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January 31, 2014

52 Ancestors: Jacob Burkholder and the Haunted Family Cemetery

Amy Johnson Crow has a new challenge for geneabloggers called Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Amy challenges genealogists to write about one ancestor once a week. I'm having fun with this and I hope you are too!

Jacob Burkholder, my 5th great-grandfather, was born in Switzerland in 1747, but his father moved the family north to Mannheim, Germany on the lower Rhine River to escape persecution. Here, they joined other Palatines and Jacob learned weaving. 

Jacob and his two brothers John and Christian sailed for America in 1765 on the ship Myrtilla. They landed at Philadelphia, 21 September 1765.

Several French Huguenot refugees were among the Myrtilla's 81 passengers, including Abraham and Sophia De Roche. Sophia was a French girl, supposedly of Huguenot descent. Jacob married Sophia De Roche in 1765 in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania. Their signatures may be seen in Pennsylvania, where they took the oath of allegiance to the British Crown in 1765. 

Following the American Revolution, Jacob Burkholder wished to remain under British rule. After his eldest sons made an exploratory trip to the head of Lake Ontario, Jacob, Sophia and family left Pennsylvania for Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario). With their son Christian as their guide, they came by Conestoga wagon drawn by oxen, crossing at Buffalo and arriving at Niagara in present day Ontario province, in October 1794. They obtained 800 acres on the Hamilton mountain and were the first family to settle east of the Caledonia highway. 

A family cemetery was established by 1800, the earliest interment being Jacob Burkholder's son Joseph, who died of a broken back after falling from a shed roof. This cemetery is said to be haunted with a spectral light that appears every time someone nearby dies. No one has ever figured out what the light is or why it appears every so often on top of the church.

The family gave its name to a small community, the Burkholder settlement, which developed at the intersection of what is now Mohawk Road and Sherman Avenue in Hamilton, Ontario. 

 In 1839, a small log building was erected to serve as both church and school. It was replaced by the Mountain Chapel in 1850. This was renamed Burkholder Methodist Church in 1886 and after 1925, became known as Burkholder United Church.  In 1947 a monument was erected to honour Jacob and his wife Sophia.

I have found Jacob recorded under many spellings, including Borghonder. My Burkholder name daughters out with Jacob's granddaughter Elizabeth (born ca 1816 in Hamilton to David Burkholder and Elizabeth Gingrich) who married Richard Vollick. It is kind of interesting to note that Elizabeth was one of 16 children and that 4 of the Burkholder siblings married Vollick siblings.


Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

My 3rd great grandmother was Elisabeth Burkholder Wolf b 1814 PA. Her father was Abraham. I have little other information on the Burkholders. Wonder if we connect up.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

That is very possible Colleen. I have not searched the family in many years but when I first began on my Burkholder line (20 plus years ago) I recall there was more than one brother settling in PA.

Anonymous said...

Wow.What a wonderful story you have shared. My beloved grandparents are Burkholders but I dont know much about my family history that far back. Thanks so much.

Glen Burkholder said...

Thanks for the article - I am a Burkholder living in Kitchener and am taking trip down to Hamilton to visit some of these sites. I have a genealogy chart that goes back to Jacob Burkholder fro
m Switzerland on my fathers side and to James McGregor from Scotland on my grandmothers side. Very interesting. Nathan Hale and Rob Roy McGregor are notables.

Grace Wideman said...

Why do you call it the Haunted Family Cemetery? Just curious.I have to do a bit more digging in my research as Matilda is one of my grandmothers, daughter of Enoch & Susan. We are coming to Ontario the end of this month from Northwest Alberta to do family research and will definitely be stopping here to check the cemetery out. My great grandma and 5 of her children came from Mar, Bruce County to Alberta in 1915. Her husband Thomas Blair Armstrong had passed away in 1914 and she heard about the Peace River Country and came here. Her name was Susan Maria (Whitman)Armstrong. Thanks for this post. Grace (Staggs) Wideman. It's interesting as my husband's family settled in Markham from Pennsylvania and there is a church there called Wideman Mennonite Church, which we will be visiting too.