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.
Minnie married Charles Frank Chapman, then 21 years old (she was 23 at the time), on July 4, 1905, in Waterloo — the county seat of Black Hawk County and a town once seemingly filled with people related to me (I have memories of only one visit during the time we lived in Kansas, circa 1977-1993). I’ll write something about Waterloo in a future entry as it is a rather interesting place.
Minnie and Charles had four children. Their oldest — Alonzo Louis — was the only boy and was born on June 21, 1906. This was my grandfather; he married Kathryn Pauline Tolan on June 3, 1932, and gave birth to two sons and one daughter — Carol Anne Chapman, my mother (a second daughter was the result of a later marriage). My great-grandfather Charles was listed as residing at 221 Cottage Avenue in Waterloo on his World War I draft registration cards for 1917 and 1918. These gave his date of birth as June 8, 1884, and his occupation as a machinist’s helper for the Illinois Central Railroad.
The Illinois Central Railroad was sometimes called the Main Line of Mid-America, was a railroad in the central United States, with its primary routes connecting Chicago, Illinois, with New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama. A line also connected Chicago with Sioux City, Iowa (1870). There was a significant branch to Omaha, Nebraska (1899), west of Fort Dodge, Iowa, and another branch reaching Sioux Falls, South Dakota (1877), starting from Cherokee, Iowa. The Sioux Falls branch has been abandoned in its entirety. Interestingly, the Canadian National Railway acquired control of the ICRR in 1998.
His draft card describes Charles as “tall, slender build, with brown eyes, lt. brown hair.” I could find no evidence of military service. He died on July 29, 1967 (aged 83), while Minnie had died on August 25, 1965 (aged 84), less than four months before I was born. Minnie’s parents, as mentioned before were George Henry Marsteller (born about 1830 in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania) and Lydia Anne Latshaw (born about 1835). While George died on June 20, 1907 (his newborn grandson, my grandfather, being a day shy of his first birthday), Lydia lived quite a few years more. She appeared on the U.S. Census in 1920, still living in Waterloo, Iowa, but there is no information to be found on her death.
These were my great, great, grandparents. My great, great, great grandparents in this line were Heinrich and Maria Elizabeth Marsteller. I have absolutely no information about them other than that George Henry was apparently their only child (a rarity during that period of time). Still in a direct line, my 4-times great grandfather, Peter Marsteller, was born in 1760, in Hereford, Berks County, Pennsylvania, and died nearby on March 31, 1800. He and his wife, Eva Catherine, had had just the one son (Heinrich). Many area families at the time were of German ancestry, originating in the Rhineland-Palatinate region.
Peter Marsteller was one of five children born to Johann George Marsteller and Margaret Moyer between 1754 and 1761 in southeastern Pennsylvania. These are my four-times great uncles and aunt. The last of these died on May 5, 1833, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
The direct line continues through Johann George (my five-times great grandfather) who was born on June 14, 1731, in Trappe, Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. His confirmation was held on July 4, 1731, in Augustus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Trappe, the oldest Lutheran Church in America still in operation of which the Marstellers were founding members. George Washington is known to have visited wounded troops being housed in the church during the Revolutionary War (this is not the connection I mentioned previously). The Marstellers had been instrumental in building the first Evangelical Lutheran churches in America and helped form the first Lutheran Synod in America. One of the first family immigrants, Frederick Ludwig Marsteller, sponsored Heinrich Melchoir Muhlenberg, the Lutheran pastor considered the father of the Lutheran Church in America.
Johann George Marsteller married Margaret Moyer and together they had five children. Johann George died about 1786, aged around 55 in Hereford, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Today, the community lies at the intersection of Pennsylvania Routes 29 and 100, which connect it to East Greenville and to Pottstown, respectively to the south. They continue north on Chestnut Street to Shimerville in Lehigh County, where 29 continues toward Allentown. The Perkiomen Creek flows south through Hereford to the Schuylkill River. As of the 2010 census, the population was 930 residents. A post office called Hereford has been in operation since 1830.
And now we reach the first-known Marsteller to arrive in what would become the United States of America. My six-times great-grandfather, Johan Georg (note only one “n” and one “e”) Marsteller was born in 1695 in Pfungstadt, Hesse, Germany, to Nicolas Marsteller and Elizabetha Crossman. Pfungstadt is a town located about 30 miles south of Frankfurt in the state of Hesse, Germany. It was the location of the horse stables for the Princes of Hesse, Germany.
It is not known when he married Anna Margaretha Eriebach but together they had one son, Johann George (two “n’s” and two “e’s”). In October 1727, aged about 32, Johann Georg emigrated to the British Colonies in America, landing at the Port of Philadelphia.
Starting in 1727, and during the next twelve years, six members of the Marsteller family, four males and two females, some including their families left Pfungstadt to seek their futures in America. The trip led initially from Pfungstadt to Rotterdam or Amsterdam. Along the way, it is now known that each town collected tolls from all passengers. In addition, all passengers had to buy all their food and water for the lengthy voyage to the New World. The voyage itself was known to be a miserable experience for most passengers and deaths during the voyage were common. It was not unusual for passengers to arrive in America in debt to the ship’s captain or agent with no money. In all over 30,000 people from the west-central part of Europe (an area referred to as Palatine) became part of what is now known as the “Palatine Migration”.
If a passenger arrived in debt and had no waiting relative or sponsor they typically had to enter indentured servitude contracts, usually for up to four years to whomever would pay their ship debts. It is probable that this was the situation that some, if not all of our ancestors faced on their arrival in America. All six of the Marstellers who came to America from Pfungstadt left from Rotterdam or Amsterdam and arrived in Philadelphia.
Johan died 1751, aged about 56, and Anna died sometime after 1753 in Pennsylvania. Johan’s parents — Nicolas and Elizabetha (my seven-times great grandparents) — gave birth to five children: my six-times great, great uncles (two) and aunts (2), plus Johan (six-times great grandfather). The last of these, Friedrich Ludwig Marsteller, was born on January 11, 1702, in Pfungstadt. It was the last of his seven children, Philip Balthasar Marsteller, who would become the most famous of them all.
Philip’s story is deserving of an article all by himself and so will have to wait for another time…