Jacobs Children & His Farm

     Jacob Brumbaugh Jr. (c 1758-1814): farmer, distiller, landowner.

           Wife: Catherine Rentch

     Mary Elizabeth Brumbaugh (c 1759-c 1828): minister’s wife, mother.

           Husband: Elder Samuel Ulery; Brethren minister.

     John Brumbaugh (c 1760-1829): farmer, Brethren minister.

           Wife: Mary Elizabeth Miller

     Daniel Brumbaugh (1772-1820)- farmer, weaver.

           Wife: Elizabeth Long

     David Angle Brumbaugh (1776-1842): farmer, postmaster, hotelier.

          Wife: Eve Kiessecker

     Henry Brumbaugh (1777-1854):  farmer; owner of Clalands Contrivnance.

           Wife: Margareta Rentch

     George Brumbaugh (1783-1837): brewer, tavern keeper, fiduciary, town           commissioner.

           Wife: Mary Louise Gelwicks

Looking at the lives of immigrants, whether dissident nonresistants or financially successful ones, one might ask how they did socially, especially after the revolution. Historians often inquire how they advanced the family’s fortunes. Did the children marry into other families of wealth? Did they gain political influence? Did they achieve success in business? These parameters that historians use do not entirely fit the Brethren. They never sought financial or social success except insofar perhaps as it kept the religious congregation stable and provided an advantage in reaching their goal of salvation in the next life. Nevertheless, one should examine how the parents’ goals and lifestyles in the Brumbaugh family are reflected in the children’s chosen paths and marriages. 

Of Jacob and Mary’s seven children, two, John and Mary, either became a Brethren minister or married one, and one, Jacob, Jr., married a German Baptist Brethren woman named Catherine Rentch while establishing other religious ties for himself. Three children, therefore, helped directly or indirectly to maintain the community of believers to which the parents belonged. Two children, Mary and John, moved to Morrison’s Cove in Pennsylvania, while five, Jacob Jr., Daniel, David, Henry, and George, stayed on or very close to Clalands Contrivance in Washington County, Maryland. At least five of the children married into families of German descent (Jacob, Jr.: Rentch; Mary: Ulery; David: Kiessecker; Henry: Rentch; and George: Gelwicks) and two married into families of could-be German names (John: Miller; and Daniel: Long) and very likely were, expressing a certain enduring German-centric-ness (the Fogelman study found that Germans rarely married non-Germans before 1800).[1] While the two children who stayed in the Brethren community produced numerous descendants who chose to become Brethren, even ministers, the other five were assimilated into more mainstream “church German” families: one became Evangelical Lutherans (David), and three chose the German Reformed Church (Daniel, Henry and George). Jacob Jr. was the only Presbyterian in this family.

Henry, as mentioned earlier, married Margaretha, a daughter of Colonel Andrew Rentch, who had served on the Committee of Observation, as a militia officer, and as a justice of the peace. This marriage indicates that Jacob Sr.’s refusal to bear arms did not significantly impede the social opportunities of his children, even though this was not a likely goal. 

All of the children were farmers except perhaps George, who became a beer brewer, tavern keeper, and had a thriving practice as a professional fiduciary. (He served as an executor or trustee for about a dozen families). Most of the sons continued to distill grains into alcoholic spirits, and Daniel continued the weaving that his father had done. Henry maintained a substantial portion of the home farm of Clalands Contrivance for another forty years, and then passed it on to his son. David farmed and his wife Eve maintained a hotel in nearby State Line, Pennsylvania. At least three, Jacob Jr., David, and John, engaged in numerous transactions in real estate caused by the wealth of real estate their father had left them. His sons thus appeared to third parties as wealthy men in their own right. 

As stated earlier, Jacob seems to have been a fairly good planner all his life, given all that he accomplished. Nevertheless, uncharacteristically, he apparently failed to make out a will before he died. When reaching a certain age, some farmers from that era would divide up their wealth. They would give small items to their daughters as their wedding dowries, and divide up the land and cash items among the sons, retaining only the right to live on the farm until death. 

Each child had inherited in excess of 400 acres of good farmland, and cash of about $1,000.[1] If Mary needed £35 (or $93.33) per year for her widow’s allowance or maintenance money, one child’s cash inheritance of $1,000 would be equal to enough money to maintain ten persons for a year. Jacob’s wealth evidently made him the equivalent, for his time and place, of a fairly well-to-do farmer.


[1] Derived from these monetary equivalents in 1800 Pennsylvania: 1s (shilling) = 90d (pence); 7s (shillings) 6d  (pence) = 90d = $1.00 Pennsylvania dollar 1800. £1 = 20s (shillings) = 240d (pence); £4,100 = 984,000d (pence) divided by 90d (pence) per dollar = $10,933.33. 

The Hagerstown Airport now sits on the land that was once farmed by Jacob Brumbaugh. His original home, added to in the early 19th century by Henry, and later by others, is now the #1 most threatened historic building in Maryland. The Airport would like to tear it down but historic societies have held them to place it for adaptive re-use, though no one has of yet come forward.


[1] Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys, German Immigration, Settlement, and 

Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775 (Philadelphia: University of 

Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 149.

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