Jacob Oesch was born December 26, 1846 in The Republic of Bern, Switzerland. Jacob’s father, Samuel, arrived in the United States in March of 1852, sailing from France to the port of New York. With him was his wife Elizabeth Catherine (Wittwer), sons Jacob, Samuel and Godfried, written “Freds” on the ships records.
They settled in Jefferson Township, Tuscarawas County, Ohio an area where many of his fellow countrymen were settling. Samuel and family did not speak English, but rather a form of German called Schwyzerdutsch. Even persons that spoke other forms of German found it hard to understand. They were Amish-Mennonites, many of whom settled in eastern Pennsylvania and in “Ohio’s Amish Country,” which Tuscarawas County borders.
At age eighteen, Jacob volunteered for service in the Army at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio with the 182nd Regiment. Men were needed to fill the 183rd Ohio at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati and he was transferred there into the last company, company K. On November 18, 1864 he mustered in and according to family legend, his name was misunderstood or misspelled by the staff. Now Jacob Ash, it is said he signed his papers with an X. Legend also says that Jacob’s older brother Samuel paid Jacob to go into the army for him. When the authorities came to question Samuel about not serving he ran and was gunned down. Samuel was three years older than Jacob and he is not referenced in any later family records.
Following Jacob’s service he returned to Ohio and Auburn Township near his parents, where he lived and worked at the John and Margaret Steiner dairy farm. Affidavits, later submitted, swore to the difficulties Jacob had working. Rheumatism, pain from wound incurred at The Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, and partial deafness left him unable to keep up with other workers, thus often earning half as much pay. In 1874 he married Mary Miller. They had twelve children, ten of whom lived to adulthood. He became a carpenter and it was he and Simon Neff who are credited for building the Lutheran Church in Ragersville. The contract award was for $805.00. The church, which survives and is now the Historical Museum, was built in 1897, five years before his death at 55 years old. Jacob died Mar. 21, 1902 of a cardiac arrest.