Friday, August 22, 2014

Harshbarger line: Anthony Jacob Henckel, immigrant and Lutheran pastor

Basically, Germans who came to America in the early 1700's were from one of two sets of religious beliefs.  One was the Mennonite/Amish/Brethren group, which was more or less anti-establishment, although that would not have been the way they described themselves. The Harshbargers were part of this group. The other was the established church in much of what would become Germany, which was the Lutheran church. (There were also German Roman Catholics but so far I haven't found any ancestors that belonged to that group.).  This is an extreme over-simplification, but it helps to at least have a broad outline to begin connecting dots. 

Anthony Jacob Henckel was a Lutheran, but more than that, he came to America relatively late in life to be a missionary and a pastor to the Germans who had preceded him to America, and to those who would come after he did.  He had grown up in an educated family, but I don't know whether it was an educated wealthy family or an educated poor family. 

He was born to Georg and Anna Eulalia Dentzer Henckel in 1668, and was Christined on December 27, 1668 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Merenberg, Hesse-Darmstadt.  His father had graduated from the University of Geissen and was a schoolmaster, and a Lutheran.  He was one of at least six children, so with a schoolmaster father and a large family, perhaps the family was not wealthy.  Nevertheless, somehow the family or someone else paid for Anthony Jacob to also attend the University of Geissen, where he studied theology. He graduated on January 16, 1692, and was ordained into the Lutheran Church on February 28, 1692. About two months later, on April 25, 1692, he married Maria Elizabeth Dentzer, daughter of another Lutheran pastor, Reverend Johann Nicolaus Dentzer and Barbara Catherina Giebel. 

Anthony Jacob and Maria Elizabeth had 12 children, born in various locations in Germany.  Rev. Henckel served in several different churches and towns in Germany, and having come under increasing pressure from Roman Catholic church authorities, decided it would be best for his family and for the Lutherans who were already here, if he were to move to America.  7 of his children came with him. 4 had died in infancy/childhood, and one may have come to America later.  The Henckels would have had their hands full, with children ranging from 4 to 23 when they made the trip to America in 1717.  They arrived in 1717, probably in September in Philadelphia, and were no doubt pleased to get their feet on solid ground again. 

He purchased land soon after he arrived, in New Hanover township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, about 250 acres.  He and his family would have cleared enough of the land to build a cabin and then perhaps (or perhaps not) a home, and then to set out crops to live on, and a barn for the animals. At the same time, Reverend Henckel was tending to a spiritual flock.  He founded St Michael's Lutheran Church in Germantown, and the New Hanover Lutheran Church in Montgomery County, and taught or preached in other locations as he was called to do.  He encouraged the Lutherans in the Tulpehocken settlement in Berks County to build their first church, which they did in 1727.  His signature is on petitions asking for a road through Faulkner Swamp, and on a petition in 1728 asking for protection from the Indians, as his home was on the frontier and the native Americans were threatening. 

Reverend Henckel died following a fall from a horse, at Germantown, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. There seems to be some question whether he may have had a medical crisis that caused the fall, but regardless, he lived for less than a day.  He was able to give an oral will before he died on August 12, 1728.  His widow lived for another 15 years and died on January 23, 1743.  They are buried at St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Germantown.  

I admire this couple greatly for their devotion to their Lord and their family, for their courage and vision in coming to America when they were in their late 40's, and for their ability to adapt to a different way of life here. 

The line of descent is:
Anthony Jacob Henckel-Maria Elizabeth Dentzler
Johanna Frederika Henckel-Johann Valentine Geiger
Valentine Geiger-Sarah Vetatoe
Jacob Geiger-Elizabeth Shultz
Anthony Geiger-Mary Kirk
Elizabeth Geiger-George Harter
John Harter-Mary Bennett
Clara Harter-Emmanuel Harshbarger
Grover Harshbarger-Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks
Harshbarger children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren