Note, this post has been revised. The original 2-Part Wilderman Family series has been updated and more information has been added. The series has been expanded to 3 Parts with most of the new information found in Part 3.
There is a lot of German ancestry in my blood, on both my mom and dad's side of the family. They are from many different parts of Germany and most settled in the Midwest in the middle of the 19th Century. The Kahl, Ostenberg and Bilse families were in Blue Mounds; the Goth family in Middleton, the Hermann family in Verona; the Goldner family in Chicago (possibly via Michigan); and the Pazel and Ebersold families, also in Chicago. These are typical of the ethnic Europeans that came to American in waves from the 1840s right through to the first World War. There is, however, another German family in my ancestry that came to America much earlier. They arrived before the country existed and settled in the British Colonies in the middle of the 18th century.
From Germany to America
Hans Jacob Wilderman was born in the small village of Obermutschelbach in Baden-Durlach on April 27th, 1726. He came to America with about eight families (around 20 people) from the same village. On October 16th, 1751, the ship "Duke of Wirtenberg" arrived at the Port of Philadelphia. On that same day, in the county courthouse, and in the presence of "the Worshipful Robert Stettell, Esquire, Mayor of Philadelphia" the passengers took the Oath of Allegiance to the Colony of Pennsylvania "Foreigners whose Names are underwritten, imported in the ship Duke of Wirtenberg, Capt'n Montpelier, commander, from Rotterdan & Cowes in England, did this day take and subscribe the usual Qualifications."
We, subscribers, natives and late inhabitants of the Palantinate upon the Rhine and place adjacent, having transported ourselves and families into the Province of Pennsylvania, a Colony subject to the crown of Great Britain in hopes and expectations of finding a retreat and peaceable settlement therein do solemnly promise and engage that we will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty, King George the Second, his successors, Kings of Great Britain & will be faithful to the Proprietor of the Province and that we will demean ourselves peaceable to all His Majesty's subjects and strictly observe and conform to the laws of England and this Province to the utmost of our power and best of our understanding.
|Colonial Philadephia Street Scene|
Jacob traveled to America with the Johann "Hans" George Meyer family, which included his wife and four of their children. It appears from all accounts that Jacob was very close to the Meyer family, even back in Germany. He would be the Godfather to five of Johann's children. It is also noted that Jacob and Johann both applied for permission to emigrate at the same time. Two of Jacobs' sisters also came to America, Anna Eva and Maria Barbara, however, they were not on the Duke of Wirtenberg since their application to emigrate was not approved until 1852.
The Duchy of Baden is an ancient German state on the east bank of the Rhine River in southwest Germany (and just west of Wurttenberg). In came into existence in the 12th century as the Magraviate of Baden and was later divided into Baden-Baden and Baden-Durlach. Eventually, the two territories were re-united and in 1806 became a Grand Ducal State. Its location close to France, a split in the Ducal family and the reformation caused a great deal of turmoil, war and destruction in the Baden during 17th and early 18th centuries. Charles Frederick of Baden-Durlach, who ruled from 1738 until 1822, re-unified the territory and brought some peace and stability to the region. Agricultural practices, the qualify of education and the administration of justice all improved under Charles. He also ended serfdom and outlawed torture. Reform would continue into the 19th century and Baden would develop a reputation as one of the more progressive of the German States. Just to the north and northwest of Baden was an area known as the Palatinate (Rhenish Palatinate or Palatinate of the Rhine) and Hesse (Hessen). These neighboring states were not always so reform minded however. As such, it is from this region that the first large scale German emigration to the new world would takes place.
|Obermutschelbach surrounded by small farm plots and forest|
Johann "Hans" George Meyer was born about 1712, probably in Obermutschelbach, Notingen Parish, Baden-Durlach. His Parents were Johann Meyer, born about 1686 and Susanna Lander, born about 1690. They were from the town of Munsingen, Switzerland and were married sometime before 1712, presumably in Switzerland. Johann and Susanna had four know children, all recorded as being born in Obermutschelbach. In addition to Johann George, there was also George Martin Meyer (b.1717), Mary Magdalena Meyer (b.1718) and Friedrick Meyer (b.1721).
Johann George Meyer was married two or possibly three times but there is some confusion regarding this. He is know to have had 11 children. He first wife might have been Catherina Bauman. They were married before 1731 and had six children: Elisabetha (b.1731), Anna Clara (b.1734), Eva (b.1734), Johann Martin (b.1735/36), Elisabetha (b.1737) and Catherina (b.1739). His second wife was Johanna Jacobea Stucki. They were married on June 6, 1741 and had five children: Elizabetha (b.1742), Jacobina Catharina (b.1743), Johann George (b.1746), Johann Martin (b.1748) and Jacob (b.1748). His third wife was Margaretha Grosjean. They were married in 1754, probably in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
It would seem that Johanna Stucki (his second wife) was on the voyage to America but that is also unclear. Johanna was born about 1718 in Munsingen, Switzerland. Her parents were Johannes Jacob Stucki (b.1670) and Elizabeth Barbara ? (b.1674). So, the Stucki family was also from Munsingen. It is also noted that Johanna's brother (Johann and family) came to America with the group in 1751.
The Pennsylvania Dutch
Upon their arrival in Pennsylvania, the Wilderman and Meyer families would find others like them, German settlers, who had taken up residence in the state. The Meyer family settled in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania and it is assumed that Jacob Wilderman lived with them for a time. Lebanon is located between Harrisburg and Reading in the rolling farmland of eastern Pennsylvania. After he married Elizabetha, Jacob and family would head to Maryland where they lived in Washington and Baltimore Counties.
The German people who came to America during this time have been traditionally called Pennsylvania Dutch but they are not related to the Dutch people of the Netherlands. In this case Dutch is actually "deutsch" or "deitsch" and refers to German speaking immigrants from southwestern Germany and Switzerland (centered on the region known as the Palatinate). They also settled in Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and later Indiana. There were two major reasons for the mass emigration from the Palatinate and surrounding areas of Germany. The first and main reason was a series of devastating wars and invasions in the late 1600's and early 1700's which saw many cities destroyed and livelihoods ruined. The second was religious persecution of Protestant sects like the Amish, Mennonites and Anabaptists. Some of these people originally came to Germany after being subject to persecution in German speaking Switzerland. The first settlers to America arrived as early as the 1680s. England, which was a protestant country with rulers of German descent, welcomed the "refugees" some of which settled in northern Ireland but most of which ended up in William Penn's colony.
|A colonial farm scene typical of Pennsylvania and Maryland|
In about 1759, Jacob married Elizabetha Meyer, the daughter of Johann George Meyer and Johanna Jacobea Stucki. He was 32 and she was just 16. They were presumably married in Pennsylvania. Jacob and Elizabetha had four children: George who was born sometime before 1760, John (b.1760), Jacob (b.1762) and Margaretha (b.1764). Jacob farmed 125 acres of land at a place called "Wells Manor" in Maryland around the time of the revolutionary war.
On April 11, 1770, Jacob appeared before the Provincial Court of Annapolis and was "naturalized in the usual form." On February 28, 1778 both Jacob and his oldest son, George, signed the Oath of Fidelity to the State of Maryland (on the side of the revolution). Jacob enlisted in the Maryland Militia on July 20th, 1776. He was assigned to Samuel Godman's Fourth Regiment where he rose from the rank of corporal to Sergeant. He was discharged on April 13th, 1780. Jacob died in 1787.
-The Will of Jacob Wilderman, Sr.
I, Jacob Wilderman of Baltimore County, farmer, being very sick, etc., do make this my last will. To daughter Margaret a cow, feather bed, riding horse. To son John a cow, to son Jacob a cow, to son John 50 acres of land, to son George 50 acres of land, to son Jacob 25 acres of land laid out as it suits my son John and my son George. To son George a cow. To my beloved wife, feather bed, furniture, household goods, etc., during the term of her natural life. To son John one wagon, a mare. I appoint my son John executor. March 1778. Witnesses John and Christopher Stinchcomb, Francis McDanell. Will probated April 28, 1787.
-Inventory of Possessions of Jacob Wilderman, Sr.A few years after his death, Jacob's oldest son, George Wilderman and family, would leave Maryland and head west. Not much is know about the fate of the other children. Second son, John Wilderman, married Margret Wellar and they had at least one child, Nancy (b.1803). The family was still in Baltimore County in 1799 but at that time John had sold his portion of the farm so they may have moved west. Youngest son Jacob married Elizabeth Kiegerin in 1788 and was still in Baltimore County in 1791. In that year, he sold his 25 acre inheritance and may have also left Maryland. Daughter Margaret is known to have married Henrich Copens in 1788 in Washington County, Maryland.
Inventory taken June 14, 1787 of Jacob Wilderman, Sr. Besides farming implements, etc. the inventory shows a muskett, 6 books, 2 spinning wheels, woolen wheel, pewter dishes, 2 tables, chairs, beds, etc.
George Wilderman and the push west into the frontier is the subject of Part 2 of this report and can be found here.