Our Immigrant Heritage: Ziegler

Written by Forrest Moyer on April 19, 2017

This series of posts highlights families descended from 18th-century Mennonite immigrants to eastern Pennsylvania, in connection with the MHC’s exhibit Opportunity & Conscience: Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania, on display through March 31, 2018. The stories reflect the enrichment brought to communities over centuries by the descendants of immigrants.

Michael and Andrew Ziegler

Michael Ziegler, a 25-year-old weaver, was listed along with Henry Kolb and John Bean in the group of Germans who left Europe for America in 1709. Ziegler was Lutheran, but soon married a Mennonite fellow immigrant, Catherine Schrager. They settled in Skippack, and Michael was called to serve as a minister in the Mennonite congregation where Henry Kolb was bishop.  Michael served for many years in that office until he died in 1765.

He lived near the present-day intersection of Routes 113 and 73. His son or grandson built a house there that stands today. It is nicely renovated and called “Lochwood”. The barn on the property serves as a venue for wedding receptions.


Michael’s son Andrew joined his father in the ministry at Skippack in 1746, and was ordained bishop in 1762. Andrew was an influential leader during  the years of the American Revolution. It was he, along with senior bishop Abraham Swartz of Deep Run, who took the lead in silencing and excommunicating fellow bishop Christian Funk for his tolerance of Mennonite support for the Revolution. Ziegler never made peace with Funk before his (Ziegler’s) death in 1797, and although younger bishops did try to make peace with Christian, agreement could not be reached, and the “Funkites” were separate from the larger Mennonite community for several decades into the 19th century. For more on this story, see John Ruth’s book ‘Twas Seeding Time (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1976) and Christian Funk’s own account, entitled A Mirror for All People (originally published 1809 in German, edited and translated by J. C. Wenger, Mennonite Quarterly Review LIX, Jan. 1985, pp. 42-66).

Harmony Mennonite settlement

A great-grandson of the immigrant, Abraham Ziegler (1774-1836), moved to Butler County, western Pennsylvania in 1815. He purchased the entire village of Harmony–9,000 acres and 130 buildings–from the utopian Harmonist Society for $100,000.00.

Settling there with his wife and children and several other Mennonite families, they built a meetinghouse in 1825 that remains largely unchanged, preserving an early-19th-century style, while most Mennonite meetinghouses in Pennsylvania underwent replacement, expansion and other remodeling. The congregation declined and ceased worship services around 1900, the last minister being Abraham’s son, Joseph H. Ziegler (1815-1904). Photos courtesy of Ellis Michaels.

Daniel F. Ziegler, photographer

Daniel F. Ziegler (1871-1961), a descendant of bishop Andrew, was a photographer who operated a studio for many years in Souderton. The photos he took in settings around town, including many school group photos, provide a view of life in the growing railroad town at the turn of the 20th century.

Daniel was a member of the church council at the progressive Zion Mennonite Church in Souderton and father-in-law of the congregation’s third pastor, Reed Landis.

Daniel Ziegler, circa 1910.

Ziegler photo of the original Zion Mennonite Church, Souderton, interior with pastor Allen M. Fretz at the pulpit, circa 1908. Mennonite Heritage Center Collection; gift of J. Herbert Fretz.

Ziegler photo of the Franconia-Morwood Baseball Team at the Morwood Hotel, circa 1905. Mennonite Heritage Collection; gift of Betty Detweiler Musselman.

Ziegler photo of students and teacher at the Telford Public School, circa 1913. Mennonite Heritage Center Collection; gift of Howard & Cleta Moyer Freed.

Zeigler’s Apple Cider

One branch of the family moved “over the Ridge” into Marlborough Township and did not remain Mennonite; for some reason, they began to spell their name “Zeigler”. When Franconia Mennonite Conference began a mission in the nearby village of Finland in 1931, widow Mary Henry Zeigler became converted and joined the church, probably with no idea that her husband’s ancestors had been prominent Mennonite leaders in early Pennsylvania. Mary donated the land for the original Finland Mennonite meetinghouse and cemetery, and today a newer meetinghouse has been built across the street from her humble farmhouse on Zeigler Road.

Mary’s son Maurice moved to a row home in Lansdale, where in 1932 he began pressing cider in his back shed, on a press that he built himself. He invented and built devices to wash jugs and apples, emphasizing a cleanliness that was not always present in cider making of the day.

Photo courtesy of Grace Zeigler Freed.

With the help of his children and others, Maurice developed a delivery route in North Wales and Norristown, and over the decades the family grew Zeigler’s Apple Cider into a very successful business with national distribution.

Maurice Zeigler

Sources on the Ziegler family:

Ruth, John L. Maintaining the right fellowship: a narrative account of life in the oldest Mennonite community in North America. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press. 1984.

Strassburger, Ralph Beaver. “The Ziegler family.” The Strassburger family and allied families of Pennsylvania. Gwynedd Valley, PA: self-published. 1922. pp. 414-453.

Wenger, John C. “Ziegler (Zeigler, Zigler) family.” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 9 Nov 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ziegler_(Zeigler,_Zigler)_family&oldid=120540.

Ziegler, Gertrude Mohlin. The Ziegler family and related families in Pennsylvania. Zelienople, PA: Charles Campbell Printing Co. 1978.

“History of Zeigler’s [Apple Cider]”. Web. 14 Nov 2016. http://www.zeiglers.com/history-of-zeiglers/.