Hans Michael Debolt and Elizabeth Burt From Alsace-Lorraine

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Hans Michael Debolt (1722-1788) and Elizabeth Burt (1723-1789)

The Ancestry of Mary DeBolt (wife of Simon Overturf)

Mary Debolt (who married Simon Overturf in 1793) was from a family, like the Overturfs, with a rich pioneer history. Today, most descendants spell the name Debolt, with or without a capital B, but early records reveal a variety of other spellings, including: Deibert, Dibert, Dibold, Debold, Diebold, Tebolt, Tebalt, Tiebolt, Tepolt, and Thebeld.

Some Debolt descendants claim to be of French Huguenot descent and believe that the ancestral home of the Debolt family was Alsace-Lorraine. Huguenots were protestants who were persecuted for their faith. The name appears to have come from the word aignos, derived from the German Eidgenossen and means "confederates bound together by oath."

The Debolts are also identified by some with the German way of life because Alsace-Lorraine originally belonged to Germany and was named Elsass-Lothringen. Loyalties between France and Germany have been divided in the area for centuries.

Mary’s Grandfather, Hans Michael Diebolt, Immigrates in 1739

Hans Michael Diebolt was born most likely in the Alsace-Lorraine region, probably in 1722. When he was 17, he came to the United States on the Robert and Alice, from Rotterdam, Holland, landing at Philadelphia on 3 September 1739. The ship was captained by Commander Walter Goodman. Hans took the oath of allegiance to America as soon as he landed.

“His signature, very well written, has been preserved and filed with many others in the Old Records Department of the Pennsylvania State Library at Harrisburg. Hans probably settled in eastern Pennsylvania after his arrival, although his name has not been found in any early records of that region.” 2

Settlement in Pennsylvania

Hans Michael eventually settled in German Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. 3 The fact that he chose to settle in German Township once again suggests a German, rather than French, loyalty. In Michael Debolt and his Descendants, Ella M. Hostetler suggests: “It is not positively known where Michael Debolt was located during the interval between his arrival in 1739 and his application for surveying his land in 1773. Judge Veech in his history said, ‘it is likely that [Hans] Michael Debolt and others took ‘squatters rights’ at first.’” Another history states, “the French were different from most of the other early Pennsylvania emigrants who arrived, from the fact that they were eager to get away from the city as speedily as possible, and push on into the interior...to establish homes.”

Hans Michael and his descendants were among the earliest families to settle in the area which now comprises Fayette and Green counties, Pennsylvania, along the Monongahela River in the southwest corner of the state. Fayette County is located in the southwestern corner of the state, bordered by Greene County 4 to the west and Somerset county to the east.

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Fayette County

North of Fayette County is the present city of Pittsburgh. The Monongahela River is the border between Green and Fayette counties; it joins with the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh to create the Ohio River. The Appalachian Ridge and Valley region, which runs southwestward across the state, comprises a series of parallel ridges and valleys which were important in early westward migration. Mount Davis, located in Somerset County and part of the Allegheny Mountain Range, is the state's highest point at 3,213 feet. When Hans Michael arrived, the area was surely virgin forest and filled with wild game.

Ella Hostetler writes in Michael Debolt and his Descendants: “I am inclined to believe that [Michael] was [in Pennsylvania] much earlier than 1768. Henning’s Statues at Large, Vol 8, page 127, for 1764 to ’73 of Augusta county, Virginia, (which included part of southwestern Pennsylvania at that time) in its record of Robert Brackenridge’s company of militia in 1758 states, ‘Michael Tiebolt was paid ten pounds,’ but does not specify what for. Part of the article reads, ‘and they [the commissioners] shall pay any claims that may be produced to them, for provisions furnished the volunteers, and captains on their return from Pittsburg to the Virginia Colony.’ As this route would be almost directly in line with where it is known Michael later lived, and too, from the fact that he is said to have always lived on neighborly and friendly relations with the Indians, I am inclined to believe he lived there at that time, and provided provisions for the soldiers, rather than that he served as a soldier.”

By trade, it is believed that Michael Debolt was a gunsmith.

Marriage and a Family

[Hans] Michael Debolt married Elizabeth Burt in 1743 (Hans Michael apparently often used only his middle name). It is possible that they were Lutherans, for they settled in areas which were strongly Lutheran. They had at least four children:

There is much evidence to suggest that Michael and Elizabeth's family was frequently subjected to Indian raids, most likely from the Potawatomi or Seneca, while the family eked out a living on the frontier. Family legend has it that George was captured and held by Indians for eight years but returned to his family and that Nicholas was captured, became chief of his tribe, and never returned to his family. It is known that Mary (Debolt) Walters, only daughter of Michael and Elizabeth and sister to George and Nicholas, was in later life a doctor and nurse among both the whites and the Indians on the frontier.

From Pennsylvania to Virginia

After about twenty years in Pennsylvania, perhaps around 1768 and before his 50th birthday, Michael took his family southeast to Hampshire County, Virginia, now a part of West Virginia, near Romney. A 1769 deed describes his farm as "containing One Hundred and Seventy acres situated and lying on a Drain of Pattersons Creek joyning the Lotts Number Fifteen and Sixteen in the said Coungooty being the said Tract of Land that was granted to Michael Teepolt by Deed from the Lord Fairfax Proprietor of the Northern Neck in Virginia the Fourth Day of January Anno Dommy One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty Five." It may be that the Debolts lived on this land before actually purchasing it.

Among the other settlers along Patterson's Creek in Hampshire County was Abraham Teagarden, who was probably the father of Elizabeth Teagarden, who later married Hans's and Elizabeth's son, George. Also living in the area was Jasper Walter, whose son, Ephraim, married the Debolt's daughter, Mary. The family, however, did not remain long in this area. Probably no more than a year later, on the 14th and 15th days of November, 1769, Michael and Elizabeth Debolt and Ephraim and Mary Debolt Walters leased their farms to John Jones of Hampshire County.

And Back to Pennsylvania

Shortly thereafter, they went back to Fayette County, Pennsylvania, where they purchased farms. Michael's farm was in German Township; Ephraim later took up land adjoining that of his father-in-law. These deeds contain the first mention of Hans Michael Debolt's wife, Elizabeth.

A warrant for a patent to land was issued to Michael Debolt in Philadelphia in these words, “1st April 1773, the Hon. Richard Penn, Sequire [who was the youngest son of William Penn], Lieutenant Governor of the late Province of Pennsylvania, by virtue of certain powers, granted to Michael Debolt to be surveyed, one hundred acres of land on Catt’s Run, on the east side of the Monongahela river subject to the purchase money, and so forth.”

This tract of land was called “St. Michael’s” in the patent. It is in German township, and in the present Fayette county. Before it was called Fayette, it was Bedford. German township and Fayette county were organized at the same time in 1787.

Hans Michael Debolt was still living on 1 September 1787, according to the deed of transfer to his son, George. He was dead, however, by 16 October 1788, when his wife, Elizabeth, made her will, so it is assumed that he died in German Township in 1788. Elizabeth died there the following year; her will was probated in September of 1789. They were probably both buried on their farm in a private cemetery which came to be known as the "Debolt Cemetery." This cemetery has since been destroyed and the only records which survive are copies of the inscriptions on the stones of George (their son) and George's wife, Elizabeth Tegarden Debolt.

Michael's Will

The following is a copy of (Hans) Michael Debolt's deed of transfer to his son, George, in 1787, and recorded at Uniontown, Pennsylvania:

Michale Debolt to George Debolt, September 1, 1787, Deed Book A, page 162, Uniontown, Pa.

To all people to whom these presents shall come I Michael Debolt of German Township Fayette County and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yoeman do send greetings.

Whereas the Honorable Richard Penn Esquire Lieutenant Governor of the late Province of Pennsylvania by virtue of certain powers from the Honorable the Proprietaries of said Province at Philadelphia the first day of April Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and seventy three did grant to be surveyed unto me the quantity of one hundred acres of land on Catts Run running into the East Side of the Monongahela River between Browns Run and Georges Creek including my improvements in the County of Westmoreland as by the Warrant yet remaining in the office of the Surveyor General of the Commonwealth of Pennslvania will appear.

Now know ye that I the said Michael Debolt for and in consideration of the sum of five pounds lawful money of the commonwealth aforesaid to me in hand well and truly paid by George Debolt of the same place yoeman the receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge have granted, bargained, sold and transferred and by these presents do grant bargain, sell and transfer unto the said George Debolt all my Estate Right Title Interest property claim and demand whatsoever of in and unto the above Recited Warrant and tract of land thereby granted and mentioned or intended so to be with the appurtenances to have and to hold the said described warrant and tract of land surveyed or to be surveyed in consequence thereof with the rights members and appurtenances therewith belonging unto the said George Debolt and to his heirs and assigns to the only proper use benefit and behoof of the said George Debolt his hears and assigns forever under and subject to the Commonwealth's and all other dues and demands unto which the same are liable. In witness whereof I have set my hand and seal hereunto the first day of September one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven. "Signed" by Michael Debolt with his mark.

Sealed and delivered in the presence of John Pollock and John Shively (neighbours) Fayette County SS The first day of September Anno Domini 1781 Before me the Subscriber one of the Justices of the Court of Commonplease for said county personally came Michael Debolt the grantor within named and acknowledged the foregoing deed poll to be his act and deed and desire the same to be recorded agreeable to law. Given under my hand and seal the same day. Ephraim Walters (Seal)

Elizabeth's Will

The following is a copy from Elizabeth's original will— dated 16 October1788, and read on 2 September 1789 — which had been sealed with sealing wax:

Will, Elizabeth Debolt, proved 2d Septr 1789, page 13

NB: It does not appear that any further proceedings have taken place on the Will of Elizabeth Debolt, than proving, therefore let it be recorded in its order and a vacancy of about one inch across the book left at the bottom in order to make further entry if needful. [signed by A. McLean]

"In the name of God amen Fayette County German Town Ship of Pennsylvania October 16th Day 1788

"I Elizabeth Debolt being sickly in body but good and perfect memory thanks be to almighty God calling to rememberance the uncertain state of this life and that all flesh must yeald unto death when it shall please God to call do make Constitute order and declare this my last Will and Testament in manner and form as following revokeing and anulling all and every Testament or Tesments Will or Wills heretofore by me made Either by Word or Writing in Witness whereof I have hereunto Set my hand and seal this 16th Day of October 1788 after my body is Decently buried I leave to my dearly beloved Daughter Mary Walter all my thirds that is Coming to me of the land Where George Debolt is now liveing on now and one heffer and I leve unto my son George Debolt all my right and thirds of the Orchard from the time that my husband Died untill now and for ever and I Rifify and Confirm this and no other To be my last will and Testament Whereas I have hereunto set my hand and Seal this 16th Day of October 1788. Signed Sealed and Delivered in the presents of us. Signed by Elizabeth Debolt with her mark.

Jacob Riffel (his mark) and Leonard Everly (In German)m Fayette County SS. Before me Alexander McLean Esquire Register for the probate of Wills and Granting Letters of Administration in and for said County personall Came Jacob Riffle and Leonard Every the Subscribing Witnesses to the foregoing will and on their Solemn etc.

It should be noted that the will of Hans Michael Debolt's widow, Elizabeth, names only two children: Mary (Debolt) Walter and George Debolt. Michael had died in 1778 at the age of 33. Nicholas is not mentioned in the will; he died 28 September 1829, so the family legend may be correct that he never returned from captivity with the Potawatomi.

This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a descendant of the Debolts through Mary Debolt who married Simon Overturf. This page last updated on July 21, 2019.

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

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. From Michael Debolt and his descendants

  3. For a short history of German Township, see History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, page 591. 

  4. Map courtesy of Wikipedia

  5. For more about George's life, click on his name.