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What does one do when they’ve been given a family name, a weighty name—a name bestowed through multiple generations—that doesn’t feel quite comfortable to bear?

Look Up! You might find a clue to your ancestry. Diller Avenue leads directly into New Holland PA

Look Up! You might find a clue to your ancestry. Diller Avenue leads directly into New Holland PA

Such is the case for my husband. He was named George Diller Herr, III. This was never a name he thought much of or has been particularly attached to. He was never called George because that was his father’s name. Instead he was given a nickname. None of his given names leant to any great nicknames… like a Smitty or a Mac. Instead he was called Chip. He’s never really liked this name either. Some people will call him “Skip” which he HATES…and others assume the nickname is an offshoot of Charles. Living in the Philadelphia area, when my husband introduces himself as Chip Herr, the question most often asked (a solid 9 times out of 10) is “are you related to the potato chip Herrs?” (If you don’t understand this question, visit www.herrs.com for background.) Some people “hear” Chipper…and will just call him that, perhaps assuming he’s lost his last name like Cher or Madonna. It can devolve into a bit of a “who’s on first” routine. Chipper? No, Chip Herr. Mr. Herr? No, I’m a Him. Are you a potato chip Herr? No, I’m a pretzel guy.

What has complicated my husband’s situation even further is that beyond his father, he’s never had any connection to the former George Diller Herrs, or as it turns out George Dillers. Why this name? Why was it so important to pass down? Who were these ancestors who sent their name forward into future generations? He hadn’t the slightest clue.

In recent months I have rekindled my fascination with numerology—a sort of science of numbers based on the universal law that all things are made up of vibrations (energy), a law applied to people as well as things. Numerologists believe that each number has its own vibratory influence and therefore its own characteristics. A person’s name, day, month, and year of birth, among other factors can all be calculated to reveal very particular characteristics. I am fascinated by the information one can glean from this process. But what most piqued my interest in the subject, is the numerological belief that there is a special set of circumstances when a person is given a family name, and that perhaps, upon assuming said name, that child also takes on multiple generations of family karma.

This got me thinking…can we really inherit family traits numerologically just as we can inherit characteristics genetically? What if, like my husband, you have no particular resonance with the name you’ve been given and virtually no knowledge of where the family name came from?

the signs are everywhere... if only you pay attention

the signs are everywhere… if only you pay attention

Those of you who have read this blog before know that I have taken great pride in learning about my ancestors. I grew up with great family stories…and it’s been a real spiritual journey to discover even more about my ancestry. Finding these family names represented throughout history—in census reports, on land maps, and newspaper articles—has changed me. I look at the world a bit differently now. I thought perhaps helping my husband answer some of the questions about his own name might change the way he feels about himself. As it turns out, I didn’t have to go very far to find to make some large discoveries…only about 70 miles west of the place I current sit writing this post.

But before I reveal some of what I’ve found hanging on my husband’s family tree, you need a bit more background to appreciate these discoveries (or should I say the irony of these discoveries…) My husband was raised Catholic in southern New Jersey. He believed his paternal roots were in New England. When we first met more than twenty years ago, he was living and working in Lancaster City, Pennsylvania. When we were married in the Presbyterian Church in my hometown, it was a REALLY big deal to his mother (she still hasn’t forgiven me.) Shortly after we married we moved to Providence, Rhode Island (relocating from Hoboken, New Jersey where we had first settled.) We now live in Philadelphia, PA.

My father-in-law, the second George Diller Herr was born and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He was raised Presbyterian by a devout Scottish mother. Mary Dickson, arrived in the U.S. with her parents Andrew & Mary (Ross) Dickson, in the early 1900’s. Mary’s father worked in the textile mills in Paisley, Scotland, his last job listed as a power loom operator (1901 Scotland census). Pawtucket is where the US textile industry was born more than a hundred years prior at Slater’s Mill. It makes sense the Dickson family would end up where they did as the 1920 U.S. Federal census shows Andrew working in a local dye works factory. By all accounts, Nana Herr (mother of George 2) was a large personality. Her Scottish Presbyterian presence (and that of her Dickson family) would be all the more influential in her son’s world when his father died when George was only 13 years old.  Perhaps this is where the stories of the Herr & Diller names would start to disappear from family legacy. Even George’s grandmother (Mary Diller Herr) would die just after his 15th birthday, following her own husband who had died before George (2) was born.

My introduction into the world of the first George Diller Herr started with the 1940 Federal census. It was here I discovered he was born in Pennsylvania.  I already knew that this George had a father named Rufus. Turns out he was actually named Henry Rufus Herr and George’s mother was named Mary Diller. Rufus & Mary Herr had two sons, their eldest was named after Rufus’s father, John Forrer Herr, the younger was named after Mary’s father, George Diller.

George Diller Herr (1) grew up on his father’s farm in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. He majored in Mechanical Engineering at Lehigh University where he was a star wrestler. Like me, you might be wondering how a farm boy from a small town in Lancaster County PA ended up in Pawtucket Rhode Island. I found a clue in a 1914 Lehigh Yearbook. George was never meant to stay on the farm. Follow this link for the story of Shorty the “finest scrapper of us all”  George Herr 1 Lehigh yearbook 1914

Upon graduation, his Mechanical Engineering degree would take him to the center of the textile industry, where by age 24 he was employed at a Bleachery factory. During WWI he was employed by E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. in Hopewell, VA as a munitions worker. He would return to Rhode Island where he would resume working in the textile industry. By the time he married Mary Dickson in this mid-30’s, he appears to be prosperous enough to take his wife on a cruise aboard the Fort Victoria to Hamilton, Bermuda in September of 1926. By the 1940’s he was in a supervisory role at the Sayles Finishing Plants, Inc. of Lincoln RI.

There is much to be said about the Herr clan, but for now, I will just say it is a revelation that the first George Diller Herr found his way out of Pennsylvania, for he (along with his brother John) was the first to do so from his particular family branch. By doing so, they had left behind family land and a family legacy more than 200 years and 7 generations in the making. It was their father Henry Rufus Herr who started the ball rolling when he married Mary Diller. His marriage might not have been an easy decision, for he came from a long line of Swiss Mennonites, and the woman he married was a Reformed German Lutheran. With his marriage, he would likely have said goodbye to his entire family, who would not tolerate a marriage outside their faith. Based on the evidence of where his parents and siblings are buried, only Rufus and his brother John Ellsworth Herr are resting in non-Mennonite burial grounds. I need to dig a bit deeper, but the big revelation here is that the Herr family is not German, but Swiss (having come to the Colonies through Germany and England.) The Herr family received their land patent directly from the Penn family in about 1710, and they were among the earliest settlers of the area. The story of the Mennonites in Lancaster County PA , the Herrs and ancillary families, will be covered in Part 2 of this post. But for now we will switch to the Diller side of the story…to Mary Diller Herr’s father, and the eponym of her second son George Diller Herr (1).

Chip with his paternal great-grandparents at the Strasburg Cemetery...Rufus & his brother John (buried nearby) are the only members of their immediate family not buried in a Mennonite burial ground

Chip with his paternal great-grandparents at the Strasburg Cemetery…Rufus & his brother John (buried nearby) are the only members of their immediate family not buried in a Mennonite burial ground

Mary Diller Herr’s father, George Diller was born in 1827 into a distinguished family. When I started looking for “George Diller” in Lancaster County, PA, I found many of them. There appears to be at least one (and really multiples) in every generation of the Diller family. The earliest I found being born in 1777. That would make more than 200 years of George Dillers living in Pennsylvania. But the Diller name goes back even further in Pennsylvania, to Caspar Diller (1675-1775). A book written about the Diller family in the 19th century states that Caspar’s father, who was from Alsace France, was forced to leave his home due to the Catholic persecution of his Protestant views. It is believed he escaped to Holland sometime before 1700, where he became a shoemaker. Caspar found his way to England where he met his wife Barbara, but would be sent to Germany (perhaps by edict of the British Royalty) where several of his children were born. Philip Adam Dieler (1723-1777) was born near Heidelberg before the entire family would immigrate to the Pennsylvania Colony seeking religious freedom—arriving about 1733.

Chip kneeling between his 5th & 6x great-grandfathers. His 6x great-grandmother Maria Ellmaker is buried to the right of Philip and his 5x great-grandmother Salome Yundt is buried to the left of Adam

Chip kneeling between his 5th & 6x great-grandfathers. His 6x great-grandmother Maria Ellmaker is buried to the right of Philip and his 5x great-grandmother Salome Yundt is buried to the left of Adam

Diller might be an anglicized version of the French De-ller, pronounced De-lare. Philip chose to spell his name Dieler, while his son Adam (1746-1823)—who was born in Pennsylvania—utilized Diller. Whatever the spelling, the family appears to have acclimated quite well to their new country. Caspar was a farmer. His wife Barbara brought with her from Germany a graft of a pear tree which would become popular in the horticultural realm as the Diller Pear. Through the generations their offspring found jobs in politics, the military, and in the medical and legal professions. They worked as merchants, authors, and clergy. In religion the Diller family is split between German Reformed and Episcopalian. More than anything they seemed to be large landowners with a keen ability for matrimonial alliances. Through their marriages, the Diller family connected themselves to some of the most distinguished families of the time (rumors of connections to Washington & Madison among them.) Philip Diller married into the Ellmaker family, (father-in-law Leonard arrived from Prussia in 1726). His brother-in-law Nathaniel Ellmaker was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1796. His wife Maria Ellmaker’s nieces would become the preeminent citizens of Philadelphia, all marrying important men (interesting Civil War connections here…more on this later too!)

Philip & Maria’s son Adam (1746-1823) would marry Salome Yundt in 1769 and serve as a soldier of the Fifth Company, Eight Battalion in the Lancaster County Pennsylvania Militia, during the Revolutionary War. Adam’s nephew (through his brother Leonard) also named Adam Diller (1789-1823) would serve as the Adjutant-General of Pennsylvania and would also fight in the War of 1812 & the Mexican American War. (Dillerville PA would be named for General Diller.) But it is Adam (1746-1823) and his wife Salome who would produce the first George…naming their third son George Yundt Diller (1777-1842). At this point I am assuming that George was also a farmer, as his sons would be. Our line runs through Isaac (1804-1865) who appears in the U.S. Federal census as a farmer living in Salisbury Township, Gap Pennsylvania—but one of means—his wealth is listed in 1860 as $15K in real estate and $1500 in personal property, along with 2 house servants to cater to his 4 family members. Isaac’s brother George was also a farmer with land in nearby New Holland.

This George Diller farm in New Holland is likely the brother of our Isaac (1804-1865) and was right down Main Street from where his grandfather's were buried at Trinity Lutheran.

This George Diller farm in New Holland is likely the brother of our Isaac (1804-1865) and was right down Main Street from where his grandfather’s were buried at Trinity Lutheran. Found in a reproduction printing of a C.1900 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Lancaster County

Isaac and his wife Elizabeth would name their second son George (1823-1884). This George married Hannah Rutter. Hannah was descended from Conrad (Bucher) Rutter who arrived in Philadelphia on the ship “America” in 1683. The Rutter family initially settled in Francis Daniel Pastorius’ Germantown settlement in Philadelphia, but would purchase land in Leacock Township where they would remain for the next hundred and fifty years prior to Hannah’s birth. George and Hannah broke tradition with their farming roots and became “Hotel keepers” running hotels in Leacock, Salisbury Township, and Paradise Township. George & Hannah Diller were members of the Zeltenreich (German) Reformed Church in New Holland. Hannah gave birth to eight children, including one named George who died before the age of 2. Their fifth child Mary was born in 1866.

Zeltenreich Reformed Church in New Holland

Zeltenreich Reformed Church in New Holland

The Zeltenreich Cemetery is the resting place for many Dillers, including a fair number of George Dillers

The Zeltenreich Cemetery is the resting place for many Dillers, including a fair number of George Dillers

Chip with his 4x great-grandpatents: the first known George Diller born in 1777 buried next to his wife Mary Anna Eckert (1780-1852)

Chip with his 4x great-grandpatents: the first known George Diller born in 1777 buried next to his wife Mary Anna Eckert (1780-1852)

Chip's 2x great-grandparents George & Hannah (Rutter) Diller

Chip’s 2x great-grandparents George & Hannah (Rutter) Diller

The legacy of this George Diller- the Hotel Keeper- is one to be proud of..."An affectionate husband, A kind father and a friend to all"

The legacy of this George Diller- the Hotel Keeper- is one to be proud of…”An affectionate husband, A kind father and a friend to all”

I am still left with a number of questions. How and when did Rufus, who was raised in a closed Mennonite community, meet Mary Diller, the girl raised in local hotels? Was she the reason he left behind his Mennonite faith or did that happen before they met? Rufus was 31 when he married so he likely made his decision previously, but hopefully more research will provide some definitive answers. Several of Rufus’s cousins left the faith and made their way in the “English” world in a big way. Stay tuned for tales of a chocolate innovator, a brain left to science, and the answer to that pesky little question… “are you related to the potato chip Herrs?”

 Oh and my husband tells me he’s now contemplating adopting his given name for everyday use. No more Chip. You may now call him George.

Fourth of July fireworks on the Parkway in Philadelphia

 

Caveat (added 1-3-2014): Dear Reader- please note that I have received new information concerning some of what I have reported in this particular blog- specifically as it pertains to Henry Zartman’s homestead and the Zartman cemetery. I hope to clarify this information and go back to Dornsife to visit another cemetery where I am told Henry is buried. Until I am able to do a bit more research, please be aware that all the Zartman info is NOT 100% accurate. I will update this post sometime in the future. Thanks for your understanding. And please contact me if you have further insight! 

Original Post:

I live in Philadelphia…the self-proclaimed epicenter of all things Revolutionary…indeed, the place where our founding fathers and mothers first proclaimed their independence from the British. We take celebrating the 4th of July VERY seriously here… “Welcome America” we call our celebration…ten plus days of activities, concerts, parades, and fireworks. There’s really no better place to be, especially in Old City and Society Hill, where it is likely you will come across a costumed interpreter who will talk to you like it’s 1776. You can’t help but get “into the spirit” of it all.

This year however, celebrating American Independence became a bit more personal. As those of you who regularly read this blog are well aware, over the past few months I’ve discovered quite a number of ancestors—grandmothers and grandfathers—who resided in the American Colonies before 1776. In some cases, I have found several generations…so of course it goes without saying I would find family members involved in the Revolutionary War. When I first saw several family lines residing in Germantown Pennsylvania (now a neighborhood of Philadelphia) in the mid-1700’s, my immediate thought went to the Battle of Germantown. When you visit Grumblethorpe, the home of John Wister, in historic Germantown, you will be shown the blood stained floor in the front parlor. This is the exact place where General Agnew—the British officer who’d taken over the house from the Wister family—was taken to die of his war wounds. I wondered…had “my family” remained during this battle or had they left their homes like the Wister family did?

Beyond Philadelphia I’ve located ancestral family living in Central Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and New York State during this time period. I wish I’d had knowledge of this during my school years…I might have paid a bit closer attention when we were learning about the battles of the Revolutionary War. Despite my earlier lack of enthusiasm, I have been able, with relatively little effort, to locate nine “grandfathers” (5x and 6x) who fought in the American Revolutionary War and two who fought in the War of 1812. Luckily for me I have accessed most of this information through the digitized records of those relatives who have applied for membership into the Sons of the American Revolution or Daughters of the American Revolution. These records are easily found through a search on Ancestry.com. Additional records were accessed on specific websites, such as the one operated by Valley Forge.

Joseph McGuffin was a private First Battalion, 2nd Class of the Militia of Cumberland County, PA. He fought under the command of his father-in-law Robert Shannon (also a grandfather.) Jacob Teachout enlisted in the 3rd Regiment of Albany County, NY. (An interesting side note, Jacob’s original commander, Rudolphus Ritzema would actually change sides in the course of Revolution, escaping to Britain where he would live out the remainder of his life.) Jacob’s son Henry Teachout would fight in the War of 1812 as would my Maryland ancestor Captain W. H. Briscoe, a Naval Officer who served as a Chaplain from 1809-1815.

The most prestigious service appears to be that of Captain Andrew Wallace who would actually give his life for the cause on the 29th of May, 1780 at the Battle of Guildford (NC), commanded by Major General Nathanael Greene. Captain Wallace was a Company Commander in the 12th Virginia Regiment. He had served in Scott’s Brigade under Major General Marquis de Lafayette’s Division in Valley Forge. At some point his regiment was tasked with the defense of Philadelphia. I like to think about the fact that Captain Wallace would be protecting the Germantown family I mentioned earlier…this Virginia man would be protecting the Pennsylvania side of my family…which would ultimately connect several generations later in Nebraska with the 1935 marriage of my grandfather McGuffin to my grandmother Kaasch. Unbelievably, when Captain Wallace died at the Battle of Guilford he was 69 years old.

British Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis would leave Guilford and head to Yorktown, Virginia to face Major General George Washington. Also on his way to Yorktown was another grandfather, James Sims, who was serving his second tour of duty as an Orderly Sergeant in the Virginia Militia. According to his Survivors Pension Application, before his regiment reached Yorktown, Cornwallis had already surrendered to Washington.

Also serving in the Continental Army was my grandfather Jacob Zartman. Like Wallace, he was also in his sixties. He was a Private in the Pennsylvania Militia from Northumberland County, under Ensign Simon Harrold. Jacob’s son Henry also served. I haven’t yet confirmed it, but I am assuming he would have been part of the same Militia as his father. Henry had served on the Committee of Safety in 1774 and was a Representative from Mahonoy Township in 1777. Henry’s father-in-law, Jacob Hauser, served in the Pennsylvania Militia as well, but from Lancaster County (1778).

I previously detailed the story of Jacob Zartman and his son Henry in my post “You Have My Grandmother’s Eyes” back in May. When writing that particular post I stated that visiting the family homestead in Dornsife, Pennsylvania was on my “to do” list. Well, this past Friday I did just that. My husband and I were on our way to the Poconos to spend the weekend so I talked him into taking an extra long “scenic” drive on our way to our ultimate destination. Dornsife is located south of Sunbury, not far from the Susquehanna River. It’s a beautiful area which is still very rural…mostly farmland and mining country, with many Mennonite and Amish residents. It’s not a place you would ever “pass through” as it’s not on your way to any place in particular. At the time that Jacob Zartman purchased his original homestead in 1768 (having traveled up the Susquehanna River from his father’s homestead in Lancaster County), the area was considered the frontier, with nearby Sunbury featuring a fort for protection from the Native Americans.

My “cousin” Bill Zartman had sent me a picture of the Dornsife homestead, featuring a house he had informed me was still standing. Our mission last Friday was to locate that house, as well as to locate the “family” church said to have been built on that same land. I’m not sure how, but we managed to locate both after about an hour of trolling around the area. The house pictured in the photograph was built by Henry’s grandson Daniel in 1861. This was the same year that the church was built—sometimes referred to as Zartman’s Church—it is known in present times as St. Peter’s Evangelical and Reformed Lutheran Church. I am not directly descended from Daniel (but through Daniel’s uncle Samuel)…but still I knew if I could locate this house, I would be standing on Jacob’s land (and Henry’s land)…the land of my ancestors. And while my Zartman line would leave for Ohio (Henry’s son Samuel)…this parcel of land remained in the Zartman family for over 140 years. And it appears that while a number of Zartmans left, many remained in the area, purchasing land for additional farms and “ministering to the public good” as the family historian Rufus Zartman liked to say. Along with farming, the Zartmans were blacksmiths, weavers, and carpenters, who simultaneously held positions such as school director, justice of the peace, and township supervisor. They remained church-going folk who served as deacons and elders (especially at St. Peters). There was even a Zartman named Israel—a great-grandson of Henry—who served as the bell ringer at St. Peters for several years around 1870.

The Zartman family home near Dornsife PA

This is the house that Daniel built in 1861 on the land first owned by Jacob Zartman

The house that Daniel built… present day from behind

Daniel’s house, present day, street-side view

I wasn’t sure at first that this was the same house pictured in the vintage photo. I was looking for a house that was three stories. In the original photo you can tell that the house was built on a hill, but I had assumed that the photo featured the “front” of the house. Today, with the road running past the house on the opposite side, the “front door” is on the reverse side of home. This made me second guess myself. But then when I walked around to the back of the house, it was quite evident. The brick has been covered over by aluminum siding, a porch has been added and a third floor window removed…but all in all, the house is remarkably recognizable.

With the first, second and third generation owners of the property all deceased before Daniel built St. Peter’s Church across the road from his home, I presumed that they would not be buried in the cemetery that surrounds the church building. And indeed, early accounts of the family indicate that Jacob and his wife Anna Margaretha are buried in a “meadow west of the house.” Presumably “the house” would be the original log house Jacob built, which was still standing in a 1910 account of the property. Jacob died in about 1793, his son Henry died in 1803 and Henry’s son John Martin (the third owner) died in 1833. Henry’s will references “Henry’s Delight” which some have stated is the place he and his wife Elizabeth our buried. Various references to a “private burial ground” and indications of two cemeteries on the property, lead me to believe that these three generations are buried across the street from St. Peter’s cemetery. And while it is lovely to imagine these ancestors buried in a beautiful open meadow, it was also a bit disappointing to not be sure…to not have a headstone that stated… “here I am”… “here is where I rest in peace”…

“Henry’s Delight”… is this where the first three generation are buried?

Looking up from “Daniel’s house” toward St. Peter’s church and cemetery…”Henry’s Delight” (the meadow previously pictured) is just across the road from the church behind the white barn

Of course I found many, many, many Zartmans buried in the cemetery. But for all the headstones that provided great information, there were just as many headstones that were almost blank…the words worn away with the years. It was frustrating. And still I thought, maybe, just maybe I could locate Jacob or Henry in this cemetery. It was a blistering hot day…close to 100 degrees…but my husband and I kept walking up and down the rows looking at each name.

Many of the headstones are difficult to read…some are completely worn away

rows and rows of stones too difficult to decipher…

It was only after I returned home and spent time reviewing some of my notes that I came across a bit that family historian Rufus Zartman had written in his family book. About Jacob and Henry he wrote:

“Both served in the Revolution. The grave of neither was marked in any way. To us, this was unpatriotic, ungrateful, unbearable. Our appeal to the War Department in Washington brought us two properly engraved marble monuments which we erected, and at a public service unveiled and dedicated Sunday, 9/23/1934. The impressive service was attended by 150 people.”

He went on the compare these marble monuments to that of the one down at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville, Pennsylvania, (now called Brickerville United Lutheran Church) erected in honor of Jacob’s parents (Alexander and Anna Catherina). When I went back and looked through my photos I saw that there were two granite monuments…these might be what Rufus was referencing. I wonder if I hadn’t walked around to the other side that there might have been more information provided. Like I said, it was an impossibly hot day…my mind wasn’t working all that well.

this could possibly be one of the marble monuments erected in 1934 in honor of Jacob or Henry’s Revolutionary War service

Another granite monument…

Regardless of where the bodies of Jacob and son Henry actually reside, there is no question that their families were, and still are, proud of their Revolutionary War service. Which brings me back to Daniel’s home that he built on the property in 1861. When my husband and I were searching around for the house, we discovered a young man outside… turns out he’s a career army man, currently stationed in Dover, Delaware, who was home for the weekend to visit his family. He’d recently returned from this third tour of active duty…he’d served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He had no knowledge of the Zartman family, despite having grown up in the house. He did admit that as a young boy he would sometimes see a woman dressed in white walking through the house…(perhaps it was Daniel’s wife, one of the first inhabitants of the house?). But he wasn’t much interested in learning about my ancestors…until I told him the original owners of the land had fought in the Revolutionary War. I told him that Jacob and Henry would be happy to know that he was fighting for our freedom…that an American soldier still resided on their land more than 200 years after they had. It was nice to see a flag draped on the rocker on the front porch… in honor of all those soldiers past and present. Their legacy lives on.

My husband Chip shaking the hand of the army soldier who grew up in “Daniel’s house” on the Zartman homestead

An American flag is draped across a rocker on the front porch of “Daniel’s house” in Dornsife… a nice reminder of those who first owned the property

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