Christian (I) * PA Deeds * Susanna Levering * Christian (I) Will and Children * Christian (II) * Christian (III) *
Westward Movement * Sources * European Roots
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Christian Brenneman (I) (1685-1759)
Christian Brenneman, son of Melchoir Brennemann, the Swiss Anabaptist exile, immigrated to American about 1709. He was 24 years old and unmarried. He is believed to have come to American with Melchoir Brenneman, age 44. Researcher believe that Melchoir (II) is an older brother but he could be an uncle or cousin. It is, however, clear that they were closely related.
The voyage was, no doubt, very difficult, taking up to six months. The actual ocean voyage was from 7-12 weeks, depending on the wind and how often the captain got lost. In addition to the ocean voyage, there were long--and expensive--delays at European harbors:
The Rhine boats passed 36 custom houses, requiring inspections "when it suits the convenience of the customs-house officials." This leg of the trip took 4-6 weeks.
Passengers would be detained another 5-6 weeks in a Holland port (either Rotterdam or Amsterdam.)
It took 2-4 weeks to sail to England where the passengers waited again.
On board, there were food and water shortages, lice, unsanitary conditions and death. If a spouse or parent died during the voyage, the next-of-kin had to pay the fare.
After 1730, most of the German immigrants came as "redemptioners." This was the same principle as "indentured servants" except there was no pre-arranged agreement. When the boat landed, if the passenger couldn't pay his fare, his services were auctioned off, usually from 3-5 years. Children owing fare, however, had to serve to age 21.
Due to the expenses related to the unexpected delays at European ports, many German immigrants spent all their savings en route.
Since the Brennemans arrived before 1730 and were part of the supportive Mennonite community, they probably arrived in the New World as freemen. [See photo early Mennonite Meeting House in Germantown, PA.]
A family trade of the Brennemans was weaving. [See photo of 1730 loom displayed in the Mennonite Museum in Germantown, PA.] It is known that Melchoir (II) was a weaver as well as two of Christian's sons.
In recruiting settlers for Germantown, William Penn's agent for the Frankfort Company, Francis Daniel Pastorius, sought immigrants with useful skills--weaving, farming, carpentry, tanning. Linen weaving was an important industry in Germantown. The superior quality of Germantown textiles was commented upon by travelers to the area from the town's inception throughout the 18th century.
The first legal records that mention the Brennemans are deeds to purchase land.
Christian Brenneman, our ancestor, and Hans George Trullinger purchased 60 acres on Oct. 12, 1717, between the French Creek and the Skulykill River.
Melchoir Brenneman (II) purchased 500 acres in the Conestoga settlement in Lancaster County on Nov. 30, 1717. This property was surrounded by other Swiss Mennonite settlements. The adjacent land was owned by Hans George Trullinger. Another neighbor weas Hans Herr, the local pastor and farmer. [See photo of the Hans Herr House, which was built in the typical "German" style with the chimney in the center of the house.]
Christian Brenneman married Susanna about 1720. Her last name is believed to have been Levering. Two Leverings--Gerhard and Wigart--were among the second group of German immigrants (probably from Griesheim--the Brenneman's hometown.) They were naturalized as British citizens along with Pastorius and 31 other heads-of-household.
The prominent German Mennonite who befriended the Swiss Mennonites in 1671 was named Jakol "Everling."
On November 14, 1729, Christian and Susanna moved to Towamencin Township, purchasing 178.5 acres. As the first settler on this land, Christian had to clear the land of forest before converting it to farm land.
Christian was naturalized in Philadelphia on June 21, 1743 along with all Mennonites.
Christian Brenneman (I) Will and Children
Christian's will was prepared on Nov. 8, 1757, in which he stated that he wished none of his children to continue on the farm. He granted a lease to his sons Chrisitian (II) and William to hold the farm only until his executors sold it. All the proceeds were to be divided among the seven children of whom some were under 21 years of age. The will also stated that Henry and William had been advanced some money for the purchase of weaver's beams. [See photo of 1730 loom displayed in Mennonite Museum in Germantown, PA.]
Christian died in the spring of 1759. The farm was sold by his executors on May 28, 1759, to Adam Gotwalts.
Christian and Susann's seven children were:
Christian Brenneman (II) (1728-1764)
Christian (II), age 29, married Catharine Mercly, age 29, on July 3, 1757. Catharine was the daughter of Jacob Mercly (or Merkelin) and Barbara Dotterer. Barbara, the daughter of George Philip and Veronica Dotterer, is of German descent.
They were married at Augustus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Trappe, Pennsylvania. [View photo of Lutheran Church, Trappe, PA.] This is the first evidence we have that this line of the Brenneman family may have left the Mennonite faith.
Christian (II), along with his brothers William and Samuel, moved to Tredyffrin Township in Chester County in December 1761. The land was purchased in Christian's name in 1763. The property lay along Conestoga Road and bordered the lands of Captain Isaac Wayne--the father of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne and Hannah Wayne, who is also an ancestor of one Brenneman line.
Christian (II) died at age 36 in March 1764. His wife appears to also be decreased at that time since the three children are known to be reared by Christian's two brothers--William and Samuel--and the wife's brother--Philip Mercly. All owned farms in York County.
The three young children and their guardians in 1764:
Christian (III), 6 years old, reared by William Brenneman.
Catharine, 4 years old, lived with Philip Mercly.
Samuel, 1 year old, with Samuel Brenneman.
Christian Brenneman (III) - Patriot (1758-1842)
Christian (III) was 18-years-old and living with Uncle William, age 46, in York when independence was declared in 1776. He and all four uncles served in Pennsylvania Regiments.
Three uncles--William, Benjamin, Samuel--served in the same Pennsylvania York County Militia company under Captain Michael Lechner.
A fourth uncle, Jacob, served in Chester County units.
Christian volunteered for several stints of active duty in Pennsylvania Militia units. Service of nine months or more in the Revolutionary War entitled veterans to pension benefits.
Christian (III) gives the following account of his militia service in a sworn application for pension as a Revolutionary soldier, executed Sept. 6, 1832 in Jackson County, Indiana:
"While residing in Codorus Township, about 7 miles from York in York County, Pa., I volunteered July 1, 1776, served a short while in Capt. George Deal's company, Col.. Smith's regiment, then in Capt. John McDonald's company, Col. Swope's Pennsylvania Regiment of the Flying Camp, assisted in building Fort Lee, was in the battle of Trenton, and was discharged Jan. 5, 1777.
"I enlisted in the fall of 1777, served two months in Capt. William White's company, Col. Rankin's Pennsylvania Regiment. I enlisted sometime in August (year not definitely shown--probably 1781) served four months in Capt. William Dodd's company under Major William Bailey, guarding British prisoners at Camp Security who were taken when Burgoyne surrendered...."
The Battle of Trenton is the most interesting of Christian's engagements. This refers to Washington's Delaware crossing on Christmas Day 1776 as depicted in Emanuel Leutze's famous painting above.
This was the final battle before the armies retired for the winter. Although the Continentals had acquitted themselves well in 1776, most of the battles had been lost. The Trenton victory was very much needed psychologically, especially a victory over the supposedly invulnerable Hessian mercenaries.
The actual assault was carried out with several Continental Main Army brigades (about 6,000 men). An artillery company directly supported each brigade. The task of sealing the town off to prevent re-enforcements or escape went to the state militia (which included Christian Brenneman) supported by a single Continental brigade.
Brenneman Faith in 1776
Since Mennonites were pacifists, the participation of Christian and his four uncles in the American Revolution indicates that all of Christian (I)'s family had left the Mennonite faith by 1776.
Religion, however, still played an important part in the Brenneman lives, and one of William's sons became a Dunkard minister. The Dunkard sect was closely related to the German Mennonites. The name "Dunkard" is derived from the sect's belief in baptism by immersion.
Historians have noted that two-thirds of the Mennonites had left the faith by 1730. Many more broke away during the War of Independence.
After the American Revolution, many of the Brenneman family, including Christian Brenneman (III) joined the Westward movement. [Click to read about the Indiana Branamans.]
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