Samuel and Hannah Pennebecker

Samuel and Hannah Pannebaker

Samuel Pennebecker was born in 1746, the youngest son of Peter and Elizabeth. He was born on the Skippack, but would spend the rest of his life on the Perkiomen at Pennypacker Mills. He learned reading and penmanship from Herman Ache, who wrote a fine Vorschrift for Samuel in 1758.1 On March 6, 1768 Samuel married Hannah Guisbert at the Augustus Evangelical Lutheran Church at Trappe.2  Born in 1747, she was the daughter of Andrew and Johanna (or Hannah) Guisbert. Andrew had died in Limerick Township in 1757, leaving his wife Johanna and six children.3

Samuel inherited his father’s homestead and mill with a stipulation that he care for his mother Elizabeth if she survived his father. In fact she outlived Peter by many years, and probably made her home with Samuel and Hannah. She lived to see many grandchildren, including five or six granddaughters named Elizabeth.

Samuel was a pacifist, probably a Mennonite, and was fined six times for refusing to train with the militia. In September 1777, the life of his family was forever changed when his house and land were selected as Washington’s headquarters and encampment before the battle of Germantown. The army of 8000 colonials and 2000 militia arrived on September 26, and Washington is believed to have made his headquarters at Samuel’s house. Nine documents written by Washington at that time are headed “At Pennypacker’s Mill” or “Pennypacker’s Mill”. Although the house was good-sized, it is likely that Washington did not actually sleep in it, as he had a large field tent which served as his command center, and where he could also sleep. Some of his generals were housed in nearby houses, such as Detweiler’s or Markley’s.4

Having the army on one’s land was a substantial hardship.

“Almost everything edible was eaten and everything combustible was burned. Before dark on the first day of the camp every fence on Samuel Pennypackers place had disappeared. Four stacks of wheat were pulled down and used for straw. Every chicken, duck and goose perished save one old hen…In anticipation, the woolen blankets, which represented nights of industry upon the part of the women, had been hidden beneath the floors, and the horses upon whose labor the men depended for the produce of the farm had been driven to the distant woods.” 5

Washington condemned the “base and wicked practice of plundering the inhabitants” and ordered his commanders to read the order to the troops. He wrote to one of his officers, “I am glad you have the collection of blankets and shoes… The disaffected hid their goods the moment the thing took wind and our friends had before parted with all they could spare.”6

On Sunday, September 28th, Washington received the good news of General Gates’ victory over General Burgoyne in New York. To celebrate, the troops were paraded and served with a gill of rum each. Cannons were fired, which could be heard five miles away.

The battle of Germantown was on Saturday, October 4. After the battle the army returned back north to the Pennypacker Mills encampment. Troops straggled in, “tired, hungry and thirsty”. Over 200 wounded were brought to the neighborhood, and cared for in the local churches at Trappe, Evansburg, and the Keeley church and farms.7 Samuel’s son William, just five years old, remembered the wounded being brought into the house and laid on the kitchen floor, “he afterward helping to clear away the blood that flowed over the floor.”8 The dead were buried in Peter Pool’s woods, on the lands of Henry Keeley, and on the land of Samuel Pennypacker. Finally on October 8, the army left. Samuel wrote in his Bible, in German, “On the 26th day of September, 1777, an army of thirty thousand men encamped in Skippack Township, burned all the fences, carried away all the fodder, hay, oats and wheat, and took their departure the 8th day of October, 1777. Written for those who come after me, by Samuel Pannebecker”.9

Samuel and Hannah survived the war, with their four young children. They would go on to have four more children. Samuel’s brother William was not so fortunate. The records of Old Goshenhoppen Reformed Church recorded that Susanna,  the daughter of Wilhelm Panebecker, age six, was burned to death when the solders left.Samuel resumed his farming after the war. In a census in 1783 he owned 171 acres, five horses, eight cattle, ten sheep, and a Negro slave named “Piet”.10 He wrote his will on June 29, 1824, when he was seventy-seven. In it he named his seven surviving sons and his wife Hannah.

He left Hannah as much of the household goods as she chose, plus the interest on £1000. If that was not sufficient, “as accidents may happen”, she could use the principal on the money. He also left her “that part of my dwelling House wherein we now dwell and occupy with every of the previleges we hold and possess”. Their son Samuel was to have the plantation with 125 acres, with the usual provisions for delivering firewood, wheat, rye and milk to Hannah during her lifetime. Their son John was to have the other half of the plantation, another 125 acres, and two other tracts, along with sharing the responsibility of delivering goods to Hannah.

Samuel had kept track of the payments to his sons, in a “certain Book”. Any remainder of money and bonds, except the thousand pounds left to Hannah, was to be divided in equal shares by the other sons, Daniel, Benjamin, William, Jacob, and Abraham, according to the book. Samuel and John were the executors.11

Samuel died on Feb 13, 1826 and is buried with his wife in the Lower Skippack Mennonite graveyard. Hannah died in 1837.12

Children of Samuel and Hannah:13

Daniel, b. Feb. 17, 1769, d. April 5, 1842, m. Susannah Paul, lived on the Skippack, then moved to Juniata County and died in Union County (now Snyder). He had a son David with Susanna Grimley, plus daughters Hannah and Elizabeth with his wife Susannah.14

Benjamin, b. Dec. 24, 1770, d. Oct 7, 1859, m. Elizabeth Wireman, probably the daughter of Henry and Anna. A blacksmith, he later kept a hotel in Philadelphia. His son Amos became a physician.15 Buried in the Lower Skippack Mennonite Cemetery.

William, b. Sept 19, 1772, d. 1852, m. his cousin Elizabeth, dau. of William and Anna, a farmer, moved to Juniata County. Children: Benjamin, Moses, Samuel, Jonas, William, Joseph and Hannah.

Jacob, b. Aug 11, 1775, d. 1857, a blacksmith and farmer, moved to Coventry, Chester County, buried at the East Coventry Mennonite cemetery. Children: Salome, Hannah, Samuel, Susan, Esther, Abraham, Jacob, Benjamin, John, Sarah. His wife may have been Margaret Bergey, daughter of Abraham and Salome.16

Samuel, b. Feb 8, 1779, d. May 1863, m. Catherine Wireman, daughter of Henry and Anna.17 Inherited the plantation and house. Children: Elizabeth, Henry, James, Benjamin, Hannah, Anna, Catherine, Susanna.18

John, b. Nov 11, 1781, d. April 7, 1856, m. Mary Snyder, daughter of Jacob Snyder, a farmer in Limerick Township, buried at the Lutheran Church in Schwenksville. Children: Samuel, Isaac.

Joseph, b. Sept 3, 1785, d. Aug 25, 1807, buried in Mifflin County.19

Abraham, b. Feb. 11, 1787, d. 1848, m. Hannah Hill, lived in Berks County near Reading, the director of a bank there. Children: Richard, John, Charles, Abraham, James, Mary.

  1. Samuel W. Pennypacker, Pennypacker’s Mills in Story and Song, 1902, pamphlet available at Pennypacker’s Mill.
  2. Pa. German Church Records, Vol. 1, p. 460. Her name was written Gilbertin in the church record.
  3. Dotterer Family; Philadelphia County Orphans Court Record Sept. 1759; Roach, Skippack Deaths, #449.
  4. Pennypacker, 1902.
  5. Pennypacker, 1902.
  6. Pennypacker, 1902.
  7. Pennypacker, 1902.
  8. John Jordan, Biographical Encyclopedia of the Juniata Valley, Penna.
  9. Pennypacker, 1902.
  10. Pennypacker, 1902.
  11. The will was witnessed by John Zieber and John Zieber Jr. Unfortunately the inventory has not been preserved.
  12. Roach, Skippack Deaths, #449.
  13. Dates of birth from the Bible that Samuel inherited from his father Peter. Most other information from Pennypacker, 1880 mss.
  14. This is the line of Ron Mitchell, sent to me in spring 2002. Note that Findagrave gives a different date and year of his death, with no photo of a gravestone. The story about the affair with Susanna Grimley came from Pennypacker, who referred to it as an “unfortunate escapade”.
  15. Pennypacker, 1880 mss.
  16. Her name from Findagrave.
  17. They were married in 1802 by Justice of the Peace John Wentz. Their marriage certificate was saved with their Bible, inherited from Samuel’s father Samuel, who got it from his father Peter.
  18. Roach, Skippack Deaths, #54.
  19. The place of death is from Samuel’s Bible, inherited from his father Peter.

2 thoughts on “Samuel and Hannah Pennebecker”

  1. First, let me say how much I appreciate your sharing your detailed research with documentation. There is need for correction, however, when listing the children of William P (1772-1852) and Elizabeth P (1771-1864). They are: Benjamin (1795), Moses (1797), Samuel (1800), Jonas (1801), William (1803), Joseph (1808) and Hannah (1815). William’s 1851 Will lists all seven by name.

    Your later article about William & Elizabeth correctly identifies their children. This article about his parents, Samuel and Hannah, mistakenly lists William’s children as Salome, Jonas, Elizabeth, and Jesse. The confusion is that these are the children of his uncle, William Keyser P. (1740-1800) with Anna Haas.

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