Peter Colter was among the among the earliest homeowners in the unofficial subdivision of Georgetown called Wilberforce. The house, at the intersection of High Street and German Street––i.e. Wisconsin Avenue, across from W Place––can be traced to 1809, and may have been one of the first houses built in what is now Glover Park. Peter Colter’s son-in-law, Daniel Scheele, lived in the same house.
The Colters and the Scheeles were Catholic, and some of their descendants are buried in Holy Rood Cemetery.
Peter Colter was born sometime around 1775-1780; alternative spellings of his surname include Coulter, Culter, Caulter, and Golder. Colter’s Catholic connection to families named Kaltenbach, Blum, and Weiss, and his daughter’s marriage the German immigrant Augustus Daniel Scheele, all make it seem likely that Peter Colter was also a German immigrant.
Margaret Colter was born circa 1807, but––because of baptismal names––may be the same person as Mary Golder (1797), or Elizabeth Culter (1801), in the following records, which are the first appearances of Peter Colter in local records:
Baptized Mary Golder, born October 12, 1797, of Peter & Mary Golder, living in Mongummery County; sponsors include Mary Caldenbauch. (Holy Trinity Baptisms and Marriages 1795-1805, p.31)
Peter Colter, sponsor, with Mary Caldebau, of a child born in “Tenelle” (Tenleytown), April 14, 1798. (Holy Trinity Baptisms and Marriages 1795-1805, p.49)
Baptized Elizabeth Culter, born May 28, 1801 of Peter and Mary Culter, living in Montgomery County; godmother Elizabeth Bloom. (Holy Trinity Baptisms and Marriages 1795-1805, p.79)
Peter & Mary Culter, sponsors of child Mary Wise, daughter of Phillip and Hariat Wise, January 26, 1801 (Holy Trinity Baptisms and Marriages 1795-1805, pp.103, 109)
Peter Colter also had a son, (John) Peter Colter, born in 1786;
Pertteram [?] Colter is apprenticed to Georgetown College until October 5, 1807, when he will be 21, by Peter Colter of Georgetown, to learn shoemaking. (DC Apprenticeships, August 4, 1802)
Peter “Colter” apprentices his son Peter “Coulter” with John Hemler to learn the trade of hatter. (DC Apprenticeships, April 14, 1810)
Runaway- Peter Colter, about 17 years of age, apprentice to hatting business. ––John Hemler, F Street. (National Intelligencer, April 27, 1811)
Mr. John Hemler, you advertised my son, Peter Colter, your apprentice to the hat business, as a runaway; your wife ordered him to Frederick to her relations there to learn the blacksmith business.––Peter Colter.” (National (Intelligencer, May 2, 1811)
Mary Ann Caulter, born November 12, 1818, of John P. and Ann Caulter; godmother, Mary Gertrude Caulter. (Holy Trinity Baptismal Register 1806-1834, p.36);
Margaret Jane Caulter, born May 21, 1821, of John P. & Ann Caulter; godmother, Margaret Caulter. (Holy Trinity Baptismal Register 1806-1834, p.36).
John Peter Colter never appears in DC census as a head of household, and may have left DC after 1821.
1807 Georgetown assessments: Peter Colter, a tenant of Susannah Johns, Water Street, Georgetown, taxed for one cow, and furniture, but no land.
In 1806 the Rev. Stephen Bloomer Balch, of Bridge Street Presbyterian Church, began selling lots at the northern end of the city of Georgetown, in the now-forgotten village of Wilberforce, on the east side of High Street (Wisconsin Avenue), just north of what is now Whitehaven Parkway.
At the northern end of the subdivision, more or less across from W Place NW, was a street that Rev. Balch named German Street, perhaps with the intention of attracting immigrant buyers.
1808 Georgetown assessment: Peter Colter, taxed for part of lot 254 in Beatty and Hawkins Addition to Georgetown, 60’ on High Street; two lots, on High and German Streets, and on German Street and Congo Lane, improved, worth $125. No house is mentioned.
March 1809, Peter Coulter assigns a two-story frame house on High Street, and two lots of land to Henry Crouse, unless he can pay $50 within one year, by March, 1810. Colter then pays Rev. Balch $55 for two lots in “a village which [Balch] has laid off near Georgetown, called Wilberforce”, part of lot 254 in Beatty and Hawkins Addition to Georgetown. Final payment: Balch to Coulter, January 3, 1816, part of lot 254 in Beatty and Hawkins Addition to Georgetown, “now laid out in a town called Wilberforce”.
(DC Libers V21 (1808) f.271/194; V21 (1808) f.273/195; AL36 (1816) f.10)
Peter Colter to Jonathan Hollingshead, both of Washington County, August 13, 1810: Colter puts his two lots, and his property, including corn, meal, and liquor, as security to borrow $400 for two years. (DC Liber Y24 (1810) f.469/416)
Peter Colter, Georgetown assessment, 1813: part of 254, 60’ on High Street, frame house, $160.
Peter Colter, 1814, Captain Richard S. Briscoe’s Company, 3rd Battalion, first Legion of Militia; but which Peter Colter, father or son? (Hines, Recollections p.81)
Lost.––On the road through High Street, Georgetown, a small Pocketbook. -Peter Colter, Washington City.
(National Intelligencer, March 8, 1815)
A transaction in 1817 brings together Peter Colter and his future son-in-law, and also suggests that Colter originally earned a living with a liquor still (as does the 1810 Hollingshead transaction above):
Peter Coulter to Augustus Daniel Scheele, both of Washington County, for $300, two lots “ in a village laid off by the Rev. Mr. Balch in George Town called Wilberforce”. Coulter also sells Scheele his stock in trade, consisting of coarse liquors. (DC Liber AN38 (1817) f.389)
Peter Colter appears as a head of household in the1820 census: he is over 45 years of age, as is his wife. They have a daughter who is under 26.
The 1830 Directory of Georgetown lists Peter Colter, on High street, as a gardener.
The 1830 census shows that the Colter-Scheele household consists of six people, and the head of household is 40-50 years old.
Peter Colter is in Georgetown assessments of 1835, but not in the 1840 census.
Augustus Daniel Scheele
(In many records only Daniel is entered; Augustus appears to have been a baptismal name.) Augustus Daniel Scheele was born in Gifhorn or Helmstedt, Lower Saxony, March 20, 1780, and came to this country circa 1800, when he was around twenty.
Family tradition tells of two brothers who immigrated, that the brothers’ passage was paid by a Georgetown miller in return for a period of indenture. (The 1850 census, however, lists Scheele as a blacksmith.)
An index of the registers of the First German Reformed Church, Frederick, Maryland, lists an Andrew Schiely, married to Maria Apolonia Schiely. (DAR Library, Library of Congress)
By 1804 Scheele was in Georgetown: Daniel Schyly leases from Abner Ritchie, part of lot 20 of Beatty and Hawkins Addition to Georgetown, 20’ fronting on High Street. (DC Liber M12 ff.24/24)
Ledger pages; the second page appears to record proven (“Probatum”) remedies for curing a lame horse––perhaps connected with Scheele’s original calling as a blacksmith––containing nitric acid (“Scheidewasser”) and mercury (“Quicksilber”), almonds (“Mandeln”), and Spanish Fly (“Spansche fliegen”). (Courtesy of a descendant.)
In 1812, family tradition has it, Scheele managed Captain Jones’ farm and the Jones Mill, while the owner went to war. Daniel Sheely was listed in 1813 in Captain Richard S. Briscoe’s Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, DC Militia. Family tradition has him as a participant in the Battle of Bladensburg, and that he received a land grant of 160 acres in Ohio for his service. (Hines, Recollections p.79; index of War of 1812 veterans, National Archives)
Letter from a brother in Altona, Hamburg, to August Daniel Scheele, in Georgetown, D.C., April 26, 1819. (Courtesy of a descendant.)
Daniel Scheele married Margaret Coulter, Holy Trinity Church, Georgetown, April 16, 1828. Witnesses included their neighbors, William Kuhns and Sarah Riffle. (Trinity Church Marriage Register; DC Marriages, May 1, 1828).
Scheele was 48, and probably a convert to Catholicism; Margaret was 21. Scheele family tradition has it that, as a young man, he had rocked the cradle of his future wife. (That the immigrant Scheele was on such close terms with the Colters is one of the signs that the Colters were immigrants too.)
The 1830 Directory of Georgetown lists Peter Colter, on High street, as a gardener. The 1830 census shows that the Colter-Scheele household consists of six people, and the head of household is 40-50 years old. The fourth and fifth members of this household may have been Andrew Frederick Scheele, born circa 1828, died 1888; and Peter Augustus Daniel Shely, born November 8, 1830, died June 25, 1831. (Holy Trinity Baptismal Register 1806-1834, p.189; Holy Trinity Death Register, p.48) Daniel Augustin Scheele was born 1835, died 1886.
A.D. Sheele, 71, blacksmith, born Germany;
Wife, M. Sheele, age 49, born Germany;
Two sons, 21 and 14: census taker says first one was born Germany, second born Georgetown, DC.
(This census entry probably represents guesses as to birthplace, and may be the origin of the error that Margaret was born in Germany, at a time when her parents were clearly already in America.)
Augustus D. Scheele died in 1859, his wife in 1861; they are both are buried in Holy Rood Cemetery.
Andrew Frederick Scheele
1860 census: A.F. Scheill, age 24, master butcher, born DC, wife Mary, age 20, daughter Alice, age 9 months.
Tradition has it that, late in the Civil War, Andrew Scheele paid $300 for a substitute.
Frederick Sheele, 1865 assessment: 2 story frame house and slaughterhouse.
1870 census: Sheely, Andrew F., 41, beef butcher. Georgetown directory: 378 High street.
(I am indebted to Mary Lee Dante, a descendant.)
Post Script: The Colter-Scheele House
Some time after 1865, the Colter-Scheele house, visible on maps just south of German Street, on the east side of Wisconsin, became the property of Theodore Barnes. These transactions may be relevant: DC Liber JAS161 (1858) f.481/361; JAS168 f.25/20 (Georgetown Courier, November 25, 1871)
In 1871 Barnes built a house at 2433––later 2133––Wisconsin Avenue. “Theo. Barnes is building a fine frame dwelling opposite the residence of Henry Weaver, on Pole Hill.” (Georgetown Courier, May 6, 1871).
Barnes was in the meat business, and the old Colter-Scheele house that stood on his property was apparently rented to a butcher that Barnes employed. In fact, the 1880 census, and the 1888 directory, show a butcher named Samuel D. Knott at 362 High Street, next to Theodore Barnes.
In 1907 Benjamin Woodruff, Theodore Barnes’s son-in-law, built two houses in Theodore Barnes’ Subdivision of 1894, and needed to remove the old house that stood in the way. “P.M. Ulrick has purchased the frame residence on Wisconsin avenue, long occupied by Samuel Knott, and will relocate the building on V street, in Burleith. On the site now occupied by the Knott house, Ben Woodruff will erect two houses of modern design.” (“START BUILDING BOOM!: Real Estate Men Look for Increased Activity”, Washington Post, March 24, 1907, p.R2)
“BURLEITH––Edgar O. Blackman et ux to Peter. M. Ulrich, $10: part of lot 4, block 141.” (“Real Estate Transfers”, Washington Post, April 2, 1907, p.11)
The proportions of the house built by Peter M. Ulrich on lot 4, block 141, on the north side of the 3500 block of S––formerly V––Street are dictated by the structural elements of the circa 1809 Colter-Scheele house moved from Wisconsin Avenue in 1907.
Post Script: The Scheele-Brown Farmhouse
Andrew Scheele sold his High Street land to the Weaver family. During a period of financial difficulty the large family moved, several times: to Foxhall Road, then to Tunlaw Road, then to Tenleytown, and finally to Foxhall Road again.
In 2013 an application was submitted to the District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office to obtain Historic District Designation for Andrew Scheele’s 1865 house at 2207 Foxhall Road NW. Historic designation was granted in 2017.
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