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Accounts of Pitner Origins
Posted by: Judith Hopping Date: April 05, 2000 at 17:13:27
  of 170

The origins of the Pitner family in America are cloudy to say the least, and its not at all clear whether the 18th century Pitners of Pennsylvania, and those of Virginia/Tennessee were descended from the same immigrant. To facilitate research on teasing out the various possibilities, I am appending various accounts of these early origins, so at least we can see what our secondary sources are and how they contradict. Clearly we can't trust "tradition" to give us a definitive answer. What we need are primary sources!

Here is a listing of the accounts that I have appended to this posting:

1. In the Genealogy of Joseph Fisher and his Descendants (and the allied families of Farley, Farlee, Fetterman, Pitner, Reeder and Shipman) by Clarence Woodward Fisher (LDS microfilm #1036275), he tells the now common story of the family origins in which a John Pitner, with wife and infant son Henry in arms comes to America. The Pitner genealogy that he includes in this volume traces only the descendants of Henry's son Lambert Pitner (b. Bucks County Pa, Aug 2, 1753, d. Sunbury Pa, Aug 15, 1823). Fisher also mentions the Michael Pitner who moved from Rockingham County, Virginia to Tennessee, and includes a letter with brief family history from Michael's son Franklin. Fisher states that he thinks this Michael was the youngest brother of Henry the immigrant, but he offers no documentation of this assertion.

2. Levi Carrol Pitner's 1891 account of the family origins has been widely disseminated. Contrary to Clarence Fisher's assertation that Michael Pitner of Virginia/Tennessee was the brother of Henry Pitner who arrived as an infant, Levi postulated that Michael was a grandson of Henry, by a son named John (with Henry's other two sons named Henry and Michael).

3. Franklin Rubel Pitner's letter to Clarence Fisher includes an account which has no mention of a Henry at all, suggesting instead that Michael Pitner of Virginia/Tennessee was the son of an immigrant, John "Beatner" who fought in the revolutionary war along with two unnamed brothers who did not survive.

4. Two brief accounts from Illinois, regarding Thomas Jefferson Pitner, a grandson of Michael Pitner: "In Memorial Thomas Jefferson Pitner" from 1921 follows Franklin's account, but names one of the immigrant John Pitner's brothers who died in the Revolutionary war as Adam; . "Portrait and Biographical Album, Morgan & Scott County, IL. Chicago: Chapman, 1889. p. 274 tells the same tale, but additionally names the father of the immigrant John Pitner as Adam Pitner from Coblentz.

The best attempt to sort out these contradictory stories comes from Donald Pitner Smith, whose "Pitner Profiles" #2 written in November, 1983 makes the strong argument that the Pennsylvania Pitner family of Lambert 3 /Henry 2 /John 1 /is distinct from the Virginia Pitner family of Michael 3 /John 2 /Adam 1/. Smith argues: "Contrary to the surmise of Clarence Fisher, the John Pitner, identified by him as having arrived in Philadelphia with a four week old infant named Henry, seems clearly to be some other John Pitner. That John Pitner was living in Newton Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 1788, at the same time that John Pitner, father of Michael Pitner, was listed as a tax-payer in Rockingham County, Virginia. Furthermore, the tax rolls of Newton Township, Pa. continue to list John Pitner and his son Henry up to 1790, during a time when a great deal of evidence tells of the other John's presence in Rockingham County. Finally, since Henry's son Lambert was born on Feb 8, 1753, Henry would have been born earlier than 1733. This would have made that John Pitner about 63 years of age when Michael Pitner of Rockingham County was born. While that is conceivable, it is not likely."

It seems clear that Michael Pitner of Virginia b. in 1776 cannot really be (as Clarence Fisher suggests) the brother of Henry "the infant immigrant", born in the 1730s. Further, Michael's brother John was born abt. 1762, his brother Adam abt 1766 which means that their father John had to have been born at least in the 1740s, so that this John cannot reasonably be the son of Henry "the infant" (as Levi suggests) who was born only ten years or so before.

Donald Pitner Smith surmises that Levi's account was influenced by Clarence Fisher's, which was published a year before Levi wrote his. This is a possibility, and would explain why Levi's account overlaps with and blends elements of Clarence Fisher's account of the Pennsylvania Pitners with Franklin's story of the Virginia Pitners.

The LDS database includes a lineage which is also widely followed, which goes along with Levi's account by making John Pitner (father of Michael of Virginia), the son of Henry "the infant immigrant." In this version, Henry's father was John Caspar Pitner. I recently found in "Ship Passenger Lists, Pennsylvania and Delaware" by Carl Boyer, that a Caspar Butttner arrived Pennsylvania 1730 with wife Maria Elizabeth Munch, and son Johann Henrich, on the ship Thistle of Glasgow. They were emigrants from Ludwigshafen am Rhein (some 50 km from Coblentz).

This seems a good candidate for the Pennsylvania line, but it is an immigrant event too early to match the Virginia Pitner's story in which an immigrant, Adam Beatner from Coblentz, dies at sea, and his three sons (John, Adam and a third unknown) arrive in America in time to fight in the Revolutionary war. Two Johan Buttners arrived in Pennsylvania closer to this time frame, the first, Johan Christoph Buttner on November 2, 1752 on the Ship Phoenix, and the second on August 23, 1773. One of these seems more likely to be the Virginia John Pitner. Additional primary sources will be needed to make that determination.

It may be that the two families were related in Germany, living about 50 kms apart on the Rhine, and this is something that should be explored further.

If anyone has access to other accounts, please add them to the ones that I have posted!


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