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  • Writer's pictureKristin Wenger

The Homing Instinct (#52Ancestors week 18: Close Up)

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

Pigeons have it. So do many other species of birds. Turtles, bees, and thousands of other creatures all display what we call the homing instinct. [1] Is it possible that this innate yearning for home and motivation to find the way there is embedded in humans as well?

This week’s writing prompt is “Close Up.” Rather than focus on a close-up portrait or photograph of an individual, I’m zooming in on a map.

Neither my husband nor I grew up in the immediate area within which we now live. His family owned a dairy farm in the Sporting Hill area of Rapho Township and my childhood home was on Old Delp Road, north of Lancaster City in Manheim Township.

As newlyweds searching for our first home, we were drawn to Lititz. I loved being able to walk to the library and to the historic downtown area. Three growing kids later, we were ready for a little more open space, but wanted to keep our children in the same elementary school. We looked for almost three years and just kept coming back to the same small area before we finally purchased land in Warwick Township, less than two miles away from our first house. This search occurred before I ever began any family history research. At the time, we had no idea that I was actually returning to the center of 200 years of family history of my maiden name: Hornberger.

I am a runner. Well, let’s be honest. Now that I’ve entered my forties, a more accurate description might be jogger, or even “slogger”. Nonetheless, my jaunts have given the opportunity to become very well-acquainted with the roads in our vicinity. Amazingly, I discovered that the graves of my paternal 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th great grandparents are all located within one to three miles of my home.

My great-great grandmother Katharine Nagle

(She divorced Martin C. Hornberger in 1918 and her tombstone reflects her maiden name.)

Katie’s parents and my 3x great grandparents David and Mary Elizabeth (Habecker) Nagle are buried in Rothsville United Zion cemetery with their daughter. [3]

My 3x great grandparents Martin S. and Mary Ann (Cooper) Hornberger (parents of Martin C. Hornberger) are buried at what is now Millport Mennonite Church.[4]

I can see this cemetery from my backyard when there are no leaves on the trees. I previously wrote about Mary Ann’s parents’ tumultuous 1860 divorce.

My 4x great grandparents Samuel and Catherine (Stormfeltz) Hornberger are buried at Salem Lutheran Church of Kissel Hill. Catherine’s parents (my 5x great grandparents), John and Sabina Stormfeltz, are also buried here.[5]

I find it remarkable that we chose to settle right in the middle of them without having any knowledge at the time!

Of all of the roads I run, Warwick Road has always been special to me. Yes, it’s beautiful, but there is just something magnetic about it.

Warwick Road, Lititz, Pennsylvania, photos by Eric Wenger, June 2014

When my kids were a bit younger and willing to go on family hikes, we enjoyed exploring the Millport Conservancy and the Lititz Run, accessed from Warwick Road.

My husband took this series of photos capturing a memorable incident in 2014. Notice our ten-year-old daughter, above (and sporting inappropriate footwear) before she slipped and fell into the water.

The flow was surprisingly rapid and started pulling her downstream, so I jumped in to haul her out. Don't you love the look of surprise on her face?

Her brothers were quite amused and, aside from some wet clothes, all was well. But when we got home, I made sure to show my kids these newspaper clippings that involved their 4x great grandfather Martin S. Hornberger and did not have such a happy ending.[6]

I imagine that my great-great grandfather Martin C. Hornberger and his brother Monroe were among the boys swimming that day. They would have been 13 and 14 years old. What a traumatic event it must have been for them to watch their friend drown, desperately attempt to rescue him, and frantically run home to get their father to help when it was too late. Rudy Dam is only 0.15 mile from my house as the crow flies. This story made me realize that we are literally walking the same ground that they walked in the 1800s. It also piqued my curiosity to pin down the exact location of the Hornberger land.

From census records and numerous other documents giving their residence as “Owl Hill” or “Millport,” I knew it was extremely nearby.[7]

First, I found a January 1872 deed in which Martin S. Hornberger purchased the land at a sheriff’s sale. It states that it had previously been owned by Samuel Hornberger (his father) and gives the names of several adjoining landowners.[8] By correlating those names with other records, I figured out that the land was either in or adjacent to the northern end of what is now the Millport Conservancy.

Dan Gwinn, another third great grandchild of Martin S. Hornberger, had also been working on pinpointing the location of the land and sent me the following map on which he outlined the approximately 4.25 acres in red. [9]:

Just recently, I finally located a map that shows Martin S. Hornberger’s ownership of this land. [10] Because the image loses clarity as I zoom in, I'll start with Warwick Township as a whole and then move in for a "close up."

M Hornberger 4 is circled in red (the approximate acreage of land is the number noted with each landowner's name). Notice neighbors Uriah Buch and J. (Jacob) Gable from the newspaper article about the drowning of Gable's son. The land on which I now live was on the eastern side of Simon Hostetter's property.

The modern day map below shows my house in relation to Rudy Dam and the Hornberger land.

I learned that our connections to land in this immediate vicinity go back even further which is why I placed one more pin on the map: Pfautz Mill. Local friends may recognize this mill which sits on 772 near the intersection with Heck Road.

This mill, just steps away from the Hornberger land off of Warwick Road was built by my 7th great grandfather, Johannes Pfautz. [11] You can read more about the history of the mill here.

This chart traces my Hornberger line back through several more generations of females to the builder of the mill, Johannes Pfautz.

I must add one final map to conclude this story.

Notice the two red circles. The small one at top right is the mill built by my 7x great-grandfather. The larger red circle at left is our church's cemetery, Witness Park.

Unless God takes us on an unexpected journey, the final resting place of my earthly body will be right back where some of my ancestors started in the 1700s. Do humans have a homing instinct? It certainly seems so! While a human homing instinct on earth may be debatable, I know without question that God has placed within me a yearning for my true and eternal home.

I'm going home! Do you know the way there?


[1] Bernd Heinrich, The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration (New York: 2014); digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 27 April 2018).

[2] Rothsville United Zion Cemetery (Twin Brook Road, Rothsville, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), Katharine Nagle gravestone; personally read, 7 November 2017. Photo by Kristin Wenger, 14 June 2013.

[3] Rothsville United Zion Cemetery (Twin Brook Road, Rothsville, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), David and Mary Elizabeth Nagle gravestone; personally read, 7 November 2017. Photo by Kristin Wenger, 14 June 2013.

[4] Millport Union Cemetery (820 Log Cabin Road, Leola, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), Martin S. and Mary Ann (Cooper) Hornberger gravestones; personally read, 25 April 2018. Photo by Kristin Wenger, 14 June 2013.

[5] Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery (26 Owl Hill Road, Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania), Samuel and Catherine Hornberger, John and Sabina Stormfeltz gravestones; personally read and photographed, 16 March 2018.

[6] “Out of the Past: Rudy’s Dam Drowning,” Lititz Record Express (Lititz, Pennsylvania), page 21, column 5; originally published 25 July 1890 in The Lititz Express; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library ( : accessed 27 April 2018). Also, “His Last Swim,” The Lititz Record (Lititz, Pennsylvania), page 3, column 4; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library ( : accessed 25 April 2018).

[7] "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 July 2017), Martin Hornberger household, Warwick, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district ED 118, sheet 305A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 1140; FHL microfilm 1,255,140.

[8] Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Sheriff Deed Book 3: 372, Samuel Hornberger to Martin S. Hornberger, 20 January 1872; Lancaster County Archives, Lancaster.

[9] Daniel Gwinn, Google maps image with added markings approximating location of Hornberger land, provided via e-mail to author,16 June 2017.

[10] Everts & Stewart, “Map of Warwick Township,” Combination Atlas Map of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1875); digital image, Historic Map Works, LLC Residential Genealogy ( : purchased 27 April 2018).

[11] Jim Miller, “Pfoutz’s Mill/Rothville Mill,” ( : accessed 27 April 2018).

1 Comment

Matthew Pfautz
Matthew Pfautz
May 30, 2023

I am a distant relative of yours! My 7th Great Grandfather is also Johannes Pfautz! My name is Matt Pfautz and i would love to connect and hopefully pick your brain about anything you may know about the mill & Johannes!

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