Peter Cleaver and Catherine Shoemaker

Peter Cleaver was an early settler at Germantown, buying land there in 1689.1  As a German Quaker he could have come from one of two areas in the Rhineland. A small group of Quakers from Krefeld, near Dusseldorf, formed a monthly meeting there. Almost all of them immigrated together in 1683, sailing on the Concord, and drawing lots for land in Germantown.2 Since that was such a small close-knit group, it is possibly that Peter lived further south along the Rhine. Another group of Quakers lived in a broader area around Kriegsheim (now Monsheim), 170 miles south of Krefeld.3 Most of these people had been Mennonites who were converted to Quakerism by traveling missionaries, including William Penn himself.4 Peter is not listed in known lists of Mennonites, such as the censuses of Kreigsheim, but other known Mennonites such as the Umstat family are missing from those lists as well.5

In any case, Peter Cleaver first appeared in Germantown records in 1689 when he bought a lot of 50 acres from William Strepers.6 In 1691 Peter was naturalized, along with many of his German neighbors, taking an oath of allegiance to the English crown and thereby gaining the freedom to own land and conduct business as natives.7 In 1692 he signed a petition against a tax bill, and the following year appeared on the tax list.8 In 1695 he added to his holding by buying 25 acres from the carpenter John Silans.9 In the deed Peter was listed as a husbandman, but like many of the Germans, he was also a weaver.10

In 1695 at Abington Meeting Peter married Catherine Shoemaker, the daughter of Peter Shoemaker. She came from Kriegsheim with her father and sisters on the Francis and Dorothy in 1685.11 Her name is often Anglicized to Gertrude or Catherine, but she was from a family that spoke a Rheinisch dialect of German; her name as they spoke it probably sounded more like Geertje. The English Quakers of Abington meeting who recorded their marriage intention wrote it as Catherine. The marriage would have been performed in Germantown, where the Quakers of the town met, first in the house of Thones Kunders, later in a small log meetinghouse.12

In 1699 Peter and Catherine sold their 50-acre tract in Germantown to Reyner Janson and moved to nearby Bristol Township.13 They would remain there for the rest of their lives. In 1721 Peter and his son Peter bought 165 acres near Upper Dublin or Whitemarsh. There they built a stone house with several outbuildings.14 The younger Peter lived there, while his father stayed in Bristol.

In 1709 Peter had a difference with William Harmer. They took it to Abington Meeting, which chose four men to “hear and determine it”. This was done and the difference settled. In 1724 Peter was chosen as an overseer for Germantown, responsible for guiding the younger generation in Quaker ways.15 The births of several of the children of Peter and Catherine were recorded at Abington Meeting, and most (though not all) of the children married under the auspices of the Meeting. Catherine does not appear in the meeting records, except for the record of her marriage; she may not have been comfortable speaking English. The date of her death is not known, but she was not named in Peter’s 1727 will and must have died before him.

Peter could not write and signed his will only with his initials. In the will, written in 12th month 1727 and proved the same month, he named all seven of his children.16 The sons Isaac and John received land, while the other children got cash legacies. The inventory of his property included the usual household goods, farm tools and animals, as well as the plantations in Bristol and Cheltenham.17 The family of Peter and Catherine was prolific, and by the time their granddaughter Elizabeth married Jacob Kirk in 1760, twelve Cleavers signed their marriage certificate.18

Children of Peter and Catharine:

Christine, born 1696, married William Melchior in April 1727 at Christ Church, Philadelphia. In her father’s will as Christiann Melchier.19 Her father left her £20 in his will, but left her younger sister Agnes £30, so Christine probably received a marriage portion from her father before he died.

Peter Jr., born 1697, died 1776, married 1722 Elizabeth Potts, daughter of David and Alice (Croasdale), and lived in Upper Dublin. Elizabeth died in 1762; Peter died in 1776.20 He left a will naming children Peter, Nathan, Elizabeth, John, Isaac, and Ezekiel.21 A daughter Mary had died unmarried in 1744. His land was to be sold and the proceeds divided among the children. Most of the children remained Quakers and married in meetings.22

Derrick, born about 1702, died possibly 1768. He married in 1725, at Abington Meeting, Mary Potts, daughter of Thomas and Magdalen. Derrick and Mary supposedly settled in the Oley valley, since Mary’s father owned a share of the iron furnace at Colebrookdale. Derrick burned limestone in a kiln on his farm to sell to the furnace. He owned much land in Amity and Douglass Townships, becoming the first tax collector of Douglass Township and was himself the largest taxpayer, paying £16 in 1759.23 Children: John, Elizabeth, Martha, Mary and another daughter.

Eve, married a man named Adams after 1722. His first name is not known. No further information.

John, born about 1705, died 1773. In 1729 at Abington Meeting he married Elizabeth Levering Taylor, daughter of William Levering & Catherine and widow of a man named Taylor. They lived in Bristol on land bequeathed to him by his father. In a property release of 1748 he called himself a weaver. John died in 1773 and left a will.24 Children: Peter, Elizabeth, William, Sarah, John, Hannah and a daughter Mary who died before her father.25

Isaac, born 1713, died 1799. In 1737 at Abington Meeting he married Rebecca Iredell, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca. Isaac and Rebecca lived in Cheltenham and had six daughters, four of whom married Tysons.26 In his will of 1797, he left Rebecca £150 and the income of the estate.27 He left a clock to the oldest daughter Hannah; at her death it was to go to her son Isaac Tyson. He also named his daughter Mary and six of her children: Peter, Rynear, Benjamin, Jesse, Mary and Hannah Tyson.28 He died in 1799. The inventory of his estate included the household goods of a prosperous farmer, valued at over £1350. Children of Isaac and Rebecca: Hannah, Mary, Rebecca, Rachel, Agnes, Sarah.

Agnes, m. Richard Shoemaker, son of George Jr. and Sarah (Wall)29

  1. William Jessup Cleaver, Some of the descendants of Peter Cleaver, 1983, available on Internet Archive, cites a family tradition that Peter Cleaver was English. Given Peter’s marriage and his early settlement in Germantown, the English ancestry can be ruled out.
  2. These are the well-known original 13 settlers of Germantown, including the op den Graeff brothers, Rynear Tyson, Tönis Kunders, Jan Luken, and others.
  3. Peter Schumacher, Gerret Hendricks, and Hans Peter Umstat all came from this area and settled in Pennsylvania. For the story of how they left Kriegsheim in 1685, see John Ruth, Maintaining the Right Fellowship, pp. 68-69.
  4. William Penn, William Ames, and William Caton all visited this part of the upper Rhineland, where the Mennonites were friendly to them, and some were converted to Quakerism. (John Ruth, Maintaining the Right Fellowship, 1984; Claus Bernet, “Quaker Missionaries in Holland and North Germany…”, Quaker History, 95(2), 2006, available on JSTOR.
  5. Cris Hueneke website at, accessed April 2020.
  6. Acta Germanopolis, p. 456. The sale was confirmed three years later. (Acta Germanopolis, p. 295)
  7. Pennypacker, Settlement of Germantown. The original document is held by the Beechly Library, Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
  8. Acta Germanopolis, p. 295; Hull, William Penn and the Dutch Quakers, p. 417.
  9. Acta, p. 304, 416.
  10. He described himself as a weaver in his will, although by then he owned two plantations, one in Bristol and one in Cheltenham. The inventory of his estate included a loom and over 50 pounds of yarn.
  11. Cleaver manuscript
  12. The house of Thones Kunders no longer stands, but a historical marker commemorates its site. It has special significance as the place where the first American protest against slavery was signed by 1688 by Frances Daniel Pastorius, Garret Hendricks, Derick and Abraham up de Graeff. The protest was passed up from the Abington Monthly Meeting to the Quarterly Meeting at Philadelphia to the Yearly Meeting at Burlington. (Pennypacker, Settlement of Gtn) At this early date many Quakers, including William Penn himself, still kept slaves, and the Society was not ready to condemn it.
  13. James Duffin, “Germantown Landowners, 1683-1714”, Germantown Crier. Bristol Township (not to be confused with Bristol, Bucks County, was a former township in Philadelphia County, adjoining Germantown to the east. In 1854, it was consolidated as a government unit into the City and County of Philadelphia. (A map of the former townships (now neighborhoods) can be found in the Wikipedia article on the Act of Consolidation, 1854.)
  14. William J. Cleaver.
  15. Abington Monthly Meeting minutes.
  16. Philadelphia County Wills, Book E, p. 72. It is estate #76 for 1727.
  17. The inventory was taken 26 Jan 1727/28. (Philadelphia County original estates, City Hall, Philadelphia)
  18. Abington Monthly Meeting marriages, 14th 5th month 1760. Jacob was the son of John and Sarah Kirk of Abington.
  19. The records of Christ Church, Philadelphia, list the marriage and give his name as William Molshon. (Pennsylvania Marriages prior to 1810, PA Archive, series 2, vol. 8)
  20. Abington Monthly Meeting records.
  21. Philadelphia County wills, book Q, p. 292.
  22. Records of Abington MM, and their family Bible (in a folder at the HSP, found Feb. 2011)
  23. William J. Cleaver, manuscript, pp. 12-14.
  24. Philadelphia County wills book P, p. 478 as John Clever.
  25. Cleaver manuscript and John’s will.
  26. Jordan, p. 698.
  27. Montgomery County probate records, RW #950. He should not be confused with his cousin Isaac Cleaver, son of Peter and Elizabeth, who died in Upper Dublin, Montgomery County, in 1797 (Montgomery County probate #RW 949).
  28. Abstracted at:
  29. Smith, Settlement of Horsham.  Sarah was a daughter of Richard Wall. The family of Richard Wall was not the same as the Waln family, although they are sometimes confused.  Richard Wall was received in 1682 from the meeting of Stock Orchard, Gloucester. (Albert Cook Myers, Quaker Arrivals at Pa.), while Nicolas Waln emigrated with the Settle group.

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