You may remember a few weeks ago I introduced you to five young men, the Crist brothers who left their home in Germany in 1738 and traveled to America.
I “met” these young men while doing some genealogical research into my family and a significant historical event in which the Collings branch of my family played a major part. More about that later. For now, I want to tell you a little more about the Crist family.
Remember, Nicolaus Heinrich Crist kept an “account book” given to him by his father when he left for the New World. Nicolaus wanted to tell about their trip “so if we die they will know who we are,” which I found very touching. The boys did not die, they reached America after a long and arduous journey.
Here’s where I begin to have problems in my research. Crist named his brothers and he also listed several other young men who traveled with them, saying “There’s fifteen of us that knows each other we have labored – fought and laughed together all our lives.” One of the names he listed was William Edward Collings.
William Edward Collings is my 6th great grandfather, and I knew from other research that the Crist family and the Collings family had a long history together, but this record does not match with what I know.
My William Edward Collings was reportedly born in Somerset Co., PA in 1724. His father’s name was Zebulon and he was also born in America, so the account of William Edward Collings coming to America with the Crist boys confuses me, and I’m still working on that.
The facts I can confirm are this…the Crist boys did come to America and Nicolaus Heinrich did keep an account book that proves to be correct in many other details, so we’re going to follow this thread. Our families did come together at some point, because Nicolaus’ son George married William Edward Collings’ granddaughter, Elizabeth, called Betsy, and that we can confirm. The inconsistencies are what make genealogy so fascinating!
Throughout ensuing years, the same names keep cropping up in our family history even as these pioneers moved from landing spot into Pennsylvania/Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana. Crist, Collings, Richey, Cauffman, Biggs, etc. Throughout history, groups of people tended to live together, struggle together, fight together and stay together as they traveled to new parts of the country.
Setting aside how these families got to know each other, they all ended up (or began their new beginnings) in an area of the new world that is very confusing. There is a place on our modern map of America where Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia sort of touch. Back in the 1700’s the boundaries in that area were very fluid and one might have ancestors living in Pennsylvania one year and Virginia the next without ever physically moving. The names of counties sometimes got moved with the boundaries…sometimes new counties were created from old counties that disappeared completely.
This is the area where my Collings branch and the Crist family became neighbors, strong friends and eventually family. They lived in this area through the troubled years leading up to the Revolutionary War and the men of both families fought from here in the French & Indian War and later for the independence of the colonies.
Once again, the account book of Nicolaus Heinrich records the action. After arriving in America on September 15, 1738, by November 24 of that same year, he writes: “I saw and talked to my wife to be today. She is more beautiful than my mother if that is possible. Did not tell her that she was going to be my wife.”
Just three months after arriving in this new world, on Christmas Day of that year, the Crist brothers were invited by Sir John Henry Nowlin, Esq. to share in a Christmas feast and at that time Nicolaus asked Sir John for the hand of his daughter Catherine in marriage. Sir John responded favorably and with a hearty handshake the deal was done. The young couple married on January 25, 1739.
By October 29, 1739, the 23-year-old Nicolaus and 19-year-old Catherine had started their family by welcoming their first son, John Jacob.
Over the next few years, the couple added five more sons, lost a daughter at birth, and suffered the tragedy of Catherine’s mother, father, two brothers and a sister drowning when the raft they were taking down river to visit family broke apart in rough water. In Germany, Nicolaus’ parents both died of pneumonia.
In 1754, Nicolaus went to fight in the French Indian War and came home wounded. He wrote: “I came home today. I was wounded in the leg at the Battle of Great Meadows [aka Battle of Fort Necessity]. I am lucky to have my sons. It looks like I might lose my leg, it is real bad.”
He did not lose his leg, but suffered from that serious injury for the rest of his life.
In 1767, one of their sons, George Heinrich, married Elizabeth Collings who was the sister of my 5th great grandfather William Elston Collings, son of William Edward Collings.
By 1776, all six of Nicolaus and Catherine’s sons were fighting in the Revolutionary War.
Stay tuned. It only gets more exciting and yes, there will be drama and tragedy.