Van Gundy Family Tree

Notes for Peter Sr VAN GUNDY

Peter was our immigrant ancestor and one story relates that he was born Peter Van Gunten, a Swiss Hugenot. "He was able, wealthy and distinguished in the history of his country and aspired to the government of Berne. Being compelled to flee for his life, he sought asylum in France. He and his family immigrated to America and settled in Penn's colony in Bethel Twp, PA."

And from the History of Perry Co, OH, 1883:

"Tradition, which seems well founded, ascribed to the ancestry of this Van Gundy family close official relations to the Crown of Prussia, and a rupture of these relations which sent it to Pennsylvania, and thence to Ohio."

Some descendants say the family left Switzerland at the time of the Catholic persecution, leaving a fortune over there. However, a "Report of Investigation in the Matter of an Estate Supposed to Have Been Left by Peter Von Gunten in Berne, 1700-1800," dated Feb 8, 1904 and including findings of the Chancellor of the Canton Berne, civil officers of Sigriswil, the Justice of the Canton Berne, and the Bernese Archives of State, states "Gunten was a village on the border of the Lake of Thun. It is in the District of Sigriswil. According to the Chancler of the Canton of Berne, the name 'Von Gunten' does not denote nobility; it is merely 'from Gunten.'.....the search of the above named officers has been without result and nothing is known by the competent authorities concerning an estate left by Peter von Gunten."

This report does provide some insight into history through interesting tidbits, such as the following from the Register of emigrant citizens, State Arch. 1694-1754: "Christian von Gunten of Sigriswil, was forced to lose his citizenship May 9, 1736. The Canton Berne and its government has always been Protestant, and it is impossible that a Bernese was persecuted and emigrated on account of his Protestant belief. No reason is given why Christian von Gunten lost his citizenship. He may have broken the laws, married a Catholic, or excited the displeasure of the Government in some other manner.....the records of 'Estates of Emigrants' are literally Records of the withdrawal of means and were made when an estate was converted into money or valuables and turned over to the citizen desiring to emigrate." Signed Edward Higgins, Consul, Berne, Switzerland.

Pat DeWitz of Bedford, OH, wrote in 1976 the she had her husband visited Berne, Switzerland in September 1974 but found little useful information there. They read the census by occupation from 1700 - 1750 and found that every von Gunten (from the village of Gunten) was a school teacher, both male and female, and they all taught in the villages around the Lake of Thun which included Spies, Interlaken, and Gruten. She states further that Gundy is the German form of the name "von" was used for those who went through Germany, while "van" was used for who went by way of Holland.

Another story states that "the only person found that could have been our ancester was John Peter Gunder, who arrived at the port of Philadelphia 9/12/1752 on the ship, 'Priscilla' from Rotterdam, but last from Cowes (Eng)." (Much too late to be our ancestor)

A chart of his branch by Ross G Van Gundy of Los Angeles states "Peter VanGundy, a Hollander, and two nephews" were founders of the family in America. Harvey Van Gundy of Tahlequah, OK, wrote that his "father and twin brother were brought over from Holland by an old lady and settled in Ohio."

Owen (Benoni Raymond) Van Gundy said in a letter to his daughter that "our Great Grandfather came to America from Holland in the early 1700 AD. I don't know the year or the date. They settled in Pennsylvania state on New England coast."

And so it goes. Who is to say what is the truth? An autobiography of the grandson of Anna Maria Davis, wife of John Van Gundy, simply states "they emigrated from Switzerland before the Revolutionary War and settled in Pennsylvania, Reading County, not far from a town of the same name."

An organization was formed in 1961 called the "Van Gundy Association" with Mr. Bliss Van Gundy of Osborne, KA, President (now deceased); Mrs. C.C. Meyer, Pasadena, MD, Director of Research; and Mrs. Alfred E. DeWitz of Bedford, OH, Asst Researcher. Mrs. Meyer is also an author and editor of genealogical publications. Relatives have traveled to Switzerland and, hopefully, in the near future, these folks will have all the facts sorted out.

Most of the early American generations were millers and coopers and as such the only coat of arms found by the Van Gundy Association attributed to a family whose name was similar to ours, "Gunten", was associated with Hans von Gunten, an old citizen of Gunten, alive in 1497 but childless. He was a member of an old knightly (3rd class) family originating in Stuhmschen in old Prussia, who were under the vassalage of the Pomeranian diocese as early as the 14th century. The family, for the most part, stayed connected and faithful to the "Orden in Bundeskriege", a high society of the middle ages.

This coat of arms consists of a gold shield on which are two human arms are palms up, in a vertical position, encased in a blue sleeve. The crest shows the arms and hands as on the shield.

However, according to a Coat of Arms Research Report with Registry of Burke's Gundi Gondy 1279, which says they believe the Van Gundy name is locational in origin and is associated with the Belgians and Dutch, our coat would be black with a gold Belgian lion and a yellow upper third bearing a red tulip, symbolic of Holland, between two red poppies, symbolic of Belgium.

So take your choice! In American, coats of arms mean nothing anyway, so whichever you wish to claim will be perfectly alright.

The family was probably Mennonite, having at least one Mennonite preacher in the family. "It is to the Swiss Mennonites, followers of Menno Simon from the cantons of Berne and Zurick, to whom is given the credit for making the first permanent white settlement in what is now Lancaster County. Several families of these hardy pioneers took up a tract of 10,000 acres north of Pequea creek in what is now West Lampeter Township, on a warrant dated October 10, 1710."

Descendant Christopher Van Gundy had the following to say:

"I actually traveled to Switzerland, Berne region, subregion of Gunten, my theory was that Peter Sr. originally had the name of simply Peter, and then said "I'm from Gunten," "von Gunten." Gunten is a town/region within the larger Bern region. Sigriswil is where they keep all of the records. I found several Peter Gunten's listed in the birth records, and can dig those up for you. It may just be coincidence that a "Peter Gunten" birth year matches our Peter Sr., but you never know. For some reason I think the "von Gunten" was changed to van Gunten when I believe he went to Holland to catch a ship to America.....

In terms of Switzerland, a Van Gundy would love it (at least, the ones I know). Everyone looks like a Van Gundy (in my family, they're tall with brown hair and blue eyes). Sigriswil is on a beautiful hillside overlooking the Thun lake (we all tend to live on hills), there is a windsurfing school (my favorite sport) and the lake is stocked full of trout. That was a fun trip. Other than trout, the food is horrible. But the people are nice, their homes are beautiful. I also learned a few things. The Swiss back then were very poor (why else go to America), and they had absolutely not one drop of royal blood. We're all as humble as can be! But we're democratic. We didn't have any heraldic signage, but some Swiss made some up. They didn't really have the feudal system like the rest of Europe. Simple, hardworking farmers who couldn't make it any more in a poor alpen land, before the international commerce hit! I also understand that the Van Gundy's have a claim to some land located near an airport expansion there, we should probably research that!"

The following interesting note was received 9/22/2004:

"My name is Marianne Vogt-Amstutz, from Sigriswil, Switzerland. While surfing the internet I came across your van Gundy website. Now reading about your research for your ancestor Peter Von Guten, or van Gundy was very interesting. It could well be that he was a citizen of Gunten (at lake Thur) which is part of the community of Sigriswil. There are of course plenty of von Gunten's living here to this day. Many people from our area emigrated to America. Most of them between 1850 and 1900, because they were very poor, but there were some who emigrated in the 1700's and earlier. And I believe that they left because of persecution.
I think you are right that your ancestor must have been an "Anabaptist" or Mennonite. It is a fact that people of this faith were persecuted and imprisoned. Many lost their homes and estates. And sad to say it was the Bernese (protestant) government who persecuted these people while almost the same time giving refuge to french Hugenots who were persecuted in their own county by the Catholics. Now, this part of our history had for centuries almost been denied. So it is no wonder that back in 1904 or so the authorities wouldn't "know" anything about it. Only in very recent years many rsearchers began to unfold these things. There was a famous novel beeing written a few years ago, called "die Furgge", by Katharina Zimmermann. She tells about the fate of those poor people, who if they were lucky, got a permission to emigrate to holland, (because Duch mennonites would pay for them!) Some were dying from homesickness...some secretley returned to their villages, other finally emigrated to America. Well I guess that by now, more of this information is known. And in Switzerland many, especially within the churches are now aware of all the bad things that the anabaptists had innocently suffered. last year for the first time there was a big meeting where differenct leaders aknowledged the guilt that churches and governments had in this, and where they appologised to the mennonite community for all this. now this summer in Zurich, a special plate was installed at the Grossmuenster to honour Felix Manz the first anabaptist martyr....."

There is a strong possibility that our Peter came to American with the Wisler family, being from neighboring towns in the same canton of Switzerland, both appearing in America about the same time in the same place and having children who would later intermarry. Although it is not known exactly when he came to America, there are some facts which place him here early:

Peter's family spoke Dutch and the children signed their names in Dutch on various records, such as deed transfers and other court papers.

Residences & events:

From the history of Lancaster County, PA:

"The earliest German pioneers in Lancaster County were Swiss Mennonites from the cantons of Zurich and Berne. Here they suffered bitter persecution on account of their religious beliefs, especially for their refusal to conform to the state church, their advocacy of separation of church and state, and their unwillingness to bear arms.......

Thirty years elapsed before the Swiss Mennonites, some of them having found a temporary abode in the Palatinate, came to Pennsylvania and located in the Conestoga region, now Lancaster county. They were liberally aided by the more prosperous Mennonites of Holland. The latter took a lively interest in their unfortunate brethren in Switzerland and in Germany. To render aid in a systematic way, they organized a "Committee on Foreigh Needs." They gave large sums of money for the relief of the exiled Swiss Mennonites in the Palatinate. When the opportunity came, they encouraged and liberally supported the Mennonites of Berne to seek an asylum in America......

There is a letter of thanks in the archives of Amsterdam, dated June 27, 1710 and signed by Martin Kundig, Hans Herr, Christian Herr, Martin Oberholtzer, Martin Meili, and Jacob Muler. (Familiar surnames in early Van Gundy history.)......Hans Herr and Martin Kundig acted as agents for their kinsmen, some of whom had already come and others of whom came later on. A quaint account of their manners and customs is given in an early document as follows: 'The men wore long red caps on their heads. The women had neither bonnets, hats, nor caps, but merely a string passing around their head to keep the hair from the face. The dress both of female and male was domestic, quite plain, made of coarse material, after an old fashion of their own. Soon after their arrival at Philadelphia they took a westerly course in pursuit of a location where they could all live in one vicinity. They selected a rich limestone county, beautifully adorned with sugar-maple, hickory, and black and white walnut, on the border of a delighful stream abounding in the finest trout. Here they raised their humble cabins. The water of the Pequea was clear, cold, transparent, and the grapevines and clematis, intertwining among the lofty branches of the majestic buttonwood, formed a pleasant retreat from the moonbeams of a summer sun.' (cf Martin, "The Mennonites," p 8)."

Pennsylvania - Fry's/Frey's Mill - Lancaster Co
Pa-36-18-06-Fry'sMill - -
The earliest mill on this site was built by Peter Gundy in 1738. This was replaced by James Martin Fry's mill about 1798. The current 40'X 60' 3.5 story fieldstone mill was built by Jacob & Elizabeth Fry in 1848. In 1983, the mill was part of a florist shop where arrangements were made up and sold. It was still in the Fry family.

1743 Lancaster Co, PA. His second child was born there that year and possibly the first was also, in 1740.

3/15/1749 Earl Twp, Lancaster Co, PA, where 200 acres of land were warranted that date to Peter. It was surveyed 5/6/1752 and patented to him on 5/26/1752. The patent manes he paid for it and received clear title.

Survey map says:

"A draught of Peter Gundys land situate in Earle Township in the County of Lancaster containing two hundred acres and the allowance of six acres p.cent for roads and highways. By virtue of the Honourable the proprietors Warrant dated the 15th day of March 1749. Survey'd the 6th day of March 1750.
To Nicholas Scull Esqr. By Tho. Cookson
Surveyor Genl D.S.

1750 Cocalico Twp, Lancaster Co, PA. The first tax list still surviving included Peter Gunder with 100 acres. There is a note that his name has also been spelled "Dundy," "Gunty, " and "Gunder." A comment "Singlemen for themselves" was not explained.

1751 & 1754 - Peter Gundy was his name on those tax rolls.

12/13/1755 Earl Twp. Peter and wife, Fronich, sold 200 acres to a Joseph Fox of Philadelphia for 100 pounds. He signed his name in German while Fronica signed with an X.

1756 That year he was taxed for 60 acres. Also on the list were Rudy Zuck, John Wenger, Henry Sydenbender, and several from the Davis family, all names of in-law families.

1757 Peter Gunety was the final entry on tax rolls for him.

There is a family tradition in one line of descent that says one Sunday morning Peter shot a bear in the presence of son Joseph and grandson Benjamin. However, Joseph was only 7 when his father died, and grandson Benjamin was born nearly 30 years later so that story obviously has been embellished, if there is any truth in it at all.

Peter's date and place of birth are taken from marriage records. A birth certificate was said to be in the possession of a JN Wilkey of Covington, IN at one time.

Most family listings have his death date as 3/26/1763, a date supplied by descendant Clara Van Gundy, but guardians were appointed for his children the day before that and tax records list his widow from 1758-1763.

The will book lists his name as Peter "Gunty" and he died intestate.

Circumstances and place of Peter's death depend on the story being read. One version says he died in Bethel Twp, now Lebanan Co, PA, another that he was killed by Indians in Earl Twp, Lancaster Co, Pa. Since all records place him in Lancaster Co, I choose to believe he died there, whether by Indians, is unknown.

According to estate records, his heirs included his wife, Ann, and 7 children.

When Ann died, sons, John and Christian were then over 21, and John, along with his wife, Ann, petitioned the court for permission to sell their mother's land but the petition was denied.

Instead, guardians were appointed for the minor children on 3/25/1763. Peter and Magdalene, being over 14, chose their own guardian. Guardians appointed for the 3 younger children were: Jacob Kurtz of Manaheim Twp in Lancaster Co, and Jacob Erb of Warwick Twp, also from Lancaster Co.

Later, while Peter, Jr, was still a minor, John asked the court to allow him to buy the farm or divide it among the children but that petition was also denied.

On 5/8/1772 the guardians exhibited their account in court. By then Joseph was over 21 and David and Benjamin, being over 14, chose their brother, John, as their guardian.

Finally on 5/12/1772, John, the oldest son, was allowed to sell the land for 1200 pounds sterling and divide the money among the children.

Copyright 2010 by BJ Van Gundy

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