Friday, January 30, 2015

Harshbarger line: Sebastian Kestenholtz Chestnutwood

I'll be honest here. I don't know if this man is the ancestor of Christina Chestnutwood or not, but he seems to be the best fit based on the process of elimination.  He is an interesting character, seen from this vantage point, and so I will write about what little I know of him, hoping someone has the clue that will connect the pieces here, or make me say "Never mind," and send me in a different direction.

This family is a little different than most of the families in the Harshbarger line. For one thing, they were not from Germany.  They were from Switzerland, actually Sissach, Basel Canton, Switzerland. They were likely NOT of the Anabaptist families of believers, because by the time the Kestenholtz family emigrated, Switzerland didn't have many of those families left.  Secondly, this family didn't arrive in Philadelphia, at least, not directly.  They came to the Carolinas, which was also a haven for families from Germany and Switzerland, in 1738.  Sebastian's parents were Sebastian Kestenholtz and Anna Maria Blinz.  They arrived with their children Sebastian, Barbara, Hans Jacob and Hans Georg.

We don't know how long they were in the Carolinas, nor do we know what they might have done there, nor how or when they arrived in Pennsylvania.  It is likely that they went by ship but we don't know that for certain. If they waited to migrate until the Great Wagon Road was utilized, they could have made the trip that way. 

Sebastian was born in 1736 and the next document, after arrival in the Carolinas, that I can find of him is in 1777.  At that point, there is a document in the New Jersey State Archives, from Supreme Court Case #34591, charging Sebastian of Sussex County with a misdemeanor for joining the enemy, and he was committed to jail.  I don't know how long his jail term was, but it apparently didn't change his mind. Yes, Sebastian was a Loyalist, the only one I have found yet in all the many people I've researched as part of our family genealogy.  I have no idea what prompted him to take the side of the British, but I've seen other speculation, about other men, that when a man took an oath of allegiance, many took that oath seriously.  It looks like it might cost me $10 to get the actual record, and that might be well worth the price. 

The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies lists Sebastian Chestnutwood (his name changed by 1777, as did the names of his brothers) as a member of the 1st Battalion New Jersey Volunteers, commanded by Lieut. Colonel Joseph Barton, on State Island as of the 11th of September 1780.  The history of the battalion is available on line from the Institute, but as I'm not sure when Sebastian served I'm not reporting it here. It does appear that he would have spent most of his time on Staten Island, and the politics of the unit would have made life interesting, to say the least. There were also some battles and skirmishes that he may have participated in. 

As a Loyalist, Sebastian's family would have had a difficult time. We don't know who his wife was, or whether there were any children besides Christina.  Christina, who was born about 1758, would have been a young woman during this time and it is hard to imagine what she thought. Did she willingly support her father's views?  Did she end up in Canada with him?  I mention Canada because it appears that Sebastian was in New Brunswick, a frequent destination for Loyalists, in 1783, per Esther Clark Wright in "The Loyalists of New Brunswick." 

Again, we don't know how long he was in New Brunswick, or when or why he came back to the United States. Because he is reported as having died in Union City, Berks County, Pennsylvania, it is tempting to assume that he didn't think he would be welcomed by his former neighbors in Sussex County. He may have forfeited whatever possessions he had there, anyway, when he went to New Brunswick.  Another guess is that he wanted to be near family in Berks County, which seems likely because Abraham, his youngest brother, was still there and it is possible that there were sisters there, also.  I've read that the borders were "porous" between Canada and the United States and that it was relatively easy for someone to slip back officially unnoticed. 

Trees on the internet state that he died in 1796 in Union City, Berks County, Pennsylvania but I have not yet found either a primary or a secondary source for this information.  I would sure love to know a lot more about this man, hoping to solve some of the mysteries of where he was when, and why he was there.  I'd love to know his occupation, his religion, his wife's name, and any number of other facts about him.  In the context of all the other Swiss-German folks I've researched, he stands out like a sore thumb, but he is family and I'd like to understand him better.

The line of descent is:

Sebastian Kestenholtz Chestnutwood-unknown
Christina Chestnutwood-Matthias Brothers
Barbara Brothers-David Brown
Elizabeth Brown-William Cook
Barbara Cook-William Withers
William Withers-Della Kemery
Goldie Withers-Grover Harshbarger
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks
Their descendents

Fun fact:  In looking at this list, I know that there is a veteran of World War II, World War I, Civil War, and two veterans of the Revolutionary War, one on each side.  I am thankful to the men in this family, all of them, who did what they thought was right!