Migration to Montgomery County, Ohio

Considerations of Pennsylvania Dutch culture sometimes differentiate between “Plain Dutch,” embodied by the Amish, Brethren, and Mennonites, and the “Fancy Dutch” Lutherans, Reformed, and Roman Catholics, presumably with their “hex” signs and other distinctive decor. Looking at the Brethren, however, I’m more likely to perceive a rugged frontier variation, one that initially moves rapidly away from political controversies (especially those involving the pacifist demands of their church) and into undeveloped country.

Some settled increasingly deeper in Pennsylvania as Bedford and Somerset counties opened up before leaping further west into Ohio or south into Maryland and what is now West Virginia.

A major movement, however, followed the Great Wagon Road, winding out of York and Adams counties, Pennsylvania, across Maryland, down the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and into the Piedmont Region of North Carolina. The Brethren weren’t alone in this migration – Mennonites continue to have a large population centered in Rockingham County, Virginia, as do the Brethren; Quakers remain concentrated in Guilford County, North Carolina; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was a noted Moravian center.

Peter Ehrstine’s son John and grandson Peter seem to relocate in a single move from York County, Pennsylvania, to Montgomery County, Ohio – a locale that became a major locus in Brethren migration and settlement. Many others, however, move to a new neighborhood for a decade or two and then push on again a generation later.

Thus, biographies of early Montgomery County settlers can be misleading when pioneer families are said to come from Virginia or Maryland or North Carolina. Often, these turn out to be Pennsylvania Dutch lines in culture and familial connections.

For example, John and Peter Ehrstine settle in Randolph Township, surprisingly named for Randolph County, North Carolina. The name was given by David Mast and David Hoover, who arrived in 1802 or 1804 from North Carolina (the accounts vary). One curiosity is that Mast was the surname of John Ehrstine’s brother-in-law, William, raising the question of whether a family connection drew him to this location. A closer examination also reveals that a migration from York County, Pennsylvania, to North Carolina in 1763 resulted in the establishment of the Uwharrie Dunker church, with Jacob Stutzman as its minister and members living largely along the Johnson Creek and Cider Run tributaries of the Uwharrie River. Its families included not only John Mast and Andrew Hoover, the father of David, but also Andrew and Jacob Fouts, Frederick Waymire, Adam Varner, as well as the Barhardt, Merrill, Schwartz, and Heltzell surnames.

Some of these families were already closely related. Andreas Huber, born in Germany, went by Andrew Hoover in America; he married Margaret Pfautz in York County and died in Randolph County in 1794. Among their 13 children, son Andrew married Elizabeth Waymire, Daniel married Hannah Mast, and John married Sarah Burkett/Byrkardt. They apparently became Quaker at Centre Friends Meeting, where my Hodson ancestors worshipped and who also came to the Carolina Piedmont from Adams County, Pennsylvania. David Hoover is among the children listed in Centre’s minutes. Even so, the Dunker meetinghouse was about 24 miles from Centre; I must assume that Friends had a small preparative meeting close to the Hoover families. John and Sarah Hoover, incidentally, were the great-great-grandparents of President Herbert Hoover.

While some of these lines remained in North Carolina, some as continuing as Quakers, others became prominent in Ohio or further west. The Carolina Dunker congregations are typically described as short-lived. Waymire, it should be noted, was another Montgomery County pioneer family.

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