"...only look to Frederick, and see what Fortunes were made by the Hites and first takers up of those lands: Nay how the greatest Estates we have in this Colony were made..."
~ George Washington, June 24, 1767
JOST HITE (MATERNAL GRANDFATHER)
Jost Hite (b. 1685, d. 1761) was born in Bonfeld, Germany to Johannes Heyd (b. mid 1600s, d. about 1710) and his wife Anna Magdalena (b. 1653, d. 1695). Johannes was a butcher and church warden who, according to a 1687 tax assessment, owned a two-story house with barn, as well as fields, meadows, a vineyard and a garden. In addition to Jost (born Hans Justus Heyd), the Heyd family included five girls - Anna Maria and Maria Dorothea (b. about 1680), Anna Catharina (b. 1683), Anna Barbara (b. 1689/90), and Anna Rosina (b. 1690/91). A second boy, Johann Jeremias, had been born in January 1688, but the child lived only two months.
Various spellings for Jost Hite's first name include Joost, Joist and Yost.
In 1704 at age nineteen, Jost Hite married Anna Maria Merckle. Five years later the young couple and their infant daughter Maria Elisabetha left Germany bound for Holland, England, and ultimately New York. They travelled by land and sea with Johannes Heyd and his family, which now included Jost's stepmother, Anna Maria. Anna Maria was a widow of Caspar Schultze when she married Johannes Heyd in 1697 and between 1699 and 1707 she and Johannes had three daughters and one son (Anna Eva Catherine, Anna Maria, Anna Barbara and Johannes Martinus).
Pregnant women, children and the elderly were especially susceptible to the diseases that resulted from the unsanitary conditions encountered during the months-long trip. Jost Hite, his wife and daughter were among those who successfully landed in New York, but other members of the Heyd family were not so fortunate. Records made upon arrival at Governors Island in New York list "Maria Hayd" as head of family next to her stepson's name. This simple recorded statement reveals the sad truth that like so many others, Johannes and his four youngest children did not survive the treacherous ocean voyage. With the loss of his stepbrother, Jost Hite became the only surviving male heir of Johannes Heyd.
Constantly searching for choice land and a better way of life, Jost Hite was an intensely ambitious and successful man who conducted multiple land dealings involving thousands of acres in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In 1719-1720, Hite built a stone house and gristmill on Perkiomen Creek in Pennsylvania. By 1730 Hite was already looking ahead to Virginia, so on the 8th of January of that year he sold his 500-acre tract which included the stone house and mill (later called Pennypacker Mill), to John Pawling for 540 pounds.
As a result of his enterprising nature, Jost Hite is credited as one of the earliest pioneer settlers of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. In August 1731, Hite secured 40,000 acres of Virginia wilderness from Dutch brothers, John and Isaac Van Meter who were also determined visionaries. The grant called for the successful settlement of 40 families within two years (one family per 1,000 acres).
Soon after the Van Meter brothers received approval of their grant in June 1730, they discovered that Thomas, Lord Fairfax (b. 1693, d. 1781) vehemently opposed the grant, claiming the land was his. In 1649, King Charles II had granted land in the entire northern region of Virginia to certain noblemen, and nearly 100 years later, Lord Fairfax (Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax of Cameron) had inherited the land that now encompassed more than five million acres.
In late 1731 Jost Hite and partners Robert McKay, Robert Green and William Duff obtained an additional grant of 100,000 acres in the same area. As with the first grant, they agreed to settle 100 families within two years.Beginning in late 1731 or early 1732, Jost Hite led more than a dozen families, including his own children and their families, from Pennsylvania to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The difficult journey to the land southwest of present-day Winchester took several months and ultimately resulted in the successful settlement of Frederick County, Virginia. At the time of the trip to Virginia, Jost Hite's family consisted of his wife Anna Maria, their three married daughters (Maria-age 23, Elizabeth-age 20, and Magdalena-age 18), and five sons (John-age 13, Jacob-age 12, Isaac-age 8, Abraham-age 2, and baby Joseph).
Years later Jost Hite wrote of the trip, "...for the greatest and most Difficult Parts of the way they were Obliged to make Roads and once settled Obliged to Live in their Waggons till they Built some small Huts to shelter themselves from the Inclemmacy of the Weather and so far distant from any settlement but especially from any such as could supply them with any Provisions or Necessaries, they could scare procure any one thing nearer than Pennsylvania or Fredericksburg..."
Since Hite was in Williamsburg, Virginia on October 31, 1731 to sign legal documents for the 100,000-acre grant, it is probable that the first wagon train trip with his own family took place the following spring. It was a long and physically demanding journey that involved travelling with women and children, livestock and supply-laden wagons; a late autumn departure with winter looming would have made it even more more challenging.
According to T. K. Cartmell's Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants, records in the Register of Lands office prove that by Christmas 1735 Hite had already successfully settled more than fifty families on the 140,000 acre tract.
In 1748 Lord Fairfax hired a surveying team, which included sixteen year-old George Washington, to resolve a land dispute involving himself and Jost Hite. During this trip to the Shenandoah Valley, young George Washington and the other members of the team lodged at the inn owned and operated by Jost Hite’s son, Captain John Hite (George Chrisman's uncle).
The legal battle between Lord Fairfax and Jost Hite over land rights began in 1749 and the numerous heated debates, decisions and appeals continued for nearly forty years. After Jost Hite passed away in 1761 at age 76, Lord Fairfax maintained the fight for another twenty years, but even he didn't live to hear the final decision. Lord Fairfax died in 1781 at age 88, and the final ruling came in 1786, in favor of Hite.
JACOB AND MAGDALENA HITE CHRISMAN (PARENTS)
Among the families who accompanied Jost Hite on the 1731/32 Pennsylvania to Virginia journey were his 18 year-old daughter Magdalena (b. 1713, d. 1771), her twenty-five year old German-born husband, Jacob Chrisman (b. 1706, d. 1778), and their young son, Jacob Jr. who had been born in 1730.
The Chrisman surname is alternately spelled Christman, Crissman and Crisman in 18th and 19th century documents.
Jacob Chrisman came to America around 1710 as a young boy and then resided in Pennsylvania for several years. It is unknown where and when Jacob first met Jost Hite, but by the time the wagon train started for Virginia, Jacob had married into the Hite family. In his book, T. K. Cartmell surmises that Jacob and Magdalena were newlyweds when they left Pennsylvania.
FREDERICK COUNTY, VIRGINIA
The counties of Frederick and Augusta were divided from Orange County in 1738.
On May 14, 1740 Jacob purchased 750 acres from his father-in-law and the Chrismans settled about two miles from Hite's home, in what is now Stephens City, VA (Frederick County). The Chrisman land featured a great spring that has been known since the early 1730s as "Chrisman Springs" (or "Chrisman's Spring"). It was here that the Chrismans raised eleven children, all born between 1732 and 1749.
Children of Jacob and Magdalena Hite Chrisman:
- Jacob Jr.
- Sarah (m.  Thomas Sperry III;  John Barlow/Barley)
- Anna Maria/Mary (m. Peter Stephens)
- Rebecca (m. James Scott)
- Margaret (m. ? Goody/Goudy)
*In the fall of 2010, the NBC documentary/reality series Who Do You Think You Are? guided Country singer/actor Tim McGraw through his personal genealogical quest, which brought him to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Research led to the discovery that George Chrisman's older brother Isaac was McGraw's 6th Great Grandfather, and that McGraw is therefore a direct descendant of Jost Hite.
In 1774 Isaac Chrisman and his family migrated southwest to Rye Cove, Virginia, which at that time was home to the Cherokee and Shawnee tribes. Two years later Isaac and two of his children, allegedly his two oldest sons, were killed by Indians when they left the safety of the fort. Click for more information
McGraw's lineage to his 8th great grandfather, Jost Hite, progresses as follows:
Jost Hite (b. 1685, d. 1761) > Magdalena Hite Chrisman (b. 1713, d. 1771) > Isaac Chrisman (b. 1736, d. 1776) > Gabriel Chrisman (b. 1767, d. 1852) > Gabriel Chrisman (b. 1799, d. 1848) > James Monroe Chrisman (b. 1834, d. 1900) > Amelia Chrisman Nave (b. 1860, d. 1886) > Ella Mae Nave McGraw (b. 1881, d. 1962) > Frank Edwin "Big Mac" McGraw (b. 1911, d. 1991) > Major League pitcher Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw (b. 1944, d. 2004) > Samuel Timothy "Tim" McGraw (b. 1967).
The second season "Who Do" episode that featured Tim McGraw first aired on Friday, February 11, 2011. The Pinnells provided assistance to the production's research team (they were sworn to secrecy at the time) and received credit at the end of the episode. As of its fourth season (2013) the show airs on The Learning Channel.
In 1745 (the year George Chrisman was born) his father went to Williamsburg, Virginia to become a naturalized citizen. Records identify Jacob Christman as a native of Worms in Germany. Worms is a city located on the west bank of the Rhine River. It is in western Germany, part of the Rhineland-Palatinate region.
In Chapter XI, "Rum and Slavery" of The German Element of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, John W. Wayland relates that "as early as 1745 Jacob Christman, a German, and a son-in-law of Jost Hite, was fined 2,000 pounds of tobacco for keeping a tippling house and for retailing liquors without a license." Webster's 1828 American dictionary defines a tippling house as "a house in which liquors are sold in drams or small quantities, and where men are accustomed to spend their time and money in excessive drinking."
Like his resourceful father-in-law, Jacob Chrisman also desired and purchased additional land, acquiring 500 acres from Thomas Linville in November 1746 for 100 pounds, 5 shillings, and in June 1755 he paid 150 pounds for another 500 acres from Joseph Bryan. Both of these tracts were on Augusta County land (now Rockingham County) that had been originally patented in 1739 by the partnership of Hite, McKay, Duff and Green.
HITE FAMILY STONE HOUSES
In 1751 Jacob Chrisman's two-story limestone house was completed in Frederick County (see next three photos). Although some of the dates of birth are not confirmed, it appears that all eleven Chrisman children were born between 1730 and 1749, before the house was finished.
Jost Hite and sons John and Isaac also built stone houses nearby, as did Jost's other sons-in-law John Paul Froman and George Bowman, who were married to Magdalena's sisters Elizabeth and Maria/Mary, respectively. More than 250 years later several of these structures, including the "Chrisman Springs" house are still intact.
Belle Grove, the historic limestone mansion near Middletown, VA was built between 1794 and 1797 by George Chrisman's first cousin, Major Isaac Hite (b. 1758, d. 1836). Major Hite's wife was Nelly Madison, sister of president James Madison.
Jacob Chrisman's limestone house. The 1751 date stone is at the top of the north wall as shown below. The house is privately owned and is not open for tours.
ACCOLADES FROM GEORGE WASHINGTON
In a June 24, 1767 letter from George Washington to his neighbor Captain John Posey, Washington wrote that he was "surprised" and "concerned" that Posey (who already owed Washington money) had recently borrowed another five hundred pounds.
Washington told Posey how an adventurous and "enterprising Man with very little Money may lay the foundation of a Noble Estate in the New Settlemts" by securing as much land as "in the course of 20 yrs woud sell for 5 times yr prest Estate." Washington added, "For proof of which only look to Frederick, and see what Fortunes were made by the Hites and first takers up of those lands: Nay how the greatest Estates we have in this Colony were made..."
On May 5, 1761 Jacob and Magdalena Chrisman deeded 376 acres on Linville Creek in Augusta County, Virginia to their sixteen year-old son, George and 300 acres to George's older brother John (b. 1739, d. 1773). The land granted to George and John Chrisman was originally part of a 7,009 acre tract that had been patented in 1739 by their grand-father Jost Hite and his business partners Robert McKay, William Duff and Robert Green.
In 1777 Rockingham County was created from the northern part of Augusta County. The first court of Rockingham County was held in April 1778.
Sometime between 1762 and 1765, George married Hannah McDowell, daughter of General Joseph and Margaret O’Neil McDowell. George Chrisman probably located to his Linville Creek property soon after his marriage to begin building a home for his family. Between 1766 and 1784, four sons and three daughters were born to George and Hannah:
Joseph (b. 1766, d.1828), m. Jane Ann Hopkins in 1788
Hugh (b.1769, d.1849), m. Hannah McKinney in 1792
John "Gentleman Jack" (b.1773, d.1815), m. Ann Harrison in 1796
Charles (b.1775, d. 1812)
Margaret (b.1777, d.1855), m. John Spears in 1793
Elizabeth (b.1779, d.1835), m. Conrad Custer in 1799
Hannah (b.1784, d.1841), m. Joshua Kring in 1801
Until 1948 a log cabin was extant on the property, just a few feet to the south of the house. George probably had to put up a simple log cabin as a temporary shelter before he started on the stone house. Built in a similar style to his father’s house in Stephens City, George’s limestone dwelling provided plenty of room to accommodate his growing family.
JACOB CHRISMAN'S WILL & ESTATE APPRAISAL
On August 8, 1777, Jacob Chrisman signed a deed of gift of all of his property to “my beloved sons, George Christman and Henry Christman for natural love and affection I have come to bear these sons…” With the American Revolution well under way, Jacob may have worried about the possibility of British control. This deed of gift granted George and Henry “all and singular my slaves, goods, chattels, ready money and personal estate whatsoever in whose hands, custody or possession, and other the premises, soever they may be within the Thirteen United States of America.” One month later, on September 6, 1777 Jacob signed his last will and testament “being very sick and weak of body but of perfect mind and memory,” and George and Henry were named as co-executors of the estate.
Jacob Chrisman died in the late summer or early fall of 1778. Although his will was signed afterward, it superceded the deed of gift as a legal document. Henry, a private in Captain Joseph Bowman's company, was killed in late 1778 during the George Rogers Clark expedition to Vincennes (Indiana), therefore it fell to George to settle his father’s estate. Among the forty-two items listed in a November 4, 1778 appraisal of Jacob’s personal property, are “one Negro wench, one mare and two colts, three cows, half doz chairs and arm chair, four chests, two tables, one man saddle, thirty pains (sic) of window glass, a quantity of old pewter, one old bed and bedstead, one large bible and three small books and one dressed deerskin.”
George finally filed the estate settlement papers in Frederick County on April 4, 1804 (twenty-six years later). Total value: 1,583 pounds, 19 shillings and 6 pence. An 1804 to 2008 conversion using the retail price index results in 111,000 British pounds, which then converts to a 2008 US value of $170,855.00. Calculations obtained using www.measuringworth.com/ppoweruk/index.php and www.x-rates.com/calculator.html.
GEORGE CHRISMAN, PROMINENT CITIZEN
George Chrisman was an active citizen who apparently spent a great deal of time in the courtroom. His name appears numerous times in Rockingham County Court records between the years 1779 and 1813. Documents show that he acted as bondsman, administrator, guardian, jury member and court appointed official.
On April 26, 1779 when two neighbors took their right of way dispute to the Rockingham County Court, the court “ordered that John Hinton, John Johnston and George Chrisman, being first sworn, do view the said passage and report to the next court…”
On July 26, 1779 George was named as one of seven “securities” bondsmen present when Abraham Smith was sworn in as Sheriff of Rockingham County (the County’s third Sheriff since its creation from Augusta County in October 1777).
In 1780 George Chrisman signed as witness on a deed for his neighbors Abraham and Bathsheba Herring Lincoln (grandparents of the president) when the Lincolns sold 250 acres of their land in preparation for the family’s removal to Kentucky.
On March 26, 1781, thirty-six year-old George Chrisman was in court once more as he took the oath of captain in the Rockingham militia.
The 1784 Heads of Families census in Virginia identifies Captain George “Christman” of Rockingham County as the head of a household with nine “white souls” and the owner of one dwelling and three other buildings. Twenty-six years later the 1810 federal census for Rockingham County reveals that George was a slave-owner – he and his wife are listed at home with fifteen slaves. George and Hannah’s son Charles is listed in the same census as head of household, with six slaves.
Although three of George and Hannah Chrisman’s children migrated to Kentucky as young adults (Joseph, Hugh and Margaret), the Chrisman name remained prominent in Rockingham County for well over a century.
KENTUCKY & MISSOURI CHRISMANS
Keeping true to their pioneer heritage, George and Hannah Chrisman's sons Hugh and Joseph left Virginia in 1790 bound for Kentucky; their sister Margaret and her husband John Spears followed ten years later. The land on which the Chrismans settled was separated out from Fayette County in 1798, creating Jessamine County. On Hugh's 1,000 acres along Hickman Creek he built a mill, the first in the county, and a stone house. The stonemason for the house was Thomas Metcalfe. Nicknamed "Old Stonehammer," the Virginia-born Metcalfe later became Governor of Kentucky (1828-1832).
Both Joseph and Hugh are listed as heads of household on the 1810 federal census for Jessamine County. Joseph had eight in his family and no slaves; Hugh's household consisted of nine free whites and thirteen slaves.
It is unknown if the Hugh Chrisman stone house is still standing but according to the 1922 book, History of Kentucky, Volume III (Connelley-Coulter) it served the Chrisman family for at least three generations. The two-story brick house that Joseph Chrisman built in 1802 in Nicholasville was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Photo of Joseph Chrisman House
Hugh and Joseph were distinguished men who were very involved in the community. They were part of the early history of Jessamine County, KY as their father George Chrisman was for Rockingham County, VA, and as their grandfather Jacob Chrisman and great-grandfather Jost Hite were for Frederick County, VA. The next generation of Chrisman men continued the family tradition of service to community and country.
Hugh's son George Chrisman (b. 1794, d. 1873) was the first sheriff of Jessamine County and soldier in the War of 1812 and George's younger brother Henry McDowell Chrisman (b. 1800-1876) was a general in the state militia. Henry married his cousin Margaret Custer (b. abt 1807, d. 1852), daughter of Elizabeth and Conrad Custer. Several of the Kentucky Chrismans migrated even further into Missouri and the Chrisman surname is still very well known in both of these states.
GEORGE HARRISON CHRISMAN (GRANDSON)
In his 1935 book, Settlers By The Long Grey Trail, J. Houston Harrison relates that George Chrisman’s son, John (b. 1773, d. 1815) who was known as “Gentleman Jack,” was a “large landowner” who resided on his father’s land, at what was known as Chrisman Post Office, and further that John’s son, George Harrison Chrisman (b.1799, d.1870), was a “large planter and slave owner of Rockingham...a prominent resident of the county and a splendid type of the gentleman of the old school.”
John “Jack” Chrisman married Ann Harrison (b. 1777, d. 1839) in 1796 and their son George Harrison Chrisman married Martha Davis Herring (b. 1799, d. 1866) in 1822. George and Martha Chrisman's sons George, Burke and Herring, were also notable men.
CSA MAJOR GEORGE CHRISMAN (GREAT-GRANDSON)
During the Civil War, George & Martha Chrisman’s son, George Chrisman (b.1832, d.1915), was a commanding officer for the Confederacy. Captain George Chrisman led “Chrisman’s Infantry” (CO. H, 10th VA VOL INF) and later, “Chrisman’s Boy Company,” (CO. A, 3rd BAT VA RESERVES), a unit of sixteen and seventeen year-olds that was mustered into service on April 3, 1864.
After his 1864 promotion, Major George Chrisman commanded all of the infantry and cavalry reserves of the Upper Shenandoah Valley. In 1867 he married Lucy Gilmer Grattan (b.1835, d.1923) who was born at “Contentment,” the 1793 home of her father, Robert Grattan.
In 1898, Major Chrisman, Captain Frank A. Byerly and James B. Stephenson became the three founding members of the Rockingham County Historical Society (now the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society) when they drafted a constitution and bylaws for the organization. Major Chrisman was also a respected authority on farming and stock-raising. According to late historian/author John L. Heatwole (b. 1948, d. 2006), when Major Chrisman died on November 23, 1915 at age 83, “hundreds of people attended his funeral.”
No images identifying CSA Major George Chrisman have been made public. Although John Heatwole devoted many years of extensive research to his 2000 book, Chrisman's Boy Company, the book contains no photographs of the unit's "no-nonsense" leader.
DR. BURKE CHRISMAN (GREAT-GRANDSON)
In 1872, Major Chrisman's brother, Dr. Burk(e) Chrisman (b. 1827, d. 1895) was one of several men who purchased Taylor Springs, an early 19th century hot springs resort located at the base of the Massanutten mountain range, just east of Harrisonburg.
By combining the first name of his wife, Henrietta Warder (b. 1834, d. 1890), with the word "Massanutten," Dr. Chrisman changed the name from Taylor Springs to Massanetta Springs. Dr. Chrisman sold the bottled mineral water and as the resort grew in popularity, he built a small hotel. The Massanetta Springs Historic District was placed on the Virginia and National Historic Registers in 2005.
HERRING CHRISMAN (GREAT-GRANDSON)
Major George Chrisman’s brother, Herring Chrisman (b.1823, d.1911) was the Commonwealth Attorney of Rockingham County from 1847 until 1852, before he relocated to Illinois. He was the author of Memoirs of Lincoln, published posthumously in 1930 by his son, William Herring Chrisman.
In Settlers By The Long Grey Trail, the author describes Major George Chrisman and his brother Herring as “gentlemen of the highest type, splendidly connected and educated, and well deserving of the honors bestowed upon them by their fellow citizens.” Chrisman Post Office, which was once situated on land that originally belonged to his great-grandfather, was so named in honor of Major George Chrisman.
ADDITIONAL CHRISMAN INFORMATION
For additional detailed genealogical information on the Chrisman surname, click here.
Above: Molly at George Chrisman House. Below: Gentleman Jack & Clementine.