Thursday, February 11, 2021

2021 - German Immigrant - John Lemley




Nancy Simmons

Paul Simmons - father

June Putman - grandmother

Cora Wilson - great-grandmother

Catherine Deck - 2x great grandmother

Jacob Deck - 3x great grandfather

Elizabeth Huffman - 4x great grandmother

Catherine Lemley - 5x grandmother  

JOHANNES LEMLEY - 6x great grandfather



Many of us have German ancestry. It is one of the largest strands of European ethnicity in people of the United States. My Ancestry DNA test revealed I am 14% Germanic but in a range that could possibly extend to 29%.  My personal research reveals I am 19% German. My German ancestors all descend from my father's side of the family. Both his mother’s and his father’s families have German ancestry.


My Ancestry DNA estimated ethnicity - 14% German

Germans have immigrated to America since the settlement of Jamestown but there are two definite waves of German immigration. The first wave stretches from the early 1700s to the Revolutionary War. These Germans came from the Rhine Valley area of Europe. German refugees traveled north up the Rhine to Rotterdam to board ships to England. And from England many were transported to the British colonies. Most of these Germans were of Lutheran or Reformed faith. The second wave of Germans occurred from the 1830s to the 1920s and they were mainly of the Catholic faith coming from eastern European.  My German ancestors all date to the First Wave.

Johannes Lemley lived south of Worms
Traveled up the Rhine River to Rotterdam to Cowes, England 
to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Colony

Some of my German family surnames are Simmons, Rexrodt, Arbogast, Huffman, Deck, Lemley and Odewalt to name just a few. To get to my seminal German immigrants I had to research back to my 5th and 6th grandparents. Researching ancestors who immigrated before the Revolutionary War is not an easy task. Most of these German ancestors were refugees fleeing the area in the Rhine River Valley due to the cruel religious and political wars of Europe. They lost their homes and their land and were victims of hatred due to their religious faith or conflicts of governments. This Rhine Valley was also known as the Palatinate. An estimated 80,000 Palatinates entered America through the port of Philadelphia from 1683-1775. Many of them sought the promise of greater toleration in America, especially in William Penn's "Paradise of Pennsylvania."[1] 


Port of Philadelphia about 1750
Johannes Lemley arrived in Philadelphia in 1752

My 6th great grandfather, Johannes (John) Lemley, immigrated in 1752 through the port of Philadelphia.  John was born in Wurttemberg, Germany about 1720.  He and a brother Michael immigrated to America on October 20, 1752 on the ship called the Duke of Wirtemburg.[2] They boarded a ship in Rotterdam and sailed to Cowes, England. There they left for Philadelphia on the ship “The Duke of Wirtemburg” and after 3 weeks they arrived in Philadelphia. Before passengers could disembark, all males over the age of 16 signed an Oath of allegiance to King George the III of Great Britain. Then, if the passengers passed a health exam they could disembark.[3]


Johannes Lemle on the passenger list for the ship Duke of Wirtemburg

A year later in 1753 John Lemley was granted several land grants by Sir Thomas Fairfax dated May 26, 1753 for one lot or half acre of land each in the town of Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia where he eventually builds an inn and a blacksmith shop.[4] When a land patent was granted the landowner had to pay annual rent fees and Johannes was obligated to pay 5 schillings each year on the Feast Day of St. Michael.[5] Lord Fairfax also gave a grant to the Germans in Winchester to build a Lutheran Church. The church, which John Lemley was a member, first built a log schoolhouse and not until 1764 was the cornerstone for the first church building laid. John Lemley was one of the founders of the Lutheran Church in Winchester that eventually was called Grace Lutheran Church. In his will he left much of his estate to the church.[6]


Land grant to John Lemley from Thomas Lord Fairfax
Lot # 206 in Winchester, Colony of Virginia
15 May 1753

At the same time John Lemley was receiving his land grant and establishing his businesses as an inn keeper and a blacksmith, in Winchester, Virginia, George Washington the young 23-year-old colonel in the British Virginia military was in Winchester organizing the building of Fort Loudoun. Fort Loudoun was a historic fortification used during the French and Indian War. George was responsible for fortifications along the Virginia western settlements from 1748-1758.  John Lemley is mentioned in George Washington’s journal. On October 20, 1755 George gives orders to his commanding officer to halt troops in Winchester and to house the men in the courthouse and James Lemen’s barracks.  James Lemen, a tavern keeper and leading citizen of Winchester, lived near the courthouse.[7]  Orders, 20 October 1755 (  This James Lemen was Johannes Lemley, innkeeper and cooper in Winchester.


George Washington's Office 
Winchester, Virginia

I also found John Lemley in the Frederick County court records[8] as a plaintiff seeking reparation for damages. As an owner of an inn that sold liquor in a town on the edge of civilization with many soldiers waiting for orders to march into the wilderness, one can visualize how the damages occurred. In one case the sheriff is told to sell the boots and clothes left in the inn to reimburse John Lemley for damages.


Order that the Sheriff of Winchester sell one great coat, pair of boots, and one gun belonging to the defendant, Daniel Stephens, totally a sum of six pounds four schillings and seven pence. The sum to be paid to the plaintiff, John Lemley, to cover his loss due to the debt of the defendant.


According to some researchers John's wife was Catherine, but in his will, he addresses her as his wife. The will dated August 26, 1784,[9] stated that he bequest his wife the house with all his furniture, his land, and his tenements. He gives George Lemley fifty pounds, and his clock, he gives Michael Huffman, son in law, married to his daughter Catherine, my direct descendant fifty pounds and his still, (more evidence of John serving liquor) and gives John Kerns, son of Adam Kerns 12 pounds.  I still do not know the relationship if any of John Lemley to John and Adam Kerns. John tasked his executors to sell the rest of his worldly possessions and give the money to the Lutheran Church in Winchester.  The will is probate November 4, 1784,[10] so John had to have died sometime after he signed his will on August 26 and before the will was probated on November 4th.

First page of the Will of John Lemley, Frederick County, VA 1784

Joh Lemley's bequest and gift to the Lutheran Church in Winchester


As I research my families, I always hope to find someone notorious but in most cases I find I am related to only plain regular folks. Johannes (John) Lemley was not famous but he is one of my German ancestors who left Germany in 1752 and immigrated to the British colony of Pennsylvania. He moved to Winchester in the Virginia colony and there on the outskirts of civilization he settled and lived out his life. He probably saw or even talked to the soon to be famous young British colonel, George Washington, who was trying to protect settlers from the ravages of the French and Indian war fought from 1754-1763. Johannes Lemley died in the fall of 1784, and there is no record of his burial, but he was probably buried in the graveyard of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Winchester, Virginia.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church cemetery in Winchester, Virginia  
Stone wall is remnant of original church built in 1764

[1] Wokeck, Marianne S., Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America, Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania State University, 1999, page 44.

[2] Strassburger, Ralph Beaver & William John Hinkle, Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808, Vol 1, page 498, Camden, Missouri: Picton Press, ©1992.

[3] Ibid, page 497

[4] Virginia Land Patents and Grants, The Library of Virginia, digital image 295_0056

[5] Ibid

[6] Eisenberg, William Edward, This Heritage, Winchester, VA: The Trustees of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church; 1954, page 292.

[7] “Orders, 20 October 1755,” Founders Online, National Archives,, [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series, vol. 2, 14 August 1755 – 15 April 1756, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983, p. 130.]

[8] FamilySearch, film #8141184, Frederick Co VA Order Books, Vol 9, 1760-1762, page 356, image 662,

[9] FamilySearch, film # 007644644, Frederick Co VA Will Book 5, pages 61-64

[10]  Ibid, page 64


  1. Hi Nancy. Interesting article! I'm also a descendant of Michael Huffman and Catherine Lemley through their son Michael (1774-1864). While I believe most of your article is accurate, I'm not sure the Johannes John Lemley who immigrated in 1752 is our ancestor. Catherine Lemley Huffman was born about 1742 in Virginia. I think this means her father John would have immigrated before 1742.

  2. Hi Sara, You have called my attention to John "Johannes" Lemley's immigration date. If his daughter, Catherine born in 1742, were born in Virginia then John would have immigrated before that date. I am sure John Lemley of Winchester is her father since John mentions Michael Huffman in his 1784 will.

    1. Hi Nancy, thanks for your reply. Upon taking a closer look at this line, I'm not sure why I thought Catherine Lemley was born in Virginia aside from lamely copying what I'd seen in other family trees. As you said, John Lemley's will does seem to confirm him as her father. Since he immigrated in 1752, it seems most likely that she was born in Germany and immigrated as a young child.