Hans Peter and Barbara Umstead

Hans Peter Umstead, the emigrant, was born about 1650, probably in Kriegsheim, in the Rheinland.1 He was the son of Nicholas Umstat, who lived in Kreigsheim. The father Nicholas was born about 1625. His name was on a register of inhabitants of Kriegsheim in 1661, with no religion listed. The same list included Peter Schuhmacher, Görg Schuhmacher, Gilles Cassel, and Arnold Schuhmacher, all described as Menists (Mennonites).2 Kriegsheim is a small town near Monsheim and Worms, about four miles west of the Rhine.3

A Bible was given to Nicholas in 1652 by his brother-in-law Matthias Wasselet or Wohlvelet, probably from Hohen-Sülzen, a small town near Kriegsheim.4 The exact relationship of Nicholas to Matthias is not known. There are hand-written notations in the Bible, some written by Nicholas and some by his son Hans Peter who inherited it after Nicholas’ death.

One notation said (in translation): “December 16, 1680, the comet star with a long tail was seen the first time.” This was the Great Comet of 1680, bright enough to be visible in the daytime and one of the brightest of the seventeenth century.5 Another said, “In the year 1658 the cold was so great that even the Rhine was frozen up. On the 31st of January so great a snow fell that it continued four days.”6

Other notations gave information about the family. “October 4, 1682, about 4 o’clock in the morning, our father Nicholas Umstat died.” He was about 57 years old. This was clearly written by Hans Peter. Unfortunately Nicholas did not record the births of his children in the Bible. Nicholas probably had another son, Johannes Nicolaus, born about 1647 to 1648. He was confirmed in the Monsheim Lutheran church on June 7, 1663 at age 15.7 Also Hans Peter did not record the death of his mother in the Bible, suggesting that she had died before he inherited it. Her name is unknown.

Hans Peter married a woman named Barbara around 1670. Her last name is not known. They had three known children, born between about 1670 to 1675. The religious affiliation of Nicholas and Hans Peter is unclear; they are “conspicuous by their absence” in the list of Mennonites of Kriegsheim.8 Although it has been suggested that Hans Peter became a Quaker, he does not appear in early Quaker records. Chris Hueneke speculated that “Han’s Peter’s wife Barbara was either a Quaker or a Mennonite and it is because of her religion that they left Kriegsheim.”9 A Mennonite historian assumes that Hans Peter Umstat was a Mennonite, along with the Van Bebbers, Peter Schumacher, Gerhard Hendricks, and others.10

Herr Schmal, a local official, wrote to his superiors about the Mennonites and Quakers; three of his letters have been preserved.11

The first one was sent in July 1684.

There are in Griesheim five households of Quakers who, not just in this town, as is well known, give much aggravation, but also cause much unrest and bother … not to mention that they now and then have given out some little tracts, printed in Holland and England, introducing their sect, and have also tried to teach their poison to others …

… they respect no authority, and throughout (your) gracious reign, have been unwilling to pay any protection money, or to pay tithes to the high-domed cathedral in Worms or to recognize the town pastors’ authority …

… it is difficult to get them to pay the Turkish War tax and they refuse to stand duty as night watchmen as do others in the community, and above all this, when [the authorities] confiscate some livestock or wine or fruit for back taxes or other unavoidable reasons, and sell them, they are not afraid to say that the goods were stolen from them or to accuse those who buy them of buying stolen property …

… then, here in this town, these goods are desirable and can’t [otherwise or normally] be bought with money …

… but these people, who own the most and the best, might better have listened to higher instructions, … that it might have been cheaper to instruct these people to be subject, like other faithful [citizens], or else to sell their belongings and leave the country.12

The next month Schmal wrote again, complaining that they refuse “to pay the assessment, the Turkish war tax, the protection money, the large and small tithes, or the church and school tax…They are a type of people who irritate many, and who respect and serve no one but themselves; therefore, for these reasons and many more, it is wished that they would trade their belongings to other people, those things being desirable in this town, and which can not be purchased with money, (and) that they would follow our desire and leave the area.”13

In another letter, in November 1684, Schmal listed some of the peculiarities of the sect: they were not willing to swear an oath or bear arms; they did not baptise children as infants; and they choose one of themselves to act as “Reminder” and remind the others to do good deeds. He admitted that their faith is similar to his, and that their catechism was based on the Heidelberg Catechism.

In the summer of 1685 Hans Peter and Barbara sought to immigrate to Pennsylvania. Along with Gerhard Hendricks and Peter Schumacher, Hans Peter submitted a request for passports.14

“We the undersigned, with this make it known to the office at Hochheim, under which jurisdiction we reside, as far as it can be allowed by the Amtsschaffner, and is not hindered by God, (our desire) to transport ourselves, along with our households, to Holland, and therefore it is our request of the official, that he grant us an attestation, that we might pass through customs unhindered; then, with a farewell from our neighbors and acquaintances, we would gladly leave. We also earnestly hope that we have good standing with them and them with us, that no one therefore would have any grievances, and we hope that this might be granted to us.” Kriegsheim 8 May 1685

They made their arrangements and probably sold their houses, but heard nothing, since they submitted a similar request in June. They probably received permission eventually, since it would have been difficult to travel without passports for the many border and customs checkpoints along the Rhine. In August they travelled down the Rhine to Rotterdam, where they met with Dirck Sipman to buy land.15 Dirck Sipman was a merchant of Krefeld who bought 5000 acres in 1682, subject to settling families on it. He sold land to Hendricks, Umstat and Schumacher, giving each one an identical deed for 200 acres and a lot in Germantown, to be laid out by Herman Isacks op den Graeff. They would make payment of two Rix dollars to Sipman as ground rent. The condition was they were to settle on the land with their families. He paid for their passage and they left with the “first good wind” for Pennsylvania.16 The next leg of the trip would take them to London, where they sailed on the Francis and Dorothy under the command of Richard Bridgeman.17 They arrived in Pennsylvania in October.

Hans Peter and Barbara sailed with their children John, Anna Margaretta and Eve.18 They settled in Germantown, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Hans Peter worked as a farmer and possibly as a wagon maker.19

In 1691 Hans Peter was naturalized in 1691. (His son Johannes was too young.) In 1692 Hans Peter bought more land in Germantown from Abraham op den Graeff and others.20 The same year he signed the petition against the tax bill, along with many Germantown residents.21 In second month 1692, when Henry Frey married Anna Catherine Levering,  many Germantown residents attended, including Hans Peter and Johannes Umstat. They signed the witness list, Johannes by mark. Hans Peter was evidently successful, as he paid one of the highest taxes in 1693 in Germantown.22 In 1694 Hans Peter transferred 25 acres of his Germantown land to Johannes. If Johannes was actually born in 1673, then this would be his coming-of-age portion.

In 1695 Hans Peter was fined, along with Peter Cleaver, for failing to appear as fence viewers. Johannes refused to serve the following year, claiming that he did not know the fences in his Quarter.23 Mennonites often refused to serve as fence viewers, feeling that it could lead to conflicts with their neighbors.

In 1696 Hans Peter made an entry in his Bible. “February 10, 1696, my daughter Anna Margaretta died.” The absence of a marriage record suggests that she died unmarried, at about 20 to 24 years of age. About 1697 Johannes married a woman named Mary. Once again the absence of a marriage record strongly suggests that they were Mennonite.

In 1699 Eve married Hendrick Pannebecker. An emigrant from the Rhineland, he had arrived in Germantown in September 1698. He was probably Reformed, not Mennonite, and since he and Eve would have most of their children baptized in Reformed Churches, it is clear that she followed his faith. They lived in Germantown at first, then moved up to Bebber’s Township, where Hendrick was a landowner, farmer, and surveyor.

Johannes, son of Hans Peter, married a woman named Mary. They were living in Germantown in 1701 when he served on a coroner’s jury. The verdict of the jury, in 4th month 1701, was that the “cart and lime killed the man, the wheel wounded him and it killed him”.24 In 1704 he was on another jury. Abraham op den Graeff sued David Sherkes for slander after Sherkes said that no honest man would be in Abraham’s company. The jury found for Sherkes.25 By 1708 Johannes was in Bebber Township, further north in Philadelphia County, along with his brother-in-law Hendrick Pannebecker.26 Pennypacker suggested that Hendrick and  Johannes Umstat had a prior understanding with Matthias Van Bebber to settle on his land. It was fertile and well-watered, but far from Philadelphia.27

In 1702 Hans Peter made a final record in his Bible, “August 12, 1702, my wife Barbara died.”28 It is not known when Hans Peter died. In October 1710 he signed a deed conveying 50 acres in Germantown to George Adam Hogermood.29 Perhaps he went to live with one of his children after that.

Children of Hans and Barbara:

Anna Margaretta, b. ab. 1672, d. 1696, m. (?) Gerhard Rettinghaus. This marriage is widely cited, but there is no primary evidence for it. Anna Margaretta’s death in 1696 is noted in the Bible of her father Hans Peter, but he did not give a marriage record for her.30 Gerhard Rettinghaus was widowed about 1696, but the name of his wife is not known.

Johannes, b. about 1673, d. 1747, m. Mary, lived in Germantown, then in Bebber’s Township. It is often claimed that his wife was Mary Pannebaker, sister of Heinrich, but there is no primary evidence for this.31 One researcher suggested that Mary might be the daughter of Herman Bon, an early settler of Germantown, whose lot was close to the Umstead’s.32 They lived in Germantown at first, sold land there in 1704, then moved to Skippack. Johannes died in late 1747, leaving no will. On January 5, 1747/8 Mary renounced her right to administer.  Later that year Mary and the other heirs conveyed land to Henry Umstead, one of the heirs.33 Children: John, Peter, Henry, Jacob, Herman.

Eve, b. 1674, d. 1764, m. Heinrich Pannebecker, the 1698 emigrant. They lived in Germantown, then moved to Bebber’s Township on the Skippack around 1702. Heinrich became the largest landowner there and worked as surveyor. Children: Martha, Catherine, Oliffe, Peter, John, Barbara, Jacob, Henry.

  1. Three families emigrated from Kriegsheim in 1685. Gerhard Hendricks, Hans Peter Umstadt, and Peter Schumacher. Ten generations later a descendant of Hans Peter, through the Pannebaker line, married a descendant of Peter Schumacher, through the Tysons. These were my parents. If Hans Peter and Peter were related, as seems possible, then my parents were related, three hundred years ago in a Mennonite community in a small German town.
  2. Umstat website of Chris Hueneke, at umstead.org, many pages with much documentation and discussion. A very thorough treatment of the family.
  3. Samuel Pennypacker (in his Settlement of Germantown) believed that the Umstats came from Krefeld, about 220 miles northwest of Kriegsheim on the Rhine. There is no evidence for this, and much evidence to the contrary. Hans Peter, the immigrant, may have passed through Krefeld on his route to Pennsylvania, but he was living in Kriegsheim before he immigrated.
  4. Umstat website.
  5. Wikipedia.
  6. Translations from the Umstat website.
  7. LDS microfilm, citied on the Umstat website, on the page for Nicholas. Apparently there are no birth or baptism records for the Umstats.
  8. Umstat website.
  9. Umstat website, page on 1664 census.
  10. C. Henry Smith, The Mennonites of America, 1909, quoted on the Original-13 mailing list on Feb. 28, 2008.
  11. Umstat website, page on Schmaldocs.
  12. Umstat website, page on Schmaldocs.
  13. Translated by Lou Hueneke, on the Umstead website.
  14. Umstead website.
  15. Umstead website.
  16. Umstat website, page on Rotterdam. The deeds for Hendricks and Schumacher were recorded in Philadelphia County Deed Book E4, vol. 7, p. 180.
  17. Walter Shepard, Passengers and Ships prior to 1684, p. 166. Other passengers included Henry “Pookeholes” (Bucholtz) and his family, Aaron Wonderly, and John Saxby and his family. Hull, William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to PA. Also in “Families who arrived at Philadelphia 1682-1687”, PMHB, 1884, vol. 8, taken from lists of registered arrivals.
  18. Pennypacker, p. 23.
  19. Wilhelm Niepoth’s notes, cited on the Umstead website. Niepoth does not cite any evidence for Hans as a wagon maker.
  20. James Duffin, Acta Germanopolis, 2008.
  21. Hull.
  22. 1693 Philadelphia County tax list.
  23. Acta Germanopolis.
  24. Acta Germanopolis. It was a coroner’s jury. We do not learn the name of the unfortunate man.
  25. Acta Germanopolis.
  26. Philadelphia County Deeds E4, vol. 7, p. 133. Matthias Van Bebber was transferring land to Umstat.
  27. Samuel W. Pennypacker, “Bebber’s Township and the Dutch Patroons”, PMHB, vol. 31.
  28. Samuel Pennypacker, Hendrick Pannebecker, 1894, BCHS. The Bible is now at Pennypacker Mill in Schwenksville.
  29. Philadelphia County Deeds, H17, p. 173, a few pages after a deed from Ban Bebber to Umstett. (Roll 28, Image 214)
  30. Umstead website, page on Rittenhouse. Chris Hueneke does not believe in the Rittenhouse marriage.
  31. Umstead website, page on Johannes.
  32. Umstead website, page on Johannes.
  33. Umstead website, page on Johannes. Note that the original estate papers have disappeared from Johannes’ folder in Philadelphia City Hall (as of 1990), but were quoted by earlier researchers.

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