From the Biographical Encyclopedia of Juniata Valley:
JOHN SHAEFFER was born near McKees, Snyder County, Pa., in 1819, and had the misfortune to lose his father when quite young. Being the eldest of the children, much of the care of the family fell upon him. He early went out from home to make his own way and assist in the support of the family. In those days, when so much clearing was to be done, even very young boys could make themselves useful at such jobs as picking and burning brush. At the age of seven years, he found employment with Mr. Shetterly, of Snyder County, and at first worked for his board; but Mr. Shetterly soon saw that he was an industrious and energetic boy, and was quite willing to pay him wages, which he turned over to his mother. He was ingenious as well as industrious. In order to make the soil slide off of the wooden mould board of the plow more freely, he tacked the skin of an animal over it. All farming implements were of a primitive character in those early days. First sleds were used for hauling the grain to the barn. Next the ends of large logs were sawed off, out of which wheels were made for the primitive wagon, and finally, the modern wheel made with spoke and hub and felloe made its appearance. Mr. Shaeffer used the first cast metal plow brought to that part of the country. The grain was transported in bags on the backs of horses to the mill near Duncannon to be ground.
On account of the care of the family being thrown upon him, Mr. Shaeffer was able to attend school only seven weeks, in which time he learned to read and write, and acquired a little arithmetic. He remained with Mr. Shetterly until he was fifteen years old, and then went to Dauphin County, Pa., where he found employment on the construction of the Wiconisco Canal. While engaged at one place in working in a tunnel a body of earth fell upon him, breaking one leg in three places, and the other in two places, and also breaking one finger; these injuries disabled him for one year. After his recovery, he came to Perry County, Pa., and was employed by Jacob Kline, in a distillery near Liverpool, where for about three years he was engaged in driving a team. After this, he returned to Snyder County, Pa., and learned coopering with his brother-in-law, Mr. Newman, near McKees, Pa. After learning his trade he worked with Mr. Newman a number of years, under the arrangement that he was to make two barrels per day, that being considered a fair day?s work with the crude materials then employed. This arrangement continued until about 1840, when Mr. Shaeffer removed to Fremont, Pa., and married Sophia German, a native of that place, and a daughter of John Garman, a farmer and distiller. Here he remained and did the cooper work for his father-in-law?s distillery, and later operated a distillery himself. His next removal was to a point three miles south, where he bought a little land along the Mahantongo Creek, near Shadells Mill, which he later sold, and went to farming for Judge Leight for two years, after which he cultivated the farm of Michael Shetterly for three years and then farmed for Judge Weiser three years more. At this time, his wife inherited a little money from her father?s estate, with which they bought a tract of land, mostly covered with timber, in Susquehanna Township, Juniata County, Pa., which he and his sons cleared and brought into tillable condition. Here Mr. Shaeffer was engaged in farming until his death, which occurred very suddenly April 2, 1882. On the morning of this day he rose full of life and in the best of spirits. After breakfast, he went to the woodpile and taking up the axe to chop, had made but two strokes when he fell to the ground, and expired in a few minutes. Mr. Shaeffer was a member of the Lutheran church. He voted with the Democratic Party. His wife remained a widow a few years and then married Perry Hare, of Snyder County; they now reside on the farm in Juniata County, Pa. When the children were young, their mother made all their clothes, spinning and weaving her materials. She made each child one suit each year. The suit for the first year was kept for Sunday wear and for all dress occasions, and for the second year it became the everyday and working suit. The mother still survives and enjoys perfect health. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Shaeffer are: one that died young, unnamed; Israel E.; Edward G., married Miss Melinda Weiser, and resides in Oriental, Juniata County, Pa.; Percival, married Angeline Heckart, of Dauphin County, Pa., resides on a farm in Juniata County, Pa.; Johnny (so he was christened), died aged seventeen years; Mary Ann, died aged five years; Barbara Ann (Mrs. Aaron Karstetter), of Juniata County, Pa.; Susan (Mrs. Charles Fritz), of Akron, O.; Sarah Ann (Mrs. Absalom Barnet), resides near Oriental, Pa.; and Annie Sophia (Mrs. Houghenbrought), resides in Lykens Valley, Dauphin County, Pa.Page: 1299-1301