Thursday, April 14, 2005

Melchior Seese's (1759-1835) Corrected Ancestry

Melchoir Seese was born in 1759 in Lancaster Co, the son of immigrants from Baden, Germany. He grew up in Franklin Co, served in the Cumberland Co Militia, and came to Somerset (then Bedford) County in the late 1780's, first in the Brothersvalley settlement, where he and his wife Sophia (Lint) were members of the Reformed Congregation, and then a short time later locating in Quemahoning Twp in the far northwest part of Somerset Co, just south of what would later be the city of Johnstown. Between the 1810 and 1820 census, he moved one last time a few miles east to the other side of the Stoney Creek into Shade (now Paint) Township, where he and Sophia are buried in a small family plot on a hilltop on the Jonas Weaver farm.

Most of what has been written about Melchoir Seese's early life has been a combination of two histories, one true, the other not. In my opinion it was the belief that Melchoir must be a brother of George Seese, a Mennonite who also lived in Brothersvalley, that introduced stories of Bucks Co, alongside the correct references to Lancaster and Cumberland counties.

It has been widely accepted that "Melchoir arrived in America with his father Jacob Seese on a ship named "Betsy" which arrived in Philadelphia on 19 Sep 1765."

I do not believe this to be true. The Strassberger & Hinke passenger list for this arrival lists only a Jacob Gauss for a name which might be taken as Jacob Seese. There's been no evidence that Jacob Seese arrived on this ship.

It has been widely accepted that "He came to America as a small child with his father settling in Upper Salford Township, Bucks County, Pa."

I do not believe this to be true. There is a Seese family which originated in Bucks Co. They were Mennonites, and George Seese of Somerset was likely from this family. Many descendants married into other Mennonite families and located to Ohio and Indiana in the early 1800's. A Jacob Seese died and left a will in Bucks Co in 1821, but makes no mention of a Melchoir. Although included in the "Amish and Amish-Mennonite Genealogies" by Hugh Gingerich and Rachel Kreider, they admit that Melchoir's descendants were Lutheran and Brethren. There is no evidence that Melchoir or Sophia themselves were ever Mennonite. In 1788, Melchoir Seese was listed as a deacon of the Reformed Church of Brothersvally, and in 1790 their third child John was baptized there.

At the same time, it has been widely accepted that "Melchoir grew up first in Lancaster co., ...before becoming a soldier from 1779-1782."; "Melchoir was a Private in the Cumberland Co., Penn Militia in 1782."; "Melchoir Seese enlisted in the Revolutionary War. The Pa. Archives, have him listed as a Private under Captain Sam Roder 1779-1782."

These statements can be documented to be true. The Seese records in Lancaster Co will be missed unless one realizes that the anglicized name Seese is found as Süss (or Suess) in the German language, which is how many church records were kept in Pennsylvania the 1700's. There was a Johann Melchoir Süss baptized 28 Mar 1759 at the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville, Lancaster Co, as well as Johann Caspar Süss on 6 Sep 1747 and Johann Balthasar Süss on 10 Jan 1754 at the Hill Lutheran Church, all sons of Christopher Süss.

There was a Melker Seese who was on the muster rolls of the Cumberland Co Militia during the Revolution (1779 - 8th Batt., Capt. Rogers Co; 1780 - 1st Batt. 5th Co; 1782 - 4th Batt., 8th Co), as well as a Caspar Seese and a Baltzer Seese. These are the only Seeses listed in the Pennsylvania Archives.

In each instance, Melchoir is with Caspar and Baltzer - whose given names are the same as the the three kings of the Orient (The Magi) as told in the Bible.

In his book, "Stover Brethren" (2001), Richard Weber documents that Melchoir was born in Lancaster Co on 27 Feb 1759, son of the immigrant Johann Christopher Süss and his wife Catherine Elizabeth Hager, both from Karlsruhe District of Baden, Germany; that two of Christopher's sister, Margaret and Elizabeth, had in turn been wives of William Stober, also born in Karlsruhe; and that both Christopher Süss and William Stober moved to Antrim Twp, Franklin Co, where a survey of Stober's land shows Süss adjacent to the north. Please consult Weber's book for a more detailed discussion of the Stober and Süss families in Karlsruhe and Pennsylvania than can be told here.

Also, the birthdate on Melchior Seese's matches the birthdate given in the baptismal record of Christopher Süss' son (in a way). Melchior's tombstone on the Weaver farm reads "MELCHIOR SEESE / DIED / June 27, 1835 / Aged / 76 yrs 4 mos / & 11 days " The baptismal record of Johann Melchoir Süss in the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Brickerville gives his birthdate as 27 Feb 1859 - 11 days later than Melchoir Seese's tombstone. First, remember that birth dates from tombstones, obituaries and death certificates are only as good as the sources used by the survivors. Second, the 11 day error is exactly what the date correction would be if he would have been born under the old calendar, which was last used in the British colonies on 2 Sep 1752, seven years before Mechoir's birth. It is plausible that the survivor who had the tombstone inscribed knew Melchoir's birthdate to be 27 Feb 1759, calculated the age as 76y 4m (0d), and then added 11d for the calendar correction, thinking Melchoir had been born under the old calendar.

It is my conclusion that Melchoir Seese was not Mennonite, and had no connections to Jacob or George Seese, or Bucks Co. Melchoir was born in Lancaster Co, moved as a young child to Franklin Co, and served in the Cumberland Co Militia during the Revolution. When he came to Somerset Co in the late 1780's, he was a neighbor of George Seese, who was a Mennonite and likely had his roots in Bucks Co. The two have not been proven to be brothers.


Patricia Durst Shaffer said...

You are correct in the various spellings of the Seese sur-name. Melchoir Seese, spelling as Seish, they were, and still are, mostly Lutheran --not Mennonite--he is listed as one of the deacons in the Shippensburg Church. On Jan.1,1788 behind his name, Lutheran, among the communicants on March 30, 1788 for Holy Easter Communion were Sophia Seish, Conrad Lint,Anna Maria Lint, Conrad Jr., and Heinrich (Henry) Lint. Sophia Seese,Melchoir's wife, was the daughter of Conrad and Anna Maria Lint. On March 31, 1786, Anna Maria, last name spelled Seish, was born and baptized on May 2,1786 in the Lutheran Church at Shippensburg, daughter of Melchoir and Sophia Seish. The German immigrants who were residing in the Shippensburg area of Cumberland Co.,Pa. entered into an agreement to have a Union Church for the Lutherans and the Reformed faiths, they built a log house on the corner of Orange and Queen Streets for the worship services of both. Both the seese and Lint families are recorded there. By Sept.7,1789 a son ,John, was born to Melchoir and Sophia and baptized on April 3, 1790 in the Berlin Church, Lutheran and Reformed records. John Lint was the child's sponosr. Both the Lint and Seese families came into what is now Som.Co.,Pa. about the same time.

Doug Bosley said...

Wow, Brian, this is great information. It mostly confirms what my grandfather Donald J. Seese (1910-2004), great-great-great grandson of Melchior, had always believed, but was unable to definitively prove. He would have been happy to hear this.

Doug Bosley