THE UNABRIDGED STORY ABOUT MARIE STATTHALTER
By Dwayne Wrightsman
For decades, the mother of nine Garst children--four Garst sisters who married four Frantz brothers, plus four Garst brothers (three of whom fought in the Revolutionary War), plus a fifth Garst sister who married a Peffley-- was thought to be Marie Elizabeth STATTHALTER. In the account below, the writer demonstrates that she was not their mother, and that her name was perpetuated by a series of errors appearing in Frantz and Peffley genealogies, with the original error appearing in a 1923 application to the national society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (the DAR).
Let it be said that William Tell Garst, author of OUR GARST FAMILY IN AMERICA, 1950, never used the Statthalter name in his book. He did use a given name, Mary Elizabeth, but never a surname. He was also the first to publish the fact that the father of the Garst sisters and brothers mentioned above was John Nicholas Garst. The list of John Nicholas Garst's four sons, and the Frantz and Peffley husbands of his five daughters, is on page 163 of the 1950 Garst book. This list is transcribed from the Settlement of the Estate of John Nicholas Garst, Botetourt County, VA, Will Book B, Pages 178-179.
From the Garst book we turn to the source of the traditional
history, which was the Dore M. Frantz manuscript, unpublished, but excerpted in Lorraine Frantz Edwards' FRANTZ FAMILIES -- KITH & KIN, Three Volumes, 1996. On pp. 315-317 of her Vol. 1, Lorraine quotes from the Dore M. Frantz manuscript to the effect that the Garst children who married the Frantz children were the children of Dewalt Garst and Marie Statthalter. Lorraine also quotes Dore M. Frantz (who died in 1948) as saying that he got the Dewalt Garst and Marie Statthalter names from the 1938 book, THE PEFFLEY FAMILY IN AMERICA, by May Miller Frost and Earl Clarence Frost, p. 16. (In fairness to Lorraine, she was careful to disassociate herself from the pre-1948 views of Dore M. Frantz regarding the history of the Garst family. She certainly questioned the validity of the name Statthalter).
Turning now to the 1938 Peffley book and the research that went into it, we learn how the Frosts got the names of Dewalt and Marie Statthalter Garst. The Frosts were trying to find out the names of the parents and siblings of Magdalena Garst (b. 1763) who married David Peffley. Magdalena Garst was the sister of the four Garst sisters who married the four Frantz brothers. David Peffley and three of his four Garst brothers-in-law (Frederick "Indian," John Nicholas Jr., and Jacob) had served in the Revolutionary War. It was through DAR records that the Frosts determined that the parents of Abraham Garst (who was too young to have served in the war) and his brothers and his sisters (one of whom married David Peffley) had to be Dewalt Garst and Marie Statthalter, because some of the names of the Garst siblings appeared in the documentation of a 1923 DAR application. The application named Abraham Garst, Frederick Garst, and Jacob Garst as sons of Dewalt Garst and Marie Statthalter.
In a letter written by May Miller Frost (co-author of the Peffley book) to her cousin May Taylor Garst, dated December 9, 1936, she said:
"It would seem from the fact that the descendants of Abraham Garst (brother of 'Indian') proved their line through a DeWalt Garst, it must be the one that arrived in 1750 on the Ship Patience, and he would therefore have to be the father of 'Indian' and Magdalene. Otherwise, they have proved their Revolutionary connection through the wrong person. Since the DAR requires documentary evidence of all ancestors, I do not see how they could make such an error. If there is conclusive evidence that Abraham is the son of DeWalt, and the brother of 'Indian,' no other conclusion can be reached."
The fact is, The DAR did make an error. They accepted "documentation" that was false. As mentioned above, all nine of the Garst siblings (the four sons, Frederick "Indian," John Nicholas Jr., Jacob, and Abraham, the four daughters with their Frantz husbands, Christian, Daniel, David, and Peter, and the daughter who married David Peffley) are listed in the estate papers of John Nicholas Garst, as documented in the estate settlement returned at the March Court of 1808, Botetourt County, Virginia, and recorded in Will Book B, pages 178-179. This settlement was the source for the 1950 Garst book naming John Nicholas Garst as their father. Unfortunately, the Frosts had not seen these court records, relying mistakenly, as it turns out, on DAR documents.
This writer has copies of five applications for DAR membership, each naming Dewalt Garst as father of sons who were actually sons of John Nicholas Garst. Each application also named Marie Statthalter as the mother. As stated above, the 1923 application is through son Abraham, naming Frederick and Jacob as his brothers. The next four applications (in the years 1934, 1937, 1943, and 1954) were through son Frederick, naming Jacob and Abraham as brothers. All five applications named Dewalt Garst as the father. All five applications named Marie Statthalter as the mother. All five applications were approved for DAR membership.
The effect of all this misinformation, passed down from one generation to the next, has been to perpetuate the name Marie Statthalter as the ancestral mother of thousands of Garst-Frantz-Peffley descendants. Because she was thought to be the mother of the nine Garst children, her name became attached to the real father, John Nicholas Garst, after his identity was established by William Tell Garst, author of the 1950 Garst book. Since the DAR made an error about the father, wrongfully accepting the name Dewalt Garst, it is even more likely that it made an error about the mother by accepting the name Marie Statthalter.
Why more likely? Whereas there really was a Dewalt Garst who was a younger brother of John Nicholas Garst, no record has been found for the existence of a Marie Statthalter or of a Statthalter family. Indeed, the German word "statthalter" conjoins "statt" (which means "place") and "halter" (which means "holder"). Putting the two together one gets "placeholder," which is a term used in genealogy to indicate "unknown." The DAR applicants did not know the name of the Garst siblings' mother. They didn't even have the father's correct name.
The first Garst DAR applicant to enter the name Statthalter in her application was Mrs. Elizabeth Garst Stoltz, daughter of Henry Clay Garst, granddaughter of Abraham Garst, and great-granddaughter of the alleged Dewalt and Maria "Statthalter" Garst. Her application was submitted on November 30, 1923, and accepted by the National Board of Management on October 18, 1824. The DAR investigators for Mrs. Stoltz's application (National Number 203120) were Mary Louise Waring, Mary Stowell Hughes, Margaret Ward Murphy, Inez S. Stanfield, and Alice Frye Briggs. These DAR officials unwittingly accepted the word "statthalter" for a real name. Unfortunately, some of the leading Peffley, Frantz, and Garst researchers (but not Lorraine Frantz Edwards) bought into this fiction without ever checking, challenging, or considering its source.
Where did Mrs. Elizabeth Garst Stoltz (born 1863) get "Statthalter" for a name? Was she clever with the German language, or did she really believe that it was the name of her ancestor? If the latter, where would she have come up with such a name? Her father, Henry Clay Garst, died in 1901, twenty-two years before she submitted her DAR application. Her grandfather, Abraham Garst, died in 1835, twenty-seven years before she was born.
Where did successive Garst DAR applicants and members (National Numbers 294329, 304456, 341126, and 426023) get "Statthalter" for a name? Could such a name have come from independent sources? The answer is no. In each of these applications the source was given as National Number 203120, meaning Mrs. Elizabeth Garst Stoltz.
Elizabeth Garst Stoltz died in 1944, leaving no children. In this writer's opinion, it was probably she who invented the name "Marie Statthalter."
Not even her father, Henry Clay Garst, seems to have known much about his paternal grandparents. In 1892, at age 75, Henry Clay Garst wrote a very long letter to his niece, Katherine Sample Garst, regarding the family ancestry. In his letter (transcribed in the 1950 Garst book, pp. 277-279), he wrote about and named his parents, Abraham Garst and Katherine Ribble. He also wrote about and named his maternal grandparents, Christopher Ribble and Barbara Magdalena Brinkerhoff. However, he wrote nothing about his paternal grandparents. They were not even named.
This is why this writer thinks that the name "Marie Statthalter" was a fiction, created in 1923 by Mrs. Elizabeth Garst Stoltz for the purpose of joining the DAR.
Draft of Nov. 1, 2004, revised Dec. 6, 2005 (© 2006) Dwayne Wrightsman, used by permission.