Maria Margaretha Grubler (1748-1823), A Woman of Steel Resolve,52 Ancestors #129

Maria Margaretha Grubler or Gribler (present day spelling) was born on May 4th, 1748 and baptized the same day in Beutelsbach, Wurttemberg, Germany to Johann George Grubler and Katharina Nopp, both also of Beutelsbach. This family is indexed incorrectly at Ancestry, under the surname Brabler and a wide variety of other ways as well that don’t remotely resemble their actual surnames.

Maria margaretha Grubler

We don’t know much about Maria Margaretha’s youth, except that she was Lutheran much as everyone else in Beutelsbach, and she was an only child – a rare occurrence in a time when pregnancies routinely occurred every 18-24 months and there was little, if anything, one could do to prevent that aside from abstinence.

Like other German girls, she was likely called by her middle name, Margaretha – an enchanting and beautiful name.

Margaretha may have originally been a Scandinavian name, where it means pearl. It’s found in some format in almost all European languages.

Beutelsbach has provided an invaluable service to genealogists seeking their family by reassembling the historical families from church and other records and providing the information online, and for free.

Maria Margaretha Grubler history

These records allow us to search specifically at Ancestry in their Wurttemberg Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriage and Burials, 1500-1985 (which includes Buetelsbach) records collection for events like baptisms, marriages, births of children and burials. In German families in the 1700s, these are the activities and events that defined your life, especially if you were a female.

Margaretha grew up in this small village of just a few hundred people not far from the Rems River, where the hillsides sloped upwards and were filled with grapevines and vineyards. Beutelsbach is dab smack in the middle of the German wine region and the countryside is dotted with small villages, either within sight of each other or nearly so – scattered just far enough apart to have their own church and for people to walk to the nearby vineyards to work daily. In German villages, people lived centrally and walked a mile or so to their fields, or the fields they rented or worked for the landowners, the gentry. In Beutelsbach, the people who owned the fields would have lived in the Manor House, up on the hillside, overlooking the village. You can see the manor house in the drawing below.  Today, the manor house is a hotel and conference center.  I’d love to visit!

Beutelsbach 1598

This beautiful view of Beutelsbach from 1598 was found in the forest register books created by Andreas Kieser. It probably didn’t look much different in 1748 when Maria Margaretha was born.

Beutelsbach and other nearly small villages have been joined together today administratively as the city of Weinstadt.

Margaretha’s father, Johann Georg Grubler, died on November 27, 1764 when he was 55 and she was 16 years old.  They buried him the next day.  This was probably Maria Margaretha’s first dealing with death up close and personal, as two of her grandparents died before she was born, one died a year after her birth and one when she was 4, so she never knew her grandparents – nor would she remember their funerals.

Grubler, Johann Georg 1764

Church records don’t reflect any additional children for Maria Margaretha’s parents, but it would be highly unusual for a couple in that time who clearly could have children to have only one child. However, information unearthed by my friendly German genealogist, Tom, indicates that Maria Margaretha’s mother didn’t marry until she was 37 years old, on October 26, 1745, had Maria Margaretha in May 1748, at age 40, and never conceived another child. Knowing this, the fact that Maria Margaretha had no siblings makes a lot more sense – but she was probably the only “only child” in the entire village!

Eight years after Margaretha’s father’s death, she married Jakob Lenz, a vinedresser, on November 3, 1772. Given that Jakob’s parents had also lived in Beutelsbach their entire lives, Jakob and Margaretha likely had known each other since they were small children playing in the sunshine. They were only 3 months apart in age and were 24 years old when they married.JakobLenzmarriage

The document above, from the Lutheran church in Beutelsbach shows their marriage record.  It says they were “married the 18th Sunday after Trinity and that Jacob Lenz was the legitimate unmarried son of the citizen and vinedresser, Jacob Lentz from here.  Maria Margaretha is the legitimate unmarried daughter of the late Johann George Grubler, citizen and vinedresser from here.”

So both of their fathers worked in those vineyards above Beutelsbach. Their fathers had probably known each other their entire lives as well.

While Margaretha’s father didn’t join them on their wedding day, he was nearby, most likely buried in the churchyard just outside. The cemetery beside the church was the burial site for the House of Wurttemberg until 1311 when the official burials took place in Stuttgart. Certainly the local people continued to use the church burial ground.

Jakob Lenz and Maria Margaretha Grubler had 9 children, their first child being born just days after their first wedding anniversary.

  • Katharina Barbara Lenz was born November 17, 1773 and died September 4, 1817 in Beutelsbach of epilepsy. She never married. This makes me wonder if she was epileptic for her entire life. I expect she lived with her parents. Perhaps it was a blessing that she died before they did.

Lenz, Katharina Barbara birth

Katharina Barbara’s birth and baptism records are shown above, and death entry in the church records, below.

Lenz, Katharina Barbara death

Katharina Barbara’s parents, now age 69 would have weeped beside their firstborn child’s grave. They buried their first child 44 years after she was born. They buried their second-born within weeks of his birth.

Lenz, Jakob 1775 birth

Jakob’s birth record above, and death entry in the church records, below.

Lenz, Jakob 1775 death

On a late summer’s day, holding their first-born daughter, now 22 months old and perhaps with epilepsy, they would have buried their son, not yet 6 weeks old. This was not a happy family portrait.

  • Maria Magdalena Lenz was born October 1, 1776 and died November 1, 1849 in Beutelsbach of weakness of old age. She too never married.

Lenz, Maria Magdalena birth

Maria Magdalena’s birth is recorded above, and her death in the church records, below.

Lenz, Maria Magdalena death

  • Johannes Lenz was born January 16, 1779 in Beutelsbach and died October 29, 1813 in Beutelsbach. He was single and the cause of death; stickfluss (bronchitis or pneumonia). Occupation not given. Tom indicates that the word gebrachi is used which means frail or infirm, so he may never have been well.

Lenz, Johannes birth

Johannes’ birth record is shown above, and his death entry in the church records, below.

Lenz, Johannes death

Lenz, Philip Jakob birth

Philipp Jakob’s birth is shown in the records above, and his death, below. He lived to be almost 8 years old, past the dangerous first year or two. His parents must have been devastated at his death. His death record doesn’t indicate a cause of death.

Lenz, Philipp Jakob death

Maria Margaretha’s mother, herself a widow, likely lived very close to Margaretha, if not with Margaretha and Jakob. On July 26, 1781, Margaretha’s mother died. Being an only child, Margaretha would have laid her mother to rest beside her father who died 17 years earlier.

Nopp, Katharina death

Given that Maria Margaretha had no siblings, her mother’s death would have been her last immediate family member to pass over. Siblings help to cushion the blow, but with no siblings, Margaretha may have truly felt orphaned at 33.

On the other hand, with 4 living children at home, including a 3 month old infant, Maria Margaretha would have been very busy. Perhaps that was a good thing because she did not have time to dwell upon her mother’s death. On the other hand, in a small village, every time she would have passed by the house where she was raised, she would clearly have remembered her parents. Every Sunday attending church, she would pass by her parents graves. Did that make Maria Margaretha feel comforted that they were close, or sad that they were so close, yet so far away?

Life moved on, and Maria Margaretha continued to have 4 more children.

  • Jakob Lenz was born March 15, 1783 and left to emigrate to America just before his 34th birthday. This is my ancestor whose story is absolutely incredible. So incredible, in fact, that we had to tell the story in two parts, plus a third for his wife, Johanna Friedericka Ruhle whom he married on May 25, 1808 in Beutelsbach. The church records tell us that Jakob left with his family to immigrate on February 12, 1817.
  • Katharina Margaretha Lenz was born November 2, 1785, died January 6, 1858 and married Johann Conrad Gos on April 21, 1807 in Beutelsbach.

Lenz, Katharina Margaretha birth

Katharina Margaretha Lenz’s birth is shown above and her death is shown in the church records below.

Lenz, Katharina Margaretha death

At Katharina Margaretha’s death on January 6, 1858, she is listed as daughter of Jakob Lenz, vinedresser and Maria Griblerin, the trailing “in” often added to maiden names of single women.  Griberlin, the way it’s written, indicates that Gribler was her mother’s maiden, not married, name. Katharina Margaretha is also noted as the wife of Joh. Conrad Gos, bricklayer assistant who emigrated. She died of weakness of old age.

Katharina Margaretha had 5 children. Her husband, Johann Conrad left for Russia in 1817 where he died before the 1823 birth of Katharina’s last child, Jakob Freidrich Gos in Beutelsbach. Jakob Freidrich’s birth record is shown below.

Gos, Jakob Freidrich birth

Jacob Freiderich died in the poorhouse of emaciation and “wasting” in 1857, according to the church record below, which according to Tom, means he had tuberculosis. His occupation was that of a hafner (potter). He died the year before his mother.

Lenz, Jakob Freidrich death

It was initially unclear to me whether Jakob Freidrich was the son of Johann Conrad Goss, perhaps home for a visit, or the son of a different father. However, Tom translated the original records and answered that question, although it’s not exactly forthright.

Jakob Freidrich Gos’s baptismal record states:

Child’s parents: Katharina Margaretha, the late Konrad Gos, citizen and brickmaker, from here surviving widow.

The father according to the record extracts, noch ………..16 January 1824.

According to Tom, Jakob Friedrich Gos was considered illegitimate. His birth entry indicates his father was deceased and his death entry call him Jakob Friedrich Lenz, not Gos.

This is highly suggestive that Katharina Margaretha, while either married or a widow, conceived Jakob Freidrich and perhaps the clergy didn’t quite know what to say. Maybe the village knew Konrad Gos was dead, but didn’t know exactly when he died – and Katherina Margaretha wasn’t telling. Maybe the presumption of illegitimacy was not enough to pronounce Jakob Freidrich illegitimate at his birth.

However, the recording clerk or minister when Jakob Freidrich died 33 years later seemed to have no problem making that distinction by reverting him to his mother’s maiden name and labeling him “spurious,” meaning illegitimate.

In Tom’s words, “his father is clearly a mystery. If the child’s father acknowledged the birth at the time of his baptism or even later (in writing or as an affirmation to the minister), then the child would be considered legitimate. This was not done in this case as far as I can determine.”

We’ll never know for sure, because Jakob Freidrich Gos or Lenz never married, so never had children, at least none that we know about. If he had produced sons, we would have the possibility of Y DNA testing to see if his sons’ direct male descendants match Gos men or men by some other surname. Katharina Margaretha’s secret, if in fact it was a secret at all, has already gone to the grave. In a small village, there may have been very few true secrets.

While Katharina Margaretha was probably a bit scandalous as a widow bearing a child, we always have to consider the possibility that the conception wasn’t consensual and she may not have been the merry widow at all, but a victim. That would also be one reason the father would never have acknowledged the child.

Jakob Freidrich may never have been healthy, and Katharina Margaretha was apparently left to raise him alone. There was no happy ending to this story.

  • Johanna was born June 22, 1788 (although the Beutelsbach history information says July 2) and died October 10, 1788 in Beutelsbach.

Lenz, Johanna birth

Johanna’s birth record is shown above, and her death entry in the church book, below. Her mother only got to love her, in this world anyway, for three and a half months.

Lenz, Johanna death

  • Christina born January 1, 1793, died “8-13” but no year given. The Beutelsbach history information says “probably 1793,” but as it turns out, this was incorrect.

Lenz, Christina birth

Tom found Christina’s actual death record, shown below, on August 13, 1872 in Beutelsbach of cholera nostras, an acute bacterial disease caused by drinking fecally contaminated water.

There were cholera epidemics in Germany in both 1871 and 1873. The 1873 episode was noted as the worst cholera epidemic Germany had ever suffered. No cholera was listed in Germany for 1872, although obviously it was still lurking and was found in both Russia and Hungary in 1872. It’s only 400 miles from Beutelsbach to the border with Hungary, so that’s about the distance from Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC, an easy half day drive today.

Lenz, Christina death

Of Maria Margaretha and Jakob’s nine children:

  • 3 children, 2 boys and 1 girl, died as children at 2 months, 3 months and 8 years of age
  • 2 died as adults, but before their parents, having never married
  • 2 married and had children
  • The son who had children immigrated to America in 1817
  • The husband of the daughter who had children left for Russia in 1817
  • 2 daughters lived to adulthood but never married
  • Only 4 children outlived their parents
  • There were no sons left in Germany to care for either their aging mother or unmarried sisters upon the parents’ deaths
  • Two of Maria Margaretha’s sons were named Jakob. A third was named Philipp Jakob and was probably called Jakob. No confusion there!

It’s not terribly unusual in German records to name a second child the name of a child that died, but I still find that custom a bit disconcerting. In my very 20th Century American way of thinking, each child needs their own name so that you can remember and honor them properly.  How do you differentiate the first child Jakob who died from the second child Jakob who lived?  There were a total of 5 Jakobs in this family; grandfather, father, son who died, son who lived, son Philipp Jakob who would have been called Jakob, who also died, but after the second Jakob was born.  In other words, for a few years, they had two sons who would have been called Jakob.

When you speak about Jakob Lenz, for example, do you speak about the one who was born and died at just over 6 weeks of age in 1775 as “the first Jakob,” His father might have been referred to that way, or even his grandfather who was also Johann Jakob Lenz. Or do you refer to that first child as “the dead baby Jakob,” or do you just never refer to that child that passed? Unlike stillborn children or those who died shortly after death, the first Jakob survived for more than 6 weeks. Not in this family, but I have seen even a third child given that same identical name if the second child died. In this case, I suspect they wanted to have a child named Jakob after his father, and grandfather.

It’s somehow ironic that of 9 births recorded in the church records, only two of Margaretha’s children would give her grandchildren. One of those, Jacob left in 1817 for America, taking his four living children of course, who would have been ages 11, 8, 3 and 6 months old. Maria Margaretha never knew the rest of his children, born in America, and youngest two born in Germany would not have remembered their grandmother.

In 1775, Maria Margaretha buried her second-born child at about 6 weeks of age, in 1781 she buried her mother, then in 1788, she buried a child three months old. The next year, in 1789, another child died just before their 8th birthday. That must have been particularly difficult, because after infancy, you feel somewhat safe that they will survive.

Other than friends and distant family who lived in the village, Maria Margaretha had a reprieve for a few years, but the family deaths began again in October 1813 when her adult son, born in 1779 died of pneumonia.

Maria Margaretha would have stood by the small grave of her grandchild, Johannes, when they buried him five months later, on March 9th, 1814, a baby of 2 years and 3 months old, nearly the same age as one of her own children when she buried them. Another child she loved and lost.

A third grandchild, Elizabeth Katharina Lenz, died on the ship en route to America. In many ways, when Maria Margaretha kissed and hugged her grandchildren goodbye for the last time in the winter of 1817, they would have been functionally dead to her, given that she would never see them again. But receiving the letter that told of Elizabeth’s death, at age 4 or so, would have been devastating news. Maria Margaretha thought she was sending Elizabeth off to a new, better, life, not to a watery grave.

After son Jakob left for America in the later winter or early spring of 1817, he became shipwrecked in Norway in the fall after nearly starving to death on the high seas, and was stranded in Bergen, Norway for nearly another year. Surely, if Jakob was able to get a letter to Germany, Margaretha would have known about his predicament and been worried sick. Jakob and family managed to get themselves on another ship a year later, only to nearly perish on that voyage as well, and then had to sell themselves into indentured servitude to pay for their second passage after arrival in America.

Maybe Margaretha didn’t know those details. Maybe she did, afterwards, and was simply glad they were alive. Where there is life, there is hope. There were other Beutelsbach residents on those ill-fated ships as well, so Margaretha wasn’t alone in her grief.

In September of 1817, while Jakob’s ship was floundering on the high seas, Maria Margaretha buried another child, Katharina Barbara, who died of epilepsy at age 44. I have read accounts of people who died of increasingly worsening epileptic seizures and the reports are horrific. A small part of their brain is destroyed with each seizure and the damage is cumulative over the years, until they are often childlike, then infantile, as adults, ravaged by seizures they dread, terribly, can often feel beginning, and can do nothing to control. Maria Margaretha, after caring for her firstborn for 44 years, may have thanked God for taking her “home” so that she didn’t have to worry about if and how Katharina Barbara would be cared for after Maria Margaretha herself passed over. Maria Margaretha must have been keenly aware of her own mortality.

If Maria Margaretha believed in literal “Heaven,” she would have taken comfort in knowing that she would see her child again, on the other side of the pearly gates and Katharina Barbara would be “whole” in Heaven. That is probably what Maria Margaretha wanted more desperately than anything else in her life. But it was not to be in this world.

I can only imagine the horror Maria Margaretha felt to see her child convulse for the first time, and the second, and the third…for 44 long years. Maria Margaretha obviously took very good care of Katharina Barbara or she would never have lived for those 44 years.

Maria Margaretha’s other child who married and gave her grandchildren, her and her mother’s namesake, Katharina Margaretha, married on April 21, 1807 to Johann Conrad Gos. Katharina Margaretha had children in 1808 and 1812, but then in 1814, the third child died 12 days after birth, just before Christmas, on December 19th. This was the second grandchild that Maria Margaretha buried in 1814 with three burials of children and grandchildren in just over a year.  I have a feeling there was no joy in that Christmas season.

A fourth grandchild was born to Katharina Margaretha in 1817, the same year that her husband immigrated to Russia, leaving Katharina Margaretha and the children behind. This is an odd situation. We don’t know if Katharina Margaretha refused to leave for Russia, so he went without her. We don’t know if she planned to join him later, then didn’t. Did her pregnancy interfere? Did he go for work and perish? Did he return to visit in 1822, hence the conception of Jakob Freidrich?

What we do know is that Katharina Margaretha had another son, Jakob Freidrich, on February 19, 1823, according to the church records, whose surname was Gos at his baptism. She is mentioned as a widow, although the baptism didn’t take place until 1824. However, Jakob Freidrich’s death record shows him as illegitimate and with the surname of Lenz.

On July 2, 1821, Maria Margaetha’s husband, Jakob Lenz died of a fever typically found in people with tuberculosis. In other words, she likely had to take care of Jakob for weeks or months before his death. Maria Margaretha would have been 73 years old, no spring chicken herself, that’s for sure. Perhaps her daughters who never married and lived at home helped their mother.

On July 5, 1823, Maria Margaretha died – two years and 3 days after her husband, Jakob.

Grubler, Maria Margaretha death

Her death record in the church book, above, translates as follows:

Page 25.
Entry 22.
Maria Margarethe Lentz,
Born here 4 May 1748
Parents: the late Johann Georg Grubler, citizen and vinedresser here and Katharina nee Nopp.
Wife of the late Jakob Lentz, citizen and vinedresser here.
Age: 75y2m
Cause of Death: Dropsy or Edema
Place and Time of Death: here, 5 July 1823 at 3 pm
Place and Date of Burial: here, 7 July 1823 at 10 am
Folio 421 (Family Register)
Ist hier geschult und aufgezogen worden. Has been schooled and raised here.

They even tell us what time she died and what time she was buried.  Gotta love those precise Germans.

Dropsy is an old term for edema, which means the collection of fluid in the cavities of the body. Often, this is a symptom of congestive heart failure. People with pulmonary edema often pass away of pneumonia. I hope she died quickly and in her sleep without suffering so that she could see her children, grandchildren, husband and parents once again.

Maria Margaretha’s son, Jakob, was in America. Her daughter Maria Magdalena never married and didn’t die until 1849, so she must have been living at home with her mother, as was her daughter Christina who died in 1872. Perhaps the third daughter, Katharine Margaretha, whose husband left in 1817 and subsequently died, lived in the family home as well, along with her children and infant son born February 19, 1823, just under 5 months before her mother would pass away.

I have to wonder, who took care of these 4 women after Jakob Lenz died in 1821, and the three adult daughters after Maria Margaretha died in 1823? How did they earn money to survive? Did they become charity cases? Their death records don’t mention the poor house.

I’m sure friends attended Maria Margaretha’s funeral, but only three children and four grandchildren stood by her grave. That a very, very low number for a woman born in the mid-1700s in Germany. Of course, Maria Margaretha buried 3 offspring as children, two as adults, waved goodbye to one who emigrated to America and cared for 2 daughters who never married and outlived her. That only leaves one child in Germany having children among 9 who were born.

Maria Margaretha’s DNA

As hard as it is to believe, given the children that Maria Margaretha had, there is only one daughter who had children, and of those children, only one granddaughter. The church records tell us that Friederika Gos was born on January 12, 1817 in Beutelsbach and the Beutelsbach records indicate that she died after 1842 in Steinreinach. We don’t know if she married.

If she married and had daughters, she would have passed Maria Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA on to them. If that daughter has descendants today who descend from her through all daughters, they would carry Maria Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA.

You can see how the different kinds of DNA are passed to offspring in this short article.

If one of those descendants, through all daughters, took the mitochondrial DNA test, we could discover additional history for Maria Margaretha Grubler Lenz.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed unmixed with the father’s DNA, so it reaches back in time relatively unchanged, except for an occasional mutation, and we can tell a great deal about population migration and where our ancestors came from. The story of our ancestors is written in our DNA, and the story of Maria Margaretha’s matrilineal ancestors is written in her mitochondrial DNA, if it still exists in descedants today.

If someone does descend from Maria Margaretha through all females to the current generation, which can be a male, I have a DNA testing scholarship available for that person.

I hope that the final chapter for Maria Margaretha has not been written.

In addition to mitochondrial DNA, current descendants could well carry part of Maria Margaretha’s autosomal DNA – passed to her from both of her parents and representing her ancestors, which of course, are our ancestors too.

It’s possible that if someone descended from Maria Margaretha through any child (not just females) would match other descendants today autosomally. I would be fourth cousins with someone in my same generation descended from Maria Margaretha’s daughter, Katherina Margaretha. Some people who are 4th cousins don’t carry any of the same autosomal DNA of their common ancestor, but some do.

I would be third cousins with anyone descended from Jacob Lentz, Maria Margaretha’s son, through a child other than Margaret Lentz (also my ancestor). Third cousins share more DNA than 4th cousins, and I do match two Lentz third cousins.

If anyone else descends from Maria Margaretha Grubler/Gribler or Jakob Lenz, or these lines from Beutelsbach, I’d love to make your acquaintance.


I’m sure there were moments of great joy in Maria Margaretha’s life. Some of those are recorded as her marriage, her children’s marriages and the births of her children in the church records. Other than that, we don’t know what was joyful in Maria Margaretha’s life and made her smile. What did she like to do? Her favorite food? I wish we knew.

Great griefs and sadness are recorded in those ancient church books as well – the saddest of days were when parents, your spouse and children passed to the other side.

Aside from what is recorded in the church records, we know that beginning in 1803, the Napoleonic Wars spread fear, turbulence and social strife throughout Europe.

In 1816, following the eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815 in Indonesia, the atmosphere was so full of particulate matter that 1816 was known as “the year without a summer” when the weather was so cold that crops failed throughout Europe and America. Some people starved. Harvests failed, including grapes. Prices skyrocket and riots for food ensued. This was not a good time to be alive and it probably seemed like the Biblical end of the world. Maria Margaretha was taking care of an adult epileptic daughter who clearly would never be able to take care of herself. Maria Margaretha must have worried increasingly about her daughter as she herself aged. Providence would soon step in and take care of that question, but what a grief-filled solution. There was no good outcome possible – only bad and worse.

Life was difficult and sometimes devastating for the last 20 years or so of Maria Margaretha’s life. However, she persevered.

In my mind’s eye, I can see her marching forward, through whatever she had to march through, scratched up, bleeding, perhaps very thin, a tearstained face, but head held high and still marching forward through whatever adversity fate served up next. That is the picture I will always hold of Maria Margaretha Grubler, a woman of steel resolve.



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Jakob Lenz (1748-1821), Vinedresser, 52 Ancestors #128

Today, I get to write the article I thought I’d never ever write. For a genealogist, this is red letter day!  Not only the fact THAT I get to write about this person that I never thought I’d identify, but WHAT I get to write about him just defies any hope or expectation I could ever have had.  I could never have dreamed this big.  I’m really not exaggerating.  You’ll see!!!

Jakob’s story begins like all genealogy stories, but it ends very, very uniquely with information that was unknown to even Jakob himself!  No cheating and peeking ahead.

Jakob Lenz is the father of Jakob Lenz, or Jacob Lentz as he was known here in the States. The younger Jacob, Jacob Lentz, my ancestor, is the man who immigrated to America.

Until just recently, with the help of Tom, a retired genealogist who specialized in German records, no one had ever been able to determine where Jacob Lentz, the immigrant, was from, or who his parents were.  It wasn’t for lack of trying.  It was for lack of being lucky.

Partly, as you can see, it was because the first and last names were spelled differently in Germany, and partly because his wife’s name was remembered incorrectly, so I was looking for a marriage that didn’t exist, and partly because there were no online records until recently, so searching was a needle-in-a-haystrack proposition.

In the blink of an eye, that all changed with Tom’s discovery and opened the door into the world of my ancestors in the beautiful village of Beutelbach in Germany. Along with finding Jakob Lenz came several generations of ancestors, literally until the church records run out. Jakob and his ancestors were firmly planted in Beutelsbach and had probably been living there “forever” as far as they were concerned.

That’s what people in Europe often say when you ask where their family was from before where they live now. “We’ve lived here forever.” While that’s true from their perspective, which generally reaches back a couple to a few generations, sometimes, forever isn’t really ”forever,” as we’ll discover.

Jakob Enters the World

Jakob Lenz was born on February 1, 1748 in Beutelsbach to Johann Jakob Lenz and Katharina Haag.


Jakob’s baptism is shown here in the original church records, now available, albeit poorly indexed, at Ancestry. Genealogists must possess the minds of sleuths, and an intimate knowledge of German customs and records was critical for this process as well – skills I didn’t and don’t have and thankfully, Tom does.

His translation tells us that Jakob was born on February 1st and baptized the next day, on the 2nd and that his father was a vinedresser.


  1. Gottfried Jacob Bechtel, baker’s helper
  2. Maria Catharina, wife of Johann Reinhold surgeon (for minor wounds) here
  3. Anna Katharina, wife of Johann George Dobler, citizen and vinedresser, here

We don’t know how the godparents are related to the Lenz or Haag families, but they likely were.  The child was generally named after godparents, with the idea being that if something happened to both parents, the godparents would raise the child and assure their religious education.  In other words, without a will, this is how Germans universally provided for the possibility that both parents would die, a situation that happened all too often.

The records at Family Search originally discovered by Tom provided us with his birth information, and lists the source as well. We therefore knew this information was taken from the church records – we just needed to obtain that church record.


Beutelsbach has provided an invaluable service to genealogists seeking their family by reassembling the historical families from church and other records and providing the information online, and for free.


Here we find the records for Jacob with his parents listed at the bottom of the page, his siblings, his wife and his children, along with any notes found in the records.

In genealogy parlance, this kind of information is “to die for.” I had struck gold again on this line!  Twice in a month – I’m definitely on a roll!

Jakob’s Marriage

Jakob Lenz married Maria Margaretha Grubler or Gribler on November 3, 1772 in the church in Beutelsbach when he was 24 years old.


The document above, from the Lutheran church in Beutelsbach shows his marriage record.  It says they were “married the 18th Sunday after Trinity and that Jacob Lenz was the legitimate unmarried son of the citizen and vinedresser, Jacob Lentz from here.  Maria Margaretha is the legitimate unmarried daughter of the late Johann George Gr_bler, citizen and vinedresser from here.”

It’s interesting that his first name is spelled both Jacob and Jakob in various records and Lenz as both Lenz and Lentz.  No wonder we are confused today!  German spelling wasn’t any more standardized than it was in America during the same timeframe.

Maria Margaretha was the daughter of Johann George Gribler (as it is spelled in the Beutelsbach heritage book) and Katharina Nopp, also of Beutelsbach.


You can see the church spire in the center of Beutelsbach, like all European villages where the original church still exists. It is here that Jakob and Maria Margaretha sealed the union that lasted just 16 months shy of 50 years. A half century marriage in a time without antibiotics and where early death was far more common than elder years, is truly remarkable. They both, individually and together, certainly beat the odds.

Jakob’s Children

Jakob Lenz would not have been allowed to marry were he not financially stable and able to support a family. The last thing Germans wanted was people that the church and villages had to support, so they assured that people were truly financially “ready for marriage” before the marriage was authorized. Of course, that just meant that some children were born before the official marriage took place. Most people weren’t thwarted by administrative details.

Jakob Lenz and Maria Margaretha Gribler had 9 children, their first child being born just days after their first wedding anniversary.

  • Katharina Barbara Lenz was born November 17, 1773 and died September 4, 1817 in Beutelsbach of epilepsy. She never married. This makes me wonder if she was epileptic for her entire life. I expect she lived with her parents. Perhaps it was a blessing she died before they did.
  • Jakob Lenz was born July 12, 1775 and died less than 2 months later on September 1, 1775 in Beutelsbach.
  • Maria Magdalena Lenz was born October 1, 1776 and died November 1, 1849 in Beutelsback of old age. She never married.
  • Johannes Lenz was born January 16, 1779 in Beutelsbach and died October 29, 1813 at 34 years of age in Beutelsback, single, cause of death stickfluss (bronchitis or pneumonia). Occupation not given.
  • Philipp Jakob Lenz was born April 30, 1781 and died March 1, 1789 in Beutelsbach, just a few weeks before his 8th birthday.
  • Jakob Lenz was born March 15, 1783 and emigrated to America. This is my ancestor whose story is absolutely incredible. So incredible, in fact, that we had to tell the story in two parts, plus one for his wife, Johanna Friedericka Ruhle whom he married on May 25, 1808 in Beutelsbach. The church records tell us that Jakob left with his family to immigrate on February 12, 1817.

Wandert mit K. Erlaubnis vom 12.Februar 1817 mit seiner Familie nach Nordamerika aus.

Translated as:
Emigrated with children permission from the 12th February 1817 with his family to North America.

  • Katharina Margaretha Lenz was born November 2, 1785 and died January 6, 1858 in Beutelsbach at age 73 of old age. She married Johann Conrad Gos on April 21, 1807 in Beutelsbach and had 5 children. Johann Conrad immigrated to Russia in 1817 where he eventually died, but Katharina’s last child, Jakob Freidrich Gos, was born in 1823. Son Jakob Freidrich died in the poorhouse of emaciation and “wasting” in 1857, the year before his mother. Occupation: hafner (potter). It’s unclear whether Jakob Freidrich was the son of Johann Conrad Goss, perhaps home for a visit, or the son of a different father. We’ll never know, because Jakob Freidrich Gos never married, so never had children, at least none that we know about. If he had produced sons, we would have the possibility of Y DNA testing to see if his sons’ descendants match Gos men or men by some other surname. Katharina Margaretha’s secret has already gone to the grave.
  • Johanna was born July 2, 1788 and died October 10, 1788 at 3 months of age in Beutelsbach.
  • Christina was born January 1, 1793 and died “8-13” but no year given, probably 1793 at about 7 months of age.

Of their nine children:

  • 4, 2 boys and 2 girls, died as children at 2 months, 3 months, 7 months and just under 8 years of age, respectively
  • 2 died as adults, but before their parents, having never married
  • 2 married and had children
  • The son who had children immigrated to America in 1817
  • The husband of the daughter who had children left for Russia in 1817
  • 1 additional daughter lived to adulthood but never married
  • Only 3 children outlived their parents


Based on multiple church records, we know that Jakob’s occupation was that of a vinedresser in the vineyards surrounding Beutelsbach, the center of the wine region in Germany. The ancient vineyards on the sides of the hills, as you can see below, have been carefully pruned and lovingly cared for by generations of vinedressers, an occupation proudly passed from father to son.

Lentz Beutelsbach photo

In fact, according to the church records, we know that Jakob learned this occupation from his father and passed this occupation to his son Jakob who was also a vinedresser before he emigrated.

I can see the two Jakobs, father and son, working in the vineyard together, talking, making small talk, but the kind of small talk that sustains one’s soul after the other person is gone. Those are the moments that are bonding forever, even though at the time they seem routine and mundane. Like plowing the fields in Indiana or picking green beans on a hot summer morning when the grass was still slippery with dew. What I wouldn’t give today to pick a day, any day, to return back in time to visit the farm in Indiana – and I’m sure that Jakob Lenz, the son, especially during his hellish immigration to America, felt the same way.

War – The End of the Political World

In 1803, the Napoleonic War threatened and for the next 12 years, the Germans lived under constant threat of upheaval as Europe fought internal wars and redefined itself.  The French empire, led by Napoleon was pitted against an array of other European powers formed into various coalitions.


The battles were bloody and devastating, and the countryside was often laid to waste.  This History of the Kingdom of Wurttemberg tells us the following:

Once a Duchy within the Holy Roman Empire, on 1 January 1806, Duke Frederick II assumed the title of king Frederick I. He abrogated the constitution and united old and new Württemberg. Subsequently, he placed the property of the church under the control of the kingdom, whose boundaries were also greatly extended by the process of “mediatisation,” the loss of immediacy. Immediacy is the status of persons not subject to local lords, but only to a higher authority directly, such as the Holy Roman Emperor.

In 1806, Frederick joined the Confederation of the Rhine and received further additions of territory with 160,000 inhabitants. Later, by the Peace of Vienna of October 1809, about 110,000 more people came under his rule. In return for these favors, Frederick joined French Emperor Napoleon in his campaigns against Prussia, Austria and Russia. Of the 16,000 of his subjects who marched to Moscow, only a few hundred returned.

After the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, King Frederick deserted the French emperor, and by a treaty with Metternich at Fulda in November 1813, he secured the confirmation of his royal title and of his recent acquisitions of territory, while his troops marched with those of the allies into France.

In 1815, the King joined the German Confederation, but the Congress of Vienna made no change to the extent of his lands. In the same year, he laid before the representatives of his people the outline of a new constitution, but they rejected it, and in the midst of the commotion that ensued, Frederick died on 30 October 1816.

The End of Jakob’s Personal World

For the decade beginning when Jakob was 55, war and the threat of war was ever present.  That alone would be enough to cause a great deal of stress in the life of a German citizen who lived not far from the French border.  Furthermore, many Germans lost their lives and Germany switched sides late in the war.  I’m sure the populace was both confused and disenchanted, not to mention, afraid for themselves, their children and the future.  Germany’s army was fueled by mass conscriptions and many Germans had already died in Napoleon’s war.

Beginning in 1813, when he was 65, Jacob’s personal world began to unravel as well. In October of 1813, his 34 year old son died of pneumonia.

In 1814, Jakob would have stood by the grave while his grandson was buried.

Towards the sunset of Jakob’s life, he would have lived through the year with no summer, as 1816 was called. Jakob had been born during what was termed the “Little Ice Age” in which Western Europe experienced a general cooling of the climate between the years 1150 and 1460 and a very cold climate between 1560 and 1850 that brought dire consequences to its peoples.

The colder weather caused social strife impacting agriculture, health, economics, emigration, and even art and literature. The eruption of Mt. Tambora in April 1815 in Indonesia propelled ashes into the atmosphere, blocking the sun, reducing temperatures even further – although at the time, no one could have put 2 and 2 together to deduce cause and effect. The Tambora eruption caused a particularly cold year in 1816 in which crops failed throughout both America and Europe, forcing prices for what little food did exist in Germany and other parts of Europe into record high territory. Riots ensued.

Additionally, this famine was added onto the effects of the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars which lasted from 1803-1815.


Notice on this map of 1812, Germany really doesn’t exist, although it would by 1815 with Napoleon’s defeat.

From Jakob’s point of view, it probably seemed like the world he knew was coming to an end, between the wars, the cold weather and finally, 1816 with no summer.

It was reported that many people in 1816 spent the summer around a fire. The grape vines in many places died and few, if any, produced grapes. If Jacob loved those vines and vineyards, knowing each one personally as most vinedressers did, he would have grieved for them and been sickened at the pathetic sight of his beloved vineyards, always within view, on the hillsides.

Jakob practiced his craft as a vinedresser probably for more than half a century – and maybe longer if his health held. He probably began working in the vineyards when he was perhaps 15, or maybe younger, joining his father.  He probably worked at long as he could. He died at age 73, so it’s conceivable that he walked to work in the vineyards every day for 58 years or so. I would wager that he found the hillsides and vineyards both beautiful and peaceful.

If Jakob had not already retired, perhaps it was the year of 1816 that prompted him to do so. He would have been 68 years old and may have wondered what the world was coming to. Many people interpreted the climate change as a whole, and 1816 in particular, in Biblical terms.

Furthermore, Jakob may have had tuberculosis.

Jakob, his only surviving son, left in 1817 for America in the springtime, the year after the worst of the famine and when his father was 69 years old. Both men knew they would never see each other again. This must have been a gut-wrenching goodbye.

Jakob, the father, must surely have been terribly torn – wanting a better life for his namesake son and family, but also wanting Jakob’s company and help in his final years. Perhaps Jakob walked up the hills into the vineyard to watch his son’s wagon disappear into the distance so that no one would witness the hot tears he surely cried.  With his only son gone, he must have felt terribly alone and vulnerable in the face of an  uncertain future combined with old age.

Jakob the son would likely have been terribly torn between providing for his future and that of his wife and children by immigrating to a land with more opportunity, and staying in Germany to care for his aging parents. Not knowing if 1817 was going to repeat the agricultural devastation of 1816, not to mention the political unrest, made the decision particularly difficult, but it’s obvious that Jakob wasn’t taking a “wait and see” approach, since he had clearly made and acted upon his decision by February and probably departed Beutelsbach shortly thereafter, perhaps looking back one last time to see if his father was in sight and to sear the vineyards on the hillsides above the village that he would never see again in his memory forever.

Jakob, the father, would say a different kind of goodbye to yet another child a few months later on September 4, 1817 when his firstborn, Katharina Barbara, would die of an epileptic seizure. Given that she never married, she very likely lived with her parents. At 45 years of age, if she had been epileptic for her entire life, perhaps her death was a release. Still for an aging parent, Katharina Barbara’s decline and death must have been utterly devastating and horribly traumatic to witness. Watching your children suffer and being powerless to help is its own special kind of hell on earth.  Your worst nightmare come true.

Having witnessed seizures where the person stopped breathing, I can only imagine with horror watching your child seize and die.  How many times had they literally held their breath as she seized, but eventually resumed breathing.  This time, she didn’t.  I shudder to even think.  My heart just breaks for them, almost 200 years later.

Yet another catastrophe visited this family in 1817, which Jakob may have come to regard as the year from Hell. Katharina Margaretha Lenz’s husband, Conrad Gos, emigrated to Russia, leaving his wife and children behind.  Their support may have fallen to Jakob.

Jakob may have wondered just how much more he could take.

Jakob’s Death

JakobLenz death

Jakob Lenz died July 2, 1821 at 6AM in Beutelsbach and was buried two days later, July 4th, at 10 AM, as shown in the church record, above. Jakob’s death entry in the church records, according to the Beutelsbach website is as follows:

  • Ist hier geschult und aufgezogen worden.
  • Todesursache: Zehrfieber
  • Beruf: Weingärtner

Translated, this means:

  • Has been trained here and raised.
  • Cause of death: Zehren fever
  • Occupation: Vinedresser or liternally, wine gardener

It also gives his parents names and his father’s occupation as a vinedresser.  The record gives Jakob’s age at death as 73 years and 5 months.

Zehren fever translates as “hectic fever,” which, according to the dictionary, is described as a remittent fever, with stages of chilliness, heat, and sweat, variously intermixed, usually present in wasting diseases, in particular pulmonary consumption or tuberculosis.

Jakob’s body may have died, but his absolutely incredible Y DNA lives on in his male Lentz descendants who carry his Y chromosome.  The Y DNA is passed from father to son and follows the surname path, so all Lentz males today who descend from this line through son Jakob/Jacob who immigrated to America, barring an adoption of some sort, carry Jakob’s Y DNA signature.  Let’s take a look!

Jakob’s DNA, Another Chapter

Several weeks ago, cousin C. Lentz, a descendant of son Jacob Lentz, agreed to test his Y DNA. Never, in my wildest dreams did I expect results so unbelievably unique. C. Lentz was not the first Lentz male to test, but my previous Lentz cousin who tested is now deceased, and if we wanted to test additional markers, and order additional tests, we needed to have a new candidate.

Am I ever glad cousin C. Lentz agreed, because the information forthcoming that was not available at the time the previous Lentz cousin tested is nothing short of phenomenal. As in jaw-dropping fall-off-your-chair incredible.

The last chapter, at least as of today, in the epic journey back in time comes from Dr. Sergey Malyshev, a geneticist at the Institute of Genetics and Cytology of Belarus National Academy of Sciences who specializes in plant genetics. Plant or human, genetics is genetics and the underlying foundation is the same. As Dr. Malyshev said, the methods of DNA analysis are universal. There are no big differences in the methodology between the DNA analysis for plants or humans.

Dr. Malyshev is one of the volunteer project administrators for the R1b Basal Subclades project at Family Tree DNA. Cousin C. Lentz is a member of that project. Dr. Malyshev asked me to request the BAM file for cousin C. so that he could analyze the results. I want to emphasize that Dr. Malyshev is not affiliated with any other company or organization, and the information went no place other than to Dr. Malyshev.

I received an e-mail from Dr. Malyshev detailing the SNPs, or mutations, and the order they are found on the Y DNA tree, grouped by the older haplogroup designations, in bold below.  Underneath the headings are the SNPS that must be found positive (+) to indicate the individual is a member of that sub-haplogroup.


  • CTS1078/Z2103+
  • Z8128/Y4371+
  • Z2105+
  • S20902/Z8130+
  • CTS9416+


  • Z2106+


  • Z2108+
  • CTS1843/Z2109+

The exciting part was yet to come.

Dr. Malyshev said:

Under Z2109, Mr. Lentz’s haplotype (his personal results) and 2 other kits form the new branch, KMS67:

  • 442223 (Lentz)
  • 181183
  • 329335

Unlike Lentz, kits 181183 and 329335 are much more closely related to each other. They have 45 common SNPs. Thus, they form an additional subclade of R-KMS67 which is KMS75. The R-KMS67 branch is probably a very rare subclade. 181183 and 329335 belong to Burzyan Bashkir people. The relationships between Lentz and these Burzyan Bashkir men is very ancient. For example, the KMS75 marker was found in ancient DNA samples of the Yamnaya culture.

Ok, now I’m sitting bolt upright and wide awake. And not believing my ears.

The Yamnaya culture, as in 5,000 years ago?? Seriously? This ancient DNA was only recovered about a year ago! In fact, ironically, I wrote an article about the Yamnaya discovery because I found it utterly fascinating. Now that just seems like an uncanny coincidence.

Dr. Malyshev continues:

Thus, the separation of Lentz’s line from the Bashkir line could have occurred even before the Yamnaya culture appearance. At the moment, the distribution of R-KMS67 line in Europe is completely unknown. It will take time to understand it. It is clear that this line is very rare. Germany could be an important place for the Z2109+ people because several different subclades of R-Z2109 were found here. It will be important to check the 14168106 (A/G) marker that was also observed in samples from the Yamnaya culture. This is only possible by using the BAM file.

I ordered the BAM file, sent it to Dr. Malyshev and attempted to wait patiently, which was no small feat, let me tell you. Not being a carrier of the patience gene, I wrote to Dr. Malyshev and asked if he had been able to discern anything in cousin C. Lentz’s BAM file relative to marker 14168106 and the Yamnaya culture?

Dr Malyshev replied:

Yes, 14168106 (a change from nucleotide A to G) is positive for Lentz. I have prepared a special chart combining all data for the R-KMS67 branch.

Next, I had to know if the mutation at 14168106 preceded the Yamnaya culture or did it emerge during the Yamnaya culture, or can’t we tell for sure? In other words, is there any way to know if our Lentz ancestor was part of the Yamnaya, or did his common ancestor with the Yamnaya reach perhaps further back in time?

Dr. Malyshev again:

I think the correct answer on your question is we can’t tell for sure. The problem is that we do not have ancient DNA samples from the Western Yamnaya culture. It occupied a very big territory from the Balkan peninsula to the Severski Donietz and Don rivers in steppes near the Black Sea. We have only ancient DNA samples from the Eastern Yamnaya culture that occupied a territory to East from the Volga river in steppes near the Caspian Sea. At the moment we can only speculate that the Western Yamnaya culture was a source of R-Z2109 for both Europe and Asia. In such case the R-KMS67 branch has appeared in the Black Sea steppes, and then a main part of this branch has migrated in the Eastern direction to the Caspian Sea and formed the Eastern Yamnaya culture. Its descendants can be found around the Caspian Sea in Bashkortostan or even Iraq. However, a second small group of the R-KMS67 branch (including Lentz’s ancestor) could stay near the Black Sea for a while and then migrated to Europe together with the R-CTS7822 and R-Y14414 lines. This is only hypothesis, of course.

Dr. Malyshev mentioned the extensive area covered by the Yamnaya culture, which is shown on the map below, from Eupedia.

JakobLenz yamna culture

Dr. Malyshev is kind enough to allow me to include the chart he created that shows the branch of haplogroup R that our Lentz ancestor belongs to. As you can see, so far, our Lentz family is the only one found in Europe but we distantly match two men from the Burzyan Bashkirs in Russia and one man from Iraq.

JakobLenz Malyshev chart

I wrote about the Bashkir and the Yamnaya and events in history which could have propelled these cultures into the part of Europe that would one day become Germany in the first article about Jacob Lentz, the immigrant.

You can see the region where the Yamnaya people are found, and the Yamna culture. The river transecting the middle of the yellow region North to South, passing between the n and the a on the map below, is the Volga.

JakobLenz Yamna

Now that we know a little more about the Yamnaya as a whole, I had to ask where, in Russia, are the excavations that produced the remains that match our Lentz ancestors? On the map above, the locations are just above the last a in Yamna, on the Volga.

However, we can be much more specific in terms of the locations of the Yamnaya burials.

JakobLenz Samara

The burials were found in close proximity to the city of Samara in Russia. Samara, today Russia’s 6th largest city, was home to “nests of pirates” before 1586, at the bend around the island on the map above. Samara was a frontier post that began with a fortress on the island that protected the eastern-most boundaries of Russia from forays of nomads. Samara was the gateway between east and west, a crossroads of many trade routes. The Yamnaya were likely early inhabitants and could have been traders as well, some 3500 years before the first written records of Samara appear.

Maybe our ancestors were early pirates or perhaps the equivalent of toll takers, assuring safe passage for traders needing to cross the Volga or pass by the island on the waterway. Maybe they were soldiers or traders, or all of the above at different times.

This website tracks the locations where ancient DNA has been retrieved, and the maps below show the locations of the ancient burials from this website.

Three of the 4 Yamnaya burials are found on this map and all were from about 5,000 years ago, or about 3,000 BC.

JakobLenz ancient 1

The first burial was located just above the curve in the Volga River, above the island, on the River Sok, shown above.  The mileage legend on the maps is in the lower left hand corner.

JakobLenz ancient 2

The second burial is shown just east of the Volga River bend, above.

JakobLenz ancient 3

The third burial is shown just below the bend in the Volga River, just below the island. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there’s a theme here. I surely wonder about the importance of that island, perhaps a neutral ground for trade or a fortified island that was easy to defend? A settlement site perhaps, or a village maybe? All of the above at one time or another?

JakobLenz ancient4

There were additional burials found on the River Sok, above, but the quality of the DNA recovered wasn’t sufficient to determine if they are a match to our Lentz line and to the other burials.

JakobLenz ancient 5

Dr. Malyshev indicates that site 370 (above) can’t be eliminated either, although it is a bit further south and east.

JakobLenz ancient 6

Looking at the region as a whole, we can see the cluster of burials, above.

JakobLenz Stuttgart

Our Lentz line eventually settled in Beutelsbach, near Stuttgart, Germany, shown above on the same ancient burial map. Need I mention that Stuttgart is no place close to Samara, Russia? In fact, it’s more than half way across the entire Eurasian continent, as you can see on the map below.  That’s a massive distance interrupted by mountain ranges and inhospitable territory.

JakobLenz Eurasia

Looking at Google maps, you can see that it’s nearly an 8 hour plane ride.

JakobLenz Samara to Beutelsbach

This trip translates into about 3,500 miles, or the distance across the US diagonally from Key West, Florida, the furthest Southeastern point to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada which is in essence the end of the driving road in the Northwest.

jakobLenz Key West to Vancouver

I don’t know about you, but I have no desire whatsoever to make either one of those journeys, let alone by horseback, or chariot, or even perhaps on foot. If armies of that day and time moved at the same rate wagon trains did in the early US, they covered about 10 miles a day, on average. Of course, armies may well have stopped to fight and hunt and pillage and such – so their progress may have been much more sporadic and slower. One could not expect to travel for 3,500 miles through unknown terrain unimpeded and without being challenged by whomever the current residents were. People are funny that way – they don’t take kindly to invaders – especially not invaders that might have their eye on either their food or their women – or both. And an army has to eat!

That epic migration might not have been a single event, but a series of migration events separated by a significant amount of time, even generations.

Genetics and genetic genealogy, even though with our Yamnaya discovery we’re far beyond lineages we can track through paperwork back in time, isn’t much different than regular genealogy. You find one answer and it opens the door to hundreds of new questions. Genealogy and genetic genealogy are the pursuits that never end.

Now, of course, I want to know more about the Yamnaya and more about ancient Yamnaya burials with their ceremonial red ochre.

JakobLenz Yamnaya skull

More about these mysterious tall steppe-dwelling people who may well have developed the gene for and introduced lactose tolerance into the European population as they migrated westward, probably as unwelcome invaders.

More about men who will be found in eastern Europe who will carry our terminal SNP of KMS67, shared with the current day Burzyan Bashkirs and one man in Iran.

More about that intriguing DNA location 14168106, the location of an unnamed SNP just waiting to be named. Our SNP, our very own SNP, the one that belongs to us and some, but not all, of the Yamnaya, our relatives for sure and our probable ancestors. So far, that unnamed SNP belongs to no one else! No other living person so far discovered. No one else in the world except for our Lentz men and the ancient Yamnaya – reaching back some 5,000 years into the mists of time on the Volga River.

By Eternal Sledopyt – ru:Файл:Волга у Жигулей осенью.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0,



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Catharina Schaeffer (c1775-c1826) and the Invisible Hand of Providence, 52 Ancestors #127

Catharina Schaeffer was born about 1774 to Johann Nicholas Schaeffer and Susanna DeTurk in Berks County, Pennsylvania. While many church records still exist and are available for the genealogist, it appears that none of Nicholas Schaeffer’s children are found in the existing records – at least none that I’ve been able to find.

Although we do have Catharina’s father’s estate documents, there is no final distribution that includes Catharina by her married name, nor a mention of her husband, Peter Gephart.  In fact, there is no final distribution in that estate packet at all.

Catharina didn’t marry until 1799, half way through the estate settlement, so it’s not like she is absent in something where she should be present. However, given this tiny shred of ambiguity, I was very pleased to have autosomal DNA matches to descendants of Catharina’s parents and Schaeffer grandparents through other children.

Catharina’s father, Johann Nicholas Schaeffer, died on November 2, 1796, according to his estate documents.

A petition filed on April 3, 1798 relative to real estate lists Nicholas’s children, as follows:

John Schaeffer, Esther wife of Jacob Miller, Catharine, Daniel, Susanna, Mary, Elizabeth and Jacob, the 4 last of whom are minors. Nicholas’s widow is noted as Susanna.

Catherine is the anglicized version of the German Catharina.  The one document where she signs her name with an X, her name is given as Catharina so that is the name I’m using.

The 1798 document from her father’s estate tells us that Catharina is at least 21 years old, meaning she was born before April 3, 1777. Furthermore, I suspect that these children are listed in age order, given that we know from other estate documents that John is the eldest (born on May 30, 1771) and we know from this document that the youngest are listed last.

If the children were born every 2 years, and none died, then the 4 youngest would have been roughly 19, 17, 15 and 13. By inference Daniel would have been 21 and Catherina 23.   So we can comfortably say that Catherina was born about 1775 and unquestionably between 1773 and 1777, even if the middle three children are listed out of order.

Initially, Susanna, Nicholas’s widow, is awarded executorship, but she petitions the court to find another executor, at which point Valentine Gephart/Gebhart is appointed.

Nicholas’ estate mentions several Gephart men both in the list of accounts and at the estate sale, so these families were closely affiliated and probably near neighbors.

Catharina Schaeffer married Johann Peter Gephart Jr., known as Peter, on March 24, 1799 in Christ Lutheran Church in Berks County, known today as Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Catharina Schaeffer Christ Lutheran

The church, built in 1743, is still functioning today and this beautiful photo is from their Facebook page. I would like to think that Catherina’s memories of this church were glowing and beautiful, full of the freshness and hope of new love.  That chapter in her life wouldn’t last long.

Catharina Schaeffer Christ Lutheran2

Peter was born on June 10, 1771 and was the son of Johann Peter Gebhart and Eva, last name unknown.

On November 2, 1799, Catharina had daughter Elizabeth Gephart followed by son, John Gephart born on February 26, 1801.

It’s likely that Catherina had a child that was born and died in 1803, or perhaps the child didn’t die until 1804 sometime. It would be terribly unusual for a woman to not become pregnant at that age from 1802 through December 1804 without having a child in-between those dates. According to Peter’s estate papers and later guardianship records, there was no child born, that lived, after 1801. Neither was Catherina pregnant when Peter died in December 1804.

The Western Fever

According to research by Kierby Stetler and Gene Mozley:

In the year 1803, four men from Tulpehocken Twp., Berks County, went to Ohio to see the country and if they liked it, planned to buy some property and move their families onto it. They found some land they liked about 60 miles east of Cincinnati which was owned by a man in Virginia. They met with the owners’ agent in Ohio and contracted to purchase 1000 acres, then started for Virginia to close the deal with the owner. However, by the time they arrived at the man’s residence, he had died. Disappointed and exhausted from the trip, they returned to their homes in Berks County.

They gave such glowing accounts of the State of Ohio that the “western ern fever” became an epidemic in the neighborhood. As a result, 24 families decided to sell out and move to Ohio the following spring. A few in the meantime had moved to Center Co, PA but arrangements to join the group were made with them by letter. It was agreed that all would start as such a time as to meet in Pittsburgh on or about the same day. In this group from Berks County were our George Stettler, his children and grandchildren. George was nearly 65 years of age at this time.

The Stettler family would be Catharina and Peter Gephart’s neighbor to the south, in Montgomery County, Ohio.

In 1804, as one of the group of 24 families from Berks County, Catharina and Peter Gephart, along with their 2 young children joined the wagon train and made their way from Berks County, Pennsylvania to Montgomery County, Ohio.

Catharina Schaeffer Berks to Montgomery

The distance between Maiden Creek Township in Berks County and Miamisburg, in Montgomery County, near Peter Gephart’s land, is about 513 miles, which equated to about 51 days in a wagon. I would have been a long and tiresome journey, that’s for sure. However, there was a better route.  The History of German Township, Montgomery County, Ohio tells us more:

The following are the names of those heads of families who came to this valley from Pennsylvania in the 1804 colony, some of whom, however, settled outside the present limits of German Township: Philip Gunckel, Christopher, John and William Emerick (who were brothers), George Kiester, Jacob Bauer, George Moyer, John Gunckel (who subsequently returned to Pennsylvania), John and Christopher Shuppert. Peter Gebhart, George Stettler and his five sons, William, Henry, Daniel. George and Jacob, John Barlet, Abraham Puntius and George Kern (who came with them as far as Cincinnati, where he remained two years, coming to this township in 1806). There were twenty-four families of them when they started from Pennsylvania, but they did not all get to the Twin Valley. Some dropped off on their way hither and settled elsewhere, while others remained so short a time that they cannot be claimed as pioneers of this valley. The names of all such have been omitted.

We can see from the above list that the 24 dwindled to 19, and then to 18 when one family returned to Pennsylvania, then to 17 with the death of Peter Gephart. The following year, in 1805, another group arrived that included Valentine Gephart, among others.

There is actually a very important clue in the History of German Township information, and that is that George Kern came as far as Cincinnati. This tells us that these pioneers only came part way by wagon, likely as far as Pittsburg, where they purchased rafts and floated downriver to Cincinnati. Had they come overland, they would not have dropped south to Cincinnati, as it would have been out of the way.

From Cincinnati, they would have headed north to what is now Montgomery County.

It’s “only” 270 miles to Pittsburg, or 27 days in a wagon, from Berk’s County.

Catharina Schaeffer Berks to Pittsburgh

From Pittsburg, the caravan of German settlers would have floated down the Ohio from Pittsburg to Cincinnati on a flatboat.


In Cincinnati they would have unloaded the flatboat and purchased or hired wagons once again in order to head for Montgomery County. It’s only 50 miles or so from Cincinnati to Miamisburg, in Miami Township, only a mile or so from where Catharina and Peter Gephart would settle, beside the Stettlers.

Catharina Schaeffer Cincy to Montgomery

This “Miami Township” article by Jacob Zimmer, probably written in the 1880s, given that John Gephart died in 1887, tells us more:

It was in the spring or summer of 1804, that John Shupert, wife and six children, Christopher, Frederick, Jacob, Eva, Peggy and Tena, came from Berks County, Penn., locating about one mile southwest of “Hole’s Station,” where he and wife lived until death. Christopher was married and had one son, John, when the family located here, the latter of whom is now residing in the township. In the same colony from Berks County, Penn., came Peter Gebhart, wife and two children, John and Elizabeth, settling a short distance southwest of the station, where Peter died the same year. His son, John, now a very old man, is still a resident of Miami Township. Most of this colony from Berks County settled in German Township.

Hole’s Station became Miamisburg in 1818.

Another account of the 1804 journey is given in the book “Twin Valley” b J. P. Hentz, published in 1883:

They set out on their westward journey in the spring of 1804. Such a journey was at that time no small undertaking. It required many weeks for its accomplishment and was attended by no small degree of danger and hardship. The goods, women and children had to be conveyed by wagon over rough mountain roads. The country through which the emigrants had to pass was yet but thinly settled; wild beasts such as wolves, bears and panthers were still abounding in the forests; and Indians, more savage than savage brutes, were still lurking in forest and mountain fastness. At night they usually encamped by some stream, and whilst one party laid down to sleep, another kept watch around the encampment. Exposure and malaria often caused serious illness, and not unfrequently one fell victim to disease and was buried by the wayside. Our friends, on their way through Pennsylvania experienced many of these evils; they arrived however, at the time agreed upon in Pittsburgh without having met with any serious accident. Here they engaged river boats, on which they put their chattels and families, and then paddled down the Ohio River. Cincinnati was their destination by water. After a trip of about a week they landed at the latter place. This event occurred on the 20th day of June, 1804. From Cincinnati they went to New Reading, a hamlet not far distant where they arrived a fortnight, considering what next to do or where to next to direct their steps. A few of them found employment here and remained, but to the majority this did not seem as their Canaan.

They again took up their line of march, this time their course lay northward. They had heard of the Miami Valley and desired to locate in it, but they had no definite objective point in view, trusting rather to fortune and the guiding hand of Providence. Some distance north of Cincinnati they entered this Valley and were delighted with the country. It was so very different from the rugged mountain country which they had left in Pennsylvania. No mountains and rocks were to be seen here. The forests were much taller, the soil was more productive and the surface much more level than in the country from which they came. They passed over many an attractive spot where they might have located, but they moved on, doubtlessly prompted and guided by the invisible hand of Providence, until they reached the vicinity of the present site of Miamisburg. Here lived a wealthy farmer, whose name was Nutz, who spoke German. They were glad to meet a gentleman who spoke their own tongue. With him they stopped to rest and refresh themselves and after forming his acquaintance and finding him a genial and kindhearted man, they concluded to encamp awhile on his farm. It was now midsummer and the weather being warm and pleasant, they took up abode in the woods where they lived in wagons and temporary huts, for about two weeks.

A Mr. Philip Gunckel, being a man of superior intelligence and the only person among them who spoke the English language with any degree of fluency was for these reasons looked upon as a leader of the group. He searched the area looking for a proper location to build a mill, as he was by occupation a miller, “and at last found the object of which he was in search on Big Twin Creek, a branch of the Miami River. The precise point chosen by Mr. Gunckel was about 6 miles from the mouth of this stream, now within the corporate limits of Germantown. When he made known his decision to his companions, they all concluded to settle near around him. Upon this the encampment on the Nutz farm was at once broken up, the immigrants forded the Miami River, crossed over to the western bank ascended the steep bluffs adjoining and then traveled on in the direction of the Twin creek. And here, by the side of this stream, they rested at the end of their long and wearisome journey. Here now was their future home.”

Before winter set in, they had secured land and erected some sort of dwellings. The first winter was a long and lonely one. They had harvested no crops the previous year, nor had they earned anything with which to procure the necessaries of life, having spent nearly the whole summer in their journey. Provisions, even if they had the means would have been difficult to procure, as the settlers were but few and had just begun to clear away the forest, and did not raise more than their own wants required. Game was plenty, however. They did not starve during this winter, but they were obliged to live on a small allowance.

Early the following spring, they went to work to clear away the trees, turn up the soil and sow and plant. Their hardest work such as clearing, log-rolling buildings and harvesting was mostly done by crowds, collected together for the purpose from the entire settlement. They made, as they called it, a frolic of it; that is they united into a sort of one-family arrangement, and did their work by succession, first on one place, then on a second and third, etc., until they had made the round and had got through with all. They continued this habit of mutual assistance for many years and great harmony and good feeling prevailed among them.

Religiously, they were either Lutherans or Reformeds, and as in those days it used to be said that all the difference between the denominations was that in the Lord’s Prayer, the one said, “Vater Unser,” and the other said “Unser Vater.”

Unser Vater translates to “Our Father.”

Catharina’s husband Peter Gephart along with George Moyer filed a joint land claim after their arrival in 1804 and agreed upon how they would divide the land.


By December 1804, Peter was dead and Catharina, about age 30, was left in Ohio just months after arriving with 2 small children and few resources.  Losing a husband is tragic, but losing your husband on the frontier just months after arrival and before becoming established, with no food or resources is a disaster. It’s a good thing there was a group of settlers, even though there were only 17 families, otherwise Catharina and her children might not have survived that initial winter.  They obviously shared their food with Catharina and her children. By the winter of 1805, Catharina had remarried.

Were it not for the fact that Catharina was widowed, we would have little information about her life. For that matter, were it not for the fact that she was widowed, she would not be my ancestor.

Daniel Miller was appointed by the court to be the executor of Peter Gephart’s estate. We don’t know why, especially given that Catharina was Lutheran and Daniel was Brethren, but regardless of why, it was a fortuitous turn of events. It could possibly have been because Daniel also spoke German, although so did the rest of the Berks County group, although perhaps the Berk’s county group was not yet considered “established” or could not post the required bond. Furthermore, Daniel Miller may have spoken English as well, an important asset in dealing with the court. Daniel was also an Elder in the Brethren Church, so certainly considered to be a respectable man. And he lived close by.

Daniel’s son, David Miller, was 5 or 6 years younger than Catharina and either unmarried or a widower himself. I’d wager a bet that David set about helping Catharina with clearing her land and farm chores. After all, Catharina had a 3 and 5 year old child and couldn’t leave them alone to go out to chop trees and work the fields.

Catharina Remarries

One thing led to another, and well, let’s say that human nature, being what it is, Catharina became pregnant in September of 1805, followed by Catharina and David’s marriage in Warren County, Ohio on December 13, 1805. Their first child, David B. Miller, was born the following June.   In a small, conservative, community, that must have been somewhat of a scandal, because it’s not like no one would notice. Furthermore, while they were both German, they were religiously “mixed,” she being Lutheran and he being Brethren. That probably didn’t go over well with either group. However, it’s not like there were other Lutherans to choose from in terms of a spouse – the community was quite small, so maybe marrying a German was “the best” they could hope for at that time and both communities were more tolerant than they might otherwise have been.  At least, I hope so.

Subsequently, David Miller was appointed guardian for Catharina’s two children, a very common event for a step-father. This guardianship would have been in relation to the land and any other resources that the children would stand to inherit from their father’s estate when they came of age, in 1820 and 1822, respectively.

The 1806 guardianship order records Elizabeth Gephart as being age 8 and John is noted as being age 5.

Probably about this time, Catharina would have converted to being Brethren from Lutheran. We know that David Miller remained a Brethren, as he would have been dismissed from the church had Catherina not converted. Whether she truly converted, or did so in name only to keep peace in the household and larger community, we’ll never know. One hint might be if we could determine whether or not her Gephart children were Brethren. If they were, she was. If they weren’t, then it’s unlikely that she converted in more than name only.

Given that Catharina’s son, John, is buried in the Stettler (Lutheran) Cemetery just down the road half a mile from Peter Gephart’s land and Elizabeth Gephart Hipple is buried in a non-Brethren Cemetery in Miamisburg, it’s unlikely that either child was Brethren. So, I’d wager that Catharina was technically Brethren, in name if not entirely in spirit.

In 1810, Daniel Miller as executor of Peter Gephart’s estate, Catherina Miller as his former wife and the mother of his 2 children, and David Miller as her current husband and guardian of her children petition the Montgomery County court and tell the court how Peter and George Moyer divided the land they patented together.

I wondered why this was done in 1810, and not before, or not later, for that matter. It turns out that the patent was applied for earlier, but not actually issued until October 1809 and then it was issued in the names of George Moyer and Peter Gephart’s two minor children, precipitating the need for a court order to sign deeds.

Catharina Schaeffer land patent

Montgomery Count court note on page 341 reflect the following:

May term 1810– Daniel Miller and Katharine Miller (late Katherine Gephart) with the consent of her husband David Miller administrators of the estate of Peter Gephart [state] that Peter together with George Moyer were [in] possession of 2 tracts of land as tenants in common in Township 2 range 5, section 9 and fraction of 10…land sold to Daniel Mannbeck, land sold to Christopher Shuppert…land sold to John Shuppert…to Miami River…corner George Moyer’s land…425 acres (Moyers share was 447 acres). Peter surveyed in his lifetime…sold quietly to George Jeaceable. Request to execute deed. Elizabeth and John Gephart are Peter and Catharina’s children. Daniel Miller, David Miller and Catharina Gephart sign.

This land is located on both sides of S. Union Road between Upper Miamisburg Road and Lower Miamisburg Road. Union Road divides sections 9 and 10.

Catharina Schaeffer land

Peter Gebhart/Gephart and George Möyer’s property ran between modern-day Upper Miamisburg Road and Lower Miamisburg Road from Jamaica Road east to the Great Miami River, across the river from Miamisburg. An irregular strip comprising a northern third of nearly 448 acres was allotted to George Moyer. Peter Gephart was allotted the middle third of over 445 acres. The southern third was arranged to be sold to Johannes “John” Shuppert (Shüppart), Christopher Shuppert, and Daniel Mannbeck, in three 106-3/8-acre parcels for $200 each, but Peter Gephart died prior to concluding the transactions, hence the petition to the court to complete the transactions as administrators of Gebhart’s estate.

Christopher and Hannah Shuppert sold their tract, the south-central tract, to Peter’s cousin, Heinrich “Henry” Gebhart, Sr., for $300 later in 1810.

Catharina Schaeffer land close

The middle third is shown above, probably the area roughly demarcated by the brown field to the right of Union Road, if you drew lines east and west on the top and bottom of the field east to the Miami River and west to Jamaica Road. In fact, you can see the field lines, which likely followed the property lines, although the tract was irregularly shaped.

Catharina Schaeffer mound drawing

Interestingly, the Miamisburg Indian mound, attributed to the Adena culture, is located less than a mile away from the Schaeffer land. This would have been a familiar sight to Catharina. While cleared today, shown in a Google street view today, the area would originally have been forested as depicted in the drawing above.

Catharina Schaeffer mound today

1811 – A Year of Change

In 1811, Catharina served as executor for the estate of Peter’s uncle, Valentine Gebhart (1751-1810). This may have been the same Valentine Gephart that served as Catherina’s father’s estate executor, which would explain how Catharine met Peter. It’s unusual that Catharina was chosen to serve as Valentine’s executor. Perhaps she had a particularly close relationship with Valentine. Catharina and Peter’s cousin, Philip Gebhart sold three 160-acres tracts in Township 3, Range 5 East, Section 2 (Jefferson Township) around the town of Drexel. To me, Catharine settling the estate and affairs of Valentine feels like life coming full circle.  Valentine probably functioned somewhat as a parental or favorite uncle role for Catharina.

Catharina’s mother died back in Pennsylvania on September 26, 1811. That sad news would have arrived by letter with the next courier coming to Ohio. It’s hard to imagine not being able to be with your mother at the end to comfort her, and to bury her once she had passed over. There was no closure, no life celebration, only the sad news and grieving alone or with anyone in the group who would have known her mother and shared Catharina’s sadness. To the best of my knowledge, none of Catharina’s siblings settled in Ohio, so other than Peter Gephart’s relative, Valentine, who arrived in 1805, Catharina was without family.

Fortunately, David Miller’s father, Daniel, lived just a couple miles away, so Catharina married into a new Brethren family when she married David.

Life on the Farm

Catharina’s life probably calmed down substantially and began to run much more smoothly after her marriage to David Miller, settling into the seasonal rhythmic routine of sew and reap, cooking and laundry, church on Sundays, marriages, births and burials in the churchyard. That never ending cycle.

From 1806 to 1818, Catharina had 7 children, so she was perpetually busy with 9 children and a husband to look after.

David Miller farmed the land that Peter Gephart owned, probably on behalf of the “orphans,” his step-children, and his wife’s share.

David Miller 1810 tax Montgomery

The 1810 tax list of Miller men shows David paying taxes on land in that same location, and the 1814 tax list is even more specific.

David Miller 1814 Montgomery tax list

On this list, the last column indicates the individual who entered the land, meaning the original grantee. The land David is farming is listed as Moyer and Gephart – confirming that indeed, David is farming the Peter Gephart land.  The second David Miller entry in Randolph Township is David’s uncle.  Millers and Brethren Millers in particular are often very difficult to unravel, so it’s fortuitous that our David Miller did indeed farm Catherina’s land – because the location and land identifies the family uniquely.

That farming arrangement would work fine, until Elizabeth and John came of age, which happened in 1820 and 1823, respectively. At that time, the part of Peter’s land that was not Catharina’s dower right, typically one third of the value of the estate, would have become the property of the children, or would have been sold and the proceeds divided between the children.

That would leave David only to farm one third of the land, if that much, because the house would have been considered in that valuation as well, so the total acreage allotted to Catharina would have been less than one third of the total.

The 1820 census schedule in German Township, Montgomery County, shows us David Miller living beside John Gephart, his step-son.

David Miller has the following household members:

  • Male 0-10 Samuel Miller b 1816
  • Male 0-10 John David born 1812
  • Male 10-16 David B. b 1806
  • Male 26-45 David (the father)
  • Male 45+
  • Female 0-10 Lydia Miller b 1818 or Catharine b 1814
  • Female 10-16 Mary b 1809 or Elizabeth b 1808
  • Female 16-24 Susan b 1802 or Esther
  • Female to 45 Catharina (the mother)

It looks like spaces for 3 daughters are missing, unless Esther has already married.

In 1822, David Miller’s father, Daniel dies. Apparently Peter Gephart’s estate has not yet been finalized, and David Miller along with Catharina both sign a receipt that was found in Daniel Miller’s estate papers.

David Miller 1823 receipt

This one “signature” of Catharina is her only known signature, and it appears that she cannot read and write. Obtaining Valentine Gephart’s estate packet might yield additional information about Catharina and additional signatures of hers as well.

Sadly, Catharina died about 1826, at about age 51, leaving 9 children in total, 7 of which had been born to Catharina and David Miller. Their youngest known child was born in 1818, when Catharina would have been about 44.

For a long time, for some reason, it was assumed that Catharine died in childbirth in 1826 – probably because so many women did. Now, based on her father’s estate records being located, we know that it’s very unlikely that Catharine died in childbirth in 1826, because she would have been roughly age 51, give or take a year. Given that her last child was born in 1818, this reinforces her birth year as about 1775 and reduces the probability that she died in childbirth 8 years later.


I wish we knew where Catharina was buried, but we don’t.

We can speculate a bit, based on what we know of the history of the area.

David may have buried Catharina near Peter Gephart. Of course, we don’t know where Peter is buried either, but the Gebhart cemetery was in use quite early – at least by 1815 and probably earlier. However, since Peter died so soon after arrival, it’s questionable whether a burial ground had been established in the location that would become the Gephart Church at that time.

David could have buried Catharina in a Brethren Cemetery, and if that is the case, it is likely Happy Corners, then known as Lower Stillwater, although that church was several miles away, in Randolph Township.

David could also have buried Catharina in the old cemetery on the land his father, Daniel owned up through 1815, which was only a couple miles away. It’s possible that if Catharine and David lost any children, they would have been buried there as well. However, since the Miller family no longer owned this land in 1826, this location is questionable as well.

David could have buried Catharina in the Old Lutheran Cemetery in present day Germantown. The cemetery was in use by this time.

David could have buried her in the Schaeffer Cemetery in German Township, although that’s probably not terribly likely either.  It is unclear if and how Catharina would have been related to these Schaeffers.

A Miami Township map drawn in 2001 and copyrighted by Tom Midlam shows an unnamed cemetery on the northern part of section 10 of Miami Township which is the land owned by Moyer and Gephart. If the cemetery “cross” is located accurately, it would appear to be on the Moyer land. This cemetery is not named on the map, nor is it in the Miami County Cemetery Index. Given that information, it’s clear that this cemetery is an old family cemetery about which little information is available.

The area today is wooded, although it was likely cleared at one time. If Catharina was buried here, and the cross on Tom’s map is accurate, the cemetery would have been someplace in the forested area bordered on the northwest by Upper Miamisburg Road and South Union Road, at roughly the arrow below.

Catharina Schaeffer poss cemetery

It’s also possible that Catharina was buried in the Stettler Cemetery, located about a mile to the south of where they lived. The Stettler Lutheran Church was formed when the Berks County group settled in the area and it’s also where Catharina’s son, John, is buried as well.

Catharina Schaeffer Stettler

Hill Grove, where Catharina’s daughter Elizabeth is buried wasn’t established until 1863, so we know Catharina’s not there.

My gut feel would be that either Catharina was buried in the cemetery on the land just north of theirs that was presumably in George Moyer’s portion of the tract, or that she is buried in the Stettler Cemetery, because it was close by and her son is buried there as well. We know that the Stettler church was established very early and the residents would have had to establish a group burying ground as well, with perhaps Peter Gephart being the first – especially if the Gephart church wasn’t established yet.

One thing is for sure – wherever Catharina’s final resting place, it was a very sad day with a long line of stair-stepped children, ages 8 to 27, weeping for their mother.

The Early Churches

The Stettler Family tells about establishing the Stettler Church on the land owned by George Stettler who died in 1815 and is buried in the cemetery at the Stettler Church. This is also where John Gephart was buried in 1887.

There were two church congregations established early, the Lutherans and the Reformeds, commonly referred to as the Gebhardt Church and the Stettler Church, respectively. The land for the Reformed church was donated by the Stettler family in 1808.

The Stettler church is located just a mile south of the land owned by Peter and Catharine Gephart, as shown on the map above.

The Gebhart Church and cemetery is located East of Miamisburg, about 4 miles, and across the Miami River, from where Catharina and David lived.

Catharina Schaeffer Gephart church

There are marked burials here as early as 1833, and likely burials long before that.

It’s possible that Peter Gephart may have been the first burial at the Gephart Church in 1804.

Interestingly enough, according to the History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, Vol 1, the two churches shared a minister from 1808 until 1813. Lutherans living in Miamisburg declined to join either church, saying that the distance to Gephart Church was too great and the roads too bad, and that they were too poor to be ferried across the Miami River to the west side to attend the Stettler Church.

Catharina’s children with Peter Gephart:

Elizabeth Gebhart/Gephart was born November 2, 1799 in Berk’s County and died on August 29, 1884 in Miamisburg, Montgomery County, Ohio. Elizabeth married William Hipple on April 7, 1820 in Montgomery County, Ohio. She is buried in the Hill Grove Cemetery in Miamisburg, just a couple miles from where she grew up in Miami Township.

Catharina Schaeffer Elizabeth Hipple

Elizabeth Gephart and William Hipple had the following children:

  • Catharine Hipple (1821-1887) married Frederick Kolling (Colling) in 1842 and had 4 sons and one daughter, Mary Kolling/Colling.
  • John William Hipple born October 5, 1822 and died November 20, 1893. He married Elizabeth Sherrits and they had 9 children.
  • Sarah (Salone) Hipple (1824-1916) married John Tobias in 1846 and John Coleman in 1856. She had 2 sons and 3 daughters, Clara Elizabeth, Mary Hannah and Hallie Sue Coleman.
  • Caroline Hipple (1828-1865) married Isaac Weidner and had 2 sons and daughter Amelia Aurora Weidner.
  • Clinton Hipple (1830-1910) married Magdalena Tobias in 1849, Eliza Jane Stettler in 1852 and Catharine Stettler Shade in 1874. He had 14 children between all three wives.
  • Jeremiah Hipple born in June 1834, married Matilda Tobias in 1849 and had 7 children.
  • Rebecca Hipple (1826-1914) married William Roark and had 3 boys and two girls, Laura Jane and Ellen Roark. Rebecca later married Leonard John Dangler.
  • Elizabeth Hipple was born in January 1839, married John Beck and had no children.

John Gebhart/Gephart was born on February 26, 1801 and died on January 19, 1887 in Miami Township, Montgomery County, Ohio. He is reportedly buried in the Stettler Cemetery, according to the family, although he doesn’t seem to have a marker. There are many unmarked graves.

Catharina Schaeffer John Gephart

John Gephart married Julia Ann Brosius in 1819. They had at least three children and probably more. This line is not well researched.

  • Jacob Gebhart (1820-1902) married Sidney Ann Medlar and had 2 children.
  • Peter P. Gebhart (1821-1856) married Sarah Shupert and had 5 children
  • Magdalena Gephart (1823-1889) married George Schmidt Gebhart and had 17 children
  • William Gebhart (1825-1891) married Mary Ann Bebhart and had 8 children.
  • Margaret Gephart born in 1827 married Isaac Loy and died Nov. 23, 1900, age 73 years 6 months 17 days in Greenfield, Hancock County, Indiana. Margaret and Isaac had 9 children.
  • Philip Gebhart (1829-1920)
  • John Gebhart (1832-1904) married Elizabeth Kauffman and had 3 children
  • Sarah Gephart born December 20, 1836 married Jacob Loy, died on June 1, 1913 in Pendleton, Indiana and had 7 children.
  • Henry Gebhart (1837-1907)
  • George B. Gebhart (1839-1907) married Nancy Cramer and had 5 children.
  • Susan Catherine Gebhart (1843-1913) married George Washington Burnett and had 5 children

Indeterminate Children

David Miller had two daughters whose mother is unidentified. We do have an avenue to determine whether their mother was Catharina Schaeffer or a previous, albeit unknown, wife. If a descendant of Esther or Susan Miller through all females from Esther/Susan to the tester, took a mitochondrial DNA test, we could compare it against a mitochondrial DNA test of a descendant of Catherina through all females descended from known daughters. If their mitochondrial DNA matches, they share the same direct maternal ancestor. If not, they don’t. Easy as pie. In the current generation, the tester can be a male but he must descend through all females.

Women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only the females pass it on. So everyone in the world carries their mother’s mitochondrial DNA that is passed to them directly from the matrilineal line, unmixed with any DNA from the father’s side.

I have a testing scholarship for anyone who descends from Catherina’s known daughters through all females to the current generation. I have bolded the candidate lineages for testing, above and below, through Catherina’s daughters.

The two indeterminate daughters are:

Esther Miller Lear/Leer was deceased at the time that her father David Miller’s estate was distributed in Elkhart County, Indiana beginning in 1853.

If Esther is Catharina’s daughter, she was likely named for Catharine’s sister, Esther Schaeffer. Esther is also a Biblical name.

We don’t know Esther’s birthdate, but one researcher shows her marriage to Abraham Lear (also spelled Leer) on December 30, 1824 and names their source as a DAR record.

We do know that Esther was married before 1827 based on her children’s ages. Unfortunately, these dates do little to narrow the range of her birth from “before 1806” to “after 1806” which is the dividing line in the sand that makes a difference in terms of the identity of her mother.

Esther Miller and Abraham Lear/Leer had the following children:

  • Elizabeth Lear was born December of 1827 and died in August 16, 1913 in Holmesville, Gage Co., Nebraska. Her descendants show her birth date as December 5, 1825. She married Samuel Irvin in Elkhart County on May 11, 1845 and had 8 children including daughters Hilinda and Hettie Irvin.
  • Susan Lear was born April 12, 1832 in Elkhart County, Indiana and died on June 5, 1907 in North Liberty, St. Joseph County, Indiana. She married Israel Irvin on April 23, 1852 in Elkhart County and had 7 children including daughters Mary Catherine, Matilda Jane and Dora Irvin.
  • John W. Lear born in 1838. He married Samantha E. Shafer on September 18, 1872 in Elkhart County, Indiana. They had two children.
  • Sarah Lear born in October 1840 (census indicated both 1840 and 1843 at different times) and died after 1910 in Marion County, Kansas. She married Israel Eliphet B. Riggle on October 2, 1862 in Elkhart County. They had 3 children including daughter Arvilla A. Riggle.
  • Mary Lear was born probably about 1827 and died about 1850. She married John Liveringhouse on November 7, 1847 and had two children, William and Eliza Liveringhouse.
  • Catherine Lear married Isaac Shively on December 26, 1852 in Elkhart County and died in 1886 in Allen County, Kansas. She had 8 childreni ncluding 2 daughters, Mary Alice and Sarah Shively.
  • Hetty Lear married Henry Stutsman on April 30, 1857. They moved to Douglas County, Kansas and had 6 children, including 2 daughter, Mary and Martha Stutzman.

Susan Miller was born June 5, 1802 and married Adam Whitehead on February 17,1825 in Montgomery County, Ohio. She died on July 17, 1876 and is buried in the Whitehead Cemetery in Elkhart County, Indiana. Her birth is calculated from her age on the tombstone. If Susan is Catharina’s daughter, she would have been named for Catharina’s mother and sister, Susanna DeTurk and Susanna Schaeffer.

Susan Miller and Adam Whitehead had the following children:

  • Mary Ann Whitehead (1828-1916) married Samuel R. Miller in 1847 and had 7 children including four daughters, Susan, Eva, Mary Jane and Sarah A. Miller.
  • Elizabeth Whitehead (1829-1853) married Jacob Riggles and apparently had no children that survived.
  • Esther Whitehead (1831-1910) married Daniel Shively in 1852 and had 3 children including 1 daughter, Susan Shively who lived to adulthood.
  • John M. Whitehead (1833-1912) married Sarah Smith and had 6 children.
  • Susana Whitehead (1836-1916) married Jacob B. Riggle and had 8 children, including 3 daughters, Catherine, Mary V. and Etta Riggle.
  • Catherine Whitehead (1838-1919) married John Riggle in 1855 and had 3 children, including Lillian J. and Luna May Riggle.
  • Margaret Whitehead (1841-1851)

Catharina’s Children with David Miller

David B. Miller was born June 3, 1806 in Montgomery County, Ohio, died on September 26, 1881 in Elkhart County, Indiana and is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery that is located on his father, David Miller’s, land. David B. Miller’s stone is 4 sided, with wife Christina buried on one side.

David Miller son David stone

Two of their children are memorialized on one side. The third side is David and the fourth side is an inscription.

David Miller son David closeup

David B. Miller would have been named for his father. No one seems to have any record of what the middle B. stands for.

David B. Miller married Christina Brumbaugh before coming to Elkhart County and had 11 children.

  • Catherine Miller who died before 1893
  • William Miller born November 2, 1831, died November 4, 1831, buried in the Baintertown Cemetery.
  • Jacob Miller (1832-1902) married Catherine Whitehead in 1855 and had 4 children, then married Catherine Harshman in 1871 and had 3 more children.
  • Mary Miller (1835-1893) married Joseph B. Peffley in 1853. She died in 1893 in Manuel, Brazoria, Texas and had 9 children.
  • Eve Miller born July 1836, died April 2, 1838, buried in the Baintertown Cemetery.
  • John B. Miller (1839-1897), buried at Baintertown and was living with his parents in 1880 and was a physician.
  • Michael M. Miller born December 1842 in Elkhart County, died Sept 5, 1854 and is buried in Baintertown.
  • Elizabeth “Betsy” Miller (1844-1925) married Samuel Pagen/Pagin, a physician, in 1899, had no children according to the 1900 census and is buried in Baintertown.
  • Daniel C. Miller (1847-1931) married Mary ? in 1885 and had no children according to the 1900 census. He then married Mary Kintigh in 1913 as a widower and is buried in Baintertown.
  • Susannah Miller (1849-1948) married Josiah Rohrer in 1870 and had 4 children.

Elizabeth Miller was born on April 6, 1808 in Montgomery County, Ohio, died on January 16, 1891 in Elkhart County, Indiana and is buried at Baintertown. She would have been named for Catharina’s sister, Elizabeth Schaeffer.

Elizabeth married Michael Haney in 1827 in Montgomery County, Ohio. They patented land very near David Miller in Elkhart County and had 5 children.

  • Matilda Haney (1834-1934) married John W. Baker in 1853. It appears that she died in Washington State.  Children are unknown.
  • Elizabeth R. Haney (1836-1900) married George Washington Alford and had 9 children including daughters, Eva, Jeanetta and Idealla Alford.
  • Joseph Beane Haney (1838-1920) married Lucinda Whitehead and had 5 children.
  • Mary “Molly” J. Haney (1844-1922) married Allen D. Gilkinson.  Children are unknown.
  • John Michael Haney (1847-1849)

Mary Miller was born in 1809 in Montgomery County, Ohio and married Jeremiah Bright on January 31, 1828 in Montgomery County, Ohio. Mary would have been named for Catharina’s sister, Mary Schaeffer.

According to the Elkhart County Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs, Mary and Jeremiah had five children, but I found evidence of 7 including two children who died young:

  • David Miller Bright (1829-1905) married Elizabeth Rinehart, died in Leelenau County, Michigan and had 9 children.
  • George W. Bright (1830-1852)
  • John Bright (1831-1928), died in Fairfield, Ohio.
  • Mary Bright (1833-1911) married John Garner Hall in and had one daughter, Sarah Jane Hall. Mary then married Jacob Alva Aurand and had 7 children including Mary Ellen Aurand.
  • William Bright (1835-1917) married Catherine Wagner and had 5 children.
  • Susannah Bright (1837-1838)
  • Daniel Bright (1838-1840)

Mary then married Christian Stouder on September 11, 1842 in Elkhart County and had four more children:

  • Lydia Stouder (1843-1893) married Samuel Neff in 1883 and had 6 children including Mary Alice, Anne and Desaline Neff.
  • Christian Stouder (1845-1927) married Elizabeth Hohbein and her sister, Catherine Hohbein and had 6 children between the two wives.
  • Samuel H. Stouder (1850-1891) married Margaret Rummell and had 5 children.
  • Unknown 4th child

David Miller daughter Mary Stouder stone

Mary died on October 22, 1863 and is buried at Union Center Cemetery, although her birth and death information was apparently never inscribed on her stone.

John David Miller was born April 6, 1812 in Montgomery County, Ohio and married Mary Baker there on January 24, 1832. They came to Elkhart County with or near the same time as David Miller. Perhaps John David is named for both Catharina’s father, Johann Nicholas Schaeffer and David Miller, his father.

Mary Baker and John David Miller had 10 children:

  • John Miller – died as a child
  • Catherine Miller – died as a child
  • Samuel Miller – died as a child
  • Unknown child
  • Hester Ann Miller (1833-1917 married Jonas Shively and had 8 children.
  • David B. Miller (1838-1922) married Susan Smith and had 9 children.
  • Mary Ann Miller (1841-1915) married Michael Treesh and had 7 children.
  • Aaron B. Miller (1843-1923) married Sarah Myers and had 5 children.
  • Matilda A. Miller (1844-1935) married John Dubbs and had 6 children.
  • Martha Jane Miller (1847-1935) married David Blough and had 7 children.
  • George Washington Miller (1851-1917) married Lydia Miller and had 6 children.

John David Miller married second to Margaret Elizabeth Lentz, widow of Valentine Whitehead. They had four children:

  • Evaline Louise Miller (1857-1939) married Hiram Ferverda and had 11 children.
  • Ira J. Miller (1859-1948) married Rebecca Rodibaugh and had 2 children.
  • Perry Miller (1862-1906) married Mary Jane Lauer and had 4 children.

Photo of John David Miller with Margaret and 5 of his children.

john david miller family

Catherine Miller was born March 17, 1813 and died September 24, 1876 and is buried at Baintertown. She was named for her mother.

Catherine married Conrad Brumbaugh in 1833 in Elkhart County and they had five children.

  • John W. Brumbaugh (1835-1910) married Sarah Peffley and had 9 children. He then married Mary Kintigh and had 2 additional children.
  • Lydia Brumbaugh (1838-1856)
  • Eve Brumbaugh (1840-1891) married Daniel Riggle in 1857 and had 12 children, including daughters Laura Ann, Anna J., Sarah Lilie, Jennie and Kittie Riggle.
  • Sarah A. Brumbaugh born about 1846, died after 1860.
  • Joseph Brumbaugh (1856-1921) married Ellen Martha Hissong in 1889 and had two children who both died young.

Samuel B. Miller was born in 1816 and married Rose Ann Bowser. He died March 1, 1877 and is buried at Baintertown. They had seven children:

  • Emanuel Miller (1838-1921) married Nancy Maurer and had 8 children.
  • Mary J. Miller born (1840-1920) married James Alford in1857 and had 3 children.
  • William H. Miller (1841-1915) married Delilah J. Alford in 1868 and had 5 children. He then married and Matilda J. Wahmeyer in 1898.
  • Desaline Miller born (1845-1904) married Gustavoius Alonzo Latta in 1870, died of strangulation according to her death certificate, no children reported in the 1900 census.
  • Albert J. Miller born (1846-1924) married Elizabeth Ulery and had 2 children.
  • Charles C. Miller born (1847-1910) married Sarah and had two children.
  • Cephus Miller born 1850, died after 1860.

Lydia Miller was born about 1818 in Montgomery County, Ohio and married John (Jonathan) Collier, also spelled Colyar, on September 18, 1834 in Elkhart County. She died about 1876. They had seven children:

  • David Colyar born in 1837, died in 1916 in Kapowsin, Pierce County, Washington married Susanna and had 2 children
  • Elizabeth Colyar (1838-1920), married Jesse Whitman and had one child, a son.  She died in Lone Star, Douglas County, Kansas.
  • Susan Louise Colyar (1839-1917) married George Jacob Hardtarfer and had 9 children including Lydia, Mary Louise, Minnie Bell and Ida Lenora Hardtarfer. Susan died in Douglas County, Kansas.
  • Mary Colyar born in 1842.
  • John Colyar (1845-1932) married Sarah Josephine Belden and had two children
  • Catherine Colyar born in 1848.
  • Louisa Emaline Adaline Colyar born in 1855.

Catherina Schaeffer’s Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA can provide us with an additional chapter in the life of Catherina Schaeffer Gephart Miller and her ancestors, taking us further back in time. Because mitochondrial DNA does not recombine with the father’s DNA, it’s passed intact from mother to child, but only female children pass it on.  On the pedigree chart below, you can see that the red circles are the path the mitochondrial DNA is passed down to a brother and sister, both of whom will carry the matrilineal line’s mitochondrial DNA, but only the sister will pass it on.  The brother’s children will carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.

yline mtdna

In order to view Catherina’s mitochondrial DNA, we have to find someone descended from Catherina through all females to the current generation. In the current generation, the tester can be male, so long as he descends through all females from Catherina.

I have bolded female candidates in her list of children and grandchildren.

I have a DNA testing scholarship for someone who descends from Catherina Schaeffer through all females to the current generation.


I’m sure that Catharina didn’t mean to live such an adventurous live. Her life probably didn’t start out that way either. From the time she was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, until she left in 1804 on the wagon train, there’s a good possibility she was never more than a few miles away from home – maybe never even in another county.

That all changed in the spring of 1804 when she set forth on the adventure of a lifetime. By the end of 1804, Catharina’s life had changed entirely – and not in a good way.

The trip to Ohio must have been exhausting, and perhaps exhilarating too. I can’t imagine being on a flatboat with two young children. I would be constantly terrified that one of them would escape from my clutches and perish in a watery grave. Flatboats didn’t have guardrails. The only protection you had in that day and age was common sense and a dose of good luck thrown into the mix.

In general, the group knew where they were going, but not specifically. They knew they were going to Cincinnati, but beyond that, they were waiting on Divine Guidance to give them a sign. Flying by the seat of your pants, or in this case, riding in a wagon directed by the invisible hand of Providence must have been a bit disconcerting for Catharina. Maybe she just didn’t think of the danger. Maybe she didn’t understand the scope of the danger. Maybe she just gritted her teeth and clenched her jaw…and prayed for deliverance.

Regardless, not long after Catharina thought she can literally come through the Valley of the Shadow of Death unscathed and was finally safe, the danger became intensely real when Peter died before year end, leaving her on the frontier to fend for herself. I surely have to wonder how he died. He was a young man. Maybe he stood in the wrong place felling trees, or maybe there was some other type of accident.

A year later, in December 1805, Catharina was remarried and pregnant with her third child. On the frontier, an expeditious marriage was best for everyone. Being single meant survival was in jeopardy. Being a single mother was even worse. The answer was to join forces with another through the bonds of matrimony – and the sooner the better. Catharina did what she needed to do.

Catharina must have been somewhat of a renegade woman to be appointed as the executor of the estate of Valentine Gephart in 1811. The court obviously thought her capable, even though it was a very unusual move.

Catharina had small children in her life, sometimes several, from a few months after her original marriage in 1799 until her death in 1826. Her youngest child then was about 8 years old, but about the time that her own children were no longer toddlers, Catharina’s oldest children began blessing her with grandchildren. This could well have been the highlight of her life. Her golden years, so to speak, but they didn’t last long and there weren’t entirely golden either.

The blank spaces in-between known children’s birth years testifies to the 4 grandchildren Catharina likely buried. Two of those grandchildren were also probably born in 1826, which makes me wonder if there was some type of illness within the community that may have claimed Catharine’s life as well as two or more of her grandchildren.

It also appears that Esther Miller who married Abraham Lear and Susan Miller who married Adam Whitehead also lost children in or about 1826 as well. Esther may have lost two children. It wouldn’t have mattered if Esther and Susan were Catharina’s children or step-children, she raised them from the time they were toddlers one way or the other, and their children were assuredly her grandchildren as well.

If 1804 was tragic, 1826 was a grief filled year for the Miller and Gephart families as well, losing Catharine and four or five grandchildren in that timeframe in addition.

At the time of Catharina’s death she had 4 living grandchildren, three from daughter Elizabeth and one from son John. Additionally, it appears that Esther and Susan would have had three between them in the same time period, if they didn’t pass away at or immediately after birth. Catharina’s grandchildren fit right in at the end of her own stair-stepped children. There were always babies in her household, I’m sure. Laughing, giggling, lifting the spirits of the adults. There is nothing so infectious as a baby’s laughter.

Although Catharina didn’t know them, eventually she would have at least 78 grandchildren and 14 step-grandchildren through Susan and Esther, if they weren’t her biological grandchildren.

Get ready for a shocker here, because Catharina had more than 300 great-grandchildren and another 63 either step-great-grandchildren or bio ones, if Susan and Esther were her daughters. Wouldn’t Catharina, who only knew 4 of her grandchildren, briefly, be surprised. It’s sad that her grandchildren never knew her with her undauntable pioneer spirit.

As I reflect on Catharina’s life, I’m struck by both the tragedy and the tenacity that tragedy must have built in the young Pennsylvania Dutch wife in a foreign wilderness who didn’t even speak English. Whatever she had to do, she did it. Adversity separates those who would fail from those who would succeed, but success doesn’t mitigate either sorrow or fear, both of which had to be present on the Ohio frontier on a daily basis as she looked at her two children and wondered what would happen to them.

I’m sure Catharina wondered if she had made the wrong decision leaving Pennsylvania, whether they had let their heads full of dreams of the land tempt them into harm’s way, and whether she should go back to Pennsylvania and return home to her mother. Going back wasn’t nearly as easy as traveling westward, because there was no river to float down – the entire trip was by wagon. Men who went back typically just rode a horse, which was far faster but not an option for a woman with two children. For whatever the circumstances the future would bring, Catherina was firmly planted on the land above the bluffs near the Miami River here she would create a new life on the frontier, with a new husband, and build a family that would lay the foundation for the future of hundreds of her descendants.

Perhaps Catharina coped with tragedy by letting that “Invisible Hand of Providence” guide and comfort her not just during the trip to Montgomery County, but throughout her life and ultimately, through the experience of death.



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John David Miller (1812-1902), Never In His Wildest Dreams, 52 Ancestors #125

John David Miller was born April 6, 1812 in Montgomery County, Ohio to David Miller and Catharina Schaeffer.

Catharina, his mother, was a widow with two children when she married David Miller on December 13, 1805.

Between their marriage and Catharina’s death in about 1826, she bore 9 children. She died when John David was just 14 or so, a difficult age for a boy made even more difficult by his mother’s passing.

John David’s father married a woman named Elizabeth before leaving for Elkhart County, Indiana four years later, in 1830. Elizabeth died in 1838 in Elkhart County and John David’s father remarried again to Martha Drake in June of 1839, having 3 more children. We have this late marriage to thank for the long drawn out estate settlement which provides us with a great amount of information, including lists of David’s children and in some cases, grandchildren.

David’s son, John David Miller married Mary Baker on January 24, 1832 in Montgomery County when he was about 20.  They applied for the license 10 days earlier, with her father registering “no objection.”

John David Miller Mary Baker marriage

Oral history tells us that John David went to Elkhart County, then back to Montgomery County to marry his sweetheart and brought her back to Elkhart County. Some honeymoon, bouncing around in a wagon, but as a love-struck newlywed, who cares!

Their first child, Hester, was born on May 26, 1833, and her death certificate says she was born in Ohio, but the 1850 census says she was born in Indiana. It’s believed that by 1832, John David was in Elkhart County, Indiana.  The 1892 Elkhart County plat map, created when John David was still living, stated that he was born in 1812 and came to Jackson Township in 1832. It’s likely that John David Miller and possibly his bride joined the Cripe wagon train headed north during the winter of 1831/1832.

When the wagon train first arrived in Elkhart County, the extended family would have lived together initially, constructing a log cabin. The oral history tells us that they didn’t have time to construct a cabin that first winter, and they constructed a lean-to and covered the door with skins and fabric. That’s was probably the longest winter of their lives! Northern Indiana winters are miserable and bitterly cold. The Indians still lived there and helped the settlers survive.

The first several years, the family would have worked together to clear lands and farm what they could. Clearing and farming were full time jobs. John David and his bride likely lived with his father and family during this time.

In the 1840 census, we find the Brethren families grouped together. We know that David Miller owned land and was living on land where the Baintertown Cemetery is located today, his wife, Elizabeth, being the first (marked) burial in 1838.

In order, on the 1840 census, we find:

  • William S. Baker
  • Elias Baker
  • Samuel B. Miller
  • Adam Mock
  • Jacob Stutzman
  • John Miller
  • David Miller
  • Conrad Broombaugh

David Miller is shown age 30-40 and John Miller is shown age 20-30. John David would have been 28. His brother, David, would have been age 34.

Their father, David, was shown on a different page because his land was in a different township, although only a couple miles away.

The 1840 census shows John David with 4 children. We can fit known children into slots as follows:

  • Male age 5-10 (born 1830-1835) Samuel died before 1850
  • Male under 5 (born 1835-1840) David B. Miller born 1838
  • Male under 5 (born 1835-1840) John N. died before 1850
  • Female under 5 (born 1835-1840) Hester born 1833?

There is another female child who was born and died between census years, Catherine. If Catherine is the female under 5, then where was Hester who appears to be missing from the census?

The binding factor between these families listed together on the 1840 census is that they were Brethren. The reason they were attracted to Elkhart County was the availability of land grants. The land in Montgomery County was already taken. The relationship between the Miller, Mock and Stutzman families reaches back 4 generations to Johann Michael Mueller, the immigrant, in Pennsylvania and Maryland.


John David’s father, David, applied for and obtained several land grants. This particular grant below, applied for in 1832, would become the land of his sons John David Miller and David B. Miller when he sold it to them in 1841 for $100 each for half of the quarter section (80 acres) each.

JDM David Miller land grant

David, John David’s father, signed the receipt below.

JDM David Miller receipt

John David Miller may have applied for some land patents himself, and subsequently sold them, probably to raise funds. There are many John Miller’s in Elkhart County so differentiating them without middle initials is troublesome.

John David Miller and David B. Miller had very likely been clearing and working this land since 1832 when their father obtained it as a grant.

John cleared the land and built a log cabin which still stands under a portion of the house that remains today.  The cabin is the center section, shown below.

Margaret Lentz home

I always wondered why this house is turned sideways, then I looked closely at the plat maps and realized that the road, 142, that now runs east and west behind the house at one time curved and went in front of the house, so the house wasn’t sideways when it was built and it sat on the north side of the road.

JDM closeup of map section

Today, it sits on the south side of road 142. The current driveway was the original road.

JDM satellite 2

It makes me wonder, which came first, John David’s log cabin or the road, which was then likely no more than a wide path.

JDM farm

Turkey Creek runs along and through David’s land, shown below hidden behind the trees. This area is still relatively wet and densely forested.

Turkey Ck

Creeks in pioneer times were the lifeblood of the community, assuring fresh water for people and livestock in addition to being the early highways.  Land creekside went first – although the land along Turkey Creek is low and wet, even yet today.

This aerial view shows the very green Y intersection between Turkey Creek, the treed area on the left, and the Elkhart River, which runs on the east side of the map.  John David’s house is marked with a small grey pin at the intersection of 142 and 21.  You can see the extent of the forestation along the creek and river.

JDM aerial

Lots of floodplain probably meant that John David’s house and fields never flooded.

JDM turkey creek 3

This is Turkey Creek from the bridge on 142, today, above, looking at the portion on John David’s land.

JDM Turkey Creek 2

This part looking north is a little brighter and more cheerful.  Looking at this dense forest, you can understand why the pioneers had issues with malarial diseases.  There are backwaters and swamps green with algae less than a mile north.  Mosquito heaven.

JDM turkey looking at John's land

On the Turkey Creek bridge, looking at John David’s land on the left.

Oral history states that the Native people helped the family pick good land.  If that’s true, we are indebted to them.  It’s a decision that in time, they surely came to regret – not necessarily in terms of the Miller family personally – but in more general terms.  They not only became overrun by successive waves of settlers, they were forced off of their lands.

John David’s Father’s Death

John David’s father, David, died on December 1, 1851 without a will. At the time of his death, he had a wife and small children, after a 4th marriage to a younger widow woman 20 years his junior in 1839. Their last child was born in 1845, just 6 years before David’s death.

Clearly David’s death was unexpected, even though he was 70 years of age, or he probably would have executed a will given that he had children by at least 2 wives, 3 of which were minors.

John David Miller was not his father’s executor, thankfully. David’s estate was not to settle smoothly. Initially Adam Whitehead, husband of David’s eldest living sister, Susan, was the estate administrator.

Then something very un-Brethren-like happened. In 1855, all of David’s heirs, including John David Miller, sued Adam Whitehead and Susan. Brethren simply did not “take someone to law,” let alone a relative, and would try absolutely everything else to resolve a situation. This is the first lawsuit I know of being filed in America in the Miller lines. That’s pretty amazing, given that David’s heirs are 4 generations downstream from the original immigrant.

Court was a last resort – and often Brethren would let a wrong “stand” rather than taking an oppositional position, through law or otherwise.  Often, the church got involved to help straighten things out. Therefore this lawsuit is shocking to say the least – and apparently all of David’s heirs uniformly agreed, as they are all represented by the suit. That’s even more shocking and probably speaks to the gravity of the situation at hand.  The fact that the lawsuit wasn’t file until nearly 4 years after David’s death suggests this was a measure of last resort.

Based on the court document filed by the plaintiffs, Adam Whitehead had taken possession of all of David Miller’s lands by right of descent, which apparently meant because he was married to the eldest child (or at least eldest living child.)

This must have been a very difficult situation, because Adam taking possession of David’s lands would have excluded Martha Miller, David’s widow, and David’s three minor children from the proceeds of his estate or utilizing his land. While the older children wanted their share, I’m sure, the widow and her three minor children depended on that land and his estate to live.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered that Martha be awarded one third of David’s estate as her dower right and the rest to be divided evenly between his 12 children.

David’s son, Samuel, then became the executor. David’s estate settlement dragged on for 13 years, the last distribution made in 1864 when his final living child reached the age of majority.

John David signed three receipts during the long probate of his father’s estate, one each in 1854, 1855 and 1857 when he accepted a final $100 as his share of his father’s estate. His signatures are shown below.

JDM estate receipt

JDM 1855 estate receipt

JDM estate receipt 2

Never in his wildest dreams would David have expected the family to be split in this manner. This is the kind of rift that never heals. Estates, then and now, bring out the worst in people. 

Widower and Remarriage

John David Miller’s wife, Mary Baker, died on March 12, 1855, leaving John with a houseful of kids and no mother.  She was buried in the Baintertown Cemetery, on David Miller’s original land.  Her headstone was nearly unreadable when I visited several years ago.

Mary Baker Miller

A year later on March 30, 1856, John David married a Brethren widow, Margaret Lentz Whitehead, who also had 5 young children.

Margaret Lentz John David Miller marriage

Margaret was born Dec. 21, 1822 in Pennsylvania to Jacob Lentz and Johanna Fredericka Reuhle, both born in Germany. Margaret moved with her parents in the early 1830s to Montgomery County where she subsequently married Valentine Whitehead and joined the northward migration to Elkhart County where she had lived for nearly a decade before Valentine’s death in 1851.

When they married, John David Miller had 7 living children although Hester had just recently married the boy next door. Margaret had 5 children, What a busy household they must have had with 11 children.

Margaret Lentz blended family

John David Miller and Margaret had 4 more children, only 3 of whom survived; Evaline Louise (my great-grandmother, Ira J. (Rex Miller’s grandfather) and Perry Miller. The name of the child who died, probably in 1861, is unknown.


About the time John David married Margaret, the Brethren built the Whitehead Church. It was the second Brethren church to be built in Indiana, and the only church in this vicinity. Prior to this, services were held in the homes and barns of members, with people traveling significant distances and sometimes staying overnight to attend.

Both John David and Margaret probably held church services at their homes when it was their turn – so they would have been well acquainted.

In the 1850s, land was donated by the Whitehead family for the church. The congregation would have had an old-fashioned “barn-raising” except in this case, it would have been a church raising. Margaret’s husband, Valentine, was buried across the road in 1851, so you can rest assured that Margaret and John David both participated in the building of the Whitehead church, later to be known as Maple Grove.

Of course, John David would have participated with the other men, constructing the building, and Margaret would have participated with the other women preparing food for the hungry crew.

In 2015, cousin Keith Lentz visited the now much more modern Maple Grove Church, the former Whitehead Church, attending services, and was kind enough to provide me with two pictures of the original church.

JDM whitehead church

The photo above is from a Brethren source, and the one below Keith took of a picture hanging inside the current church, in the old section. I suspect the top photo is older, based on the railings, but the building probably looked much like it did originally for a very long time.

JDM whitehead church 2

It does my heart good to know that John’s handiwork still remains in the present day church that retains the original posts, rafters and beams. The church members told Keith that the original building was raised in 1856, but the “History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana” published in 1917 says the original building was built in 1851.

In these photos taken by Keith, you can see the original part of the building to the right of the main entrance today.

JDM Maple Grove

The Maple Grove church stands directly across from the Whitehead Cemetery.

JDM whitehead cem

Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller wasn’t the only one with a tie to the Whitehead family or eventually to the Whitehead Cemetery. John David Miller’s sister, Susan, married Adam Whitehead in 1825 in Montgomery County. Adam Whitehead was one of the 9 Whitehead adult children who settled in Elkhart County with their father. Susan died in 1876 and is buried in the Whitehead Cemetery, across from the church.

When John David Miller died in 1902, he was a member of the Union Center church. He would have literally had to go past the Whitehead Church to attend Union Center which was located significantly further south. The Whitehead Church is 1.6 miles from John David’s farm and Union Center is a total of 7.7 miles distant.

JDM map to union

Something must have happened to cause that switch.

That something was very likely the ruckus that occurred after David Miller’s death, and the subsequent lawsuit. Making the situation even more awkward, in 1856, the year after the lawsuit was filed, John David married Margaret Lentz Whitehead, the widow of Valentine Whitehead.

The Millers may have been shunned in the Whitehead church for filing suit. Margaret may have been shunned for marrying John David Miller. One way or another, I’m sure it was uncomfortable for the Millers to attend the same church with the Whitehead clan during and probably after this time. Given that Susan is buried in the Whitehead Cemetery, it’s clear where her allegiance fell.

Union Center Church 1920

The Union Center Church was gracious enough to send me the photo of the church taken in 1920.  The indicated that their history says the church was build in 1866.

John David Miller’s switch to Union Center Brethren Church unquestionably occurred sometime before 1876 when John David’s daughter, Evaline married Hiram Ferverda. The Ferverda family lived south of the Union Center Church and were also Brethren. Evaline would have met Hiram at church functions. It would have been unlikely for her to meet him otherwise and have the ability to court, as the two families lived 10 miles or so apart. In essence, had it not been for that change of churches, my great-grandfather would not be my great-grandfather, and I would not be me today. You never know where those forks in the road will lead and how they will affect not only you but your children and descendants in perpetuity.

Union Center Brethren Church was organized in 1859 and had been meeting in homes since 1838 when it was administratively cut off from the Turkey Creek congregation which subsequently built the Whitehead Church. John David probably helped to build Union Center in 1859 too.

The book “History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana” written in 1917 by Otto Winger tells us that:

In 1879 John R. Miller was called to the ministry at Union Center and was a cousin of Elder Alex. Miller, both of them being grandchildren of Elder John Miller, one of the first preachers of Elkhart County.

John Miller, the preacher, was called to the ministry in the Wolf Creek church in Montgomery County, Ohio. In 1835 he located on Elkhart Prairie, southeast of Goshen. He was an active colaborer of Elder Daniel Cripe, and did his share of the evangelistic work in those early days. He finally located in the Yellow Creek church, seven miles southwest of Goshen, where he died in 1856.

John Miller, the preacher, was the son of Daniel Miller and Elizabeth Ulrich. He married his first cousin, Ester Miller. John Miller, the preacher, was the Uncle of our John David Miller, being his father’s brother. John David Miller was likely named for his uncle John and his father David. John David’s father, David, died in 1851, John David’s wife died in 1855 and his uncle, John, died in 1856. In 1854, John David buried his daughter, Hester’s first child. Between deaths and the lawsuit, John David had a very rough few years.

The Lay of the Land

Cousin Keith did a significant amount of work on the Whitehead family and locating their land during his 2015 visit. He provided this map showing the approximate locations of the various homesteads.

Margaret Lentz Keith map

You’ll notice that Adam Whitehead and Susan Miller’s land was very close to that of John David Miller, shown on the composite map below. I can only imagine how awkward that became after the lawsuit.

Margaret Lentz Jackson Twp map

On this map, Valentine Whitehead’s land is the arrow at the bottom.  John David’s father’s land and the Baintertown Cemetery is the top arrow.  The arrow below that at 142 and 21 is John David’s home and the arrow below that on 46 is the Whitehead Church

On this 1874 plat map, you can see the exact location of John David’s land and his brother, David Baker Miller’s, as well. The Adam Whitehead land is the J. M. Whitehead land in 1874.  John M. Whitehead was the son of Adam Whitehead and Susan Miller.

Margaret Lentz 1874 Jackson Twp map

The colored legend on the 1874 map is:

  • Orange – David Miller’s lands (except his homeplace not shown on this map)
  • Green – David’s land sold to family members
  • Green dash – John David Miller and David B. Miller, David’s son’s lands

Messages in the Census

By 1850, we find the following families, in the census, in order:

  • Solomon Conrad
  • David B. Miller
  • Jacob Stutzman
  • Michael Haney
  • John D. Miller
  • Susannah Shively

Two of John David’s children/step-children would marry neighbors.

Jonas Shively is age 25, a carpenter and living with his widowed mother, right next to John David Miller. In 1851, Hester Miller married Jonas Shively, the boy next door. In 1860, John David’s second wife’s daughter, Lucinda Whitehead would marry Joseph Haney, son of Michael Haney. The Brethren generally did not marry outside their faith. If they did, one person or the other converted. There were no religiously “mixed” families at that time.

JDM 1850 census

The 1850 census shows us that two of the 4 children shown in 1840 have died. They are assuredly buried in the Miller, now Baintertown or Rodibaugh Cemetery, but their tiny graves are unmarked.

jdm 1860 census

The 1860 census goes hand in hand with the 1874 plat map and shows the following families, John’s neighbors, in order:

  • Michael Haney
  • Conrad Broombaugh
  • Solomon Conrad
  • John Banta
  • George Hanna?
  • David Rodibaugh
  • Daniel Shively
  • John D. Miller (with wife Margaret Lentz Whitehead)
  • David B. Miller
  • Adam Whitehead (with wife Susanna Miller) listed just below David B. Miller in the census schedule above

John David would bury his own child in 1861, likely in the Baintertown Cemetery in an unmarked grave, probably near his father and the 3 children he buried between 1832 and 1855.  If he and Margaret named this child, that information has not filtered down to us today.

John David’s daughter, Mary Ann Treesh’s daughter Chloe also was born and died in 1861, and is also likely buried at Baintertown.  Those babies are likely buried side by side near David Miller.

By the 1870 census, John David and Margaret were done having children. Their last child was born a few months before Margaret turned 40, in 1862, when John David was 49 years old. John David was a grandfather, several times over, before his last child was born. The span of years between his oldest child born in 1833 and youngest born in 1862 was 29 years. I can’t even imagine having young children in a household for more than 30 years straight – literally John David’s entire adult life.

Margaret Lentz 1870 census

As we look at the various census records, we see John David’s family shrink as they reach adulthood, marry and “set up housekeeping” on their own.

Margaret Lentz 1880 census

Ira was the last child to marry, in 1885.

By 1900, John David Miller and Margaret are living alone. It must have been quiet in that house, for the first time ever. Maybe too quiet, although I’m sure there were grandchildren in and out regularly, probably slamming screen doors.

Margaret Lentz 1900 census

This picture of John David and Margaret was probably taken between 1890 and 1900. John David looks to be in his 70s or 80s.

Margaret Lentz outside home2

John David Passes Over

I always view elderly ancestors as something of a miracle or akin to winning the lottery given that they lived in an age before modern medicine and in particular, before antibiotics. Living past childhood put you in the lucky half, and living to be elderly by any measure made you unique.

Unlike his father, John David did have a will, but he didn’t write his will until 1897, when he was 85 years old. Perhaps John was an optimist as well. People in earlier times didn’t write a will until they felt like they might need one, which is why so many people died intestate. They didn’t expect death to visit when it did.

John David Miller died on February 10, 1902.

John David Miller’s death certificate says that he was born in Pennsylvania in 1812, that he died in Jackson Twp, age 89, married, of senile gangrene, was buried in Baintertown and the funeral director was C.B. Stiver.

The informant was Perry Miller, John’s youngest child who was born in 1862, more than a decade after his grandfather, David, had died. Still, one would think he would have remembered his grandfather’s name, but he didn’t. Additionally, John David was born in Ohio, not Pennsylvania. Death certificates are often notoriously incorrect about anything to do with past history. People providing the information are very clearly stressed, if they ever knew the correct information.

JDM death cert

The Baintertown Cemetery is also known as the Rodibaugh Cemetery. David, his first wife Mary and second wife Margaret are buried on the North side of Co Rd 29 right off St Rd 15 in the community known as Baintertown. From 15, turn east at Co Rd 29, cross the RR tracks, then look on the left where the cemetery is obvious. The marker is at the end of the little cemetery road on the right.

JDM Baintertown map

On the map above from the Elkhart County Cemetery book, I have drawn the location of John David’s grave, near the north end of the cemetery, his father David’s grave to the right and his brother David B. Miller’s grave for reference. The Baintertown Cemetery is full of Millers and is located on the original David Miller land. Ironic that Perry couldn’t remember David’s name, but his parents are buried on David’s original land and within sight of David’s own marker.

JDM headstone

John David’s headstone cost $100

JDM headstone receipt

Apparently John David wasn’t buried in his own clothes, as a receipt submitted to the estate by the undertakers lists a casket for $95, a vault for $15 and a robe for $7.

John David had three different obituaries – a genealogists dream come true.

His first obituary appeared on February 10, 1902, a Monday, the day that he died, and reads as follows:

Aged Pioneer Dead

John B. Miller, Nearly 90 Years, Succumbed Today

John B. Miller, one of the oldest citizens of Jackson township who would have been 90 years old April 6th next, died at 2 o-clock this afternoon at his home 2.5 miles northwest of New Paris of senile gangrene, having been ill the past six months. For about seventy years he had resided on the farm where he died having entered the homestead originally from the government. He has since been one of the stalwart and highly esteemed citizens of his community. For many years he has been a prominent and influential member of the German Baptist church. He is survived by his aged wife and ten children. The children are; Aaron, David B of this county; Mrs. John Dubbs of Warsaw, Mrs Michael Tresch of Syracuse, Mrs. David B. Blough, east of Milford, D.W. Miller and Mrs. Jonas Shively of Goshen, Ira J. Miller, east of New Paris, Harry A Miller west of Waterford, and Mrs. Hiram Ferverda east of Leesburg. The funeral arrangements are not yet made.

A second obituary in the Goshen Democrat reads:

John B. Miller aged nearly 90 and one of the oldest residents of Jackson Twp. died yesterday afternoon at his home 2.5 miles NW of New Paris. He was a member of the German Baptist church and is survived by 10 children including DW Miller and Mrs. Jonas Shively of Goshen. The funeral will take place at his house Wednesday morning at 10 and interment at Baintertown Cemetery.

The third obituary is from the Brethren publication, Gospel Messenger:

Miller, Bro John D. died Feb. 10, 1902, in the Union Center congregation, Ind., aged 89 years, 10 months and 4 days. He was born in Montgomery County, Ohio, April 6, 1812, married to Mary Baker in 1831, moved to Elkhart County, Ind., took up a government claim which he still occupied at his death. To this union were born 10 children, seven yet living. His wife died May 11, 1855. He was married again to Margaret E. Whitehead March 29, 1857. There were born to this union four children, three of whom are yet living. He leaves a wife and ten children. He was a devoted brother nearly sixty-five years. Services by brethren M. E. Eisenhour and Henry Neff.

Senile gangrene is a form of gangrene occurring particularly in old people, and caused usually by insufficient blood supply due to degeneration of the walls of the smaller arteries. However, we know from a suit filed before John David’s death that he had dementia, by whatever medical diagnosis you call it, and it was apparently affecting his cognitive ability.

There are two things that strike me about these obituaries. First, the Brethren obituary says that he was a “devoted brother nearly 65 years,” putting the date at 1837 or so. However, we know that John David was raised Brethren, so I find this comment a bit strange. Perhaps they were referencing the “official” formation of the church in Elkhart County which occurred in 1838.

Secondly, John David’s funeral was at home, not at the church. However, looking at the map, it does seem futile to take him 7 or 8 miles south, only to bring him back past his house and another 2 or 3 miles northeast to the Baintertown cemetery – so this makes a lot of practical sense. However, in light of the rift in the family, with at least one of his siblings and the battle brewing between his own children, that funeral must have been “interesting” to say the least.  I wonder if everyone attended.

Again, never in his wildest dreams…

The Battle Begins

The battle over John David’s property began before he died.

John David Miller wrote his will in 1897, but in 1901, before his death, his son David B. Miller (by first wife Mary Baker) filed an injunction in court asking for a guardian to be provided for his father who, in his words, “had a substantial estate and could no longer manage his affairs.” I can only imagine what a ruckus this must have caused within the family. There had to be some event or situation arise to cause this level of concern. Given the suit after John David’s death, I suspect that the concern might have been a result of how close John David had become to his wife, Margaret’s great nephew, Edward E. Whitehead, the grandson of her first husband’s brother, Peter Whitehead. However, before the case was heard, John David Miller died.

His will was written as follows:

I, John D. Miller of Elkhart County Indiana, do make and publish this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time made.

Item 1 – I give and devise unto my wife the farm of 160 acres in Elkhart county on which we now live, together with all the personal property thereon, to her during her life, to use as maybe necessary for her support and comfortable maintenance and also all money I may have on hand at the time of my death except so much as maybe necessary for the payment of the expenses of my last sickness and burial.

Item 2 – After my wife’s death all of the property then remaining shall be sold and after payment of debts and expenses of the administration of the estate, the proceeds shall be divided into three equal parts. Out of one third part there shall be paid to my wife’s nephew Edward Whitehead $300 and the remainder thereof shall be divided equally between the three children of myself and my said wife, viz: Ira Miller, Louisa Fervedy and Perry Miller. The remaining 2/3 portion shall be divided into 10 parts of which one part shall be paid to each of my ten children, viz: Esther Shively, David Miller, Mary Ann Tresh, Aaron Miller, Jane Blough, Matilda Dubs, Washington Miller, Ira Miller, Louisa Fervedy and Perry Miller, or if either of these is dead the share of such ones shall be paid to his or her heirs at law.

Item 3 – I hereby nominate and appoint Alonzo Rodabaugh executor of this my will.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 29th day of April 1897.   Signed John D. Miller

Signed by John D. Miller as his last will and testament in our presence and signed by us in his presence and in the presence of each other. Margaret Ellen Gowing, Wilbur L Stonex. (recorded in will book page 67).

However, things don’t always work out as intended. By law, Margaret had the right to one third of his estate as her dower. She elected to take her one third as indicated by the following widow’s election.

Widow’s election recorded on page 111.

The undersigned widow of John D. Miller decd late of Elkhart County Indiana who died testate and whose last will and testament has been duly admitted to probate and record in the Elkhart Circuit Court hereby make election as such widow to hold and retain her right of dower in the personal estate of said decedent and to hold and retain her right to one third of the lands of which her husband died testate notwithstanding the terms of the said will, and she refuses to accept any devise or provision whatever made by said will in her favor, for, or in lieu of her said statutory right as widow in and to the personal property and real estate of said decedent.

Margaret (x her mark) E. Miller

Signed May 12, 1902

John David’s estate was controversial, to say the least, and eventually the bank was appointed the estate’s administrator, although Perry, John David’s youngest son, submitted paperwork for administration initially. Perry, however, was having issues of his own at home. His daughter Maud was suffering from tuberculosis which would claim her life the following year within days of his mother, Margaret’s death.

Perry, along with Margaret’s nephew, Edward E. Whitehead had done a great deal in the years before John’s death to help the elderly couple and had never been reimbursed for their efforts or expenses. They submitted receipts to the estate and those charges were disputed by the older set of children by Mary Baker. There was obviously a great deal of resentment between the two sets of children, if not before, from this point forward.

Finally, in the end, Washington Miller refused to contribute $10 of his portion of the estate for his father’s tombstone. Edward Whitehead, the nephew, paid Washington Miller’s share. That is surely the last, final insult one could inflict on a parent and an ugly legacy to leave behind. Edward Whitehead obviously cared a great deal for John David Miller.

JDM george refusal

The inventory for John David’s estate is as follows, and the widow took everything except the wheat, rye and corn against her 1/3 dower.  She needed household items to live.

Number Items Appraised Value
1 Jewell oak heating stove 4.00
1 Eight day clock .25
1 Sewing machine .05
4 Rocking chairs 1.50
1 Bedstead and spring 1.25
1 Old rag carpet 25 yards .50
1 Bureau 1.00
1 Stand .10
1 Bedstead .05
1 Bedspring and bedding 2.00
1 Rag carpet 15 yards .50
1 Ingrain carpet 15 yards .50
12 Winsor chairs 1.50
1 Dining table .25
1 Cupboard .50
1 Dough tray .25
1 Kitchen sinc .10
1 Hanging lamp .25
1 Pantry safe .50
1 Churn .05
1 Milch trough 1.25
15 Milch crocks .45
1 Lounge .05
1 110 lb lard 11.00
1 Cooking stove and furniture .50
1 Cross cut saw and brush cythe .05
1 Bucksaw .10
1 Log chain .05
1 Horse 3.00
1 Cow 30.00
1 Ladder and maul 1.25
1 Wheelbarrow and ax .75
1 Spring seat .25
30 Chickens 7.50
30 Acres growing wheat land lord ½ 150.00
32 Acres rye landlords 2/5 40.00
66 Bushels corn 38.34
1 Small looking glass .05
A few Old dishes, spoons, knives and forks 1.00
20 Bushels corn in crib 9.00
Total 309.69

Controversial estates are boons for the genealogist because so much is recorded.

For example, there is a statement in the estate packet that Aaron Miller owed the estate for several items that he “took” or “got” in 1896 and 1898, including a Hoosier Bell Corn Plow that was new in 1895 and he took in 1896, a set of double harnesses and a Champion self rake machine that he took in 1898. This suggests that John David was no longer farming for himself at this time. He would have been 84 in 1896. What is remarkable is that this also suggests he did farm until that time, because he reportedly bought the plow new in 1895.

However, Aaron’s story differed and he filed a petition that stated that the rake machine was very old, given to him by his father to cut 10 acres of clover on his place, has never been used since and is of no value.

Aaron continues to say that the harnesses he bought of his father and paid in full and that the corn plow was old, out of date, and not being in manufacture, cannot be repaired. He bought if of his father for $5. That differs quite a bit from the claim that the plow was new in 1895 and Aaron took it in 1896.

John David signed a receipt in 1899 stating that Edward Whitehead had provided services to John David and his wife that were of a value of $1000. That is a significant amount at that time.

JDM Whitehead receipt

Edward Whitehead filed this receipt signed by John David Miller in 1899 against his estate. I’m sure that was the intention when John signed the document given that his entire household inventory didn’t come to half that amount and he only had $30 “cash on hand” at his death. John David’s son, Ira, signed the receipt.

JDM Whitehead official doc

The executor would not honor this receipt based upon the complaints of Mary Baker’s children. Ira, Perry and Evaline, John David’s 3 youngest children, and his widow all signed a document stating that this receipt was itself valid and for valid work – even knowing that would reduce their share of the estate. Witnesses were subpoenaed and expenses incurred against the estate in order for the court to hear the testimony and determine that indeed, this was a valid charge against the estate. Unfortunately, we don’t have that testimony today, but I would love to have been a mouse in that courtroom.  I’m surprised this story didn’t filter down to my mother’s generation.  John David was her great-grandfather and mother knew Evaline, her grandmother, quite well.

In addition to the $1000 note, Edward Whitehead also submitted a list of expenses he incurred providing services beginning August 21, 1901 and continuing through April 5th 1902.

JDM Whitehead list

From this list and other receipts, we garner quite a bit of interesting information about John David’s life.

Their rooms were painted and wallpapered and they had screens in their windows. They had window shades, a pump inside and a water tank. Now that indeed WAS a luxury. I remember my grandmother, John David’s granddaughter, having the same arrangement some 55 or 60 years later.

The biggest difference between 1902 and 1960 was that my grandmother had a brand spanking new inside bathroom, and electricity. No more outhouse like John David would have had and no more sponge baths. Those outhouses were miserably cold in the winter and just as miserably hot and STINKY in the summer.

A very surprising entry was the gin and alcohol. Apparently, John David drank at least some, or perhaps this was considered medicinal. If it made him feel better, it was medicinal. There was little else they could do for him.

John David may not have had a buggy anymore, although there was one horse listed in his estate, but he had a buggy shed.

He also had a hair mattress, which would have been horsehair, considered a luxury and certainly a step up from a straw mattress. I wonder if this was purchased to attempt to make him more comfortable in his final days.

We know John David was ill for several months before his death, because the last entry is for care and nursing for just over 5 months before he died. His obituary also mentions that he had been ill for about 6 months. The last six months of his life were probably pretty miserable.

This receipt is for an additional $1104 against the estate.

At his death, according to estate paperwork, John David owned the north half of the SE quarter of section 5 and the west half of the SW quarter of section 5, both in township 35 north, range 6 East containing a total of 160 acres.

JDM quadrant

On the 1874 plat map above, the north half of the SE quarter is the top box shaded green, which was John David’s original land. The west half of the SW quarter is the land labeled C. Peffly. Obviously John David purchased this land sometime between 1874 and 1902.

JDM sale of land

John David’s total estate was valued at $4969.88 with the sale of his real estate counting for $4483.34 of the total according to the final account provided to the court in March of 1903.

Perry Miller also submitted a list of expenses beginning in 1884 which would have been when his father was 72.

JDM Perry Miller list

From these various sources, we know that John David had hogs and chickens and obviously, blackberries which had to be picked. He raised corn, wheat, rye, hay, potatoes and clover and heated with coal, probably in addition to wood. A bill was also submitted by Joseph Peffley for pruning grapes and fruit trees.

Perry had to obtain a judgement to collect these funds as well, according to the final estate distribution where Perry’s bill is listed as “on judgement.” Apparently Aaron B. Miller also had to obtain a judgment for 30.49. This was obviously a very difficult estate to settle with a great deal of contention.

Seven of John David’s children hired a separate attorney, Warren Berkey, to collect their portion of the estate: George Washington Miller, David B. Miller, Aaron B. Miller, Jane Blough, Hester Shively, Mary Ann Treesh and Matilda Dubbs. Her nickname, Tilda was lined through. This looks like the battle lines were drawn – the children of the first marriage vs the children of the second marriage, his widow Margaret and Edward Whitehead.  What a sad situation.

A different attorney, Lou Vail worked on the estate as the executor for Elkhart County Loan and Trust and submitted his bill. It’s from this document that we discover there were indeed 2 trials. We already knew that Edward Whitehead had to sue to have his receipts honored in Elkhart County. The second trial was Joseph B. Haney vs Miller in Kosciusko County.

JDM lawyer bill

Interestingly enough, according to court documents, in 1890 or 1891 John David gave each of his children “the sum of $1000 and at that said time settled in full with each of his said heirs and treated the husbands of each of his daughters as such heirs.”

That’s a lot of money – $10,000 in total.  For that time, John David was a wealthy man, but you would never have guessed.  He clearly lived very simply is a very Brethren manner.

There were several distributions to John David’s heirs. I am struck by how much better off everyone would have been to get along. Instead, John David’s older children contested the will which drove up the settlement costs, caused Margaret to petition the court for her one third share instead of leaving it in the estate to be divided by all heirs later which decreased older children’s share.  Contesting the will also incurred attorney bills that were paid out of the estate before their share, along with their own attorney who was paid out of their share before they saw a penny.  All in all, it turned out to be a very bad idea, on multiple levels

Here’s an example of the estate distribution according to John David’s will versus what happened, presuming he had an estate valued at $10,000.

JDM hypothetical settlement

Of course, George Washington Miller received $10 more than the rest of the heirs because he declined to contribute $10 for his father’s headstone. The actual distribution to the heirs looked to be significantly more than this, although I’m not quite sure where all the money came from. The estate is a bit disjoint and many documents don’t have dates so it’s impossible to reconcile.

John David would have been mortified that his will was not honored and that his son refused to pay $10 towards his marker.  That, probably more than anything, would have been hurtful.

Never in his wildest dreams….

John David Miller’s Children

John David Miller had 7 living children from his first marriage and 3 from his second. He also had 3 additional children from his first marriage and one from his second that did not survive. I was given the names of 3 children that “died young” for John David Miller, with no additional information. Those three children were John N. Miller, Catherine Miller and Samuel Miller. There are gaps in the surviving children’s births along with children in the 1840 census not found later that are suggestive of deaths.

There were no children born between 1833 and 1838, which suggests at least two deaths. There is also a gap between 1847 and 1851, suggestive of another child. Lastly, there were no children born after 1851 when Mary would have been 39 years old. She died in 1855, so it’s certainly possible that she lost a child in 1853 and perhaps died in childbirth in 1855.

Unfortunately, unless a Bible survives, there are no records of children who died before a census could at least record a brief existence on earth. Before the 1850 census, no names were recorded except for the head of household. All we know about those children who died between 1840 and 1850 is that they lived and their approximate age.

None of the graves of the Miller children who died have markers – assuming they are buried in the Baintertown Cemetery, which is the only location that makes sense – given that it was on David’s father’s land and that is where all of the early Millers are buried – including John David and both wives.

Elizabeth Miller, the wife of John David’s father, David, is the earliest marked grave, dating from 1838.  That marker wasn’t placed until David’s father died in 1851.  Elizabeth and David’s Miller’s graves are back towards the west side, and have a lot of “space” around them, suggesting unmarked graves.  I suspect this is where John David’s children are buried.

David Miller grouping

Unfortunately, this is all we can do to remember them.  Anonymous children in forgotten graves.

rje camera january 2004 021

This photo is of John David Miller with his second wife, Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller and 5 of his children.

john david miller family

Most of what we know about John David Miller comes from documents.  We have very little information about him as a person.

Cousin Rex told me a story about John David Miller. A man from Ohio came and challenged him to a fight. The man said that he heard that John David was the best fighter in the county, and John said he reckoned that he was. They went out in the field and went to it and finally, the man from Ohio conceded that indeed, John David was the best fighter. I told Rex that didn’t seem very Brethren-like, and he agreed, but said that John David didn’t take any gaff off of anyone, that he was very spunky.

John David Miller’s children with Mary Baker

Hester (Esther) Ann Miller was born May 26, 1833, reportedly in Ohio and died on February 27, 1917 in Elkhart County of stomach cancer. She is buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Goshen. The 1850 census says she was born in Indiana, so this document may be incorrect.

JDm Hester Miller Shively death cert

Hester married Jonas Shively June 4th 1852 and had 8 children, 5 of them living in 1900:

  • Thomas E. Shively (1854-1854)
  • Amanda Shively (1858-1934) married Benjamin Berryman who died in 1880. She never remarried.
  • Reuben Shively (1860-1929) married Vicie Homan, wife’s name Lillie on death certificate
  • Alonzo Shively (1862-1933) married Daisy Wrightsman
  • Lydia Shively (1864-1865)
  • Joseph Shively (1866-1928) married Emma Larir
  • Mary Ellen Shively (1872-? ) married Alvin J. Stutzman
  • One child unaccounted for

David B. Miller was born August 18, 1838 in Elkhart County and died Sept. 25, 1922 of a chronic kidney inflammation and bronchitis. He is buried at Baintertown.

JDM David B Miller death cert

David B. Miller married Susan Smith on October 21, 1858. They had 9 children, 8 living in 1900, all born in Elkhart County.

  • Aaron Miller (1859-?) married Amanda Mason
  • John Melvin Miller (1861-1936) married Katherine Werner
  • Samson Miller (1864-1937) married Mary Werner
  • Mary Ann Miller (1867-1957) married William Sinning
  • Milton Miller (1868-1943) married Alice Yoder
  • Matilda Miller (1870-1926) married Ulysses Grant and Dora Carrier
  • Lydia Miller (1872-1953) married Orrin Whitehead
  • Amanda Miller (1874-1922 ) married David Saunders
  • One child unaccounted for

The following photo is of David B. Miller, son of John David Miller, with his family.

JDM David Miller family

Above – back row left to right – Milt Miller, Aaron Miller, Matilda Miller Grant, Samuel Miller, John Miller. Front row – Lydia Miller Whitehead, the mother Susan Smith Miller, Maude Miller, father David B. (probably Baker) Miller, Mary Ann Miller Sinning.

Mary Ann Miller born May 1, 1841 in Elkhart County and died on Sept 5, 1916, of double pneumonia.

JDM Mary Ann Treesh death cert

Mary Ann is buried at Baintertown.

JDM Treesh stone

Mary Ann married Michael Treesh on Dec. 23, 1858 and had 7 children, 4 living according to the 1900 census:

  • Aaron Treesh (1859-1928) married Ida Wyland
  • Chloe Ann Treesh (1861-1861)
  • Amanda (1865-1952) married Milton Stiver, then in 1917 to Melvin. D. Neff
  • Reuben (1868-1897) married Winnie Traster
  • John Milton (1875-1940) wife was Chloe at his death
  • Levi I. (1882-after 1900)
  • Michael Guy Treesh (1886-1886)

Aaron B. Miller was born in March 1, 1843 and died on February 20, 1923 in Cook County, Illinois. He is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery.

JDM Aaron stone

He married Sarah Ellen Myers on September 4, 1864 and had 5 children, all living according to the 1900 census:

  • Charles I. Miller (1866-1947)
  • Clara E. Miller (1869-after 1880)
  • Ida Miller (1871-1906)
  • Alonzo A. Miller (1875-1903) unmarried
  • Emry (Emery J.) Miller (1878- ) married in 1907 in Kalamazoo, MI to Louise Lathrop

Matilda A., also known as Tilda and Tillie Miller was born in May 26, 1844 in Elkhart County and died on February 6, 1939 in Kosciusko, County of a stroke.

JDM Matilda Miller Dubbs death cert

Matilda is buried in the Salem Cemetery.

JDM Dubbs stone

Matilda married John Dubbs on February 14, 1861 in Elkhart County.

JDm Matilda Dubbs

Matilda had the following children:

  • William Benson Dubbs (1862-1944 ) married Sarah “Dessie” Lentz, sister of Moses Lentz.
  • Margaret Amana “Emma” Dubbs (1864-1947) married Moses F. Lentz
  • Chloe Dubbs (1866-1942) married Jacob B. Neff
  • Mary Dubbs (1870-1929) married William Oldfield Scott
  • Franklin Dubbs (1873-1931) married Leora Myra Messnard
  • Charles Augustus Dubbs (1876-1939) married Maude V. Beegle

Martha Jane Miller was born March 26, 1847 in Elkhart County and died March 2, 1935 in Kosciusko County of myocarditis with heart failure and bronchitis.

JDM Martha Jane Blough death cert

Martha Jane is buried in the Salem Cemetery in Kosciusko County.

She married David Blough September 17, 1866 and had 7 children, all living according to the 1900 census:

  • Noma “Neoma” Ellen Blough (1867-1954) married William Melvin Tom
  • Charley Blough (1869-after 1900)
  • Hattie D. Blough (1872-1954) married Chester Juntz
  • Jesse Calvin Blough (1874-1936) married Lena Gibson
  • Albert “Birt” Blough (1877-1905) married Ora ?
  • Lulu Blough (1879-1966) married Milo Maloy
  • Mary “May” M. Blough (1886-1969) married Homer Lewis but had the surname Jontz on her death certificate

JDM Martha Jane Blough

Martha Jane Miller Blough with her hand on John David’s shoulder.

George Washington Miller was born Feb. 20, 1851 and died on March 11, 1917, both in Elkhart County. He is buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Goshen, Indiana, but I don’t find him listed in that cemetery, or anyplace in Elkhart County, on FindAGrave.

JDM George Washington Miller death cert

George Washington was not wearing a beard and my not have been Brethren.

JDM George Washington Miller

George Washington, who I believe was called “Wash,” married Lydia Miller on May 25, 1871 and they had 6 children, 5 living as of the 1900 census.

  • May Miller (1873-before 1900)
  • Eunice Miller (1874-1944) never married
  • Ada (1876-before 1900)
  • Gertrude (1880-1965) married Howard W. Neff
  • Myrtle (1884-1958) never married
  • One additional child died before 1900.

John David Miller’s Children with Margaret Lentz

Evaline Louise Miller was born March 29, 1857 in Elkhart County and died on December 20, 1939 in Leesburg, Kosciusko County of a kidney infection followed by heart failure.

Margaret Lentz Evaline Miller Ferverda death

Evaline is buried in the New Salem Cemetery in Milford, Kosciusko County, Indiana.

Hiram and Eva Ferverda stone

Evaline, or Evy as she was called, married Hiram B. Ferverda on March 10, 1876 in Goshen, Indiana and had the following children.

  • Ira Otto Ferverda (1877-1950) married Ada Pearl Frederickson
  • Edith Estella Ferverda (1879-1955) married Tom Dye
  • Irvin Guy Ferverda (1881-1933) married Jessie Hartman
  • John Whitney Ferverda (1882-1962) married Edith Barbara Lore
  • Elizabeth Gertrude Ferverda (1884-1966) married Louis Hartman
  • Chloe Evaline Ferverda (1886-1984) married Rolland V. Robinson
  • Ray Edward Ferverda (1891-1975) married Grace P. Driver
  • Roscoe H. Ferverda (1893-1978) married Effie Ringo and Ruby Mae Teeter.
  • George Miller Ferverda (1895-1970) married Lois Glant and Elizabeth Haas.
  • Donald D. Ferverda (1899-1937) married Agnes Ruple
  • Margaret Ferverda (1902-1984) married Chester H. Glant

Grandma Evaline Miller Ferverda

This photo was taken during WWI when Evaline had three sons serving in the military based on the three stars in the window. This was decidedly un-Brethren behavior, although Evaline was indeed Brethren. Mother remembered her wearing her white prayer bonnet.

Ira J. Miller was born July 26, 1859 in Elkhart County and died December 17, 1948 of heart disease. He is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery. Ira married Rebecca Jane Rodibaugh in 1885 according to the 1900 census and had 2 children, both living as of the 1900 census:

  • Orba O. Miller (1873-after 1900) age given as 16 in 1900 census
  • Everett E. Miller (1897-1991 ) married Mamie Smoker

Everett’s son, Rex, conveyed the story that Perry Miller died of an appendicitis at age 18. Perry did not die at 18, but given that Orba Miller disappears after the 1900 census, I’d bet Orba is the person who died at 18. Orba would have been Perry’s nephew and Rex’s father’s brother.

Rex tells us that Orba and Ira attended the Baintertown school, a one room schoolhouse, eventually abandoned and located on Rex’s land.  He fixed it up as a barn and still continued to utilize the building.

Margaret Lentz Ira Miller

Ira Miller and Rebecca Rodibaugh.

Perry A. Miller was born June 25, 1862 in Elkhart County, Indiana and died Dec. 22, 1906 of a twisted bowel that resulted in a bowel obstruction. This could well have been the genesis of Rex’s information that he died of appendicitis. Perry is buried in the Violett Cemetery.

Margaret Lentz Perry Miller stone

Perry was married to Mary Jane Lauer on October 2, 1881 and had 4 children, 3 living as of the 1900 census:

  • Maud Miller (1882-1905)
  • Purl A. Miller (1885-1960) married Adeline B. Schrock
  • Ottie Miller (1889-after 1900)
  • One child unaccounted for

Counting the Uncounted

The 1900 census provides us with two very useful pieces of information. Column 11 is titled “Mother of how many children” and column 12 is titled “Number of these children living.” I must say that census day was probably a sad day for most women, being reminded of the children who has passed before them. And yes, most women who had been married had lost children.  Those few who hadn’t had siblings and friends who lost children.  Losing up to half your children was the norm, not the exception.

For genealogists, this allows us to do two things.

First, on a personal level, it allows us to identify how many children our ancestors had that died. Often, they weren’t recorded and are entirely unknown to us today, even just 116 years distant.

Second, on a more global level, it allows us to get a picture of what was “typical” before the widespread advent of birth control and before the introduction of antibiotics, both of which have dramatically tipped the scales toward smaller families with most children surviving. What was common and expected at that time, to some extent, is now very unusual and a crisis when a child is lost.

John David’s children’s 1900 census entries are reflected below, allowing us to count the previously uncountable.

Name Total Children Living Children Deceased Children
Hester 8 5 3
David 9 8 1
Mary Ann 7 4 3
Aaron 5 5 0
Matilda* 9? 6 3?
Mary Jane 7 7 0
George W. 6 5 1
Evaline 11 11 0
Ira 2 2 0
Perry 4 3 1
Total 68 56 12

Some children passed not long after the 1900 census. At least two more died within the next 5 years.

*The 1900 census for Matilda was incorrect, as it lists only one child for her. She had one child left at home, but we know from census and other documents that she, did, indeed have six living children. Her deceased child count is based on “gaps” between children of approximately 4 years.

Very few of the graves of the deceased children are marked, probably speaking more to the economic conditions than to how the parents felt. They may have been marked with wooden crosses at the time they were buried. The general feeling was that, other than the parents, no one would need to find the grave.  The parents would never forget the location and didn’t need a marker to find the stone. After the parents were gone, no one would care, so no marker needed.

John David lost 4 of 14 children himself. Of his 10 surviving children, above, he had a total of 68 grandchildren, 56 of which were still living in 1900, as was he.

Conversely, this also means that John David buried 12 grandchildren, plus his own 4. His daughter, Hester (also recorded as Esther) married in 1852, so John David buried 12 grandchildren in 48 years, plus 4 children of his own. That’s approximately one death every 4 years, although death wasn’t always spaced out in convenient increments – as if death is ever convenient. For example, one of his children, Perry, lost a child and his mother, Margaret, within a month of each other and two of John David’s children lost children the same year they lost him. Death, then, was a more accepted part of life than it is today. I wonder if the sheer quantity made one a bit immune.

If these rough numbers are applicable to John David’s siblings as well, then John David was attending at least 2 funerals a year, if not more, for children…and that’s in addition to adults – and just for his immediate family without factoring in the rest of the church.

Going to the graveyard was a somber event far too familiar to our ancestors. When you look at the magnitude of the deaths within a community, even a relatively small community, it’s no wonder only adult burials were permanently marked, and only some of those. A child’s tombstone before 1900 was very, very rare.     

John David Miller’s Autosomal DNA

In the article about Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller, we utilized two Lentz men for autosomal DNA comparison to find snippets of Margaret’s DNA in her descendants. Let’s do the same thing with John David Miller, utilizing individuals who descend only from the Miller line upstream of John David. Any DNA they share with descendants of John David Miller and Margaret Lentz must be Miller DNA and not Lentz DNA.

I did an experiment called “Just One Cousin” some time back to illustrate the magnitude of genetic genealogy information that one can indeed obtain from having “just one cousin” in the data base. However, in my case, that one cousin was actually two, Cheryl and her brother, Don, both descendants of John David Miller and Margaret Lentz Miller through daughter Evaline who married Hiram Ferverda.

In “Just One Cousin,” I was trying to find all of the people who match Cheryl, Don and my mother, so that could potentially include some folks who are also descended from Lentz ancestors. What we’ll do in this article is to limit the people we’re comparing against to those who are known to be Miller only descendants, who share a common paternal ancestor with John David Miller.

We will use the same 4 descendants of John David Miller and Margaret Lentz for our comparison group of descendants from our family line.

How is Everyone Related?

Rex Miller, our cousin, matches 4 other Miller men utilizing Y DNA who have also taken the Family Finder test. This Y DNA match confirms that indeed, these individuals do share a common Miller ancestor. These men also have their genealogy proven back to Michael Miller, the immigrant, so they are excellent candidates for autosomal comparison.

JDM DNA pedigree

The men in green will be compared to all 4 individuals in the bottom row of the pink box, descended from John David Miller, to determine which of their DNA came from John David Miller as opposed to Margaret Lentz. The common ancestor is Philip Jacob Miller and wife, Magdalena.

The two men in red, JM and RM can’t be utilized in this comparison, even though their Y DNA matches Rex.

Unfortunately, JM and RM don’t match any of the individuals in the pink box, so son Lodowich’s line is not represented.

Here is how the green and red Miller men are related to the testers in the pink box descended from John David Miller.

JDM relationship chart

The relationships are somewhat distant, more distant than the third cousin Lentz relationships in Margaret Lentz’s article, so not all of the Miller men match the individuals in the pink box.

Given that 4th cousins aren’t “supposed” to match, although they often do, why do both of these 4th cousins match almost everyone in the pink group? Note the yellow boxes in the pedigree chart above where one man in each line married a Miller cousin. That gives that generation a double dose of Miller DNA, which has obviously carried down to the present, giving RWM and HM more Miller DNA than they would have otherwise. Still everyone doesn’t match everyone.

RWM matches Cheryl, but not Don, who are siblings, which illustrates why it’s so important to test your siblings if your parents aren’t available.

At Family Tree DNA, I compared all 4 of our pink individuals to both RWM and HM. The chromosome browser below shows the matches of our 4 John David descendants to HM.

JDM chromosome browser

  • Rex = orange
  • Barbara = blue
  • Don = green
  • Cheryl = pink

I downloaded their matching segment data and after removing the segments under 3cM, we’re left with the matches, below.

JDM match chart

Sorting in chromosome order shows us 4 red/pink (so you can tell where they start and stop) match groups, above. Keep in mind that all of these segments are indeed Miller segments (or identical by chance), because we know the common ancestor and that there are no other known common ancestors.  Please note the word “known,” because it’s important.

The 4 groups colored red and pink are match groups where 3 individuals or more match on the same segment.  These are not (yet) triangulation groups and we can’t assume, although it’s tempting.  Assume will get you every time!

Some, chromosomes 4 (red) and 12, match on smaller segments, but look at the yellow rows. Those are very robust segments that very likely have been passed down from Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena, our common ancestors.

I went back to the chromosome browser and confirmed that yes, indeed, these red segment match groups do triangulate, meaning all of the matching participants match each other on that same segment…except for the segment on chromosome 3 where RWM matches Rex.  Rats!  I never expected a match of this size to NOT triangulate, but I knew something was wrong when RWM only matched Rex and not Cheryl, Don or Barbara.  Hmmm….

JDM triangulation

The segments that do triangulate are marked with green, meaning all people in the group matches every other person in the group on at least part of that segment, so we are unquestionably looking at John David Miller’s DNA in our pink group of Miller descendants – Don, Cheryl, Rex and Barbara.

JDM chr 3

On chromosome 3, three of four of John David’s descendants match each other and HM on a significant sized segment. The graphic above is the relevant segment of chromosome 3.  The background is Barbara and you can see that she matches Don (orange), Cheryl (green) and HM (blue) but even at 1cM, there is no trace of matching to either Rex (yellow) or RWM (pink).  Don and Cheryl’s chromosome 3 matches Barbara and HM, but not RWM or Rex, so the Rex and RWM segment does not triangulate to the rest of the group.  The chart below shows matching on this segment of chromosome 3.

JDM chr 3 triang grid

How is it possible for Rex and RWM to match each other on the same segment as Barbara, Don, Cheryl and HM match each other, but for Rex and RWM not to match either Barbara, Don, Cheryl or HM?  I also verified that HM and RM don’t match each other on that segment either.

There are only two possible answers.  Either that segment is IBC, identical by chance which is very unlikely for a segment of 16cM, or Rex and RWM share another, previously unknown, common ancestor.  I don’t have much information on Rex’s mother’s line.  This also calls into question other matches between only Rex and RWM – meaning they might not be from the Miller line either.

Hmmm….so glad I didn’t just assume, even WITH those large juicy segments.  Sometimes the DNA tells us a story even without the associated genealogy – in this case, that Rex and RWM may have another common ancestor they are unaware of.

It’s amazing what cousins, match groups and triangulation can tell us about our ancestors!

Pretty cool, huh!


It’s absolutely amazing to me as I sit here using a computer in 2016, surfing the web, accessing DNA information on a server in Houston, TX, records information from a server in Salt Lake, periodically checking to see what my friends and cousins are up to on Facebook which is located someplace distant (I have no idea where) and checking my phone for messages, how dramatically different my world and John David Miller’s world are, in just a little over a hundred years. John David didn’t even have electricity.

We’re not talking “change” but an exponential technological revolution that John David couldn’t have ever imagined.

John David died in 1902, I was born a little over half a century later when most farms still didn’t have inside running water and utilized outhouses. I remember taking a bath as a young child in a cold metal tub sitting on my grandmother’s kitchen table on Saturday night with water warmed in a kettle on the stove so I would be clean for church on Sunday, and I remember the water pump built into the back porch.

I also remember a wasps building a nest under the “seat” (boards with strategically placed hole) in the outhouse – a story that repeatedly and regularly amused my brother until his dying day. I still hate wasps and swear that they chase me.

Another half century later, exactly on the 100th anniversary of John David’s death, we would be testing DNA of people to discover what story our ancestors had to tell. That’s clearly within the lifetime of one person – my mother, Barbara in the pink descendant group, participated in both ends of the spectrum, being born only 20 years after John David died in a home a few miles distant with no electricity or plumbing, and having, thankfully, tested her DNA before her passing.

It’s difficult to grasp, and John David Miller would be incredibly shocked that we can isolate some of his DNA today. Of course, people didn’t even know about DNA then.  DNA wasn’t discovered until 1953 – and it would take another quarter century to discover anything much useful about DNA. However, by the year 2000, we knew how to sequence DNA and how to utilize it for genealogy, thanks to Bennett Greenspan, although it was clearly an emerging infant science.

Antibiotics hadn’t been introduced when John David lived, and died. That wouldn’t happen for another two decades and would be a life-changer for many. In fact, one of John David’s grandchildren died of tuberculosis, some of his children died of kidney infections, pneumonia and one died of sepsis. The medical profession knew enough to diagnose the ailments, at least part of the time, but couldn’t do anything about them most of the time.

In a century we have moved from expecting a roughly 50% child mortality rate, with children dying so often than their graves weren’t even marked to a genetic moonshot. John David’s children were lucky and only cumulatively experienced an 18% childhood mortality rate.  John’s own rate was 28%, 4 of 14 died. Today, it’s nearly zero.

Although genetic genealogy is not about medicine, the public awareness and acceptance of DNA testing fostered by genetic genealogy has rapidly helped move a generation of consumers from skepticism to acceptance – and with that will come, probably in this next generation and certainly the next 50 years – the ability to “cure” genetic diseases. John David’s children’s and grandchildren’s death certificates are ripe with potentially genetically connected causes of death; epilepsy, dementia, lots of cardiac and kidney issues, strokes and multiple instances of stomach cancer.

A new day has dawned and come bursting forth, not only in terms of losing fewer children and finding ancestors through distant electronic connections, but in terms of being on the leading edge of a technology that is the space race of our generation. DNA is the frontier inside of us – gifted to us by our ancestors.

Every person who has participated in genetic genealogy testing has been a pioneer on that frontier, much as John David Miller was a pioneer along Turkey Creek on what was known as the Elkhart Prairie. What a wonderful legacy to leave – a family of pioneers – different centuries, different frontiers. Wouldn’t John David Miller be surprised what four his non-Brethren great-grandchildren have done – Barbara, Cheryl, Rex and Don, those 4 individuals in the pink box – and what their DNA can tell us about him.

Never, in his wildest dreams….



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Magdalena Miller, Probably Not Rochette (c1730-1800/1808), Grandmother to 97, 52 Ancestors #120

Magdalena, such a beautiful name. Biblical of course, but then her family was Brethren, so a Biblical name isn’t the least bit surprising.

It’s somehow a bit ironic that the only mention, anyplace of Magdalena’s name is in her husband’s estate records. And the name may be Magdalen, with no trailing a or e.  Spelling was far from standardized at that time.

Philip Jacob Miller died in early 1799 in Campbell County, KY. His estate was inventoried and probated, and sometime between 1800 and 1808 when the estate was settled, Magdalena became ill, was treated by a doctor and died.  Philip Jacob’s estate paid money at various undated times to Magdalena, then paid for her doctor bill; “pail cash to the amount of 3 pounds 3 shillings for necessaries during the illness of Magdalen Miller, widow of Jacob Miller, dec’d, which illness carried her off.”

The next entry shows her funeral expenses at 10 shillings. How did that equate in the money of the day?  Well, a small log chain in the estate was appraised at 10 shillings, so perhaps the only expense was the wooden box in which she was buried.  Vastly different from today.

Were it not for these notations, we would have no idea of Magdalena’s name. For more than 70 years, there was no record – and only with the death of her husband do we learn her name.  Had she died first, her name would forever be unknown to us.

The rest of what we know about Magdalena is by inference. For example, she had a daughter, also named Magdalena who is referenced in Philip Jacob’s estate settlement.  Magdalena, the daughter, shown by the family as having been born April 25, 1770, married Daniel Ullery and is unquestionably identified as the daughter of Philip Jacob Miller – but Magdalena’s birth is not recorded in Philip Jacob’s Bible.  She would have been born right about the time be obtained that Bible, so how could he forget the newest baby?  But, he did.  She’s not the only missing child in that Bible either.

Because some of the children are missing from the Bible record, and they appear to be the youngest 4 children, we have to make inferences about when Magdalena, the mother, was born. If her last child was born about 1774 or 1775, she would have been about age 45, so born about 1730, which makes sense.  Philip Jacob Miller was born no later than 1727, so they would have been about the same age.

We don’t know where Magdalena was born, or who her parents were. We don’t even know if she was born in the US or abroad.  What we do know is that she had to be in the same location as Philip Jacob Miller in order to meet and marry.  In roughly 1750, that would have been York County, PA living in the Brethren settlement there.

York County, Pennsylvania

The History of York Co, PA, written in 1907 tells us that the first Brethren congregation in York (now Adams) County was the Conewago Church which was established in 1738, “20 miles west from the town of York, on the Little Conewago,” which was in the vicinity of Hanover.

Surnames of the families who were among the early church members were Eldrick, Dierdorff, Bigler, Gripe (Cripe), Studsman (Stutzman) and others. Prominent members include Jacob Moyer James Henrick, preachers; Hans Adam Snyder, George Wine, Daniel Woods, Henry Geing, Joseph Moyer, Nicholas Hostetter, Christian Hostetter, Rudy Brown, Dobis Brother, Jacob Miller, Michael Koutz, Stephen Peter, Henry Tanner, Michael Tanner, John Moyer, Jacob Souder, Henry Hoff, John Swartz.  The wives of these persons named were also members of the church.  Unmarried members were Barbara Snyder John Geing, Maud Bowser, George Peter, Hester Wise, Christian Etter, John Peter Weaver, Barbara Bear, Elizabeth Boering, Grace Hymen.  Their first preacher was Daniel Leatherman, Sr, followed by Nicholas Martin, Jacob Moyer (Meyers), James Hendrich (Henry.)

In 1741, a new church was founded “on the Great Conewago, about 14 miles west from the new town of York.”  Founding members there include John Neagley, Adam Sower, Jacob Sweigard, Peter Neiper and Joseph Latshaw.  The first elder was George Adam Martin followed by Daniel Leatherman Jr. and Nicholas Martin.  In 1770 members included George Brown, John Heiner, Peter Fox, Anthony Dierdorff, Nicholas Moyer, Manasseh Brough, Michael Bosserman, David Ehrhard, Daniel Baker, Abraham Stauffer, Henry Dierdorff, John Burkholder, Andrew Trimmer, Eastace Rensel, Peter Dierdorff, Barnett Augenbaugh, John Neagley, Michael Brissel, Welty Brissel, Matthias Bouser, Laurence Baker, Philip Snell, Nicholas Baker Jr., Adam Sower, Adam Dick, Henry Brissel, David Brissel, Henry Radibush, George Wagner and George Reeson.  Unmarried members were Peter Wertz, Ann Mummert, Christian Fray, Samuel Arnold, Mary Latshaw, Catharine Studabaker, Nicholas Baker, Marillas Baker, Sarah Brissel, Jacob Miller, Rudolph Brown.

As you can see, these were not small churches and the population of Brethren in this region was fairly extensive. Of course, the 1770 membership list would have swollen since some families moved south to Frederick County, Maryland in 1751.  Nicholas Martin who was involved in the establishment of both York County frontier Brethren churches was the first preacher in Frederick County, MD on that new frontier as well, and it’s through his letter that we learn of the death of Michael Miller in 1771, Magdalena’s father-in-law.

Seldom did the entire family remove from an area – often leaving a married child or siblings behind who would establish the family in various areas – like seeds spread by the wind.  Some of these families did not remove and the surname is not found in the Maryland congregations.  Magdalena’s birth family may not have settled in Maryland.

Notably absent on the York County list is Michael Miller, who we know unquestionably lived there from 1744 to roughly 1751 or 1752 along with the entire Berchtol clan, who could well have been Mennonite. The Garber or Garver group is absent as well, and they were Brethren.  Michael Miller owned land with Nicholas Garber and Samuel Bechtol (Berchtol) near Hanover.  Also settled near Hanover was Stephen Ullery, a surname also missing from these lists. So while these are not complete, many of these names are also found among the Brethren in Frederick County, Maryland after 1750 – so it’s very likely that Magdalena’s family is found among this list.

Magdalena had to live in the same general area as Philip Jacob Miller. The Miller/Garber/Berchtol land was either the same as or near the York Road Cemetery and Bair’s Mennonite Church today.

York Co church

The church is set at the bottom of a hill. This photo overlooks the church, cemetery and hills in the distance and across the road, below, the newer portion of the cemetery on the hill.

York Co cem

We don’t know where, but Magdalena assuredly lived here someplace. This land would have been familiar to her.

Rochette, or Not?

There is a persistent rumor that Magdalena’s surname is Rochette, but for the life of me, I can’t find even one snippet of documentation relative to that surname – or any similar surname. Unfortunately, that has reproduced itself like a wild virus and nearly every tree in any public space shows Magdalena’s surname as Rochette – but to date we can find no evidence.  None.  Nada.

Merle Rummel, Brethren historian, says he had a note in his records and believes that he may have obtained the information when he was the minister in southern Ohio, around the year 2000, not far from where the Miller children inherited their land. It was their descendants who told him the surname was Rochette.  But where did they obtain that information?

Two other published sources have cross referenced other people, who both say they have no idea where the surname came from.

Gale Honeyman at the Brethren Heritage Center doesn’t know either. So, at this point, I think we’re going to have to chalk her surname up to a persistent rumor, for now.

I would still like to know if the information arose from older generations of the family, or if it took root from something otherwise published.  Rochette is such an unusual name – hardly seems likely to have pulled it out of a hat. If you have or find anything, please do let me know.

Here’s what I do know. There is not one single mention of the surname Rochette in Frederick County, Maryland, nor in the York Co., PA deeds from 1749 forward, nor in any Lancaster County, PA records that I could find, nor in any Brethren church records that I could find either, or in the county histories prior to 1850.

Furthermore, Rochette is very clearly a French name, not German, and it would be extremely unlikely for a French family to be found among the German pietist families of the Brethren (or Mennonite or Amish) church – not to mention that the German families by and large did not speak English and probably didn’t speak French either.

Had Philip Jacob married a non-Brethren, he would not have been welcome in the church at that time. The German pietist sects, meaning Brethren, Amish, Moravian and Mennonite, traded members back and forth, but their common link, aside from their pietist faith, was the German language which was spoken exclusively, not only in the church, but in their homes and communities.  Many of these families did not speak or understand English. As late as 1805, when later generations of these families were migrating to Ohio, they had to bring at least one man along who spoke both German and English to serve as their translator.

York County also had and has a pronounced Mennonite population as well. The Berchtol family was Mennonite. Clearly this did not cause a huge social rift if the Berchtel, Miller and Garber families owned land jointly.  If a Brethren male married a Mennonite woman, one or the other switched, because families were not “split” as they can be today.  The Mennonites and Brethren were far more alike than different.

So Magdalena was clearly of the Brethren faith too, at least after marriage, meaning her family was very likely found in the group of Brethren or even Mennonite families in York County, PA in the late 1740s, around 1750. The question remains, of course, which family?

A Brethren Bride

Based on the birth of their first child in 1752, or at least the first one in the Bible, it appears that Magdalena and Philip Jacob Miller were probably married in about 1751 – just about the time the Brethren moved from York Co., PA to Frederick County, MD.

What was life like during this time for a young Brethren bride? According to the “History of the Church of the Brethren in southern district of Pennsylvania” published in 1941:

Meetings were held in rotation over the district at private places — in barns or dwelling houses which were often built with an idea to throw two or more rooms together by large folding doors to accommodate a place for the meeting. A goodly number of brethren would come the evening before and a social time would be spent in Scriptural discussions and song and worship before retiring. Next morning breakfast was furnished by the host, assisted by guests, with the greatest delight to all present. The crowd began to swell to such a size that our attendance of today would be surprised.

The hospitality of the host was specially fine. Dinner was furnished, free to all, at meeting. Their horses were cared for during the night and all well fed at meal time. A number of hostlers were always engaged prior to meeting to help to care for horses. The greatest respect was shown to everyone present, members, as well as neighbors. Sometimes these rotations would come around every sixteen weeks; later ten to eight weeks, finally the church houses were built. The old brethren were afraid when churches were built “Something might be lost”.

These rotations of meeting places were scattered over a distance of 50 miles between Westminster, Carroll County, Maryland, and York, York County, Pennsylvania. Christian Royer, John Myers, and Samuel Miller in Manchester district,

The home of Christian Royer was built with moving partitions. Four rooms in one for meetings.

Another source said that church buildings weren’t actually built until about 1810, and even then it was with some reluctance.

Life was probably much the same, except more remote, in Frederick County. It’s likely that Magdalena, as a newlywed, left her family behind, whoever they were – unless they too were one of the families who migrated to Frederick County.  How I wish we knew.

New Life in Frederick County, Maryland

On October 26, 1751, Philip Jacob Miller obtained the land warrant from his father for Ash Swamp in Frederick County, Maryland.   It’s likely that he had just recently married and was “settling down.”  In October, Magdalena would have been 3 months pregnant, just enough to suspect strongly, before the days of pregnancy tests, so that would have been a good time to move, giving her time to set up housekeeping in the new location before the arrival of their first child.

This land had never been settled or cleared, so there was a lot of work to be done. Magdalena may have stayed back in York County while Philip Jacob felled trees and constructed at least a rudimentary home for his bride and soon-to-be family.

On March 7, 1752, Philip Jacob Miller’s father, Michael, sold the last of his land in York County, so the family is assuredly in Frederick County by this time.

This beautiful farm sits today on the land that Philip Jacob and Magdalena carved from the wilderness.

Miller farm sky 2

According to Philip Jacob Miller’s Bible, in April 1752, daughter Lizbeth is born at 3 o’clock at night.

On June 18, 1754, daughter Lidia was born. We don’t know what happened to Lidia, because she is never mentioned in the estate settlement, so the presumption would have to be that she died before her parents.

On April 8, 1755, son Daniel was born at 4 o’clock at night.

A month later, in May of 1755, Magdalena and Philip Jacob’s land was being resurveyed.

This was about the time history in Frederick County was unfolding. General Washington and Benjamin Franklin met with General Braddock in Frederick County, coaching him on military fighting styles in the colonies.  Red coated soldiers marching in a line appear as sitting ducks to Indians.  Braddock poo-pooed the warnings, and sure enough, on July 9th, general Braddock was not only defeated, but slain along with his men, opening the entire frontier to warfare from the French and Indians.  Braddock should have heeded sound advice.

Magdalena would have watched as the red-coated soldiers drilled and prepared for their death march westward. If she happened to visit her father-in-law, Michael Miller, she could have seen the encampment of the soldiers, likely within half a mile or so of his homestead on Antietam Creek.

Of course, Magdalena had a newborn baby, a 13 month old baby and a 3 year old, so she may not have gone visiting much. I suspect she had her hands full.

After Braddock’s defeat in the summer of 1755, the French and Indians began attacking the farms and settlements. The farmers in the region began to abandon their farms.  We don’t know where the Miller family went, but they assuredly went someplace for safety, because the Brethren religion staunchly opposed fighting, taking the life of another, even for protection, and the entire area was abandoned, so staying behind was not an option.  The only way to remain safe was to stay out of harm’s way.

Magdalena must have been terrified, not for her own safety, but that of her small children. I can only imagine belonging to a religion where you would choose to allow your children to be killed before defending them and taking the life of their aggressor and soon-to-become murdered.  But, that was a scenario played out over and over again on the Pennsylvania and Maryland frontier in Pietist families.

From 1755 to 1757, Alfred James writes, “Raid after raid from Fort Duquesne hit pioneer settlements along the Susquehanna and the Potomac.” It was unending and relentless. Another reports that “Frederick, Winchester and Carlisle became the new frontiers of the colony” and “Many even fled to Baltimore,” and “some to Virginia.” Arthur Quinn writes that families went as far east as Bethlehem “where there was no more room in the inns, or the shops or even the cellars.”  Nead writes, “Terror and desolation reigned everywhere.” Repogle 106

It didn’t end there, in October 1756, 20 people, including Jacob Miller and his wife and 6 children were scalped in Conococheague, the area where our Miller family lived. I don’t know if Jacob Miller was Brethren, or related to our family, but it certainly sounds like either he did not defend himself, or he was surprised and could not.  Whether he was our Miller family or not, rest assured, absolutely everyone knew what happened and it clearly struck widespread terror into the hearts of the settlers.  The Indians and French were both hopeful of driving the Europeans back from whence they came, but for slightly different reasons.

Son David was born December 1, 1757 at 3 o’clock at night.

We don’t know where David was born, because Frederick County was abandoned during both 1757 and 1758, so Magdalena gave birth to David elsewhere, wherever elsewhere was. The refugee family was growing.

Daughter Susannah was born March 2, 1759 at 7 o’clock in the morning.

The war officially ended in November 1758 and the attacks diminished, but didn’t end. It’s likely that daughter Susannah was born elsewhere too.  We know that Magdalena’s father-in-law, Michael Miller, was back in Frederick County by 1761, so it’s likely the entire family sought refuge together and returned together as well.

Daughter Christine was born December 4, 1761 at 10 o’clock in the forenoon.

Christine was very likely born in Frederick County.

Daughter Mariles was born ??? 1762 at 8 o’clock in the morning. A child by the name of Mariles is not mentioned again either, so I initially assumed this child is actually Mary – whose birth is not recorded in the Bible but whose existence is confirmed through the estate settlement.  After working with the various records, I don’t think Mariles is Mary.  I believe Mariles died.  Mariles is a very unusual name.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before, but I did notice Marillas Baker on the 1741 Great Conewago church membership.  That could be a clue.  There are also unexplained DNA matches to individuals with Baker heritage.

In 1763, Pontiac’s War began and once again, Frederick County was abandoned for the balance of 1763 and at least 1764.

This time, instead of taking 3 children when Magdalena and Philip Jacob evacuated, or ran for their lives, whichever scenario evolved, Magdalena had 7 children ranging in age from the baby born in 1762 to Lizbeth who celebrated her 10th birthday about the time that Mariles was born.  Her children were aged approximately 1, 2, 4 , 6, 8, 9 and 10 – truly stair-steps.  It’s hard enough handling a couple of children in difficult circumstances, but they had to find someplace to shelter with 7 children, and Magdalena was pregnant again.

All I can say is that this woman must have been extremely weary and somehow found the strength of Job.

Son Abraham was born April 28, 1764, someplace, but not likely in Frederick County.

By 1765, Michael Miller has returned to Frederick County once again, so it’s very likely that Philip Jacob and family returned as well.

Was there any home left to return to? The reports were that all of the homesteads and farms were burned.  Did they live in their wagon while the men constructed a quick home?  It surely would have been small because there would have been so many in need at the same time.  By this time, Magdalena had 8 children.

Magdalena may have lost a child between Abraham and Solomon, as there is a 3 year gap between children. If so, that child is probably buried in the now-lost Miller cemetery which was believed to be originally on John Miller’s portion of Ash Swamp.

Son Solomon was born March 20, 1767, most likely in Frederick County.

In April, 1767, Magdalena’s husband was naturalized in Philadelphia, PA, along with her father-in-law. Does this suggest that Philip Jacob was absent when Solomon came into the world?  Sadly, it appears that Solomon exited the world as well, as he is never heard of again either.  Did he die as an infant?  Were it not for the Bible entry, we would never have known he existed.

Pontiac’s War ends in 1768 and the western frontier opens.

Daughter Ester was born February 13, 1769, probably in Frederick County. Life had settled down once again by this time.

And then, there’s daughter Magdalene whose name is not recorded in the Bible but whose birth within the family is recorded as being April 25, 1770 and whose existence is confirmed in the 1799 agreement between siblings regarding Philip Joseph’s estate.

Magdalena’s father-in-law, Michael Miller, died in 1771. It’s unusual that Magdalena had no child named Michael, although an infant Michael could surely have died.  It’s also remarkable that they had no son named Philip Jacob either.  Perhaps another death.

Two daughters, Mary and Hannah were born sometime in this timeframe.  Based on the birth of Mary’s children with John Creamer, she looks to have been born sometime between 1770 and 1772.  Sarah is noted as deceased in 1799, but also noted as having “children” which would put her birth sometime before 1775.

Daughter Hannah’s birth is not recorded in the Bible, but is recorded elsewhere as June 7, 1774.  Hannah’s name is shown on Philip Jacob’s state settlement.

About 1774, son Daniel married Elizabeth Ulrich and on March 1, 1775, Magdalena welcomed her first grandchild, Stephen.  Philip Jacob penned in the Bible, “my son’s son is born,” along with his name and date.  That must have been a joyful day for Magdalena.  Everyone loves their grandchildren, and the first grandchild is not only special, they also carry the special significance of being the first of a new generation.  They get to carry the torch, but they just don’t know it yet.

The Next New Frontier Opens

Just west of where Philip Jacob and Magdalena lived in Frederick County, but within view, were the Appalachian chain of mountains, representing a physical barrier, as well as a realistic one. The unsettled and unprotected frontier was on the other side.  Safety, or at least relative safety was on this side.  This picture was taken from the northern boundary of the land owned by Philip Jacob and Magdalena Miller, looking towards those forbidding mountains.  Eventually, the land on the other side of the mountains would become inviting.

Beginning in 1775, events began to ramp up that would culminate in the Revolutionary War. The residents of Frederick County, after what they had already been through in the previous decades, must have been getting increasingly uneasy and nervous.

In 1776, Washington County was taken from Frederick County, and the Miller lands fell into the new county.

In about 1778, Magdalena’s sons, Daniel and David would set out and join the Brethren migration to Bedford, PA, in the Juniata Valley. I wonder how Magdalena felt as she watched the wagons pull away, carrying her 2 children and at least 5 grandchildren as well.

The Brethren, who would not participate in wartime activities, including voluntarily paying increased taxes because they would not serve in the militia were subject to having their lands confiscated. Oral history in the Miller family preserves the tradition that Magdalena’s brother-in-law, Lodowick, who owned the land adjacent to Philip Jacob on the south, did lose his land to confiscation.  I don’t know, but I do know that Lodowick left in 1782 or 1783 for the Shenandoah Valley.

We also know that Philip Jacob Miller was on the non-Associator’s list, telling us he was either a pietist or a Tory. The locals didn’t much care which – both were viewed by locals who supported the Revolution as traitors.  Pietists, who refused to take up arms were suspected of being Tory sympathizers.  To those defending the colony, it didn’t much matter.  What mattered was that you weren’t helping to defend the land you lived on and the responsibility fell to others.  Resentment and suspicion festered towards those of Pietist faith.

Life within the family and within the Brethren community went on.

Daughter Susannah married Daniel Ulrich about 1781.

By 1782, Daniel and David Miller may have been back in Washington County, seeking shelter as the Indians were raiding in Bedford County, PA. If so, they returned to Bedford County.

Abraham Miller married Catherine Maugans in 1783. Catherine was the sister of David Miller’s wife, Magdalena Maugans.  Brothers married sisters.

The cabin of their father, Conrad Maugans, found just north of the land where Magdalena Miller lived, in present-day Maugansville, is preserved.  Magdalena’s cabin probably looked much the same.

maugans cabin

The Revolutionary War ends in 1783. People began to heal, as best they could.  How do you ever heal after being suspected of what amounts to treason by your neighbors?  It’s no wonder that the Brethren community was so withdrawn into itself.

Magdalena’s son, David Miller married Magdalena Abigail Maugans about the same time, and their first child was born on May 10, 1784. It’s unclear whether part of the Maugans family also migrated to Bedford County, or perhaps David was smitten and either did not go to Bedford County as early as thought, or he came back and married within the Brethren community in formerly Frederick, now Washington County.

Magdalena’s daughter Christine Miller married Henry Snell sometime before 1786.

Daughter Sarah Miller married Henry Andrew Neyfong (Nifong), probably before 1795, given that she was dead by 1799 and Philip Jacob’s estate refers to her “children,” plural.

Based on when we know daughters Magdalena, Hannah and Ester married, we know that in 1790, Philip Jacob had at least 4 females living in the household.

What we can’t tell for sure is which whether Philip Jacob Miller is listed in the census as Jacob Miller or Philip Miller, nor can I tell by his neighbors. There were 7 John Millers, so finding his brother John isn’t helpful.  However, given that we know Philip Jacob had at least 4 females living in the household, that narrows the candidates to 1 Philip and 1 Jacob in Washington County.

None of them fit the bill exactly.

Daughter Mary married John Creamer or Cramer about 1792.

Daughter Elizabeth married Jacob Shutt in 1793. This is the only one of Magdalena’s children to obtain a marriage license in Washington County, Maryland, if this is the correct Elizabeth Miller and Jacob Shutt.

In 1794, Magdalena’s brother-in-law, John Miller died. Now this might not sound like a life changing event – but it surely was for Philip Jacob Miller, who had farmed the land beside his brother’s for the past 40+ years.  And in that time, if your husband experienced a life-changing event, your life changed too.

On April 6, 1795, Philip Jacob Miller, as administrator, sold the land of his brother John to Dr. John Schnebley. On September 25, 1795, Philip Jacob sold his adjacent land to the same man.

Daughter Magdalena Miller married Daniel Cripe about 1796.

Daughter Hannah Miller married Arnold Snider about 1796.

I wonder if these last two marriages occurred because the family was getting ready to set off for the new frontier and it was now or never.

On to Kentucky!

Talk about an amazing class last act.

Magdalena and Philip Jacob were getting ready to set out for their final frontier, and the fact that they were roughly 70 years old didn’t stop them. I wonder if that gave them pause for reflection.  I wonder if they were both anxious to move on, or if one person held back, needing to be convinced.  I would love to be a fly on the wall and hear that conversation, translated to English of course.

Miller farm west

The land they left looked vastly different than the uncleared, forest-covered land they settled in 1751.

Did they travel in the fall of 1795 or the spring of 1796? We can eliminate winter due to snow and ice on the roads and ice on the Ohio river.  Did they travel entirely by wagon, or did they go part way by wagon and then transfer to river raft, floating down the Ohio River to the area just upstream of Cincinnati?  That’s the most likely scenario.  If that was their path, then fall would have been much safer, as the Ohio floods often in the later winter and spring.  Did they take their wagon on the raft, or did they leave it behind, perhaps trading wagon for raft? What about their horse or horses?  When they arrived in Ohio, did they disassemble the raft and use the wood to build a shelter, or begin a house?

By August 16, 1796, Magdalena and Philip Jacob had arrived in Campbell County because he paid tax that day on 1 male over 16 (probably himself), 1 horse and 1 head of cattle. They probably also had hogs and chickens, neither of which were taxed.

Daughter Ester Miller married Gabriel Maugans about 1799, based on the birth dates of their children. Gabriel was a brother to both Magdalena and Catherine Maugans who had married David and Abraham Miller.  By this time, Magdalena had been in Campbell County for 3 years.  We don’t know where Ester and Gabriel got married, or if they actually married earlier, before the Miller family left Washington County.

Philip Jacob Miller’s Death and Estate

We don’t know exactly where in Campbell County, KY Magdalena and Philip Jacob Miller lived, but we do know that there is a persistent rumor that he was buried on an island at the mouth of 12 Mile Creek. Campbell County extends from just beneath Cincinnati upriver about 25 miles.

Campbell Co Ky map

Twelve Mile Creek is about half way, just above New Richmond on the Kentucky side of the river about half a mile.

If the 12 Mile Creek location is even remotely accurate, this is a picture from Google Maps of the 12 Mile Creek area from the Ohio side of the river, looking across to Campbell County. As you can see, the area is quite hilly. In many ways, it reminds me of Washington County, Maryland.  Magdalena and Philip Jacob would have been comfortable there.

Ohio River looking to Campbell co

In 1799, Magdalena’s husband, Philip Jacob, died. We don’t know if he was ill, if the death was unexpected, or what happened.  His estate was probated on April 8, 1799 in Campbell County, KY. There was no will.  He was at least 73 years old and possibly as old as 83.

Based on the tax lists and on Philip Jacob’s estate, it surely looks like he was actively farming. In 1797 and 1798, he had increased his holdings from 1 to 3 horses.  Philip Jacob is not listed in 1799, but David Miller is noted. This makes sense, because we know that Philip Jacob’s will was probated in April of 1799 and tax time was August, and David Miller was one of his father’s executors, explaining why David was suddenly on the tax list in 1799 when he had not been previously.

At least two of Magdalena’s daughters were living in Campbell County, KY in 1797 and 1798, Hannah who was married to Daniel Snider and Magdalena who was married to Daniel Cripe. In 1800, Hannah lived in Campbell County, as did Stephen Miller, Magdalena’s grandson through Daniel.  I wonder if Stephen came to live with his grandmother to help her.

At that time, when a man died, the entire household was inventoried and appraised, except for the wife’s clothing. And literally, that was it – all that was “hers.”  The wife was entitled by law to 30% of the value of the estate, but her 30% generally had to be bought at auction after bidding against anyone else who was interested.  I hope most people had the common decency to not bid against the widow.

Generally, the wife had to buy her kitchen utensils back, her pots and pans, her coffee mill and teapot, her silverware and plates and any furniture she wanted.

Hardly seems fair by today’s standards, but it was the way things were at that time.  Life wasn’t fair, especially not for women – and life was harsh.

Looking at Philip Jacob’s estate inventory tells us a lot about Magdalena’s life.

Much of the estate speaks to farming, but since everything was inventoried, except Magdalena’s clothes, we can also catch a glimpse of Magdalena’s life too by the items typically associated with females.

  • One full box of glass
  • One box part of the glass taken out

We know that Magdalena has glass, and quite a bit, not just pottery or wooden trenchers.  Glass was a luxury, especially on the frontier.

  • One large copper kettle
  • One iron kettle
  • Six boiler plated, 2 dishes and 2 basins
  • One small iron pot, some tin and wood ware
  • One bake oven, one frying pann, some pewter dishware

The kettles would have been hung over the fire in the fireplace (or outside) to cook their food. I would bet that Magdalena brought these two kettles with her from Pennsylvania, as copper and iron kettles were probably very scarce on the frontier.  Plus, you could pack things inside them.

Kettles and pots were used both inside and outside. They were used for cooking food, boiling water for washing clothes, making commodities like lye soap, making animal mash and for scalding the hair off of butchered pigs.

Not only was the food to be eaten daily prepared in these kettles, but so were the foods to be “put up,” like apple butter and in the later winter, maple syrup was boiled down in the kettles, generally in an “outside” kitchen or “sugar shack.”

  • One small copper tea kettle

Does this mean Magdalena drank tea? It couldn’t have been tea as we know it today, which wasn’t available on the frontier, but perhaps sassafras tea or willow bark or others, perhaps with medicinal qualities.

  • One coffee mill

Maybe this is where I got my coffee affliction. I asked Merle Rummel about coffee and he suggested that their coffee then wasn’t like our coffee today.  Coffee beans would have had to be imported, probably from New Orleans, and ground in the mill.  Merle said coffee then was likely toast toasted very crisp and then ground.  Maybe coffee beans were a true luxury.

  • One old broken iron skillet with sundry other little things

Did this iron skillet break after they arrived in Kentucky? How does an iron skillet break?  The handle maybe?  It’s Magdalena’s only skillet, but she does have a frying pann.  Even broken, it still had a value.

  • One side saddle with two girths

Women of that time rode side saddle, so this would have been Magdalena’s saddle. I’m amazed at her age that she was still riding a horse.  They did not have a buggy, so maybe that explains why she rode the horse.  Shye had to be an accomplished horse-woman because at her age, one fall would do her in.

  • One pocket looking glass

I’m really curious about this item. Looking glasses, meaning mirrors, where considered vain by the Brethren.  Merle suggests that perhaps this was a monocle, used instead of glasses – a single ground glass lens held up to the eye to see and kept in the vest or pocket.  That’s as good an explanation as any.  It could have been either Philip Jacob’s or Magdalena’s.  I can see him using it to read and her using it to thread needles.

  • One pair of hand mill stones and one grind stone

These items are fascinating. The hand mill stones would have been used for grinding things in small quantities.  The grind stones were probably similar to what the Native people used to grind corn.  But why would the Brethren, who took their corn and wheat to mills, have these kinds of implements?  Were the mills too far away?

  • Five low bags

I have no idea what this is.  If you know, please share.

  • One flax wheel an sifter

A flax wheel is a type of spinning wheel that was used to spin flax into linen threads to be woven into cloth. Interestingly enough there was no loom, so perhaps Magdalena spun and another woman wove.  A loom would have been very difficult to transport downriver, even disassembled.

  • Two old trunks

These two old trunks probably held everything of value to Magdalena as she and Philip Jacob undertook their last journey from Maryland through Pennsylvania to Ohio, some 450 miles, past age 70. The Bible probably rode from Maryland in one of these trunks. How I would love to take a day and look through the items in those two old trunks and talk to Magdalena about why she packed and took what she did – and why she left the rest behind.

Philip Jacob’s estate executors distributed money to Magdalena from the estate several times for a total of about 70 pounds. The only dated receipt was in January of 1800, but there were 4 in total.

They also paid Magdalena’s medical expenses of 3 pounds 3 shillings, but the “illness carried her off.” The estate then paid her funeral expenses which cost all of 10 shillings.  Unfortunately, these entries weren’t dated.

The only other dated information was the settling and closing of Philip Jacob’s estate on October 19, 1808.

So we know that Magdalena died sometimes between January of 1800 and October of 1808. My suspicion would be that she did not die for several years, since several payments were made to her.  If one payment per year was made, then her death would have been perhaps around 1805, but that’s pure speculation.

The Question About Magdalena’s Children

I’m still bothered by the fact that not all of the children reflected in the 1799 estate agreement are recorded in Philip Jacob Miller’s Bible. How could Philip Jacob have left four children out of the family Bible?  All four missing children were daughters, and if you look at the original Bible entry, there was obviously confusion about Lidia’s entry, as it was overstruck, like he was confused between two children’s births.

It begs the question of whether they were his children. However, the 1799 agreement clearly says that the people involved are the “sons and daughters of” Philip Jacob Miller. Since Philip Jacob did not have a will, the only clear record is the estate distribution and the sibling agreement.  The Bible omissions simply don’t make sense, unless Philip Jacob was tired of having daughters, or figured he would do the recording later – and never did.  However, he recoded the birth of his first grandson in 1775.  Maybe there was a loose page that is missing today.

I have always taken a family Bible to be the best possible record, but this situation very clearly shows that cannot be presumed as fact.

We’re also assuming (how I hate that word) that all of Philip Jacob’s children were from one wife, Magdalena, his wife at his death. We are assuming that because we have nothing to indicate otherwise.

Her name may actually have been Magdalene or Magdalen, not Magdalena – although spelling at that time was not standardized and was very inconsistent.  I will always think of her as Magdalena – the name is beautiful and lyrical and just sort of rolls of your tongue.

In the following chart, I have summarized the children listed in Philip Jacob’s Bible, the 1799 agreement where his children (and spouses if female) agree how to divide his 2000 aces and the later distribution of that land by deed.

Child Bible Entry 1799 Agreement with Spouse Estate Distribution Property Deed
Elizabeth Miller April 1752 Jacob Shott ?
Lidia Miller June 18, 1754 Apparently deceased
Daniel Miller April 8, 1755 Daniel Miller to Daniel Eltzroth
David Miller December 1, 1757 Executor of estate ?
Susannah Miller March 2, 1759 Daniel Ullery Daniel and Susannah Ullery
Christina Miller December 4, 1761 Henry Snell Henry and Christina Snell
Mariles Miller 1762 Apparently deceased
Abraham Miller April 28, 1764 Executor of estate Abraham Miller to William Spence
Solomon Miller March 20, 1767 Apparently deceased
Ester Miller February 13,1769 Husband Gabriel Maugans Gabriel and Esther Morgan (Maugans
Magdalen Miller Missing (date April 25, 1770 from other sources) Daniel Cripe Took Cash
Mary Miller Missing but born circa 1770-1772 John Cramer John and Mary Creamer (Cramer)
Sarah Miller Missing, but before 1775 because she had “children” and was deceased in 1799 Andrew Nifong (Sarah is deceased) Andrew Nifong
Hannah Miller Missing but June 7, 1774 from other sources Arnold Snider Arnold and Hannah Snider
Estate to Jacob Wise and Jacob Creamer
Estate to Gabriel and Esther Morgan

It’s worth noting in the 1799 sibling agreement that the male Miller children can all sign their names and all of the female children sign with an “X,” so they cannot write.

Here’s what we do know about the children listed in the Bible and the estate records, all presumed to be Magdalena’s children.

1. Daughter Elizabeth Miller was born in April 1752 and married Jacob Shott, according to the way he signed his name on the sibling agreement. Elizabeth and Jacob both signed the sibling agreement in December 1799 relative to the estate of Philip Jacob Miller.  There is a Jacob Shutt and Elisabeth Miller marriage record in Washington County, Maryland on January 4, 1793 shown in “Maryland Marriages, 1655-1850,” although Elizabeth would have been 41 at this time, if it is the same Elizabeth Miller.

2. Son Daniel Miller was born April 8, 1755 and died August 26, 1822, as stated in Philip Jacob’s Bible, later owned by Daniel. Daniel married Elizabeth Ulrich, daughter of Stephen Ulrich Jr. and Elizabeth, surname unknown.

Daniel Miller’s grave stone is in Sugar Hill Cemetery in Preble County, Ohio, but I’ll be telling you “the rest of the story” in Daniel’s article, shortly.

Daniel Miller stone

Daniel had the following children as recorded in the Bible:

  • Stephen Miller born March 7, 1775, married first to Anna Barbara Coleman and second to Anna Lesh.
  • Jacob Miller born November 20, 1776, died October 20, 1858 in Montgomery County, Ohio and married Elizabeth Metzger about 1799 in Bedford County, PA.
  • Daniel Miller Jr. born March 30, 1779 in Washington County, PA, died June 25, 1812, as given in the Bible.
  • David Miller born July 30, 1781.
  • Samuel Miller born March 17, 1785, died November 27,1867 in Elkhart County, Indiana.
  • John Miller born December 15, 1787 in Bedford County, PA, died June 11, 1856 in Harrison Twp, Elkhart County, IN, married in 1807 to first cousin Esther Miller, daughter of David Miller and Magdalena Maugans. This is the John who obtained Philip Jacob’s Bible from his father’s estate.
  • Isaac Miller born December 8, 1789 in Bedford County, PA, died August 1822 in Ohio, married July 2, 1812 to Elizabeth Miller, his first cousin, daughter of David Miller and Magdalena Maugans.
  • Abraham Miller born March 16, 1794 in Bedford County, PA, died May 19, 1855 in Marshall County, Indiana, married in 1827 to Elizabeth Lasure in Montgomery County, Ohio.
  • Elizabeth Miller born April 2, 1796 in Bedford County, PA, died November 8, 1871 in Miami County, Ohio, married in 1815 in Montgomery County, Ohio to Johannes Boogher.

3. Son David Miller was born December 1, 1757 in Pennsylvania and died August 18, 1845 in Montgomery County, Ohio where he is buried on a cemetery on the land he owned.

David Miller stone

David married Magdalena Maugans about 1783, probably in Washington County, PA. It’s believed by some researchers that he was married previously as well.

  • David Miller Jr. born circa 1780 to David and the unknown first wife.
  • Michael Miller born May 10, 1784 in Washington County, MD, died December 18, 1856, Montgomery County, Ohio, married Salome (Sarah) Cramer first and second in 1837 to Elizabeth Brumbaugh.
  • Catherine Miller born circa 1791, died after 1860, married in 1811 to Abraham Overholser.
  • Esther Miller born May 30, 1787, died April 21, 1861 in Elkhart County, IN, married John Miller, her first cousin, son of Daniel Miller.
  • Elizabeth Miller born 1793 in Bedford County, PA, died April 4, 1865 in Johnson County, Iowa, married July 2, 1812 to Isaac Miller, her first cousin, son of Daniel Miller.
  • Jacob Miller born March 17, 1796 in Kentucky, died October 8, 1861, married Mary Michael in 1816 and second to Mary Rohrer after 1842.
  • Nancy Miller born in 1800, died in 1823, married in 1818 to Joseph Martin who married her sister Susannah after Nancy’s death.
  • Susannah Miller born circa 1800, died circa 1851, married July 5, 1823 to Joseph Martin, her sister’s widower.
  • Lydia Miller married David Shively.

4. Daughter Susannah Miller, probably named for her grandmother, Susannah Berchtol Miller, was born March 2, 1759 and died before January 2, 1826. She married Daniel Ulrey, probably around 1790, the son of Stephen Ulrey and Christine Kunkle, and he died in Warren County, Ohio in June of 1823.  Their children are identified through deeds and marriage records.

  • John Ulrey died April 15, 1844 in Shelby County, Indiana, married in 1812 in Warren County to Jane Drake.
  • David Ulrey born about 1794 in Kentucky died July 9, 1879 in Rising Sun, Ohio County, Indiana. He married Phebe Post in 1816 in Warren County, Ohio.
  • Joanna Ulrey born Nov. 22, 1798 in Ohio, died March 27, 1875 in Hamilton County, Ohio, married David Buxton.
  • Sarah Ulrey born September 19, 1799 in Ohio, died November 15, 1883 in Davis County, Iowa, married David Hutchison in 1816 in Warren County, Ohio. He drown in the Ohio River in 1824 and she married a second time in 1836 to James Keith Sleeth in Shelby County, Indiana.
  • Jacob Ulrey died around 1840 in Shelby County, Indiana. He may have married Mary Shaver in 1818 in Warren County, but he did marry in 1825 to Phebe Pope.
  • Elizabeth Ulrey born May 6, 1803 in Ohio, died August 13, 1884 in Cass County, Indiana, married in 1822 in Warren County, Ohio to Israel Phillips.
  • Rhoda Ulrey died prior to 1850, married in 1818 in Warren County, Ohio to Daniel Babb. In 1850 he has remarried and is living in Shelby County, Indiana.
  • Hannah Ulrey born 1799-1803, married Benjamin Cripe, her first cousin.
  • Margaret Ulrey born about 1804 in Ohio, died between 1860-1870 in Shelby County, Indiana, married in 1818 in Warren County, Ohio to John S. Pope.
  • Susanna Ulrey, signed a deed in 1826, unmarried.
  • Daniel Ulrey Jr., signed a deed in 1827, single.
  • Isaac Ulrey married in 1829 in Warren County, Ohio to Rebecca Foster.

5. Daughter Christina Miller was born December 4, 1761 and died on March 7, 1815 in Warren County, Ohio. She married Johannes Heinrich Snell who inherited his parent’s farm near Hagerstown which he sold on December 5, 1796 before moving with Philip Jacob Miller to Kentucky, so they must have been close to her parents.  Henry remarried after Christina’s death to Permelia Aikens.  Christina’s children were:

  • Catherine Snell born March 4, 1781, Washington County, MD, died after 1850, married in 1803 in Fleming County, KY to Joseph Ford.
  • John Snell born January 7, 1782 in Washington County, MD, died 1840-1845 in St. Clair Co., MO, married in 1807 in Warren Co., Ohio to Mary Shively and second in 1829 to Margaret Wintermute in Darke County, Ohio.
  • Jacob Snell born December 6, 1783 and before 1832. He married in 1806 in Fleming Co., KY to Christiana Myers.
  • Adam R. Snell born July 21, 1786 in Washington County, MD, died in 1861 in Stark County, Illinois and married his first cousin, Susannah Creamer , daughter of John Creamer (Cramer) Sr. and Mary Miller.
  • Daniel Snell born March 22, 1788 in Washington County, MD and died November 18, 1869 in Warren County, Ohio, married in 1812 to Sarah Peckinpaugh.
  • George Snell born Mary 4, 1790 in Washington County, MD, died 1850-1860 in Montgomery County, Ohio, married in 1813 in Warren County, Ohio to Catharine Swank.
  • Henry Snell born April 12, 1792 in Washington County, MD, died September 28, 1876 in Warren County, Ohio, married in 1819 to Mary Runyan.
  • Elizabeth Snell born October 28, 1797 in Kentucky, married in 1818 in Warren County, Ohio to Levi Collins.
  • Samuel Snell born February 28, 1800 in Kentucky, married in 1818 in Warren County to Rachel Collins.
  • William Snell born November 5, 1801 in Kentucky, died July 29, 1886 in Warren County, Ohio, married in 1822 to Anna Cramer and second in 1863 to Christinia Tiger.
  • Sarah “Sally” Snell born March 17, 1803 in Kentucky, died March 17, 1829 in Warren County, Ohio, married in 1818 in Warren County to Peter Smith.

6. Daughter Mary married John Creamer.  Their children were born beginning in 1793 and continued to about 1812.  If Mary was daughter Mariles who was born in 1762, that means that she had her last child at age 50.  Possible, but not likely.  I suspect that Mary is not Mariles and Mary’s birth was not recorded in the Bible.  Mary’s children were:

  • Susannah Creamer born June 23, 1793, Washington County, Maryland and died March 11, 1872 in Stark County, Illinois, married in 1811 to Adam R. Snell, her first cousin, son of Henry Snell and Christine Miller.
  • Mary Creamer born about 1795 in Washington County, MD, died sometime after 1880 when they were living in Brown County, Ohio, and married John Morgan (Maugans), her first cousin in 1816 in Warren County. John was the son of Esther Miller and Gabriel Maugans.  The surname was Morgan from this generation forward.
  • Catherine Creamer was born December 23, 1798, died December 9, 1835 and married in 1819 in Warren County to John Fulks.
  • Elizabeth Creamer was born May 29, 1800 in Kentucky, died July 31, 1831 in Warren County, Ohio, and married her first cousin, Felix Morgan (Maugans) in 1812 in Warren County. He was the son of Esther Miller and Gabriel Maugans. The surname was Morgan from this generation forward.
  • John Creamer, Jr. was born in 1802 in Ohio, married in 1831 in Warren County, Ohio to Mary Jane Burger and again in 1843 to Jane Irwin.
  • Hannah Creamer born in 1804 in Ohio married John McMullen in 1834 in Warren County, Ohio. She died after 1880, probably in Brown County, Ohio where they were found in the 1880 census.
  • Daniel Creamer born about 1805 in Warren County, Ohio married in 1832 in Warren County to Rebeca McMullen.
  • Sarah Creamer was born in 1806 in Warren County Ohio and apparently never married as she was listed in the 1880 census, living near her sisters Nancy and Esther.
  • Nancy Creamer born June 11, 1808 in Warren County, Ohio, died September 18, 1883 in Warren County.
  • David Creamer born May 27, 1810 in Warren County, Ohio and died on October 7, 1872 in the same place. He never married.
  • Esther Creamer was born about 1812 in Warren County. She too was single and shared a home with her sister Nancy in 1880.

7. Son Abraham Miller was born April 28, 1764, according to the Bible, and died April 29, 1859 in Hamilton County, Ohio. Some reported that he died on his 95th birthday.  He married Catherine Maugans, daughter of Conrad and Rebecca Maugans about 1786, according to “The Gospel Visitor” published in April of 1860, page 128.  Unfortunately, Abraham did not have a detailed will, even though he was 95 when he died, but a simple directive given as a nuncupative will just before his death where he leaves everything to his wife and then to be divided according to law.

  • Abraham’s children are difficult to identify, but there appear to be 12. You can view an attempted list here.

8. Daughter Esther Miller was born February 13, 1769, according to the Bible, and married Gabriel Maugans sometime around 1788. Gabriel was the son of Conrad and Rebecca Maugans.  Gabriel died in 1815 in Warren County, Ohio, leaving several minor children.  An E. Morgan is listed in Hamilton Township of Warren County in 1830, with the proper number of children and ages, but I cannot find her in 1840.

  • Jacob Maugans married Mary. Interestingly, in the 1830 census, Jacob had 3 “deaf and dumb” individuals living in his household.
  • Daniel Maugans known as Morgan married Mary Ann Harkrader in 1821 in Warren County, Ohio and died in Darke County, Ohio December 19, 1835.
  • Esther Maugans married Daniel Swank in 1814 in Warren County, Ohio and died in October 1832 in the same location.
  • Elizabeth Maugans was born November 7, 1794 in Bedford County, PA and died January 12, 1863 in Clinton County, Ohio. She married in 1814 in Warren County, Ohio to Frederick Pobst.
  • John Maugans known as Morgan born about 1796 in Bedford County, PA died June 24, 1886 in Clermont County, Ohio. He married his first cousin, Mary “Polly” Creamer in 1816 in Warren County, daughter of John Creamer and Mary Miller. In 1880 they are found in the census in Brown County, Ohio.
  • Abraham Maugans known as Morgan, born August 9, 1798 in Bedford County, PA and died June 24, 1886 in Clermont County, Ohio. He married Nancy Evans.
  • Felix Maugans known as Morgan was born about 179 in Bedford County, PA and died between 1860-1870 in Warren County Ohio. He married his first cousin, Elizabeth Cramer in 1820 in Warren County, the daughter of John Creamer and Mary Miller.
  • David Maugans known as Morgan was born about 1801.
  • Joseph Maugans known as Morgan was born about 1804 and married in 1824 to Mary Ann Miller.

9. Daughter Magdalena was born April 25, 1770, married Daniel Cripe (son of Jacob Cripe Jr. and Barbara Shideler) about 1796 and died in Elkhart County, Indiana on May 25, 1842, according to the stones on FindaGrave. Daniel and Magdalena were among the first to move to Montgomery County, Ohio, near Dayton in May of 1807, and then were among the first to move on to Goshen, Indiana, in Elkhart County, in 1829.  Magdalena was originally buried in the Dierdorff Cemetery but in 1961 Magdalena’s and Daniel’s remains were moved to the West Goshen Cemetery, but the original headstones were preserved flat in front of new stones.

Magdalena Cripe stone

Submitted by Melanie Wheeler Popple

Magdalena Cripe original stones

Madgalena had the following children:

  • Mary Cripe born January 8, 1797 in Campbell County, KY, died April 11, 1868 in Elkhart County, IN and married June 17, 1821 in Montgomery County, Ohio to John B. Pippinger.
  • Samuel Cripe born Oct. 16, 1799 in Campbell County, KY and died June 22, 1862 in Elkhart County, Indiana. Married first to Esther Cripe, daughter of Jacob Cripe Jr. and Magdalena Bostetter.
  • Benjamin Cripe born August 6, 1801 in either Clermont of Hamilton County, Ohio and died November 9, 1955 in Elkhart County, Indiana. He married Hannah Ulrich, daughter of Daniel Ulrich Jr. and Susannah Miller. Susanna Miller was Magdalena Miller’s sister, so Benjamin and Hannah were first cousins.
  • John Cripe born October 11, 1802 in either Clermont or Hamilton County, Ohio, died November 4, 1886 in Elkhart County, Indiana, married Dec. 8, 1822 to Mary Cripe, daughter of Jacob Cripe Jr. and Magdalena Bostetter.
  • Daniel Cripe Jr. born May 29, 1805 in Montgomery County, Ohio and died Dec. 17, 1885 in Elkhart County. Married to Sarah Ulrich, daughter of Daniel Ulrich Jr. and Susannah Miller. Sarah died on November 26, 1868 in Elkhart County. Daniel and Sarah were first cousins.
  • Emanuel F. Cripe born October 7, 1806 in Montgomery County, Ohio and died June 11, 1893 in Elkhart County, Indiana. Married to Catherine Mikesell, daughter of Joseph Mikesell and Catherine Cripe in 1827 in Montgomery County, Ohio.
  • Elizabeth Cripe born 1808 in Montgomery County, Onio and died February 8, 1841 in Elkhart County, Indiana, married in about 1825 to Christian Stouder.
  • Susannah Cripe born Feb. 5, 1810 in Montgomery County, Ohio and died Feb. 3, 1876 in Elkhart County IN. Married to Joseph Stouder in 1827 in Montgomery County, Ohio. Married second to John Baker in Dec. 23, 1845 in Elkhart County.
  • Catharine Cripe born May 6, 1812 in Montgomery County, Ohio, died January 13, 1888 in Noedesha, Kansas and married in 1827 to David Mikesell, son of Joseph Mikesell and Catharine Cripe in Montgomery County, Ohio.

10. Daughter Sarah Miller is missing from the Bible, but married Henry Nyphong and died before the 1799 sibling agreement. The executors sign for the “children of Sarah Miller,” so we know she had children, we just don’t know how many, who they were or where they lived.  Henry Nifong did take the land in Warren County.  In the 1820 census, there is an Andrew Nifong in Clermont County, Ohio with one male age 26-44.  What happened to her children?  Are they grown, living elsewhere or did they die?

11. Daughter Hannah Miller was born June 7, 1774 in Frederick County, MD and died August 22, 1840 in Warren County, Ohio. She married Arnold Snider who died in 1813 at Fort Meigs, Ohio and married secondly to Samuel Shepley in 1815 in Warren County.  Hannah is buried in the Murdoch Cemetery in Warren County.

Hannah Shepley stone

Given that Arnold enlisted as a volunteer in the War of 1812, he was not likely Brethren. Hannah’s children are:

  • Jacob Snider born 1796 in Kentucky, probably married in 1834 in Warren County, Ohio to Catharine Roate.
  • Susannah Snider born November 28, 1798 in Kentucky, died January 1, 1841 in Auglaize County, Ohio and married in 1817 in Warren County, Ohio to James Hill Coleman.
  • Daniel Snider born December 9, 1800 and died January 23, 1889 in Brown County, Ohio. He married Susannah Bickmore.
  • Abraham Snider born August 10, 1802 in Warren County, Ohio and died August 27, 1849 in Clermont County, Ohio. He married in 1825 in Clermont County to Elizabeth Myers.
  • John Snider married Mary.
  • Mary Snider born in 1805 in Warren County, Ohio, died on December 30, 1849, married in 1822 in Warren County to Jacob Myers Jr.
  • Elizabeth Snider born June 5, 1808 in Warren County, died April 19, 1874 in Warren County and married there in 1826 to Benjamin Eltzroth.
  • Esther Snider born in 1810 in Warren County and married there in 1826 to Solomon Beach.
  • David Snider born December 9, 1811 in Warren County, Ohio and died May 5, 1841 in Clermont Count, Ohio. He married in 1833 in Clermont County to Sarah Wilson.
  • William Snider born October 23, 1812 in Warren County, Ohio and died October 25, 1869 in Clermont County. He married Elizabeth.
  • Hannah Shepley born October 11, 1816 in Warren County, Ohio, died June 18, 1849 in the same location. She married in Warren County in 1840 to Daniel Eltzroth, son of Jonas Eltzroth and Catherine Morgan.

Magdalena’s DNA

Magdalena Miller gave her mitochondrial DNA to all of her children, but only female children pass it on to their offspring. By looking at her mitochondrial DNA, we may be able to connect her to her family of origin, but even if we can’t do that, we can learn about her deeper ancestry. One thing I’d love to know is if her line has either French or German matches.  There’s a very big hint right there relative to the surname Rochette.

In order to find Magdalena’s mitochondrial DNA, we need to test someone, male or female, that descends from Magdalena through all females to the current generation, where the tester can be either male or female.

All of the grandchildren bolded above are females who married, so presumable had children themselves. If you descend from Magdalena through all females and have DNA tested, please, please let me know.  If you descend from Magdalena through all females and have not yet DNA tested, I have a DNA scholarship for the first person who can prove that descent genealogically and contacts me.

Here’s a list of the 25 grandchildren whose descendants may qualify if descended through all females, with their husband in parenthesis.

  1. Joanna Ulrey (David Buxton)
  2. Sarah Ulrey (David Hutchinson and James Keith Sleeth)
  3. Elizabeth Ulrey (Israel Phillips)
  4. Rhoda Ulrey (Daniel Babb)
  5. Margaret Ulrey (John Pope)
  6. Hannah Ulrey (Benjamin Cripe)
  7. Catherine Snell (Joseph Ford)
  8. Elizabeth Snell (Levi Collins)
  9. Sarah “Sally” Snell (Peter Smith)
  10. Susannah Snider (James Hill Coleman)
  11. Mary Snider (Jacob Myers Jr.)
  12. Elizabeth Snider (Benjamin Eltzroth)
  13. Esther Snider (Solomon Beach)
  14. Hannah Shepley (Daniel Eltzroth)
  15. Susannah Creamer (Adam Snell)
  16. Mary Creamer (John Morgan previously Maugans)
  17. Catherine Creamer (John Fulks)
  18. Elizabeth Creamer (Feliz Morgan previously Maugans)
  19. Hannah Creamer (John McMullan)
  20. Esther Maugans (Daniel Swank)
  21. Elizabeth Maugans (Frederick Pobst)
  22. Mary Cripe (John Pippinger)
  23. Elizabeth Cripe (Christian Stouder)
  24. Susannah Cripe (Joseph Stouder and John Baker)
  25. Catherine Cripe (David Mikesell)

Surely with this many candidates, there has to be someone out there who has tested or is available to test! Is that person you?  Do you carry Magdalena’s mitochondrial DNA?

The Life and Times of Magdalena Miller

If all of these combined resources are accurate, Magdalena had a total of 14 children, that we know of, plus any that were stillborn or died young and not recorded in the Bible, for whatever reason. There is a 3 year gap between children between 1764 and 1767 that look suspiciously like they lost a baby.

We know that Lidia, Mariles and Solomon never grew to adulthood. Did they die as infants, young children, or maybe in Indian raids?  Did Lidia and Mariles marry and succumb during childbirth perhaps?  How long did Magdalena get to know and love those children before they passed from this life.

We know that the Miller family had to evacuate in 1755, a year after Lidia was born and the again when Mariles was born in 1762. Did the difficult times contribute to their deaths, or, God forbid, were they lost in the warfare?  The gap in children between 1764 and 1767 may also reflect another uncounted casualty.

Solomon was born in 1767, after the family returned to the homestead, so things were quieter. Solomon is likely buried in the now-lost Miller Cemetery on Ash Swamp in Maryland.  Lidia and Mariles may have been buried near wherever they died, if the family was evacuated.  Were they buried someplace beside the wagon trail? I suspect many bodies line those early roads, marked with nothing except loose soil and perhaps a makeshift cross of twigs lashed together.

If Magdalena had to lose children, I only pray that she got to bury them in a respectful way in a place where she could at least visit their graves.

In addition to the children who died young, Magdalena’s daughter Sarah died after marrying, leaving children. Was Magdalena involved in the raising of those children, perhaps?

When Philip Jacob and Magdalena made the decision to remove from Maryland to Kentucky, at least three of their children were living in Bedford County, PA – David Miller, Daniel Miller and Esther Maugans. The rest most likely accompanied their parents from Maryland.  One couple, Christine and Henry Snell sold a farm in Maryland to join the wagon train.

While the trip initially sounds lonely, I don’t think it was. If they stopped to “pick up” the Bedford County families on the way, that means that a total of 11 families traveled together.  We don’t know when daughter Sarah Nifong died, other than before December of 1799, but we do know that her husband took his share of the Warren County land, so he was very likely living there with the rest of the family.

Magdalena had a total of at least 97 grandchildren. I said “at least 97” because some are uncertain and assuredly some are unknown, especially babies who died young.  Magdalena assuredly stood graveside while her grandchildren were buried, weeping with and for her children.  A grandmother’s heart is twice broken, once for the grandchild that died, and once for the pain of her child that she can’t salve.

Before they left for Kentucky, arriving in 1796, Magdalena had a total of 34 grandchildren….and those are the ones we know about. Her first grandchild was born in March 1775 to son Daniel.  Magdalena had just had her own final child in June of 1774, exactly 9 months earlier, so the generations formed a continuum, with one blending into the next.

That wagon train in 1796 would have included those 34 grandchildren ranging in age from newborn to about 20 years old.

These children born so closely together in 1774 and 1775 could have grown up as siblings were it not for the fact that Magdalena’s two oldest children, Daniel and David, removed to Bedford County about 1778 – taking their children, and at that time, all of Magdalena’s grandchildren, with them.

Daniel and David may have returned to Washington County, Maryland around 1782 for a reprieve from Indian problems, but returned to Bedford County, PA as soon as possible. In essence, Daniel and David didn’t see much of their parents – nor did Magdalena see much if any of her grandchildren from Bedford County until they moved to Kentucky in 1795 or 1796.  By that time, many of those grandchildren were grown or quickly approaching that age.  In fact, her great-grandchildren probably started being born around this time too.

By 1799, when Philip Jacob died, Magdalena had about 30 MORE grandchildren, for a total of 75 or so. We know Magdalena died sometime between 1800 and 1808 and by 1808, there were another 15 grandchildren – for a total of about 90 that she knew.  An additional 8 were born after her death.

It’s impossible for me to fathom 97 grandchildren, many of about the same age. How could you even tell them apart or remember their names?  Maybe you just claimed “old age” and didn’t even try!  Of course, you could always say grandmotherly things like, “Oh goodness, you’ve grown so much and become such a big girl that I didn’t recognize you.”

But one thing is for sure. As I ponder Magdalena, the widow, I really don’t have to think about her living alone, or being lonely – because I suspect that if she were alone, it was because she wanted to and chose to be.  Some days, maybe she craved time alone to cherish the silence.  Maybe she rode that horse with the side-saddle or walked in the woods for solitude.  Magdalena probably lived with a family member, most likely one of her children, in a bustling household with cousins and siblings and neighbors in and out all the time.  A constant beehive of activity.  Indeed, life was good, surrounded by family, on this, the final frontier.

As far as Magdalena was concerned, the late-in-life move to Kentucky, even though it meant leaving behind everything familiar, was probably well worthwhile.  It reunited her family on the frontier of opportunity – a gift, the benefits of which lasted many generations into posterity and assuredly changed the life and future of every child and grandchild who rode that wagon train to Kentucky.

Magdalena’s move and the sacrifices she made were truly one very classy and generous “last act” that defined her legacy.  Many of us would never have found ourselves born in Indiana or Ohio were it not for Magdalena’s move to Kentucky.  Thank you Magdalena!

References and Acknowledgements

Lots of researchers have written about and compiled information about the Miller family, and I have drawn liberally from their work. Suffice it to say that they don’t all agree – and in fact some contradict each other. So I’ve gone through each and compiled the information I found credible by evaluating the sources, where possible.  Where doubt remains or work needs to be done, I have said so.

Replogle – “Ancestors on the Frontier: Miller, Cripe, Ulrich, Replogle, Shively, Metzger” by Justin Replogle, self-published in 1998

Mason – “The Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol Family Record” compiled in 1993 by Floyd R. and Catherine Mason, now deceased

Miller – “A History and Genealogy of David Y. Miller 1809-1898” by Gene Edwin Miller, self-published

Goss, Troy – The Miller Family History

Stutesman – “Jacob Stutzman (?-1775); His Children and Grandchildren” by John Hale Stutesman, Jr.

Tom and Kathleen Miller’s Johann Michael Miller Family History

I want to offer a special thank you to Reverend Merle Rummel for his numerous and ongoing contributions, not just to me personally, and there have been many, but to the Brethren research community at large. His insight and knowledge of the Brethren history and families is one of a kind.  He is a living tribute to the spirit of our ancestors.



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Philip Jacob Miller (c1726-1799), Buried on a Missing Island?, 52 Ancestors #119

Philip Jacob Miller was born about 1726 in Germany to Johann Michael Mueller, spelled Miller here in the US, and Suzanna Agnes Berchtol (Bechtol, Bechtel) and was an infant or child when arriving in the colonies in 1727.

We don’t know exactly when Philip Jacob was born, but we do know he was born before his parents immigrated because he was naturalized in 1767, and had he been born after immigration, he would not have needed to be naturalized.  We also know that his parents were married in 1714 in Krotelback (Crottelbach), Germany, with their first child being baptized in the same church in 1715, so by process of elimination, Philip was born sometime between 1716 and 1727.

Philipp Jacob is a bit unusual, because parts of his life are virtually unknown, but others are well documented. His early life we can only infer because of what little we know of his parents.  His life after marriage and moving to Frederick County, Maryland is fairly well documented, comparatively speaking, but his final years in Campbell County, KY are a bit fuzzy.  He sort of drifts into and out of focus.

Philipp Jacob Miller was also somewhat unusual in another way too – in that he never seemed, with only a couple possible exceptions, to use solely his middle name, always using both his first and middle names.  Typically German men were called by and known by their middle name alone – for example Johann Michael Miller was Michael Miller.  That was unless their name was Johannes Miller, with no middle name, and then they would just have been called Johannes, or John.  Normally, Philipp Jacob Miller would be called Jacob, but Philipp Jacob wasn’t called Jacob – although when we see a Jacob I always have to wonder.  We can simply say that Philipp Jacob wasn’t your typical Brethren man and that would probably sum things up pretty nicely.  He seemed quite religiously faithful, except for these “tidbits” that creep up here and there – just enough to hint otherwise and make you really scratch your head and look confused.

Philip Jacob’s Childhood

Philip Jacob Miller would have spent the first part of his childhood after arriving in the colonies in Chester Co., PA where his father paid taxes until about 1744 when he bought land near Hanover, Pennsylvania, in the part of Lancaster County that would become York Co., PA in 1749. By 1744, Philip Jacob would be a young man of at least 18, perfectly capable of farm work and the manual labor required to wrest a living from the land.  Perhaps he drove one of the wagons as the family packed up and moved to the Brethren community near Hanover, PA in 1744 where his father bought land jointly with Nicholas Garber and Samuel Bechtol.

Philip Jacob’s wife, Magdalena

Philip Jacob Miller married Magdalena whose last name is stated to be Rochette, about 1751, probably in York County, PA.  Let me be very clear about one thing.  There is absolutely no confirmation or documentaion for her surname, despite hundreds of entries on and other online resources that suggest otherwise.  I thoroughly perused the Frederick County, MD records and there are no Rochette’s or similar surnames there.  York County, PA records need to be reviewed in their entirety as well, but it would be very unusual to find a French surname in the highly German Brethren congregation.  There are no Rochette deeds in York County from 1749 forward and no Rochette records in any Brethren church reference.  I found no Rochette names in the Lancaster County records either, although I have not perused every record type.  Until or unless proven otherwise, I do not believe that Magdalena’s surname was Rochette.

Frederick County, Maryland

Philip Jacob moved to the Conococheague area (Frederick, then Washington Co., MD) by about 1751 or 1752 when an entire group of Brethren migrated from York Co., PA following years of bickering about land ownership and border disputes that turned violent and was subsequently known as the Maryland-Pennsylvania Border War and also as Cresap’s War.

PA-MD boundary issue

Brethren, being pacifists, tried to remain neutral but eventually, simply sold out and left for an area they thought would be safer and less volatile. Little did they know about what the future would hold.

The first Brethren, Stephen Ullerich, by 1738, and Philip Jacob’s father, Michael Miller, by 1745, had crossed into the Antietam Valley and Conococheague Valley (either side of Hagarstown) and purchased land.

Philip Jacob Miller is one of 3 confirmed children of Michael Miller as proven by a series of deeds and surveys to property called Ash Swamp near Maugansville in Frederick County, MD, northwest of Hagerstown. Philip Jacob obtained this land in October of 1751 from his father who had clearly purchased it speculatively in 1745.

In 1753, Philip Jacob Miller had his land resurveyed.

Miller 1753 Ash Swamp resurvey crop

This land, Ash Swamp positively belongs to “our” Philip Jacob Miller, although there is another survey (and resurvey) for one Jacob Miller for 50 acres on “The Swamp” adjacent Diamond Square. Is that our Philip Jacob Miller too?  We don’t know – it’s that ambiguous Jacob name again.  Ash Swamp is definitely our Philip Jacob as is later proven through subsequent transactions.

1753 Ash Swamp resurvey 2

1753 Ash swamp resurvey 3

Ash Swamp is where Philip Jacob Miller lived, adjacent to his brother John Miller to whom he deeded part of Ash Swamp.

Miller page 27

The resurvey documents were plotted on top of a contemporary map to isolate the location just southwest of Maugansville.

Miller farm west 3

I visited Philip Jacob’s land in the  fall of 2015.  This view of the area is from the location of the Grace Academy school, just about dead center in Philip Jacob’s land, looking west. This land is discussed in detail in Johann Michael Miller’s article.

The third brother, Lodowick purchased adjacent land to the south.

Lodowick's land

Sometime between 1748 and 1754, Philip Jacob’s mother died because his father remarried to the widow of Nicholas Garber, the man that he co-owned land with in York County, PA. We know this because in 1754, Michael Miller was administering the estate of Nicholas who had died in 1748, implying of course that Michael’s wife, Philip Jacob’s mother, Susanna Berchtol, had died as well, probably in that same timeframe.

We know very little about the years between the resurvey of Ash Swamp in the early 1750s and 1771 when Philip Jacob’s father died. Most of what we do know is due to a history of the area and not from the family directly.  However, when a war is being waged where you live and the entire county evacuates, you can’t not be affected.

Philip Jacob Miller, along with the rest of the residents of this region would have abandoned their farms for safety, twice, as difficult as that is for us to fathom today. The first time was in 1755 when General Braddock was defeated and the Indians descended on this part of Maryland, burning, killing and running the residents off of their farms and back east.

Based on the resurvey document, we know that the surveyor was working on May 15, 1755 in Frederick County, surveying Philip Jacob’s land, and you can rest assured that Philip Jacob was right there with him, watching every move.

Braddock was defeated on July 9, 1755, less than two months later, leaving the entire frontier exposed.

From 1755 to 1757, Alfred James writes, “Raid after raid from Fort Duquesne hit pioneer settlements along the Susquehanna and the Potomac.” It was unending and relentless. Another reports that “Frederick, Winchester and Carlisle became the new frontiers of the colony” and “Many even fled to Baltimore,” and “some to Virginia.”  Arthur Quinn writes that families went as far east as Bethlehem “where there was no more room in the inns, or the shops or even the cellars.”  Nead writes, “Terror and desolation reigned everywhere.” Repogle 106

In the fall of 1756, Indians scalped 20 people in Conococheague including one Jacob Miller, his wife and 6 children. Were they related?  We don’t know.  If they were Brethren, they would not have defended themselves.

Most settlers fled east from Monocacy. George Washington received a report in the summer of 1756 that “350 wagons had passed that place to avoid the enemy within the space of 3 days” and by August the report was that “The whole settlement of Conococheague in Maryland is fled, and there now remain only two families from thence to Fredericktown…..”

The settlements remained abandoned in 1757 and into 1758 when General Forbes actions served to end the war. Were it not for Forbes, we might all be speaking French today.

In 1758, General Harris extended a road from Harrisburg, PA to Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River (Pittsburg.) Highway 30 follows this road most of the way today. Replogle 55

Forbes road went from Cumberland to Bedford and by August 1758, 1400 men had completed the road to Bedford, just wide enough to get a wagon through. A contemporary writer said it took 8 days to travel from Bedford to Ligonier, a distance of about 45 miles.  This military tactic succeeded.  General John Forbes took Fort Duquesne, now Pittsburg, the French abandoned it, and ended the French and Indian War on November 25, 1758.  Indian attacks diminished and by 1762, the French had given up Canada.  Replogle 107-108, 110

Forbes Road

There is one item of particular significance – during the war, a small fort was built at Raystown, which would eventually become Bedford, PA, a location that would, in the 1770s, become quite important to the Brethren Miller family. It was indeed the next stop on the frontier and two of Philip Jacob’s sons would find themselves traveling that road and settling in in Bedford County, PA for a few years, at least until their father rallied the family round once again.

Philip Jacob Miller would eventually float down the Ohio River to Campbell Co., KY, and settle one last time, on one last frontier, across the river and a dozen miles upstream from Fort Washington, now Cincinnati. The Forbes road may have been part of the route he took.

Return to Frederick County

When did the settlers return to Frederick County? We don’t know.  Certainly not before the end of 1758, and probably not until they were certain things had settled down and the attacks had abated.  They likely had to rebuild from scratch, their homesteads and barns all burned.  As difficult as this must have been, they obviously did rebiuld and we have absolutely nothing in our family history reflecting this extremely difficult time.  You would think there would be stories…something…but there is nothing.  These hardy people simply did what needed to be done.

The only hint we have in terms of when they returned is that Michael Miller is back in Frederick County by 1761 purchasing land and in 1762, paying taxes. Given that he was by that time, 69 years old, you can rest assured that he was not alone and was in the company of his sons.  Wherever they had taken refuge – the family had been together.

Something else was afoot too, because in 1762, the Brethren began to be naturalized, and this from a group of people who disliked government and oaths and any processes of this type more than anything else. Brethren leaders even shunned their children if they obtained a license to marry.  However, in 1762, Nicholas Martin was naturalized in Philadelphia, PA, a state that did not require a citizen to “swear an oath” but allowed to them to “affirm,” instead.  Michael Miller and Jacob Miller (possibly Philip Jacob Miller although another Jacob Miller was present in Frederick County at this time) were witnesses for Nicholas.

If Philip Jacob and his family thought they could rest easy now, they were wrong. In fact, they had probably only been resettled a couple of years, were probably still rebuilding when they, once again, had to run for their lives.

Pontiac’s War descended upon them and from 1763 to 1765, the Brethren families in this area had to take shelter elsewhere.  According to historical records, the devastation and fear was even worse than the first time.  And true to form, we don’t know where they went, or for how long.  What I wouldn’t give for a journal…even just one sentence a week…anything.

The Maryland Gazette, written at Frederick on July 19, 1763 said, “The melancholy scene of poor distressed families driving downwards through this town with their effects…enemies…now daily seen in the woods….panic of the back inhabitants, whose terrors at this time exceed what followed on the defeat of General Braddock.”

Ironically it also reported that the season had been remarkably fine and the harvest the best for many years. Once again, Frederick County put together two companies of militia and once again, no Brethren names appeared on the list.  Replogle 113 – 114

Perhaps the entire group of Brethren returned to Conestoga. I suggest this possibility because we know that two Brethren, Nicholas Martin and Stephen Ulrich, are found attending the Great Council of the Brethren in Conestoga in 1763.  Where you find one Brethren, or two, you’re likely to find more.

Conestoga is near present day White Oak in Lancaster County, PA and both Conestoga and Conewago, another Brethren settlement, aren’t far from the Brethren settlement in Ephrata. It would make sense for the Brethren to return to areas they knew and relatives with whom they could shelter for as long as need be.


In 1765, the Millers are once again back in Frederick County because Michael, now at least 73 years of age, is selling or deeding his land.  One must admit – the Miller’s didn’t give up and they were persistent.


In 1767, another surprising event took place. Michael Miller, Philip Jacob Miller and Stephen Ulrich (or Ulrick) all traveled to Philadelphia along with Jacob Stutzman (from Cumberland County) and were naturalized at the April term of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  They were listed under the title, “Affirmers Names.”  This makes me wonder why Michael Miller wasn’t naturalized in 1762 when he witnessed Nicholas Martin’s naturalization?  He was already there and could have easily been naturalized at that time.  What had changed in those 5 years to make an entire group of Brethren men “affirm?”

Philip Jacob Miller naturalization 1

Philip Jacob Miller naturalization 2

Philip Jacob Miller naturalization 3

Philip Jacob Miller naturalization 4

Michael Miller, Philip Jacob’s father, had waited a long time to be naturalized. He was just a few months shy of 75 years old.  He must have felt a pressing need for the naturalization and it must have been very urgent for him to risk his religious affiliation he had so staunchly preserved throughout his entire life – even in the face of warfare and extreme adversity.  From the perspective of today, we’ll likely never know what exactly was so urgent that it prompted these men to make the trip from Frederick County, MD to Philadelphia, PA where they could do the lesser of two evils and affirm as opposed to swear their loyalty and become citizens.  Whatever it was, it had to be mighty important.

This was clearly a family group that included Jacob Stutzman, Johann Michael Miller’s younger “step-brother,” Stephen Ulrich whose daughter would marry the son of the fourth Brethren man, Philip Jacob Miller, less than a decade later. Oh course Philipp Jacob Miller was the son of Michael Miller.  Stephen Ulrich would also marry Hannah Stutzman, Jacob Stutzman’s widow in 1782.  So yes, indeed, these families where closely bound and would become even more so.  Of these men, Johann Michael Miller was the eldest, and Philip Jacob Miller, at just over 40 was part of the second generation of Brethren.  He was born in the old country, but was probably too young to remember. This list does beg the question of why John Miller, Philip Jacob’s brother wasn’t with this group, nor brother Lodowick.  It’s possibly that both John and Lodowick here born after immigration, and therefore did not need to be naturalized.

Map Frederick co to Philly

The trip from Maugansville, Maryland to Philadelphia, about 165 miles, was not trivial, then or now, and certainly not for an old man bouncing around in a creaky wagon. It makes me wonder if the reason that the entire group went was because Michael Miller, as elder statesman, got it in his head he was going and the rest of the men certainly weren’t going to allow him to go alone, at his age, so they all went and shared in the “shame” of taking an oath or affirmation, equally.  Or maybe Michael set the leading example.  Probably a matter of perspective!

New Frontiers Open

In 1768 and 1769, events began to unfold which did not necessarily affect the Miller family right then, but would have an profound affect upon them in coming years. Likely, the idea of more plentiful and less expensive land was alluring, at least to the younger generation.

In 1768, the defeat of Pontiac triggered mass migration westward over the mountains. Replogle 20

In November 1768, the British government bought large tracts of land from the Iroquois and Pennsylvania now owned all the land west of the Alleghenies to the Ohio River except for the northernmost part of the colony, opening the doors for a huge migration. However, the Delaware and Shawnee were left out of the negotiations, and the raids continued.  Replogle 115

1768-1769 – A list of persons who stand charged with land on Frederick County rent rolls which are under such circumstances as renders it out of the power of George Scott Farmer to collect the rents and there claims allowance under his articles for the same from March 1768 to March 1769: (Note there are several pages of these, so much so that it looks like a tax list, not a typical roll of uncollectibles.)

  • No Cripe, Greib, Ullrich, Ullery or Stutzman
  • Conrad Miller
  • Isaac Miller
  • Jacob Miller Jr
  • John Miller
  • Lodwick Miller
  • Michael Miller heirs
  • Oliver Miller, Balt Co.
  • Oliver Miller, Balt Co additional
  • Thomas Miller

Source: Inhabitants of Frederick Co. MD, Vol 1, 1750-1790 by Stefanie R. Shaffer, p 45

Philip Jacob Miller’s father died in 1771. A few years later, between 1774 and 1778, Philip Jacob’s sons, Daniel and David Miller would both set out on the road to Bedford County, wagons full, waving good bye to an aging Philip Jacob Miller and his wife who had probably crossed the half-century mark by this time.

It was about this time that Philip Jacob Miller bought a great Bible that was printed in 1770 in Germany. Perhaps he bought it when his father died in 1771, in his father’s memory.  Perhaps an earlier family Bible had been destroyed in the evacuations and depredations, or perhaps Philip Jacob Miller simply did not inherit his father’s Bible.  Whatever, the reason, Philip Jacob bought his own and began to fill in the important dates of his life.  He probably reflected on each occurrence as he wrote each child’s birth lovingly in his own handwriting.

Miller Bible cover

Philip Jacob Miller’s incredibly beautiful Bible is shown above.

The Revolutionary War

If Philip Jacob Miller thought his life was ever going to be peaceful and serene, he was wrong. Next came the Revolutionary War which began in 1775 and in many ways was just the continuation of the issues present in the Seven Years War, also known as Dunsmore’s War or the French and Indian War – the same beast that had run the Miller’s off of their land, twice now. They had only been back from the last evacuation for a decade before war raised its ugly head again.  Would there never be peace?

Philip Jacob Miller lived through the Revolutionary War in Frederick County, MD. This would have been his third war in 30 years, or fourth war in 40 years, depending on how you were counting.

Floyd Mason, in his book, “The Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol Family Record,” tells us what he discovered about the Brethren in Frederick County during the Revolutionary War.

During the Revolution, the colonists held their national conventions and appointed certain committees of local leaders to carry out local responsibilities. In PA and MD, the main committee was the Committee of Observation who had the responsibility for raising funds to promote the war, select its leaders and furnish themselves with one committee member for each 100 families.  This committee had full power to act as it saw fit, answered to no one and there was no appeal of their decisions.

The militia groups were called Associations, later called Militia Companies. The Committee of Observation made lists of those not participating, whether Loyalist or members of the “Peace churches,” and they were called non-enrollers or Non-Associators.

The war issues divided the people’s loyalty. About one third favored the revolution, one third were Loyalists or Tories who favored the English and one third were neutral or did not believe in this manner of settling the issues.  This threw the Quakers, Mennonites and Dunkers in with the Tories or Loyalists and in opposition to the efforts of the Committee of Observation, at least as the committee saw it.

The churches were bringing discipline to bear on members who did not follow the historic peace teachings of the church. Annual Conferences were held each year and members were asked to remain true to the Church’s nonviolent principles, to refrain from participating in the war, to not voluntarily pay the War taxes and not to allow their sons to participate in the war.  This caused a lot of problems for the church members who wanted to be loyal to the church, loyal to the Loyalists who had brought them to the new country and loyal to the new government which was emerging.

As the war wore on and it looked as if the patriots efforts might lose, emotions raged. Non-Associators found themselves having to pay double and triple taxes.  Their barns were burned, livestock stolen or slaughtered and their crops destroyed.  They were often beaten and “tarred and feathered.”  Church members came to the aid of those who endured the losses.

Some members chose not to pay the war taxes or participate in the war activities and chose to wait until the authorities came and presented their papers to have taxes forced from them. This was in compliance with the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Action. The Committee of Observation provided that non-Associators could take as much of their possessions with them as they could and then they would seize the property and remaining possessions and sell them to fill their war chests.

During this time, the Revolutionary War was taking place and the Brethren were known as non-Associators, those who would take an oath of loyalty, but would not belong to a militia unit nor fight. Many non-Brethren residents suspected them of secretly being allied with the Tories and resented their refusal to protect themselves and others.  Laws of the time allowed for the confiscation of property of anyone thought to be disloyal.  Records of this type of event have survived in the oral and written histories of some of the Brethren families, in particular some who migrated on down into the Shenandoah Valley.  Perhaps others thought it wise to move on about this time as well.

Taken from several sources, these are some of the names of non-Associators and others who were processed by the Committee of Observance that are descendants of Johann Michael Mueller (Jr.) who died in 1771.

  • Samuel Garber who may have married one of Michael Miller’s daughters, and their sons Martin and Samuel Garber
  • Jacob Good, Michael’s step-daughter’s husband
  • John Rife, Michael’s step-daughter’s husband
  • David Miller, the son of Philip Jacob Miller
  • Michael Wine, married Susannah, the daughter of Lodowich Miller, son of Michael Miller
  • Jacob Miller, son of Lodowich Miller
  • Abraham Miller, relationship uncertain
  • Another source lists Elder Daniel Miller, stated as Lodowick’s son, as being fined 4.5 pounds.

Susannah Miller Wine told her children and grandchildren that Michael Wine, Jacob Miller, Martin Garber and Samuel Garber had their property confiscated by the authorities for remaining true to the non-violent principles of their church.

Lodowich Miller’s family group removed to Rockingham County, VA about 1782 or 1783.

We know that in 1783, Philip Jacob Miller, John Miller and Lodowick were signing deeds back and forth in Frederick County. These activities may well have been in preparation for Lodowick’s departure.

William Thomas, on the Brethren Rootsweb list in 2011 tells us:

I have a copy of the 1776 non-enrollers list for Washington County, MD, that lists “Dunkars & Menonist” fines. The list includes Abraham Miller, David Miller, and David Miller son of Philip.  It goes onto list an appraisal of guns (whatever that means) in 1777 and includes a Henry Miller.

Point being there were several Miller’s in Washington County, some of who were Dunkers or Mennonites, a name common to both denominations.

If you move to the 1776 non-enroller list for Frederick County, MD, you have even more Millers. You have Jacob Miller, Jacob Miller s/o Adam, Abraham Miller, Peter Miller, Stephen Miller, Solomon Miller, Robert Miller, Henry Miller, Philip Miller, David Miller and Daniel Miller, all fined, and implying a Dunker/Mennonite/Quaker religious affiliation.

Washington County, Maryland was formed in September 1776 from the portion of Frederick County where Philip Jacob Miller lived.  Note that while David Miller, son of Philip is listed, Philip or Philip Jacob is not listed and neither is a Jacob.

However, there is also evidence that Philip Jacob Miller did participate at some level. Men 16-60 were required to participate in the local militia.

From the book, “Colonial Soldiers of the South, 1732-1774” by Murtie June Clark:

Capt John White’s Company Maryland Militia, 6 days, undated:

  • Michael Miller
  • Jacob Miller

Note that there were multiple Michael and Jacob Millers in the area, and not all of them appear to be Brethren.

Capt Jonathan Hager’s Company, Maryland Militia 6 days service, undated:

  • Jacob Miller
  • Conrod Miller
  • John Miller Jr.
  • John Miller
  • Jacob Miller Jr.
  • Zachariah Miller
  • Philip Jacob Miller
  • Jacob Miller (son of Conrad)

List of Militia 1732-1763 now before the Committee of Accounts lists John White’s militia as from Frederick County as well as that of Jonathan Hager.

Perhaps Philip Jacob Miller was trying, rather unsuccessfully it seems, to find a middle ground.

It’s difficult to understand how to interpret this information that seems to be conflicting.  To try to resolve or better understand the situation, I turned to the 1790 census where I found 2 Philips in Washington County, 5 Jacobs, 7 Johns and an Abraham in both Washington and Frederick County.  Unfortunately, the 1790 census did not add clarity.

The Sons Leave

Philip Jacob’s sons, Daniel and David, followed the migration to Bedford Co., PA about the time of the onset of the Revolutionary War. The brothers went to Morrison’s Cove (Juniata River) and possibly on to Brothers Valley, both early Brethren settlements.

Morrison's Cove fall

David and Daniel both moved to Morrison’s Cove (shown above) between 1774 and 1778, staying for about 20 years until they joined their father later in Kentucky, but Philip Jacob remained in Washington Co., Maryland, which was formed from Frederick County in 1776. There is a record of a Jacob and Daniel Miller taking the oath of fidelity to the State of Maryland in 1778 in Washington County (formed from Frederick County in 1776,) so perhaps they didn’t leave until after 1778.

It was a rough time for Philip Jacob Miller. In the 1760s, the family had to abandon their land for a second time, returning in about 1765.  We don’t know where they sheltered, but likely, the family group included Philip’s elderly father, Michael.  In 1771, Phillip Jacob’s father, Michael, died.  Between 1774 and 1778, Philipp Jacob’s two sons, Daniel and David left for Bedford County.  In about 1783, Philip Jacob’s other brother, Lodowick left for the Shenandoah Valley, possibly as a result of the Revolutionary War.  Family is getting scarce.  The final straw seemed to be when Philip Jacob’s brother, John, died a decade later, in 1794.  John had lived beside Philip Jacob for his entire adult life in Frederick (now Washington) County, and they assuredly depended on each other and helped one another farm.  Now John was gone too.

The Big Decision

I can see Philip Jacob and Magdalena talking by the fireplace one evening, perhaps as Philip Jacob stared out the window, over his land, pondering the bold and life-changing move he was considering. It would change his life, and death, and the lives of all of his children as well – not to mention Magdalena.

Philip Jacob had farmed with his brother John since they all moved from York County in 1751 or 1752 – more than 40 years earlier. They had likely all evacuated together, twice, and rebuilt together, twice.  When their father died, there were still the three brothers, but with Lodowick removed, now John gone to death, and both of Philip Jacob’s oldest sons having moved to Bedford County, Philip Jacob obviously felt uneasy and probably somewhat isolated.  Was he concerned that he wouldn’t physically be able to farm alone?  Was he concerned that there would be no one left to inherit Ash Swamp in Washington County while at the same time his two sons in Bedford County were renting land?

Was the allure of reuniting his family who was marrying and scattering, for once and for all, in a new location, strong enough to cause a man 70 years old, or older, to sell out?

On the new frontier, Philip Jacob could buy seven times as much land as he had in Maryland –  enough land for everyone.  Seven times the land.  That’s some powerful motivation.  Was this dream enough to make an elderly man sell most of his possessions, pack everything up in a wagon and head overland for the new frontier of Ohio, some 450+ miles distant, down rough roads, on a riverboat and through Indian territory?

That must have been his motivation, for I can think nothing other than the love of family that would uproot a man of that age from his well-deserved rocking chair beside the warm fireplace and propel him on to yet one final, untamed, frontier.

Map Mauganstown to Cincy

Philip Jacob Miller would succeed in leaving a legacy in land for his children.

Campbell County, Kentucky

Philip Jacob sold Ash Swamp in Washington County, Maryland in 1796 to the same man who bought his brother’s land from John’s estate. Michael then likely took a wagon overland to somewhere he could intersect with a river, probably Pittsburg, then floated down the Ohio River to Campbell Co., KY, a few miles upstream from Fort Washington that would one day become Cincinnati.

Conestoga wagon

The group would have moved by conestoga wagon. This conestoga wagon belonged to Jacob Miller who was found in Frederick County but had left by 1765 for Virginia. Later, this same Jacob Miller arrived in Montgomery County, Ohio about the same time that Daniel Miller, Philip Jacob’s son would arrive.  This wagon was supposedly built in 1788, so it would not have been the actual wagon used to move from Frederick County, it was used by the Brethren group on subsequent moves and did wind up in Ohio.  The wagons used by Philip Jacob Miller and his family would have been very much the same.

Brethren historian, Merle Rummel tells us more about the migration of the Brethren during this time.

Emigration came down the Ohio River from Western Pennsylvania by flatboats, but it was hazardous due to Indian depredations. These Brethren started on the Monongahela where Elder George Wolfe I is recorded to have been in the business of building flatboats (Wolfe and Sons) at Turtle Creek (just upstream from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania). When General Wayne defeated the Ohio Indians in 1795 (Treaty of Greeneville), the dangers of the Ohio River route were reduced, and it opened the way for others to follow the old Shawnee War Path, (the Kanawha Way) from North Carolina and the lower Valley of Virginia, through the (West) Virginia mountains to below the “Falls of the Kanawha.” There flatboats could come down the Kanawha River to Point Pleasant and down the Ohio. Others continued on the Trace by land into southern Ohio. Many more Brethren began coming west from the Old Frontier regions.

We know that Philip Jacob Miller arrived before August of 1796, because he was paying personal property tax and by then, he had acquired a horse and a cow.

Campbell County, Kentucky Tax Lists, posted by Dale Landon, March 2010, on the Brethren Rootsweb list.  These tax lists generallyonly counted males.

  • taken 16 Aug 1796, Philip Jacob Miller, 1 over 21, 1 horse, 1 cattle
  • taken 28 Aug 1797, Philip Jacob Miller, 1 over 21, 3 horses
  • taken 28 Aug 1797, Daniel Cripe, 1 over 21, 2 horses
  • taken 25 Aug 1797, Arnold Snider, 1 over 21, 2 horses
  • 1798, Daniel Cripe, 1 over 21, 2 horses
  • 1798, Philip Jacob Miller, 1 over 21, 3 horses
  • 1798, Arnold Snyder, 1 over 21, 2 horses
  • 1799, David Miller, 1 over 21
  • 1799, Arnold Snider, 1 over 21, 2 horses
  • taken 28 Aug 1800, Philip Miller, 1 over 21
  • taken 9 Aug 1800, Stephen Miller, 1 over 21, 1 horse
  • taken 23 May 1800, Arnold Snider, 1 over 21, 3 horses

It’s unclear whether Philipp Jacob Miller bought land in Campbell County, KY, or not. I don’t believe that a thorough sifting of available Campbell County records has been done by any researcher, although several researchers have done some.  A visit needs to be made and all of the available records thoroughly researched, including the estate packet, if one remains, for dates and signatures.

Phillip’s Death

We know that Phillip Jacob died before April 8, 1799 when his estate was probated, and probably after the first of the year.

Philip Jacob Miller estate probatePhilip Jacob Miller estate probate 2

There is a slight discrepancy in the documentation.  We have a tax list dated 9-1-1800 that lists Philip.  However, it’s also possible this is a list for what’s owed this year from the previous year or for his estate, although it doesn’t specify that it’s an estate and not an individual.

Philip Jacob Miller 1800 taxes


BullSkin Trace

Merle Rummell tells us the following, with the maps added by me:

Stonelick church today

The first Brethren Church north of the Ohio River was the Obannon Baptist Brethren Church (now Stonelick, above), near Goshen Ohio, on the Indian Trail north from Bullskin Landing (1795).

The old log Obannon Church Building (c1823) was at the Stoddard (Stouder) Cemetery, about a mile east of the south edge of Goshen – so these families were in the immediate Church area.

Stouder Cemetery

Daniel and David Miller lived at 132 and Woodville Pike, in the lower left hand corner.

Gabriel Karns lived about a mile on east of the Millers, on Manila Pike, the old Indian Road. They were forced to move north (1805, Dayton area, Montgomery County, Ohio) being forced off the Bounty Lands.  Daniel Miller was put into the ministry at the Obannion Church.

In eastern Ohio Territory, the land back from the River was not good farmland. It was Appalachia Hills, that crowded the River. David Horne travel 60 miles up the Muskingum River to the Forks of the Licking at the new Zane Trace, before he found land. John Countryman left the Massie Fort at Three Islands (now Manchester OH) and went 30 miles up the Ohio Brush Creek till he found farmland. It was at the Little Miami River, just before Cincinnati where the Brethren stopped at good farmland along the Indian Trace, the Obannon Church.

The Bullskin Landing was a goal for the Brethren migration down the Ohio River by flatboat. It was probably the best landing on the river, being a sunken valley back into the Ohio Hills.

Bullskin creek

Bullskin Creek is flooded by the Ohio River for half a mile back from the River, a wide valley opening. It was the first major landing for Ohio River flatboats above Fort Washington (Cincinnati). Here the flatboat was protected, off the river, with easy unloading facilities.

Bullskin landing

This settlement in Clermont County is called Utopia. The Brethren settled on the Bullskin about 1800. (Miller, Moyer, Metzgar, Rohrer, Hoover, Houser; the old Olive Branch Church. It converted en-mass to Church of Christ in the New Light Revival of 1830’s.) Being farmers, they lived mostly on the level lands above the high riverbank hills, at the head of Bullskin Creek.

The major Indian Traces north, one going to Old Chillicothe on the east of Dayton, continuing on to Fort Detroit, left from there. Another went to the ford of the Great Miami at Franklin Ohio and up the west side of Dayton. The Bullskin Trace, the old Indian Road to Detroit, became the first State Road in Ohio.

Most of the settlers on the New Frontier were frontier folk from the Old Frontier, very few were from the Settled East. The River brought them from Old Fort Redstone (now Union and Brownsville PA), Brothers Valley and Washington Co PA in the west; from Penns Valley, Brush Valley and Northumberland Co PA in the north; from the Conococheague, Middletown Valley MD; from Morrison’s Cove, Cambria Co and the Juniata Valley PA. The Kanawha Trace brought them from the Carolina settlements on the Yadkin; from Franklin and Floyd Cos and the lower Valley VA. These areas were the Old Frontier. It showed in the type of people who came, in their self-reliance and independent thought. They didn’t just accept being told something was true, they tried it out for themselves, and used it. They had to, or they died on the frontier. They were not stupid, while some were illiterate, most could read their Bible -maybe a Berleburg Bible, some read Greek. The Brethren knew what the Bible said, and lived it. They were definitely Brethren, and they took their Brethrenism with them, making a real Christian witness to their neighbors!

To this area near Cincinnati came the Aukerman Family in 1789, to “Columbia” at the mouth of the Little Miami River. The 11 year old son was John, who eventually would be the first settler at Gratis, in present day Preble County, in 1804, on Aukerman Creek, named in his honor. The John Bowman family came near that same time. They settled north on the trace probably in now Warren Co OH, between Lebanon and Goshen OH.

South of Goshen, came first David Miller, then his brother, Daniel. Daniel was put into the ministry there about 1798. The first minister was Elder John Garver, from Stony Creek in Brothers Valley PA, by way of Virginia, to North Carolina, to Kentucky. In 1805 he moved to the Donnels Creek Church, up the Indian Road. By tradition, the founding of the Obannon Baptist Church was 1795, Elder David Stouder. He seems to have come over from Kentucky, and by research, may be the David Stover near Limestone, probably from the Log Union Church. This was the beginnings of the Obannon Church, but these families weren’t allowed to stay.

These were the Bounty Lands, claimed by Virginia as payment for service to their Veterans of the Revolution. Government survey of the lands began in 1802, and it did not matter to the Government or the surveyors if people already lived on these lands, if there were homes built and fields cleared. That the Dunker custom often included getting title from the Indians to homesteads gave them no claim to their lands in the eyes of the surveyor or state. Legally, they were squatters. There was no appeal for their claim to the land, all they could do was leave. They moved north, beyond the Bounty Lands, to the little Village of Dayton. Their move was easy, they went up the Indian Trace. From Little’s Bounty Lands Survey (1802) we have been able to identify the adjoining farms of David and Daniel Miller,  they were surveyed as cleared lands.

Now other Brethren families came to Bullskin Landing. These were the second line of Brethren, moving west from the Old Frontier lands in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia or Carolina, and some moved up from the churches in Kentucky. They used Bounty claims to get land, Bountys purchased back home, by self or through kin, from those who had no wish to leave for the west. The families at Obannon were mostly from Maryland and Pennsylvania: Binkley, Cripe, Grossnickle, Frey, Karns, Maugans, Miller, Moler, Pringle, Stouder; Elder John Garver and Frederick Weaver as ministers. Stonelick was a meeting house of the Obannon Congregation. This was good farmland, but it was a heavy clay and many Brethren soon moved north to better lands on the Great Miami headwaters near Dayton Ohio, where they remain strong today.

 Philipp Jacob Miller’s Land in Warren County, Ohio

After arriving in Kentucky, Philip Jacob Miller bought 2000 acres of land that lay along O’Bannon Creek in Warren County, Ohio, across the river from Campbell Co., KY and north about 45 or 50 miles, for $1.10 an acre, near where his sons, David and Daniel, may already have been living.

Philip Jacob’s 2000 acres were north of Goshen some 8 miles – being on the Clermont-Warren Co line, extending east beyond Cozaddale.

After Philip Jacob’s death in September 1799, his children made an agreement among themselves to divide this land into ten 200 acre parcels. Magdalena, his daughter, decided to take her share in cash. The other children drew lots for these 200 acre parcels, but only a few of them ever lived on their land in Warren County, Ohio. Stonelick covered bridge, shown below, now closed and undergoing renovation is located near the Stonelick Brethren Church where several of Philip Jacob’s children were founders.

Stonelick bridge

Philipp Jacob Miller lived in Campbell County, Kentucky, not Clermont County, Ohio, across the river nor in Warren County, Ohio, where he purchased land, which was located about 40 miles north of the Ohio River on the Warren County/ Clermont County border.  It’s unclear whether or not Philip Jacob purchased land in Campbell County, or not, or why he settled and stayed in that location as his children were settling further north, although the tax lists do indicate, at least initially, that some of his children did live in Campbell County.

Philipp Jacob’s sons Daniel and David Miller settled in Clermont County, Ohio across the Ohio River and Philipp Jacob himself acquired land about 10 miles north of his son’s land on the border of Clermont and Warren Counties, but apparently none of those three families ever lived on Philip Jacob’s land.

This was also a time of some confusion, because the settlers who had acquired land in this region, which became designated as military bounty land for Revolutionary War veterans, often lost that land when veterans or those they sold their rights to subsequently patented that land.

To Philip Jacob, this must have smelled too much like what happened back in York County, PA in the 1740s with the disputed land involved in Cresap’s War, claimed by both states, and granted by both states as well – to different settlers.

Troy Goss tells us the following about Philipp Jacob’s land, with maps and documents added by me:

Ohio land magnate William Lytle (1770-1813) obtained a patent from the United States government on May 2, 1803, which included the lands that Philip Jacob Miller had acquired.

Phillips two sons, David and Abraham, serving as administrator of his estate purchased his land for a second time from Lytle later in 1803. That was apparently better than losing the land altogether.

They purchased 1,800 acres and an adjacent lot of 200 acres for a total of $2,200. These tracts conform to Virginia Military Reserve Survey tracts 3790 and 3791 in the southeast corner of Hamilton Township, Warren County, and with about 162 acres crossing over into Goshen Township, Clermont County. They are roughly bounded in the north by the community of Comargo, on the east by Cozaddale and Stony Run, and encompassing the community of Dallasburg in the southwest.

Philip's land satellite

As you can see, this area is about 45 miles north of Bullskin Creek on the Ohio River. However, Daniel and David’s land are right on the way, shown with the red pin below.

Philip's land map

Troy continues:

Philip’s children made an agreement among themselves to divide this land into ten 200-acre lots of 163-1/3 by 196 poles (~2,695 by 3,234 feet). Daughter Magdalena Cripe decided to take her share in cash. The children designated John Ramsey and Theophilus Simonton to appraise the lots and stipulate compensation between the varying values of the lots, whereupon the children drew lots for the parcels and David and Abraham, as estate administrators, began deeding each in April 1805 for the nominal sum of $1. Arbitrarily numbering the lots from the northwest to southeast, we find the following among the ten surviving children and one widower son-in-law:

Will-Philip Jacob Miller p1


Document filed in Warren County, Ohio.

The document is transcribed by cousin, Marian, as follows:

Articles of agreement between the children of Philip Jacob Miller

Warren County, Ohio Deed book, vol 14, page 21-22

[Starts part way down the page]

Articles of Agreement made and concluded upon this nineteenth day of December one thousand Seven hundred ninety nine betwixt we the under named Sons and Daughters of Phillip Jacob Miller deceased in manner and form following viz

First We Daniel Miller, David Miller, Abraham Miller, Susannah Miller, Christena Miller, Elizabeth Miller, Sarah Miller, Esther Miller, Mary Miller, Magdalen Miller, and Hannah Miller for ourselves our heirs executors administrators and assigns have positively and finally covenanted and agreed betwixt each other to divide a certain tract of land containing two thousand acres in lots beginning with No one, two three &c until said lands (which now lays and is situate in the north Western Territory upon O’Bannions Creek or near the same) is equally and justly divided into Ten equal Shares in regard to quantity and quality or rather to have sd lands equally divided into Ten two hundreds acre lots

Secondly we do finally agree to have John Ramsey Theophilus Simonton and one more person if required to appraise and divide sd lands into ten Shares so as each of the above named Sons and Daughters of the above deceased person (except one daughter named Magdalen Gripe wife of Daniel Gripe now in being which here hath finally agreed to take her Share in cash and hath given their bond for the same) Shall have an equal share of said lands,

Thirdly and lastly we do firmly & finally covenant and agree with each other to stand to and abide by the final and appraisment and determination of John Ramsey Theophilus Simonton and another if required concerning sd lands. For and in consideration of which covenant and agreements well and truly to be made and done we bind ourselves our heirs executors Administrators and assigns in the Penal sum of One Thousand Dollars Specie each firmly by the

[page 22]

Presents in Testimony whereunto we have set our hands and seals this day and year above written as also at the back part of the above covenant, N.B. we do furthermore finally agree to pay all debts that might come against the above deceased Person hereafter viz each of us one equal Share of sd debts.

Daniel Miller (seal)
David Miller (seal)
Abraham Miller (seal)
Jacob (his x mark) Shott
Elizabeth (her x mark) Shott (seal)
Daniel & Mallalnon Greib
David Miller and Abraham Miller (seal),Trustees for Sarah Millers Children
John (his x mark) Cremar and Mary (her x mark) Cremer (seal)
Arnold (his x mark) Snider and Susanna (her x mark) Snider (seal)
Henry Snell & Cristena his wife (seal)
Gabriel (his x mark) Magens
Ester (her x mark) Magens
Daniel Ulrich (German script) Susannah Ullrich[?]

Test. Prest.
Leonard Raper
Temperance Raper

[written sideways up the page] Recd for record Jany 19th 1829 & recorded Feby 17th 1829 Asabel Brown RWC

Test prst
David Posoy
George Muchlin

Test prst
John Alinn
James Crawford
Conrad Brombaugh
Eamsel [?]
Jacob [?]

We whose names are hereunto Subscribed being appointed by the heirs of Phillip Jacob Miller decd to divide a Two thousand acre tract or tracts of land into Ten Equal lots and also to equalize the lots in the following manner (Towit) The Tenth lot to pay fifty five dollars to the fourth, the Seventh to pay thirty eight dollars to the Second, the Sixth lot to pay thirty three dollars to the third lot, the eighty lot to pay Twenty eight dollars to the first lot, the ninth lot to pay Twenty four dollars to the fifth lot, Given under our hands this 29th March 1800.

John Ramsey
Theos Simonton Apprs.

The siblings divided the land as follows:

1 – Northernmost 200 acres adjacent to the 1,800 survey; estate sold to Francis Eltzroth for $200, 22 Sep 1809; quit claim from the heirs of Daniel Miller to Benjamin Eltzroth (son of Francis and grandson-in-law to Philip Jacob) for $500, 7 May 1828; the town of Comargo lies in the northeast corner

2 – Northwest 200 acres; estate sold to Gabriel [& Esther] Morgan for $1, 22 Apr 1805; Gabriel had purchased an adjacent 200-acres lot from Richard & Mary Cunningham two months earlier

3 – North-central 200 acres; estate sold to John [& Mary] Creamer for $1, 22 Apr 1805

4 – Northeast 200 acres; estate sold to Henry [& Christina] Snell for $1, 22 Sep 1809; the town of Cozaddale lies along the southeastern boundary

5 – West-central 200 acres; estate sold to Arnold [& Hannah] Snider for $1, 22 Apr 1805

6 – Central 200 acres; estate sold to Daniel [& Susannah] Ullery for $1, 22 Sep 1809

7 – East-central 200 acres; Abraham sold his lot to William Spence for $400, 22 Apr 1805

8 – Southwest 200 acres; estate sold southern half (100 acres) to Jacob Wise for $200, 6 Dec 1806; and northern half (100 acres) to Jacob Creamer, perhaps a brother of John Creamer, for $200, 16 Jan 1807; the western half of the town of Dallasburg lies in this tract

9 – South-central 200 acres; estate sold to Andrew [widower of Sarah] Nifong for $1, 22 Sep 1809; the eastern half of the town of Dallasburg lies in this tract

10 – Southeast 200 acres straddling the Warren-Clermont county line; estate sold to Gabriel [& Esther] Morgan for $1, 22 Apr 1805

Lots 8, and either 2 or 10, may have been designated for David or Elizabeth, whose names do not appear among the deeds. On the other hand, Esther and Gabriel Morgan somehow managed to acquire both lots 2 and 10.

Only the families of four Miller daughters, Christina Snell, Esther Morgan, Mary Creamer, and Hannah (Snider) Shepley, ever lived on their land in Hamilton Township, Warren County. An 1867 map of the area shows Snells, Cramers, and Eltzroths still living in the area.

Magdalena Miller reportedly died in in Campbell County nine years after Philip in 1808.

Following Philip Jacob’s and Magdalena’s deaths, a few Miller children remained in Warren and Clermont counties, while others moved north to more fertile lands in Montgomery and Preble counties. Daughters Susannah Ullery and Magdalena Cripe migrated into northern Indiana, settling in Elkhart County.


  • Agree 1799: 19 Dec 1799, Articles of Agreement, Warren County Deed Book 14, Ohio
  • Deed 1803: 7 Sep 1803, Warren County, Ohio; recorded 9 Nov 1803
  • Deed 1803: 7 Sep 1803, Clermont County, Ohio; recorded 14 Dec 1803
  • Deed 1803: 28 Dec 1803, Warren County, Ohio; recorded 11 Apr 1804
  • Deed 1803: 28 Dec 1803, Clermont County, Ohio; recorded 28 Apr 1804
  • Deed 1805: 22 Apr 1805, Deed Book 1, Warren County, Ohio
  • Deed 1809: 22 Sep 1809, Deed Book 2, Warren County, Ohio

I was able to locate Philipp Jacob’s actual land thanks to a combination of sale information and the Warren County Maps and Atlases website which documents the military land grants and where they were located in Warren County.

Warren county maps

Hamilton Township is in the lower portion of Warren County bordering Clermont County on the south.

Hamilton twp map

“Map of Warren County Ohio With Municipal and Township Labels” by US Census, Ruhrfisch – taken from US Census website [1] and modified by User:Ruhrfisch. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Below we see track 3790 in 1867, still in the Cramer and Snell families. Part of grant 3790 extended southward into Clermont County.

Miller 3790 tract map

In 1867, we can see that the land in grant 3791 also remains in the Eltzroth family that purchased this section from Daniel Miller.

Miller 3791 tract map

Grant 3791 is located just above 3790.

Miller 3790 and 3791

Philipp Jacob’s Burial

We know where Philipp Jacob’s land was located, and we know he never lived there. When he died in early 1799, he was living in Campbell County, KY, across the Ohio River.  Had he planned to move to his land in Warren County?  We’ll never know.

There is a persistent family rumor that Philip Jacob was buried in an old cemetery that was on an island in the mouth of 12 Mile Creek (Campbell Co KY) that was washed away in an Ohio River flood. I find this hard to believe, given the difficulty of burying someone on an island.  The Brethren were practical if anything, and burying someone on an island is not practical from any standpoint.   On the other hand, if you can’t farm the island, at least it could serve as a cemetery.  So who knows.

12 Mile Creek crop

Merle Rummel, Brethren minister and historian visited the site of the “Twelve Mile Regular Baptist Church Island” cemetery. This cemetery is not on an island, and still exists, such as it is.  So perhaps Philip Jacob Miller was not buried on an island after all?

You might notice that 12 Mile Creek is about 20 miles downriver (northwest) from Bullskin, and assuming there was a ferry crossing, significantly closer to Philipp Jacob’s land which was northeast of present day Cincinnati.

12 Mile Creek to Warren Co

Merle Rummell visited the 12 Mile “Regular Baptist Church” Island Cemetery in either 2007 or 2009. He was kind enough to provide me with photos taken and information gathered during that visit.

Merle said:

All that remains on this site are 6 tombstones, none with death dates before 1849.

Ball, Mildred-died 28 Mar 1862; age 30 yrs 3 mo 8 days; wife of John Traver
Beagle, Wife of Jesse-June 1869/only date listed
Henderson, John-28 June 1828-21 Feb 1905
Stephens, Eleanor-22 Aug 1777-1 Sep 1849 wife of John Stephens
Stephens, John-1774-1849
Walker, daughter of J&M-died 18 July 1868 age 2y

Those buried earlier, and there seem to be several, are in unmarked graves.

Several field stones were found on end protruding out of the ground.  Several bases of headstones were also found.  The area around the foundation is heavily covered with Vinca or Periwinkle vines.  I suspect there may be more stones beneath this vegetation.  It also seems apparent that graves were placed on two sides of the old church.  This leads me to believe there are many more graves at this site than previously believed.  There appears to be foundation remains of two smaller outbuildings.

Based on the information and photos provided by Merle, the location of this cemetery and original church is where the red pin is shown below, utilizing Google maps.

12 Mile Church

This suggests that Philipp Jacob Miller probably lived in close proximity to this location.

12 Mile Church larger

Google street view shows us the area near the church, back in the gently rolling hills.  12 Mile Creek is to the right, paralleling the road.

Campbell Co near church

This picture shows the crossing of 12 Mile Creek.

Campbell Co. 12 Mile Creek

The cemetery would have been in the hills to the right.

Campbell Co viewing hills

If Philipp Jacob Miller truly was buried on an Island in the Ohio River at the mouth of 12 Mile Creek that washed away in a flood, it would have been near this location, where the divit marks the mouth of 12 Mile Creek.

Campbell Co 12 Mile map

A satellite view of the location.

Campbell Co 12 Mile satellite

The final resting place of Philipp Jacob Miller is one of the more interesting family mysteries that will, of course, never be solved.

Philip Jacob Miller’s Estate

I have always felt that looking at what someone left behind at their death tells us a lot about their life. In essence, it tells us the story of their life – except in Philipp Jacob’s case, he had gotten to start over several times.  Philip Jacob’s estate spoke of a farmer, but one that wasn’t entirely poor despite having “sold out” three years before when he left Maryland.

The family used glass. They had a looking glass, which is actually rather amazing considering the fact that they were Brethren, and a coffee mill.  All of the kitchen goods were included in the estate inventory as well, and of note, the value of the Bible and “sundry other books” is valued highly, equal to the box of glass, the cow and calf and the saddle.  And what were those “other books?”  My guess is that they were religious books.  Clearly, Philip Jacob Miller knew how to read and his books were important enough to him for them to be brought along to the new frontier, probably in the two trunks.

Nothing is found in Philipp Jacob’s estate inventory that speaks to anything but a simple, plain lifestyle that would be expected of a Brethren church member – except that pesky looking glass, which is very, very un-Brethren. A looking glass would have been considered very vain.

The amazing thing is that this is that an estate inventory lists ALL that the family owned, not just what they wanted to dispose of – and included everything – even things that were the wife’s.  So we have a complete picture – as unfair as that is to the spouse.

I shudder to think of cooking for a family with the utensils Magdalena had at her disposal.  There was no cook stove, so she cooked in the fireplace.  There was only one bed – but of course Philipp Jacob sold off anything extra before leaving Pennsylvania, so one bed was all that he and Magdalena needed.  They probably had more in Pennsylvania, or, the children slept on hay in the corners, a common practice at the time.

As a matter of course, family members often “bought” items at an estate sale, along with the neighbors. The widow was often allowed to take some kitchen things on credit against her “share,” which was one third of the value of the estate.

Persuant to an order of Campbell County Court, We the undersigned after being sworn appraised the Personal Estate of Philip Jacob Miller, Deceased. The articles contained in the Inventory are listed with the value of each respective article being placed opposite to it.

Philip Jacob inventoryPhilip Jacob Inventory 2

Campbell September Court 1799

Dale Landon was kind enough to provide the original estate documents from his visit to Campbell County, KY.

Estate Appraisal Page 1 crop

Estate Appraisal Page 2 Part 1

Estate Appraisal Page 2 Part 2

As I look at his estate, I wonder how much Philipp Jacob brought with him in 1796 as he migrated down the Ohio to Campbell County and how much be bought after arriving.

It’s odd that he had an old wagon and an old horse too. Did they come all the way from Pennsylvania in that wagon and horse?  One horse could not have pulled a loaded wagon alone.  Of course, the “grey stud” was probably a horse (given his value) and could have been teamed with the mare.

One thing we know for sure, the Bible came along with Philip Jacob from Washington County, probably packed into one of those two trunks. And in those two trunks were packed the cumulative results of a lifetime – all condensed into just two trunks.

If I had two trunks to pack, what things would I take with me?

Philip Jacobs’ sons, David and Abraham administered his estate. Estate packets are extremely interesting and sometimes hold many hints as to the life of the person whose estate is being administered.  In this case, we know that Philip Jacob’s wife, Magdalena became ill, was treated for her illness, but it “carried her off” anyway.

Debts of the estate of Jacob Miller deceased in account with David and Abraham Miller administrators:

Philip Jacob estate accountPhilip Jacob estate account 2

Campbell County to wit: Agreeable to an order of the Court of Campbell County we the undersigned being appointed commifsioner to examin and settle with the administrators of Philip Jacob Miller dec.’d as to the personal estate of the deceased and do report to the court of Campbell County that the above is a true statement given under our hands this 19th day of Sep’r 1808 James Noble George Porter Written on the right edge of the page. Campbell September Court 1808 This Report of the commifsioners appointed to settle with the Administrators of Philip J. Miller dec’d was returned to Court and ordered to be recorded and is recorded. Test James Taylor clk

Estate inventory and debts posted to the Rootsweb Brethren list by Dale Landon on March 11, 2010 and he provided originals below, as well.

Estate Inventory Page 1 Part 1

Estate Inventory Page 1 Part 2

Estate Inventory Page 2 Part 1

Estate Inventory Page 2 Part 2

There are couple items of interest on this list. The money from John Schnebly was likely for the land back in Washington County.  He bought both John’s and Philip Jacob’s land, and he may have also bought all of the farm and household goods that Philip Jacob wanted to sell before leaving as well.

I had to laugh at the entry for whiskey at the estate appraisal.  I have seen whiskey provided at the sale and I’m guessing it loosens up the bidding and makes the net sales much higher!

At first glance, it looks like Jacob had a son Jacob who had an estate, but that’s not the case. The court referred to Philip Jacob as Jacob, crediting the balance of his estate sale to his estate account to be settled by the administrators at a later date.

Philip Jacob’s wife, Magdalena does pass away and the estate pays for her doctor bills and funeral as well.   I’d love to see the date on that receipt.

The Philip Jacob Miller Bible

Philip Jacob Miller probably sat in front of his fireplace in his home on Ash Swamp, about the time of his father’s death in 1771, reminded of his own mortality, and dutifully wrote the names and dates of his children’s births into his new Bible.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible front page

On February 11, 2009, I was fortunately enough with some hints and sleuthing to find the Philip Jacob Miller Bible in Elkhart, Indiana. The custodial family, who has no idea how the Bible originally came to be in their family, has taken wonderful care of the Bible and allowed it to be photographed.

Both the custodial family and I spent a significant amount of time trying to figure out how they came to be in possession of the Miller family Bible, which is greatly cherished as a family heirloom. I suspected a second marriage or something of that sort, but the only connection we could find was that their family bought a house that was in the John Miller family – and perhaps, just perhaps, the Bible got accidentally left in that home, perhaps to be discovered a generation later in the attic – and of course, cherished as a family heirloom – not realizing it wasn’t from their family.  Thank goodness they cherish it, because that’s the only reason it still exists today.

Upon arriving to visit the Bible, another surprise was awaiting me, as the front section holds the children’s birth records of Philip Jacob Miller, and the back holds the same for the children of Daniel Miller, son of Philip Jacob Miller, also my ancestor. It was a double hitter day!  Given a signature in the Bible, I also believe that Daniel’s son John was likely the next custodian, taking the Bible to Elkhart County, Indiana.

This Bible was printed in 1770, but the first child’s birth recorded is in 1752, and Philip Jacob’s children are not entered in birth order. Furthermore, the handwriting in the back matches Daniel’s exactly.  This tells us that this Bible is probably not the original Philip Jacob Miller Bible.  One look at what happened in Frederick County, MD in 1750s and 1760s and we’ll quickly understand why.

The residents all evacuated twice and their houses were burned. If the family Bible didn’t manage to somehow get put in the wagon as the family was evacuating, then it was burned.  The Miller family was back in the region by 1765 when Michael Miller, Philip Jacob’s father, was deeding land, but I’m guessing a new Bible didn’t get purchased until after Michael’s death in 1771.  Perhaps Philip Jacob thought the purchase of a new Bible would be a fitting remembrance for funds received after his father’s death.  Or maybe Michael bought it for Philipp Jacob before his passing.

Regardless of how Philipp Jacob acquired this Bible it was obviously precious to him and cherished by the family.

A single entry unquestionably identifies the owner.

Beside the first entry in the Bible, which is the birth of Daniel in 1755, there is another entry which says “1775 Daniel Meines Sohn Sohn zur Welt geboren” (my son’s son was born into this world). In the back portion, we show the birth indeed of Stephen in 1775, the eldest son of Philip Jacob’s eldest son Daniel.  An earlier 1947 translation (apparently before the tape was applied) says “my grandson was born March 7, 1775”, which was obviously translated before the tape was applied, and matches exactly with Daniel’s own entry of his son’s birth.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible Daniel entry

The following photo is me holding the Bible. What a glorious day.  I am extremely grateful to the owners for very graciously allowing me to visit.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible and me crop

The following page is the front page with Philip Jacob’s children’s birth recorded.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible children

The births are recorded as follows:

  • Lizabeth Miller was born in April 1752.
  • My daughter Lidia was born at 3 o’clock at night, Junee 18, 1754. The zodiac sign was the Waterman (Aquarius).  (Note that the name and date were struck out.)
  • My son Daniel Miller was born at 4 o-clock at night April 8, 1755. He died August 26, 1822.
  • My son David was born December 1, 1757, at 3 o-clock at night. The zodiac sign was he lion (Leo).
  • My daughter Susannah was born March 2, 1759, at 7 o’clock in the morning. The sign was the Bull (Taurus).
  • My daughter Christine was born December 4, 1761 at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, the sign was the Fish (Pisces).
  • My daughter Mariles was born — 1762 at 8 o’clock in the morning. The sign was the Virgin (Virgo).
  • My son Abraham was born April 28, 1764.
  • My son Solomon was born March 20, 1767.
  • My daughter Ester was born February 13, 1769.

Daughter Hannah, as reflected in the 1799 agreement between Philip Jacob’s heirs is not reflected in this list of Philip Jacob’s children.  We’re also left to presume that Mariles is Mary.

As little as this is, it’s absolutely the only thing written in Philip Jacob’s own hand, showing any of his personality at all. It’s extremely interesting that he recorded the astrological signs for many of his children.

The following page is the back page recording the births of Daniel’s children.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible Daniel children

However, the first entry is that of Daniel himself, again, and the second entry is that of his sister Lizbeth born in 1752 who was not recorded on the front page. Of course, we know this was a recopied Bible. This Bible survived the trip west in a wagon, then floating down the Ohio River.  This Bible has been wet one or more times.  We know that in the early 1800s, this Bible went to Warren or Clermont County, Ohio, then Montgomery County, Ohio, then in the 1830s, to Elkhart County, Indiana where it remained for the next 177 years or so.

The top back entry for Daniel also has his death entry beside it to the right in a different hand and ink.

Following those entries we find Daniel’s children. Oddly, we find no other deaths recorded nor marriages.

We do find his son John’s signature in the Bible twice, once at the bottom of the back page (shown above) and once a few pages inside the front.

Philip Jacob Miller Bible John signature

It looks like Philip Jacob Miller and his wife lost a child in 1756, as there is a child born in April 1755 and then not another one until 2 and a half years later, suggesting that they lost a child about September 1756. 1756 was the year that the Brethren were evacuated and was reported to be the worst of that time. Did Magdalena have that child in a wagon perhaps?  We are left to wonder what happened.  One thing is for sure, that child’s death and the grief it brought to the family made whatever else was happening in 1756 even worse.  For all we know, that child may have had to be laid to rest along the roadside someplace in an anonymous grave.

Daughter Lidia died, probably as a child – as the only record of Lidia is this Bible.

We don’t know what happened to Solomon either, so the presumption would have to be that he passed away.

A Remarkable Life

As I think of Philip Jacob’s life, I think if what an undauntable spirit this man must have had. He was undefeatable and seemingly tireless.  If you look at his life, he repeatedly faced incredibly difficult challenges that would be overwhelming to most of us, yet he overcame them all in one way or another, in spite of, or perhaps because of his overarching Brethren faith.

Here’s a brief timeline review of Philip’s life:

1726 or before – born in Germany
1727 – immigrated to America
1727 – ?? uncertain
17?? – 1744 – Chester County, PA
1744 – 1751 – York County, PA and the Border War
1751 – married Magdalena, probably York Co, PA
1754 – his mother has died by 1754 when his father has remarried
1751 – 1755 – Frederick County, MD on Ash Swamp
1755 – 1761? – Evacuated to someplace
1761 – 1763 – Frederick County, MD on Ash Swamp
1763 – 1765 – Evacuated to perhaps Conewago in Lancaster Co., PA
1765 -1796 – Frederick Co., MD on Ash Swamp
1767 – Naturalized in Philadelphia, PA
1771 – his father dies, Frederick County, MD
1775 – 1782 – Revolutionary War, Frederick Co. MD on Ash Swamp
1782 – 1783 – brother Lodowich moves to the Shenandoah Valley
1780 – sons Daniel and David move to Bedford County, PA
1794 – brother John dies
1796 – Sells Ash Swamp, moves to Campbell County, KY
1799 – Dies, leaves 2000 acres in Ohio across the river from Campbell County, KY to his children

In 1796, Philip Jacob Miller, at age 70 (or older), sold Ash Swamp, 290 acres and probably rode the Ohio River to the next frontier where he bought 2000 acres. What a fine grand hurrah and legacy for the German man who began with nothing.  America truly had been the land of opportunity, albeit with a few pretty significant speed bumps along the way.

I would love to have known this man with the irrepressible spirit. Even in his golden years when other men his age want nothing more than to be left alone drowsing in sun puddles in the rocking chair on the porch, he sold everything, packed up, probably bought a flat boat and set out on one final adventure.  His sons Daniel and David had been in Morrison’s Cove now for about 20 years.  His daughters were marrying and moving away too.  Was this Philip Jacob’s way of bringing the family together in one place for his final years?  If so, it worked.  Land has a way of doing that.

Oh yes, and did I mention that the Revolutionary War veterans who received grants for this Ohio land that Philip Jacob had already claimed felt it was too risky and dangerous to claim, so they sold it to land speculators, or privately to frontiersmen willing to take risks, like Philip Jacob Miller. Philip Jacob Miller never seemed to shy away from challenges.  In some cases, he had no choice, but this time, he set forth willingly and embraced an uncertain future – even in the golden years of his life.

Ironic that Philip Jacob Miller, as a pietist Brethren, lived through being caught in the midst of 4 separate wars that spanned his entire adulthood. We’ll likely never know the full price of his decision to remain true to the Brethren principles.  The Jacob Miller family that was slaughtered could have been his brother.


The Miller family genealogy has been particularly difficult because so much ambiguity remains about the children of Johann Michael Miller, the original American immigrant, and then about his grandchildren as well. For example, his son, Philipp Jacob Miller’s children are documented, thanks to his Bible and his estate record, but his brothers’ Lodowick and John don’t have Bibles to document their children, and neither are the descendants of their children documented in many cases.

To make matters worse, any person with the surname of Miller in that time and place, or even nearby got appended to this family.

In order to help sort through this, the Miller-Brethren DNA project at Family Tree DNA welcomes not only Miller males of Brethren heritage, but anyone who descends from a Miller Brethren line, male or female.  Miller males need to take the Y DNA test.  These men and everyone descended from any Brethren Miller line needs to have taken the Family Finder autosomal test.

One challenge with autosomal DNA is that so many of the Brethren lines are so highly intermarried. When you match another Miller descendant, it’s difficult to know if you’re matching through your Miller line, or maybe through a different Brethren line that you both share.  Unfortunately, since the Brethren frowned on things like marriage licenses, many wives’ surnames are unknown.

For example, we don’t know who Philip Jacob’s wife, Magdalena’s parents were, but a number of Miller descendants do match with a whole group of Mumaw descendants who don’t appear to have a common ancestor with the Miller line. Clearly we do have a common ancestor, someplace, so either they have a Miller, or Miller wife’s line in the Mumaw woodpile, or we have a Mumaw or Mumaw wife’s line in the Miller lineage woodpile.  And yes, the Mumaw’s were indeed in the right places at the right time.  It’s a much better bet than Rochette – but only time and more testing by more descendants will tell.

We don’t have all the answers, by any stretch, but we have proven one thing. The Elder Jacob Miller of Maryland, Virginia and Ohio does not share a common paternal ancestor with Johann Michael Miller.  That’s a very valuable piece of information, moving forward.  This also helps us sort descendants.  Let’s face it, Miller is a German trade name and there are just too many men with the same first names.  We need all the help we can get.

If you descend from anyone in a Brethren Miller line, please join the Miller-Brethren DNA project through Family Tree DNA.

References and Acknowledgements

Lots of researchers have written about and compiled information about the Miller family, and I have drawn liberally from their work. Suffice it to say that they don’t all agree – and in fact some contradict each other. So I’ve gone through each and compiled the information I found credible by evaluating the sources, where possible.  Where doubt remains or work needs to be done, I have said so.

Replogle – “Ancestors on the Frontier: Miller, Cripe, Ulrich, Replogle, Shively, Metzger” by Justin Replogle, self-published in 1998

Mason – “The Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol Family Record” compiled in 1993 by Floyd R. and Catherine Mason, now deceased

Miller – “A History and Genealogy of David Y. Miller 1809-1898” by Gene Edwin Miller, self-published

Goss, Troy – The Miller Family History

Stutesman – “Jacob Stutzman (?-1775); His Children and Grandchildren” by John Hale Stutesman, Jr.

Tom and Kathleen Miller’s Johann Michael Miller Family History

I want to offer a special thank you to Reverend Merle Rummel for his numerous and ongoing contributions, not just to me personally, and there have been many, but to the Brethren research community at large. His insight and knowledge of the Brethren history and families is one of a kind.  He is a living tribute to the spirit of our ancestors.



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Abigail “Nabby” Hall (1792-1874), Pioneer Settler in “Little Fort,” 52 Ancestors #117

Finding Nabby’s first name, at least her nickname, was easy, deceptively easy as it turns out.  Her nickname was recorded on her daughter’s birth record in 1815 in Bristol, Vermont.  However, at that time, we didn’t know for sure that it was a nickname, although I suspected.

Rachel Hill birth

Finding Nabby’s real name and her surname was anything but easy. What’s even worse is that I had a hunch about the surname, followed it, and was entirely wrong.  Yep, so I sent myself on a wild goose chase right down a rat hole.  Let me explain…

My ancestor, Curtis Benjamin Lore, known as “C.B.” Lore, was born in 1856 to Nabby’s daughter, Rachel Levina Hill Lore. He named a daughter by his second wife Curtis Lore, and he named a son by his first wife John Curtis Lore.  Given the repeat nature of this name in the family, and given that Curtis’s father was Antoine Lore, an Acadian Canadian with no Curtis in that line, my reasoning was that the name “Curtis” had to originate with Curtis’s mother, Rachel Hill, and given his attachment to a name he never used, it had to be a family name, perhaps Rachel’s mother’s surname.  Rachel’s mother was Nabby. This all made sense.

Given that I had checked all of the normal resources for Nabby (also spelled Naby) Hill’s surname, and had come up entirely empty handed, I figured that the search for Curtis families in Addison County, Vermont seemed reasonable. It was reasonable, it’s just that it was also wrong.  I still think it’s a family name, but it was not Nabby’s surname, as I later discovered.

On the other hand, a cousin, William, had a theory about Nabby’s surname, that I thought was very far-reaching – but as it turned out, he was right.  I’m just glad one of us was right, and truthfully, I didn’t care which one.  More about that later.

I did know a few more things about Nabby that helped track her family.

She was born in Connecticut, according to the 1850, 1860 and the 1870 census. That’s three confirmations of her birth in a state where she was not living, so mistaken ditto marks are not a factor.

We know from those same census records as well as her obituary that Nabby was born in the early 1790s. As it turns out, 1792.

This means that Nabby was probably not married to Joseph HIll before 1812 or so, and perhaps slightly later, and Rachel may have been her first child, or maybe her second.

We know that Nabby and Joseph Hill were still living in Addison County in 1831 when daughter Rachel married Antoine Lord/Lore who in the US became known as Anthony Lore.

Joseph Hill was shown in the 1820 census records living in Starksboro, VT with his wife, plus 1 young male and one young female under the age of 10. In addition, there is an unknown male age 16-26 who is too old to be the child of Joseph and Nabby.

By 1830, we have two additional Joseph Hills in Addison County of about the same age, so I reconstructed the various families, and by process of elimination of the other families, in 1830, Nabby had the following children according to the census:

  • Rachel Levina b 1814/1815
  • Female born 1821-1824
  • Lucia born 1827
  • Female born 1826-1830
  • Male born 1821-1824
  • Male born 1821-1824
  • Male born 1816-1820

Shifting this to a chronological view, and adding additional information, we have the following:

1814-1815 – Rachel Levina HIll

  • 1816-1820 – male child
  • 1821-1824 – female child
  • 1821-1824 – male child
  • 1821-1824 – male child
  • 1827 – Lucia P. Hill
  • 1826-1830 – female child
  • 1831 – ?
  • 1833 – ?
  • 1835 – ?
  • 1836-1837 – Rollin C. Hill

We also know from the 1850 census that Nabby had a son, Rollin, born in about 1837, so I’ve added him to the list above.

Given that Nabby had Rollin in about 1837, she very likely had other children between 1830 and 1837, probably 2 or 3.

I can’t find Nabby and Joseph in 1840, so by 1850, it’s likely that most of their children born before 1830 are on their own. Only Lucia and Rollin are living with them in the 1850 census.  This means that other than my ancestor Rachel, their other children remain “lost,” at least for now.  Perhaps several died, in particular, any children born after 1830 and before Rollin, given that they aren’t shown in the 1850 census, although some could have been 18 or 20 so technically old enough to be on their own.  I have tracked the parents for all Hill marriages pre-1850 in Lake County – and they don’t track to Joseph and Nabby Hill as parents.

The process of finding, identifying and tracking Nabby and Joseph was not trivial, and involved at least one “gift” of extremely good luck that sent me from Addison County, Vermont to Waukegan, Illinois, a leap I would never had otherwise made. I detailed this process and journey in Joseph Hill’s article.

At this point though, in my search for Nabby and the identity of her parents, I had data, but I still didn’t really know much about her and what her life was like. I still don’t even know the names of half of her children.  I know she had at least 8, probably more like 11, but I can only identify 3.

Let’s see if we can get to know Nabby a bit better.

Starksboro, Vermont

We know that Nabby was born in Connecticut, but we didn’t initially know where. Our first record of Nabby is found in Addison County, and we know from the town historian, Bertha Hanson that the Hill families lived in an area called Hillsboro, just to the east of the main village of Starksboro.

Often you can verify information like this via where early people with that surname are buried using Find-A-Grave and sometimes you can also find a cemetery associated with a particular surname. In this case, there were two cemeteries with Hill burials, both near Hillsboro, one named the Mason-Hill Cemetery.

First of all, Starksboro isn’t a village like I think of villages. Addison County is mountainous and the roads snake one at a time through the valleys that are passable.

The village of Starksboro where Nabby’s daughter Rachel was married is really only a location in a valley on the road where a few houses were built.  Bristol where Rachel was born is a little larger, but not a lot.  Where I grew up, we would have classified them as “wide spots in the road.”  The surrounding area that would normally be called a township elsewhere is still part of the “town” in Vermont, so the towns include a lot of undeveloped and originally unsettled land.

Here’s a satellite view of Bristol today. Bristol grew up on the banks of the New Haven River, harnessing river power for saw mills.

Bristol, VT

Route 116 connects Bristol with Starksboro. The Green Mountains lie to the east and farmland lies between Bristol and Lake Champlain about 15 miles to the west.

Bristol and Starksboro

I found a goldmine of old photos at the University of Vermont, among them this topographical map of Bristol and Starksboro. The history of Bristol tells us that it was settled mainly with families from Connecticut and among them we find Nabby’s father – after we figured out who he was of course.  By the year 1800, Nabby, then age 8, was living in Bristol among 97 families totaling 665 people.  Her own family consisted of 2 males under the age of 10, 4 females under the age of 10, plus her parents.  I bet that was one noisy household.

Bristol 1910 topo




Topographical map of Bristol done about 1910 showing all the streets in the village and town with locations of buildings existing at the time.

Road 116 is considered the border between Starksboro and Bristol, although it actually connects them.

Starksboro map

The picture below is of the actual village of Starksboro itself in 1950 or 1960 and as you can see, the village itself is very small. You can imagine how much smaller it was in the early 1800s. The Meeting House, with the cupola, built in 1840, in shown in the lower right area.

Starksboro 1950 aerial


1950 – 1960


The historic image shows a dirt road with electric lines traveling through town. Gardens are visible between houses and a school building (or church) in the lower, right corner of the photograph. There are more gardens, a barn, a silo, houses, a two-story industrial or commercial building (lumber mill?) and several stacks of lumber in the lower left corner. There is a church in the center of the photograph. There is a set of farm buildings and farm machinery just past the church. The landscape on the left side of the photograph has been cleared and is used for field crops and pastures. There are more farm buildings, houses, and gardens at the top of the image. It looks like summer. Esther Munroe Swift writes on 2005-4-12: Despite minor damage to this image, it is by far one of the best aerial views in the collection. Not only do the buildings show clearly, the terrain, trees and crop plantings also are clearly defined.

Hillsboro road

Thanks to cousin Rick Norton, we have a photo of Hillsboro Road, today, in a location where he says it’s in good condition as compared to the rest of the road.  Samuel Hill, a brother to Nabby’s husband Joseph, built a mill another mile and a half on up this road at Twin Bridges in about 1805.

Addison County was founded upon the lumber industry. People cut lumber, worked lumber and sold lumber.  There wasn’t much else you could do, because there was little flat area and it couldn’t be farmed until it was logged, if then.

Starksboro was first settled in 1787 and by 1800 there was a sawmill, 71 residences and 359 people, according to the census. Lumber was the big industry and probably the only industry for a very long time.

Starksboro lumber

There were several lumber mills in Starksboro and surrounding area. Starksboro had a shingle factory in 1840 which produced shingles from Hemlock. Nabby’s husband, Joseph listed himself in 1850 in Waukegan, Illinois as a shinglemaker.

According to the Town Report, Starksboro had 40 residents in 1791, about the time Nabby was born, and 1263 in 1840 by the time she and Joseph had already climbed into their wagon and set out for the wide open west. I guess the town must have gotten too crowded!  It’s not much larger today.  In 2010 the population was 1777 and 5.3 miles of road are paved, with 42 remaining unpaved.  Nabby would probably recognize it.

What did Starksboro look like? The camera was not in used until about the time of the Civil War, and not in wide use until the 1880s.  However, it doesn’t seem like Starksboro changed rapidly, so let’s see what we can find.

One of the old photos I found was the Hill farm. There were several Hill males that settled in this area, so this is most likely not Joseph’s farm, but we really don’t know, and it was assuredly the farm of a relative.

Starksboro Hill farm


1890 – 1950


A caption at the bottom of the historic image reads, “Elmwood Farm, Starksboro, VT — Hill and Miles Prop.” The image shows silos and barns near a farmhouse. A small stream passes through the lower, left corner of the image. There are scrap piles near the silos and a stonewall uphill of the scrap piles. There is a forested hill in the background of the image. Esther Munroe Swift writes on 2005-4-12: Hamilton Childs Gazetteer & Business Directory for Addison County c.1882 lists 19 members

Starksboro, Hill store on left

Cousin Rick tells us that this picture of Starksboro in 2012 includes an old store that was run by a Hill family member at one time, on the left.

I think Rick’s picture below looks like a Normal Rockwell type of painting.  Thank you to cousin John Burbank for photoshopping out the poles and wires.

Starksboro look toward village 116 and Hillsboro rd crop

Moving on down the road a bit to the south, Rick took this picture of Starksboro from the intersection of 116 and Hillsboro Road.  Nabby would have been very familiar with this land and with Lewis Creek, below.

Starksboro covered bridge




This black and white photograph depicts an elderly gentleman fishing in Lewis Creek just below a covered bridge. The covered bridge is set on a stone foundation. The man fishing is standing on a rock outcrop along the water. Both banks of the creek are grassy and dotted with deciduous trees. On either side of the frame, the edges of wooden framed buildings are visible.

Lewis Creek runs through Starksboro and alongside Hillsboro Road.

Hillsboro road looking at hill where Hills settled

Cousin Rick turned the corner and took a picture of the Hill hill overlooking Starksboro where the Hills first settled.  Say that 10 times fast.

I was putting myself in Nabby’s shoes, looking back at these black and white photos of yesteryear, trying to put myself in her place back in a black and white existence when she married, just over 200 years ago. I was happily browsing photos, when I got extremely lucky.  I noticed that a property was for sale on Brown Hill Road.  Yes, that’s the location of one of the Hill Cemeteries, in the area where the Hill family lived, so I had to google the location.

Here’s what the realtor has to say:

Highland Farm is the classic Vermont Hill Farm on 256 acres of ponds, streams, fields, woodlands and highlights some of the best views of the Green Mountains. Full-on views of Camels Hump and the Appalachian Gap with a swimming pond in the foreground, a 10,000 tap sugar bush, a mobile home and a separate apartment in the large Post and Beam barn. Highland Farm is the ideal in Vermont Hill Farm retreats.

  •     256 +/- Acres of Classic Vermont Hill Farm
  •     End-of-the-road privacy
  •     Full-on views of Camels Hump, the Green Mountains and the Appalachian Gap
  •     10,000 tap sugarbush (possibly more)
  •     Over 175 acres of managed woodlands and approximately 60 acres of open fields
  •     A nice combination of open, sloping southeasterly facing fields fenced for livestock
  •     Two swimming ponds, one with covered deck
  •     Post & Beam barn with a one bedroom apartment
  •     Two 4-bay storage barns and two ponds
  •     An active brook with waterfalls runs through the property

See more at:

So, let’s see what the countryside Nabby would have seen outside her window everyday looks like.

Mason Hill 13 Mason Hill 12 Mason HIll 11 Mason Hill 10 Mason Hill 9 Mason Hill 8 Mason Hill 7 Mason Hill 6 Mason Hill 5 Mason Hill 4 Mason Hill 3 Mason Hill 2 Mason Hill 1

I’m telling you what, I don’t want to buy the place, but I assuredly want to rent it for a couple of weeks.  I wonder if it’s vacant???

There are just no words to describe some levels of majesty and beauty. The only thing I can think of to say is “breathtaking.”

I truly look at this and wonder how one could ever leave. Then I remember the backbreaking physical work of the lumbermen, and perhaps that is why Nabby and Joseph left.  Maybe its remoteness only looks enticing today because it’s a quick car ride to town, to obtain food, and one doesn’t have to hunt the food, kill it, skin it, cook it, or go hungry.  Neighbors, and assistance, are a phone call away and not miles through deep snow.  Maybe flat land would have been preferable because it’s farmable and those beautiful mountains only represented obstacles and challenges to our ancestors.  Maybe by 1840, when Joseph would have been about 50 years old, he was old and tired and wasn’t able to do lumbering anymore.  Maybe he had hurt himself, or just worn himself out over the years.  Maybe the westward bug was catching.  Maybe they knew it was now or never, and decided it was now.

How Nabby must have cried as they left, leaving everything and everyone that she knew behind, including her aged father whom she knew she would never see again.

And what about Nabby’s children? By 1840, her children had been marrying since 1831.  How many living children did Nabby leave behind?  How many are buried in small unmarked graves in a clearing in one of the two Hill cemeteries?  Did she visit them all one last time?

We don’t know exactly when they left, but Rollin consistently gives his birth location as New York in 1836/1837 from 1860-1910, 5 different census enumerations. The only one that is different is the 1850 census, where his parents would have provided the information, and they say Rollin was born in Vermont.

Oswego, NY to Little Fort, Illinois

Nabby spent a few years in Oswego, New York after leaving Vermont and before moving on to Little Fort, Illinois, later renamed Waukegan.  Nabby’s obituary says they arrived in 1842, which seems likely to be accurate.  They arrived sometime before her daughter, Lucia, married Henry Weaver in Waukegan on November 8, 1844, which, ironically is the same day Joseph and Nabby purchased a lot in Little Fort.  There must have been some celebrating going on that day!  Everyone would have been happy!

We don’t know how Joseph and Nabby arrived in either Oswego or Little Fort, but there is at least a possibility that they took the Erie Canal, completed in 1825, and joiner canals at least as far as Lake Erie and from there steamers around Michigan to Little Fort, Illinois. That would have been the long way, but it might have been preferable to going by wagon.

The map below shows the canal system in New York and connecting the regions around lakes Ontario and Erie.

NY Erie Canal

It’s also possible that they took a steamer the entire distance from Oswego to Little Fort. On the other hand, perhaps they took water as far as Toledo and switched to wagon to cross across the top of Ohio and Indiana to Chicago where they rounded the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan.  I wish we knew and if they had a steamer trunk for their trip, I surely wish I had that today.  I can’t imagine packing all of my family’s worldly belongings in trunks or a wagon and heading west.  The only good news by that time would have been that Nabby wasn’t pregnant like so many pioneer women who bounced around in those old wagons.

I can’t imagine that Nabby was looking forward to this trip, or setting up housekeeping all over again at age 50 or so. I wonder if she was fearful or resigned, or maybe a different mix of emotions.

When Nabby and Joseph with however many children they had in tow arrived in Waukegan, it was named Little Fort, and it was little, about 150 people. I don’t know if that number included children or not, but if it did not, that’s still only 75 couples or roughly 75 houses.  It that number included children, there were maybe 15 or 20 households.

Little Fort was a trading post, initially with the Potawatomie Indians – in fact it was the Indians who originally lived where “Little Fort” was established until 1829 when they ceded the land. Little Fort remained a trading town however, first fur trading, then shipping products to Chicago and other locations.  Little Fort was growing rapidly, however, with many new settlers and by 1849 it boasted 2500 residents. Not being “little” anymore, it was renamed Waukegan, the Potawatomie word for “fort” or “trading post.”  So, ironically, Waukenan went from an English word to a Native word for the same thing signifying “progress.”

Nabby and Joseph purchased land in the original town of Little Fort in November 8, 1844, lot 2 on block 39 from Elmsley and Sarah Sunderlin recorded in Deed Book C page 233.

Joseph Hill Little Fort Deed

When I visited in 2009, I obtained a plat map of the City of Waukegan created in 1861. This has been an extremely useful tool, several times.

Little Fort 1861

My 1861 plat map saved me once again, because the original blocks were numbered. On the section of the map below, the original Little Fort is to the right of the dotted line, and block 39 is shown below with the red arrow.  You can see 38 above it and 40 below.  The left half, on the other side of the dotted line is an addition to “Little Fort” at a later time and numbered within that addition.  Of course, since the lot was lot 2 block 39 and sold to them by Sunderlin, now I’m wondering if Joseph and Nabby owned the second “half” of this lot in the Sunderlin addition on the left side of the dotted line.

Little Fort 1861 Lot 39

Today, this property would be on the south side of Lake Street between County and Genessee. I doubt that either of these homes are original to the 1840s.

Little Fort Lot 39 Lake Street

Below is the view today from the Belvidere side.

Little Fort Lot 39 Belvidere side

And the County Street side.

Little fort lot 39 County street side

I’m sure this block probably looks nothing like it looked initially.  I wonder if anything is original to that timeframe.

Little Fort block 39

Regardless of exactly where they lived on this block, it’s fun to see it in context with the rest of the area.

Little Fort block 39 larger

Their “block” is marked with the grey pin above. In essence they were about 2 blocks from the public square and a couple blocks from the waterfront, the perfect location for everything in the small 1840s trading post town.

This drawing of Little Fort isn’t wonderful, but it’s all we have of that timeframe.  Those are pretty substantial docks.

Little Fort, Illinois

Nabby and Joseph lived in this area the rest of their lives. We know very little about Nabby except through Joseph and the census, with only one exception.

In the fall of 1846, Joseph and Nabby took what I believe is a mortgage on this property. Perhaps they were building a house.  The document is in poor condition, but the County Registrar’s office has this transaction labeled as a mortgage, not a sale.  Truthfully, I don’t care what it is because it tells me that Nabby’s name is Abigail, something I had long suspected but never been able to prove.

Little Fort lot 39 mortgage

It also tells me one other thing, both Nabby and Joseph can write. These are not their actual signatures, they are versions “sealed” by the clerk, but the fact that Nabby’s doesn’t have an “X” with “her mark” tells me she knows how to write so, someplace, she had some education.

Little Fort Lot 39 mortgage 2

We’re fortunate that Nabby had an obituary when she died in 1874. Joseph, three years earlier in 1871 only had a death announcement.

Nabby HIll obit

I was still disappointed to discover that there was no birth name for Nabby, but now I know she was Methodist. Better yet, because of the 1861 map once again, I know where the Methodist Church was located.

Little Fort Methodist church

The First United Methodist Church stills stands there today, at the intersection of Martin Luther King, formerly Utica Street, and Clayton Street. Obviously this building has been expanded over the years, but this is where Nabby attended church.

Little Fort Methodist church today

If any of the old church remains, it’s likely this center section on the Clayton side, based on the map and the building itself.  The “Bazaar” banner hangs under the window in the old part of the church.

Little Fort Methodist church original

This Christmas Eve service inside the historic part of the church today is different, I’m sure than when Nabby attended, but this was the very same place she prayed and likely where her funeral was held, 142 years ago. I wonder if she sang in the choir.

Little Fort Methodist church inside

Nabby’s history gets a little fuzzy between the year of the mortgage in 1846 and her death. In 1850, the census shows Joseph and Nabby as owning $200 of property.  That’s less than some, more than others.  Interestingly enough, they live beside the “brewer” who owns $1000 worth of property, which was a lot by comparison.

1850 Waukegan census

The 1850s would have been a time of change for Nabby. Rollin, her last child at home married in about 1853 or 1854.  Nabby had already buried her daughter, Lucia’s, first child in 1846 when he was just a few days over 4 months old.  Lucia’s husband died on August 13, 1854 and just 2 months later, on October 12th, Lucia’s youngest son died as well.  Without a husband and with 3 children under the age of 6, you know that Nabby was surely quite involved with helping Lucia and her grandchildren.

Given that daughter Rachel was in Pennsylvania, Nabby would have been unaware of her trials and tribulations, unless she was kept informed by letter. Regardless, there was nothing Nabby could do to help Rachel, so far away.

The 1860 census shows Joseph and Nabby with no property, which begs the question of whether the census was incorrect or if they had somehow lost or sold their property – neither of which is reflected in the deeds.

Waukegan 1860 census

The 1870 census, if this is the right couple, shows them living about 35 miles away in neighboring Cook County, with Joseph at age 79 still working as a laborer.

1870 joseph hill

I could have found the wrong couple in 1870, as the surname is spelled unusually, but it seems unlikely to have two Joseph and Nabby’s of the same age with her being from Connecticut, living in Illinois. There is no sign of them in Waukegan in 1870.

Nabby was probably unaware of the Hell that daughter Rachel was living in Pennsylvania. Several of Rachel’s children died, along with her husband, Anthony Lore in the 1860s, followed by more children’s deaths and then her own between 1870 and 1880.  We don’t know if Rachel died before Nabby or after.

Joseph Hill died less than a year after the 1870 census, on March 16th, 1871 with the local paper saying he was 80 years and 6 months old, which would correlate exactly with age 79 in the census the year before.

I have to wonder, what happened to the land-owing American dream that Joseph and Nabby obviously held at one time. What happened to their property?  Where did Nabby live when she died?

The Lake County Historical Society has been extremely helpful. They have an 1874 City Directory that listed Mrs. L. W. Weaver, widow, who would be Lucia Weaver, Nabby’s daughter.  Her address was given as “living the south side of Julian, two doors east of Utica.”  Houses didn’t have numbers yet at that time.  It’s amazing that we’ve gone from houses without numbers in the 1870s to seeing the location “virtually” today, both by satellite and via Google Street View.

That location tidbit was all I needed and off I flew to Google Maps, the genealogists friend – except there were a couple minor snafus this time.

I knew where Julian Street was located, but Utica was on the south side of the city running parallel with Julian. Those two streets don’t, didn’t and never had intersected.  What was going on?

I referred back to my 1861 map of Waukegan, and sure enough, the street names have changed.  Some streets that used to be through streets aren’t any longer.

On the map below, you can see the area today on the left and that section from the 1861 map on the right. Utica has been changed to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

Little Fort Lucia street change

The location of Lucia Weaver’s house where Nabby lived her last few years is shown with the top red arrow in both.

Waukegan Lucia Weaver

On this enlarged version of this map (north is right), I can easily see the actual house location, which means I can then go to Google Maps and see if the house is still standing. We’re in luck, it is.  You can see all 5 houses in this photo on Julian between Martin Luther King (Utica) and County Street.

You might notice that this looks a bit different than the hand drawing. Hmmmm…..

Waukegan Lucia WEaver today

Is the second house then the second house from the right, today?

According to realtor records, discovered by googling, house number 315, the second house from the right, was built in 1901. House number 313 was, next door, was built in 1900.  The yellow house, 311, is also a possibility, but I could not determine when it was built.  However, looking at the 1861 map, I’m not all sure the yellow house is in the correct location on the lots, so while this IS the location, none of the houses may be original to the time when Nabby would have been living here with daughter Lucia.  I wonder if prior to 1900/1901 there was one house where there are now two, 313 and 315, today.

According to Peterson Funeral Home records, we know the following about Nabby’s death:

  • Age 82
  • Died of old age
  • Died Sept 30, 1874
  • Buried at Oakwood, nothing more listed
  • Book A Sept 30 1874

Nabby is buried in an unmarked grave in Section 23, Lot 10 of the Oakwood Cemetery, likely beside Joseph, probably beside the Weaver plot where Lucia, her husband Henry, and son Wallace are buried. The local Historical Society volunteer, Ann, was extremely helpful to me both before the visit and in terms of helping me find the graves.

Waukegan Oakwood

Volunteers are wonderful. What would we do without them and their giving spirit.  Ann met me at the cemetery to be sure I found the graves and brought me some historical goodies too…like Nabby’s obituary!

Oakwood Waukegan Ann and me

Stuck in the Mud

Now, it’s 2009. I’ve been searching for Nabby’s surname for years and I’ve overturned every rock I can think of to overturn.  There are just no records left, or at least I don’t think there are – and I’m stuck.  Seriously stuck, mired in the mud and never going to get out stuck.

I know all about that. I did it to a tractor once, Ok, twice…but that’s another story entirely.  After that, every time there was any mud anyplace near me my mother had to point it out – for years – actually for the rest of her life.

“Watch that mud over there.”

“Mom, it’s a mud puddle an inch deep on pavement in a parking lot.”

“Well, Ok, but I just wanted to be sure you saw it.”

Thank you so much mother:)

Desperation Sets In

I really didn’t think anyone knew Nabby’s surname, but then again, Nabby died in 1874, not so long ago that a descendant might not have a Bible, a paper, something. I was actually hoping for one of those unknown children to pop up with an obituary, a death certificate, a Bible, something to identify Nabby’s parents.

I set about to salt and pepper with breadcrumbs everyplace – rootsweb lists, boards, checking GenForum and last of all, as much as it pains me to say, I checked Ancestry for Nabby’s surname. Now, in my defense, I didn’t want to just adopt a surname and hook it on my tree, I was searching for information, hints, anything of use.

I did find something quite interesting. Here’s what I posted on the rootsweb lists:

“I recently found a tree at Ancestry, with no documents, that says that Nabby’s parents were Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson of Addison County, Vermont. I tried to contact the tree owner with no luck.  Does anyone have any information about the Hall family and if they had a daughter, Nabby (or Abigail) who married a Joseph Hill?  Did Gershom Hall have a will of any sort that might name his children?  Any help is gratefully appreciated.”

Truthfully, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hades that this was accurate, but it was the one and only lead I had.

William Wheeler, a cousin who descends from Lucia that I didn’t know previously, answered me and he said that he felt there was evidence to support this Hall connection, provided as follows:

  • Gershom Hall Jr. & Dorcas Richardson Hall have a daughter Nabby, born CT 10/7/1792; Mansfield, Tolland, CT records.
  • Gershom Hall, Jr. is in Bristol, VT 1799/1800; 1800 census as Gershom Noll, Bristol town records is a freeholder 9/5/1809, lived in Bristol through 1840 census.
  • Gershom’s son Edmund moved to Lake Co. IL in the 1840’s the same period as Joseph and Nabby.

The 1850 census does confirm an Edmund Hall born in 1791 in Connecticut , wife Hannah, living in Lake County, Illinois.

That’s good information, but nothing to draw conclusions from. It is, however, something to work with.

From the book, “The Halls of New England” by David B. Hall, 1883, on page 237, I found:

(Family 81.) Gershom Halls(5) Gershom(4), James(3), William(2), John(1) b. Sept. 6, 177O; m., May 9, 1791, Dorcas Richardson of Wellington, Conn. Residence Mansfield. Children were :

  1. Edmund, b. Sept. 6. 1791.
  2. Nabby, b. Oct. 7, 1792.
  3. Joel, b. Feb. 13, 1794.
  4. Orilla, b. Sept. 30, 1795.
  5. Polly b. Oct. 13, 1797.

Well, that’s a Nabby alright, with a brother Edmund, but is this our Nabby?

Then I discovered that Polly Hall, the daughter of Gershom married David Gates and had a son named Rollin Cone Gates. Ok, this is now too much coincidence, given that the name Rollin and Rollin C. repeats in Nabby’s children as well.

Not only that, but Polly’s first daughter’s name was Alvira, a name also found in Nabby’s daughter Rachel’s line.

I contacted the historical society in Addison County, Vermont and they were unable to find any burial, will, estate or other information for Gershom, although they did find one tidbit that made me quite sad, actually.

“Rachel, dau. of Gershon and Dorcas Hall died April 21, 1809, age 11.”

Rachel Hall would have been born in about 1798 and the 1800 census does support 4 daughters, instead of the three shown for Gershom above in the Hall book. Rachel would have been Nabby’s little sister, younger than Nabby by maybe 5 or 6 years or so.  In 1809, when Rachel died, Nabby would have been 17 and it probably broke her heart to bury her baby sister.  I can see her standing beside the grave and promising to Rachel that she would indeed live on, and then just 5 years later, in 1814, Nabby naming her first daughter Rachel Levina.

This information falls into the “preponderance of evidence category,” but it isn’t proof.  I turned to DNA.

Autosomal DNA

In order to obtain DNA+tree matches at, I needed to add Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson and as much of their Ancestry as is documented in the books I had found onto my Ancestry tree. If you are cringing a bit, so was I, because I hate to add anything speculative.  However, I needed to know if the DNA evidence also supports Nabby being the child of Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson and the only way to do that was to add Gershom and Dorcas to my tree.  In other words, I needed to know if my “ancestor trap” would provide any shakey leaf DNA matches.  It did, so Gershom and Dorcas are still branches on my tree.

Today I have 4 matches to the Gershom Hall line other than through Nabby – three through Gershom’s sister, Rachel’s line and one through Gershom’s other daughter Amelia Orilla. I have two additional matches through Gershom’s grandfather, James Hall and wife Mehitable.  I have yet another match through James’ parents William Hall and wife Hester Matthews.

Unfortunately, most of these folks have not uploaded their results to GedMatch, so I’ve been unable to triangulate, but I’m willing to call provisionally “safe” on this one with the non-DNA evidence backed up by 7 different DNA matches to multiple lines other than my own through the Hall family.  It’s still not proof.

Maybe someday I’ll get to triangulate and call this absolutely, positively, a home run.

Nabby’s Children and Mitochondrial DNA

While we are using autosomal DNA to confirm Nabby as a member of the Hall family, we can also utilize Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA to learn more about Nabby’s direct maternal line.

Mitochondrial DNA tells a story hundreds to thousands of years old, but of just one line, the direct matrilineall line. Women pass mitochondrial DNA directly to their children, but men don’t pass theirs on.  So anyone, male or female, descended from Nabby or her sisters through all females can test their mitochondrial DNA, which is the same mitochondrial DNA as Nabby carried.  From that, we can learn about Nabby’s ancient origins, before the advent of surnames.

We can still only identify 3 of Nabby’s children, although through those three children she had 28 or 29 grandchildren, several of whom, the ones in Pennsylvania, she probably never knew, and may not have known of:

  • Rachel Levina Hill, born in April 10, 1814 or 1815 in Bristol, Addison County, Vermont, married Anthony Lore October 13, 1831 in Starksboro, VT, moved to New York, then to Warren County, PA by 1850 where she died between 1870 and 1880. She had a total of 12 children that we know of, with daughters as follows:

Maria Lore born 1844 who married Elisha Stephen Farnham and had daughter Jennie Farnham who married a Goss and had one daughter Ethel Goss.

Mary or Minerva Lore (or both) may have married Henry Ward and had daughters Lillie Ward, Myrtle Ward, Daisy Ward and another daughter whose name is unknown

  • Rollin C. Hill born April 16, 1836, probably in Vermont, married Louisa Jane Wright about 1853, died December 24, 1918 during the flu epidemic in Waukegan, Illinois. He had 9 children who lived, of 11 born: Rollin Cullin (1869-1944), Alice May (1872-1953), Leroy Frank (1877-1923), Harry Wright (1855-1949), Charles Oliver (1873-947), Herbert B. (1872-1942), Joseph (1869-before 1880), Ellen Louisa (1857-1940), Cornelia (1865 and (1865-1937) Lewis (1860-before 1880).  Rollin’s children do not carry Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA since males do not pass mitochondrial DNA to their offspring.
  • Lucia P. Hill born October 27, 1827 in Addison County, Vermont, married Henry Weaver November 8, 1844 in Waukegan, Illinois. He died in 1854.  Lucia never remarried, worked as a seamstress and died on January 13, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois.  She is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Waukegan.  Her children, based on the Bible pages shown below which are known as the “Weaver-Norton Bible,” in combination with census records, are Edwin Alonzo born and died in 1846, Wallace born in 1848 who lived and died in Waukegan, Sarah born in 1850, Adella “Della” born in 1852 and Charles Cullin born in 1853 and died two months after his father in 1854.  1854 was a terrible year for this family.

Lucia’s daughters who would carry her mitochondrial DNA are:

Sarah Prince Weaver born May 14, 1850 in Waukegon, Illinois, moved to Hunters, Stevens County, Oregon where she died on October 29, 1929.  Her second husband was William George Simpson who she married in 1872 in Michigan.  She had children Adolph born in 1872, Edward born in 1875 and died in 1877, Guy born 1879, died 1899, Gary born 1881, died 1884, and Lillie born in 1883. Lillie Simpson carries Sarah’s and Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA.  She married William Wheeler had a daughter Stella Wheeler who died in 1972 and daughter Claire Wheeler who died in 2003.  If Stella or Claire had children, they would also carry Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA.

Sarah Prince WEaver

Nabby’s granddaughter, Sarah Prince Weaver.

Adella “Della” N. Weaver born March 30, 1852, married Duncan Kier about 1880 and had daughter Edna A. Kier born in July of 1880.  Della moved to Independence, Missouri where she died in 1935.  Edna carries Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA as do her children.  If Edna had female children, anyone descended from those female children through females carries Nabby’s mitochondrial DNA too.

Lucia Hill Weaver Bible

Lucia Hill Weaver Bible 2

We do have an opportunity to test individuals who carry Nabby’s DNA today. I will provide a testing scholarship to anyone who descends from Nabby (or her sisters) through all females to the current generation where the individual can be male or female.

A special thank you to the Waukegan Historical Society volunteers, Beverly and Ann for going that special distance, both when I visited and after I left.

Furthermore, Google Maps has opened a huge door of opportunity for genealogists.  I hope you’ve seen some different ways to use this tool, especially in conjunction with old maps.

I could not have written this article without the help of cousins Rick Norton and John Burbank who provided Vermont information and cousin William Wheeler who researched and speculated correctly about Gershom Hall.  It’s because of the collaborative efforts of all of us that we know Nabby Hall Hill just a little bit better today and got to peek into her life through the magic of records and pictures, both old and new.

And Nabby, if you’d like to tell us who the rest of your children are, we’re all ears…



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Joseph Hill (1790-1871), The Second Joseph, ShingleMaker, 52 Ancestors #116

I was so thrilled when I discovered the birth record of Rachel Levina Hill in Bristol Township, Addison County, Vermont with her parent’s names, Joseph Hill and Naby.

Rachel Hill birth

How tough could the next generation be? The name wasn’t John Smith and this document gave both parents names.  Addison County wasn’t heavily populated.  This should be a slam dunk.


Little did I know.

When I started my search for Joseph Hill, my only real piece of data to go on was that Joseph and Nabby were married by 1814 or 1815 when Rachel Levina was born, and were still living in the same area in 1831 when she was married.

So, the 1830 census in Addison County, Vermont seemed like a good starting point.

1830 Census

In the 1830 census, we already have a challenge. There is a Joseph Hill in Bristol Township, a Josephus in Cornwall and two Josephs in Starksboro.

Four Joseph Hills??  Seriously.  In that small area.  How can that be?  Big groan!

Josephus doesn’t seem to fit, either by virtue of his name or location, so I tentatively eliminated him to focus on the three Josephs. All three Joseph’s are age 30-40 in 1830, which is very un-useful, and all the wives are 30-40 as well, so born between 1790 and 1800.  Really?  Really not helpful.

The best I could do was to begin to map the children of the various Josephs in documentation against the children noted on the census. Unfortunately, there would not be an exact fit.

Maybe we’ll have better luck with 1820.

1820 Census

In the 1820 census, we should find Joseph since we know that Rachel Levina was born in Bristol Township in 1815. Joseph Hill does not appear in Bristol Township where Rachel was born, but does appear in the Starksboro group of Hills living beside Ruby Hall, with:

  • one male under 10 (born 1810-1820,) probably a son
  • 1 male 16-26 (born 1794-1814) identity unknown, possibly a son
  • one male 26-45 (born 1775-1794,) Joseph Hill, unless he is the unknown person above
  • one female under 10 (born 1810-1820), has to be Rachel
  • 1 female 16-26 (born 1794-1814), has to be Nabby

Two people are engaged in agriculture.  This means that this Joseph was born between 1775-1794 and living in Starksboro in 1820. It also means that Rachel probably had a brother given the male under 10 and possibly a second brother given the male 16-26, although given Nabby’s age, she could not have a 16 year old child.

1810 Census

In the 1810 census, we find scattered Hill families, with a grouping in Starksboro: Samuel, John, William, Thomas, Latham? and Lemuel.  Joseph is not yet in the census by his own name, suggesting that he either didn’t live in Addison County yet or was not yet married and that one of these Hill men was probably his father or a close relative.

In 1810, Joseph would have been between 16 and 20 years old, depending on which birth year is accurate.  The only Starksboro Hill men in the census, below, who have a male of that age (ages 16-26, third column to the right of the names) or 10-16 (second column to the right of the names) were William, Samuel and Lemuel.  So Joseph is likely living in one of these households, who we later discover are his brothers.

1810 Addison County Vt census

1800 Census

The 1800 census becomes even more difficult. There are several groups of Hill men, one in Bristol Township and 4 in Starksboro.  Given that Joseph was born around 1790, his father, if here, would have been one of these men with a male child of around 10.  The only man in the Bristol/Starksboro group to have any male children of that approximate age is Samuel, but we later determine that Joseph is not Samuel’s son, but his brother.  In fact, all of the Starksboro men except John are brothers.

  • Lewis Hill, Bristol Twp, 1 male 16-25, 1 female under 10, 1 female 26-44
  • Thomas Hill, Starksboro, 1 male 16-25, no females
  • John Hill, Starksboro, 1 male 26-44, 1 female 16-25
  • Samuel Hill, Starksboro, 4 males under 10, 1 26-44, 1 females under 10, 2 26-44
  • William Hill, Starksboro, 1 male 26-44, no females
  • Ambrose Hill, Cornwall, 1 male 10-15, 1 male over 45, 1 female 10-15, one female over 45
  • Titus Hill, Cornwall, 2 males under 10, 2 10-15, 2 16-25, 2 over 45, 1 female under 10, 1 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 over 45
  • Moses Hill, Cornwell, 1 males under 10, 1 26-44, 1female 16-25
  • Elias Hill, Middlebury, 3 males under 10, 1 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 over 45, 1 female 26-44
  • Festus Hill, Middlebury, 1 male under 10, 1 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 female under 10, 1 26-44
  • Calvin Hill, Monkton, 3 males under 10, 1 10-15, 1 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 female under 10, 1 26-44
  • Billiom Hill, New Haven, 1 male over 45, 1 female over 45
  • Reuben Hill, (next door), New Haven, 1 male under 10, 1 10-15, 2 16-25, 1 26-44, 1 female under 10, 1 16-25

On the flip side, 1790 looks significantly easier, because most Hill men aren’t there yet. Perhaps the Hill migration from New Hampshire took place between 1790 and 1800.

1790 Addison Co., Vermont Census

  • Billius Hill, New Haven, 2 males over 16, 2 females under 16

The Blacksmith Ledger

I realize a blacksmith ledger is a really unusual resource, but this one is chocked full of interesting information, representative of that time and life in Vermont.

James Barton, a blacksmith from Ferrisburg Hollow, Addison County, Vermont which appears to be 7-11 miles from Starksboro, kept a ledger from 1828-1832.

James Barton’s descendant tells us the following about the ledger:

Kept by my great-great grandfather and brought to Crawford County, Pennsylvania about 1843, when the family settled in Beaver Township. Other account books may exist, but this was the only known one at the time I photocopied it for my own use in the 1970’s.  The current location of the original book is unknown.

Excerpt transcribed by
Judith Smith Magons
Wadsworth OH

I extracted all of the Hill information, with the hope that somehow I could tie something together. I also found it fascinating that this blacksmith wound up in Crawford County, PA, adjacent to Warren County, where Rachel Levina Hill and her husband Anthony Lore would find themselves in 1850.  Was there some connection or was the Warren County/Crawford County area simply a popular migration location from Vermont?

Blacksmith Ledger:

Page 1

July 14 1828      Richard Hill Dr to Shoeing                .34

Page 3

August 12 1828 Samuel Hill Dr to repairing

Single Waggon                                         8.00

15             Richard Hill Dr to mend chains                    .42

Wm Worth 2d to fix saddle trace

By C Hill                                                     .34

Page 5

August 27th 1828  Richard Hill Dr to Shoeing                           .25

Richard Hill Dr to Shoeing                           .50

30              Wm Hill 2d  To Shoeing                              .12

Page 6

Sept 9               Wm Hill 2d to Shoeing                                .25

Page 7

Sept 15th 1828 Thomas Hill Dr to repairing

Wm Worths Waggon                                1.00

20th            Thomas Hill To staple                                 .25

Thomas Hill to reparing wagon                    .75

Wm Hill 2d Dr to mending chains                 .19

Page 8

Sept 26, 1828     Wm Hill 2d Dr to Shoeing                            .13

Richard Hill Dr to Shoeing                         1.00

Do fixing whiffletree                                    .35

29th            Wm Hill 2d Dr to Shoeing                            .67

Oct 1st               Samel Bushnell Dr to Ironing

to horse wagon for John Hill

with extra bands                                     31.50

Do Irons for Box                                       1.50

Page 9

Pct 15th 1828     Richard Hill Dr tp Shoeing                           .60

Page 10

Oct 20 1828       Wm Hill 2d to Shoeing                                .25

Richard Hill to mend Chains                        .32

Do Apple Knife                                           .10

Page 11

Nov 1st 1828      Joseph Hill Dr to making 6 knives               .60

Page 13

November 5th 1828 John Hill 2d Dr to drawing

ox Shoe Iron on credit 60 lb 3 Cents          1.80

Page 14

Nov 12th             Joseph Hill Dr to Laying hatchet               1.00

Page 15

Nov 23 1828      Wm Hill 2d to Shoeing a horse                  1.06

Page 16

Dec 5th 1828      John Hill Dr to Shoeing                             1.17

16              Linal & John Hill Dr to mend chain               .10

Do Cart hook    lb

Page 17

Dec 17th 1828    Wm Hill 2d to horse shoeing                       .92

Do to Ironing a whiffletree                         1.00

Thomas Hill Dr to 6 butter rings                   .36

Richard Hill Dr to horses shod                   1.60

Page 18

January 1st 1829           Thomas Hill Dr to fixing __led Stamp          .25

Wm Hill 2d Dr to Shoeing                            .25

Page 20

January 19 1829                       Wm Hill 2d Dr to 25 nails        .13

Page 21

January 26 1829                       Jos Hill Dr to fix Steel gards          .13

W Hill Dr to a T on Sleigh                            .37

Page 22

January 20th 1829  Munson & Moon Dr to mending

Iron bar by Jos Hill                                    .25

Richard Hill to key for ax Staple                   . 6

Page 23

Feb 6th 1829      Jos Hill Dr to upset ax

and fix a Teakettle bail                                .32

10th            Richard Hill Shoeing 1 toed 3 Set                .54

Page 25

SS March 6 1829 Wm Hill 2d To 1 new Shoe Sett                 .34

9th              Due John Hill Dr to repair trap                     .12

Page 27

March 21st 1829 Wm Hill 2d to Shoeing 1 Set                       .13

23              Wm Hill 2d to mend Chain                          .15

Richard Hill Dr to mend Shovel                    . 8

Page 28

April 1 1829       Jos Hill Dr to baile one for Ellsworth            .53

(meaning bail five pail kettle, as done for another’s entry above)

Page 33

May 1st 1829      Richard Hill Dr to Setting one Shoe              .13

Page 34

May 10th 1829    Joseph Hill Dr to 6 Spikes                          . 9

Richard Hill Dr to a Clevey Bolt palent          .25

Wm & Joseph Hill Dr to mending Dung fork          .17

Wm Hill 2d Dr to Shoeing                            .13

Page 36

June 4th 1829     Joseph Hill Dr to Sharping 2 bars               .17

Do Sharp another bar                                 . 8

Page 38

July 15th 1829    Richard Hill self Dr to Shoeing

2 New 5 old ones                                      1.29

30              John Hill Dr to horse Shoeing                      .30

Lionel & John Hill Dr to

Ironing pari of Whiffletrees                        2.00

Thomas Hill Dr to 24 Spike                          .34

Page 42

Sept 21st 1829   Thomas Hill Dr 2 pair of hinges                  1.00

Do 2 hasps hooks staples                           .34

Do 65 Nails                                                .34

Page 44

January 1830     Richard Hill Dr to mend skimmer                 .25

Page 45

Jan 22 1830       L & John Hill 3d Dr Ironing Sley               18.00

Do Sley wood  $8

L & John Hill 3d to fifty nails                        .37

Page 46

18 Feb 1830      L & J Hill Dr to shoeing 1 new 3 set  .71      .71

Page 47

April 8 1830       Jonth Hill Dr to Bolt & Rivet for plow            .17

Page 48

April 1830          John Hill Dr to 6 bolts & nuts for plow          .75

Wm Hill Dr to 1 bolt & nut                           .13


  • “Dr” indicates “Debit”
  • “Do” indicates “Ditto”
  • “Cr” indicates “Credit”
  • “SS” indicates work done by Seaman S. Bushnell, a blacksmith working in Barton’s shop
  • “palent” unknown word
  • “self” indicates Richard did the work himself in Barton’s shop

Keep in mind, there were four Joseph Hills in Addison County in 1830, but even if this isn’t “our” Joseph, this record of the place and time is likely the same kinds of things any farmer in Addison County would have been doing.

Bertha Hanson

Bertha Hanson was a lifelong resident of Starksboro, Vermont, the local genealogist and historian. She was born in 1917 and seemed to be a history sponge.  While she clearly didn’t know Joseph Hill herself, she knew of him.  Unfortunately, Bertha died in 1994 without publishing her works.  If you’re groaning, so was I.  In fact, I’m still groaning because so very much information died with her or is scattered and inaccessible.

In 1998, a book titled “Bertha’s Book, A View of Starksboro’s History,” was published, but it was mostly her annual “town reports” from 1954-1994, which isn’t to diminish its value. It’s just such a small portion of her body of work.

However, various people who have been long-time genealogists seemed to be in possession of select pieces of her research. Obviously, she shared generously.  I was hopeful that I would be able to tie into something she had already done.

I was lucky enough to stumble across John Burbank, a genealogist living in Bristol, in Addison County, who was in possession of some of Bertha’s work on the Hill family. While the Hills weren’t her primary focus, she had still managed to amass enough information that I was able to begin putting together family groups and a timeline, thanks to information sent by John which was a combination of both his and her work.

Hill Family History

According to Bertha, Samuel Hill was the first Hill to settle in Addison County. She originally reported John Hill who settled in Starksboro to be his brother, then later corrected the relationship to be a “cousin of some sort.”

I have extracted this information from John Burbank’s information, much of which was from Bertha’s writings.  The John Hill, below, is the father of Samuel Hill and also of several other men who settled in the Hillsboro section of Starksboro in Addison County.  William, John, Lemuel, Thomas and the Second Joseph were all founders among the Hillsboro Hill families, although the Second Joseph moved westward.  Just wait until you hear about the Second Joseph!

JOHN HILL (#5) (Henry #3, William, William), b. 19 Feb 1737, d. 9 Oct 1804, m. 26 Nov 1761 Catherine, dau. of Capt. Samuel & Elizabeth (___) MITCHELL, b. 9 Oct 1738, bp 16 Aug 1743, d. 21 Jul 1827. The Mitchell’s were from Kittery, ME.

John and his father bought the farm in Barrington, NH and according to Barrington historians, John is the Captain John Hill who had a company at Seaney’s Island in the Revolutionary War.

Bertha (Brown) Hanson of Starksboro indicated in a note to John R. Burbank that she had located the old Hill farm in Barrington, NH:

“Large boulders wall the family cemetery which is at the top of a hill with fields sloping away from it on two sides. Two large, plain, unlettered stones mark the graves of John and Catherine.  The original house, located at the foot of the hill burned many years ago.”

Mrs. Hanson has also done considerable research in the history of Starksboro and has had printed vignettes appearing in the annual Starksboro Town Report for many years. One such from 1957:

“The section of Starksboro known as ‘Hillsboro’ originally included roughly the area between the Hannon farm now owned by the town and the corner above the Ireland school house. The first deed to property in this area was to Samuel Hill of Barrington, New Hampshire, on June 22, 1798.  This was to land near the former Hillsboro school house. The following year his brother, John purchased land near the twin bridges.  {Note: Bertha later indicated that this John was not Samuel’s brother, but probably a cousin of some sort.  Actually he was a second cousin.  When this vignette was published posthumously in 1998 as Bertha’s Book, A View of Starksboro’s History, the word brother was changed to cousin.]

This John Hill of Starksboro is not our Joseph’s father.  The father of our Joseph is John, who died in 1804 in Barrington, NH, John #5 above.

The Ryan, also known as the Hillsboro Cemetery is located “on Hillsboro Road just before reaching Twin Bridges in District #5.”

Hillsboro cemetery

This cemetery holds the graves of many Hill family members including Joseph Hill who died in 1853 and Lemuel and Sylvanus’s adopted children. There are many graves marked only with fieldstones.  The earliest stones seemed to have been placed in the 1840s.

Cem where Samuel Hill buried

Cousin Rick took a photo of Hillsboro Road leading to the cemetery, which he says is in good shape compared to other sections of this road.  Another mile or so beyond the cemetery is the location where Samuel Hill built his grist mill at Twin Bridges.

Hillsboro road

Bertha continues:

The exact date when the brothers (John and Samuel subsequently corrected to cousins) moved their families to Vermont is not clear. However, by the time the U. S. census for 1800 was taken, Samuel, his wife and their six children, John and his wife, and also two other brothers, William and Thomas, who later purchased land near-by, were living in Starksboro.  That year another brother, Lemuel, settled on the farm now known as the Morton Hill place.  The last of the family to locate in town was Francis who, in 1810, purchased land above the present location of the Ireland school house.

Hillsboro was isolated by its location from activities in other parts of town. As early as 1817, Rev. Bowles, an itinerant Baptist minister, began holding church services in the homes of families in that neighborhood.  In September, 1821, the Baptist church was organized with 17 members.  No church building was erected, however, until the present one was built at the village in 1868.

Changing social and economic conditions led many of the second generation to move away from the hill farms. Some went west, some went to other towns, others bought land in the valley.  By 1870 there was only one Hill family living in Hillsboro.  Many of our townspeople, however, number one or more of the Hill brothers among their ancestors.

John Hill (#5) made out his will on 12 Apr 1804 and on 6 Nov 1804, a month after his death, it was entered for probate (Roberta’s note – in Stafford County, NH, probate Volume 14, page 22 and 23,) with his son, Henry, appointed executor as John had ordained.  Henry accepted that trust and “gave bonds for the faithful performance of the same in the sum of $7000 with two sureties.”  The will is interesting and sheds some light on members of the family not otherwise widely known. John starts off by giving one dollar to his oldest living sons and daughters: Samuel, William, John, Lemuel, Thomas, Betsey, Polly, and Susannah.  Many of these were already in VT by the time John wrote his will.  Perhaps the provisions for these was what John had previously given the older boys when they reached maturity.

John’s eldest son, Joseph, was dead, but John still had at home two minor sons, Francis and another Joseph, and an unmarried daughter, whom he remembered as follows:

And I give to My Son Francis Hill three hundred and fifty dollars and one yoke of oxen and one cow when he is twenty one years old and he is to stay his time out and I give to my son Joseph Hill three hundred and fifty dollars and one yoke of oxen and one cow to be paid to him when is is twenty one years old and he is to stay and serve his time out and I give to my daughter Hannah Hill one cow and three sheep to be delivered to her at my desire and to be kept on the place summer and winter and for her to have their income of them, and for her to have the privilege of the back room with the fireplace, and wood to keep as much fire as is nesary while she remains single.”

By far the greatest benefits were bestowed on his wife and son, Henry, age 23, who evidently was running the farm:

I give to my beloved wife all my real estate and three cows and six sheep and half the swine; all the household frunery, the household furnitry is to be for her to dispose of as she shall think best and allso one half of the dwelling house to be for her use during the time that she remains my widow and after she seases to be my widow, I give to my beloved son Henry all my real estate and all my stock and all my farming tools and I appoint and ordain my beloved son Henry Hill my only executor or administrator.

To his grandchildren, James, John, and Catrine, who were probably the children of his deceased son, Joseph, he made the following provision:

And I give to my granson James Hill one hundred dollars to be paid in neat stock or money when he is twenty two years old and I give to my granson John Hill one hundred dollars to be paid in neat stock or money when he is twenty two years old and I give to my grand daughter Catrine Hill fifty dollars in neat stock or house furnitry to be paid when she is twenty two years old.

John’s Children:

  1. Joseph, b. 31 May 1763, d. 24 Sep. 1790, m. possibly Sarah, dau. of ___ & ___ (___) Caverly (this needs further research). He evidently is the Joseph listed on the NH 1790 census of Barrington having in his household 1 male age 16 or older including the head of household (that would be Joseph), 2 males under age 16 (James and John), and 2 females (probably his wife and a dau., Catrine). Joseph is probably buried in the Hill family cemetery on the old Hill farm in Barrington.
  2. Samuel, b. 10 Apr. 1765 Great Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co., VT)
  3. William, b. 21 Jan. 1767 Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co. VT)
  4. Elizabeth “Betsey”, b. 2 Feb. 1769 Barrington, NH, d. 17 Mar. 1856, m. 10/12 Feb 1791 Barrington, NH to Samuel Bunker, son of Dodavah & Martha (Smith) BUNKER. Betsey and Samuel settled in Huntington, VT. They were gr. gr. grandparents of Bertha (Brown) Hanson of Starksboro.
  5. Mary “Polly/Molly”, b. 16 Mar. 1771 Barrington, NH, d. 19 June 1859 Cabot VT of pleursy, m. Daniel Smith, son of ___ & ___ (___) Smith, b.___, d. 1 Jan 1828 Cabot VT. Mary and Daniel settled in Cabot VT supposedly because of the Hazen Road. He was said to be the owner of the largest tract of land in the town. They were among the founders of the Methodist Church there. Early meetings were at the “center of town” and to save shoes, the children carried theirs until they had crossed the brook near the meeting place. Their pew in church was the third from front on right hand aisle.
  6. John, b. 28 June 1773 Great Barrington, NH, d.___. As far as is known, he stayed in NH. His birth is the only one among all his siblings which can be verified by NH public records. For a long time he was confused with a second cousin, the John Hill who m. Laura Bushnell in Starksboro.
  7. Susannah, b. 7 May 1775 Great Barrington, NH, d. 12 Mar. 1848 Stratford, NH.
  8. Lemuel, b. 10 Apr 1777 Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co., VT)
  9. Thomas, b. 31 Jul 1778 Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co., VT)
  10. Henry, b. 29 Mar 1781 probably Barrington, NH. He inherited the farm in Barrington, NH. Bertha (Brown) Hanson said that a loose paper in the record book gave the following data: Henry Hill d. 7 Oct 1876, m. Anna, dau. of ___ & ___ (___) Young, b.___, d. 26 Sep. 1854.
  11. Hannah, b. 10 Apr. 1783 probably Barrington, NH
  12. Francis, b. 31 Mar 1785 Barrington, NH
  13. Joseph, b. 2 Sep. 1791 probably Barrington, NH (moved to Addison Co., VT, known in this article as The Second Joseph)

John Burbank adds that the date of 1787 for the birth of the second Joseph was found in the papers of Bertha (Brown) Hanson which would mean that his oldest brother, Joseph was still living. Why name another child Joseph when the first has not died? Bertha’s mother told her that it was common to leave a child unnamed for two or three years. If that were true in this instance, then the younger Joseph would have received his name after September 1790 when the first Joseph died. However, family records made in 1880 and preserved by descendants of Marinda Betsey Hill give the date of 1791 for the second Joseph’s birth.

The census subsequently shows dates of 1792 and 1793 for Joseph’s birth and his obituary indicates 1790.

Note that patriarch John Hill’s burial is likely in the Hill Farm Family Cemetery listed on FindAGrave. He never migrated to Vermont although at least five of his sons lived, at least for some time, in Addison County.

SAMUEL HILL (John #5, Henry, William, William), b. 10 Apr 1765 Great Barrington NH, d. 14 Dec 1843 Starksboro VT, m. 31 May 1791 Louden NH, his cousin, Sarah “Sally”, dau. of Lionel & Martha (Mitchell) WORTH, b. 23 Nov 1768 Louden NH, d. 26 Apr 1843 Starksboro VT. The Hill burial plot is in the Harry Hallock-Brown Hill Cem. in Starksboro. His tombstone reads: Far from affliction toil & care // The happy soul is fled // The breathless clay shall slumber here // among the silent dead.”  Her tombstone reads:  “Beneath this clod in peaceful sleep // Her mortal body lies // Surviving friends for her do weep // For virtue never dies.”

Brown Hill cem

Cousin Rick Norton tells us that marker above is not a gravestone for an individual, but a monument to the early Hill family members and looks like a tree with it’s limbs cut off.  He calls this the Hillsboro Road Cemetery.

Samuel Hill d 1843

The Brown Hill Cemetery is in a fairly remote location.

Brown hill cem map

Bertha Hanson in writing about the Hillsboro section of Starksboro which was quoted previously under John Hill #5, said of Samuel that “The first deed to property in this area was to Samuel Hill of Barrington, New Hampshire, on June 22, 1798, recorded in Sep.  This was to land near the former Hillsboro school house.”  To that same article was added the following:

According to tradition, Samuel moved his goods through the woods from New Hampshire on a hand sled. At the time he began clearing his land, the nearest neighbor was three miles away.  In 1805 he became the second man to represent Starksboro in the state legislature.

A similar account is also found in H. P. Smith, ed., History of Addison County Vermont, (D. Mason & Co., Syracuse NY, 1886), p. 632:

Samuel Hill, from Barnstead, N.H., moved his goods through the forest on a hand-sled in 1805, and located upon the farm now occupied by Patrick Leonard and the latter’s son-in-law, John Welch, in the locality now known as ‘Hillsboro.’ Here three miles from any human habitation, he cut the first stick of timber on that farm.  During his long life in Starksboro he held most of the town offices and was the first captain of the militia.  His son Richard reared a family of eleven children, ten of whom survive, their aggregate ages amounting to over 566 years.”

He lived in Starksboro for a while with no family. He owned and operated a saw mill at the “Twin Bridges” in Hillsboro.  The story is told that he worked for someone in the Starksboro village area (possibly a Mr. Bushnell) for a sheep which he carried home on his shoulders.

The Samuel Hill house which no longer exists was similar to the Lemuel Hill house being a large two story building with a central doorway opening into a small hall from which the stairs ascended to the second floor. The Thibault family when they lived in Hillsboro called this house in their neighborhood “the hotel.”  It was still standing in the 1920’s forlorn and empty.

Samuel was a man of strong and marked characteristics, and an earnest working in whatever effort was made to advance the interest of the town. In 1805 he became the second man to represent Starksboro in the state legislature.  Although Free Will Baptist Quarterly Meetings were held in his barn on occasion, Samuel & Sarah were faithful and earnest members of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Starksboro.  He was elected as Grand Juror 1808-9, selectman 1808-10.

An attempt to solidify the family was evidently made at one time as there is a monument of the Hill Reunion erected on top of the ledges going south on Route 116 from Starksboro village. The monument reads:

Hill Reunion – Organized in 1890 – The first settlement of Hills in Starksboro, Vermont, in 1805, in memory of and in honor to past, present, and future Hills and their kindred.

Hill Reunion

Photo by Don Shall

Rich Norton during his visit took a picture of the Hill hill overlooking Starksboro from Hillsboro Road where the Hill family members settled.

Hillsboro road looking at hill where Hills settled

John Burbank’s Hill Family Research

The following information was provided in various communications with John Burbank.

The Hill family is numerous in this area.  Starksboro, the next town north of Bristol on Rt. 116 has an area known as Hillsboro.  Of the numerous Hill’s in that town some have been connected but others have not.  Joseph is one of our unconnected branches and I don’t know any more about his family other than Rachel’s marriage date and the record that her mother was Naby.

John Hill’s sons moved from Barrington, New Hampshire to Addison County, Vermont.

The cemetery is now pretty much in the woods and not too far from my Dad’s farm going up over the mountain by foot or by a jeep road. The Mason Hill Cemetery is also located on a rather primitive hill road in another part of Starksboro. Joseph Hill II and his wife Sarah Mason are buried there.

Process of Elimination

Sometimes genealogy turns into sleuthing work, and that’s exactly what happened in “The Case of the Three Joseph Hills.”

We know that Joseph was in New Hampshire when his father died in 1804 and was age 10 or older, possibly as old as 17, but not yet 21. Some of Joseph’s brothers subsequently settled in Addison County, Vermont.  He likely came with one of his brothers sometime between 1804 and 1813 or 1814 when he was married.  He may have been living in Vermont in the 1810 census, but we don’t know.  Given his father’s verbiage in his will, “stay and serve his time out,” he may have stayed in New Hampshire until he obtained his inheritance, which means he would have come to Vermont between 1811 and 1814, about the time he married, given that what few records we do have indicate he was born between 1790 and 1793.

I set about to try and find Joseph.

First, I found all of the Joseph Hills in 1820 in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire and accounted for them in 1830, removing men who did not have a daughter in 1820 that was born circa 1815 (which would be the under 10 category in 1820). The one and only piece of information we knew about Joseph in 1820 is that he had at least one daughter who was 5 or 6 years old.

That leaves only two men found in the 1820 census as the candidate for Joseph Hill, father of Rachel. Those men were the Joseph living in Caladonia and the one in Starksboro, Vermont.  Caladonia is roughly 90 miles from Starksboro, and we know that in 1815 Rachel was born in Bristol, so this eliminates the Caladonia Joseph.  In 1820, our Joseph was in Starksboro, probably in the Hillsboro part of Starksboro.

In 1830 there was no Joseph in Caledonia and there were 3 in the Starksboro area, as compared with 1 in 1820, so they had to come from someplace.

The 3 Starksboro area Josephs as extracted from the Hill genealogy compiled by Bertha Hanson:

1. Joseph D. Hill – (William #8, John, Henry, William, William), b. c1793 Barnstead, NH, d. 2 Mar 1869 Lincoln, VT of fever, m. Sarah Mason, dau. of David & Jemima (French) Mason, b. c1800 VT, d. 20 Apr. 1841 Starksboro VT. Joseph and Sarah are buried in the Mason Hill Cem., Starksboro VT. He was a farmer and stone mason.

In 1850 census, this Joseph is living with William W. and his wife Mandana and his son Cyrus. He is age 56 and is reported to be born in Vermont.  His wife is apparently dead and his other children not in the household.

Utilizing Bertha’s information about his children, incorporated into the chart below, and the 1830 census records, I reconstructed his family.  In the 1830 census in Starksboro, he is listed as Joseph 2, probably indicating that is the younger of the two Starksboro Joseph’s.

Joseph D Hill family reconstruct 2

Joseph 1 is not Rachel’s father.  Rachel’s mother’s name is not Sarah.

Let’s look at the second man named Joseph Hill in Addison County, according to Bertha and John’s records:

2. Joseph Hill, Parents unknown, born 1790 Farmington, NH, d. 10 Nov 1853 Starksboro VT. m. 1 Apr 1817 Starksboro VT Catherine/Katherine Hill, dau. of Samuel & Sarah (Worth) Hill. She was b. 15 Apr 1796 Farmington NH, d. 13 Mar 1872 Starksboro VT. They were married by Samuel Hill, JP. They are buried in the Hillsboro Cem., row 2, Starksboro VT. Her name is spelled as Katherine on the gravestones of her children but as Catherine on her own.

Joseph Hill d 1853

Photo contributed by Rick Norton.

An obituary written by R. M. Minard in The Morning Star, a Freewill Baptist paper said:

In 1823 she gave her heart to the Saviour and united with the M. E. church and remained in it until 1844, when she left it and joined the F. B. church in this town and continued a worthy member of it until death. God gave her seven children, and in answer to her fervent prayer she saw them all converted and united with the church she loved so well.

The statement about seven children obviously must refer to those who made it to maturity.

Joseph and Catherine, his wife, were probably cousins but his line has not been established. Bertha (Brown) Hanson says that his picture leads her to believe that he was a fairly close relative to the other Starksboro Hill’s.

The following is a summary Bertha Hanson’s information plus the 1850 census information mapped to the 1830 census for this Joseph in Starksboro. There is a smudge for females “under 5” as if they weren’t sure they could count this child, plus they seem to be one short in that category if the birth dates we have are correct.

Joseph 1790 Family reconstruct

Joseph 2 is not Rachel’s father because Rachel’s mother’s name was not Katherine.

1840 and 1850 for Joseph 1 and 2

By 1840, the Joseph in Bristol Township is showing with 8 family members, probably Joseph 2, above.  The Joseph in Starksboro with 11 children living beside William, likely his father, is most probably Joseph 1.

In 1850, we also have two Joseph’s. One is clearly Joseph 2, living with wife Catherine with six of his children still living at home. He is noted as being born in New Hampshire, so we know this is one of the Joseph’s who arrived between the 1820 and 1830 census.

The other 1850 Joseph appears to be Joseph D., a stone mason born in 1793 because we find him living with his son William D. who had married a woman named Mandana.

This makes sense, because we know that by 1850, our third man named Joseph, below, has moved west.

Joseph 3, Known as “The Second Joseph”

Now for the confusing part.  The third Joseph in Addison County is nicknamed “The Second Joseph” because he was the second son named Joseph born to his parents.  Yes, I know it’s confusing, especially for the ancestor who was supposed to be easy!

3.  The Second Joseph (second Joseph, the son of John#5), b. 2 Sep. 1791 (Roberta’s note – or 1790, 1792 or 1793) probably in Barrington NH.

This is the strangest naming situation I think I’ve ever come across. John Hill (#5) had a son, Joseph, who was born in 1763 and who died Sept. 24, 1790.  He and his wife then name another son, possibly born before the death of the first Joseph in 1790, or about that time, Joseph.  It’s not terribly unusual for a couple to name a second child the same name as a child who died young, but I’ve never seen someone name their last child after their first child who lived to be 27 years old and had a family.

I began the identification of this Joseph by reconstructing the 1830 census.

In 1830 there are two other Joseph Hills living in Addison County. One is identified as living in Bristol Township who, based on census reconstruction, is my first choice, but neither the Bristol nor Starksboro families fit our information exactly.  Neither show a daughter as Rachel’s age of 15, so apparently Rachel was counted as age 14.  Neither shows a daughter in the 15-19 year old female column but both have a younger daughter in the age 10-14 column.

By process of elimination of Joseph 1 and Joseph 2, above, the family of Joseph 3 aka The Second Joseph, is accounted for as follows in 1830.

second Joseph family reconstructed

This family had 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls, including Rachel.

Mrs. Hanson’s papers state concerning Joseph Hill, the younger, now also known as “The Second Joseph,” is “said to have settled in Waukegan, Ill. and died there.”

My first reaction when I saw that statement was that it certainly needs to be researched – by someone, not me. Then I wondered who said it!  My next reaction was that it was probably wrong.  But then I reconsidered, thinking that no one would pull the location of Waukegan, Illinois out of thin air, and it’s very specific.  It’s not like Waukegan was next door or even a name someone in Vermont would know.  Chicago, maybe, but Waukegan, not likely.

This Second Joseph seemed to be the best bet and only fit left for my Joseph especially since he just happened to be the only stone left unturned after the other two Joseph’s had been eliminated by virtue of their wives.  It slowly dawned on me that it was going to be me to do that research after all. I decided to take the “long shot” look in Waukegan, Illinois. I knew, just knew, I was going on a wild goose chase, but there were no local geese left to chase.

So off to Waukegan, I half-heartedly went, in the census.

What I found stunned me.

Lo and behold, I found Joseph Hill and his wife Nabby, the parents of Rachel Levina Hill, in Waukegon, Lake County, Illinois in the 1850 and 1860 census. I was simply dumbstruck.  This was the last thing I expected to find and the last place I expected to find them.

Thank you Bertha!

Joseph and Nabby’s youngest child was with them in 1850, Rollin C. Hill born April 16, 1836 in Vermont and died December 24, 1918 in Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois. In 1851 he married Louisa Jane Wright.

Joseph and Nabby Hill are not the parents of a Thomas E. Hill also found in Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois born in 1832 in Vermont. He was an author and his bio states that he was born in Bennington, Vermont.

I cannot find Joseph and Nabby in the 1840 census.

In 1850, Joseph and Nabby are in the city of Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois. He is a shingle maker and they own $200 worth of real estate.  He tells us he was born in New Hampshire in 1793.

1850 Waukegan census

In 1860, Joseph still lives in the same city and he is shown as a laborer with no property, born in 1792.

Waukegan 1860 census

But, is this our Joseph Hill, for sure?  It would seem unlikely that two Joseph Hills in Addison County, Vermont, out of 3, would have a wife named Nabby – and a family oral history of going to Waukegan, Illinois.  In fact, we know the wives names of the other Joseph Hills in Addison County, and their wives are not named Nabby, which is one of the pieces of information we utilized to eliminate them as “our” Joseph.

Rachel’s Father is Joseph 3, Known as The Second Joseph

So in summary, by process of elimination, Rachel is the daughter of Joseph number 3, above.  He was known as “The Second Joseph” and moved west sometime after 1836 but probably before 1840.  He was probably the Joseph in Bristol Township in 1830, although the Joseph in Starksboro and in Bristol Township had families who were very similarly constructed.  The Joseph of Starksboro had 4 sons and 3 daughters and the Joseph of Bristol had 3 sons and 4 daughters. There is very little difference in these families and it’s difficult to tell them apart in the 1830 census.  I also found it remarkable that Rachel’s middle name is Levina and Joseph of Starksboro’s eldest daughter’s name is Alvina.  This could be a family naming pattern.  I will watch for a female of a similar name upstream.

Regardless of who was who in 1830, Rachel’s father, Joseph, by process of elimination, had to have been the Joseph in 1820 living in Starksboro.

I have a feeling that if these families could have been further clarified, Bertha would probably have done so.

The Landscape

Starksboro farm

A farm garden in Starksboro, Vermont taking advantage of the rock outcroppings in the beautiful landscape.  Cousin Rick says the land here is very rocky and claylike, not good for farming.

Rick Norton took several photos during a visit in 2012.  In the photo below, he is looking north into Starksboro from Big Hollow Road.

Starksboro N from 116 and Big Hollow Road

Looking towards the village of Starksboro from Hillsboro Road and 116.

Starksboro look N toward village at 116 and Hillsboro rd

Rick says that in this view of Starksboro, the building on the left was once a store operated by the Hill family.

Starksboro, Hill store on left

Starksboro from the south.

Starksboro from south

Sylvanus Hill

I originally thought that Sylvanus Hill might have been the brother of Rachel Levina Hill.  That has been proven untrue.  Sylvanus is the son of Joseph 2 whose wife is Catherine Hill and whose father is unknown.  However, Sylvanus and his father are obviously related in some way to Second Joseph, son of John #5.

However, since I have photos of Sylvanus and his wife, and no photos of any other early Hill family members, I have included Sylvanus’ information here.  He and Second Joseph who moved to Waukegan, Illinois are definitely cousins, but to what degree is undetermined.  Based on what we do know, they are at least first cousins once removed or more distantly related.

Sylvanus Hill tree

The photos below are labeled Sylvanus Hill and Mrs. Sylvanus Hill. They were purchased at the Champlain Valley Antique Center.  Hopefully, their descendants will find these photos and they will find their way back home.

Sylvanus Hill and wife

I wonder if The Second Joseph looked anything like Sylvanus?

Starksboro, Vermont to Otsego, New York to Waukegan, Illinois

The next place to research was Waukegan, Illinois, where I ventured in July of 2009.  But the path to Waukegan was not direct for Joseph.

Their journey to Waukegan, based on information found in Illinois, began in about 1842, in Oswego, New York where they lived after leaving Vermont and before arriving in Illinois. The move from Vermont to Illinois apparently was done in segments and not all at once.

Starksboro to Waukegan

Joseph Hill and Nabby Hall were married sometime about 1814 most likely in Starksboro, Addison County, Vermont where Nabby’s parents, Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson lived.

Joseph and Nabby’s daughter, Rachel Levina Hill was born in Addison County, Vermont in April 1814 or 1815, depending on which record you believe.  Rachel married Anthony Lore in 1831 in Starksboro, Vermont.  Rachel and Anthony moved to New York by 1835, but we’re not sure where.  Perhaps they were with or near her parents, although her parents were still in Vermont in 1836 when their son Rollin was born.

We can presume that in 1831 when Rachel Hill married Anthony Lore, her parents were still living in Addison County, Vermont.

However, from 1831 until I found their obituary information, and that of their son, in Waukegan, Illinois in 2009, no one knew anything more about Joseph and Naby (also spelled Nabby, probably short for Abigail) Hill.  Their obituaries informed us about time spent in Oswego, New York.

Two hundred and fifty miles by wagon is not a comfortable trip.  Wagons tend to travel about 10 miles a day in hilly terrain.  That entire region between Starksboro and Oswego is hilly to mountainous.  It would have taken them roughly 25 days to travel from Starksboro, Vermont to Oswego, New York.  They might have lived there in the 1840 census, but although there are Hill families in Oswego, we don’t’ find Joseph, or at least not one that appears to be the correct age.  There are two Josephs back in Addison County, but they appear to be Joseph 1 and Joseph 2, so we don’t know where our Joseph 3, aka, The Second Joseph, was living in 1840. Maybe they were literally “on the wagon” rolling westward when the 1840 census was taken.

Oswego 1855

This old map from 1855 shows what Oswego, on the shores of Lake Ontario, looked like about the time that Joseph and Nabby lived there.

Oswego was an important military town in its early days. The British occupied the area during the early 1700’s and built Fort Oswego and later Fort Ontario. Fort Ontario is clearly visible on the left cliff of the map. In the mid-1800’s, Oswego quickly adapted to the current hydrotherapy movement and established the Oswego Water Cure health spa.  I have never thought of an ancestor as potentially connected with a spa or spa area of any sort.  I wonder if Joseph had any connection.

The steamer “Northerner” is featured in the foreground. It’s possible the next leg of Joseph’s journey was by steamer, but that would have been the “long way” around through all of the Great Lakes.  More likely, the next leg of his journey was by wagon as well.

If the trip from Vermont to New York was long, the one from New York to Waukegan was worse.  That second trip was about 725 miles and would have taken them about 72 days (more than 10 weeks), maybe slightly less if they made good time, or longer if they had trouble, like wagon wheels breaking or mud or other hazards.  Everything they owned would have been packed in that wagon, plus at least the two children that we know made the journey with them.  They likely had more children that we don’t know about, as indicated by the 1830 census.  They may also have left married children behind, never to see them again.

We can be sure they never saw Rachel again, as she died in Warren County, PA between 1870 and 1880, around the same time as her parents.  We don’t know if they said their goodbye’s to Rachel in New York in the mid-1840s as they left for Illinois or in Vermont in the early 1830s as she left for New York with her new husband.

Regardless, Rachel would have been someplace between 15 or 16 and 29 years old when Joseph and Nabby last saw a daughter that had a lot of life left before her – and who would desperately need her parents and family in years to come.  I wonder if they were notified of her death, or she of theirs, and if they wrote letters in the intervening years.

Both Nabby and Rollin’s obituaries in Waukegan give us more information, although neither gives us Nabby’s maiden name.  One tells us that they came to Waukegan in 1842 and the other says they arrived in 1845.  Their daughter, Lucia was married in Waukegan in November of 1844, so they assuredly lived there by that time and Lucia had time to meet an eligible young man, fall in love, and become engaged.  Of course, remembering back when I was a teenage girl, that could all have occurred within about 2 weeks.

Joseph and Nabby would have traveled west from Oswego which was located on Lake Ontario to Buffalo, New York, then circled South around Lake Erie, crossed from Lake Erie to Lake Michigan at about the Indiana/Michigan border, then rounded the tip of Lake Michigan until they reached Waukegan, which at that time was called Little Fort, Illinois.  In May of 1847, someone drew a picture of what Little Fort looked like. In 1849, Little Fort was renamed Waukegan.

Little Fort, Illinois

The population in Little Fort in 1844 was 150, 152 in 1845, 759 in 1846, 1237 in 1847 and 2025 in 1848.  They had a veritable population explosion in 3 years.  Whether Joseph and Naby arrived in 1842 or 1844, there weren’t many people in Little Fort at that time – so Lucia didn’t have a lot of bachelors to choose from.

One of Waukegan’s largest imports was shingles and shingle bolts.  Joseph Hill was a shingle maker, so this was probably a great opportunity for him and probably why they selected Waukegan, although I wonder how they even heard of such a small village in Illinois in the first place.

Wooden shingles were hand made to cover both roofs and the outsides of homes.  Joseph’s handiwork was probably installed on many of the homes that were built for the new residents descending on Little Fort.

wooden shingles

This 1840s building sports a wooden shingle roof.

Joseph and Naby were also recorded in the 1860 census, but Joseph was in his late 60s, nearing 70, by that time.  He was born between 1790 and 1793 in New Hampshire and Naby was born in 1792/1793 in Connecticut.  Joseph gives his age in the 1860 census as 68 years of age.  He has no real estate and no personal cash or anything of value.  He lists himself as a laborer, so at age 68, he is still working.

In the 1870 census, I found a Jo and Nabba Hilon in Hanover, Cook County, Illinois, age 77 and 79, respectively, he born in England and she born in Connecticut. Hanover is  about 35 miles from Waukegan.  I’m not positive this is them, but I hate to think of Joseph performing farm labor at age 79.

Joseph died in 1871, on March 16th.  Waukegan’s paper says he was 80 years and 6 months, which would put his birth in September of 1790 if that was accurate.  This month and year also answers one of the long-standing questions about The Second Joseph. His oldest brother, the first Joseph, died on September 24, 1790.  The Second Joseph was named in honor of his brother, Joseph, just recently deceased.  Now a part of me has to wonder if the two Joseph’s departed and arrived on the same day, hence, why The Second Joseph was named Joseph.  The elder Joseph did not have a son named Joseph.

An aha moment. This “naming” is no longer “strange” but makes sense, well, more sense anyway.

In 1871, there was no obituary as we think of them today, for Joseph, just a death announcement in the local paper.

The Waukegan Weekly Gazette published March 18, 1871 states that “Joseph Hill, of this city, age 80 years and 6 months, died on the 17th instant.”  Instant means this month.

Peterson Funeral Home

Waukegan had a funeral home by then, Peterson’s, which still exists in a wonderful grand old home. Their records indicate that Joseph was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, but no lot number is given.

Peterson Funeral home information:

Age 80
Died of old age.
March 16 1871
lived in Waukegan
buried at Oakwood, nothing more
Book A March 16 1871

Joseph’s daughter, Lucia lost her husband in 1854, before either of her parents died and after only a decade of marriage.

A cemetery lot had been purchased for the family in 1851 when the cemetery was first organized.  The lot had room for 8 graves, so it’s very likely that indeed Joseph and Naby are buried on the same lot with Lucia, her husband and at least two of their children.  The stone of one of the children is shown, below.

Cemetery Weaver

Based on what is known about the cemetery, the burials and the locations with no stones, it’s most likely that Joseph and Nabby are buried in this lovely patch of grass, below.

Cemetery Hill

Within sight, just a few feet away, Rollin is buried as well, having died in the 1918 flu epidemic.  He is buried with his wife who predeceased him in death on her family’s plot.

Cemetery Rollin

Naby died in 1874 and had been living with her daughter Lucia at the time of her death, according to her obituary. The 1871 City Directory even tells us where the daughter was living.  The house still stands.  Peterson’s Funeral Home again tells us she was buried in Oakwood, but no lot number unfortunately.

When you can’t find the location in the cemetery, just set up shop and check FindAGrave on the trunk of your car! Genealogists do whatever is necessary!

Cemetery findagrave

The cemetery is beautiful, overlooking Lake Michigan in the distance. Joseph spent his entire life, it seems, bordering one lake or another.  Rollin is buried in the clump of day lilies, below with the lake in the background.

Cemetery Lake Michigan

Rollin’s obituary tells us more though, as it tells us that Rollin was the last mail stage driver from Waukegan to Chicago.  We know that the train began running in 1855, so he would have no longer driven the stage back and forth to pick up mail.  After that, Rollin became a carpenter and lived most of his life across from the old Court House.  I’m sure he wanted to be right downtown, as the courthouse square was the center of activity in towns of yesteryear.  Everyone went to town to transact business and downtown was a lively bustling place.

Waukegan downtown

Rollin’s obituary also tells us that his first residence “in this vicinity was on a farm on the present site of Great Lakes.”

Great Lakes refers to the Naval Station built in 1906, and this could be where Joseph and Nabby first lived when they arrived. It’s about 3 miles south of present day Waukegan.

Great Lakes Center

For early settlers, this would have been a prime location because it’s located on a creek.

Great Lakes map

Mysteries Remain

While we’ve pieced as much of the life of Joseph together as we can, some mysteries still remain.  Did Joseph and Nabby have other children besides Rachel born in 1815 and Lucia and Rollen born in 1827 and 1836?  Assuredly they did. The census tells of at least 7 by 1830.  Surely some of those children survived.  Women tended to have children every 2 years or so during that timeframe, so we could assume that they had approximately 9 children, given that at least one was born after 1830.  We can probably also presume that not all of those children survived to adulthood.

Based on the 1830 census numbers and their known children, we know of 4 male children and 4 female children, and that’s assuming that only Rollin was born after the 1830 census, which is probably not a legitimate assumption. They could have had 2 or 3 additional children between 1830 and 1836.

In the 1860 census in Waukegan, we find 3 other male Hills who might be connected, although I’ve eliminated at least one of those.  However, there is a Thomas E. Hill who lived one door from Lucia who is a writing teacher who might very well be related, possibly a brother.  He was born in 1832 in Vermont, so is a promising candidate, although I’m unable to find him in the 1850 census.

On an 1861 map, his residence is draw at the corner of Hoyt and Julian. Hoyt is today North Street.  This small house looks to have been his and Lucia lived on one side or the other.

Julian at Hoyt

In the 1900 census, Lucia is shown at 315 Julian Street, so either she moved or the houses have been renumbered, because today the homes above are in the 500 block.

The rest of the Hill men in Waukegan in 1860 were born in New York, and while Joseph and Naby did live there, if indeed Rollen was born in Vermont, and was their youngest child, then it’s unlikely that they moved back and forth from VT to NY to VT to NY.  Moving was not simple.

It’s unlikely that Joseph or Naby Hill had a will.  Joseph had nothing of value in the 1860 census, and he probably didn’t acquire anything between 1860 and 1870 as he got older and could work less.  Naby lived with her daughter, Lucia, before her death in 1874 and likely had contributed anything she had to their household.

I know I checked on wills and probate before, although I do not have a specific note in my files, so I am re-verifying this information.  I have discovered while doing these ancestor articles that by revisiting and confirming my own information, I have found and corrected errors, and sometimes information that was not available before is available now.

Today, Waukegan is a thriving community made up of a harbor, port authority, beach, Abbott Labs and the Great Lakes Navel Training Station.  Although it is north of Chicago, and clearly a Chicago suburb, it has a flavor of its own and a redevelopment effort has revitalized much of the downtown area.

By Éovart Caçeir - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

By Éovart Caçeir – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

This lovely town was built with the labor of our ancestors, beginning back when it was Little Fort.  It’s nice that the cemetery is peaceful and overlooks the harbor.  Joseph and Naby Hill lived most of their lives, it seems, in close proximity to one of the Great Lakes.  It’s fitting that they spend eternity overlooking the shimmering blue waters of Lake Michigan as well.

Lake Michigan

Military Service

Trying to obtain additional information about the Joseph Hill from Vermont who served in the War of 1812 had been an exercise in frustration. I ordered his records from the National Archives in November of 2014, only to be informed they could not find his records.  However, on, records for a Joseph Hill from Vermont are listed thus with file number 55-34054 and the bounty land warrant as well.

Joseph Hill 1812

Of course, the question remains as to whether our Joseph Hill served in the war, or if it as one of the other Joseph Hills. Given that there is a Bounty Land warrant, when the War of 1812 file scanning is completed, I should be able to obtain this information.  The National Archives may not be able to find the file, but apparently Fold3 did.

Joseph Hill 1812 records

The Lake County, Illinois GenWeb site has a list of military pensioners, and Joseph is not among them, but then again, he may never have applied for a pension.

It’s also possible Joseph might have served out of New Hampshire, but I did not find any evidence for service there.  The one Joseph Hill who did serve from New Hampshire also requested a pension from there in 1878.

If he was born in September 1790, he would have been 22 years old and unmarried, ripe pickins in 1812.

One tidbit that may or may not be relevant is that this is the same unit in which Joseph’s wife’s brothers, Joel and Edmund Hall served.

DNA Matching

DNA suggestions that we actually do have the correct Hill family has come in two different forms.

At Ancestry, I have matches with descendants of Joseph Hill and his wife, Nabby. Unfortunately, they have not downloaded to GedMatch, so I can’t tell you how we match, which means I also can’t triangulate that DNA to others.  This comes in the category of “so close but so far away” or a new form of genealogical torture that should be probihited in the Geneva convention.

For a while at Ancestry, I was part of the Joseph Hill and Nabby Hall Circle too. I don’t know if I’m simply not a member anymore, or if the Circle has gone away entirely, but regardless, the Circle is gone from my page and has been for months.  Wonderful…now I have Circle anxiety.

However, I do match several other people who descend from Nabby Hall’s line as well as Joseph’s father’s line, and not just at Ancestry thankfully.

Between these various pieces of DNA and other evidence, I do feel confident we have identified the correct couple as the parents of Rachel Levina Hill – after tracking them from Starksboro, Vermont to Waukegan, Illinois, a place I would never have looked without the notes from Bertha Hanson’s work.

Sometimes, that one critical sentence is all that it takes, even post-humously. Thank you Bertha!!!



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