Early settler of Warwick Township Christian Bomberger’s legacy lives on here

By on May 23, 2012

By: LAURI-JAYNE DILOUIE Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Gregory Bomberger
The Bomberger farm from the air, circa 1964.

Not many families can lay claim to owning the same farm for nearly 300 years. The Bombergers, ten generations worth, are one of the few. Sunnyside Farm on Memorial Road has been the Bombergers’ homestead since 1732.

"My father’s the eighth, I’m ninth and my son will be the tenth," said Greg Bomberger. "It’s been in continuous Bomberger ownership for 279 years."

In a family book compiled mostly by Lloyd Huber Bomberger, who is Greg’s great-uncle, there are details of the family from 1722 through 1986.

The introduction of the book asks an important question.

"It is well worthwhile for the descendants to study the lives of their forefathers. It is splendid to be able to boast about one’s ancestors. But could those ancestors truthfully boast about is if they were able to appear again in the flesh?"

This Bomberger encyclopedia explains how Christian Bomberger started the first settlement in Warwick Township after he acquired 564 acres of land for himself and his family to farm.

"He received a deed from the Penns, a large seal of beeswax, about three inches wide, with the words, ‘Love, and Peace, and Truth,’ on one side; (and) on the other side, ‘Justice and Mercy,’ (and) is attached to the deed by a blue silk ribbon," Lloyd chronicles.

Greg explained that his father actually had the original deed given to Christian Bomberger from William Penn’s sons. He kept it in his dresser drawer until sometime in the 1980s, when they donated the document to the Mennonite Historical Society.

During the many generations the property was divided to make the farms now surrounding the original tract of land. "My grandfather sold some lots, his father sold some lots off of it too, for people, for homes and different farms and things," said Greg. "And my father looked at that commitment and said, ‘Hey let’s not. We don’t want to sell any more of this; we want to keep it as it is.’ And I’m so glad he did, and I have not sold any parts of it off either."

Greg admitted that it has been a temptation over the years to sell off more land because he has been made offers and it’s easy money. However, he has resisted that temptation to sell, and kept the farm from being divided up any further.

Though there has always been a Bomberger living in the house, the land has not been farmed by one of Christian’s descendants since the 1970s. Greg explained that he has not farmed since his father retired, but his son may, if he chooses to do so.

"I grew up on the farm. We raised corn and hay and also tobacco. My father actively farmed until 1974. He stopped farming at that point, rented out the land, and I graduated from high school," said Greg.

After graduating from high school, Greg worked for Yerger Bros., a company in Lititz as a supervisor of maintenance for 20 years. After that he worked for Graybill’s Tool and Die as a purchasing manager until he retired in 2007. He is currently serving as a lay ministry assistant at Lititz Moravian Church.

"I assist the pastors, I do visitations to nursing homes and shut ins, and help with different programs throughout the church," Greg explained.

His son, Matt, most likely will not farm the land himself, however.

"I don’t plan on farming, but I plan on up keeping it the same way my dad has. He’s done a lot of the base work that needed to be done, since he had bought it from his father, he’s been doing a lot of good work to preserve it." Matt said. "So, I do have plans on living at the farm house at one point. I do plan on carrying on the farm in my family’s name."

Though he doesn’t plan to farm, Matt respects the legacy his family has worked so hard to build.

"Off of my grandfather’s side, I’m the only Bomberger that can carry on the name. It kind of weighs on my shoulders, but I think it’s going to be a good thing."

The family book is packed with interesting accounts, including…

The Bombergers were "among the early settlers of Pennsylvania; they were expert farmers…counted as earnest, sensible, intelligent, God-fearing, industrious, upright men and women," the volume states.

The Lititz area was a much different setting when Christian Bomberger constructed a small dugout off of West Newport Road. Indians lived nearby and …

? The reason the Bombergers ancestors decided to leave Germany in the 1700s was because of his strong aversion to war. Many of his neighbors had moved to Holland and settled there, but Christian Bomberger had heard a glowing report of life in the New Country.

? "The first settlement in Warwick Township was made by Christian Bomberger"

? "Christian Bomberger, Warwick Township’s first settler, left the Fatherland because of hostilities and warfare only to become a fighting man when he reached Lancaster County. He may have found his new home an agricultural paradise but he also discovered that he had to defend it and his family against roving bands of Indians and hungry wolves. And he didn’t own a gun."

? At one time, the farm had an abundant orchard, containing many different kinds of apples. It also had a large portion of paw paw trees which yielded a great crop.

? "Pennsylvania German family names like all other German names may be divided into three distinct classes: first, those derived from personal names; second, those derived from occupation; and third, those derived from the place where the individual lived or whence he came. Our family name no doubt belongs to the latter class. ‘Baum’ means tree in German, ‘berg’ means mountain, and ‘er’ one who or the name as you see means one who came from the tree of the mountain."

? "Until recent years practically all the Bombergers were members of the Mennonite church."

? Like their ancestor, Christian, many of the Bombergers were against war. Paul Huber Bomberger, who was the brother of Lloyd Huber Bomberger, was one of the few that did not hold this opinion, and decided to serve in the military during World War I.

? Catharine Hess Bomberger, who was born in 1851, was married to the Mennonite minister, Henry E. Longenecker. She annually read the Bible through. She spoke both English and German fluently, and by the time she was 86-years-old, she had read through the Bible, in both languages, 35 times.

? The book also has a collection of stories from Walter B. Groff, whose grandfather was Christian B. Butcher. Butcher lived from 1867 to 1960. He had a wonderful memory and enjoyed telling stories of the Bomberger history. One such memory was of Christian H. Bomberger, the Mennonite minister. He did not feel worthy of serving as a minister, however, and would often spend his Saturday evenings alone in his barn, preparing and practicing his Sunday morning message. Because of the barn’s location, it was common for people to walk by it on their way to the store and home again. One such passerby heard Bomberger speaking and came closer to figure out what he was speaking about. Though the young minister was unaware of it, this happened repeatedly. After listening to Bomberger’s private sermons, the man eventually gave his life to Jesus and was baptized into the church.

? "Barbara, eldest granddaughter of Andrew and Barbara Hess (Bomberger) Nissley, has held long-standing family loyalties. She says, ‘Aunt Annie Swartzentruber’s love for travel rubbed off on me!’ Barbara traveled west for the first time in 1929 on her honeymoon with her husband, Henry. In 1976, at age 72 and widowed for two years, Barbara took five grandchildren on an 8,000-mile vacation through the West and the Canadian Rockies. She took that trip again in 1978 with another group of five grandchildren. A few years later she took a third group. In 1986, at age 82, she made the trip with the last group of five grandchildren traveling 10,000 miles. All her 20 grandchildren hold deep lasting memories of their Grandmother Miller."

Greg, like several of the men in his family before him, is a lay minister pastor and is thankful for the Christian legacy that his ancestors have passed down from generation to generation.

"My concern is to promote the God-fearing Christian nature that Christian Bomberger (embodied) and how he had certain values," Greg said. He added that the family book highlights this by including details of Bomberger preachers from different generations.

He pointed out that when Christian first came to Warwick, there were basically no formal churches around, so they had something like a community church where locals could meet for fellowship … and for safety.

"I don’t know what they did for doctor care, I don’t know what they did for all these things that we take for granted, but they were pretty much on their own and had to be self-sufficient for things," Greg said. "I guess they worked together to figure things out."

The Bombergers entered into the Agricultural Preserve Program several years ago and sold the development rights to the township. The Giant and Target stores along with the Heart Hospital and Sechan Electronics together helped purchase the development rights to preserve the farm. This allows commercial areas to expand and provide preservation of farmland.

"So with them coming and saying they want to develop this land the township is saying, ‘OK, you can, but you need to buy development rights to develop that land,’ and it allows the farmers to have income," Greg explained. "I sold my development rights to the 63 acres, the above businesses bought them; they can expand. They’re happy, we’re happy. So, it allows us to continue our farm by paying off debt, repairing the buildings, and providing a trust fund for the farm to continue on its own, so it’s self-sufficient."

Over the years the farm has seen so much change and so much history. When Christian first came over, his neighbors were Native Americans. Greg said that Christian cared for these neighbors and befriended them.

"There were Indian settlements on the land he purchased from William Penn’s sons, and I’m sure he had to allow them to live out their lives there, and wanted to befriend them and so forth," Greg said. "My grandfather found, and I guess my Dad has now, framed arrow heads from our fields, they would go out in the spring time after the winter when the rains had washed the soil away a little bit, and it would expose Indian arrow heads and there were many Indian arrow heads picked up on our farm and so forth from the Indians who had inhabited and hunted in the area from years before."

Now, hundreds of years later, the Bomberger’s neighbors are Amish, and Greg expressed how he has enjoyed making friends with them, just like his ancestor befriended his cross-cultural neighbors 300 years ago.

"And the nice thing is we have Amish neighbors moving in now since I put the farm in the Ag Preserve. We’ve had three neighbors buy the neighborhood farms and they’re all Amish, so I’ve gotten to know my Amish neighbors, and respect their way of life and. I consider them my friends," Greg said. "It’s a very good relationship."

Throughout the abundant American history that the Bomberger farm has seen, it has undergone changes that only centuries of time can provide. However, there are a few things that have not changed over those hundreds of years. From Christian all the way down through Greg, the Bombergers have held to their faith, hard-working nature, and their gift of befriending those around them. More BOMBERGER, page A16

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