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Williamsport, PA, 17701
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Biography

John Beaver was born in Zweibruecken, Germany in 1761 to Valentine Bieber and Anna Catharina Juncker.[1] In 1768, John Beaver, his father, and two brothers boarded the ship Betsy under the command Captain Samuel Hawk and sailed from Rotterdam to Philadelphia.[2] Lacking the resources to fund their immigration, John and his two brothers Nicholas and Adam, had to exchange their labor in the new land for their passage to North America. As Redemptioners, a term used to describe their status, they had to sell themselves into indentured servitude in order to pay (redeem) their debts back to their ship captain.[3] Following the Bieber’s arrival into Philadelphia, the family relocated to Berks County, Pennsylvania.

In the late 1760s, the population in Berks County consisted of many Germans and later the county was specifically referred to as “German County.”[4] Although many European immigrants were in search of religious freedom, they were also seeking economic opportunity.[5] Following their arrival in Berks County, John Beaver and his family worked as farmers. According to the Berks County tax records in 1779, John’s father, Valentine, owned 100 acres along with two horses and three cattle.[6] Unlike some farms throughout Pennsylvania, the German farm in the eighteenth century required attention to be given to not one crop, but a diversity of crops for the family to thrive.[7] The Schuylkill River, located in the interior portion of Berks County, provided a rich agricultural region for growing a diversity of crops including cash crops.[8]  The Schuylkill River also provided an effective way for farmers to ship their goods to the city of Philadelphia.[9] With an attitude of thrift, the German farmer was typically independent of sources outside his own family, and depended on every family member to work on the farm. John most likely had to do a lot of this family work.[10]

In the late 1760’s and early 1770s, Berks County experienced little turmoil in regards to the British. However, in 1774, a year before the start of the American Revolution, the British Parliament passed the Boston Port Bill, which was designed to force Boston into paying for the tea they destroyed during the “Tea Party.” As part of the Coercive Acts, a series of punitive laws, members of British Parliament believed that the Boston Port Bill would be the last attempt to isolate Boston from not only New England, but also the rest of the colonies in America.[11] Instead of isolating the city of Boston, the passing of the bill sparked animosity up and down the eastern seaboard. Despite its goals, the people of Berks County deemed the act an oppressive measure that was “unjust and tyrannical in the extreme, and that the measures pursued against Boston are intended to operate equally against the rights and liberties of the other colonies.”[12] The British attempt to isolate the city of Boston failed and the colonies unified to “support the said suffers”[13] of Boston.[14]

Four years after the start of the Revolutionary War, John Beaver, at the age eighteen, entered the service of the Revolutionary war as a substitute for his brother Nicholas.[15]  John served under the command of Captain Jacob Shardel in the battalion commanded by Major Martin Kercher.[16]  Kercher served as major in the First Battalion of the Berks County Militia from 1777-1779.[17] During the month of July 1779, Beaver marched from Berks County to Sunbury located in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania and then paraded up the North Branch of the Susquehanna.[18]

That same year, Beaver and the other members of his company relocated to the West Branches of the Susquehanna and stationed themselves at Shoemakers Mills.[19] While stationed at Shoemakers Mills, Beaver protected the frontier inhabitants from the Indians who occupied the mountains. After the engagements at Shoemakers Mills, he then relocated to Fort Muncy where he witnessed the scalping of one of the men in his company.[20]

Later in the year 1780, Beaver entered the service again as a substitute for his other brother Adam under the command of Captain Giest who served as captain of his own company in the Fourth Battalion of the Berks County Militia.[21]  John was appointed as a guard for the military stores at Reading belonging to the Continental Army.[22] Having served in the Revolutionary War for a total of four months, John then returned to Berks County, Pennsylvania where he acquired his father’s farm in 1784. According to the Berks County tax records, John obtained 93 acres of land, one horse, and two cattle.[23]

That same year, he and his brothers relocated to Muncy Creek Township in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.[24] While in Muncy Creek Township, he devoted his time to farming.  According to the tax lists of Muncy Township, Northumberland County, John was still single and paid only nineteen shillings, slightly above the town average.[25] In 1794, John deepened his ties to the community and helped form and build Emanuel’s Lutheran Church located in Clarkstown, Lycoming County. John’s name, along with his brothers, were present on the church’s constitution. In 1796, John married Mary J. Dimner who was also a German immigrant and together had nine children.[26] At the age 73 appeared in the Court of Common Pleas to apply for a pension for his service in the Revolutionary War.[27] In order to obtain a pension, soldiers were required to serve at least six months in the Revolutionary War. However, John Beaver served in the Revolutionary War for only four months, making him ineligible to receive a pension. Living to be 95 years old, John passed away in 1846. His remains were buried at the Emanuel Lutheran Cemetery that he founded and built.[28]

Maggie Slawson

Lycoming College                                                                                                       

 

 Endnotes

 

[1] Frank M. Eastman, Courts and Lawyers of Pennsylvania; a History, 1623-1923 (New York: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1922), 34.

[2] Names of Foreigners who took the Oath of Allegiance to the Province and State of Pennsylvania 1727-1775 in Pennsylvania Archives ed. William Henry Egle (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: State Printer, 1892), 17:487.

[3] Lucy Bittinger, the Germans in Colonial Times (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: F.B. Lippincott Company, 1901), 215.

[4] Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys: German Immigration, Settlement and Political Culture in Colonial America 1717-1775 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 81.

[5] John B. Frantz and William Pencak, “Berks County,” in Beyond Philadelphia (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998), 70.

[6] Tax Records, Berks County, 1779, in Pennsylvania Archives ed. William Henry Egle (Harrisburg: State Printer, 1897), 18:287.

[7] John G. Gagliardo, “Germans and Agriculture in Colonial Pennsylvania,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1959), 195.

[8] Frantz and Pencak, Beyond Philadelphia, 69.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Gagliardo, “Germans and Agriculture in Colonial Pennsylvania,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 194.

[11]Frantz and Pencak, Beyond Philadelphia, 72.

[12] Associators and Militia, “Berks County Resolves, 1774,” in Pennsylvania Archives ed. Thomas Lynch Montgomery (Harrisburg: State Printer, 1906), 5:125.

[13] Ibid., 126.

[14] Frantz and Pencak, Beyond Philadelphia, 72.

[15] John Beaver, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Application, R527.

[16] John Beaver, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Application, R527.

[17] Henry Melchior Muhlenberg Richards, the Pennsylvania-German in the Revolutionary War 1775-1783 (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: The New Era Printing Company, 1908), 234.

[18] John Beaver, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Application, R527.

[19] John Beaver, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Application, R527.

[20] John Beaver, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Application, R527.

[21] John Beaver, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Application, R527; Sons of the American Revolution, Hawaiian Society of the Sons of the American Revolution: Register for Nineteen Hundred and Twelve with Roll of Members and their Revolutionary Ancestors and other Information of Interest to the Society (Honolulu, Hawaii: Published by the Society, 1912), 71.

[22] John Beaver, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Application, R527.

[23] Tax Records, Berks County, 1779, in Pennsylvania Archives ed. William Henry Egle (Harrisburg: State Printer, 1897), 18:684.

[24] John W. Jordan, Genealogical and Personal History of Lycoming County (New York: Lewis, 1906).

[25] Tax Records, Northumberland County, 1786, in Pennsylvania Archives ed. William Henry Egle (Harrisburg: State Printer, 1897), 19:705.

[26] Jordan, Genealogical and Personal History of Lycoming County.

[27] John Beaver, June 7, 1832, Revolutionary War Pension Application, R527.

[28] Jordan, Genealogical and Personal History of Lycoming County.


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