My husband’s 4th gt-gd-father was Paul Ernstberger. Paul was probably the 6th child and 4th son of Georg Heinrich Ernstberger and Maria Magdalena Raush of Strasburg and Donegal townships in Lancaster county Pennsylvania. Georg was the immigrant ancestor who had arrived in Philadelphia in 1737 aboard the ship Charming Nancy. What follows is my imagined story of his life with as much reality as possible. I have many pertinent facts about Paul, and as a family historian and genealogist that is important, but also I think it is important to visualize the individual’s life. To try to understand possible motivations and character traits by the record left behind. His life certainly would be nothing like our lives today. Yet in some respects it would be the same. He would love his parents, be teased by his older sister, resent chores and school. So I have tried to share my thoughts about those aspects of Paul’s life in this narrative.
Paul’s first several years were spent in Strasburg township, a small village, home to perhaps thirty families over a 10,000 acre tract of land. His home was probably built by his father with logs cleared from his 99 acres. Most dwellings at that time had thatched roofs and clay plastered walls. The help of his neighbors would have been needed as this was a young family with no older boys to help. Below are two examples of typical log cabins. The one on the left is dated about 1720. The one on the right built about 1752. The first has not been restored while the second one has been restored.
Paul and his family only stayed in Strasburg township for three or four years. In 1751, Georg sold his land in Strasburg and acquired 225 acres of land in Donegal township which is situated in northwestern Lancaster county. Whether this land had an existing cabin is unknown. From records, my guess is there was not an existing dwelling. In February of 1751 a new brother had been added to the family, George Henry Erntberger. I try to imagine the move considering the following elements. First, food would be needed for the trip and to provide for the family in their new home. There were no restaurants or grocery stores. Everything they needed to survive, they had to provide themselves. Next, transportation would be required. The huge Conestoga wagons were utilized, packed with all their worldly goods and food and family. Four to six head of oxen were required to haul the wagon. Did Paul’s father own the wagon? Probably, as a “Plantation Wagon” is listed in his estate inventory. Now comes the really difficult part; seven young children, the oldest 11, the youngest about 6 months required care and supervision before during and after the move. So probably from Paul’s perspective this was all very exciting and a grand adventure. From his mother’s perspective I imagine it was a nightmare. With the finalization of the sale in July of 1751, my impression is that Georg Ernstberger was ready to go and perhaps felt like Paul; this would be another grand adventure. The distance is not that great from one point to the other, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 miles. It would have taken somewhere between three to five days to complete the trip depending on the road conditions with the Conestoga wagons making between 10-12 miles a day.
In Lancaster county, the years 1753-1756 were bustling with military activity because of French and British land disputes in the Upper Ohio Valley. Virginia’s Lt Governor sent Major George Washington with a small expedition to order the removal of troops from the French forts from Lake Erie to present day Pittsburg, in late 1753. The French refused to comply, prompting the Virginia legislature to declare the refusal a hostile act of war. In the northern parts of the county however, the days were full of farm work. For the young Ernstberger family, new fields had been cleared and planted, crops harvested and stored, pens built for the hogs, and chicken coops built for the poultry. Fences had been raised and the several head of horses grazed in the pastures. Young Paul and his brothers helped with the chores by collecting the eggs, feeding the hogs and perhaps even helping with milking of the cows. Paul’s days would be filled with both responsibility and adventure as the beautiful rolling hills of his family’s home were his playground.
Just three years later, in 1754, Georg died, leaving Paul and his siblings are without a father. What a blow to the dreams of Magdalena. How was she to survive and provide for her family without her husband? Within a year of Georg’s death, Paul had a step-father, Christian Fuchs. It seems the second marriage helped keep the family together on the “plantation” in Donegal as records show Magdalena and Christian selling some of the land but remain on most of it and paying taxes. Paul and his brothers each named one of their sons Christian or Christopher. Even though it was a common name during the time period I like to think these sons were named out of love and respect for the step-father, Christian.
In 1768, Paul received his inheritance from his father’s estate. The exact amount is not known, but by my calculations it would have been at the very least about 23 pounds silver. That would equate to about $2800. Perhaps this is what he used to finance his westward migration across the Allegany mountains to Bedford county, Pennsylvania in 1773.