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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Local Tourist

For the third time this year I have led a private family history tour for people who have come from other states to see where their immigrant ancestors settled. The past week I've been busy touring Lancaster, Lebanon, and Berks counties with a couple from Kansas and their friend from Texas who came with them. I learned a lot myself as I prepared to lead this tour and enjoyed seeing some places I've never been before.
I have no Amish ancestors so I never dug very deeply into Amish history and genealogy. But this couple has mostly Amish ancestors and several lines which can be traced back to Berks County. One of them is the Miller line and is where we started our tour.
Daniel Miller once owned a farm which is now Shillington. The Miller family cemetery was near their orchard. By the 1920s it was in town and the cemetery wall jutted out into the road, making it a safety hazard. The stone wall was removed and the cemetery was paved over. A marker was placed on the curb to mark the spot where the cemetery once was and cars drive over the graves.

Our guests were also descended from Jacob Hostettler of the well-known 1757 Indian attack. Jacob and two of his sons were captured by the Indians when his wife and two other children were killed. Jacob's oldest daughter, Barbara, was married to Christian Stutzman and lived on another farm just down the road. We went to see both the Hostettler and Stutzman farms. Of course, the houses are not the originals but the owners were very gracious in allowing us to see the properties. A monument has been erected on the Hostettler place.

The Stutzman place is in sad shape but the owners who purchased it four years ago are working on repairing and restoring the house. Again, it is not the original house but she said they believe it was on the spot where we are standing, based on the location of hand dug well, a stone outbuilding, and some charred wood they found during work on the grounds.

We also saw the homestead of Jacob Hertzler, near Hamburg, who was the first Amish bishop in America.

We visited several small cemeteries for the Dohner, Wenger, and Hiestand families. The Hiestand cemetery is on land settled by Jacob Hiestand on the west side of Lancaster. It is located behind a big Sports Center and well preserved but getting in to it was tricky. After circling around a couple times we finally found the way in.

One of the highlights of the week was visiting a farm in Brecknock township. According to the deeds we found, a mill race reached into this property. It was a fulling mill owned and operated by William Morris who died in 1772. This mill seems to have been swallowed up in history and I could find no reference to it in any books. The deeds which mentioned it is the only trace of its existence. When we asked the farmer who currently lives there about the mill race he immediately knew where it was. He has lived on the farm all his life and played down there as a boy. He took us on a hike through the woods along the mill race. It is overgrown but the banks of the race are clearly visible and at least one section even had water in it. The farmer told us where the mill race ended and that answered our question of where the mill stood. 

Another highlight was visiting a farm in Rapho Township. Peter Good lived here from the 1740s-1754. In 1753, he turned the title over to his son who received the patent.

Peter died the following year and is buried in an unknown grave. It had to be some small family cemetery nearby, but we had no idea which one. The owner of this farm asked an older man who knows the local history to join us for that visit. After hearing what he knew, we decided Peter may have been buried in the Metz cemetery about a mile north of the farm as that is the closest old cemetery known today. Unfortunately, it is on posted land and has been reduced to a pile of stones, somewhere in this area. More research is needed to determine if Peter could have been buried there.

One other unexpected gem popped up and surprised us. The Rapho historian told us that the house built in 1771 by Ludwig Metz Jr. is still standing and the stones are being re-pointed. Ludwig bought this land from the estate of his father, Ludwig Metz Sr., who sold 70 adjoining acres to Peter Good. Since we were so close, we drove down the road to see the house. It is a beautiful place. Ludwig Metz must have been quite wealthy to be able to build such a large stone house in 1771. The workmen up on the scaffolding were finishing the left side of the house. The original date stone on the upper floor is quite legible.

It has been an interesting week but I am ready for  rest. I think I'll sign off now and take a nap!


Amy Hertzler said...

Thank you for the pictures and descriptions of your tours. I really enjoyed reading it and seeing pictures of my ancestors homes.

Matthew said...

I am interested in visiting the Jacob Hertzler homestead. I am part of the 10th generation from Jacob and am interested in learning more about my family history. Can you provide a contact or way for me to get more information on this?