With his post-presidency home next to the battlefields of Gettysburg and his brother one of the most-loved presidents of Penn State, President Dwight D. Eisenhower has always been an honorary Pennsylvanian, and “Ike” continues to hold a grasp on the minds of state residents even today.
But did you know that President Eisenhower was very much a Lebanon Countian by ancestry? This knowledge has been developed over time, due to the difficulty of identifying the genealogy of his family tree given all the different spellings of Eisenhower, including:
Historian Candice Kintzer Perry has presented on this topic, and it’s thanks to her that much of this information has come to light. Kintzer Perry hails from Robesonia, and her family settled in the Tulpehocken just before the Eisenhower’s, so the topic holds a special place in her heart.
The first documented ancestor of Ike’s to land in Pennsylvania was one Nicholas Eisenhower, who became owner of 100 acres of frontier in January 20, 1753 for a purchase price of five pounds. He had arrived in Europe some 12 years earlier aboard the ship Europa, along with three son, and had probably begun working the Bethel Township region of Lebanon County sometime before he acquired the land grant. (Bear in mind however that Lebanon County hadn’t yet been incorporated out of Dauphin and Lancaster counties, that wouldn’t happen until 1816.)
The land would remain in Eisenhower hands until 1779, described as oblong in shape with one end near Fredericksburg and the other pointed towards Swatara Creek.
According to Thomas J. Gerhart, President of the Pennsylvania German Society and a historian who has presented on the topic, Peter Eisenhower was married in 1777 in Lebanon County at Christ Lutheran Church in Stouchsburg/Womelsdorf.
The descendant who would be Dwight’s great-grandfather was born Frederick Eisenhower on a Bethel Township farm and would later purchase his own farm near Elizabethville in Dauphin County.
Three of President Eisenhower’s ancestors lived in Linglestown and are buried in Wenrich’s Cemetery at St Thomas United Church of Christ. Another is buried at Saint John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Fredericksburg.
Frederick’s son Jacob would take his family west to Kansas in 1878 seeking new farm lands for his church group.
Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz has also spoken with more distant Eisenhower relative Robert Bordner, who discovered the link after putting together some clues from DNA and Ancestry.com. Bordner says that he found a group of about 10 other folks linked to the Lebanon Eisenhower’s through the Lebanon PA Over 40 Group on Facebook.
Eisenhower grew found of Pennsylvania farmlands while in Adams County stationed at Camp Colt in Gettysburg just before World War I. “It is sort of like home,” he is said to have remarked.
Whether he appreciated just how far back that feeling went, we will never know. It is not definitively documented whether President Eisenhower visited Lebanon, although he was known to be a regular around York during his Gettysburg years. He also visited Hershey for a birthday rally at one point. If you know of an Ike visit in Lebanon County, drop me a line.
For more on the topic, try to find a copy of The Relations of Dwight D Eisenhower: His Pennsylvania German Roots, or visit Geni.com to see a digital family tree.
(This post was meant to go up yesterday on what would have been President Eisenhower’s 128th birthday. Our apologies.)