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September 17, 2016

Our Immigrant Ancestors: Nicholas Bieri, Mennonite to Pennsylvania

There is a lot of discussion about immigration in America right now. Tempers have flared, and different groups hold various strong opinions. There is also Brexit, where immigration was a large focus of the recent vote which resulted in the U.K. leaving the E.U.

I've been following this for several months and it occurs to me that those of us in Canada, America, and Australia have immigrant ancestors. Have you researched yours? Do you know who they were, why they came to your country and when? Do you know how they fared once settled in their new land? Were they welcomed? Were they shunned? Was their discrimination based on their religion or ethnic origin? These are all questions that are important, and interesting to discover. With that in mind, I'm the dedicating Saturdays (as many as needed) as the day to join me in discussing your immigrant ancestors.

You will be able to read any you are interested in by using the keyword Immigrant Ancestors. I'm going to share each week what I know of my immigrant ancestors to North America (whether that is USA or Canada)

My 7th great-grandfather Nicholas Bieri, presumed to be a Mennonite, was born circa 1687 in Berne Switzerland and probably fled to the Palatinate Germany with his parents before 1711. In 1727 he set sail on the ship Friendship from Rotterdam to the Netherlands. The Friendship carried 150 Swiss Mennonite families on its journey.

From the Netherlands this ship sailed to Cowes, Isle of Wight, England. On 20 June 1727 the ship left Cowes and set out across the Atlantic Ocean. The Friendship arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 16 Oct. 1727 after a grueling 4 month journey. Only 46 Palatine families arrived safely.

By the winter of 1727 Nicholas was at the Pequea Creek Settlement in Conestoga (now Lancaster Co.) Chester Co. Pennsylvania. He was part of the second largest group of Swiss Mennonites to settle there; the original group having gone in 1710. In 1728 he crossed the Susquehanna River in Springettsbury Manor, travelling with his family by covered wagon (conestogas) and settling on the north shore of Codorus Creek, one mile south of present day York, Manchester Tp. York Co. Pennsylvania. In 1729 Springettsbury Manor was included with Lancaster Co. when it was organized and separated from Chester Co.

Some of the Maryland settlers had been encroaching on the territory and in 1733 Samuel Blunston was commissioned by the Pennsylvania proprietors to issue temporary licences to citizens of Pennsylvania for land in Springettsbury Manor. Patents were to be granted on final purchase by the proprietors from the natives. In 1733 Nicholas obtained a Blunston licence for land in Springettsbury Manor. He was one of over 50 German-speaking settlers to do so. On 20 Oct. 1736 the Blunston licence was confirmed by Thomas Penn and a patent granted for 200 acres on Codorus Creek.

However Nicholas plantation along with others in the Springettsbury Manor, had become involved in the boundary dispute between PA and Maryland. The settlers agreed to allow Maryland to survey their land but found themselves deceived and discriminated against by Maryland authorities, so on 13 Aug. 1736 he and 55 other settlers at Springettsbury Manor petitioned to be re-instated as citizens of Pennsylania and not of Maryland. The settlers stated they had erred in allowing Maryland to assume their lots, and the Council in Philadelphia promptly declared them under the protection of Pennsylvania.

Nicholas and his neighbours (including the famous Michael Donner of the future ill-fated Donner Party) had written previously to the Governor of Maryland informing him of their intentions to acknowledge the jurisdiciton of Pennsylvania. Their actions were regarded as a revolt by Germans and on 21 Oct. 1736 the 56 signers were ordered arrested for sedition. 300 men from Maryland attacked the settlers - their property was stolen, homes were burned, crops were destroyed, and men and their sons were marched 100 miles on foot to prison.

Nicholas himself was arrested in 1737 on a writ issued from the Supreme Court of Maryland for refusing to hold his land under Lord Baltmore, and sent to Annapolis jail. He gave bail for release but was allowed to keep his land until the dispute was settled between PA and Maryland.

On 2 May 1737 172 acres of Nicholas' land was surveyed to Captain Charles Higginbotham of Maryland, and on May 5 the land was granted to Captain Higginbotham by Lord Baltimore. In 1748 Nicholas was taken to court in Philadelphia for refusing to give Higginbotham the land.

In 1761 he died in Manchester Tp. York Co. Pennsylvania. His wife, Barbara Ann Miller married Jacob Kagy about 5 or 6 years later.


Mile Mile Genealogist said...

Your history has shed light on a question I have had with my research. My earliest ancestors were colonist also and were Brethren from Germany and came over in 1724. Understanding the history and migration patterns is very important.

Howard Swain said...

There is a more recent book on the Beery family than the 1957 one. It is History of the Beery Family of Page County, Iowa (1976):

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Thanks for the update Howard!