Friday, January 16, 2015

Harshbarger line: Johann Valentin Geiger Immigrant 1685-1762

Johann Valentin Geiger was born shortly before December 21, 1685 in Mosbach, Baden-Wuerttemburg, Germany.  Actually this would have not been Germany and not Baden-Wuerttemburg.  At the time that he was born, this was part of the Electorate of the Palatinate.  Regardless, to us he was born in southern Germany. The town itself is ancient, possibly dating from the 9th century, and there are many wonderful pictures of medieval appearing buildings in Mosbach, on the internet.  Whether you want to tour Europe in person some day, or just want to learn a little about our ancestors, looking at these pictures could give you some inspiration.

Valentin's parents were Johann Valentin Geiger (Giger and Kyger are alternate spellings) and Maria Barbara Bauer, and he was one of at least four children.  We don't know the occupation of his father, but it may be that he was not a farmer. Perhaps he was a merchant or a tradesman of some sort, since this town had a population that would support such activities. 

Sometime about 1716 Valentin married Johanna Fredericka Henckel, daughter of Anthony Jacob Henckel, the Lutheran pastor who came to the New World early. A son was born to them and Fredericka was again expecting a child when the family traveled to the New World in September of 1717 (arrival date). The Geigers came with Fredericka's parents, who were already 45-50 years of age.  Valentin would have been 42 and Fredericka about 25 when they arrived at Philadelphia.

Several more children were born in quick succession and perhaps sympathy is due to Fredericka.  Anthony had been born in the Old World, and possibly Johann Jacob. Valentine was born June 2, 1718, and then Barbara, Christopher, and Mary Margareta.  There is about a 16 year gap in children, and then Anna Barbara was born.  She is listed as a child of Valentin and Fredericka, but Fredericka would have been 45 years old in 1737, so this would have probably been a very difficult birth.  Fredericka died April 2, 1739 in Philadelphia County, in what would become New Hanover, Montgomery County, Pa.

We can guess that Valentin would have been a farmer.  This was a frontier area when the family went there, and life would have not been easy.  It must have been sparsely populated, because even in 1930, the township had a population of 1,467, and this would have been 200 years after the Geigers arrived.  Of course, for a few years, they would have seen the Henckel's frequently, but they were dead by 1730.

Valentin married Maria Elizabeth Schmidt in or about 1741, and four more Geigers were born to this marriage-Johann Dietrich, John Henry, Benjamin, and Charles.  Most of the older children would likely have been out of their parent's home when the second family came along, which could be a good thing. Housing eleven children in one household would have been difficult.

We know little else about the family.  They attended the New Hanover Lutheran Church, which was the first German Lutheran Church in America and was organized by Daniel Falckner about 1700.  From 1742 to 1761 Henry Melchior Muhlenberg served as the pastor, and I found a document on from the Historic Pennsylvania and Church records, kept by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. It is written in German, but appears to be a record of some sort of tithes, offerings, or pledges.  Muhlenberg's name is at the top, with a number of 1.5 in what I take to be the "shillings" column. Valentin Geiger is three lines down, with 7 shillings and 6 pence attributed to him.  (It would be great to find a translation of this handwritten document!)

Valentin died December 1, 1762, and he is believed to be buried in the New Hanover Lutheran Church cemetery, Montgomery County, Pa (It was Philadelphia County until 1784).  I have not found a will for him.

I'd like to know more about the man, of course. What was his livelihood in Germany, and in Pennsylvania?  Did he own the land he lived on here?  Why did he decide to come to the New World?  Was it so his wife could keep an eye on her parents, or were there other reasons?  And I always wonder about the immigrants-were they glad they came to the New World where they could start over, or did the difficulties and dangers they encountered make them long to go back?

The line of descent is

Johann Valentin Geiger-Johanna Fredericka Henckel
Johann Valentin Geiger-Sarah (widow?) Vetatoe
Jacob Geiger-Elizabeth Shultz
Anthony Geiger-Mary Kirk
Eligabeth Geiger-George Harter
John Harter-Mary Bennett
Clara Harter-Emmanuel Harshbarger
Grover Harshbarger-Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks
Their descendents