Migration of Landes Families into the South Branch Valley of West Virginia

The Landes/Landis families in the Potomac Valley of West Virginia and to a large extent, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, can trace their roots to the late 1600's and early 1700's when the original Landes ancestors came to America and eventually settled in the Lancaster, PA area to escape religious persecution in Europe.

Since they were Anabaptists, they believed that baptism was valid only when the believer confessed their faith in Christ and wanted to be baptised (believer's baptism), as opposed to the traditional infant baptism. In addition, they practiced full emersion baptism as opposed to affusion (pouring) or aspersion (sprinkling). The term, 'Anabatist' means 'baptistized again' and refers to the practice of being baptised as an adult after they had declared their faith, even if they had been baptized as infants. Consequently, Anabaptists experienced severe persecution in Europe from all sides: Catholics, Lutherans, and Reformed Protestants (Presbyterians, Congregationalists, etc.).

With the general immigration movement south and westward during the later half of the 1700's, Landes families eventually settled in the Potomac Valley of what is now the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and were known locally as German Baptist Brethren or Dunkards ('dunkers'). The specific religious group that incuded Landes families were especially those who had been influenced by the Ephrata movement in the Conestoga Church in Lancaster, PA.

As Dr. Emmert Bittinger describes in his book, Allegheny Passage :

By the 1750's and 1760's, groups were forming in the western valleys of the Potomac tributaries in Virginia (now West Virginia), namely Back Creek, Cacapon, North River, South Branch, New Creek, and Patterson Creek. (Bittinger, p. 13)

Some of the members who left the Ephrata Movement established what eventually became Brethren congregations... Other settlements, perhaps mixed with Ephrata and Brethren populations, came between 1750 to 1760 to the Back Creek, Cacapon River, and South Branch Valleys of West Virginia. (Bittinger, p. 15)

But even in America the Anabaptists experienced persecution, especially the Mennonites and Brethren, who because of their pacifism, refused to 'take up arms', refused to participate in compulsory military service, and rejected slavery. By the 1830's day-to-day life for many Brethren in the South Branch Valley became difficult as their neighbors shunned and criticized them. Consequently, many families migrated west after about 1830 to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

One of the original Landes settlers in the South Branch Valley was Jacob Landes (1740 - 1811). Bittinger writes:

The Jacob Landes family was a very prominent influence in the South Branch Church between1785 and 1810. This family was orthodox, and many ministers are descended from it, most of them in the Old German Baptist Brethren Church. Although there is no evidence to indicate, it is plausible to suppose that Jacob himself or one or more of his sons might have been a minister. The close relationship of Jacob to Elder Martin Garber implies that the Jacob Landes family was highly respected. (Bittinger, p. 134)

Jacob had 16 children, the oldest of which was John Landes (ca 1785 - ca 1870). John Landes was the father of Jesse Landes of Brushy Run, WV. Except for John, all of the other children of Jacob Landes migrated west (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois) from about 1811 - 1830. A discussion of Jacob Landes' children will be presented in a separate area.

Jacob Landes died in 1811 and left no will. Consequently, his estate had to be divided among his heirs and this was supposed to be accomplished by Jacob Sites, the executor of Jacob Landes' estate. However, by 1833 the estate of Jacob Landes had not been settled so the children of Jacob Landes sued Jacob Sites and a record of these court proceedings are available in the court house in Moorefield, WV. [Circuit Superior Court, Hardy County, Sept. 24, 1833]. The court ruled in favor of the Landes children, and Jacob's oldest son, John Landes, became the new executor. The land was divided among the children and later, John's oldest son, Jesse, purchased 37 acres of land from his aunt, Sophrona (one of the heirs) for $37.00 ($1.00 per acre) and this (probably) became the home-place for Jessie and Christina Landes and their children in Brushy Run, WV. According to a plot of this purchase recorded in the Hardy County court house [Deed Book, #19, p. 154], the eastern boundary of this property was along the county line of what is now Pendleton and Grant counties.

So, this brings us to a point where more detailed information regarding Jesse Landes and his wife, Christina Kimble Landes, can be explored. See other links from the home page.

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Site last updated: July 18, 2019