Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Harshbarger line: Johannes (John) Harshbarger 1773-1853

I'm writing about this man because there is a bit of a mystery surrounding him, which I hope one or more of his many descendents can solve.  I've been working on it for a while and haven't yet found the records that would answer the big question.

First, what I know of him:

Johannes Harshbarger was born to Christian Harshbarger and Magdalena Gundy on October 3, 1770, probably in what is now Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  This would have been very near the border of Berks County, Pa.  Johannes' grandparents had emigrated to America in 1737, and Christian was born in Pennsylvania, so Johannes was a third generation American. He was too young to serve in the Revolutionary War, but may have served in the War of 1812.  The 1820 census shows him in Miles Township, Centre County, Pa, where the family had moved before May of 1804.  He has a family of 11 in the census, if all of the younger persons shown are his children. It is possible that one or more were grandchildren, or other relatives, since we only know of the names of 9 of his children.

The big question is, who was the mother of the older children?  He married Christiana Fehler in 1804 at the Brush Valley Union Church in Rebersburg, Pa, per "History of Centre County" by John Blair Linn.  The children of John Harshbarger are reported to have birth dates as early as 1796.  So, either John had a first wife, or the birth dates of George, Leonard, and Susannah, and possibly Catherine are incorrect.  Or, possibly John and Christiana had been living together without the benefit of marriage, and 1804 seemed like a good date to make it right.  I am not comfortable with saying which is correct, except that the wedding date of John and Christiana was stated in the church records as being in 1804.

At any rate, John and Christiana raised their family there.  John was a farmer and a weaver, and Christiana would have helped in both areas as much as she was able, given their large family.  In 1822, John sold his 50 acres of land to Henry Mayer, and moved to Green Township, Stark County, Ohio (later Summit County) where they owned 69.90 acres.  Most of the children moved with them.  George is traditionally given as the oldest, with a birth date of 1796 but I have seen him with a supposed birth date as late as 1805.  The other early children were Leonard, Eva, Susanna, and Catherine (born February 7, 1804).  Leonard has a birthdate given of October 13, 1800, but the other children are shown as "about".  After the marriage, the children are Thomas, John Heinrich, Christena, and Maria Magdalena.

In the 1830 census, John and Christena still have 6 persons, appearing to be their children, in their home.  John was almost 60 and Christena 56 or 57 by then.  It sounds like they worked raising children for a long, long time!  Interestingly, there is a Conrad Harshbarger living right next to them, of the right age to be a son, but I have never seen Conrad listed as such.  Could he be one of the missing children?

By the 1840 census, I'm confused.  John is shown as living alone in Coventry Twp, Summit County, Ohio, with one female aged 20-29.  Where is Christena?  Was she visiting a family member somewhere?  Or perhaps she was being cared for by a family member.  Christena died November 6, 1849, and John died November 2, 1853.  I do not find John listed in the 1850 census, so I'm not sure where he was, but it must have been at or near his Coventry Twp home.

 Both Christena and John are reported to have been buried in the "Old Kepler Burying Ground", now known as East Liberty Cemetery, in Summit County, Ohio. His estate was valued at a little over $1014, and by the time it was distributed, four of his sons, including George, were deceased. Their shares went to their children, which may explain why Lewis, Andrew, and John Harshbarger sons of George, were able to move to Whitley County, Indiana from 1854-1856.

There is more to this man's story, I'm sure, and I will continue to follow up on it.  Meanwhile, we know that he was a farmer and a weaver, the father and provider for a large family,  He was of the Lutheran or Reformed faith (Brush Valley Union Church served both).  I know that there is a will for him in Summit County, and I would love to see it, to learn what else it might tell us of his life.

The line of descent is:

John Harshbarger-Christena Fehler (maybe)
George Harshbarger-Mary Kepler
Lewis Harshbarger-Catherine Mentzer
Emmanuel Harshbarger-Clara Harter
Grover Harshbarger-Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks
Harshbarger children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren