top of page

A Curious George Goes West

Johann George Schoener was born on 3 February 1746 and baptized in the New Hanover Lutheran Church. He was baptized on 6 days later on 9 February with his grandparents, Johann Friederick and Anna Maria Reichard serving as his sponsors. His father would die 5 years later, leaving him with his older sister Rebecca, his two younger brothers, Matthias and Johann Wilhelm, and their mother. He was confirmed on 25 December 1760.

At some point he got an urge to strike out and head west. He left Pennsylvania behind, possibly traveling the heavily traveled "Great Wagon Road" which was the primary route for the early settlement of the Southern United States, particularly the "backcountry." Beginning at the port of Philadelphia, where many immigrants entered the colonies, the Great Wagon Road passed through the towns of Lancaster and York in southeastern Pennsylvania. Turning southwest, the road crossed the Potomac River and entered the Shenandoah Valley at Pack Horse Ford. It continued south in the valley via the "Great Warriors' Trail", also called the Indian Road", which was established by centuries of Indian travel over ancient trails created by migrating buffalo herds (Yes, there used to be buffalo in the Shenandoah Valley). The Shenandoah portion of the road is also known as the Valley Pike. The Treaty of Lancaster in 1744 had established colonists' rights to settle along the Indian Road. Although traffic on the road increased dramatically after 1744, it was reduced to a trickle during the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War) from 1756 to 1763. But after the war ended, it was said to be the most heavily traveled main road in America.

George would settle in Mecklenburg, Berkeley County, Virginia, located on the south side of the Potomac River, about one mile upriver from Pack Horse Ford. The town had been laid out by Captain Thomas Shepherd, who had set aside 50 acres out of his 222 acre land grant he received in 1734. Thomas Shepherd had married Elizabeth Van Meter, the daughter of Jan Jansen "John" and Margaret (née Mollenauer) Van Meter and the granddaughter of Joost Jans and Sarah (née DuBois) Van Meter (Click here for the Van Meters post). Shepherd petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for a town charter, which was granted in 1762. Shepherd was the sole trustee, owning the town and being solely responsible for its government. Many of the first settlers were, like George, Germans from Pennsylvania and the town had a German school in the community as early as 1762. The main street in the town is still called German Street. President George Washington reportedly considered it as a possible site for the nation's capital. The town was renamed Shepherdstown in 1798, in honor of its founder. When West Virginia became a state in 1863, Shepherdstown was the oldest town in the state.

In the early part of 1781, George enlisted as a private in the Virginia line, 5th Regiment of the Revolutionary Army for three years. His company was commanded by Captain Henry Bedinger and they marched to Winchester, VA. He was placed in the company commanded by Captain Abraham Kirkpatrick and immediately marched to Albemarle barracks. His company joined the Regiment commanded by Colonel Thomas Gaskins in General von Steuben's Brigade. He participated in the battles and siege of Yorktown and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis on 19 October 1781.

"Surrender of Lord Cornwallis" by John Trumbull

Afterwards, he marched to Savannah, Georgia under Colonel Thomas Posey and joined the troops under General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. He then went to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was honorably discharged in 1783.

He returned home to Mecklenberg and on 14 December 1786, he married Elizabeth Moore in Frederick County, VA. In 1818, he would be awarded a pension for his service in the amount of $8 a month. By that time he was blind, but still allegedly found work as a laborer.

He died in 1826.


bottom of page