Sunday, September 09, 2007

Phend-Fisher Family History - part 1

In 1928, Clarence Phend, grandson of Jacob and Louisa Fisher Phend through their son Christian, wrote the "Phend-Fisher Family History" which was a five page document recounting what he had been told and subsequently learned of the families. Although it contained several "tall tales" and many bits of misinformation, it was invaluable in my initial research, giving me clues regarding some names to look for as well as some clues on where to look for information. A copy of this family history was given to me by both Helen Rhoades Peil and Mary Alice Phend Koontz, both nieces of Clarence Phend. I don't know which one sent it to me first, so I give credit to both of them!

There are some "facts" stated here that have subsequently been proven to be in error. Also, because his sources are not known, some statements are virtually impossible to verify. Regardless of its pitfalls, we are quite fortunate to have this early record of the Phend-Fisher families, and it certainly makes for an interesting story!

Because it is a rather long document this will be split into several posts. You can click on the "Phend-Fisher History" category at the bottom of this post to view other posts related to this topic. My comments follow each section of Clarence's text, which is indented and set within quotes. These people and events will be discussed in more detail in future posts.

"Through information gained from various sources it has been possible to trace the Phend family back to about the year of 1750 or 1760 and the Fisher family back to about 1790 or 1800. John Phend the 1st., grandfather of the deceased Jacob Phend (1st) was born about 1750 or 1760. The exact date and place of his birth are not known but it is believed that he lived and died in his native country - Switzerland."

"John Phend (2nd), son of the above mentioned John Phend ( 1st) and father of Jacob Phend (1st), is believed to have been born in the village of Wilderswed, Berne County, Switzerland; in the year of 1782. He was an orphan and was raised among strangers, and was not afforded the opportunity of securing an education."

Comments: Records from the Gsteig bei Interlaken Kirchenbuch, translated by Sonja Reid (a very distant relative) show that John Phend, the father of Jacob, was christened on January 18, 1782 and that "He is the illegitimate child of Catharina Fendt from Armuehli." There is no record of the name of his father, so we don't know the name of Jacob Phend's grandfather. The records show that John's mother, Catharina died April 13, 1797 and his Swiss Passport issued in 1832 gives his age as 50, so he would have been about 15 years old at the time his mother died.

"It is quite evident that he could not write his name as his mark appears on his passport where his written signature should be. He knew very little about his parents and seldom spoke about anything pertaining to his earlier life or childhood."

"He served in the French Army for eight years and fought during the French revolution in 1800. At this time he was only 18 years old. During the war he was taken prisoner and when he was released at the end of six months imprisonment, he was so poor he could span his body with his hands."
Comments: After examining my copy the passport, I believe John Phend did write his name on that document. And, on the 1849 deed that records the sale of his land, his signature appears, not his mark. His wife Susanna, made her mark (X). John would have been 18 years old in 1800 so it is possible that he served in the French Army, but I don't know how I'd go about proving or disproving it.

"In the year of 1824, at the age of forty two years he married Susanna Kubla. To this union was born four children: John, Jacob, Barbara and Marguerite. John and Jacob were born in Switzerland and according to records kept by members of the Phend family, Barbara and Marguerite were born in Holmes County, Ohio after John and Susanna Phend had reached America."
Comments: John would have been 42 years old when he and Susanna K├╝bla were married on January 23, 1824 but the records show that they had only two children, Jacob and an infant who was born two years earlier and died soon after birth. John, Barbara and Marguerite were children of his first wife Barbara Wys who died from complications during childbirth in December 1821.

"The passport issued to John Phend when he came to this country is still in existence and shows that he and his wife and four children sailed for America. One record pertaining to their voyage to America states that two of Susanna Kubla's sisters and three of her brothers sailed with them. This same record states that their two younger children, Barbara and Marguerite were born in the U.S. This part of the record does check with the passport."
Comments: It is possible that Susanna Kubla's sisters and brothers sailed with the Phend family to America. I haven't found a passenger record for the Phend family yet so don't know what ship they sailed on. John Phend was traveling with "sa femme et quatre enfant" i.e. with his wife and four children. Clarence has confused one of the grandchildren of John Phend with one of his children. His daughter Marguerite, born in Switzerland, had a daughter named Margaret, born in Ohio. His daughter Barbara was born in Switzerland.

"Information on the passport shows that they were residents of Arhmule in the Canton of Berne, Switzerland; Switzerland being divided into Cantons just as the United States is divided into States. The passport was issued at Interlachen, Canton of Berne, Switzerland; on April 3, 1832 and shows the signatures of the proper officials as they passed thru from one Canton to another."

"The description of John Phend as given in his passport shows that he was fifty years old, that he was a man of medium height, being five feet two inches tall; that he was a blond and had grey eyes and a small roman nose. This description does not tally very closely with the Phend descendants of today."

"The name of John Phend as it appears on the passport is spelled Jean B'hend, Jean being the French name for John. The passport reveals that it was their intention to go to America and make their home there, and that the port of debarkation was to be Baltimore, Maryland."

"They sailed from LeHavre, France on June 11, 1832. At the present time LeHavre is a city of about 160,000 inhabitants and no doubt was quite a large city at the time. It is situated at the mouth of the Seine River. The word Havre means harbor or haven. LeHavre has continued to be a haven all thru the years. We will recall that just a few short years ago it was a haven to thousands of our own young men who took part in the World War and who crossed the ocean in transports that sailed through the submarine infested waters along the shores of Europe."
Comments: Clarence's information ties in with my translation of the passport. Originally written in 1928, "present time" was nearly eighty years ago, He was referring to World War I.

"As the ship was nearing the American shore they encountered a severe storm that evidently drove them off their course to the north-ward and one record states that the boat was driven onto the rocks along the New Jersey shore. Records in regard to this incident are somewhat vague. Apparently some of the passengers went ashore at this point."

"It is not known whether the boat was wrecked and the passengers taken aboard another ship or whether the ship proceeded under it's own power, neither does the record state whether or not John Phend and his family disembarked at this point."

"After studying the Atlantic coast line at this point and taking into consideration that they journeyed to Allentown, Pennsylvania and then on to Pittsburgh, one would be lead to believe that they did not land at Baltimore, Maryland."

"At the point where they went ashore they purchased a wagon in which to carry their luggage and the children. When everything was ready they set their faces westward and the four men and two women took turns at pulling the wagon to Allentown, Pennsylvania, a distance of perhaps seventy-five miles."

"At Allentown they secured a horse from some German friends that had come to America a short time previous to this and from here they journeyed on to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a distance of perhaps two hundred and fifty miles. With the assistance of a horse from Allentown to Pittsburgh they progressed much faster. However, the entire distance of about three hundred and fifty miles from the Atlantic coast to Pittsburgh, required about three weeks time."

"Here they stayed with friends and rested a short time before starting on their journey again. From Pittsburgh, their friends directed them to a settlement of their own people in Starke County, Ohio. To which place they journeyed and then set about in true pioneer fashion to make themselves a home."
Comments: Any actual record of these incidents and events has presumably been lost and whether or not they really happened is anybody's guess. I have been unable to locate any record for the B'hend/Phend family in the ship passenger lists for Baltimore or New York. Helen Rhoades Peil stated that she heard the stories of the shipwreck and journey thru Pennsylvania from Grandfather Jacob. Keep in mind that Jacob would have been only three years old when he came to the United States, but his father was still living in 1849 and could have passed these stories on to him.

To be continued. . .

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