Chapter Four - The Early American Pennsylvania Brobsts - 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 IV


The Brobst family's early history is confusing and county records are riddled with errors. There were so many German immigrants coming to America at this time -- thousands each year. Between 1700 and 1720, 10,000 immigrants passed through Philadelphia! By 1727, there were 20,000 German immigrants living in Pennsylvania. So many that in 1732, Benjamin Franklin began publishing the first German-language newspaper, "Philadelphische Zeitung".1 It is noted that this was just ten years before he invented the lightning rod! This was also 150 years after the first English settlers reached the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and 200 years after Cortez conquered Mexico.

There were several groups of Probst immigrants who came to Pennsylvania in the period 1732-1733. The names Martin, Michael, John (or Jean or Johann), and Valentine were common Probst names. Records2,3 show dozens more Probsts arriving in Pennsylvania in 1735-1880. See the ship's immigration list in Appendix 10.

There were a few other Probsts who came into New York in the mid-1800s. But in the 1790 census, there were no Probsts or Brobsts in New York.

Christophel's Children

In the spring of 1732, three of Christophel's grown children: Philipp Jacob (1692) (and his wife C'erine and their three sons), Elisabeth Margaretha (1703) (and her husband, Hans Erhardt Fosselmann, and a baby girl), and Johann Michael (1701) (unmarried), left their birthplace in Kandel/Minfeld, in the Germersheim district of the Palatinate, to emigrate to America.4 Hans Erhardt had made arrangements in April of 1732 to sell and sign over his property in Minfeld to his mother and sibling.5 Although Johann Michael was noted to be single, he might have been married in Kandel but his wife either died or was left behind.

They floated down the Rhine to Rotterdam where they were processed for emigration to America. They boarded the ship "John and William" (Constable Tymperton, Master), along with 163 others.6,7,8 After leaving Rotterdam in the late spring or early summer of 1732, they passed first through Dover, England, and arrived in Philadelphia on October 17, 1732, Many of their shipmates had died at sea of illness and starvation, including the Vosselmann baby, Eva Elizabeth. It is noted that this ship apparently was delayed at sea, for it was the last of the ten immigrant ships to arrive in Philadelphia that fall. The others had all arrived in August and September. Philipp Jacob and Michael were listed as "sick", and so do not appear in some editions of the ship's lists.9 Evidently their illness was not contagious, else they would not have been allowed to debark the ship.

Other records say they came from Germersheim, Wurttemburg (Lower Saxony), in the Rheinland-Pfalz area.10 Wurttemburg is far to the east of the present Germersheim district, but three hundred years ago it was included. Actually, Germersheim is quite far south of Saxony. However, their homeland was quite clearly in the area of Kandel and Minfeld, in the Palatinate.

Some reports show a Johannes Probst arriving on the ship "Samuel" in 1733. This was apparently not Christophel's son, who died in Kandel in 1776, according to one researcher,11 It appears much more likely that this Johannes was actually Hans Michael Propst, father of Johann Michael Propst who arrived on that ship with his sister Barbara and his parents Hans Michael and Barbara Propst. That Propst family is probably of Saxon origin and not at all related to the Probst family of Kandel/Minfeld/Oberseebach. Also, there were several German (not Swiss) Propst families who came to America, including the West Virginia Propsts; they are discussed in Appendix 4.

Philipp Jacob, was a master potter (German: "Meister Topfer") by trade (as were his father and his brothers) in the village of Kandel-Mitte (Middle Kandel). Around 1720, he married Anne12 Catharine (C'erine) Christ, an Alsatian Calvinist (or perhaps a Lutheran) and French Huguenot13, in Oberseebach, Alsace14. One record surmises they might have been married in Minfeld before they went to Oberseebach, but that appears to be in error.15 Philipp Jacob also later used the name of Philippe Jacques Probst, reflecting some French Huguenot influence, especially since Alsace was controlled by the French between 1720 and 1732.16

(Maybe he just took on some the French spelling of his name for political correctness! A Philippe Jacques Probst was a baptismal sponsor for Marie Marguerite Anthes, daughter of his wife's sister, Eva Christ, who married Henri Anthes.17 (At one time, it was thought that Catherine's maiden name might have been Anthes because of this family relationship. However, due to some excellent research by Dora Kamalu, it now appears much more likely that her name was Christ. That it was either Anthes or Christ seems quite certain.)

Their first four children were all born in Oberseebach18 (since 1970, called Seebach) a small town near what is now called Wissembourg, in Alsace, northeastern France, just twenty miles from Minfeld. The three sons, Jean (Johann) Michael (b. 1721), Jean (Johann) Valentine (1724), and Jean (Johann) Martin (1726), and his first daughter, Anne Marie (b. 1731) -- were born in Oberseebach, Alsace; the children were French citizens by birth, not German19, although they were most certainly of solid German stock. Probably for political reasons, all three boys were given the French name "Jean" at baptism, rather than the German equivalent "Johann"; they are referred to in this report by that French spelling. In the 1700s, Alsace was sometimes in French territory, sometimes Pfalzische (German), and sometimes an independent monarchy, depending on the politics at the time. In the 1720s, it was French, and Philipp Jacob, his wife Catherine (C'erine), and their three sons were French citizens!

Philipp Jacob, Catharine (C'erine), their three sons, (Jean) Michael (1721), (Jean) Valentine (1724) (who was nicknamed "Felder"), and (Jean) Martin (1726), apparently were among the first ones, well documented, to bring the "Probst" name to America. They survived the journey even though the children were young: (Jean) Michael was 11, Valentine was 8, Martin was 6. Anne Marie, who was only 1, appears to have died shortly before the voyage, although there is some remote possibility that she died at sea.20

(Note: One document states that Philipp Jacob arrived with wife Catharina and one child [probably (Jean) Michael, age 7], rather than three; this discrepancy is unresolved, but is probably in error due to the number of other documents showing the larger family.21,22 (Jean) Martin was not shown on the ship's manifest, but small children were sometimes omitted. His sister, Anne Marie, age 1�, was also not shown since she may have died at sea, although another record shows her death year as 1731, a year before the voyage. The parish register of Oberseebach shows the birth of the four children, confirmed for Louis Monthaven by the German Embassy in Los Angeles based on information from the French Archives at Strasbourg, France.23 Another report24 states that Martin was probably born shortly after arrival in America, late in 1732 or early in 1733, or even as late as 1735; it seems unlikely this Martin is the son of Philipp Jacob because of the firm birth date of Philipp Jacob's Martin of Dec 29, 1726, in Oberseebach. That must have been a different but yet unidentified Martin, or was just a mistake.)

According to some records, also on that ship was an older Hans Michael (or Johannes) Probst25. No American record of this Hans Michael Probst has been found. It may only have been a transcription error, for most of the ships� immigration lists do not show him.

Philipp Jacob and his family, and his younger brother, Johann Michael, single, and the Vosselmann stayed in Philadelphia over the winter. Philipp Jacob was ill, and they did not want to face a winter journey through the wilderness. There was no land available near Philadelphia, and so they made arrangements to head northwest for some 50 miles. In the spring of 1733, they set forth on a difficult overland trip (of about fifty miles, as the crow flies) to what was to become Berks County, in southeastern Pennsylvania, bypassing Germantown, PA (near Philadelphia), in search of a suitable place to settle. They probably followed the Schuylkill (a Dutch name) River and Perkiomen Creek, a route much used by the settlers of the time. After reaching Long Swamp, they proceeded northward through the unbroken wilderness until they were stopped by the 1500 foot high wall of the Blue Mountain Ridge of the Appalachian Mountain Chain (at the northern boundary of Berks County). This began the long interval of conflict with the Iroquois Indians, who retreated to the other side of the mountain ridge, which was described earlier in Chapter III.

"Besides being harassed by Indians, some dug caves to afford them temporary shelter or homes, and others occupied their large wagons as sleeping rooms and parlors, and used the protecting branches of some large oak or chestnut tree as the room of their dining room and kitchen."26

The region where the Brobsts settled was first called Summer Dahl ("Dahl" means "valley"), but later became and is still known as "Kistler Valley". Kistler Valley (in German, "K�stler"27 means "chest maker") lies between Kempton (in Berks County) and Lynnville (in Northampton County); the Kistler Creek runs through the valley and drains into Maiden Creek near Kempton. Kistler Valley has kept its name from 1735 to the present time � every farm for a stretch of about three miles having been owned and occupied by a Kistler or Kistler descendant and being handed down from father to son from generation to generation. In 1812, that area of Northampton County became part of Lynn Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

Why they chose to travel to Berks County is not known. There were other Germans throughout that area. It may have been as simple as that their homestead land was selected for them by others. It is noted that Philipp Jacob received a warrant on Aug 1 1934 for 200 acres of land in Albany Township; that warrant was only 22 months after their arrival, a most usually short period of time, so he may have already made arrangements for that warrant while still in Philadelphia. Philipp Jacob and his immediate family settled initially in what was soon to be known as Fetherolffsville, in northeastern Albany Township, Berks County, very near the western edge of Lynn Township, Northampton (now Lehigh) County. They built a log cabin near Kistler Creek in northeastern Albany Township, just a mile north of the Jerusalem (Red) Church in Wessnerville (now called Stony Run). Johann Michael Probst took his land in Weisenberg Township, Lehigh County, just a few miles southeast of Philipp Jacob�s land. A 1792 map of Lehigh County shows the location of both farms, under the name of �Probts�.

It is noted that the Probsts settled in Albany Township ten years before it had been officially recognized as �settled�, and nearly twenty years before it was incorporated as a township. Lynn Township in Northampton County was about as newly settled as Albany Township, adjoining. This was really a wilderness.

It is likely that Philipp Jacob and Johann Michael, and the Vosselmanns as well, must have been people of some significant financial means, for there was no sign that they were ever indentured servants, and they were able to buy quite a bit of land and to build mills to operate. Whether they ever actually worked as potters in America is not known.

The northeastern corner of Philipp Jacob's land extended just across the county line into Lynn Township, Northampton County. It consisted of the initial 200 acres warranted in August 1734, plus an additional 162 acres warranted a short time later. This trapezoidal tract of land lay to the north and west of Fetherolffsville, located at the corner of Kistler Valley Road and Old Philly Pike, east of Kempton, Berks County; on the west, the land adjoined that of George Ritter, and on the north, it adjoined the farms of Erhardt Fossellman and Hans Jacob Billman. On the east lay the Donat plantation. Philipp Jacob's farmstead was about seven miles from his brother's farmstead in Northampton County. The Old Philly Pike was part of the then-famous "Great Road from Catawissy to Philadelphia".

Not having mills, they were compelled to take their grain to Oley to be milled, a distance of twenty some miles. Their only market was Philadelphia. Everything they wanted to buy and sell had to be hauled to that city over the most primitive roads. It took five days to make the trip. They usually went in parties of fifteen to twenty for protection. They took a week's supply of food and horse feed with them, and slept in the barrooms of hotels, lying on the floor around the stove.28 Philipp Jacob and his sons built their own grist mill and saw mill across the road from their farmhouse, and began to acquire more land south of the Schochary Ridge which lay to the north of the homesite. By 1759, Philipp Jacob's three sons were three of the four wealthiest landholders in Albany Township. Alas, they were not to enjoy their prosperity long, for all three of them died quite young; Michael at 50, Valentine at 55, and Martin at 40. Philipp Jacob himself lived only to the age of 56.

Anna Maria (b. 1736), oldest daughter of Philipp Jacob and C'erine, married Christian Hechler around 1765. Eva Catherine (Cathrena) (1740) married Nicholas Kutz; Dorothea (1744) married Johannes Jacob Federolff (after whom Fetherolffsville was named). The girls did not receive any land from their father. (The custom in those days was that their husbands were expected to provide for them.)

Philipp Jacob�s brother, Johann Michael, settled some 7-10 miles southeast of Philipp Jacob, in Weisenberg Township, Northampton (now Lehigh) County. Weisenberg Township is part of the territory purchased by Thomas Penn in September 1737, from the Lenni Lenape tribe of the Delaware Indians through the dishonorable �Walking Purchase�. Homes in that area remained as log structures long after stone homes had begun to be built in Berks County. In 1789, in Weisenberg Township, there were 91 log homes, 3 of stone and logs, and 5 of stone.

Like most of the Probsts in early Pennsylvania, Philipp Jacob and his family became farmers. Considering the nature of the wilderness, and the remoteness of neighbors, they must have had skills in masonry and carpentry, as well as pottery, although Philipp Jacob's 1747 will still identifies him as a potter. After improving their homesites for year- round living, one of the high-priority early activities was to build a church (see Appendix 5). Less than ten years after their arrival from Germany, the Brobsts (with others) undertook to build a Lutheran church on ground provided by the Rev. Melchoir M�hlenberg. The first Jerusalem church was a small log building in Wessnerville (now called Stony Run), Berks County, which lies next to the county line between Berks and Northampton (now Lehigh) Counties. In fact, the county line runs through the back of the church cemetery! (M�hlenberg's son, Peter, fought as a colonel with the Continental Army, 8th Virginia, during the Revolutionary War.) Most of these early Brobst children, born in both Berks and Northampton Counties, were baptized in that Jerusalem Church in Wessnerville. (See Appendix 5.) Map of Allemaengle

The original Philipp Jacob Probst log house was replaced in the late 1730s with a stone mansion. Actually, it was not extraordinarily large by today's standards, but in 1738 it was very large for that part of Pennsylvania. (Jean) Valentine operated the "Brobst Tavern" and inn in the basement of the home until the late 1770s; the tavern fireplace is still in place. During the French and Indian War, the Fort Henry militia stayed overnight in the Brobst house.

(Note: The original stone house still stands; a stone in the foundation is marked �1737". It has been modified and expanded in recent years. On an 1876 map of Albany Township, the owner was shown as Nathan Trexler, with the grist mill still operating across the road, although family history claims that the house remained in the hands of Brobst descendants until around 1900. In the 1930s, it was occupied by Ralph and Mabel Lutz; they sold it to a Dritski family in the 1950s. It is currently occupied by Joseph and Barbara Freeman. The front walkway is now made of the old millstones from Martin Brobst's Grist Mill across the street.)

The three sons began acquiring their own land -- (Jean) Valentine to the south of the homesite, (Jean) Michael to the northeast and northwest. (Jean) Martin began to take over the family farm.

The Probst/Brobst family was initially one of the largest of the German families in the Berks and Lehigh County area. Most of them were farmers, craftsmen, and tradesmen; several of them operated grist mills, forges, inns, and other side businesses. Very few of them were professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) With few exceptions (e.g., Valentine [1764-1838], they entered very little into civic and governmental affairs, and so were historically unspectacular.

(Actually, although the Brobsts may have been important in the Berks County area, there is little mention of them in the records of Union, Northumberland, Lancaster, Northampton, and Columbia Counties!! In the much larger context of southeastern Pennsylvania, Brobst and Probst were not even common names! And there are only a few dozen Brobsts living in Berks County today.)

Most Pennsylvania Germans were farmers, but were far from ignorant. Philipp Jacob was a potter, but there was no practical way for him to make a living in the wilderness making pots, so he became a farmer and a miller as well. His children followed in his footsteps. In 1734, he purchased 150 acres of land in Berks County, and in 1742 he bought 150 more acres.

Philipp Jacob died in Berks County in 1747, shortly after he signed his will, "being sick", after having lived in the New World only fifteen years; Catharine died in late 1759. He willed his land to his children. It is believed29 that they were buried at the New Bethel "Corner" Church in Albany Township. No graves or gravestones have been found.

This is the time period when the name change from Probst to Brobst began to occur. A discussion of the name change may be found later in Appendix 2 of this report. The many children of (Jean) Michael (1721), (Jean) Martin (1726), and Johann Michael (1701) were the first Native American Brobsts!

The Pennsylvania Brobsts intermarried with other German families named Stambach (Stambaugh), Fosselmann (Vosselmann), Follweiler (Vollweiler), Kistler (K�stler), Hechler, Levan, Kuntz, Klingaman, Billman (Bielman), Schmidt, Schitz (Sch�tz, Schuetz; later Sheetz), and Fetherolff (Federolff), all common names on gravestones in the Berks County cemeteries. (See Chapter VIII, section on "Intermarriages".)

It was bad enough for the settlers to have to fight off the Indians, but in 1764, the new King George III levied new taxes that began the resistance movement that led to the Revolutionary Was just twelve years later. It is noted, however, that the Brobsts were not warriors. Only eight Brobsts could be found in the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Christian, 1767; George, 1740; Heinrich, 1745; Jacob, 1755; John, 1759; Matthias, 1736; Michael, 1750; and Philip Jacob, 1744).

Other Pennsylvania Probsts

There were many other Probsts who emigrated to America in the late 1700s and 1800s. A few of them have been identified as descendants of some of the ancestors of Christophel Probst's family -- different branches of the family tree. For the rest of them, other than the Probst family name and the likely origin in Switzerland and Germany, there does not appear to be any close and direct relationship between these Probsts and the descendants of Christophel Probst (Philipp Jacob and Johann Michael), except as mentioned above.

They came from Prussia, Schwabia, Bavaria, and France, although it seems likely that they or their ancestors had moved to Germany from Switzerland. The Probsts originated in Switzerland, migrated to southeastern Germany, while the Propsts originated in central and northern Germany, especially Saxony. Many Probsts emigrated from Switzerland into southern Alsace, France, in the 1700s and 1800s. Other Probsts immigrated from Wales, Russia, and the Slovak nations. And there are no Brobsts in Germany (except American tourists). A large number of Probsts from Finsterhennen, Kanton Berne, Switzerland, arrived in the 1830s settled in north central Pennsylvania, near Williamsport, in an area then called Swissdale, northwest of Lock Haven in Clinton County. Many of their descendants still live in Clinton and Lycoming Counties.

(Note: We may all be related to these other Probsts somewhere along the line, but the relationship goes back beyond Christophel, and perhaps even beyond Barthel and Rudolph. See the list of other Probst immigrants in Appendix 10.)

As mentioned earlier, a group of Propsts arrived from Wurttemburg on the ship "Samuel" on August 17, 1733. They were Hans Michael Propst (1679) (age 54), his wife Barbara (1680) (age 53), Johann Michael (1712) (21), and Barbara (1725) (8).30 This family is not related in any way to the descendants of Christophel Probst. These Propsts moved first into the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, area, and then soon after that into West Virginia, and are discussed later in Appendix 4, entitled "The Propsts of America". There seems to be no identifiable relationship at all between the Propsts and the Probsts/Brobsts.

Records (ship's lists) show that dozens of other Probsts arrived in America (Pennsylvania) from Germany by the late 1800s. They are listed, along with ships' names and arrival cities, where available31, in Appendix 10.


1. Henry Marx, Deutsche in der Neuen Welt, 1983 [return]

2. Hollenbach, Raymond E., "Albany Township, Berks County, ...." Central Pennsylvania Genealogy Magazine, December 1969, pp 16-18 [return]

3. "Brunswicker's in Nordamerika, 1776-1783", Index to Records of Alien's Declarations of Intent, Pennsylvania Historical Commission, 1940, Vol. 1 [return]

4. Alice-Ann Askew, "The Probst Family -- Switzerland, Germany, and Pennsylvania", 1982 [return]

5. Sale note of Erhardt Fosselmann in Minfeld, 2 Apr 1732, recorded in Landesarchiv Speyer 75 Nr 304, Contractenprotocoll des Herschaft Guttenberg 1699-1737. [return]

6. Prof. I. Daniel Rupp, Immigrants to Pennsylvania, 30,000 Names [return]

7. Mrs. Richard S. Askew, "Research Compilation of the families of Probst, Hoffman, Rimpler, Fosselman", Chapt 10, p 4 [return]

8. They were listed on the ship's register as the Proops family -- Philip, Catrina, Michael, and Feldey (Valentine). Martin and Anne Marie were not listed; Martin was only six and Anne Marie may have already died before the voyage, or died at sea. [return]

9. Ralph Strassburger, "Pennsylvania German Pioneers", Vol I, p 102 [return]

10. History of Berks County, Pennsylvania, Vol. II, 1909, Reading Public Library, p 1319 [return]

11. Alice Ann Askew, letter to Bill Brobst dated 22 May 1996. [return]

12. A. K. Burgert, Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America, 1942, p 396-397, 480. Lists Philipp Jacob's wive as "Anna Catherine". Since she was a French citizen, surely she would have spelled her name "Anne" rather than "Anna". I choose to use the French spelling. [return]

13. In French, "Huguenot". In German, "Huguenot". Brobst descendants are eligible to become members of the National Huguenot Society, for descendants of Huguenots who immigrated here between 1520 and 1787. [return]

14. Archives from Strasbourg, France (near Wissembourg). [return]

15. Schuyler C. Brossman, "Our Keystone Families", Column 787 [return]

16. Records from Oberseebach, in Alsace, state "Philippe Jacques Probst and Catherine, his wife, Lutherans, had these children found in the Parish Registers of Oberseebach: 28 August 1721 Jean Michel; 18 Feb 1724 Jean Valentin; 29 December 1726 Jean Martin; 8 March 1731 Anne Marie." [return]

17. Earlier reports that C'erine's maiden name was Anthes appear to have been in error. There is more evidence now that her name was Christ, not Anthes, as noted. [return]

18. The parish register of Oberseebach shows the births of those four children. [return]

19. Brossman, "Our Keystone Families," Column 787 [return]

20. Probate record of Anna Maria's will in Berks County, PA, Administration Book 6, Page 254, does not show a birth date [return]

21. Johnson, Mrs. Arta F., editor, "Immigrant Ancestors," The Palatine Immigrant, vol 8:1 (Summer 1982). [return]

22. Brossman, "Our Keystone Families", Column 480 [return]

23. Brossman, "Our Keystone Families", Column 787 [return]

24. Hollenbach, Raymond, "BROBST FAMILY of eastern Pennsylvania, 1986, Berks County Genealogical Society [return]

25. Boyer, Carl 3rd, editor. "Pennsylvania Dutch Pioneers." Ship Passenger Lists, Pennsylvania and Delaware... Newhall, CA: 1980, 289p, 4th pr. 1986. [return]

26. Records of Kline's New Hanover Lutheran Church, p 241 [return]

27. Some original records in Kanton Bern, Switzerland, show Kistler. Both spellings apparently existed in Europe. [return]

28. Brobst Reunion Book, July 19, 1936, Hazle Park, Hazleton, PA[return]

29. Rinkenback, "Early History ...." [return]

30. History of Berks County, Volume I, 1909, p 454 [return]

31. Filby and Meyer, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, A Guide to Published Arrival Records of about 500,000 Passengers ....", Vol 3, 1981 [return]

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