If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll remember I’ve been following the adventures of a family named Crist who came to America in 1738. This family is closely tied with my own ancestors, the Collings family and I managed to find some very interesting accounts of life in those early days of our country based on the writings of Johann Nicolaus Crist who was given an account book by his father at the time Nicolaus and his brothers left for America.
When I last shared his adventures with you, Nicolaus had just returned from the Battle of Fort Necessity also known as the Battle of Great Meadows, where he received a very serious wound that nearly cost him his leg.
The leg wound that Nicolaus sustained affected his ability to work for the rest of his life and in his journal entry of August 5, 1754 he said, “I am lucky to have my sons.”
Nicolaus and Catherine had six sons and lost one infant daughter, obviously a painful loss as Nicolaus celebrated the marriages of three of his sons on May 7, 1763 by stating “Catherine and me finally got the daughters we never had (when) three of our sons was married yesterday. John Jacob married Regenah Cartmell, Nicholas Heinrich Jr. married Sarah Cartmell and Philip Henry married Rachel Cartmell. Rev. Henrie Dreher performed the wedding ceremony in the same Lutheran Church where Ana Catherin and me married.”
My Collings family enters the story as Nicolaus wrote on March 5, 1767: “Our fourth son George Heinrich married Elizabeth Collings today in the Lutheran Church where we got married. She was fifteen years of age today. Rev. Henrie Dreher performed the wedding Ceremony. Me and Elizabeth’s Pa, William Edward Collings growed up together and come to America on the same ship. He married Anne Elizabeth Nowlin a cousin to my Catherin. We had a feast, danced to good German music and played games all day.”
There are some aspects of this entry I don’t understand…William Edward Collings is shown in most of my research as having been born in America of English heritage. Still there is no doubt his daughter Elizabeth married George Crist and we have also been able to document that William Edward Collings was in fact married to Anne Elizabeth Nowlin.
History and genealogical study can be a very interesting and puzzling pastime!
Nicolaus and Catherin’s remaining two sons were married in 1769.
Life seemed good for the families, but harder times were ahead. December 24, 1776, Nicolaus wrote: I guess that I am more scared now than I was coming across the ocean to America. We have six sons in Washington’s Continental Army. Catherin and me are doing the best we can to take care of our daughters and grandchildren. Everyone is working hard from day break until dark trying to keep things going. We have seen bad times but it is worse now. Our food that we have stored is low. It seems that every one around us is in bad shape. The only thing that we can do is pray that it will get better and soon be over. Me and Catherin are so tired and scared, not for ourselves but for our loved ones.
The Revolutionary War was a heroic fight by a young nation to win freedom from England, but it was a hard time for those whose day to day life was affected not only by the shortage of goods from the outside world, but the fact their very farms and fields became the battlefields of the war.
All six of the Crist sons likely entered the war as militia, which was something like our National Guard is today, not fulltime soldiers, but citizen soldiers who took up arms to supplement regular army forces to defend home and country. Militia usually committed to two-year enlistments.
In the days of the Revolutionary War, communication was impossible, and Nicolaus and Catherin endured the hardships of supporting themselves and the families of their sons as best they could without knowing the fate of their boys. Catherin worked to teach the grandchildren because they recognized education was important. In the words of Nicolaus, “They need to learn to read and write and arithmetic so bad. If they live through all this.”
By early 1778, his old war injury, the stress and strain of the current war and the uncertainty about the fate of his family was wearing hard on Nicolaus. At age 62, “I am putting my Account Book up. It hurts to bad to write in it. Some of our neighbors have lost sons in the war. Catherin lost her parents in 1749 and June 1750 I got word from Germany that my parents had died in February that year with pneumonia and we lost our little daughter and all that hurt. But our sons that we have raised all these years, I truly do not know. We do not know if our sons are dead or alive. They could be somewhere wounded in the cold with no shelter. We do have a shelter and fire to keep us warm and dry and food to eat. It has been so cold with sleet and rain and snow. It is so hard on their wives and children not knowing if they will see them again or not. The only thing that we can do is pray that they will be sent home to us safe and not be wounded and mangled for life that the day will be soon.”
Thankfully, Nicolaus’ prayers for his family were answered. All six of his sons returned to their families, and his fourth son George, husband to my ancestor, Elizabeth Collings, took up the duties of writing in the Account Book, so the adventures of the Crist family along with my Collings family could continue to be passed down through the generations.
Stay tuned for more adventures!