Zachariah Rice (Reis) was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1731. By 1751, at the age of twenty, Zachariah was already a skilled carpenter and millwright. That year, he decided to leave his native Germany and seek a better life in the "New World". He boarded the ship Edinburgh, which docked in Philadelphia on September 16, 1751. Shortly after his arrival, Zachariah settled in Pikeland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, near the present town of Chester Springs. It was there that he designed and constructed a mill to separate clover seed, the first of its kind in the New World. It was the prototype for many others that would be built during the next eighty years. In 1757, Zachariah married Marie Appolonia "Abigail" Hartman. Abigail was born in Wurtemburg, Germany on September 4, 1742, the daughter of Johannes and Margaret Hartman. She was fifteen years old when she married Zachariah, who was eleven years her senior. Abigail's father, Johannes Hartman, gave the newlyweds a two-hundred acre parcel of farm land on which they would later build their home, in 1767. During their marriage of 33 years, Zachariah and Abigail had twenty one children, seventeen of whom survived to adulthood.
The American Revolution
Zachariah Rice enlisted in the Continental Army as an engineer and carpenter, under the command of General George Washington. He helped build the Yellow Springs Hospital near his home in Chester County, which would soon be used as a field hospital for the casualties of the war. His wife, Abigail, became a recurrent visitor to the hospital, spending much of her time ministering to the sick and wounded soldiers. As a result of her devotion to help the suffering, she contracted typhus, which would later cause her untimely death.
On September 11, 1777, Washington encountered General William Howe's army at the Battle of Brandywine. As the battle ensued and the casualties mounted, Washington soon realized that he was hopelessly outnumbered and poorly supplied to resume the fight. He wisely decided to withdraw, saving his men to "fight another day". During his retreat, Washington and his staff officers stopped at the Rice farm and asked Abigail if they could have some water. She sent one of her daughters to retrieve a pitcher of water from their well, to which she added some sugar, spices, and rum, making a drink that was popularly known as "flip". Abigail handed the drink to him and said, "Here, my Lord." Washington quickly replied, "We have no titles here, we are all brothers." As General Washington drank this beverage, Abigail's five-year-old daughter, Susannah, approached him. Washington smiled, picked her up, and sat her on his knee while he finished his drink.
For Abigail's contributions during the war, there is a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in her name in Washington, DC. There is also a plaque in her honor in the Bell Tower at Valley Forge. After the war, the Rices continued to farm their land and raise their family. Then, in 1789, Zachariah was struck with two overwhelming blows. The first was the death of his beloved wife, Abigail. She had succumbed to the typhus that she contracted during the war. She was buried at St. Peter's Church in Chester County. Shortly thereafter, Zachariah lost his land, along with 114 other families in Pikeland Township.
The Pikeland Land Foreclosure of 1789
The Pikeland property was originally patented by William Penn in 1681, and, following a succession of owners, was eventually acquired by Samuel Hoare, a London merchant. Hoare purchased the tract in 1750, which he financed through a London mortgage company. He later conveyed a portion of it, about 17,000 acres, to Andrew Allen, a prominent Philadelphia merchant and a member of the Continental Congress. Allen's mortgage was carried by Mr. Hoare. Allen then divided his portion of the property into two and three-hundred acre parcels, which he, in turn, sold to the German immigrants. Because of his respected standing in the community, the immigrants did not question his integrity. Mr. Allen, however, kept the money he made from these transactions and defaulted on his payments to Hoare. The deeds that he gave to his buyers were worthless because they were never registered with the county land office. By this time, the Revolutionary War had begun. Andrew Allen then fled to Trenton, New Jersey, which had recently been captured by the British, and asked General Howe for protection. Because we were now at war with Britain, Hoare could take no legal action to recover his losses until the hostilities ended. After the war, civil courts were established, and Sheriff Ezekial Howard was given writs, dated August 26, 1789, to start foreclosure proceedings on the Hoare-Allen mortgage, and to begin the sale of the land.
As a result of the foreclosure, Zachariah Rice, now nearly sixty years old, along with his seventeen children, five of whom were married, packed their belongings into wagons and began a journey west, to what is now Perry and Juniata Counties in central Pennsylvania. It was rumored that farmland was cheap there, and after losing almost everything, they had little choice.
Soon after his arrival in Juniata County in 1790, Zachariah purchased some land from Laurence and Mary King for 1100 Pounds. He made his final payment on September 21, 1801, and thus received a clear title for his property, which was known as "Spring Mill", just outside of Port Royal, Pennsylvania. After establishing a new home for himself and his twelve dependant children, his next priority was a place of worship. Zachariah was a German Lutheran by faith, but there were no Lutheran churches in the area at that time. In order to provide a house of worship for his growing family and the other German settlers arriving from Chester County, Zachariah set aside one and a half acres of the highest section of his land, now called Church Hill, on which he built the first Lutheran Church in Juniata County. Rice's Church, a log building, was constructed sometime between 1794 and 1797. On January 1, 1803, the church and its land was sold to the trustees of the German Lutheran Congregation for sixteen dollars. A cemetery was also established on the property that year, with the first burial being that of a six-month-old child, Johann Daniel Kebner (or Kepner), in 1803. Zachariah Rice died on August 19, 1811, and was laid to rest in the Church Hill Cemetery, next to the church he built for his family and neighbors. The inscription on his tombstone, which still stands, is written in German. Translated to English, it reads: "When You will awaken the dead on that day, also give Your hand after we have arisen. Lord, speak Your answer kindly to me. Lift this transfigured body up to Thy throne." The surviving children of
Zachariah and Abigail Rice were:
John Rice (1758 - 1837) - Married Elizabeth Hench, 1784
Elizabeth Rice (1760-1823) - Married Jacob Hipple
Margaret Rice (1762-1821) - Married John Hench, 1780
Anna Maria Rice (1764-1834) - Married Benjamin Sheneman
Peter Rice (1764-1839) - Married Maria Foose
Jacob Rice (1767-1838) - Married Catherine Foose
Mary Engel Rice (1768-1822) - Married Daniel Kabel
George Rice (1769-1841) - Married Catherine Gerich
Conrad Rice (1770-1856) - Married Elizabeth Foose
Sallie Rice (1771-1855) - Married John Weimer
Susannah Rice (1772-1856) - Married Johann Jacob Hench
Grave of Zachariah Rice
Polly Rice (1773-????) - Married Benjamin Wollack
Zachariah Rice (1774-1848) - Married Anna Maria Knerr
Henry Rice (1778-1853) - Married Margaret Thomas
Catherine Rice (1780-1854) - Married John Henry Strauch
Betsey Rice (1784-????) - Married Alexander Martin
Benjamin Rice (1785-1861) - Married Nancy Diller
Note: John, Peter, George, Sallie, and Susannah Rice are also buried in the
Church Hill Cemetery in Juniata County. Margaret and Jacob Rice are interred at
the Loysville Cemetery; Conrad Rice in the Buffalo Cemetery; and Zachariah Rice
II is buried in Landisburg, all in Perry County, PA.162