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murders and devastation in the frontier settlements west and
north of the Blue Mountain. During the War of the Revolution,
when the disafifected Indians were urged on and sometimes even
led by British officers, the people living within the bounds of the
Walking Purchase had reason enough for the gravest apprehen-


Why Heinrich w^as induced, after selling his place in Lehigh
Township (1795), to move with his family about twenty-five or
thirty miles southward along the eastern base of the Blue Moun-
tain, to a section in Berks County that appears to have possessed
no attractions greater than the neighborhood he left, no one now

46 The Gernhai'dt Family History.

living knows. Possibly some friend, or relative of his wiie, in-
fluenced him there. As it appears that he did not invest in real
estate in that vicinage, it is surmised that he merely rented a
place until he could make up his mind where to buy and settle

Alagdalena, the firstborn of the ten children, had already
(1794) been married to Andrew Shafer, and had almost immedi-
ately thereafter migrated to Northumberland County, as a bap-
tismal record shows that her first child (Henry) was christened
in Turbot Township on the 3rd day of April, 1795. Jacob, the
eldest son, had just attained his majority, and he must very soon
after have followed his sister Magdalena and her husband to the
same section, as we find that it was not long after that he there
gave his hand to a damsel (Miss Kramer), who we may surmise
had got his heart at first sight. We all know how such things
happen. George, their first child, was born in 1798. The upper
end of Turbot Township (now Delaware) was almost entirely
settled by Germans from Northampton and Berks Counties, and
among them it is altogether probable that Heinrich and Rosine
already had a number of other acquaintances.

In the temporary home m Berks County, then, still lingering
near the lofty ridge of the Blue Mountains, and still betimes hear-
ing alluring reports of the fertile lands and beautiful valleys be-
yond, Heinrich and Rosine for a time sojourned, and continued
to toil, following day after day the same but slightly varied rou-
tine of domestic life, their children fast growing up, and one by
one looking out into the great alluring world, doubtless gazing
with wondering eyes over the Blue Ridge, and thinking and some-
times even talking of leaving home to shift for themselves, as
young birds when they have grown old, and strong enough to fly
av/ay from their parental nests. The third one to leave the
parental fireside was John, the fifth-born, who made up his mind
to be a chairmaker, and so he was accordingly indentured as an
apprentice to one of that craft by the name of Karchner, who had
a shop near MiUcrstcttlc (now the borough of Macungie), in
Lower Macungie, since 1812 a part of Lehigh County. He finally

The Gcrnhardt Family History. 47

settled and spent the rest of his days in the township of Upper
Macungie, and was the only one of the family who remained east
of the Blue Mountain.

The few years' sojourn in Berks County passed quickly bv — it
is the universal experience that the years seem to grow shorter to
man as he grows older — and Heinrich finally resolved to follow
the tide of emigration that was steadily flowing from Northamp-
ton and Berks westward beyond the Blue Ridge, behind which he
and Rosine had together watched the sun nightly sink out of sight
for more than thirty years, and whither the rest of the children
now doubtless longed to go, since Magdalena and Jacob were
already tiiere. He was now about sixty years old, and in the
time of life when the feelings and illusions of youth are being
stripped somewhat of their dazzling hue, and when most men are
disposed to act with greater caution. How often the words of
the poet come true :

"One by one young feelings die,
And dark doubts make us falter."

By industry and severe economy — the Germans in the past
were more inclined to make money by hard work and saving than
by investment and speculation — he had accumulated some means,
and now longed to have a farm again that he could call his own.
Seven of the children were still with him — Anna Elizabeth, Philip,
Catharine, Margaret, Baltzer, Anna Maria, and Susanna.

The family now packed up such of their household goods and
belongings as they could conveniently transport over the moun-
tains on wagons, and over such roads as they had in a new coun-
try one hundred years ago, to make a new home on the famous
West Branch of the Susquehanna. Vendues were held in those
days the same as now, and perhaps as many in proportion to popu-
lation, so we may suppose that sundry effects were first disposed
of by a public sale. Other families from the same section came
to the new German settlement about the same time, and possibly
one or more came in company with our ancestors. The Esbachs,
for instance, came over the mountains from Northampton in
April, 1805, also settling in Turbot Township. Baltzer Garnhart,

48 The Genihardt Family History.

Heinrich's youngest son, not long afterwards married Anna C.
Esbach, who came here with her brothers.

Heinrich may have come to the West Branch with several
teams and wagons, but only one wagon is now remembered, as
this one descended to his youngest son, Baltzer, who was his
farmer at the time of his demise, in 1820, and is still remembered
by a grandson (blind Daniel Garnhart), who is yet living. It
was well taken care of, and was still in use many years after
Heinrich's death. It was one of those heavy wains widely known
as "Conestoga \\^agons," with broad tire, long and high panelled
body, usually painted blue, with bowed bottom to keep the load
from sliding or jolting, high ends and sides correspondingly
curved. \\'ooden bows crossed over the body from side to side,
on which a cover of thick unbleached linen was stretched, making
a roof to keep the goods dry, as well as for protection from sun
and dust. These great wagons often carried four and five tons of
merchandise — for the transportation of which they were in great
favor in the past century, before the day of canals and railroads — •
and when thus freighted were drawn by four to six heavy horses.

These Conestogas were conspicuous objects moving along the
highways, appearing almost like houses or boats on wheels, and
were in consequence often in later years called "Arks," "Road
Schooners," or "Ships of the Prairie." I well remember the in-
terest with which I several times examined well-preserved relics
of this order when a boy. On one side of the immense body
there was a box about 12 or 14, inches long and perhaps a foot
deep, with a sloping lid and strong strap hinges, in which were
carried hammer, nails, straps, cords, and various other articles
that might be needed in case of a break-down, to mend wagon or
harness. Iron loops were also so arranged on one side as to hold
an axe, which was alwa}-s ready for the same purpose, and was
often also needed to clear the, road of fallen tree trunks, or tree
tops, after severe storms. Such was the wagon that constituted
one of our ancestor's most valued possessions, and with which
he migrated from Berks to Northumberland. The reader may
imagine him seated in the saddle on the left wheel horse, known

The Gernhardt Family History. 49

always as the "saddle horse," or sometimes one of the boys, or
one of the girls, for a change, patiently moving along on a three
or four days' journey through the yet undemolished forest, slowly
climbing over the various rugged mountain spurs, crossing the
still sparsely settled valleys, fording the streams, floating across
the North Branch of the Susquehanna on a ferry flat, while Rosine
and the girls were perched high up on the load on seats made
comfortable with sheep pelts or bedding. Bells on the horses
doubtless united their pleasing tinkle with the noise of the heavy
wagon, to break the stillness of the forest on hill and in dale, as
the use of bells on such teams was one of the cherished customs
of that day.


The date of the arrival on the West Branch of the Susque-
hanna we have found no record to determine, but it is certain that
on the 19th day of April. 1805, as already stated, Heinrich ob-
tained his deed for the 181 3-4 acres known as the Sinking
Springs, in Turbot Township (since 1843 i" the division known
as Delaware Township), where he lived until he died (1820), and
wh^e his family finally dissolved, his children one by one scat-
tering and settling in various sections of the country. It has
been surmised that he lived a year or more in the neighborhood —
perhaps with Jacob, or Magdalena, as both were already settled
here, or possibly on the place he bought, which he might have
articled for before the deed was executed — but this is a mere guess.
Three years before he died (1817) he bought the remaining 162
acres, then probably all still woodland, and part of the original
survey for some years known as the Durham property. In the
recollection of persons still living the greater part of the township
was still covered with forest.

The name Sinking Springs originated from a rivulet that
issues from several fountain-heads, jbut mainly from a ver\^ large
and elegant spring on the place (see illustration), and discharges
into the Susquehanna three miles or more below. The stream
(not the springs) sinks below the surface some distance below
the springs and runs a considerable part of the way underground,


The Gcrnhardt Faiiiil\ History.

then again appears on the surface and flows on above-ground
until it unites with the river. As it flows on "with many a
curve," you, dear reader, may imagine that it is forever babbhng
the famous (Tennyson's) song of The Brook:

' ' I chatter, chatter, as I flow

To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go.

But I go on forever."

Yes, true it is, many have come, and many have gone, and many
more will come and go, but the little babbling brook still flows on,
and will go on forever, just as it did when our ancestors saw it
"curve and flow to join the brimming river."

The pool formed by the main spring is about 25 feet wide and
50 feet long, as clear as crystal, and is at present surrounded by
a group of six large and ancient-looking willows, but which it is
said have grown up and were planted since the place passed out
of the Gernhardt name. When we saw it in the summer of 1900
it was the home of a large school of shy trout. The 343 3-4
acres owned by Heinrich are now all cleared and divided into a
number of tracts, the part bordering on the public road now 4:on-
stituting a portion of the site of a hamlet occupied by a dozen or
more families, now known as Springtown. but not a foot of the
ground is now owned by one of our kindred. How much of this
world "doth, as a vapour, vanish and decay." The scene is al-
ready so changed that if Heinrich and Rosine and their children
could visit the place now, they would hardly recognize it as hav-
ing once been their cherished home. The streamlet, the undulat-
ing land, and the hills and mountains in sight, might indeed still
seem familiar, and yet how true it is that —

"Change is -written on the tide,
On the forest's leafy pride ;
On the streamlet glancing bright,
On the jewell'd crown of night; —
All, where'er the eye can rest,
Show it legibly imprest."

Verily, we are one and all but frail pilgrims in the present ever-
changing world.

The Gernhardt Family History. 51


Regarding the family history of even this later period, but
meager information could be obtained. All are now in their
graves who could have furnished the facts and reminiscences that
would be of exceeding interest to their numerous descendants.
But we of advanced years can still well realize how very different
domestic and rural life stiill was during the fifteen years from the
purchase (1805) of the Sinking Springs to Heinrich's death
(1820), and later. Our struggling ancestors were still obliged
to endure many of the hardships and privations that made up the
life of the pioneers. But a great and general change of habits
and customs was making gradual progress ever since the advent
of the first settlers. Progress and improvement followed thrift
and prosperity, though not near so rapidly as during the last half
of the wonderful nineteenth century. In many respects the habits
at the beginning of the last century were still much the same as
described in a previous chapter. At the period of Heinrich's set-
tlement in the West Branch Valley, and during several decades
later, the contrast of things and usages then with the things and
practices of the present day was still immense.

A few more things may here be mentioned to enable the
younger members of the present family, and the generations yet
to come, to realize in some measure how our ancestors lived in
the beginning of the past century. People in the then back coun-
try still dressed very simply, and the clothing of men and women
was about all made of flax and wool, then still raised on every
well-managed farm, and the clothing was also mostly home-made.
A calico dress cost about as much as a silk dress costs now, and
was even more rare. Every ambitious housewife still had her
spinning wheel, and many a one had even her own loom, and
made her own cloth. The boys, girls and women, and many of
the men, still went barefooted during the summer ; and the girls
and women often still carried their shoes in their hands when
they went to meeting on Sunday, and did not put them on their
feet until near the place of worship.

]\Iost of the traveling was then done on horseback, though
nothing was thought of a five, ten, or fifteen mile walk. Lieht


The Gernhardt Family History.

vehicles had not yet come mto use. The first "Dearborn" wagon
probably in Turbot Township was owned by Adam Gudykunst (of
Milton), who was a hatter by trade, and traveled about the coun-
try with his fancy turnout selling his hats. This was somewhere
about 1 817. The conveyance was built in Connecticut, . had no
springs, and was rather ponderous, yet was regarded with much
curiosity. His son, the late Joseph Gudykunst, of Muncy, once
remarked to me that "it was nearly as heavy as a field gun carri-

It would require a separate volume to do full justice to this
transitional period, but we shall mention only a few more things
that just now happen to come into mind. Fine home-made linen
was bleached until as white as pure snow, and made into sheeting,
pollow-cases, towels, underclothes, etc., to "dress up" for Sunday
meetings, to go visiting, or courtting, or attend funerals. Things
were then made to last for awhile. The word "shoddy" is not
exactly new, but it did not then signify as much as it does now.
A much valued possession of mine is a three bushel grain bag
made of linen that was in use on my grandfather John Gernert's
farm, in Upper Macungie, about 65 years ago. Matches were still
unknown. Coals were kept alive over night by being well cov-
ered with ashes ; but sometimes the fire would die out, and then
the ever ready steel and flint and punk were resorted to ; or it was
necessary to speed to some neighbor and borrow fire. Many are
now living who have heard some of the old people who have
passed away tell how, in the big hearths of the great stone' chim-
neys of the old-time log houses, the early settlers used to bake
bread in low kettle-like iron pots with covers, the pots being placed
on hot coals, and coals also piled on the pot covers to make the
loaves bake evenly, — and how they then baked "Johnny cakes,"
all crisp and brown, in long-handled iron pans, or in "spiders"
with long legs. But when many now living were boys about
every house was provided with a big stone or brick bake-oven,
usually standing out in the yard convenient to the kitchen — which
in turn are now becoming obsolete.

During Heinrich's time — and until the canals were made and

The Gernhardt Family History. 53

dams were built across the Susqviehanna (about 1830) — shad
came up the river from the sea in great schools, each school usually
consisting of marvelous numbers. They came up to the creeks
to spawn, and theti later in the season returned to salt water. In
still earlier times the fish constituted an important part of the
food of the Indians. "Net Sinkers," in the form of flat notched
pebbles, of various sizes, with which the dusky fishermen weighted
their vine-and-grass nets, are still found in great numbers in
many places along the river. To the white settlers the shad like-
wise became a dependency, and were caught in immense quanti-
ties, being by many salted down for summer food. The late
well-known "Uncle John" McCarty, long an esteemed citizen of
Muncy, who was born November 4th, 1794, once related to me
how he used to enjoy fishing for shad, with a seine, and what
great loads of them he saw sold at the rate of four dollars per
hundred — only four cents each. As our ancestors lived conven-
ient to the river, they doubtless often enjoyed the luxury of eating



Of Heinrich's politics nothing is remembered. The mass of
early German settlers did not care much for political honors and
power, having more ambition to own fertile farms, have clean
fence rows, possess strapping teams and big barns, raise good
crops, and quietly enjoy the blissful freedom that the new world
had promised them — though at the present day politics may have
as great fascination for their descendants as for any other class
of American citizens. They were in the early day, it seems, more
or less influenced by the Quaker element, — William Penn had
twice visited Germanv before he came to America, and made

54 The Gcrnhardt Family History.

numerous converts to Quakerism, of whom numbers afterwards
came to Pennsylvania, but whether Heinrich was ever "moved by
the spirit" of this mild and war-opposing people is not now known.
William Beidelman, of the Northampton County Bar, in his inter-
esting- book, "The Story of the Pennsylvania Germans," says :

"The peace of the new province was often threatened by foes
from within and from without. The wars between England and
France frequently threatened the peace of all the colonies, and the
Indians were a menace to the settlers all the time. They would
start out on frequent raids among the inhabitants, and would
sometimes perpetrate cruel massacres, against which it was of the
highest importance to guard, by an efficient militia, the organiza-
tion of which the Quakers opposed to a man. The Indians knew
that the civil authorities could 'hot rely on the Quakers for any
armed assistance, because they were opposed to war and the bear-
ing of arms. This left the defense of the colony to the non-
Quaker population, and to the civil authorities, to which the Quak-
ers refused loyal support. The Quakers were an embarrassing
influence in the Colonial Assembly, to which they were frequently
elected by the aid of the German votes, especially of those in North-
ampton County. It has been said that the organization of this
county was, primarily, for the purpose of divorcing the German
vote from Quaker control, in behalf of whose candidates it was
usually cast, in obedience to the influence of the Quakers of Phil-
adelphia and Bucks Counties."'

This niay indicate the general disposition and susceptibility of
the early German population. But Heinrich settled in Northamp-
ton at least thirteen years after the county was formed, and it is
not probable that he was ever directly influenced by Quaker poli-
ticians or sentiment. He lived during seven Presidential cam-
paigns and administrations, and though he may never have neg-
lected his fields to go electioneering, or to participate at a barbe-
cue, or in any other partisan demonstration, it may be presumed
that he twice helped to elect George Washington President, and
that he took part on one side or the other in the battles of the bal-
lots that elected John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
and James Monroe to discharge the responsibilities of that high
office. He died while the latter, near the end of his first term, sat
in the Presidential chair.

The Gcnihardt Farnily Histor\.

Phebe Earle Gibbons, in her book, "Pennsylvania Dutch" —
properly Pennsylvania German, as she herself admits on the first
page — ^has the following suggestive item on page 21 : "A gen-
tleman of Easton, Northampton County, tells me of a German
farmer, who lived near that town, who said he did not see any
need of so many parties — the Democrats and Lutherans were
enough. On his death bed he is reported to have said to his son,
'I never voted anything but the Democratic ticket, and I want you
to stick to the party.' "' This zealous Democrat could not have
been Heinrich Gernhardt — of course not — as our ancestor had left
Northampton County while General Washington was still Presi-
dent, more than a century ago. His sons, it appears, afterwards
belonged to both parties, and his present descendants are perhaps
about equally divided in politics. As some whole families of the
clan are Democrats, and others are all Republicans, it seems that
partisanship to a great extent becomes a birth-inheritance, or
initiation during childhood, or in modern evolutionary parlance
is a question of environment. My good father was a staunch
Whig ; he died when but thirty-one, before the Republican party
of to-day was born ; and I can well remember shouting with him
for Harry Clay and Theodore Frelinghuyson before I was cjuite
eight years old. I remember also that immediately after it was
known that James K. Polk and George M. Dallas, in the battle at
the polls, had received a majority of the votes cast, I took part
with a number of my little playmates in the raising of a small
Hickory Pole, not understanding that hickory wood had any sig-
nificance, or that we were on the wrong side to commemorate
victory, and that we should have been rowing our little boats up
Salt River. General William A. Petrikin, the most prominent
Democratic politician of the neighborhood, came riding by on
horseback just as we had the pole up and stopped to compliment
us on what he supposed was a genuine manifestation of Demo-
cratic zeal. "This yer ain't a Polk pole, Mr. Petrikin ; it's a Clay
pole," shouted one of my complacent companions. The enthu-
siastic Democrat smiled, and without saying another word to the
ardent young "coons" went on his way — thinking perhaps that we
were not being raised right.

56 The Gernhardt Family History.

The majority of the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania
were Lutherans, and to this sect our ancestors, Heinrich and
Rosine, belonged. All would surely be glad to know when in the
old world their ancestors adopted the doctrines of the Reforma-
tion, and just what it meant to them socially and practically, as
well as religiously, to separate from the then unmotherly Mother
Church, but we can only guess from general history that there
were no love-feasts with the old masters and brethren and sisters
in commemoration of their withdrawal. The fight for religious
freedom and rights of conscience was' long and hot, and was for-
ever inevitably being mixed up with politics, the personal interests
of ambitious partisans, of bigoted priests and intriguing potentates,
and it is not likely that the injunction in the 44th verse of the fifth
chapter of Matthew was often very strictly observed by either side.
Beidelman, in the history just referred to, says: "The religious
contentions followed soon after Alartin Luther's protestation
against the Church of Rome, and they continued for more than
one hundred years. They were waged with a cruelty and ferocity
compared to which the crimes of the Turks in later years against
the Christian Armenians pale into a mere shadow." When Pro-
testants got the upper hand they too could make cruel use of their
power, as for instance, when John Calvin instigated the burning
of Michael Servetus, the celebrated physician and theologian, and
when John Rogers declined to help save Joan Boucher, as sincere
a Christian as himself, and coolly declared that "slic ought to be

Not to dwell too long on this svtbject, I will here merely add
that the seeds of religious conviction of our early American ances-
tors have not all continued to sprout and develop on the new-world
soil precisely as planted and watered, as their dearly cherished

Online LibraryJeremiah Meitzler Mohr GernerdHeinrich Gernhardt and his descendants ... → online text (page 5 of 27)