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Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

George F Hempleman, an American Patriot

      Each American should be able to locate a number of Revolutionary heroes in their family tree so long as their Immigrant Ancestor arrived in the New World before 1770. For many the first ancestor to reach America’s virgin shore arrived in the early 1630’s (as did many of your author’s own ancestors). However, this month we celebrate the heroism of an ancestor whose long trip to America presented him with many hardships; yet, he so loved his new country that he still volunteered to take part in the battle to gain independence. George F. Hempleman, the son of a Baron in Hesse Castle, Germany, chose to make the arduous journey to America in the company of his brother, Adam, and the love of his life, Marguerite Duffy. This is his story.

      The story of George Hempleman and his beloved Marguerite has been told by your author in a prior column. [ ] That column related the love story for which George and Marguerite are best known. Their love story has inspired poetry, been made the subject of more than one book, and served as the basis for a movie. This story, however, has been much more difficult to research – the story of George Hempleman’s love for his new country – a love so great he chose to risk everything to help achieve America’s independence from England, the foreign sovereignty that had chosen to impose horrendous taxes, laws, and punitive measures against the colonies. In another prior column, mention was made in a brief biographic sketch of the military service documented by others for both George and his brother, Adam Hempleman, during the Revolutionary War. []

      It has been far more difficult to research the service of George Hempleman in depth due to the loss or absence of so many documents pertaining to the Pennsylvania militia. Many buildings and other receptacles of historic documents were subjected to destruction by fire by British soldiers, leaving a paucity of information detailing actual military maneuvers. In spite of this, dear 5th Great-Grandfather George F. Hempleman’s service to his country HAS been documented and your author shall attempt to paste together the story from the available sources.

      George F. Hempleman was a remarkable character on the family tree for a number of reasons, not the least of which was his extraordinary length of life – he was born 24th June 1732 in Swabia, Germany, and gave up his hold on immortality on 7 April 1842 in South Charleston, Clark County, Ohio, an incredible span of 109 years, 9 months, and 14 days! Towards the end of his life, George experienced the usual ravages of old age: nearly blind, good hearing, completely rational and sane although confined to his home due to physical infirmities, a bad memory by his reckoning (although his Declaration in support of a pension due him for his Revolutionary War service reflects a rather excellent memory of names, places, and approximate dates – not perfect but found to be reliable upon research by your author).

      In the final year of his life, George Hempleman, Sr., aided by his son George Hempleman, Jr., filed a Declaration for Pension for his service in the Revolutionary War. In that application, we find clues to document his service. In that application, he states:

      That he entered the service of the United States at the time the British occupied the City of Philadelphia. He was drafted into the Militia of Pennsylvania. He then lived at Sunbury upon the Susquehanna. His Captain’s name was Clingman. The Col (2-1) Schaeffer and he believes his General’s name was Bull. He marched to the neighborhood of Philadelphia and remained three months within which time there was a skirmish between Bull’s men and the British at Guilford Hall in which two of our men was killed.

      In support of this declaration, we find the following concerning General Bull:

John Bull was born on June 1st, 1731 in Montgomery, Pennsylvania and held the rank of Colonel in Pennsylvania's 2nd Regiment during the American Revolution. He is the son of Thomas Bull and Elizabeth Rossiter. He was appointed Colonel on May 2nd, 1777. On June 17th, 1777, he was promoted to Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania Militia by the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council.

      It was not until late in 1777 that Pennsylvania complied with the urgent request of General George Washington that the state begin a formal draft of eligible men between the ages of 17 and 53 to serve in a State Militia. The citizens of Pennsylvania were largely opposed to any form of compulsory military service, an attitude in line with the beliefs of the Quaker religion: pacifist and strictly opposed to military actions.

      At the behest of General George Washington (1732-99), the “Act to Regulate the Militia of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” in March 1777 required all able-bodied men ages 18 to 53 to serve tours of two months, established strict draft conditions, and levied heavy fines and penalties against those unwilling to participate. Battalions elected their own officers for three-year terms, and County Lieutenants (not a military rank) enforced the regulations within their communities. Under these conditions, eight militia battalions of roughly one hundred soldiers per battalion formed in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. (SOURCE:

      In addition to his requisite two months’ service in the Pennsylvania militia as referenced above, George Hempleman was also called upon to provide protection from the Indians who continued to oppose the frontiersmen who deigned to settle upon their traditional lands. In his own words, as documented in his Pension application, George provides the following information:

      Some time after this service, but he cannot state how long, he was again drafted to go against the Indians. He does not remember the names of any of his officers upon this tour but he served three months and went to Wyoming. The years following he was again drafted to go against the Indians and served three months. He marched upon this town upon the North Branch of the Susquehanna, but he does not remember the names of any of the officers. His residence was at Sunbury and he was upon each occasion drafted from there. He was a weaver by occupation and followed that business when drafted and he served in the army as a private. He was upon each occasion of his service discharged by his Captain and as he believes verbally. He believes that he never received a written discharge.

      The list of illustrious personages dear George Hempleman listed among those who knew him well included the Honorable Samson Mason, a member of Congress from Ohio, Ira Paige, Esq. a former associate judge for Clark County, Ohio, James Wallace one of the foremost merchants whose business helped to build the town, Charles Anthony, a United States attorney (who later championed George Hempleman’s efforts to obtain this pension); and a number of respected merchants, large farm owners, doctors and others within his community: Gilbert Pearce, George Buffenbarger, James Sprague, George Lott, Charles Paist, Dr. Robert Houston, John Holmes, and others. His pension application was witnessed by both a Baptist clergyman and another noted member of the Clark County, Ohio, community:

      We, Joseph Morris, a clergyman of the Baptist denomination and Thomas Anderson, a farmer, both residing in Madison Township, Clark County, Ohio, hereby certify that we are well acquainted with George Hempleman Sen. who has subscribed and sworn to the foregoing declaration. That we have been acquainted with him for twenty-six years. That we believe him to be of the age which he represents himself to be, that is to say, 110 years old next June. That he is respected and believed in the neighborhood where he resides to have been a soldier of the Revolution and that we concur in that opinion.

      One must marvel at the memories of this humble man, now nearing 110 years of age, reaching back into the mists of his own long decades to bring forth the names and dates and locations of his service. This is not the first ancestor whose application for remuneration due him for his tours of duty that resulted in the birth of our great nation was denied that rightful pension. In this case, having waited a long decade after the United States finally offered these heroes a monetary pension, his advanced age and deteriorated memory cost George Hempleman any form of monetary reward. He simply could not provide documentation of his discharge, or draft documents, nor correctly recall the names of all those with whom he fought. In spite of this, his service was finally documented in later years and his remains granted the honors due to him because “he could not document a full six months’ service” in the Revolutionary War after some 60 plus years!

      From the earlier column memorializing the military service of our various ancestors, we find the following concerning George F. Hempleman:

      Revolutionary service: George was a private, 1781, in Capt. William Johnson's company, 10th battalion, Lancaster Co., PA [p.173] militia. He was born in Germany; died in Charlestown, Ohio. Profession: Weaver, owned 342 acres in Vance twp in 1814, which was later Mad River twp of Clarke Co., Ohio.

      (Sources: Robinson's History of Greene Co., OH, Broadstone's History of Greene Co., Vol. I, p. 203, Early Clark Co. Families, Vol. I, p.149, D.A.R. Patriot Index, p. 321, History of the Hempleman Family in America, By Geo. Whitely, 1912, Northumberland County Muster list of 1776)

      George’s brother, Adam Hempleman, also served during the Revolutionary War. They chose to migrate to America together in the early 1750’s, but were separated by their servitude as indentured immigrants, and it was many years before they reunited by chance. As related in my earlier story about George, here is that tale:

      Adam Hempleman, the elder brother, was indentured to a plantation owner in Pennsylvania. After his term of indenture was paid, he first settled in Kentucky where he married and ultimately moved to Adams County, Ohio. George and Marguerite after their reunion and marriage had settled in Clark County, Ohio, by a complete quirk of fate (if you believe all such coincidences to be merely coincidental.) The brothers, who had each served their new country (*) during the Revolutionary War, had not seen one another since their arrival in the New World. Many decades had passed with no word being exchanged between them. George and his love, Marguerite had made plans to meet at the church but Adam and George had not made any such plans leaving their future to fate. ( In another tale related by descendant George Whitley, in his book, A History of the Hempleman Family in America, 1912, Higginson, authored by George Whiteley):
      “…by chance a neighbor of Adam Hempleman was traveling north and stopped with George Hempleman Jr., overnight, remarked that there was a man in his county by the same name of Hempleman that resembled him very much and later George Hempleman, Sr., in the company with his son George, visited Adam Hempleman at his home in Adams County. What a reunion that must have been....... “

      Thus, we give tribute to George F. Hempleman, our 5th Great-Grandfather on my father’s side of the family. Rest in Peace, sweet Patriot!

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