Jacobus Wernhardt “Werner” SPANHOUER was born in 1719 in Muttenz, Switzerland. He was the son of Wernhardt and Elsbeth Spanhouer. When Werner was thirteen years old in 1732, his father Wernhardt was poisoned by a “wicked man”. Wernhardt did not immediately die from the attack but lived with a weakened body and mind until his death in about 1737. Wernhardt’s poisoning and subsequent death was the impetus for Werner, his widowed mother and his three siblings to immigrate from Muttenz, Switzerland to America.
The family boarded the ship Friendship in 1740 to sail for America. The journey across the Atlantic Ocean was a dangerous one. In his memoir, Werner’s brother Heinrich “Henry” recalled the family’s harrowing experience at sea. “…we had a most terrible Storm upon Sea, so that we all expected to be lost (We came into obviously mortal danger on the sea during a storm so extraordinary that some sailors got themselves completely drunk, while hiding away in the hold, in order not to be aware of drowning)”. The ship arrived in Philadelphia in August 1740. The family first settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Here Werner met and married his first wife Verona Whistler. In 1748, Werner’s brother Henry returned to Switzerland to claim his grandfather’s estate. He records in his memoir that shortly after his return in 1749, he moved to York County, Pennsylvania. It is expected that Werner and his wife moved to York County with Henry at this time.
Werner and Verona were living in Yorktown, Pennsylvania on the Cordus River where they followed husbandry when their first child Johann Jacob was born on Novemeber 7, 1750. Verona died when the boy was only six months old and Werner sent Johann “John” Jacob to live with his uncle Henry Spanhouer. Werner returned to Lancaster County to find a new bride. He and Elisabeth LOHNER/CRON were married May 2, 1752. The couple returned to Werner’s farm in York County and brought Johann Jacob back into their home.
Elisabeth was a 30-year-old widow when she married Werner. She is recorded as both Elisabeth Lohner and Elisabeth Cron. It is not know which last name is her maiden name and which is the last name of her first husband. A secondary source suggests that her maiden name was Elizabeth LOHNER and that she was the daughter of Frederick LOHNER. Werner and Elisabeth had six more children together: Michael (1753), Mary Eve (1755), Johann Heinrich (1762), Anna Elizabeth (1762) John Jacob (1765) and Peter (1783). In total, Werner had seven children. Of these, two of the boys were named John Jacob: the oldest boy, son of Verona Wister and also Elisabeth’s son born in 1765. Also, two of the children, Henry and Elizabeth, were twins. The twins were baptized in St. Jacob’s (Stone) Church in Brodbeck’s Township of York County, Pennsylvania on September 26, 1762. Their birth is recorded as August 5, 1762.
Werner’s brother Henry Spanhouer had moved from Pennsylvania to New River, Virginia in 1755 but because of Indian attacks he relocated his family to the Moravian settlement in Bethania, North Carolina. In 1763, Werner and his family moved to live with Henry on his plantation four miles from Bethania in what was then Rowan County. Werner eventually bought his own land and started the family farm on Bershava Creek also near Bethania. Werner and Elisbeth’s two youngest children, John Jacob and Peter were born on this farm. In his Moravian Memoirs, John Jacob told of an incident in his early childhood. “When I was 2 years old I fell (as I was told) into deep water and would undoubtedly drowned if my parents hearing the cries of the children that were with me, had not hurried to the spot. I was taken for dead out of the water and carried into the house where my parents and those present after many exertions succeeded in restoring me to life”.
Werner received four original Surry County, North Carolina land grants. The first was issued December 10, 1778 for 400 acres “on the waters of Bershava Creek beginning at Henry Spoonhour’s”. Werner was issued three more land grants in Surry County on October 13, 1783. The first grant, also on Bershava Creek was for 100 acres. The last two land grants for 400 acres and 420 acres were both located on the waters of the Little Yadkin River. The land on Bershava Creek went on to be owned by the Doub family through the marriage of Mary Eve to John Doub. In 1789, the section of Surry County on which Werner’s land was located became Stokes County.
Although he was too old for military service, Werner received a Revolutionary War Pay Voucher in March 1782 for patriotic service rendered by providing the army with 225 lbs of beef. Werner was paid 12 3/8 Spanish Milled Dollars as reimbursement for his contribution.
On November 17, 1786, being “very sick and weak of body but of perfect mind”, Werner wrote his last will and testament. After recommending his soul “into the hand of the Almighty God that gave it” and his body “to the Earth to be buried in a Decent Christian Burial”, Werner made arrangements for his beloved wife Elisabeth’s welfare. He willed that Elisabeth should live on the plantation where they then lived until their youngest son Peter reached the age of twenty-one. His estate and lands were not to be divided until that time. When Peter reached twenty-one, Werner’s “moveable Estate” was to be valued by “two honorable Freeholders” and his wife was to have one-third of all his moveable estate.Werner arranged for Elisabeth’s housing willing that “Elisabeth is to have the liberty to live either on this Plantation, whereon I now live or on the Plantation that I have on the Watters of Little Yadkin as long as She lives and the said Elisabeth is to be furnished with good and plenty Provisions as long as She lives”.
Werner left to his son John “my Plantation that I now live on lying on Bershaba Creek containing two hundred and Eighty two Acres with all my Horses, Cattle, Sheep and Hogs and my Waggon and all Furniture belonging to the said Plantation”. At Elisabeth’s death, John was instructed to pay eight pounds each “yearly unto Jacob Spunhouer, Michael Spunhouer, Peter Spunhouer and Eve Spunhouer”. Werner willed to his “beloved Son and Daughter Henry Spunhouer and Elizabeth Spunhouer” his lands lying on the waters of Little Yadkin. The land was to be divided into two sections with Henry having the lower part containing two hundred acres and Elizabeth having the upper part containing two hundred acres. Henry and Elizabeth were instructed to pay eight pounds yearly to be divided between Henry, Elizabeth, Jacob, Michael, Peter and Eve Spunhouer.
As for Werner’s remaining lands, when Peter reached the age of twenty-one he was to have his choice of two hundred and eighteen acres adjoining the property lines of Henry Spunhouer, Henry Shores and Niklas Krigers or the tract of two hundred and fifty acres lying on the waters of the Little Yadkin. These lands were to “lay still” until Peter was of age. Peter’s chosen lands were to be valued by two freeholders and Peter was to “pay the valuation to the said Jacob, Michael, Henry, Peter, John, Eve and Elizabeth” after their mother’s third had been paid. The remaining lands were to be sold at public sale with the proceeds being divided between all the children excepting the third that went to Elisabeth. Werner appointed his sons Michael and Jacob as executors of his will.
Surry County estate record from 1787 gives an inventory of Werner’s estate including: 282 acres of land Werner lived on at Bershaba Creek, 218 acres of unimproved land adjoining the 282 acre tract, 400 acres on the south fork of the Little Yadkin, 250 unimproved acres adjoining the 400 acre tract, about 18 or 20 head of cattle with calves, four head of horses and 7 or 8 sheep, 9 or 10 head of hogs, and some household furniture and plantation utensils. Peter had reached the age of twenty-one by 1804 when James Boatwright was ordered to pay to Werner’s estate fifty dollars and seven shillings.
Werner died June 6, 1787 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Br. Valentine Beck preached Werner’s funeral on June 8th to a crowd of 150 people. He and Elisabeth had been married for about 35 years. Elisabeth died sometime before 1816, after their part of Surry County had been made into Stokes County.