Friday, June 3, 2016

Harshbarger line: Peter van Gundy 1713-1757

First, this is a condensed version of information found on the Van Gundy Family Tree website, with a couple of my own observations thrown in.  Knowing that some in our family are not likely to read the great amount of information, and speculation, there, I want to at least give the bare outline of this ancestor. 

Peter is believed to have come from the village of Gunten, on the Lake of Thun, Berne Canton, Switzerland.  He was born about 1713.  His father's name is variously given as Jacob or as Hans, so the jury is still out on that. 

Many Mennonite families either fled from Switzerland or were expelled, because they weren't allowed to practice their Anabaptist beliefs there.  Either you belonged to the state church and had your children baptized there, or you were not welcome.  These Mennonite families sometimes settled in what is now Germany, but their ultimate goal was usually Holland, where wealthier Mennonite families did much to help these people, who arrived with not much except the clothes they were wearing.  It's recorded that Peter spoke only Dutch, not German, so I believe his family likely arrived in Holland when he was just a young boy. 

We don't know anything about his childhood or young adulthood, and there seems to be no record of his arrival in Pennsylvania.  In general, Mennonites arrived fairly early in Pennsylvania history, many being there by 1740.  We know that Peter was there by 1738 because he had built a mill on Muddy Creek in Ephrata township by that date.  He must have learned that trade somewhere, either in Holland or perhaps as an apprentice or servant in Pennsylvania.  At any rate, being a miller meant some degree of economic stability, because it was an income in addition to whatever farming was done.

It was in this same general time frame, probably about 1739, that Peter married Fronica (Veronica) Farny or Forney.  They had at least seven children together, six boys and a girl. 

Peter purchased land in Earl Township, Lancaster County in 1749 and had it surveyed in 1750. In 1750 he is on the tax list in Cocalico Township and apparently in 1751 and 1754 also.  He must have acquired additional land because in 1755 he and wife "Fronich" sold 200 acres in Earl Township for 100 pounds.  In 1757, Peter was on the tax roll for the final time, and his widow is shown up until 1763. 

There is at least one story that says Peter was killed by native Americans in the early part of the French and Indian war, but there is no proof.  He is reported to have died on July 4, 1757.  Some sources say it was 1758 but since his widow is listed on the 1758 tax rolls, 1757 may be correct.  At any rate, he died without a will and his estate wasn't settled until 1772, when the farm (apparently in Cocalico Twp) was sold for 1200 pounds sterling, with the proceeds divided among the children. 

There are other stories about Peter's early life, some saying his family fled to France before going to Holland.  It's possible, but the language Peter spoke was Dutch so they wouldn't have been there long.  There is also a story that the family in Switzerland had possessed great wealth but this has generally been disproven.  The wealth of this family was in their faith, their family, and their farm.

The line of descent is:
Peter van Gundy-Fronica Farny
Magdalena van Gundy-Christian Harshbarger
John (Johannes) Harshbarger-Christina Elizabeth Fehler
George Harshbarger-Mary Kepler
Lewis Harshbarger-Catherine Mentzer
Emmanuel Harshbarger-Clara Ellen Harter
Grover Harshbarger-Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks
Their descendants