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The Zieglers

Lower Skippack Mennonite Church, Skippack, PA

Michael Ziegler, born probably about 1680 in Germany, came to America with his brother Melchior before 1717, as in that year he was living in Perkiomen Township, then Philadelphia, now Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. His occupation was that of weaver.

Michael Ziegler's first purchase of land was made 14 February 1718, when he secured from David Powell, Surveyor, of Philadelphia, a tract of one hundred acres situated on "Parkeawming Creek," in what was then called Bebber's Township, which was surveyed to him by Powell in December following. In 1734, he made application to the Land Office, then situated in Philadelphia, for a reconfirmation and resurvey of this tract, whereas a patent was issued by the Proprietaries of the Commonwealth to Michael Ziegler, dated 6 August 1734, and a resurvey returned the same day.

The name Perkiomen is of Indian origin said to mean in Delaware or Lenape, "Where the cranberries grow." The earliest mention of the name is found in a deed of 3 June 1684, where it is called Pahkehoma; on a map of 1704, it appears as Perquamink; 1734, as Parkomen, and 1749, as Perkiomy, by which latter name it was more familiarly called by the German settlers, and in 1741, it appears on an old record that Perkiomen was also called Perkasie, which might account for the latter name. The Perkiomen creek flows through the township from north to south while the Skippack passes through the southeastern section, thus in 1734 this locality was known by the double name of "Perkomen and Skippack" and today the two are interchangeable, though the former is the most commonly used.

On 18 December 1722, Michael Ziegler purchased from Gerhard Clemens and wife, Ann, another fifty acres adjoining the original tract, and in 1727 acquired from Andrew Shrager still another one hundred acres upon which was erected a tannery. It was upon this last mentioned tract that Michael Ziegler, Sr., and wife, Catherine, resided and which remained in the family for one hundred and sixty-two years. It lay in what is now Skippack Township, adjoining the town of that name.

On 8 June 1717, Matthias Van Bebber and his wife, upon the receipt of fifteen pounds of silver and in consideration of ".. the true love and singular affection he the said Matthias van Bebber bears to them and all theirs…" conveyed 100 acres of land to seven trustees --Henry Sellen, Claus Jansen, Henry Kolb, Martin Kolb, Jacob Kolb, Michael Ziegler, and Hermanus Kuster. This land was given in trust with this express proviso and condition that it shall be lawful for all and every of the inhabitants of the above said Bebber's Township to build a schoolhouse and fence in a sufficient burying place upon the hereby granted 100 acres of land there to have their children and those of their respective families taught and instructed, and to bury their dead..." The deed was written by Fancis Daniel Pastorius and all the trustees were Mennonites, their selection being due, doubtless, to the fact that the greater number of settlers were of that sect.

The 1719 Meetinghouse was a sandstone building with a wooden shingle hipped roof and leaded glass windows. The interior had unpainted backless benches, stoves, and along the northwest wall, a long, old fashioned Mennonite pulpit. It was located near the rear wall of the present old cemetery to the left of the cemetery lane.

At the 1725 Conference of American Mennonites, Jacob Godshalk's name headed the list of subscribers to the Dortrecht Articles of Faith. The other signers for "Shepack" in 1725 were Bishop Henry Kolb (died 1730), Preacher Martin Kolb (1680-1761), Preacher Claus Jensen (1658-­1745), and Preacher Michael Ziegler. Already Skippack was the leading settlement in the district. People referred to this conference district as "Skippack."

In March 1727, Michael Ziegler made a second application to the Land Office and was granted by the Proprietaries four hundred and fifty acres in "Goshenhoppen" on a branch of the Perkiomen Creek, in the present New Hanover Township.

In 1734, there were forty-two householders in "Parkiomen and Skippake." Among that number was Michael Ziegler, who was credited with one hundred acres of land upon which he paid a proprietary tax. This, however, was a very small estimate of his possessions, as deeds and other records show that he owned at this time as much as six hundred and fifty acres, which was located in Skippack, Salford and other townships adjacent or near by.

By a deed under date of 7 August 1745, he conveyed one hundred and eighty-five acres of his Goshenhoppen land to his son Andrew Ziegler, for 130 pounds, and ten days later he transferred two hundred and eight acres of the same to his son Christopher; and on 16 May 1749, for 80 pounds, he sold a "messuage and plantation" and part of this same warrant to John Sleighter, of New Hanover Township.

It was apparently the intention of Michael Ziegler to make over to each of his sons, four in number, for a cash consideration, a farm out of his large estate. As mentioned, he sold to his sons Andrew and Christopher parts of the Goshenhoppen patented land. The third son was his namesake, Michael, Jr., who was also a tanner, and to him Michael, Sr., and his wife, Catherine, of "Perkyomie and Skepack," 6 January 1750, sold parts of three tracts containing in all, seventy-eight and one-half acres, part of the Perkiomen and Salford accessions. The consideration in this transaction was 100 pounds. The first of these tracts adjoined Dielman Kolb and others and was part of the fifty acres Gerhard Clemens and his wife, Ann, sold to Michael Ziegler, Sr.; the second contained three-quarters of an acre, being part of one hundred acres he purchased of Andrew Shrager and included the tannery; the third tract contained thirty-one and one-half acres and adjoined "land of Michael Ziegler, Sr., and others."

On 6 May 1762, he and his wife also conveyed to their son Michael, Jr., an additional thirty-six acres, part of which was woodland, and part of that tract purchased of Andrew Shrager, the latter tract being the homestead farm. To his son William, evidently the youngest, he granted by deed 1 November 1762, the remainder of his Goshenhoppen tract. By this time Michael Ziegler had only a small woodland in Lower Salford remaining which was not sold during his lifetime.

Both Michael Ziegler and his wife Catherine were well advanced in years and therefore, to quote his own words, his "usual health was frequently interrupted." On the 7th day of February 1763, he made his last will and testament which was proved at Philadelphia the 29 October 1765. Having disposed of all his lands, he provided liberally for his wife out of his personal estate; to each of his daughters he had already given 60 pounds as their portion, so he bequeathed them additional sums of money. He appointed his sons, Andrew and Michael, as the executors.

One bequest in his will is of particular interest; he left 9 pounds to be paid to the Elders of the "Congregation of my Township wherein I now reside for the use for the poor." This referred to the Skippack church, which he helped to organize, and to the congregation of which he served as a minister all his life. In an old account book of the "Mennonite congregation in Beberstown" Michael Ziegler signed his name as auditor for the year 1738; in 1735 he was paid five shillings out of the church funds for carriage (or rather conveyance) hire. From 1740 to 1761 his name appears as either Elder or accountant, his son Andrew's name often showing upon the same lists, both of them serving at times on the Committee for the care of the poor.

In 1764, before the will was probated, Valentine Hunsicker acknowledged on behalf of the congregation, "the receipt of nine pounds Pennsylvania money from Michael Ziegler in accordance with the last will and testament of his (Michael's) father for the poor of the Schippacher Mennonite Congregation."

There is no doubt that he and his wife, Catherine, were buried in the old Mennonite graveyard, adjoining the church with which he was so closely identified, but if so, there are no stones to be found today. Many of the inscriptions marking the last resting place of the oldest members of this church have become undecipherable and in numerous cases utterly obliterated.


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