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| The purpose of this study is an attempt to
ascertain what church affiliation our early LeFevres maintained, and it
has brought to light what appears to be the first and largest Mennonite
inroad into this European Reformed family.
After Isaac LeFevre's French Huguenot (Protestant) family were martyred in 1685, he fled his homeland and was taken in by another fleeing French Huguenot family, the Daniel Ferree, Sr. Together they fled to Germany where for some 20 years they lived together, and in fact Isaac LeFevre married Catherine Ferree, the eldest daughter of Mary Warambauer Ferree and Daniel Ferree, Sr., while they lived in Germany before coming to America.
Before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, both the LeFevre and Ferree families would have been members in the French Huguenot Protestant Church, else they would not have been persecuted when the Edict was revoked in 1685. This was the cause of their flight to Germany. There still exists an old church record for the Ferrees who members in good standing in the Reformed Walloon Church of Pelican in the lower Palatinate, Germany.
That record also gives the dates for infant baptism, soon after their birth, of two grandsons of Daniel and Mary Warambauer Ferree, children of son Daniel Ferree, Jr., and wife Anna Marie Leininger. Andrew Ferree born 1701 was baptised in Steinweler, Germany, 9/28/1701 with sponsors Andrew Leininger and wife Margaret. John Ferree born 1703 was baptised at nearby Rhorbac, Germany, 2/8/1703 with sponsors Abraham Ptillion and Judith Miller, both of Steinweiler.
There are today no known similar documents for Catherine Ferree and Isaac LeFevre nor for the infant baptism of their son Abraham born 4/9/1706 in Germany, but since they were of the same family, lived so closely together in Germany and came to America together it can safely be presumed they were of the same church affiliations, namely originally French Huguenot Church and later the Reformed Walloon Church in Pelican.
Daniel Ferree and Isaac LeFevre families arrived in New York harbor January 1, 1709. It is recorded they went with the Kocherthal group up the Hudson River to Newburgh, New York, but that Spring when dissention arose among the group, both families forsook the emigrating group and went further up the Hudson to Esopus south of Kingston near present day New Paltz where two LeFevre uncles were already established. It was there another son was born to Isaac and Catherine Ferree LeFevre on 3/16/1710. Because the New Paltz Walloon Church was without a minister at that time, they journeyed to Kingston Old Dutch Reformed Church where 4/1/1710 Vater Petrus Vas baptised their infant son, Philip. All of this gives support to their Reformed Church connection.
Early American church records are very difficult to find, but available records yield the following itemized information of Lancaster First Reformed Church, and of the Reformed Church which had early met in the Old Dutch Meeting just east of Strasburg and later became Zion Reformed Church of New Providence.
Isaac and Catherine Ferree LeFevre (6-004) had four sons, Abraham, Philip, Daniel and Samuel, and two daughters, Mary who married David Deshler of Philadelphia and became Quakers, and Esther who maried Daniel Harmon. Most of the available records are of the first two sons, Abraham (7-001) and Philip (7-002), which follow.
Abraham LeFevre (7-001) had two sons, John (8-001) and Peter (8-002). Here follow the records of infant baptisms of these families.
Children of Catherine LeFevre (8-013) and Peter LeFevre (8-002) s/o Abraham (7-001)
John LeFevre (3/31/1763-10/20/1795), 9-005) s/o John LeFevre (8-001) received infant baptism 10/31/1763 at Zion Reformed Church. 1789 he married Mennonite Elizabeth Howry (9/12/1764-8/13/1834), widowed 1795 at age 31 with four boys under five years of age and for whom he very likely become Mennonite also since his for sons (Daniel, John, Samuel, and George) and many descendants remained Mennonite. On 12/1/1801 widow Elizabeth Howry LeFevre married in First Reformed Church of Lancaster German immigrant Peter Esbenshade (4/20/1763-7/20/1834). It is definitely known Peter Esbenshade "accepted the faith of his wife" and became a Mennonite minister, even influencing his immigrant brother, Daniel Esbenshade (8/11/1765-9/24/1856) who on 11/13/1792 at Lancaster First Reformed Church had married Elizabeth LeFevre, (9-028, d/o Adam LeFevre (8-007, s/o Philip 7-002) together with his Reformed Church wife to also become Mennonites. Is is also well known the four Esbenshade sons Elizabeth Howry LeFevre Esbenshade bore to Peter Esbenshade (Henry, Jacob, David and Joseph) also with many of their descendants continued in the Mennonite tradition. Thus Elizabeth Howry contributed all eight of her sons to the Mennonite faith. This seems to be the major early connection of the Mennonites to the LeFevre Reformed Church family.
Philip LeFevre, Gunsmith (7-002) married circa 1730 Mary Herr, daugher of immigrant Mennonite minister Christian Herr. Her birth date is not known, but letter of estate administration very soon after her death was given to her son Adam LeFever (8-007) on 10/27/1783. They had produced four sons, Isaac, George, Adam and Jacob, in addition to four daughters, Catherine married to Nickolas Meck, Elizabeth married to Henry Christy, Esther married to Henry Eckman, and Eve married to Rudolph Haub. Records for infant baptism of their children have been located, as given below.
Child of Mary Kunkle and Isaac LeFevre (8-003) s/o Philip (7-002)
Child of Catherine LeFevre (8-004) and Nickolas Meck, d/o Philip (7-002)
Child of Anne Slaymaker and George LeFevre (8-005) s/o Philip (7-002)
Children of Esther LeFevre (-008) and Henry Eckman, d/o Philip (7-002)
Children of Elizabeth Paules and Adam LeFevre (8-007) s/o Philip (7-002)
Child of Catherine LeFevre and Henry Manderbaugh, d/o Adam (8-007)
| The exact identification of Philip
LeFevre's wife can be proved only by his estate account which names "the
widow Mary", but which THE PENNSYLVANIA LEFEVRES
1952 and GENEALOGY OF DESCENDANTS OF HANS HERR by
Theodore Herr 1908 in its corrected notation both identify as the daughter
of Christian Herr, Mennonite immigrant to Willow Street, Pennsylvania.
The Herr genealogy book identifies Maria or Mary as #21, married to a Martin
Barr, but on page 790 the same volume identifies Mary Herr with this notation:
"Current researchers question whether Maria "Mary" Herr married Martin
Barr. She may instead have been married to Philip LeFevre born near
Kingston, N.Y. 3/16/1710." THE PENNSYLVANIA LEFEVRES
book on page 14 under 7-002 lists Philip LeFevre as having married Mary
Herr. Thus the two genealogies agree first, that she really existed,
and second, that she married Philip LeFevre. At the library of the
Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society is also included a card file index
listing which indicates the children of Christian Herr as including Maria,
and married to Philip LeFevre.
The problem arises that she is not included in her father Christian Herr's will. As one Mennonite historian suggests, she may have married outside of her Mennonite faith, and so was not included in her father's estate and this fact is even today ignored by contemporary Mennonite historians. Christian Herr's will is recorded in Lancaster County Court, Will Book I, Volume 1, page 192 and is dated 1/23/1750. Receivers under that will were for the provision of loving widow Anna, land to sons John Hare, Christian Hare, and Abraham Hare, and land for a burying ground (now Brick Mennonite Cemetery.) Monetery grants were given to daughters Elizabeth, married to Michael Graff; Anna, married to Martin Meylin; Susanna, married to George Graff; and to Barbara, married to John Miller. But daughter Mary or Maria was not included.
In a new 1999 edition of the Theodore Herr Genealogy that editor came to the conclusion that the daughter of Rev. Christian Herr, "Mary Herr never existed, because she does not appear in her father's will," thereby completely ignoring the strong possibility she left her Mennonite faith to marry Philip LeFevre who was of the Reformed faith, thereby having been disinherited, as the practice was, from her father's will. I noted that omission when I read Christian Herr's will.
From the study included in this writing one can see that at least five of the Philip and Mary Herr LeFevre children and a considerable number of grandchildren as well, presented their children for infant baptism in the manner of Reformed tradition, thereby lending support to the idea that Mary may indeed have married outside of her Mennonite faith, into a Reformed tradition family. Early records of infant baptisms of children of Abraham LeFevre's children adds support that the whole early family followed the Reformed Church tradition.
Infant baptism is a Reformed tradition, certainly not included in the Mennonite tradition whose practice is to wait for the age of accountability around 12 years of age for a child to make his Christian confession and then be baptised as an adult. Hence, these infant baptisms become easy identifiables in this search for evidence of the early LeFevre family's continuation in the Reformed Church faith and practice.
Five reasons are here presented in support of Philip LeFevre's wife having been Mary Herr, daughter of Christian Hare (Herr). Reason one: Both Herr and LeFevre genealogy books indicate it is so. Reason two: The Christian Herr home on Hans Herr Drive is in close proximity to Philip LeFevre's land at the Big Spring at Route 222 at Gypsy Hill Road. Their tracts of land had the common boundry of Route 222. In fact, they lived close together. Reason three: The card file at the Mennonite Historical Library also includes Maria as a son of Christian Herr and married to Philip LeFevre, lending additional weight to the two family genealogies. Reason four: The support of this church relationship study indicates so many of children of Philip and Mary Herr LeFevre received infant baptism supporting the fact that Maria actually existed and was alive, in spite of the fact she was ignored by her father Christian Herr's will made in 1750. It is believed she married Philip LeFevre circa 1730 and died October 1783, he having predeceased her in September 1766. The fact is many of her children followed not the Mennonite faith, but the Reforned tradition. Reason five: When Philip LeFevre died unexpectedly in 1766 he had not made a will, so his estate had to be itemized and appraised for the Orphans Court. Because he had been a gunsmith, two gunsmiths were appraisers, gunsmith Joel Ferree, his cousin, son of Philip Ferree; Abraham Newcomer, another local gunsmith; in addition to Philip's Younger brother Daniel LeFevre (7-003). The administrators of his estate were (1) widow Mary (Herr) LeFevre who signed with her mark, (2) Philip's oldest son Isaac (8-003) who signed with Ic LF, (3) Philip's youngest brother Samuel (7-006) who signed his name, and (4) Christian Hare who also signed his name, but whose identity is not entirely clear. But the fact that a Hare was included as an administrator seems to lend considerable weight that Mary was indeed of the Herr family! Most likely he was #27 (Herr Genealogy) Christian Hare of Willow street, who lived until 5/18/1772. He was a cousin, son of John Herr, brother to Rev. Christian Herr, Mary's father. Thus, these five reasons seem to lead to the logical conclusion Philip LeFever married Mary Herr.
Where Philip learned the trades of blacksmith and gunsmith is not at this time known, but he is firmly established as an early gunsmith of Lancaster County. Incidently, Philip LeFevre's estate value totaled 3085 English Pounds, a tidy estate for a young man born to persecuted French immigrants who came to America 57 years earlier with only the clothes they wore, and an old French family Bible!
The earliest record of any infant baptisms in the area is recorded by William Worner in a Lancaster County Historical Society lecture, vol. 9, page 179, as follows: "On May 1, 1730 the Lutheran Pastor Johann C. Stoever conducted in their homes. Marriages were sometimes conducted in their country homes by justices of the peace, because there were no regular ministers available. There is record of two of those in 1739 -- Daniel Ferree, Jr. and Mary Carpenter, (Rupp History of Lancaster County, page 105;) and Mary LeFevre, daughter of Isaac, and David Deshler of Philadelphia, from a Deshler Family History privately published. The earliest record of infant baptism in the Reformed Church is 5/31/1741 of Catherine Eckman, daughter of Henry and Esther Eckman who also had a son, Henry Eckman, who married Esther LeFevre (8-008.) This record is believed to have been copied from an old family Bible, since the church had not yet been started officially and so no records were kept.
The archives of the New Holland Lutheran Church includes news that on 3/23/1746 children were baptised by Rev.Hoendel at the Dedication of the Beber Creek Church, apparently meaning the then new building called Old Dutch Church. That same frame of time saw the passing of two of the immigrants, Catherine Ferree LeFevre, wife of Isaac LeFevre of 1669, and of Isaac LeFevre on 10/1/1751. It is believed they were buried beside Madame Marie Warembauer Ferree in the cemetery area she had picked out just before her death in 1716. Isaac's will is on record in Lacaster County Court Archives.
It would have seemed logical to believe the little Old Dutch Church would have encompassed them, and apparently in the early days it did. Children of Abraham LeFevre, John and Peter, had their children baptised there according to Zion Reformed Church records. In fact, one of Peter's daughters, Maria (9-010) married Peter Eckman who is the only member of the family to have signed the Declaration of Order for the German Reformed Church in 1765-1769, affiliating their group with that denomination. Thereafter for several years Rev. Hoendel preached at Beber Creek every fourth Sunday. After the division of the use of the Union Church in 1795, Peter Eckman sold the land for the new building of the Zion Reformed Church in New Providence. Another signer of the Declaration was John Kunkel who likewise signed the Declaration as one of the Elders, and appears as a church trustee of the new building. He is buried in Zion Reformed Church cemetery, along with Peter Eckman. Johann Kunkel was also sponsor for the infant baptism of his grandson, John LeFevre (9-013) son of Isaac LeFevre (8-003) son of Philip LeFevre (7-002) son of Immigrant Isaac, and his wife Mary Kunkel, Johann Kunkel's daughter.
Some of the families of second son Philip LeFevre were recorded in Zion Reformed Church of New Providence. Others seemed to have gravitated to the Lancaster First Reformed Church which had regular preaching in their new church building finished in 1736. Their family records, baptisms, marriages, and deaths seem mostly to be recorded in those old Lancaster County church records. One daughter Eva LeFevre and her husband Rudolph Raub were married in St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster in 1764. Undoubtedly many of the related families went to Lancaster First Reformed Church for their weddings because the minister there was recognized as an officer of the state to perform marriages, and was readily available any time of the year.
For some yet unknown reason the Old Dutch Church sharing agreement as a Union Church broke up circa 1795. The Reformed group purchased land high on a hill from Peter Eckman near New Providence where they built a sand stone church building with a balcony circa 1795. The Lutherans continued to use the old church for a time before they built a stone church with a balcony in Strasburg, and named it St. Michael's Lutheran Church some time after 1795.
Most of the records found were for families of Abraham LeFevre and of Philip LeFevre. Only one record was found for a descendent of Daniel LeFevre. The Paradise Leacock Presbyterian Church records have turned up a cluster of families, descendents of the youngest son, Samuel LeFevre. John Carpenter LeFevre (9-088 1793-1863) is recorded as a trustee of the church. Nathaniel LeFevre (11-711 1852-1915) was an elder of the church for 21 years. Both of these descendents and some of their families are buried in Paradise Leacock Presbyterian Church. Another cluster of families are descendents of Paradise "Tanner" Daniel LeFevre, of the line of Philip. As yet no evidence has turned up of any LeFevre of Ferree connection to the Old Leacock Church located on Rt. 340 and Old Leacock Road.
Some have thought Old Dutch Church might have been the oldest congregation in Lancaster County. The Mennonite Herrs date from their arrival 1710 with meetings after their manner in their homes. Lancaster First Reformed Church building was completed in 1736, two years after the completion of Lancaster Trinity Lutheran Church in 1734. Lancaster First Presbyterian was much later, perhaps as late as 1763; Donegal Presbyterian Church asked for supply ministers in 1721; Pequea Presbyterian was organized 1724 after having had meetings previously; Old Leacock Presbyterian had meetings as early as 1720 but was not organized until 1724. (History Of Presbytery Of Westminster, Clark 1924.) Ellis and Evans in "History Of Lancaster County" described Heller's Reformed Church near Leola as having a first house built of logs in 1722. There were prior Reformed settlements near Wilmingon, Delaware and in New York State in the 1600's. With the first recorded Reformed baptism, 5/31/1741, of the Eckman daughter, and the first Lutheran baptisms in 1730 and the Dedication of Beber Creek Church building in 1746, it would seem credible that the Old Dutch Church was indeed one of the earliest churches in Lancaster County, but perhaps not yet proved to be the oldest.
Deaths and cemetery records are very revealing to anyone willing to study the family with the use of THE PENNSYLVANIA LEFEVRES book, to identify the various persons, and so read into those facts the family connections which really make up the story of the LeFevre family. These facts gleaned from so many sources present the invitation to MEET YOUR FAMILY, LEFEVRES!
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