THE UMBENHAUERS OF PENNSYLVANIA
(Transcribed from Reading Eagle, Reading, PA December 23, 1894)
Our Farm Near Bernville, in the same Family for 153 Years – No Others Ever Lived on That Land – Their Ancestry
The large farm of William Umbenhauer adjoining the borough of Bernville has been in the hands of the Umbenhauer family for 153 years and no other people have ever lived thereon. The family history of the Umbenhauers is full of interest. About the year 1735 Stephen Umbenhauer, who then spelled his name Umbenhawk, left his native country of Switzerland and sailed for America in company with a brother, considerably young. They landed at New York and after staying there a while went to Phila. and thence made their way on foot to near the present location of Stouchsburg. Here they took up a tract of several hundred acres. Stephen was married at this time, but his brother was single and lived with the former. The 2 brothers intended to clear and cultivate the land in partnership. the land granted them near the present village at Stouchsburg, was surveyed in 1737 by Wm. Parsons, deputy surveyor of the province of Pennsylvania. The results of their labor at the above name place were not very encouraging, as they did not understand the cultivation of the lime stone sod of that region. In Switzerland they had meadow land.
Only Umbenhauer left
Stephen’s brother died, and was buried near the Lutheran church at Tulpehocken. He was still single. Stephen was now the only Umbenhauer, or Umbenhawk, in Switzerland or America. When the brothers left their native country, all the rest of their family had died out, and the 2 remaining members had barely enough money to take them to the new world.
Shortly after his brother’s death, Stephen abandoned his claim near Stouchsburg, although a rude house and several other buildings had been constructed, and with his family drifted down the Tulpehocken valley in search of a nice tract of tillable meadow land. Finally they saw a tree of great height. It towered ‘way above all the rest. Great trees bespeak a fertile soil and Mr. Umbenhauer knew this, so he shifted his course in the direction of the big tree. He was confident of finding good land here, and when he finally reached the spot, was not disappointed. They arrived toward the close of the winter of 1741. Mr. Umbenhauer immediately began the building of a house for his family and on the 19th of July of the same year purchased a tract of 285 acres here.
Land situated on North Creek
Previous to this purchase he had to make several trips to Lancaster, where the land office was located. An old deed examined by the Eagle’s traveling correspondent says that the tract is situated on North creek. This stream is now known as Northkill, probably because it flows into the Tulpehocken from the north. Fifteen pounds and 10 shillings was the amount paid for the land, which was then included in Lancaster county instead of Berks. In 1743 Mr. Umbenhauer and his family became members of the old Tulpehocken Lutheran church, of which Rev. A. J. Long is now the pastor. This church was about 9 miles from the home of the Umbenhauers, and was the nearest house of worship.
Mr. Umbenhauer cleaned the land as rapidly as possible and his farm was in a very short time considered one of the most fertile in the valley. Stephen Umbenhauer died comparatively young, and on April 2, 1853, his son Balthaser, who spelled his surname Umbehacker, bought the farm of the sum of £200.
After Balthaser’s death, his son, Thomas, became the purchaser on Nov. 8, 1794 for the sum of £950. Thomas was the grandfather of Wm. Umbenhauer, the present owner of the farm.
Laid out the village of Bernville
About the year 1817 Thomas Umbenhauer, who already spelled his name the way it is now spelled, laid out the village of Bernville, which was then entirely on his land and was known as Umbenhauerstown for a number of years. The place, of course, was only a small fraction of the present enterprising borough of Bernville. Thomas Umbenhauer was one of the leading men of the county in his time. He died aged about 70 years. At the time of his death, the village had been the means of reducing his farm to 133 acres.
The farm now became the property of his son Peter, who purchased additional tracts, thus raising the acreage to about 160. Peter Umbenhauer lived to be 72 years of age. After his death his son William, who is now 70 years of age and still owns the property, purchased the land. The farm has not been reduced in size, but greatly improved in every respect. A large new barn was erected in 1859 and a substantial brick house took the place of the old log home in 1870. The accompanying pictures is a representation of the farm as it now appears. It is one of the most fertile in northern Berks. Its appearance has changed greatly within the last 100 years. Both house and barn used to be of logs. The old barn was over 100 feet in length.
Wm. Umbenhauer is the father of 8 children, nearly all of whom are getting along well. Isaac is the well-known dealer in gents furnishing goods, of Reading: C. K. Whitner & Son; William works in Levi’s clothing house; Thomas, the eldest of the children, is a carpenter and also lives in Reading; John is employed in Wm. Moyer’s grocery store, Reading; Dan’l left for the west several years ago, as did also Milton. Kate, the only daughter, is married to John Dunkelberger, who works for Dives, Pomeroy & Stewart. Wm. Umbenhauer, Sr., is one of the prominent men of his section of the county. He has been justice of the peace fo rover 25 years.
Families such as these are truly the representative people of old Berks.