Friday, June 30, 2017

Harshbarger line: Wendell Essig: How did I miss him?

Actually, I don't think I missed him.  In my more rational moments, I wonder if I should write about Wendell at all, because most of what we "know" about him doesn't seem to be proven.  Some of it is in outright dispute.  But these stories are so good I am going to write about them anyway, hoping that someone, someday, will be able to prove or disprove these family stories.  If they are true, then this ancestor is worthy of honor and respect, and we need to at least pass the stories along.  If they aren't true, let's determine that, too!

So...Wendell Essig was born in Bern Canton, Switzerland, the son of Wendell and Juliana Margaretha Trachsell or Troxell.  At an early age he spent time in mining in "Rhine Phals".  The story doesn't indicate whether he did this voluntarily or whether he was forced into it.  Either scenario is possible, as he may have been trying to help support his family.  The position seemed to work in his favor, because he later served 7 years in the Prussian army.  Again, I don't know if this was voluntary or whether he has drafted. During at least part of that time, he was one of the imperial body guards, and was present at the coronation of Frederick the Great in 1740.  (There should be records of his service, shouldn't there?  As of now, I don't know how to research to find them.)

Here is where the stories diverge.  The story, apparently from son Simon, is that his father arrived in Baltimore in 1750, and shortly thereafter married Anna Marie Matte.  Not too long after that, they settled in the general area of Hagerstown, Maryland.  I'll get to the rest of the story later.

The second version is that Wendell arrived in 1749 in Philadelphia and went to Northampton County, where he is on tax records in 1772 and church records (Dryland Union Church, Nazareth twp, Northampton County) through Easter of 1782.  Jacob Essig and George Essig are also in the church records there, although there is nothing to prove relationships.  So that is one story.

The "rest of the first story" is that Wendell and his family were massacred by native Americans in or before 1772, and Simon was the sole survivor.  He would have been no more than 18 at the time. Simon survived because he was away from home at the time.  Some family historians discount this tale because they haven't found evidence of native American massacres near Hagerstown  I've read enough history to know that families in the Cumberland Valley were driven back many many miles before they found a safe haven like Hagerstown, so I tend to think the attack very well could have happened, even without any specific report mentioning the Essig name.  Germans clearly were in the area, and the native Americans were active in trying to push the settlers back, during this time period.  Still, some sort of proof would be nice to have. 

If the story isn't true, why would someone make it up?  Was it possibly a misunderstanding many years later of the experience of the family of Simon's wife's family?  Her mother's first husband had been killed by the Indians, in Northampton County, Pennsylvania and if one of Simon's children was reporting this story, perhaps he or she had heard it as a young child and forgotten the details as the story was told.  I'm not sure we will ever know.

Wendell and Eva Maria are said to have had four children, Simon, Adam, Jacob and George, not necessarily in that order.  The 1772 or earlier death doesn't allow for a 1782 church record in Pennsylvania.  Either there were two families with similar names and naming patterns, or one of these tales is incorrect.  I don't believe anyone has located wills or estate papers in either location, so I will let you be the judge-two men, or one? 

The line of descent is:

Wendell Essig-Anna Maria Matte
Simon Essig-Juliana Schnerr
George Essig-Catherine Shollenberger
Susannah Essig-Daniel Kemery
Adam Kemery-Nancy Fannie Buchtel
Della Kemery-William Withers
Goldie Withers-Grover Harshbarger
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks
Their descendants