I wrote the following article in the summer of 1992, after finally tracing the origens of my elusive ancestor, Jacob Eppley. An edited version of my article appeared in the November 1992 issue of the Laurel Messenger, the publication of the Somerset County Historical Society.
When Jacob Eppley of Somerset Co., Pa. died in 1827/28, he left a widow and six children. Today he is represented by thousands of descendants, yet Jacob himself remains an elusive figure. An Eppley reunion article printed in 1915 in the Johnstown Daily Tribune states that Jacob Eppley was originally from York Co., Pa., the son of a John Eppley who was born in Germany, and an unnamed Scottish woman. The article further maintained that Jacob lived also in Dauphin and Cumberland Cos., was married in Bedford Co.; and that his siblings were John, Michael, Emanuel, Sophia and Martha. How much of this article, written nearly 100 years after Jacob's death, is truth, and how much is myth? Jacob Aply first appears on the tax lists of Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., Pa. in the year 1826 with 100 acres, one house and a horse. He is listed again in 1827 with the same acreage. The list for 1828 is missing; in 1829 we find Margaret Apley, widow, with 75 acres. No deed for this land has ever been located, apparently Jacob was a tenant or may possibly have been farming land that he intended to buy, but which his early death precluded. Margaret remains on the tax lists through 1831, and is enumerated in the 1830, 1840 and 1850 censuses of Conemaugh Twp.; (she is in Jenner in 1840). Comparing the names of surrounding families on the censuses with the names on old landowner maps, it would appear that the Eppley home lay almost on the border of the two townships. But where did Jacob migrate from before settling in Somerset? Turning to the 1820 census of Pennsylvania, we find ten different men with various versions of the Eppley surname and the given name of Jacob. Only one family fits the known family of Jacob of Somerset. This is Jacob Epley "weaver" of Fairview Twp., York Co., with one male 26-45 (Jacob), one male under 10 (son John, age 1), one female 16-26 (wife Margaret, age 25), one female under 10 (daughter Martha, age 2), and one female 45-up, not yet identified. Jacob Epley "weaver" was the son of John Epley of Fairview Twp. Jacob first appears on the tax lists of that township in 1813 as a single freeman, indicating that he was born ca. 1792. In the tax year 1817/1818 he is now listed as a married man, and over the next several years is shown with various property, including a house and lot, and 1-2 cattle. Jacob last appears in the list of 1823/1824 with only two horses, and then vanishes from the lists. In the year 1823 "Jacob Eppley, weaver, of Fairview Twp. and Margaret his wife" sold Jacob's rights to his one-ninth share of the land of his deceased grandmother, Sophia Eppley, to Jacob's uncle, George Derr. In all probability, Jacob sold his property to purchase his two horses and a Conestoga wagon for the trip overland to Somerset. In 1827, George Derr, as Jacob's assignee, was granted 13 acres from the original estate of Sophia Eppley, and on the tax list of Fairview Twp., York Co., 1827/28 this land appears as "Jacob Eppley's estate," indicating that Jacob is now deceased (George Derr did not file the deed until 1829). This was just after Jacob died in Somerset Co. Margaret Eppley remained in Somerset until the 1850s, when she moved to Westmoreland Co. with her unmarried son John. She died in the year 1876 and is buried near Latrobe. Her son Jacob Jr. remained in Somerset; sons James and David went to Cambria and Westmoreland Cos., and her daughter Rosanna, wife of Yost Miller, migrated to Elkhart Co., Ind. John Eppley also went to Elkhart after the death of his mother. The elder Eppley daughter, Martha, disappears from the records after 1860; tradition claims that she married a Wallace and died near Latrobe. Her family remains still untraced. How much of the old reunion article was true? Jacob did come from York Co., and deeds, census and pension records for his father show that Jacob lived in both Dauphin and Cumberland Cos. as a child. There is no evidence that Jacob ever lived in Bedford or that he was married there; he was already married to Margaret while in York Co. John Eppley, Jacob's father, did not come from Germany, although he was of German descent. Nor was Jacob's mother, Elizabeth Derr, from Scotland; she too was of German ancestry. Her brother George often spelled the name "Dare" in the English manner; perhaps the tradition originated from that spelling. Jacob's siblings did include the names John, Michael, Emanuel, Sophia and Martha, however, three other siblings were missing from the article, including a half-sister and another sister who died in her twenties. The reunion article represents the traditions of Jacob's children and grandchildren, as likely passed down from the memories of Jacob's widow Margaret. All in all, it contains the average amount of truth, and, as is often the case, a healthy smattering of myth!
JACOB EPPLEY OF SOMERSET CO: SEPARATING TRUTH FROM MYTH
JACOB APPELE, Palatine immigrant, arrived in America ca. 1719; d. New Hanover Twp., Philadelphia Co., Pa. on 30 May 1733; m. Maria Eva _______, who was buried from New Hanover Lutheran Church on 20 June 1764; her 2nd husband was Johan Jurg Beck (1694-1775). Ch. of Jacob and Eva: 1. Johan Adam (see below) 2. Jacob, prob. b. ca. 1732; m. Anna Eva Eckert. 3. Five additional children, presently unidentified, and possibly by an earlier wife of Jacob. JOHAN ADAM EPPELE, usually called Johannes or John, prob. b. ca. 1729, at New Hanover; d. ca. 1779. at Lancaster, Pa.; m. on 23 Feb. 1752, at Augustus Evangelical Lutheran Church, Trappe, Pa. to Maria Sophia Gmelin, dau. of Mathais Gmelin, glazier, of Methacton and his wife Maria Barbara. Johannes Eppley was originally a blacksmith, and later a tavernkeeper in the town of Lancaster. He and his wife were members of Trinity Lutheran Church, where their children were baptized. Ch. of Johannes and Sophia: 1. Jacob b. 11 Apr. 1753; d. 23 July 1754. 2. Johannes (see below). 3. Elisabet b. 5 Mar. 1758; died young. 4. Michael b. 21 Aug. 1760; d. 5 May 1763. 5. Catherine b. 9 Mar. 1763; died young. JOHANNES EPPELE, usually called John Epley, b. 4 Nov. 1755, Lancaster, Pa.; d. 15 Feb. 1826, Fairview Twp., York Co.; m (1) ca. 1780: Catherine______. Ch. of John and Catherine, all bpt. Trinity Lutheran Church: 1. Johannes b. 15 Apr. 1781; died young. 2. Catherine bp. 23 Mar. 1783; died young. 3. Elizabeth b. 22 Dec. 1784; d. 28 Mar. 1847, York Co.; m. Christian Stauffer; six children. John Epley, with his wife and mother, sold his father's land in Lancaster, and in 1783 purchased a tract of land from the estate of Charles Klugh, located in "Paxtang" Twp., Dauphin Co. This tract of land included 144 acres, and an island in the Susquehanna, probably the island known today as Stucker Island. Over the next twelve years, John lived on this tract of land, and sold several parcels of it during that time. His wife Catherine died in Dauphin Co., and John m (2) ca. 1787 Elizabeth Derr, b. 1767, prob. in Lancaster Co.; d. 1831, Fairview Twp., York Co.; the daughter of John and Elizabeth (Weidler) Derr, of Newberry Twp., York Co. John Derr was the son of Johan Georg and Maria Catherina Doerr; Elizabeth Weidler was the daughter of Hans Michael and Anna Elisabetha (Klein) Weidler. Ch. of John and Elizabeth Eppley: 1. Michael, prob. b. ca. 1788, in Dauphin Co.; migrated to Ohio in the 1830s, and may have returned to Pa. and settled in Cumberland Co. 2. John, b. ca. 1790, Dauphin Co.; no further info. 3. Jacob, (see below) 4. Martha, b. 3 Apr. 1797, Allen Twp., Cumberland Co., Pa.; d. 28 Mar. 1872, Monaghan Twp., York Co.; m. ca. 1819, James Shaffer. Ch: John. George, Abraham, James, Mary, Joseph and Sophia. 5. Maria, b. ca. 1799; d. bet. 1820-27; m. ?Alexander? Lowman; one child: Emanuel Lowman. 6. Emanuel, b. ca. 1800, Newberry Twp., York Co.; d. 1834, Fairview Twp., York Co.; m. Esther Greissinger; no issue. 7. Sophia, b. 1805, Fairview Twp., York Co.; d. 10 June 1889, Monaghan Twp., York Co.; unmarried. Sophia received the bulk of the estate of her childless uncle, George Derr, with whom she had resided since the death of her mother. Sophia in turn left her estate to her Shaffer nephews. 8. David, b. 1812, Fairview Twp., York Co.; d. after 1868; he contested the will of his uncle against his sister Sophia and the Shaffers; he later settled for a small sum of money. John and Elizabeth Epley sold the remainder of their Dauphin Co., land in 1795. They probably moved to Allen Twp., Cumberland Co., Pa., where a deed shows John's mother Sophia living in 1799. In that year, the elder Sophia bought a tract of land in Newberry Twp., York Co. (now Fairview Twp.). The Eppleys removed to this land where Sophia died in the winter of 1799-1800. Her son remained on this tract until his death in 1826. It was this land that Jacob Eppley sold his rights to before migrating to Somerset Co. John Epley was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. His pension application of 1819 states that he enlisted in 1776 at Lancaster in Captain Abraham Dehuff's company, Col. Atlee's infantry regiment. He served for one year, was present at the Battle of Long Island, and was taken prisoner at Fort Washington and held for eight or nine weeks at the sugar house in New York. He was discharged in 1777 at Lancaster by Col. Stewart. His pension application further states that he was a retired saddler, and gives a list of his assets; as well as giving the names and ages of his wife and four children still living at home. JACOB EPPLEY, b. ca. 1792, Paxton Twp. (now Swatara Twp.), Dauphin Co.; d. 1827/28, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co.; m. ca. 1817 to Margaret Webb, who was b. 1794. Ch. of Jacob and Margaret: 1. Martha, b. 1818, Fairview Twp., York Co.; d. ?, Westmoreland Co., m. _______Wallace. Martha is enumerated on the 1860 census of Ligonier Twp., Westmoreland Co., with the family of her brother, James Eppley. A two-year old child, "Susan Eply," appears to be hers. 2. John, b. 20 May 1819, Fairview Twp., York Co.; d. 28 Apr. 1896, Elkhart Co., Ind.; bur. Miller Cemetery; unmarried. 3. Rosanna/Rosina, b. 15 Nov. 1820, Fairview Twp., York Co.; d. 16 Sept. 1903, Middlebury Twp., Elkhart Co., Ind; bur. Miller Cemetery; m. on 19 Apr. 1840, Somerset Co., Pa. to Yost D. Miller (1818-1891), son of Daniel and Maria (Maust) Miller. Ch: Samuel J., Moses, Abraham, Jacob Y., Maria, Margaret, Lydia, Sarah, Yost Y., Fannie, Mary and Daniel Y. Yost and Rosanna resided in Stoneycreek Twp., Somerset Co. until after the Civil War, when they migrated to Elkhart Co., Indiana, where Yost's widowed mother and siblings had settled twenty years earlier. All of Yost and Rosanna's children subsequently settled in Indiana and Michigan, except for Samuel J., who remained in Pa. After the death of her husband, Rosanna was cared for by her granddaughter, Elizabeth Miller, daughter of Samuel. Elizabeth's fiance, John E. Hampton, joined her in Indiana, and they were married in Goshen. They remained with Rosanna until after the birth of their first child, whom they named Sarah Rosinna in her honor. 4. Jacob W., b. 21 Sept. 1822, Fairview Twp., York Co.; d. 3 Aug. 1887, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co.; bur. Baptist Cemetery; m. Maria Miller (1832-1898), dau. of Solomon and Annie (Thomas) Miller. Ch: Amanda, Margaret, Anna, Marilla M., Rosanna, David Marx, Solomon, Emanuel, William Jacob, Mary, Daniel Webb, Maria Elizabeth and Eve. 5. James, b. 22 July 1825, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co.; d. 6 Apr. 1900, Rosedale, Cambria Co.; bur. Grandview Cemetery, Johnstown; m. Eva E. Heffner (1831-1904); Ch: Andrew Jackson, William H., John, Margaret E., George Washington, James Monroe, Lewis B., Daniel Emanuel, Adam Wesley, Harry Franklin and Jacob Henry. 6. David, b. 27 Sept. 1827, Jenner Twp., Somerset Co.; d. 6 Mar. 1904, Laughlintown, Westmoreland Co.; bur. Laurel Hill Cemetery; m. Mary Ann Davis (1838-1918); Ch: Sara Marilla, Henry Plantagenet, Mary Jane, Cora Isabel, Judson John, William E. and Estella R. David Eppley was a Civil War veteran, serving for ten months in Co. E. 211th regiment of the Pa. volunteers under Captain William Walter.
SOURCES for "JACOB EPPLEY: SEPARATING TRUTH FROM MYTH": Philadelphia Co., Pa. Estates, #41 of 1733, Jacob Applee. Lancaster Co., Pa. Deed Book, Z-269. Lancaster Co., Pa. Bond Book, 3-104, John Eppele, la 25 Sept 1779. Dauphin Co., Pa. Deed Book, A-179, B-28, C-140, C-325, I-3, I-9. York Co., Pa. Deed Book, 2-Q-159, 3-K-198, 3-K-305, 5-B-119. Revolutionary War Pension Application #S42,711, John Epley, National Archives, Washington, D.C. Fairview Twp., York Co., Pa. tax assessments, 1803-1849. Jenner Twp., Somerset Co., Pa. tax assessments, 1823-1831. U.S. Census 1790-1900; Dauphin, York, Somerset, Cambria and Westmoreland Counties, Pa. U.S. Census 1870 & 1880; Elkhart Co., Ind. Ligonier (PA) Echo, 9 March 1904, obituary of David Eppley. Johnstown (PA) Tribune, 23 August 1915, "Eppleys Hold Family Reunion." Tombstone inscriptions from the Miller Cemetery, Middlebury Twp., Elkhart Co., Ind. Death Certificate of Rosanna Miller, Elkhart Co., Ind., 16 Sept. 1903. Pennsylvania German Church Records, 3 volumes, Pennsylvania German Society, 1983. Trinity Lutheran Church Records (Lancaster, Pa.) vol. 1: 1730-1767, translated and edited by Debra D. Smith and Frederick S. Weiser, 1988. Freyburg, L. Gertrude, History and Genealogy of the Descendants of Jacob Eppley, Hartzell Brothers, Carlisle, Pa., 1936. Meredith, Elizabeth V., Michael Weidler: His Antecedents and Descendants, Henington Publishing Company, Wolfe City, Texas, 1987. Special thanks to Sue Eppley Landrith of Sparks, Nevada, for her help, encouragement, and use of her notes and records.
Copyright 1998 by Kathie Weigel, Reseda, California.