Peter Weitzel of Lancaster, Pennsylvania

                                                                     and

                                  Peter Weitzel of Rockingham County, Virginia

 

In most Whitesell genealogies, Peter Weitzel, Sr. of Rockingham County, Virginia is considered

to be the same person as Johann Peter Weitzel,  son of  Johann Paul Weitzel, of Lancaster,

Pennsylvania.  I do not believe that this is correct.

 

There are several interesting circumstances which would point toward  the connection, and it is

understandable why genealogists may have assumed that the two Peters  are the same person.

 

First, both have a wife named Anne(a). 

Peter(Pa.) marries Anna Metz on 14 March, 1769.[1] 

Peter(Va.) along with “Anne his wife” appears in a Rockingham Co. land deed[2] to their

son, Peter Whitesel, Jr., dated 21 June, 1803.

 

Peter(Va.) has children whose ages are consistent with the March, 1769 marriage date of

Peter(Pa.).

            Their first child, John, was born between June 1770 and June 1771.[3]

Their second child, Peter, Jr. was born in Maryland 20 October, 1774.[4]

 

Migration to the Shenandoah valley of Virginia was very common for the Germans of Lancaster

and the surrounding parts of Pennsylvania.

Peter(Va.), before he moved on to Virginia, owned land[5] and lived in Leitersburg,

Maryland,[6] which is located on the Pennsylvania-Virginia migration route.

 

Both families have connections with the early United Brethren Church.

 

The family of Peter(Pa.) was associated with the First Reformed Church of Lancaster Pa.

during a time that its pastor was William Otterbein, who later went on to found the

United Brethren Church.[7]

 

Peter(Va.)’s family was active in the early United Brethren Church, even contributing the

land for the first UB church raised in Virginia.  Several of his descendants became pastors

in that denomination.

 

However, two facts make it certain that Peter(Pa.) and Peter(Va.) are different persons.

 

In the burial records of the First Reformed Church of Lancaster Pa. for 1820:

“June, 8. Peter Weitzel, . . . . 74. 7. 8.” [Age – 74y, 7mo, 8d.]

But:     Peter(Va.)’s will was proved in 1815 in Rockingham County, Virginia.,[8]

            following his death that summer.

 

There are also numerous other items of circumstantial evidence which strongly support the case

that the two Peters are distinct.  For example:

 

When Peter(Pa.)’s father, John Paul, died intestate, Peter, the eldest son, stood to inherit a

substantial legacy.  Before the estate was settled an inquisition [a hearing] was held to establish

Peter’s competency.[9]  From the report of that hearing we have:

 

... the said Commissioners ... say ... that the said Peter Weitzell is at the time of

taking this Inquisition a lunatic and doth not enjoy lucid intervals so that he is not

capable of governing himself and his affairs and that he has been in the same state

of Lunacy for the space of fifty Years last past...

 

At the time of the hearing Peter was 51, so the condition [10] had apparently existed for the better

part, if not all, of his life.  The court then appoints three men, including Peter’s brother George

and brother-in-law Jacob Johns, to provide for his care and to administer his share of the estate.

 

Additional confirmation of Peter(Pa.)’s condition is provided by a reference to “Weitzel, Peter”

dated 8 July, 1782 in the rolls of the Inactive Militia, by Capt. Joseph Hubley, 3rd Co, 8th

Battalion of Lancaster Militia, bearing Remarks: “...an Ideot...reside[s] within the limits of my

District”[11]

 

On the other hand, Peter(Va.) buys and sells land, first in Maryland and later in Virginia, and he

makes a will.  He also, on 28 December, 1776, was commissioned, a 1st lieutenant in Captain

Peppel’s Co., Col. Bruce’s Battallion of the Maryland Militia, assigned to General Thomas

Johnson’s Brigade.[12] None of this would seem to have been possible for Peter(Pa.) who

apparently was never of sound mind.

 

Peter(Pa.) is never recorded during his life in Lancaster as a head-of-household although he was

described as an “old inhabitant” of Lancaster[13] at the time of his death.  I speculate that he always

lived with another family and am hoping to find census evidence consistent with that

assumption.

 

However.... I still believe it is possible that Peter(Va.) may be connected with the Lancaster

Weitzels. 

 

Peter(Pa.)’s grandfather (Johann Paul’s father) was also named Peter, so the name is in the family

from an earlier date (though it may well have been a rather common name at the time).  It

wouldn’t surprise me greatly to find that our Peter(Va.) is a cousin or some other relative of

Peter(Pa.), but at this point we have found no evidence bearing on where he came from before he

lived in Maryland.

 

Some new thoughts:

A Metz researcher has offered some ideas which have suggested a possible new line of research.

She believes it was very unlikely that a person such as Peter who was not mentally competent would

ever have been allowed to enter into a marriage contract. Hence, Peter Weitzel, the son of Johann

Paul could not have married Anna Metz. I think I am coming to agree with that. In that case, who was

it that married Anna? We are currently speculating that there may have been a second Peter Weitzel in

Lancaster. In fact, there were several Weitzel Families in the general area, although more research

needs to be done in the records of the First Reformed Church to see if another Peter can be placed

there at the time of the marriage.

 

Also, there is another very tentative clue in Maryland. In the 1790 census of Washington Co., a Jacob

Metz household is listed on the same census page as the Peter Weitzel household. Anna Metz who

had previously lived near Lancaster is known to have had a brother named Jacob.

 

Brett Nordgren

25 Mar, 1997

Rev. 2 October, 2003

 



Notes:

[1]    Records of the First Reformed Congregation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I had previously shown her name as

           “Anna Maria”. I can find no record of the “Maria” and believe that I must have remembered it incorrectly..

[2]    Rockingham Co., Virginia, Deed Book 000, p 110

[3]    1850 Census of Rockingham Co., Virginia, 56th district, house no. 2180, page 312.

           based on the assumption that the entry for John’s age of 79 is recorded correctly.

[4]    Gravestone inscription, Whitesel’s Church Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, Rockingham Co., Virginia

[5]    Frederick County, Maryland Land Record Book BD-1, pp 357, 580 [1775]

[6]    1790 Census, Washington Co., Maryland. p 28, col. 2, line 4  [Witesell]

[7]    Records of the First Reformed Congregation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

[8]    Priode, Marguerite. Abstracts of Executor, Administrator and Guardian Bonds of Rockingham Co. Virginia 1778 – 1864  p 9

            The original will, as recorded, was destroyed; only the abstract survives.

[9]    Lancaster Court of Common Pleas Docket Book, May term, 1798, pp 109-113.

[10]   I suspect that Peter suffered from what today we would describe as a severe developmental disability,

            either from birth or from a very young age.

[11]  “Military Accounts: Militia”  Records of the Comptroller General RG-4, Published A(5)VII, 850-52, date 8 July, 1782

[12]   Journal of the Maryland Council of Safety. Correspondence to Brigadier General Thomas Johnson.

[13]   The Lancaster Journal, 16 June, 1820  “Died.....On the morning of Wednesday week last [7 June], of a long

            and lingering illness, Mr. Peter Weitzell, an old inhabitant of this city.” 

 

 


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