Christopher Franciscus: the Daniel Boone of Lancaster County

Kentucky might have had Daniel Boone, but Lampeter had the adventurous Christopher Franciscus.

Coming to America

Christopher Ludwig Franciscus came to America on June 29, 1710, after purchasing 530 acres in the “new world.” When Franciscus arrived in Philadelphia, he was accompanied by his daughter, Johanna, from his first marriage. The duo had sailed out of London on board the Maria Hope with approximately 55 Swiss Mennonites from Holland and 94 German passengers. They had all come to Pennsylvania at the request of the British Ambassador of the Netherlands via an invitation from William Penn.

Franciscus and his daughter soon migrated west with the Mennonite group they had sailed with. They settled in modern-day West Lampeter Township becoming some of the first settlers in what would eventually become Lancaster County.

1821 Map of Lancaster County. Lampeter Square is in the center of the map.

Keep in mind that in 1710 this entire region was still part of Chester County. A few years later, in 1718, it would be included in Conestoga Township, still part of Chester County at the time. Then, on May 10, 1729, when Lancaster County was established, the area became Lampeter Township. Finally, in 1841, the land was divided down the middle, creating East Lampeter and West Lampeter.

Lampeter Square

They built a log house near a spring—located on the present-day Lampeter-Strasburg School District campus— approximately a half-mile from what would eventually be known as Lampeter Square. The town is rumored to be named after a handicapped tavern owner named Peter Yeordy. Apparently, the man was affectionately known as “Lame Peter,” which over time became Lampeter. But that’s another story.

Lampeter Square

Franciscus soon married Anna Margaretha Schwab. They eventually had nine children together. In 1729, the same year Lancaster County was erected, Franciscus signed an Oath of Allegiance to be a loyal subject in the Province of Pennsylvania (as the commonwealth was then called.)

The following year in May 1730, Franciscus was among a long list of men who applied for a liquor license to sell rum by the quart. Three years later, in May of 1733, Franciscus and his wife, Margaret, appeared in court for beating Garratt Coffrond. They were both found guilty. Franciscus was fined 20 shillings while Margaret was made to pay one shilling.

Franciscus found himself in court again in February 1736. However, this time it was Franciscus who was the victim having been assaulted by John Tangler.

Adventurous Character

One newspaper described Franciscus as “an adventurous character of great daring and personal courage.” In fact, Franciscus was ” looked upon as the Daniel Boone of Lancaster County.” Franciscus and his sons were frequently recognized for their significant height and strength.

Franciscus’ claim to fame occurred on January 27, 1730, as reported in both The American Weekly and The Pennsylvania Gazette articles. The account was republished in 1844 in the History of Lancaster County.

The Big Bad Wolf

Here’s the account as told by the 1844, History of Lancaster County.

The story is that while living at the place indicated Franciscus and his daughter had a thrilling experience with a wolf that had attacked Franciscus at his cabin door. This family had retired one night in the tall of the year and only Franciscus and his daughter remained awake. The former had thrown himself across a bed and his daughter was preparing to retire for the night when the father heard a peculiar noise at the cabin door. Going to the door Franciscus opened it to learn the cause when in an instant, a hungry wolf seized him by the breast of his jacket.

The attack was unexpected by the old settler and placed him in a perilous position. With great presence of mind and realizing his perilous situation and the danger of being torn by the ravenous beast, he “hugged” the animal and called to his daughter to bring the butcher knife and “rip open the beast.”

The girl lost no time in reaching the door and with the same spirit of fearlessness possessed by her father slashed the animal in such a manner that the animal fell helpless at her father’s feet. The two then completed the slaughter.

Neighbors were few and scattered in that vicinity at that time, but it was not long until the news of the thrilling experience of Franciscus and his daughter reached them and Franciscus was at once designated as the wolf killer” and he was, congratulated by his neighbors on his remarkable feat in slaying the wolf. From that time, Franciscus was always referred to as the brave man of the Pequea Valley. In the coming years, the expression “Kentucky had a Boone” and “Pequea a Franciscus” became familiar.

According to legend, the head of a fine spring marks the location of the great battle. The springhouse pictured below sits upon that spot. Interestingly enough, even now, stories persist that people living near Lampeter on occasion hear nighttime scratching at their door.

Franciscus died on September 27, 1757. He gave his children tracts of land he had purchased in Augusta County, Virginia, two decades earlier. To Johanna, now called by her Anglo name, Hannah, he left only one shilling sterling and “no more.”

It would appear that despite saving her father’s life nearly 30 years earlier, Johanna had fallen out of Franciscus’ good graces. Historical records do not indicate what led to the falling out.

Franciscus provided his wife Margaret with a house and lot in Lampeter Township along with household goods. After her death, those items went to her daughter, Margaret, and son, John. All other personal property was to be sold at his wife’s death. His younger children, under age 21, had their education provided for. Daughter Esther was to receive rents for a piece of property set aside for her.

Carpenter House

Carpenter House

Around 1716, Henry Carpenter purchased 300 acres from Franciscus after moving into the region. Carpenter was reported to be a herb doctor and a buyer of redemptioners. Redemptioners were European immigrants, generally in the 18th or early 19th century, who gained passage to American Colonies (most often Pennsylvania) by selling themselves into indentured servitude to pay back the shipping company which had advanced the cost of the transatlantic voyage.

Years later, Henry’s youngest son, Jacob Carpenter, and wife Elizabeth Herr built a large sandstone house in 1750 that still stands today. It lies a short distance from the spring house where the attacking wolf was killed.

Visiting the Carpenter House

You can find the Carpenter House on the edge of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District campus. As the bird flies, a short distance from Lampeter Square, While the house is on private property, it is available for rent on Vrbo and Airbnb.

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However, if you spend the night and hear some scratching at the door, keep it closed! The wolf may be back for his revenge.

Resources

3 thoughts on “Christopher Franciscus: the Daniel Boone of Lancaster County

  1. I always thought that Lampeter was named after a town with the same name in Wales.

  2. Christopher Franciscus, 1680-1757 of Lampeter, is my husband’s 6th great grandfather.

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