My Family, My Life: The Marstellers (Part 3)

Philip Marsteller, painting by Jacob Frymire (July 1800)
Philip Marsteller, painting by Jacob Frymire (July 1800)

I’m sure that all families have at least one notable person whom everyone talks about, whether they are famous outside of the family or memorable for another reason. Amongst my mother’s side of our family, my “cousin seven times removed” — Philip Marsteller — is the major notable, having been a personal friend of George Washington and the only non-Mason pallbearer at President Washington’s funeral.

Born Philippus Balthasar Marsteller on January 4, 1742 in Philadelphia County (now Montgomery County), Pennsylvania, Philip received a good German and English education and attended the Augustus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Trappe, PA. His father, Frederick Ludwig Marsteller, died when he was 12 and his mother, Anna Barbara Stark, finished raising him on the family homestead. Both parents immigrated to America from Pfungstadt, Hesse, Germany in 1729, joining Frederick’s brother, Johann Georg Marsteller.

When he reached the age of 21, Philip received his portion of his father’s estate which he used to purchase; a tract of land in what is now Mill Creek Township in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania where he remained several years.

On April 22, 1766, Philip married Magdalena Reiss in Trappe, Philadelphia County, who was born on December 22, 1745, in Berks County, Pennsylvania. She died in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1809, aged 63. They had two children: Barbara, born after 1767 in Mill Creek Township, Lebanon County, and died after 1796 in Alexandria; and Philip Gotthelp, born on February 11, 1770, in Mill Creek Township.

At the outset of the American Revolution, he became one of the earliest “associators” and he was very active in raising troops for George Washington’s army in 1775-1776. A Battalion of Associators was formed within Lebanon County in the autumn of 1775. It was commanded by Col. Philip Lorentz Greenwaltz. Philip Marsteller was the Lieutenant Colonel (second in command) of this battalion. In 1776, Philip Marsteller was a member of the Associators Second Battalion, Lancaster County, commanded by Colonel Curtis Grubb.

Philip was a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1776 (which adopted the first state Constitution), and during that and the following year he was chosen to the Assembly. In 1777, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Battalion, Lancaster County Associators. He was appointed Paymaster of the militia on August 20, 1777, and, on July 13, was appointed agent to superintend the purchase of flour for the French fleet. He was appointed Assistant Forage-Master on April 5, 1780, for which he received a personal letter of commendation from George Washington thanking him for faithful and prompt performance of his duties. This letter was addressed to Major Philip Marsteller and is in the Library of Congress. He was later named Assistant Deputy Quartermaster General.

Philip settled in the Alexandria, VA area after the war (approximately 1783). With his son, Philip Gotthelp, he engaged in the commission business. He was the auctioneer of Alexandria, and accumulated much valuable furniture, silverware, china, fowling pieces, saddles, pistols, a rare print of Washington, and similar items.

Colonel Marsteller was Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, from 1790-1792. He was also a member of the Sun Fire Company. In 1793, he advertised as “to let” the property known in 1790 as 130 Prince Street in Alexandria. He lived in a house that was reportedly still standing in 1928 at the southeast corner of Washington and Wolfe streets. The Alexandria Academy stood next to this house built by Col. Marsteller shortly after his arrival in Alexandria. In 1882, the Board of Trustees of the Academy bought the adjoining Marsteller property and used it for the primary grades up to, at least, 1928.

Philip Marsteller long enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. Washington’s last birthday was celebrated at a gathering at Wise’s tavern (northeast corner of Fairfax and Cameron Streets) on February 22, 1799. Both George and Martha attended the observance. Col. Marsteller participated in the arrangements, while ladies listed as attending this “Birth Night Ball” included Mrs. Marsteller and a “Miss” Marsteller, one of Philip’s daughters.

Philip served as a pallbearer at George Washington’s funeral at Mount Vernon on the afternoon of December 19, 1799. Two Masonic lodges of Alexandria and Washington D.C. officiated at the funeral. Mrs. Washington specifically requested Col. Marsteller, who was not a Mason. The honorary pallbearer’s included six Colonels, who had served under General Washington during the Revolutionary War. The other pallbearers in the funeral cortege were Col. Charles Little, Col. Charles Simms, Col. William Payne, Col. George Gilpin, and Col. Dennis Ramsey. Marsteller was joined at Washington’s funeral by his son, Philip Marsteller, Jr., and his grandson, Samuel A. Marsteller.

Philip also served as a Lieutenant in a Military Company of Elders in Alexandria called the “Silver Grey’s” and composed of older veterans of the Revolution. This organization appeared in full uniform with arms for the first Washington’s Birthday Parade through the streets of Old Alexandria on February 22, 1800.

Sameul Arell Marsteller - grandson of Philip, painted by Jacob Frymire (August 1800)
Sameul Arell Marsteller – grandson of Philip, painted by Jacob Frymire (August 1800)

In July and August 1800, noted early American folk artist Jacob Frymire painted portraits of Philip, his wife Magdalena, and grandson Samuel Arell. There were included in a painting exhibition in Washington D.C., in 1975-1976, as was a painting of Philip’s granddaughter, Charlotte. These are the oldest known images of members of the Marsteller family from Pfungstadt. The painting of Charlotte is now in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. A descendant of Philip Marsteller privately owns the other three paintings. These images were all copied from a book called Jacob Frymire, American Limner by Linda Crocker Simmons.

Charlotte Marsteller - granddaughter of Philip, painted in early 1800's
Charlotte Marsteller – granddaughter of Philip, painted by Jacon Frymire in early 1800’s

Col. Marsteller attended Christ Church, where he occupied pew number 38 (old numbering). He died at his home in Alexandria in December 1803, and was buried in Christ Church yard under a large sycamore tree near the west line of the fence. Col. Marsteller, one of two of Washington’s pallbearers buried there, had a handsome table stone monument. The monument was carried off during the Civil War and disappeared.

Shortly before his own death, Marsteller acquired a pair of matched flintlock pistols had once belonged to George Washington. The pistols were bought from the estate of Bartholomew Dandridge, former Private Secretary to George Washington. They were 14 inches long, with brass barrel, full-length walnut stock and seven solid silver inlays, including a grotesque mask on the butt; a rolled edge and engraved trigger guard; a panoply of arms on the cut-out side plates which show cannon, flags, drums, pole arms, a lion, and a unicorn.

Richard Wilson and John Hawkins, gun makers in London, had made the pistols in 1748. Thomas Turner, whose grandfather had known Washington as a youth, gave the pistols to Washington in 1778. The pistols remained in Washington’s possession during much of the Revolutionary War. Before he died, Washington gave the pistols to Bartholomew Dandridge, his wife’s nephew and his secretary for six years. Dandridge survived only a few years after Washington’s death, and, after his death, Philip purchased the pistols.

In 1902, the pistols were sold to an antique arms dealer — Francis Bannerman — at an estate auction near Warrenton, VA. In 1914, the pistols were sold to collector Edward Litchfield. In 1951, the Litchfield collection was sold to Clendennin Ryan. In 1953, he presented them to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where they currently reside in the West Point Museum. In 1978, the U.S. Historical Society with headquarters in Richmond Virginia, commissioned a limited edition of 975 pairs of commemorative replicas of the pistols, which were offered to the public for $2,600.

Currently, there are five letters between Philip Marsteller and George Washington in the National Archives available for reading online:

My Family, My Life: The Marstellers (Part Two)

Much of a family’s history is tied up in places as much as in people. Both sides of my own family reach back to locations in Germany. My father’s side left the home country only in the early part of the twentieth century (and there is family lore that puts portions of it in the midst of the Russian Revolution a century ago), while my mother’s side — via the Marstellers — arrived in North America in the latter part of the seventeenth century, making them amongst the pioneer settlers of what became the United States.

While most of the places my family settled are in the States — including southeastern Pennsylvania, northeastern Iowa, and the central Pacific coast of California — the German locations are very interesting to me, and the most ripe for additional research. In this entry, I’d like to give some background on the region of present-day southwest Germany that was once ruled by the House of Hesse, centering on the town of Pfungstadt.

Continue reading “My Family, My Life: The Marstellers (Part Two)”

My Family, My Life: The Marstellers (Part One)

"In Memorium Marsteller Frederick Ludwig, Jan 11, 1702, Oct 15, 1753 and A. Barbara Starck, May 8, 1701, Feb 23, 1780. Arrived at Philadelphia in 1729 from Darmstadt Germany"

When one begins to delve into family history, many interesting stories begin to emerge. My own family is no different. In this first entry in a planned series of genealogically-inspired articles, I will introduce one branch of my family tree which I can currently trace back seven generations and ultimately has a connection to the first President of the United States of America himself, Mr. George Washington.

The link that reaches back to President Washington is through my great-grandmother, Minnie Salinda Marsteller, who was born on August 1, 1881, in the Midwestern state of Iowa. Her parents — George Henry Marsteller and Lydia Anne Latshaw — had relocated to the tiny northeast Iowa township of Fox sometime prior to their first appearance on the U.S. Census in 1900; George was 70 years old, Lydia was 65 and Minnie was soon to turn 19 years old. Fox, in Black Hawk County, is remote to this day — covering an area of 34.46 square miles (89.3 km²) but containing no incorporated settlements. As of the 2000 census, the rural township had a population of 520.

Previously, the Marstellers had lived in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

Continue reading “My Family, My Life: The Marstellers (Part One)”

The Old… and the New

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I kept my previous design for Asian Meanderings for more than six years, using a modified version of WordPress’ Twenty-Ten theme with black background, customized headers, and other little tweaks here and there. The new design is actually the Twenty-Sixteen theme with gold-based background (although I may change this in the near future). It’s still basically the same, but different…

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Changes Are Afoot….

I would very much like to resurrect this blog and return to semi-regular posts. Over the past year or more, I have had very little motivation as I have developed into a very solid routine of working (I’m an English teacher in Phuket, Thailand) and being lazy during my limited days off. Indeed, the last time I went anywhere significant was my Cambodian trip in mid-April 2013 although there have been a few English camps in neighboring provinces since then.

With Aed Carabao, lead singer of Thailand's most popular rock group -- Carabao -- in Patong, April 2013
With Aed Carabao, lead singer of Thailand’s most popular rock group — Carabao — in Patong, April 2013

Asian Meanderings has never been the “chronicle of my life in Thailand” that I’d envisioned when I arrived here some twelve years ago. While I do a fairly good job at detailing my day-to-day activities on Facebook, I’ve never done the same with this blog. Too much “work” involved? I seem to suffer from chronically-slow Internet service whenever I do want to do something “significant” (such as uploading photos) online. I soon become frustrated and give up.

Aside from attending various local festivals each year, I don’t really do much during my free-time aside from read and work on my stamp and postcard collections. I have other blogs for those activities (and I haven’t missed a day on “A Stamp A Day” since I started on July 1, 2016). I have written about a number of the festivals over the years but, the only thing that really changes annually are the attempts at different photographic angles.

To put it simply, Asian Meanderings is in a RUT!

"I'm King of the World!" - High above Luang Prabang, Laos - mid-April 2010
“I’m King of the World!” – High above Luang Prabang, Laos – mid-April 2010

In the past, I tackled such lethargy simply by starting a new blog as a new theme/look surrounding my words always seems to do something to my brain.  Most of those attempts quickly fell by the wayside. I had reading and teaching blogs in the distant past that are long- (and best-) forgotten. My postcard blog (originally called “Please, Mr. Postman!” but re-titled The POSTCARD TRAVELLER Blog last year as I had begun creating a website by that name) and first stamp collecting blog (Philatelic Pursuits) are two that I’ve enjoyed doing and have new entries in the works for. Both were somewhat curtailed by my determination to maintain A Stamp A Day…

I have some ideas…

Rather than starting a new blog for my plans, I will try to incorporate them here. I am thinking about creating a new blog name (Mark’s Mindless Meanderings, perhaps?). I am also trying to decide on a new theme. I do like the old black-and-gold design but it hasn’t been changed for more than six years, I think, and these days I prefer something lighter. Other changes may include revamping categories and tags (daunting, to say the least).

What about content?

In Tiananmen Square, Beijing - June 2003
In Tiananmen Square, Beijing – June 2003

My idea is to create entries based on past experiences in my life. I have very few photographs that predate 2004 other than a mixed box of pictures my sister sent a few years ago. There are a few scattered from the earliest years of my childhood and then quite a few from around late 1992 through mid-1994 or so. I’m currently scanning the lot of them and trying to determine ballpark dates. I have long maintained a spreadsheet of significant events in my life and will attempt to assign spots to the scanned photos. From time to time in the recent past, I can use these resources as the basis for various articles, sort of a “jumbled autobiography”. If I tag them properly (year/month), I could use the entries as the basis if I ever decide to write a full autobiography (something I’d like to do for myself, at least; my grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease and that experience resulted in my becoming afraid of forgetting my own past).

One other change I would like to make is to cut down on the sheer wordiness of my entries (present one excluded). I may post a number of photos simply with (estimated) date and location/event. Other posts may include a bit of history surrounding the location/event or how it related to what I was doing at the time. In short, I’ll be making it up as I go along but with certain goals in mind.

Return to Johnson County Industrial Airport (Olathe, Kansas) following Damage Control training at the Fleet Training Center, Naval Air Station San Diego (California) - just prior to Christmas 1983
Return to Johnson County Industrial Airport (Olathe, Kansas) following Damage Control training at the Fleet Training Center, Naval Air Station San Diego (California) – just prior to Christmas 1983

Apart from these few general ideas, I have no clue as to when and in what form these changes will occur. I can only say that I am motivated enough — for the first time this year — to write on Asian Meanderings and let anybody still around know that, yes, changes are afoot….

I hope to be back here very soon!


2016: My Year in Review and a Look Forward to 2017

I will long remember the year past as one of death. While nobody from my family or circle of friends died in 2016, a number of favorite musicians and actors did. I was also profoundly affected by the mid-October passing of the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej. Over the decade-plus that I’ve lived in Phuket, I’ve become a staunch Royalist and the death of His Majesty came in the midst of my annual courses with Thai bank staff members. Seeing their sadness, as well as the intense mourning that occurred throughout the nation, deeply effected me and I continue to feel a bond with Thai people that is difficult to describe to other foreigners.

As 2017 dawns, I pray that it will be a year of much happiness and light after the darkness that pervaded much of 2016. Don’t misunderstand me: there were quite a few good times and the year is certainly ending on a high note in that I’m in my first “real” relationship in around six or seven years.

Continue reading “2016: My Year in Review and a Look Forward to 2017”