Johann Michael Propst (son of Hans Michael Propst) In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Johan Michael Propst (b. 1712) married Anna Maria Keller, widow of Peter Keller, at the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church in Cocalico Township, PA. They had four children in Lancaster– Philip, Daniel, Leonard, and Johann Michael, Jr.
Anna Maria died in 1738 in Lancaster, perhaps in childbirth with Johann Michael, Jr., who also died as an infant. (Note: the family history of the Kellers has not been revealed. There were Kellers living in Lancaster at the time, although no Keller’s were found among the names of immigrants from 1720-1735.) It didn’t take Johann Michael, Sr., long to recover from her death, for while still in Lancaster, he married Maria Margaretha Corell on Dec. 3, 1738. They had four children while in New Holland, Lancaster County — Johann George, Frederick George, the second Johan Michael Jr., and Margaretha Barbara. Maria Margaretha apparently died around 1745. Shortly after the birth of their fourth child, he married Catherine Elizabeth (last name unknown). They had six children — Catharina Barbara, Maria Elizabeth, Frederick George, George Peter, Maria Eva, and Heinrich. It is possible that some or all of those six children could have been the offspring of Maria Margaretha Corell, and the marriage to Catherine Elizabeth (unknown) took place later.
According to one history, Johann Michael either was or may have been a Moravian, and “… in the year 1749 entertained in his home along the South Fork certain Moravian missionaries from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who he had previously known in that area before his moving to the Pendleton County area.” Sometime after his marriage to Maria Margaretha, after the birth of Margaretha Barbara in 1745, and after selling his land in Lancaster County, he migrated southwestward through the Shenandoah Valley to “Germany Valley,” in Augusta County, Virginia, near what is now the area south of Brandywine, Pendleton County, West Virginia. His parents evidently moved with him, as well as the six surviving children of his first two marriages, and perhaps his sister Barbara, also. Exactly when he left Lancaster and arrived in Pendleton County is not certain. One record states he was there in the late 1740s. However, it is doubtful he was actually there that early. Another record states he settled in Pendleton County in 1753, and is listed as one of the early Pioneers there. Whatever his actual arrival date, and whether with or without his father, he established the village of Propstburg, Pendleton County, West Virginia.
By the late 1750s, he had settled along a small creek leading into the South Fork. In 1756, he and William Dyer were appointed road overseers, replacing William Hevener. He was appointed a “Processioner” on the South Fork of the Potomac in 1767.
For many decades, this area was called “Germany Valley” and the village was “Probstburg”. In 1769, he and his wife Catherine sold, for 5 shillings, 3 1/2 acres of his 415 acre tract in Propstburg for the building of the first Lutheran Church in West Virginia. (He also owned 240 additional acres elsewhere in Germany Valley.) Today, the third “Old Propst Church” stands on that site, along with the cemetery where Michael and his wife, Catherine, are buried. The fate of Michael’s parents is not known. Johann Michael died in 1786. His will, dated Dec 19, 1785, gives some details of his family. The historic marker in Propstburg, WV, shows his wife’s name as Catherine in 1769. Family records show that Catherine was clearly the mother of Heinrich, born between 1759 and 1764.
Details of later generations may be found in other references.,
The Family History Center in Salt Lake Center has hundreds of Propst’s, many or most of whom might well be descendants of this early Propst family.
History of Propst Country, WV
Prior to 1700, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was inhabited primarily by Indians, French soldiers, and wild animals. The Indians were of the Algonquin family; primarily the Senedos Tribe which was exterminated around 1732 in a battle between the Delaware’s and the Catawba’s. The first non-French whites to see this territory were in a party of about fifty explorers, led by the Alexander Spotswood, Governor of Virginia, in 1716. The area became colonized with European settlers in about 1732, and became known as the Augusta Territory in 1738. So the Propst’s, who arrived in 1733 or 1734, were among the very first settlers in this area. In Virginia, Augusta County was established in 1745; Rockingham County was formed in 1778 from Augusta County. In 1787, an Act of the Virginia Assembly was passed creating Pendleton County. This Act transferred the northwest boundary of western Rockingham County some 25 miles southeastward, that is, from the Allegheny Mountain to its present position on the Shenandoah Mountain. When West Virginia was created from western Virginia in the mid 1800s, Pendleton County became part of West Virginia.
The Shenandoah Valley where the Propst’s settled became famous in the Civil War. On April 1, 1862, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson began his campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, disrupting Union forces there. In September of 1864, the Valley became even more famous because of the Battle of Cedar Creek, where Union General Philip Sheridan attacked the Confederates and crushed the Southern forces in the Shenandoah Valley. The Valley remained Union for the rest of the war. Thirty-eight Propst’s fought in the Virginia Confederate forces during the Civil War; over half of them were killed or wounded. Today, this area of Pendleton County, West Virginia, is still called “Germany Valley”, and lies nestled between the north and south forks of the South Branch of the “Potowmack” (headwaters of the Potomac River).
The original Propst lands in Pendleton County still remain today in the hands of Propst descendants. The local telephone books are full of Propst’s. Propst family reunions are still held annually at the end of June (the day before Father’s Day) at the Old Propst Church south of the town of Brandywine. Other descendants of this family may be found in Catawba County, North Carolina, in the area of Hickory and Lenore; there is even a Propst Crossroads near Hickory. Interestingly, these Propst’s retained the original German spelling of “Propst”, and use that spelling today. Also interesting is that their pronunciation of the name is with the German short “o” (as in “crop”), rather than the American long “o” (as in “probe”). This may be unique to the West Virginia Propst’s, as most Propst’s elsewhere in the United States use the long “o”.
The 1810 census of Pendleton County shows numerous Propst’s: Adam, Christian, Daniel, George, George, Henry, Henry, Jacob, John, John, Leonard, Michael, Michael Jr. Their family name was spelled “Propt’s”! There were no Propst’s, Probates, or Brobst’s. There were also two Propt’s’ in Rockingham County, just across the Virginia state line: Henry and Michael. Most of the boys of the immediate first few generations down from Johann Michael (1812) remained around the original homestead, and few migrated out of Pendleton County. The Pendleton Propst’s furnished more men — 35 — to fight in the Confederate army than any other family in Pendleton County.
Johann Michael Propst established the village of Probstburg, Pendelton County, WestVirginia. After his arrival in Philadelphia on the ship “Samuel” in 1733, with his parents Johann Michael and Barbara, and his younger sister Barbara, his family moved to Lancaster County, PA, where he remained for some 11 to 12 years. The rest of his family were either with him in Lancaster County, or migrated southwestward through the Shenandoah Valley to “German Valley” near Brandywine, Pendelton County, VA. That county is now in West Virginia.
Following his marriage to Maria Margaretha and after the birth of his daughter Margaretha Barbara in 1745, Michael sold his land in Lancaster County PA and moved to Pendelton County Virginia. By the late 1740’s, he had settled along a small creek leading intothe South Fork. For many decades this area was called Propstburg. In 1769 he donated 3 and 1/2 acres of his 415 acre tract in Probstburg for the building of the first Lutheran Church in West Virginia. He also owned 240 additional acres elsewhere in German Valley. Today, the third “Old Propst Church” stands on that site, along with the cemetery where Michael and his wife Catherine are buried.
West Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1724-1985
John Michael Propst
Pendleton, West Virginia, USA
Wills, Vol 1, 1788-1801