There is an ancient village in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland known as Oberholz. It is situated near Wald in a Swiss valley, next to a ski lift which rises to a height of 4,350 feet above sea level. The inhabitants of this village were known as Oberholtzers. The village name signified that it was on an "upper wooden slope," or, as some descendants would say, "over the hill.
Zurich became a Permanent Part of the nation of Switzerland in 1351 when it joined the Swiss Defense League, which was organized by people living in the beautiful valley and mountains of the region. Being tired of oppression by outsiders who sought to control the mountain passes connecting Italy and Germany, they unified and successfully drove the foreigners from the area.
The Oberholtzers have a long history of residence in the canton of Zurich. Julius Billeter, a Swiss genealogist, recorded some Oberholtzer births in the Wald area from as early as 1531, with the birth of Niklaus Oberholtzer. Within the next twelve Years the following Oberholtzers were born there: Hans, Niklaus, Jacob, Ullrich, Heinrich and Christian.
The city and canton of Zurich was the birthplace of the Reformation which began under the work of Ulrich Zwingli. The city of Zurich accepted various reforms in 1523, resulting in the Reformed Church becoming the official state church. The Anabaptists, or Weider-taufer, meaning to be baptized again, separated from Zwingli in 1525, resulting in Years of persecution, including the death penalty. For this reason some of the Oberholtzers could not remain in the beautiful mountains and valleys of scenic Switzerland.
From the research of Jane Evans Best we learn of a family headed by Mattheus and Annli (Stroler) Oberholtzer of Wald, which was located in the mountains east of Lake Zurich. The mother was reported to be an Anabaptist. Also at Wald were the parents named Jakob and Annli (Cuntz) Oberholtzerˇ
Marti Oberholtzer, the son of Mattheus, was baptized on March 23, 1595, as an infant. Marti was found at Wald in 1634 and probably died there some time after 1644. He was married to Margaretha Schollenberger, whose name appears on Anabaptist lists of that time period. Records show that the marriage produced six sons. At least three of these sons emigrated from Wald to Germany.
THE OBERHOLTZER BROTHERS IN GERMANY
The sons of Marti and Margaretha (Schollenberger) Oberholtzer who are known to have emigrated from Switzerland to Germany were:
1. Hans Jacob Oberholtzer was baptized at Wald, Switzerland on January 23, 1620. He married Anna Buchman on January 271 1646. In 1657, at the age of 32, he and his family moved to the Palatinate, Germany. In 1674 they were among the Anabaptists living near Sinsheim on the Immelhouser Hof.
2. Marx Oberholtzer was baptized on February 9, 1634, along with his twin brother Hans Heinrich. Marx emigrated to Germany with his brother Hans Jacob in 1657. On May 21, 1660, he married Margaret Dobler, who was the servant for his older brother Bans Jacob. Marx, an Anabaptist, died in 1680.
3. Marti Oberholtzer was baptized at Wald on May 5, 1639. He was found among the Palatinate Anabaptists in 1663. He died on January 22, 1711.
The area of the Palatinate where the Anabaptist Oberholtzers lived is today known as the Kraichgau. This region was depopulated during the Thirty Years War. The Oberholtzers and other foreign families were needed in the area by landlords who sought to rebuild their manors and estates. In exchange, they were given some religious toleration. Consequently, the majority of the Anabaptists emigrated from Zurich, whose officials had resorted to execution, imprisonment, confiscation of property, and any other means of cruelty, in hopes of banishing them.
The Geneallandearchiv, Karlsruhe, gives this quote from the seventeenth century: "A number of the Wiedertauffer wish to settle here, which people practice their religious exercises partly in the forest, partly in their houses, and some have their land on the church support land. Many adapt well, among them is Marx Oberholtzer, who announced that he plans to marry his brother's servant, but does not intend to have his marriage announced publicly."
Marx Oberholtzer was among a group of 53 Anabaptists meeting for worship near Sinsheim on the evening of March 2, 1661. While they were singing, the meeting was abruptly ended by German authorities. Their names were taken, which included other familiar Pennsylvania names such as Groff, Hess, Landis, Meyer and Miller. They were to report for punishment on March 29th. Appearing on that date, they stated that they had come into the country from Switzerland in 1655 and had been meeting for worship secretly in the forests near Steinsfurt. The government fined them but they continued to meet. In 1662, Elector Karl Ludwig ordered that the Mennonists should no longer be forbidden to meet, but that every participant must pay a tax. Warfare, economic difficulties and religious suppression would later entice members of the Oberholtzer family to America. The Anabaptists in the Palatinate became known as Mennonists, for a group of Holland Anabaptists who took the name from an early leader, Menno Simons.
EARLY AMERICAN OBERHOLTZER IMMIGRANTS
Our ancestor Samuel Oberholtzer came to Pennsylvania in 1727. Other Oberholtzers came to America but researchers have been unable to prove relationships between the various Oberholtzer immigrants.
Marcus Oberholtzer (1664-1725)
Marcus Oberholtzer' left the Palatinate, Germany and arrived in London, England on May 6, 1709, at 45 years of age. With him was his wife, 3 sons, and 2 daughters. They arrived in Pennsylvania as early as 1711 and in 1719 received a 300-acre tract of land in Coventry Township, Chester County. The children helped establish Deep Run Mennonite Church, Bucks County, Pa. Their children were:
1. Jacob Oberholtzer, 1699-1760, m. Barbara; Mennonite trustee in Bucks County
2. Samuel Oberholtzer, 1701-alive in 1759, m.Elizabeth; Coventry Tp., Chester Co., Pa.
3. Nancy Overholt, 1703-alive in 1787, m.1720 Jacob Wismer, 1689-1787; New Bern, North Carolina
4. Marcus Oberholtzer, 1706-c1772, m. ? ; Coventry Tp. Chester Co., Pa.
5. Elizabeth Oberholtzer, 1708- 1 m. Kolb
6. Martin Oberholtzer, 1709-1744, m.1736 Agnes Kolb, 1713-1786; Bucks Co., Pa. Their son Henry (1739 - 1813) moved to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, where his son Abraham Overholt (1785-1870) became a wealthy businessman and distiller. His face still appears on the label of "Old Overholt."
7. Henry Overholt, c1713-alive in 1763; Coventry TP.
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wife of Martin Oberholtzer, Agnes Kolb was the third wife of William Nash. I don't know the name of his first wife, his second was Magdelena Godshalk
Martin Oberholtser, brother of Henry, died at age 39, leaving his wife Agnes(Kolb)and several children. She remarried William Nash. Henry (Martin's brother) moved his entire family to Westmoreland County.
I have some information on this line that I received from Billie Jo Read from Bonduel, Wisconsin. Martin Overholtser born 1743 in Bucks Co, Pa. Married Esther Fretz. Martin's father, Martin or Marcus Oberholtser married Agnes Kolb Nov. 1836; he died 1744 in Bucks Co. Pa.
I Have Martin died in Deep River B.C. Penn. I have much on the Overholts, when they came into Canada and a Susannah Overholt married John Singer. My gg/gmother was Jane Singer. born 1838 Clinton Twp. Lincoln Cty. Ont.I have Mark Overholt son of Samuel b 1700 Germ. Mark was orn in 1722 B.C. d 1754 B.C. Their son Statts Overholt b 1741 B.C. d Aug. 1820 Clinton Twp. I believe these were the first to come into Canada. Many are buried at Victoria Lawn Cem. St. Catharines where many of my other relatives are buried. Any help, please contact. Yvette