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General Courthouse and Area Records

Fragments of the Past, Historical Sketches of Oley and Vicinity

Chapter XIV, page 81,Annals of the Oley Valley

Typed 1996 by Marli Yoder, for posting in the Yoder Archives.


The Yoders of Oley origin and first settlement form another American plant, transplanted from a German-Swiss canton to this western continent soil early in the 18th century.

The name as first found in documents preserved is given as Yoder, Yotters, Jotter, but it has now for a number of generations been invariably fixed as Yoder.

The first American ancestor of this name, as far as known, were two brothers, Yost and Hans (Hance) Yoder, who like most of the other early settlers of Oley, came to this country because of persecutions in their native country. It is claimed of a certainty, according to Morton L. Montgomery, that they arrived in Pennsylvania before 1714. Were they a part of that large Huguenot immigration that first entered this country through the port of New York and settled for a while in that province and then drifted or rather pushed their way into these inviting vales of Penn's Woods about this time? It is so believed and seems very likely. We will let the expert genealogists settle it. At all events we find these two brothers in the valley of the Manatawny before 1714, according to our authority quoted.



Yost (Jost) Yoder was a disciple of Nimrod, for he was "a mighty hunter." As a frontiersman his chief occupation is said to have been hunting and trapping. It seems to have been his pastime between clearing the forest and cultivating the soil. Who his wife was is not known to the writer, but there is a record of seven of his nine children. These were in the order of their birth: (1) Johannes, often call Yost (1718-1812); (2) Jacob, (3) Samuel, (4) Mary, (5) Catharine, (6) Elizabeth, and (7) Esther. In addition to this Yost's brother Hans Yoder, left four sons to give the Yoder name and stock a good start. Their names were Hans, Samuel, Peter and Daniel.

These two immigrant brothers took up land on the Manatawny in 1714, the former where Pleasantville is now located. This village, first called "Yottersville" his eldest son Johannes (John), founded and he is buried there. His tombstone inscription reads as follows: "Hier ruhet JOHANNES YODER Er wurde geboren 1718 Verehlichte sich mit Catharine Lyster (Lesher), 1747 und zeugte, 4 sohne und 5 tochtoern. Starb den 7 ten April 1812 nach seiner 66 yahr in der gelebet hatte. War alt wordem 94 yahr und 14 tag .

His wife rests by his side and the epitaph shows she was born in 1730 and died in 1812, aged 82 years. Jacob, John's brother, enlisted im 1757, at the age of 22 years in the provincial service of Pennsylvania, where he served as a saddler for three years in Capt. John Nicholas Wetherhold's Company. During the Revolutionary war he was a private in Capt. Peter Nagle's Company and later that of Capt. Charles Gobin, Sixth Battalion, Berks County Militia, in which capacity he guarded the Hessian prisoners of war, marching from their camp in Reading to Philadelphia. His wife was Maria Keim.

The third son of Yost, one of the progenitors, was Samuel, who settled near Lobachsville as farmer. He had the following children: John, Jacob, Samuel and Catharine. Mary Yoder the fourth child of Yost, married Peter Bertolet (son of Abraham, son of Jean Bertolet) while Catharine, the fifth child was married to John Reppert; Elizabeth the sixth child, was married to Mathias Rhode, and Esther, the seventh, was married a Mr. Cunino.



Among the interesting papers of the family is preserved the marriage certificate of Maria Yoder to Daniel Bertotlet, a grandson of the pioneer Jean Bertolet. It reads as follows: These presents certify that Daniel Bertolet and Maria Yoder, of Oley township, in the County of Berks and Province of Pennsylvania, in North America, were joined together in the Holy Bonds of Matrimony, and pronounced man and wife according to the form established by law, in the Church of England, this sixth day of December, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, seven hundred and sixty-eight, by me, Alexander Murry, Minister.

Rev. Murry was then Episcopal rector of the St. Gabriel's church, Douglassville, taken over from the Swedish Lutherans.

The Yoder Bible is regarded the most precious relic this branch of the family brought with them from the old country. One can imagine how it was treasured and guarded in the early days. It was printed in 1530 during the lifetime of Martin Luther and is among the earliest German Bibles published after his translation at Wartburg in 1521 and 1522. It descended as a precious heirloom through the family of Daniel and his son David, whose daughter Mary B. Yoder, was the last possessor.

Some of the descendants of this branch of the Yoders scattered eastward to New York, and westward to the Mississippi. From them sprang S.S. Yoder, of Lima, Ohio, who represented his district in the 50th United States Congress in 1887-89.



It is related by that careful chronicler of Oley history of the past generations, Dr. Peter G. Bertolet, that while the pioneer Yost Yoder "was measuring off his farm one day with a surveyor, he ran regular courses-straight long lines-until he came very close to a fine spring. The surveyor remarked "You will of course have me run straight out to the place of beginning which will include for you this beautiful and desirable spot in your own tract." "NO" was the reply. "This you will clear off. This spring we will leave for others This spot is inviting and may attract before long some one who will settle here and thus become my neighbor, "- a thing he valued more than anything else. The frankness in this was but a type of the characteristic of this man. He was generous, kindly disposed, and knew how to appreciate friends, while thus isolated in the wilderness..."

In consequence of this coincidence, the Manatawny has received the name of "Crooked Dam" at this place, and even the farm, which according to Yoder's desire, soon found a settler, has, unto this present day, retained the appellation of the "Crooked Farm" or "Grummen Platz."

It is related by the above quoted authority that on this Yoder farm one of the last lingering Indian families-long after the white people had settled all around them-still resided on the banks of the creek, a short distance from the Yoder homestead; that they were expert basket makers and had gained a wide celebrity for this industrial art. Only their fondness for "fire-water" caused them to fall, become boisterous and sometimes threatening and a general nuisance in the neighborhood when they found it wise to move on. It was supposed that these became subsequently allied with Brandt's desperadoes, says Dr. Bertolet.



The other Yoder homestead of Hans, built where now stands Griesemer's Mills, is pointed out as the scene of a hand-to-hand battle with a drunken band of predatory Indians by this pioneer in his day, when a single tree was his only weapon, and a cool head on him the victory. Thus, for two generations it seem the Yoders were close neighbors of, or else, were often molested by the red men. This homestead of Hans was located near Pleasantville, and he built and owned what are known as Griesemer's Mills, which were later (1847) burned, but rebuilt by a descendant and from 1850 on were operated. Daniel Yoder's paper mill stood about one-half mile north-west of Pleasantville. Here was born about 1850 the Senior Bishop of the Evangelical Church, Rev. Dr. S. C. Brwyfogel, of Reading.

The eldest son of Hans Yoder the immigrant, was also named Hans (John), who married a Miss Sarah Shingle (Shenkel) in November of 1746 and with her he had four children named: (1)Daniel (1748-1820), married to Margaret Oyster, who lived and died in Oley and are buried at Pleasantville,(2) Martin, who was a lieutenant of the Fourth Company in Fifth Battalion of Berks County in the Revolutionary War, (3) Jacob (1758-1832) who was born in Reading, was a solider during the Revolution, in 1780 moved to western Pennsylvania and in 1782 descended down the Monongahela, Ohio and Missouri rivers with a cargo of flour to New Orleans in the first flat-boat (built by himself) that ever floated down the Father of Waters.

He was in this respect the forerunner of Abraham Lincoln, who in 1831, nearly 50 years later, took a flat-boat load of pork, (which craft he had constructed with his own skillful hands), down the Sangamon, Illinois, and Mississippi to this southern market city. Capt. Yoder carried on a sugar trade with Cuba and Philadelphia while Louisiana still was under the French flag, and became widely known in his day as an extensive tradesman. He died in Spencer County Kentucky, and lies buried at Louisville KY. Over his grave is erected a marker bearing this inscription on an iron tablet cast by Hanks & Niles, of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1834: Jacob Yoder Was born in Reading, Pennsylvania August 11, 1758 And was a solider in the Revolutionary Army in 1777 and 1778 He emigrated to the West in 1780 and in May 1782, from Fort Readstone on the Monongahela River in the first flat boat that ever descended the Mississippi He landed at New Orleans with a cargo of Produce. He died April 7, 1832 at his farm in Spencer County, Kentucky, and lies here Interred beneath this tablet.



What improvements have come since Capt. Yoder's day! Indians gone! Their prairies subdued and settled and converted into prosperous States. The rivers plying with steam, oil or electricity propelled boats and ocean greyhounds riding the great seas! The sparsely settled country studded with mighty cities where the teeming millions live! The neighboring States of this expansive country strung together by rails and communicative wire and the continents by cable and now the wireless, the radio and thy flying machines-ships sailing the air! Invention and commerce and world courts and leagues have brought the ends of the world together into daily fellowship and communion! Science has marvelously triumphed, but the daring, the enterprise and the patriotism of Capt. Jacob Yoder, of Oley, was but the prognostic and preliminary foregleams of the same stuff that has conquered wild and primitive America and the world of today.

The last son of Hans Yoder, Jacob's father, was Samuel, who fought for America's freedom and independence, and then lost his life near at home by falling to his death from a horse he was riding near the Oley churches,

The later generations of Yoders have come and gone taking part in the world's work in their day, married, reared families, some staying on the native heath, others scattering more and more, lived their days and sank to rest; but volumes could be written of what good they have accomplished, what honors they have won and deserved, what part in school and church and State they have taken to uplift the race, to better conditions, to serve their day and generation, to befriend mankind and to glorify God! Among them we find farmers, craftsmen, merchants, politicians, doctors, dentists, lawyers, and preachers. They have penetrated all parts of the country- and gone far beyond its borders-but not all have ever in all the more than 200 years since the two brother progenitors set foot on Oley soil, left this rich and historic valley, where their pioneer homesteads were reared.

Thus Daniel Yoder III (Hans 2d, Hans 1st), orchardist, distiller of flax oil, and farmer, in 1800 built his home on the original premises, which is still preserved. With his wife, Margaret Oyster, he had nine children: (1) Hannah (1775-1823) married to Jacob Knabb; (2) Daniel (1777-1826); (3)Martin (1780-1837); (4) Catharine (1783-1882) married to William Willliams; (5) Maria (1786-1864) married to Phillip DeTurck; (6) John (1788-1868); (7) Margaret (1790-) married to Solomon Peter; (8) Samuel (1793-), and (9) David (1795-1881)

Of these, Martin was a tanner and hotel and storekeeper at Pleasantville, where he did a flourishing business. His children were intermarried into the Yoder and Kemp families The youngest, Martin (1819-1888) a farmer and implement dealer, ran for Congress against Daniel S. Ermentrout and was defeated. Of his four children, One was Mary (Mrs. Joseph DeLong, of Topton), who became the mother of Rev. Calvin DeLong of East Greenville and of Mrs. Rev. John Baer Stoudt of Allentown. She died suddenly on Sept 29, 1915. Another, Henry H., who was a farmer and implement dealer associated with his father. He owned the old homestead, with 236 acres of fertile land. He helped to organize the First National Bank of Oley, of which he has been a director from the beginning. His brother Ezra, was a teacher in his day.



Among the rare relics kept in the family are zinc dishes, rare china, an old Revolutionary bugle, quilts and spreads of four generations and rare old books all preserved in old dower chests.

David Yoder was a farmer and millwright and served a term as county commissioner (1846-49). His wife was Hannah Bitler and they had the following children: Margaret, wife of George K. Levan, of Maxatawny; Hannah, Daniel, Catharine, wife of Nathan Schaeffer or Fleetwood, and Sarah, wife of Abraham Guldin. The grandfather's clock is an heirloom and made by John Keim, descended to Mary, who prizes it highly. She has a sense of appreciation of the antique and historic and she has preserved on her premises the first log cabin of her ancestor, and other relics.

Daniel B. was born near Catawissa, and later a resident of Oley. He was a solider in the Civil War under Capt. James McKnight and then followed farming and built a paper mill which he operated a number of years, when he sold it to the Reading Paper Company. He then retires to Pleasantville and lived in comfort and ease until his death. Most of the Oley Yoders are buried at Pleasantville.

One branch of the family, Jacob, son of John, settled in Bern township, and was married into the Rickenbach family. Of their children, Reuben later owned four large farms in Center township, where he was influential and respected. He donated land for the German Baptist Church between Centerport and Shoemakerville, of which he was a member and is buried there. His children are scattered in Litiz, Kutztown and other places.

Still another branch, Daniel Yoder, son of a farmer near New Jerusalem of the Oley stock, settled about 1840 on a farm near Sinking Spring and from him sprang the Yoders of that community, Wernersville, Robesonia and Womelsdorf. Of this stock is Rev. Paul D. Yoder, Reformed pastor at Codoms, York County, and the dentists and lawyers of that name in Reading.

But the woods are full of them and I have no doubt that every Yoder in Berks county if not in the state, can trace his origin to one of the two brothers who broke ground for their first rude American cabins in Oley, hard by the banks of the Manatawny in or before the year 1714.


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