This is the story of my Great-Grandfather’s mysterious death, probably at the hands of his second wife. But rather than start with his suspected murder, it helps to know how John Thomas Wacaster (1848 – 1916) arrived at his destiny. When you have all the available facts, suspicions and assumptions, perhaps you, too, can answer that burning question: Was It Murder?
In 1747, several Weckesser family members stepped off the ship Restauration in Philadelphia. The family name was originally German and pronounced with a V instead of a W ... as if you were saying Veckesser ... but by the time they arrived in America, their ancestry was a mixture of German, English, Irish and Scot. That early on, it’s a safe bet the line was predominantly German, though that would change as the decades went by.
In any event, they almost immediately began procreating and changing their name. The reasons for the name changes were legion, but certainly included illiteracy, ignorance, carelessness, semi-literate census takers who spelled the name phonetically, just plain downright stupidity and on and on.
Criminal acts could have easily been a part of it as well. There is an unsubstantiated story that several Wacaster (who knows what the surname was at that time) brothers were working in a coal mine when they got into a fight, killed seven (!) miners and then took off headed south, changing their name in the process. Whether the story is true or not is irrelevant, but it does stand as a testament to the Wacaster’s wanderlust and predilection for the nearest fight.
In any event, over the next 101 years, the name would be variously spelled Wacasey, Waycasey, Wacaser, Waycaser, Way Caster, possibly Wau Kaiser, Waycaster and ... finally... Wacaster. Incidentally, the name changes didn’t occur in an orderly fashion. More than one nuclear family produced seven or eight kids and spelled the children’s last names two or three different ways. Thus you could have Wacaster, Waycaster and Wacaser in the same family in spite of every child having the same parents. Is it any wonder genealogy tends to give you a hernia of the mind? But I digress.