My fourth great-granddfather, and a Revolutionary War veteran, Philip Myers was born on 3 November 1759, in the Rhine valley of present-day Germany. He immigrated as a child, settling with his parents in Frederick County, Maryland Colony. After the Revolution, he married and raised a large family in the “Wyoming” valley of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Click here to view his place in the family tree.
Early life (described late)
The best source, indeed the only “primary” source pertaining to Philip’s early life, comes late; in a sworn statement by Philip himself, in support of his claim to a Revolutionary War pension. It is hardly bulletproof, having come from an old man recalling events of his childhood; even so, it should rank as “pretty good” evidence, fit to stand unless anything contrary comes to light.
Although it was well-known that Philip served, and several female descendants have proved it in their applications to the DAR, this 58-page file contains many details previously unknown to me, and corroboration of some vital statistics, from Philip’s own lips, under oath, no less!
Why did Philip wait so long to apply for a pension? In the early years following the Revolution, pension laws were very restrictive, only providing benefits to veterans who were invalids (disabled) or indigent (impoverished), and even then, only if they had served nine months or more. Since Philip Myers fit none of those categories, there was no pension available to him. But in 1828, a more favorable law was passed, with more to follow. The following information was taken verbatim from the American Revolution message board for genealogy.com. It was written and posted as message #3250 by Ed, a historian on the American Revolution.
The last and most liberal of the service-pension acts benefiting Revolutionary War veterans was passed on June 7, 1832 (4 Stat. 529), and extended to more persons the provisions of the law of May 15, 1828. The act provided that every officer or enlisted man who had served at least 2 years in the Continental Line or State troops, volunteers or militia, was eligible for a pension of full pay for life. Naval and marine officers and enlisted men were also included. Veterans who had served less than 2 years, but not less than 6 months, were eligible for pensions of less than full pay. Neither the act of 1832 nor the one of 1828 required applicants to demonstrate need. Under the act of 1832 money due from the last payment until the date of death of a pensioner could be collected by his widow or by his children.
Of course, by 1832, Philip Myers was 72 years old, and indeed, he died less than three years later, after which his widow was not eligible for continued benefits until the laws were further revised in 1848.
On July 29, 1848 (9 Stat. 265), Congress provided life pensions for widows of veterans who were married before January 2, 1800.
But we are getting ahead of the story. Here are some quotes from, and comments on, Philip’s declaration to the Luzerne county court on 08 September, 1832.
(For an enlarged view of this introduction, click on the image. To view the entire three-page declaration, click here.)
State of Pennsylvania
County of Lucerne [sic]
On this eighth day of November 1832 personally appeared in open court, before the judges of the Court of Common Pleas of the County of Lucerne, state aforesaid, now sitting, Philip Myers, a resident of the Township of Kingston in said County, and State aforesaid, aged seventy two years, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth, on his oath, make the following declaration, in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June 7th 1832.
That he was born on the third of November 1759, near Mentz [sic] in Germany, on the river Rhine; that in the year 1766 he came to America with his parents and landed in Philadelphia where they resided four weeks* when they moved to the town of Frederick, County of Frederick in Maryland where he lived until the year 1785 when this applicant left Frederick and settled in Kingston where he now resides.
(* In the manuscript, the word “years” was crossed out and “weeks” written above, as if the judge or clerk had initially misunderstood, and then corrected himself.)
This paragraph confirms the published sources, which state the same birth date and date of immigration, probably based on this very document. Further, and not given in other sources, the port of entry is specified as Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, these documents do nothing towards the identification of Philip’s parents, a problem which has been vexing me for years. But they do provide a fascinating synopsis of Philip’s Revolutionary service, which I will launch into below.
Birth Record Found, but Suspect
Using LDS sources, I found what may Philip’s birth record in the German churchbooks, along with several generations before him. Note that subsequent research has put the validity of this finding in doubt.
Christening of Phillip, with twin brother Jacob, sons of Valentin Meyer and Theresa, at St. Stephen’s Catholic church, Mainz, on 28 November 1759.
In the same church, three siblings of Philip were also baptized: Anna Margaretha, christened 8 May 1755, Bernardus Vincentius, 22 Jan. 1757, and Jacobus, 14 Jan. 1765. The problem: this does not correspond with the two brothers said to have immigrated with the family. Thewe were Lawrence (born c. 1754) and Henry (1757). While “Henry” may have been the one named Bernard in the church records, “Lawrence” is nowhere recorded.
With the high incidence of infant and child mortality in those days, it is easy to imagine that those siblings I found may have died before the family came to America. And with the prevalence of wars, not to mention fires and natural disasters, no doubt a great many church records do not survive. However, since the records seem quite intact for this particular family, it becomes questionable whether this Philip Meyer is in fact our ancestor who died in Pennsylvania, regardless his promising birth date and place.