Chapter Three - The Struggles of the Settlers - The Brobst Chronicles

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Index and Table of Contents to The Brobst Chronicles
Title Page
Chapter One - The Early Swiss/German Probsts
Chapter Two - The History Of The German Immigration To America
Chapter Three - The Struggles of the Settlers
Chapter Four - The Early American Pennsylvania Brobsts
Chapter Five - Children of Philipp Jacob Probst
Chapter Six - The Other Children of Philipp Jacob Probst
Chapter Seven: The Other Children of Christophel Probst
Chapter Eight: Other Interesting Brobstology Intermarriages

Chapter III


The Pfälzische Probst family emigrated from Germany to America in 1732, well after the German emigration movement had started, and moved into what was then referred to as the "Allemäengle" region of eastern Pennsylvania. The root word for Allemäengle is the word for the southwestern district of Germany: "Allemagne" (French) or "Allemaine" (German). This area of Pennsylvania, lying in the general area between today's Allentown, Pottsville, and Reading, had been first explored by the Dutch. Soon after that, Swedish settlers landed and built some small villages near what is now Philadelphia. In 1664, the English acquired control of this entire region.

(Note: "Allemäengle" is, according to some sources, German for "a land wanting in fertility of soil"1; just what the settlers didn't need! Actually, the land of the Pennsylvania Allemäengle was wonderfully fertile in those days, just as it is today. In modern Pennsylvania farming, with the use of chemical fertilizers, power machinery, and modern land use methods, even higher yields are realized.)

Few had gone before them; it was a wild region still occupied by hostile Indians. The Allemäengle included what is now Berks County and Lynn and Weisenberg Townships of Lehigh County. The Allemaengle is about fifty miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia. The district lacked roads, horses, cattle, wagons, agricultural implements, grain, and protection against the Indians.

Those early settlers faced terrible adversity. In order to survive in this wilderness, the Germans had to live up to their reputation as being stolid, strong, obstinate, stubborn, and courageous. But there were others as well: English, Scandinavian, Dutch, and many others. Once they cleared the medical inspection and pledged allegiance to the King of England, they had to buy horses, wagons, provisions, find out about routes and hazards along the way, probably had to hire some kind of guide, and probably had to travel in at least small wagon trains to try to protect themselves against Indian attacks. Then they had to travel into southeastern Pennsylvania by wagon and foot over unpaved roads/trails/riverbeds, not having much of an idea at all about what dangers might face them during the journey. There were no trains or steamships in those days along their path, so they had to rely on wagons and their feet. When they had to cross large rivers, there may have been a ferry they could use, but the small rivers they had to ford with their wagons.2 Somewhere along the way they had to buy their livestock -- cattle, pigs, chickens, goats, and take them along with them on their journey.

"While still in Philadelphia, the settlers had to arrange for their land warrant. Those warrants were a source of much misunderstanding, for the settlers had earlier understood them as being title to their land, and didn't realize that later they had to pay for them! After they received their warrant, the pioneers purchased a wagon and team, or a few pack horses or mules, or even oxen, loaded their worldly goods, and set out for the Allemäengle. To get there, they had to cross a barren, swampy wasteland of scrub oaks called Long Swamp, then through the Rittenhouse Gap in the South Mountain, northward to the Schochary Hills. They traveled the tops of the ridges because the valleys were full of vines, mosquitoes, and swamp fever. Arriving at their warrant, they set up a camp-site, usually a small lean-to, at a spring near the protected land of a low valley. Sometimes the wagon was the only shelter for the first several months until a cabin could be constructed."3

Land was measured in acres and "perches". The exact length of a perch varied from 16½ feet to 24 feet, depending on the reference used. Land was surveyed using stones, trees, creeks, and even bushes as references, leading to uncertainty as to the exact boundaries of the property!

One can only imagine the dismay and disappointment of the German settlers when they completed their journey up the rivers and creeks, only to run into both a solid wall of forest and the Schochary and Blue Mountain Ridges of the Kittatinny Mountains. On their arrival in what is now Berks and Lehigh Counties, they had to clear land for crops, cut trees for log cabins and firewood, build the cabins and barns, find springs for water, and fend off irritated Indians. Winters were cold and heating was primitive, summers were hot and cabins poorly ventilated. No running water, no electricity, no air conditioning, no telephone, no paved roads, no school buses, no department store to buy clothes. Only the hardy survived, and most of the weak succumbed. The area of Berks County in which they settled is called "Stony Run" today; the name is not a coincidence. The settlers not only had to clear trees, but many hundreds of large boulders as well.

"The Triumph of the Human Spirit" (Slogan of the World Paralympic Games)

Arriving at their land warrant, they would set up a campsite, usually a small lean-to, at a spring near the protected head of a low valley. Sometimes the wagon was the only shelter for the first several months until a cabin could be built. Some of the first settlers had to resort to caves and dug-outs for their first shelter. Built into an embankment, with earth on three sides, some lined with timber, the shelter usually had a crude chimney and a simple arrangement for fire built into the side or back. Poles were laid across the top and covered with boughs, leaves, bark, grasses, or sod. Others were sheltered in improvised huts or various kinds of covered wagons.

In 1759, a project was undertaken to build a road from Fort Henry (near Reading) to Fort Augusta (in Sunbury). The committee report said the road would cost about 1000 Pounds, a great sum back then. The committee recommended the new road be built directly from Reading to Sunbury, due to the mountainous terrain of the territory (Tuscarora and Kittatinny Mountains, known as the Blue Mountains). This road was likely the old Sunbury Road or the Tulphehocken Path, now Route 61.

For a description of the manners and customs of the German settlers, readers are referred to an excellent book about Mathias Probst by Carolyn Price4. Colonial American ancestors dressed in plain practical clothing. The men wore heavy buckled shoes or moccasins, knee pants and long stockings, a pullover shirt, a vest or jacket, and either a three-cornered hat or a coonskin hat. The women wore dresses with long sleeves, collars that buttoned up to the neck, skirts that came within a half-inch of the ground, and either a sunbonnet for outside or a white cotton cap for indoors.

The log cabins in which the settlers lived provided only marginal shelter from the elements. Wind whistled through the chinks in the grouting between the logs. Rain leaked through the roof. There were no insulated walls to keep out the cold, although the logs served as insulation. Snow blew through the cracks around the doors and windows. They must have been very cold all winter long. The accompanying photo shows Mary Ann Brobst Stauffer (1837-1920) in 1920, shortly before she died. Mary Ann was a great-granddaughter of "Jurg" Probst (1740-1795).

The thick forests were inhabited by deer, bear, raccoon, and Indians. There was a lot of game to be had, but the real game was to get the game before the Indians played their game. The beautiful fall colors did little to offset the apprehension of the impending cold and harsh winter: no central heat, the wind whistling through cracks in the walls, cold children huddled around the wood stove in the morning to dress. Except for the very youngest children, families in the colonies worked together.

Because many hands were needed to keep up with the work, families were large. The men and boys farmed and hunted, and the women and girls tended livestock, prepared food, baked bread, and spun, wove, and made clothes for the entire family. The smaller children shelled peas, shucked corn, gathered firewood, and drew water from the well.

In those early days in the 1700s, most children in farm families were born on the farm in the mother's bed. They were then taken a few weeks or months later to the family church for baptism. Many early Brobst children were born in Lynn Township, Northampton (now Lehigh) County, but taken to the Jerusalem Church in Albany Township, Berks County for baptism. The child's birth was then recorded in the church, thereby causing confusion as to the actual birthplace!

There were certain family protocols that were strictly followed. The eldest son was expected to take over the family farm after the father died or chose to step back. Children married in their birth order. Babies were named according to a specific pattern (see Appendix 3 of this report). Boys worked the farms and forests, girls worked the wells and the household. There were few or even no schools, so teaching was done at home, either by the mother or by an older daughter; most of the German families were illiterate in the early 1700s.

It is noted that well over half of the deaths of those early settlers occurred in the months of January through March, attesting to the severity of the winters. It is also noted that the preponderance of births occurred in the months of August through November, attesting to the relatively increased level of snuggling during the cold winter months!

It must also be noted the high incidence of the births of the first children taking much less than nine months. There were a lot of shotgun weddings in those days, but many of these were caused only by the lack of a local minister. Couples would have to wait sometimes for months for a traveling minister to marry them. There were no civil authorities there in the early 1700s entitled to perform marriage ceremonies.

The settlers may well have thought from time to time that they would have been better off staying in Germany. William Penn died in 1718, before they arrived. That may have been fortunate for him, for the settlers may well have felt he betrayed them, since he extolled the virtues of the new land of Pennsylvania, but probably forgot to tell them how rugged and wild the country was. And he may have conveniently forgotten to warn them about the Indians!

For all his faults, Penn, more than any other man, opened up the "western" frontiers of the New World to settlement by the Europeans. He also founded the most humane legal code in the American colonies. As Penn intended, Pennsylvania flourished as a haven for oppressed religious minorities from Europe. As Pennsylvania grew, so did political strife. In 1712, Penn became so tired of disputes between Pennsylvania's leaders that he threatened to return the Colony to direct rule by the British Crown. By the mid-1700s, Pennsylvania had become the wealthiest and most populous English colony.

It was about this time that the Moravians tried to move in on the Berks County German Lutherans. They attempted to convert the Lutherans to the Moravian outlook on religion, which had been founded in Saxony in 1722 by Hussite emigrants from Moravia (in Czechoslovakia). In 1741, the Moravians settled Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and spread out from there. The German Lutherans responded with political and religious aggression by Rev. Melchoir Mühlenberg, and successfully resisted the Moravian movement. Rev. Mühlenberg was the moving force behind the establishment of the Jerusalem Church in Stony Run, Albany Township, Berks County. (See Appendix 5 on the Jerusalem Church.)

A note here on women's rights in the colonial days. The laws of colonial society gave few legal rights to women, perpetuating the European view of women as dependent on men. Though a single woman could run a business, pay or collect wages, sign deeds, or enter into a legal contract, a married woman could not. Her husband owned all the family property, which even included his wife's clothing! A married woman was not responsible for her own debts, and could not sue or be sued. If she worked, her wages were given directly to her husband. She could not dispose of her property upon her husband's death; an administrator had to be assigned by the court. If divorced (rare), her husband would normally acquire custody of any children.5 They could not enter universities, law schools, or medical schools. They could not serve on juries, and they could not vote. Professions open to them were few -- domestic drudgery, factory work, teaching, prostitution, and, for the exceptional few, writing. Men were allowed all sorts of sexual license, but a woman who committed adultery was subject to a jail sentence. They just did not count as legal entities, only as baby factories and homemakers!


The European immigrants were not the first settlers of southeastern Pennsylvania. The peaceful southern and western Pennsylvania Algonquian Indians descended from the original Lenni Lenape family which emigrated from western American and Canada to the east 12,000 years ago. In the early 1600s, they were referred to by the Europeans as the Delaware tribe, part of the Algonquian Nation.

The other Indian nation, with a different language than the Delawares, were the more warlike Iroquois who ruled northern Pennsylvania; they were the Shawnees and the Susquehannocks. ("Susquehanock" is an Indian name meaning "long crooked river".) Other Indians in that area besides the Algonquians and Iroquois were members of the Wyandot, Mningos, and Mohican tribes. In both the Algonquin and Iroquois nations, the dominant rulers were women!

The Indian culture was that of the late stages of the Stone Age, primarily agricultural. There were no livestock; they did not use horses or oxen -- they had not yet discovered the wheel! The hallmark of an advanced civilization -- a written language -- had not yet been developed. Although they potted, worked leather, and wove, they were acquainted with only the primitive uses of metals. European tools, implements, and utensils were understood by the Indians and recognized as superior to their own metalwares. The formerly autonomous Indians became dependent on the intruders. They had no formal government of their own, and did not understand how the European governmental system operated; this was to cause many problems.

The local Indian tribes were generally peaceful until they were overrun by the Iroquois in about 1677 which left them paranoid about intruders. It is estimated6 that there were 15,000 Indians in Pennsylvania in 1730. By 1790, the numbers had dwindled to perhaps 1300. Some were killed or driven off by the settlers, but thousands succumbed to the smallpox, brought to America with the settlers.

The Indians were skillful farmers who grew corn, beans, peas, pumpkins, and squash, and who raised sunflowers for meal and oil. They made use of wild vegetables as well, such as a kind of potato, onions, roots similar to yams, and a wealth of nuts. Fruits included grapes, mulberries, crabapples, persimmons, and berries. Corn was the basic food, planted and eaten together with legumes. Permanent farming communities were not at all unusual, many with several hundred acres planted in corn. Meat and fish were plentiful. Understandably, they were upset with the intrusion of the settlers.

They had their own system of highways -- animal trails (none of them straight, of course) marked with various markers, leading from one village to another. Hundreds of years later, one such trail became a road leading through the village of Buck's Horn, later called Buckhorn, just northwest of Bloomsburg in Columbia County. The area was named after an Indian trail marker -- the horn of a buck deer placed in the crotch of a tree. The horn had long since disappeared by the time the settlers arrived, but the Indians told them about it. It was only a legend for many years, until a lightning bolt split the tree open in front of the hotel around 1900, and the weathered buck horn was exposed!7,8

At first, the Indians, observing the initial European attempts at survival in an environment in which the Indians easily survived, condescended to save the settlers from starvation. The Indians were hospitable; they provided food, helped to build fish traps, and showed the settlers how to plant crops. Europeans, likewise certain of the superiority of their own way of life, responded to the Indian aid by increasing their colonies, changing the face of the landscape, depleting its natural resources, and always moving westward, pushing out the Indians. Unfortunately, the settlers took advantage of the Indians, and trouble started.9

From the time that the first white man took a pot shot at a prowling Indian, there were "raiders in the valley". Naturally, the Indian resented the white man in his domain. The pioneer, working in his clearing, always had his rifle with him. Many a cabin door had the marks of a tomahawk or war club.

In opening up those lands to settlement, William Penn had insisted, somewhat unsuccessfully, that no settlement could take place on any lands until they were properly purchased from the Indians. Penn wanted to avoid war between the Indians and settlers. He was essentially kind and paternalistic, and wanted to deal with the Indians in that spirit. In "Certain Conditions and Concessions" (1681), he dictated a careful regulation of trade for the Indian protection as well as a policy of equal rights and privileges before the law (of course, this would be English law!).10

Penn's colonial diplomat to the Indians, Conrad Weiser of Tulphehocken, himself a German immigrant, was respected by the Indians as a fair bargainer. He lived for ten years with Indians as a youth and learned their language and culture. They named him for one of the gods in their pantheon. But, although he single-handedly prevented many major skirmishes between Indians and settlers, he was only one reasoned voice in a growing turmoil and conflict. It is noted that he was the father-in-law of Rev. Henry Melchoir Mühlenberg, founder of the Jerusalem Church in Berks County and of Mühlenberg College in Allentown, PA. Weiser also opened the first store in Reading, Berks County, PA.

Almost from the beginning there were practical problems. To the Indians, the treaties meant that the Europeans were invited to share their hunting grounds. The Europeans, of course, understood something much more exclusive in land ownership, and insisted that the Indians vacate the purchased tracts entirely. The Indian nations were decentralized, so several tribes hunted on the same land, causing great confusion among the settlers. In some cases, several different chiefs had to be paid for a certain piece of land.

"I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from the Indians. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves." (John Wayne)

The Walking Purchase

"This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land; This Land Belongs to You and Me." (Arlo Guthrie)

One of the greatest land rip-offs of the Indians occurred in 1737. The Indians had agreed to sell to the settlers, for a stipulated price, a strip of land in the Delaware Valley. The Indians understood that the land would be along the river, on either side of it, and as far up-river as a man could walk in a day and a half of sunlight (about 18 hours). This was referred to as the "Walking Purchase." For the Indians, this meant about 40 miles at the most, and they thought that a settler couldn't walk as far through the thicket as an Indian could.

To the Indians' surprise, the settlers, led by Thomas Penn (William's son), got together a group of men known for their expert hiking ability, and planned to have them all walk as fast as they could (or run?) at their best pace for the allotted 18 hours, and then use the distance covered by the "furtherest" walker as the purchase area.

The walk started in Wrightstown, south of Allentown. A runner named Charlie, known for his big feet and great endurance, covered a distance of 65½ miles! He started up the Delaware Valley, along the route agreed on, and, to the Indian's dismay, when he reached about 20 miles, he swerved to the northwest along the Lehigh River Valley. He finished his "walk" in an area of the Poconos called "Mauch Chunk", meaning "Home of the Mountain Bear" in Iroquois. (Mauch Chunk is now the town of Jim Thorpe.)

Then the settlers claimed all that land. This devious tactic by the settlers netted them over 12,000 acres, probably more than ten times as much land as the Indians expected to sell to them!

The Indians protested about this abuse of their venerated custom, of course, but to no avail. The settlers had the upper hand. The Indians later expressed their wrath in the form of additional scalps taken, but they still lost their land. So it was a monumental feat on monumental feet. However, in 1758, Thomas Penn gave over the northern part of the purchase to the Iroquois, and four years later compensated the Delaware for the southern portion by a payment of £400.11

(Note: The village named "Jim Thorpe" is located there now, named after a famous latter-day Indian! When I took the picture of the sign, I felt a small bristling of hair on the back of my neck from the faint thought that a tomahawk might be headed my way and my scalp be added to the total!)

According to one record12, after the "Walking Purchase" of 1736, there were many happenings which showed the growing hatred between the settlers and the Indians. By 1754 the Indians and the French from Canada decided to drive the English and German settlers from this area; this led to the French and Indian War which lasted until 1763. This war itself was fought mostly in western Pennsylvania, and along Lakes Erie and Ontario and the St. Lawrence Seaway. There was little direct involvement by the British and French with the Brobsts of Berks County. But the Indians were certainly stirred up throughout the area.

Indian Attacks

The Pennsylvania history books are full of stories about the terrible battles between the Indians and the settlers. Only a few of them are included in this book.

All the settlers lived in fear of sudden attacks by the Indians. The strongest homes were chosen for places of refuge. The Indians engaged in a guerrilla-type of warfare with which the Germans had no experience or understanding. The settlers built their hamlets in the style they had in Germany. Their cabins provided little protection against the Indian attacks, and so they built forts from which they could defend themselves. Fort Everett near Lynnville in Lynn Township and Fort Augusta in Northumberland were two examples of such forts.

There were many small but terrible raids on the little settlements. In 1755, a Captain Wetherhold, who was in command of Fort Everett13 in what is now Lynnport, asked the men of the settlements to work together to protect their families and homes. He reported that in that year, in Albany (Berks) Township and Lynn and Heidelberg (Lehigh) Townships, 56 persons were killed by the Indians and 10 taken prisoner. Most of the prisoners would probably have preferred to have been killed in the attacks, considering their treatment by their captors.

In 1742, a treaty was signed in Philadelphia between the colonists and the six ruling Iroquois nations. In 1744, a second treaty was signed in Lancaster. This reduced the conflict for about ten years. Then things exploded again, and reached a peak in the mid-1750s.

During the French and Indian War, which began in 1754, the Indians made an attack upon a family living near what is now Lynnport. In that war, an entire colony of Amish settlers in northern Berks County was wiped out by the Iroquois. One document14 relates that one family saved itself by throwing live coals from the bake-oven at the savages.

Not all Indians were unfriendly, and there are stories of some unusual relationships. Dean Cunfer tells of a story that one young settler, plowing his cleared field, drew closer to the forest each day. A young Indian watched him and one day when the settler was close to the trees, the Indian rushed out of the forest to engage him. They grappled for some time, but the Indian got the best of the fight. He tied the settler to a tree, and took his bow and arrow as though to shoot him. As he pulled back on his bow, the settler cried out, "Schuss nicht, schuss nicht!!" ("Shoot not, shoot not!!") The Indian eased up on his draw, threw the bow and arrow to the ground, ran to the man and said "Kanst du Deutsch sprechen?" ("Can you speak German?") Evidently the Indian discriminated against other nationalities!

In 1755, bands of Ohio Indians had massacred settlers in the Tulphehocken and Forks of Delaware regions. This led to the formation of militias by the settlers. Those militias clashed politically with the Quakers who just wanted to keep the peace with the Indians, but unfortunately the Quaker policies only encouraged the Indians to try to retake some of their territory. The desperate attempts at peace led the colonists to strike out against renegade groups of settlers who were attacking Indians. In 1763, a regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia defeated the Paxton Boys, a settler group who busied themselves massacring Indians in western Pennsylvania.

The immigrant (Jean) Valentine Probst wrote to his father-in-law, Jacob Levan, about the terrible Indian raid of February 7, 1756, which occurred near the foot of Hawk Mountain at Eckville (where now stands the Bolich Church in Old Rosenthal)15:

"I cannot omit writing about the dreadful circumstances of our Township, Albany. The Indians came yesterday morning, about 8:00 o'clock, to Frederick Reichelderfer's house. As he was feeding his horses, two Indians ran upon him, and followed him into the field 10 or 12 perches [a perch is equal to 5½ yards] behind; but he escaped and ran toward Jacob Gerhart's house, with a design to fetch arms. When he came nearer Gerhart's, he heard a lamentable cry `Lord Jesus, Lord Jesus', which made him run back towards his own house, but before he got quite home, he saw his house and stables in flames; and heard all the cattle bellowing, and thereupon he ran away again. Two of his children were shot, one of them was found dead in his field, the other was found alive (and brought to Hagenbuch's house) but died three hours after. All his grain and cattle were burnt up. At Jacob Gerhart's they had killed one man, two women, and six children. Two children slipped under the bed; one of which was burned; the other escaped and ran a mile to get to people. We desire help, or we must leave our homes."

But, by the time assistance came, the Indians had made their escape. The only survivor was believed to be 12-year-old Jacob Gerhart, Jr., who had jumped out a window after having his hair burned off. Another account16 stated that after Gerhart had been shot by the Indians, the family knew that they had no chance to survive, and chose to burn to death rather than to be captured and then tortured and killed by the Indians. Frederick Reichelderfer died three years after the Indian attack, in 1759. Jacob Gerhart, Jr., moved into Schaumbach's Tavern, near what is now the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

Valentine's letter17 to Jacob Levan continues:

"On the 24th of March [1756], following, ten wagons went to Allemaengel, to bring a family, with their effects, away; and as they were returning, about three miles below one George Zeisloff's, they were fired upon by a number of Indians from both sides of the road, upon which the wagoners left their wagons and ran into the woods, and the horses, frightened at the firing and terrible yelling of the Indians, ran down a hill, and broke one of the wagons to pieces. The enemy killed George Zeisloff and his wife, a young man of twenty, a boy of twelve, also a girl of fourteen years old, four of whom they scalped."

The Centennial History Book of Kempton, PA, describes another Indian attack:

"On the farm now owned by John Turn, there lived a family by the name of George Schissler. With them lived a brother Conrad Schissler. These people had erected a dwelling about the time of 1738, after the fashion of those early colonial days, and were enjoying themselves and living by the fruits of their labor. One day while the men were away from the house, a party of Indians appeared. Mrs. Schissler was engaged in baking bread. The Indians took advantage of this, heated a liberal amount of dough, opened her abdomen and poured the heated dough into her body, leaving her lying, and next satisfied themselves by burning down the cabin and escaped before the men arrived. This woman was still alive when the men returned but soon expired."

Captain Wetherhold, in his report for 1757, listed 56 people killed and ten more taken prisoner, including George Zeisloff, John Eckroth, Adam Drumm, and Abraham Sechler's wife; those names are interwoven in that early Brobst history.

As late as 1763, there was still serious trouble, and more was to come. A group of settlers from Connecticut had moved into the Delaware Valley in Northampton County.

"At noon on October 14, when the men from Connecticut were working in the fields of the valley they had claimed as their rightful abode, the Delawares descended suddenly upon them with revenge in their hearts, and in the attack thirty of the settlers were killed. Immediately consternation spread in all the vicinity. Men, women and children fled to the mountains, from coigns of vantage in which they saw their homes plundered and burned and their portable property and cattle taken away."18

Also in 1763, Philip Martzloff, a former provincial lieutenant and assistant to Negotiator Conrad Weiser, petitioned the Pennsylvania Assembly for financial and material relief, stating:

".... the Petitioner lately dwelt at the Foot of the Blue Mountain, on the North Side, in the County aforesaid [Berks], where he had, with great industry, made a small Plantation; that on the Tenth Instant, while the Petitioner was abroad, five Indians came to his House, and cruelly murdered and scalped his Wife, two Sons and three Daughters, burned the house, barns, etc., with all his Corn and Hay, and every valuable Thing belonging to him, whereby himself, and one Daughter, who alone escaped from his House by Flight, by running and secreting herself in a thicket, are reduced to extreme Distress ...."

A book on the history of the Fürst family19 of Pennsylvania tells of one Indian attack in Northumberland County on the farm of young George and Maria Barbara (Schaeffer) Fürst, g'g'g'g'grandparents of the author of this book, William A. Brobst:

"During the late 1700s, Indians came by the George Fürst farm occasionally, but there was no trouble. The Indians were hunters or scouts, and never came into or even very near to a white man's house unless invited. This rule was well known and strictly observed. If you ever let an Indian intimidate you or push into your house, or even in your yard, you never again had security or safety. As a matter of fact you were likely to be soon murdered or scalped. Barbara Fürst knew all this. Her husband, George, had covered these matters frequently with her, and had trained her in the use of his flintlock rifle. It was always loaded and hanging above the door. One hot July morning, in their second year on the farm, George was working in the corn field 200 yards south of the house. Two Indians came out of the woods about 60 yards north of the house, and stood looking at Grandmother Barbara working on the back porch. She stepped out and ordered them away by word and gesture, as they seemed to be drunk. The Redskins didn't know they were facing a resolute and determined person of skill, and continued their approach to the house, doubtless to steal food or equipment. Barbara grabbed the rifle from above the door and stepped to the edge of the porch, at the same time calling to George and ordering the Indians to halt. The larger of the two Indians said something to his smaller and older companion who loosened a knife in his belt and shuffled on. One more step was all he ever took. Barbara didn't even raise the rifle to her shoulder, but fired from the hip, hitting Mr. Redskin in the chest. A puff of dust came off his dirty garment as the bullet hit him, and he pitched forward on his face. The other Indian took to his heels as George burst upon the scene. When George reached Barbara's side, she assured him that she was all right. He then stepped over to the Indian who was lying dead only a few feet from the porch steps. Judging from the smell, he had been drinking heavily. Nothing further ever came of this incident and life soon returned to normal. It remained so for some twenty years."

There is an unverified story, documented in the author's family history, that 16-year-old Christian Fürst, with his father (Hans, an immigrant from Uri, Switzerland), mother (name unknown), brother (Johann Peter) and sisters, was at a family reunion near Mt. Shawaungaunk in Pennsylvania around 1773, just sitting down to dinner. There was an Iroquois Indian attack, and Christian escaped and survived; he returned to the scene to find his family killed and scalped. He went on to become a fierce Indian fighter, putting a notch in his gun for each Indian he killed! He was a tough youth; a couple of years earlier he had been attacked by a panther, resulting in a dead panther but many ugly scars down Christian's back.

In many cases, the settlers fought back, although it was illegal for the settlers to mount an offensive attack against the Indians. In one famous case, on January 10, 1768, six Indians visited the home/tavern of Frederick Stump in Penn Township, Cumberland County, PA. Stump later claimed they were drunk and demanding rum, and that "they intended to do him mischief". He killed and scalped them! The Indians considered scalping a declaration of war. Stump cut a hole in the ice and put the bodies in the water. The next day, fearing retribution from the Indians, Stump and his indentured servant, Ironcutter, went on the warpath again. They went up Middle Creek to the Indians' cabins on Stump's Run. They killed four more Indians and then burned their cabins to hide their deed. Ten days later they were captured by a posse near Selinsgrove, Union County. They were jailed, but freed by some of their sympathetic friends, thus enraging the government. They were recaptured, but found not guilty in trial.20

In 1778, during the Revolutionary War, the Iroquois allied with the English and mounted one final attack against the settlers. They were repelled, however, and this essentially ended the rebellion of the Indians against the Pennsylvania settlers.21

Another record22 discusses the life of Jacob B. Probst (1796-1873), grandson of "Jurg" Probst (1742-1795), and his conflicts with Indians in Montour County, PA, in the early 1800s, nearly a hundred years after the initial immigration of the German Probsts to America.

"He was a man of great force of character, sturdy and independent in views, and possessed of all the characteristics required by a man in order to make his way successfully in those rugged days. At that time, the country was covered by a dense forest, and Mr. Brobst's neighbors were the Indians and wild animals that roved through the woods. He purchased a large tract of land and in due time cleared a farm from the wilderness and established a comfortable homestead, upon which he remained until he passed to the silent land. His home was used as a trading-post between the Indians and the white settlers, who would journey there from many miles distant; (he) had many skirmishes with the Indians who would burn his hay-stacks and commit other depredations."

Many of the graves of the early settlers were deliberately unmarked so that the Indians would not find them and disturb the site and the remains. Many of the graves were also unmarked because the settlers had little money to spend on a fancy gravestone; they were often marked only by a boulder or a wooden marker.

The last known Indian attack in the Allemaengle occurred at Mountain in 1790, when a lone Indian shot at Magdalena "Polly" Friesz, a daughter of Peter Friesz, early one summer morning of that year as she opened the "Dutch" door of the house, preparing to go for a pail of water at the spring.

When the Germans and Scandinavians came to Wisconsin in the early 1800s, they found Indians, too, but they were Chippewa and Menomonee Indians, much more friendly than the Pennsylvania Iroquois and Susquehannocks!


1. History of Berks County, 1886 It should be noted, however, in talking with several Pfälzische historians in Germany in 1997, the author of The Brobst Chronicles could not confirm this meaning. [return]

2. Bobbie Kalman, "Early Travel", The Early Settler Life Series, Crabtree Publishing Co., 1981 [return]

3. Amos Long, Jr., The Pennsylvania German Farm, p.73 [return]

4. Carolyn and Forrest Price, Brobst/Probst -- A Genealogy of the Family of Mathias Brobst and Maria M. Stambach, 1997, Gordon Printing, Inc., Strasburg, Ohio. [return]

5. Carter Smith, "American Historical Images, Colonial America" [return]

6. Floyd, History of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, 1911 [return]

7. Story courtesy of Beatrice Brugger, Charlottesville, VA (descendant of the early Pennsylvania Hartmans). [return]

8. "The Passing Throng', a column in the Bloomsburg (PA) Morning Press. [return]

9. Research conducted by the National Park Service. [return]

10. History of Pennsylvania, p. 22. [return]

11. Encyclopedia Americana, Vo. 28, 1995 [return]

12, "Brobst Family", Our Lehigh County [return]

13. (1) Fort Everett in Lynn Township, Lehigh County, was named after the grandfather of Magdalena Catharina Everett (1725), wife of Michael Brobst (1751-1814) who was the son of the immigrant Jean Michael Probst (1724). Ref: "Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania", Vol I, 1916, pp 152-153. (2) It was located just north of Lynnport, Lynn Township, Lehigh County. Ref: History of Lehigh County, 1914. [return]

14. History of the Allentown Conference, p. 161 [return]

15. History of Berks County, 1886, p. 125 [return]

16. Account by George Bolich, who owned the land on which the Gerhart cabin had been built. [return]

17. History of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 1845 [return]

18. Donehoo, Pennsylvania, A History, Vol 1, 1926 [return]

19. History of the Fürst Family, LDS Family History Library, Salt Lake, City, Utah [return]

20. Schuyler Brossman, "Keystone Families", Column 1282, May 15, 1991 [return]

21. Carter Smith, "American History Images on File, Colonial and Revolutionary America" [return]

22. Book of Biographies of Leading Citizens of 17th Congressional District, Pennsylvania, 1899, pp 130-131 [return]

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