BRETHREN-L ArchivesArchiver > BRETHREN > 2005-03 > 1111185799
From: "Shuman, Lois A" <>
Subject: FW: [BRE] Early Dunkers or Tunkers
Date: Fri, 18 Mar 2005 17:43:19 -0500
Jim, I perked up when I read your original post (finally catching up
today 3/18) and waited to see who would answer you. A few years ago,
when my brother and I were researching our non-Brethren line around
Morgantown, West Virginia, I was intrigued by the reference to Dunkards
Bottom and the Eckerlins. If you check at your nearest library for
history on Preston County, West Virginia, you may find reference to them
written from the secular viewpoint. I don't immediately recall the
surname Hoffacker or Hoffecker, but it might help in your search.
I did an 'Ask Jeeves' search for Eckerlin Brothers, and found at WV
GenWeb Project, Monongalia County, West Virginia:
" Other early settlers in the mid-1700s in the original Monongalia
County were the families of: Wendell Brown (at present-day Brownsville,
Fayette County, PA); David Tygart and Robert Files (near present-day
Beverly, Randolph County, WV); the Eckerlin brothers (Dunkard Bottom
near Kingwood, Preston County, WV); and Thomas Decker at the mouth of
Deckers Creek, present Monongalia County. Others in the Decker party
included these surnames: Zern or Zorn, Falls, Thorn, Westfall, Cox,
Statler or Stradler."
Also at www.cob-net.org/america.htm :
"Following their departure from Ephrata, Alexander Mack, Jr. and the
Eckerlin brothers had previously established several Brethren
settlements in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia (not a separate
state until 1863)."
And at http://www.polsci.wvu.edu/wv/Preston/prehistory.html :
" Preston County's European Pioneers and Settlers
Preston County was visited by several trappers and hunters during the
early 1700s, but their names were not recorded.
The Eckerlin (or Eckarly) brothers were the first English settlers to
arrive in present-day Preston County. Most accounts indicate that Dr.
Samuel Eckerlin and two brothers (probably Gabriel and Israel) left
eastern Pennsylvania in 1751 or 1752 after a disagreement with other
church leaders. They were members of a monastic religious order located
at Ephrata, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia, that did not approve of
violence, war, or military service (their order was often referred to as
the Dunkards, an offshoot of the German Seventh Day Baptist Church).
Initially, they settled in present-day Monongalia County, near
Morgantown, and, after exploring the area, finally settled on the east
side of the Cheat River at Dunkard Bottom in present-day Preston County.
In 1756, with their supply of ammunition and salt nearly exhausted,
Samuel Eckerlin returned east to the Shenandoah Valley (in the general
vicinity of Winchester, Virginia) with a pack of furs to trade for a
fresh supply of ammunition, salt, and clothes. On the way back, he
stopped over at Fort Pleasant on the South Branch of the Potomac River.
The settlers there imprisoned him, believing he was a spy for the
Indians. At that time, the French and Indian War (1754-1763) was
underway and the settlers were subject to several Indian raids. They
finally allowed him to return to his settlement, but only after he
agreed to be accompanied by several armed guards. The guards were
supposed to return him to Fort Pleasant for trial if it turned out that
the settlement did not exist. When they reached his cabin, they found it
burnt to the ground and his brothers' scalped bodies lying on the
ground. After burying his brothers, he decided to abandon the settlement
and returned to the safety of Fort Pleasant. He later returned to the
Another version of the story is that when Samuel Eckerlin and his
brothers left eastern Pennsylvania, they robbed the church of gold and
several precious stones. They were also accompanied by several other
families that shared their religious beliefs. When Samuel Eckerlin
returned to the settlement with the armed guards from Fort Pleasant, he
found all of the settlement's buildings burned to the ground, and the
bodies of twenty-seven of its thirty inhabitants. The missing settlers
were Samuel's two brothers, and an indentured servant named Baltzer
Shilling. Shilling later reported that the settlement was attacked by
about fifty Indians led by a French priest. The three prisoners were
taken to Fort Duquesne. The brothers were then taken to Quebec and never
heard of again. Shilling was made a slave and sent to an Indian
settlement on the Sandusky River. He later escaped and eventually
reunited with Samuel Eckerlin.
Although it is not clear which of these accounts is accurate, the
Eckerlin brothers are credited as being the first known settlers in
present-day Preston County."
" 2. Dunkard Bottom on Cheat River (1751)
a) One of the most interesting early settlement attempts was undertaken
by the Eckerlin Brothers: Israel, Gabriel, and Samuel. Prior to their
emigration to North America, the brothers had joined the Dunkard Sect,
(known for its pacifism) Their desire for solitude and an ascetic life
led them from their home in Germantown, then Ephrata, Pennsylvania, over
b) While some speculate that the Eckerlin brothers intended to found a
monastic retreat, and others that they were land speculators, it is
known that they established an extensive hunting and agri-business.
c) Under misplaced suspicion because of their pacifism during the French
and Indian War, the brothers disappeared after the settlement they
founded was wiped out by an Indian attack."
So we know that the settlement was in what is now Preston County, West
Virginia, although we do not have the names (in these accounts) of the
others who came with the brothers.
From: Baldwin, A Ferne. [mailto:]
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 2:01 PM
Subject: RE: [BRE] Early Dunkers or Tunkers
There are references showing that a considerable colony of Brethren was
located on the New River in Wilkes County North Carolina in the 1780s.
I do not find Huffaker on the list but a search of land records might
show him there.. Others are listed in Wilkes County Deed Books C -1, 1
p 92, 67, 99 B - 1, 64. Also Clark, State Records, XXVI, 1246-1247.
From: Jim Huffaker [mailto:]
Sent: Tuesday, March 08, 2005 1:49 PM
Subject: [BRE] Early Dunkers or Tunkers
In a book by F.B. Kegley, my earliest American ancestor was listed in a
group of Dunkers who went to Virginia in 1745 , but Mr. Kegley did not
document his source. A query to Ephrata could not help. Does anyone have
information about that Virginia adventure? It seems it lasted for about
ten years and its inhabitants scattered on Indian threats. The existence
of the group is noted as being at Dunkards Bottom and the Community
called Mahanaim. The leaders of the group were the Eckerlins who had
fallen out with the Ephrata community. Kegley spelled my ancestor's name
as Huffacre in his list. This community was along the New River and is
now under the waters of Claytor Lake. Several texts have been written
over this adventure e.g. Wustt, but none re-enforce Kegley's ascertain
and nothing was found in the Virginia Archives.
In Germany it was spelled either as Hoffacker or Hoffecker. His birth
place and age at immigration would allow a scenario that he was exposed
to Tunker ideas at Schriesheim and followed Alexander Mack to
Schwarzenau, then to America in 1732. Do details exist of the Tunkers in
Germany and specifically member lists at Schriesheim and Schwarzenau.
Relevant websites often cite the specific size of the founding group of
men and women even to count by gender, so it would seem specific
information does (or did) exist.
Also in my study of Ephrata, it is my understanding community records
were deliberately destroyed in a fire and today very little remains of
the earliest inhabitants. I also understand the inhabitants often used
names such as Brother Jacob or Sister Sarah. Am I correct on these two
All help and commentary will be appreciated.
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