Valentin Oberdorf and Agnes Elizabeth The First American Oberdorf

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Valentin Oberdorf (1735-1800) & Agnes Elizabeth (1738 - AFT 1774)

A First Home

The German States

Valentin Oberdorff was born in Kembach, Germany in October 1735. He was the son of Balthasar Oberdorf II and Margdalena. According to records, although generations of Oberdorfs lived and worshipped in Kembach, it is apparent that Valentin's parents were, on 17 April 1734, living in Dietenhan. The census of that day lists 282 persons living in Kembach and 160 in Dietenhan. 2

Kembach is near Wertheim, a town in southwestern Germany, in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. It is the most northerly town in that state and is situated on the delta of the river Tauber flowing into the river Main. It borders on the Oden-Odenwalk and Spessart to the north across the river Main.

Dietenhan gets a new Chapel

Kembach’s pastor, Christoph Ludwig Neubich, helped to build a new chapel in 1735. On 29 October 1735, Valentin was the first child baptized in this new chapel. (At the left is what the chapel is believed to have looked like in 1735.) The chapel was torn down in 1937, and the Baptismal Font from the old chapel was kept as a keepsake for the new one. The entry in the Dietenhan church book of baptisms reads: “On 29 October 1735 the first baptism in the Church of Dietenhan Balthasar Oberdorf’s little son named Johann Valentin; Godfather was Johann Valentin, the Magistrate’s Jacob Weimar’s son.”

Valentin leaves his homeland at 18

With his 19th birthday just a month away, Valentin emigrated to the United States with his mother and father and at least two siblings. The family arrived at the Port of Philadelphia on September 24, 1754, on the ship Neptune which was captained by John Mason. Valentin signed the Oath of Allegiance with his mark.

THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE I, ---, do solemnly & sincerely promise & declare that I will be true & faithful to King George the Second & do sincerely & truly Profess, Testifie, & Declare that I do from my heart abhor, detest, & renounce as impious & heretical that wicked Doctrine & Position that Princes Excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any Authority of the See of Rome may be deposed or murthered by their Subjects or any other whatsoever. And I do declare that no Foreign Prince Person Prelate State or Potentate hath or ought to have any Power Jurisdiction Superiority Preeminency or Authority Ecclesiastical or Spiritual within the Realm of Great Britain or Dominions thereunto belonging."

It is not known what Valentin was doing between 1754 and 1760. He may have worked as an indentured servant to pay for the cost of his crossing before he settled down — this was common among immigrants of the time.

By 1760, however, he seems to have settled in York County, Pennsylvania, located in the Susquehanna Valley, a large fertile agricultural region in south-central Pennsylvania (Map courtesy of Wikipedia). It perhaps reminded him of his home in Germany. York County was created on 19 August 1749. It was named either for the Duke of York, an early patron of the Penn family, or for the city and shire of York in England. Its county seat, also named York, is apparently where Valentin settled.

A Home and Family at Last

In 1760, Valentin married Agnes Elizabeth (or Elizabeth) in York County, Pennsylvania. Valentin is found on the tax list in Newberry Township, York County, Pennsylvania, in 1762 — nine years after coming to America. He is found on the tax list for Manchester Township, York County, Pennsylvania, in 1780.

Valentin and Agnes Elizabeth had seven children:

Valentin would have been about 41 years old when the Revolutionary War began, but some of his children would have been quite young, his oldest 16. No records have yet been found to indicate that he took up arms for American Independence, though there were men from York County very involved in the War, so it’s likely that he did. As early as July 4, 1774, citizens of York County had selected a committee to protect themselves from what they considered unjust and unfair rules of the British. When Boston was blockaded after its famous tea party, York County provided financial and military support.

In 1778 there were 4,621 volunteer militiamen in the County with a population of 25,000. In 1779 Colonel Thomas Hartley observed that," the York districts has [sic] armed first in Pennsylvania and has furnished more men for the war and lost a greater number of men in it than any other district on the continent of the same number [of] individuals." In July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read in front of the courthouse on Centre Square — maybe Valentin and some of his sons were in the crowd.

Fourteen months later the Continental Congress assembled in the same courthouse — which brought the first printing press to the County. The most important business conducted there was the drafting of the Articles of Confederation.

Valentin remained in York County after the War of Independence but he moved his family to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, prior to 1785, for in that year he was on the tax list of that county and he was enumerated in that county in the 1790 Federal census.

Little Information about the Final Days

How and why Valentin went to Kentucky, where he died in 1800, is unknown. It is presumed that Agnes Elizabeth preceded him in death, but it would have clearly been after 1774 when she gave birth to her youngest child, Conrad.

Much of this information comes from Dorothy Cunningham. After researching the German ancestry of the Overturf family. She wrote about it in The Overturf Family, published in 1988 and revised in 1995.

This page written and researched by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a descendant of Balthazar and Margaretha. Page last updated January 14, 2016.

Return to Table of Contents for Exploring Ancestral Roots: Overturfs, Hansens, McDonalds and Mahoneys

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  2. Map courtesy of Wikipedia

  3. For more about Simon's life, click on his name.