The Godshalk History

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  • ID: I02212
  • Name: Jacob Henricks GODTSCHALK , Bishop
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 1666 in Goch, Germany
  • Death: MAY 1763 in Kulpsville, Towamencin, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (age 97)
  • Burial: Towamencin Mennonite Church Cemetery, Kulpsville, Pennsylvania
  • Event: Job/Business Woodturner and Ffarmer in Goch, Minister in Pennsylvania
  • Residence: Goch, Germany; Germantown, Pennsylvania; Kulpsville, Pennsylvania
  • Note:
    --Jacobs full name was: Jacob GODTSCHALK Van Der Heggen.
    --He immigrated to America in 1702.
    --He was born in a little town in the Lower Rhine reigon, located on a small stream, the Niers. The land earlier belonged to the "Duchy of Cleves". Some maps showed this area to be Holland, today it is shown as Germany.
    --He was baptized a Mennonite, in Goch, on 7 April 1686.
    --On 11 June 1701, he received a letter from the Church in Goch, permitting him to migrate to Pennsylvania, where he arrived in 1702 at Germantown.
    --In Germantown he became a minister, in 1702, and later became the First Bishop in Germantown, also called "van der Heggen", in 1708.
    --In 1713, he moved from Germantown to Towamencin Township, about 25 miles north. His property there is now the location of the Towamencin Mennonite Church.
    --He was naturalized on 29 September 1709, and kept the patronymic name, as he could not use the name of his family's estate that was sold in Goch.
    --He died in 1763, there was a memorial built in 1962 in rememberance to him, in the Towamencin Mennonite graveyard (north side).

    --Source of information: Harry ADAMS (Bedminster, PA);
    Generally, members of the family in Bucks and Mongomery counties spelled the name GODSHALK up to the Civil War period. After that period, the name was usually given as GODSHALL. The name GOTTSCHALL means "God's Echo" but a translation of the German name GODSHALK means "Gods Rascal!" Perhaps this is the reason for changing the way the name was spelled in the 1860's.
    Jacob Godshall [Gaetschalck Theunis] was born in Village of Goch in the district of Cleves (then Holland) about 1666. He was baptised in the Goch Mennonite Church in 1686. "What can be discovered about Jacob Gottschalk in his native land?" asks Niepoth. "The only available source for this investigation is the church record of the Mennonite Church in Goch, the first entries of which date back to 1658. Anyone transferring from one church to another received from his home church a church letter (attestatie). On June 12,1701, Jacob Gottschalks and his wife were given such a testimonial by the Mennonite Church of Goch for can be therefore be assumed that he arrived in Germantown in the second half of 1701. The church record lists the marriage of Jacob Godtschalch with Aeltien (Adelheit) Hermans under date of February 20,1689.
    "Aeltien Hermans, the daughter of Herman Davits, was baptised as a Mennonite in Goch on April 7,1686. Her father had on January 30,1667, married Trientien (Katharine) Symons. Since girls were baptised at the age of about 18 years, she may, as the first child of her parents, have been born toward the close of 1667, or early in 1668.
    "On the same day as his wife-to-be, Jacob Godtschalck was also baptised; viz., April 7,1686. Since young men applied for baptism at the age of about 20, he was probably born in 1666. In this baptismal record his father's name is also given. It was Gaatschalk Theunissen....Since the oldest son of this man was called Theunis, his father's surname Theunnissen must be patronymic, for along the lower Rhine, it was the custom, strictly followed, to give the oldest children the names of their grandparents. Hence Gottschalk Theunissen's father's name must have been Theunis (Thonis Antonius....).
    "Jacob and also his wife have a second name, which is derived from his father's Christian name (a patronymic). This fact leads to the deduction that they were not among the oldest families, and that they did not possess a house or farm with a hereditary name. The spelling of Jacob's name varies: Gaatschalcks, Gootschalcks, Godtschalks, rarely Gaetschalks...The spelling of names was not yet standardized as it is at the present time. He was also called Jacob van der Heggen."

    --Source of information: Jennie SPERLING (Lansdale, PA);
    The Godshalk Crest is a Lion Pair holding a Cresent.
    The chronological family record name GODSHALK and its various forms come from the German and its literal meaning is "God's Servant". The name has been associated in Europe with the Church from the earliest times and its members frequently were found in the Church in high positions as Monks, Priests, and Crusaders. They were firm in their belief and many suffered the traditional hardship of excommunication, imprisonment, and death. Many were Mennonites who lived in the lower Palatinate, lying on both sides of the Rhine River in Germany, in the largest province of Southern Germany and the capital being Heidelburg. Most of the Minnonites in Southern Pennsylvania came from the Palatinate and brought their language with them. This language or dialect is now called Pennsylvania German.
    Jacob purchased 50 acres from Isaac SHOMAKER in Germantiwn at 5273 Germantown Ave. He built a one story stone house with a Douch roof. They lived here for 12 years. Germantown was founded in 1683. In 1690, the Mennonite Church was founded in Germantown, by Rev. William RITTENHOUSE and Dirck KEYSER.
    William PENN, an Englishman obtained his Royal Charter from King Charles II, on 4 March 1681, granting him 40,000 square miles of land as a payment for a debt the King owed his father. The land being in the New World included the Province of Pennsylvania and Delaware.
    Penn, a Quaker, went to Germany and Holland and appointed agents in all cities to form companies for emigration. Penn preached to the persecuted people inviting them over to his land where they would have free excercise of their religion.
    The first immigrants arrived in 1683, in Philadelphia, finding it already occupied by Quakers. They therefore moved seven miles in to the country, at a settlement they called Germantown.
    An Educator, Idealist, and Schlor, Francis Daniel PASTORIUS, born in Franconia Germany, persuaded Jacob GODTSCHALK Van Der Heggen to come to the new world. He left for the new world with his wife and five children. It is not known if any of his other relatives came to the new world with him, but he has so many descendants now living here. On 29 September 1709, Jacob and his family became naturalized as British Subjects, and Van Der Heggen was dropped from the name. His wife had died in 1706, it is not known where she is buried. They married in 1689.

    --Source of information: N.B. Grubb's book; Rev Jacob Gaedschalk came from Gog, in the community of Cleeves [present-day Kleve, Germany (as of 1924)].

    --Source of information: David GODSHALK (Hartsville, SC);
    Jacob GOTTSCHALK was born in Goch (Gog) about 1666. Goch is in western Germany, north of Krefeld, near the border of Holland. It is near a little town in the Lower Rhine region, located on a small stream, the Niers. It earlier belonged to the Duchy of Cleves, where the Mennonites had been tolerated since the beginning of the 17th Century.
    The only available source for this information is the church record of the Mennonite Church in Goch, the first entries of which date back to 1658. Anyone transferring from one church to another had to receive a letter from the home church ('attestatie'). On 12 June 1701, Jacob GOTTSCHALK and his wife were given such a testimonial by the Minnonite Church at Goch for Pennsylvania. It can therefore be assumed that he arrived in Germantown in the second half of 1701. The church record lists the marriage of Jacob GOTTSCHALK with Aeltien (Adelheid) HERMANS under the date of 20 February 1689.
    Aeltien HERMANS, the daughter of Herman DAVITS, was baptized as a Mennonite in Goch on 7 April 1686. Her father had on 30 January 1667, married Trientien (Katharina) SYMONS. Since girls were baptized at the age of about 18 years, she may, as the first child of her parents, have been born toward the close of 1667 or early in 1668.
    On the same day as his wife-to-be Jacob GODTSCHALK was also baptized; viz., 7 April 1686. Since young men applied for baptism at the age of about 20, he was probably born in 1666. In this baptismal entery, his father's name is also given. It was Gottschalk THONIS (aka: Gaatschalk THEUNISSEN).
    Jacob and also his wife have a second name, which is derived from the father's Christian name (a patronymic). This fact leads to the deduction that they were not the oldest families, and that they did not possess a house or a farm with a hereditary name. The spelling of Jacob's name varies: GAATSCHALCKS, GOOTSCHALCKS, GODTSCHALKS, rarely GAETSCHALKS. The spelling of names was not yet standardized as it is at the present time. He was also called Jacob van der Heggen.
    When he had migrated to America in 1701 he joined the German settlement at Germantown, Pennsylvania. Not long afterward he was called to the ministry, and shared the service of this office with the preachers already there, namely Wilhelm RITTINGHAUSEN and Dirck KEYSER. Rittinghausen was chosen elder, and Gottschalk ws requested to ordain him, although he was himself not an elder. This was done upon the advice of the church council in Altona on the Elbe in Germany, to whom the Germantown congregation had appealed for aid. After Rittinghausen's death in 1708, Gottschalk was ordained as elder. He performed the first baptism in North America. He was naturalized on 29 September 1709, and kept the patronymic name, as by law he could not use the name of the sold estate.
    On 21 October 1702, he purchased a tract of fifty acres of land from Isaac SHOEMAKER. On this land he erected a quaint, low but substantial house and lived there for twelve years at which time he moved to Towamenchin Township, which is now in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The exact spot is now 5273 Germantown Avenue. He was a close neighbor to Dennis CONRAD, one of the original settlers in Germantown, who came to America in 1683 on the ship Concord.
    A deed on record in Philadelphia records that Rev. Gottschalk purchased 120 acres of land from James SHATTUCK in Towamenchin Township, the considerations of the purchase being 36 pounds. The deed bears the date of 30 February 1713-14 and was acknowledged 20 April 1714. At the same time his son Gottshall GOTTSHALL purchased from the same party 120 acres, adjoining his father's tract. The consideration was the same and the deed bears the same dates as that of his father's.
    In 1708 Gottschalk joined with four other brethren in a letter to Amsterdam, asking for some catechisms for the children and little testaments for the young, stating that only one Bible was among the membership of the church. In 1728 the Mennonite confession of faith was translated into English and printed by Bradford, in Philadelphia, and Gottschalk was one of the signers testifying to the correctness of the translation. Rev. Gottschalk was a literary man and capable of using three languages, Dutch, German, and English.
    He assisted in the translation of Van Braght's "Martyrs' Mirror" from the Dutch into German, and in its publication by the Ephrata Cloister. He also participated in the preparation of an English edition of a Mennonite catechism. His will, dated in 1760, indicates that he was a man of great age. His occupation was a wood turner. He had three sons, Gottschall, John, and Herman. Gottschall and John were deceased at the time of his will, and Herman was residing with him on the farm in Towamenchin Township to which Jacob Gottschalk had moved from Germantown in 1714. Jacob Gottschalk also had two daughters, Ann (wife of Peter GUSTARD (KUSTER), and Magdalena, wife of William NASH, both of whom were deceased at the time of his will.
    Jacob died in Towamenchin Township in 1763, at the age of ninety-seven years and there is a memorial to him in the Towamenchin Mennonite grave yard adjoining the Towamenchin Mennonite Church near Kulpsville.

    --Source of info: Ann M. WOODLIEF (;
    Jacob arranged with the Ephrata cloister in 1745 to have them translate (from Dutch into German) and print Thielman J. Van Braght's 1660 "Blutige Schau-platz oder Martyrer Spiegel (The Bloody Theatre or Martyr's Mirror)", a history of religious persecutions of Christians opposed to infant baptism and war; the work took 15 men 3 years to finish and in 1749, at 1512 pages, was the largest published before 1800.
    His grave is unmarked; however, there is a memorial stone that reads; "In memory of Bishop Jacob Gottshall 1670-1763. Born in Goch Germany, ordained a bishop in the Germantown Mennonite Church in 1702 and also served the Skippack and Towamencin congregations. He performed the first baptism and conducted the first communion service in the American church in 1708. The Skippack alms audits were signed by him from 1745-1757. He owned a farm of 120 acres which included this chruch site. Undoubtedly, he is buried here but no marker remains, therefore this marker is erected in memory of this energetic leader."
    Much of the older information and through Jacob's grandchildren come from typed and handwritten manuscripts in the Historical Society of Montgomery County library and are reasonably documented by deeds, wills, etc.

    --Source of information: Carl H. GOTTSHALL <167 Rose Valley Rd. Pottstown, PA 19464>; He also lived in Germantown PA and Kulpsville PA. He was a Farmer & Wood Turner. Lists the spelling of his name as Jacob Henricks GODTSCHALK.

    --Source of information: Donna Warner ;
    On 12 June 1701 Jacob & Aeltien Godshalk asked for a letter or "assistate" from the Goch Mennonite Church transferring their membership "to or into Pennsylvania". They came to Germantown in late 1701, buying 50 acres on 21 Oct 1702. Jacob, a turner and carpenter, built a one-story stone house with a Dutch roof at what is now 5273 Germantown Ave.
    Although Jacob asked to be excused from jury duty on religious grounds, he seems to have accepted an appointment as viewer of fences in 1704. Between 1706 and 1708 he was a patron of the Pastorius School.
    He petitioned for naturalization in 1706 and, together with son Godshalk and many of his Germantown neighbors, was naturalized on 29 Sep 1709. In February 1713/4 Jacob paid James Shattuck #36 for 123 acres in Towamencin Township in what is now Montgomery County. He was among those petitioning for a road from Skippack to Farmer's Mill in 1713. In 1722/3 he paid a quit rent of #1.9.6.
    Jacob was one of the most influential members of the early Mennonite Church in America. On 8 Oct 1702, within a year of his arrival in Germantown, he was chosen preacher at Germantown. Mennonite historian John L. Ruth says because he lacked the gift of public speaking, he ministered only by reading. "Rev. Jacob Godtschalk and wife" headed the 1708 membership list of the Germantown Mennonite Church. Ordained bishop that same year, Jacob officiated at the first Mennonite baptism in America in 9 May 1708, and at the first communion two weeks later on 23 May. Because he didn't think he was eloquent enough to preach, he ministered "only by reading".
    When The Confessions of Faith, the book of Mennonite teachings, was printed in English in 1728, Jacob was one of the signers who attested to the correctness of the translation. He also read and corrected proofs of the Ephrata edition of Martyr's Mirrors when it was translated from Dutch to German. (Dutch was Jacob's native tongue.) In 1745 he had written the Dutch asking for help in publishing the book.
    In 1708 Jacob wrote Dutch Mennonites requesting catechisms, testaments and Bibles. He also wrote the history of the Germantown Mennonite Church, probably in 1712. In 1725 Jacob attended a meeting of 16 American Mennonite leaders who adopted the Dordrecht confession and appendix. He was the first to sign the document.
    Jacob signed his will on 26 Dec 1760; it was proven 3 June 1763. He willed #25 to son Herman and daughter Anna, as well as #25 to the heirs of sons Godshalk and John and daughter Magdalena, who had all died before him. He bequeathed his 122 1/2 acre plantation to son Herman, with the stipulation that Herman pay #125 to the heirs within a year and a day after Jacob's death. The residue of the estate was to be divided into five equal shares. He was buried at the Towamencin Mennonite Meetinghouse Cemetery in Montgomery County.
    Jacob came from a family that had been Mennonite for generations. He and Aeltien were baptized together in the Goch Mennonite Church on 7 Apr 1686, and married there three years later. "Here at Goch were joined in wedlock by Abraham Jansen the honorable young man Jacob Godtschalck with the honorable young lady Altien Harments both are members of this Doopsgezinde congregation."
    The family name was viet ander Heiden or van der Hegge, a name Jacob dropped when he was naturalized in 1709.
    1) William Niepoth, "Early Ancestors of Jacob Gottschalk, MENNONITE QUARTERLY REIVEW, 1947
    2) William Niepoth, "Jacob Godshalk and His Ancestry," MENNONITE QUARTERLY REIVEW, July 1949, p 47 PERIOMEN REGION, Vol X #1 Jan 1932 p 63-4; Vol XII, #3 and #4, October 1934, p 15-16
    3) Robert Ulle, "Research Notes--Materials on Mennonites in Colonial Germantown," MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW, Vol lLLVII, #4, Oct 1983, pp 368, 378-79, 382-83; Vol XIX, k#2, April 19985, pp 150-51
    4) John L Ruth, MAINTAINING THE RIGHT FELLOWSHIP, Herald Press, Scottsdale, Pennsylvania, 1984, pp 69, 77-78, 82-83, 92, 97, 102, 123, 134-35, 143, 148, 250 Ruth, "The Immigration from Krefeld to Pennsylvania in 1683...." MENNONITE QUARTERLY REVIEW, Vol LVLII, #4, October 1983, pp 323, 325, 328-29
    5) Joel D Alderfer, "New Discoveries in Godshalk-Godshall-Gottshall Family Research," MENNONITE HISTORIANS OF EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA NEWSLETTER, May 1983, pp 1-2
    6) Philadelphia Will Book M, p 532, 1763, Will #299
    7) Correspondence w/Jeanne W. Jackson, Ukiah California

    --Source of information: The following material is excerpted from the eighth grade social studies course produced by Christian Light Publications.;
    Bishop Jacob Godshalk's History of the Germantown Mennonites:
    Jacob Godshalk (1670-1763) came to Pennsylvania in 1702. In 1708 he became the first Mennonite bishop in America. He later moved to Skippack. Here is Godshalk's account of the Mennonites in America from 1683 to 1708:
    "The beginning of the community of Jesus Christ here at Germantown, who are called Mennonites, took its rise in this way. Some friends out of Holland and Germany came here together. They found it good to have meetings. They were regarded as sheep who had no shepherd since they had no preacher.
    "In 1698 more friends came into the land, who were also of our brethren. These, with the first chose by unanimous votes a preacher and some deacons. Thereupon was William Rittenhouse chosen preacher and Jan Nice as a deacon. In 1702 Jacob Godshalk and Hans Nice were chosen preachers. Hans Nice later separated from the community.
    "In 1707 some brethren came to us out of the Palatinate. In 1708 the first- chosen preacher William Rittenhouse died to the great sorrow of the community. Since Jacob Godshalk alone served the community, they considered it necessary to chose three deacons. There were besides three preachers chosen.
    "After this we remained sometime living in good peace. Meanwhile some persons presented themselves to be taken into the community through baptism. The community having consulted together ordered that the request should be complied with. Accordingly this rite was conducted by Jacob Godshalk. Later we celebrated the Lord's Supper as instructed by the Apostles."

    Father: Gottschalk THONIS (THEUNISSEN) b: ABT 1625 in Heckenhof near Munchen-Gladbach in the Alst, Germany
    Mother: Lehntgen HENRICHS b: ABT 1630 in Munchen Gladbach-Harterbroich, Germany

    Marriage 1 Aeltien Symons HERMANS b: ABT 1667 in Dutch
    • Married: 20 FEB 1689 in Goch, Germany 1
    • Married: 20 FEB 1688 in Goch, Germany 2
    • Note: --Source of information: Carl H. GOTTSHALL <167 Rose Valley Rd. Pottstown, PA 19464>; Lists their marriage date as 29 Feburary 1689.
    1. Has Children Godshalk Hermans GODSHALK b: 1693 in Goch, Germany
    2. Has Children Jan (John) Hermans GODSHALK , Bishop b: 1695
    3. Has Children Magdalena Hermans GODSHALK b: 1696 in Germany
    4. Has Children Herman Hermans GODSHALK b: 1698 in Goch, Germany
    5. Has Children Anna Hermans GODSCHALK b: 1706

    Marriage 2 Rosanna GODTSCHALK ???
    • Married: AFT 1706

    1. Title: Carl H. GOTTSHALL <167 Rose Valley Rd. Pottstown, PA 19464>
      Media: Book
    2. Title: Wendy Scott
      Text: 1688/89
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