Part 1: From Germany to the South Fork of the Potomac, late April 1758
Compiled by Mr Larry, 1988 – 1994
With the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, most of the hostilities in Europe’s Thirty Year War ceased. The German emperor became a figurehead and the country collapsed into about three hundred regional entities, each with full sovereignty.
The territorial princes and rulers became free to build their own military powers and finances without interference from above or below, thereby consolidating the basis for their increased independence and for absolute government within their own territories.
In these times, during the year 1717, Jacob Seibert was born to the family of Christopher and Johanna Seibert in the small town of Sotern, Saarland, Germany. Jacob was the fourth and last child in the family which included two brothers, Adam and Wendel, and a sister, Catherine.
On 28 July 1732, at fifty years of age, Christopher Seibert died in Sotern, thus disrupting the family’s well being at a time of deep rooted, national economic problems.
Saarland, like other parts of southern Germany, had suffered untold hardships during the Thirty Year War and during the 17th Century struggles for empire between France and Austria. German emigration rates were rising as a result of Europe’s unsettled political machinations and unfavorable economic conditions within Germany’s many principalities and ducal territories.
Among the economic problems were: 1) an oppressive and annoying compulsory service to the overlords, a remnant of medieval feudalism, 2) an increasing repeal of former grazing and wood gathering rights in ducal forests, and 3) mounting taxes which rested on the land owning classes alone. As a result, many sold their real-estate and emigrated.
A statesman of the period wrote: “These days the farmer is the most miserable of all creatures, he is being annoyed constantly with compulsory service, running errands, game beatings, work on fortifications and the like. What is rescued from the wild game, a rough official may take to pay out standing taxes. The barns are empty, the dwellings threaten collapse, the inhabitants appear miserable and ruined.”
In addition to the enforced labor, there were gradually introduced grazing fees, hunting fees, watch fees, plowing fees, dyeing fees, food tax, tax on second hay crops, hand work rendered, money paid in lieu of labor with teams, the Prince’s personal tax, chimney tax, water tax, the so called “hearth tax”, etc. There were also the percentage of one’s Shrovetide fowls and Martinmas geese.
For four years after the death of her husband, Johanna Seibert raised her children alone. In 1736 Johanna married Henry Lorentz, who brought a daughter to the family from a previous marriage.
Within two years of their marriage, the family decided to emigrate to America.
During the spring of 1738, several great-grandsons of Nickel Seibert, the miller, set out from Saarland for the Pennsylvania colony in North America. Among those emigrating were: Johanna Seibert-Lorentz, her children Wendel, age 23; Jacob, age 21; Catherine; and husband Henry Lorentz, and his daughter. Several Seibert cousins, including two grown males and their sisters were also in the party of emigrants.
The travelers left Sotern and proceeded north then west through Germany and on to the port city of Rotterdam, Holland. “The journey to Rotterdam was as a rule made by water. It must not, however, be imagined that one simply got aboard ship and went merrily down the valley. There were several dozen toll – stations to be passed along the Rhine; everywhere there was a delay, many times
intentional, in order to force the people to stay overnight and shell out their money.”
The 280 mile trip down the Rhine River took four to six weeks! Occasionally, the already poor emigrants arrived in Rotterdam having spent what little money they had.
After making arrangements and waiting in Rotterdam for an undetermined time, the Seibert’s boarded the ship, Glasgow, and sailed for America, with a brief stop at Cowes, Isle of Wright, England. An example of the “Contract for Transport”, a common agreement between emigrants and the shipping firms of Rotterdam, is included immediately below. The 1756 form seen below is probably similar to the one agreed to by the Seibert group and their fellow passengers in the summer of 1738:
“Agreement For Transport From Rotterdam To Philadelphia
Know All Men By These Presents, especially those whom it may concern,
that we, the undersigned passengers, have contracted with Messers Isaac &
Zacharias Hope, Merchants in Rotterdam, even as we here with contract for
ourselves and our families in the following manner:
The above mentioned Messers Issac & Zacharias Hope shall furnish us
a good, comfortable, and well-sailing ship, inorder with the same to have us
transported to Philadelphia.
And to that end there shall be made in the ship firm bunks for each
whole freight, six feet long and one and one- half feet wide.
The above mentioned Messers Issac & Zacharias Hope shall fit out the
said ship well with good and proper provisions, namely: good bread, meat,
bacon, flour, rice, barley, peas, syrup, butter, beer, good fresh water, and
what ever else is necessary; likewise the ship shall be twice daily cleaned
with vinegar and juniper berries to purify the air; and daily there shall be
given out to each whole freight the following:
Sunday – one pound of beef cooked with rice
Monday – barley with syrup
Tuesday – one pound of white wheat flour
Wednesday – one pound of bacon with peas
Thursday — one pound of beef cooked with rice
Friday – one pound of white wheat flour and one pound of butter
Saturday—one pound of bacon, one pound of cheese and six pounds of
bread for the entire week.
Besides, everyday, one quart of beer (as long as it remains good) and
two quarts of water daily, to each whole freight.
If brandy is desired, it shall be given each morning to every person who
desires it. Lovers of tobacco, however, shall receive on enough to take along on
We the undersigned passengers, want to have freedom (as God’s weather
permits) to cook a few victuals for ourselves and the little children, and to
make use of the fire from six o’clock in the morning til the same time in the
evening; also permission to be on deck; yet those who are sick are especially
to enjoy the right to help themselves to the fire and water as often as they
need it for their refreshment; likewise there shall be provided on the ship all
kinds of aromatics and also wine so that the sick can be better cared for.
In Return For Which
We the undersigned passengers promise to pay the above mentioned Messrs,
Isaac & Zacharias Hope in Rotterdam, or on their order, for transport of
our persons, baggage and household goods, from Rotterdam to Philadelphia
Seven And One Half Doubloons
for each whole freight, and goods that we have with us shall be
delivered on land there gratis, without our being forced to pay anything
therefore to the stevedores.
Now the freights shall be reconed in the following manners: children
under four years old are free; from four to fourteen years they shall pay half freight; and fourteen
years and upwards, full freight…
In Witness where of we have validated this Contract with our personal signature.
Done in Rotterdam, February 16, 1756
(signed) Isaac & Zacharias Hope”
[A list of prospective emigrants and their portions in the freight follow.]
It would be nice to think that our emigrant ancestors received the fair treatment promised in their contract, “But how often must have happened, that emigrants lost their entire baggage on the way, through treachery, theft or violence. Contemporary reports are filled with hair raising accounts of this.
The crossing of the Atlantic – remember this was 1738 – took eight to twelve weeks.
There was much hardship, illness, death, hunger, storms, lack of water and crowded conditions…”
Tuesday, 9 September 1738: Four or five months after leaving Sotern, the Seibert-Lorentz group landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and were authorized to enter the colony. Jacob, being under the age of consent was apparently not required to sign his name to the legal immigration document. A copy of the ships passenger manifest, showing the names of Johan Jacob Seibert and Henry Lowrence, accompanies this document.
The earliest record of the Seibert family in Germany dates to the baptismal record of Nickel Seibert of 26 October 1569. It was about this time that surnames were widely adopted in Europe. When the Seibert’s landed in America, a clerk unaccustomed to Germanic spelling convention, changed the two century old SEIBERT – to SEYBERT. Jacob continued to use the old spelling in his signature; however, be aware that the new Seybert spelling became a custom, as seen in the name, Fort ‘Seybert’.
When immigration procedures were finished, the Seybert-Lorentz extended family left Philadelphia and proceeded sixty to eighty miles northwest to the recently settled Tulpehocken region of Lancaster County (since changed to Berks County), Pennsylvania. When the Seybert group reached their German
relatives and friends there was a happy reunion. The Tulpehocken region was a fertile valley settled in 1723 by a colony of Germans and which over the years continued to draw German immigrants. In the next century the descendants of these families would move west with their gaily
painted covered wagons and be known as, ‘The Pennsylvania Dutch.’
26 February 1739: A half year after landing in America and at age 22 years, Jacob Seybert married Mary Elizabeth Theiss. The services were performed by J. Casper Stoever.
28 March 1739: A month after their marriage, Jacob received a 209 acre tract of land in Bethel Township from the Penns.
1740 – 1747: Jacob and Mary farmed their land and began a family with a son, Nicholas, born 1743; ♥ Margaret, born 1745; and Catherine, born 1747. (See also the associated blog, William Janes IV and Margaret Seybert)
It was during this time that word came into the middle colonies, especially Pennsylvania that there
was a very beautiful and fertile country in the river valleys southward. This area was composed of three rivers which flowed north to form the Potomac, each separated from the other by a mountain range.
A beautiful new valley was found on the South Fork of the Potomac, the most easterly of the three rivers. Its valley was separated on the east from the populated Shenandoah Valley by the Shenandoah Mountain. It was separated on the west from the South Branch Valley by the South Fork Mountain. South Branch Valley was already familiar to pioneer settlers, being referred to as the “upper
tract” of Virginia.
Early 1748: Family members attending the Trinity Reformed Church in the Tulpehocken region were: Jacob Seybert and his wife Mary Theiss; Mary’s sister and brother-in-law, Christian Lauer; Johanna and husband, Henry Lorentz.
Later 1748: Jacob and his family, his mother and stepfather and other relations left their farms in Tulpehocken region of Pennsylvania and traveled 180 miles southwest to the South Fork valley wilderness of Highland County, Virginia. In the mid 1700s, the area where they settled was on the leading edge of the Anglo-Saxon colonization of America.
Jacob’s brother, Wendel remained in Pennsylvania.
An 18th Century contemporary description of the “west” Virginia wilderness:
“We may picture to ourselves a primeval forest broken only by a few dozen clearings, nearly all of those lying on or near the larger water courses. In these clearings were the small houses, usually of unhewn logs. Around the houses were small, stump dotted fields of corn, grain and flax. The pens for livestock were strongly built, so as to protect the animals from the bears, wolves and catamounts that were the cause of continual anxiety and occasional loss. The ‘broads’ leading out from the settlement were simply bridle-paths, and commodities were carried on the backs of animals.” (Photo taken along the South Branch of the Potomac)
1749: In South Fork Valley, where the Dyer Settlement formed two years earlier, the inhabitants wrote a petition to Augusta Court House (now Staunton, Virginia) asking that a road be opened through the wilderness: “…Petition of inhabitants and subscribers of the South Fork of the South Branch of Pattomuck are very much discommoded for want of a road to market and to Court if occation but espetialy to market. We have found a very good way for a road: Beginning at John Patton’s over the mountain to Cap. John Smith’s…” 
1753: Meanwhile, living in South Fork Valley, Jacob and Mary increased their number of children with the births of: Elizabeth born in 1749; Henry, born 1751; and George, born 1753.
Twenty seven tracts of land were surveyed on the wilderness plateau of South Fork Mountain, west of the Dyer settlement. Of the twenty one persons applying for land patents, sixteen were newcomers in Highland County, including Jacob Seybert.
Small Shawnee hunting parties often visited the homes of the settlers. Through them and the traders, the Indians picked up serviceable knowledge of the white man’s tongue. That their English vocabulary was well supplied with terms of abuse and profanity, is significant of the sort of language they were accustomed to hear.
Meanwhile, the European settlers cut the trees and cleared the ground thus scaring away the game. This in turn caused the Indians to give up land and fall back in pursuit of their food supply. White and Indian relations were further strained by the fact that the European’s, except for the French, did not go to any pains to win or keep the good will of the “Red men”.
In the fall of 1753, the Shawnee of the South Fork of the Potomac were visited by neighboring Indians from across the Ohio River, who urged them to move out of their (West Virginia) country. Among those at the conference was Killbuck, chief of a small band of Shawnee, who lived and hunted the region where upon sat the cabins and farms of the Dyer Settlement. Killbuck was known, even amongst the “Whites,” as an Indian of “much ability and strong mental powers.” At the conclusion of the conference, the Shawnee accepted their red brothers’ offer to move west, and in the spring of 1754 they quietly and abruptly left.
Before the beginning of hostilities, Killbuck had lived among the settlers and was acquainted with many of them. In particular, he held a grudge against Peter Casey. Casey had once employed Killbuck to bring back a runaway slave. When Killbuck delivered the slave, Casey refused to pay him the promised sum. In an altercation that followed, Casey knocked Killbuck down with his cane, an indignity not to be borne by the lowest Indian, much less by a proud chief. Killbuck controlled his anger at the time, but when war broke out he relentlessly sought to kill Casey; however, he never found the opportunity. Yet, according to the Indian custom, an injury or insult from one man might be avenged upon anyone of the community to which he belonged.
Prior to the year 1754, various small tribes or clans, belonging to the general Shawnee nation, roamed over the Valley of Virginia and the valleys and mountains of Pendleton County. Although they established settlements and formed villages, their dwelling was largely transitory. They did not recognize individual or tribal ownership of the land. The whole area was a great hunting ground into which they came, where they stayed, and from which they left of their own will. The mountain region was rich with wildlife including ground hog, opossum, raccoon, squirrel, rabbit, bear, wild turkey, deer and panthers. In the earliest days of settlement there had even been a few elk and buffalo.
21 May 1755: Jacob Seybert purchased the 210 acre John Patterson Jr. farm and mill in the Dyer Settlement. (See: Pendleton County Map) The same day, his step brother-in-law, Nicholas Haffner, bought an adjoining farm. Jacob’s brother-in-law, Matthais Theiss, also settled in the area, as did Jacob’s mother and step father, Johanna and Henry Lorentz.
Between 1755 and 1759, the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and “west” Virginia were exposed to increased attack as the French and Indian War flared anew. Boarder settlements were harassed by raiding parties of Indians, who at times acted alone; while at other times were accompanied by French soldiers. The resulting damage was great and was done by a comparatively small number of warriors.
Families of settlers located up and down the remote valleys were not entirely unprotected. They “forted in” themselves, meaning their homes were built with facilities similar to a contemporary
military blockhouse. The log house of the frontier was built considering a possible attack. Commonly the structure was constructed near a spring. The door could be strongly barred and the windows were too small for a man to crawl through. There were loopholes in the walls through which the inmates could fire their guns.
And if possible, it was not too near a spot where the enemy could find cover. A few of these old log houses still stand in this region of West Virginia and in some instances are still occupied; in the walls are “shooting-holes” which have since been covered by weather boarding.
The Indians believed that by scalping their enemies they would be safe from harm from that enemy in the after life, since no one could enter the next world if disfigured in body or limb. Wives were killed so they would not bear any more children to grow up and avenge their slain husband. If a life was spared – as was often the case with the young – the captive was adopted. Otherwise, boys were killed because they would grow into warriors. Girls were killed because they would become mothers of more warriors. Finally, the house was burned in order to damage the enemy that much more.
In 1755 the colonial governments decided to fight the Indians in the same way and began offering a bounty of 10 for the scalp of any hostile Indian over twelve years of age.
1755: Seventy one civilian settlers were either killed or taken captive by the Indians, resulting in a stream of refugees pouring through the Blue Ridge for safety.
1756: Virginia appropriated $33,000 to build 23 forts. George Washington was sent into the frontier where he set up headquarters at Winchester, in northernVirginia.
4 January 1756: George Washington’s letters give a vivid idea of the weak settlements of Highland County, “I have now ordered Captain Waggoner with sixty men to build and garrison two forts at places I have appointed high up the South Branch.”
February: Jacob Peterson, living on North Mill Creek near Grant Line, lost six children to capture by the Indians – only one later escaped.
15 April: Washington writes, “All my ideal hopes of raising a number of men to search the adjacent mountains have vanished to nothing.”
A week later he writes, “I am too little acquainted with pathetic language to attempt a description of the people’s distresses.”
Two days later, “Not an hour, nay, scarcely a minute passes that does not produce fresh alarms and melancholy accounts.” In another letter Washington writes, “…the deplorable situation of these people is no more to be described than is my anxiety and uneasiness for their relief.” And again, describing the situation on the frontier, he writes, “Desolation and murder still increase.”
16 May: Michael Freeze and his wife, who lived in an area called Upper Tract, were killed.
By 16 August 1756: Washington writes, “…We have built some forts and altered others as far south on the Potomac as settlers have been molested; and there only remains one body of inhabitants at a place called Upper Tract who need guard. Thither I have ordered a party…”
Fort Upper Tract, in South Branch Valley, was built a mile above Harman’s Landing and a mile south of the present Upper Tract village. Built on a bluff, on the bank of the South Branch of the Potomac River, it was protected by a steep slope on one side, while being afforded some protection on two other sides by a ravine. The enclosed space was however very limited. The structure’s foundation can still easily be traced on the ground.
The Dyer Settlement was located only nine miles southeast of Fort Upper Tract, just over South Fork Mountain.
1756: A wooden palisade fort with a central blockhouse was constructed by the settlers at a strategic
location on Jacob’s centrally located farm. It was built on the west side of South Fork River, and situated on an elevation which sloped rapidly to a ravine on the north and descended abruptly over a ledge of rocks to the river bottom on the south-east. Westwardly, a gradual incline sloped back to
The fact that the previous owner, John Patterson Jr., had a mill at the river’s edge also influenced the choice of the site of Fort Seybert. A road of some description was always built to a mill. Consequently, the settlers could use the same road to get to the fort for safety. There was also a bridle trail, or road of similar description, that began at the Patterson-Seybert property and went over the Shenandoah Mountain to Captain John Smith’s place and on to the county seat at Augusta, Virginia. The fort was built about 100 yards from where the mill stood, and there was a good spring fifty to sixty yards from the fort.
A description of Ft. Seybert: “There was a circular stockade with a two storied block house inside. The diameter of the stockade was about 90 feet. (See the drawing at the top of this article).
According to the practice of the day, the wall was composed of logs set in contact with one another and rising at least ten feet above the ground. For going in and out there was a heavy gate constructed of puncheons (heavy framing timbers with a smooth face). The blockhouse stood near the center of the circle and was apparently about 21 feet square. From the loopholes in the upper room, the open space around the stockade could be commanded by the garrison. There is no evidence of the fine spring then existing a two minute walk away.”
FortSeybert stood in what became during the late 19th and early 20th Century the yard of the William C. Miller [alive in 1916] house. The Miller house is located about 0.5 miles north of the Fort Seybert Post Office, the Fort Seybert mail drop.) on the west side of County Road #3, also known as the Sweedlin Road, Fort Seybert, Pendleton County, West Virginia.
When constructing his home, Mr. Miller preserved in its original location a foundation cornerstone under his cellar window and another cornerstone on the surface of his lawn, 21 feet away. Nor did he obliterate the circle arc that showed where the stockade wall use to rise. In a circa 1910 photograph of the Miller house and yard, the location of the former log wall can be seen as a slight depression in the ground.
Winter 1756-57: During the winter season the settlers were quite safe. The Indians were not inclined to maraud while food was scarce and the forest leaves fallen.
16 March 1757: Possibly as a result of the tragedy at the Michael Freeze home ten months earlier, Jacob Seybert, age 40 years, was commissioned Captain of Militia.
16 May 1757: Jacob’s step father, Henry Lorentz, was killed by the Indians, who were making attacks
farther and farther down the South Fork and South Branch of the Potomac.
28 September: George Washington writes, “The inhabitants of this valuable and very fertile valley are terrified beyond expression.”
10 November: Determined to stay and fight the Indians if necessary, Jacob applied for a land patent for an additional 88 acres.
By the end of 1757, there were only about forty families, or about two hundred European – Americans left spread out in small settlements inPendletonCounty.
19 March 1758: A destructive Indian raid occurred in the region of Fort Upper Tract. On this day three men were shot dead while working about their homesteads. Two other men were wounded, and two persons were captured by the Indians. Fort Upper Tract was located only nine miles northwest of Fort Seybert, just over SouthFork Mountain.
2 April: Lieutenant Gist, was in charge of a company of Scouts, composed of six soldiers and 30 Indians under the employ of the colonists. The lieutenant found a large Indian encampment about 15 miles “this side” (south) of Fort Duquesne with tracks leading directly toward the Virginia
frontier. Within days the scouts came upon the tracks of another large party pursuing the same course.
24 & 27 April: A band of French and Indians arrived in the valley near Fort Upper Tract and killed Captain James Dunlap and nine other persons. Captain Dunlap was an experienced soldier who had commanded a detachment in the Big Sandy Expedition. Three days later, the Indians attacked Fort Upper Tract and killed an additional thirteen defenders before burning the fort. It is thought that the massacre at Fort Upper Tract was complete since no stories have ever surfaced in local tradition.
After massacring the soldiers and settlers at Fort Upper Tract, the large Indian war party began its trek back to Indian country.
However, a group of forty or more Shawnee with perhaps one Frenchman, led by Chief Killbuck, took an independent course of action. They proceeded southeast over South Fork Mountain toward Fort Seybert.
Meanwhile, the residents of Dyer Settlement, having learned that an attack was imminent, sent an express rider to Fort Upper Tract for assistance, but the rider turned back upon seeing the tell tale column of smoke from the burning buildings. Upon hearing of the nearby attack, several families from Dyer Settlement immediately left to cross the Shenandoah Mountains for safety. Forty people were left to gather at Fort Seybert, of which very few were men.
Story continued in blog, The Jacob Seybert family: Fort Seybert
 Raymond Martin Bell, The Seiberts of Saarland, Pennslyvania and West Virginia, (Washington, Pennsylvania, 1982)
 Don Yoder, Pennsylvania German Immigrants 1709 – 1786, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1936, reprinted 1980)
 Prof I. Daniel Rupp, A Collection Of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and Other Immigrants in Pennsylvania from 1727 to 1776, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, reprinted 1965), p. 116-117.
 Rupp, A Collection
 Bell, The Seiberts
 Bell, The Seiberts
 Through various land divisions, parts of Highland County became Augusta County. In 1788, parts of Augusta, Rockingham and Hardy Counties were formed into Pendleton County, Virginia. In 1863 Pendleton County became part of the newly formed state ofWest Virginia.
 Mary Lee Keister Talbot, The Dyer Settlement -The Fort Seybert Massacre-Fort Seybert, West Virginia, (The Roger Dyer Family Association, 1937) .
 Oren Frederic Morton, History of Highland County, Virginia, (Baltimore:Regional Publishing Company, reprinted 1969)
 Talbot, The Dyer Settlement
 Talbot, The Dyer Settlement
 Bell, The Seiberts
 Morton, History of Highland County
 W.C. Ford, George Washington Bicentennial Edition: Writings of Washington, Vol. I & II
 Jared Sparks, Writings of Washington, , Vol II, pages 179-198
 Talbot, The Dyer Settlement
 Talbot, The Dyer Settlement
 Oren F. Morton, A History of Pendleton County, West Virginia, (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company, 1916, reprinted 1980)
 The house was still standing in 1988, but was uninhabited. The two corner stones are still evident in the locations discussed. The William C. Miller property is [in 1988] owned by Paul Conrad, the husband of a Miller descendant, who lives in the next house on this property (see footnote 34).
 Talbot, The Dyer Settlement
 Fort Duquesne, French, built 1754, and taken by the British in 1758 then renamed Fort Pitt; now the site of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
 Ford, George Washington Bicentennial Edition
2 responses to “The Jacob Seybert family, Part 1: Coming to America”
Thanks for your web site about our Seybert ancestors. My gg Grandmother was Margaret Seybert (1826-1880), dau. of George (1794-1845), son of John Henry Seybert (1743-1795).
Thank you for the comment. It was a real treasure hunt researching the information for jacob Seybert the story. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we (our ancestors) were right in the middle of the kind of things that have become national lore. There was a movie, made a few years ago,
Last of the Mohicans
, with actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Madaline Stowe that make the 1758 French and Indian Wars period come alive; great soundtrack music too. Larry