Who Was Peter Finger?

There are a few more items of circumstantial evidence that support the likelihood that Peter Finger had a Mennonite background. In the first place, many of the Mennonites who lived in the Palatinate region were originally from Switzerland and, according to Latter Day Saints genealogist Julius Billeter, the Finger family is originally from Eriz, Switzerland, which is a remote village about 10 miles east of Thun, which is in turn 20 miles south of the city of Bern, in the Canton of Bern. Billeter's genealogy of the Finger family, called Genealogy of the Finger family of Eriz and Reusser family of Steffisburg, Schwarzenegg, Eriz, Horrenbach-Buchen & Heiligenschwendi, Kt. Bern, Switzerland, abt. 1516-1914, lists many Fingers, the earliest record being for the marriage of a Daniel Finger and Magdalena Berger on December 4, 1635. Bernese Mennonites endured many decades of oppression, including fines, property confiscation, imprisonment, banishment and, in some extreme cases, burnings at the stake. Due to these hardships, many Mennonites emigrated, especially in the 1660s and 1670s, often settling in the Palatinate. Probably one of them was the Johannes Finger living in Osthofen in 1685.

Further supporting the probability of Peter Finger's Mennonite origins is his association with the Hersheys in Pennsylvania, an eminent Mennonite family. Peter Finger purchased his farm from Andrew (Andreas) Hershey (I believe this Andrew Hershey was the 4th great uncle of Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey's Chocolate), who immigrated to Pennsylvania with his family in 1709. The Hersheys were originally from the Canton of Bern in Switzerland. Down in the Palatinate, a Christian Herschi signed the 1682 hereditary tenancy lease for the Friedelsheim Mennonite community, the earliest written record for the congregation (source: Friedelsheim Mennonite Congregation Church Book, compiled by Ellen Risser Farrell). Guth's Palatine Mennonite Census Lists show a Christian Hirsch living in Friedelsheim in 1685, and a Hans Hirschi living in Wachenheim in 1717 and also, along with Daniel Finger's family, in 1724. A source for further information about the Hershey family is the History and Records of the Hershey Family From the Year 1600 by Scott Funk Hershey.

On September 9, 1751 Andrew Hershey obtained a warrant for 150 acres abutting the Pennsylvania - Maryland border, in the southwestern portion of York County, in the Township of Manheim. This parcel was sold to Peter Finger some time prior to April 12, 1754, because on that date Peter had the parcel surveyed, and it actually totaled 390½ acres. There is evidence that Peter settled on his farm in York County by early 1752, since it is noted on the warrant for the northern portion of his farm, which is dated September 4, 1773, that quitrent interest was owed to the Proprietors of Pennsylvania (i.e. the Penn family) back to March 1, 1752. Peter Finger does not appear to have ever formalized, via the recording of an official survey, his ownership of the entire parcel he purchased from Andrew Hershey.

The southern portion of the parcel purchased by Peter Finger from Andrew Hershey, totaling 208.11 acres, was later surveyed again, and recorded on August 12, 1773. Upon his departure from Pennsylvania, Peter appears to have sold this land to Jacob Bear, who received the patent for it on November 1, 1809. This farm was called the "Pumpkin Patch," and is referred to as such in a February 13, 1821 deed from Jacob Bear to Daniel Waltersdorff.

In addition to the land purchased from Andrew Hershey, Peter Finger received a warrant (August 20, 1773), conducted a survey (August 30, 1773), and received the patent (December 9, 1773) for two separate parcels adjoining his farm, one to the northwest for 21¾ acres and another to the southeast for 37 acres, directly from the Proprietors. These two parcels were called "The Addition."

Land in York County was abundant and sparsely populated in the first half of the eighteenth century. For example, Peter Finger appears to have had only one neighbor, Matthias Slough to the northeast, at the time his farm was surveyed in 1754 - the three other sides of his farm are described on the survey as "barrens."

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