My Colonial Heritage

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How we all got here...

          Wyatt had a son, David, who also drafted a short history of the Smeal family, which is set forth in pertinent part below.

   "Nicholas Schmehl, founder of the Smeal clan of Eastern and Central Clearfield County, was of German extraction, having been born in eastern Pennsylvania, probably in Maxatawney Township in Berks County around the year 1752.  Nicholas was named for his immigrant father, who came by way of Rotterdam to colonial America toward the middle of the eighteenth century.  During the colonial struggle for independence, young Nicholas entered military service as a patriotic colonial volunteer.  During the war he was married to Elizabeth Volch in Reading, Pa.  She was from the George Volch family who may have emigrated from an early German settlement on the Hudson River Valley of New York state.  To this marriage we have reason to believe at least six children were born.  Quite late in the century, Nicholas emigrated (sic) to Central Pennsylvania, at which time we know he was already widowed and had with him four nine to seventeen year old children.  There is some indication that an older married daughter and a son remained in Berks County.  After settling in the vicinity of Philipsburg, the widow-father of this teenage family took another wife, named Catherine Cline, to whom were born seven children.  During this latter period of his life, he and Catherine lived for a few years in Centre County.  Later again bereft of his wife through death, he came as an old man to his eldest son's home in Bradford Township, Clearfield County, near Bigler.  After a few years, he died near his 75th year of life.  His great, great grandson, W.F. Gill, writes that he was a woodworker by trade, especially skilled in making bowls and household articles.  Nicholas was buried in Perks Cemetery near Philipsburg, where in 1959 the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a fitting memorial to his Revolutionary War involvement.  A great, great granddaughter, Miss Helen Pearce, has been especially influential because of her many years of untiring research and diligent personal and public relations in bringing about the above recognition.  My father, Wyatt F. Gill, referred to above contributed original research on this common ancestor during some earlier years.

          "The oldest emigrant son of Nicholas was Benjamin.  He was married in 1805 to Elizabeth Weiser of the clan of the famed Conrad Weiser, the exact genealogy being somewhat in dispute.  Benjamin, from all reports, was an intelligent, well-read pioneer.  A significant contribution of this family member and pioneering Smeal was his standardizing of the variant spellings of the original German Schmehl to one which he judged sounded like that name:  Smeal.  This he did as Tax Assessor in 1838.  The Benjamin Smeal home was one of the oldest in the community.  The clearing where his home was located is a few miles beyond the Bigler-Alport intersection, off route 322 but a few paces.  According to his son Daniel via his grandson, my father, the barn was built around 1817 when Daniel was but two years old.  It was of course built of logs, with a rectangular mow at each end and a floor between.  Rough planks were laid with boards paralleled under the cracks.  There were no nails used.  The family which was born to this couple numbered eight sons and five daughters.  With the exception of the oldest son, all the children were born at this location.  These many children were blessed with a pious home, the father and mother are recorded at an early date as belonging to the Salem United Brethren congregation in Boggs Township.  As reported by a close relative at a later time, their home knew Bible reading and personal and family prayer.  This of course was much in tradition of many early American homes of frontier America.  But in no way was life here, to use a modern term, "boring."  Quoting my father's notes as recalled from his early conversations with his grandfather, Daniel, fifth son of this family, we find a lively spark of genuine and oftimes hazardous family life:  "On one [of] the clearings, the five older boys were put to work at  'reading it up' after it was burned.  The four oldest were a four 'horse' team and Dan, the youngest [of the five] drove the team.  After a while one of the boys got tired and refused to work . . . [at which time] the other four boys lifted the rail fence and stuck his head through . . .[leaving] the fence down again, holding him a prisoner.  He made such a fuss that their mother came out and ordered his release!"  Obviously this large family of boys were expected to work.  In harvesting the grain crops various sythes and sycles were used.  By improvising, sharing with other pioneers or hiring their work or help, sufficient proficiency was attained to meet the end of providing out of the soil and toil for a growing and large family.  In this period of time the children had opportunity for schooling in a building at Kylers cemetery.  The family included the following children:  John, Jacob, Abram, George, Daniel, Benjamin, Samuel and Henry -- including from oldest to youngest the eight boys of the this pioneering family.  An older daughter, born probably before Daniel, died when about twelve years old.   In the mean time Elizabeth and Mary were born, immediately after Daniel.  Soon after, i.e., within a little over a year, after the death of Sarah Ann, another and the youngest girl was born, who was given the name of her older sister Sarah Ann.  It is interesting that Daniel, so close in age to his sister Sarah Ann, named his middle child, my grandmother, the same name . . . .

"My great grandfather, Daniel, married Elizabeth Care Logan of Centre County.  There are conflicting stories of the origins of the Logans, but her parents were Andy and Hannah Muchalwee Logan.  These Boggs Township pioneers died at their daughter's home in Bradford Township in the early years of this century.  It was my father's home that this pious couple lived for those few senior years, and where his interest and appreciation of the old history of the Smeals must have been encouraged."

The Nicholas Smeal Family of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania by David Gill.


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