Monday, June 5, 2017

Leffel - The Name And The Story Beyond It

Leffel was another mysterious first name which I found in our family tree branch. It was mysterious till I discovered who the Leffel people were and why was one of them so important that his surname became a first name.

So who were the Leffel people?

The original spelling of the surname was possibly Loeffel. Balthazar (also called Balzar) Loeffel/Leffel born on 2 February 1721 in Palatinate Region, Germany came to Pennsylvania where he married Sybilla (born on 1 March 1728). Both of them were regarded as the Pennsylvania Dutch. The term 'Dutch' referred to 'Deutsch' (meaning German of course), which was commonly pronounced 'Dutch' by Americans. Most of so-called the Pennsylvania Dutch people came to Pennsylvania from Germany and Switzerland. The versions of German which they spoke created a unique dialect of German spoke by the Pennsylvania Dutch only.

How are we related to the Leffel family?

Our ancestor (7 generations back), Benjamin Maugridge Boone Jr. married Eve Leffel, daughter of Balzar and Sybilla Leffel. Benjamin was born on 13 August 1741 in Exeter Township, Philadelphia County, PA. He is listed in DAR (Daughters of American Revolution) records: Patriotic Service in Pennsylvania as Private. Benjamin died on 25 September 1824 in Bloomsburg, Columbia County, PA. Eve was born on 5 January 1756 in Amity, Washington County, PA. She died on 22 June 1816 in Bloomsburg, PA too.

What was so significant about the Leffel people/or one of them that their surname survived in our family tree as a given name?

One possible explanation could be that Balzar Leffel was a Patriot. He is listed in the DAR (Daughters of American Revolution) Patriot Index (Oath of Allegiance,1778, BERKS Co.). On the other hand, there were more Patriots in the family than just Baltzar only. Therefore, I suppose, it was all about David Miller Leffel, grandson of Eve's brother John Leffel. During my genealogy quest, I learned something very interesting not only on that particular ancestor but on some history of the Land as well.

David Miller Leffel was born to Anthony and Mary Leffel on 20 January 1816 (in Botecourt County, Virginia). At the age of 21, David married 20-year-old Susan Evaline West. The marriage ceremony took place on 3 May 1837 in Springfield, Clark County, Ohio.
When Susan's mother died, her father Michael West and her brothers moved to Texas where they got some land in Grayson County. In 1858, after Michael's death, Susan and her husband David Miller relocated to Texas as well - Susan inherited part of the land from her father. The couple settled in Cooke County, though where one of Susan's sisters lived. They had eight children: William Jefferson (1838), Sarah Ann (b.1840), Eliza Jane (b. 1843, died as an infant), Anthony Musgrove (1846), James Perry (b.1848), Charles Edgar (b.1851), John Wesley (b.1855), and George L. (b. 1857). David worked as a carpenter.

Father of David Miller Leffel (1791-1870)

During the Civil War (on 1 October 1862) Texas militia arrested many people who were suspected to be the Union sympathizers and were accused of plotting against the Confederacy.

David M. Leffel, supposedly encouraged by his brother-in-law William Boyles, attended a 'Peace Party' meeting which was held at a private home. The meeting discussion was focused on freeing the people arrested by the Citizens Court. David, along with fourteen other persons who were present at the meeting, was caught and charged with disloyalty to the Confederacy and sentenced to death by hanging. David was executed on 19 October 1862. Forty other men were hanged as well. It all happened in October 1862 in Gainsville, Texas.

Not long ago, the monuments commemorating the victims of the Great Hanging at Gainsville were found in Cooke County, where the tragic events took place.

I need to say that I was quite moved when I found out the story beyond the Leffel name and about what happened to David Miller Leffel. It all must have been known to our grandparents who lived in Texas as well. No wonder they regarded the surname so meaningful that they decided to name their child with it. Now we probably know why.

  • Picture of Anthony Leffel:  Courtesy of
  • Pictures of the Gainsville Memorial Monuments: Courtesy of

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