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 Johann Nicholas Bahner

Johann Nicholas Bahner

Death 5 Feb 1824 (aged 70)
Burial Hickory Corners, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 32928187 · View Source
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JANUARY 18, 1754 - FEBRUARY 5, 1824

Nicholas Bahner, age 70 years, 18 days, died, February 5, 1824, at Dalmatia, Jordan Township, Northumberland County, PA. He was buried in the large cemetery adjoining Zion Reformed and Lutheran Church, Hickory Corners, Northumberland Co, PA.

In 1927 a monument was erected by their descendants to their memory. The original stones marking their graves bear inscriptions in the German language.

Over the years many descendants of the common ancestor changed the spelling of their names from the original German form, "Bahner" which literally signifies "Pathfinder" or "Pioneer" to "Bohner" a more modern English form.

Margaretha lived with her sons and was cared for by Henry and Frederick in accordance with the terms of the Will of Nicholas. Margaretha Staeger Bahner died at the age of 77 yers, 5 months, 17 days, on August 13, 1831, at Dalmatia, Jordan Township, Northumberland County, PA, and was buried beside Nicholas at Hickory Corners.



Johann Nicolaus Bahn (aka Johann Nicholas Bahner) was born January 18, 1784, to Johann Heinrich and Catharina Elisabetha Faupel Bahn, at Reichenbach, Germany. (Note: There are at least 15 villages in Germany named "Reichenbach.") The Reichenbach where Nicholas was born is located approximately 40 km SE of Kassel, Germany, Nicholas was baptized on March 2,1754. The small church where Nicholas was baptized was originally build in 1149 and is still standing. His godfather was Johann Nicholas Ludolph, son of Hans Heinrich Ludolph. In 1767, Nicholas was confirmed as a full communicant member in the German Evangelical Reformed Church. Tall in stature, erect in carriage, he possessed an imposing and soldierly appearance.


Little is known of Nicholas early years until the year 1775, then aged 21, Nicholas was recruited, rather than conscripted as a private into the army of Friedrich II, Langraf of Hessen-Cassel-Rall Regiment, Company 2, under the command of Colonel Koehler at Marburg, Germany. This likely was the time that Nicholas dropped the family name of Bahn, as his name appears on the military records as Bahnert. Nicholas was assigned to the Company of Lt. Colonel Johann Christoph Koehler a Grenadier Regiment under Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall. This unit was part of the Fourth Brigade, Second Hessian Division under Schmidt. It is doubtful that Nicholas came from a wealthy family or was a skilled craftsman since both groups were exempt from compulsory military duty.

By December 20, 1775, the Hessian's negotiated a contract with Great Britain to provide the British with some 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers for service in North America. On January 1, 1776, Nicholas, together with the men of various Hessian units, were called up and marched off to Grabenstein where Nicholas was to receive military training twice daily that would continue through the month of January and February 1776. On March 3, 1776, the soldiers received ammunition and equipment. While at Grabenstein two battalions were formed into a regiment. Nicholas unit was designated as the 2nd Company under Colonel Koehler and was trained as a Grenadier Unit, wearing the now famous high-crowned helmet. Subsequently both battalions were enlarged and became known as the Rall Grenadier Regiment under the field command of Major Johann Gottlieb Rall. On March 4, 1776, the regiment marched to Cassel, Germany, passed through the Leipzig Gate, and began to march to the port of Bremerlehe on the North Sea, arriving their on April 7, 1776. On April 9, 1776, Nicholas Bahner gave his allegiance to the King of England. On April 12, 1776, the ship bearing Nicholas Bahner set sail for Portsmouth, England. On May 10, 1776, Nicholas ship set sail for North America, arriving at Staten Island, New York on August 14, 1776.

Nicholas had little time to rest because a relatively large number of both British and Hessian soldiers that landed on August 14 and 15, 1776, under the command of British General Howe, began moving troops across the mouth of the Hudson River to Long Island. On the morning of August 24, 1776, the invasion was on. It is doubtful that Nicholas saw any action in the Battle for Long Island, or for the control of Lower Manhattan. In late October, Nicholas was assigned to the 1st Hessian Division under Hessian General Philipp von Heister, as a part of General Howe's Army marched up through the Bronx. On October 17, 1776, Nicholas received his first taste of battle in North America, as the regiment waded across the Bronx River and then were ordered to storm the deep sides of Chatterson's Hill, under the command of field leader, Colonel Rall. Casualties were heavy on both sides.

British General Howe's Army, including Nicholas Bahner, moved south and on November 16, 1776, after fierce fighting, captured Fort Washington. On or about November 25, 1776, the bulk of the British and Hessian armies crossed into New Jersey in pursuit of George Washington's rapidly dwindling troops. The rout continued right up to the banks of the Delaware River, where on December 7 and 8, 1776, Washington collected all of the boats that could be found on the east side of the Delaware and escaped to the Pennsylvania shore.

Colonel Rall's regiment, including Nicholas Bahner, did not cross over into New Jersey until November 29, 1776, when it began its trek to Trenton, NJ. Nicholas and his companions arrived in Trenton on December 12, 1776.

This was Nicholas Bahner's first Christmas in America. It was on the early morning of December 25, 1776, that Washington's Army crossed the Delaware River and attacked the town from all sides. In the melee, Nicholas Bahner and 54 others of his company were captured. Nicholas was listed on the Trenton POW listing as a Grenadier in Koehler Co, (2nd Company), Rall Regiment. It was quite normal for Germans of this period to go by their middle name, rather than by their first name, and variations in spelling are very frequent.

After the American victory at Trenton, a majority of the 1,019 Hessian prisoners captured on December 16, 1776, crossed over the Delaware River with Washington's army later that night, then marched a total of 15 miles to Newton, PA.


On December 29, 1776, the prisoners were marched toward Philadelphia, spending the night in, or near, Frankford. Upon arriving in Philadelphia the next day they were paraded through the streets in a victory celebration.

On January 2, 1777, some 800 Hessian soldiers began their march to Lancaster, PA, arriving their on January 5, 1777. Upon arriving at Lancaster, they were housed in a prisoner stockade which had been erected in haste a few months earlier. The Hessian's occupied the central portion of the barracks while captured British soldiers were housed in both end wings. It was here that Nicholas Bahner disclosed that he was a linen weaver. While the Hessian soldiers were living in the Lancaster Barracks, many of the men were permitted to have work permits and go into the Lancaster area to work. Circumstances indicated that Nicholas was employed by a farmer in the Lebanon Valley. The services of linen weavers were in great demand.

In August-September 1777, there was concern that British General Howe may make an attempt to free the Hessian and British prisoners held in Lancaster. Thus, 300 Hessian's were sent to Winchester VA, to make it more difficult for the British to recapture them. Many were moved to the Lebanon PA area.

While it is not likely, there are those who believe that it was during this period that Nicholas met his future wife, Margaretha Staeger, daughter of Johann Hans Adam Staeger, a successful farmer living two miles southeast of the town of Lebanon, PA.

By early 1778, negotiations for the exchange of prisoners between Washington and the British had begun in earnest. Word was passed to various farmers and tradesmen that the Hessian soldiers might be called in at any time. If Nicholas had indeed met Margaretha Staeger, their relationship may have progressed far enough so that possible marriage was considered. Nicholas may have found himself in a difficult position. He would obvious have wished to remain in the Lebanon Valley area and marry Margaretha Staeger, yet he knew that if his regiment was going to be exchanged, there were only two alternatives. He would have to return with his comrades or he could desert.

On May 13, 1778, a John Bohner, took his allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania in Berks County. There are those who believe that this was Nicholas Bahner.

Beginning June 17, 1778, the Hessian prisoners were marched to Philadelphia. By this time the British had already evacuated the city of Philadelphia.


The name of Nicholas appeared on the List of Hessian Prisoners of War dated July 19, 1778. On August 7, 1778, the Hessian prisoners of war exchange, including Nicholas Bahner, were returned to New York where they were again formed into three regiments. However the name of the Rall Regiment was changed to Woellworth Regiment.

On November 6, 1778, two Hessian Regiments, Woellworth and Wissenbachs, together with some Loyalists and British troops, making a total of some 2,500 men, including Nicholas Bahner, set sail on a secret mission.

This small army arrived at Tybee Island at the mouth of the Savannah River, landing at Gerardot Plantation, east of Savannah, GA, on December 23, 1778. After a brief battle Savannah was captured and occupied by the invading British and Hessian Troops.

The Hessian Regiments were sent after the fleeing Americans that led them toward Augusta, GA. On December 31, 1778, the troops were met by a German pastor at the settlement of Ebenezer, GA, located about 25 miles north of Savannah. The town had been a prosperous German settlement and the pastor convinced the Hessian troops to occupy Ebenezer, GA.

The Hessian Regiment, including Nicholas Bahner, was charged with the responsibility of keeping communications open on the Savannah-Augusta Road. Once again Nicholas and his comrades found themselves in a heavily-settled German area.


On April 11, 1779, Nicholas Bahner, while on patrol, deserted at Wich's Mill in Georgia. Nicholas and two other Hessian soldiers, Jacob Strube and George Giesler, made good their escape, so there is no doubt as to the identification of Nicholas, the date and place. The entry on the German records were specific and read: "Nicholas Bahner, born in Reichenbach, District of Lichtenaus age 25, 5 feet, 9 inches tall while on patrol near Wich's Mill, did desert on April 11, 1779, with his weapons and all of his equipment.

Wich's Mill, along the Savannah and Augusta Road was approximately 25 miles north of Savannah, GA, and five to seven miles south of Ebenezer, GA. It was an absolute necessity for Nicholas to have had some assistance from some local Germans, or groups of Germans, to make good his escape as all the roads were under British patrol.

There is no record of the route Nicholas and his companions took to reach the Lebanon Valley, or the time it took to make the trip. Family tradition states that Nicholas had scouted much of York, Lancaster, Lebanon and Lower Dauphin County in Pennsylvania looking for a place to settle.


Nicholas Bahner Marries Margaretha Staeger:

A long and painstaking search for a record of that marriage proved fruitless. There is no evidence that the two knew each other during the 18 months from January 1777 until July 1778, when he was a prisoner of war in Lancaster and Lebanon County area. Rather the time frame seems to say that Nicholas courted and married Margaretha Staeger after he returned from Georgia, perhaps as late as 1789, since their first child, Elizabeth, was not born until 1782.

Margaretha gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, on May 27, 1782. She was baptized by Rev William Hendel on July 17, 1782. At the same time her cousin Catharine Staeger, daughter of John and Elizabeth Staeger was baptized.

For the year 1782, Nicholas paid taxes on personal property of one cow in Heidelberg Township which indicated that was his place of residence. It also means that he owned no real estate, at that time.

Margaretha Staeger Bahner's father, Hans Adam Staeger, died on May 7, 1783. The Will for Hans Staeger indicated that Margaretha Staeger Bahner received about 190 Shillings as her share of the split to be given to Hans Staeger's nine children.

On November 8, 1783, a second child, Johann Jacob, was born to Nicholas and Margaretha Staeger Bahner. Jacob was baptized at St Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church, formerly known as the Heidelberg Congregation Church on December 12, 1783. The sponsors were Jacob Philippi and his wife. The parents were listed as Nicholas Bonnert and Maria Margaretha.

The last documented record of Nicholas and Margaretha living in the Lebanon County area was the recording of the their child's birth and baptism, a son name Henry. He was born on October 18, 1785, and baptized at Trinity Tulpehocken Reformed Church east of Myerstown, PA on Feb 12, 1786. The sponsors were Frederick and Elizabeth Staeger. Frederick was the brother of Margaretha. The parents were listed as Johann Nicholas Bahner and Maria Margaretha.

On May 3, 1786, Nicholas was granted a warrant for a tract of land which he chose to call "Poland" (meaning Lands End) and which contained 201-1/4 acres. The warrant was issued in the name of Nicholas Bahner. It was located northeast of the town of Gratz on a branch of Pine Creek. The survey was returned on May 25, 1786. On the same day, May 3, 1786, a warrant was granted to a former Hessian soldier, Conrad Dietz for 201-1/2 acres. The Bahner and Dietz tracts had a common boundary.

How soon Nicholas moved to Upper Paxton Township is not known. However by 1788, the family had no doubt moved to their frontier home.

On May 3, 1789, another son, named Frederick, was born. He was baptized on June 20, 1789, at Klinger Reformed Church a short distance from the Bahner home. Sponsors were "Friedrich and Appelona Heckert.

At the time of the 1790 Census the family consisted of Nicholas, three males under 16, his wife, his daughter, and two additional females that may have been Margaretha's relatives visiting at the time of the census, or they could have been hired maids.

The last child born, who is known to have survived, is a fourth son, Johannes "John" born September 4, 1791. He was baptized on September 7, 1791, at Hoffmans Reformed Church, about 1-1/2 miles southwest of Gratz, PA. The parents were listed as Nicholas and Margaretha Bahner. The sponsors were Conrad & Margaretha Dietz, his neighbor.

In 1794, Margaretha's mother, Mrs. Hans Adams Staeger, died in Lebanon Township, Dauphin County, PA.

On December 19, 1799, a patent for a 204 acre tract was granted to Nicholas. Nicholas was now 45 years old and he was no doubt looking for another home site which wold provide the land necessary to support his sons and future grandchildren.

In the spring of 1894, "Poland" was sold and Nicholas realized a handsome profit. Nicholas was now aged 50 had spent the last 18 years developing this farm and raising a family of five children. At this age he had passed the prime of his life.

His age did not deter him and he set out over the next six years to procure several pieces of real estate totaling approximately 708 acres in what is today Jordan Township, Northumberland County, PA and also a building lot in nearby Uniontown (Pillow), PA.

The first purchase covered a farm of 266 acres on May 15, 1804. The farm was located north of Pillow in what has been described in the past sometimes as Jackson Township and sometimes as Lower Mahanoy Township. The land extended from the floor of the valley near the Mahantango Creek northward up against what is today known as Fisher's Ridge. There was a house, of some kind, on the property which permitted the family to vacate "Poland" in Dauphin County and to move some 10 miles to the northwest through Klinger's Gap and into the Lower Mahantango Valley.

A this point, if daughter Elizabeth, now 22 yeas old, was not already married, she may have one back to Heidelberg Township to live with one of her aunts.

The next purchase by Nicholas was for 149 acres on August 16 1805. The tract had a common border on the north with his previous purchase.

On September 9, 1805, Nicholas purchased a tract of land containing 205 acres. His last large acquisition for 88 acres was made on May 5, 1810.

The first of his grandchildren, Elizabeth, was born October 27, 1806, to Jacob and Catharina Deibler Bohner. It is likely that Jacob had already moved to the 205 acre farm that he purchased from Nicholas on September 9, 1805.

Son, Henry Bahner's first child, named Nicholas, was born November 1, 1809. Henry most likely was living on the 349 acre farm that was subsequently willed to him.

Frederick's first child was named Daniel and was born on May 11, 1812. Nicholas set Frederick up on a farm of 154 acres. Title did not pass to the three sons until after the death of Nicholas in 1824.

Johannes "John" was the only one of the four sons to retain the original spelling of the surname as "Bahner."

Nicholas may have gone into semiretirement in 1814, the year he reported to the Assessor that he owned no land.

The ensuing years proved Nicholas to be an honest, upright, stubborn, industrious man of great moral strength and Christian character. He became a loyal citizen of the early U.S. Over the remainder of his life his landholdings were given to his sons.

Respected in the community, neighbors and friends spoke of Nicholas Bahner as "Der Gude Mann" (the goode man). He retained only sufficient land to meet his and his wife's needs. His home was a log cabin measuring 20' x 30'.

It is believed that Nicholas never communicated with anyone in Germany following his decision to remain in America.

Prior to his death, Nicholas reportedly received two communications from Germany. The first was from his brother informing him of the death of his uncle and urging Nicholas to return and claim the estate. The second letter was from the German Government informing Nicholas of the death of his brother and that failure to prove his right to the estate would result in all assets reverting to the Crown. There remained a sizable fortune in real estate and personal property in addition to a castle used as a hunting lodge by Kaiser Wilhelm as late as 1904. Since no claims were filed, the entire fortune reverted to the German Crown. The value of the estate, as of 1902, was in excess of 40 million dollars.

Johann Nicholas Bahner was a learned man. This is borne out by the minute details contained in his Will and the mention of his books. Whether this education was obtained in Germany or in the years following the war is unknown. He was probably fluent in both German and English, the latter achieved during his years in America. One can conclude with justifiable pride that he was possessed of enviable character and endowed with a quiet, humble, self-effacing, extremely religious disposition. His daily affairs and his conduct towards his fellowman were such that he felt himself beholden to none but God. On the other hand he was a very strong-willed man. Having once determined upon a course of action which seemed to him just and morally right, his zeal in its pursuit was of the spirit of a martyr. We can well understand why he never returned to his native land. Having taken the Oath of Allegiance, there was no turning back. To do so would have brought "dishonor" to his name, his wife and children.

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  • Created by: GLEN ERICKSON
  • Added: 14 Jan 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 32928187
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Johann Nicholas Bahner (18 Jan 1754–5 Feb 1824), Find A Grave Memorial no. 32928187, citing Stone Valley Cemetery, Hickory Corners, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by GLEN ERICKSON (contributor 46924595) .