History of Bucks County, Pa Volume 3 by William H. Davis
Names and Page # Index



PHILIP H. FRETZ. Among the representatives of the old and honored families of Bucks county who, with their respective ancestors, have witnessed the settlement and development of our beloved county from a primitive wilderness, inhabited by a primitive race, to a thickly settled, prosperous, wealthy and enlightened community, is Philip H. FRETZ, of Doylestown township.  He was born in the township in which he still resides, November 22, 1846, and is a son of Philip K. and Anna (STOVER) FRETZ, the ancestors of both of whom had been prominent factors in the development of the natural resources of Bucks county, those of the latter being the pioneer millers of Tinicum and Bedminster and her emigrant ancestor being Henry STAUFFER, who emigrated from Alsace in 1749 and settled in Bedminster soon after that date.  His son Jacob, born May 13, 1757, was the grandfather of Mrs. FRETZ, and Henry, son of the last named, born October 17, 1786, was her father.   Her mother was Barbara STOUT, daughter of Isaac STOUT, of Williams township, Northampton county. And a granddaughter of Jacob STOUT, the emigrant ancestor of the STOUT family of Bucks, an account of whom is given in this work.  Barbara was educated at the Moravian school at Bethlehem, and her husband, Henry S. STOVER, at the Doylestown Academy, under the Rev. Uriah DUBOIS, both receiving unusual advantages in this respect for their day and generation.

                The paternal ancestor of Mr. FRETZ was John FRETZ, who with a brother, Christian emigrated from Manheim, in Baden, Rhenish Prussia, about 1720, and settled for a time in Upper Salford, now Montgomery county, where he married Barbara MEYER, daughter of Hans MEYER, who bore him five children-John, Jacob, Christian, Abraham and Elizabeth.  In 1737 John FRETZ settled in Bedminster township, Bucks county, where he purchased 300 acres of land and lived until his death in February, 1772.

                Christian FRETZ, son of John and Barbara, born in Upper Salford, May, 1734, was reared in Bedminster township, Bucks county, and married in 1757 Barbara OBERHOTZER, born November 10, 1737, died May 8, 1823, daughter of Martin OBERHOLTZER, who was born near Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1709, and settled in Bedminster soon after attaining manhood.  Christian FRETZ on attaining manhood, settled in Tinicum township, where he lived until his father’s death, when having inherited the old homestead, he returned to Bedminster, where he died May 1, 1803.  During the boyhood and early manhood of Christian FRETZ the Indians were still quite numerous in that vicinity, and tradition relates many incidents of the association of the family with the “noble red man.”  At the time of the death of Barbara FRETZ, widow of Christian, in 1823, she was the mother of twelve children, one hundred and nine grandchildren, and one hundred and three great-grandchildren.  The children were: John; Agnes, wife of Abraham BEBIGHOUSE: Joseph: Henry; Martin; Jacob; Abraham; Isaac; Barbara, wife of Henry FRETZ; Christian; Mary, wife of Henry TYSON; and Elizabeth, wife of Abraham MEYER.

                John FRETZ, eldest son of Christian and Barbara, was born in Bedminster, May 24, 1758, and was reared in the Memmonite faith, his parents being members of the old Deep Run Meeting, the oldest Mennonite congregation in Bucks county.  He purchased land adjoining the homestead in Bedminster, and lived there until 1792, when he purchased 300 acres of the Rodman tract in Warwick, now Doylestown township, and settled thereon, building in 1795 the stone house which was standing until about 1898.   He later purchased considerable adjoining land, owning at one time 800 acres along both sides of the Neshaminy, marked on the old maps of the region as “FRETZ Valley.”   He died December 20, 1804.  His wife was Anna KRATZ, born in Plumstead township, November 4, 1764.   She died August 4, 1813.   John and Anna KRATZ FRETZ were the parents of nine children, viz: Christian; Susan, wife of William GARGES; Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Z. SMITH; Mary, wife of Henry GILL; John; Rachel, wife of Abraham F. STOVER; Barbara, wife of John SMITH; Anna, wife of Samuel DUNGAN, and Philip, died young.

                Christian, eldest son of John and Anna (KRATZ) FRETZ, was born in Bedminster township, November 17, 1782, and was reared from the age of ten on the FRETZ Valley farm in Doylestown township, where he spent the remainder of his life.  He was a successful businessman and acquired considerable real estate.  He was a farmer and hotelkeeper, establishing the “Fretz Valley Inn, near the homestead on the Easton road, opposite the almshouse, which he conducted for a number of years.  He died January 28, 1840.  He married April 14, 1808, Mary STOVER, daughter of Ralph and Catharine (FUNK) STOVER, and granddaughter of Henry STAUFFER above referred to, and a great-granddaughter on the maternal side of the pioneer, Bishop Henry FUNCK.

                Ralph STOVER, father of Mary (STOVER) FRETZ, was born in Bedminster, Bucks county, January 10, 1760, and died there November 7, 1811.  He was one of the prominent business and public men of his time.  For many years a justice of the peace, he did a large amount of legal business pertaining to the transfer of real estate and the settlement of estates.  He was a member of state assembly from 1783 to 1799, and was one of the first board of directors of the poor, created under act of assembly of April 10, 1807, and superintended the erection of the almshouse opposite the Fretz homestead.   His daughter Mary was born December 15, 1787, and died in New York, where she had gone to undergo a surgical operation, November 17, 1855.  The children of Christian and Mary (STOVER) FRETZ were six in number, as follows:

1.        Ralph STOVER FRETZ, born in Warwick, November 13, 1809, died in California, June 6, 1867.  He had an eventful career.  Early in life he engaged in business in Philadelphia and later in New York City.  At the latter place he met Commodore GARRISON and became interested with him in several important enterprises.  For some years he ran a line of steamboats on the Mississippi river, and later engaged in a trading and shipping enterprise with Commodore GARRISON at the Isthmus of Panama, in which he was later joined by his brothers John and Christian Augustus.   In 1849 he sailed from the Isthmus to San Francisco, where in connection with the commodore he established a bank and amassed a fortune of a half million of dollars.  The eighth clause of his will reads as follows:

              “Eighth: Considering that I have been greatly blessed and that I have an undying attachment to the Government of the United States, the country of my birth, and remembering that by reason of my age and infirmities during the recent unnatural rebellion to destroy it, I was unable to render service in the field to put down and punish that great crime, and being not unmindful that a huge public burden in indebtedness has been necessarily incurred in accomplishing that object, I desire not only to leave behind me when I am gone an humble testimonial of the gratitude I feel towards those whose virtues, valor and sacrifice and services preserved what I regard as the best government man was ever permitted to have, but beyond that and in addition to paying the ordinary taxes on my estate, I think it my duty out of the means Providence in his bounty has enabled me to acquire, and the Laws of the Country has sided me to preserve, to do something towards extinguishg the National Debt: Therefore moved thereto by the forgoing causes only. I hereby give and bequeath unto the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States of America in trust and to be applied only towards canceling the National Debt, the sum of Twenty Thousand Dollars.”

Dated at San Francisco, May 1, 1867.

2.        John FRETZ, born October 2, 1811, in Warwick, died at White Sulphur Springs, California, where he was operating a gold quartz mill, June 26, 1863.  He had also been associated with his brothers in enterprises at Panama.  Neither of the above were married.

3.        Philip KRATZ FRETZ, see forward.

4.        Elizabeth FRETZ, born February 23, 1818, in Doylestown township, died there February 9, 1897, married John FARREN, of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, January 1, 1844.  He was born March 1, 1809, and died in Doylestown township December 16, 1878.  He was a contractor, and was associated with his brother-in-law, Philip K. FRETZ, in railroad building, etc.  He and his family were members of the Roman Catholic church.  Their children were: Mary Jannetta and Frances Annetta, who died in infancy; John Augustus, born April 21, 1855, died December 17, 1884, married January 25, 1882, Alleta BLEILER; he left no issue.  Mary Cecilla FARREN, born February 21, 1858, died; married June 16, 1881, Samuel J. PENROSE, and has left children, Cyril F., Ralph and Norman.

5.        Christian Augustus FRETZ, born February 23, 1824, died December 1, 1859.  He was a provision merchant at Panama for seven years prior to his death.  He was never married.

6.        Mary Catharine FRETZ, born January 13, 1827, died March 4, 1842, unmarried.

Philip K. FRETZ, third son of Christian and Mary (STOVER) FRETZ, was born on the old homestead at FRETZ valley, now Doylestown township, September 14, 1813, and died on board the steamship “Henry Chauncey” off the coast of the Carolinas, March 13, 1867, while on his way to California.  Mr. FRETZ was one of the Prominent men of his community, not in the sense of seeking or holding public office, but in the doing day by day, as occasion offered, those things that tend to uplift humanity and stimulate in others that love of country and home which is the sheet-anchor of American liberties and citizenship.  He inherited from his forefathers a stern sense of duty, a loving and jovial disposition, and an unswerving directness in following the course which his conscience dictated as right and proper.  One who knew him well has said of him, “To write of him as he was known is to write of the day by day life of the earnest loving Christian who had at heart first, his township, then his county, next his state and finally the best country that God Almighty ever made.”   At the time of the civil war he was one of the foremost in calling meetings to raise funds to clear his district and neighbors of the draft, and, when the money could not be raised in time, advanced it himself and went to Philadelphia and cleared his district of the draft.  He was president of the Democratic club of Pennsylvania before and during the civil war.  About 1850 the cholera, which was prevalent in many parts of the country, broke out with great virulence at the almshouse, and many of the inmates died of the dread disease, several in a single day, and it was impossible to obtain assistance to bury the dead or care for the living; the steward was dying of the disease, and his son was already dean and unburied, when Mr. FRETZ, after removing his wife and family to her father’s residence at Erwinna, with Davis E. BOWER, went to the almshouse and worked till the scourge was abated being unable to find an undertaker who would bury the steward’s young son, he secured a hearse and buried the lad himself.

     Mr. FRETZ succeeded his father as proprietor of the FRETZ Valley Inn, which he conducted until January 9, 1846, the first anniversary of the birth of his daughter, Mary Catharine, when he cut down the sign pole and closed the inn as a public house.   He was extensively engaged in contract work in connection with his brother-in-law, John FARREN, and was one of the contractors to build the horse-shoe curve of the Pennsylvania railroad over the Allegheny Mountains.  He was buried in the Atlantic ocean.  His wife, Anna STOVER, whom he married February 18, 1841, was born in Tinicum township, at Point Pleasant, where her father, Henry S. STOVER, was an extensive miller, September 11, 1812.   She was a fitting helpmate for an earnest loving husband.  Their children were: Charles Augustus, born May 31, 1843, married Susan DERBY, and resided on the homestead until his death, August 12, 1900, without issue; Mary Catharine, born January 9, 1845, married September 8, 1868.   Theodore P. AUSTIN, of Hancock county, Maine: Philip H. and John S. Anna (STOVER) FRETZ died at the residence of her son, Philip Henry FRETZ, October 8, 1889. 

Philip Henry FRETZ, second son of Philip K. and Anna (STOVER), FRETZ, was born on the old homestead, in Doylestown township, November 22, 1846.  He was educated at the public schools of Doylestown and at the famous Tennent School, at Hartsville.  On arriving at manhood he went to New York city, where he engaged for a short time in the manufacture of silver plate.  He sailed from New York for San Francisco, where he engaged in the banking business for a short time, and than returned to the old home in Doylestown township.  His partner in the banking business was Judge PRATT, of California.  The return trip was made overland across the plains by stagecoach, having for traveling companion on the trip his uncles’ old partner, Commodore GARRISON.  In 1871 he erected the buildings and handsome residence now occupied by his brother, John S. FRETZ, and married and lived there until 1879, when, having erected his present handsome residence one mile south of Doylestown, he moved there and has since made it his home, operating his farm and looking after his other properties.   He is the owner of the old Turk mills, one of the oldest mill properties in this section, it having been operated by Hugh MILLER as early as 1745.  Mr. FRETZ is a broad-minded and public-spirited man and is interested in whatever inures to the benefit of the community in which he lives.  He has been an elder of Doylestown Presbyterian church for nearly thirty years.  He was largely instrumental in the building of the chapel at Edison, which was placed under the control of the sessions of the Doylestown Presbyterian church, and is used for Sunday school purposes.  Mr. Fretz being the superintendent of the Sunday school held there, and which by the way is said to be the oldest Sunday school ever held in Eastern Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia.  It was originally held in the old school house at Edison, which was originally builtby and for the use of the neighborhood, long before the days of the public school system, and was rented by the directors after the organization of the public schools for some years, the upper story being used for religious and other local meetings.  After the school directors erected another school house, the old one was sold and the proceeds with liberal contributions from the neighbors was used to erect the present chapel on land donated by Aaron FRIES. In 1881 Philip H. FRETZ was elected to the office of justice of the peace and filled the same for one term of five years.   He was one of the original directors and managers of the Bucks County Trust Company at its organization in 1888, and still fills that position. 

Philip H. FRETZ married, September 19, 1871, Margaret Wilhelmina JOHNSTON, born in Doylestown township, June 1, 1848, daughter of Robert and Wilhelmina (McHENRY) JOHNSTON.  Her father, Robert Johnston, was born in Doylestown township, December 8, 1817.  He died January 25, 1905.  He was a son of David and Susanna (RAILE) JOHNSTON.  His father, David JOHNSTON, was a son of Robert JOHNSTON, an early settler in Huntingdon county, and died in Doylestown township.  October 28, 1867.  He was a soldier in the war of 1812 under Captain William MAGILL.  His wife Susanna RIALE, was a daughter of John RIALE, Esq., of Scotch-Irish descent.  She died August 26, 1866, in her ninety-sixth year.  Wilhelmina McHENRY, mother of Mrs. FRETZ, was born in the old Ross Mansion at Doylestown, April 6, 1818, and was a daughter of Captain William McHENRY, who was born 9 mo. 22, 1794, and died 10 mo. 22, 1880.  He was a son of William and Mary (STEWART) McHENRY, both of whom were of Scotch-Irish descent, the former, born May 6, 1744, died November 25, 1808, was a son of the Rev. Francis McHENRY, the first settled paster of Deep Run and Red Hill Presbyterian churches, and one of the ablest divines of his time.  He was born on the island of Rathlen, Ireland, October 18, 1710, and came to this country when a lad of fourteen and was educated at the famous Tennent Log College at Neshaminy.  He was licensed to preach in 1738 and preached for a time at Neshaminy Presbyterian church, and Deep Run.  In 1748 he took charge of Deep Run and Red Hill churches and settled in Bedminster, where he died January 22, 1757.  His son Charles was a Lieutenant in the continental army.  Mr. And Mrs. Philip H. FRETZ have been the parents of six children: Dr. John Edgar FRETZ, of Easton, Pennsylvania: Anna Leola FRETZ, residing with her parents, Ralph Johnston, deceased; Philip H. deceased; Marguerite Wilhelmina, now a student, preparing for Bryn Mawr; and Edna McHENRY, Died February 21, 1897.

Dr. John Edgar FRETZ was born in Doylestown township, November 29, 1872, and was educated at Lafayette College, graduating in the class of 1893.  He graduated at medical deparment (sic) of Pennsylvania University in 1897.  He began the practice of medicine at Easton.  He was recently honored by the offer of the position of physician and professor of hygiene, anatomy and physiology, in Williams’ College, at Williamstown, Massachusetts, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Professor Luther Dana Woodbridge, M.D.   He however, chose to follow his profession at Easton, where he has a lucrative practice.   He was married, December 7, 1904, to Frances Josephine RODENBOUGH, daughter of Joseph S. RODENBOUGH, of Easton.

Ralph Johnston FRETZ, second son of Philip H. FRETZ, was born February 25,1878, and died December 24, 1899.  He prepared for college under Dr. John GOSMAN, of Doylestown, and entered Lafayette College in the class of 1901, and had returned home to spend the Christmas holidays, when he was taken suddenly ill with acute myelitis, and lived but three days.  He was a bright manly boy and much beloved by his family and classmates, and his sudden and untimely demise was a sad blow.

John S. FRETZ, youngest son of Philip K. and Anna (STOVER) FRETZ, was born on the old Fretz Valley homestead in Doylestown township, September 22, 1850.  He was but seventeen years of age at the death of his father, and resided for some years with his brother, Philip Henry FRETZ, the subject of the preceding sketch.  In 1879 he purchased of his brother his present residence, and has since made it his home.  He soon after erected and equipped a large steam sawmill near his residence, which he has operated for many years.  He is a member of the Doylestown Presbyterian church, and takes an active interest in all charitable objects.  He is the owner of the old Fretz homestead that has been the home of his ancestors for over a century.  He married, in November, 1879, Mary W. LONG, daughter of Henry LONG, of Doylestown, and they are the parents of one son, Augustus Henry FRETZ, who graduated at Lafayette College in the class of 1903, and is now taking a post graduate course there in mechanical engineering.

Test taken from page 143-147 of:

Davis, William W. H., A.M., History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania [New York-Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905] Volume III

Transcribed February 2001 by Joan Lollis of IN. as part of the Bucks Co., Pa., Early Family Project, www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/bucksindex.html

Published February 2001 on the Bucks County, Pa., USGenWeb pages at www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/

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