Ive updated the above with new material--comments welcome!
The origin and early life of Lorenz Bomberger, the progenitor of the Bomberger family in the United States, is a mystery. There is no information about Lorenz Bomberger before he claimed land patents in the Boonsboro area in 1758, the start of nearly two centuries of association between the family and the town; unknown is his date or place of birth, parents, nationality, and previous occupation. Some evidence suggests that he might have come from the Lancaster Pennsylvania area immediately before settling in Maryland--or either the Baltimore area or Alsace.
These theories are based on the assumption that Lorenz (or his father) emigrated from Germany or Switzerland to somewhere more settled in America before he was granted land patents near Boonsboro in Western Maryland, which was then an unsettled frontier.
This was the usual pattern for most early German and Swiss immigrants at this time, according to Aaron Fogleman's book, Hopeful Journeys: German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775. Few immigrated directly from abroad to the US interior.
Lorenz Bomberger appears to have been well established upon his arrival in Boonsboro in 1758 with his son Johannes (John). His ability to take large land grants and his prior ownership of property in Baltimore suggests financial and other means unavailable to the average immigrant--his financial means lends more credence to the theory that he had a prior career and life in the American colonies.
Early Assertions About Lorenz Bomberger
First, a review of the few facts we have; most are from Williams' History of Washington County, published in 1906 and researched in the preceding several years. Williams wrote a popular history of Washington County that contained the bulk of information on Lorenz Bomberger; these popular histories contained material from personal recollection of people living in the area. At times, the factual basis can be authenticated, at other times not.
Presumed date of birth for Lorenz is between 1710 and 1720 which would make him between 38 and 48 years old when he received his first land patent in the Boonsboro area in 1758, and between 18 and 28 years of age when he had his only son. This range could be off by as much as 10 years.
He received three land patents in the Boonsboro area; the Blue Rock land patent was granted in January, 1758. He settled outside of Boonsboro around that time. The other land patents--granted on July 1, 1758--included Wine Hill and Virgin Fair; the three patents together equalled about a thousand acres. The land patents have been authenticated.
He was the owner of "other large tracts of land," according to Williams. These are not further identified, their location unknown, and cannot currently be authenticated.
He lived in the area of what is now known as Benovola, just outside Boonsboro, within a few miles of both Boonsboro town and the sites where his church would have been located. This is well established through strong documentary evidence. The area is also known as Beaver Creek District, and/or the Funkstown area.
He owned two wharves in the city of Baltimore, which were eventually sold for taxes; Williams' History of Washington County Maryland asserts that Lorenz' local agent failed to pay the tax bill as he was supposed to do. This is unauthenticated.
He arrived in Boonsboro with an adult or nearly adult son, Johannes (John) Bomberger. Johannes produced a son about five years after his arrival in Boonsboro, suggesting a birth date of around 1730-1740. With the existence of land patent records, this can be regarded as fully authenticated.
Lorenz had a grandson, named after his son, John Bomberger. The grandson was born on December 11, 1763 in the Boonsboro area. Lorenz was survived by his only child, Johannes (John) Bomberger, who died In 1795. The birth date of his son suggests that Lorenz' date of birth would have been between 1700 and 1720. The birth of the grandson is fully authenticated.
He was a "devout churchman" and a member of the Mennonite Church. The subsequently strong ties of his son and grandson to the Church suggest this is true.
He died "full of years" and was buried just outside of Boonsboro, according to Williams. Burial is confirmed, age of death unknown.
A Maryland DAR GRC report; (s1 v072: records of cemeteries of Washington County, Conococheague Chapter on page 301) notes a colored cemetery on Lorenz Bomberger's farm.
The living standard of the immediately subsequent generations suggests that Lorenz accumulated significant wealth during his lifetime.
Lorenz was part of a tight-knit Mennonite community in the Boonsboro area. There is compelling evidence on where Lorenz and his family worshipped when they arrived in Boonsboro. Lorenz' son and many other second and third generation Bombergers in the area were buried at the cemetery of the Mt. Zion Mennonite Church (Fahrney's Church, earlier known as Houser's). Their gravestones are still extant; the Bomberger family was granted the entire first row of the cemetery--suggesting both early involvement by the family with the church as well as some prominence within it.
In the book Building on the Gospel Foundation, the authors cite documentary evidence (local government American Revolutionary War records) that confirms membership in the Mennonite Church on the part of Lorenz Bomberger's son, Johannes (John), who was fined five pounds by the local Continental Committee during the Revolution for refusing to cooperate with the war effort because of his pacifist beliefs.
The same reference contains citations that indicate Johannes' grandson Jacob was of the Mennonite faith as well.
Daniel R. Lehman's The Mennonites of the Washington County Maryland and Franklin County, Pennsylvania Conference, Published in 1996 by the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church Publication Board on page 27 in a chapter on the Beaver Creek Mennonite families, notes that: "There was a John Bomberger who settled in Beaver Creek. He died in 1795. He was a Mennonite man. His estate was settled by Isaaac Houser and Jacob Rice of Beaver Creek." The source cited is Will Book A, page 336; Washington County Court House, Hagerstown Maryland. An additional footnote indicates that the Will was dated April 3, 1795, probated October 3, 1795. It also notes that he had a son, John Bomberger Jr.
There is no reason to assume that Lorenz was of a different faith than his son and grandson.
John Bomberger's 1795 will paints a picture of the prosperity that he and Lorenz appear to have enjoyed in the Boonsboro area. The will was dated 3 April, 1795 and went to probate on 3 October, 1795. A copy of the will survived in the Washington County Courthouse records, having been copied into the will book when it went to probate. A copy of the first page appears on the right. In the will, John lists extensive property, money, livestock, and other goods that are to be apportioned to his wife Elizabeth and his son John. His son John was to receive the family home, the lands that made up the "plantation," and most of the livestock. In return, John was required to provide for Elizabeth for the rest of her natural life; John was to furnish her with a comfortable house and deliver to her a yearly amount of corn, wheat, rye, cider, pork, and other goods--suggesting these were all products of the farm.
Elizabeth was to receive money that was present in the home in a strongbox, and interest in cash from an unspecified amount of bonds owned by John.
There was no mention of slaves or indentured servants in the will.
John did take particular care that his executor and "good friend" Isaac Houser would energetically collect the debts owed to John by others for the benefit of the family.
Successive wills and land records show that the land patents that Lorenz received in 1758 were passed down to his son Johannes, to his grandson John, and were given to his great grandchildren in the late 1840's; the land was kept within the family for roughly a century.
The close friendship between John and Isaac Houser that was mentioned in John's will undoubtedly came from a shared interest in the Church. But they had other things in common as well; they both were also from recently emigrated ethically German backgrounds, and both were large landowners in the community.
Isaac Houser was named as executor in John's will. Houser's father Abraham is listed in church archives as donating the acre of land to the Mount Zion Mennonite church in 1793 in order that the church be built, and Isaac was the church minister. The friendship between John and Isaac probably played a role in John and his family having the first row of the cemetery reserved for them outside the newly-built church cemetery. Money was probably involved as well.
Lorenz Bomberger may well have had close (and perhaps prior) ties to Abraham Houser. This is an area for further exploration.
The Houser family emigrated from Wondenberg Germany (NFI) in the early 1700s, first settling in the Ephrata area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and moving to the Boonsboro area in the mid-1700s.
One of Jacob Rice's sons emigrated some years later to Ogle County Illinois with Peter Bomberger, John Bomberger's grandson. This suggests continuing close ties within their church community over generations.
John Bomberger's will has survived only in copied form in the Washington County Courthouse records. Nevertheless, syntax, word choice, and word placement errors in the text suggest that English was a secondary language for him. An analysis of the text suggests that German remained John Bomberger's primary language at the end of his life-- at times, word placement choices indicate German sentence construction patterns..
The German language was probably predominant in the worship services of the church for both John and Lorenz. Of note is that John's son's 1763 birth certificate was written entirely in the German language.
In official interactions, he appears to have used the name "John Bomberger" when dealing with those in the English speaking world, while the use of "Johannes" was used at home and with his church community.
Most likely, Lorenz Bomberger used German at home and in many parts of his everyday life as well.
Lorenz was probably buried in the cemetery of the Mennonite meeting house that existed before Mt Zion Church was built in 1793, or on a piece of his own property. Apparently, the group of immigrants that came to the area built a small meeting house fairly quickly and replaced it a few years later with a larger and more permanent structure as time and means allowed. The 1793 church was built on its current site several miles away. Lorenz was apparently not buried in the same place as his wife. The existence of the earlier meeting house was confirmed by one primary and one secondary source, including Richard Watson Bomberger and the Fahrney's Church history. Notes from a grave visit in 1965 indicate that Richard Watson Bomberger knew where Lorenz' grave was, and that he had visited the site before--presumably, he gained that knowledge from his father, Harvey S. Bomberger (born 1860) and grandfather, Moses Benton Bomberger (born 1828). The site had two gravestones-- one for Lorenz and one for a Uries Bomberger (NFI). Neither stone was standing during the 1965 visit, but at that time they were present on the ground. Lorenz' burial site is about a mile away from downtown Boonsboro, where the first meeting house would have been located, but this fact still needs to be confirmed. He may have been one of the few members of the church to die while the meeting house was in use and was buried there on the assumption that any new church that was built would be erected on the same site. A rendering of the 1793 church appears on the right.
According to the church history, the church was built in 1793; while the church cornerstone reads 1763, this was inscribed by mistake.
An attempt to locate the site of Lorenz' grave was unsuccessful, the landmarks cited in the 1965 notes on the site's location are no longer clear. Explicit directions to Lorenz' grave-- written down in 1965 and sourced to Richard Watson Bomberger--are available, and Lorenz' burial in the Boonsboro area should be assessed as authenticated.
There is no information on Uries Bomberger; he could have been a son of Lorenz who died in infancy, his father, or even a more distant relative.
There is a suggestion in the 1906 Register of Maryland Heraldic Families that Lorenz was a descendant of Daniel Bomberg, a prominent printer of religious books from Antwerp, who worked in Florence from 1517-1549. There is little genealogical information on Daniel Bomberg, and an actual relationship is unproven.
It appears to be a claim made due to the similarity of names, and there is no reason to accept its validity, given the absence of evidence.
There is no further documentary evidence through which Lorenz' pre-Boonsboro history can be detailed, other than an unsupported assertion in the family history that he came from Frankfurt Germany. This assertion is repeated in Williams' history. It is worth noting, however, that both Richard Watson Bomberger (born 1896) and his father Harvey S. Bomberger (born 1860) believed this to be accurate during their lifetimes.
Maude Ada Bomberger, in her 1907 book Colonial Recipies claimed that Lorenz came from an aristocratic Prussian family, and that he "lived the life of a country gentleman" and "was buried on his estate, called Weldon." Maude appears to be parroting Williams' then recently-published history. William' history also claimed that the family produced a long line of distinguished representatives to the German parliament in Berlin.
Although there is no evidence to directly discount some of the claims about the Bomberger family's ties to nobility in Germany, many of these claims appeared during the American post-civil war American Victorian period, in which the ability of an individual to portray a "Nobel" pedigree had positive social benefits. These claims most likely were simply made up.
Some of the claims surfaced at a time when Moses Benton Bomberger began to be active in local politics, and might have been meant to assist a political career.
Alsatian Connection Promising, Unproven
Many Mennonite immigrants during this time came to the American colonies from Alsace, the Palatinate, or the Swiss cantons around Zurich. While research uncovered a potential connection between Lorenz Bomberger and the family of Alsatian immigrant Heinrich Bomberger, no relevant documentation has been found. Heinrich Bomberger and his family emigrated in 1729 aboard the "Robert and Alice" that sailed from Rotterdam and arrived in Philadelphia on 3 September. The family was later associated with the Calvinist Goshenhoppen Church located in Pennsylvania just north of Philadelphia. An image of the church in 1743 is on the right. In Annette Burgett's Eighteenth Century Emigration from the Alsace Region, a Lorenz Bomberger is listed as having emigrated to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania with his father, Hienrich, and his family. According to page 45 of Burgett's book, the Diedendorf Reformed church book lists a Heinrich Baumberger, residing on the Ziegelscheuer by Vinstingen [today Fenetrange] and wife Anna Maria Schlabacher (Schlebach in some records) and their children:
Johann Heinrich, bap. 25 Dec 1716, conf. 1732.
Johann Adam, bap. 21 Mar 1719.
Johannes, bap. 17 Nov 1721.
Anna Catharina, bap. 22 Oct 1724.
Lorentz, bap. 11 May 1728, Wolfskirchen.
Johann Georg, bap. 15 Jun 1731.
The Lorenz Bomberger baptized at Wolfskirchen cited above is well within the presumed age range of the Boonsboro Lorenz Bomberger, and this Lorenz Bomberger emigrated with his family to the United States prior to the revolution. This Lorenz, however, appears to have lived his entire life in Pennsylvania, not Maryland. Many other aspects of his life are inconsistent with the scant biographical information we have on the Boonsboro Lorenz: he married a Sharlotta, which in inconsistent with the Boonsboro Lorenz; he was buried in Pennsylvania, also inconsistent. It is clear that the Lorenz Bomberger listed above is not the Lorenz Bomberger who eventually settled in Boonsboro, as the documentary evidence proves.
1747-1761 Marriage of Lorentz Bamberger and Scharlotta at Goshenhoppen, according to Pennsylvania-German Society records.
At the age of 41, Heinrich's Lorenz is still living in the same area around Philadelphia. In 1769, Lawrence Bamberger is listed on Northern Liberties Twp tax list.
12 Jan 1771 death of Lawrence Bamberger. BAMBERGER, LAWRENCE. N. Liberties, according to Philadelphia County will abstracts.
This line of inquiry provided an additional lead. The Lawrence Bomberger above had a individual also named Lorenz Bomberger who sponsored him at his Baptism at the Deidendorf Church. This is significant because of the close association with an emigrant family, the date, and the unusual name. There is no record, however, suggesting that this Lorenz Bomberger emigrated with Hienrich and his family to America, or that he worshipped with them at the Goshenhoppen Church. Neither is there any record, however, of this individual that would discount the possibility that he was the Lorenz Bomberger that settled in Boonsboro in 1758.
A Lorenz Bomberger, presumably the baptismal sponsor listed above, was married to Maria Catherina Magnus in Diendendorf, Germany on 3 September, 1726, according to Diendendorf Reformed Church records.
This same Lorenz Bomberger remarried on 15 January 1729 in Wolfskirchen; he married Anna Marie Karcher. The fate of his first wife is unclear.
Earlier Church records indicate that the Bomberger family came to the Diendendorf area from Doss, in Canton Zurich (Winterthur). (NFI).
This Lorenz Bomberger could have been the same age as the Lorenz Bomberger who settled in Maryland, being born in the early 1700's. There is no direct evidence to connect them, however.
Areas of Further Inquiry
The facts above, although incomplete and fragmentary, suggest three primary areas for further exploration. The evidence suggests that the strongest argument is that Lorenz came from the Lancaster County area before settling in Boonsboro. Other leads suggest Baltimore or its surrounding areas, or Alsace.
Lancaster County. A range of circumstantial evidence indicates that Lorenz Bomberger came from the Lancaster County Pennsylvania area before he moved to the Boonsboro area in 1758. The evidence is compelling enough to justify more attention into this line of inquiry. While a Bomberger family exists in the Lancaster area, Richard Watson Bomberger believed there was no connection between Lorenz Bomberger and the family of Christian Bomberger who settled in the Lancaster area in the fall of 1722. If such a connection was proven, however, it would suggest that Information on Lorenz' ancestry could be found in the records of Christian Bomberger's family around Eschelbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany--only about 50 miles from Frankfurt. The circumstantial evidence justifying such an inquiry includes:
Proximity. A review of the places of birth of many of those in Lorenz' church community suggest Lancaster County as a common starting point. Indeed, it appears that many members of this close-knit church community moved from the Lancaster area together at about the same tine as Lorenz did. The parents of Lorenz' grandson's wife, for example, were from Lancaster County, as was his church minister. In the mid 1700's, movement by groups of settlers was more usual than the movement of individuals, especially when moving to less secure areas on the frontier.
Activity of Lancaster Mennonite Conference. The Lancaster Church at this time was highly active in establishing and nurturing Church communities in other areas, including Boonsboro, according to the Anabaptist Encyclopedia. Many of the settlers to the area--and nearly all in the close-knit church community--would have come from the Lancaster area. Lorenz' immediate membership in the church community in Boonsboro, and the suggestion of the Bomberger family's prominence within it, would indicate a long tie to these usually closed communities.
Early Bombergers in Lancaster. One author, H. Frank Eshleman ((1917, 2008) Historic Background and Annals of the Swiss and Pioneer Settlers of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books.) notes an early Bomberger family in Lancaster County that might be unrelated to the family of Christian Bomberger. See pp. 225-226 "1726--The Law to Naturalize Germans. In Vol. 4, Statutes at Large, p. 457, we find set forth a law to naturalize several Germans who had moved to this province. They do not seem to Lancaster County names, as their names are not familier here; and there are only a few of them. They are ... Arnolt Bambarger .... The Statute states that they are born under the allegiance of the Emperor of Germany."
Lorenz' Wharves in Baltimore. The ownership of ship wharves in Baltimore is consistent with a residence in southern or eastern Lancaster County. The Philadelphia-Lancaster Pike was not built until 1795, so the most efficient means to transport goods to market from Lancaster would have been by boat--down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake Bay, and on to Baltimore. This would suggest that Lorenz or his family had an established business before he left wherever he was to settle in Boonsboro.
Prior Establishment in America. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Lorenz was already established in America when he moved to the Boonsboro area in 1758, including the size of the land patents, the prominence within the church community, the ownership of other tracts of land and wharves in Baltimore.
Baltimore. Some of the evidence suggests an earlier tie to the Baltimore area, instead of Lancaster. This possibility is more weakly supported with available facts.
Ownership of the wharves in Baltimore. This is the strongest piece of evidence suggesting a tie to the area. It still needs to be authenticated.
Slavery Points South, The presence of a colored cemetery on his farm suggests the possibility that Lorenz might have held slaves--as would labor requirements to farm such a large acreage of land. The Mennonite community at that time, however, was generally against the institution of slavery, but exceptions were the norm. Although later generations of Bombergers in the Boonsboro area owned a very few slaves, there is no direct evidence that Lorenz did. Indeed, John's 1795 will makes no mention of slave property. That said, Lorenz Bomberger would have required labor--either slaves or indentured servants--to farm such large tracts of land with only one son.
Bomberger Family in Baltimore. At least in the mid 1800's, a Bomberger family existed in Baltimore. This family's origins, arrival in Baltimore, and any documentary connection to Lorenz are unexplored.
Alsace. The potential tie to Hienrich Bomberger's family should also be investigated further. The notion that Lorenz Bomberger might have emigrated from Alsace is supported by the law of averages. Indeed, most German immigrants to the American colonies in the early 18th century were from Alsatian, Swiss German, or Palatine extraction. Most German Mennonites at that time came from Alsace as well. Additional circumstantial evidence includes:
Unusual name. Both the given name (Lorenz) and the surname (Bomberger) were unusual within the Mennonite community at that time. Indeed, years of research into German immigration have yielded only three individuals with this name--the Lorenz Bomberger who settled in Boonsboro in 1758, Hienrich Bomberger's son Lorenz who was baptized at the Diendendorf Church in Alsace in 1728, and his baptismal sponsor.
Mennonite Patterns of Emigration from Zurich Canton. Many Mennonite families emigrated from Canton Zurich at this time, and there was a lively exchange of people--particularly within the persecuted Mennonite community--between the two areas at this time. A connection to the Bomberger family in Diendendorf to Swiss origins would reveal a pattern of movement strikingly similar to the Schnebly family of Catherine Schnebly Bomberger, who was married to Richard Watson Bomberger in 1923. The Schnebly family-- long Anabaptists--were expelled from Zurich Canton, expelled from Alsace, settled in Pennsylvania and later moved to the Boonsboro area (Clear Spring).
Swiss Origins of Others in Family. A review of the extended family tree shows an origin overwhelmingly from Switzerland for most of those intermarrying into the Bomberger family.