The Brunthavers of Pennsylvania and Ohio

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Adam Brunthaver § Origin and Arrival in America § Revolutionary War Service § Post Military Career and Family § Adam Brunthaver, Jr. § Prolific Father § Civil War Legacy § Brunthaver Legacy in Northwest Ohio

Adam Brunthaver

Alsace-born Adam Brunthaver is Bonnie Billick’s great-great-great-great grandfather.

The Family Name

There is considerable variance in the family surname, especially in 18th-century documents. We can only conjecture as to Adam’s native language and what kind of accent he may have had but he did not arrive in America until he was nearly thirty years old. That combined with the difficulty of reading Colonial Period documents written in longhand produced many, predictable, variations. In most cases, however, other details in official records offer considerable certainty they are referring to the same person.

Some of the many variants include: Branthafer, Branthoover, Branthover, Brandhoefer, Branthoover…. Many of the family’s most recent descendants settled on Branthover and Brunthaver. Herein, I’ll use the latter form.

Origin and Arrival in America

Adam Brunthaver (1748-1834) was born December 21, 1748, near modern-day Strasburg, in the Alsace region of France which at the time of his birth was an ethnic German enclave at the eastern border of France along the west bank of the Rhine River. The family were likely native speakers of German. One source suggests he served in the French army before emigrating to America (CBR, p. 420).

Archival passenger arrival records show he arrived in the New World, probably via Philadelphia, in 1777. It is not known why he left Europe nor why his destination was Pennsylvania. The American Revolution was already well underway: the Boston Tea Party took place in December of 1773 and the First Continental Congress assembled in the fall of 1774. France, Prussia, Russia, Austria, England and Spain had experienced a good deal of turmoil during Adam’s youth culminating in the Seven Years’ War from 1756-1763 and revolutionary happenings in North America were well-known in Europe. Adam may have been fleeing the persistent chaos in the Old World or seeking fresh excitement in the ongoing war overseas.[1] We can never know. That said, the fact that he apparently enlisted immediately upon his arrival on American soil suggests he came to fight.

Revolutionary War Service

Adam’s service in the Revolutionary War can be pieced together from two sources: the application for service pension filed by him, his second wife and sons, John, Daniel and Peter; and, by his ancestors’ application, in 1958, for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution. The second of these seems to rely heavily on the former but between them there is a good deal of what seems to be reliable, and mostly sworn, documentation about Adam Brunthaver’s service record.

At the age of 29, Adam enlisted in the Army on January 13, 1777 as a private in the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment. When his ancestors applied for membership in the Pennsylvania Society of the National Society of Sons of the American Revolution, they claimed he served with Capt. Nickolas (sic) Kern at Bunker Hill and later at the Battle of Long Island, the Battle of Brandywine, and at Valley Forge.[2] Captain Kern commanded a company of troops from Towamensing, a Township a little north of Allentown and 70-some miles from Philadelphia. Early in 1777, the Pennsylvania Assembly had passed a militia law that required compulsory military service. Adam Brunthaver might well have been among these early inductees. In any event, if his ancestors’ claims are true, Mr. Brunthaver was witness to and participant in some of the most famous events of the Revolutionary War.

The reference to the Battle of Bunker Hill raises a question of chronology and could well be a mistake. Bunker Hill was engaged in June of 1775. Available documents suggest that Mr. Brunthaver only arrived in Pennsylvania in 1777 and enlisted in the army that same year.

Revolutionary War Pension Application says he served 8 years; having at some point reenlisted.

Post Military Career and Family

After his arrival in America, Adam was a life-long resident of Pennsylvania. He is said to have been

“employed by the United States Government to drive cattle through the wilderness, from Pennsylvania to the military post at Detroit, Mich. He was always on friendly terms with the Indians, learned to converse with them, and served with his party as interpreter (CBR, p. 420).”

Government records show Adam resided in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County, a region fifteen to twenty miles east of Pittsburgh. Nearly all the early settlers were German.[3] County tax records of 1783 show that he owned one horse and one cow.

Hempfield Township & Greensburg, PA

How did the first Brunthaver generations end up in Western Pennsylvania? The elder Adam’s military service may have exposed him to other immigrants with knowledge of the pristine lands to the west of Philadelphia. These two entities in Westmoreland County were on a major Western Pennsylvania trade and travel route in the late 1700s, as the following note attests, Adam was among the earliest settlers in the region.

As the early colonists pushed westward, a series of forts was built up and over the mountains of western Pennsylvania. The road that connected these early forts was used not only by the military but also by new settlers seeking a fresh start in what was then the west. Migration slowed to a stall until the end of the French and Indian War. Once it was safe, travel was reestablished, and a steady stream of pilgrims pushed over the Alleghenies into the rolling countryside of western Pennsylvania, toward Pittsburgh. Midway between Fort Ligonier and Fort Pitt, a cluster of cabins was built to provide food, shelter, and supplies to those intrepid travelers. Some of these westbound pioneers decided to stay in this hamlet, then called Newtown.

Once the state chose Newtown as the seat of government for all the western territory east of Pittsburgh, the future success of this community was assured. Renamed for Revolutionary War hero Gen. Nathanael Greene shortly after his death, Greensburg continued to grow and prosper but at a very slow rate. It was the first county seat of government and home to the first state courts west of the Alleghenies. In 1799, the community leaders established a borough form of government. For the first time, there was a recognized entity known as Greensburg.[4]

Adam married Anna Maria Frolich (1748-1792) on January 6, 1784 in Greensburg. Anna Maria, then 36 years of age, was a native-born Pennsylvanian. Both of her parents, Hendrick Frolich (1734-1809), and Anna Margaretta Neiss (1700-??) were born in the colonies, so they must have been the children of very early settlers. Early Census records are a bit unclear, but it seems Adam and Anna had three children:

  • John (1784-1858)
  • Adam Jr. (1787-1861)
  • George (1791-1858).

Anna Maria passed away on July 15, 1792.

Adam remarried, apparently later that same year, taking as his bride Maria Magdalena Kunkle (1762-1846). Fourteen years younger than her husband, Maria was the daughter of one of the founding families of Hempfield Township where her father owned some 400 acres of property. [5] Adam and Maria had five children:

  • Infant (1794- ). Probably died in infancy.
  • Margaret (1798- ). No further information available.
  • John (1802-1861). Married Pennsylvania native Susannah George in 1829. Spent his entire life as a farmer in Washington Township. Had two sons (one still another “Adam”).
  • Daniel (1803-1862). Volunteered in Pennsylvania 78th Infantry in October 1861. Died of disease in Louisville, Kentucky in March of 1862, leaving a widower, Sarah; no children.
  • Peter (1806-1888). Married Emily Long in August 1844. Life-long farmer in Westmoreland County. May have had as many as 10 children.

Adam Brunthaver died at age 85, on July 29, 1834 in the borough of Export; today better known as the little town of Murrysville. He was buried in Emmanuel Cemetery, Greensburg. Maria Magdalena passed away in August of 1846 and was buried in Harrold Zion Lutheran Cemetery, in Hempfield Township.[6]

Adam Brunthaver, Jr.

Adam Brunthaver, Jr. (1787-1860), was born in the historic town of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, February 2, 1787, the second son of Adam Brunthaver and Anna Maria Frolich. He

“was reared on a farm, learned the trade of cooper, became a soldier in the war of 1812, and about the year 1828 made several visits to the Sandusky region, where he bought a quarter section of land of William Snyder, at $1.25 per acre, and arranged with Joseph Hawk to build a log cabin for him … in Green Creek Township. (CBR, p. 421)”

It’s not clear how Adam, born and raised in Pennsylvania, came to serve as a private in the Ohio Militia in the War of 1812. It may have been simply an artifact of geography. Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania is just as close to Columbus and Cleveland as it is to Baltimore or Philadelphia and it was probably hard to muster sufficient troops from the sparsely populated regions of central Pennsylvania than in the coastal metropoli.

Adam married Pennsylvania native Mary Magdalena Ridenhour (1785-1835) in 1805.[7] The couple have a confusing progeny. The Commemorative Biographical Record… (p. 421) enumerates nine offspring but not all of them can be readily verified in official records. According to the CBR (p. 421), all save one were still residing in the area between Fremont and Clyde as of 1896. The most important of these children is Mary Brunthaver (1813-1898) (see The Clink Clan page) who married into the Clink family, and whose granddaughter became Mrs. Matilda Krotzer.

Adam and Mary first migrated to Fairfield County, Ohio, southeast of Columbus before moving into the afore-mentioned log cabin in Sandusky County in 1835. Adam, Jr. obtained his Ohio property via a land grant for his service in the War of 1812.[8]


Green Creek sits in modern-day Sandusky County, about five miles south-east of Fremont.  Mr. Brunthaver was among the early settlers in this area of northwest Ohio, some 225 miles from his father’s home in Pennsylvania. The first white settlers arrived around 1816-1818 and the Green Creek was recognized as a township in 1822.

Mary died on August 29 of 1835 in Fremont. The circumstances of her death are unknown.

On July 28, 1838, Adam, then 51 years old, married his second wife, Mary Smith (1814-1902), age 24, another Pennsylvania native. With Mary, Adam begat another nine children, the last, Martha born when her father was 67 years old.

Census records indicate that nearly all the sons continued to farm in the area around Ballville, Ohio. Following the war and relocation adventures of his younger years, Adam lived out the final twenty-five years or so of his life in prosaic fashion, as an aging farmer with a house full of children (a year before his death, he still had eight children living at home. He died in Fremont, on April 28, 1861, at age 74, two weeks after Confederate forces attacked the Union troops at Fort Sumter signaling the beginning of the Civil War.

Prolific Father

Did Adam Brunthaver really father nineteen (or more) children? Genealogies suggest his first daughter was born in 1805 when Adam was eighteen years old; and that his last child, daughter Lidora was born around 1857, when he would have been 70. So it’s biologically possible. Most of the children are associated with a reasonable number of civic documents confirming parentage and birth dates; and available birth, death, and Census records do not reveal any clear reasons to doubt the legitimacy of Adam’s numerous offspring.

Civil War Legacy

Over 300,000 Ohioans served in the Civil War, the highest participation rate of any state. Nearly 7,000 Buckeye State soldiers died in action. Adam Brunthaver’s brother, Daniel, two of the Brunthaver sons, and one nephew were among those many Ohio soldiers.

Daniel Brunthaver (sic) (1803-1862), who never left the original family Pennsylvania territory, was 58 years old when he enlisted in Company B of the 78th Pennsylvania Infantry. He served just five months before he died from war injuries on March 16, 1862. The specific engagement in which he sustained his mortal wounds isn’t known for certain, but it was most likely the Battle for Nashville at the end of February. He was buried at the extensive Cave Hill National Cemetery, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Ohio Infantry, 1865

Peter Brunthaver (1823-1891), Adam, Senior’s third son, registered for the draft in June of 1863 but it appears he was never called to active duty.

Martin Brunthaver (1843-1910)¸ just 19 at the time he enlisted, was a private in the 72nd Regiment of the Ohio Infantry from August of 1862 through June of 1865. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on June 9th of that year, signaling the beginning of the end of the War so Martin’s enlistment covered most of the conflict years. His unit spent a good portion of the war in Mississippi where he would have participated in the Siege of Vicksburg in the summer 1863 where over 6,000 soldiers perished. Martin apparently emerged from the conflict unscathed and returned to farm in Ballville, Ohio. He died in 1910 and is interred in the Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Ballville.

Adam Brunthaver, III (1845-1880)[9] served in Company F, 72nd Regiment of the Ohio Volunteers from November 1861 through June 1865. He was not quite 17 years old at the time of enlistment. Adam was captured on June 11 of 1864 in Ripley, Mississippi.[10] From there he had the misfortune to be interned at the infamous Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia, where some 13,000 Union prisoners perished in 1864-65.[11] He seems to have remained there until the camp was liberated in May of 1865. Adam returned to the family farmlands in Ballville, where he died at age 35. His gravesite is also at the Mount Lebanon Cemetery.

Andersonville Prison Camp

Adam’s brother-in-law (through his sister, Lucinda), John S. Duesler (1834-1913), was also a member of 72nd Regiment of the Ohio Volunteers and he was taken prisoner at the same June 11 skirmish in Ripley and spent nine months at Andersonville.

A nephew, Charles Brunthaver (1848-1920) (the son of Adam and Martin’s older brother, Peter), joined the Union Army in February of 1864, two months before his sixteenth birthday, and served until August 1865. He fought with Company K of the 3rd Regiment of the Ohio Calvary, likely participating in General Sherman’s (in)famous Atlanta Campaign[12] (in May-September 1864) and later in the consequential Battle of Franklin, in Tennessee. At some point, Charles was seriously injured, permanently losing the use of his right arm. After the War, he spent time in a home for disabled soldiers in Milwaukee and eventually had a long career in the Treasury Department in Washington, DC. He died there in January of 1920 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Brunthaver Legacy in Northwest Ohio

The two Adam Brunthavers and their twenty-five or so children left an expansive and ever-lasting mark in Sandusky County, Ohio. Most of them tilled the earth as farmers and never left the area; and many are interred in Mount Lebanon Cemetery, a couple of miles south east of Fremont and not far from the familial Ohio roots in Green Creek. To this day, there are numerous Brunthaver ancestors still living in the Sandusky-Fremont area.

A few Brunthavers departed from the family farm life. Peter Brunthaver (1823-1891), Adam, Jr.’s son, trained as a carpenter and practiced that trade for some twenty years before returning to life as a farmer in the mid-1850s.  Orrin Brunthaver (1859-1949), the third of Peter’s sons, was also a carpenter for a time then became a career railway mail clerk. Peter’s fourth son, Frank P. Brunthaver (1862-1907), obtained a medical degree from Case Western Reserve (which had only established its department of medicine in 1843) and practiced medicine for a time in Maumee, Ohio. He later studied at the Post Graduate Medical School and Hospital in New York City. It appears he died in San Francisco, California in April of 1907 at age 45.

The numerous Brunthaver daughters are nearly invisible in historical documents other than to mention their offspring. Their occupations are nearly always described as “Keeping house.”  To the dismay of genealogists, Brunthaver-connected family trees enumerate scores more of Adams, Johns, Marys, Peters, Charles, Franks, Martins, etc.

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[1] French troops, under the Treaty of Alliance orchestrated in part by Benjamin Franklin, didn’t begin arriving in America until 1778.
[2] The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought outside Boston in June of 1775. The Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776. Valley Forge, of course, is where the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-78, northwest of Philadelphia.
[3] By the mid-18th-century, it is estimated that German immigrants made up some 40% of the colony’s population.
[4] DeRose, 2004, p. 2.
[5] Boucher, 1906. At: Accessed January 13, 2018.
[6] A little side note: Maria had a sister and three brothers. Her sister’s husband was killed in an Indian attack in 1806.
[7] Some sources give a marriage date of 1825, clearly an error as most of their children were born between 1805 and 1829.
[8] These were called “Bounty land grants” and consisted of free land from a government given to citizens as a reward for service to their country, generally for military-related service. Most bounty-land warrants in the United States were given to veterans or their survivors for wartime military service performed between 1775 and 3 March 1855. This includes veterans who the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.
[9] Adam, III, most often used the “Branthover” spelling of his surname.
[10] There is no record of any major battles in Ripley. The details of Adam’s capture remain unknown.
[11] There are scores of books about this notorious prison. One of the best-known is MacKinlay Kantor’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Andersonville (1955).
[12] The beginning of the well-known “March to the Sea” campaign that included burning the city of Atlanta to the ground.
{last update: 2-Mar-2020}