Ehrstines in Pennsylvania

Our first known Ehrstine ancestor initially appears in Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He is:

E. * Peter EHRSTINE, a weaver and later farmer – born, apparently, sometime before 1745 (Vicki Frazer Arnold places the date around 1748) and – if the same as the author of the will recorded in Fairfield County, Ohio, died in 1821.

At this point, we have no given or maiden name for his wife.

Their known children are:

  • E1. * John Ehrstine (born August 24, 1768; died March 10, 1855); married first Anna (unknown) and then Barbara (Burkett) Hyer.
  • E2. Esther, “oldest daughter,” married James PATTERSON.
  • E3. Magdalene, “second daughter.”
  • E4. Barbara, “third daughter.”
  • E5. Eva, “youngest daughter,” married William MAST.

*   *   *

Peter Ehrstine first appears in Morgan Edwards’ Materials Toward a History of the American Baptists Both British and German of 1770, here quoted from Donald F. Durnbaugh’s The Brethren in Colonial America (Elgin, Illinois, 1967). Among the baptized members listed under the Great Swataro, or East Conewago, congregation are a “Peter Ertzstone and wife.” “The meeting is held chiefly at private houses in the township of Mountjoy, county of Lancaster, twenty miles from Lancaster and eighty-six miles WbN from Philadelphia. The preachers are Mess[rs]. George Miller and Adam Hammaker, but not ordained. The families belonging to the congregation are about twenty” and included Roemer, Buck, Eter, Metsegar, Thomas, Reicker, Bersh, Stohner, Balshbach, Henry, and Cass surnames.

Peter then appears as a weaver of scant wealth on tax records of 1772/3 and is later listed as a “non-associator” in Mount Joy Township during the Revolutionary War, indicating his refusal to muster for militia, presumably out of religious scruples; in addition, on tax records he refuses either to swear or affirm, an additional stance reflecting a stubborn Anabaptist fidelity. He next appears in 1782/3 as a taxable having 260 acres in Shrewsbury and Springfield Townships in York County, Pennsylvania, having left Mount Joy; the 1790 Census, Codorus Township – site of another early Brethren congregation – indicates (in addition to himself) two males over the age of 16 and six females – presumably Peter’s wife and some combination of daughters, wives for his son(s), or granddaughter(s).

The Ehrstine family, headed by John (apparently E1), appears in the 1810 York County, Pennsylvania, Census, but not in 1820; John (assumed to be Peter’s son) and John’s son, Peter (E1A), arrive in Ohio by 1816 and appear in subsequent Montgomery County, Ohio, Census reports; they are not always listed in the indexes, however.

The will of Peter ARESTINE (listed in index as AIRSTINE) was written January 8, 1821, and recorded June 23 that year. There he names son John (assumed to be E1) and daughters Esther (apparently Patterson), Magdalene, Barbary, and Eva (wife of William Mast). This configuration is consonant with the 1790 Pennsylvania Census.

Peter Arestine/Ehrstine’s Will:

In the name of God, Amen.

I, Peter Arestine of Fairfield County and State of Ohio knowing the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death and being weak in body but sound in mind, Do make and ordain this as my last will and testament, to wit, as follows

firstly, I commit my soul to almighty God who gave it,

secondly, That after my decease my body be decently commited to the grave, and after my doctors and funeral charges are paid. The balance of my Estate Real and personal to be disposed of as follows,

First, I Give and bequeath to my beloved son, John Arestine, in addition to what he has already received from me previous to this time my large Bible, feeling conscious that he has received a full portion of my estate before this time and likewise feeling desirous that he will make good use of my bible, as it will perhaps benefit him hereafter.

Secondly, I Give and bequeath to my Oldest Daughter, Esther, in addition to what she has already received, the sum of one dollar, feeling conscious that she has likewise received the full portion of previous to this date

Thirdly, I Give and bequeath to my Second Daughter, Magdalene, in addition to what she has already received previous to this date, the sum of one dollar, feeling conscious that she has likewise received the full portion of previous to this date –

Fourthly, I Give and bequeath to my Third Daughter, Barbary, in addition to what she has already received previous to this date, the sum of one dollar, feeling conscious that she has likewise received the full portion of previous to this time –

Fifthly, and lastly, I give and bequeath to my youngest daughter Eva all and single less the emoluments and proffits and use of the tract of land toward seventy five acres. It being the East half of the North East quarter of Section number five of Township number fourteen Range no. twenty, it being the tract the D. Eva and her husband Wm. Mast now live on during her the said Eva Mast’s natural life and at her the said Eva Mast’s Death, It is my will and bequest that the above mentioned seventy five acres of land shall be the real property of said Eves, children to be equally divided among them in a just and equal Proportion, but during her life she the said Eva Mast and her husband Shall have all the proffits arising therefrom I further will and bequeath to my dauther Eva That after my decease and all my Just Debts be paid, All the Personal property that I now {possess} and likewise do give her the said Eve all the debts that are due me and full power to collect the {?}.

I Do hereby ordain and appoint my Son-in-law William Mast my lawfull Executor {} trusting to his honor and fidelity that he will do Justice according to Law –

In testimony of the above I have here unto set my hand and affirm {?} my Seal this eighth day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty one Signed and sealed in the presence of us –

Nicholas Gads –

Daniel Brouifly

Louis [Moore or] Mast

Received at court 23 June 1821

In the final handwriting, Louis’ name may even be “Mask,” “Mohr,” “Maust,” or “Mash” – the handwriting is most difficult to decipher, and the name is drawn with a ligature on the st, which is not duplicated elsewhere in the copy. Mast is, however, a common Amish and Mennonite name, in addition to appearing among the Brethren. The other two witness signatures are also not entirely clear.

I have no clue as to the identities or relationship of the other two signers. It is possible that they are somehow related to the Ehrstines.

Trying to determine the identity of Peter’s wife remains a challenge. One line of inquiry begins in the fact that John Ehrstine, presumably the son of Peter, is one of two administrators (with Andrew Meyer) recorded June 7, 1808, for the will of Christian Meyer of Springfield Township in York County, Pennsylvania. Christian, son of Andrew Kauffman Meyer (1753-) and Magdalena Keller (1754-1815), is the grandson of Christian Meyer (1708-) and Elizabeth Kauffman, on one side, and Jacob Keller and UNKNOWN WIFE on the other. Since Magdalena is also the name of one of Peter’s daughters, there is a hint that she may be either a sister of his wife or a niece of either his wife or himself. Placing Peter’s year of birth around 1750 or earlier gives us a reference point in our calculations. Another possibility would have Christian or his wife, Anna “Nancy” Eby, be related to John Ehrstine’s first wife, Anna. The Meyer family is reported as Brethren in York County, with Christian’s grandfather being a Mennonite deacon in Lancaster County.

Another clue may be in the marriage of Esther Erstine to James Patterson. According to the 1880 biographical histories of Richland and Morrow counties, Ohio, their child, Catharine A. Patterson, was born September 12, 1802, in York County, Pennsylvania, before the family moved to Maryland. All of James and Esther’s children were born in the east before the family moved to Richland County, Ohio, in 1825. In turn, Catharine married on March 20, 1834, Henry Ruhl/Ruhle in Perry Township, Morrow County, where she is buried. He was born in 1808 in Codorus Township, York County, Pennsylvania, to Jacob and Elizabeth (Hassler) Ruhl. Henry and his family in Ohio were Lutheran. Esther is likely Peter Ehrstine’s daughter, and the sister of John.

Curiously, the names I find recurring in the known children of John Ehrstine and Esther (Erstine) Patterson are Peter (twice), John (twice), Samuel (twice), and Elizabeth (twice). Following traditional naming patterns, this would suggest Elizabeth as the given name of Peter’s wife – that is, the mother of John and Esther. It might also suggest, by default, Samuel and Rebecca as the given parental names of John’s wife, Anna, or even as the given name of their maternal grandfather.


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