My Dilliplane Ancestors Through the Lens of Church Records

Lately I’ve been delving into my early Dilliplane/Delaplaine roots, trying to understand what may have motivated the successive generations to move from New Amsterdam (Manhattan) to Germantown, Pennsylvania to the backwoods of what would eventually become Berks County, Pennsylvania. I feel like I am gaining some insight from church records.

First, a little background. My Dilliplane line in America starts with the immigrant Nicholas de la Pleine. He was a French Huguenot (a French Protestant) who left France due to religious persecution and sought refuge in the Netherlands. He didn’t stay there long as he arrived in New Amsterdam, New Netherland prior to 1 Sep 1658. That is the date he married Susanna Cresson. Their marriage was recorded at the Dutch Reformed Church in New Amsterdam.  In his marriage record he is described as being from Bersweer in Vanckryck while his wife Susanna was (originally) from Ryswyck.

Between 1662 and 1681 Nicholas and Susanna had ten children whose baptisms were recorded at the same Dutch Reformed Church.  My ancestor is James. Some say that he is the child born in 1666 and baptized with the name Jean. Others believe he is an eleventh child, an eldest son, born in 1660 — one whose baptism is for some reason not in the records of that church. I can understand both positions and am hoping that additional evidence will eventually be found to help resolve this.

Despite their  affiliation with the Dutch Reformed Church, the family was apparently strongly influenced by the Quakers. According to Wikipedia, Quakers arrived in New Amsterdam in 1657 – around the same time as Nicholas. Keeping in mind that the Dutch Reformed Church was state-sanctioned, Governor Peter Stuyvesant issued edicts against and meted out harsh punishments to the Quakers. There were, however, sympathetic Dutch colonists. By 1663 (just a year before New Netherland was surrendered to England), the Dutch West Indies Company, having been prevailed upon by a Quaker farmer named John Browne, reluctantly ruled that individuals were entitled to practice religious beliefs of their own choosing. Presumably the colonists continued to have religious freedom under English when they took power. I say this because for at least some of the Delaplaines the religion they chose was Quakerism.

delaplaine-house-germantown-from-1906-publication

The de la Plaine house in Germantown from the 1906 publication “Old Historic Germantown”

By the late 1600s my ancestor James (as well as several of his family) start showing up in Quaker Meeting records. Some of James’ siblings stayed in New York and show up in records there. James, however, removed to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where he became very prominent in the community. For a time he served as coroner and also as baliff. He also donated land for a market and, along with Herman von Bon, built a prison and stocks in 1704. (This latter information comes from William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania.)

What prompted James to move to Pennsylvania in the first place? Well, in 1681 William Penn gained ownership of land America from the King of England. Penn, himself a Quaker, strove to create an atmosphere of religious freedom and tolerance. He basically recruited colonists to populate his lands from among those who were religiously persecuted in Europe. By the late 1680s the community of Germantown (now part of Philadelphia, but then an outlying settlement about 2 hours distant) was an enclave of Dutch Quakers. James and these men would have been kindred spirits. This could explain his move from New York where the English were beginning to outnumber and overrun the original Dutch settlers.

Through Quaker records we know that James was likely in Germantown by 1686, which is when he donated 5 pounds to the Friends’ Meetinghouse. In 1692 he married a Quaker woman named Hannah Cock. Their marriage took place at the home of John Underhill on Long Island, which is where her family was from.  In those records he is described as being of Pennsylvania, late of New York and son of Nicola. We also know from Quakers records that the children of James and Hannah were educated at the Germantown Friends’ School.

One of those children was Joshua Delaplaine. I’ll pick up with his story in the next Delaplaine/Dilliplane blog post.

Antique Castor Set

About a week ago the idea for creating a blog post about a family heirloom, tradition or “treasure” was sparked by Patience Brewster, creator of unique gifts. This got me thinking about the many traditions, photos, books and other artifacts and memorabilia that I have been fortunate to inherit. And while I knew that I wanted to blog about this topic, I had a difficult time deciding which “family heirloom” to feature. My solution is to write a series of posts with this first one being about the antique castor set pictured below.

antique-castorSeveral years ago, when my Mom was going through some boxes she had stored away, she came across this serving piece and asked me if I would like to have it. I love antiques and thought this one was beautiful and unique and was quite excited about displaying it in my living room.

My Mom remembers this being in her home when she was a little girl. It is silver plated and she told me that it was quite a pain to polish! (As you can see, I don’t bother with polishing it because I happen to like the pewter-y look that is has now.) She is a little uncertain about it’s origins, but thinks it was originally owned by her father’s grandparents.

I have done a bit of research and discovered that it is an antique castor/cruet set. They were quite popular in the mid to late 1800s. They were used to hold condiments – oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. (Mine is missing the mustard spoon.) The base of the bottles fit into holes in the center section. That section rotates — kind of like a lazy susan. Their worth is based on the manufacturer and the designs etched in the base and on the bottles. And while my castor set is not particularly valuable, I still happen to think it is beautiful and love the idea of owning a piece that probably graced the table of my great-great grandparents!

Finding the Ancestors of Levi Bectell

One of my long term research goals is to trace all the descendants of my immigrant ancestor Johan George Bechtel who settled near what is now Amity, Berks County, Pennsylvania. So when I was recently asked if Levi Bectell, who died in Utah in 1909, might connect back to my Pennsylvania Bechtels, I naturally wanted to learn more about this man and his ancestors. Here’s what I was able to find.

1898-utahLevi died Saturday, September 25, 1909 in Grantsville, Tooele County, Utah. He was a sheep herder and had been riding his horse to a nearby ranch for supplies when the horse bucked and threw him to the ground. He survived the initial fall and was transported to the town of Grantsville, but died before medical help arrived. This information comes from his obituary, which appeared in the Deseret Evening News on Wednesday, September 29th. It further goes on to say that he was between 60 and 70 years of age and left a wife and seven children.

There is a find-a-grave memorial for Levi which gives his birth year as 1836 and links him to 2 wives and 11 children. Of the 11 linked children on find-a-grave, 5 pre-deceased him. There is no photo of Levi’s grave, but there is one of a generic “Bectell” tombstone with no first names – such as one might find to identify a family plot.  (You may also note that, according to find-a-grave, Levi’s second wife was his step-daughter and that his marriage to her took place before the death of his first wife. My guess is that the dates and relationships are probably correct. His obituary implies that he was of the Mormon faith and given the time period he may have had concurrent wives.)

Using the family composition information provided on find-a-grave, Levi and his wives and children can be found in the censuses as follows: in 1870 they are in Grantsville, Utah, in 1880 in Grouse Creek, Utah, and in 1900 back in Grantsville. These enumerations no doubt represent Levi’s family despite spelling variations (Bectell in 1870 and 1880 and Bechtol in 1900), age variations for Levi (22 in 1870, 33 in 1880 and 63 in 1900) and inconsistencies the place of birth for him and his parents. In 1870 he claims to have been born in Missouri, but in 1880 and 1900 he claims he was born in Illinois. In 1880 he claims both his parents were born in Illinois, but in 1900 he says they were born in Pennsylvania.

So what’s up with all the conflicting and contradictory data? Well, the census data also shows that Levi could not read or write English. This goes a long way toward explaining the spelling variations of his surname. Furthermore, in a newspaper article which appeared in the The Salt Lake Herald on November 7, 1893, Levi said that he did not know his age. He also stated, “I left home when I was a little fellow, and I’ve been around here ever since. I had to walk here when I came — to drive cattle. This town was a good deal smaller then than it is now.” The same article states that Levi lived in the area for 27 years which puts his arrival in the Grantsville area around 1864.

So the challenge, of course, is to find Levi prior to the 1870 census and to attempt to identify his parents. The first step is a search of the 1860 and 1850 censuses, taking into account all the various spellings and misspellings of the surname as well as variations in the given name and/or the use of an initial only.  After evaluating the possibilities the most promising match seems to be the 1860 enumeration of Levi Bextell in Jennings, Crawford County, Indiana. He was aged 13 and born in Kentucky. His parents were John and Elizabeth, both also born in Kentucky. The siblings were Nancy, Elizabeth, Maria and Melinda – all younger.

There are a couple of reasons why this Levi is a promising match to the one who later shows up in Utah. First, the age of 13 corresponds pretty well with the ages given in 1870 and 1880, which were 22 and 33, respectively. And although by 1893 Levi claims to be unsure of his age and by 1900 has aged up to 63, I would tend to give more credence to the ages provided in the earlier censuses. If the age discrepancy truly is a result of him being confused as to his age, I can’t see him thinking he was 22 when he was really 32. I have a much easier time believing the confusion sets in later in life. Additionally,  we see the names Nancy, Elizabeth and Melinda repeated in the names of Levi’s daughters. And while Nancy and Elizabeth are fairly common, Melinda is a little less so – at least in my experience.

Going back to the 1850 census, the family of John, Elizabeth and Levi Bectel are in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Also in the household are 20 year old Squire Bectel and 18 year old Fielding Bectel – possible younger brothers of John or close relatives of some sort.

I spent a couple of days expanding upon this initial research, looking at additional databases on ancestry, familysearch and a couple of other sites. At this point I am fairly certain that the Levi Bectell who died in 1909 in Utah was born about 1846 in Kentucky and was the son of John Beghtol and Elizabeth Collins. As for the Pennsylvania connection, Levi’s grandfather, John Beghtol Sr. was born in Pennsylvania about 1785. While this John may tie into one of the Bechtel families in southern Pennsylvania, he does not appear to tie into my John George Bechtel line.

I have posted a tree on Ancestry.com to capture the information I found on Levi, his family and various other related Beghtols with roots in Kentucky and Illinois. I will update it as I come across more information. If you are not a paid subscriber and are interested in this tree, let me know and I will send you an invite to access it.

A Day of Remembrance

war-cemetery

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The date and time that marked the end of fighting in the war that was supposed to end all wars. Known variously as Armistice Day, Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, November 11th is now a holiday celebrated in many nations throughout the world.

Both my grandfather, Walter Leonard Dilliplane, and his younger brother, Alvin Freeman Dilliplane, served in the Great War. They bravely fought to liberate France from German occupation. My grandfather was one of the lucky ones. He came home, got married and eventually had three sons, the youngest being my father.

His brother Alvin was not as lucky. He was killed in action on September 7, 1918. He died three days shy of his 21st birthday and 2 months and 4 days shy of the armistice.

Alvin was a hero on the battlefield – perhaps even a bit reckless. On September 5, 1918, the Harrisburg Telegraph, in reporting on battles near Fismette, France in the previous month, included the following excerpt, “Private Alvin F. Dilliplane, of Pottstown, another Pennsylvania boy, showed remarkable bravery at the self-imposed task of rescuing wounded after they had been abandoned.”

For his actions at the Fismete battle, Alvin received an official citation for bravery. It stated that “Private Alvin F. Dilliplane, with utter disregard for personal safety, went forward in daylight to the rescue of wounded men approximately 400 yards in front of our lines, succeeding one of them at that time and the other after dark.”

It would be nice to think that the men he rescued survived and returned to their families. But I have no way of knowing who they were or what happened to them in the long run. For his part, Alvin never made it home. He is buried at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Picardie, France.

And so on this Veteran’s Days please take some time to remember those who served in all the various wars and conflicts and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Bechtel Reunion of 2014 — Recap

20140719_124243About a month ago my husband and I attended the Bechtel Family Reunion at the Swamp Picnic Grove near New Hanover Lutheran Church in Gilbertsville, PA. While the focus of this reunion was on the descendants of the six Bechtel men who (along with their families) immigrated to Pennsylvania in the early to mid 1700s, it was open to all who trace their ancestry to any Bechtel ancestor — including any variant spelling. We had a very enjoyable afternoon meeting and speaking with distant cousins and sampling all the wonderful PA Dutch side dishes and desserts that attendees brought to accompany the catered main course.

20140719_124318Judy Gilson, the organizer, brought quite a large assortment of memorabilia, documents and photographs, and others did as well. The day was rounded out with music, games for the children and a professional photographer. It was especially nice to hear the family stories from the various attendees.

I was personally excited to find that among Judy’s Bechtel memorabilia was a copy of the John George Bechtel family tree produced by great-grandson Franklin Bechtel Gilbert in the early to mid 1860s. Franklin Gilbert was born in Montgomery County in 1826 to Matthias Gilbert and Hannah Bechtel. He grew up in Philadelphia and became an upholsterer. He joined the Union Army in the Civil War and later became a physician. In 1867 he traveled to Europe. One of the purposes of the trip was to secure any inheritance related to the estate of his great-great grandfather Bechtel. Family lore is that John George Bechtel, the immigrant and the great-grandfather of Franklin Gilbert returned to Europe to settle his father’s estate circa 1748. He never made it back to Pennsylvania as it was said that he died on the return voyage.

Thus, about 120 years later, Franklin Bechtel Gilbert was on a mission find what became of the Bechtel estate. Prior to his trip Franklin made an effort to identify and contact all of John George’s descendants for written authorization to act on the entire family’s behalf in securing the inheritance due them. I can only assume that he was unsuccessful in his endeavor as no family stories exist that speak of his success.

Fortunately for the John George Bechtel descendants who are family historians, Franklin Gilbert published an ornately detailed family tree depicting three to four generations of descendants. I have been trying to find a copy of this tree for several years and was absolutely thrilled to find it among Judy’s documents. A photograph of the tree appears below. Please contact me if you would like to view a hi-resolution copy.

Doc - 07-19-2014, 12-13 PM