Jeff, I've attached my article on John Nicholas Garst and his family, including a brief section on David and Magdalena Garst Peffley.
At the end of this article are two addenda dealing with matters that I didn't take up in the article itself, one being the story behind the name of Statthalter.
The article was published a couple of years ago in Brethren Roots, in two parts, and will be published again next year in a book about the Brethren families of Little Swatara Creek.
Please feel free to use it and the addenda for your purposes as well.
THE BRETHREN OF LITTLE SWATARA CREEK:
JOHN NICHOLAS GARST
By Dwayne Wrightsman
Listed fourth on Morgan Edwards' 1770 list of the members of the Little Swatara Congregation of German Baptist Brethren was "Nicholas Gerst and wife." Nicholas Gerst was originally baptized as an infant, in 1727, at the Evangelische Kirche located in Sembach in what is now Germany. His parents and his siblings were German Reformed, and remained so after emigrating to Bethel Township, Lancaster County, PA. The point when Nicholas Gerst left the German Reformed Church and joined the ranks of the Anabaptist German Baptist Brethren of Little Swatara is unknown, but it must have been before he started having children, as there are no known church records to indicate that any of his children were baptized as infants. His siblings, on the other hand, remained German Reformed. Their children were baptized as infants as recorded in the local church books.
This article traces the life of John Nicholas Garst (the name evolved from Gerst to Garst) from his Sembach Reformed years (1727-1749), to his Little Swatara Brethren years (1749-1790), to his final years in Botetourt County, VA (1790-1803). The article also traces the births, marriages, families, and deaths of his nine surviving children. None of Nicholas Garst's descendants returned to the Little Swatara Brethren community after the move to Virginia in 1790. However, many remained Brethren, especially the descendants of the Garsts who married into the Michael Frantz family of Cocalico, as well as the Garsts who became part of the Brethren fabric in Virginia. Today, descendants of John Nicholas Garst can be found in fairly large numbers in Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and points further west.
Germany: The Sembach Reformed Years
Johan Nicolaus Gerst was born of Theobald Gerst and Catharina Bueckin. Theobald and Catharina were married 14 January 1727 in Sembach, Pfalz, Bayern. Johan Nicolaus, born 1 November 1727, was the oldest of their nine children, all of whom were christened at the Evangelische Kirche in Sembach:
Johan Nicolaus Gerst, christened 5 November 1727, Engel Gerst, christened 1 December 1729, Maria Magdalena Gerst, christened 6 January 1732, Johan Friederich Gerst, christened 8 February 1734, Maria Catharina Gerst, christened 17 June 1736, Hetwig Margaretha Gerst, christened 6 December 1738, Johann Deobald Gerst ("Dewalt Gerst"), christened 14 May 1741, Maria Elizabetha Gerst, christened 3 May 1744, Johan Adam Gerst, christened 11 November 1746.
From the time of his christening to that of his emigration, nothing is known about the life of Johan Nicolaus Gerst. However, his birth family continued its membership with the Evangelical Reformed Church of Sembach, at least through 1746, given that his siblings were christened in that church from 1729 through 1746. In 1749, the twenty-two-year-old Johan Nicolaus Gerst set sail for Pennsylvania. He was probably single when he emigrated since there is no Sembach church record of his having married.
Johann Nickel Gerst (as he signed his name when he took the oaths) arrived in the Port of Philadelphia on the Ship Isaac, from Rotterdam by way of Cowes, in September of 1749. He took the Oaths to the Government on Wednesday, 27 September 1749, at the Court House at Philadelphia, signing his name in his own hand. Apparently he was the only member of the Gerst family to arrive on the Ship Isaac.
The other members of the Theobald Gerst family arrived in the Port of Philadelphia on the Ship Patience, in August, 1750, with Theobald "Dewald (W) Gerst" and son "Friederich (W) Gerst" signing their oaths at the Philadelphia Court House by their marks (each with a W), on 11 August 1750, Only those male passengers age sixteen and above were required to sign the Oaths of Allegiance and Abjuration. Other than Theobald and son Friederich, age sixteen, the names of the other members of the family were not recorded by the Philadelphia Court.
Pennsylvania: The Little Swatara Brethren Years
Soon after their arrival, the family of Theobald Gerst settled in Bethel Township, located in the northern part of then Lancaster County, PA. John Nicholas Garst, the first to arrive, eventually settled on 174 acres on the north side of Little Swatara Creek, about a mile west of (and downstream from) the farm of Michael Frantz, and several miles downstream from the farms of John Frantz and Christian Frantz II. Like Nicholas Garst, the three Frantz brothers were also members of the Little Swatara Congregation of German Baptist Brethren.
It is not known when Nicholas Garst first settled on his 174 acres. The land had been warranted by Simon "Baugenreiff" in 1752, and surveyed in 1757, before being patented by Nicholas "Kearst" on October 23, 1765, for the sum of twenty-six pounds and one shilling lawful money of Pennsylvania. It is possible that John Nicholas Garst occupied this land before he patented it, particularly since a Simon "Bogenreiff" was farming and paying taxes in neighboring Tulpehocken during the 1750s. It is certain that John Nicholas and his father Theobald were farming in Bethel Township soon after they arrived, as both were paying land taxes in Bethel during the 1750s.
There are no known marriage records for John Nicholas Garst. One can guess that he married between the year of his arrival, 1749, and the birth of his first child, which was possibly as early as 1752, and that the marriage was probably not performed by a German Reformed minister, otherwise it likely would have been written into the early church records. Brethren minister Rolland F. Flory speculated that John Nicholas may have married a woman from a neighboring German Baptist Brethren family:
"…upon their arrival they [the Garst family] soon settled in Bethel Township, Lancaster County, on land son John Nicholas had selected for the family. They settled in a community of German families, many of which were of the Brethren faith. Soon after the arrival of the family he [John Nicholas] was married to the daughter of a neighbor Brethren family and soon united with that faith."
The closest neighbor Brethren family to John Nicholas Garst was that of Michael Frantz. Michael Frantz had a sister Elizabeth who was two years younger than Nicholas Garst. Moreover, a Mary Elizabeth Frantz is named as wife of Johann Nicolaus Gerst in some of the IGI files of the Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City. However, there is no documented evidence to date that there actually was such a marriage.
There are also no known birth records for the children of John Nicholas Garst. Being Brethren and Anabaptist, John Nicholas's children would not have been baptized at birth. Their births and baptisms would not have been recorded in the early church books.
We do not know how many children John Nicholas Garst had. However, we do know that he had nine children who survived him based on his estate settlement record, dated March 5, 1808, at Botetourt County March Court 1808. The settlement called for each recipient child (or husband in the case of a married daughter) to receive exactly thirty pounds. The recipients, listed in order of their names as they appeared in the estate settlement, were as follows:
Frederick Gharst, Nicholas Gharst, Jacob Gharst, Abraham Gharst, Christian Frantz, David Pefley, Daniel Frantz, David Frantz, Peter Frantz.
One can surmise from the five non-Gharst men on the list that there were probably five surviving married daughters. John Nicholas Garst left no record naming these daughters. No baptismal records or marriage records have been found. Only the husbands were named, i.e., Christian Frantz, David Pefley, Daniel Frantz, David Frantz, and Peter Frantz.
It is through the husbands that we learn the names of the Garst daughters. Three of the Frantz husbands-Christian, Daniel, and Peter-left deeds of sale of land that named their wives, Mary, Anna, and Catherine, respectively. Daniel also named his wife, Anna, in his personal records of his family. The fourth Frantz husband, David Frantz, died young. His widow, Elizabeth, is named in his will of 1814, probated 1815. Elizabeth is also known by the Botetourt County record of her second marriage to Leonard Houtz, one of the administrators of her father's estate. David Pefley also left a paper trail leading to the name of his wife, Magdalena Garst. Substituting the names of the Garst daughters for the names of their husbands, the names in the estate settlement reads as follows:
Frederick Garst, Nicholas Garst, II, Jacob Garst, Abraham Garst, Mary Garst [married Christian Frantz], Magdalena Garst [married David Peffley], Anna Garst [married Daniel Frantz], Elizabeth Garst [married David Frantz, and, second, Leonard Houtz], Catherine Garst [married Peter Frantz].
Given that old probate records often named the deceased's sons and daughters separately in birth order, and given the available census, cemetery, and other personal records related to the Garst children, it is possible to list them in birth order as follows:
Frederick Garst, born 1752, Nicholas Garst II, born between 1755 and 1761, Mary Garst, born between 1760 and 1765, Magdalena Garst, born January 11, 1763, Anna Garst, born "barley month," 1764, Jacob Garst, born October 10, 1766, Elizabeth Garst, born between 1765 and 1770, Abraham Garst, born March 4, 1770, Catherine Garst, born about 1772.
Theobald Gerst, the father of John Nicholas, died in Bethel Township in 1770. His will, written April 22, 1770, and probated June 13, 1770, named his wife Magdalena Catherina and his seven surviving children: John Nickel Gerst, Theobald Gerst, and daughters Engelina, Magdalena, Catherina, Margaretha, and Elizabeth, each child to receive equal shares, one like the other. (His sons Johan Freiderich and Johan Adam had died before him.) In his will he named his second oldest son, Theobald Gerst, as executor, and he left all his apparel to his son Theobald [Dewalt].
One wonders why John Nicholas, being the oldest son, was not named as executor and why he did not receive his father's personal effects. Could religion have played a part? In the words of William Tell Garst, compiler of the 1950 Our Garst Family in America book:
"This first known ancestor of ours [Theobald Gerst] belonged to the Reformed Church. His funeral was preached by the Rev. John Conrad Bucher, pastor of a number of Reformed Churches in Lebanon County [then a part of Lancaster County]. His [second oldest] son, Dewalt [Theobald Jr.], was also a member of the Reformed Church, but his [oldest] son, John Nicholas, was a member of the Church of the Brethren, sometimes called the Dunkard church because of their practice of triune immersion."
One wonders if the senior Theobald wrote his will to reflect disapproval of his oldest son having left the German Reformed Church to join the German Baptist Brethren.
Although Nicholas Gerst is known to have been a member of the Little Swatara German Baptist Brethren in 1770, as he and his wife (unnamed) were listed fourth on the 1770 membership list compiled by Morgan Edwards, he was probably Brethren long before that. This is based on the fact that there are no known German Reformed church records for the children of John Nicholas, whereas the births and infant baptisms of his nieces and nephews were written in the records for Tabor First Reformed Church and St. Jacob's Kimmerling's Reformed Church. Moreover, John Nicholas was not listed as a sponsor for baptisms celebrated at the local Swatara Reformed Church, whereas his siblings were frequently sponsors at that church.
Another indication of John Nicholas Garst's religious and/or political views is that he and his sons Frederick and Nicholas Jr. were Revolutionary War Non-Associators in Bethel Township, Lancaster County, in 1777. Also listed, as a Bethel Non-Associator, was Dewalt Gerst, Nicholas's younger brother, who, after his father Theobald died, appears to have dropped out of the German Reformed Church, at least as far as the local church records are concerned. Most of the Non-Associators in Bethel Township were from well known Mennonite and Brethren families.
As the children of John Nicholas Garst grew to maturity in Bethel, they married into Lancaster County families. Oldest son Frederick Garst married Magdalena Rauch, daughter of John Rauch of neighboring Hanover Township. Youngest son Abraham Garst is said to have married Mary Zehring in Pennsylvania in 1790. Magdalena Garst married David Peffley, who also grew up in Bethel Township. Finally, as mentioned above, four of John Nicholas Garst's daughters-Mary, Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine-married Frantz men-Christian Frantz, Daniel Frantz, David Frantz, and Peter Frantz-all of whom were sons of Michael Frantz of Cocalico Township. This Michael Frantz was a first cousin of the Michael Frantz who lived just one mile upstream from Nicholas Garst on Little Swatara Creek (refer to map).
The marriages of the three oldest Garst daughters-Mary, Magdalena, and Anna-took place while the Garst, Frantz, and Peffley families were still living in Pennsylvania. The older children of these three daughters are known to have been born in Pennsylvania. Although the youngest two Garst daughters-Elizabeth and Catherine-may not have had any children born in Pennsylvania, they were probably married in Pennsylvania since their marriages to Frantz men cannot be found in the Virginia records. Unlike Pennsylvania, Virginia kept good marriage records in the late 1700s. The absence of any record in Virginia for any of the first marriages of the Garst children suggests that they were all married in Pennsylvania prior to moving to Virginia.
Virginia: The Final Years
The details of John Nicholas Garst's migration from Pennsylvania to Botetourt, County, VA, are unknown. One report indicates that he settled in Botetourt in 1789, buying 33 acres by deed from William McClanahan (also spelled McClanachan). The 33 acres was apparently part of a tract of 150 acres adjoining Crider's, that McClanahan had been granted in 1782.
John Nicholas Garst was definitely in Virginia by the following year, when, on December 13, 1790, Nicholas Cask (sic), of Botetourt County, bought 110 acres from Jacob Crider on the south bank of Carvins Creek. Soon thereafter, on February 8, 1791, Nicholas "Gerst" bought 50 acres from William McClanahan, part of this 50 acres being a part of a conveyance to McClanahan from Neil McNeil in 1779, and the remainder a part of 150 acres, adjoining Crider, that was granted to McClanahan in 1782.
Since no deed for the 1789 purchase of 33 acres has been found by this writer, and since it fits the description of that part of the 50 acres adjoining Crider, as described in the 1791 deed, the 33 acres (dated 1789) was probably the larger part of the 50 acres deeded by McClanahan to Gerst in 1791, indicating that John Nicholas Garst probably bought 110 + 50 acres altogether, rather than 33 + 110 + 50. Indeed, the Botetourt County land taxes paid by Nicholas Garst, through the year 1800, consistently show that he owned one parcel of 107 acres and a second parcel of 50 acres. From the year 1801, the taxes on this land were assessed to son Abraham.
Whether or not John Nicholas Garst moved to Virginia as early as 1789, he was certainly settled on Carvins Creek by the winter of 1790-91. Among his neighbors were his children and their families. The Botetourt County land records show that the Garst and Frantz families started buying land in the area during the early 1790s.
Other than land and personal property tax records, little is known about the final years of John Nicholas Garst. As mentioned above, he paid land taxes through the year 1800, after which his land was taxed in his son Abraham's name. The personal property tax records indicate that he had one horse through 1795, and that he had no horses from 1797 through 1801. In 1796, and again in 1802, John Nicholas Garst was apparently in the care of his son Abraham, as Abraham had an additional adult male recorded in his name in the tax records for those two years. In 1803, only Abraham Garst was counted as his father had passed away.
John Nicholas Garst wrote his will in the German language on October 20, 1801. He probably died in 1803, given that the translation of the will was probated in the Botetourt October Court, 1803.
Most of his will was a description of his bequest to his wife Mary:
"First I give & bequeath unto my well beloved wife Mary Garst One Hundred Pounds in Silver or Gold further I give and bequeath unto the said Mary fifty pounds Gold or Silver out of the Bonds that Abraham Garst is to pay (to wit, five pounds yearly until she has received the sum of Fifty pounds) further I give & bequeath unto the sd Mary the House wherein I now live the stove therein two beds two chests & all the linens the Kitchen Dresser the furniture thereon & therein the panns & cooking utensils to wit, Ladals flesh forks tin buckets Woodin Buckets & pails One Churn One beer cask one vinegar cask one whiskey cask one coffee pot one stone jugg with Honey one Molasses jugg one quart jugg, one vinegar jugg, one quart mug, two pint cups, two bottles & one pint bottle one half pint bottle one copper kettle one small ditto, one frying pan the crocks one wooden bowl three bread baskets one scraper one roller one table with knives & forks, the arm chairs & the other chairs one spinning wheel one cotton wheel one pair cotton cards the spinning truck three bags one Bible One Testament one new Hymn Book & book entitled the flowry garden one psalter one bushel basket a half bushel basket a peck basket one bread pan one pair small bellows one fier shovel one pot rack one lamp one candle stick one pair snuffers, further salt fat or lard meat all that is now in our possession and potatoes all that are here Flax seed, two cows and fodder after my death my son Abraham shall feed one of the sd cows & pasture her likewise as he shall do his own further one Dung fork for her one spice box with the spice therein one woodin sugar box with the sugar therein One tapping tub one small tub two Heckles with the screws one bag to contain the sd Heckels…."
The will did not list his children, other than to mention his son Abraham as being bonded to him for the family farm, and his son John Nicholas [Junior] as living a great distance from him. Leonard Houtz and John Myer were named as executors of the will.
The inventory of the estate of John Nicholas Garst was presented in Botetourt December Court, 1803. Among his assets were listed personal loans that he had made to his sons and his sons-in-law. These loans were to Nicholas Garst [Junior], Jacob Garst, Frederick Garst, Abraham Garst, David Frantz, Peter Frantz, and David Peffley, with amounts ranging from one pound and two shillings, in the case of David Peffley, to 45 pounds, in the case of Frederick Garst. Abraham Garst was listed twice, first for the amount of 32 pounds of personal indebtedness, and second for 200 pounds for his father's land that had been deeded to him (probably just before or at the time the will was written).
As mentioned earlier in this paper, the estate was settled in Botetourt March Court of 1808, with the widow Mary receiving 150 pounds, and the four sons and five sons-in-law 30 pounds each. It was this estate settlement document that made it possible to deduce the names of the nine surviving children of John Nicholas Garst.
The Children's Families
The nine surviving children of John Nicholas Garst, in probable order of birth, were: Frederick, Nicholas Jr., Mary, Magdalena, Anna, Jacob, Elizabeth, Abraham, and Catherine. Each of these children married and had families. Four of the children-Frederick, Magdalena, Jacob, and Catherine-lived out their lives in Botetourt/Roanoke, Virginia. Three-Mary, Anna, and Elizabeth-moved from Virginia to Ohio (Mary and Anna to Clark County, and Elizabeth to Logan County). John Nicholas Jr., who never moved to Virginia, stayed back and raised his family in Pennsylvania. Abraham moved from Virginia to Indiana.
Other links by Dwayne Wrightsman on the Garsts
Frederick Garst family
John Nicholas Garst, II
John Nicholas Garst, III
Mary Statthalter debunked
John Nicholas Garst was the "father" of all Brethren Garsts. Many of these Brethren were Garst by blood rather than by name as four of his daughters married four sons of Michael Frantz of Cocalico. These Garst-Frantz Brethren moved from Virginia to Ohio in the early 1800s. Through the lines of John Nicholas's sons, especially Frederick, the Garst name became well-known in the Roanoke, VA, area. Many of these Roanoke Garsts were and still are active members of the local Brethren churches. The same is true of the Garsts who moved from Virginia to the Midwest during the later 1800s. They were Brethren and many have remained so. In contrast, the Garst name is virtually unheard of in the Little Swatara Brethren community where the family came of age. All family members moved away in 1790, and none, to this writer's knowledge, ever returned.
Draft of Nov. 1, 2004, revised Dec. 6, 2005 (© 2006) Dwayne Wrightsman, used by permission.