Law Contracts: Do they serve us or do we serve them?A written contract in the form of a deed, a bond, a will, or some other instrument can give one a sense of security. "Posted: No Trespassing" can be nailed on a tree on your property when you have the deed to the land. Or, as a in will, you may inherit property. But what if you are an indentured servant? how would you feel about the contract? Wonder if my ancestor Wigard Levering find out that being indentured contract was too much of a burden? or too long?
I Rosier Levering and Elizabeth Van de Walle - of Leiden and Germany (Gen 1)
~ Rosier Levering was born about 1615 in Leiden (Leyden), Netherlands. He died Mar 1674/75 in Gemen, Munster, Germany.
|Leiden, Netherlands (wikipedia/opensource)|
~ Elizabeth Van De Wal[e]l was born 21 May 1626 in Wesel, Germany. She died in Gemen, Munster, Germany.
Move to Pennsylvania
Elizabeth Van de Walle's brother, Jacob Van der Walle, was a wealthy Dutch Pietist and a prominent shareholder in the Frankfort Company which owned and organized Germantown, PA.
After William Penn acquired his Pennsylvania land in 1681, he needed settlers so he traveled throughout Europe seeking settlers, particularly Friends (Quakers) and Mennonites. Penn also found partners for the venture who had agents to help acquire more settlers.
One of these partnerships, organized about 1683, was the Frankfort Company (1683) and one partner in the Frankfort company was Jacob Van De Walle, brother-in-law of Rosier Levering (whose wife was Elizabeth Van De Walle).
Children of Rosier Levering and Elizabeth Van De Walle
Rosier Levering and Elizabeth Van De Walle had several children, including Wigard (son).
II Wigard Levering and Magdalena Boeckers (Gen 2)
Their son Wigard Levering was born in 1640s in the town of Gemen, Munster, Germany.
In April 1674, he married Magdalena Boeckers, of Wesel, Germany.
The earliest record of Wigard Levering and his wife, Magdalena Boeckers, appears in the records of the Presbytery of the Evangelical Parish of Gemen, Munster Stadt, Westphalia, Germany.
On March 22, 1674, the first wedding banns for "Wigard Levering, Rosier's son, with Magdalena Bokers, of Essen," were proclaimed.
They lived in Gemen first, then moved to Mulheim (where son William Levering was born).
No doubt Wigard's uncle, Jacob Van De Walle, was an agent for getting Wigard Levering into a contract with the Frankfort Company at Wesel to ship the family to Philadelphia (dated 20th of March, 1685).
Their agreement with the Frankfort Company is at the Pennsylvania Historical Society:
"We, the subscribers, do acknowledge and confess by these Presents, that we have contracted and agreed together, that Doctor Thomas Van Wylick and Johannes Le Brun, in behalf of the Pennsylvania Company, in which they, and other friends of Frankfort and other parts, are engaged, to accept or receive me, Wigard Levering, old 36 or 37 years, and Magdalena Boeckers, old 36 years, and four children, Anna Catherine, William, Amelia, and Sibella, respectively 1/2, 2 1/2, 5 and 9 years, to and for the service of the aforementioned Company, to transport by shipping out of Holland or Ingland, to Pennsylvania, upon their cost. On Their arrival in Pennsylvania, they were to report themselves to Francis Daniel Pastorius, who was general agent for the company. Written upon the margin of the instrument an agreement to include "the Contractor's brother, Gerhard Levering."
New Chapter: Wigard & Magadelena's Emigration
They emigrated that year to America with four children, sailing to Philadelphia on “Penn's Woodland” from the Netherlands. They first settled in Germantown (outside of Philadelphia).
In August, 1685, the Frankfort Company conveyed 50 acres of land in Germantown to Wigard Levering.
A recorded deed, executed in August 1685 reads: "On the tenth of that month and year, Francis Daniel Pastorius, as the attorney of Jacob Van de Walle and others, forming the Frankford Company, conveyed to Wigard Levering a lot in Germantown containing fifty acres of land. So done in Germantown, on the 10th day of the 6th month (August), in the year of Christ 1685, in the sixteenth year of the reign of King James the Second of England, and in the fifth year of the reign of William Penn.'"
Wigard and his brother Gerhard Levering became freemen in 1691.
Once Wigard was a free man, he bought 500 of land and his brother bought adjoining land, near the Wissahickon Creek to the Schuylkill River—most of Roxborough (slightly west). They lived there for the rest of their days.
Breaking a Contract:
When they immigrated both Wigard and Gerhard Levering were indentured to the Frankfort Company. (Indentured/Redemptioned laborers who lived in servitude for a set number of years in exchange for passage to the American colonies from England or Germany. They were considered chattel that could be bought and sold until the period of their servitude expired.) And although Wigard was indebted to the efforts of others for his relative prosperity and the benefit of no longer living in the church-state of Germany, he chose to get out from his obligation to the agents by suing to break the contract a full fourteen years after his immigration. Perhaps he believed that he had fulfilled his obligation? I can't know. A document reveals how Pastorious felt:
“… He…sued the said Comp; as debtors to him & to deprive me, the now Agent of the said Company of all advice & assistance in Law, employed all the Attorneys in the Country, who pleading that he the said Wigard, his wife & 4 children are not to discount anything for their Transportation, obtained Judgment in the last County Court against the said Company, for 32L 16s 10d. Now supposing the said German Company had Intended to transport the said Wigard his wife & children gratis or free, as I have proofs to the contrary… Therefore your Petitioner in the behalf of the said German Comp. humbly entreats you to grant to have the cause tried again (a thing he thinks not so unheard of as that a Plaintiff should employ all the Lawyers to impede & hinder the Defendants to get any) And to the end that a Just Cause may not suffer by my unskillfullness in pleading & notorious want or defect to express myself sufficiently in the English tongue to the full understanding of a Jury; May it please the Govr & his Council to appoint a Person learned in the Law to patronize or manage the same. And as your Petitioner requests these things only for Justice & Truths sake, so (he hopes) it will tend to the preventing both of others, who being transported by the said Company's disbursement may probably follow the steps of Wigard; as also to the allaying of dissatisfaction of several honest hearted people in Germany and especially oblidge your Petitioner.
- F.D. Pastorious "
Wigard Levering spoke German and was unable to write. His wife Magdalena died when she was about 67, in 1717 at the age of about 67 years.
Wigard (some people called him John) died in February 1745/46. His age was estimated between 103-107 when he died and was buried upon his farm.
The location is now part of Fairmount Park of Philadelphia. Later it became the churchyard and burial ground of the Baptist Church. It is now Leverington Cemetery.
It is now Leverington Cemetery.
[In 1689, William Penn had a census taken and found about a thousand Swedes; nevertheless, the Germans outnumbered them greatly in a short span of time. The Welsh were prominent across the Schuylkill in Merion Township.]