The first ‘German’ settlers arrived in the late seventeenth century. For them, Pennsylvania was a land of refuge from religious persecution. They had come at the invitation of the English Quaker in 1680, William Penn, to whom Charles II had granted a tract of 45,000 square miles in his newest colonial domain. Penn’s mother was German and he was thus particularly sensitive to the plight of those who were being harried for their beliefs by either Catholic Hapsburgs or Lutheran princes, or both. So they poured across the Atlantic - Mennonites, Schwenkfelders, Seventh-Day Adventists, Amish and Moravians as well as Lutherans. Most came from Swabia and southern Germany, from eastern Switzerland and from the Tyrol.
Buchman’s ancestors travelled from eastern Switzerland half a century or so later, not so much to avoid persecution as to take up free land in a thriving and congenial community. The family’s Swiss citizenship was in the town of Bischofszell. The most noted bearer of the name had been Thomas Bibliander,* who succeeded Zwingli as Professor of Theology in the Academy at Zurich in 153l. At the time when the Turks were besieging Vienna and every pulpit was thundering against the 'Mohammedan enemies of Christ', he issued a medieval translation of the Koran into Latin, the universal language of scholarly Europe. His printer was imprisoned, and he himself was only with the greatest difficulty restrained by his friends from setting off for the Middle East. Frank Buchman, in later years, took much delight in the assumption – suggested to him by a Buchman he met in Paris - that he was descended from Bibliander; but the extent of the kinship is uncertain.1
(* Following the custom of the time, he had adopted the classical rendering of the family name)
The Buchmans who emigrated to Pennsylvania were Martin and his brother Jacob. They left Switzerland in 1750, sailed for Philadelphia from Rotterdam on the Phoenix on 28 August, and then trundled by wagon the sixty miles to Cetronia, where both soon became modestly successful farmers. Martin's son and son-in-law fought in the Revolutionary War, as major and captain respectively, in the Northampton County Militia. Meanwhile in 1738 Buchman's mother's forebear, Jacob Greenwalt,2 had left the canton of Bern with his wife and three sons, become indentured to a farmer for two years to pay for their passage and then settled in the same Northampton county. Young men from both families went West to seek their fortunes. One of Frank Buchman's maternal uncles, Aaron Greenwalt, settled in Anoka, Minnesota. He was one of the first in the state to enlist for the North in the Civil War, and died at the battle of Gettysburg. Buchman's own father, Franklin, got as far as Indiana, where he worked as a road builder - on the ‘corduroy’ roads of those days, made from tree trunks - but then caught malaria and had to be brought home to the family farm. He met Sarah Anna Greenwalt at a picnic and, on 5 January 1875, they were married and went to live at the Greenwalt farm in the lovely hill country around Weisnersville.