Henry Bittinger and Barbara "Barbary" (Bauser) Bittinger

Early Settlers of Present-day Garrett County, Maryland

Western Maryland Bittinger descendants are much indebted to Wayne Bittinger who, over a 22-year period, compiled the most carefully researched family history of western Maryland, and perhaps elsewhere. His remarkable 1986 book (The Bittinger, Bittner, Biddinger, and Bidinger Families--and Their Kin--of Garrett County, Maryland) is a distillation of original research on many of the early families of present-day Garrett County. Its 836 pages include many stories about the pioneer generations of these families, 68 pages of photos of family members born in the early and mid-1800s, full documentation of all information, and a large index, so it's easy to find your way around the book.

Many pioneer families were related by marriage to Henry Bittinger's family. Separate histories of dozens of these are given in the book; most begin in the 1700s. Included are Baer, Baker, Bauser, Beachy, Beeghly, Blocher, Boger, Bowman, Brenneman, Broadwater, Butler, Custer, Detrick (Deitrick), Durst, Ecenbarger, Engle, Fazenbaker, Foust, Fuller, Green, Gronmuller, Handwerk, Hare, Harman, Hoover, Kerling, Lenhart, Lindeman, Lohr, Miller, Mimmie (Mimna), Orendorf, Otto, Peck, Pifer, Platter, Reckner, Ruckle, Rush, Schaaff, Shrout, Sigler, Sloan, Spiker, Stanton, Stark, Walls, Wampler, Weitzel (Weitzell), and Wiland.

The following information about the ancestors of the western Maryland Bittingers, Henry Bittinger and Barbara "Barbary" (Bauser) Bittinger, is summarized, with permission, from Wayne Bittinger's book.

Henry Bittinger was born July 14, 1778, son of Philip Bitner and Juliana Philippina ---. He was baptized in 1779 at the Reformed and Lutheran Union church at Berlin, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. On November 1, 1795, 17-year-old Henry "Bittner" was confirmed into the Lutheran faith at the church at Pine Hill, Somerset County.

Young Henry Bittinger spent some time in the part of the Northwest Territory that is now the state of Ohio. Jacob Brown [the northern Garrett County historian of the late 1800s] wrote of Henry: "He had some experience with the Indians in the Northwest in his early life, but the nature or particulars of which cannot now be given. He used to say he had 'tough times with the yellow buggers.'" (The American Indian in Henry's day was sometimes considered to be colored yellow, instead of red.)

Jacob Brown could not give particulars of Henry's dealings with the Indians, but, fortunately, traditions of these matters have been preserved by Henry's family. A short biography of his grandson Thomas H. Bittinger states that Henry "settled in Ohio, where he often assisted local regiments in fighting the Indians." Henry's granddaughter Lydia (Bittinger) Brenneman reported that he was a scout and an Indian fighter. Lydia said that there was an occasion when he lived with an Indian tribe. Extensive accounts of some of Henry's Indian experiences are included in the genealogy.

Henry married Barbara "Barbary" Bauser of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, who was born in 1772. It is likely that Henry and Barbara were married in Somerset County, for their families were next-door neighbors there. Judging by the birth of their eldest-known child, they were married about 1799. Their children: Peter "Pete" Bittinger (7/17/1800-10/3/1857), Catharine Bittinger (3/4/1802-8/8/1858), Daniel Bittinger (1/6/1804-about 1879), Henry Bittinger, Jr.(?) (possibly born 12/4/1805), Joseph "Joe" Bittinger (about 1807-about the 1870s), a son(?) (born possibly between 1810 and 1820), George Bittinger (between 1810 and 1815-12/14/1846), Jonathan "Jonas" Bittinger (5/14/1814-6/6/1895), Solomon H. Bittinger (5/14/1814-12/27/1871), William H. "Bill" Bittinger (4/24/1817-12/9/1862).

Henry and his wife apparently lived in Brothersvalley Township during the first seven years of their marriage, up to about 1806. There is also some evidence that they spent at least part of the next eight years in Ohio.

Henry eventually settled in western Allegany County (now Garrett County), Maryland. On March 9, 1814, "Henry Bedinger of Somerset County" made an agreement to purchase a 200-acre tract at Ridgley Hill in western Allegany County. This agreement stated that he would pay $250 to Benjamin Duvall, Sr.; this sum was divided into a down payment and a number of notes that came due at later dates. One point in this agreement which caused Henry a good deal of trouble was the fact that he was to receive a deed for the property only after he completed his payments.

This property lies midway between Grantsville and the present-day Bittinger crossroads. It contains some bottomland along the North Branch of the Casselman River, but most of it lies along the southwest side of Ridgley Hill. In addition to having some nice fields and a year-round spring of water, the property had a large stand of sugar maples.

Jacob Brown wrote that Henry lived for years in a log house there, "where he mostly raised a large family of children, nearly all sons, all hardy and capable of great endurance." Henry's new neighborhood was typical of the area that is now Garrett County: There were few people; the land was hilly, rocky, fertile, and thickly forested; wild game--including bear, deer, panther, and wolf--abounded; and there were long, severe winters and both late and early frosts.

In 1815, Henry's name was added to Allegany County tax lists. He had not yet paid for his land and was only taxed for his personal property: two horses ($60 total value), one head of cattle ($8), and other items not described ($20).

The payment of the notes on the Bittinger homeplace may have made for some lean years while getting established in the Maryland wilderness. In addition, the year 1816 brought rugged weather throughout the northeastern United States [and indeed in northern latitudes around the world. The huge volcanic eruption of Tambora in Indonesia deposited such a great cloud of dust into the atmosphere that worldwide weather was affected. The year 1816 became known as the year without summer.] David Harrison Friend (1825-1916), who was born and raised in what is now Garrett County, reported on local conditions: "The spring and summer of the year 1816 were cooler and more frosty than the citizens had ever known; it is said there was more or less frost every month of that year. There was very little sound corn raised here that season, and farmers had to go to the South Branch of the Potomac River to buy corn."

In 1817, Henry was assessed for only one horse ($25), three head of cattle ($14 total), and $10 worth of other personal property.

Jacob Brown gave a description of Henry Bittinger and of events that likely took place a few miles from Ridgley Hill at one of the inns along the National Road that passed through the northern part of the county: "The old father was industrious, honest and orderly, with no disposition to indulge in disturbances, which in his time were only too common. Yet on field days he could enjoy sport and even help to make it; could dance a jig in a barroom with considerable vim with moccasined feet and the accompanying hunting shirt approaching the ankles, when enlivened by the music of Henry Durst, H. Hare and Aaron Ramsey...."

Between the date of Benjamin Duvall's death in 1820 and the 1825 county assessment, Henry apparently paid Benjamin's heir Edward Duvall the last notes on his land at Ridgley Hill. In the 1825 tax list, Henry was assessed for his 200 acres, as well as one horse (valued at $15), three head of cattle ($18 total), and $15 worth of other personal property.

As it turned out, Edward Duvall refused to give Henry a deed for the Ridgley Hill property. To obtain the title to his land, Henry filed suit at the courthouse in Cumberland, Maryland. Jacob Brown wrote that "this land called the plain old farmer to Cumberland, a place he never before or afterwards saw. The object of the trip was to obtain a deed for land. He fell into the hands of the 'scribes,' to be a little plainer--lawyers."

"He came home in a very ill-humor about his 'teet' [deed] for which he had to pay a lawyer 'tin tollars' for writing it, when John Layman [a local justice of the peace] could make just so good a one for one 'tollar.' It is safe to say he never paid another legal fee. That one was enough for de whole family.'"

After about a year, during which legal notices in Henry's behalf were placed in a newspaper, the Duvall heirs were ordered to convey to Henry "a Good & Sufficient Deed" for the property.

In the meantime, Henry had sold his farm, together with livestock and household goods, to his son Daniel for $600. This sum was to be paid in installments to the other Bittinger heirs after Henry's and Barbary's death. Henry and his wife reserved a life interest in the dwelling house. The land subsequently was owned by Daniel's brother George.

During the 1830s, Henry and Barbara left Ridgley Hill and settled on a tract of land farther up the Casselman River. By 1841, local documents were referring to "Henry Bidingers" property as a landmark for assigning work on the road that is now Maryland Route 495. This land was presumably the four 50-acre Military Lots that Henry later owned, a tenth of a mile south of the present-day Bittinger crossroads; Maryland Route 495 cuts across this tract. Henry obtained title to the property in 1844, purchasing it from Jacob Brown's brother Henry Brown. The land was known as "Briar Patch."

In spite of the unattractive name of this property, it is clear that Henry Bittinger had purchased a good piece of land. The "Briar Patch" lay along the top of a very broad ridge that is unusually flat, by Garrett County standards. Henry and Barbara sold their land in pieces to two of their sons, in return for cash and a life interest in part of the eastern half of the property.

Jacob Brown said that Henry lived on the "Briar Patch" for "the remainder of his life and died about the year 1852." The family cemetery on the homeplace at Ridgley Hill was in existence at the time of Henry's death, and it is reasonable to suspect that he, as well as his wife, might have been buried there. The cemetery is located in the yard on the south side of the present Butch Bittinger house. None of the graves are marked with lettered stones. Barbara presumably died in the 1850s.

Beginning in the late 1800s an annual Bittinger Picnic was organized. It continues today. For a number of years, it was held at Elithorp's Grove located between the Lutheran Church and what is now MD Rt. 495. Later, the picnic was moved to the south end of town among the huge old maple trees at Brenneman's Grove. The picnic was a main feature of the social calendar of norhtern Garrett County, with large numbers of people coming from miles around. In recent years, the Bittinger Picnic is no longer held amid rustic park-like settings, but rather at the firehall where facilities are available.

Walt Warnick's Western Maryland Family History Pages. Inquiries about western Maryland Bittinger families are welcome. This site was revised August 29, 1999.