Heinrich Rumpfeld: From Germany to America

Heinrich Rumpfeld/Rumfelt, my sixth great-grandfather, traveled in 1734 to the United States of America from Germany. The Rev. Daniel S. Rumfelt compiled a wonderful informative biography about Heinrich’s life. I am thankful he’s allowed me to share his research on this website.

Bio of Heinrich Rumpfeld by the Rev. Daniel S. Rumfelt

Born about 1713 in the Palatinate, Germany

Heinrich’s signature

Heinrich Rumpfeld established the Rumfelt family in America. He emigrated from the small city of Heuchelheim-bei-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. Heinrich was accompanied by his father Jacob, his father’s second wife Anna Catherina, four of her children from her first marriage, and a half-sister from Jacob and Catherina’s union.

Parents: Jacob & Unknown

Records of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Heuchelheim show that Heinrich’s father Jacob was a shoemaker. Jacob is mentioned only twice in the church record: once in his marriage to a widow named Anna Catharina Foltz Fruhman. The second is the birth of their daughter Catharina Magaretha Rumfelt. The Heuchelheim church record does not include any information about Jacob’s first wife or about Heinrich. To date I have found no church records of that time and region which include further information about Jacob or Heinrich.

Birth: About 1713, Lower Palatinate

Heinrich’s specific birth date and place are unknown. I place his birth around 1713 based on the facts surrounding his emigration to Pennsylvania. Heinrich signed the ship St. Andrew’s passenger list as an adult male (over 16) in 1734. Once in Pennsylvania, he immediately emerges as the head of the family, acquiring property within a year of his arrival. This strongly suggests Heinrich was at least 21 when he landed.

Marriage: Between 1734 and 1738 to Anna Barbara (unknown)

The St. Andrew passenger list includes no spouse for Heinrich. After settling in Pennsylvania baptismal records of St. Paul’s Lutheran “Blue” Church, Coopersburg, show his wife’s name as Anna Barbara (last name unknown), but no marriage record has been found. They would have been married prior to the establishment of the congregation circa 1740. Their earliest know child is Anna Margarethe, born October 31, 1739. A viable candidate for Heinrich’s spouse could be his step-sister, Anna Barbara Fruhman, born February 20, 1715, who traveled to Pennsylvania with the family. This, however, cannot be confirmed by any available records of which I am aware.

Education: Literate

Heinrich could read and write German, skills he most certainly learned in childhood. This suggests his family were not peasants, but higher on the economic ladder. His father Jacob, a shoemaker, could have been a member of a trade guild and afforded an education for his son.

Three examples of Heinrich’s signature remain. One is the St. Andrew passenger list. In a second, Heinrich and his father Jacob witnessed a codicil to the will of Andreas Weltz. The third is a promissory note written in Heinrich’s own hand. The note specifies that Heinrich borrowed £50 from Andreas Weltz, and refers to Weltz as his “uncle”. Weltz traveled to Pennsylvania two years prior to Heinrich.

After Heinrich’s death, the inventory of his property included a large Bible and 15 other books. The library is certainly an indication of literacy. The large number of books is extraordinary for the time and place. One was a “doctor” book, perhaps some type of basic medical reference. Most were hymnals and worship books. Heinrich regularly attended church. Perhaps the hymnals indicate he also enjoyed singing and prayer services held in his home.

Occupation: Farmer, perhaps metal worker

Heinrich settled 200 acres in what is currently Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, just east of the town of Coopersburg. Farming would have been a natural part of land ownership. The inventory of his property includes typical farm tools, as well as halters, a horse collar and “cow chains.”

Another skill, and perhaps occupation, emerges in the inventory. Heinrich had a collection of metal working tools, along with scrap iron and a wrought iron bar. His son, Henry, who would later move to North Carolina, carried on the metal working and mechanical skills as a millwright.

The Rumfelt Land: 200 Acres

Historic and legal documents make it clear Heinrich settled on a 100 acre plot of wilderness land within a year of his arrival in Pennsylvania. The property is about 50 miles north of Philadelphia. The land belonged to the Proprietors of Pennsylvania, i.e., the sons of William Penn.

Settlers went through a long process to acquire what we would know today as ownership of a property. First, Heinrich had to build a home and begin to clear and develop the land. With that accomplished, the settler applied for a “warrant” for a specified acreage in a particular location. The warrant was an order to survey the tract. When the survey was completed, it was “returned” to the land office. Then, for additional money, a “patent” was granted. The patent was a final deed from the proprietors that conveyed all rights to the tract of land. This insured that the property could be passed on as an inheritance to Heinrich’s heirs.

The process could take many decades, even generations. From start to finish, Heinrich completed the process in 36 years.

February 9, 1738: Warrant for the original 100 acres.

March 14, 1742: Warrant for an additional 100 acres adjoining the first lot.

January 20, 1743: Survey of the Property

May 25, 1774: Patent Deed to the property signed by Pennsylvania Governor John Penn (grand-nephew of William Penn). The deed cost £30, 17 shillings. In addition Heinrich was required to pay an annual “rent” of ½ penny per acre.

After Heinrich’s death, his eldest son John eventually purchased the property from the estate for £600. The legal process took 5 years. Each of the 10 living heirs received an equal share of the proceeds from the sale (after debt payments). Not long afterward, another brother, Casper, bought half the property from John and established a prosperous tobacco factory.

Twenty-five years later, Henry, who had moved to North Carolina in 1790, wrote his brother Casper for more money from his father’s estate. In a return letter, dated April 9th, 1816, Casper diplomatically reminded Henry that the whole affair had been settled in the court long ago, but Henry was welcome to come to Pennsylvania to check for himself.

Citizenship: April 2, 1741

Heinrich Rumfeld became a naturalized citizen of England on April 2, 1741. The ceremony was held at the courthouse in Philadelphia. Naturalization brought increased rights and privileges he would not otherwise have enjoyed. Prerequisites were 7 years residency in the colony, receiving Holy Communion in a Protestant congregation, and a loyalty oath to the King of England.

Church Life: Founder & member, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church

After they first settled their properties, Heinrich Rumfeld and the other German Lutheran settlers of the area would meet in one another’s homes for prayer groups. They probably built a log church by 1740. The church was located within a few miles of the Rumfeld property. By 1745, the Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the patriarch of American Lutherans, would write of traveling to their church to lead worship. About the same time, the parishioners built a log school house. This is where the Rumfeld children received whatever formal education they got. Classes were in German.

Church records show that Heinrich, his wife Barbara, and their children were active worshippers throughout their lives. They saw to it that all their children were confirmed. Though many of the records are sketchy, all the Rumfeld confirmations are recorded in the original parish record book.

The parish record shows that Heinrich, accompanied by his youngest daughter Susanna, received Holy Communion at St. Paul less than six weeks before his death. Interestingly, Heinrich’s father Jacob is never recorded as having received communion at St. Paul, even though he lived until at least after October 1765, the date he and Heinrich signed the codicil to the will of Andreas Weltz.

Death: June 3, 1786

Heinrich died without a will. The inventory of his property and liquidation of his assets confirm the year of his death. The specific date of his death is established by the letter his son Casper sent Henry in response to Henry’s request for money. The letter is dated April 9th, 1816. In it, Casper reminds Henry that, “it is thirty years the third day of next June since our father died.”

The Rev. Jacob Van Buskirk, pastor of St. Paul’s, conducted the funeral. He was paid 16 shillings, 8 pence for his services. Burial was almost certainly in the St. Paul church yard, but cemetery records do not exist for that period. Nor do any of the cemetery tombstones for that period remain.

Written by the Rev. Daniel S. Rumfelt

(For a biography on Heinrich’s son, Henry, click here.)

2 thoughts on “Heinrich Rumpfeld: From Germany to America

  1. Pingback: Henry Rumfelt: German Regiment, Continental Army, and Valley Forge – Down Home Genealogy

  2. Pingback: Johan Jacob Rumpfeldt – Down Home Genealogy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s