Banquet Address


marsha lynne fuller

friday, august 11, 2000

seneca rocks, west virginia

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I know the food smells good, and we’re all ready to eat, but first let me take a few moments to welcome you to Reunion 2000!, 250 Years of Harpers in America! Today, it is 250 years to the day when the Harpers first set foot in America! Since that day, the land has been battered by the rains of a thousand seasons.

Whether you were born into, or married into, the Harper clan, you are now a part of the fire of love which surrounds us. I have here two silver candles that represent the lives of Philip Herber and Anna Elisabetha Harper. Willard and Lolita are going to take them around to the tables and light the star-shaped candles before you. When they have done so, please light your individual candle from them.

Now, look around you and see how much light the Harpers have brought into the world!

I’ve dreamed about this moment for five years. This moment when I would look out over the sea of faces belonging to the Harper family…and think back to the sea that was crossed by our Harper family pioneers.

Having just celebrated our nation’s independence a little more than a month ago, we know how much it means/we value/to have freedom – the freedom to speak as we please, to marry whom we wish, and to live where we want. When the Harpers immigrated to this country, Germany was a very loose collection of despotic monarchies. To quote The History of Pendleton County, "It was repeatedly devastated by civil and religious wars. At the command of the same bigot who drove the Huguenots from France, the Palatine province of Germany was desolated by his soldiers. The people had little freedom or rights. William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, invited these homeless people to Pennsylvania and, thus, began the German immigration to America."

No doubt the Harpers had heard many stories about the land across the sea. By 1750, many Europeans had already escaped the chaos there, and had sent home accounts of their lives in the New World. They were, undoubtedly, aware of the dangers of the ship’s passage. Philip and Anna Elisabetha must have spent many an anxious hour, after the children were in bed at night, discussing the wisdom of taking their beloved children on this long and arduous journey. They must have known that many children did not survive the crossing. They must have wondered if theirs would. There were: Eva Elisabetha, 8 yrs., Eva Catharina, 6 yrs., Nicholas, 3 yrs., and Philip Jr., only a few months old.

Even if the children survived, what if Philip and Anna Elisabetha didn’t? What would happen to their children without parents?

And, even before the voyage, would they be robbed, as so many others had been, during the long, six-week wait in Rotterdam for their ship to leave? What would they do then, without friends, family or money? All of these thoughts must have weighed heavy on their minds as they made the decision to leave their homeland.

Once they made the decision, they first had to obtain letters of manumission from the government which gave them permission to leave. Then, they would have sold almost all of their worldly possessions…leaving little more than the clothes on their backs, their guns, and the Family Bible.

After packing up what little they had left, they would have set sail on a shipping barge down the Moselle River to the point where it empties into the Rhine River. Then to Rotterdam for six weeks, rubbing shoulders, no doubt, with all the thousands of other emigrants waiting to go to America. Their ship, the Patience, captained by Hugh Steele, docked in Cowes on the coast of England. After their departure from the port of Cowes, losing sight of the English cliffs, they would not sight land again until the Philadelphia harbor.

Some of the ships’ captains were reputed to be cruel and inhuman masters. Governor Gordon refers in one of his letters to the "Horrid barbarity, with which the passengers were treated," by one captain, while the passengers themselves called him "a wicked murderer of souls." But others were known as kind and considerate. Christopher Schultze, who came on the ship Saint Andrew, landing at Philadelphia, September 12, 1734, wrote of the captain, John Steadman: "We had a very good captain, who kept strictly to his contract, and very able sailors, who had very much patience with us." Let us hope that the Harper’s captain was one of the good ones!

Let me read from the book, Pennsylvania German Pioneers:

The journey to Pennsylvania fell naturally into three parts. The first part, and by no means the easiest, was the journey down the Rhine to Rotterdam or some other port. Gottlieb Mittelberger in his Journey to Pennsylvania in the year 1750, writes:

"This journey lasts from the beginning of May to the end of October, fully half a year, amid such hardships as no one is able to describe adequately with their misery. The cause is because the Rhine boats from Heilbronn to Holland have to pass by 26 custom houses, at all of which the ships are examined, which is done when it suits the convenience of the custom-house officials. In the meantime the ships with the people are detaining long, so that the passengers have to spend much money. The trip down the Rhine lasts therefore four, five and even six weeks. When the ships come to Holland, they are detained there likewise five to six weeks. Because things are very dear there, the poor people have to spend nearly all they have during that time." The second stage of the journey was from Rotterdam to one of the English ports. Most of the ships called at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. This was the favorite stopping place, as 142 ships are recorded as having sailed from Rotterdam to Cowes. Other ships touched at one of seven other channel ports.

In England, there was another delay of one to two weeks when the ships were waiting either to be passed through the custom-house or waiting for favorable winds. When the ships had, for the last time, weighed their anchors at Cowes or some other port in England, then, writes Mittelberger: "the real misery begins with the long voyage. For from there the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail eight, nine, ten to twelve weeks before they reach Philadelphia. But, even with the best wind, the voyage lasts seven weeks."

The third stage of the journey, or the ocean voyage proper, was marked by much suffering and hardship. The passengers being packed densely, like herrings, as Mittelberger describes it, without proper food and water, were soon subject to all sorts of diseases, such as dysentery, scurvy, typhoid and smallpox. Children were the first to be attacked and died in large numbers.

The terrors of disease, brought about to a large extent by poor food and lack of good drinking water, were much aggravated by frequent storms through which ships and passengers had to pass. "The misery reaches the climax when a gale rages for two or three nights and days, so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all human beings on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously. When, in such a gale, the sea rages and surges, so that the waves rise often like mountains one above the other, and often tumble over the ship, so that one fears to go down with the ship; when the ship is constantly tossed from side to side by the storm and waves, so that no one can either walk, or sit, or lie, and the closely packed people in the berths are thereby tumbled over each other, both the sick and the well – it will be readily understood that many of these people, none of whom had been prepared for hardships, suffer so terribly from that that they do not survive."

When at last the Delaware River was reached and the City of Brotherly Love hove in sight, where all their miseries were to end, another delay occurred. A health officer visited the ship and, if any persons with infectious diseases were discovered on the ship, it was ordered to remove one mile from the city.

It would seem that our forebears were lucky and did survive. Disembarking the ship, the men would have been immediately led to the Courthouse, there to solemnly swear to and sign their oath of allegiance to the King of England, to whom the American colonies belonged at the time.

The Harpers settled in north of Philadelphia, in Berks County for a few years. They attended the Christ Lutheran Church in Tulpehocken. It was there that Jacob Harper was baptized on April 12, 1752.

Also in 1752, Ben Franklin flew his famous kite in Philadelphia. One may imagine that Philip and his family, coming into town for supplies, might have passed Ben on a Philadelphia street.

The "Pennsylvania Germans" were generally farmers. When they arrived in their new land, they found that most of the area surrounding Philadelphia was already settled and the land prices were fairly high. They soon learned about the vast, uninhabited region of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Happily, it was also similar in environment to their native land of Germany.

Sometime during the 1750s, the families made their way to the land where we are now sitting. They followed the migration route taken by so many others into the Valley of Virginia, finding their way to Augusta County, Virginia, which later became Pendleton County, West Virginia.

And that is why we find ourselves here tonight…here in Seneca Rocks, in West By God Virginia, where much of the area has remained unchanged in the ensuing 2½ centuries - a tribute to the love and respect which the people of West Virginia have for their land and for their history. It is good to know that somehow, somewhere things have remained the same.

I am now going to ask Buzz Harper, as president of the Harper Family Association, to say a few words at this time.

[Buzz speaks]

Since we first started talking about this Reunion, several Harpers have passed over the Great Divide – my uncle, Kent Blair Fuller, Grace Harper Nelson, Jackie Benson Blatterman and her mother, Elma Lawrence Hatch, Evelyn Harper Roy, and her sister, Virginia Harper Roy, Elsie Susan Harper Flanagan, Winifred Irene Triplett Harper, Nannie Harman Muse Yost, Mary Wimer Lacey, Don Harper Carr, Herbert H. Lockwood, John Larry "Bud" Ormand, Evelyn Painter Lund, Paul J. Zofsak, and my own dear Mountain Cousin, Ted McDonald.

All of us here tonight have undoubtedly, lost love ones – it is the Circle of Life. And it is the Circle of Life which has brought us all here together tonight. I hope that all the Harpers who have gone before are sitting up in Heaven looking down on us right now. As we bow our heads for the blessing by Reverend Mac Hart, let us remember all of them in our hearts.

[Mac gives blessing]

We’ll go up to the buffet table in order – table number one…you can look at the exhibits on the wall or in the display case while waiting.


I’d like to ask for a round of applause for our hostess, Shirlie Yokum, who has done so much for the preparations for this reunion weekend, and for Dinah and Sarah, who have cooked all this wonderful food.


Allow me to introduce Harper descendant, Muriel Gehr Hart, of North Carolina, who has the rare, and perhaps unique, distinction of being descended from five, count ‘em, FIVE of Philip Harper’s six children. When Muriel first announced to her family that she was going to have this "Show and Tell" at Reunion 2000!, her husband and children asked if she REALLY wanted people to know this… You may have already seen her exhibit in the display case; if not, you’ll want to look at it.

The Perseid Meteor Shower is tonight and you’ll never find darker skies anywhere than here in West Virginia, so take advantage.

Harper cousin, Dave Meadows, and the Always Late Band will now lead us in the finer points of Square Dancing. You all have fun!