The History of Pennsylvania Germans in Loudoun County, Virginia (1908)

[Source: “The Pennsylvania German”, Volume 9 by Philip Columbs Croll, Henry Addison Schuler, Howard Wiegner Kriebel; March 1908]

The first white people to locate in Loudoun County, Virginia, as actual settlers came in 1732. The honor seems about equally divided between the English who came up from Jamestown and located at Leesburg; the Germans, who came from Pennsylvania and established the German settlement, and the Quakers, who also came from Pennsylvania and located at Waterford. At that early period it was a part of Prince William county. In 1742 Fairfax county was created and named after Lord Fairfax, the sixth Baron of Cameron. In 1757 Fairfax county was divided and Loudoun county was created and named after Lord Loudoun, a prominent officer in King George’s army, and afterwards commander-in-chief of the British forces in the American colonies, and Colonial Governor of Virginia from 1758 to 1762.

That portion of Loudoun county, Virginia, bounded on the east by the Catoctin Mountains, on the west by the Short Hill Mountains, on the north by the Potomac River and on the south by the village of Morrisonville, is known far and wide as the German settlement. The Germans who located in Loudoun county, Virginia, belonged to that mighty host who were in the front rank of the battle against tyranny and superstition that had devastated some of the fairest portions of Germany and that finally culminated in the Reformation that liberated men’s souls as well as their bodies.

The Germans did not come to America for worldly gain, but for a home, where they could dwell under their own vine and fig-tree, with none to molest or make them afraid. Probably no nationality gets as much comfort out of the home as the Germans do. To them the home was the nucleus around which grew the state that later developed and broadened into the Nation; hence the Germans were nationbuilders as well.

Whence Came the Pioneers?
This liberty-loving people who located in Loudoun county, Virginia, had probably sojourned in Pennsylvania for a few years, or they may perhaps have come direct from Germany with the determination to locate in Virginia. It has been claimed by some that the Germans of Loudoun county came from Fauquier county, Virginia, and originally belonged to that ill-fated band of German pilgrims who came over with DeGraffenried in 1710 and located in New Berne, North Carolina, where the treacherous Tuscarora Indians, who were totally ignorant of the peaceful habits of the Germans, fell upon them and massacred men, women and children. Those that escaped became disheartened, sailed north, and a remnant after various misfortunes established Germantown in Fauquier county, Va., where they built a church in 1718, with Henry Haeger as pastor. Some of their descendants are to be found there to this day. The claim that some of them went north and established the German settlement of Loudoun county, Virginia, has some adherents, but it is not regarded by historians as reliable. Germantown in Fauquier county is about forty miles from the German settlement in Loudoun county; the methods of farming differ widely in each locality; besides, there is no similarity in names.

There has also been a tradition that the German Hessians who came over during the Revolutionary War established the German settlement of Loudoun county, but it is impossible to reconcile history with tradition, as the settlement was established nearly fifty years before that period.

The only record of any Revolutionary Hessians in Loudoun county was a very few prisoners guarded at Nowlands Ferry in 1780.

That the Germans of Loudoun county came from Pennsylvania can not be doubted. In the first place, many of the names in Berks and York counties, Pennsylvania, are the same as those in Loudoun county, Virginia.

There is a perfect chain of German settlements from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Loudoun county, Virginia. The methods of farming and the old style loghouses are to be found in both sections, and a line of communication has always been kept up between the German settlement and Berks and York counties, Pennsylvania, by way of the old Monocacy road.

The Hon. Yardley Taylor, a Quaker, who ranked high as an educator and a civil engineer, who represented Loudoun county in the Legislature of Virginia, who served the county as surveyor 1850 to 1857, and who compiled and published the only history and map of Loudoun county that was ever prepared, spent much time in the German settlement, and talked with many whose parents were born in Germany and Pennsylvania, getting positive information in regard to their early history and the causes that induced them to located in Virginia.

It was a substantial compliment and a recognition of the value and accuracy of the Taylor map, that when the Union forces under General Geary crossed the Potomac River into Virginia in 1861, the General secured a copy of this map and closely consulted it in his movements of the army, and filed the same with the War Department as part of his report. After the war, when the official records were printed and an atlas of the operations of the army made, this map became a part of the official records, and was published as plate VII of the War Atlas.

The emigration of the Germans from Pennsylvania to Virginia was hastened by the Indian raids in the Colebrook Valley and the attacks in Falkner’s Swamp and other settlements, the burning of cabins and grain, the driving off of stock and the murdering of the settlers being unbearable. Governor Gordon had promised protection to the settlers, but was not provided with means to successfully put down these Indian raids, which continued at intervals for over two years. In the meantime, glowing accounts had come from the Shenandoah and Loudoun Valleys of Virginia, setting forth the fertility of the soil, and as a result about one hundred German families left Pennsylvania and located in Virginia.

Names of Early Settlers
It is impossible to give a correct list of the early settlers, but the following names are believed to represent all the German families: Abel, Arnold, Armes, Axaline, Arment, Baker, Bartlett, Beatty, Beamer, Brown, Best, Bolin, Boyer, Booth, Beck, Cooper, Campher, Crim, Cruze, Cordell, Clapham, Cutshaw, Conrad, Cole, Cogsil, Carns, Crumbaker, Davis, Darr, Dill, English, Everhart, Eamich, Ery, Fry, Fawley, Frazier, Filler, Gabour, George, Goodhart, Grubb, Garrett, Gatewood, Green, Heater, Hickman, Householder, Houck, Hoy, Houser, Hefner, Jacobs, Kemp, Kern, Kuntz, Kalb, Lovett, Lenhart, Long, Loy, Miles, Mann, Magaha, Martin, Mock, Mull, Mill, Myers, Nicewarner, Owens, Parmer, Potterfield, Paxson, Prinz, Potts, Ramey, Ropp, Roller, Ruse, Robinson, Ridgeway, Rust, Rhoderick, Rodifer, Roule, Ritchie, Sando, Spring, Shutt, Slater, Stoneburner, Snoots, Stone, Seitz, Shipman, Schneider, Souer, Shawen, Stocks, Stouts, Swank, Sanbower, Stoutsenberger, Shry, Stream, Sander, Swope, Shomaker, Taylor, Tritapoe, Titus, Thrasher, Virts, Vickers, Vincel, Williams, Wenner, Whitmore, Weiss, Wire, Wine, Wired, Walkman, Wilt, Working, Wunder, Wolford, Yeakey.

Practically all branches of industry were represented, thus giving the enterprise a permanence that guaranteed success. There were carpenters, blacksmiths, wagonmakers, shoemakers, tanners, fur dressers, weavers, loommakers, millers, clockmakers, silversmiths, kettlemakers, cabinetmakers, hatters, tailors, boatmakers, hairmakers, distillers and preachers. The forest was rapidly cleared, log houses were erected and a system of small farming inaugurated. The first sheep in the county were brought by the Germans.

Early Industries
Machinery was limited to the hand loom and spinning-wheel. The fair daughters were experts at spinning, and supplied yarn for stockings and wove blankets for bedding and woolens for winter clothing. Many specimens of their handiwork are still to be found amongst the oldest settlers.Probably the most artistic and durable is the counterpane or coverlet. Many of these, which were woven at least seventy-five years ago, are still to be found on their beds. Of course, few of these are produced in recent years, as the hand loom is rapidly disappearing.

The blacksmith was an important personage in those days, the hardware store being a dream of the future. He made by hand all building nails, hinges, knives and forks, spoons, axes, hatchets, hoes, shovels, fish-hooks and knitting needles. All cooking was done in the fireplace, and the blacksmith was called upon to make those long-handled frying pans with handle about four feet long, to keep the housewife from being cremated while preparing breakfast. In addition to his important duties as blacksmith, he was also the neighborhood dentist. When he fastened his Herculean grip on a tooth, he always brought it out, a piece of the jawbone sometimes coming with it.

The schoolmaster was a man of importance in those primitive days. In the absence of the minister he would generally fill the pulpit by reading sermons or exhorting. He was a good woodchopper, and was given ample encouragement at the neighboring woodpile. He was seldom accused of sparing the rod to spoil the child. His usefulness as a teacher was largely measured by his ability to sharpen a goose quill pen, steel pens not being invented until years after the Revolutionary War.

When the Germans came to Loudoun county in an organized capacity as actual settlers, it was a vast unbroken forest, but there was substantial evidence that explorers had penetrated the wilderness many years earlier. As early as 1667, Captain Henry Bath, a German explorer and Indian trader, had traveled from the tidewater on the Potomac River crossing the Allegheny Mountains to the Ohio River, and passing through this section. At that period Virginia was rich in furs, and attracted the trappers and traders. Catoctin Creek, the largest stream in the county, was the home of the beaver. A few adventurous spirits, Germans, who followed trapping for a living made their abode on that creek and reaped a rich harvest.

By rigid economy, characteristic of the Germans, the settlers soon became prosperous, their wants being few and easily supplied. Corn and wheat yielded well, and stock multiplied rapidly. The forest was filled with game, and the streams fairly swarmed with fish. The forest was filled with grapes, berries and nuts, literally the land flowed with milk and honey. Tobacco was also a staple crop. The land, new and rich, yielded a superior article that could be marketed more easily than grain, and served two purposes – as a crop and as a currency. A goodly portion of grain and fruits was made into spirituous liquors, more from necessity than preference, as it was more easily marketed than grain. The festive revenue officer was yet unborn. There were eight stills in the German settlement, and all did a good business; yet, habitual drunkenness was unknown.

The Potomac River, forming the northern border of the German settlement, furnished an outlet for the surplus products of the soil by boat to Alexandria, one of the earliest ports in the American Colonies, at whose wharves could be seen the sailing vessels of many countries.

Rumsey’s Steamboat
It was on the Potomac River, at Shepardstown, that James Rumsey, a Bohemian German, invented and built the first steamboat, and in the fall of 1783 demonstrated that fact to the world by a trial trip in presence of many invited friends. James Rumsey afterwards visited London to perfect his invention, where, while engaged in building a new steamboat, in 1786, he was stricken with fever and died. Rumsey’s trial trip, performed two years before Fitch’s maiden effort in steamboats, and eighteen years before Fulton launched his craft on the Hudson, was witnessed by George Washington, who gave the following testimonial: “I have seen the model of Mr. Rumsey’s boat constructed to work against the stream, examined the powers upon which it acts, been eyewitness to an actual experiment in running water of some rapidity, and give it as my opinion (although I had little faith before) that he has discovered the art of working boats by mechanism and small manual assistance against rapid currents, that the discovery is of vast importance, may be of greatest usefulness in our inland navigation, and if it succeeds (of which I have no doubt), that the value of it is greatly enhanced by the simplicity of the works, which, when seen and explained, may be executed by the most common mechanic.” Given under my hand at the town of Bath, County of Berkley, in the State of Virginia, this 7th day of September, 1784. Go. Washington.

Surrounding Conditions
While the success of the German settlement, of course, was due to the untiring industry of the people, yet that success was materially aided by surrounding conditions.

The first arsenal in the United States was established in the year 1790, at Harper’s Ferry, six miles from the settlement. The supplies being drawn from the country around, a splendid market was created for everything imaginable, flour, meal, corn, beef, bacon, butter, eggs, poultry, leather, lumber and other articles; and the Germans were not slow in producing that which sold best. Labor also commanded good wages, and many of the German mechanics secured employment there, and one of them invented the machine to turn the crooked gun-stock or any other crooked piece of wood, such as axe handles.

The building of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was another enterprise that created an additional market. This waterway traversed the northern border of the German settlement for about ten miles. A little later the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, one of the first railroads in the United States, paralleled the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal along the border of the settlement, and proved a lasting blessing to the people. On the fourth of July, 1828, ground was first broken on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal by Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, Maryland, and on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad by John Quincy Adams, then President of the United States.

These public improvements not only brought a market to the very doors of the German settlement, but created a new demand for land. Before, land could be bought at from ten to twenty dollars per acre, but after the canal and railroad had been completed the same land brought from twenty to fifty dollars per acre.

There was great excitement about the year 1800 over the discovery of gold along a stream emptying into the Potomac River about one mile above the Brunswick bridge. There is an old tradition that copper tools were unearthed at these mines, by the early settlers, that were supposed to have belonged to a pre-historic race.

There is also an old marble quarry on the Catoctin Creek near Taylortown. There is practically no timber in the settlement, the land having been cleared for cultivation years ago, and being a rolling surface with but few rocks, almost every acre is susceptible of cultivation. The settlement is particularly noted for numerous public roads, running almost around each farm. Probably no section in the United States has such a network of highways.

As early as 1766 there was a thickly-settled community around Thrasher’s store. In 1816 a postoffice was established, with Elias Thrasher as postmaster. By 1824 quite a village had grown up, which was renamed Newtown, changed to Lovettsville in 1840, which name has been retained since.

The settlement has had rather a slow growth for the last fifty years, the population in 1800 having been almost as large as it is at present. As in all rural sections, the young people have been attracted to the cities. The settlement lost heavily also in population from 1830 to the War of the Rebellion, on account of the cheaper lands in the West, especially Ohio. The farms in the settlement are nearly all small, averaging perhaps one hundred and twenty-five acres. It is doubtful if there is a single farm containing five hundred acres.

Loyalty of the Germans
The Germans of Loudoun county, like all other Germans in the American colonies, were intensely loyal to the cause of liberty, and did not hesitate to show their faith by their works. Armend’s legion (German), recruited by authority of Congress in the summer of 1777, and composed of those who could not speak English, contained many Germans from Loudoun county.

That the Germans of Loudoun county were opposed to slavery was evidenced both by precept and example. Probably not more than one dozen slaves were owned in the settlement; nor were they politicians, and comparatively few of them ever held office, but they seldom failed to vote, and to this day a larger vote is cast in the German settlement (according to population) than in other portions of the county, and while they generally vote the Republican ticket, their love for liberty is too strong to be partisan.

When the question of secession confronted them in 1861, they were emphatic in their opposition to the movement, and later when compelled to take sides you could count upon the fingers of your left hand those who entered the Rebel army, while many of them followed the flag of the Union – the Stars and Stripes.

In September, 1862, when the Confederates for the first time invaded Maryland, they supposed the Marylanders were eager to rally to their standard, and it has always surprised them that they did not, but the explanation is easy. General Lee, the Rebel commander, entered Frederick, the Germany of Maryland, and issued that famous proclamation declaring that he had brought liberty and protection to their homes – while his soldiers were busy in plundering their storehouses and driving off their stock. His call on the Marylanders to enlist under the banner of the Rebellion fell upon deaf ears, the German love for liberty being too strong to be so easily deceived. There were too many Barbara Fritchies in Frederick. Probably not more than a baker’s dozen of the Germans responded, while fully ten thousand of them enlisted under the Union banner.

Perhaps one of the most impressive and patriotic exercises in the German settlement is their observance of Memorial Day. From all over the settlement people come to Lovettsville with wagonloads of choicest flowers and well-filled baskets of provisions to take part in this sacred service, which is held in the New Jerusalem Lutheran church cemetery. Probably in no other place in the United States is the day so universally celebrated. The German Reformed and Lutheran churches vie with each other in the proper observance of the day, making it truly a Memorial Day. After strewing nature’s choicest flowers on the graves of their sacred dead, they gather around the rostrum and listen to prayer, song and appropriate address by their pastors and other distinguished speakers, and all join in singing: “My Country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty. Of thee we sing.”

Prominent “Sons.”
Several young men who belonged to the German colony of Loudoun went West to “grow up with the country,” and have exerted more than a passing influence in the States of their adoption: W. E. Shutt, late U. S. Attorney, Southern District of Illinois; Mr. Wolford, who was a member of Congress from Kentucky; Attorney General Axalim of Ohio; Emerson Haugh, the novelist, “Mississippi Bubble” being his masterpiece; Robert A. Fry, of Paris, portrait painter, who died several years ago.

The Lutheran Church
It is a historical fact that wherever the Germans located a settlement the church and schoolhouse followed rapidly the family dwellings. While the first authentic record of the organization of the New Jerusalem Lutheran church is dated 1765, it is quite probable that the church was organized earlier.

The Rev. John Casper Stover, one of the earlier missionaries of the Lutheran Church in America, and in 1735 pastor of Hebron church in Madison county, Virginia, in his “Lutheran Church in Virginia.” published in Hanover, Germany, in 1737, states that he visited the congregations in the German settlements in Prince William county (as it was then called), Winchester, Woodstock, Strasburg and Fredericksburg. Of course, his visit to Loudoun county was in the interest of the Lutheran Church, although nothing is said about organizing a congregation, but the fact that he visited the German settlement is evidence that a nucleus was found there which later crystallized into the New Jerusalem church.

But little progress seems to have been made with the Lutheran Church in Loudoun county until about 1765, when, under the pastorate of Rev.Schwerdfeger, a log church and school house were erected on the ground now occupied by the New Jerusalem church and cemetery, the land originally donated by Lord Fairfax. This seems to have been the beginning of regular church services by stated pastors, and continued ever since.This church had brief pastorates of Rev. Hartwick and Rev. Sartorius.

The Rev. John Andreas Krug was the pastor at Frederick, Md., and supplied the church in the German settlement. A pious, popular preacher of most excellent qualities, he was the first pastor who really put the church on a solid basis, serving it faithfully for over twenty years. He was succeeded by Rev. J. G. Graeber, an elderly man, who soon relinquished the charge. In 1800 the old log house was found to be too small for the rapidly increasing congregation, and a stone structure. 40 x 60 ft., was erected – a grand church for that day, with arched ceiling, a gallery on each side, and aisles paved with dressed stone. Above the door was the inscription “Dei Gloria 1802.” In 1805 Rev. F. W. Jasensky was called, who remained only one year. Rev. Daniel F. Schaeffer, D.D., was called in 1807, who also remained but one year, and was succeeded by Rev. John Martin Sackman.

Many of the young people left the church during his pastorate on account of German preaching. Finally the pastor resigned, in 1830, giving away to English preaching.

Following him the congregation was served since 1830 successively by Rev. Abraham Reck, to 1832: Rev. M. Blumenthal, dismissed the same year; Rev. Daniel J. Hauer, to 1847; Rev. P. Willard, to 1849: Rev. C. Stortzman, to 1853; Rev. Wm. Jenkins, to 1857; Rev. J. B. Anthony, 1858; Rev.Richardson, from 1860 to 1873; Rev. A. J. Buhrman, to 1876; Rev. P. H. Miller, to 1888: Rev. Daniel Schindler, to 1890; Rev. McLinn, to 1896; Rev.Luther Hess Waring, to 1899; Rev. Dr. Asa Richard, to the present. Rev. Hauer was a strong and aggressive preacher, a strict disciplinarian and an untiring worker. During Richardson’s pastorate the church was decorated and the seats were arranged in circles, an innovation to which protests were raised, on the charge that it made the church look too much like a theatre. Space does not permit reference to many interesting details in the life of this church.

This church has been one of great influence in the settlement. From the very beginning it has always been a beacon light to this part of the State.In 1840 there were over four hundred members; in 1870, five hundred; the communicants on the rolls of the church now number over six hundred. It is exceedingly doubtful if there is as large a membership in any rural church in the United States.* [*We wonder whether the author is mistaken in this estimate. We should like to hear from our readers. Where is the largest rural church in the United States? – ED] The influence of this church is not confined to Virginia alone, but permeates portions of West Virginia and Maryland. The membership extends from one to ten miles of the church. Should the pastor get into his buggy and start to visit his congregation, traveling ten miles a day and visiting ten persons a day, it would take him more than two months to visit his people, and he would have traveled over six hundred miles.

Dr. Richard very kindly placed at the disposal of the writer copies of early church records which materially lessened his labors and largely contributed to the value of this sketch of the New Jerusalem church.

The Reformed Church
A history of the churches of the German settlement is simply a history of the people themselves. The church was probably organized the first few years after settlement, being conducted at first with but little organization, preaching services being held at the homes of the first settlers and later at he school houses. In fact, the school houses were also churches or rather meeting houses. Many old deeds read to have and to hold for school and preaching services. The first house erected for this purpose, about 1775, stood where the ice house now stands, on the parsonage ground adjoining the Reformed church cemetery. The date of the organization of this church is unknown, but there was a nucleus around which the early ministers rallied long before the church was erected. The earliest records, like those of the Lutheran church, were destroyed by fire.

One of the early founders of the Reformed Church in America, the Rev. Michael Schlatter, visited the German settlement and preached to the congregation May 14, 1748. This pioneer left Germantown, Pennsylvania, May 3, on horseback, traveling by way of Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania, and Frederick, Maryland, crossing the Potomac River below Shepardstown into Virginia. He visited Winchester, Strasburg, Woodstock and New Germantown in Rockingham county, preaching to congregations doubtlessly previously organized, and returning crossed the Blue Ridge at Snickers Gap, arriving at the German settlement and preaching May 14, 1748, and resting for the night with Mr. Wenner, the grandfather of the venerable W. W. Wenner, where a marriage was solemnized between a Mr. Wenner and a Miss Shoemaker, probably by Rev.Schlatter. It has been claimed that the first school teacher in the settlement was a Wenner. The first established Reformed preacher was Rev.Charles Lange, stationed at Frederick and supplying the church at Lovettsville. On his first visit, in August, 1767, he was entertained by Deacon Shoemaker, one of the early pillars of the church. Rev. Lange’s pastorate closed in May, 1768. Thirty-five persons were confirmed during that period. There was no church building, services being held at the residence of Deacon Shoemaker.

After Lange, the following Reformed ministers preached at Lovettsville: Rev. Fred. L. K_____, to 1784; Rev. Henry Giesy, to 1796; Rev. Jacob Schneider, ____; Rev. Dan Wagner, from 1804 to 1810; Rev. Jonathan Helfenstein, to 1829. For a few years the charge was irregularly supplied. Rev.Steven Staley, from 1833 to 1840; Rev. G. W. Willard, 1840 to ?: Rev. George Henry Martin, 1849 to 1865; Rev. Henry Nissler, 1865 to 1873; Rev.Henry St. John Rinker, 1873 to 1890; Rev. T. K. Cromer, 1891 to 1895; Rev. Lewis T. Lampe, 1896; Rev. James R. Lewis, the present pastor, since 1906.

Their old church building being deemed unsafe, the congregation recently decided to build in the village of Lovettsville, and through the untiring efforts of Dr. Lewis a new brick church was erected. While it is not a large church, it is finely arranged and quite attractive in appearance.

Doctor Lewis is popular both in his church and as a citizen. The German Reformed church has exerted an influence throughout the settlement that has been shared by all and has joined most heartily with other churches for the advancement of a better Christian life amongst all classes and conditions of men.

The writer is under many obligations to Dr. Lewis for so kindly allowing him access to old church records for valuable material relating to the history of the Reformed church in Lovettsville.

The Methodists and Presbyterians also have churches in Lovettsville.

This article deals largely with the past, but the Germans of Loudoun county live in the present. The records of their early churches were all written in German, and that tongue was taught in their schools; in fact, they all spoke German. It is doubtful if there is a person in the settlement today that can speak the mother tongue, and nothing would be as unpopular as an effort to have German taught in the public school. The hand loom and spinning wheel are stored in the garret; the old German Bible of their grandfather’s day has been closed many years, and the American Revised edition is used instead, and everything that pertains to a progressive Christian civilization is apparent on every hand.

[Source: “The Pennsylvania German”, Volume 9 by Philip Columbs Croll, Henry Addison Schuler, Howard Wiegner Kriebel; March 1908]