Family Accounts - Descendants of Anna Rosine Fetterman & Heinrich Gernhardt

Margaret Gernhardt Litchard (3)
February 18, 1783 - June 12, 1836

“Margaret (twin sister of Catharine Fogleman) and John Litchard, of Muncy Creek Township, Lycoming County, Pa., united in the bonds of wedlock soon after the purchase of the Sinking Springs property by her father, Heinrich, or about 1806 or 1807. She died June 12, 1836. According to the inscription of her tombstone in the town of Sparta, N. Y., she was ‘aged 55 years,’ but this is clearly an error. She and her twin sister, Catharine, were born February 18, 1783—two years and four months after their brother John, and two years and six months before the birth of Baltzer—so that at her demise she was but 53 years and four months old. Her husband, John, died June 18, 1867, in his 79th year.

“John Litchard was the youngest of the three sons of Joseph Litchard, an Englishman by birth, who was one of the early settlers of Lycoming County. He (Joseph) came to America when quite young, and to pay his transportation indentured himself into the service of a German family in Berks County, Pa., where he learned to speak German, and when the term of his service expired he married a German girl. As he and his wife, with their first child, came to Muncy Valley with the pioneer, Henry Shoemaker, a settler from Berks County, who had emigrated from Germany sometime before the Revolution, it has been surmised that they may have come here before the Indian troubles of 1778 and 1779, as Shoemaker had settled, and bought the grist mill, on Muncy Creek, of John Alward—the first grist mill erected on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River west of the Muncy Hills—just prior to that evenful and calamitous era. When it was learned from some friendly Indians (notable among whom was the faithful Job Chilloway) that the blood-thirsty savages were preparing to raid the valley and murder, scalp, pillage and burn, the mill gearings were buried and thus saved, but the building was burned by the ruthless red men. The valley was soon deserted by the frightened white settlers.

“Several years later most of the stampeded inhabitants returned to the valley, however, and many new settlers came with them, or soon after followed. After General Sullivan’s memorable campaign, with one-third of General Washington’s army, into the country of the Six Nations in western New York, in the summer of 1779, destroying their villages, crops and orchards, and punishing them severely for the outrages they had perpetrated on the defenseless inhabitants along the frontiers, there was no further serious trouble with them on the West Branch of the Susquehanna. It is more likely, therefore, we think, that Joseph, with his wife and their infant son, Joseph, came with Henry Shoemaker when he returned to his landed possessions in the month of May, 1783,—James, the second son of Joseph, who died in 1875 at the age of 90, was born in 1784 or ’85,—moving with wagons from their homes to Harrisburg, and proceeding thence by canoes up the Susquehanna to Muncy. Joseph continued in the service of his friend Shoemaker, felling trees and raising crops on the land around his new grist and saw mill, for about ten years. Having now a family of four children to provide for, (one a daughter, Fanny,) he wisely concluded that he ought to have land and a home of his own. Shoemaker had bought up several thousand acres of the recently patented lands, and now—about 1793—sold Joseph a 400 acre tract of wild land on the Muncy Hills, about four miles south-east from the grist mill, for what now seems the paltry sum of $50, or 12 1-2 cents per acre.

“Joseph commenced at the bottom round to ascend the ladder of fortune and independence. He had but little besides the virgin soil, the trees, some springs of good water, pure air, sunlight, and such blessings as nature in that primitive wilderness could furnish. There was no road to the land, so they had to grope their way through the woods and over the rolling ground as best they could. During the first year there was not a human habitation within several miles. Joseph selected a spot for a rude shanty, and there he lived with his family on the ‘ground floor,’ until he could at his convenience construct a log cabin. Joseph junior, the eldest of his boys, became the chief hunter of the family, and often replenished the family larder with venison and bear meat. The fat of the bears and raccoons was made use of for shortening and to fry doughnuts. The conditions of life were much the same as already described when Heinrich and Rosine Gernhardt commenced their struggle for the blessings of existence in the forest of Northampton County. The howling of hungry wolves was one of the most familiar of the forest sounds. Once when the old folks had gone from home the children were so alarmed by their yelping that they crawled up on the roof of the cabin for fear that the uncanny beasts would come and eat them up. Wild turkeys were so numerous and bold that they sometimes had to be driven away from the clearings, just as chickens are now often expelled from our gardens.

“The principal part of the Litchard tract is now owned and occupied by a grandson of Joseph, Jacob Litchard, a prosperous and greatly respected citizen, owner of three good farms, who was next to the youngest of the twelve children of James. His almost exception vigor at the age of 71 augurs that he may live to be a nonagenarian, like his father; and as he has sons and grandsons, the native place may remain in the family name many years longer. Joseph died about 1838, and, like his son, and Abraham of old, was ‘buried in a good old age.’ He and his wife were interred in the graveyard of the Old Immanual Lutheran Church, the land for which was donated by Henry Shoemaker, and is about half a mile from the site of the old grist and saw mill.

“It was here, and under these primitive conditions, that John Litchard grew up into manhood; and it was here on a tract of land adjoining the 400 acres, as Jacob recently informed me, that John and Aunt Margaret (Gernhardt), about 1807, commenced their married life, a period of which but little is now remembered. How many facts and incidents of interest were consigned to the graves of our kindred of the second generation can not even be conjectured. From the Muncy Hills John and Margaret moved and dwelt for some years on a farm about one mile east of Muncy, then a hamlet known as Pennsboro. The six eldest of their ten children—William, David, John, George, Elizabeth, and Mary—were all born in Muncy Creek Township, Lycoming County, the first named December 8, 1808, and Mary on the 18th day of April 1818. It was while Mary was a babe that Margaret and her family migrated to the town of Sparta, N. Y., and settled near her sister, Magdalena Shafer, on the second tract of land that her father, Heinrich, had bought, and which, according to his last will and testament, made in February, 1820, he bequeathed to her and designated as being the land ‘whereon John Litchard lives.’

“Margaret’s descendants, now comprising many widely scattered families, have for a number of years been having annual reunions, in Allegheny County, N. Y., and is, we believe, the first branch of the Gernhardt family to enjoy the satisfaction of such gatherings” (from Heinrich Gernhardt and His Descendants, pp. 227-230).

The children of Margaret and John:

  1. William, born December 8, 1808, died August 30, 1879;
  2. David, born November 23, 1810, died March 13, 1846;
  3. John, died when about two years old;
  4. George, born April 28, 1813, died February 16, 1902;
  5. Elizabeth, born March 11, 1817, died November 17, 1884;
  6. Mary, born April 18, 1818, died June 9, 1891;
  7. Catharine, born December 20, 1820, died August 25, 1893;
  8. Margaret Rebecca, born October 22, 1822;
  9. Henry, born 1823, died August 27, 1854; and
  10. Benjamin, born December 26, 1826, died December 26, 1848.
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