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Ancestors of Lois Virginia NISWONGER Smith Rasure


This is my family heritage, going back to some 14th century nobility, as well as some pretty interesting characters along the way. Thank you, Gail, for getting me interested in who I am and where I came from.

Please take freely from this information, and if you have any to share in return, it would be most gratefully appreciated.




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The Neuenschwandger Line


This is a very old family of the region of Signau of the Nilderstocken (the German-speaking area of Switzerland) Hofen, Lietzelkirk, Canton Bern Switzerland.

Willis L. Neuenschwandger, 1115 Cadillac Blvd., Alerm 20, Ohio, #44320 has described it all very well. A few years ago he and his wife spent a summer studying the family records and meeting the families of this name - he said there were several John Neuenschwandger families living in Switzerland at the time.

"Many families of this name were listed in the parish records in the 'Gemendehaus' at Langnau, a town located on the watershed of the 'Emme' (in French) rover (Emmenthal is the German) in the region of the Canton Bern, Switzerland. There were records of this family going back to the 12th century.

In the early 1700's some of these families, John Neuenschwandger for one, moved to Sonbog in the parish of Sorenton on the Jura Plateau of the French-speaking region of the Canton Berne Switzerland. According to the old law, however, they retained their citizenship in the parish were their forefathers lived at the time of the enactment of the law.

The Neuenschwandgers had become of the Anabaptists, a persecuted religious sect, which denied the validity of infant baptism although they did practice baptism of the adults.

According to records found in the archives of the Canton of Berne Switzerland a band of settlers, as early as the 12th century made a clearing (schwand) in the valley forests for raising food. The new clearing was a new schwand (neuenschwand) and these people took the name of Neuenschwander, in the Swiss dialect, or Neuenschwandger in the German. Schwand is the imperfect form of the verb Shwanden, which means to cease, to disappear, to clear. The 'er' denotes a person."

From another source we received the following: In Swiss History in 1357 Henneus of the Neuschwand officiated at the establishing of the rights of the church at that time (before the Reformation) the Catholic Church.

At this early time the village people mostly had only one name, but Henneus being a man of some note, assumed the name of his birthplace, Neuenschwandger.

In 1654 there was an exodus of these people to the Jura mountains on the border of France owing to the persecution of the state church which was Calvinist. The French language was spoken during this nearly twenty years, which in turn caused the "d" in the name to become the softer "g" and the 'neuen" to become "new."

Again, in 1671, there was an exodus of Mennonites to the Palatineto district along the Rhine in the south west Germany. Some of the Neuschwanders who had returned from the Jura mountain region were among them.

As the families migrated through Germany or France to the American colonies and then spread throughout the United States the name became spelled in many ways, mostly resulting from poor handwriting or attempts to spell it as it was heard pronounced. Some of the most frequent spellings are:

Nighswanderm, Neyswander, Neiswander, Niswonger, Niswanger, Niswanter, Nyswaner, Nicewanger, Knighswander

At one time Abraham, one of the brothers of Christian Neuenschwandger had a chest of family records going back prior to the 1200's, but it was lost some time during the move to America. The largest castle of the family was built in 1357 on the Neuenschwand.

During the 15 and 16 and 1700's, Switzerland was beset by religious wars in which great hatred arose between the established churches, the followers of Huge (later the Huguenots), the German Lutherans, the Swiss Reformed churches, and the Roman Catholics. It became the thing for the younger members of the prominent families of those times to strike out for themselves and the religious freedom in America made it the place to want to go. Many families had already moved out of Switzerland into southwest Germany, Alsace Lorraine, and even into France. Early German missionaries had found undisturbed religious freedom in Pennsylvania, western Maryland, and Virginia. They could have their own hymn books and Bibles in this new land.

In 1671 and during the years following, there was an exodus of Mennonites to Germany and to the American Colonies. This religious sect was named after Menno Simon, and among other things there was opposition to taking oaths, infant baptism (from which came the name Anabaptists) and military service, and the rules for plain dress and living were adopted. That part of the Reformation that led to the Mennonite movement began in Switzerland in 1525. Menno Simon, a Roman Catholic priest, joined the group in 1636.

As these families dispersed over the American Colonies and later the States many of them gave up the rigid rules of the Mennonites and took on the social life, education, and joined the churches of the areas in which they lived. This was particularly true of the Neuenschwandger families. As a matter of fact, there are eight members of these families who served or fought in the Revolutionary War and the Indian Wars of that era, as well as a larger number fought in the American Civil War. And of equal importance a large portion of the members of these families have served as school teachers and educators of prominence, in America as well as in Europe. Several decades ago, there were more teachers in Darke Co., Ohio, of the name Niswanger (or other spellings) than all of the teachers of other names put together. And, of course, there have been ministers of the Gospel in these families.

It should be noted that while in Europe the Amish became an offshoot of this sect, taking their name for the founder, Jacob Ammon. The Amish separated from the Mennonites because they were firm in holding fast to their church rules of plain dress and living habits - and most still do.

Nearly all of these families came into America through the port of Philadelphia and settled first in eastern Pennsylvania (Lancaster was one center). The language of this region called Pennsylvania Dutch was actually an outgrowth of the Palatinate in Germany because most of the settlers had come from there.

Most of the Neuenschwandgers did not stay in the Lancaster area, but for a few months, but moved into the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding areas in Virginia where they lived for perhaps two generations, then most of them moved to Ohio where new rich lands were opening up for settlers.

In 1690 Wolfgang Von Neuenschwanger is of record living in southern Germany. In the patrimonial system the eldest male inherited the titles and most of the properties, accordingly many of the younger males left to seek their fortune elsewhere. "Lists of Pennsylvania German Society, Norristom, Pa., Vol. I, II, II. Vol. II shows photographs of the original signatures on oaths of Fidelity and Abjuration to the Kings of England and the Colonies, George II or James as the case might be, and since they had been so long on their journey many had lost their papers for passage. For these voyages across the Atlantic to America they usually left their homes in May, had to go through many customs in Holland, were laid up in some ports for several weeks at a time, the ships were usually stopped at Cowes, England on the way, and so the trips were exceedingly long, difficult and tiresome. Many used up all their money buying food along the way.

The foregoing is also reported in the "Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the 18th Century to the American Colonies", Vol. II, Faust and Brumbaugh, published by the "National Genealogical Society", Washington, D.C. 1925.

There follows a list of principal arrivals:

Neuswanger, Jacob with sons Christian and Jacob arrived at Lancaster, Pa., 1711. (This is believed to be my line)

Nighswander, Christian (Xtian) on the ship "Mortonhouse" arrived in Phila., Pa., Aug 13, 1728.

Nighswangder, Ulrich, arrived on the "Frances and Elizabeth", Sept 21, 1742.

Nighswander, Samuel arrived on the "Crown" August 30, 1749.

Neuenschwander, Christian arrived on the "Phoenix, Oct 1, 1754.

Neuenschwandger, Isaac (Yaack) arrived on the "Phoenix", Oct 1, 1754.

Neusnschwandger, Peter arrived on the "Hamilton", Nov 9, 1767.

Neuschwander, Marie Le Brie, arrived from London, July 7, 1788.

Neuenschwander, Michael arrived on the "Evans" June 11, 1823.

Neuenschwander, John or Johann Newschwander and wife Katherine or Catherine (Furrmann) arrived at New York on the ship "Superior" July 18, 1825.

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The Rev. Wilhelm Georg Forster

Pioneer Ohio Pastor

in Perry County, Ohio


Compiled by

Lorin L. Spenny


His many Kind Helpers



This is really a sketch of a Foster (Forster) family as it developed in Ohio and moved outward through pioneer United States and has become today a vast number which has never been fully counted. The name "Foster" both in English and German comes from "Forester," or for instance, the "Keeper of the King’s Forest or Hunting Preserve." The progenitor for this family is WILHELM GEORG FORSTER, who was born in Prussia, Germany in 1749, son of Georg Forster. Unfortunately, his mother’s name, the exact date of his birth and the town in which he was born is not known. That he came from devout Christian stock is indicated by his several years at the "Orphanage" at Halle, near Leipzig in Saxony, now East Germany. This institution was a brain-child of Lutheran leader August Herman Francke who was from the University of Halle, provided a school for boys and young men who would live at the institution and by labor in different capacities paid their way for an education which would permit them to enter the University. It may have been from poverty or from desire for Christian service that prompted Wilhelm to take advantage of the Orphanage. Halle is also known as an institution that encouraged mission work among distant unbelievers. Several recognized Lutheran leaders in the mission fields came from Halle.

Since Forster left there at the age of 15, too young to have his name on the ship’s register, or to take an oath of allegiance to King George, he came to America. His only brother Georg, was said to have been with him while traveling to Amsterdam, Holland, and over to England, but there he disembarked and remained in England. Ion the course of time he married an English girl and reared a family there. Another tradition says that after a few years, George and his family followed his brother Wilhelm to America and became a landholder in Pennsylvania.

Wilhelm Forster arrived in America in 1765, probably landing at the port in Philadelphia, and traveled westward to Buffalo Valley in mid-Pennsylvania, where it may be inferred he found relatives or friends unknown to us. The location was part of what was then a greatly enlarged Northumberland County that comprised a large part of north-central Pennsylvania. As time went on this county was subdivided into other counties, one Union County, being the present location of Buffalo Valley. Either here or elsewhere he met Magdalene Daniel, Daughter of Adam Daniel of French extraction, and on April 19, 1774, at Christ Lutheran Church, Tulpehocken Valley, Bethel Township, Berks County, he married her. The Rev. Tobias Wagner officiated since the pastorate at the Himmel Lutheran Church, which Foster had joined, was vacant. This church also records the baptism of their first child, Anna Maria, as well as baptisms of several children for whom Wilhelm and Magdalene were sponsors. It is understood that the Forsters were pioneer farmers in that area for nearly 20 years.

This period of time encloses many important happenings in the history of our country. There were intermittent battles with the Indians, the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, the closing battle of the War at Yorktown and the inauguration of George Washington as first president in 1789. Were the Forsters affected by these events?

Did Wilhelm Forster serve in the Continental Army or some part of it? It is not possible at this time to give a positive "Yes" to this. In the Northumberland County the "Continental Line" or "Associators" were groups of pioneer settlers organized to defend the frontier against the Indians, and then were used as auxiliary reinforcements for Washington’s army. Many of the men living in the area were in this service. The pay was small, and no money was immediately available. Each man furnished his own clothing and arms. On September 26, 1776 a certain battalion was formed, the sixth company of which was under Captain George Overmeyer, and two soldiers under him were his son George Peter Overmeyer and a William Foster. This could have been our ancestor. (These Overmeyers he met again in Ohio as they became members of his churches there.) A quotation of a granddaughter, Mrs. J.F. Lawyer, daughter of Magdalene Foster Walters, indicated a personal remembrance: "I often heard my father say: Grandfather Walters and Grandfather Foster were entitled to ‘bounty land’ in Fairfield County for service in the Revolution." While not definitive, that pretty well establishes the fact that Pastor Forster was a pioneer patriot and fought for our country. The census of 1790 in Northumberland County gives a William Forster as head of a family with three additional males under 16 and three females, including the mother. We may presume this to be our Wilhelm.

Forster may have been attracted to the Lutheran ministry as a youth in Germany As an adult in this country at that date there were no colleges or Theological Seminaries existing where he could prepare for Christian service. He probably ‘read theology’ with some local pastors and then began serving congregations as opportunities arose. The specific opportunity which called him was to serve two small congregations in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia where he moved before 1790. A record found in Woodstock, Virginia Courthouse indicates that a tract of land, 289 acres was sold on April 4, 1791 to William Foster for 600 pounds. It was located on the ‘drains of Bauman Mill Run,’ outside of Strasburg, Virginia. Here he lived nearly fifteen years, finding ways to increase his service to the two congregations.

Paul Henkel and Johannes Stauch urged Pastor Forster to go into the Ohio frontier. More than that, they spoke up at the convention of the Ministerium in 1805, referring to the spiritual needs of the German settlers on the Ohio frontier. The Ministerium responded by authorizing ‘the appointment of traveling preachers who shall make a tour each hear’ and in a later motion, ‘to allow forty dollars a month to each traveling preacher and one month’s salary to be paid in advance.’ It was also moved that a traveling preacher be named for the district called ‘New Pennsylvania’ in the state of Ohio. The motion was approved and Mr. Forster was appointed. This made him Ohio’s second Lutheran pastor with a recognized call. In 1806, when the Ministerium again convened, he made an extensive report of his travels, particularly in Fairfield (Perry), Muskingum, Pickaway and Ross counties. He could also have reported the organization of two or more congregations: Zion, near Thornville and New Reading, west of Somerset. In the course of the year Pastor Forster was influenced to move to his area, what is now Perry County, as a resident pastor. So, on July 4, 1807, he sold his Virginia lands "of 326 acres, more or less" to Daniel Funkhauser. One of the eyewitnesses to the sale was instructed to go to Mrs. Forster, take her to a room away from her family and ask her if she was willing to sell this tract, and secure her signature. The signature was obtained: Magdalene (X) Forster. It took six weeks to make the journey to Perry County.

There is a sheepskin land-grant certificate existing that declares "by the authority of James Madison to William Forster of Fairfield County the southeast quarter of Section 20 Township 18 in range seventeen of the land directed to be sold at Chillicothe by an act of Congress, being a quarter lot or section, on October 12, 1812, of the Independence of the United States the 37th year. James Madison, Edward Tiffin, Commissioner of the General Land Office." All is properly signed. This is said to be 1920 acres covering most of Thorn Township and the location of Thornville itself. Fairfield County was the proper location then since Perry County was not organized until 1817 or so. Here Pastor Forster and his family cut down trees and built a log house, living there three or more years before his death. Judging from the items in his will, they planted a garden, raised hogs and cattle and of course kept several horses.


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The following information comes from the reseasrch and pen of Walter A. Foster, 1894-1956, a great grandson of Andrew Foster, third child of Wilhelm and Magdalene DANIEL Forster. Source book: Encyclopedia of Bibliography of Pennsylvania. 18:293 -- Daniels.

The Daniel family is recognized as coming from French nobility, located in Normandy, northwest part of France. It hs a coat of arms described as "Gules between two lines of rampart or a band of argent, charged with two mullets."



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