Davidson County

Jacob Matzinger(1700-aft 1766) A Life Story

Jacob Matzinger was born in a small village in upper Switzerland. Marthalen was established sometime during 1464 where 27 families were living in the area. The small community has not grown very much since Jacob’s birth February 10, 1700. At that time, approx. 900 families were living within the area. Today, at present count, a total of 1,900 families reside in the community. Marthalen is located 3 miles northeast from Thur River. A church was organized in the village soon after the area was first settled during the late 15th century. Customs and traditions controlled local society in Marthalen as well as diversity. Citizens welcomed new settlers and new traditions with the exception of church, (kirche). Marthalen’s church was the only church in the area for many years.  One tradition performed from family to family was the baptism of each child. This custom was carried out on the 1st birthday of the newborn child. Jacob Matzinger Jr. was baptized February 13, 1701 according to the church records held in Marthalen. 

Life in Marthalen during the early 18th century, was a very rural life. Houses were built sturdy to endure the harsh winters and to provide shelter during the frequent rains in spring and summer. Schools were active during this period but they were located closer to Zurich which was approx. 30 miles away from the little village of Marthalen. Jacob grew up on his family farm with his brothers and sisters. He married Margaretha Fisler on February 3, 1723 at the church located in Marthalen.  The church records have documents that reflect on this marriage. Jacob was a known carpenter and woodsman in Marthalen. He lived near his parents, Jacob and Anna and attended the church in the center of the village. 

Church in Marthalen, Switzerland

Many researchers from years past have documented the children born to Jacob and Margaretha as a total of 4 sons. My personal research has allowed me to discover the following: 1-Jacob Matzinger III born 1723 and baptized in Marthalen during the spring of 1724. 2-Kleinfelix Matzinger born in 1725 and baptized in 1726 in witness of his grandfather and namesake, Kleinfelix Frauwelden who traveled from the Flaach area in order to attend the service. The Flaach region is located approx. 15 miles from Marthalen. These are the only confirmed children of Jacob and Margaretha. Jacob Matzinger III died during the year of 1732 and is buried in Marthalen. This left Kleinfelix as the only living child of this couple. Speculations have derived stating that Margaretha was with child during the winter of 1733/1734, but actual proof of this has not surfaced during my personal research of over 30 years.  

During the year of 1733 Rev. Maurice Goetschy arrived in the village while traveling in the summer to teach at the Latin School located in the Zurich area. By the spring of 1734, the Rev. Goetschy had settled in Marthalen with his family. He was active with church services and gathering meetings all throughout the community. Just prior to the Goetschy family arriving in Marthalen, Margaretha Matzinger died in January of 1734. She is buried in Marthalen and noted in the church records. Jacob attended many church meetings where Rev. Goetschy presided and these meetings began to speak of planning a new settlement in the New World. Upon his arrival from Zurich in September of 1734, Rev. Goetschy began gathering a group of Marthalen citizens to travel with him and his family to “Carolina” and begin a new settlement.  A special service was held at the church in early October to enlist willing families for the trip to a waiting ship located in Rotterdam to take them to Carolina. A small document printed in German resides in Marthalen stating the meeting date and it’s agenda. It proclaims the party arriving in Carolina in order to establish a new settlement with the liberty to worship freely and to acquire land through grants from England. 

Jacob surely discussed this matter with his parents who were living in the area and the decision was made that Jacob and his son, Kleinfelix would accompany the traveling party. Despite the pastor’s past, Goetschy was proclaimed as the leader of this group and several families prepared by selling their lands, living items, etc. They were committed to traveling across Switzerland to Rotterdam and set sail to Carolina. Lauffenburg was reached by the end of the first day of travel. Several families turned back at this point, but Jacob and young son, Kleinfelix continued onward. Once the party reached Rheinfelden, they were forced to show their passports and state their intentions. At this time, Kleinfelix was known as Felix on all remaining documents. I have not discovered the reasoning behind this change, but it is definitely noted that the name change was significant during this time period. 

Once Jacob and his son, Felix arrived in Basel on board a ship, the entire group was required to wait and obtain a French passport before traveling further. The cost of the group passport was 44 gulden and was paid for by the citizens of Basal. This is proven by the journal of Ludwig Weber which was later printed as a book entitled, The Limping Messenger. Rev. Goetschy was determined to reach his destination and apparently convinced others along the way to donate to their cause. His teachings also enticed others to join the group as several families living in Basal joined the travelers to settle in Carolina. It is noted by the journal that several children perished during the trip. While traveling to Basel, the two ships were docked at night and the captain warned that anyone lighting a fire to warm would not board the ship the next morning. It was very cold and food was scarce. 

After a dreadful trip, the party finally reached Rotterdam only to find their ship was no longer available for sailing. The group was devastated and with little to no money, the party was lost on what to do next. Many families migrated on to England while others waited patiently for direction. Rev. Goetschy was eventually able to make accommodations with another ship, the Mercury. However; this ship was not to set sail to Carolina, but to Pennsylvania. Rev. Goetschy informed the group that this would only be temporary and upon arrival in Philadelphia, the party would set sail onward to Carolina. Now that the Mercury was willing to take the party to America, the passage fare had to paid for each member. Rev. Goetschy began speaking in the area and asking once again for donations, food, clothing and more. Several months would pass during this time and more families would leave the group. Many researchers have proclaimed that during this time, Jacob married again. The documents do not prove this at all. In fact, documentation proves that Jacob was a widower with a young son when he boarded the ship, Mercury. Each ship captain recorded these details in their log books and Rev. Goetschy kept precise records on his original followers as these families were his closest friends.  

Once passage was paid to Captain Wilson, the Mercury was prepared to begin it’s journey to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As part of the passage agreement, Rev. Goetschy promised to establish a new settlement in Pennsylvania prior to traveling to Carolina. With this promise,  the ship took sail that lasted for 12 weeks. The conditions for the first week allowed beautiful weather and starlit nights. But, the weeks thereafter were met with torrential downpours, lightening strikes and rumbling thunder. Many fell sick and perished along the way. Jacob and his son Felix endured the journey and were able to disembark from the ship under their own power.  Jacob took the oath of allegiance on May 29, 1735. The trip was long, but both Jacob and Felix arrived to a new land and new opportunities. 

Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania

Rev. Maurice Goetschy died from heart failure as the Mercury landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The fearless leader was determined to reach his destination and his family buried him in Philadelphia. His son, Henry at the age of 19, led the group to their new home near Blue Mountain, Pennsylvania. The group arrived there in late summer of 1735 and instantly began a community as promised by Rev. Goetschy. By 1740, a church was established and a small school. Jacob helped with carpentry skills to build both buildings and several homes within the area. The land was fertile and the community thrived for years. Heidelberg, a Moravian settlement, soon established itself near the area and Felix made preparations of marrying as he purchased a town lot in 1755. Jacob stayed loyal to the church but did not contribute to rebuilding the 2nd structure in 1758. The first church was burned during an Indian raid in 1757. The marriage of Jacob’s son, Felix had occurred at the old church and Jacob’s first grandchild, Elizabeth, was baptized in the original church during 1756. The baptism of Jacob’s first grandson, his namesake, took place on the grounds of the new church in 1758.  

Jacob lived in the area until the year of 1763. During this time, several families were discussing the possibility of migrating to their original destination of Carolina. Open lands were available in the area and a wagon route was passable which eliminated the need for ship fare. Jacob and son, Felix, agreed to leave their home of 28 years and move to the Carolina frontier. This land was originally promised to Jacob back in October of 1734 and he was determined to reach that long ago destination before his life ended on earth. The Great Wagon Road would await Jacob with his son, Felix, his wife, Mary Elizabeth and their three small children, Elizabeth, Jacob and Daniel. The trip took place early autumn during the year of 1763 and the family was able to avoid the upcoming Indian raids that took place in the area during October of that year. 

The entire family safely arrived in Bethania a month later and stayed with the Moravians for an unknown amount of time. Eventually, Felix settled upon land near Abbotts Creek in present day Davidson County. The family moved to this area during the year of 1764. Jacob finally sold his property in Pennsylvania after 1766 according to Pennsylvania state documents. He lived his remaining days with his son and his grandchildren and died sometime after 1766. He is buried in an unmarked grave located at Bethany Church of Christ in Davidson County, NC. 

Flowers in Switzerland

This article is dedicated to my 7th great grandfather, Jacob Matzinger. A man who left his homeland with his small son 284 years ago. The feelings he must have felt when he left Marthalen must have been overwhelming. He stepped off the ship, Mercury, onto a new landscape filled with many different customs, languages and people. Jacob learned to adapt to his surroundings and continued with his faith and his personal beliefs. A man who late in life embarked on a new adventure, traveling to North Carolina along the Great Wagon Road. Jacob, through his courage and loyalty was able to overcome the hardships of sailing the Atlantic ocean in 1735, to overcome the hardships of the wild frontier of Pennsylvania for nearly 30 years and to overcome the wilderness terrain of Carolina. A man of vision and heroism. A man who is my 7th great grandfather. May his legacy live on among us all.

Enjoy Your Journey !!

2 replies »

  1. Thank you for sharing your family history. You captured their lives perfectly and portrayed their beautiful journey as if you were with them every step of the way. You have much to be proud of…God Bless.

    Liked by 1 person

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