Philip and Barbara Unruh

Philip Unruh was born into a prosperous family of Germantown farmers. His father and uncle between them owned great swaths of land in upper Germantown. They had large families and baptized their children at the Reformed Church, and occasionally the Lutheran church, in Germantown. Philip was born in 1769, the second son of  Sebastian Unruh and Catherine Simon.1 He was a young boy during the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777 and the Battle of Germantown that October. The British headquarters of General Howe was just a few miles south of Philip’s home, and the battle raged around the house and lands of Philip’s uncle Nicholas. Wounded men were carried from the field of battle and some of them were taken to Nicholas Unruh’s house.2 The battle ended in a defeat for the Americans and the British still in possession of the city. Two years later both Sebastian and Nicholas enrolled in the militia, although they were not known to be in active service.3

About 1794 Philip married a woman named Barbara.4 Her last name is not known.5 They started their family and had a son John born the next year, to be followed by at least six more children. In 1804, Sebastian and Catherine gave Philip a tract of 97 acres in Bristol Township, in return for an annuity of $26 to be paid to them every year while they lived, and one-time payments of $233 to Philip’s brother William and $1200 to them.  Sebastian and Catherine were to have free use of the “new room and dwelling” they were living in, plus half of the garret, use of the kitchen and cellar in the old house, the spring, the bake oven, and stabling for two cows.6 The house had been built by the Rubicam family before they sold the property in 1764 to Johannes Unruh, Sebastian’s father, who in turn sold it to Sebastian.7 Philip’s brother George owned an adjoining tract of 62 acres, and in 1805 George bought a small piece of seven acres from Philip, probably to get access to a road.8 Philip signed the deed in German style; Barbara signed by mark. In 1821 Philip bought from his brother Abraham a tract of 78 acres with a house in Germantown, on the road to Livezey’s mill.9 In 1833 Philip was listed in the Philadelphia directory in Bristol Township, one mile east of Germantown, back of Eight-mile Lane.10

On October 6, 1806, a tragic accident took the life of Philip’s cousin Sebastian and maimed Philip’s brother John.11

On a militia training day after the mustering had been answered and the companies dismissed, two Unruh brothers, William and John, sons of Sebastian Unruh, and Sebastian, a son of John, having charge of the cannon, on their way home with the gun halted on Church Street (then called Bone Lane), at the rear of St. Michael’s Lutheran churchyard, to fire a parting salute, one of them remarking in a jestingly way, it was said, that ‘now we will raise the dead.’ While ramming home the cartridge, the vent became so hot that the thumb of the holder was taken therefrom and a premature discharge of the cannon resulted. William’s left arm was blown off, John lost his right arm and Sebastian was killed outright, his head having been blown off.12

Later that month Philip’s two youngest brothers, William and Abraham, went to the Orphans’ Court in Philadelphia with a petition, stating that they were above the age of 14 years but not yet 21, and that they had no guardian to care for their estates. They petitioned the court to choose a guardian for them, and the court chose John Unruh.13 A petition like this to the court would normally be done after the father’s death, but George Sebastian would not die for another seven years.14 Had he been incapacitated, perhaps by a stroke? In any case he and Catherine presumably lived with Philip and Barbara the entire time while Philip and Barbara had their seven children. George Sebastian died in 1813 at age 74.15 He was probably buried in the family burying ground on Philip’s land. Catherine died in 1818, at age 72.

Philip wrote his will in November 1835, one week before he died.16 He left the farm and house to his son Samuel, with the understanding that Barbara would stay in a room in the house, with privileges of using the kitchen, as much firewood as she needed, and a yearly annuity.17 The farm in Germantown was left to the son Jacob and a farm on the Montgomery-Philadelphia County line was left to the son Abraham.18 Philip’s son John had died before him, so Philip left a cash legacy to John’s son Philip and Henry when they reached the age of 21. The six living children were to share the remainder of Philip’s estate. After he died, the inventory was taken, showing the goods of a prosperous farmer, with an estate valued at $4167. The sons Samuel and Abraham were the executors.19 Samuel inherited the farm, and his mother Barbara probably stayed there, as she had been for thirty years. She died in 1842, survived by six of her children.20 She made a will, leaving her clothing and bedding to her three daughters, and the remainder of her estate to all six children.21 The inventory included furniture for one room, plus $959 in bonds and cash on hand. She and Philip were buried at Ivy Hill.22

Children of Philip and Barbara:23

John, born 1795, died 1833, married in 1820 at Germantown Reformed Church, Mary Benner, daughter of Henry Benner and Maria Magdalena Unruh.24 After John died Mary married John Kerper in 1834. Children: Philip, Caroline, Henry, Mary Ann25.

Catharine, born 1797, died 1881, married George Kerper in 1816 at Germantown Reformed Church26; buried at Boehm’s Church in Blue Bell. In 1850 they were living in Whitpain Twp, Montgomery County, where George was farming.27 He died in 1879; she died two years later. They were buried at Boehm Cemetery in Blue Bell.28  Children: Abraham, Barbara, Maria, George, Mary Ann, Catherine, Hiram, Willamina, Charles.

Maria, born 1799, died 1875, married Henry Campbell in 1819 at Germantown Reformed Church. He was a farmer in Springfield, Montgomery County.29 Maria died in 1875; Henry died 1876. They were buried at Ivy Hill. Children: Henry, Isaiah, Jonathan, Ann.30

Jacob, born 1801, died 1879, married Elizabeth Harper in 1827 at Germantown Reformed Church. He was a farmer in Germantown.31 Elizabeth died in 1870; Jacob died in 1879.32 They are buried at Market Square Cemetery (formerly German Reformed, later Presbyterian). Children: Jacob, George, Samuel, Ann, Sarah, Willamina, Jennetta.33

Anna, born 1804, died 1877, married Peter Maust. He was a farmer in Springfield Township. Peter died in 1853. Anna died in 1877 in Philadelphia. They were buried at Ivy Hill. Children: Anna, Barbara, Joseph, George, Samuel, Peter, John, Maria.

Samuel, born 1807, died 1860, married in 1830 Harriet Burns. He was a farmer in Bristol township.34 He died in October 1860; she died in 1875. They were buried at Ivy Hill. Children: Barbara, Samuel, Phebe, Susan, John, Hannah, Harriet, Maria, Mary.

Abraham, born 1809, died 1878, married Margaret Unruh. She was his first cousin, the daughter of Philip’s brother William and his wife Esther. Abraham was a farmer in Springfield, Montgomery County. He died in 1878. Margaret died 1900. They were buried at Ivy Hill. Children: Esther, Charles, William, Emeline, Sarah, Abraham.


  1. He was baptized in April 1770 at the Germantown Reformed Church.
  2. S. F. Hotchkin. Ancient and Modern Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, page 325,  also Pa. Magazine,  vol. 16.  Hotchkin got his information about the family from William Butcher, a great-grandson of George Sebastian.
  3.   Pa. Archives, Series 6, vol. 1. 
  4. Her last name is not known. From the date and age on her tombstone, she was born in October 1769, but this may have been a confusion with her husband’s birthdate. In January 1770, a daughter Barbara was born to Jacob and Barbara Meyer, baptized at Germantown Reformed Church. If this is the Barbara who married Philip Unruh, it could account for the name Jacob given to their second son, born in 1801. No other records relevant to Barbara’s parents have been found.
  5. Records of Germantown Reformed Church.
  6. Hannah Benner Roach, “Detective work among the Benners”, p. 146, Montgomery County Historical Society Bulletin, 1950, 7(2).
  7. George Muschamp, “The Rubicam-Unruh House”, in Papers of the Rubicam-Revercomb Family, 1959, on Internet Archive. In his will Philip bequeathed the house and land to his son Samuel. After Samuel died, his heirs sold the property in 1879.
  8. Philadelphia County deeds, Book AWM 19, p. 95, signed January 18, 1805.
  9. Phila County deeds, Book IW 9, p. 490, signed 1 May 1821.
  10. Hocker et al, Genealogical Notes from the Germantown Telegraph, 1978, p. 73.
  11. United States Gazette on 11 Oct 1806.
  12. Hotchkin, p. 326.
  13. Philadelphia County Orphans’ Court records, Oct 27 1806. The court closed the guardianship with an account in September 1809, when both William and Abraham were of age. (Orphans’ Court records on microfilm, Historical Society of Pennsylvania). William was born in April 1785, so he was actually just over 21 in October 1806, but he may not have realized that, or may have chosen to go to court to support his brother Abraham. As the two youngest brothers and the only ones yet unmarried, they would not have received their portion of their father’s estate. The court action may have been to safeguard this.
  14. There is no other Sebastian Unruh old enough to have sons in this age range. Sebastian, son of George Sebastian, was born in 1775, but died young (and would not have been old enough in any case). John’s son Sebastian was a generation too young. The other side of the family, children of George Nicholas, did not have John, William, or Abraham as a cluster.
  15. Records of Germantown Reformed Church.
  16. Philadelphia County wills, City Hall, Philadelphia.
  17. These were the standard provisions for a widow.
  18. Abraham must have declined to take the farm, since its value of $2362 was part of the estate to be shared in the account settlement.
  19. In April 1836, the other heirs agreed to accept the account filed with the Orphans’ Court by Samuel and Abraham without need of an audit. (Phila Orphans’ Court Records, vol. 35, p. 192) It was signed by George and Catherine Kerper, Henry and Maria Campbell, Peter and Anna Maust.
  20. Her tombstone said that she died on April 4, 1842, aged 72 years, 5 month 12 days. By computation she was born around Oct 22, 1769. This is suspiciously close to Philip’s birthdate of October 18, 1769. Someone in the family may have been confused.
  21. Philadelphia County estates, 1842, #100, Philadelphia City Hall.
  22. Who is the John Unruh, 1833-1870, buried with them, on the same tombstone. Too late to be a child, this must be a grandson. (Findagrave) George Muschamp believed that Philip and Barbara were buried on their Bristol property, which had a burial ground set aside for the purpose, and the stones later moved to Ivy Hill. (“The Rubicam-Unruh House”).
  23. The first four were baptized in 1802. Abraham is from E. Roberts, Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, 1904, a profile of William Unruh, son of Abraham and Margaret, which names his grandfather Philip.
  24. Maria Magdalena was a cousin of John’s, the daughter of Nicholas and Catherine. (Partition deeds in 1807 when Nicholas’ lands were divided among his heirs.)
  25. Findagrave entry for John Unruh. The son Philip married Barbara Coucher or Cockery. Some have confused him with his grandfather Philip, also married to a Barbara.
  26. Pennsylvania Marriages 1709-1940, on FamilySearch. George was the son of John Kerper.
  27. 1850 census, Whitpain township, image 21.
  28. Findagrave.
  29. Census records of 1840 through 1870.
  30. Not to be confused with the Henry Campbell, born in PA about 1799, who married a woman named Mary and moved to Farmers Creek, Jackson County, Iowa.
  31. 1850 and 1860 census records.
  32. Phila County death certificate.
  33. From the census records. The daughter Elizabeth may be Elizabeth Ann.
  34. 1850 and 1860 census.

2 thoughts on “Philip and Barbara Unruh”

  1. Wonderful entries for the Unruh family. I just happen to be googling their names this morning and this website came up. I’m a descendant of Philip Unruh (the later one) through his son Louis Unruh. Have we been in touch before? These entries are a great summary for my records so thank you! -Dale Unruh

    1. Thanks, Dale. I don’t know if we’ve been in touch before, but I’ll be glad to see anything you can add.

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