Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ancestor Highlight: Henry Y Zimmerman, 1795-1853, my 3rd great grand father

I don’t know as much about Henry Zimmerman as I do about John Erwin. There has been much less written about him, and I’m struggling with applying the “Does this make sense?” standard (see the blog article Anne's Top Ten Rules For Growing Your Family Tree) to the facts I did find. But the man intrigues me…perhaps because of the contradictions and mysteries. I have spent a more time on him than anyone else thus far, trying to resolve the contradictions and get through the mysteries. I need to let him go for now, to move on now, and maybe by the time I get back to him, something will have been dug up and digitized that will help me crack the conundrum. However, in order to be able to leave him (I even dreamed about researching him last night!), I must write about him.

I obtained information from his census records and death records through’s little wiggling leaves.

Henry Y Zimmerman was born in about the year 1794 or 1795. I know this in part because he said in the 1850 Census on September 13, 1850 (in Chester Township, Wayne County, Ohio) that he was 56 years old. Simple math puts his likely birth year at 1794. On that Census, he also said he was born in Maryland, and that he was a farmer. It also says that his wife, Frances, is 50 years old and was born in Pennsylvania. It lists his children as Henry, 20; Caroline M., 17; Susanna, 15; Hiram F., 14; Martin V., 12; Oliver P, 9; and Juliann, 7. The first two children were born in Pennsylvania, and the rest of them were born in Ohio. I descend from Juliann (later designated as Julia A Zimmerman).

                I also have him, and probably most of his family, in Chester Township, Wayne County, Ohio, in 1840, but that Census form was not nearly as detailed as the later one; it consists of numbers in columns indicating how many people in his household in certain age ranges.

                It’s the information that I obtained along with his death and burial information that starts bringing in the contradiction and mystery. Through I have a record of his death and burial place from the Ohio Obituary Index kept at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (it describes its source as Wayne County Grave Registration Cards) and I have a record of his burial place through a link provided by to which has a memorial page for Henry Y Zimmerman with a picture of the cemetery, it’s name and address. Through these sources I have his birth year as 1795 in Maryland, his age at death as 58, and his death date as September 12, 1853. He was buried at Eight Square Mennonite Cemetery, Lattasburg/Chester Township, Wayne County, Ohio. The memorial lists his wife and children, and they match, so I know he’s my Henry Y. Zimmerman. Apparently, he’s Mennonite; that’s interesting (later research into his wife shows she’s Mennonite and buried there as well).  Both death records contain the note that he served in the Army in the war of 1812 under the command of Captain George Sanderson. 

                Wait! A Mennonite soldier? This is where it stopped making sense.

The Mennonites are a peace church. They don’t fight in any war. I knew this because when I was young I was a member of the Church of the Brethren, and even attended a Church of the Brethren affiliated college (Juniata College - great school & experience!). As one of the three historic peace churches, the Church of the Brethren has often partnered with the other two (Mennonite and Quaker) in their peace efforts. But just to be sure I’ve spent a lot of time reading Mennonite histories in the past week, and a lot of time reading about the War of 1812.

I first checked to see whether I could find out if Henry Y Zimmerman did serve in the War of 1812. Per addendums to a lecture given before the Lancaster Literary Institute, by George Sanderson, Esq., in 1851, titled  “A Brief History ofthe Early Settlement of Fairfield County" which was subsequently printed in the local Lancaster PA paper, "with added facts", "H. Zimmerman" was a private in the campaign of 1813-1814  I then remembered the luck I had in finding digitized enlistment rosters for my ancestors in the Civil War and looked for any records relating to enlistment rosters for the War of 1812, and there I found “Served In 1813 and 1814: Private Henry Zimmerman”. Excerpted from Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War of 1812, 27th United States Infantry, Roll of Capt. George Sanderson's Company, And “Henry Zimmerman Enlisted June 7, 1813”, per 1880 History of Franklin & Pickaway Counties, Ohio; Military Record (See That was the muster center for Ohio. He was honorably discharged in Detroit in 1814, per A History of Fairfield County Ohio, Chapter XVIII, The War of 1812 and The Mexican War (see

In doing this research, I also found out that there are a whole bunch of Henry Zimmerman(s) in that time frame (it was a very popular name – though seemingly only one with a middle initial Y) – so it could still be someone else. On the other hand, the Ohio Society of the United States  Daughters  of1812, include Henry Y Zimmerman’s grave on their Online Index to Grave Records of Servicemen of the War of 1812, for the State of Ohio. (See And I would assume they check these things out pretty carefully.

I then started looking up variations of War and Mennonite and American, and skimmed two histories of the Mennonites I’d earlier picked up via Google books. I found that, while in Ohio, as of 1803, Quakers, Mennonites, and “Dunkers” were exempt from military duty in the state militia in lieu of a three dollar annual payment, that didn’t apply to federal call ups, and it wasn’t until WWII that a formalized alternative service was created. I did see several rather entertaining complaints of senior officers throughout various wars whose rolls contained Mennonites, Quakers or Brethren that they were “near deadweight” as they wouldn’t pick up a gun and had to be put to cleaning, grave-digging or cooking duties.  According to Notes on the Ohio Militia duringthe War of 1812 by  James T. Brenner much of the Ohio militia was relegated to building roads, convoying supplies, and manning blockhouses, causing one Ohio officer to remark, “The militia of Ohio have been made pack horses and merely served as convenience for others to receive the honor and glory.”  I could see a Mennonite soldier serving his draft duty in such a way, such that the contradiction becomes somewhat more plausible.

I don’t feel that the contradiction is resolved, but perhaps it is as resolved as it is going to get. I know it is as resolved as it is going to get right now. Now to the mystery: I can’t find anyone beyond him. I hit a brick wall. Hopefully, I’ll be able to dismantle it later but not right now. In my search I saw other people putting posts on genealogical forums seeking information on him too. Many postulate that Fanny is his second wife and that the first two children, born in PA, are from an unnamed first wife. Later research into his son Henry showed that he was born in Westmoreland County PA, but I can find nothing about Henry Y there. At least I am not alone; those other people can’t find his parents in Maryland, or anywhere else, either.

If anyone has any more information on my 3rd great-grandfather Henry Y Zimmerman than I do, I would love to hear from you!

The direct descent line is:
Henry Y Zimmerman (1795-1853) – Frances “Fanny” Speicher (1801-1876)
Julia Ann Zimmerman (1844-1913) – Samuel Myers Hartman(1844-1928)
Mabel LeRe Erwin (1910-1990)Clarence Snyder (1910-1984) – my maternal grandparents
My Mom

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