Andreas Hagenbuch Acquires Land in Berks County
Andreas Hagenbuch and his family landed in Philadelphia on September 18, 1737. By March 25, 1738, they had a warrant for 200 acres of land in what is today Berks County, Pennsylvania.
As noted on the warrant, the land was situated on a branch of Maiden Creek. Two of the adjoining parcels had owners: Tobias Stapleton and Jost Kengle (probably a mispelling of Kunkel). The rest were vacant.
Andreas Hagenbuch likely obtained his land warrant while in Philadelphia. Warrants required filling out an application and paying a fee. After receiving the warrant, an additional fee was paid in order to have the parcel surveyed. The results of the survey were then returned to the land office and filed.
The Hagenbuchs’ parcel was surveyed on June 3, 1738 by the noted land surveyor Nicholas Scull II. Scull had participated in the survey of the land that would become the Walking Purchase. Later, he would be appointed Surveyor General for Pennsylvania from 1748 to 1761. He was an excellent cartographer and drew many detailed maps of the region.
A land warrant did not provide the warrantee with complete legal ownership of a parcel. To finally acquire the property, the warrantee was required to settle the land and pay one last fee. The warrantee would be issued a land patent and have full title to the property.
Given this costly, complicated process, not everyone who received a land warrant was granted the final patent. Sometimes the original warrantee died. Other times the land was sold to another person. Additionally, some people abandoned their parcels and chose to settle in another location. In all of these cases the forfeited warrants were issued to others.
When Andreas Hagenbuch received a warrant for 200 acres in 1738, Berks County was still part of Philadelphia County. Berks County would not be formed until 1752. Therefore, on his warrant, the location is listed as Philadelphia County.
That said, the location of the Hagenbuch’s parcel had a more specific name. Settlers called this area the “Allemangel” (also written as “Allemäengle” and “Allemaengel”). We don’t know with certainty the meaning of Allemangel. However, according to an 1886 book, The History of Berks County, Allemangel was a German phrase meaning “a land wanting in fertility of soil.” Other sources simply give the meaning as “all wants” but also mention this is in reference to the poorness of the soil. This is odd, given the rich farmland found in the region today.
Why would Andreas choose to live in a place with such an inhospitable name? One theory is that the meaning of Allemangel was referencing the lack of cleared farmland, not the fertility of the soil. Certainly, the area was heavily forested and required significant energy to prepare it for agriculture. Another is that he may have known people living there and, therefore, knew Allemangel to be a misnomer. Unfortunately, we have no proof of either of these ideas.
After receiving a warrant for their land, we can imagine the Hagenbuchs setting off for the Allemangel in the spring of 1738. The journey would have been difficult. It’s about 75 miles from Philadelphia to the location of the parcel. There were few decent roads outside of Philadelphia and even fewer maps.
In his book The Pennsylvania German Farm, Amos Long Jr. writes:
While still in Philadelphia, the settlers had to arrange for their land warrant. Those warrants were a source of much misunderstanding, for the settlers had earlier understood them as being title to their land, and didn’t realize that later they had to pay for them! After they received their warrant, the pioneers purchased a wagon and team, or a few pack horses or mules, or even oxen, loaded their worldly goods, and set out for the Allemäengle. To get there, they had to cross a barren, swampy wasteland of scrub oaks called Long Swamp, then through the Rittenhouse Gap in the South Mountain, northward to the Schochary Hills. They traveled the tops of the ridges because the valleys were full of vines, mosquitoes, and swamp fever. Arriving at their warrant, they set up a camp-site, usually a small lean-to, at a spring near the protected land of a low valley. Sometimes the wagon was the only shelter for the first several months until a cabin could be constructed.
While the above provides a few key details, the Hagenbuchs’ exact route to the Allemangel isn’t entirely clear. From Philadelphia they likely headed in a northwestern direction, along a route to the west of modern Interstate 476.
This would have taken them through Long Swamp and Rittenhouse Gap – an area found between Allentown and Kutztown. The Schochary Hills are to the north, near present day New Tripoli. The Hagenbuchs’ land parcel is about five miles to the west of the town.
When examining current maps of this region, two roads stand out: the King’s Highway and the Old Philly Pike. Given their names, both of these are likely remnants of colonial roads. Both also run into Albany Township, Berks County where the Hagenbuchs settled. It is likely that they knew and traveled these.
Today, this area is mainly farmland nestled at the foot of Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountains. Seeing the rolling fields, it’s difficult to imagine the wilderness that faced Andreas Hagenbuch and his family in 1738. These were frontier lands covered with dark forests, wild animals, and American Indians. There was much to fear.
According to J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur (1735-1813) in his Letters from an American Farmer:
Reaching a settlement is like a feast for an inexperienced traveler—to see sun shine on some open grounds, to view clear fields. You seem to be relieved from that secret uneasiness and involuntary apprehension which is always in the woods.
It was also sparsely populated. German Lutheran minister Henry Muhlenberg (1711-1787) described the following about traveling through Pennsylvania in the 1740s:
When one travels on the roads, one constantly travels in bush or forest. Occasionally, there is a house and several miles down the road there is another house.
Settlers preferred land that was near a road and had water on the property. On paper, Andreas Hagenbuch’s parcel looks like it fits the bill. The 1738 survey shows a creek branching over the 200 acres. However, this may have caused problems for the family.
While researching the 1738 parcel, we visited the location of it in Albany Township. The property is a low field with several small creeks running through it. It appears to be a bit swampy.
Knowing this, we can imagine the Hagenbuchs arriving in the Allemangel only to discover their parcel wasn’t the most ideal for a homestead. Perhaps, they tried to hack out a living there for a year or two while they explored the area and searched for other open land.
Whatever the reason, we know that they had likely vacated their first warrant by November 4, 1741. On that date, Andreas Hagenbuch received a new warrant for 150 acres about a mile west of his previous warrant. On this plot of land, Andreas would finally build his homestead, raise a family, and live out the remainder of his life.
The Hagenbuchs’ 1738 warrant for 200 acres was returned to the land office in 1748 for lack of compliance. It was then given to a new warrantee, Cornelius Tress (a misspelling of Driess). In the next article in this series, we will explore the 1741 land parcel which is the site of the Hagenbuch Homestead.