|Skippack Historical Society
The following information is derived from a 1911 publication titled "A Genealogical History of the Hunsicker Family" by Henry A. Hunsicker, the great-grandson of the immigrant Valentine Hunsicker. This book is primarily of the lineage of only one of Valentine's seven children, his son Henry (#6). For reference, we use the number that the book designates to each Hunsicker family member, Valentine being #1.
At a time of religious persecution in the German Palatine of the Rhine river valley, an orphaned child was joined with his maternal grandfather, Valentine Klemmer. This child was Valentine Hunsicker, born in 1700 in Canton, Switzerland, a region where there was more severe persecution and deportation of Mennonites. During the early 1700's, as thousands of oppressed Mennonites were leaving their homeland for America, Klemmer decided to leave as well. In 1717, he arrived in Philadelphia with his family and grandson. They made their way into the dense forests of northern Bucks County. There they built a house of rough hewn logs, plastered with clay, as did other early settlers. Their survival depended on what they could take from wild game and by clearing land. Young Valentine worked as a laborer, chopping wood or assisting his grandfather at weaving, to help pay for the cost of his journey.
About 1719, he went to Skippack with his uncle Henry Klemmer, a stone mason, to assist him as a laborer. Henry Klemmer and young Valentine worked to build the second Mennonite meetinghouse in America at Skippack; the first was in Germantown, now a part of Philadelphia. Afterwards, Valentine stayed in Skippack and helped to develop and strengthen the congregation at this new meetinghouse. Later known as "Lower Skippack", this congregation would become the largest and most influential in young America. It would establish Mennonite policy and practice in the new world, as church elders had remained in Germany.
Valentine was industrious and resourceful, he was able to continue working as a stone mason in Skippack while saving money to purchase 125 acres of forest, paying 5 shillings per acre. He cleared the land for farming and subsequently added 100 acres. Two Hunsicker family homes remain on this land, one on Heckler Rd. and the other on Mt. Airy Rd. (east side).
As the farmstead and Hunsicker family grew, Valentine first built his home along Mt. Airy Rd. (east side) just south of Heckler Rd. The large stone home still stands today (6/03). Later, the Hunsicker family added a stone house on Heckler Rd. across from the school, which is further discussed below. A third Hunsicker home stands on the west side of Mt. Airy Rd. which an 1871 map shows as the residence of Valentine's great-grandson, Christian, at that time. All of these homes appear on early maps of Skippack.
A 1756 census shows that Valentine had five children and 225 acres, 100 acres being clear. He married in 1728 to a wife of unknown name, then again in 1735 to Elizabeth Kolb daughter of Jacob Kolb who was another early settler of Skippack. He had a family of seven children.
Valentine continued his devotion to the Mennonites. He became a deacon. He died March 3, 1777, and was buried without a stone at the Lower Skippack cemetery, which was likely his wish. Valentine is called "the progenitor of the Hunsicker family." (p14)
He left the farm to his young son Henry. Then, Henry left it to his son Garret who left it to his son Christian. The farm was then left to Christian's son Garret who left it to his son Henry. The farmstead belonged in the family almost 170 years. During this period, the Hunsicker family members were well involved in the church and industry of Skippack and surrounding areas. They were greatly respected, forming businesses, and holding positions in companies.
Valentine's son Isaac (#3) was born September 28, 1738 and died February 23, 1828. "He was born, lived and died in Skippack, and was a farmer." He married Barbara F. Greder (Grater) on November 5, 1761, daughter of Jacob and Mary (Friedt) Grater, and had 11 children. She was born September 21, 1740 and died January 12, 1817. (p20) Isaac (#3) "began signing the Skippack alms audits in 1764; and was the treasurer, 1785-1821", by author John C. Wenger. Isaac's (#3) youngest child was named Isaac(#4), that married Magdalena Cassel and had 8 children. (p298) Through the valuable notes of historian Abraham C. Hunsicker, we can report more information of the lineage of Isaac. His son Isaac (#4) that, although his birth date is unknown, he died on February 3, 1869 and is buried in the Lower Skippack Mennonite cemetery. On February 28, 1803, he married Magdalena, born May 12, 1780 and died May 15, 1838, daughter of Hubert and Magdalena (Johnson) Cassel. They had 8 children, 2 died young. His second wife was Ann Stauffer, widow of Henrich Stauffer, born November 27, 1780 and died June 9, 1870. A son of Isaac and Magdalena was named Isaac C. (#5), born October 3, 1819 and died December 15, 1895, buried at Lower Skippack Mennonite. Also listed as "Isaac, Jr., farmer", he married Mary Garges, born circa 1822 and died August 18, 1890. They had 5 children; 3 died young except for sons John G. (born June 4, 1850) and Henry G. Hunsicker (born February 10, 1855). Abraham C. Hunsicker indicates, Henry G., great-great-grandson of Valentine, married Elizabeth Croll. No other information is given. Most all may be buried in Lower Skippack Mennonite cemetery.
(Abraham C. Hunsicker Genealogical Card File, courtesy of Joel Alderfer, Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville, Pa.)
(John C. Wenger, "History of the Mennonites of the Franconia Conference", 1937, p271. Courtesy of Joel Alderfer, Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville, Pa.)
"Ministers and Officials of the Skippack Mennonite Church" in the History of Lower Skippack Mennonite Church booklet, revised 2002, lists Isaac Hunsicker, Sr. as one of the early trustees of the church. An ordained deacon listed in 1764 is Isaac Hunsicker. Other Hunsickers are listed that undoubtedly includes the sons and grandsons of Valentine Hunsicker and his son Isaac.
Deacons listed are: 1st Jacob Kolb (now the Chowns farm on Cressman Rd.), 2nd Valentine Hunsicker 1740, 3rd Isaac Hunsicker 1764 (son of Valentine), then later, John G. Hunsicker in 1850 (great-grandson of Isaac).
Valentine's son Henry (#6), born the 7th of March 1752, was a bright and determined individual, he spoke and wrote well in English and German. On December 6, 1772, he married Esther Detweiler, from an old, respectable Skippack family. They had 10 children. At the age of 30 years, Henry was ordained a Mennonite minister and soon after made the ruling Bishop of the district. His grandson remembers him as being "gifted by nature with a warm heart and a ready hand to assist, he became popular, influential, both in the church and in the community. He was much sought and consulted, being endowed with excellent common sense and good judgment. He was much employed in settling estates and appointed guardian of orphans." (p21) Henry served the ministry for 54 years. As travel was mostly on horseback, he rode side by side many times with another Bishop, Matthias Pennypacker, who was the great-grandfather of the ex-Governor of Pa. Henry died June 8, 1836 at age 85 years. He is buried aside his wife Esther at the old Lower Skippack Mennonite meetinghouse where he served so many years. Below, we cover Henry's sons: John (#7), Garret (#13), and Abraham (#16).
John (#7), son of Henry (#6), was an ordained minister for nearly forty years, and succeeded his father as preacher and Bishop. During his time growing up in Skippack, the opportunity to obtain an education was poor. "His natural talent and strong mind enabled him to acquire knowledge far beyond many of his time. He broke away from some of the rigid customs of the Mennonite sect. He was progressive and sought means for information." John was a contributing member of the Trappe Literary Society, in operation about 1840, and read many of the books in its library. His characteristics are traceable through his children and grandchildren, three of whom became distinguished lawyers, three became ministers, and one became the President of Girard College in Philadelphia. (p25)
Garret (#13), son of Henry (#6), who inherited the farm, was born November 26, 1786, died March 21, 1861. He was born, lived, and died on the original tract of land bought by Valentine Hunsicker. On November 19, 1809, he married Catherine Detweiler (b. November 15, 1788. d. October 2, 1850). They had 8 children, including sons, Henry G. (#57) and Christian (#59). (p28)
Henry G. (#57) was born in Skippack, February 15, 1812, died April 14, 1885. On January 10, 1835, he married Hannah Stauffer, b. September 16, 1815, d. March 15, 1904. They had 7 children. He lived and died in Upper Providence Township. For some years, he was also a director at Montgomery National Bank, Norristown. (p51) Christian (#59), b. December 26, 1816, d. March 10, 1883, married Sarah Tyson (b.2/16/1822, d. 7/14/1899) on February 12, 1843. They had 2 children Catherine (#326), and Garret (#325) who later inherited the farmstead. Christian was born, lived and died in Skippack, residing on the old original farm bought by Valentine. He was director of Montgomery National Bank for a number of years. (p52)
Garret T. (#325), son of Christian (#59), inherited the farm and the old homestead where he lived and died, as a farmer. Born August 10, 1844 and died February 14, 1895. He married Maria Reiff on December 26, 1868. They had 5 children, including son Henry B. (#1133).
Henry B. (#1133), son of Garret T. (#325), inherited the farmstead where he was born on June 1, 1873. He was the last Hunsicker to own the farmstead, as he sold it and moved to Philadelphia where he lived at the time this book was published. He married Minnie Swartley Kriebel on November 14, 1899, died June 30, 1912. They had one child, Mary Gwendolyn Hunsicker-Mason (#2188) of Rahns, as per the obituary of Minnie Hunsicker attached to page 252.
Abraham (#16), son of Henry (#6), also became a very respected and notable citizen. Born July 31, 1793, died January 12, 1872, he married Elizabeth Alderfer, b. 11/16/1798 d. 2/15/1898. They had 10 children including the author Henry A. Hunsicker (#78). Abraham Hunsicker was a Mennonite Bishop who had more progressive thoughts than was tolerated by the Mennonite church at that time. He believed in the importance in the higher education of children beyond what they were learning in the local schoolhouse. Raised as a farmer, Abraham bought a farm in 1816 in the present borough of Collegeville.
During his youth, opportunity for learning was very limited. The schools were very ordinary and mostly in German, open only during the winter months, the author writes. With these disadvantages, he persevered to acquire an education scarcely sufficient to 'read, write and cipher'. Brought in contact with the larger world, he applied himself to master the first principles of education and raised himself to a level to meet the problems of life. Realizing in himself the need of knowledge, his mind was early directed to making provision for better educational facilities for those who should come after him. Being a member of the Mennonite Church and holding such views, he encountered opposition from other members who held tenaciously to Mennonite customs and forms of the Church, and who regarded higher education as an innovation tending to the disorganization of what they held sacred.
It was at the general Mennonite Conference held in Franconia, Pa., May 1846, that the "strife and foment culminated in a rupture of the church, virtually excommunicating any and all who dared opposition to the long-established usages and customs of the Mennonite Church". The break formed the Lower Skippack and the Upper Skippack Mennonite congregations. This, after the rising dissension through the 1840's among the members of the Mennonite congregation having different views in matters of discipline and church government.
On January 1, 1847, according to the custom of the Mennonites, an election to choose a minister by "lot" was held in the Lower Skippack Mennonite meetinghouse, when Abraham was elected. So important an office to one so poorly qualified awakened a sense of responsibility no one can realize that has not been put in a similar position. "It was now that he felt more than ever before the need of a provision for more and better knowledge, and resolved before God to found a school that should afford to others a means of obtaining that of which he was deprived and made to feel sad disadvantages". (p30)
When about to start his cherished project to found a school, his brother Rev. John Hunsicker died in November 1847. John was the presiding Bishop of the Skippack, Providence and Methacton churches. (Their father, Rev. Henry Hunsicker, had presided as Bishop over these same churches for 54 years.) After the death of his brother John, the office of Bishop passed to Rev. Abraham. With determination, he founded and built "Freeland Seminary" in 1848, and placed his son, Henry A. (#78, author), as the principal.
Compelled by the same liberal Christian principle of non-sectarianism, he built the Trinity Christian Church in 1853. He intended it to be an independent church, open to evangelical ministers of good standing and people of all and every Christian denomination, he welcomed them all. (p31) Bishop Abraham and his minister son Henry A. (#78), the principal of Freeland Seminary, had both left the Mennonite church sometime after the contentious feud among the Mennonites during the 1840's. They joined in the enterprise of founding the Trinity Christian Church at Collegeville. Bishop Abraham went on to establish a congregation at Skippackville and one at Rahn's Station, called Ironbridge Chapel. The Skippackville congregation began meeting at the old Literary Hall which stood in the parking lot across Rt.73 from the present Parc Bistro restaurant (6/03). The Hunsicker family was a major supporter of the 1863 construction of the Trinity Church in Skippack.
The descendents of Valentine Hunsicker were involved in the community, church and industry, too many examples to list here. Reading the "Genealogy of the Hunsicker Family" will show just how active and respected the family was in their contribution to the development of Skippack area, to young America, to the Mennonites of America, and in raising education standards.
Researched and written by Mike Dickey
Edited by Brad DeForest
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