Friday, September 6, 2013

Harshbarger line: Christian Harshbarger, immigrant

Christian Harshbarger (Hershberger, Hessperg, and any number of other spellings) was the immigrant ancestor of our line of the Harshbargers. He came from Basel, Switzerland originally but may have settled for a time with Mennonites in the Palatine, possibly to save enough money to purchase passage for his family to America. He, with his wife and two children sailed from Rotterdam, Holland to Plymouth, England and then on to Philadelphia, where they arrived on the "Charming Nancy" on October 8, 1737.. This was a very common route for the time, for emigrants from Germany and Switzerland.

It is likely that the family came to America for both religious and economic reasons. This was an Amish family, and the Amish refused to conform to the requirements of the state run churches in either Switzerland or Germany. They were tolerated in Germany for a time because their labor was badly needed to help build up the various states after the wars of the 1600s had ruined the land.  However, life there was not easy, they were heavily taxed, and America must have sounded like a wonderful plan B.

Christian had married Barbara Rupp, daughter of Ulrich Rupp and Anna Schuepbach, about 1732.  The couple had 10 children, (8 born after arrival in America), one of whom was also named Christian.  The family settled in Berks County at the foot of the Blue mountains, where Christian petitioned for the right of naturalization in 1742. Eventually our line of the family (Christian Jr) moved to Centre County, Pa but Christian, the immigrant, is reported to have died in Berks County in 1783.  Barbara is reported to have died in 1810 in Somerset County, Pa. Christian would have been about 70 when he died and if the reports are to be believed, Barbara would have been 110.  Perhaps the Barbara buried in Somerset County is not this Barbara, or perhaps the date of death is incorrect.

I have great admiration for this family. They were not rich nor famous, but they were willing to leave everything behind in an attempt to improve life for themselves and their children. They probably lived in a cabin of some type when they first arrived in America, and life would not have been easy. At this early stage in colonial life, they would likely have cleared their own land, raised crops, and would not have had much in the way of materials goods, nor money, to start. Yet they persevered, and gave their children the gumption to move on (many of the family left Pennsylvania within a generation or two, and many left the Mennonite/Amish religion of their grandparents).  These were the people who built America, and I'd love to learn more about them!