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           Abraham TUNES (c1660–c1730)

Abraham Tunis/Tunes/Tunnisen/Dennis, Jean Lincoln Fish's great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, was born about 16601 at or near the town of Crevelt in the County of Mörs, a political entity just west of the lower Rhine. Today Krefeld, as it is now spelled, is in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, but in the 1600s town and county were ruled by the Dutch prince William of Orange, who later became king of England as the William of William and Mary. Upon William's death in 1702, Crevelt and Mörs passed to the Kingdom of Prussia.2

Quaker missionaries had been working the Crevelt area since 1657,3 a couple years before Abraham’s birth, so he may have been born into a Quaker family. He was certainly a Quaker by the time he emigrated to the Quaker William Penn’s Pennsylvania colony. A small Quaker community had developed around Crefelt in the face of severe persecution from government and neighbors.4

Young Tunes learned the trade of linen weaving.5 Many of the other Quakers, most of whom were probably related by blood or marriage,6 were also weavers. At some point, probably in the early 1680s, Abraham married Bötzen Luykens (born 1664) of Crefelt. Bötzen was a nickname—she is sometimes referred to in the records as Beatrix and sometimes as Bathsheba.

In 1682 a group of English and Dutch Quaker merchants started working with William Penn on a plan whereby persecuted Quakers might go to the New World.7 At the same time, in Frankfurt am Main a group of six investors, calling themselves “The Frankfurt Company” purchased 15,000 acres from Penn and employed a young German lawyer named Francis Daniel Pastorius as their agent. Pastorius was sent to Philadelphia to supervise the settlement of the initial purchasers.8 Meanwhile, a dozen or so Crefelt families, including Abraham and Bötzen, decided to emigrate, and so they packed up what belongings they could take with them and were in Rotterdam, Netherlands, by mid-June 16839. A ship was waiting in England to take them to Pennsylvania, but they almost missed it, because they were delayed by bad weather in the crossing to England. Fortunately, the same bad weather had delayed the departure of the Concord, the ship they were to sail on, and they finally started for America on 26 July 1683. The fare for adults was 50 pounds, children were 25 pounds and infants were free.10

1983 stamp depicting the ship <i>Concord</i> which brought the first settlers to Germantown in 1683
Reproduced from Gross and Gleysteen (2007), p 34.

1983 U S stamp commemorating the three-hundredth anniversary of the voyage of the Concord. The German postal service simultaneously issued a stamp of similar design.

After nearly ten weeks at sea the Concord arrived at Philadelphia on 1 October 1683.11 One of the passengers summarized the trip in a letter, thus:

“. . . The blessings of the Lord did attend us so that we had a wonderfully prosperous voyage. Upon our whole voyage we did not experience as much inconvenience as between Holland and England. . . . Our number did not decrease upon the ocean, but was increased by two, a son and a daughter. The mothers were easy in labor and were soon well again.”12

The America, which brought Francis Daniel Pastorius and his three servants to Pennsylvania, preceded the Concord by six weeks, arriving on 20 August.13 Pastorius had time to erect, or rather to excavate, a crude habitation. It is referred to as a “cave” in some contemporary accounts, but apparently it was more a dugout in the bank of the Delaware River, roofed with wood, perhaps covered with dirt.14

Germantown Dugout Dwelling
Gross and Gleysteen (2007), p 21, drawing "of unknown origin but . . . used repeatedly in Germantown programs, brochures, and publications during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries".

On 6 October, five days after their arrival, the Concord passengers disembarked. There were thirty-five of them—13 men and a boy, 9 wives, 1 elderly mother who died soon after her arrival, 1 single woman, and 10 children, including the 2 born at sea. Abraham’s wife’s brother, Jan Luyken, was among them as well as Thones Kunders, who was related to Abraham in some way.15 All these families were Quakers, except for one Mennonite. Despite the easy crossing described above, Bötzen Tunis, wife of Abraham and sister of Jan Luyken, was very sick after the voyage from England. She became so ill that she had to be taken to Pastorius’ half-underground cabin in Philadelphia, probably the most substantial structure they had, where she remained for a long time “out of her mind”.16

Soon (12 October), Penn granted 6000 acres “on ye East side of ye Skulkill River” for Pastorius to allot to the new settlers and those who would come after.17 The Germans had wanted riverside land, but all the lots along the Delaware had been taken up. Penn’s settlers were not the first on the scene. The area had been part of New Sweden from 1638 to 1655, then the Dutch had ruled until 1664, after which the lands along the Delaware had been part of the large English province of New York. Many earlier colonists, especially Swedes, were still around. The new settlers were offered land along the Schuylkill, but they deemed it too rough and hilly. Finally, a ridge-top area two hours’ walk northwest of Philadelphia was suggested. There was “fertile black soil . . . girt round and round with charming springs” of “delicious” water and there were two streams suitable for mills—the Wissahickon and the Wingohocking. The Crefelters decided this was their best option. On 24 October Pastorius and six men, plus Penn’s surveyor, walked the six miles to the area in question, and the surveyor, Thomas Fairman, immediately laid out fourteen three-acre house lots on either side of a 60-foot-wide central road which followed the path of an old Indian trail. That road is now Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. I don’t know whether Abraham Tunis was one of these men, or whether he was back in Philadelphia with his sick wife. The men spent the night in the woods and returned to town the next day, stopping to fill their hats with fruit from a giant grapevine they had cut down.18

Back at Pastorius’ “cave”, the settlers drew lots for the homesites that had been surveyed. The last two lots east of the road fell to the brothers-in-law Jan Luyken and Abraham Tunis.19

The letter quoted above, written four months after William Penn granted the Germans their land, goes on to say:

“. . . Most of us have already our own habitations, and every day more good houses are being built, all of which pleases us greatly. . . . We have begun to spin flax.”20

So linen weaver Abraham Tunis was soon able to ply his trade. His wife seemingly recovered her health. Beginning two years after their arrival in the New World Abraham and Bötzen had five children—Elizabeth (born 1685), Catherine (“Trintje”) (1687), William (1688), Alice ("Ältje") (1691 or 1692), and Anthony (1693). William Tunis married Magdalena, daughter of Wigard Levering, and William’s sister Alice married Magdalena’s brother, Jacob Levering. Alice and Jacob are ancestors of Jean Fish. The name Tunis was variously “anglicized” to Tennis, Dennis, or even Thomas after the first two generations.21

When the children were old enough, they were enrolled in a Quaker school taught by Francis Daniel Pastorius.22

In 1686 Abraham subscribed five pounds for a Quaker meetinghouse.23 By 1705 the Quakers were ready to erect a stone meetinghouse and Tunis was among the 27 Germantown contributors.24

The residents of Germantown (including Abraham Tunes) must have felt somewhat concerned by the political situation in England25, and on 7 May 1691 they submitted in open court in Philadelphia, a statement promising “allegiance to King William and Queen Mary, and fidelity to the Proprietors”. The 62 petitioners were granted “naturalization” and made freemen by Thomas Lloyd, Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania.26

In 1692 Abraham Tunis was among 292 signers from throughout the colony of a petition, addressed to the Pennsylvania Assembly, in an attempt to defeat a tax bill.27 Up to this point there had been no taxes in the colony. The petition was apparently unsuccessful, for the next May The General Assembly passed the first law assessing and taxing the property of the inhabitants of Philadelphia County, which included 52 adult male residents of “German Town”. Abraham Tunis’ assessment was 50 pounds, for which he was taxed four shillings, two pence. (The assessments ranged from £30 to £150.)28

Tunis served as a burgess in 1694.29

While they had supposedly been made freemen by the naturalization of 1691, the Germantown residents were still concerned about the security of the titles to their land. The Germantown court record contains an entry dated 1701 asking the Governor (Penn) that a confirmation of their naturalization be secured in England.30 New Germans kept arriving in Pennsylvania and of course they had not been part of the previous proceeding. Accordingly a naturalization petition for about 150 Germans was submitted in March of 1706. It was not until three and a half years later that the proposed naturalization bill was introduced and passed by the Assembly. Some, but not all, of those still surviving who had been naturalized previously, including Abraham Tunis, were “re-naturalized” by this ruling, perhaps as extra insurance.31 Queen Anne did not confirm this re-naturalization until 1713.32

In 1709 Abraham was one of seven survivors of the original thirteen heads of household that had arrived on the Concord in 1683.33

German Township was eventually divided into four sections—Germantown proper, Krisheim (named for the home village of Peter Schumacher, Gerhard Hendricks and Hans Peter Umbstatt, three 1685 Germantown settlers34), Somerhausen (after Pastorius’ birthplace in Franconia, “Germany”), and Crevelt (for Tunis’ hometown). Today, Krisheim has become the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, and Somerhausen and Crevelt are the Chestnut Hill section.35 In 1695, Abraham Tunis, in partnership with William Streepers, another of the “original Crefelt thirteen”, bought from Francis Daniel Pastorius 200 hilltop acres along the Somerhausen/Krevelt line.36 In his 1717 will, William left his share of this property to his son John Streepers.37 In 1724 John and Abraham Tunis divided the acreage equally between themselves,38 but except for a cart road running diagonally down to the Wissahickon, as late as 1733 there is no evidence that the Tunis/Streepers tract had yet been developed39.

William Penn granted 1000 acres to Abraham Tunis and his brother-in-law Jan Luykens in 1703. This land was in the northernmost corner of Towamencin Township, adjacent to Hatfield, Franconia and Lower Salford Townships, nearly 20 miles northwest of Germantown.40 Tunis and Luykens split this tract evenly between themselves in 1709, Tunis taking the portion next to Lower Salford.41 Abraham’s son William Tunis owned 400 acres of this land in 1723.42

In 1708 the Frankfurt Company granted Tunis 75 acres “for three Rix Dollars or Pieces of Eight annually the first day of March forever”.43 In 1715 he sold ten acres of this “on the slope of the hill towards Germantown” to his neighbor and partner William Streepers.44 At about the same time as he got the other 75-acre property, Tunis bought an additional 75 acres in the adjoining Township of Springfield; this land had also belonged to the Frankfurt Company.45

Wilhelm Rettinghausen is thought to be the first papermaker in British America. With his son Claus Rüddinghuysen he operated a paper mill on a tributary of Wissahickon Creek from 1690 to his death in 1708. Before his death he gave the mill to Claus. William de Wees, the brother of Claus Rüddinghuysen's wife Wilhelmina, had learned the papermaking trade from his brother-in-law and, with Claus's encouragement, built a paper mill on the Wissahickon at the northwest edge of the Crevelt section. In 1713 de Wees sold this mill and 100 surrounding acres to investors Abraham Tunis, William Streepers and Claus Rüddinghuysen of Germantown, and John Gorgas of Roxborough, “. . . with singular implements and tools, iron potts, and every other thing whatsoever belonging to the paper makers trade together with the dwelling, building, edifice, orchards . . .” for 144 pounds46, probably to gain operating capital. De Wees continued to run the mill with Gorgas, who was Claus Rüddinghuysen's son-in-law.47

The land on which the de Wees mills was built had belonged to Heivert Papen, a Germantown resident who had married Wilhelm Rettinghausen’s daughter Elizabeth, In Papen’s 1708 will, Abraham Tunis was appointed a trustee of the estate, along with Claus Rüddinghuysen and Streepers.48

De Wees bought the land back and built a new paper mill in 1729.49

In 1717 Abraham Tunis‘s daughter Alice (Ältje) married Jacob Levering. She was 25 and he 24.50

I have been unable to pinpoint the date of Abraham’s death. Many sources say 1710, probably copying one from the other.51 1730 is another date given.52 This date probably approximates the correct one. The deed transferring land in Towamencin Township to his son William was dated 22 May 1723. On 8 Nov 1736 a statement was added that Herman Groothausen (a witness to the original deed) “upon his solemn affirmation did declare & say that he was present & did see the within named Abraham Tunes seal & as his did deliver the within written Indenture”.53 So the dates 22 May 1723 and 8 Nov 1736 probably bracket Tunes’s actual death date. Another RootsWeb database54 reasonably provides a death date of “after 1723”.

In 1931 a monument was erected in Krefeld (then in Prussia) to Pastorius and the Krefelders who were the first settlers of Germantown. “Abraham Tünes”’s name was on it.55 Apparently, it is still there.56 A monument to Pastorius was also put up in Germantown. To protect it from damage due to anti-German sentiment, it was encased in a big box during both World Wars.57


1 Fulton (RW db); Ariciu (RW db); Tennis (RW db).

2 Krefeld (ws); Moers (ws).

3 Hull (1935), p 191–196; Ulle (1983), p 48.

4 Ulle (1983), p 48; Hull (1935), p 196–201.

5 Ulle (1983), p 51.

6 Ruth (1984), p 61; Hull (1935), p 231, 258.

7 Ulle (1983), p 48.

8 Ulle (1983), p 48, 50.

9 Strassburger (1922), p 379.

10 Ulle (1983), p 48.

11 Ibid.

12 Hull (1935), p 215; the writer of the letter, dated 12 Feb 1684, or a little more than four months after their arrival, is believed to have been Herman Isacks op den Graeff, one of three op den Graeff brothers who made the trip.

13 Ulle (1983), loc cit; Ruth (1984), p 65; Hull (1935), p 395–396.

14 Hull (1935), p 395; Ruth (1984), p 66.

15 Ulle (1983), p 51; Miller (1983), p 102–104; Hull (1935), p 395.

16 Ulle (1983), p 48 Ruth (1984), p 66–67.

17 Strassburger (1922), p 380.

18 Ruth (1984), p 64–66.

19 Ruth (1984), p 66.

20 Hull (1935), p 216.

21 Roach (2001), p 31n.

22 Ulle (1983), loc cit;; Miller (1983), p 104; Hull (1935), p 406.

23 Hull (1935), p 406.

24 Hull (1935), p 188.

25 In 1689 the so-called "Glorious Revolution" had forced Catholic James II from the throne and brought Protestant William and Mary to power.

26 Miller (1983), p 102–104; Hull (1935), p 420–421.

27 Hull (1935), p 416–417.

28 Hull (1935), p 417–418.

29 Ulle (1983), loc cit; Hull (1935), p 406.

30 Miller (1983), p 102.

31 Hull (1935), p 419–420; Rupp (1876), p 430.

32 Strassburger (1922), p 388.

33 Hull (1935), p 395–396.

34 Schumacher is my ancestor, and Umbstatt is a probable ancestor of both Floyd Hamilton Fish Jr and E-Bette (Kugler) Shidler. Abraham Tunes is of course Jean (Lincoln) Fish's ancestor.

35 Roach (2001), p 69; Hull (1935), p 258.

36 Roach (2001), p 4–5 [she says the transaction took place in 1693]; Johnson and Bergey (1934), p 104.

37 Johnson and Bergey (1934), loc cit.

38 Roach (2001), p 4; Johnson and Bergey (1934), loc cit.

39 Roach (2001), p 4–5.

40 Ruth (1984), p 92; Johnson and Bergey (1934), p 104–105.

41 Johnson and Bergey (1934), p 105; Heckler (1886), p 97.

42 Johnson and Bergey (1934), loc cit.

43 Johnson and Bergey (1934), p 104.

44 Roach (2001), p 6; Johnson and Bergey (1934), loc cit.

45 Johnson and Bergey (1934), loc cit.

46 Johnson and Bergey (1934), p 105; Roach (2001), p 71n.

47 Green (1990), p 21.

48 Miller (1983), p 104; Johnson and Bergey (1934), p 130.

49 Green (1990), p 21.

50 Johnson and Bergey (1934), p 104.

51 e g, Ariciu (RW db).

52 Tennis (RW db).

53 Ibid.

54 Fulton (RW db).

55 Hull (1935), p 424.

56 At least, a portion of it is illustrated on p 34 of Gross and Gleysteen (2007). This appears to be a detail from the whole monument, which is shown facing page 260 in Hull (1935).

57 Bach (1992), p 215.


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