The Holstein(er)’s

The following is from a book I received from Barbara Faust. I never knew the author and title, but I believe it is from: A. Donovan Faust (Foust). A Family History: The Ancestors of Thomas Wilson Faust. (1997).


Leonhardt Holsteiner was among the earliest settlers in the Tulpehocken Valley of eastern Pennsylvania He was probably born sometime around 1690 in Zweibruchen, a German town about 20 miles from the French border. 

Holsteiner was one of a massive number of Germans who emigrated during the early 1700’s, seeking to escape the economic hardships Germany was still undergoing in its attempts to rebuild following the devastation of war during the preceding century. An offer was made by Queen Anne of Britain to settle immigrants in Ulster (Northern Ireland); she expected a few hundred, but more than 20,000 came. The Britons were overwhelmed and could not accommodate them. The ensuing tragic events are documented in the History of Berks County as follows.

“Of the large number of Germans who went to England in 1708 and 1709, 10,000 died for lack of sustenance and medical attention; 7000 returned to their native country, after having suffered great privations, half naked and in great despondency. Some of the survivors were transported to the English Colonies in America. Ten sails of vessels were freighted with upwards of 4000 Germans for New York. They embarked December 25th, 1709, and arrived at New York June 14, 1710. On the inward passage, and immediately upon landing, 1700 died. The survivors encamped in tents — which they had brought with them — on Governor’s Island. Here they remained until late in autumn, when about 1400 were moved to Livingston Manor, 100 miles up the Hudson River.

“Those who settled on the Hudson River were under indenture to Queen Anne to manufacture tar and raise hemp in order to repay the expenses of their transportation and cost of subsistence. This experiment proved a complete failure as the trees were not of the proper kind for making tar.

‘The Germans, having been unjustly oppressed, became dissatisfied with their treatment arid situation. Governor Hunter resorted to violent measures to secure obedience to his demands, without success. 150 families left late in the autumn of 1712– to escape the certainty of famishing — for Schoharie Valley, some 60 miles northwest of Livingston Manor. They had no open road, their way was through unbroken forest; nor did they have horses to carry or haul their baggage — this they loaded on rudely constructed sleds, which they tugged themselves through a three feet deep snow. It took them three full weeks.

“At Schoharie they improved the lands which Queen Anne had granted them. They remained about ten years; then, after hewing out homes in the wilderness, they were deprived of their land arid improvements by the Governor and others under the pretext of unsound title. In the spring of 1723, thirtv-three families removed to Pennsylvania and settled in the Tulpehocken, some fifteen miles west of the Schuylkill River. Others joined them in 1728.”

And so, the remnants of that huge group who left Germany fifteen years earlier concluded their harrowing odyssey.. Leonhardt Holsteiner and the others had found a place where they could prosper and build a future for their families.

It was there that he met and married Barbara Graff. Her father probably was Hans Graff – who was born in Switzerland in 1661 and also had faced his share of distress. Because of persecution of the Mennonites, he fled to Alsace and, ultimately, toLancaster County. Pennsylvania in 1696. There, he eventually became quite prominent and acquired vast tracts of land from the sons of William Penn.

Leonhardt also accumulated substantial amounts of land over time, purchasing 215 acres from the Penns and 300 acres from other settlers. One reference asserts that he owned land In other states, as well.

At some point, Leonhardt Holsteiner changed his name to Leonard Holstein. Some records list his surname as Holston, others Holstoner. Misspelling of German names was common. The family name of his wife Barbara was variously spelled as Graff, Grof, Graef, von Graeffe and Grove.

Leonard Holstein built three houses during his married life, each constructed sturdily of stone and each progressively larger that the last. The first, built in I 739 was relatively small in dimension but three stories high. It was placed over aspring with running water, had a fireplace and kitchen on the first floor, living quarters on the second floor and a sleeping loft on the third. The house had very few windows, all on the second and third floors, as a security precaution againstIndian attacks. The second house in 1744 also was built over a spring, ideal for a continuous water supply and cooling of foodstuffs. It was considerably larger to accommodate their growing family and also had three floors. The last was of substantial size, big enough to have six large windows on the second floor front plus a porch and additional rooms on two levels at the end. It was built in 1752.

Leonard and Barbara became the parents of six children. Their son George would marry Elizabeth Lauer, the daughter of Christian Lauer who came to America in 1733. Two of their four daughters, Margaretta and Eva Maria, married brothers Christian and Francis Seibert — another connection of the Holsteins and Lauers with the Seiberts. Also, the wife of Leonard’s son George was the daughter of another Seibert branch.

Perhaps the most interesting of Leonard and Barbara Holstein’s children was Michael. He left Pennsylvania when about sixteen and became a noted frontiersman and associate of Daniel Boone in the western territories of the Virginia and North Carolina colonies. That region later became Tennessee and Kentucky.


Elizabeth Lauer, the eldest living child of Christian and Catharina Lauer. married George Holstein in 1759, they were the parents of 10 children, 7 girls and 3 boys. He was a farmer and spent his entire life in the area around Milbach, Pennsvlvania.

George Holstein was the son of Leonhardt Holsteiner, a German immigrant and one of the earliest settlers in the region. (The Holsteiners, page 92). He inherited his father’s farm in 1753 when he was just 19 years of age. Arrangements were made for specific compensation to the other heirs, all but one of whom were under age when their father died. He apparently lived in an existing house on the property until a fine new two-story stone house was built in 1788. It has a marker at the second floor level that reads “God bless this house — George and Elizabeth Holstein –1788”. The house is still lived in today by a distant relative and appears to show little effect of its age.

When in his forties, George served in the Second Pennsylvania Battalion in the War of Independence, (a private in Captain George Hudson’s Company of Berk’s County Associators — DAR  Vol XXII, #21325) seeing some severe action which resulted in considerable disability. In an interesting coincidence, a unit of the French troops under Rochambeau that was fighting on the side of the colonies was known as the “Zweibruchen Regiment”. Zweibruchen was the birthplace of George Holstein’s father. (it was temporarily under the control of France at the time). The rapprochement between Rcchambeau’smen and the Pennsylvania Germans under George Washington is noted in the book The Pennsylvania Germans by the following exchange: Rochambeau asked the American general “Have you made an alliance with Frederick the Great?” Washington replied “No, why?” To which the Frenchman answered “Because your men are speaking German with mine and acting as if they were old friends.”

By his death in 1805, George Holstein had built a substantial estate. His will consisted of four pages of script beautifully penned by a scrivener and, typical of contemporary documents, revealed a deep religious commitment. Its preamble states in part: “In the name of God, Amen. This twenty-ninth day of September in the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, I, George Holstein being at present sickly and weakly in body, but of soundand disposing mind, memory and understanding. thanks be to God therefore, do make this my last will and testament. Principally and first of all I recommend my soul into the hands of God who gave it, hoping through the merits of our Savior JesusChrist to receive remission of all my sins, and a happy admission into the regions of bliss and immortaltly. My body I recommend to the earth to be buried in a Christian-like manner and touching such worldly Estate wherewith it hath pleased Godto bless me in this life.”

His will further illustrated the value placed upon almost all household appurtenances at the time specifying in detail the distribution of such items. For instance, he bequeathed to his wife Elizabeth “A bed with bedstead and curtain, one chest,a desk half of the linen ware, cloth and flax, a copper kettle, two iron pots, iron pan, teakettle and the tea-ware, two pewter basins, two dishes, six plates six spoons, her saddle and bridle, a spinning wheel, two chairs and a table and two cows to take her choice.”

Continuing, he also willed that his son Leonard should provide Elizabeth with: “Twelve bushels of good wheat, five bushels of good rye (and take the same from time to time, as she has occasion, to the mill and to fetch the meal and bran home again into her dwelling); a fat swine which shall weigh 125 pounds, 50 pounds of good beef, both at the season of killing time or autumn; so many hens or fowls and eggs for to eat as she has occasion for; so many apples for to eat and to make dry apples; the third part of the garden, and to dung the same when required; three bushels of good potatoes; one barrel of good cider; three bushels of good potatoes; fifteen pounds hatcheled flax; six pounds of good wool; so much small cut firewood fit for use to be hauled to her dwelling as she has need for; to keep her horse and two cows in provender both summers and winters like his own horses and cows; ten pounds of tallow for candles; the liberty of the lower and upper rooms on the northside of the house wherein I at present dwell to live in; and the use of the kitchen, cellar and springbouse with free ingress and egress. But in case it should happen that they cannot live peaceable together, then my son Leonard or his heirs istobuild a good and commodious house with a cellar under it, at the east end of the aforesaid house, for my wife to live in; and when she should get sick or infirm to give or send her good attendance.” In addition, she was given “The sum of fourhundred pounds in real specie of gold and silver money.”.

Most wives today should be so lucky as to have this kind of caring and detailed attention to their welfare!

A total of 765 acres was bequeathed to his sons –365 in Pennsylvania and another 400 in Kentucky — plus an unspccifled arnount of acreage that he directed be sold and the proceeds distributed among his heirs. He also left specific sums of money to the children.


Catherine Holstein was the sixth of George and Elizabeth Holstein’s ten children. She married Theodore Saunders in 1790, a few weeks before her 17th birthday. He was a wheelwright and practiced the trade in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

Theodore was one of nine children of Jacob Sander, a shoemaker who immigrated from Germany in 1750, and his wife Susannah. She had come from Switzerland. They married around 1758 and settled in Lancaster County. their home for 45 years. In addition to making shoes, Jacob also made “whiskee” in a still he operated and willed to his youngest son upon his death.

Catherine and Theodore Saunders became the parents of five children before deciding sometime between 1803 and 1805 to leave Pennsyivania for more promising opportunities in the newly opened Ohio region. It was just after the State of Ohio was created in 1803 from what formerly had been a part of the Northwest Territories. For many years before, the earliest settlers there had been subjected to fierce raids bv the Miami, Shawnee and other Indian tribes — many of them led by the Miami chief Little Turtle. But by 1795, after a decisive victory by General Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers, the Indian wars essentially ended in Ohio; they did, however, continue to be a problem in the adjacent regions to the west. With peace largely restored, settlers began streaming into the area, some of them Revolutionary War veterans who received land in payrnent for their service.

The Saunders family had been preceded several years before by two of Catherine’s sisters and their husbands who sought ownership of a portion of the rich land that spread out from the Miami River in southwest Ohio. Barbara and Christina Holsteinhad married brothers, John and Benjamin Knoop in Pennsvlvania in 1793 and 1795. The brothers were two of the nine children of Jacob and Anna Knoop; Jacob was the son of a German immigrant father, she came to America from Switzerland.

In 1797, John and Benjamin Knoop, together with two other brothers, crossed Pennsylvania and went down the Ohio River to Cincinnati. From there they set out on a search for good farmland in the company of surveyors who were exploring the Miami Valley area. They selected a section of land with a running spring which was near present-day Troy, Ohio and filed a claim for it. Collectively, according to descendent recollections, they eventually claimed a total of 1800 acres.

Their wives apparently came with them, or joined them almost immediately, as Benjamin and Christina’s son Michael was bom in Cincinnati in 1797 and John and Barbara’s son, Jacob, was bom in Miami County in 1798. Each was the first white child tobe bom in their respective areas. They lived for two years at a stockade known as the Dutch Station, which the Knoop brothers and others constructed to provide protection while they cleared their lands and built homes on their individual properties. The Station was a compound formed by erecting a line of log cabins that were joined together, forming one side of a square, with the remaining three sides enclosed by palings eight feet high and firmly driven into the ground.

After his land was cleared, John Knoop built a two-story rectangular log house set on large rocks at the four comers; it had one room down, one room up and a large fireplace for heat, light and cooking. This was home for a family of nine – father, mother, five boys and two girls. After building the house, John went back to Pennsylvania to fetch his aged mother, who made the grueling 500-mile journey to Ohio by horseback.

The country was still very wild. Bears often came foraging for any food that was left unprotected and the farm animals had to be put in a shed at night to keep them away from the wolves.

Though largely peaceable by this time. the Indian culture still did not comprehend the concept of private property. Consequently. since they believed the land could not be owned, only used and available to all. they often took what they wanted –livestock, crops and foodstuff. The story is told that one day when Barbara was preparing dinner, she stepped outside for a few minutes; immediately, two Indians slipped in and began eating the meat she had placed on a pewter plate. She came backin and, seeing what head happened, picked up the skillet in which she had cooked it and gave one of them a hard blow on the back. The other one menacingly said “Give it to him White Squaw!” Assessing her vulnerability, she let them takethe meat, The pewter plate is a valued keepsake of Barbara Wilson Faust..

After joining the Knoops. who were by this time well established, Theodore Saunders scouted the area and in 1807 found a 100-acre tract to purchase. The document from the land office granting it to him was signed by Thomas Jefferson as Presidentand James Madison as Secretary of State. Once located in Ohio, Theodore and Catharine added live more children to the five they had brought with them from Pennsylvania. Later, in I 828, he received another land grant, this one signed by John Quincy Adams. The first property apparently had been sold by this time.

Theodore Saunders apparently was not as successful as his in-laws, who became most prosperous and whose descendants remain prominent today. He died intestate and the only personal property listed at his death in 1846 was: a bed and bolsters, quilt, blanket. dresser, two chairs, candlestand, brass kettle, crosscut saw, drawing knife, steelyard and mall rings. Not much to show for a lifetime’s endeavor.

But he and Catharine did manage to rear ten children on a challenging new frontier.