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Friday, March 29, 2013


If not for Easter,
the chaos of this world
would be all there is
and all there ever would be.
If not for Easter,
the unfairness of life
would drive us to despair.
But God sent His Son
to give eternal life
filled with peace, happiness
and unimaginable blessings
to those who choose Him.
All we have to do is choose Him.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

See How It Runs

This was a week to FINISH things. On Friday I finished scrapbooking my 2012 pictures and on Saturday I finished the book I've been working on all winter. (It is a book on the history and development of the Mid-Atlantic Mennonite Fellowship.) It is on a CD and ready to go to the printer for layout and printing.
Also on Saturday, Leroy started up the tractor he built and drove it out of the garage. He's been working on this more than four years. It isn't perfect but is pretty good for starting from scratch and using scrap parts. He put an old Novo engine in it which has the sound of a put-put. I videoed the big moment and tried to post it but it didn't work. So I'll have to settle for a couple snapshots here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Ulrich Burkholder

There were two Ulrich Burkholders who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1700s. The first one came from Germany with his wife, Esther, and some of her Scherer family. They arrived in Philadelphia on the Samuel in 1732. Ulrich was a descendant of the Hans Burkholder who migrated from Switzerland to Germany. This Burkholder family lived in Gerolsheim, Germany, for several generations. Hans Burkholder II was a bishop in the Mennonite church and is well known for his correspondence with the Dutch who helped many Swiss Germans emigrate. His son, Christian, was also a minister in Gerolsheim.
We had been told my Burkholders descended from this family and that story was widely circulated until documents on both sides of the ocean confirmed in the 1990s that my Burkholders immigrated directly from Switzerland and never lived in Germany. They immigrated on the Phoenix in 1754. The father, Ulrich, had died in Switzerland but the mother, Barbara, traveled with a group of other Mennonites and brought her six children to Pennsylvania. They were: Ulrich, Barbara, Anna, Elizabeth, Peter, and Christian. I descend from Christian but his older brother Ulrich was a Mennonite minister in Brecknock Township, Lancaster County.
These two immigrant Ulrichs are often confused. I spent at least 18 months tracing the descendants of the Bowmansville Ulrich in an effort to resolve some of the confusion. The genealogy will be published in the April 2013 issue of Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage magazine.
I knew the basic story of the "other Ulrich" but never spent a lot of time nailing down the specifics because he was not in my line. Then a Burkholder from Indiana who is one of his descendants made arrangements to come see us yesterday and take a look at his Burkholder roots. That was the incentive I needed to make me dig into it so I would know where to take him. He had only two generations (Ulrich and his son John) in Pennsylvania as the third generation moved to Ohio and the fourth generation went on to Indiana where the line stayed.
Ulrich immigrated in 1732 and warranted 200 acres in Rapho Township in 1734. Before he got the patent (deed from the Penns) he sold his rights to John Brubaker and moved to Lebanon Township where he stayed. The 400 acres he bought there is close to Annville. It is a nice flat, fertile valley and was a smart move.  The land was divided between his sons with his son, John, getting a nice chunk of it. John's son, John II, moved on to Ohio and his brother Abraham got the Burkholder land.
Ulrich's son, John I, died in 1781 while Lebanon Township was still part of Lancaster County. By the time Ulrich died in 1785, Dauphin County had been divided off Lancaster County so Ulrich's will is filed in Dauphin County. Later, Lebanon County was divided off Dauphin County and the land is now in Lebanon County.
We started our tour yesterday by going to the Lancaster County Archives where we were able to see  John Burkholder's original handwritten will, written in 1779. The paper is 234 years old but very legible. We got a copy of that. (I had previously gotten a copy of Ulrich's will from Dauphin County.) Then we drove up to Rapho Township where Ulrich first lived and saw that area. From there we crossed the ridge and came down into the beautiful Lebanon Valley where the Burkholders settled. I was able to locate the area where his land was by warrants and deeds and the Burkholder family cemetery which was on the farm.
This little cemetery is surrounded by a stone wall. It was used as a dump until 2009 when the junk was removed. Due to the lack of maintenance, only about four legible stones remain. We found the cemetery and stumbled through the mass of briars that cover it.
Ulrich Burkholder's son Christian is buried here.
The stone of his second wife, Anna, is in the best condition.
Since this cemetery was on Ulrich Burkholder's farm, I believe he and his wife are also buried here as well as his son, John I, and many other family members. I am sure if someone cleaned it up and started digging they would find many more stones buried underground. I would love to do that if I had the strength but I know it's out of the question. Any Burkholders out there want to volunteer to adopt this cemetery and see what we can find?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

40th Anniversary

Forty years ago today Leroy started working for Ralph Shank. It was called R. M. Shank then and became Shank Door a bit later. Leroy was the third employee when he was hired in 1973. The warehouse was a small garage on Ralph's property and the office was a table in his basement.
On his first day on the job, Ralph took him to a place which needed two doors. He told Leroy to watch him hang one to see how it's done. He slapped the door up and then said, "Now you hang the second one. I have to go to another job." That was his training period!
Ralph retired and moved to Florida a few years later and his niece's husband, Ira Mast, took over the business. It grew as the years passed and the warehouse was enlarged several times. Today they have two warehouses and about fifty employees. Ira is the only one who has been there longer than Leroy.
Many things have changed over the years. New installers now work with an experienced installer for several months before they are sent out alone. Forty years ago Leroy provided his own truck, tools, and fuel. As the years passed the company gradually began providing those things. We thought it was great when they got two-way radios in the trucks and now they have cell phones.
Leroy installed doors and openers for 22 years and then switched to the warehouse where he is still working. We are very thankful they found a spot for him within the company when installing got to be too heavy work for him. Finding a new job when you're in your fifties isn't easy.
Raising a family of six children takes a lot of money and we struggled to make ends meet but yet we never lacked for anything we really needed. We're not wealthy but Shank Door has provided a good living for us. (On second thought, we ARE wealthy compared to the majority of the world's population.)
Leroy could have retired several years ago but he has been hanging in there so he can say he worked at Shank Door forty years. Today he reached that goal. Is he going to retire now? He says not just yet. He thinks he'll work at least until the end of the year. He's one of those guys who just doesn't know when to quit!

Friday, March 1, 2013

David Martin of Weaverland

Last evening we went to a meeting hosted by the Swiss Pioneers Association at Martindale. Lloyd Weiler gave a presentation on The Martins at Weaverland, exploring the 370-acre property David Martin patented from the Penns. We followed the subdivisions in later generations, acquisitions of additional lands to accommodate their children, and a series of other family and land documents which had been handed down through seven generations of David's descendants.
David Martin arrived in Philadelphia on the Molly in 1727. Oral tradition says he was married to a sister of the three Weaver brothers who settled in Weaverland and they saved a portion of land for him in the middle of their acres. This is probably a legend as there is no evidence to support the story. By 1730 David was married to Barbara Herr Miller, widow of Henry Miller. Henry and Barbara lived on part of the property David patented in 1738. This is supported by a survey of 200 acres for Henry Miller on "a branch of the Constago" dated October 24, 1726, and one of the Weaver deeds which mentions the adjoining "Miller land." Henry did not live long enough to get a deed to the land. David acquired the property by default through marrying Henry's widow. The Weavers probably had nothing to do with it.
David acquired more acres which he later divided among three of his sons, David, George, and Henry. Henry got the portion known as the Martin Homestead. He became the second bishop of the Weaverland district after the death of Bishop Christian Burkholder in 1809. His son Samuel was the third owner and it continued to be passed through subsequent generations of David's descendants. The surnames of the owners changed several times when it was purchased by daughters rather than sons but all of the owners were direct descendants of David Martin.
There was a two-story log house on the farm which burned down. I don't remember what year Lloyd said the fire was but it was several generations from David. The family smelled smoke for several days. They organized a bucket brigade from the creek to the house in hopes of dousing the fire when they opened the wall. But when the fire got air it took off and the house was soon engulfed in flames. Someone quickly dashed into the house and snatched "a box of papers."
That wooden box of papers contained the original sheepskin patent David got from the Penns and other documents. Each generation added to the documents and passed it on to the next owner of the property. Abraham Zeiset (a direct descendant) lived on the homestead until 1968 when he moved to Maryland to get more land. He took with him the wooden box of papers which had been handed down through the generations with the farm.
In 2010 Abraham and his wife decided to bring the box of papers back "home" to Lancaster County and donated them to Muddy Creek Library where they will be secure. This veritable treasure box contained over 100 documents beginning with the original 1738 sheepskin deed David got from the Penns. There were deeds to subsequent owners, drafts, wills, agreements, etc. which not only verify ownership of the land but provide many other details about their lives. There was even a prenuptial agreement and a deed from David to his son Henry which had been annulled by erasing the signatures. It was replaced with another deed several years later which was identical to the first one except a lengthy paragraph had been added giving explicit instructions on the water rights and maintenance of the irrigation ditches. All three of the sons who received part of David's land owned part of the creek which ran through the property and used its water to irrigate the meadow lands where they raised their hay. Apparently they were not satisfied with the first deed and worked out an agreement on the water rights which was then incorporated into a new deed.
Many pioneer settlers had wooden boxes where they kept their deeds and valuable papers but few of these boxes have survived intact. It only takes one generation that does not recognize the value of the old deeds to destroy them. In some cases, one generation saw dollar signs when they looked at the old deeds and sold them, never to be reunited.
David Martin's descendents are to be commended for recognizing the value of their heritage and history and faithfully keeping it intact. Abraham Zeiset had the foresight to ensure the collection of the generations that preceded him would not be scattered and put it in a secure place where it would stay together and be preserved for all future generations.
About eight of the documents were on display in a glass case. Here is David Martin's original patent from John, Thomas, and Richard Penn, complete with the official clay seal below the ribbon.
This is a draft of the 370 acres in the patent. For some unexplained reason, Jacob Weaver took a notch out of David's land.
This is a draft showing the irrigation ditch from the creek to the meadow land and back to the creek.