I am thrilled to share a well-written biography about my fifth great-grandfather, Henry Rumfelt. I asked permission from the author, Rev. Daniel S. Rumfelt, to share this on my blog for the enjoyment of Henry’s descendants.
14 SEP 1748 – 26 MAR 1827
by the Rev. Daniel S. Rumfelt
Henry Rumfelt established the Rumfelt family in North Carolina. He was a first generation Rumfelt in America, born September 14, 1748 in Upper Saucon Township, Northampton County (now Lehigh Co.), Pennsylvania. Henry was a millwright, served three years in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, settled in North Carolina in 1790 and was ultimately declared “insane” six years before his death in 1827.
PARENTS: Heinrich and Barbara
Henry’s father Heinrich Rumpfeld emigrated from the small city of Heuchelheimbei-Frankenthal located a few miles west of the Rhine River near the cities of Worms and Frankenthal. He crossed the Atlantic aboard the St. Andrew, arriving at the Port of Philadelphia on September 12, 1734. Soon after arriving in Pennsylvania, Heinrich settled 200 acres north of Philadelphia and married a woman named Barbara (maiden name unknown). Heinrich and Barbara had eleven children, of which Henry was the fourth. Heinrich helped establish St. Paul’s Lutheran “Blue” Church, the church in which he and Barbara raised their family.
BIRTH: September 14, 1748
Henry’s birth date has to be determined from several sources: his confirmation record, a personal letter, military and pension records and his tombstone. St. Paul’s confirmation records for Sunday, April 22, 1764 list “Heinrich Rumfeld, age 15, son of Heinrich Rumfeld.” This places his birth year as 1748 or 1749. Henry’s tombstone at Castanea Presbyterian Cemetery, Gaston County, North Carolina lists his age as “82 years, 6 months, 13 days.” This indicates a birth year of 1744. However, 1748 is consistent with information in a letter from his brother Casper in 1816, military records and with his pension application as a veteran of the American Revolution. Presuming only the year on Henry’s tombstone is incorrect; his birth month and day are calculated from the stone as September 14.
EDUCATION: St. Paul’s Lutheran School
Henry’s formal education would have taken place in the log cabin schoolhouse established by St. Paul’s for children of the congregation. Both schooling and worship were conducted in German. After Henry’s death, his widow, Mary Fite Rumfelt, attested that Henry “could write a little German but could never write English.” Perhaps this indicates Henry had a low level of interest in education, especially considering his father appears to have been fairly well educated.
Henry worked as a millwright. This skill was probably gained during an apprenticeship. A millwright would be skilled in mechanics and iron work. His job included installation, maintenance and repair of the mechanical apparatus crucial to the operation of mills. Henry may have been introduced to these skills by his father. The inventory of Heinrich’s property (following his death in 1786) included a collection of metal working tools, along with scrap iron and a wrought iron bar. Henry’s occupation as a millwright likely led him to meet his wife Mary. Her father, Johannes Fite, owned and operated a mill in Oxford, Sussex County, New Jersey. Mary stated that she met Henry in Sussex County after he left military service. Henry may have worked for Mary’s father.
MILITARY SERVICE: German Regiment, Continental Army 1776 – 1779
Henry Rumfelt enlisted in the German Regiment in 1776, a part of the Continental Army formed from German speaking residents of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The enlistment officer was Capt. Philip Graybell. Henry served under Capt. Graybell’s command until Graybell’s resignation on March 12, 1778. Graybell was immediately replaced by Capt. Christopher (Christian) Myers. Myers served under Capt. Graybell from 1776 with the rank of Lieutenant. Myers was promoted to Captain upon replacing Graybell. Henry continued to serve under Myers until his honorable discharge on July 28, 1779 from the German Regiment. Henry was the only Rumfelt to serve in the Continental Army. His brothers and a cousin served in the Northampton County Militia, rather than the regular army. The March 1778 campaign roll for Valley Forge lists Henry. At Valley Forge the German Regiment comprised part of Brigadier General Peter Muhlenberg’s Brigade, together with the 1st, 5th, 6th, 9th and 13th Virginia Regiments. The muster roll for April 3, 1778 lists Henry “on Command,” perhaps assigned to Muhlenberg’s headquarters. Henry is further listed on the Continental Army Muster Roll for April – June 1778, corresponding to his continued presence in Valley Forge. Under this muster roll Henry is listed as: Private, Rank and File, PA, German Regiment, 5th Division, 1st VA Brigade, 3rd Vacant Company. Henry served in the campaigns of Brandywine – Sept. 1777, Germantown – Oct. 1777 and Monmouth – June 1778. The German Brigade was also assigned to General Sullivan’s march on the British and Indians, but Henry had been discharged by that time. Henry received a Certificate of Discharge dated October 14, (?) from Captain Christian Myers stating, “This may certify that the bearer Henry Rumfelt has served in my company in the German Regiment three years as a faithful soldier according to his enlistment.”
A book detailing the German Regiment states that their first military action was General Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River (Christmas Day, 1776) to capture the Hessians in Trenton. In Henry’s pension application as a Revolutionary War veteran he states he was present at Bunker Hill (June, 1775) when the Minute Men, militias and first Continental Army recruits surrounded the British at Boston. If he was there, it was not as part of the German Regiment, since this regiment was not formed until a year later. Henry may simply have gone up to Bunker Hill to fight without actually signing up for the army until the German Regiment was formed.
MARRIAGE: July 1781
Henry married Mary Fite in Oxford, Sussex, NJ in July 1781, two years after his discharge. Henry and Mary were married at the home of Mary’s father John Fite in Oxford Township, Sussex, NJ by John McMurtrey, Esquire, a licensed county magistrate. Mary’s sister, Catherine Fite Armstrong was a witness at the wedding. Mary could not remember the day they were married.
FIRST CHILDREN: 1782 – 1788
Henry and Mary continued to live in Sussex County for eight years following their marriage. Mary, in testimony for her pension as the widow of a Revolutionary War veteran, said they had three children prior to moving to Lincoln County, NC in 1790. She also testified that they did not keep a record of the births. To date, no records in NJ or the Fite family church, “The Straw Church,” have given independent confirmation of these three children. Later North Carolina census and marriage records argue strongly in favor of establishing these three children as John Rumfelt, born about 1782, Catherine Rumfelt, born about 1786 and Barbara Rumfelt, born about 1788.
MOVE TO NORTH CAROLINA: 1790
Henry and Mary Fite Rumfelt moved to Lincoln County, NC in 1790. They moved together with Mary’s older brother Peter Fite, Mary’s sister Catherine and her husband John Fiteman (Catherine later married Matthew Armstrong after John Fiteman died), and friends Elizabeth and Falkert Orten. Henry and Mary continued to live in Lincoln/Gaston County until their deaths.
MILITARY PENSION: OCTOBER 1819
On October 27, 1819 Henry appeared before the “Supreme Court of Law and Court of Equity in and for the State of North Carolina” to request pension income for his service in the Continental Army. In his deposition Henry stated, “That he has no other income now in his power of his said pension, that he is in required circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for support.” Henry was granted an annual pension of $96.00 for his support. Henry’s wife Mary later applied for and received a widow’s pension after Henry’s death.
DECLARED “INSANE”: WEDNESDAY, OCT. 9, 1821
During the July Sessions, 1821, of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for Lincoln County, on Wednesday, Oct. 9, Henry’s son Robert appeared in court to have Henry declared insane. The jury found “the said Henry Rumfelt is a Lunatic is of such a mind that he is not capable of transacting his own business.” Henry’s affairs were placed under the guardianship of attorney Jacob Forney. The court minutes state: “Jacob Forney, having been appointed guardian to Henry Rumfelt, a person of unsound mind, came into open courts and entered into bond with Robert H. Burton, surety in the sum of £ 50.” This court date appears to have been set after an adjournment from the July 18 court hearing of Henry’s wife Mary. On July 18, 1821, Mary appeared before the same court to have Henry’s pension placed under the stewardship of Jacob Forney in light of Henry’s “insanity.” She stated that “Henry Rumfelt has become insane and that he is quite incapable of making a statement of facts and of his circumstances.” Mary herself was probably not capable of managing the pension as she stated that she could not read or write. She made her mark “X” to sign the testimony.
PROPERTY ASSESMENT: July 18, 1821
Part of the strategy of pension testimony was to show the need for the pension. To help bring home the point Mary stated that “Henry Rumfelt was a millwright by occupation, but from his age, infirmity and loss of understanding is unable to follow it.” Added to this he had dependents: Mary herself, “near sixty years of age,” and “two sons living with him, to wit, Robert, about twenty-three years of age, and William, about twenty years of age who is crippled in one shoulder and unable to do but very little work.”
As part of the July 1821 pension hearing, an inventory of Henry’s property was presented by the Clerk of the Court, Vandy McBee. He assessed Henry’s total property to be valued at $45.95. Henry’s worldly belongings (at age 73) consisted of: 1 mare, 3 cows & calves, 1 yearling, 2 ovens, 1 pot, 3 sitting chairs, 1 pewter dish, 1 pewter basin, ½ dozen pewter plates, ½ dozen delph plates, ½ dozen knives & forks, ½ dozen cups and saucers, 1 washing tub, 1 churn, 1 cream pot and 1 sugar dish. The assessment makes it clear that Henry and Mary did not own any real estate.
DEATH: March 26, 1827
Henry was buried in what is now the Castanea Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Mount Holly, North Carolina. At the time of his death it was known as the “White Haven Church Cemetery.” White Haven was a Lutheran Church whose records are now unknown. Henry’s tombstone states he died March 26, 1827 at the age of 82 years, 6 months and 13 days. Henry’s age in years is incorrect when compared to all other records of his age. In actuality Henry was 79 when he died. Mary is buried next to Henry. Mary was born April 5, 1762 and died July 4, 1850.
CHILDREN OF HENRY AND MARY RUMFELT
Henry and Mary Rumfelt did not keep any record of the births of their children. The reconstruction of their children is based on deductions from census records and marriage bonds. One factor in the reconstruction of these children is confirmation that Henry is the only Rumfelt to have moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Therefore, he and Mary are the only parents available to have given birth to those Rumfelt’s included here. The two youngest sons, Robert and William, are confirmed by Mary’s pension testimony.
Born about 1782, Oxford, Sussex Co., NJ
Died 1873, Dent Co., MO
+Unknown Wife – born about 1784, died about 1821
Married about 1803 – 1804 in Lincoln Co., NC
+Margaret Belk – born about 1800, died about 1869 in MO
Married: 10 Jan 1822 Lincoln Co., NC
Some of John’s descendants settled in McDowell and Gaston Counties in NC.
Others settled in Dent County, MO.
Born about 1786, Oxford, Sussex Co., NJ
+Isaac West, Jr. – born 1787, Lincoln Co., NC, died about 1864, Lavaca, TX
Married: 26 Jun 1804 Lincoln Co., NC
Born about 1788, Oxford, Sussex Co., NJ
Died after 1850, Cookville, Putnum Co., TN
+Barnabus West – born 1789, Lincoln Co., NC, died after 1850, TN
Married: 2 September 1807, Lincoln Co., NC
Born 1790, NC
Died about 1865 Stewart Co., TN
+Elizabeth Jenkins – born about 1793, NC
Married: 14 September 1813, Lincoln Co., NC
Ebenezer and his descendants settled in Stewart County, TN.
Henry Hezekiah Rumfelt
Born 1790, Lincoln Co., NC
Died 1873, Cape Girardeau, MO
+Mary Polley Hendricks – Born 23 Dec 1802, NC, Died 30 Jan 1868, Cape
Married: 14 September 1816, Lincoln County, NC
Henry Hezekiah and his descendants settled in Cape Girardeau, MO.
Born 1798, Lincoln Co., NC
Died between 1870 – 1880, Gaston Co., NC
+Jemima – Born 1806, died after 1880, Gaston Co., NC
Married between 1820 – 1828, Lincoln Co., NC
Robert lived in Lincoln/Gaston County, NC all his life. His children also lived in Gaston County.
William H. Rumfelt
Born 1801, Lincoln Co., NC
Died abt. 07 Aug 1884, Gaston Co., NC
William never married nor had any known children. He lived with or near his brother Robert all his life, then with Robert’s son after Robert died.
*Featured photo of snow at Muhlenberg by Joe Nevins/National Park Service.