About 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.
Judy 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.