Friday, January 2, 2015

Harshbarger line: Nicholas Pontius 1728-1794

One reason I love doing this blog is that I learn so much by doing it. When I decided to write about Nicholas Pontius today, I had maybe three facts about him-his parents, his siblings, and birth and death dates.  In only about half an hour's research online, I've found enough to write several paragraphs, I suspect.  Of course, I still have many many questions, but they will wait until my next trip to the Allen County Public Library, or until I have time to do a bit more in depth work on line, whichever comes first.  Nicholas is an immigrant ancestor, and that is reason enough to want to know more about him.

Nicholas is actually Johann Nicholas Pontius, and as one would guess, he is of German descent. His parents are Johann Peter Pontius and Anna Catherina Hausch, and he was born just before August 24, 1728 in Berglengenbach, Rheinland-Pfalz, in what is now Germany.  The August 24 date is the date of his christening, which took place at the "Evangelish Lutherische" there.  It is currently a small village of about 478 people, and there is no reason to think that it was a larger town at the time of his birth.  It is located near the French border, and is in that part of the country that frequently changed hands during the long wars in the 17th century.

Nicholas was the second youngest in his family, and his father died in 1736, when Nicholas was only 8 years old.  We don't know how the family supported themselves, without the bread winner, but in 1738 his mother and some of her children, including John and Nicholas, came to America in search, no doubt, of a better life.  They arrived on the ship "Glasgow" on September 9, 1738, from Rotterdam.  Nicholas' older brother John took the oath of allegiance the next day, but Nicholas was still a child and probably stayed on ship with his mother until this was completed.

Nicholas would have helped to support his mother in some way while he was learning how to live in America.  As a teenager, he would have likely been hired out to work on a farm, or perhaps he served as an indentured servant for a period of time.  By 1749, though, we was ready to take on family responsibilities of his own and he married Anna Margaret Shuey, daughter of Daniel and Mary Margaretha Schilling Shuey on November 22, in Bethel Township, Berks County, Pa.  The Shueys were a French Huguenot family, and the families may have been acquainted "back home". 

Nicholas and Anna Margaret had at least 7 children, born from 1752 to 1767, so they were a busy family.  Nicholas may have purchased land in 1762, because that is when he was naturalized.  In order to be naturalized, he had to have been confirmed in the church so this would have been a busy year for him.  I don't yet know much about his life at this time, except that when the Revolutionary War came he is listed as being in the inactive militia (possibly an Associator) from 1777-1779, under Capt. John Folmer, 6th Battalion, 7th Company from 1777-1779.  I am not sure what it means, but the record in the Pennsylvania Digital Archives online gives "muster fines" of 0.7.6, so perhaps he missed some drills. 

He paid taxes in 1759 in Berks County and from 1767 to 1791 was taxed for land and personal property. When he died without a will in 1794, his oldest son Daniel noted that Nicholas was "late of Bethel Township in the the County of Berks, yeoman" and that Nicholas owned 154 acres of land with "appurtenances" and asked the court to make partition.  (Daniel ended up buying the farm, which had a value of 850 pounds.) His personal property was inventoried at a value of 45.14.3, and includes household goods, clothing, books, and items and grains necessary to farming.  His burial location is not known, nor is Anna Margaret's.  It appears that she died less than a month after Nicholas's death. 

I'd love to find actual church records in Berks County for them, as none of the sources I have used mentions the specific church they attended.  Berks County has a lot of good records, so it puzzles me that this information isn't yet available.  There may be maps available that show the exact location of his farm, and that would be wonderful!  I guess I have more researching to do. I've used sources from Ancestry, FamilySearch, and the Pennsylvania Digital Archives for this article, but there is more to be done. 

The line of descent is:

Nicholas Pontius-Anna Margaret Shuey
Mary M Pontius-Conrad Reber
Maria Margaretha Reber-Solomon Buchtel
Benjamin Buchtel-the mysterious Barbara Long
Nancy Buchtel-Adam Kemery
Della Kemery-William H Withers
Goldie Withers-Grover Harshbarger
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks
Their descendents