Friday, May 5, 2017

From the Probate Files: Samuel Bixler - Frederick County, Pennsylvania, 1803

This has been a long and productive day for me so I've decided to resurrect this post from two years ago about my maternal ancestor Samuel Bixler* who signed his will on May 15, 1797. It began in the traditional manner by stating his name, place of residence and occupation, and commending his soul to God and his body to "Decent Christian Burial."

When he came to the distribution of his worldly estate, the first bequest Samuel made is to provide for his wife Elizabeth and he was quite specific about what she was to have.

"...and as for my Worldly Estate wherewith it has Pleased God to bless me with
in this life I give Devise and dispose of the Same in the following manner
and form - it is my will and Pleasure that my wife Elizabeth shall have
ninety pounds Specie out of my Moveable Estate and a Good bed and bedstead
& furniture thereto belonging and her Spinning Wheel and a good Chest and
all the Puter and Kitching Whear which she brought to me and my son
Peter Shall Keep her a riding creature Suficient for her use and two Cows and
two Sheep and them shall be used as his own and these during her natural
life if she remains a widow but if not it shall fall to my Children again
and it is further my will that my wife Elizabeth Shall have yearly as long as
she remains a widow Twenty Bushels of wheat and ten Bushels of Rye and
fifteen Pounds of Hackelt flax and fifteen Pounds of Toe and one
hundred Pounds of Good Pork and fifty pounds of good beef and one Pair
of Shoes one Bushel of Salt and she shall have Suficient firewood
brought to the Door and cut suficient for her house and she shall have her
Widow Seat in the house where I live in now And shall have the old Gartain
next to the house and room in the Spring house and three of the largest
apple Trees and two rows in the next orchard and two rows in the Ober orchard
and the one third Part of my Personal Estate and all the Linnen & Woollen
Stuff which remains after my Decease and the remainder of my Personal
Estate Shall be Praised after my Decease and Sold and the money shall be
Equally Divided amongst all my Children Excepting my son Samuel..."**
The detail above and my transcription come from FamilySearch's Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999, Frederick County, Wills 1794-1803 vol 3

["Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999," database with images, FamilySearch (,147314001 : accessed 12 August 2015), Frederick > Wills 1794-1803 vol 3 > image 309-310 of 332; Hall of Records, Annapolis.]

Even though in his 1797 will Samuel said he was "weak in Body" he didn't die until four years later and his will was brought to Frederick County's probate court by his oldest surviving son Peter Bixler*** on June 14, 1803. Elizabeth and her brother-in-law Samuel Flickinger, who had both been named as executors along with Peter, signed a document refusing to act in that role, leaving the administration of the estate to Peter.****

In the inventory of Samuel's estate, taken in July of 1803, the total value given was $557.78. It's clear from the list of the livestock and crops in the fields that the property was still a working farm, but in the descriptions of the tools and household goods the words "old" and "broken" appear constantly--what's missing are the things I would expect to find in a house that was occupied. To see what was customary, I looked at inventories taken before and after Samuel's and they list clothing, linens and food supplies (like wheat, coffee and bacon), and although old stuff is included it doesn't predominate.

While it doesn't appear to me that Samuel was living there, the house wasn't derelict--it still held three beds (although no bed linen), some walnut furniture, a clock worth $24 dollars and two iron stoves, a ten plate with pipe ($20)***** and an six plate one ($10). At the end of the inventory list my fourth great grandfather Emanuel Bixler and his brother Benjamin signed the record as the nearest relatives and Peter Bixler, as "Acting Executor" swore on his oath that the foregoing was a "True and Perfect Inventory of all & Singular the Goods and Chattles of the said Deceased that have come into his hands and possession at the time of the making thereof."

All of the detail above comes from FamilySearch's Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999, Frederick County, Inventories 1803-1805 vol 4.

["Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999," database with images, FamilySearch (,146999701 : accessed 12 August 2015), Frederick > Inventories 1803-1805 vol 4 > image 70-71 of 299; Hall of Records, Annapolis.]

Samuel Bixler, who appeared in the 1790 U.S. Census, was not named anywhere in the 1800 Census which only listed the head of each household. But their 29-year old son Peter's household included a free white man and woman aged 45 or older which would describe Samuel and Elizabeth. I think it's possible (though not provable) that Samuel's health, already poor in 1797, worsened to the point where he and Elizabeth moved in with their son sometime before 1800.

[Year: 1800; Census Place: Westminster, Frederick, Maryland; Series: M32; Roll: 10; Page: 198; Image: 205; Family History Library Film: 193663. 1800 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Second Census of the United States, 1800. NARA microfilm publication M32 (52 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Second Census of the United States, 1800]

*He is my maternal fifth great grandfather. His granddaughter Leah Bixler married Frederick Grove (or Groves) and their daughter Delilah's marriage to Dick Worden brings them into my line through my grandmother Anna Delilah Webb.
**Some clarification is needed here, although I think you can guess what "Puter and Kitching Whear" are, unless you happen to be familiar with linen production you wouldn't know what hackled flax is but if you watch this video you'll know all about it. Flax tow is the name given to the shorter fibers left over after hackling; you can see a picture of it here (and buy a pound or two if you want). The "old Gartain" is, I think, a lapse into German (garten) and the "Ober orchard" probably is too. If you want to understand what a spring house, here is a video tour of a stone one in Forks Township in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. (We don't know any details about the Bixler's spring house but the principle would be the same.)
***His oldest son Samuel died the previous year.
****You can see 58-year old Elizabeth's signature on this document in my previous post about her here.
*****Read all about this kind of stove here

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