Monday, March 19, 2012

Immigrant Ancestor - Sebastian Shawver


My great grandmother had mostly German heritage…her maiden name was Shawver and her mother’s maiden name was Pitsenbarger, both thoroughly of Germanic descent.  Grandma Florence actually had her family line spelled out on a piece of paper from her mother’s line and her father’s line back to their immigrant ancestor.  Her paternal immigrant grandfather arrived on the Eastern Branch on 3 Oct 1753.
Sebastian Shawver or Schauber as it was probably originally spelled was born around 1733 probably in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany.  He arrived in Philadelphia on the Eastern Branch in 1753 captained by James Nevin.  As a 20 year old arriving in Philadelphia, I have to wonder how daunting it must have been to be somewhere away from everything that was familiar and be in a place where most probably didn’t even speak the same language.

Philadelphia was a typical landing spot for many of the German immigrants who arrived on American soil and many families can be traced through the Pennsylvania country between Philadelphia and West Virginia.  Sebastian does not seem to be one of those easily traced; however there is no doubt that he followed the same trail that many other German immigrants did.  Sebastian married Elizabeth Hammer around 1760 in Monroe Co., VA.  She was born sometime between 1730 and 1740 probably in the United States.  In truth, I’ve never read much about her except to know that she preceded Sebastian Shawver in death as she is not mentioned in his will.  They had the following children:
  • Jacob Shawver b. 1761 Monroe Co., VA d. abt 1828 Monroe Co., VA m. Judith Carpenter
  • George Shawver b. 1764 Botetourt Co., VA d. Nov 1849 Fayette Co., VA m. Mary Gillespie
  • Sarah “Sally” Shawver b. 1766 in Monroe Co., VA d. unknown m. Henry Smith
  • John Shawver b. 1767 in Monroe Co., VA d. bef Jun 1828 in Monroe Co., VA m. Margaret Wylie
  • Barbara Shawver b. 1769 Monroe Co., VA d. abt 1835 m. Charles Rowan
  • Child b. 1771 d. young
  • Elizabeth Shawver b. 1773 Monroe Co., VA d. unknown m. John Harnsberger
  • Christopher Shawver b. 1775 Monroe Co., VA d. 9 Dec 1831 Dodson Twp, Highland Co., OH  m. Mary Ruble m. 2 Elizabeth Harmon

My ancestor was George Shawver and Mary Gillespie through their son Robert S. Shawver.

Sebastian at times was also known as Boston Shawver and this in fact a common name in the family.  I know from family history that the middle names are often the names a German child is known by…so perhaps his full name was Boston Sebastian Shawver.   Anyway, Sebastian signed a will dated Jan 1816 and it was probated on 15 Oct 1816.  Sebastian left his sons land and money and his daughters were given Sebastian’s slaves.  After their deaths, the slaves were to be sold and proceeds to be divided amongst their children.  The will makes me believe that Sebastian had done fairly well for himself and was able to leave his sons land and money and to his daughter’s his slaves. 

Nothing of that inheritance is all that pleasant to read…that of slaves being given to his daughters and being sold at their deaths.  It is ironic that an immigrant who probably arrived with nothing gained enough wealth to own land and slaves and probably saw nothing bad about it as it was such a common practice in that time period. 

So…Sebastian and Elizabeth left behind thousands of descendants who populate at least within my family lines areas in West Virginia, Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, Montana, Washington, & Oregon as well as many other states.  They would be my sixth great grandparents.  We will probably never know much their actual birth places or certainly their place of burial.  It is impossible for me not to wonder what life must have been like in the 1770’s when they were having their children and war was breaking out around them.  I have to wonder if it even touched them personally and if Sebastian actually might have gone off to fight.  By the time, Sebastian died in 1816, he was an old man of 83 years old who had lived a long life and had been able to see his children grow and have children of their own.  I’m sure he worked hard and was proud to leave a monetary legacy to his children that he never had from his own family.  I may not be entirely proud of the contents of that legacy – but it certainly had to be satisfying to him!