Introduction: Zimmerman

Larry Pearce

My wife Susan’s great-great grandmother was Elizabeth C. Zimmerman (1828-before 1884). She married Noah J. Miller (1826-1881), a farmer and Civil War veteran. Her remains lie along with his in the largest of the three Stoystown, Somerset County, PA, cemeteries, located just south of that town. The dates on her stone read 1826-1895 but in referring to her, the History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, PA, published in 1884, says she was deceased.  She would have been 29 years old when Susan’s Great grandfather Dibert Miller (1855-1889) was born. However, the 1962 Laurel Messenger, a genealogical newsletter of the Somerset County Historical and Genealogical Society, lists an Elizabeth Zimmerman (b.1783) who married twice, David Shaffer and Noah Miller. That Elizabeth would have had to have been 72 years old when Dibert was born. Given the commonality of the Zimmerman and Miller names in all parts of Somerset County and the territory covered by the Historical Society, the earlier Elizabeth and Noah are probably different ones than our ancestors. This article simply serves to outline some of the possible early Zimmerman connections in this part of Pennsylvania and introduce some of the more famous namesakes, such as the wealthy coal, timber, and cattleman Daniel Burnside Zimmerman, whose grand mansion still stands overlooking Somerset. Now a bed and breakfast and showpiece for the Georgian Place Medical and Professional Center & Village Shoppes, it greets millions of travelers along the Pennsylvania Turnpike and thousands of shoppers and tourists who enter “America’s County.” But, let’s begin our investigation in the Old World.

Our research offers the proverbial “Good news and bad news.” The good news is that we have lots of information; the bad news is that the names are very similar and confusing and some of the dates just don’t match up. More good news, according to historian and author William Koontz, probably a relativ “The Zimmerman family is one of the oldest and most prominent in Quemahoning Township.” But the bad news is that the 1884 History of Bedford, Somerset, & Fulton Counties and the Laurel Messenger (LM) simply don’t agree, so we will try here to make sense out of this and identify our sources along the way. Cockley (LM ’70) speaks of a Johnann Jacob Zimmerman (1644-93) of Duchy Wurtemberg who died on his voyage to America. He held a Masters of Philosophy from Tuebigen University and was a Lutheran minister at Bietigheim from 1684-89. A professor at the famous Heidelberg University, he wrote 18 books on theology and astronomy. His wife, Mary Margaret, survived the trip to the new land and her will is dated 1725 in Philadelphia. The couple and their four children, ages 10 to 18, sailed from Rotterdam in late summer 1693 but were forced to spend the winter in London. In February of 1694 they headed out again aboard the Santa Maria, which in light of ongoing troubles between England and France, was armed with 14 canon. They arrived in Deal [exact location unknown] and lingered for nearly two months while they awaited a protective convoy from Plymouth. Finally underway, they encountered the enemy on May 10. After a battle that lasted 24 hours, the convoy captured some 30 guns, between the French frigate and a merchant ship. It’s not certain when Johann died. He may have been killed in the melay, but he was undoubtedly buried at sea, Their party finally sailed up the Chesapeake Bay on June 14 and landed at Bohemian Manor, in Germantown, Philadelphia, on the 23rd.

Johann and Mary’s youngest child, Jacob Christopher, had a son named Arnold (1716-1803) who married Mary Engle (1719-1803). Most of that family is buried at Skippack Church, Philadelphia. The fourth generation of Zimmermans in the new land, and second named Jacob (1740-1819) fought in the American Revolution. He married Elizabeth Supplee (1738-97) and they had four children.

Another Philadelphia Zimmerman was nicknamed “Der Schwartz” [or “The black”] Heinreich Zimmerman (b.1673), after the place of his birth, the Black Forest near Bern, Switzerland. This was also called The Zimmerwald, or “Forest of Carpenters.” This name could also be translated “woodsman” and may be spelled “Cimmerman,” “Simmerman,” or “Timmerman.” Heinreich was a practicing physician who between 1716 and 1720 acquired over 3200 acres in Lancaster County. In settling a dispute over a land claim where a creek divided upstream, he agreed with his opponent, Hans Graff, that each should take a fork. Today, one branch is known as Graff’s Run while the other is Carpenter’s Run.

Heinreich’s fourth child, Henry (b.1714), had eight children, two of whom were medical doctors and one, Daniel, had another distinction: he was 6 feet 6 inches tall.

Hans Zimmerman (b.1702), yet another notable namesake, arrived in Philadelphia in 1732 aboard the “Pink Plaisance” and settled in Berks County. Nearly all of his grandchildren were Revolutionary War veterans, meaning that they were Lutherans or Protestant Reformed rather than Anabaptists, who generally are pacifists.

Closer to home and sometime in the late 18th century, a Peter Zimmerman, son of John of Oberguembach, Prussia, was sent by his father at age 14 to live with the Pletcher family in Berlin, Somerset County. But the first Zimmermans in our Somerset County belonged to Yost [or Joseph] in 1784. Tax records show 100 acres and the census records 5 family members. This was shortly after the Ft. Stanwix Treaty with the Native Americans that opened up the Pennsylvania frontier to white settlers, especially as some compensation to veterans of the Revolutionary War, as we’ll learn later.

If any Somerset County Zimmerman ancestors are connected to us, it is Johannes “Hans” Michael (1706-1741) who emigrated from Germany to Montgomery County in 1753, married Anna Elizabeth Dodderer (1709-1779) in 1730, and parented Hans Michael, Jr. (1732-1802)  Proof, according to Cockley, is the Michael Zimmerman family Bible in Stoystown, Quemahoning Township, which contains many of Hans Michael’s descendants (7). The writing by Jacob Brant on the research of Harvey J. Zimmerman confirms what we are about to say (4). As we indicated earlier, our Zimmermans resided in Quemahoning Township and are buried both in the IOOF Cemetery in Stoystown and on the Zimmerman family farm nearby. Hans Michael’s father Andreas c.1680-1740) lived in Germany his entire adult life with wife Anna Freyburger. Their son was our Johannes “Hans” Michael mentioned above.  He and Anna Elizabeth had two  surviving sons and eight.  Son [Johannes] Michael was born in Germany in 1732 but sailed from Rotterdam to America aboard the ship Edinburgh, arriving in Philadelphia in mid September 1753. He was just 21. He married Maria Magdelena Sauter in 1756, according to the records at the First Reformed Church in Lancaster, and she bore five surviving daughters Catherine (1757), Elizabeth (1759), and Catherine Elizabeth (1761), Magdelena (1765), Eva (1774) and three sons, Michael, Jr.(1763-1823), Jacob (1768), and John Adam (1777). This gets interesting because of the duplication of names. Sometimes in those days Parents would reuse names after the demise of children, either in honor of the dead, as a way of moving on with their lives, or because they truly liked a particular name. Sometimes, I imagine, all three reasons. Furthermore, we believe, Catherine Elizabeth later married a Michael Kimmel, the same surname as our Michael, Jr.’s wife, Elizabeth Kimmel (1766-1823). Were these Kimmel’s brother and sister? A grandson John H. Zimmerman married a Susan Zimmerman, probably a cousin. Oftentimes, the marital pickings were scare on the frontier. Catherine and Michael’s 305 acre farm was located adjacent to her parents’ estate.

[Johannes] Michael had purchased 100 acres in Windsor Township, York County, under the patent name “Buck’s Park,” the year before Michael, Jr., was born. His name appears on the constitution of the Union Reformed & Lutheran congregation at Canadochly where his children had been baptized. They apparently lived in that community happily for twenty years, but in 1784, the year of the Ft. Stanwix Treaty and the opening of Western Pennsylvania to settlers, they moved to Quemahoning, Somerset County, like so many other of our German and English ancestors. Ben Franklin and the State and Continental legislatures had come up with a plan to pay their Revolutionary War veterans in lands beyond the Alleghenies. Many of the Zimmermans above accepted this free land, while others traded for or purchased it outright. [Johannes] Michael was a veteran, according to his grave marker in the family cemetery on the homestead farm (Brant 4). That farm, located about three miles west of Stoystown, consisted of 424 acres and was patented under the name “Richland.”

Michael Zimmerman marker
Family farm cemetery
Stoystown, PA

[Johannes] Michael is identified as an elder of the Union Lutheran and Reformed congregation in Stoystown, 1790, before there was even a pastor or church building. Most pioneer settlers held regular meetings in each other’s cabins. Church records indicate that occasionally Rev. John Weber would ride over the mountain from Westmoreland County to officiate or Rev. Henry Giese would ride up from Berlin. The communion role of July, 1799, lists the names of 53 persons in attendance.

As a sidelight, according to Cockley, Jacob Zimmerman (d. 1835) had settled in Berlin, southern Somerset County in 1793. He may have been the family link between the Berlin and Stoystown congregations. This bricklayer bought the Henry Beam farm near Somerset under the patent name “Carpenter Hall” in 1801 for 110 pounds sterling. He. His wife Mary, and some of the 10 children are buried in the Horner Farm Cemetery. According to Welfley, this Jacob and his brothers [John?] Adam and Michael, Jr., were sons of [Johannes] Michael and had come to Somerset County from Juniata County. Unless they had come “through” Juniata, which is considered the “northern route” [now U.S. Rt. 22] to Pittsburgh and the west, this seems to conflict with Brant, who implies that the brothers came directly to Somerset from eastern Pennsylvania via the “southern route” [U.S. Rt. 30/31]. Jacob was the great-grandfather of one of Somerset County’s most famous sons, Daniel Burnside Zimmerman, whom we will cover in a minute. He was a “42nd cousin” to our Great-great grandmother Elizabeth.

Our Michael, Jr., born in Lancaster County, and wife Elizabeth were married in York before moving to Quemahoning Township where they raised nine children: Elizabeth (1783), the relative in question, Magdalena (1785), Susannah (1790), Nancy (1794), Michael III (1798-1879) [although sometimes referred to as “Jr.” because of his grandfather being Johannes Michael], David (1800), Joseph (1802), Daniel (1805), and Catherine (1808). According to Koontz, Michael, Jr. purchased “a large tract of land” from pioneer Daniel Stoy Their farm consisted of 300 acres adjoining his father’s “Richland.”

We know very little at this time of the oldest child and possibly our great-great grandmother, Elizabeth. We know that her middle name could have been Catherine, after family tradition, although her youngest sister is Catherine. Koontz writes in some detail about her brother Michael III, saying that he married Catherine Koontz [relative?] in 1820 of Brothersvalley Township, near Berlin, and they moved to their own farm in Quemahoning Township, which went to his son, John H. (b. 1830). In his lifetime, Michael III was a magistrate, a county commissioner, a state legislator, and a county judge. He also had a daughter Elizabeth, but she died prior to the famous 1884 published history of Somerset County. This Elizabeth was my wife Susan’s great-great grandmother and wife of Noah J. Miller. For all the rest, have a look at our Zimmerman family tree.

Finally, a word about the pride of the family, cousin Daniel Burnside Zimmerman. The Waterman publication describes him as, “One of the most enterprising and successful men of affairs in western Pennsylvania, perhaps [contributing] in a larger degree than any other to the industrial and commercial development of Somerset County through his labors as one of the pioeers and principle factors in the opening up of its vast coal fields” (535). His grandfather, John, was the grandson of our Hans Michael (c. 1680-1740). His grandmother was Susanna Blough, and her father, Christian Blough, was known as “Big Christ” for his faith and stature. Daniel’s father was Jacob J. and his mother was Sarah J. Stuft, the daughter of Daniel Stuft, county superintendent of schools and judge, for whom he was named. The younger Daniel attended Easton Business College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and taught public school at the tender age of 17. He became engaged in the livestock business, cattle, horses, and sheep. In 1892, while visiting the prairies and Badlands of the Dakotas and Montana he negotiated with the Native Americans to begin cattle ranching on a large scale. Waterman calls him “one of the most extensive and successful rangers in the West. For more than 10 years he has numbered his cattle and sheep by the thousands, extending his operations from his original field, North Dakota and Montana, to Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Texas” (538).

By 1899 he had was the first Somerset County man to open a coalmine locally. For years he employed hundreds of men in deep mines and expanded his business operations to include timber, grist milling, and farming. In 1915 he commissioned an enormous personal residence on a hill adjacent to the Somerset County courthouse, the highest one in the Commonwealth. The Georgia manor still stands today as the showpiece at the entrance to an outlet mall and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. While some call it “pretentious,” others call it a national treasure. Its façade is available as a “Cat’s Meow Village” ornament. One can tour the dozens of rooms and see the elegant bathrooms and elaborate fireplaces at the mansion by either reserving a room through the “Inn at Georgian Place” or arranging a visit at WWW.VISITPA.ORG.

This visit with the various Zimmermans has taken us back 500 years, from rural Germany of the 16th through the opulence of the early 20th century to the pride in our heritage of the 21st century. Not all the pieces have come together just yet, but that’s what makes genealogy exciting. Until then, the fun is in the discovery.

Works Cited:

Brant, Jacob. “Michael Zimmerman, the Pioneer.” Laurel Messenger May 1962: 4.

Cockley, Eber. “Notes on Johann Jacob Zimmerman.” Laurel Messenger May 1970: 6.

History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, PA. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins, and Co, 1884.

Koontz, William H. History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, PA. (3 vols.). New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906.

Welfley. History of Somerset County. [Publisher unknown], 1906.

Last revised 3/5/18

26 Responses to Introduction: Zimmerman

  1. Chuck Heinze says:

    I am a distant relative of Michael Zimmerman. I have been trying to un-tangle the very confusing family tree. My line of the Zimmermans is Michael with 9 children, one of which was Michael Jr. I know that there is a Zimmerman connection to a family name German. I think a German married a Zimmerman. I know that the German family was in Stoystown and may have purchased some properity from one of the Zimmermans. With so many off spring, it is easy to get confused. Help!

    • admin says:

      Chuck, almost all of the families associated with our Zimmermans were of German ancestry, but I’ve never heard of the surname German, and I live in the next township over. While we can’t be 100% certain of all the dates and names back to the Old World, I invite you to click those surnames on the family trees and read about what we DO know, and some of the great info on the external Somerset County and Quemahoning Township links at E-GEN TOOLS. Feel free to send specific questions to me directly at PEARCE@ATLANTICBB.NET. Have you tried the Zimmerman family forums?

  2. Jo Galus says:

    My mother came into possession of a German Samilien Bible about 50 years ago. Inside the Bible are hand written entries to the birth of Josehp Zimmerman, Anna Zimmerman etc. It begins with Issac in 1851. Does this Bible has any Historic or Monetary value or for a museum? I just found it in our basement. Thank you for your response

    • admin says:

      I’m not familiar with the term “Samilien.” Is that a name? Most such Bibles have only sentimental value to the families involved, although genealogists use the pages you refer to to confirm names and dates. Unfortunately, 1851 isn’t that far back as the German Zimmermans go. The names don’t seem to match anything in our tree. Where did these Zimmermans live? Three suggestions: Take it to an historical society for appraisal, ask the same question on the family forums ( and, and/or see what you can get on E-bay.

  3. My father was Emery J. Zimmerman.
    My grandfather Grover Cleveland.
    My great-grandfather, William Henry, moved to Nebraska.
    My gg-grandfataher was Samuel Zimmerman, according to the 1820 Census.
    I think his father’s name was Jacob.
    Please let me know if you have any info that can help me.

    • admin says:

      Our earliest Zimmermans were confined to Pennsylvania, so I can’t add much except to suggest that you explore the sources listed after the family tree and Vitals and post additional inquiries to the genealogical boards. I don’t recognize any of your names, but you’re off to a great start. Regards,

    • Julie Ellicott says:

      I did not give enough information. I am interested in finding Samuel Zimmerman dad in PA. William Henry was first Zimmerman to move to Nebraska.
      I know from my g uncle that Samuel father first name was Jacob and his mother was Littlejohn. I found this on Samuel death Certificate. Please e-mail me if you have any information thanks Julie

      • admin says:

        Hi Julie,
        I have replied directly by e-mail and have promised to send along anything I find on what, unfortunately, is one of the weak links in our Joseph Miller family of Somerset County, PA. Regards,

  4. Sandi Grelli says:

    Hello Larry,
    The Jacob Zimmerman buried on Horner Farm married to Mary are my great grandparents x5. I have source documents proving this linage until I hit Jacob and Mary. I do have a copy of Jacob’s probate. I am however searching for source documents of a marriage record of Jacob and Mary as well as birth records. Also, there are several American Revolutionary Patriots names Jacob Zimmerman. Do you have any documents proving that Jacob married to Mary was a Patriot? I did contact Somerset Library and they are very aware of Cockley’s work but he did not leave any source documents.
    Do you have any source documents for Mary and Jacob?
    Your help is greatly appreciated.

    • admin says:

      Dear Sandi,
      I don’t have a strong connection between our Millers and the Zimmermans due to the question of Koontz and Kimmel, but that doesn’t diminish the existing research on the various Johannes/John Michael Zimmermans: . Please note the question of Jacob, a brother to John, Jr. (b.1760). The father was definitely a Patriot, but the sons were too young. My sources are listed. Please let me know of your future findings,

  5. The Carpenter Cousins Y-DNA Project has several Zimmerman (Carpenter in English) groups and ancestries back in to Germany and Switzerland.


    I hope this helps people.


  6. Christopher Zimmer says:

    Interesting history. Wish I could help you, but I’m directly decended from the Hudson Valley (Johann Jacob Zimmer) family, who also came to America through London and Rotterdam, only just a bit earlier…1710. Hes my 8 or 9x Great Grandfather They started the town of Schoharie.

    He came from Dunzweiler in Rhineland-Palantinate, near the border with France

    . That was known as the Palantine German Migration. Some of them did marry into Pennsylvania German families.

    It’s weird how yours also died like mine, only Johann Jacob Zimmer died the year after they a place called West Camp..before there was even an Albany. They had to be interred there first.

  7. Terry Zimmerman says:

    My Zimmerman family goes back to the supplee family and Pennsylvania several of members of that family served in the Revolutionary War. The soup please came into the Zimmerman family through Mary Zimmerman marrying Andrew supplee if this is connected with this branch of the zimmermans I would like to know more about it thank you.

  8. Sondra Vollmer says:

    I realize it’s been years since anyone has posted on this page, but I’ll try anyway. I’m looking for information on a Casper/Gasper Zimmerman. The only evidence I have for him is from the 1820 US Federal Census where he can be found in Hopewell, Bedford County, PA. I think he may be the father of Elizabeth Sarah Zimmerman McCleary (1812-1862). She married my 3rd great-grandfather, John McCleary. Any help you can give me that will lead me to more information on any of the people I mentioned will be greatly appreciated. Thank You, Sondra McCleary Vollmer

    • admin says:

      Hi Sondra,
      I’m still here. Lots of Zimmermans in the old Bedford County, western part now Somerset where ours settled. Your inquiry is “out there” now for folks to see. Hope you get a response. Sorry, I have nothing on this family.

  9. Mr. Zimmerman says:

    Hello, I’m sure you can figure out why I’m asking based on my name, but I was hoping that you had more information about the Zimmerman lineage in NE/Central PA? Specifically Northumberland County (And any surrounding Pa counties IE Schuylkill County). I have tracked my lineage to my great-great grandfather Jacob Joseph Zimmerman.

    I would appreciate any information/help you could provide.

    Thanks for your time and work.


    • admin says:

      Dear Mr. Zimmerman,
      Sorry for the delay. I’ve been away from my books and computer for awhile. I did hit a wall with the Somerset County, PA, ancestors of my wife: . Too many with similar names from eastern PA. Stay tuned and I’ll eventually send you what I find. Please do the same. Regards, Larry

  10. Tammie McCoy says:

    Do you know where William Henry Zimmerman moved to in NE? I live in a house built in the 1920’s by a Zimmerman at 919 Main Street and Canal Street in Bayard NE 69334.
    It looks long from the outside but not as much on inside. It has a quilt rack built into the master bedroom closet which made me think they were Amish, Mennonite or Quaker. I don’t know the history of Zimmermans. I read a little online and think maybe Amish or Mennonite . This Bayard NE is getting close to being a ghost town in this day as sooo many businesses have literally shut down. It’s nice and quiet mostly for my daily migraines except for crazy trains and the night sweeper to spray for insects. Please let me know if you are interested in visiting. I would need a lady to be with a guy to come into my house if my husband is not home. I am born again and New Testament Baptist belief. I will not answer any emails if they don’t seem appropriate in language or if they are creepy. I am happily married.

  11. Tammie McCoy says:

    This Bayard NE house has the famous landmark Chimney Rock just outside of town which was so famous for the Oregon trail settlers to know where they were when traveling. I hardly ever leave my house but I will try to find out what was the first names of Zimmermans. I’m terrible at research and don’t pay for anything like online records that costs money.
    My family were the Abold’s ( Abolt or Aboldt in Germany possibly) on my dad’s side that settled in Rushville NE and Raum on my mom’s side. They settled in Crawford NE as far as I’ve been told. I’m married to a real ( old time feuding ) McCoy descendent. Don’t worry. My husband is born again and doesn’t feud. Haha!

    • admin says:

      Tammie, I quit the Zimmerman search years ago after I couldn’t find one to fit my wife’s Somerset County, PA, Millers. I hope to get back one of these days. And oh, BTW, all of our questions will be answered “when we all get to Heaven. What a day of rejoicing that will be . . .” Agape, Larry
      PS. There’s a wonderfully long Zimmerman article in this quarter’s MENNONITE FAMILY HISTORY, if you can get your hands on it.

  12. Jennie says:

    Are there any copies of the writings from the Zimmerman bibles?
    Johan Michael (b. 1732) had a daughter Eve (b 1774). Many people show her married to a Christian Livingston, but there don’t seem to be any actual records of that union and I’ve wondered if any of the family bibles correctly note the marriages of the children.

  13. David Zimmerman says:

    I am related to Johann Georg(e) Zimmerman, his son Benjamin, his son Henry, his son Hiram, his daughter Mary Susan Zimmerman, her son John Franklin, than Ennis, than Ronald, than Frank than I…I want to say thank you for all of these insights into the past. I hope to learn more!

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