Ona Lighthouse
 Surname Origins

Chapter III: Virginia

        After John Michael Brown died, the Pennsylvania property was sold and the estate divided. I believe the division of the estate was unusual for that era. Instead of the family business and the bulk of the estate going to the oldest son, and the wife getting her dower, Michael Brown first took care of his wife, and then directed that the rest of the estate be divided more or less equally among the ten children.39 After the settling of the estate, five of Catharine’s siblings went to the Wythe County area of southwest Virginia. The whereabouts of Jacob and Catharine during this time has not been completely accounted for. They lived in Pennsylvania until at least 1786, when their son, Frederick was born.40 Several pieces of evidence show that they were in Botetourt County, Virginia by 1790. Robert Safford Bickel’s biographical sketch identified Botetourt County as the place of birth for the youngest son, Anthony. County grand jury court records also show that Jacob was arrested there in 1790 for “starting an affray.” No other details of this incident have ever been found. Jacob shows up on the Botetourt County tax assessment records for the years 1790 and 1791. The family then disappears again until they buy a farm in Augusta County, Virginia, in the spring of 1796. Their absence from the census of 1790 indicates they were in Virginia by that time. The 1790 Virginia census has been lost. If they had still been in Pennsylvania in 1790 they would have been in the Pennsylvania census, which was not lost. Also subsequent census records after 1850 showed the birthplace of each person and revealed that their son, Anthony, was born in Virginia in 1790, and their son, Frederick, was born in Pennsylvania in 1786.
        Jacob and Catharine had at least five and possibly six children. Robert Safford Bickel’s biographical sketch mentions Michael, James, Mary, Frederick and Anthony. The church records at Killinger, Pennsylvania also record the birth of a daughter, Christina, born in 1776. The Anna Maria born in 1780 would appear to be Mary. It might be possible that the daughter, Christina, may have been christened Maria Christina, and then subsequently known as Mary to her family with Anna Mary not surviving childhood. The birth record for Mary, and the mention in the Robert Safford Bickel biography, are the only records ever found for her. No birth records have been found for the other children. James has not been found on any other records at all. However, there is a strong possibility that a Jacob Bickel who married Susannah Loucks in Augusta County in 1796 was really James. James was often used as a nickname for Jacob in Germany and this Jacob may have been called James to avoid the confusion of having the same name as his father.41 The birth record for Mary (Anna Maria) and the mention of her in the Robert Safford biography, are the only records ever found for her.42
        From the time of the tax records in Botetourt County in 1791 and the purchase of a farm in Augusta County in 1796 their whereabouts are unknown. However, it is very likely that they lived in Rockingham County during that time. Rockingham County is just north of Augusta County. Local residents were removing the land records from the Rockingham County Courthouse in Harrisonville to prevent them from destruction by Union troops under the command of General George Custer during the Civil War, but the wagon carrying those records away was intercepted by Custer’s troops and set on fire. Some of the records were destroyed and some were just singed, but the records for the time period when the Bickel family would have been living there were among those that were destroyed. This probably accounts for the fact that they appeared to leave no trace there. However, marriage records there were intact and there is a marriage on record for Michael Bickel and Elizabeth Whetsel there in 1797. Rockingham County was where the Whetzel family lived.43
        Jacob and Catharine bought their Augusta County farm in the spring of 1796, and they sold it again in the fall. Land records in Wythe County, Virginia, show Jacob and Catharine buying land just northeast of the town of Wytheville in 1797. They purchased 242 acres from Rev. John Jacob Repass and the land description on the deed shows that it bordered the land of Catharine’s brother, Michael Brown Jr., and her brother-in law, Frederick Leonard. It is described as being in the Cove Creek area of the county. This would be near the area of St. Johns Lutheran Church and is just northeast of the town of Wytheville. Several of Catharine’s siblings were also known to have settled in this area. Catharine’s mother, Anna, was said to have been the first burial in that church cemetery.44
        After living in Wythe County for two years, they sold part of this land to Frederick Leonard and in 1801 they sold the rest. During their sojourn in Wythe County another daughter was married. Christina, born in 1776 in Killinger, PA, was married to Henry Cassell in 1797.45
        Although they were living in Wythe County from 1797 until about 1801, there are some records that show Jacob visiting other locales. In 1798 Jacob’s elaborate signature, written in German script, appears on an appraisal statement for an estate sale in Montgomery County, and he is also listed as a buyer at another estate sale there. In 1801 they moved to Montgomery County, about sixty miles away and which at that time was the next county east from Wythe. The deed describes the land as being on a branch of Toms Creek. Toms Creek arises just north of Blacksburg, in what today is the edge of town and is very near to the campus of Virginia Tech University. It flows west from there for about seven miles and empties into the New River just northeast of Radford. It was a tract of eighty acres that they bought from George Surfus for seventy pounds, and sold two years later to John Schroyer for 150 pounds.46
        In 1803, Jacob and Catharine bought 112 acres of farm land in Botetourt County, just to the north of Montgomery County. On the recorded title of the land they bought in Botetourt County in 1803, it lists the Bickels as being from Montgomery County County and so validates the fact that this was the same family. In 1804 they purchased an additional fifty acres. The land description cites the location of this land as near where Craig Creek flows into the James River. Botetourt is a largely rural county with a lot of mountainous terrain, but the area described on this land description is in a beautiful valley with rich farmland, quite isolated, about thirty-five miles north of Roanoke and near the tiny community of Gala. The deed to the land further delineates it as being at Donley’s Cove.
        In January of 1808 Jacob and Catharine sold eighty acres of land to their son Michael. At present I have found no record of how Jacob had acquired this land. In June of 1808 Michael sold eighty acres of land to his brother, Anthony. This was not the same land he had bought in January from his father. Jacob sold the fifty-acre parcel in January of 1810. This is essentially the last record found for Jacob and Catharine. The 112-acre parcel of land they owned was sold by Michael in 1816. Since there is no deed recording a transfer from Jacob to Michael, the property almost certainly passed by probate, suggesting that Jacob, and probably Catharine, had died in the interim.47 There is no entry for the family in the 1810 census. There is an entry for Michael Bickel’s (Pickel’s) family in Montgomery County, Virginia. In his household there is a female over age 45 living with them. A presumption could be made, then, Jacob had died, and that the older female in Michael’s household might be his mother, Catharine. The final sale of land in Virginia for the Bickels occurs in 1816, when Michael Bickel sells the remaining land in Botetourt County to John Lark.
     Robert Safford Bickel’s biographical sketch lists 5 children in this family. We have birth dates listed for three of them. John Michael, who always went just by the name of Michael, is presumably named for his maternal grandfather. He was born about 1771.48 Frederick was born in 1786, and married Elizabeth Loucks in Montgomery County, Virginia, on November 3, 1810. Anthony was born on July 1, 1790, and married Dianah Chappell on July 7, 181449 in Wythe County, Virginia. Mary was born in Killinger, PA in either 1776 or 1780. No trace of the brother James has ever been found, but it is suspected that he is the Jacob Bickel who married Susannah Loucks in Augusta County, Virginia in 1794. Another daughter, Christina, born in 1780, is unmentioned in the biography. Marriage records in Wythe County, however, record her marriage to Henry Cassell in 1797. It is probable that Henry may have been the son of Nicholas Cassell by his first wife, Rosina Rambacher. Nicholas’ second wife was Eva Margaret Brown, a sister of Catharine’s. Nicholas served in the Revolutionary War with Jacob. Henry and Christina moved to Preble County, Ohio just northwest of Cincinnati, some time before 1815. The Jacob (James) Bickel mentioned above also moved to Preble County, Ohio and settled within about two miles of Henry and Christina Cassell.   
        In 1812 Anthony sold the eighty acres he had bought from his brother, Michael. Frederick had land in Montgomery County, described on the deed as being on the waters of Little River, and it was bought in 1811 and sold in 1812.
        Michael and Elizabeth subsequently moved to Warren County, (now Coffee County) Tennessee. There is no evidence of further contact between them and the rest of the family, although it is likely that there was written correspondence. Michael died in Tennessee prior to the Civil War. His son, Henry, had moved on to Stone County, Arkansas in the 1840s and founded Bickels Cove, a tiny community where some other family members also settled. Michael’s widow, Elizabeth, came to Arkansas after her husband died, and she is buried there.
        Some time between 1812 and 1815, Frederick and Elizabeth moved to Gallia County, Ohio, which was just then in the process of being settled. A William Loucks was either already living there or possibly accompanied Frederick’s family, but how he was related to Elizabeth has not been determined.
        Our ancestor Anthony was almost certainly the youngest. On July 7, 1814, he married Dianah Chappell in Wythe County. In the early spring of 1815, he joined a Grayson County, Virginia, unit of the US Army and served during the last days of the War of 1812. The sudden, unexpected end to the war left him discharged with only twenty-four days of service. He was discharged from the army while serving on Virginia’s Atlantic coast, and from there he walked home. Some time before 1818, they joined Anthony’s brother, Frederick, in Gallia County, Ohio. So by 1820 the family had scattered. Frederick and Anthony were in Gallia County, Ohio, Michael was in Warren County Tennessee, and Christina (and most likely James) were in Preble County, Ohio. The whereabouts of Mary is unknown.

Back                                 Next