Johann Michael WHO?

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Johann Michael WHO?

By Bill Brobst, July 14, 1998

From the Fall 1998 Issue, Brobst Genealogy News

In 1732, three Probsts left their homeland in the Palatinate to emigrate to America. Philipp Jacob Probst (1692) with his wife C'erine and their three sons, his young unmarried brother Johann Michael (1701), and his young sister Elisabetha Margaretha (1703) with her husband Erhardt Vossellman, sailed on the ship "John and William" out of Rotterdam. They arrived in Philadelphia in October, just before the arrival of winter, with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Based on work done by early Brobst genealogists, it has been commonly believed that they remained in Philadelphia over the winter, gathering equipment and supplies. In the spring, they set out on a 50-mile journey northwestward through the wilderness on Indian trails for the Allemaengle — that area of land between what is now Allentown in Lehigh County and Pottsville in Schuylkill County. Arriving there in the spring, 1733, they built their log cabins and started their new lives in America.

Except Johann Michael. He continued on southwestward from the Allemaengle to what is now Lancaster where he married Anna Maria Keller on Christmas Day of 1733. He then returned to the Allemaengle where he too built his log cabin and started his new life with a wife.

Or did he? Perhaps he went to Lancaster directly from Philadelphia, got married, and then went to the Allemaengle? If so, why? Did he meet Anna Maria in Philadelphia, fall in love, follow her family to Lancaster, capture her, and take he back to where his family was? There were no Kellers on his ship, so he didn't meet her there. And surely he didn't strike out blindly for Lancaster hoping to find a wife he could take to the Allemaengle. Why did he leave his brother and sister, the only support structure he had, and set out alone in a new land, not knowing the language, not knowing the territory. Well, he probably travelled with a group of others, but still he had left the people he had relied on for his survival. Why?

Most of the people on his ship settled in the Allemaengle. How do we know that Johann Michael, 32 years old, didn't initially settle there with them?

The records of the Muddy Creek Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cocalico Township, Lancaster County, indicate that on December 25, 1733, one Johann Michael Probst married Anna Maria Keller, widow of Peter Keller. The service was conducted by Rev. Schumacher, according to one records, and by Rev. John Caspar Stoever by another. Whoever. In any case, the names of the married partners seem pretty definite. Or do they?

On August 17, 1733, the ship "Samuel" arrived in Philadelphia, carrying German settlers, including one Hans Michael Propst (1679), his wife Barbara (1681), his son Johann Michael (1712), and his daughter Barbara (1725). Indications are that they left immediately for Lancaster. It was still summer, with plenty of time to arrive in Lancaster before winter set in. Why did they go to Lancaster? Not known, but they may have gone with a group which already had connections there.

(It is noted that on some translations of the Ship's List for the 1933 "Samuel", the name is shown as Probst, rather than Propst.)

Sometime in 1733-1734, Johann Michael, who was just 21, married and started his family. The name of his wife has not been identified, but his first child, Philip, was born there in 1735. His wife apparently died in childbirth with their fourth child in July 1738, and he quickly married Maria Margaretha Corell on December 3, 1738, still in Lancaster. Sometime in the 1740s, he moved with his family from there to Augusta County, Virginia, which later became Pendleton County, West Virginia. There he founded Propstburg and one of three American families of Propsts. This family is documented in Appendix 4 of The Brobst Chronicles.

What was the name of his first wife? Therein lies the mystery of "Johann Michael Who"?

Before I continue, let me point out an anomaly of the spoken German language. The Germans do not vocalize the letter "b". It sounds just like a "p". In spoken German, the two letters are pronounced pretty much the same. That's how Probst became Brobst at the immigration desk in Philadelphia in 1732. Probst and Brobst and Propst and Bropst all sound pretty much the same in German.

In many early American records, the name Propst was spelled Probst. There were many more Probsts than Propsts, and perhaps it was felt that Propst was a misspelling of Probst. In other cases, Probst was spelled as Propts, or Probts, or Propt.

In one record of the marriage, Johann's name is spelled Johan; in another John. But was it Probst or Propst? Did Johann Michael Probst, brother of Philipp Jacob and Elisabetha Margaretha, marry Anna Maria Keller, or did Johan Michael Propst, son of Hans Michael and Barbara? Johan Michael Propst was already there in Lancaster at the time of the wedding. A most interesting coincidence. Or was it?

There were no Kellers on either the John and William or the Samuel. But there were many of them living in Lancaster County in the early 1700s.

Michael Probst Signature Sample One
Signature from: Strassburger, Ralph B. and Henke, William J., Pennsylvania German Pioneers, (Reprint 1966, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore),
Page 98, Ship Samuel, August 17, 1733, List 29 B.
Michael Probst Signature Sample 2
Signature from: Strassburger, Ralph B. and Henke, William J., Pennsylvania German Pioneers, (Reprint 1966, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore),
Page 102, Ship Samuel, August 17, 1733, List 29 C.

In examining a copy of the actual signatures of the immigrants, as published in one of the Palatine Immigrant books on file at the Berks County Genealogical Society, Johann Michael Propst signed his name — very clearly — Johann Michael Probst!! So the record of Anna Maria Keller's marriage to Johann Michael Probst could have been Johann Michael Propst. Was it?

I think so.

So who was the Anna Maria who married our Johann Michael Probst? Or was her name Anna Maria at all? If not, what was it?

Stay tuned!

This page was last updated on Monday, 21-Feb-2011 18:18:56 MST
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