Philip Jacob Brobst

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Philip Jacob Brobst

Written by Lewis W. Donat

From the Fall and Winter 1997 Issues, Brobst Genealogy News

It has been made known that, through the research of Alice Askew of Oklahoma; and that of Louis L. Monthaven of Burbank, CA, the Probst and Fusselman families came from the same village of Minfeld in Germany. Minfeld is a small German village located west-northwest of the city of Karlsruhe.

Philip Jacob Probst, who had come from a family of potters by trade, was also a potter. He had married Catherine and there is that possibility that his wife was French. It is shown that Philip and Catharine lived in Oberseebach at the birth of their first child. Oberseebach is not far removed from Minfeld, Germany; but it is located in Alsace, France. As a result, the four children born to Philip and Catharine, while at that location, were French citizens. The first child born to Phillipe Jacques Probst and his wife Catharine, was Jean Michael who was baptized on 28 Aug 1721. The second child was baptized Jean Valentine on 18 Feb 1724. The third child, Jean Martin, was baptized on 29 Dec 1726. On 8 Mar 1731 a daughter was baptized but no name was given. This must have been Anna Maria. The name Jean is French for the English name John, and the German name of Johannes. Jean is pronounced – Shawn.

Philip was probably unsatisfied with his lot in Oberseebach, as was his brother, Michael Probst, and his brother-in-law, Erhardt Vosselman, who was married to Philip’s sister, Elisabeth Margaretha. They being residents of Minfeld. A detailed account of the personal settlements made by Erhardt Vosselman before leaving Europe is to be found in the Askew history of the Fusselman Family. Though no knowledge of settlement for Philip and Michael is known, it can be judged that it was similar.

All of them boarded the same ship, the John and William, and arrived in Philadelphia, PA. The day after their arrival, on the 17th of October, 1732, the men were required to sign the required qualification papers. Erhardt Vosselman signed his name, however, Philip and Michael Brobst were listed as sick on board ship and did not sign. This appears in Ralph Strassbergers’ work "Pennsylvania German Pioneers", Vol. I, page 102.

It is evident that Philip Jacob and Michael Probst; and Erhardt Vosselman moved much more quickly than most to become established in a district that for a time was called Allemagnel, which today is Albany Township, Berks County, PA. Philip Jacobs’ warrant for two hundred acres of land plus 6% allowance for roads is dated 1 Aug 1734 which is but twenty one months from the time of their arrival in this country. This has been found to be most unusual.

Many years ago, I, the writer, had occasion to meet with Arthur Haas, a surveyor of note in the area for many years. He was asked whether he had any knowledge of the location of the Philip Jacob Probst tract to which he replied yes, there is a description of it in the Berks County PA N Deeds. (It must be inserted here that any survey of this tract prior to 1752 would appear in the records of Philadelphia County of which this land was part at that time. Any survey made after 1752, the year when Berks County was formed, would appear in the Recorder of Deeds Office in Reading, PA. It is a re-survey of this tract in 1760 to which Mr. Haas was referring.) Mr. Haas also stated that in making a plat of the description of this land he found that, as described, it would not close. At a later time I had the opportunity to see the Berks County Deeds, Vol. 2A, page 230 that there was, indeed, an error in the recording. I then re-platted this tract; and with the correction of the error, it then closed in all respects and joined, in-part, exactly with George Ritter’s tract on the West.


The tract, resembling huge trapezoid is located East of the village of Kempton, Berks County, PA, along what is locally known as the "Kistlers’ Valley Road". More specifically, a house located north of a bridge spanning the Kistlers Valley Creek in what years ago was regarded as the village of Fetherolfsville would be near the center of this tract.

This suggests that all three of them, Philip Jacob and Michael Probst and Erhardt Vosselman were skilled in the trades of masonry and carpentry. With all of this work in progress in this time period of the 1730s, this would account for the reason why Erhardt Vosselman did not acquire his own tract of land until 4 Oct 1738. There is a possibility that Hans David Bilman was another person to aid in the construction of the Brobst tract; for he had acquired land adjoining Erhardt Vosselman on the North of the warrant, too, dated 4 Oct 1738. Bilman arrived in this country on 16 September 1736. Certainly the sons of Philip Jacob Brobst were of but limited help during this time period for in 1734 his son Michael was but 13 years old, Valentine was 10, and Martin was 8. It was during this time period that two other daughters were born, Catharine and Dorothea. The exact birth dates are as yet unknown.

In addition to necessary housing and farm buildings that had to be constructed, a grist mill and a saw mill were built across the road from the house of Philip Jacob. This mill has long since disappeared but the foundation stones still exist at the site, though no longer visible because of later road improvements.

For a period of almost eight years, there was no attempt made to acquire more land. The building phase was completed, and the Brobst children were growing up. Suddenly, in 1742, there was a flurry of activity. A fifty acre tract of land was acquired about a mile distant from the plantation; a twenty five acres tract of land was acquired which adjoined the plantation on the western boundary; a seventy five acre tract of land was acquired which adjoined the plantation partially on the northern boundary and all of the eastern boundary. All of these separate tracts were acquired by warrants on the same day, the 23rd of March, 1742. What was going on?

There can be no doubt that on occasion during those years the Probst boys would climb to the crest of what is today know as Schochary Ridge, adjacent to, and north of the Probst tract. What they saw from that vantage point one mile distant from where they lived, they found very exciting, particularly, Michael.

Coursing toward them from the North was a sizable stream of water. This stream of water as it approaches the ridge is flowing in Northhampton County (Now Lehigh) and is known as the Ontelaunee Creek. At the ridge it crossed the county line. Now flowing in Berks County, it is now known as Maiden Creek. This stream in colliding with the steep sloped ridge was forced to turn at a right angle to the right and flow along the foot of the ridge for several hundred feet. There it would meet a solid rock wall which was a gap in the ridge allowing the water to pass through and continue its way southward. However, the water hitting this was forced it to turn almost 180° where it would then continue to the foot of the ridge opposite than turn South and continue its flow, no longer impeded. It was the 180° turn that was exciting. Here was a perfect spot to place a grist mill. The water was already captive, and all of it would be available to turn a sizable water wheel. What’s more, that tract through which the stream passed was not yet spoken for and lay vacant. This begs the question why this land was not taken up immediately, for at a later time Michael was to be the owner of it. Is it possible that Philip Jacob Probst and his wife were already dead and all of the land in his possession was now in estate? Further, was it only a question of time until Michael, as the eldest son and heir at law, would gain his mature age and competency to act?

Then something happened. Casper Follweiler, when traveling through that area, saw exactly what Michael Probst and his brothers saw as an excellent mill site. Casper did not hesitate, for on the 23rd of February, 1742, he applied for and received a warrant for a tract of land containing 99 acres and some perches. This was to include the 180° bend in the stream. It was exactly thirty days later that on a warrant to Philip Probst, a 50 acres tract of land was acquired which adjoined that of Casper Follweiler. This tract, while not including the seemingly coveted 180° reverse of stream, did include all the stream along the base of the ridge.

There was a lot more involved than just a simple warrant to Philip Jacob for 50 acres of land. To see what was involved, it is necessary to look at the original tract of 200 acres. As stated before this tract was shaped like a trapezoid with the diagonal line apexing with the base line on the left side. About half of the diagonal line adjoined the tract of George Ritter, with the other half of that line being adjoined by vacant land on the West. There was also vacant land to the North and East. They, apparently, were not in position to acquire all of that vacant land and acquire, too, and additional 50 acres felt necessary for a new grist mill some distance from the original plantation. The 50 acres was acquired. What was done was this. A warrant or warrants were obtained bearing the date of March 23, 1742, and in favor of the estate of Philip Jacob Brobst. It is curious to note that this date is exactly 30 days after Casper Follweiler had acquired the warrant for his land. The word "Estate" is underlined because there is the possibility that Philip Jacob Brobst was already dead at this date.

Although the date of death of Philip Jacob Brobst and his wife, Catharine is unknown; it should be remembered that his son Martin died at the age of 39. Son Michael died at the age of 49 and valentine died at the age of 55. Another thing to consider in this regard is that when a formal survey was made of "the great road from Catawissey to Philadelphia", which passed the mill, in March of 1754; the mill was identified as "Martin Brobst’s Mill" rather implying that it was, already, so identified for a considerable period of time. Martin Brobst at this time was 28 years old.

The 50 acres for the new mill was acquired. Along the Northern line of the original Probst tract it was desired that a tract be acquired stretching from the northern line to a neighboring tract in the possession of John Holder; thereby sealing off, at that point, the land to the north which then the sons of Philip Jacob could acquire at a time of their own choosing. Since it was supposedly illegal to land lock vacant land, we shall now see how that was overcome. At a point where the diagonal line left the George Ritter tract there was, and still is, a roadway. Along this roadway was a tract of land owned by Henry Ritter, son of George, the eastern line of which extended to a swale on vacant land. The solution was to acquire a 25 acre tract of land along the diagonal of the Probst tract to be surveyed in such a way that this tract would extend westward toward a tract of land acquired by Henry Ritter, son of George Ritter, but would stop short of adjoining it at the swale on the vacant land. In fact it stopped 66 feet short. This had the effect of complying with the law and it could be said that this 66 foot gap between lines rendered all vacant land to the North as accessible.

Was it Philip Jacob Probst who engineered all of this on such short notice? Was there a role played by Erhardt Vosselman in all of this on behalf of his nephew, Michael Probst, who was not yet 21 years of age?

What ever the answer, construction was begun immediately on the "New" grist and saw mill; and, when it was built, it belonged to Michael Probst. Casper Follweiler, thus thwarted, was to sell his land to Michael in 1749. A mill wheel was to turn at that location for the next 170 years. For later reference, I suggest to the reader that the words "new grist mill" be kept in mind.

At a much later time, another grist mill had been built about a mile upstream, boasting of modern milling equipment in the 1870s; and, of course, milling at Probsts’ had to five way, but the saw mill was to continue to operate until 1915 when the owner at that time, Charles Lenhart, accidentally got his hand in the saw, resulting in the crippling of his hand for the rest of his life.

This page was last updated on Monday, 21-Feb-2011 18:19:00 MST
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