The first Europeans in this area may have been the Scotch-Irish, but the first permanent settlers were German-Swiss Protestants, particularly Lutherans, who began clearing and farming the land in the early 1700s. Other religious groups, particularly Mennonite, migrated into the area from what would become Lancaster and Berks Counties. Even today, most residents of North Annville can trace their ancestry to one or more of those early settlers. The native Indian population was quickly driven north into the mountains, although conflicts between natives and settlers were recorded as late as 1756.
This area was originally part of Lebanon Township of Lancaster County, and then Annville Township of Dauphin County, and then Annville Township of Lebanon County. North Annville became a separate township in 1845, and its borders have remained unchanged since then, except for the southern edge, which was incorporated into the town of Annville in 1912. The township lies within the geographic area known as the Lebanon Valley, between the first two ridges of the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains.
Many of our ancestors emigrated from Baden, Germany. This area is also known as the Rhenish Palatinate. The political history of this area, and all of Germany, in pre-Napoleanic times involves countless wranglings of the local nobility and clergy, where sovereignty and boundaries changed like the wind. The religious history is much more pertinent to our ancestry. Martin Luther began the Reformation in 1517. Many more religious leaders followed. One of them was Menno Simons from Holland, who left the Catholic Church in 1536 to join the Protestant Anabaptist movement. [Anabaptist refers to the practice of baptizing believers, as opposed to the Catholic practice of baptizing infants. The term had a heretical and criminal connotation, so it was not a term that they used to describe themselves.] Menno Simons wrote many pamphlets and books which became important to the group that would be known as Mennonites.
Along with similar groups such as the Amish (followers of Jacob Ammann) and the Baptist Brethren, they were known collectively as the Swiss Brethren. Early Swiss Brethren were martyred, and others suffered civil punishment. Around 1650, the ruler of the Palatinate in Germany promised religious freedom to the persecuted Brethren, many of whom accepted his offer and moved there. However, when the political leadership changed, the Palatinate was no longer a safe haven. The Brethren turned their attention to the new American Province of Pennsylvania, whose proprietor, William Penn, had guaranteed religious freedom.
As a Quaker, Penn was quite familiar with religious persecution. He also recognized the value of a hard-working agricultural class of citizenry. Within a few decades the Mennonites, along with the Amish, poured into Pennsylvania, disembarking at Philadelphia, passing through the village of Germantown, and settling on the fertile lands of what would become Bucks, Berks, Lancaster, Lebanon, and Dauphin Counties. A synopsis of the religious German migration can be found online at The Germans Come to North America.
The Lutherans had a similar history. They emigrated from Germany and Scandinavia to the colonies of New York and New Jersey, and later to Pennsylvania and the rest of America. Two of the most prominent early ministers were John Casper Stoever and his son of the same name, who served as itinerant ministers throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. In 1733, John Casper Stoever Jr became the first Lutheran ordained in America. During his service he performed over 1400 marriages, including many of our ancestors, and a commensurate number of baptisms. His records, which have been translated from German to English, are a major source of genealogy research. He served at both Bindnagle’s Church and at Hill Lutheran Church, where he is buried.