Our Patriot Ancestors
. . . Biographical Sketches
Jacob Schmitt, Sr.
Jacob Schmitt, Sr was born between 1730 and 1750 probably in Germany (as evidenced by his manner of spelling his surname with the "Sch" combination). His exact date and place of birth are not known at this time; his parents' names and the details of his early life are not known for certain either. The primary assumption is that Jacob was a son of Heinrich Schmitt who resided in Lebanon Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. What things we do know about this man who would unknowingly give his name to a section, a corner of Freedom Township, Blair County (i.e. Smith Corner), are things which date from the year 1775 when he first appeared as a pioneer settler in Bedford County.
Jacob Schmitt was married to Rosana -------. Very little is known about the wife of Jacob Schmitt; her name appears in his Last Will and Testament, but that is the sole reference to her in any public papers. It is believed that Rosanna was of Amerindian descent. Jacob and Rosana had three children: Jacob Jr. (who would have been born circa 1770), Agnes Elizabeth (who would have been born circa 1782) and Jacob Peter (who would have been born circa 1784). These three alone are named on Jacob Schmitt Sr.'s will, although there might have been other children born to Rosana that might have died young.
Jacob Schmitt moved his small family into an area of the frontier in the Province of Pennsylvania at some time close to the spring of 1775. At that time the lands to the east of the Blue Knob mountain range fell under the jurisdiction of Frankstown Township, Bedford County. It was during that year of 1775 that the township of Frankstown was separated from Bedford Township within Bedford County; the county itself had only been erected out of Cumberland County four years before, in 1771. In the year that Jacob and Rosana Schmitt moved into this part of Pennsylvania, there were only about sixty other families residing in the newly formed township (which covered a rather large area and encompassed what is now the entire of Blair County). This means that the settlers were widely separated in this hilly portion of the province. Jacob Schmitt ~ his name recorded in the anglicized form of "Smith" ~ appeared in the 1775 tax assessment return as an inmate in Frankstown Township. The term "inmate" referred to a taxpaying renter; for this reason it can be assumed that the Schmitt family had probably moved into the region just prior to the taking of the assessment in the spring of 1775. They would have been residing on lands owned by another resident until they could get their own land surveyed and patented, the trees cleared and their house built. It is possible that Jacob was in the process of building his own homestead at the time of the assessment, and therefore was not recorded as a full resident.
Farming was the basic occupation of Jacob, although he might have done some trapping of fox and wolves to obtain the currency needed to purchase items which he and his wife could not produce themselves. His farmstead would have been fairly self-sufficient for the first ten years. It would have had to have been self-sufficient because other settlers did not appear in the immediate area until the 1780s and following the end of the war in 1783.
An inventory of Jacob Schmitt's estate after his death in 1797 revealed farm tools, such as plows, harrows, grindstones, saws and other implements which bespoke his ability to be self-reliant in the raising of his family and forging an existence in the frontier. In like manner, the inventory recorded spinning wheels, clock-reels and other supplies which revealed that Rosana Schmitt handled her share of the homestead's required work duties equally with her husband. It is pleasing to note that the inventory of the Schmitt estate lists three bedsteads, three chests, a table with five chairs, two stoves along with many cooking and eating utensils and expensive articles (for that time) such as twelve panes of glass and a black silk handkerchief. These items, along with the thirteen head of cattle and nine sheep that the inventory recorded, reveal that the Jacob Schmitt, Sr family was by no means poor. The stereotyped image of the early settlers as wretchedly poor and possessing nothing except the clothes on their backs simply does not apply to the Schmitt family.
During the American Revolutionary War, Jacob Schmitt, Sr., served as a private in the Captain William Clark's Company of the Bedford County Militia as a Ranger on the Frontier. The militia system was quite similar to the modern national guardsmen ~ being available at a moment's notice, but not necessarily involved in the campaign movements. The militia units raised in the various counties were comprised of residents of those particular counties, and they tended to be called on to perform defense duties close to their home counties (although some state militia units were called upon to augment the Continental Line at times). The Bedford County Militia's 'Rangers on the Frontier' were active between the years 1778 and 1783.
Jacob Schmitt, Sr took his oath of allegiance to the county of Bedford and the (newly declared) state of Pennsylvania on 11 April 1778. It may be assumed that his service started close to that date. Whether Jacob was involved in any active fighting or not may never be truly known due to the scarcity of records maintained in the Bedford County archives. The one certainty that Jacob Schmitt, Sr's descendants can take pride in is the commitment he made in April of 1778 to defend this land along with his fellow Americans.
Jacob Schmitt, Sr died circa July 1797; his Will was probated in the Bedford County Court House on 01 July 1797. He was buried in a small plot on his homestead property just to the west of his log house. Besides Jacob and his wife, Rosana, this gravesite would eventually become the final resting place of thirty individuals and become known as the Smith Cemetery.
Of Jacob Schmitt, Sr and Rosana's children, the eldest son, Jacob Jr., is the only one of which we know much. Jacob Schmitt, Jr., married Rachel Fickes, a daughter of Patriot Isaac Fickes, Sr., and a granddaughter of Patriot Valentine Ficus. They bore six children who married into the Helsel, Dickey, Carrell, McKee and Eckhart families of the area. Jacob and Rachel's grandchildren married into the Stifler, Hannah, Benner, Benton, Ickes, Shaw, Miller, Hite, Harker, Wilt, Nofsker, Albright and Sell families. Many of the descendants of Jacob, Sr., and Rosana through Jacob, Jr., and Rachel have continued to line in an area of a few mile's distance of the site of the original Schmitt homestead ~ giving rise to the name of Smith Corner.
The daughter of Jacob Schmitt, Sr and Rosana, Agnes Elizabeth is believed to have married John Mock (a son of Patriot George Mock), and moved into the state of Indiana. They took with them the Dunker denomination of Christianity with them and introduced it into the Ohio Valley.
The youngest son of Jacob Schmitt, Sr and Rosana, Jacob Peter married Christina Helsel (a granddaughter of Patriot Johann Tobias Holtzel). Jacob Peter died in 1816 at the age of thirty-two and his wife remarried and moved away. Jacob Peter's children by Christina were placed under the guardianship of his older brother Jacob Jr.