John Henry Rhoads

John’s father, Henry Rhoads/Roth (2nd), arrived in Westmoreland County with his father, Henry (1st). This story is well documented by several earlier researchers, the earliest of which was published in Genealogical and Personal History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania (1912), though source citations were not provided. This is one of those county histories where a genealogical or historical society accepted family stories and consolidated them into one book without validating the evidence. The only events in this publication that can be proven today are that the Smith’s and the Rhoads’ arrived in the Westmoreland area around 1800 and produced the lineage described in the book. However, the claimed ancestry has been disproved through DNA testing.

As the story goes, Joseph Smith of Bucks County, Pennsylvania married Mary Rhoads somewhere in Eastern Pennsylvania and came to Westmoreland to settle land bought by his father, who has also been tracked to Bucks County (near Philadelphia). Mary’s father was Henry Rhoads (1st) and his wife was Catherine and they followed Joseph and Mary to Westmoreland. The Rhoads clan was also joined by Henry’s (1st) other children, most of whom were adults. J.H. Smith laid out the town plans for Smithton and there the Smiths and Rhoads’ flourished.

Where the anonymous contributor to the 1912 publication (and all publications that followed, none of which have source citations) seems to have erred is attributing Henry (1st) with a man from Chester County, Pennsylvania (also near Philadelphia) who was from English descent. Others have accepted this lineage and further claimed the Westmoreland Henry to be this same Revolutionary War veteran from Chester.

Evidence for the assertion that the Westmoreland Rhoads’ were of German descent is further supported by the fact that:

  1. The Hoffman Cemetery where the earliest Rhoads’ who came to Westmoreland County are buried is a Lutheran denomination. 
  2. The earliest Westmoreland Rhoads baptisms are found in Lutheran church records under the surname Roth (dates match with other records for the same people recorded as Rhoads). 
  3. Ours and other DNA testing have confirmed the English descent to be incorrect. The longer Y-DNA strands (67 markers and higher) specifically affiliate us solely with Germanic samples over English/Irish samples. 

DNA tests do not disprove a connection to Chester County nor Revolutionary War service, however other Rhoads researchers have disputed these claims. I (myself) have not found evidence that Henry (1st) of Westmoreland and Henry of Chester are the same two men and records in Westmoreland County do not support that the Henry who is buried in Hoffman Cemetery was a Revolutionary veteran. I suspect there is only one Revolutionary War veteran, and that is Capt. Henry Rhoads who moved to Kentucky and founded Muhlenberg County. No known relation to us.

So…now that we have all that behind us… Starting backward I found that Henry (1st) and Catherine are buried together in Hoffman Cemetery (also known as Hope Lutheran Cemetery) as are various younger Rhoads’ of various spellings (and Smiths). The headstone inscription for Henry Rhodes (1st) says he died 23 January 1828 in his 74th year. This provides us with a calculated birth year of 1754. It also gives me a small window for records in Westmoreland County (1800 to 1828).

Beginning with the census, I find one Henry “Rhodes” (1st) as head of household in 1810 and 1820. The tick marks are difficult to match up exactly with known members of his household, but since we know he came to Westmoreland County in or around 1800 and there is only one Henry Rhodes living there in 1810 and 1820, we can assume this is the same person (his and Catherine’s birth years fall into the oldest male and female tick marks).

Next, I looked for a will and find that Henry Rhoads who died in 1828, died without a will (intestate). Dead end.

I know he wasn’t born or married in Westmoreland, so I target his children’s records in local churches. Since he (and other Rhoads) is buried in a Lutheran Cemetery, I started with Lutheran church records and I am in luck. There was a wonderful effort by some folks to transcribe all the known Pennsylvania Lutheran records from German to English and I find some of his grandchildren’s baptism in the East Huntingdon Zion Lutheran Church and First Lutheran Church. This confirms the identity of his children and grandchildren, but doesn’t really tell me much about where he’s from.

While looking into his children and grandchildren, I re-read some things on Joseph Smith and remember he was from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. When I look for Rhoads’ there, I find there is a family present (not surprising in Pennsylvania, actually. Rhoads’ of both German and English descent are prolific throughout the state.) And in the records of the Bucks County Tohickon German Reformed Church, I find a baptismal record for John Henry Roth on 22 September 1754 to parents Jacob Roth and Charlotte. A will for Jacob Roth names his son, Henry, which indicates Henry was still living when it was written in 1789.

Pause…at the writing of this entry and without my notes (I seemed to have misplaced them), I don’t recall how many other Henry’s I found born in Pennsylvania in or around 1754, but none seem to have resonated with me and were ruled out for one reason or another – they were probably all English. This is not enough proof, I know, but I just don’t want to make claims I can’t back-up either from false memory and I want to make a full disclaimer that I recognize it’s substantial. But…

Looking at more baptism records in the Tohickon German Reformed Church, I find entries that match to three children of Henry (1st) and Catherine, the same ones who came with him to Westmoreland. This is enough coincidence for me to believe I found the family’s origins.

Westmoreland Information
Bucks County baptismal records
Mary Rhoades who married Joseph Smith.
Born abt. 1773 calculated from death records.
Anna Maria Roth born 23 March 1773.
Daughter of Henry and Catherine.
John Rhoads who married Mary Sheeler.
Born abt. 1778/79 calculated from death records.
John Roth, born 3 January 1779.
Son of Henry and Catherine.
Peter Rhodes who left PA for Stark County, OH.
Born abt. 1783 calculated from death records and census.
Petrus Roth born 8 May 1783.
Son of Henry and Catherine.

Anywho…back to his son-in-law, Joseph Smith, who is from Bucks County.  His parents are John Smith and Berdina (sp) Updegroft (sp) (obtained from his death record). And wouldn’t you know it? John and Berdina are buried in Bucks County! Nail in the coffin (no pun intended).

But how can I say people named Roth are the same folks named Rhoads? And if Henry was baptized John Henry and Mary was baptized Anna Maria, how can I claim they are the same people? Ah ha, enter Mr. Charles Kerchner who wrote an excellent paper on 18th Century PA German Naming Customs, which explains these things very well. (Incidentally, Mr. Kerchner is the Roth Project administrator.)

I (semi) wrapped my research up with our DNA match results who can also trace to Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Phew…that was long and I hope articulate.

Genealogical Summary:

Henry Rhoads (1st) was baptized John Henry Roth in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on 22 September 1754 and was the son of Jacob Roth and Charlotte ____. He married Catherine ____ probably in or near Bucks County.

Around 1800 he and his family moved to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania and helped the Smith family (related by marriage) found the town of Smithton.

Henry died intestate on 23 January 1828 and is buried in Hoffman (Hope) Lutheran Cemetery in Smithton, South Huntington Twp., Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

Henry and Catherine had the following children:

  1. Anna Maria (Mary) Rhoads (1773-1859) who married Joseph Smith
  2. Elizabeth Rhoads (1775-1849) who married Michael Warner
  3. Jacob Rhoads (1776-1858) who might be the same Jacob that married Madelina Smith and moved his family to Ohio (DNA match to his line). There are matches in Westmoreland County church records to two of his known son’s who went to Ohio with him.
  4. Michael Rhoads (1778-1820) who married Margaretta ____
  5. John Rhoads (1779-1837) who married Mary Sheeler (many children were baptized at the East Huntingdon Zion Lutheran Church in Westmoreland County)
  6. Henry Rhoads (2nd) who married Catherine Arthurs
  7. Petrus/Peter Rhoads (1783-1863) who married Christina ____ and relocated his family to Stark County, Ohio by 1830 (remember Daniel says he was born in Stark County in 1840)
  8. Esther Rhoads (1784-??)
  9. Sarah Rhoads (1789-1870) who married Peter Sowash
  10. Catherine Rhoads (1791-1830) who married Jacob Fullmer/Fulmer
  11. Susan Rhoads (1793-??)
  12. Possibly 4 more unknown girls