15 - Henry Hiestand's Estate Settled and the Family Parts Ways

From Massanutten Mountain, looking down (eastward) on the Hiestand home site in the Luray Valley. Blue Ridge in the background.

Daniel's Mother & Father Die in 1777 and 1779

Peter Hiessandt, Sr.’s, (older brother of Daniel) Bible record was written in the old German script, but transcribed later by descendants.  Peter recorded some very helpful information about his mother and father:

Year 1777 the 12th of January my mother left this world for eternity. Year 1779 the 5th day of October my father left this world and his age was 74 and 11 months and 27 days.

This would mean that Henrich Hiestand was born on October 8, 1704. If he and lived three more days (October 8, 1779) he would have been 75 years old.   He was born in the village of Ibersheim on the Rhine River near Worms, Germany.

At age seventy-two and a half, and his wife having passed away two months earlier, Henry Hiestand must have known that it was time to make preparations to follow her into eternity.  So, on March 22, 1777, he signed the following will, originally written in German.[i] 

[i] Amelia C. Gilreath, Shenandoah County, Virginia Abstract of Wills, 1772-1850. (1980, reprinted, Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007), 93; Will Book B, 2.

In the Name of God Amen. I Heinrich Hiestand residing in Dunmore County in the Province of Virginia do this twenty second day of March in the year of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ one thousand seven hundred and seventy seven. Make known and declare this my Last Will and Testament in good health and perfect understanding and memory. Thanks be to God for this beneficence. This my Last Will and Testament I make in the following manner and form. To wit firstly it is my will and I ordain that first of all my burial costs and all lawful debts shall be paid from my estates.

Item it is my will and confession and ordaining that my eldest son Jacob shall have five pounds beforehand afterwards though shall receive equal inheritance with all my other children and no more.

Item it is my will and ordaining that my son Jacob inherit my place, where I now should still reside, for [one] hundred and eighty pounds of money as it is current in Virginia after my demise.

Item it is my will and ordaining what of my following property or money and is still remaining of both that everything shall be equally and amiably shared after my death.

Item it is my will and ordaining that my five sons after my decease shall give out to my three daughters until they are all equal inheritance, however I ordain and it is my will that my youngest daughter Magdalena shall have ten pounds less in her inheritance than the other children because of a reason which I now do not like to mention, and likewise my son Daniel shall likewise have ten pounds less inheritance than the six remaining because of the same reason which I now do not like to mention. [emphasis added]

Item it is my will and ordaining that my eldest daughter Barbara shall have nothing of this inheritance so long as she lives with this man in wedlock but when she will be a widow so she shall have her share what comes to her by right like the six above mentioned children, but if she should die before her husband so her children shall have her inheritance instead as they come of age further I declare what my daughter Barbara has received from her inheritance from me which amounts to forty pounds and twelve shillings, herewith I ordain and shall be faithfully carried out that after my demise ten shillings from my estate shall be distributed to the poor.

So this is my Last Will and Testament that all of this shall be firmly and (unbalanced?) kept what I in this my Last Will order: In Witness I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year as is written above.

by me the aforesaid Henrich Hiestand
as my Last Will and Testament
In all your presence
Joh. Krück the 22nd March 1777

Henrich Hiestandt

To the following it is my Will and Confession and ordaining in this my Will and Testament that my grandson Christel Harnisch shall receive no more from this inheritance because he has already received more than his other siblings have inherited. In Witness hereof I have hereunto set my hand seal in all your presence with day and date as was just already mentioned

by aforesaid Henrich Hiestand
as my Last Will and Testament
In all your presence
Signed by us the 22nd March 1777
Joh. Krück

Jacob Hiestand
Peter Hiestandt
Andres Gimling

Henry Hiestand died about two and a half years after his will was created.  

Gleanings from Henry's Will

As it is sometimes true with wills of other people, Henry’s last will and testament reveals several interesting things about him and his family:

  • As expected, German was still his primary language.
  • He was blessed to be “good health and perfect understanding and memory” to age seventy-two and a half, when he signed the will. And he gave God the credit for his health: “Thanks be to God for this beneficence.”
  • Other than five extra pounds (probably for overseeing the estate settlement), his oldest son Jacob was to receive “equal inheritance with all [his] other children and no more,” including the daughters. In doing so, Henry was rejecting the practice of primogeniture, whereby the oldest son received all of the father’s real estate.  The primogeniture laws were repealed at the time of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson took the lead in repealing the law in Virginia.
  • Jacob would receive the right to the “homeplace” on the river, but he would pay for it.
  • For some reason that Henry did not want to mention, his youngest son Daniel and youngest daughter Magdalena had done something to cause Henry to bequeath ten pounds less to them than the other six children.  (See below for my speculation about this matter.)
  • Henry apparently disapproved of Barbara’s marriage to Mr. Ross, whose full identity remains a mystery to us.
  • Barbara, it appears, had already received forty pounds and twelve shillings of her estate for some reason not stated.
  • He donated ten shillings (one-half a pound) to help the poor.
  • A kind of a footnote was added, stating that “Christel Harnisch” would not receive any inheritance because of what he had already received, probably through his father’s estate settlement.  Christel was a son of Barbara, by her first marriage.
  • Henry’s sons Jacob and Peter were signatories, as well as his son-in-law Andres (Andrew) Gimling, Maria Magdalena’s husband. Why was a son-in-law asked to sign the will and not John or Abraham or Daniel?  It may have been, very simply, because Andres was readily available at the time.  But this might seem to indicate that Henry did not have anything against Andres, even though he was seemingly disappointed with Maria Magdalena.  Or does it?
  • Henry spelled his formal given name differently than most others with the same name: Henrich, not Heinrich. That was also the case on the 1728 naturalization document, as well as the way it was spelled in the 1733 Caspar Wistar letters.
  • And Henry spelled his surname “Hiestandt,” the way it would have been spelled back in the Palatinate. His son Peter did the same on this will, which is the way Peter spelled his name in his Bible record:[i]

[i] “Peter Hiessandt, Sr.’s Bible.”

Peter Hiestandt's German signature. Notice the "t" at the end of his surname. He was an older brother of Daniel.

"A reason which I now do not like to mention"

For many years–probably ever since Henry Hiestand wrote his will–people have speculated about his reason for censuring Daniel and Maria Magdalena in his will, in an unmentionable manner.  The two most common theories are (1) Daniel fought in the Revolutionary War and his father was a Mennonite pacifist and (2) Daniel and Maria Magdalena, Henry’s two youngest kids, married outside of the Mennonite faith.

All four of Daniel’s brothers were active in the local militia, but Daniel never appears on any existing local militia list or any Revolutionary War muster list or pay record.  And in a future article we will see that it is doubtful that Daniel fought in the Revolutionary War.  But, if Christina Nave–Daniel’s wife–was a daughter of Henry Nave (as opposed to Dr. John Henry Neff, Jr., she would have been from a Reformed Church family.  And think about how distasteful it would have been for a strict Mennonite’s son to marry a girl from a Reformed Church–the very Church that persecuted Mennonites in Switzerland and ran them out of their home country.

But what about Maria Magdalena Hiestand, Henry’s youngest child?  She married Andrew Gimlin.  Gimlins, at least some of them back in York County, PA, were members of Reformed congregations.  And there is some circumstantial evidence to think Andrew Gimlin’s family (Frederick Gimlin, father), may have been members of the Reformed Church that assembled in Timberville, VA, near where the Henry Nave family lived.  But, there are a couple of caveats to this story.  Andrew Gimlin later in life was a lay leader in Baptist Churches, after he moved to Kentucky.  And Andrew was one of the three men who witnessed Henry Hiestand’s will, so he wasn’t disenfranchised from the family, at least completely.

So here’s my contribution to the speculation pool:  If I had to guess, I would cautiously guess that it was the Reformed Church vs. Mennonite Church that offended Daniel and Maria Magdalena’s father so strongly that it affected their inheritance.

Division of the Shenandoah River Property

At the time of his death, Henry Hiestand owned a LOT of land, especially if you remember the 400 acres on the Massanutten Mountain in Fort Valley.  Not bad for a man who came to America with nothing!  He lived the American dream, but he certainly worked hard for it–he earned it.


As you can see, three of Henrich’s sons inherited parts of their father’s Shenandoah River land.  Abraham had purchased his 300 acre tract in Fort Valley, several years earlier and had been living there.  Daniel, it seems, never owned any Virginia land.  He lived on his father’s 400 acre Fort Valley tract, probably rent free.

As the oldest son, Jacob inherited a whopping 330 acres, which included a lot of river-frontage on the bend and the Henry Hiestand home place–probably very near the location of the Strickler-Hiestand “Old Stone House” (on now Stage Coach Lane).

The Family Parted Ways

Thursday, August 28, 1783, nearly four years after Henry Hiestand died (October 5, 1779), Henry’s will was proved in court.[i]  Robert D. Mitchell’s general comment appears to be spot-on specifically with the Henry Hiestand family:

[i] Gilreath, Shenandoah County, Virginia Abstract of Wills, 1772-1850, 93; Will Book B, 2.

Migration was frequently associated with certain phases of the life cycle, especially marriage and the death of the family head.  Families often migrated or gradually broke up after the death of the father or his widow.  In some instances, only after an estate had been disposed of could sons obtain enough money to buy land elsewhere.

Barbara Hiestand Harnish Ross, born c. 1734

Barbara, Henry’s oldest child, married Christian Harnish.  When he died, she married a Mr. Ross.  From the will, you saw that Henry didn’t care much for Mr. Ross.  Mr. Ross might have been a Quaker, since there were Ross Quakers in the area.  But that’s only speculation on my part.  As far as I know, Barbara remained in the home area.

Jacob Hiestand, born c. 1736

Jacob, Henry’s oldest son, married Maria Elizabeth Brumback in about 1758.  Unlike John, Abraham, and Daniel, Jacob probably planned to remain in Shenandoah County for the rest of his life. 

Jacob and/or his son Abraham built the old stone house The old stone house that stands on the east side of the South Fork Shenandoah River, near and just south of the Bixler Bridge on State Route 675 in Page County, Virginia in about 1790. 

Eight years or so after the Hiestands built the house, the family sold it to John Strickler in 1798.[i]  John Strickler sold it to his half-brother Daniel Strickler, who became a Colonel in the War of 1812 and a prominent local civic leader and clerk of the Mill Creek Baptist Church.  The house has remained in the Strickler family to this day.

[i] Amelia C. Gilreath, Shenandoah County, Virginia Deed Books Series, Volume 3 (Abstracted). (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2002), 175.

Hiestand-Strickler House, now restored and available for vacation rental.

At about sixty years of age, in 1795 Jacob died tragically.  A brief biography of Samuel Hiestand, Jacob’s youngest son, states:  “Jacob Hiestand, who was drowned in the Shenandoah River while attempting to cross in a canoe, which upset.”[i]  If Jacob and Elizabeth were living in the new-at-that-time stone house, Jacob did not live long to enjoy it.  Not long after, Jacob’s family sold the property and moved to Ohio.

[i] John Powell, Authentic Genealogical Memorial History of Philip Powell, of Mifflin County,  PA: And His Descendants and Others, with Miscellaneous Items and Incidents of Interest, Volume 1. (Dayton, OH: printed by the author, 1880), 368.

Peter Hiestand, born c. 1738

Peter was the only son of Henrich Hiestand who was living in the Massanutten area of Virginia at the turn of the nineteenth century.  Therefore, any males carrying the Heiston (Hiestand) surname living in Shenandoah or Page County, Virginia after 1804 were (are) most likely descendants of Peter.  His will was dated December 30, 1811 and proved in court on March 9, 1812.[i] 

[i] Gilreath, Shenandoah County, Virginia Abstract of Wills, 1772-1850, 93; Will Book B, 2.

Abraham Hiestand, born c. 1740

Abraham migrated south to what is now eastern Tennessee, where he lived for about fifteen years before abandoning fifty acres of land in Pigeon Forge, TN and moving to south-central Kentucky, where he eventually disappeared from public records.  The Hestands of Monroe County, KY are his descendants.  I’ll say much more about Abraham in some future articles.

Ann Hiestand Ruffner, born October 15, 1742

Ann married Joseph Ruffner, the oldest son of Peter Ruffner, on May 22, 1764.  Joseph was very successful as a farmer, with 1,200 acres along both sides of Hawksbill Creek near where Ann Hiestand grew up.  But a couple of barn fires, probably ignited by an arsonist, caused Joseph to consider some changes in his life.  In 1794, Joseph purchased 502 acres, including a salt spring, in the Kanawha Valley, near where Charleston, West Virginia is now located.  In the fall of 1795, Joseph moved his family to the Kanawha River, 175 crow-flying miles westward.  “Within five years he was to own everything from the Elk River up the Kanawha to the ‘head of the bottom,’ except for a few town lots. This included all of present downtown Charleston, plus the city’s East End.”[i] 

[i] Gerald S. Ratliff, “Ruffner Family,” The West Virginia Encyclopedia, accessed October 19, 2018, https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/138.

Joseph Ruffner died at age 63 in March 1803, but his sons pioneered “the salt industry [there] that would produce within the Kanawha Salines up to 3.2 million bushels of salt annually.”  One of Joseph and Ann’s grandsons, Henry (son of David), became a Presbyterian minister and the president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia (now Washington and Lee University) during the years of 1836-1848.[i]  After the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee (1865-1870) served in that role.   

[i] Gerald S. Ratliff.

Ann outlived her husband by 17 years and died in 1820, at the age of 78.  She has been described as “a tall comely woman of good sense and German virtues” and “a fitting companion.”  “She was industrious and active and very benevolent.  In her later years she rode much on horseback, making social and charitable visits.”[i]

[i] Mark and Pam Flasch, “Peter Ruffner and His Descendants, Volume II – The Descendants of Peter the Pioneer’s First Child, Joseph Ruffner.” (Luray, VA: Ruffner Family Association, 2007), 6, 10.

John Hiestand, born c. 1746

John sold his land, wrapped up his court business, and apparently moved away from Shenandoah County in or after 1785.  Nothing more is known of him.

Daniel Hiestand, born c. 1750

In the following articles, we will track Daniel south into what is now east Tennessee, where he lived before moving to middle Tennessee in or before 1804.  Daniel was squatter on Indian-reserved land for a couple of years but signed the July 22, 1806 petition for the creation of White County, Tennessee, where he lived until his death twenty years later. 

Maria Magdalena Hiestand Gimlin, born c. 1752

Daniel’s younger sister, Maria Magdalena, married Andrew Gimlin [source incorrectly says “Kemling”] on December 5, 1773.[i]  According to Hoyt Gimlin, a descendant of Andrew Gimlin, most of the early American Gimlins were Lutherans or members of the Reformed Church,[ii] but later we will learn that Andrew was a Baptist lay leader in his church, at least late in his life. 

[i] Vogt and Kethley, 307.

[ii] Hoyt L. Gimlin, In Search of Gimlin Ancestors. (Santa Fe, NM: published by author, 1998), 4-5.

Between the time of the creation of the 1775 militia roll and his Dunmore County, Virginia court activities in 1777, Andrew made a journey into what Indians called the “dark and bloody ground” west of the Appalachian Mountains that changed his family’s future.  While America was declaring its independence from Great Britain, Andrew was building a cabin and growing corn in the wilderness of what would later become the state of Kentucky.  I’m talking Daniel Boone era – seriously!

On their way to the over-the-Alleghany back country of Virginia, the Gimlin family probably travelled to Fort Pitt, along the same road that was often used for military expeditions.  From there they would have floated down the Ohio River on a flat boat to “the falls of the Ohio” (now Louisville, Kentucky), where they set foot on the path, 75 miles or so, through the wilderness to Harrodsburg.  Harrodsburg was founded by James Harrod on June 26, 1774 and was one of only three white settlements (with Boonesborough and Logan’s Fort being the other two) in transylvanian Virginia (now Kentucky) when the Revolutionary War began.  Andrew and Magdalena Gimlin were definitely the most adventuresome members of the Henry Hiestand family.  Their area of central Kentucky was not safe from Indian attacks for another twenty-five years or so after they settled there.  So much I would like to say about this family.  I’ll probably create an article just about them, sometime later.

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