Our best historical records indicate that George F. Boller, age 22, arrived in America, from Bavaria, in October, 1816, establishing our Boller family in the United States. Generation One has arrived! The American dream awaits!
You can read all about George’s adventure to America here, but suffice to say that it’s very possible that George left Amsterdam on May 9, 1816, sailing on the ship Ceres, which arrived in Philadelphia on October 21, 1816. Above is John Melish’s 1816 map of the United States (left) and an artistic depiction of Philadelphia at the time (right). Read more about this possibility here.
Our records are sketchy here, but George likely followed his Mennonite connections, first into Pennsylvania. By about 1820, twenty-six-year-old George married Elizabeth Zook, a Mennonite woman, four years older than George, whose family line can be traced back to pre-1700 in Germany and Switzerland.
Elizabeth Zook was born to John & Magdalena Zug – a German spelling of Zook/Zuck – on July 17, 1790 in Chester County, Pennsylvania (in southeastern PA) and was living in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania – located in central PA, halfway between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – at the time of her marriage to George. Apparently, Mifflin County is the place where the newlywed couple first called home.
George and Elizabeth were German-speaking individuals who were very accustomed to living in Amish-Mennonite communities that had settled on fertile farmlands of Pennsylvania. It’s interesting to note that Pennsylvania (Latin for ‘Penn’s Woods’) was first established by William Penn as a “holy experiment” of religious tolerance…a place where persecuted people could come from Europe and settle in peace to practice their reformed Christianity in a land of freedom.
Elizabeth Zook/Zug/Zuck’s ancestry, which can be traced back three or four generations beyond George’s, indicates that she was the sixth of eight children born to John and Magdalena Zug in Chester County. Both her father (1756) and mother (1752) were born in nearby Berks County – northeast of Philadelphia – and it’s very possible that Elizabeth’s grandfather, Johannes Zug – born (1721) in George’s home of Darmstadt, Germany – was one of the earliest Mennonite farmers to arrive in America. It’s early pioneers like him, responding to William Penn’s dream, that drew young men like George F. Boller to leave their long-time homes in war-torn Europe and come to America.
While living in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, George and Elizabeth had two children, Christiana Boller (1821) and John Boller (1823), and then sometime between 1823 and 1825, the family moved further west to Wayne County, located in northeastern Ohio. We are guessing that this move westward was pre-planned since records show that ten years earlier – October 21, 1813 – Elizabeth’s father, John Zug purchased land in Wayne County while still living in Pennsylvania.
In a mid-nineteenth century Ohio census record, George identified his profession as a farmer, and certainly, the lure of cheap land in the “West” seemed to have been an important reason for the Pennsylvania Amish-Mennonites being interested in eastern Ohio, with the selection of Wayne County not a happenstance. Already long-experienced in agriculture, the Amish-Mennonites for generations had learned how to select good land by paying attention to the kinds of healthy trees found there, the drainage of land, and the presence of springs.
Without a doubt, George & Elizabeth Boller firmly established themselves in Wayne County, Ohio (East Union Township), with records showing them as active members of Oak Grove Mennonite Church – located in Green Township since 1816.
On February 28, 1825, their third child, and my gg grandfather, Jacob B. Boller, was born, followed by Elizabeth Boller (1826), George Z. Boller (1828) and Magdalena Boller (1831), bringing the grand total to six – three boys and three girls.
The East Union Township – Wayne County 1830 Census shows George Boler (age 36) with 2 boys (George & Jacob) under 5, 1 boy (John) under 10; Elizabeth (age 40), with 1 girl (Elizabeth) under 5 and 1 girl (Christiana) under age 10.
On May 28, 1836, George, with an eye on his family’s long-range future, buys 160 acres of East Union Township farm land from William McDowell of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania.
Nolan Gerber (related to the Boller family in Kalona, Iowa) is from Wayne County, Ohio and he gave us this valuable information on George’s 1836 land purchase…
“Based on the birth dates of his children, George and his family would have arrived in Wayne Co. between 1823 and 1825 – between the births of John and Jacob. Based on tax records from 1827, I know for sure the family first settled somewhere in East Union Township. Where exactly prior to 1836, I’m not sure? In 1836, George and Elizabeth Boller purchased this property (above) from William McDowell. In red, I have highlighted the whole section. In yellow is the SE section George bought. I can’t pinpoint exactly where the house was located, but the area of the Eura/Levi Schrock farm at 416 McQuaid Rd is my best guess. I’m thinking a little more south-based on the 1850s Baker’s map.”
As 1836 comes to a close, George, age 42, and Elizabeth, age 46, are intentionally setting things in order for their children’s future. With three boys, the goal will be to get them settled in with land they can farm, while the hope is that each of their three daughters will find godly men who will continue the rich traditions of their Mennonite faith.
Sadly, many of these life plans will take a sudden turn within four years, changing direction and purpose for both George and his children.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.