January 17, 2011
Johann Friedrich Boyer
of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania
by Neil A. Boyer
The ancestry of Lewis Elmer Boyer, of Easton, can be traced with accuracy to the area of Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, back to Johann Friedrich Boyer, who would have been Lew Boyer's great‑great‑grandfather. The burial records of the “Old Red Church," located a mile southwest of Orwigsburg, in West Brunswick Township of Schuylkill County, note that "Johann Friderich Boyer," born in Germany, died (presumably near Orwigsburg) on September 11, 1804, at the age of 86 years, 4 months and 16 days. He therefore would have been born on April 25, 1718.
This chapter contains the following sections:
Children of Johann Friedrich Boyer
Grandson David Boyer, Gunmaker of Orwigsburg
Back to Orwigsburg Home Page
Neil Boyer's Home Page
The Red Church Cemetery
Johann Friedrich Boyer's simple tombstone is located in the cemetery across the road from the Red Church, at the far end of the fourth row just inside the arched gate. The tombstone, inscribed in German, has information that is slightly different from the church records. In English translation it says, "here rests Johann Friedrich Boyer, born in Europe 1717, died in the year 1803, age 86 years." The year of death is one year earlier than the date given in the church record (although the age is the same). Also, Friderich/Friedrich have different spellings. Because the Red Church records are in sequence, it is more likely that the church account has the correct dates. The tombstone would have been prepared later. However, spelling preference should be given to that used on the tombstone, since the stone presumably was prepared by the family.
Johann Friedrich Boyer was married to Anna Maria Magdalena Boyer (maiden name unknown), and the Red Church records contain a notice of her death. (No written record of the marriage has been located, either in Europe or America.) The church record book says "Ann Maria Bayer, born in Jackshausen, Europe, died November 18, 1805, aged 76 years, 10 months, and 23 days." She therefore would have been born on December 26, 1728. However, her tombstone also contains slightly different information. In English translation, the German text says "here rests Anna Maria Mag., wife of Friedrich Boyer, born in Europe 1719, died in the year 1805, age 86 years." Thus the church record and the tombstone both give the same year for her death, but the tombstone reports that she lived 10 years longer. American Boyers says that, judging by the birthdates of her children, it is more likely that she was born in 1728 and that the church record is the correct one.
Also of interest is the spelling of the name of Anna Maria Magdalena's home town in Europe. The records relating to Johann Friedrich say only that he came from Europe. In relation to his wife, the Red Church records use the name "Jackshausen," although no place with such a spelling is known to exist. It could well have been "Jagsthausen," which does exist in Germany. In contrast, the 1915 edition of American Boyers said that Anna Maria came from "Schaffshausen (?)," which is a town in Switzerland, about 10 miles north of Zurich near the German border. It could be that the author simply guessed that the church secretary meant to say "Schaffhausen" but wrote "Jackshausen," or vice versa. In the 1940 edition of the same book, the question mark was deleted, indicating either more certain evidence or stronger editing. The 1986 edition of American Boyers used the word “Jackshausen,” the same as in the church record.
About 1955, an American living in Germany tried to assist in solution of this mystery by looking for towns of this name. Using a gazetteer and large-scale maps, he actually found two cities in central Germany named “Jagsthausen” and ten cities or towns named “Schaffhausen” or “Schafhausen.” One logical possibility is that what was intended by the church secretary was the similarly pronounced town in Germany, "Jagsthausen," a small village east of Mannheim and north of Stuttgart, about 60 miles southeast of Frankfurt (it does not appear on all maps of Germany). Although this Jagsthausen is east of the Palatinate area which was the home of most of the immigrants, it was also a logical base for emigration from Germany. One family genealogist said he favored Jagsthausen over Schaffhausen, based on probable pronunciation. “I can just visualize the English-speaking immigration clerks writing ‘Jackshausen’ after asking the immigrant for his origin and receiving a guttural ‘chockshausen’ rather than ‘chaffhausen.’” It is possible that this mystery might be resolved by a look at the original records of the Old Red Church outside Orwigsburg. Those records were hand-copied into a new bound book in 1905, and the new book is the one that uses “Jackshausen.” It is possible that a mistake in copying was made and that the original record would show something different. If anyone has found or consulted the original record, that is not known.
Curiously, Anna Maria Magdalene and Johann Friedrich Boyer are not actually buried in adjoining graves. They are separated by 15 feet of open space. Near the far end of the fourth row in the Red Church Cemetery, the stone of Johann Friedrich Boyer stands alone. Fifteen feet further are three tombstones close together ‑‑ those of his wife Anna Maria Magdalena, Jakob Boyer (a son of Anna Maria and Johann Friedrich) and Jakob's wife, the former Magdalene Hartinger.
One possible explanation is that someone else was buried between Johann Friedrich and Anna Maria, although that would have been odd since the two died only 14 months apart. The Red Church records cite the burial of a Daniel Boyer of Brunswick Township, who died on November 3, 1805, at the age of one year and three months. This was just 15 days before the death of Anna Maria. Possibly Daniel was a grandson of Johann Friedrich and Anna Maria, and he might have been buried next to his grandfather at the start of what was to be a "Boyer's Row." There was a Daniel Boyer baptized at the Red Church on July 29, 1804, and this could have been the child buried next to Johann Friedrich one year and three months later. However, that Daniel was actually born on June 10, 1804, and was thus one year and five months old, too old to match the burial record, and his parents, Andreas and Catharine Boyer, are not known to be related to the family. Nevertheless, the person apparently buried next to Johann Friedrich could have been a Daniel who was a grandchild, but the mystery of the grave spacing is not solved.
The tombstone's use of the name “Friedrich” as the husband of Anna Maria is not surprising, since Johann Friedrich apparently was known primarily by his middle name (as were Boyers many generations later). This is the name that appears in tax records and the 1790 census, as well as in baptismal records of the grandchildren when Johann Friedrich and Anna Maria Boyer served as sponsors. Nevertheless, some confusion exists because one of the children of Johann Friedrich was named “Frederick.” (The wife of Frederick the son was reported to be Margaret Rabenold, and he is believed buried in a different cemetery, although no burial record or grave had been found in 2005.) The only other known use of the first name Johann is in the church record of death and on the tombstone.
The name used in accounts of the Daughters of the American Revolution, "Johannes," is not duplicated elsewhere. Some may consider “Johann” and “Johannes” to be the same. However, some genealogists believe they are different names. Genealogists report that it was common among Germans for a male child to be given two names. The first one was “Johann” and the second one something else – the name that the person actually was called. Thus, in this family there is a Johann Friedrich (known as Friedrich), Johann George (known as George), Johann Jakob (known as Jakob). (Female children also were given two names, of which the first often was Anna or Maria – thus Maria Barbara, Maria Magdalena.) One exception on the male side was that when “Johannes” was used, that was usually the primary given name. A person named “Johannes” actually would be called “Johannes,” but a person named “Johann Friedrich” would be called “Friedrich.” The American Boyers accounts, throughout its seventh edition, often used these two names interchangeably or, going even further, called a person “John” when the records said “Johann” or “Johannes.”
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The Orwigsburg Churches
To obtain a full understanding of the early American roots of the Boyer family, it is necessary to dig a little bit into records of the churches of Orwigsburg. The first, and most prominent in the history, is the old Red Church, which contains early records of the Boyer family. The Red Church still existed in 2005, a mile outside of Orwigsburg, on land granted originally by John Penn, brother of William Penn, and Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the Province of Pennsylvania. The grant, according to an introductory history in the church record book, was made "to certain members of the Lutheran Church living beyond the Blue Mountain, allowing them to hold a collection for the purpose of aiding them in building a house of worship."
Quiet and peaceful in appearance by itself, the church is now literally only inches away from the busy four‑lane Route 61, noisy with the traffic of heavy trucks. Indeed, the church has been separated from its cemetery by the highway. The proper name of the red clapboard church is Zion's Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Church, reflecting the merger of two congregations in 1832. The merger reportedly came about due to the hardship of a bad winter and the inability of the Reformed congregation to maintain its own church structure, located within a few hundred yards of the Red Church; it is reported that the merger did not sit well with many of the Lutherans.
The carved stone over the entrance records that the church was founded and the first structure erected in 1755, the second church built 1755‑1770, the third church built 1799‑1803, and the fourth (and present) church built 1883‑1884. A sesquicentennial celebration in 1905 drew large numbers of people, including prominent clergymen and descendants of the original founders of the church. The large church record book, developed at the time of that celebration, contains many photographs of the stylishly dressed congregation, with horse‑drawn carriages, at the ceremony outside the church.
The first church structure, less than a year old, reportedly was burned by Indians, and it took almost 15 years to erect a new building. The church apparently was a major goal of the Reverend Daniel Schumacher, who had organized the church in 1755 and was present for the dedication of the second church in 1770. The Red Church records indicate that Reverend Schumacher was invited there by the Honorable Peter Schmelgert, elder of the community, "in the name of the Christian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation." This is the same Peter Schmelgert who served as sponsor for two children of Johann Friedrich (as well as many others of the church).
Daniel Schumacher was minister to the Red Church from April 1755 to July 1757, and again from December 1770 to July 1781. Serving seven congregations, he baptized many children in the area, and his published baptismal records (with numerous comments) constitute a major source of information about the period. His baptisms included at least Johann Jacob Bayer, a son of Johann Friedrich and Anna Maria, on May 31, 1772, and Maria Magdalen Hartinger, on August 23, 1771, who would marry each other some years later. (They also included a Johann Daniel Beyer, of Schwarzwald, seven weeks old when baptized on August 22, 1756, who also may have been a son of Johann Friedrich and Anna Maria.) While there may be substantial accuracy in his records, it must also be noted that Schumacher apparently was the subject of some controversy, particularly relating to his theological education, or lack of it. Also, he was not always polite. His record of one baptism describes the sponsors as "Michael Hedinger and wife Anna Barbara, born a daughter of fat Ludwig Hans in Linn Township."
In 1799, construction started on a new and larger church building. The cornerstone was laid on October 4, 1799, and the church dedicated on May 29‑30, 1803, just 16 months before the death of Johann Friedrich Boyer. The walls of the log building were plastered with a reddish mixture, and thus it was called the Red Church. Since Johann Friedrich Boyer died at age 86 in 1804, he likely was one of the first persons buried from the newly built third church. His is one of the first entries in the "burials" section of the church record book, and his grave is near the cemetery entrance. The fourth Red Church structure, still existing in 2005, was completed in 1884 and is made of red clapboard.
One may presume that the Johann Friedrich Boyer family was active in the Red Church, judging by the appearance of the Boyer name in numerous entries of baptisms, marriages and burials in the church record book ‑‑ even though several other branches of Boyers apparently are involved. The Lutheran records show 89 baptisms of children named Boyer (or similar name) between 1771 and 1906, as well as the burials of 28 Boyers between 1804 and 1917. The Reformed church records add four more baptisms and four more burials.
In 1830, just before the merger of the Lutheran and Reformed congregations at the Old Red Church, steps were taken by Reformed members of the Red Church to find a more convenient place of worship, and a cornerstone was laid on a lot at the corner of Tammany and Washington Streets in Orwigsburg, about a mile away. It was the foundation of the current St. John's Evangelical and Reformed Church. Known as the "White Church," to distinguish it from the "Red Church," the new structure was two stories tall and made of stone. On July 2, 1835, the "German Reformed and Lutheran Congregations of St. John's Church in Orwigsburg" were incorporated.
From the start, the new building was used by both Reformed and Lutheran congregations, but by 1843 the pastors of the two groups agreed on their opposition to a union church, and the Lutherans soon wanted their own building. In 1844, the Lutherans built a red brick church on North Warren Street (known in 1986 as the Campbell Apartments) and adopted the name St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church. A document in the cornerstone read that "the cornerstone of this church was laid on the 30th day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1844, and in the 68th year of the freedom of the United States, while John Tyler was President, and David R. Porter was Governor of this State." Fifty years later, in 1894, St. Paul's erected the large brick church which still stands on North Warren Street.
Similarly, the Reformed congregation at St. John's soon considered that it had outgrown the "White Church," and in 1907 it laid the cornerstone for a new church on East Market Street, which still exists. The old "White Church" then was used temporarily as the Orwigsburg Grammar School, but on Sunday evening, June 11, 1911, lightning struck the historic building and burned it to the ground.
Many Boyers are buried within the town limits of Orwigsburg at the cemeteries of these two churches, which are separated by only a street. At the Old Lutheran Cemetery, affiliated with St. Paul's, the graves of a number of Boyer ancestors may be found in the northwest corner, at North Washington and East Mifflin Streets. The Reformed cemetery, affiliated with St. John's, is divided into two parts. The earliest part is at the site where the "White Church" burned down in 1911. Much of the original church property has been replaced by two private homes at the corner of Washington and Tammany Streets, but the earliest part of the cemetery may be found on the north side of the second home. Because it is said to contain primarily the graves of Revolutionary War soldiers, the small cemetery, with about 25 tombstones, is maintained by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Unfortunately, virtually all of the tombstones are illegible. The remainder of the Reformed Cemetery is across the street, and it contains some graves moved there from the original site. The graves in this cemetery include those of Johann Friedrich Boyer’s son George Boyer and George’s wife Anna Maria.
Another unfortunate aspect of the St. John's role in history is that about 12‑15 years of the church records, from about 1872 to 1888, were kept not in the official church record books but by the pastor himself, who regarded the accounts of his baptisms, marriages and burials as his own property. Although the records were handed down within the family for a time, and were seen by some historians, it is reported that a descendant of the pastor in the 1970s destroyed these valuable records.
The St. Paul's church and cemetery are particularly important from the perspective of the family of Lewis Elmer Boyer. While the church records may not be complete, they at least include the baptisms of Lewis Elmer himself, a brother (Walter Ellsworth), two uncles (William B. and Charles Boyer) and an aunt (Marie Barbara); the marriage of his parents (George B. and Sarah Boyer); and the burial of his grandfather (David Boyer), his great-grandfather (George Boyer), and two brothers of his great‑grandfather (Johann Jakob and Michael Boyer). In short, at least four Boyer family generations in Lewis Elmer Boyer's line are represented in the records of St. Paul's.
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Friedrich Boyer's Travels in Pennsylvania
Searching backwards from the burial records, historians have pieced together a number of references to the man believed to be Johann Friedrich Boyer. Following what is understood to be his arrival in America in 1752, the chronology appears to be this:
The first official census of the United States in 1790 lists in Berks County, for Brunswick and Manheim Townships, a head of family named “Frederick Boyer,” whose household contained five white males over 16, one white male under 16, and four females. There was no other Frederick, nor a Johann. No names of other family members were provided in this initial census, making it difficult to place the family. However, if this was Johann Friedrich Boyer, those present in the household, judging by their ages in 1790, could have been Johann Friedrich himself, age 73; wife Anna Maria, 62; and their younger children -- Michael, 30; Johann, 27; Maria Barbara, 25; George, 21; Jacob, 28; and Gottfried, 17. Others among the 10 people in the house might have been spouses of the children. The 1790 census also showed a “John Boyer” in Brunswick and Manheim Townships, in a household consisting of only one male over 16 and one female. This too might have been Johann Friedrich and his wife Anna Maria if they lived alone.
There are two Frederick Boyers in the 1800 census, but neither appears to fit the Johann Friedrich under discussion here because they were too young. A list of "warrantees" in Berks county shows that a Frederick Boyer owned 8 acres of land when surveyed on January 9, 1804, apparently the year of the death of Johann Friderich. A problem with these records is that it is not clear whether the person mentioned is Johann Friedrich Boyer, the father, or Frederick Boyer, the son. However, since there is only one Frederick mentioned during this period, it is presumed that the owner was Johann Friedrich, the father. If so, the eight acres would represent a considerably smaller property than the 135 acres taxed in 1785. (See the discussion of census records in the discussion of Johann Friedrich’s son Frederick Boyer in the following chapter.)
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The Arrival in America
Prior to the 1758 tax records in Ruscombmanor Township, there is no firm indication of the origins of Johann Friedrich Boyer. There is only the tombstone inscription that he was born in Europe. However, multiple sources record the arrival in Philadelphia on September 27, 1752, of a man who signed his name "Johann Georg Friderich Bayer," on board the ship Nancy. The ship had embarked from Rotterdam in the Netherlands and finally left Europe from Cowes on the Isle of Wight at the southern tip of England, with 83 passengers.
The document providing the "oath of abjuration" is headed as follows:
The 17th of the 83 names on the list is "Johann Georg Friderich Bayer," the last name spelled with an umlaut over the "a."
The Nancy. According to a history of the American Revolution, the Nancy made a dramatic departure from the shipping scene just 24 years later. The report said that in the summer of 1776, the Nancy was smuggling West Indian gunpowder into Philadelphia when it was trapped by British warships. Under cover of fog, the crew beached the ship off of Cape May, New Jersey, and unloaded 270 barrels of powder but left behind enough for a large explosion.
At least two years and nearly 100 miles separate the mention of the man who arrived on the Nancy from the man of similar name who appeared in church and tax records of Lehigh and Berks Counties. Nevertheless, the historian of American Boyers, writing about Johann Friedrich Boyer, concluded in 1915 that the one arriving in Philadelphia on the Nancy "was undoubtedly the man in question." Apparently there is no other evidence to point to that conclusion, but it was left unchanged in the 1940 and 1963 editions of the book. The 1986 text omitted this claim of certainty but nevertheless noted that a “Joh. Georg Friederich Bayer” came to America on the Nancy in 1752.
Johann Friedrich's wife Anna Maria was not included on the list of passengers. However, that was not unusual since passenger lists usually included only males over 16. Also, she may have come on a different ship. (Indeed, an "Anna Maria Beyer" did arrive in New York on November 20, 1752, aboard the ship Irene, sailing from London, just two months after Johann Friedrich arrived in Philadelphia, but there may have been no connection between them.) Also, there is no mention in the ship records of any children, particularly Frederick, believed by one source to have been born in 1750, before the Nancy arrived. However, ship records seldom included children under 16.
There is a hint in several records that Johann Friedrich may not have been married when he traveled to America. In the 1752 tax list of Ruscombmanor Township, there is a "Frederick Bla" among the single men. It is remotely possible that this is a faulty identification referring in fact to Frederick Beier; if so, it would suggest that he arrived in Philadelphia unmarried, went directly to Ruscombmanor Township, then went to nearby Lehigh County, and then back to Ruscombmanor Township. There is a baptismal record on August 9, 1767, in Heidelberg, Lehigh County, listing "Friderich Bayer, single," as a sponsor. And there is a tax record including "Fredk Boyer" on a list of "single men" in Brunswick Township in 1771. However, the last two items are in conflict with the location of baptismal records for Johann Friedrich's children.
Also casting doubt on the firm identification of the passenger on the Nancy in 1752 is the fact that a man giving exactly the same name ‑‑ "Joh. Georg Fried. Bayer" ‑‑ arrived in Philadelphia on September 25, 1751, just one year earlier, aboard the ship Phoenix, which had sailed from Rotterdam, and last from Portsmouth, with 412 passengers. The author of American Boyers was not able to trace this man, and thus no other evidence of him exists. Since the arrivals were a full year apart, it is remotely possible that the same man made the trip from Europe twice. However, this is unlikely, given the difficulty of trans‑Atlantic travel at the time. Further, a comparison of the signatures of these two men as they took the oath of abjuration indicates they were different people.
Certainty about the identification is also shaken by the American Boyers book of 1940. In attempting to identify the point of immigration of a "Frederick Boyer" who founded an entirely different line of Boyers, the book said that perhaps this Frederick was the "Joh. Georg Friedrich Bayer" who arrived in Philadelphia in 1752. With that comment, one page of the 1940 American Boyers account seemed to cancel out the conclusion some pages earlier that the man who arrived in Philadelphia in 1752 was "undoubtedly" the ancestor of Lewis Elmer Boyer.
Besides the Boyers already mentioned, there were other people with similar names arriving about the same time.
"Frederick Boyer" and the Indians - Conflicting Stories. There may also have been others of similar name who traveled to America at times for which ship records are not available. There are other interesting but apparently misleading trails. For example, there is a "Frederick Boyer," described in one book as a "progenitor of the American branch of the Boyer family," who has much the same background as that suggested for Johann Friedrich Boyer. He journeyed from the Palatinate to America in 1733 (19 years before the man thought to be Lew Boyer's ancestor), settled along the Lehigh River near a place called Rockdale, about 40 miles from Orwigsburg, and had a son Frederick (as did Johann Friedrich). The account notes that this man was a member of the Reformed Church and "no doubt his object in leaving his own country was that he might worship God according to the dictates of his conscience." This Frederick Boyer, however, met an unfortunate end. He had secured several hundred acres of land, mostly timber and underbrush requiring hard labor to permit cultivation. "While working in the meadow," the account notes, "he was waylaid and shot by an Indian, who afterward scalped him in the presence of his son, Frederick Boyer." An almost identical story concerns a John Jacob Beyer who was shot and scalped on his farm at Lehigh Gap, Carbon County, in 1758; his son Frederick Boyer witnessed the attack and, along with his sisters, was captured by the Indians and held prisoner in Canada for five years. See also the note below regarding a Frederick Boyer and Indians.
Still another Frederick Boyer appears to have lived in Philadelphia about the same period, apparently a merchant. A record of ship arrivals there indicates that on March 17, 1773, an "Anna Spess Fisher," servant to Frederic Boyer of Philadelphia, arrived from Rotterdam. However, the reported dates of birth of the first three children of Johann Friedrich make it impossible for the Frederick Boyer (and Anna) mentioned in the 1773 ship record to have been the ancestors of Lewis Elmer Boyer.
The multiple spellings of the last name have increased the difficulty of accurately tracing the family, although most genealogists believe the multiple alternate spellings of the family name should be discounted as of minimal importance. The man who arrived in Philadelphia in 1752 spelled his name "Bayer," written with an umlaut over the "a." The man in the Ruscombmanor tax records in 1758 had his name spelled "Beier." The baptismal records of two children, Johann Jakob and Johann Gottfried, born in 1771 and 1774, bear the name "Beyer." In 1792, Friedrich and Anna Maria were sponsors at the baptism of Anna Maria Bayer, and had their name recorded as "Bayer," without an umlaut. In the church record of Johann Friedrich's death in 1804, the name is given as "Boyer," and his tombstone is the same. The tombstone of his wife Anna Maria also uses Boyer, but the church record of her death in 1805 uses the name "Baeyer" in the margin and then spells out the name "Ann Maria Bayer."
In the end, the American Boyers conclusion that the Johann Friedrich Boyer of Orwigsburg actually arrived aboard the Nancy in 1752 may well be correct. Nevertheless, there seems some room for uncertainty, and this casts doubt on the reliability of any search backward into Europe to learn more about Johann Friedrich Boyer. Was the man buried in Orwigsburg in 1804 really the same man who arrived in Philadelphia aboard the Nancy in 1752? We may never know. Even if one could be positive about this identification, a search backward into Europe would be very difficult. For one thing, centuries-old emigration records in Rotterdam, the port of the Nancy’s embarkation, were in part destroyed by Nazi bombings during World War II. However, it is reported that they contained very little, if any, information on the people who were sailing and instead concentrated on the ships themselves.
Other avenues of research on these points may still be followed by future genealogists. One would be naturalization petitions. If Johann Friedrich Boyer applied to become a citizen, he would have had to file a petition explaining how and when he came to America and where he previously lived. Although he took the oath of allegiance, and thus became a “patriot” for purposes of membership in the Daughters of American Revolution, it is not known whether he applied for citizenship. The closest information located is a list of Persons Naturalized in Pennsylvania. This list cited An Act of Parliament which entitled Foreign Protestants to be naturalized when they settled “in any of his majesties Colonies in America,” provided that the applicant had resided in the Colonies for seven years and could produce to the Court a Certificate of having “taken the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in some Protestant or Reformed Congregation in this Province within three months.” The list prepared on April 10, 1755, included a “John Boyer” of Berks County, who took the sacrament on March 29, 1755. But this John Boyer probably was not the same as Johann Friedrich Boyer. If Johann Friedrich had arrived aboard the Nancy in 1752, he would not have been in America for seven years and thus would not have been eligible for naturalization. Furthermore, there is very little information to guide a search. The facts quoted here are basically all that is available, unless an exploration of the state files would reveal a detailed application form.
Another route to learn more about Johann Friedrich would be to compare his signatures. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, he did sign the “Oath of Abjuration,” and a facsimile of that signature has been printed, as noted above, and is easily available. Unfortunately, no other signature by this man has been located. If it were possible to find something else signed by the man who lived near Orwigsburg – for example, naturalization, tax or land records, or a will – it would then be possible to establish firmly that his man was, or was not, the one who arrived in 1752.
Still another approach would be to trace the origin of passengers aboard the Nancy in 1752. Relatives, neighbors and friends often traveled together. The full list of male passengers is available. If it were possible to trace one or more of the passengers back to their place of origin in Germany or Switzerland, it might be possible to get a better fix on the original home of Johann Friederich Boyer.
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Whether the ancestor of Lewis Elmer Boyer traveled to the New World in 1752 aboard the Nancy, or in 1756 aboard another ship, he traveled at what was reported to be one of the relatively rare quiet moments of this period for western European history. Hapsburg Emperor Charles VI, in 1740, just before his death, had made arrangements for his oldest daughter, Archduchess Maria Teresa, to have his throne. But within six weeks after the death of Charles, Emperor Frederick of Prussia had invaded Hapsburg territory, beginning a period of off‑and‑on warfare that continued for 25 years.
At first there was disagreement about Maria Theresa's succession to the throne, but a treaty of 1748 confirmed the inheritance, and the war quieted down for a while. The period from 1748 to 1756 has been called "the eight years of peace" between the two empires. If the record is correct, it was then that Johann Friedrich Boyer, who was 34 in 1752, took the opportunity to get out, to travel to Rotterdam to take the Nancy to Philadelphia.
One can only speculate on whether Johann Friedrich was directly involved in the conflicts of the time, although he was of what might be called "fighting age" and certainly could have been affected by the conflicts. Whatever his motivation to travel, he apparently was caught up in the mass exodus from the Palatinate in the years 1749‑54, noted above, when some 31,000 people changed their lives by sailing to Pennsylvania. One must speculate as well on whether he had money when he traveled or was one of the "redemptioners" who had to work for others upon his arrival in order to pay for passage. If he was one of the redemptioners, he apparently had "redeemed" himself at least by 1758, when he was recorded as a landowner and taxpayer in Berks County.
The trip to America itself is worthy of reflection. According to one account, simply the passage from the Palatinate area down the Rhine to Rotterdam took "fully half a year." There were 26 custom houses along the route, each one imposing long detentions while it inspected each passenger and attempted to extract from each one as much as possible of the savings being carried. After the travel to Cowes in England, there was another delay of one to two weeks while the ship waited for customs clearance or favorable winds.
A passenger who traveled to Pennsylvania in the year 1750 wrote that "the real misery begins with the long voyage [across the Atlantic]. For from there, the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail eight, nine, ten to twelve weeks before they reach Philadelphia. But even with the best wind the voyage lasts seven weeks." There was much suffering and hardship aboard the ship. Passengers were described as "packed like herrings, without proper food and water." There were "all sorts of diseases ‑‑ dysentery, scurvy, typhoid and smallpox. Children died in large numbers." Then there were further delays in Philadelphia in order to protect the citizens of the city from the diseases being carried on the ship. And finally, since most ships arrived late in the year, the passengers were quickly subjected to the hardships of the cold winter.
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Orwigsburg in the 1700s
It is reported that German immigrants were among the first to move north of the "Blue Hills," or the "Blue Mountains," after the land was purchased from the Indians in 1749. The French and Indian War drove many of these people south again, but when peace came, many people returned after 1764. Nevertheless, by 1793, the area that is now Schuylkill County was still a frontier area, with a population of less than 3,000. The 2000 census showed a county-wide population of just over 150,000.
It is clear from various accounts that the early settlers had a difficult time. There was, of course, the hard work of clearing the forests and preparing the soil for farming. There were also difficulties with the Indians, although the historical accounts do not make clear who did what to whom first.
At the dedication of the second Red Church, on December 2, 1770, Daniel Schumacher, the traveling Lutheran minister who served seven congregations in the area "over the Blue Mountains," referred to "the awful experiences which we suffered at the hands of these wild and heathen people, the Indians, so‑called, in 1756, etc." The first structure of the Red Church, it was said, had been burned by Indians in 1755 or 1756 within a year of its erection.
Another writer said that West Brunswick Township was "the scene of more Indian depredations than any other in the county." On February 14, 1756, near the Old Red Church, a man and two children were murdered, and the house and barn, grain and cattle were burned. The Indians then went to another house and killed one man, two women and six children. On May 24, 1756, also nearby, Indians killed five and scalped four. Historians concluded that "the descendants of these hardy and fearless pioneers, who endured so much to open the New World to civilization, can have no just conception of the trials, dangers and privations of their ancestors in laying the foundation of this great commonwealth."
A man named Peter Orwig laid out the borough of Orwigsburg. The town existed from 1796, but after it was chosen as the county seat in 1811, the settlement grew faster. The town was incorporated in 1813. In 1900, the population was l,518. In 1980, it was 2,700. The census of 2000 reported a population of 3,106. Originally, Orwigsburg was a boat‑building center, despite its inland location. Fifteen‑ton crafts rolled down the hill to the Schuylkill River at Orwigsburg Landing, later called Landingville. In 1907, the town had nine shoe factories, two knitting mills, one box factory. In 1986, the town industry was still dominated by knitting mills, and an underwear factory overlooked the corner of the Lutheran Cemetery where many Boyers were buried.Hotel Orwigsburg, 1985.
The 1811 decision to select Orwigsburg as the county seat involves an interesting tale. The citizens clearly wanted the designation, and believed that having a good source of water power would be a strong influence on those who would make the decision. To reinforce that point, the citizens dammed up the streams in the vicinity to make it appear that there was a good water flow and a strong power source. The visiting officials were duly influenced, and in 1811 Orwigsburg was made the county seat. In 1851, however, the seat was moved to Pottsville, since coal had been discovered there but not in Orwigsburg. Pottsville thrived, and Orwigsburg did not. During its brief time as county seat, it was reported that a tavern served as the first courthouse. When cases were being heard, since there was no jail, culprits waiting to be called were chained to trees outside the tavern.
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Other Boyers in Orwigsburg
Although Orwigsburg was small, other Boyers were present besides those in the line originated by Johann Friedrich Boyer. In particular, there was another group of Boyers who traced their line to the immigrant Andreas Beyer, born in 1681. One grandson of Andreas Beyer, a son of Philip Beyer (1718‑1769), was named Christopher Beyer (1750‑1811). Christopher was married to Catherine Reifschneider. It is believed that they moved to the Orwigsburg area around 1785, although it may have been earlier, and they are listed as sponsors for a number of baptisms of their family in the Red Church record book.
Christopher and Catherine had at least nine children, and two of them are prominent in Red Church records. These are Christian Boyer (1781‑1869), who married Catherine Levan (born in 1783), and Daniel Boyer (born in 1784), who married Elnora Davis. The families of both Christian and Daniel were very large, and there are numerous entries in the record books of their baptisms, marriages and deaths. Indeed, there were a number of people named "Daniel Boyer" in the Andreas Beyer line, as there were in the Johann Friedrich Boyer line. Christian and Catherine Levan Boyer are buried in the cemetery of the Old Red Church, not far from the tombstones of Johann Friedrich and Anna Maria Boyer.
There is great uncertainty in keeping separate the lines of the various Boyer families. For this reason, it cannot easily be learned which branch of the Orwigsburg Boyers suffered the tragedy of 1879, when three children of Theodore Frederick Boyer and his wife Sabina died of diptheria within seven days of each other, from March 26 to April 1; they were aged 4, 9 and 11.
The tradition of Boyers in the Orwigsburg area nevertheless continued. In August 2005, the on-line white pages telephone directory included 7 Boyer listings in Orwigsburg, 17 in Schuylkill Haven and 19 in nearby Tamaqua.
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Johann Friedrich as a "Patriot"
Johann Friedrich Boyer has been listed as a "patriot" in the records of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution. Under DAR terminology, patriots are those who "assisted in establishing American independence."
The specific act attributed to "Johannes Frederick Boyer" by the DAR is the taking of the oath of allegiance, sworn before Charles Shoemaker in 1778. A photocopy of the handwritten list was included in the Patriot File of Johannes Frederick Boyer at the DAR Headquarters in Washington in 2005. This shows:
This chronological list shows the signers, day by day, from May 16, 1778. There is one entry on the 16th, followed by “Frederick Beyer” on May 18, 1778. Frederick’s signing, according to the Historical Society of Berks County, Reading, Pennsylvania, is recorded in the Berks County Oath of Allegiance Book, on page 34. However, contradictory letters from that society caused confusion in relation to the date of the signing. One letter said the date of the oath-taking was May 10, 1778, and American Boyers (1986) used this date, but the photocopy of the signing page makes clear that the actual date was May 18, 1778.
As of September 2005, six family women had claimed membership in the DAR by virtue of the patriot status of Johann Friedrich Boyer. Most of the DAR applications correctly used the date May 18, 1778, as the one on which he took the oath. However, the DAR records use the name “Johannes Friedrich Boyer,” while the official record of oath-taking used “Frederick Beyer.”
Johann Friedrich would have been 60 years old at the time of taking the oath as a patriot, and thus it is unlikely that he would have seen military service. The Charles Shoemaker mentioned here was probably the same one who in 1768 opened a boatman's tavern in a log house on the south side of Plum Creek in Berks County. As a tavern owner, it is likely that Charles Shoemaker was one of the leading citizens and thus was vested with authority to administer oaths of allegiance. The site of the tavern was first called Windsor Haven, and later Shoemakersville.
Little is known about Johann Friedrich, except for the descriptions of his property cited above and the names of his children. Apparently he and his wife were Lutherans, for the records of their death are in the Lutheran records of the Old Red Church in Orwigsburg. Presumably, they died in Orwigsburg, although that is not certain. Judging by the church records, Johann Friedrich lived to be 86, his wife Anna Maria to be 76. It was reported by American Boyers in 1940 that they had five children, ‑‑ Frederick, George, Johann Jacob, Johann Gottfried and Peter. However, the 1986 revision indicated that there were actually ten:
See the genealogical chart on Johann Friedrich Boyer's family.For more than 100 years after Johann Friedrich Boyer settled in the Orwigsburg area, most of his family could be found in nearby Schuylkill and Berks counties, especially near Orwigsburg. It was not until 1872-74 that George B. Boyer, a great‑grandson of Johann Friedrich, and the father of Lewis Elmer Boyer, moved part of the family away from that area and went 60 miles east, to Easton, Pennsylvania.
Details on this second generation are included in the following chapter.
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Note on Boyers in the DAR Patriot List
The Patriot List assembled by the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) consists of individuals who had some degree of participation in the American Revolution and who are claimed as patriots by one or more women who can prove direct descent from the patriot. Applicants for membership in the DAR must provide detailed links to themselves from a “patriot” and must prove the patriot’s participation in the Revolution. (DAR genealogists themselves acknowledge that approval of a person as a patriot does not guarantee that the family genealogy is correct, but at least the research presented can help future genealogists examine information that has been developed.)
The 2003 revised edition of the DAR Patriot Index runs to three volumes. In Volume I, at pages 302-03, is a total of 61 “patriots” with the name Boyer. (All people of similar name have been incorporated into this listing of Boyers.) Included in this list are one Johannes Frederick Boyer, five people named Frederick Boyer, and four named George Boyer. These are:
Children of Johann Friedrich Boyer
Grandson David Boyer, Gunmaker of Orwigsburg
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Back to Orwigsburg Home Page
Neil Boyer's Home Page
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