The Inbody Family In America

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The Inbody family in America had its origins in Switzerland. Johan Adam Imboden, son of Daniel Imboden, left Switzerland sometime in the late 1730s, probably first to Germany. In 1739, he moved on, ultimately arriving in Pennsylvania, becoming the progenitor of a sizable family. His father probably never left Switzerland. The surnames of Inbody, Imbody, Enbody, Inboden, and others, are all permutations of the original Imboden name.

Seventeenth century Swiss records list four Imboden families; one each in Bern, Basel, Biel and Interlaken. Kasper Imboden (b. 1612, d. 1670) was principal of schools in Biel and also a minister at Ernen, Firch and Glis. Johan Peter Imboden (b. 1686, d. 1764) was the author of a number of popular dramas and a minister. Other members of the family occupied governmental positions in the Swiss parliament.

When Johan Adam Imboden left Germany, he most likely traveled down the Rhine River by barge to Rotterdam where he managed to locate a ship bound for America. There, he found the Samuel, probably a small sailing vessel, one of many providing passage to America for the many emigrants of the day. The usual route during that time was for the ship to leave Rotterdam, stop briefly in England to pick up supplies and more passengers, then on to America. The usual destination for the emigrants from Switzerland and the German Palatinate was Philadelphia.

During the late 17th century and into the early 18th, religious persecution of Protestants by Catholics in the southern German states and in Switzerland, as well as war in the German Palatinate, drove many people to leave. At the same time, William Pitt had launched a strong campaign to encourage Europeans to immigrate to America and settle in Pennsylvania. His efforts were not unheard and a large and steady stream of largely German speakers made the long and dangerous trip across the Atlantic to Philadelphia.

Johan Adam Imboden, born in Switzerland on 27 February 1709, landed in Philadelphia on 27 August 1739. He was 30 years old at the time and probably unmarried, although that is uncertain. He most likely went immediately to Berks County, Pennsylvania, where most of the German and Swiss emigrants settled.

At some point, probably around 1744, he married Catharine, last name unknown. The first known child was born on 17 May 1745, so it would be likely that the marriage was no more than a year or so earlier than that date. He owned land in the Berks County area near the Hill Church.

On September 15, 1752, Johan’s nephew, also named Johan Adam Imboden, the son of the elder Johan’s brother, Daniel, arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Two Brothers. He had traveled by the same route as his uncle, having been down the Rhine River, to Rotterdam, and then to Philadelphia by way of England. Not quite twenty years old at the time, he probably did not have enough money to pay for his fare to America. To pay for the debt, he sold himself into bondage as an indentured servant. Not an uncommon practice at the time, a young debtor would sell his services to someone for an agreed period of time to pay off the debt. He began work for a family named Sweigert living in Annville Township in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. He must have gotten along well with the family as he eventually changed his name to Johan Sweigert Imboden. His first name, as was his uncle’s on occasion, was often anglicized to John.

John Sweigert Imboden worked his indenture off fairly quickly, and by 1758 had married Eleanora Margrethe Diller, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Caspar and Anna Barbara Diller of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He and Eleanora had thirteen children, five girls and six boys. Their eldest son, John, married Catherine Fernsler in a ceremony at the Hill Church in Berks County. They had eleven children. John and Catherine’s ninth child, George, born on Christmas Day 1793, a twin with his brother David, later married Isabella Wunderlich. Their son, John D. Imboden, became a general in the Confederate Army, fighting in many of the famous battles of the American Civil War in the eastern states.

At least one other Imboden came to America during the eighteenth century. On March 14, 1744, Jakob Imboden left Unterseen, Amtsrechnung (Interlaken) Switzerland, bound for Carolina. Imboden families can be found around Charleston today, and are most likely descended from Jakob. It is not known if Jakob is directly related to Johan Adam Imboden.

Johan Adam and Catharina had at least five children, a daughter and four sons. There were probably others, but no record has yet surfaced. Anna Maria was born in 1745, followed by her four brothers, Henry, Adam, Nicholas and Daniel. They lived on a farm near the present location of the Hill Church in Berks County. Johan and Catharina are listed as the witnesses for numerous baptisms held at that church throughout the later half of the 18th century..

Their first known child, Anna Maria, was born May 7, 1745. She married Mathias Dotterer and raised her family near the Hill Church. She and her husband are buried at the top of the hill near the present day church building. Their headstones in red sandstone are excellent examples of 18th century German markers. The inscription on Anna Maria’s stone reads, in German, "Anna Maria, daughter Adam and Catharine Imbody, and wife Mathias Dotterer. She was born May 17, 1745, married 1765, and lived in holy wedlock for over sixty years. She had 2 sons, 26 grandchildren, 40 great grandchildren at her death, which occurred Feb. 24, 1825, aged 81 years 9 months, 17 days."

Johan and Catharine’s next two children, Henry (Heinrich?) and Adam, were probably twins, born in 1745. Henry moved to New York after he reached his majority and married there, raising his family under the name of Embody. Adam remained in the Berks County area until his death in 1805. Nicholas, the third son, married Ann Margaret Bruner on December 10, 1768, at the St. Gabriel’s Church in Douglassville, Pennsylvania. The church is still located on the same property, on the banks of the Schuylkill River a few miles southeast of Reading, although none of the original buildings are present. The last known child of Johan and Catharine, Daniel, was born in 1758 and was named after his grandfather, Johan’s father.

All of the sons served in the Revolutionary War. Adam, Nicholas, and probably Henry and Daniel as well, served as private soldiers in the 3rd Co., 1st Battalion, Berks County Militia under Captain Sebastian Lentz in 1777 and 1778. The duties of that unit in the war are not presently known.

Nicholas Inbody, with his family, moved in about 1803 from Berks County to Berkeley County, Virginia, now West Virginia, near present day Martinsburg. His daughter, Catharine had moved there previously with her husband, Captain Ludwig Sensendorfer, taking up residence there in 1799. Catharine married Ludwig at Lowhill, Pennsylvania, on April 25, 1797. While all of her brothers and her parents eventually moved on to Ohio, Catharine and her family remained in Berkeley County and raised her family of six boys and two girls in a home near Middleway, now in West Virginia. Catharine died in 1852, her husband in 1867. Both are buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Middleway. The Sensendorfer family (now spelled Sensendiver) still live in the Berkeley County, West Virginia area.

All of Nicholas’ sons married while the family lived in Berkeley County. Mathias married Catherine Freese in 1804, George married her sister, Rebecca Freese in 1811 and Jacob married Catherine Schaeffer, also in 1811. John married Jane Thompson in 1812. The Freese family probably traveled from Berks County to Berkeley County with the Inbodys.

In 1816, still looking for better farm land, Nicholas moved further westward, this time into Ohio, settling in what is now Hocking County, near present day Logan, Ohio. His entire family, except for Catharine, went with him. He applied for and on April 1, 1816, was granted one-half section of Section 1, Township 14, range 17, a total of 361.85 acres of land. This land included that on which the Hocking County Fairgrounds stood in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and on which the large General Electric plant is now located. Nicholas Inbody and Ann Margaret are buried in the old Bright cemetery north of Logan, Ohio. Nicholas died sometime prior to July 26, 1827, the date of the final settlement of his estate. The cemetery, located on the side of a hill behind a country house, is overgrown with weeds and bushes, but several stones are still existent. One, of a Catharine Inbody, exact relationship unknown at present, is most visible. Other stones are there, but difficult to get to and even harder to read due to age and weathering. The cemetery is located on the right side of the road shortly after turning off Route 75 north from Logan onto Route 15. (Note: I am told by Mary Embree, a descendant of Johan Adam Imboden, that route 75 has now been renamed as Route 93.  Mary used to work with the Hocking County, Ohio, engineer's office, so I suspect she would know such things.  If anyone else has visited this cemetery, please contact me with what you found.

After Nicholas died, Mathias inherited that part of his father’s land which was located next to the Logan, Ohio city boundary. He built a log house there which apparently stood for some years. Eber Inbody, a great-grandson of Mathias, recounts having been shown the log house, "the finest between Zanesville and Springfield, Ohio, a distance of more than 100 miles," by his father, Abraham, when he was young, probably in the mid to late 1890s. He described it as "a four-room, chunked and daubed log house. The logs were hewn smooth inside and out, the corners notched, and the space between the logs filled with pieces of wood and wind proof." Eber himself was born (in 1886) in a similar house nearby Mathias’ cabin. The cabins do not remain today.

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Page last edited on 24 November 1999