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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company; Elwood Roberts, Editor.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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BENJAMIN BERTOLET. The Bertolet family were among the early French Huguenot settlers in Pennsylvania. Jean Bertolet arrived in the colonies in 1726, and his brother, Peter Bertolet, eight or ten years earlier. The descendants of Peter are not able to give an authentic account of his arrival in the colony, but he signed a petition to incorporate Oley township, in Berks county, which bears date 1720, and is on file at Reading. He was a married man, and left a family, a son Jonathan becoming a physician and marrying Charlotta, daughter of Dr. George de Benneville. The couple were second cousins, as Dr. Benneville’s wife Esther was the daughter of Jean Bertolet.

Dr. Jonathan Bertolet practiced medicine at Pottsgrove, now Pottstown, in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, and later at New Hanover Square, where he died at the age of thirty-five years in 1789. His remains lie in Bertolet’s burying-ground in Frederick township, Montgomery county. His preceptor was evidently Dr. George de Benneville, also of a French Huguenot family, who lived in Oley to the time that he located at Branchtown, near York road and Green lane, Philadelphia, in 1755. He purchased a farm of twenty acres of land at Branchtown with a mansion, and practiced medicine there for many years. Dr. de Benneville reserved from this farm about an acre of land for a burial place for himself and his family. It is located at the corner of York road and Green lane, extending by a parallel line Green lane from York road to Broad street. At the corner of Broad street Dr. de Benneville and his wife Esther were buried. He died in 1793, in the ninetieth year of his age. He became an inspired religious teacher and leader, preaching in French, German and English, a fact which furnishes additional evidence of his thorough education.

Jean Bertolet was born in Chartien Deux, in Alsace-Lorraine, at that time a part of France. His ancestors had resided in Flanders and were exiled therefrom during the Reformation, they being what are known as French Huguenots refugees. The Huguenots carried on an unequal contest against the dominant Catholic church from 1500 to 1595, the period generally known as that of the French Reformation. The first of the Huguenots martyred perished at Metz in 1525. One of the most dreadful features of the conflict was the massacre of twelve thousand Huguenots who were prisoners, at Amboise, in 1560. The Bertolet family still have in their possession the French Protestant Bible which was printed in 1557.

Jean Bertolet removed from the canton of Chartien Deux to Berne, in western Switzerland. It had been from this country that the doctrines of the Reformation originally extended into France where they took such deep hold. It might seem as though those almost inaccessible Alpine regions-mountains and valleys-were placed in the heart of Europe in order that they might afford a refuge for these religious exiles. Hundreds of persecuted French Protestants betook themselves to Switzerland and applied themselves to the various pursuits of life. Some of them became tenants on the congregational estates then just acquired. Among these was Jean Bertolet. He and his wife Susanna took charge of one of these in 1712. As nearly as can be ascertained, he was thus engaged as a farmer for a period of fourteen years, after which time he, with his wife and five children, emigrated to America, for the purpose, as he phrased it, of bettering their temporal condition. French was his mother tongue and that language was at first almost exclusively spoken in the family but it was lost in the second and third generations in Pennsylvania, owing to intermarriages with English-speaking neighbors. Jean Bertolet was an adherent of the Zwinglian and Calvinistic doctrines. After coining to Pennsylvania he associated himself with the Moravians with whom the Huguenots had much in common. He was a pious, honest man, as is proved abundantly by contemporary evidence. A good name was given him when he left Switzerland, by a passport from the church, townspeople and law officers. It read as follows:

“We, the undersigned, High Bailiff of the Church of the illustrious Count Palatine of Gutenburg, attest herewith in virtue of this belief that the bearer hereof, worthy, honorable and discrete Jean Bertolet, born at Chartien Deux in Switzerland, in the district of Berne, together with his wife he has for 14 years resided constantly in this place as a tenant on the high estimable bishopric or estate with its appertaining farm, as a pious, honest, upright and reasonable and in such a manner as becomes an honest man of laudable conduct so that we know nothing to say after him, as well as his housewife, otherwise than all love and goodness. Besides these married people have with them their five children and in prospect for their better advantage and opportunity they wish to repair to the new land of Pennsylvania, and there peaceably settle themselves, being fully resolved and disposed.

“By virue of our office we command respect toward, also service and friendly salutations and order the aforesaid Jean Bertolet with his housewife Susanna and their five children, not only to pass free and unmolested but also by side roads, besides their commendable good demeanor of all just intent and assistance be rendered them.

“In such are we by similar occasion cheerful to reciprocate, so with the assurance as before mentioned, they have this as their true passport (unarkundt) to which we have with our own hand subscribed our customary Palatinate, which is hereunto appended.

“Given and executed at the place of Chief Justice Wimpfeldten the nine and twentieth day of the month of April as we count One thousand seven hundred and twenty-six. (April 29, 1726). “Attest: Hanz Erhard Beyer.
“J. G. Wimpfeldtcn. (Seal.)
“Nicholas Schoenblant, Atty.” (Seal.)

It can be seen in the above that Jean Bertolet is spoken of as being a native of Switzerland, although it is found on investigation that Chartien Deux is located in Alsace-Lorraine, then a part of France. To this document were attached two seals, one of them in wax. It is not alone from this official document that the character of Jean Bertolet is known. He has left his footprints, as it were, in the path that he passed along, which are plainly visible to those who come after him. Benjamin Bertolet, his descendant, has three other official documents which show that he was the official Christian leader of the French Huguenot settlement of Oley, in Berks county, Pennsylvania.

On arriving in Pensylvania in 1726, Jean Bertolet resided temporarily in the upper part of Germantown, now Mount Airy, Philadelphia. Later he settled at Oley, where he purchased two hundred acres of land on quit rent on which he built a house in I731. The date was cut upon the sill above the doorway. He erected his house on the log cabin plan, although it was roomy and durable. It was taken down in 1826, sold and re-erected at Stonersville, where it will stand in good condition for several generations more.

Jean Bertolet held prayer meetings every Sabbath to which he kindly invited his Indian neighbors, some of whom soon became regular attendants. As the services were conducted in his native tongue, French, his neighboring Huguenot brethren also attended. The Indians told him that they could understand little of his prayers, yet they believed them to be good because of the fervent and sincere manner in which they were expressed. He generally knelt in prayer, and the Indians, by way of showing their profound reverence in their own fashion, prostrated themselves on the ground.
Jean Bertolet directed his attention to the cultivation of the soil in his new home as in his own country. He not only cultivated the soil, however, but also the minds of his children. For this purpose he engaged the most capable teachers he could find, in order that the young people might grow to be useful citizens of their adopted country. He employed a nobleman, the young Count George de Benneville, a Huguenot, to teach them.

Count Zinzendorf visited Jean Bertolet at Oley. When the Moravian church held its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on December 21, 1891, an account of it was given in one of the papers read. When Zinzendorf left his home in Saxony to join the Moravians in this country he was accompanied by his daughter, the Countess Benigan, then sixteen years of age, and Rosina, the wife of Bishop Neitchman, and also by Abraham and Judith Meinnue and Henry Miller, a printer. They landed in New York, December 10, 1741, reaching Philadelphia on the 21st of the same month. They occupied a three-story brick house on the east side of Second street, above Race, which had been secured for them. Without any delay the Count instituted a series of religious meetings in this house which became very popular. German and English people attended them, in order that no suspicion of unlawful teaching might be aroused. On December 18, the Count and his companions began their notable journey to Bethlehem, going first to Germantown, where the Count remained over night with Rev. John Bechtel, a member of the Reformed church. On the following day they set out for Wagner’s, where they passed the night, and the next day journeyed on. They arrived, on the 24th, at the forks of the Lehigh and Monocacy rivers. Count Zinzendorf, whose energy was remarkable, did not make a protracted stay in Bethlehem, but on Christmas day, a few hours after those impressive services in the log house at which Bethlehem was named, he set out and journeyed to Oley, where he preached at the house of Jean Bertolet. Thence he journeyed to Ephrata to investigate the case of one Habrecht who had left the Brethren. He immediately returned to Germantown. The Oley church-book shows that Henry Antes preached there in 1736. The Moravian, Spangenberg, was introduced by Henry Antes in 1737, and preached his second sermon at the house of Jean Bertolet in 1741. In a list of persons given in the Church- book as having taken part in a great revival at Oley, are the names of Jean Bertolet and his sons, as well as that of his wife. Julius F. Sachse, in his “German Sectarians,” Vol. I, page 423, describes the part taken by Jean Bertolet in spreading the gospel among the early settlers in Pennsylvania. Their gatherings resulted in the organization of a religious society independent of any denominational creed, known as the Vereinigte Skippack Brudern (Associated Brethren of the Skippack). The leading members of this new sect were Henry Frey, John Cooper, George Merkel, Christian Weber, John Boun, Jacob Wenzen, Joshua Schmidt, William Bossen and Joshua Becker, of Skippack; Henry Antes, William Frey, George Stiefel, Henry Holstein and Andrew Frey, of Frederick township; Matthias Gemaehle and Abraham Wagner, of Matetsche (Methacton); Jean Bertelot, Francis Ritter and William Potts, of Oley; John Bechtel, John Adam Gruber, Blasius Macknet and George Benzel, of Germantown.

The following is the inscription on the memorial stone erected to Jean Bertolet:


The location in which Jean Bertolet settled at Oley was about one mile west of what is now known as Yellow House. He died about the year 1743. His oldest son Abraham (2) was born December 11, 1712, married Esther De Turk in 1750, and died in July, 1766. He was a blacksmith by trade, and a very good mechanic. He built entirely with his own hands a saw mill, complete in all its arrangements, on a branch of the Manatawney creek. It is still in running order on the old farm. His other children were: (2) Maria, born 1715, died 1802, married Stephen Barnet; (3) John, born 1717, died 1789, married a daughter of Peter Ballio; (4) Esther, born 1720, died 1796, married Dr. George De Benneville; (5) Susanna, born 1722, married Jacob Frey, son of William and grandson of Henry Frey, who arrived in America in 1675. Susanna died in 1805; (6) Frederick, born 1727, died 1779, the only child of Jean and Susanna Bertolet born in America, married Esther, daughter of Abraham Le Van, and lived all his life on the Bertolet homestead, one of his sons operating the charcoal forge and furnace for many years.

The children of Abraham and Esther Bertolet: John, born in 1731; Mary, born 1737, married Daniel Hoch; Daniel, born May 9, 1741, married Maria Yoder, and resided on his father’s farm; Elizabeth, born in 1742, married John De Turk; Samuel, born in Oley, September 14, 1743, married Esther Frey, his first cousin, daughter of Jacob Frey of Falkner Swamp, and died January 1, 1805; Esther, born in 1746, married George Yoder.

Among the children of Daniel Bertolet, oldest son of Abraham and Esther Bertolet, was Daniel Bertolet, Jr. He was born on the old homestead in Oley, near Friedensburg, January 11, 1781. He married Mary Griesemer. He died September 1, 1868, aged eighty-eight years. He became the Pietist, and was very eccentric, forbidding all smoking in his house. He was one of the earliest to join the Evangelical Methodist church, and erected a church building for the organization on his farm at Friedensburg. His family became one of the most popular in Berks county in those days. His children were as follows:

Daniel G., born January 17, 1809, married Hettie Bertolet. He was a merchant miller.

Maria, married Moses Miller, who was one of the early coal operators in Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania.

Isaac, born April 11, 1810, became an iron manufacturer, operating a rolling mill in Reading. He had two sons, Jonathan and Daniel N., both of whom became physicians and served in the United States navy. Jonathan died in Berlin, Germany, in 1863. He was sunstruck while serving with General N. P. Banks’ Division, then operating on the Mississippi river, and, partly recovering, went abroad to recuperate his health. Dying, as stated, he was buried at Berlin. Dr. Daniel N. Bertolet is still serving in the navy, standing at the head of his profession.
Jacob became a minister in the Evangelical organization and was popular among that people. He had a son Israel who still owns the old Abraham homestead and sawmill, and is also interested in financial affairs at Reading. The farm in question was originally owned by Isaac De Turk, a brother-in-law of Jean Bertolet. Abraham’s wife Esther took it as her share of her father’s estate.

Of the children of Jacob Bertolet, Israel has two sons, Haman and Samuel. Haman is a civil engineer in the employ of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Samuel is an attorney-at-law, and is engaged in practice at Reading. Samuel Bertolet, the second son of Abraham and Esther Bertolet, married his cousin, Esther Frey, 2nd removed to Falkner Swamp. Benjamin Bertolet, subject of this sketch, is one of his descendants. Samuel served during the Revolutionary war in Colonel Frederick Antes’ Regiment, in 1777, from May to December, in the Philadelphia County Militia. He followed his commander from Newtown, in Bucks county, to Falls of Schuylkill. From that place the army marched to the Brandywine where the battle of the Brandywine was fought, September 11, 1777. That night the army retreated to Chester and the next day to the old camp at Falls of Schuylkill. Two days later the army moved to Buck Tavern and White Horse Tavern, where some of the militia had a skirmish with the British, September 16, 1777. When the rainy season, the autumnal equinox, set in, the army moved to Chester Springs, and again to Warwick Furnace, and thence to Parker’s Ford, re-crossing the Schuylkill. From that point the army marched to Trappe. It was about this time that General Wayne’s division was surprised in the night by the British troops at Paoli, and many of his men killed. In that engagement Samuel Bertolet with his team narrowly escaped being taken prisoner by the British. Samuel and Esther Bertolet had several children: Abraham, the eldest, born August 26, 1773, married Elizabeth Hunsicker who was born September 7, 1775, they having three sons, Henry, Samuel and Abraham, the father dying March 28, 1862. This Henry was the father of Abraham R. Bertolet, the provost marshal who was shot and killed by a deserter, William Howe, in 1863, during the Rebellion, while Abraham was endeavoring to arrest him, the occurrence causing much excitement in Montgomery county at the time. Samuel H., the second son of Abraham and Elizabeth Bertolet, born in July, 1805, died in 1852, married Elizabeth Pennypacker, born 1803, died in 1863, of the same family as Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker. Samuel H. was a justice of the peace in Frederick township for many years, spelling his name Bartolet. He had five sons and three daughters. Samuel’s sons were Abraham P., Samuel P., Albert G., Benjamin F. and Ephraim. Jacob, second son of Samuel and Esther (Frey) Bertolet, born in March, 1776, died in March, 1843, married Hannah Leidy, and had three sons and two daughters, the sons being John L., Samuel and Jacob. Samuel, third son of Samuel and Esther Bertolet, born in May, 1779, died February 28, 1845, married Hannah Frick, who was born in 1784, and died in 1861. They resided near Pughtown, in Chester county, Pennsylvania, he being engaged in the milling business on French creek, and had four sons and three daughters, the sons being Benjamin, John, Samuel and Jacob. John Bertolet, son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Frey) Bertolet (second wife), born November 5, 1790, died January 12, 1864, resided on the Frey-Bertolet homestead. It was at this place that General Washington established his army office, and it was used as such by his officers while he established his headquarters with Colonel Frederick Antes on the adjoining farm, the army being encamped at Fagleysville, in New Hanover township, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, known in history as Camp Pottsgrove, September 18th to 26th, 1777. He has seven daughters and one son. Of the daughters who reached womanhood, Elizabeth married Silas Grubb, and was the mother of Rev. N. Bertolet Grubb; Catharine married John Hartzel; Mary married Edward Willauer; Esther married Noah Fagley; Susanna married Jacob Bergey; Lydia married John Longacre. John, the only son, died young. Daniel Bertolet (father), the youngest son of Samuel and Elizabeth, born April 20, 1796, and died February 26, 1868, married Catharine Gabel, born in 1803, and died in 1887. They had eleven children: Elizabeth married Elias Fagley; Esther married Jacob Bliem; John married Elizabeth Borneman; Ezra married Eleana Knipe; Susanna married H. B. Nace; Daniel married Eleanor Dunn; Abraham married Amanda Moore; Benjamin married Amelia Heberling; Maria married Michael Diehl; Samuel married Mary Barndt, and (second wife) Mary Borneman; and Abner married Maggie Davidson.

Daniel Bertolet, son of Samuel, was allotted one-half of the old Frey-Bertolet homestead which consisted of two hundred acres. He improved it and became a noted farmer, brick manufacturer and builder. In the deed to him a half acre was reserved for the Bertolet burying-ground. He was in the habit of purchasing unimproved land and erecting buildings thereon, and selling it for farms. The most important building he erected was the Frederick Institute, a school for higher education, which he built for a company composed of prominent citizens of that locality. This building was bought by the Mennonite church on behalf of their eastern district conference, in 1896, and has ever since been used by them for their Home for the Aged. Five of Daniel Bertolet’s sons settled in Philadelphia, and all entered into business of different kinds. Ezra and Abraham carried on the iron business for a number of years. Benjamin engaged in brick manufacturing and extensive building operations. Samuel and Abner also engaged in the manufacture of brick. John remained in Frederick township, and followed farming. He had two sons, Amos B. and John E. Ezra had four sons: Conrad K. and Charles K., both of whom died after they had leached manhood; William, who is engaged in the sand business: and Ira E., who is engaged in selling dyes; Daniel removed to Brooklyn. He has no children. Abraham has two sons, Calvin M. and Abraham Lincoln. Both are printers and unmarried. Benjamin has two sons, Daniel H., of Pottstown, engaged in the real estate and building business, and Walter Benjamin, who is a real-estate and insurance broker in Philadelphia. They are both, like their father, the subject of this sketch, active business men. Walter Benjamin has a son, Benjamin 2d.

In the foregoing genealogy of the Bertolet family, only two of its branches have been brought down to 1904. The family has had many medical men among its members: Jean Bertolet’s son John became a physician, and also Peter’s son Jonathan, and in every generation there have been representatives in the learned professions. Dr. Peter Bertolet, son of the second Daniel, was noted as a historian and much of his manuscript is found with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. At the present time there are five Reading physicians who belong to the family.

Benjamin Bertolet attended the common pay schools and for a short term the Frederick Institute in Montgomery county. He was married, October 24, 1864, to Miss Amelia Heberling, a daughter of Daniel Heberling, a prominent citizen of Carbon county, who for twenty years was a justice of the peace and was also associate judge. Mrs. Bertolet died April 16, 1859. In politics he was a Republican but never sought or desired office. He was ever loyal in citizenship and as business prevented him joining the army he sent a substitute to the war. In his early business career he became connected with the iron industry, and after ten years he turned his attention to the manufacture of brick, in which he continued until the spring of 1902, covering thirty-five years. He still owns the old homestead near Fredrick, Montgomery county, and spends his summers thereon. He belongs to both the Pennsylvania and the Montgomery County Historical Societies. He has three daughters: Minnie E., who is the wife of Boyd Macmerty, and has a daughter, Harriet; Anna E., who married Charles E. Hillegass and has two sons, Charles E. and Jonathan B.; and Catherine E., who married Dr. Byron F. Porter, of Lincoln, Maine.

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This family biography is one of more than 1,000 biographies included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

View additional Montgomery County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Biographies

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