mason, but he did not tarry long in Frankford, as, in 1832, he was located in North Middleton township, and in 1835 in the town of Newville.

While it is not absolutely certain that Daniel Derr was a son of Peter Derr, all the facts at hand point that way. According to family tradition his parents died when he was quite young, and he was put out among strangers to shift for himself. For some years he lived with a family named Wolf, who cared for the lad with parental tenderness. Next he lived with a farmer named Doner, in West Pennsboro, with whom he received a course of training that specially fitted him for the success which he afterward attained at tilling the soil. On reaching manhood’s years he married, and in 1823 began farming in West Pennsboro. He continued to farm rented land until in 1835, when he bought, from Nicholas Howard, of Newville, a farm in Newton township, two miles due west of Newville, upon which he lived till to the end of his active days.

Daniel Derr was married four times. His first wife was a Miss Bowers, who died shortly after their marriage and left no children. Her remains are buried in the graveyard of the Brick Church, in Frankford township. He next married a sister of his first wife, who bore him two children, Elizabeth, who married John Lay; and Samuel, who married Nancy Wolf, had five children, and some thirty years ago moved to Indiana. Daniel Derr’s second wife died while yet a young woman, and he afterward married Elizabeth Diehl, who bore him the following children: John Amos, who married Elizabeth Wolf, and had nine children, four boys and five girls; Matilda, who married Samuel Minnich, and had five daughters; Ferdinand; Daniel M., who married Eliza Minnich, and had five children, Reuben, Jane, David, John and Matilda; Isaac, who married (first) Fanny Shuler (by whom he had one son, Emanuel McClellan), (second) a Miss Guthrie (who bore him one son, William), and (third) Mrs. Elizabeth (Oyler) Hays (who bore him two sons). Isaac Derr twenty-seven years ago moved to the West, and those of his descendants who survive are living somewhere in Colorado. Elizabeth (Diehl) Derr, Daniel Derr’s third wife, is buried in Prospect Hill cemetery near Newville, and he afterward married Mrs. Barbara (Brehm) Hefflefinger, by whom he had no issue. Daniel Derr died Sept. 2, 1876, in Newville, at the age of eighty years, three months and two days. The remains of both himself and wife Barbara are interred in the Prospect Hill cemetery.

Ferdinand Derr, the third child and second son of Daniel and Elizabeth (Diehl) Derr, was born Nov, 7, 1828, in West Pennsboro township. He grew to manhood on the farm and followed farming in the townships of Newton, Penn and West Pennsboro, while health and strength remained to him. He relinquished farming in 1879, and in his retirement lived in the families of his different children, some of whom reside in Cumberland county, and the others in Holt county, Missouri.

Ferdinand Derr married Mary Kissinger, who was born Sept. 22, 1824, daughter of Major Joseph Kissinger, of West Pennsboro township. They became the parents of the following children: (1) Ezemiah Jane, born Nov. 7, 1852, died July 25, 1893; (2) Thomas McKinney, born April 9, 1854; (3) William Alexander, born April 4, 1856; (4) Sarah Emma, born Aug. 10, 1858; (5) Joseph Kissinger, born June 20, 1860; (6) Linn McCullough, born Dec. 28, 1861. Mary (Kissinger) Derr died Nov. 21, 1872, and Ferdinand Derr, her husband, died Jan. 19, 1904. Both are buried in Prospect Hill cemetery near Newville.

Thomas McKinney Derr, the second child of Ferdinand and Mary (Kissinger) Derr, was born in Newton township. During his minority he remained at home helping on the various farms which during his long career as a farmer his father at different times occupied. He attended the country district school but as the farm and its affairs required much of the boy’s time, his scholastic training was but meager. While yet a boy he turned his attention to the growing of live stock, and finding that money could be made by the judicious handling of stock he engaged at buying and selling it. His first transactions were few and small but they grew in number and importance by easy stages, and by the time he reached the years of mature manhood he was a full fledged stock dealer. Soon after he married he began farming on his own account and has engaged at that vocation most of the time since, but whether at farming or any other occupation he continued to buy and sell stock, and has long enjoyed the reputation of being one of Cumberland county’s most popular and successful stock dealers.

On March 1, 1877, Thomas M. Derr married Wilhelmina Rebecca Smith, daughter of George O. and Susan (Stickle Smith, of West Pennsboro township. In the spring of 1878 he began farming on the Henry Bitner farm, situated on the State Road, two and one-half miles west from Carlisle. A year later he moved to the farm of John H. Weaver’s heirs, one and one-half miles farther west on the State Road, where he farmed for six years. His wife died June 4, 1884, at the age of twenty-seven years and one month. The following spring he sold off his stock and farming implements, and removed to Carlisle where for one year he devoted his entire time to stock dealing. At the end of a year he resumed farming on the Andie Kerr farm at Middlesex where he farmed for one year. He then again sold off and a second time, for a short period, made his home in Carlisle.

On Sept. 16, 1886, Mr. Derr married for his second wife, Rebecca Jane Bird, of New Castle county, Del., who was born Sept. 4, 1858, daughter of Lewis and Elizabeth (Webster) Bird, whose mother was a daughter of Clark and Elizabeth (Abbot) Webster, of Delaware, and who is of English ancestry both by her paternal and her maternal lines. About this time Mr. Derr bought the hotel property at Plainfield, and for eight years kept hotel, but during that time also continued dealing in stock. On relinquishing hotel keeping he bought a home close by the hotel, and, moving to it, lived there for three years. His business prospered, and being able to make other investments he bought the property in West Pennsboro township long known as the Wolf farm, and later the Newcomer farm near the Conedoguinet creek, on the north side of the same township.

The Derr family for generations were Democrats, and Thomas M., being active and energetic in the affairs of his party naturally was suggested and urged for public position. West Pennsboro is a Republican district, but he was elected one of its school directors, and rendered faithful and satisfactory service. Through his political activity and extensive stock dealing his acquaintanceship spread, his name came to be used in connection with county office, and in June, 1903, he was nominated for sheriff by a large majority, carrying every township excepting one and every borough excepting Carlisle. The campaign which followed was hotly contested, but he was elected by a majority of 161, and, on the first Monday of 1904, was formally inducted as sheriff of Cumberland county, in which capacity he is now serving.

Thomas M. Derr by his first marriage had one child, Henry Smith, who married Minnie Catharine Mentzer, a daughter of Francis and Mary (Drawbaugh) Mentzer, who was born in Frankford township. They live in Plainfield, and the young man is in the employ of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company at Enola at lucrative wages.

By his second marriage Mr. Derr had children as follows: Clark Webster, born Aug. 28, 1896; and Annie Van Camp, who was born April 26, 1898. Also Mary Elizabeth, Clark Baldwin and Eleanor Hetrick, who died in infancy. Mr. Derr is not a communicant member of any church, but his religious predilections through inheritance are Lutheran, as his parents and his grandparents before him were members of that denomination. His present wife belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church, as did her parents before her.

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This family biography is one of numerous biographies included in the Biographical Annals of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania published in 1905 by The Genealogical Publishing Company. 

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