Whitehall-Coplay Press

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Letter to the editor

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 by The Press in Opinion

Mickley Homestead location is clarified

To the Editor:

There is a narrative circulating concerning the Colonial history of my ancestors — the Mickley family. This narrative is based upon various assumptions and misunderstandings that have been published recently, as well as in a particular book titled “Images of America, Whitehall and Coplay,” dated 2004. This narrative has made an attempt to define a timeline for the distinction and usage of the Mickley-Michelet farmhouse located in Egypt. That farmhouse and surrounding acreage had been settled and occupied by my immigrant ancestor Jean Jacques Michelet (in French), A.K.A. Johann Jacob Muckli (in German) and John Jacob Mickley (an Anglicization of Muckli.)

John Jacob Mickley (Michelet) (1697-1769) lived with his wife, Elizabeth Barbara Burkhalter, daughter of Ulrich Burkhalter of Whitehall, on this Egypt farm and reared a family of seven children. These seven children were considered to be the first American-born generation of Mickleys and labeled as such by my great-aunt, Miss Minnie Fogel Mickley of Mickleys and the venerable Charles Roberts, a noted historian from a century ago. This first generation is listed here.

No. 1: John Jacob Mickley Sr. was born in 1737 and died in 1808 at his homestead in Hokendauqua. He married Susanne Miller, who was born in 1743 and died in 1807. She was the daughter of Christian Miller Sr., of Lynn Township. They had 10 children. Their homestead was located along the Coplay Creek, west of what is now known as Hokendauqua. The stone farmhouse was built in 1764 and subsequently demolished by 1860. (J.J. Mickley’s grandson, Jacob Mickley, would replace the stone farmhouse with one constructed of brick in 1851.) John Jacob Sr. was, as you know, involved in the Liberty Bell episode, as recorded elsewhere in other publications.

It should be noted that Miss Minnie F. Mickley always referred to John Jacob Mickley Sr. as just plain Jacob Sr. and to his first-born son John Jacob Jr. as Jacob Jr., who was born in 1766.

No. 2: John Martin Mickley was born in 1745 and died in 1828. He was married to Miss Catherine Steckel, who was born in 1749 and died in 1830. J. Martin served in the military during the Battle of Germantown in 1777. J. Martin, his wife and their nine children lived on the original Michelet farm in Egypt, accumulating over 300 acres before the selling of the farm in 1794. At that time, they, with only six of their nine children (three of the girls were already married), moved to and established their own homestead along Marsh Creek just west of Gettysburg, Adams County. They were well noted for their progeny being involved in the defense of Fort McHenry and living through the hell of the Battle of Gettysburg. J. Martin’s great-grandson, Jacob, was owner and operator of the famed Cashtown Inn in 1863.

No. 3: John Peter Mickley was born in 1752 and died in 1828. He was married to Miss Eva Keck and reared 10 children. Peter had also served in the military at the Battle of Germantown. He originally lived with his older brother, John Jacob Sr. until his marriage to Miss Keck. He and his wife moved away in 1784 to establish their own homestead, located somewhere below Lake Nockamixon in Bedminster Township.

No. 4: Henry (Heirich) was born in 1754 and died in October 1763. He was attacked and killed by Indians while playing on the Michelet farm in Egypt.

No. 5: Barbara was born in 1756 and died with her brother, Henry, while gathering chestnuts — victims of marauding Indians who had left behind a bloody trail from Kreidersville over to Scheidy’s Road. Ironically, the month of October became the month to be known as “Indian Summer.”

No. 6: Magdelena was born in 1746 and died in 1833. She married Peter Deshler, a Revolutionary War hero, who was born in 1743 as the third child of seven children of Adam and Appolinia Deshler of Whitehall. Peter died in 1800. He left behind eight children. Their homestead farm was located next to the farm of John Jacob Mickley, Magdelena’s brother, just behind the Whitehall Township Municipal Building. Upon Peter’s death, she later married a Michael Bieber.

No. 7: Susanne (dates unknown) married Andrew Miller, born in 1739, of Lynn Township. He was the son of Christian Miller Sr.

The first misunderstanding I would like to clarify is that it has been published elsewhere that No. 1 John Jacob Sr. was referred to as a Junior instead of Senior.

The second misunderstanding is that No. 1 John Jacob Sr. lived at his parents’ (Michelets) farmhouse in Egypt during the Revolutionary War. Not so. The truth is that John Jacob Sr. had purchased a plot of farmland in 1761 from Adam Deshler. That property was located along the Coplay Creek, where he would build a stone farmhouse in 1764. This property would always be known as the homestead by the Mickley family.

Therefore, a point must be made in that any accoutrements or souvenirs of a military nature to be found on the premises of the Michelet farm in Egypt would have to have been that of its resident at that time — namely, John Martin Mickley.

The third misunderstanding is that it has been stated that Frederick Leaser (Lieser), of Jacksonville in Lynn Township, was a neighbor of John Jacob Mickley Sr., who, with other local farmers had conspired to secretly remove all 11 bells from Philadelphia in 1777. I had already explained where John Jacob Sr. actually lived; therefore, Frederick Leaser (Leiser) would not have lived next to either the John Jacob Sr. homestead farm in Hokendauqua or the Michelet farm in Egypt.

In reality, it is certainly possible the Leaser (Leiser) family of Jacksonville would have been neighbors of the Christian Miller family of Lynn Township. That being said, it was Christian Miller’s youngest daughter, Susanne, who was married to none other than Mr. John Jacob Mickley Sr. of Liberty Bell fame.

I would like to say that, even in light of these discrepancies concerning the historicity of the Mickley family, I do believe it is imperative that the original Michelet-Mickley farmhouse and adjoining acreage be considered an important investment if for no other reason than its viable link to the history of Whitehall Township. Far too many homesteads of early settlers have become “missing links” in a past history that has been macadamed-over by a complacent and disinterested citizenry solely for commercial expediency and profit. Furthermore, it should also be noted that it is very important, in this age of historical revisionism and downright intellectual laziness, to ascertain correct historical facts and be open to academic scrutiny.

By the way, has anyone taken notice to the demise of the old Schaadt Schoolhouse lately? It was located on Mauch Chunk Road. It’s gone forever! What will be next?

Karl E. Mickley

(7th generation)

Whitehall