Our Patriots    . . . biographical sketches

Johan Simon Clar

  Balthasar Clar moved from Canton Bern, Switzerland to the town of Mimbach which lay in the Palatinate region of Germany. His first wife had died and he, a widower, met and chose to marry Elisabetha (the widow of Barthel Wolf). They married in Mimbach on the 14th of January, 1698. A son, Jacob, was born to Balthasar and Elisabetha on 23 November, 1698. He was baptised at the Mimbach~Webenheim Reformed Church. Jacob Clar, in turn, grew up and found a woman he wished to marry, Anna Maria. They married at some time prior to 1727 when their first child was born. Johan Michael Clar was baptised on 09 February, 1727. Maria Louisa Clar was baptised on 04 September, 1730. The third child to be born was Johan Simon Clar, who was baptised on 12 December, 1732 at the Mimbach-Webenheim Reformed Church. Barbara Clar was baptised on 20 February, 1735. Wilhelm Clar was baptised on 07 July, 1737. The last child in the family was Nickel Clar who was baptised on 19 July, 1739. In the year following the birth of their last child, Jacob and Anna Maria made the decision to leave their homeland.

  In the year 1740 the governmental forces in the Palatinate issued a decree which was intended to restrict the number of Amish-Mennonites residing in the region. Although the Clar family had belonged to the Reformed Church (as evidenced in the baptismals of Jacob and all his children), they might have felt the restrictive decree was unjust, and cause for their own concerns about their own safety. Perhaps Jacob and Anna Maria simply felt like taking their chances in the new world because their homeland along the Rhine had seen such devastation (from the Thirty Years War and others). Whatever the reason, Jacob Clar applied to the authorities of the Zweibrucken region of the Palatinate for permission to leave Germany to travel to America. Jacob’s name was recorded in the Manumissions Protocoll for the year 1740. It is to be assumed that the Clar family left some time in that year. Records do not exist to verify if the whole family left Germany, or if some of the children were left with their grandparents or other relatives.

  The problem with early immigration records is that the Manumissions Protocoll were simply the requests for permission to leave. Actual records of who left and when and on what ship they embarked just were not maintained. There was no reason for the German authorities of the shipping industry to maintain records of who traveled on the ships. On the other hand, there was a reason for the ships’ captains to maintain a list upon arrival at the ports of America. The colonies were the property of the English monarchy. Anyone desiring to disembark from any ship had to swear an oath of allegiance to the king of England. If they would not do so they were not allowed to go ashore, and would be carried back to Europe. The list that the captains made (often being signed by the passengers themselves) generally held only the names of males over the age of sixteen. If the parents of minor children died enroute, the children became the legal property of the ship’s captain - to release or sell as he saw fit. Usually, these orphans were sold as indentured servants to free English residents at the ports upon arrival. (The reasoning behind this apparently inhumane treatment of children lay in the fact that when the parents died, the children would have no money with which to pay for a return trip to Europe. Since they would be underage, and therefore not permitted to take the oath of allegiance, they would have to be returned. The captain of the ship, who had become their legal guardian automatically on the death of the parents would sell them to an English family to care for them - and hopefully train them to become good citizens who would take the oath of allegiance at a later date.)

  On their journey to the new world Jacob and Anna Maria Clar must have succumbed to one of the deadly diseases which were common on ships of that day (perhaps small pox or typhoid or scurvy or any of numerous others which spread in the crowded and often unsanitary conditions of ship travel). The names of the Clar family do not appear on any ships passenger list. The only clue that points toward the family’s fate was a single newspaper advertisement that Barbara placed in Christopher Sauer’s newspaper, the Pennsylvanische Geschicht-Schreiber on the 16th of May, 1747. Her ad stated that “Simon Klaar arrived in this country six years ago and was indentured as a servant. His sister Barbara became free two years ago and she seeks her brother.” The fact that Barbara noted that her brother had been indentured as a servant is the basis for assuming that their parents died enroute at sea.

  The term: “indentured servant” comes from the word “indent” which means that a contract is made out between more than one person, in which each party must agree to some thing. The information pertaining to each party’s contractual agreement would be “indented” in the text of the deed so that those individual agreements could be easily picked out. (The method of indenting in the text often took the form of the capitalization of certain words.) In the case of a transaction in which only one party contractually agreed to anything (such as in a Last Will and Testament), there was no need to “indent” any portion of the text. Now, in the case of indentured servants, they were not treated the same (legally at least) as were “slaves”. The slave was simply a piece of property with no rights or value other than a monetary one. The servant who was indentured, on the other hand, had certain rights which would be spelled out in the contract between him or her and the master. The period of servitude ranged anywhere from four to seven years with the possibility that the servant could choose to stay on with the family after being freed from the servitude. Some indentured servants were given practical training as apprentices to craftsmen with their pay going to the master, but they reaping the benefits of the training.

  For Johan Simon Clar, who would have been only seven or eight years old at the time, the indentured servitude that he found himself being thrust into might have been welcome. Rather than being homeless and having to beg for food and shelter, his new masters probably filled that void formed by his parents’ recent death.

  Some time in the early 1750s Johan Simon Clar married Anna Margaretha Klee, a daughter of Johann Nicolaus Klee, Jr of the town of Hanover in York County. They gave birth to twelve children: Joseph Simon (ca 1756), William (ca 1758), Jacob (ca 1760), George Washington (ca 1762), Anna Mariah (04 March, 1769), Johan (29 November, 1769), Elisabetha (28 February, 1774), Susanna (ca February, 1776), Henry (04 December, 1777), Sarah (ca 1778), Catherine (26 December, 1779) and Frederick (30 October, 1780). Of these children, it is Frederick from whom the majority of Bedford and Blair County descendants come. Anna Margaretha died some time after 1790 when she and Johan Simon stood as witnesses to their granddaughter Anna Margaretha’s baptism.

  In the year 1795 Johan Simon purchased a tract of land in Bedford County; it might have been Anna Margaretha’s death that motivated him to move from his York County home to the frontier town of Bedford.

  After moving to Bedford, Johan Simon Clar married Eva Catherine Lingenfelder, a daughter of Abraham and Anna Barbara Lingenfelder. Between the two of them was born a son, Samuel, circa 1799. Other researchers have claimed that Johan Simon Clar was given a grant of land for his services in the Revolutionary War, and that that land lay outside of the town of Bedford where the fair grounds now stand. The land grants were given as substitute for pay (also known as the Depreciation/Donation Lands). Unfortunately, this claim cannot be proven by any public records of any sort and it has three strikes against it: land in lieu of pay was granted only to Continental Line soldiers and Johan Simon was in the Militia only; the so-called “Depreciation Lands” lay farther west than Bedford County (in the present-day counties of Beaver, Lawrence, Butler, Venango and Mercer); and finally, at no time was Johan Simon taxed for any land in the area encompassed by Bedford Township - he was taxed only in the Bedford Borough.

  What is known is that Johan Simon Clar purchased Lot Number 6 in the Borough of Bedford in November of 1795 according to a deed filed in the court house. Lot Number 6 was the tract that was chosen in 1771 by the commissioners assigned the task of purchasing a lot and building a court house and jail thereon. A log structure was constructed in 1771 and used as the court house and jail until a limestone structure could be built on the opposite corner of the public square. The stone court house was completed by 1780 and the original log building was sold for use as a private dwelling by two individuals before Johan Simon.

  In the years 1775 and 1776 five battalions of militia were formed in the county of York. The sixth battalion was formed some time in 1777. In April of 1778 Johan Simon Clar (recorded as Simon Clear) was listed as the Second Lieutenant of the Second Company of the Sixth Battalion of the York County Militia. In June of 1779 he was recorded as the Captain of the First Company of the Seventh Battalion of the York County Militia. He may or may not have seen any actual fighting; the movements of the York County Militia were either not kept on any records which are in existence today. The one thing we can assume, though, was that Johan Simon Clar, in the position of Captain of a company, would have been involved more regularly than the common rank and file. Papers bearing his signature dating up to the year 1787 are reprinted in the Pennsylvania Archives series, so he was active with the militia even after the war ended.

  While he was not involved with the militia, Johan Simon Clar engaged in farming, as evidenced by his estate inventory upon his death. He possessed twenty animals including sheep, pigs, cows and horses when he died. Although public records do not confirm it, Johan Simon might have engaged in making combs (for either human or animal grooming) because his estate inventory lists one “set of comb makers tools”. The combmaker would purchase sheets of animal horn that had been soaked, heated and then flattened in a vice. He would use fine saws and chisels to cut out the comb shape. Johan Simon Clar was not listed with that profession on any tax assessment or enumeration, so it is doubtful that it would have been a career-type of job for him. Perhaps it was just something that he had learned to do back in the years that he was an indentured servant.

  Johan Simon Clar died on the 19th day of September, 1812. He was buried in the churchyard of the Lutheran and Reformed Union Church on the corner of Thomas and John Streets. The tombstone marking the gravesite of this emigrant/indentured servant/Revolutionary War Patriot has disappeared over the years, but his memory lives on.