Rockingham County, Virginia
VAGenWeb Project


A History of Rockingham County
John W. Wayland Ph.D.

Chapter XIII

 

CHAPTER XIII.

RACE ELEMENTS AND POPULATION.

 

     Five years ago the conclusion was reached, after an analytical study of numerous facts and figures, that at least 70 per cent. of the people of Rockingham County are of German descent, and bear German names.(1)  This conclusion has had rather striking confirmation in an additional experiment just carried through.  Lake’s Atlas of Rockingham County, published in 1885, contains the names of practically all the heads of families outside of the larger towns, then living in the county, geographically distributed on the large-scale maps of the five districts.  By inspection of these names, and by actual count, the following tables have been prepared; and while no absolute accuracy can be claimed for the results, they are believed to be generally reliable.  The striking coincidence is to be found in the fact that these figures show a German element in Rockingham of almost exactly 70 per cent.  Moreover, if we may be certain of anything in the case it is this, that the number of people of German stock has not been put too high.  One is constantly confronted with instances in which names originally German have been changed into forms that are not now recognized as German.  For example, the county records contain entries in which Zimmerman is changed to Carpenter; Yager to Hunter; Swartz to Black; etc.  In an inspection of names Carpenter, Hunter, and Black would not usually be counted as German; and many similar cases may be cited; hence the probability that one is apt to underestimate the number of German families, rather than overestimate it, from an inspection of the names in their present forms.

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(1) See the “German Element of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia,” pp. 94, 95, etc.

 

 

TABLE OF NUMBERS

 

Races

By Districts.

Totals

 

Ashby

Central

Linville

Plains

Stonewall

 

German

560

360

363

510

256

2049

English

113

80

60

88

116

457

Scotch

61

42

41

34

59

237

Irish

35

24

39

32

33

163

French

19

4

2

1

8

34

Welsh

4

0

1

2

7

14

Dutch

6

2

2

0

0

10

Totals

798

512

508

667

479

2964

 

TABLE OF PERCENTAGES.

 

Races

By Districts.

Totals

 

Ashby

Central

Linville

Plains

Stonewall

 

German

70+

70+

71+

76+

53+

69+

English

14+

16-

12-

13+

24+

15+

Scotch

8-

8+

8

5

12+

8-

Irish

4+

5-

8-

5-

7-

5 1/2

French

2+

4-5

2-5

1-6

2-

1+

Welsh

1/2

0

1-5

1/2-

1 1/2

1/2

Dutch

1

1/2+

1/2+

0

0

1/2-

Totals

 

 

 

 

 

100

Explanation:  + indicates plus; - indicates minus.

 

 

     The first table above shows the numbers of names of the different races or nationalities found in the different magisterial districts of the county; the second table shows a corresponding distribution, stated in percentages.

     It is probable that Shenandoah County is even more largely of German stock than Rockingham; and it will be observed from the tables that the largest percentage of German names in Rockingham has been found in Plains District, the district adjacent to Shenandoah County.  The strongest Irish element seems to be resident in Linville District; while Stonewall District, lying next to Eastern Virginia, has, as one would naturally expect, the largest infusion of English names.

     Practically all the families and family names now found in Rockingham have been here for several generations, and most of them since the 18th century.  This is particularly true of the German names and families.  Most of these came up the Valley from Pennsylvania and Maryland prior to 1800.  Very few of the recent immigrants from Germany have come to the Valley of Virginia.  Most of the Germans that have located in Rockingham in recent years have been the Jews, who now make up an important class of tradesmen in Harrisonburg.  So far as known, all of these have come to the county since 1850.

     Incidental references, from various sources, show that most, if not all, the nationalities named in the above tables have been represented in Rockingham from early times.  In 1749 a Hollander was living in East Rockingham (see page 47).  Mrs. Carr says that the Scherdlins, who had a vineyard on the hill east of Harrisonburg a century ago, were natives of France; Valentine Sevier, who came to Rockingham prior to 1750, was of French stock; and the Mauzys, who have been in the county more than a hundred years, are also French.  In August, 1781, Evan Evans and Jona. Evans, with William Morriss, were appointed to appraise the estate of Philip Conrod.  The Evanses lived in East Rockingham, and evidently were Welsh.  One of the earliest Scotch names preserved is that of Hugh Douglas, who received a patent for 175 acres of

 

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land just west of Round Hill, above Bridgewater, in 1750.  In 1774-5 John Craig, Wm. McGill, John Eadie, Wm. Campbell, John Murry, Saml. Curry, Alex. Curry, James Laird, and Lachlan Campbell were residents of this section, and they were all evidently Scotch.  The name Laird is preserved geographically in Laird’s Knob, east of Harrisonburg, and in the village of Penn Laird.  William Ewing, a native of Glasgow, father of Henry Ewing, who was many years county clerk, came from Pennsylvania in 1742 and purchased 300 acres of land three miles northwest of Harrisonburg.(2)

   As to the Irish, it might be sufficient to call attention to the fact that two of the original justices of Rockingham, John Grattan and John Fitzwater, were likely of Irish lineage.  Captains Frazier and Ragan of Revolutionary days were evidently Irish, as were James Gillilan, Thomas Doolin, Patrick Guin, John Guin, Daniel Guin, Darby Ragon, and Hugh Dunahoe, of the same period.  In Felix Gilbert’s old day-book of 1774-5, “Irish” is written after the name of Robt. Hook..  A good many Irishmen came into the Valley about 1857 to 1869, as workers on the railroads.  In 1866 Michael Flinn was living in Harrisonburg.  The schoolmaster, Hugh Tagart, had died there about 1840.  Patrick Kelly, carder and fuller, was in the county in 1844.  On July 12, 1894, died, at the age of 78, Patrick Flahavan, who had been an employee of the Valley Railroad ever since its construction, and had been watchman at the bluff south of Mt. Crawford station for nearly 20 years.  Main Street of Harrisonburg used to be called Irish Alley.  On February 11, 1879, Judge James Kenney wrote in his diary:

 

     E. J. Sullivan, Post Master at this place, died this morning in the 55th year of his age.  He was born in Ireland.  He has been postmaster here ever since the close of the war in 1865.

 

     Robert Gray, the famous lawyer, who located at Harrisonburg in 1805, was a son of Erin, as were likely the Bryans, or O’Brians, distinguished in both earlier and latter days.

     No special catalogue of Englishmen and Germans is

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(2)  Memoirs of Virginia Clerk’s page 346.

 

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attempted here.  They must speak for themselves, and are obviously numerous enough to make themselves heard.  It may be a matter of interest in this connection, however, to know that along in the later 60’s and early 70’s there was a Turn-Verein at Harrisonburg.  It was organized about March 1, 1867, with Wm. Loeb president, Jonas Loewenback treasurer, and Adolph Shickman secretary.  The qualifications for membership were good moral character and German extraction.  Meetings were held weekly, and all proceedings were conducted in the German language.

     A few people in Rockingham can still speak traditional German - a dialect of the “Pennsylvania-Dutch”; but the number is becoming smaller every year.  German has not been much used for the past fifty years, except in the home talk of certain families.

     In October, 1822, the Harrisonburg postmaster advertised a list of letters for 82 persons named.  Of these, 30 had names that were unmistakably German; 14 were probably Scotch or Scotch-Irish; 3 were apparently Irish; 5 or 6 were likely English; 2 or 3 were apparently Welsh; the rest were of uncertain character.

     The negro race is, of course, largely represented in Rockingham County, though the proportion of negroes here is much smaller than in the adjacent counties east of the Blue Ridge.  For example, the number of slaves in Rockingham in 1840 was 1899, in a total population of 17,344, or only about 11 per cent., while at the same time the number of slaves in the four counties of Albemarle, Orange, Madison, and Culpeper made up about 57 per cent. of the whole population.  In 1880 the total population of Rockingham was given as 29,567.  Of these, 29,368 were classed as natives, while only 199 were classed as foreign-born.  At the same time the whites numbered 26,137; the blacks, only 3430.

     At the November court for Rockingham County, in 1880, James Cochran, colored, was a member of the grand jury.  In 1874-5 Harrisonburg had a colored policeman, Joseph T. Williams by name, who was also a barber.  Williams had

 

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been born free, but had served four years in the Confederate army, as a faithful servant.  He is said to be at present a well-to-do property owner in Washington City.

     Rockingham families are proverbially large.  Many of them number their members by the hundred, and some by the thousand, if we extend the circle beyond the county into the States and countries whither they have gone.  Looking through the telephone directory of the county, it appears that the Armentrouts, Bowmans, Clines (Klines), Garbers, Goods, Heatwoles, Holsingers, Longs, Millers, Myerses, Rhodeses, and Showalters, are most numerous.  The Millers seem to outnumber all the rest.  Family histories have been published by the Funks, the Kageys, the Funkhousers, the Heatwoles, the Shueys, the Beerys, the Wengers, the Kempers, the Koiners, and others; and genealogies of the Pences, Kaylors, and other families are known to be in preparation.

     In an old ledger of the Rockingham Register, covering the years 1857-1868, there are under the M’s 118 names; and, of these, 34 are Millers, 8 are Myerses or Moyerses, 6 are Martzes.  Under the N’s are 20 names, 6 being Niswander and 4 Nicholas.  There are 138 names that begin with H, 9 being Huffman, 6 Heatwole, 6 Hopkins, and 5 Harnsberger.  And there are 186 names that begin with S, among which are 14 of the Smiths, 11 of the Showalters, 9 of the Shavers, 7 of the Sengers, and 5 of the Stricklers.

     John Detrick, who lived near Greenmount in the early part of the last century, had 13 children.  They all grew up, all married, and all had grandchildren before they died.  Thirteen may be an unlucky number in some places, but not in Rockingham.

     In conclusion, a few words about the longevity of Rockingham people.  In February, 1841, died Henry Hammer, aged 88, who had been a soldier in the Indian wars and in the Revolution.  In 1868, at Fort Lynne near Harrisonburg, died Martin Burkholder, aged 91; at the same place, in 1898, his son John Burkholder died, at the age of 89.  In June, 1874, Mrs. Katie Shepp, living in the Massanutten Mountain

 

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near Keezletown, reached the age of 120.  Her husband had been a wagoner in the Revolutionary war.  She, at the age of 20, had married him in 1774.(3)  In 1885 Wm. G. Thompson died at Timberville, age 86 years and 7 months.  February 17, 1894, George Kiser died at Mt. Crawford, aged over 92.  He had been born in Mt. Crawford in 1801, and had been a merchant, a miller, and a tanner.  June 8, 1895, Elizabeth Funk (nee Meliza), a native of Rockingham, died in Harrison County, Mo., aged 92 years, 8 months, and 14 days.  In 1897 John R. Funk died in Harrison Co., Mo., aged nearly 89.  He had been born near Turleytown, Rockingham Co., Va., in 1808.

     In June, 1898, Mrs. Margaret D. Effinger, of Staunton, a daughter of Judge Daniel Smith, of Rockingham, revisited Harrisonburg, at the age of 89.  In 1898 Mr. John C. Wetzel, who was born in McGaheysville in 1802, was still living in that village.  One of the present hale citizens of McGaheysville is Mr. Richard Mauzy, aged 88.  He was a pupil in Joseph Salyards’ McGaheysville school in the later 30’s.  At Frankfort, Indiana, lives Capt. Wm. N. Jordan, a native of Rockingham, at the age of 92.  On July 25, 1912, at the reunion of the Funk family in Singers’ Glen, Messrs. Samuel Funk of Tennessee and John Funk of Virginia, two hale sons of Rockingham, were present; the latter aged 90, the former aged 93.

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(3) The “Old Commonwealth”, July 16, 1874.

 

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