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Henry Capehart


Version: 27 Feb 2019


Who was Henry Capehart (1756-1820) and who was his wife?


Richard L. Tolman, Ph. D.

     He really existed, I can tell you that for certain. Many have tried to say that he did not exist, but the purpose of this essay is to put that notion to rest once and for all. This work is supplemental to the Philadelphia Capeharts essay.1 This problem is further evidence that an error, once prominently published, never dies.

     The first and best genealogical researcher of the Gebhardt/Kephart/Capehart line was Calvin I. Kephart (1912-1969), a former president of the National Genealogical Society. In his first publication2 of the Gebhardt/Kephart/Capehart genealogy in National Genealogical Society Quarterly in 1942, the children of Heinrich Gebhardt (1725-1793) are listed—Henry Capehart is omitted! In this publication Henry’s daughter Elizabeth (1778-1829) is listed as a child of her grandfather Heinrich Gebhardt!

     Henry’s dad Heinrich’s wife is unknown; some say Barbara Grünauer3 (1727-1793), but without any source this author has been able to uncover. If Elizabeth Capehart (1778-1829)4 really were the daughter of Heinrich Gebhardt (she is actually his gdau), his wife (if born 1727) would have been 51 yrs. at her birth and then 56 yrs. at the birth of her brother John (see at-DNA evidence below for proof they are sibs). Mrs. Gebhardt actually had her youngest and final child Frederick in 1774 (he died with her in the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia).5 And then there was Henry’s spurious marriage6 on ‘1 Jun 1772’; Henry would have been 16 yrs.(!) and then he waited 5 years (?) before having any children. Luckily all this is totally unsourced so we don’t have to believe it, if we were ever tempted.

     In the course of time and as his research into this family progressed, Mr. Kephart realized his error and when the Gebhardt/Kephart/Capehart genealogy was disclosed again in 1950 in a proclamation7 given to the Library of Congress, the New England Historic Genealogical Society (Boston) and the Family History Library (Salt Lake City), the composition of the Heinrich Gebhardt family was corrected to include his son Henry Capehart and Heinrich’s granddaughter Elizabeth. Henry and his brother Andrew were the first in the Gebhardt/Kephart family to use the name Capehart.8

     The paper documentation of Henry’s existence includes the following:

  (1) 1790 U. S. census of Manor of Moreland, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; household of 6: two males under 16, one over 16, and three females9—this would likely be 2 sons (John and Edward), Henry, and Henry’s wife and 2 daus (Sarah and Elizabeth).

  (2) 1800 U. S. census of Byberry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; household of 10: 5 males (two 10-15yrs, two 16-25yrs, one 26-44yrs.) 5 females (two under 10yrs, two 16-25yrs., one over 45).10 The Thomas Terry family lives next door (Henry’s dau Elizabeth’s eldest dau will marry one of the Terry boys).

  (3) 1820 U. S. census of Bensalem, Bucks, Pennsylvania; household of 3: one male 10-15yrs., one male over 45 and one female 26-44yrs.11 James and Elizabeth (Capehart) Merkins are living next door. The Thomas Terry family also lives close by as in 1800. Son John Capehart and his family are living at the Byberry residence.

  (4) Pennsylvania Tax List 1783 (Bedminster, Bucks County).12

  (5) Pennsylvania Tax List 1798 (‘Bibery’, Philadelphia County); one acre rented from William Walmsley.13

  (6) Pennsylvania Tax List 1808 (Bensalem, Bucks County); son John also listed.14

     From the 1800 census record we discern that Henry had a large family. To date we have only discovered and characterized15 three of the children: Sarah b. 1777 (md. Martin Summers), Elizabeth b. 1778 (md. James Merkins) and John b. 1783 (md. Rachel Ott); two others are tentatively characterized, Edward and Lewis.

     Perusal of the author’s (RLT) at-DNA matches reveals two matches where the Common Ancestor is Henry Capehart; one descent (1_judyhatfield, 15.9 cMs, 1 segment) is through the son John Capehart and his wife Rachel Ott and the other (Grace Lee Guymon Winn, 50 cMs, 4 segments) is through the dau Elizabeth and her husband James Merkins. This is a reassuring confirmation of the deductions from the paper record. There is another interesting observation–both RLT, GLT (a sib), and RB (a maternal uncle) have a number of matches to lineages containing the name ‘Fretz’ (see Table ‘Fretz at-DNA matches’ below). For RLT/GLT the amount of shared DNA is in the range of 6-11 cMs; according to dnapainter.com this (in highest probability) corresponds to 5th or 6th cousins. 4ggparents for RLT/GLT are all known and well documented except for Henry Capehart’s wife. The simplest explanation for this observation is that Henry Capehart’s wife’s maiden name was Fretz. It is already known16 that her first name was Elizabeth, that she was born in 1761 and died 25 Apr 1836 (age 75) and was originally buried at St. John’s M. E. Burying Ground (Roy St. N. E., Germantown). Some trees on Ancestry already have an Elizabeth Fretz as Henry’s wife (no sources), but these trees have pilfered the vitae of another Elizabeth Fretz, the Mennonite wife of Rev. Johannes Kephart—Henry’s older brother.17

     The Fretz family is interesting—they are Anabaptists that emigrated from the Palatinate of Germany, Rheinland-Pfalz, Mannheim/Baden (on the Rhine near Heidelberg) about 1710-1725 to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, primarily Bedminster and Tinicum townships in far western Bucks.18 Anabaptists in the case of the Fretz family includes Mennonites and Dunkards, although most were Mennonites. The Fretz History is not sourced, but is exhaustively complete with much detail and many stories. It was constructed by personal interview of the players by the author and is truly an excellent volume. The immigrant brothers John and Christian Fretz, called ‘Weaver John’ and ‘Tinicum Christian’, had between them 14 children mentioned in their wills, but many more children are attributed to them.19 The author presumes that the children that remained valiant in the Mennonite tradition were mentioned in the wills and those that fell away were not. This would explain why the families of the ‘will-children’ are exhaustively complete, while there are gaps in the family records of those other children that were no longer as tightly affiliated with the Mennonites.

Figure 1. Old Mennonite Church at Deep Run, Bedminster Twp, Bucks20

     Example: Elizabeth Fretz (1756-1831, Jacob2 John1),21 the wife of Johannes Kephart, minister of the Mennonite congregation in Doylestown, Bucks is well documented but Elizabeth Fretz (1761-1836), wife of Henry, is not findable and there is no evidence that she was active in the Mennonite faith after her marriage. Reference 4 above (for Henry Capehart) indicates that Henry paid taxes in Bedminster Twp in 1783 which is probably where he met his wife; they may have lived in Bedminster Township and had children there until they moved to Philadelphia County before 1790.

      From the Fretz at-DNA matches in the above table, it is not obvious which of the immigrant brothers, ‘weaver John’ or ‘Tinicum Christian’, is the ancestor of Elizabeth Fretz, wife of Henry. However, many of the sons of the two immigrants can be eliminated as the father of Elizabeth, if she was indeed raised in Bedminster Township, Bucks as the children are widespread in Pennsylvania and Canada. Many of the Fretz matches can be traced back to the Christian and Anna Maria (Gross) Fretz family.22 A best guess for Elizabeth’s father would be Henry,23 purported son of ‘Tinicum Christian’, who lived in the correct area and had unnamed daus.


    6. Henry1 Capehart (HeinrichA) of Byberry Township, Philadelphia was born about 1756, a son of Heinrich Gebhardt. He died after 1820 probably at Bensalem, Bucks, Pennsylvania. He married Elizabeth Fretz about 1777 (she was born 1761 and died 25 Apr 1836 at age 75; buried St. John’s M. E. Burying Ground (Roy St. N. E., Germantown), Philadelphia, Philadelphia).25 In 1790 Henry and family were living in Manor of Moreland Township, Philadelphia County (household of 6)26 and by 1800 he was in Byberry Township, Philadelphia County (household of 10).27,28


     Known children of Henry and Elizabeth (Fretz) Capehart were:

     18.      i.   SARAH2 CAPEHART/COPART was born abt 1777 of Bucks and died and is interred in the Dutch Lutheran Churchyard at Frankford.29 She married30 abt 1793 Martin Summers; son of George and Ann Summers.31 He was born abt 1772 of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His father George was a drummer in the Revolutionary War.32 Ten children.

     19.      ii.   ELIZABETH2 CAPEHART was born abt 1778 in Bristol, Bucks County; married abt 1797 James Merkins33 of Byberry Township, Philadelphia County (he was born 15 Jun 1771 in England,34,35 died 8 Feb 1831); she died 19 Sep 1829 in Byberry Township, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They lived in Byberry Township, Philadelphia County until after 1810 when they moved to Bensalem, Bucks County.33

     20.     iii.   JOHN2 KEPHART/CAPEHART was born 29 Dec 1783 in Bucks County and died 21 Aug 1858 in Bucks County. He married 2 Oct 1805 in Byberry Township, Philadelphia Rachel Ott (born 10 Jan 1782 in Germany daughter of Andrew and Sarah (Hendricks) Ott; died 5 Jul 1874 Athens, Athens, Ohio). In 1810-1830 the family was still living in Byberry Township (household of 4).37,38,39

     21.    iv.   EDWARD2 CAPEHART was born 1790-1800 in Pennsylvania.40

     22.      v.   LEWIS2 CAPEHART was born 1800-1810 Pennsylvania.41


1. ‘The 19th Century Capeharts of Northern Philadelphia’, version: June 22, 2017) online at www.29deadpeople.com; hereafter Philadelphia Capeharts.

2. Kephart, Calvin ‘A Danish Royal-Skiöldung Lineage’ National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 31: 53-64 (1942); hereafter Kephart NGSQ.

3. FamilySearch Familytree; no sources cited.

4. Kephart NGSQ

5. Cf. Philadelphia Capeharts, see references therein.

6. FamilySearch Familytree; no sources cited.

7. Kephart, Calvin; Proclamation: ‘Medieval Counts of Raeut (Bavaria) of the Danish Skiöldung Royal Dynasty’ (1950); FHL Fiche 6018394; hereafter Kephart Proclamation.

8. Kephart Proclamation.

9. 1790 U. S. census of Manor of Moreland, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, M637, Roll 9, Page 321, Image 577, FHL Film 0568149; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 13 Feb 2019).

10. 1800 U. S. census of Byberry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Roll M32_42, Page 145, Image 214, FHL Film 363345; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 13 Feb 2019).

11. 1820 U. S. census of Bensalem, Bucks, Pennsylvania, Roll M33_99, Page 270, Image 286; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 13 Feb 2019).

12. Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, Pennsylvania Tax Records 1782-1860, Title No. 102, Roll 26, Bedminster; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 13 Feb 2019).

13. Pennsylvania, U. S. Direct Tax Lists, M372, 24 rolls, Bibery; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 13 Feb 2019).

14. Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, Pennsylvania Tax Records 1782-1860, Title No. 102, Roll 1, Bensalem; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 13 Feb 2019).

15. Cf. Philadelphia Capeharts, see references therein.

16. Cf. Philadelphia Capeharts, see references therein.

17. Kephart Proclamation.

18. Fretz, A. J. A Brief History of John and Christian Fretz: and a complete genealogical family register with biographies of their descendants form the earliest available records to the present time (Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Publishing Co., 1899) 874 pages, digitized 2011 by FamilySearch; hereafter Fretz History

19. Fretz History. Cf. ‘Historical Address Delivered at the 2nd Reunion of the Fretz Family’ at Bedminster, Sept. 2, 1893 by A. J. Fretz (573/651).

20. Fretz History.

21. Fretz History, page 90/651.

22. Christian Fretz Family: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 15 Feb 2019).

23. Fretz History, page 547/651.

24. Numbering from Philadelphia Capeharts.

25. Elizabeth Capehart death: Philadelphia City Archives, 3101 Market St. Philadelphia, Death Records; St. John’s Methodist Episcopal Burying Ground no longer exists, bodies were removed to the Oakland Cemetery, Philadelphia in 1904 to 5 mass graves (unmarked) in the ‘singles section’.

26. United States Census Office, 1st Census, 1790 U. S. Census of Pennsylvania (Spartenburg, SC: Reprint Co. Publishers, 1964), FHL US/CAN 974.8 X2, p. 198.

27. 1800 U. S. Census of Byberry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Archives Roll 42, p. 145; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 13 Feb 2019).

28. 1820 U. S. Census of Bensalem, Bucks, Pennsylvania, National Archives Roll M33_99, p. 270; household of 3 (son- and grandson-in-law James Merkins and Thomas Terry are neighbors).

29. Summers, G. Byron A History of George Summers of Douglass and Lower Dublin Townships, Montgomery County, unpublished ms (34 pp) at Bucks County Historical Society, filmed 1958 by Genealogical Society of Utah, FHL Film 173013, pp. 10-11; hereafter Summers.

30. Ibid; Robert McDowell Lukens, M. D., U. S. Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications #75099, May 1, 1952; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 17 Jun 2017).

31. Summers, p. 33-4.

32. Summers, p. 10-11.

33. Frequently ‘Murkins’ in the unsourced genealogical record, but all the children of James Merkins were ‘Merkins’ in Pennsylvania records—the spelling ‘Murkins’ apparently originated with the grandchildren of Mary Ann.

34. Kephart III; letter (26 Jun 1945) from Mrs. David H. Wood (gggdau of Thomas Sirls Terry b. 1789) to CIK with Merkins information gleaned from ‘grandfather’s record’.

35. See Tacy Street (dau of James and Elizabeth Merkins) census: 1880 U. S. Census of Evans, Marshall, Illinois, Family no. 98, Roll 235, FHL Film 1254,235, Page 346D, E. D. 146, father born England; online at Ancestry.com (accessed 17 Jun 2017).

36. 1810 U. S. Census of Byberry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Archives Roll 56, p. 51.

37. ‘Jno Caphart’, 1810 U. S. Census of Byberry Township, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Archives Roll 56, p. 49 (household of 4; son John appears to have taken over father Henry’s farm—same neighbors as Henry).

38. 1820 U. S. Census of Byberry Township, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Archives Roll M33_109, p. 71B; household of 6.

39. ‘John Capart’, 1830 U. S. Census of Byberry Township, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Archives Roll M19_158, p. 7; household of 4.

40. ‘Esearl Capehart’; 1840 U. S. Census of Kensington Ward 5, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Archives Roll 488, p. 141; household of 4, he was 40-50 yrs old, 2 daughters.

41. Ibid., ‘Lewis Capehart’, p. 154; household of 2—he was 30-40 yrs.

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