© 2020 by Roots & Wings Research, LLC

  • Kristin Wenger

Kissing Cousins, Mennonite Ministers, and First Settlers (#52Ancestors week 51: Nice)

When I was teaching third grade, we often discussed banning overused words like “nice” from our writing.


I even had a poster similar to the one above on the classroom wall. “Nice” was too boring, bland, and weak. It was a word to avoid using in writing at all costs.


So when I saw this week’s prompt, I had to laugh. Wouldn’t writing about someone who lived a “nice” life seemingly devoid of conflicts like divorce, crime, war, or scandal result in a less-than-compelling story? Absolutely not!


This week, I’m taking a deep dive into several generations of my great grandma’s Old Order Mennonite roots. As you'll see, their lives were far from boring!



GREAT GRANDMA LIZZIE


Pedigree Chart for Lizzie Graybill Landis [1]



Lizzie G. Landis in her youth



Seated: Albert A. Hornberger and Lizzie (Landis) Hornberger

Their four children are standing, left to right: Landis (Bud - b. 1936), Albert Jr. (b. 1930), Beulah (b. 1934), and John David (b. 1932)


Lizzie (Landis) and Albert Hornberger, early 1970s


I regret that I never got to meet her. She died less than two years before I was born. [2]



Learning about Lizzie's family history has been a fascinating foray into the lives of Mennonite ministers and “kissing cousins.”



PIKE MENNONITE CHURCH


Lizzie’s parents and maternal grandparents are all buried at Pike Mennonite Church. [3]

The graveyard and church building are located along route 322 near Hinkletown. [4]



An earlier photograph of Pike (also called Stauffer) Mennonite Church [5]


My father has told me that Lizzie’s parents were very conservative Mennonites, so much so that they were (in his words) “almost Amish.” As I have researched this particular congregation, his description has proven to be accurate.


There have been several interesting articles already written about this Old Order Mennonite group and its history. If you’d like to learn more, please check out:


ENDOGAMY AND PEDIGREE COLLAPSE


William G. Graybill's gravestone in Pike Mennonite Cemetery. [6]


Moving back a few generations, let’s take a look at Lizzie’s maternal grandfather, William Graybill.

William G. Graybill’s pedigree chart [7]


Do you notice anything a little bit different about this chart? Umm…yeah. William’s parents, Tobias and Catharine Graybill were first cousins. Keep in mind, it was not terribly unusual for cousins to marry each other in that time period, especially in situations where population was limited and religious groups did not support marrying outside the faith.


Going beyond his parents, however, William’s pedigree collapse gets even more complicated. I’ve used colored circles to draw your attention to couples who were doing double or even quadruple duty as his ancestors! Take particular note of the names encircled in red and blue as I highlight what I’ve learned about these prominent ancestors.



MENNONITE BISHOP JOHN D. GRAYBILL (1766-1838)

(William’s great grandfather two different ways, circled in red)


John Graybill was ordained bishop of the Mennonite Church when twenty-one years of age, and served until his death in 1838. He was the first Mennonite minister in the vicinity. [8]

Can you imagine being called to that level or responsibility of ministry by the lot as such a young man? He served in that role for 50 years!


Bishop John Graybill's home was the place of worship for the Richfield community until 1854 when a large stone church was built near Richfield, but in Snyder County. [9]

That church is now called Cross Roads Mennonite Church. However, the Graybill family was so instrumental in its founding that it was also called Graybill Mennonite. [10]


I also found the curious statement below on his card from the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. [11]


What was Bishop “Jonnie”in error about? How did he make things right? And why was a Dauphin County mortgage book cited as the source of that information? Sounds like another story to investigate.



IMMIGRANT AND EARLY SETTLER JOHN GRAYBILL/KROEBIEL (1735-1806)

(William’s great-great grandfather four different ways, circled in blue)


Bishop Jonnie’s father, also named John, was born in Wierhof, Germany in 1735. [12] He immigrated with his parents at the age of about 18, landing in Philadelphia in 1753. [13] By 1774, John had obtained a warrant for land in what was then Northumberland County. [14] According to the page below, he purchased a total of about 1000 acres and was “the oldest settler in this vicinity.”[15]



A photograph of John Graybill’s original gravestone, taken about 1950, stating

“He was the first settler in this vicinity.” [16]


Over time, the stone became illegible and was replaced with this one.


Notice that the surname spelling was changed to Kroebiel, but still makes a similar claim of being the "first settler in this valley.” [17]


I found an interesting note on John’s card at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, pictured below. [18]



Although some of the dates were just slightly off from what I found in records, I was intrigued by the statement about “Pomfret Fort.” I had never heard of it, and a quick search led me to another blog:


Pomfert Castle or Fort Pomfret was one of several forts that were planned during the winter of 1755-56 as part of the defensive plan west of the Susquehanna River. It was ordered to be built along the Mahantango Creek and it is assumed that it was named in honor of Thomas Penn’s wife, Lady Juliana Penn, daughter of the Earl of Pomfret. Although it is not documented that this was the site of the fort, an archeological study in 1975 showed that the stone house was built on the foundation of an earlier building.
What can be proven is that Johannes Kroebil (John Graybill, 1735-1806) was the first settler in this valley. In 1774, he bought the land on which this old house stands. He was the first settler in this valley. The house is approximately 20 x 28 feet and consists of two rooms on the first floor with a loft above and a basement that has a solid ceiling of 28-foot hand-hewn logs and an enclosed never-failing spring. [19]


The original Graybill homestead known as Fort Pomfret was built in 1785. [20]


Check out Romaine Stauffer’s blog post on Fort Pomfret for more photographs and information on this building.


MORE TO FIND:


How cool to see the original homestead of my 7x great grandfather! Because members of the Graybill family were some of the first settlers and leaders of the Mennonite church in this area, I know I could find more by visiting in person.


A quick perusal of the holdings of the Juniata Mennonite Historical Center shows that a photograph of Lizzie’s maternal grandparents (my 3x great grandparents) William and Lydia Shirk (Brubaker) Graybill is among the treasures waiting to be discovered. [21] It would be NICE to meet them!


Read more #52Ancestors stories



Sources:

[1]Kristin Wenger, pedigree chart for Lizzie Graybill Landis (1905-1975), “Josh Alexa Nathan Wenger Family Tree,” Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 December 2018).


[2] Funeral card, Lizzie G. Hornberger, 1905-1975; original in Hornberger family file, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Lancaster.


[3] Personally viewed by author. Also, Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 December 2018), memorial page for Alvin A. Landis (31 Aug 1863–28 Aug 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58080540, citing Pike Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Romaine Stauffer (contributor 47114269) . Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 December 2018), memorial page for Annie B. Graybill Landis (8 Jan 1873–16 Jun 1956), Find A Grave Memorial no. 58080483, citing Pike Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Romaine Stauffer (contributor 47114269) . Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 December 2018), memorial page for William G. Graybill (9 Dec 1851–30 Mar 1902), Find A Grave Memorial no. 51935919, citing Pike Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Romaine Stauffer (contributor 47114269) . ). Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 December 2018), memorial page for Lydia Brubaker Graybill (17 Dec 1851–13 May 1892), Find A Grave Memorial no. 51935830, citing Pike Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Romaine Stauffer (contributor 47114269) .


[4] Photograph of graveyard at Pike Mennonite Church, Romaine Stauffer, “Stauffer Mennonites,” Stauffer Scribbler (http://stauffer-scribbler.blogspot.com/2016/03/stauffer-mennonites.html : accessed 10 December 2018).


[5] Photograph of Stauffer (Pike) Mennonite Church, circa 1920, shared by Romaine Stauffer, “Stauffer Mennonites,” Stauffer Scribbler (http://stauffer-scribbler.blogspot.com/2016/03/stauffer-mennonites.html : accessed 10 December 2018).


[6] Romaine Stauffer, gravestone photograph, Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 December 2018), memorial page for William G. Graybill (9 Dec 1851–30 Mar 1902), Find A Grave Memorial no. 51935919, citing Pike Mennonite Cemetery, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Romaine Stauffer (contributor 47114269) .


[7] Kristin Wenger, pedigree chart for William Graybill Graybill (1851-1902), “Josh Alexa Nathan Wenger Family Tree,” Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 December 2018).


[8] Frank Ellis and Austin T. Hungerford, editors, History of That Part of the Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys Embraced in the Counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Union, Perry, and Snyder in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Vol. 2 (Philadelphia : Everts, Peck, and Richards, 1886), 1528; digitized by Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=Wa4yAQAAMAAJ&q=graybill#v=onepage&q&f=false : accessed 10 December 2018.


[9] Ira D. Landis, "Pike Mennonite Church (Hinkletown, Pennsylvania, USA)," Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Cross_Roads_Mennonite_Church_(Richfield,_Pennsylvania,_USA) : accessed 10 December 2018).


[10] “Cross Roads Mennonite Cemetery,” FindAGrave (https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2239916/cross-roads-mennonite-cemetery : accessed 11 December 2018).


[11] Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, genealogical card file for Graybill, John, Bishop (1766-1838); “Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-1940,” database with digital images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60592 : accessed 10 December 2018), path: Gottshalk, Barbara – Grosman, John R. > image 1589 of 4078.


[12] Ellis and Hungerford, editors, History of That Part of the Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys…, Vol. 2 (Philadelphia : Everts, Peck, and Richards, 1886), 1528.


[13] Ralph B. Strassburger, Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808, Vol. 1, 1727-1775 (Norristown [PA]: Pennsylvania German Society, 1934), page 572, entry for Johan Christian Greebel.


[14] “Pennsylvania, Land Warrants, 1733-1987,” database, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2409 : accessed 11 December 2018), entry for John Graybill, 18 March 1774; citing Index of Early Pennsylvania Land Warrants, 1733–1987 from the Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


[15] Ellis and Hungerford, editors, History of That Part of the Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys…, Vol. 2 (Philadelphia : Everts, Peck, and Richards, 1886), 1528.


[16] Photograph added by Steven Canvin, Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 December 2018), memorial page for Johannes “John” Kroebiel, II (18 Aug 1735–18 Feb 1806), Find A Grave Memorial no. 12681408, citing Cross Roads Mennonite Cemetery, Snyder County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Jesus My Savior (contributor 47465934) .


[17] Photograph added by Jack Strasser, Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 December 2018), memorial page for Johannes “John” Kroebiel, II (18 Aug 1735–18 Feb 1806), Find A Grave Memorial no. 12681408, citing Cross Roads Mennonite Cemetery, Snyder County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Jesus My Savior (contributor 47465934) .


[18] Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, genealogical card file for Graybill, John, (1735-1806); “Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-1940,” database with digital images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60592 : accessed 10 December 2018), path: Gottshalk, Barbara – Grosman, John R. > images 1569 of 4078.


[19] Romaine Stauffer, “Fort Pomfret,” Stauffer Scribbler (http://stauffer-scribbler.blogspot.com/2016/06/fort-pomfret.html : accessed 10 December 2018).


[20] Photograph by Kirk Vredevelt, FindAGrave (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12681408/johannes-kroebiel/photo#view-photo=73050717 : accessed 11 December 2018).


[21] “Photo Index,” Juniata Mennonite Historical Center (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5RrabE1QTV_eUgwNlRQbEJqNTQ/view : accessed 11 December 2018), citing photograph 5238, P57, Graybill, William Sr. and wife Lydia Shirk Brubaker?, donated by Mara Weinhold.