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Mennonite Bieri aka Beery Family of Switzerland & Pennsylvania

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The Bieri aka Beery Family of Switzerland

Nicholas Bieri, presumed to be a Mennonite, was born circa 1687 in Berne Switzerland and probably fled to the Palatinate Germany with his parents pre 1711. In 1727 he set sail on the ship Friendship from Rotterdam to the Netherlands. The Friendship carried 150 Swiss Mennonite families on its journey.

From the Netherlands this ship sailed to Cowes, Isle of Wight, England. On 20 June 1727 the ship left Cowes and set out across the Atlantic Ocean. The Friendship arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 16 Oct. 1727 after a grueling 4 month journey. 1/5 of the passengers had died at sea and only 46 Palatine families arrived safely.

Nicholas Beery signed the declaration of fidelity to King and the province of PA when he arrived in Philadelphia on 16 Oct. 1727. His name on the passenger list is recorded as Nicolas Piere. Since Nicholas signed with his mark, it is assumed the clerk mistakenly spelled the name as Piere rather than Biere.

According to William Beery and Judith Beery Garber in "Beery Family History" published in 1957, documents of York County show that Nicholas married Barbara Ann Miller and had nine children (4 sons and 5 daughters): John, Abraham, Nicholas Jr, George, Madgalena, Barbara, Catharina, Susanna and Margaret.

By the winter of 1727 Nicholas was at the Pequea Creek Settlement in Conestoga (now Lancaster Co.) Chester Co. Pennsylvania. He was part of the second largest group of Swiss Mennonites to settle there; the original group having gone in 1710. In 1728 he crossed the Susquehanna River in Springettsbury Manor, travelling with his family by covered wagon (conestogas) and settling on the north shore of Codorus Creek, one mile south of present day York, Manchester Tp. York Co. Pennsylvania. In 1729 Springettsbury Manor was included with Lancaster Co. when it was organized and separated from Chester Co.

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Some of the Maryland settlers had been encroaching on the territory and in 1733 Samuel Blunston was commissioned by the Pennsylvania proprietors to issue temporary licences to citizens of Pennsylvania for land in Springettsbury Manor. Patents were to be granted on final purchase by the proprietors from the natives. In 1733 Nicholas obtained a Blunston licence for land in Springettsbury Manor. He was one of over 50 German-speaking settlers to do so. On 20 Oct. 1736 the Blunston licence was confirmed by Thomas Penn and a patent granted for 200 acres on Codorus Creek.

However Nicholas plantation along with others in the Springettsbury Manor, had become involved in the boundary dispute between PA and Maryland. The settlers agreed to allow Maryland to survey their land but found themselves deceived and discriminated against by Maryland authorities, so on 13 Aug. 1736 he and 55 other settlers at Springettsbury Manor petitioned to be re-instated as citizens of Pennsylania and not of Maryland. The settlers stated they had erred in allowing Maryland to assume their lots, and the Council in Philadelphia promptly declared them under the protection of Pennsylvania.

Nicholas and his neighbours (including the famous Michael Donner of the future ill-fated Donner Party) had written previously to the Governor of Maryland informing him of their intentions to acknowledge the jurisdiciton of Pennsylvania. Their actions were regarded as a revolt by Germans and on 21 Oct. 1736 the 56 signers were ordered arrested for sedition. 300 men from Maryland attacked the settlers - their property was stolen, homes were burned, crops were destroyed, and men and their sons were marched 100 miles on foot to prison.

Nicholas himself was arrested in 1737 on a writ issued from the Supreme Court of Maryland for refusing to hold his land under Lord Baltmore, and sent to Annapolis jail. He gave bail for release but was allowed to keep his land until the dispute was settled between PA and Maryland.

On 2 May 1737 172 acres of Nicholas' land was surveyed to Captain Charles Higginbotham of Maryland, and on May 5 the land was granted to Captain Higginbotham by Lord Baltimore. In 1748 Nicholas was taken to court in Philadelphia for refusing to give Higginbotham the land.

At a Council held at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 5 april 1748:

The Honorable the President and Council of the Province of Pennsylvania. Nicholas Perie and Captain Charles Higginbotham attending the Council in pusuance of their Order of the 22nd of Jan. last were called in. Nicholas Perie desir'd that as he was a German and did not understand the English language, that he might be permitted to speak by an Interpreter, and having leave from the Council to do so, Mr. Christian Grasshold, who is usually employed in this Service by the Germans, deliver'd in a Paper, and desir'd it might be received as the Defence of the said Perie; the Paper was read in these words: "May it please the President and Council: I have receiv'd Your Honor's Orders to wait on You this Day to answer some Complaints of one Higginbotham, who gives out that he is to have my Land under a pretence of a Maryland Patent. I am one of those Foreigners who petitioned nine or ten years ago against the proceedings of Captain Cresap and this very Higginbotham, and his Majesty was pleas'd to make an Order that I, as well as others who were at that time in possession of the lands contested between the Proprietors of Maryland and Pennsylvania, should remain in possession til the final determination of the cause between aid Proprieteries. I have been guilty of no breech of the Peace, I have liv'd within the Government of Pennsylvania quietly and like a good Subject, and have paid my Taxes regularly for the Support therof, and in return I expect the protection of the Government of Pennsylvania if my property be attempted to be wrested out of my hands by violence, and if you will not grant it to me, I will immediately apply to His Majesty that he would graciously ....
In 1761 he died in Manchester Tp. York Co. Pennsylvania. His wife, Barbara Ann Miller married Jacob Kagy about 5 or 6 years later. Nicholas Bieri's daughter Magdalena married Johannes Hunsacker aka Hunsicker and is listed as Magdalena BIRG at the baptisms of her children in Lancaster Tp. Pennsylvania. Magdalena Bieri Hunsacker is buried in Mennonite cemetery, Geroges Tp. Pennsylvania

To search for more articles on this surname, check the PERSI Index at Ancestry.com
Periodical Source Index (PERSI)

Once you have found an article you wish to read, you can obtain copies of by using the PERSI online order form

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