Abraham Sell

On this day, 16 June 1786, Abraham Sell passed away. He was my 8th great-grandfather.

Born in 1715, in Germantown, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Abraham Sellen/Sell was the son of Heinrich and Margaret Zellen/Sellen. Abraham joined elder siblings Peter, Jacob, John, Barbara, Elizabeth, Mary, and Anthony. In 1720, little brother Henry was born in Germantown.

Although little is known about Abraham’s childhood, much is known about his hometown: Germantown, Pennsylvania, which was founded on 6 October 1683, by thirteen Mennonite and Quaker families from Krefeld, Germany.

In 1685, two years after the town’s founding, 19-year-old Heinrich Sellen, a native of Krefeld, Germany, immigrated to the New World, settling in Germantown.

In 1688, Germantown’s Quaker residents drafted a protest against slavery, considered to be the earliest antislavery document made public by whites in North America. This two-page condemnation of slavery was based upon the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Then, on 12 August 1689, William Penn signed a charter incorporating some of the town’s residents as “the bailiff, burgesses, and commonalty of Germantown, in the county of Philadelphia, in the province of Pennsylvania.” This governing body was authorized to convene “the general court of the corporation of Germantowne,” to craft local laws, and to hold a court of record.

That same year, 1689, Heinrich Sellen was registered as the owner of Lot #12 in Germantown. The Sellen family remained at this locale until the early 1710s. By 1714, ownership of that plot had been transferred to someone named John Deeder.

In 1735, both Abraham (who was 20 years old at the time) and his father Heinrich Sellen relocated, moving west nearly 150 miles to a Mennonite community. Heinrich purchased 200 acres of land in what is now modern-day Union Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania (latitude 39.775966, longitude -77.043989).

Starting in 1741, Abraham Sell slowly began purchasing approximately 415 acres of land near modern-day Littlestown, Pennsylvania (latitude 39.757730, longitude -77.037815). This acreage was less than five miles from his father’s property.

The problem was that both men’s properties lay within a disputed area claimed by both Pennsylvania and Maryland. Consequently, both colonies felt justified to distribute this land as they saw fit. When more than one person felt entitled to the same parcel of land, legal challenges occurred and violence sometimes erupted. Sadly, many surveys were rejected. It was not until 9 October 9, 1767, that the Mason-Dixon line was finally established as the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

A year after Abraham purchased his first piece of “contested” property, he married Louisa Charlotte Forney on 11 March 1742. His wife was the daughter of Johann Adam and Elizabetha Louisa Forney.

On 10 December 1742, about nine months after their wedding, the couple welcomed a son, Jacob Sell. Tragically, not long after Jacob’s birth, Louisa Charlotte (Forney) Sell died in 1743.

On 17 October 1749, sadness came again to Abraham’s life when his father, Heinrich Sellen, passed away.

But after every storm, a ray of light appears, and so it was for Abraham Sell. In 1750, Abraham remarried. His second wife was Maria Johanna “Hanna” Zimmerman.

Three years after their marriage, on 14 August 1753, daughter Maria Eva Sell (my 7th great-grandmother) was welcomed to the family.

In 1753 and 1754, Abraham Sell was elected constable of Germany Township in what is now Adams County, Pennsylvania. In addition, he and his wife witnessed several baptisms of neighbors’ children and were named the guardians of four other children.

From May through July 1755, Abraham Sell participated in the French and Indian War, driving a wagon for the Braddock Expedition near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This expedition, led by General Edward Braddock, attempted to capture the French stronghold, Fort Duquesne. Unfortunately, on 8 July 1755, the British forces were defeated at the Battle of the Monongahela, and the survivors, including Abraham Sell, were forced to retreat.

Back on the homefront, circa 1755, daughter Catharina Sell was born. Then, circa 1756, son Adam Sell arrived.

About 15 years passed, as Abraham and Hanna worked on their farm and raised their children to adulthood. Circa 1772, son Jacob Forney Sell wed Christina Hesson. The next year, on 16 November 1773, daughter Maria Eva married Nicholas Dill. Circa 1775, a third child entered into holy matrimony when son Adam Sell married Margaret Barbara Feeser. Finally, daughter Catharina Sell wed a man by the name of Henry Meier (marriage date unknown.)

Although all was happy in the Sell home, the country was in an uproar. On 19 April 1775, the “shot heard ’round the world” was fired in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. The American Revolution had begun.

Abraham Sell, a veteran of the French and Indian War, was called back into service.  Son Jacob Sell also joined the fight. In 1777, Abraham Sell was made captain in charge of the 7th Battalion, 8th Company (Germany Township), York County Militia. Starting on 5 April 1778, Capt. Abraham Sell was placed in charge of the 6th Battalion, 8th Company, York County Militia.

That same year, daughter Maria Eva (Sell) Dill and her husband purchased Abraham’s land, with the agreement that Abraham and Hannah could remain, living with their daughter until their deaths.

Meanwhile, the war raged on, finally ending with the Treaty of Paris, signed on 3 September 1783. By the time peace was declared, Abraham Sell was 68 years old.

Three years passed, and Abraham Sell began to feel his age. He decided to draw up a will which was probated on 8 March 1786, in Germany Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania. His sons were named executors.

A few months later, on 16 July 1786, Abraham Sell died at the age of 71 and was laid to rest in the Christ United Church of Christ Cemetery, Littlestown, Pennsylvania.

Categories: Everyday People, On This Day, Taylor-Thomas Line | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Abraham Sell

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Tombstone | Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers

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  3. GenealogyMAD

    Hey cousin 🙂

    Abraham Sell is my 6x great grandfather. I descend via his son, Capt. Jacob Forney Sell Sr – product of Abraham’s marriage with Louisa Charlotte Forney. Thanks for this as I am on a never ending quest for more insight on our shared heritage.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are quite welcome, Aunt Carol Lee! Hugs received and reciprocated… Love you!


  5. I have wondered about that too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Ann Marie. I certainly think our ancestors were interesting. I wonder if they felt the same, or if they considered themselves ordinary.


  7. Thank you, Eilene. Because no one lives in a vacuum, what goes on around us plays a part in everyone’s life. By telling the broader history, I hope to better understand the lives our ancestors led.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Carol Lee

    It is so amazing that you are able to trace so many details of the family history. Even though we didn’t get to know these ancestors, your research and descriptions help us understand the lives they lived. Thank you for all you do. Sending hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your family history is always so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Impressive research and level of detail in your family history story!

    Liked by 1 person

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