Johannes Witt, Berks County, PA
Witt Early History
A partial genealogy chart was developed by James Witt of Mt. Savage Md. In 1972, copy is attached. He shows my earliest American Witt as John (Johannes Heinrich) Witt and his wife Margaret (Margretha). Further research on Ancestry.com revealed Johannes was born in Sachen (or Sachsen) Germany 17 Mar 1725. His father was Johann Michael Witt (1687–1770) and his mother was Martha Christina Futterhecker (1695–1758). Another record noted he was born in Weigenheim, Landkreis Neustadt-Bad Windsheim, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany and his father was William “Guilliame” Witt-Archer (1675-1754) and his mother was Mary Daux (1684- 1741). I followed the former parents, but cannot confirm which is correct.
He initially settled in Montgomery County, Pa. There he met and married Anna Margretha Herdlein at New Hanover Evangelical Lutheran Church, New Hanover Twp., Montgomery County, Pa. on 23 April 1750. She was born 1729 in Weiganheim, Neustadt an der Aisch-Bad Windsheim, Bayern, Germany. They must have moved to Berks County shortly thereafter because their oldest son Johan, was reported to have been baptized in Berks county in 1751. On 1767, Johannes purchased 100 plus acres in Maxatawny Township, Burkes County, Pennsylvania. Ancestry.com noted both Johannes and Marguerite died the same day, 8 Feb 1797 which leads to the speculation that they were either killed or died by another tragic accident or the information was in error. Searching Berks County genealogical records there was no information about Margretha’s death or where she was buried. Johannes fathered 11 children, 6 boys and 5 girls.
Research in Berks County revealed the following information: On 1795 Johannes was elected Deacon of his church, New Bethel Zions Church, a Lutheran congregation, and remained a Deacon until late 1796. Church records show that he baptized his youngest son at the church but no record of the other 10 children being baptized at that church. Johannes’ first son, Johann H. Witt has a recorded baptism but it is not clear what church, although Ancestry.com says it was in Berks County. If this is true then, Johannes and Margretha moved from Montgomery County to Berks County shortly after their marriage (1750-1751).
Another interesting note is that church records state that a new interdenominational school was to be built to replace a deteriorated building at the church site. “For this building operation, the congregation chose Johannes Witt and Christofel Kramer as builders.
The question of Johannes and Margretha’s death and burial was researched. There is a tombstone at his church that indicates Johannes was buried with his brothers, Peter and Jonadan dated 1787 (row 5 at the cemetery). However there is no evidence that they were related to our Johannes. Given the date (Johannes died in 1797), the lack of siblings and that Johannes was not buried with his wife leads to the conclusion that this burial was not Johannes H Witt’s tombstone. So if he was not buried at his church where was he buried? Two theories exist: Either he and his wife were buried on their property, a common practice, or they were buried at the church with no tombstone.
As noted above, Johannes purchased 100 plus acres of land in Berks County. Johannes’s will indicated that he was relatively wealthy by the standards of the day. He accumulated 250 acres and his assets at death were 383 pounds, “lawful money of Pennsylvania.” He sold his plantation to his son, John Nicholas Witt at age 29 for about 350 pounds (part of the 383 pound estate). That is approximately $450,000 in today’s money. His plantation bordered on Maxatawny Township and Greenville Township adjacent to Lehigh County line. In 1823 the property was sold at auction to cover the debts of John N. Witt. Below is a map of the approximate location of the property in Berks County.
Looking northwest Looking northeast
One of their children, Susanna (married 1788) was recorded as having seen George Washington two times. This is recorded in her husband’s history, Jacob D. Flickinger.
By the time of Johannes’s death 3 sons had died. Johannes H. and John N. stayed in Berks County and Jacob moved to Somerset County, Pa. Two of his daughters married, one died as a child and Christina stayed in Berks and lived to be 100 years old.
At the risk of getting into the weeds the following German genealogy was discovered:
Parents of Johannes Witt
Johann Michael Witt b. 1686 d.1770
Martha C. Futterhecker Witt b. 1695 d.1758 (2nd wife)
Parents of Johann Michael Witt
Hans Jacob Witt b.24 Nov 1656 d.14 Jan 1719
Dorthea Farber Witt b. 1660 d.22 Sep 1691 Married 1680
Siblings of Hans Jacob
Susanna Dorthea Witte b. 1654
Totgburt Witte b. 1659 d.1659
Catherina Witt b. 1678 d.1684
Hinrich Witt d.1718
Peter Witt d.1715
Parents of Hans Jacob Witt
Otto Jochim Witt b. 25 Jun 1621 d.1701
Anna Pump Witt b. 1642 d.1697 Married 1652
Parents of Otto Jochim Witt
Otto Witt b. 1571 d.1628
Wiebke DortheaTimm Witt b. 1573 Married 21 Aug 1597
Parents of Otto Witt
Tönnies Witt b. 1535
Metke Lohman Witt b. 1540
Siblings of Otto Witt
Tönnies Witt b. 1550
Abel Witt b. 1565
Metje Witt b. 1575
Catherina Witt b. 1585
Parents of Tönnies Witt
Claus Henrich Witt b. 1510
Ann Shomaker Witt b. 1515 Married abt. 1557
Siblings of Tönnies Witt
Peter Witt b. 1560
Claus Witt b. 1553
Hans Witt b. 1564
Jochim Witt b. 1565
Cord Witt b. 1566
Hinrich b. 1567
Johann Witt b. 1569
Wiebke Witt b. 1570
Starting with my generation, I have recorded 13 generations of family history on the Witt side.
Moving forward from our first American Witt, Johannes, his son and my 3rd great grandfather, Jacob Witt Sr., was born 15 Nov 1754 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and died 13 Nov 1835, Southhampton Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Jacob's first wife Christine died in Somerset County between 1810 and 1815. He then married Elizabeth Probst 23 Apr 1815, widow of John Probst who had died in 1806. Elizabeth owned land in Somerset Borough until she died in 1851. Elizabeth was born ca. 1754 and died in 1851 (estate #59-1852). She had eight heirs in the distribution. (She had children from her first husband). Jacob was buried in Zion Lutheran and Reformed Cemetery, Wellersburg, Somerset County. Below is Jacob’s first church in Wellersburg, constructed in 1802. He and 7 other families constructed the log structure. A replacement log structure, shown below, was built 1820-25 and this structure was turned into a school house. The existing brick church below was built in 1856.
Existing church shown, built in 1856.
While living in Berks County, Jacob Sr. enlisted and served in the Revolutionary War between the summer of 1776 and the close of the war. He was a sergeant under Captains Grosscup, Manser, Sutter, Spangler and others with the Pennsylvania troops. He was in the battles of Monmouth and Brandywine. He also served as a substitute for his brother, Henry, who was ill and could not serve. He received a pension of $30 per year, executed 19 Oct 1832. (Congress awarded pensions beginning in the early 1830’s.) In order to receive his pension, he needed declarations to attest to his participation in the War. Because he had a “bodily infirmity” and loss of memory, several had to attest to his military activity including a friend and war buddy, John Kurtz. Copies of those declarations are attached. His family was one of the first Witt families to move into Somerset County in Western Pennsylvania. He helped found the Reformed and Lutheran Church there. The town of Somerset was built on part of his farm. Jacob fathered 4 children, 3 boys and one girl. According to the Witt book, Things That Matter, it is stated on page 12 that it was assumed that Jacob was living in Somerset County in 1822 when he gave deed to 51 acres of land at Wellersburg to his son John.
I tried to locate Jacob’s property or evidence of a deed or survey. How did he obtain his property? One theory is that, at the end of the war, the Continental Congress issued script as payment for the soldier’s tours. The script devalued so badly and so fast that Pennsylvania Legislature offered land west of the Allegheny River with acreage based on your rank. Somerset is not west of the Allegheny but perhaps a similar arrangement was made. Records of Jacob’s discharges (6 tours) were lost by ”time or accident” so the Pennsylvania Archives have no record of him receiving land as a result of his service.
Below is a biographical sketch of Jacob Sr. on a monument. However, there are a few errors: The last paragraph discusses Jacob Jr.’s family, not Jacob Sr.; Jacob Jr.’s 2nd wife was Catharine Sturtz, not Caroline; William George’s mother was Maria Eva Shultz, not Catharine.
Our lineage continues through Jacob Witt Jr., born 20 May 1788 and died 7 Mar 1842. He married twice. His first wife, 1809, was Maria Eva Schultz born 1769 and died 12 Mar 1818. His second wife was Catharine Sturtz, born 1790 and died 1849. Jacob Jr. fathered 9 children, 7 boys and 3 girls. Daniel, Jacob, William George Washington (our lineage), and Jesse were by Eva; John J., Johnathan Theodore, Samuel, Rebecca, Cassy and Susanna were by Catharine. Two children were twins, Johnathan Theodore Witt and Samuel Witt. Samuel died in infancy, J. T. lived to age 80. Cassy also died in infancy. John J. was listed as an “artist” in the Ohio civil war roster. Maria Eva died the same day William George Washington was born, 30 Sep 1818. Several records attribute Catharine as his birth mother. She married Jacob Witt Jr. 16 July 1821, so it was she who raised William George but was not his birth mother.
A brother of Jacob Witt Jr. was John Marion Witt, born 1 Apr 1784 and died 19 Mar 1859. He was a surveyor and county sheriff in Somerset County. He was reported to own 9,000 acres at the time of his death. But there is more to his story. He gave birth to John G. Witt, who, in turn had a son Levi Witt, born 1858 and died 1944 who lived in Roanoke, Virginia, my home town. He and most of his family are buried in Evergreen Burial Park, Section 15, Lot 61SC, Roanoke Virginia.
Levi’s son Ralph K. Witt PHD, achieved bachelor’s degree at University of Virginia and a PHD in physical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University. He taught at Johns Hopkins and also spent some time in California where he married Mary Frances Lutz. He died 21 Aug 1976.
Jacob Witt Jr. left a will which had the following stipulations:
Aside what was due legally for his wife, he willed her one bed, one bed stand and a cow.
His assets were to be split among his sons except William was to receive $25 additional. When William’s younger brothers became of age they would also receive $25. Nothing was willed to the three daughters.
To absolve of any possible debts, he directed his executor to sell a tract of land in “Savage Mountain.” He also laid out lots on his farm in case parts of the farm needed to be sold.
His brother, Samuel, was to receive “2 perches *(in width) of coal out of the Hardin vein” in consideration of him “having done some labor on a road.” Samuel was also appointed executor.
* A perch is a volumetric measurement of 16 ½ ft x 1 ½ ft x 1 ft. or an area measurement of
1 perch = 0.0062 acres
Next was Jacob’s son William George Washington Witt, born 30 Sep 1818 of Jacob Jr. and Maria Eva Witt. William George died 14 Feb 1882. The 1850 and 1880 census listed him as a farmer and a stone mason respectively. William married twice, once to Elizabeth Hoffman (or Elizabeth Wittekind according to the 1850 census) who died 1856 and then to Martha Ankeny who died 1920. William fathered 11 children, 7 boys and 4 girls. Elizabeth gave birth to Sarah (died in infancy), William W. Witt (died in infancy), Henry Harrison Witt, Benjamin Washington Witt, and Mary Elizabeth Witt. Martha was the mother of our lineage. She gave birth to Samuel (died in infancy, Minerva Witt, George Ross Witt, William Grant Witt (our lineage), Edward F. Witt, Silas C. Witt and Martha Lucretia Witt. George Ross Witt was a “famous” Indian fighter who fought against American Indians in Montana. Newspaper articles stated that he was “part of the task of freeing the great Northwest of the Indian menace.” The 1880 Census reported William George Washington as blind.
Silas Witt William G. Witt George Ross Witt
William George fathered William Grant Witt Jr., my grandfather, born 20 Jul 1865 and died October 25, 1944 in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania. Death certificate stated that he had cancer in the stomach. He married twice, once to Mary Ringler who married at age 16, (he was 29 yrs. old) and his second wife was Gertrude Gray Stevanus. The 1900 census list his occupation as a weighman, a person who weighs coal as it comes out of the mine because miners were paid by their productivity. The 1910 census listed him as a laborer out of work for 24 weeks.
Mary died in 1909, age 29, 1 ½ months after my father Charles Witt was born. She gave birth to all William Grant’s children. Mary’s death certificate stated she died of pulmonary embolism contributed by “child bed fever.”
The 1920 census listed William Grant as a miner, Martha (23) as saleswomen at general store, Florence (20) as not working, John (18) as a miner, Clarence (16) as a laborer at a grocery store and James and Charles as not working.
Information on William Grant’s second wife, Gertrude is sketchy. Records indicate she was born 6 Aug 1885 and died 17 Apr 1982 at age 96. Records also show she was married to William Grant sometime in the 20’s (1930 census). Gertrude was a widow prior to her marriage to William Grant. The 1930 census indicated that the Witt household included her and a daughter age 17 and a son age 15. However, 1940 census records indicated she was living at the Zella Sides household as a “lodger” and her occupation was listed as a “domestic.” William Grant’s death certificate (authored by son, George Witt) listed him as still married to Gertrude at the time of death (1944). Letters from William in 1938 and 1944 implied that there was no longer a “married” relationship with Gertrude at that time. (Perhaps it was a marriage of convenience to support her two children) Stories heard from my dad and other relatives are that William was not an easy person to live with so that might explain the disappearance of Gertrude.
William Grant taught in the Somerset schools for 35 years and had been employed as a superintendent in the mines. William Grant fathered 7 children, 5 boys and 2 girls. These were the aunts and uncles of the writer. Below is a short description of them.
Grandfather William G. Witt and grandmother Mary Ringler prior to 1909
William Grant Witt 1944 Mary Ringler with Aunt Martha and friend and
Uncle James Witt 1906
Aunt Martha Witt Guyman, born 9 Jun 1896, died 1986 was the oldest of the siblings. She spent much of her adult life as a domestic at the Custer residence. The Custers were a wealthy family in Westmont, a suburb of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. She was single until age 55 when she married Luther Guyman, a farmer in Dwight, Illinois. She lived there until her death.
Florence on left, Martha on right
Aunt Florence Witt, born 26 Dec 1899, died 22 May 1980 in Dwight, Illinois. She remained single and was an evangelist with the New Denominational Church. Florence was not a favorite of my father. When the family was in dire straits, she encouraged their father to give Charles up for adoption. Martha interceded and the family stayed together.
Uncle George L. Witt, born 14 Sep 1897, died 1 Aug 1964. He married Anna-Mae Beatty and they lived in Gibsonia, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Anna–Mae and George cared for their father in his later years.
Uncle John Witt born 28 Nov 1901, died 25 Apr 1992 in a nursing home. He married Gladys Mowery. He worked as a machinist for Firestone Steel Products in Akron, Ohio.
Uncle James Witt born 8 Sep 1905, died 23 Jul 1980, remained a bachelor. He was a salesman for B.F. Goodrich in Akron, Ohio for 35 years. He was a veteran of World War II and served in the Italian Campaign.
Uncle Clarence Witt, born 13 Oct 1903, died 19 Dec 1951. He was married to Edith Shaffer. He had 2 years of high school education. According to army enlistment records of 1942, he was separated from his wife and had dependents, (Joann Witt was listed on his draft card for closest notification). He enlisted in the army (private) 29 Aug 1942 and was discharged 26 Mar 1945. Sometime before 1930 he left the Witt family and moved to Los Angeles. He never got back in touch with his father but 1940’s pictures show him in uniform with my father. He is buried at the Los Angeles National Cemetery plot 1729 8/RC.
Father, Charles Witt, born 24 Jan 1909, died 5 Dec 1987, the writer’s father. More about him below.
Charles Witt Family History
Father, Charles grew up in the Boswell, Pennsylvania area. He was youngest of 7 siblings. His mother, Mary Ringler, died shortly after he was born. 1910 census indicates he was cared for in his early years by Mary’s sister Annie Ringler Hersh. He was later raised primarily by his sister, Martha. His father remarried in the 1920’s but there little information about the 2nd wife. Charles was a football player on the very successful Boswell High School team. However, he quit school after 10th grade to help support the family. There is no record of him obtaining a high school diploma. He did attend night school and earned credits in English, typing and sales in 1926-27. He also earned credits in mechanical drafting in 1931. In 1942 and 1943, he earned 208 hours for advanced engineering drawing and applied math.
Charles Earl Witt (mid 1940’s)
1930 census indicated he was a boarder with the Charles Umlauf family and he was an office clerk working with adding machines. He started courting his future wife, Gladys Jones in 1929, Gladdy, as he called her. On 7 Nov he asked her for a date and she refused. He was persistent and they had their first date 11 Nov. On 30 Nov she wrote in her diary “I do believe I am beginning to like him.” 7 Feb 1930 he proposed and they married 22 Nov 1930.They were married at her parent’s residence with the pastor of the local Evangelical church officiating.
At the time of his courtship and several decades thereafter, Charles worked for Burroughs Adding Machine Company, aka Burroughs Corporation and Unisys. He traveled western Pennsylvania and West Virginia repairing banking accounting machines. He was very knowledgeable in the mechanical intricacies of the equipment and hence a valued employee. He worked for Burroughs for 47 years. Unfortunately, the electronic age in the ‘60’s caught up with him. Although he went to a company school in Detroit to learn the electronics, his expertise was mechanical, not electronic. The company was cutting back on its work force so he volunteered to retire to preserve younger employee’s jobs. He retired in 1971 at 63 with a pension of $311.15 per month and Social Security of $152.90 per month.
His wife died of cancer in 1965. After her death, Charles continued living at his house at 1232 Christopher St., Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He was kept company by his dog, Cleo, and visits from his children. Eventually, his life started deteriorating. He lost his beloved dog, he lost his freedom to drive (car wreck), and his health and mental faculties were failing. In the early 1980’s, he had to sell his house and move to Roanoke, living in apartment, and then living with the writer’s family. Then he lost his beloved sister Martha. His health was such that he could not go to Martha’s funeral in Illinois. Soon, he needed full time care and was placed in a nursing home. He had congestive heart issues, but when his kidneys started failing, he refused dialysis and gently passed away.
Mother, Gladys Jones Witt, born 4 Jan 1913, died 9 Apr 1965 grew up in Scalp Level, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Windber High School in 1929. Her yearbook records her as a very active student, being a member of the Drama Club, Glee Club, Chemistry Club, Social Institutions Club, High Times, Sketch Club, Biology, and class play her senior year “The Fourflusher,” lead character. She was also a cheer leader her junior and senior year. Her yearbook motto was “Patience is the key to Paradise.” She was a good dancer. According to her diary, her dance card was always filled.
Gladys Jones from senior yearbook
Gladys gave birth to her first child, Carl Ray, 29 May 1933. Unfortunately, he died 2 days later. He is buried at Lutheran Burial ground, Scalp Level. She never got to hold him. It wasn’t until five years later that she gave birth to a son, James Arthur Witt, born 15 Aug 1938. Five years later twins arrived 21 Oct 1943, Donald Richard Witt and Ronald William Witt.
Gladys was a very personable person and had excellent leadership qualities. She was elected president of the local Parent Teachers Association (PTA) in 1950. In the 1950’s she procured a job as a hostess and guide for a local dairy, conducting tours of their plant. In her later years, she received a letter from the president of the company saying she could come back to work at her job any time, “no matter who had it at the time.”
In the early 1950’s Gladys contracted breast cancer and suffered with the disease for almost 15 years. Her main regret near the end was that she was unable to take care of her family. She was a very selfless person. When I received the opportunity to study in Europe the year of her death, she encouraged me to go, even though she knew she would not be around upon my return. When we said our goodbyes at the hospital, she had the doctor pump her with extra morphine so that she would not show any suffering. She died several weeks afterward, 9 Apr 1965 at age 53. Interment is at Grand View Cemetery ”woodland” area, lot 543, Section 1.
When married, the couple initially lived with Gladys’ parents, and then moved to Geistown, Pennsylvania. A year before the twins were born, they moved to 104 Tioga Street in Westmont, a borough adjacent to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. This was a rental house and one of the first houses built in Westmont. A house fire in 1951 forced the family into temporary quarters whereby the family was split up for 6 or more months. The family purchased land, also in Westmont, and built a prefab home called a Gunnison Home at 1232 Christopher Street. Because over 80% of Westmont High School graduates went on to college, the family did what they needed to live in the chosen school district. Cost of the house was $12,000 in the early 1950’s. This was the family residence until it was sold 35 years later.
Christopher Street House Tioga Street House
Jim Witt, 5 years older than the twins, was the first to graduate from college of the Witt Clan. He earned a degree in chemical engineering and went to work for DuPont, first in Wilmington, then Memphis and then Niagara Falls. Tiring of all the moving he moved to another chemical firm in New Martinsville, West Virginia. There he worked as a production engineer until he retired. Jim married Ann Feely 2 Oct 1965. He fathered two sons, Kenneth James, born 31 Oct 1966 and Jonathan Charles, born 16 Mar 1971.
Jim was active in scouting, was an eagle scout and led several scout troops throughout his career. He also was active in his church, teaching several Sunday school classes. He loved sports cars and motor cycles and owned several of these “toys.” One of his favorite cars was a 1990 Mazda Miata. One day he suggested I take it for a spin with him. Of course I tested it on as many curves as I could. Poor Jim was white-knuckled the whole time.
His wife died 28 May 2014 and one year later 25 Oct 2015 Jim also died.
Brother Ron graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with an electrical engineering degree. He ended up working for a defense contractor as a project manager in the DC environs. In high school, Ron participated in sports (track and tennis) and was president of the National Honor Society. After some marriage starts, he is now married to Drucilla Pettey, born 9 Jul 1949. They are currently living in an active adult community in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He spends much of his time walking his dogs, playing bridge, and badgering the Home-Owners Association. He has 4 sons: James Eric Witt born 24 Mar 1964, Andrew Charles Witt born 12 Aug 1966, Walter Christopher Witt born 9 Nov 1967 and Kelly Witt born 15 Jun 1970.