Moyer family inheritance letter, 1752

Written by Forrest Moyer on March 11, 2020

Originally published in the MHEP Newsletter, May 1993, this rare letter details a family conflict over inheritance and possibly religion.

Elizabeth Oblinger was a sister of Christian Meyer/Moyer, early Mennonite deacon at Franconia, and sister-in-law of Henry Funk, the bishop. Here her husband, Nicholas, writes from far away — “beyond the Blue Mountain” (Palmerton, PA area) — to complain that Elizabeth has not received the inheritance due from her father’s estate. Nicholas wonders if perhaps the old father (Christian Moyer Sr.) “did something in his last sickness and disinherited Liesabeth, that he was frightened and led to doing so thereby.”

Potentially, Elizabeth had been disinherited by her father because she forsook the Mennonite Church and joined her husband’s Church of the Brethren. In those days, there was conflict between Mennonites and Brethren at Franconia, with the Brethren suggesting that Mennonite baptism by pouring was not biblical and that Mennonites should be rebaptized by immersion. Or the Oblinger’s may have moved away from Anabaptist faith entirely (see note 4 below).

NOTE: If you’re interested in Moyer family history, join Forrest Moyer and Joel Alderfer on a one-day tour of sites related to the Moyer family (including the early generations in Franconia). The tour will take place Saturday, September 12, 2020. For information and to register, visit Moyer Family History Bus Tour.


Letter from “Behind the Blue Mountain, March 30, 1752”

This early piece of correspondence was discovered among a group of much later papers in the Norman M. Wismer Collection. A literal translation is offered here.

Transcribed and translated by John L Ruth; endnotes by Joel D. Alderfer

The Kittatiny Ridge often appears “blue” from a distance on hazy days. Kittatiny means “endless mountain” in the Lenape language. The ridge forms a natural barrier separating southeastern Pennsylvania from the rest of the state. The Oblinger’s were early settlers on the north side of the mountain. Image source: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/GoodNatured/pages/Article.aspx?post=100

Behind the Blue Mountain [note 1] March 30, 1752

To heart-beloved brother Christian Meyer [note 2] and dear brother-in-law Henry Funk [note 3], as well as to your wives and children, our all-round friendly greeting, along with a wish for everything loving and good regarding soul and body, from me Nicklaus Oblinger and Elizabeth Oblinger. [note 4]

We can not neglect to inform you with these few lines that we are all, God be thanked and praised, still in good health. To hear the same from you would be dear and joyous to our hearts.

Brother-in-law Christian, you may well take it amiss that I did not visit you when I was last down. The reason was that I heard from certain people that Elizabeth was not to inherit from her father [note 5] more than three pounds money of her inheritance, beyond what she had already received — which we find impossible to believe, since the father had said to Liesabeth on his deathbed yet that she should have her share [just] like another child — since she had asked him, after she had heard from other people that he wanted to disinherit her. So he said to her that it was not thus, but that she should [have] her inheritance like another child. But perhaps unknown to us Father did something in his sickness, when he was perhaps very sick and weak -­ that he did something in his last sickness and disinher­ited Liesabeth, that he was frightened and led to doing so thereby — [if so] we are certainly sure that you are convinced in your hearts and feelings that it was not rightly and justly done, [in light], further, of the fact that the mother [had] enjoined the father, from her own deathbed, which belongs to Liesabeth, that she was not to be disinherited. Further, if you consider and ma­turely meditate in what kind of general pathetically troubled condition Lisabeth and our child Christel [note 6] find themselves, regarding their great lack of hope [appar­ently depression], so that we have to have our own work done by other hands, and thereby I myself am much hindered, and can not order my affairs as I otherwise could; if you see — it is well known to you — and as we know, while Father still lived, we were in fairly equal standing with each other regarding what each had [already] received. We hope that Elizabeth’s share will come to us from the estate just as to her siblings — and certainly if you take into consideration, and weigh the sorry condition of the lack of hope of Elizabeth and Christel and that the other children are small and not grown up and [I] have yet more to hope for [them]. And on top of all this we were so unfortunate with our horses last winter that we had 40 pounds worth of loss. And [if] you rightly consider and think over what has been described above, you will certainly not deny allowing Elizabeth’s due share to come to her from Father’s estate. And since as I’ve explained I can not manage as I otherwise could, because of [our] difficult and troubled household condition [note 7], I do hope you will be so good as to write me by the next opportu­nity as to how things stand.

For the rest, we all greet all our friends again a hundred thousand times, and commend you together to the dear protection of the grace of God the all-highest, and remain always your true friend and brother-in-law.

Nicklaus Oblinger

Notes

[1] This area, above the Blue Mountain, in 1752 was an undefined and unsettled wilderness where American Indians lived. The Oblingers lived near the Lehigh Gap (on the Lehigh River) in what is now Lower Towamensing Twp., Carbon County, PA, twenty miles north of Bethlehem. The only other white settle­ment further north was at Gnaddenhütten, the Moravian mission to the Indians. [Click here for a 3D view of the area on Google Earth. The Oblinger homestead was just beyond the mountain, in what is today Palmerton or Aquashicola.]

[2] Christian Meyer Jr. (ca.1705-1787), of Franconia Twp., Montgomery Co., and a deacon in the Salford and Franconia Mennonite Congregations, was a brother to Elizabeth Oblinger, wife of Nicholas.
[3] Henry Funk (died 1763), of Franconia Township was a miller and Mennonite bishop in the Salford-Franconia area. He was married to Anne Meyer, daughter of the immigrant Christian Meyer and a sister to Elizabeth Meyer Oblinger. Funk and Christian Meyer Jr. were executors of the estate of Christian Meyer Sr.
[4] Nicholas Oblinger (ca.1712-ca.1785) was the son of the German Baptist immigrant Claus Oblinger, died 1730 in what is now Franconia Twp., Montgomery Co. Nicholas married Elizabeth Meyer, daughter of Christian Meyer (d.1751) of Lower Salford Twp. They owned land and lived in what is now Harleysville, until April, 1751, when they sold and moved above the Blue Mountain (now Carbon County), where they obtained land in June, 1751. Here, Oblinger built something of a stockade around his homestead, which became a stopping point for travelers above the Blue Mountain. Benjamin Franklin recorded stopping here for lodging on January 25, 1756 on his way to the site of the destroyed Gnadenhütten, where he was to erect a new fort (Fort Allen). During the construction of Fort Allen, Nicholas Oblinger hauled supplies to the fort. In February, 1756, he presented a bill for nine days work and three wagons used for hauling. Oblinger and his stockade later became entangled in, and was apparently the partial cause of, some of the violence between Indians and whites in the area in 1763. Companies of soldiers were at times quartered at Oblinger’s and on one occasion in August of 1763, several traveling Indians were murdered by soldiers in or near Oblinger’s barn. This was probably one of the causes of the subsequent massacres by Indians in October, 1763. Nicholas Oblinger’s son Samuel was enrolled in the Frontier Rangers. This raises a question about Oblinger’s religious affiliations and sympathies.
[5] Elizabeth Oblinger’s father was the immigrant Christian Meyer (d.1751) of Lower Salford Twp., Montgomery Co. He and his wife Barbara were founding members of the Salford Mennonite Congregation and lived at what is now [the Wal-Mart shopping center at] the intersection of Routes 113 and 63 in Harleysville. In his will, probated June, 1751, Chris­tian Meyer names his daughter Elizabeth as an equal heir to his estate. This was at the very time that Eliza­beth and Nicholas Oblinger left Lower Salford Township and moved above the Blue Mountain. And then the question of disinheritance arises. Why did the Oblinger’s leave Lower Salford and move to a frontier area? Was there a disagreement in the family? Was the father Christian Meyer unhappy with the Oblinger’s moving to the frontier?
[6] The Oblinger’s son Christel, or Christian, who apparently had some physical or mental handicap, is not men­tioned in the History of the Oblinger Family. He may have died young.
[7] It would appear that Oblinger’s wife Elizabeth had some handicap and was unable to care for the household, causing a “difficult and troubled household condition.” Another reason for Oblinger to plead for Elizabeth’s inheritance.

We have no record of the outcome of this letter, so we don’t know if the inheritance was received. We do know that the Oblinger-Uplinger family remained in the lower Carbon County-northern Lehigh County area and left many descendants there.

“This letter to come to Christian Meyer living in Franconia Township near Skippack” (Mennonite Heritage Center Collection, Gift of the Estate of Norman M. Wismer, 1992.28.5)

Transcription

Hinder dem Blauenberg 30t Martz 1752

Hertz lieber Bruder Christian Meyer und lieber Schwager Henrich Funck, wie auch ahn Eure weiber und Kinder, unseren allerseites freundlichen grüsz, nebst wiinschung alles liebes und gutes nach seel und leib zu vor, Von mir Nicklaus Oblinger und Elisabetha Oblingerin.

Wir konnen nicht unterlassen euch mit dieszen wenigen Zeilen zu berichten das wir Gott sey lob und danck annoch alle gesundt, ein gleiches allein zu vemehmen son uns Von Hertzen sehr lieb und erfreulich seyn, Schwager Christian wird mir wohl von iibel auf nehmen Dasz ich nicht zu euch Kommen bin da ich Dasz Letzte mahl drunten war Die ursach war dasz ich Von gewissen Leuthen Ver Nommen Habe dasz die Liesabeth nich mehr als Drey Pfundt in geld Von ihro Erbschafft Von ihrem Vatter erben solle ohne Dasz was sie Empfangen hatte welches wir unmoglich konnen glauben, weilen der Vatter noch auff seynen Todes Bett zu der Liesabeth gesagt Dasz sie ihro part haben solle so wohl als wie ein ander Kindt weillen sie Vorher in gefragt hatte wie sie Von anderen leuthen hatte gehort, Dasz er sie enterben wolte. So hatte er zu ihro gesagt Dasz es nicht dem also seye, sondem sie solle ihro Erbschafft gleich ein ander Kindt solte aber Vielleicht wie wir nicht wüssen Der Vatter etwas gemacht haben in seiner Krankheit, da er Vielleicht sehr krank und Schwach war Dasz er solte in seyner letzten Krankheit etwas gemacht und die Liesabeth solte enterben haben, Dasz ihm in seyner Krankheit und schwachheit derowegen ware zu geschrocken und angelegen worden, so seynd wir gewisz Versichert, Dasz ihr in Eurem Hertzen und gemüther überzeuget seyndt Dasz es nicht recht und wohl gethan ware, zu deme die mutter Dem Vatter befohlen in ihren Todes Bett, Dasz Die Liesabeth zu gehoret Dasz sie ja nicht enterben solle, zu mahlen wann ihr reiszlich [reiflich?] überlegen und betrachten soltet, in wasz Vor einem iiberaus Hertzlich betrübten Zustandt sich Die Liesabeth und unser Kindt der Christel sich wegen dem groszen Mangel ihrer gesichter befinden, so Dasz wir unsere arbeit durch fremde Hande miissen schaffen und Thun lassen und derentwegen ich dann auch selbsten sehr Verhinderet und meinen affairen nicht nach kommen kann wie ich sonsten wohl konte wann sie sehen thaten es ist euch Ja wohl bekant und so viel uns bewust das wir da Der Vatter noch gelebet hat Die Kinder wegen dem wasz ein Jedes Empfangen Ratte alle gegen ein ander Ziemlich gleich gestanden seyn, so hoffen wir, es wird uns von der Hinterlassenschaft Der Liesabeth ihr Theile zu kommen so wohl als wie ihren Geschwisterten auch, und gewiszlich wann ihr in Consideration ziehet, und erweget den betrübten Zustandt wegen dem mangel des gesichtes der Liesabeth und Des Christels zu Die andere Kinder Klein und unerzogen seynd undt noch mehr zu hoffen Haben, uber Dasz alles waren wir so unglucklich mit unser Pferden letzten winter dasz wir so viel verlohren Dasz es bey 40 Pfundt uns schaden thut, und ihr solches alles wie schon gemeldet recht betrachte und uberleget, werdet ihr euch gewiszlich nicht wagem Der Liesabeth ihren gebilhrenden antheil von Des Vatters Hinterlassenschaft zu kommen zu lassen, und weillen ich wie schon vor her gemeldet nicht so ab kommen kann wegen dasz schweren undt betrübter Haushaltung wie Ich sonsten habe schon konnen so hoffe ich ihr werdet so guth seyn und mir mit nachsten Eine antwort zuschreiben wie es stehet, ubrigens grilssen wir euch alle uns gesambt alle unsere freunde nochmahl zu hundert Tausend Mahlen, undt Empfehlen euch samtlich dem Theurer gnadenschutz Gottes Des Allerhochsten, undt verbleibe Euer allezeit getreuer freundt undt Schwager.

Nicklaus Oblinger

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