The Showalter History

The following is the abbreviated story of the Showalter history. This information comes from the book "History of the Showalter Family" compiled by Portia Showalter Everett. Publication date: 1964.

The European Story

On the eastern borders of Switzerland there lies the small principality of Lichtenstein. Near it's castle is a small town called Schan surrounded by the Schanwald or "Beautiful Forest." Legend says that early in the 1400's a man from this forest came in the vicinity of St. Gallen in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Constance. After the fashion of the times, he was known to his neighbors as the "Schanderwalder" or "man from the beautiful forest." In time the name became Schanwalder, Schawalder, Schoenwalter, Schonwalder, Schowalder, and soon, until today in the United States it has become either Schowalter or, as in our case, Showalter. The birthplace of the Showalter family, according to the earliest record, was in Strengalbach, a village five miles west of Zofingen, Canton (county) of Argua, Switzerland. Here some baptismal records list the children of Silvestor Schowalder; born about 1550, and his wife Barblin Huntzinger. Of their five children, the first baptized on April 12, 1573. The last entries were two children of Hans Joggi (Jacob) Showalder and his wife Anna Bannwart: On October 20, 1695 Anna was listed and on June 13 1697 Joggeli was listed. There were no Schowalders recorded after 1697 because of emigration. The Schowalder emigration took them out of Switzerland down the Rhine into Germany where they settled into the Palatine of the Province of Bavaria. Many by the name of Schowalder reside there still. Some of these emigrated from Bavaria to Holland and then to America in the middle 1700's. One such was Jacob Showalter.

The American Story: Some have thought that the phrase "Pennsylvania Dutch" meant that their people came to Pennsylvania and were from Holland. Not so -- they were of German or Swiss origin. The years 1749-50 saw the greatest migration of these people to Pennsylvania. They settled close together, among relatives, intermarried and took little part in civil government, choosing to keep the customs and language of the fatherland. The English speaking people, it is said, dubbed the "Dutch". Those who were the scribes of the time spelled the German names the way they sounded in English in the public records and many names got changed as a result. The Amish and some of the old order Mennonites of Lancaster County, PA still to this day speak a dialect of German -- called Dutch by the people of the area. However, the words Pennsylvania Deitsch simply mean Pennsylvania German.

Jacob Showalter, the ancestor of our family, was born about 1694, probably in Basel Switzerland. About 1721 he married Maria (possibly Saunders, possibly Funk). In 1744 they emigrated to Holland. In 1750 on the ship "Brotherhood" Jacob and Maria and their family of eight sons and three daughters arrived in Philadelphia on November third. Jacob Sr. and his sons Jacob, Johannes (John), Joseph, Christian and Peter were among the 119 "signers" of the list, indicating that they were 16 or older, since those under 16 did not sign. His other sons were Valentine, Daniel and Ulrich; his daughters were Barbara, Margaret, and Martha Anna.

The family, except Christian, settled in 1751 on the west bank of the Lehigh river on a 450 acre tract of land which later was included in the confines of Whitehall Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. Today the town of Cemenon stands where his land was. Son Christian settled in the Cocalico Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

When the French and Indian wars broke out in 1758, Jacob and his sons became involved. Nicholas Marks of Whitehall Township on October 9, 1763 gave a report on an Indian attack which appeared in the colonial newspaper "The Pennsylvania Gazette", it can be found in the book "Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania -- Vol. 1 pages 164-174. Marks said that after dinner, as he opened his door, he saw an Indian standing about 2 poles from the house who tried to shoot him, but Marks quickly shut the door. Then the Indian slipped into a cellar close to the house. Marks, with his apprentice boy George Graff, and his wife ran to Philip Jacob Schreiber with the news -- in the process of making their escape they were shot at by a second Indian; a third was running through the orchard. Two miles away they stopped at Adam Deshler's house where 20 men at arms were stationed. They all went first to the house of John Jacob Mickley where they found a boy and girl lying dead and the girl scalped. From thence they went to Hans Schnieder's: his wife and three children were dead. His house was burning, he also was dead and all were scalped. On the return to Adam Deshler's they found Jacob Alleman's wife with a child lying dead in the road and scalped. In the summer of 1763, after a raid at the Stendon house, Indians plundered James Allen's house; a short distance off, they attacked Andrew Hazelet's house. Hazelet attempted to fire on the Indians but missed and was shot in front of his wife. She ran off with two children but was pursued and tomahawked along with the children. A party of Indians went to a place on the Lehigh river a short distance from Siegfried's bridge (to this day knows as Indian Fall). Here 12 Indians were seen by ULRICH SHOWALTER, wading across the river. Ulrich was at the time working on the roof of a building and had a good chance to count them. It is not known if they were seen by anyone else until they reached the farm of John Jacob Mickley. Here they encountered three of his children in a field, under a chestnut tree. Henry 9 years old, and Barbara 7 were tomahawked, Peter 11 escaped. Adam Deshler's house was used as a fort. It was of stone construction and still stood in 1894.

In 1759 a political figure of the area successfully laid claim to Jacob Showalter's land. He sold it to William Allen (founder of Allentown), who then sold part of the land back to the family. The movement of the family began in 1769 with son Valentine the first to leave. During the next three years, the father, John, Daniel and Joseph followed him. Jacob Sr., Jacob Jr., Valentine, Joseph, and Daniel settled in Chester County Pennsylvania: Valentine, John, and Daniel in Tredyfferin Township and Joseph in Charlestown Township. In 1788, 1789 and 1790, a movement to Virginia took place. Daniel, Ulrich, and Valentine went to Shenandoah and Rockingham counties, Virginia.

In Tredyfferin Township in 1779, Valentine was taxed on 100 acres of land, 3 horses and 4 cows and the tax list gives his occupation as weaver. In 1780 and 1781 he was taxed on 106 acres of land, 4 horses, 4 cows, and four sheep. In 1789 or 90 Valentine and his wife Anna went with some of their children to Rockingham County, Virginia in the valley of the Shenandoah river where he died in 1803. Valentine's son John went to Virginia with his parents and married Elizabeth Ronk there in 1791. They remained in Rockingham County.

Family tradition tells the story of a prosperous plantation called Greenbriar in Virginia which was owned by a Showalter ancestor who lost it though either gambling or overindulging in wine, women, and song. After its loss, the family moved to Somerset County in Western Pennsylvania. Whether it's true or not, John's son Jeremiah named one of his sons Samuel Greenbriar.