How Germantown Road Got Its Name

Kellerhals Family Held Sway At Dutchtown Community Beyond Missionary Ridge

Thursday, September 8, 2011 - by John Wilson

When Judge Lewis Shepherd was writing in 1916 about "Hamilton County Towns, Villages and Localities And Queer Facts About Origin of Their Names," he had to include a short section on "Dutchtown".

He wrote, "This is a prosperous German and Swiss settlement of which Jacob Kellerhals is the kaiser. He has one of the largest dairies and dairy farms in the county, which is complete in all its appointments."

A 1920 map of Chattanooga shows "Dutchtown Road" above where Main Street climbs Missionary Ridge. It is shown branching off going east from Idlewild Road along the path of the current Navajo Trail toward the current Germantown Road. Dutchtown Road was eventually changed to Germantown Road for the north-south section of the road that now links Brainerd and East Ridge.

Katherine Kellerhals Boyles, the family historian, said the farmstead was set back from the road in a large yard in the vicinity of what is now 215 S. Germantown. It is just a short distance north of Navajo Drive. She said the home and barns were on the west side of Germantown Road and two houses built for farm helpers were on the east side of the road.

The Lerch family lived nearby and one of the Kellerhals children married into the Lerch family. George Lerch was a pallbearer at the funeral of Jacob Kellerhals. There is a Lerch Road in the vicinity. The Staub family was also in the Dutchtown community.

Jacob Kellerhals spoke German, but the family actually was from Switzerland. He was born in 1860 in Niederbipp in the canton of Bern. Peter Kellerhals has traced the paternal line in Switzerland back to Johann Kellerhals, who was born in 1514.

Jacob married Julia Sagasser, who was also from the vicinity of Bern. Julia's sister, Louise, married Mike Warner, and they moved across the ocean to New York City. Jacob and Julia determined to immigrate as well, and they arrived in New York in 1883, staying first with the Warners.

Jacob's ultimate destination, however, was the South. He had an uncle, another Jacob Kellerhals, who had a farm at Belvidere near Winchester, Tn. Jacob and Julia visited with them, then headed for Chattanooga.

There they rented with a Swiss family, the Borns, who had a large, brick two-story house. Julia and Mrs. Born remained fast friends and would often visit together at Dutchtown.

Jacob took a job at a bakery at 412 E. Eighth St. so it was decided to move closer. The family rented a house on Sixth Street on the side of Cameron Hill. Nora Crimmins, the proprietress of the bakery, would help Jacob with his English after the work was done. Jacob insisted that his children speak only English.

A daughter, Mary Louise, was born while the family was living on the side of Cameron Hill and her health was not good. A doctor advised that the child would be much better off out of the smoky city and in the fresh air of the country. It so happened that there was a small farm for sale beyond Missionary Ridge with a large barn and a nice large house near Water Tower Ridge. It was offered at a bargain price of $1,000 by Nicholas and Christina Sterchi. The Sterchis were also dairy farmers from Switzerland. Mrs. Sterchi died in 1887. Jacob was frugal and had saved much of his wages, so the purchase was made.

The Kellerhals children were John, Mary Louise, Jacob T., Anna Rose, Charles Arthur (Charlie) and Conrad Oscar (Connie). And they also took in two cousins, Eva and Sam Kellerhals. They were children of Samuel Kellerhals of Belvidere, who married Lucy Everett. Samuel died when the two children were quite young. Lucy then married Mr. Wilkins, who brought them to Mack Smith Road in East Ridge, but Lucy then died leaving the children in Wilkins' care. Little Eva, unhappy with the step-father, had walked by herself from Mack Smith Road to Dutchtown, and her brother later joined her.

The Kellerhals children attended Sunnyside School, which was on N. Germantown Road one block north of Brainerd Road. Jacob was fond of reading aloud to the children from magazines and books, and they would sometimes correct his faulty English.

Julia was "a woman of culture, fond of good music and one who enjoyed the best in literature and books." However, it was noted that "spare moments were at rare intervals with the good woman, for she was helpmeet in the truest sense of the term. She was happiest in her work, which began at dawn and seemingly never ended."

At Dutchtown, Jacob Kellerhals operated a model farm. Jacob had a large herd of cattle and ran a very successful dairy operation. Jacob built what was reputed to be the first silo in the area, and he later built a second silo beside the first one. He read in the Ohio Farmer about how to build the silo and so was able to instruct a local contractor. The girls worked in the creamery, while the boys helped with the farming and delivering bottles of milk into town.

Jacob had a large strawberry patch on the side of the Ridge, and it was a popular spot for several weeks each summer when the berries ripened. Carl Phitzer said he always looked forward to that time of year when the Kellerhals had a fresh strawberry crop. Phitzer was from a German-speaking family, but he was a Chattanooga business man who spoke perfect English.

The farm also included a large orchard and sizable vegetable garden. Jacob Kellerhals also kept bees. On one occasion, a grandson, Charles Kellerhals, decided to help himself to honey like his grandpa did, and he almost died from the stings.

The farm included a large vineyard, and Jacob made home-made wine in the cellar. Sunday afternoons were open house at the Kellerhals farm, and wine was served to the guests along with cakes and pastries. Emil Zahnd would ride his bicycle from St. Elmo on Sundays to enjoy the Kellerhals hospitality.

The family had a horse-drawn milk wagon for many years, then later got a motorized one with the name Kellerhals Farm emblazoned on the side.

Julia's health finally gave out in 1919. Then Jacob Kellerhals passed in 1924 after a long illness. Julia and Jacob are buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in St. Elmo very near where they lived when they first came to Chattanooga.

There were so many heirs that it was necessary to sell the family farm. Katherine Boyles says she does not know what happened to the farmhouse, barns and silos, but they are no longer standing.

Several of the boys kept on the dairying tradition. After the sale, there was a "cattle drive" conducted by Charlie and Connie from Dutchtown along Brainerd Road and East Brainerd Road to a dairy on Ooltewah-Ringgold Road. Charlie operated that dairy and Connie was the deliveryman. Jacob T. Kellerhals earlier had started State Line Dairy near Lake Winnepesaukah. Charlie later started a dairy on Dietz Road, where his daughter, Katherine Boyles, still lives.

John lived out of state and Connie finally moved to Miami. Jacob Kellerhals married Clara Lerch. Charlie married Kate Gothard. Mary Louise married a Westbrook and then a Gugelman and lived at Winchester, and Anna married William Leverich.

Jacob and Clara had William George, Robert Conrad and Clara Marie. Robert's widow, Margaret Cotter Kellerhals, still lives on a part of the farm near Winnepesaukah that Jake and Clara moved to when they first married. Robert and Margaret's son, Con Kellerhals, was a teacher at Ringgold High School and later the principal of Lakeview-Fort
Oglethorpe High School. His wife, Beth Kellerhals, was superintendent of Catoosa County Schools for several years. They have a son, Jacob. This Jacob and his wife also have a son named Jacob so the Jacob Kellerhals name is being carried on.

Charlie's children, in addition to Katherine, were Charles Arthur Kellerhals, Jr., Julia Louise, Henry Gothard Kellerhals and Nancy Rose Kellerhals. Henry Gothard Kellerhals, Jr. and his two sons, Henry Gothard Kellerhals, lll and Charles Robert Kellerhals, all live in Catoosa County.


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