Daniel Conrad and Elizabeth Shank

Daniel Conrad was a German-speaking ironworker from Lancaster County, who moved north to Huntingdon County and raised a large family there. He was part of a movement of Germans out of Lancaster County. German farmers had prospered in Lancaster and York Counties, but farmland had become expensive by the late 1700s. Some moved up to Huntingdon for opportunities in the iron industry. There the rolling hills were dotted with small villages that grew up around each forge or furnace. The Germans often married other German families, but not exclusively.

It is generally believed that Daniel Conrad of Huntingdon County was the son of another Daniel Conrad who lived in Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County. The older Daniel owned 150 acres of land there, served in the Lancaster County Militia in 1781, and appeared in the census through 1810, with his family mostly of sons.1 He made his will on August 19, 1811; it was probated in January 1812.2 He provided for his beloved wife Barbara with household furniture, a cow, and yearly cash payments. The farm implements were to be sold to cover his debts. After her death the estate was to be divided equally among his ten children: a girl and her nine brothers.3 There was no mention of the land. Presumably he had already disposed of it, and he and Barbara were living with one of their children.4

Some lore about Daniel Conrad Senior was passed down through the family. W. Fisk Conrad, a grandson of the younger Daniel, was keenly interested in the family history and wrote an account of the family in his Bible. He wrote that “My great grandfather immigrated to Lancaster County from Germany, I think Saxony. He was [the] father of five boys and six girls.”5 This could apply to Daniel of Mt. Joy if you generalize it to mean that he had a large family of children.

The younger Daniel Conrad appeared in Franklin Township around 1795, as a young man. Jacob Conrad and Michael Conrad showed up in records about the same time, and it is believed that they were his brothers.6 Daniel of Mount Joy, the man with the nine sons, named sons Daniel, Jacob and Michael in his will.

Daniel was probably drawn to Huntingdon County by the opportunity to work in the iron forges there. Some say that he went with George Anshutz, the iron master from Alsace.7 Anshutz set up an iron forge and furnace and became the biggest landholder in Franklin Township.8

Daniel’s wife Elizabeth Shank was from Lancaster County as well, so they may have been married before they moved.9

They were Lutherans. At first they worshipped in the Dry Hollow meeting house. After 1805 they went to the Lutheran Church at Seven Stars, close to where they lived on Eden Hill.10 Seven Stars probably took its name from a log cabin tavern that stood there for many years. Early families in the Lutheran Church included Mattern, Anshutz, Adam Mong, Daniel Conrad, “a number of the latter being workmen at the nearby Huntingdon Furnace.”11

Daniel and Elizabeth raised a family of ten children. Some of them stayed nearby, while others moved further west and north in Pennsylvania.

Daniel wrote his will on January 1, 1824; he died on March 11, and the will was probated in April. The will was written in German; a translation accompanied it in the will book.12 It was witnessed by Samuel Conrad and John Watson (Daniel’s son-in-law). Was Samuel one of Daniel’s sons? The will specified the care of Daniel’s “weak-minded” daughter Elizabeth, who never married, as well as the education of the five youngest children. It also provided for his wife Elizabeth, referred to as “Mother” in the will. It implied that the dowry for the older girls was a bed, a cow, and a sheep. His wife Elizabeth Conrad and George Shank were to be the administrators. There is no clue in the will where Daniel and Elizabeth were living at the time, and no mention of land.

“January 9 the year 1824. My wish is that my wife shall sell all that she don’t need for to pay the debts; and when the same is paid all shall remain in her hands so long as she is my widow. Elizabeth shall have her bed and cow and one sheep as the other girls and one hundred dollars shall remain at interest as long as she lives and the child that keeps her shall draw the interest for to buy Sunday clothes. My will is that the two little girls shall be put out to a virtuous place to be raised in the fear of God. And John has his choice to choose his trade now or in two years after my death if he don’t take up with loose company and then he must go directly to a trade. Jacob shall remain two or three years with Samuel with wages what he earns for schooling and clothes with good instruction if he has not a notion of going directly to a trade. Mother can keep the ?moll mare and her saddle and bridle if she will one cow, three sheep, one heifer, other household goods that she needs, one hog. All the rest big and little shall be sold at public vendue as soon as convenient. Daniel shall remain with his mother till he is schooled if she lives, or as long as she can keep him. And after Mother’s death each child shall have their share if anything remains. And Elizabeth’s hundred dollars shall that child inherit after her death with [whom?] she lives and dies with good attendance. This is the last will and testament in my life in earthly terms.”

Elizabeth outlived Daniel by almost twenty years, dying on May 7, 1853. They are buried together at Seven Stars Cemetery.13 He died at age 49; she died at age 77. According to W. Mills Davis, Daniel was a frail man, while Elizabeth was robust and stout, and blind before she died.

Children of Daniel and Elizabeth:14

Samuel William, b. 16 March 1796, d. 1866, m. Catherine Mattern, from a large German family. Samuel became a minister and moved his family to Indiana County, Pennsylvania. He and Catherine had ten children.

Margaret Jane, b. 3 June 1799, d. 10 April 1877, m. David Henderson in 1821. He was a successful farmer in Franklin Township and a shoemaker with a large business, employing men to work for him. He did work for the ironworks, got paid in iron, and took it over the mountains to Pittsburgh twice a year.15 He and Margaret had nine children, and also took in her sister Elizabeth after Daniel died.16He was a Democrat and a Methodist. A man of “genial disposition, social habits, and kindly nature”, he died in 1882.17

Elizabeth, “Betsy”, b. 1800, d. 1872, “weak-minded”, did not marry. She lived with her sister Margaret Henderson for at least part of her life.

Catherine, b. 1803, d. 1872, m. James Dickson. They lived at Eden Hill, Birmingham, Huntingdon County at first, later moved outside of Tyrone. He worked as a miller all his life. They had 11 children. James died in 1872 or 1873; Catherine died in 1893.18

Mary Ann, b. 1 January 1806, d. 1877, m. John Watson, an iron worker. She was short and slender, had dark eyes and dark hair, smoked a pipe. She was exceptionally kind and affectionate.19 They had ten children.20

John, b. 11 March 1809, d. 1855, m. Mary Ann Stonebraker in 1831. They kept a store in Franklinville, selling shoes, dry goods, and groceries. John went to Philadelphia for his goods, bringing them back on a canal boat, “which was the only way of traveling with a heavy load in those days”.21 He and Mary Ann had colorful sons Fisk and Fletcher. 22 Mary Ann had her last child on May 31, 1853; the baby died the same day and Mary Ann did too. There were two doctors on her case, Doctors Irvin and Bates. Bates accused Irvin of murdering her and her body was exhumed a week after the funeral to search for traces of poison but nothing was found.23John’s mother Elizabeth had died earlier that month. John died at McAlevy’s Fort, Jackson Township in 1855.

Jacob, b. 1813, d. 1844, m. Catherine Markle, buried at Franklinville. He was only 31 when he died.24

Susan, m. George Dinsmore, moved to Sharpsburg, Allegheny County.

Nancy, d. 1897, m. William Hunt in 1837, moved to McAlevy’s Fort.25 They had no children.

Daniel, b. July 1818, d. 1877, m. Mary Ann Lowe, had seven children, including Elizabeth who married Hunter LaPorte, son of John & Mary Ann. Daniel and Mary Ann lived at Eden Hill, where he was a farmer. He died in 1877. Mary Ann died in 1896 in Tyrone at the home of one of their daughters.26

  1. PA Archive, 3:17, p. 514 for the 1779 tax list. PA Archive 5:7 for the militia list. The 1782 tax assessment is in W. Mills Davis, History of the Davis, Eichelbarger, Watson, Conrad, Shank Stonebraker and Hyskell Families, 1911. He is in the 1800 census as Daniel Curade. There were other Conrad families in Lancaster County at the time, including a Conrad Conrad with wife Rosina, but Daniel of Mt Joy is the most promising candidate as father of Daniel of Huntingdon County. W. Mills Davis proposed Conrad Conrad as the father, but he admitted that there was no evidence the claim. Jesse Sell, in Twentieth Century History of Altoona & Blair County supported the claim of Daniel of Mt. Joy, based on information from W. Fisk Conrad, a grandson of Daniel of Huntington County. Fisk was born in 1838. His grandfather Daniel died before he was born, so he could not have heard any stories from him. Perhaps his grandmother Elizabeth Shank Conrad was his source; she died in 1853.
  2. Lancaster County will abstracts online give the probate date as May 1812. The witnesses appeared twice, on January 28, 1812 and again in May. Daniel obviously died before January 28. (ref: the original is posted on the Ancestry message board for Conrad, on August 1, 2000 by Ann Gedmark.) She shows the date of the writing as 1811, while others, including Davis and the Lancaster County will abstracts online, give it as 1807.
  3. At the 1760 baptism of Catherine at the Swamp Church in Cocalico, Rosina Schanck was one of the sponsors. Was she a relative? Was she related to Elizabeth Shank who married Daniel Conrad Jr?
  4.  Lancaster Count Will Book L, Vol 1 pages 73-74, quoted online.
  5. W. Mills Davis.
  6. Jacob was in Huntingdon Borough in the 1800 census with four young sons, gone by 1810. Michael was in the 1812 tax list for Franklin Township, with no land. (J. Simpson Africa, History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, 1883, chapter on Franklin township. Michael was in the 1820 census, with eight children in his household, but gone by 1830. He was also in the Franklin Township tax list of 1805 with one cow, taxed two cents. (Records on microfilm at the Huntingdon County Historical Society). A Jacob Conrad, possibly different, is in the tax list of Woodberry Township, Huntingdon County, sporadically through the 1820s.
  7. Sell, pp. 959-960, the biography of W. Fisk Conrad (son of John and Mary Ann).
  8.  Anshutz was born in Zinswiller, Alsace, a town noted for its ironworks. He immigrated about 1775 and was drawn to Huntingdon County by its rich supply of iron ore. By 1819 he was an owner or part-owner of 40,000 acres. (Jesse Sell, History of the Juniata Valley, p. 319) In the 1812 tax list he was listed with a furnace, forge, two grist mills, two saw mills, 23 horses, and 1000 acres.
  9.  One of their granddaughters, Elizabeth Henderson Waite, claimed that they were first cousins. (W. Mills Davis)
  10.  W. Mills Davis.
  11.  Elizabeth Nearhoof, Echoes from Warriors Mark.
  12. FamilySearch.org, Pennsylvania Probate Records 1683-1994, Huntingdon County wills, Book 3-4, pp. 93-95, image 77
  13. The tombstone dates are from the Spangler notebooks. Adella Fink Spangler was a long-time Centre County historian who collected many records, which were gathered into notebooks and indexed on 250,000 cards, now held at the Centre County Library in Bellefonte. Some of her primary sources no longer exist. She was more accurate than some later transcriptions, such as the one on Huntingdon County PA GenWeb (Daniel was obviously not 19 years old at his death). The stones read: Daniel Conrad died 11 Mar 1824, age 49y 7m, and Elizabeth Conrad died May 7, 1853, age 77y 9m.
  14.  W. Mills Davis, with dates and information added from Ancestry trees and other sources.
  15. Africa.
  16. Biographical Portrait Cyclopedia of Blair County and Africa’s History of Huntingdon…, which give different dates of birth for him.
  17. Africa.
  18.  Commemorative and Biographical Encyclopedia of the Juniata Valley, pp. 230-231, on the USGWArchive for Huntingdon County.
  19. W. Mills Davis
  20.  The birthdate for her is from W. Mills Davis. Her marriage and children would fit more smoothly if she were born a few years earlier.
  21. W. Mills Davis
  22. Wilbur Fisk Conrad, son of John, was known as Fisk, had a millinery business in Tyrone, ran the first theatre there and was a personal friend of Horace Greeley. In 1861 Fisk met Abraham Lincoln at Harrisburg and discussed a plot against his life in Baltimore. In 1872 when Greeley ran for president, Fisk went to a convention of the Bourbon Democrats as a delegate from the 17th PA district, hoping to disrupt the convention (which was meant to support Charles Francis Adams, Greeley’s opponent). Fisk’s supporters cheered and hooted during the speeches, and “threw the convention into an uproar”. Some of the delegates attacked Fisk but his brother Fletcher got him safely away to their hotel. Fletcher opened a haberdashery store on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia with his brother Benson. As Conrad Brothers they made shirts, which won the first prize at the Centennial Exhibition. He was short and stout and never married. (Source: W. Mills Davis, their nephew)
  23. W. Mills Davis.
  24.  The last name of his wife is from W. Mills Davis; other sources give it as Moore, with no evidence.
  25. Card file of marriages at the Huntingdon County Historical Society
  26.  Her obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald, 15 April 1896.

4 thoughts on “Daniel Conrad and Elizabeth Shank”

  1. Hi — Thanks so much for all your detailed work! Love the citations. Do you have any info or theories about the German origins of the Conrads? I’ve never been able to make any connections back to Germany. (Also, I will see if I can offer any explanation for the discrepancy in will dates that you identified in footnote 2. )

    1. Hi Ann, Thanks for your comment. I have not seen any information about German origins for them, even wild speculation. I haven’t checked to see whether Conrad is a common German surname, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

  2. Hi, I found my copy of Daniel Conrad’s Lancaster Cty will. The last line reads: “IN TESTAMONEY (sic) whereof I have hereunto fet my Hand and Seal this nineteenth day of August in the year of our Lord One thousand Eight hundred and eleven.

    Daniel X. Cunard Ser.

    I will send a copy of what I’ve got and maybe we can figure out what’s what.

  3. Sorry, I can’t seem to find an email address for you, but know that you have mine from the comment posting form. Please contact me via email if you’d like the copy of the will that I have.

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