Surname Origins

Chapter II: Pennsylvania

        The English Quaker, William Penn, in 1681 acquired the land on the West Bank of the Delaware River in America. It had been named Pennsylvania for his father, to whom King Charles II had owed a large debt. The debt was canceled by this grant. Penn established this colony as a refuge for Quakers and other persecuted peoples. In the early 1680s he had visited the Rhineland hoping to find colonists. Some, mostly persecuted Mennonites, did respond and came to America, but it was only after the devastation of the subsequent wars, that people again were reminded of Penn’s visit, and invitation. The French invasion of 1707 was followed in 1708-9 by an unusually severe winter and much additional suffering ensued. In the spring, land agents promoting the Pennsylvania colony appeared in the Rhineland, and by summer there was a virtual stampede of fleeing refugees. By June there were 1000 Palatines a week arriving in the port of Rotterdam.15
        The English Queen Anne was sympathetic and supportive of these refugees. Queen Anne had German relatives and she had been moved by their suffering and she did what she could to help. She had most of the refugees transported to London where a few large campsites were built, and where she provided for their basic needs. Many of these refugees subsequently immigrated to New York, but some stayed in England and some were eventually settled in Ireland. The Palatine who was quoted above, was residing in one of Queen Anne’s tent camps.16
        Of the 3,000 or so refugees who left for New York, 470 died en route. One of the ships, the Herbert shipwrecked off the coast of eastern Long Island. Most of the passengers and crew were saved but all belongings were lost. This might have been the incident that inspired John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem, “The Palatine.”

“Into the teeth of death she sped:
(May God forgive the hands that fed
The false lights over the rocky Head!)

But the year went round and when once more,
Along their foam-white curves of shore,
They heard the line storm rave and roar,

Behold! Again with shimmer and shine,
Over the rocks and the seething brine,
The flaming wreck of the Palatine!

For still, on many a moonless night,
From Kingston Head and from Montauk light,
The spectre kindles and burns in sight.

Now low and dim, now clear and higher,
Leaps up the terrible Ghost of Fire,
Then, slowly sinking, the flames expire.

And the wise Sound skippers, though skies be fine,
Reef their sails when they see the sign
Of the blazing wreck of the Palatine!”

        The refugees who went to New York were part of an English plan to develop a tar and pitch industry using the pine forests of upper New York State. The business venture didn’t prove profitable and subsequent bickering between the settlers and colonial government led to lingering bad feelings between the two sides. The English Parliament eventually lost interest in the venture and stopped funding it.18 The colonial governor of New York had invested a large amount of his own capital in the enterprise, and when it started to unravel he feuded with the settlers. While still in England the Palatines had been offered land in the Schoharie Valley in New York by an Indian chief who had been brought to London for a visit, and who had been moved by their suffering.19 Many of the Palatines in the settlement just south of Albany now wanted to move to this land in the Schoharie Valley. Since they were no longer being paid, their situation had become desperate. The governor, with his investment at risk, didn’t want them to leave, but many decided to do so anyway without permission. The governor retaliated by giving the rights to the Schoharie land to other settlers. This precipitated a feud over this land that lasted for several years, and at times became bloody.20
        In 1724, twenty three of these families pulled boats with their belongings in them, up the Schoharie River and then went overland to the headlands of the Susquehanna River, and floated downstream to the Swatara Creek and Tulpehocken Creek area in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where they settled. Three years later they were followed by another similarly sized group.21 Margredalis Zeller was born while her family lived in the Schoharie Valley, and she was brought to Pennsylvania in that initial migration. She later married a Tobias Bickel of Myerstown, in what is now Lebanon County, Pennsylvania and they thus became the first Bickel family there. However, it is not known how or if this Bickel family was related to ours. Tobias, himself, was an immigrant from Germany and was thought to have come to Pennsylvania in the 1720's.22
        After the bad experience that the Palatines had in New York almost all of the subsequent immigration went to Pennsylvania. The trip to America would start with a trip down the Rhine River to Rotterdam in Holland, where the Rhine empties into the sea. This trip, itself, could take several weeks. Many of those leaving had little in the way of worldly goods, and then every principality that was traversed exacted tolls for the right of passage, so that emigrants who started out with some money, had little or none left by the time they got to Rotterdam. There was an underground railway, such as existed in America for runaway slaves prior to the Civil War, whereby Protestant families along the way could give temporary sanctuary. This was necessary in part because peasants did not have the right to unilaterally make a decision to emigrate, but most did so without the Elector’s permission.23
        Once in Rotterdam, Queen Anne’s boats took most of the initial refugees to the camps in London and they awaited ship’s passage to America there. Subsequent emigrants sailed from Rotterdam to Philadelphia mostly on privately owned English vessels. Because many of the refugees didn't have money for the passage, they were made to sign contracts, which in all probability they didn’t understand, because they were written in English. These contracts stated that they agreed to pay for the passage upon arrival in America. Those who could pay did so as they disembarked. The rest were kept on board until a person was found who could buy the bond for the amount of money owed. Typically the passenger was then indentured to the bondholder for a period of four to seven years. Those who were sick were auctioned off to the highest bidder. This chaotic system was sometimes responsible for family members being separated for years, or sometimes separated permanently when they were indentured to different masters.24
        The voyage itself was no vacation cruise. The ships were overcrowded, and provisions were usually made only for the average voyage. If there were delays, or if a ship was blown off course, food and water for the passengers ran low. Malnutrition and disease were common, and many died en route. The families of passengers who died were still expected to come up with the full ticket price, and when this happened it might extend the term of servitude.
        Although the indenturing process was probably humane and even useful in most cases, there was obviously much opportunity for these bondholders to mistreat and cheat their servants. Although it was for a limited specified period of time, they had essentially been sold into slavery, with all the potential for abuse that that entailed. It speaks volumes about conditions in the old country, that in spite of all the hardships of coming to America, they kept coming, and in steadily increasing numbers. In the Palatinate these peasants were little better off than serfs, and their indentured status in America, in most cases, probably wasn’t a great deal different. But it was the promise of freedom after their service ended, and the chance to become landowners themselves that kept them coming.
        Once these early arrivals had settled in and begun to prosper, they did what they could to help other new arrivals. They kept track of ship arrivals, met the ships, and paid the bonds for their relatives and friends, so that fewer and fewer had to become indentured servants.25
        These Palatine immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. They were assimilated smoothly into colonial society. They became known as hard working, honest, and loyal citizens, who were welcomed and appreciated by the colonial governments. They settled much of southeastern Pennsylvania, and then spilled into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and eventually on to the Blue Ridge area of southwestern Virginia.
        In 1732 there are passenger lists from two different ships from Rotterdam that listed Bickels coming to America. Heinrich Bickel arrived on the Samuel and Johann Christoph Bickel and his wife, Maria Rosina arrived on the Mary. Heinrich might have been the brother of the above mentioned Tobias. Johann Christoph (Johannes) was the first Bickel to arrive from the town of Massenbach in Wuertemberg, Germany. Massenbach is a small community about 20-25 miles east of the Rhine River and is just a few miles west of the city of Heilbron. The border dividing Wuertemberg from the Palatinate appears to run right next to the town. Johannes was the grandson of Johannes Pauli Bickel, who was born on June 18, 1618. 1618 was the year of the beginning of the Thirty Years War, so it then follows that the Bickel family lived in this area during and after this war and must have suffered from its effects.
        Johannes Pauli Bickel had four sons. The immigrant Johann Christoph Bickel was his grandson and was descended from the eldest son, Johann Jacob Bickel. (Johann was one of a handful of German names that were used as a sort of prefix names, and often just used for baptismal purposes, afterwards going by their second name. However, there are also instances where they later went by their baptismal name.) Johann and Rosina settled in the community of Falkner’s Swamp, which later became known as New Hanover. It is situated in Montgomery County, just outside Philadelphia, and is about 10 miles north of Valley Forge. This line became very numerous and there are still Bickel descendants living in this area today.
        Our ancestors, Johann Friedrich Bickel (John Frederick Bickel, or Frederick), and his wife Catharina Eva Dorothea, (Dorothy), arrived in America on the ship, Jacob, in 1749. Frederick was the first cousin, once removed, of the immigrant Johann Christoph Bickel, who arrived in 1732 and was the great-grandson of Johann Pauli and Anna Barbara Bickel. They arrived in Pennsylvania with two surviving children, Johann Jacob (Jacob), age five, and Maria Elisabetha, (Elisabeth), age one. Two other sons had died at an early age in Germany. Trinity Lutheran Church records in Lancaster, Pennsylvania show the birth of another son, Anthoni, in 1750 soon after their arrival in America, but there are no other records found for him and it is presumed that he must have died at an early age. Two other children were known to have been born to them during their early Pennsylvania days, but the birth records have not been found. A daughter, Catharine, subsequently shows up on probate records after Frederick's death, but the name and gender of the last child remains unknown. (Frederick’s obituary found in the church records of Bindnagels Church states that they had seven children).
        Frederick worked as a weaver both in Germany and after his arrival in America. He is identified as a weaver in the early land records in Pennsylvania. They first settled in the city of Lancaster. Frederick appears on the tax list for Earl Township, just east of Lancaster, in 1754. At some point the family probably moved to the community of Adams Town, a town several miles to the north in East Cocalico Township. In 1760 Frederick and Dorothy for the sum of sixty pounds sell a lot (probably their home) in this town. In 1766 they purchased some land in what is now Lebanon County, and then resold it in 1773 to Michael Brown. They continued to live in this area for the rest of their lives. His name appears on the assessment list for Hanover Township in 1782. Dorothea died about October, 1787. Frederick remarried to a widow, Elizabeth Berger, thirteen months later. Frederick died in 1794 and is buried in the cemetery of Bindnagel Lutheran Church on the banks of Swatara Creek just a few miles north of Palmyra, Pennsylvania. 
     Frederick and Dorothy’s son, our ancestor Jacob, married Maria Katarina Braun (Catharine Brown) in March of 1766. The Rev. John Casper Stoever performed the marriage. Stoever, today, is well known in the historical context of this area because he performed a large number of weddings and baptisms in this part of Pennsylvania and kept meticulous records. In 1767 he also performed the marriage of Jacob’s sister, Elisabeth, to Andreas (Andrew) Keuffer (Kieffer). As of the date of this writing, I haven’t found any further record of Jacob’s brother, Anthoni. A daughter, Catharine, married Jacob Kisner. They are mentioned in Frederick’s probate, and between 1780 and 1786 they had four children baptized in Bindnagel Lutheran Church26 . Jacob, Elizabeth and Catharine are the only three children who inherited from Frederick’s estate, and so are presumed to be the only three children who survived into adulthood.
       Jacob’s wife, Catharine Brown, was the eldest daughter of Johann Michael Braun (Michael Brown) and Anna Juliana Karger Brown (Ann Brown), who bought the land from the Bickels in 1766. Michael Brown immigrated to America in 1737. His name appears on the passenger list of the St. Andrew Galley. Mostly the passenger lists contained only the names of males over the age of 16 but special circumstances probably accounted for his appearance on this list because in 1737 he was only thirteen years old. It appears that Michael was an orphan who travelled to America with the family of Wilhelm Ohler. The circumstances are still being investigated, but it appears likely that he was apprenticed to Wilhelm who was a blacksmith. Later Michael would be identified as a blacksmith. He was probably listed on the passenger list because he would have been the only male Braun on the ship.27
        His date of birth, however, is known from his tombstone located in present day Lebanon County. The first evidence found for them in America is in the records of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville, Pennsylvania in the early 1740’s. Brickerville is about twelve miles directly north of Lancaster. In 1743 there is a baptismal record in Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville that shows a Maria Catarina Braun is a baptismal sponsor for a child born to the wife of Adam Faber. This woman is very likely a relative, but just how they were related is still not known.
        The first record of Michael Brown in America is his marriage to Anna Karger, recorded in the records of Rev. Casper Stoever. Stoever’s records show this marriage to have taken place in Warwick. Stoever’s “Warwick” congregation was the same Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville mentioned above, the marriage date being January 26, 1746.28 Catharine was born on New Year’s Eve of the following year and her baptism is recorded in the Emanuel Lutheran Church records. Casper Stoever’s records also show a marriage on June 18, 1745 of Catarina Braun to Christoph Meyer.29 I believe this is Michael’s sister. Catarina and Christoph Meyer are the baptismal sponsors when Michael’s daughter, Catarina, is born and later at the Hill Church, the Meyers and Brauns are baptismal sponsors for each other’s children several times. There has been no record found for Anna Karger prior to her marriage.30
         Rev. Stoever moved on about this time to the Lebanon, Pennsylvania area, and took his records with him, so that Catharine’s birth is recorded both in Brickerville and in the Hill Church records in what is now Lebanon County, and near Annville, Pennsylvania. It is likely that the Brown and Meyer families made this same move somewhere between 1748 and 1750. The baptisms of all ten of the Braun children are found in the records of the Hill Church. It was in this general area that Michael purchased the land from Frederick Bickel in 1773. At that time, he also purchased land from landowners of adjacent property and then mortgaged it in order to build both a sawmill and a gristmill at the same location on Swatara Creek.31 The location of this mill was one of the reference points used when Lebanon and Dauphin were created as separate counties. This would put it near the communities of Palmyra and Hershey.32 At the time of this transaction he was identified as a blacksmith. The milling businesses were apparently prosperous, because by the time of his death he had paid off the mortgages and he was able to leave property and money to his wife and money to each of his ten children.33 He died in 1785 and is buried in the cemetery of Bindnagel Church, which is about two miles north of Palmyra. This is the same cemetery where Frederick Bickel is buried. Michael’s tombstone, still readable, but in the German language, identifies him as a 2nd Lieutenant in a Pennsylvania Militia unit that participated in the Revolutionary War.
        Michael and Anna’s oldest child, Maria Catarina, (Catharine) married Jacob Bickel on March 4, 1766, in Lebanon Township, Lancaster County. Over a hundred years later when their grandson, Robert Safford Bickel was recalling the family history for a biographical sketch in "The History of the Kanawha Valley,"34 he stated that his parents had come from “the banks of the Rhine near Worms, Germany.” For a long time, those of us who had been researching this line thought he was referring to the Bickel lineage, but now we know that the Bickels came from Massenbach, which is not on the Rhine and is about thirty to thirty-five miles from Worms. It is very likely then that he was referring to the Browns. If the connection to the Wilhelm Ohler family in Germany turns out to be correct it would put his home near both Worms and the Rhine River.
        During the early years of the Bickel and Brown families in America, this part of Pennsylvania was embroiled in a major Indian uprising, and the area wasn’t made safe for white settlers until after end of the French and Indian War in 1763. In the early days of the war in 1756 approximately 350 white settlers were massacred in the northern reaches of Lancaster County, which includes the present day counties of Lebanon and Dauphin. Margredalis Zeller Bickel, (the wife of Tobias Bickel, the Palatine immigrant mentioned above), who came via the Schoharie Valley in New York was killed while on her way to church to hear the Rev. John Casper Stoever preach. There were always armed men guarding church services during this time, and many settlers that had moved out to relatively unprotected areas, took refuge back in the more populated settlements.
        In 1765, the year before our ancestor, Jacob Bickel, was married, there is a record of the Reverend John Casper Stoever and others transferring property in the town of Lebanon from themselves to four trustees of Salem Lutheran Church for the purpose of building a church. Jacob Bickel was one of those trustees. In a history of this church that was published in 1898, there was an assumption made by the author of that book, that our Jacob Bickel and the Rev. Casper Stoever were friends, and that he officiated at Jacob’s wedding a year after this transaction.35 While it’s true that Stoever married Jacob and Catharine, I am not convinced that the Jacob Bickel that was a trustee of the church in Lebanon was the same person as our ancestor. There was at least one other Jacob Bickel, and possibly two, that were living in Lebanon, one of whom was a physician, at this time, and I think it is likely they were referring to another person who was older and more established in the community than our twenty one year old Jacob.
Also the Bickels and Browns did not live in the city of Lebanon and they belonged to other churches during this time.
        For the next several years after their marriage in 1766, there is little trace of them. In 1771 he appears on the tax list for Hanover Township. In 1773 Jacob obtained a warrant for land in Upper Paxton Township about 20 miles north of Harrisburg in what is now Dauphin County. Two daughters born to them are recorded in the baptismal records of Salem Lutheran Church in Killinger. A daughter, Christina, was born in 1776, and another daughter, Anna Maria, was born in 1780.36 In 1779, Jacob’s name is found on the tax assessment list for the Upper Wiconisco district, which is about ten miles further east up the Lykens Valley and closer to the communities of Berrysburg and Elizabethville, but still in Upper Paxton Township. The Lutheran Churches in Berrysburg and Elizabethville were not formed until after 1780, and so initially the church in Killinger may have been the closest one. So far there have been no baptismal records found for any of the other children.
        It was while the family lived near Killinger that the Revolutionary War was fought. Jacob joined a Pennsylvania regiment that was raised in the Upper Paxton and East Hanover Township area. These men saw action in the early days of the Revolution in the Battle of Long Island. They suffered heavy casualties and there was an attempt to integrate their remnants into other companies. To avoid this some of the men essentially deserted and went home. Many then applied for reinstatement, claiming they had been misused, and they again wanted to enlist in the service of their province. Jacob Bickel is one of fifty-eight names that appear on the application for reinstatement.37 Jacob, and Catherine's brother-in-law Nicholas Cassell, subsequently appear on muster rolls for a Company led by Captain Martin Weaver who came from the neighboring town of Millersburg. This Company's roll call was published each time it returned home from service and there have been records for three deployments found. Two of these deployments were in 1778 and 1779 respectively, but a third one mentions only the month and day without a year being mentioned. This was probably because it was the first year of the armed conflict. The enlistment dates and the pay records put it in the time frame for the Christmas Eve crossing of the Delaware by Washington’s army and the subsequent battles at Trenton and Princeton but the missing year makes this problematic. This is discussed in more detail in Appendix II of this book.  
         The German settlers in southeastern Pennsylvania were very supportive of the Revolution. Unlike their Anglo-Saxon neighbors, they had no previous attachment to the English monarchy, and their experience with other ruling monarchs in Europe had been unpleasant. Pennsylvania expected all their male residents from age eighteen through fifty-three to be ready to serve when called.38 Michael Brown also saw action in the war, but just what this entailed is unknown. Most of the federal war records were destroyed in a fire in 1800. Lancaster County records, however, have lists of militia that were published whenever they returned from service. Michael and his three sons, Michael, Andrew and Christopher, as well as several sons-in-law appear on these lists. There were no battles fought in this area, but because of the loyalty of the local populace to the Revolution, it was a favorite spot to keep British and Hessian prisoners.

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