Bachman & William Penn: Fact or Fiction?
An American Adventure

July 2005 Update

As part of the Bachman / Bachmann / Baughman Y-Chromosome Study new information has come to light regarding the ancestry of the naturalist and clergyman Reverend John Bachman, 1790-1874. A male descendant was located and tested, with the results confirming the naturalist John Bachman's ancestry was from the Swiss Bachman family which lived in Richterswil. The descendant did not match either set of participants with Canton Bern ancestry. His exact relationship to the Swiss and / or Pennsylvania families has yet to be determined, but this new information lays some previous assumptions to rest and raises new areas of research.

The October 2004 issue of the National Genealogical Society Newsletter contains an article by Megan Smolenyak describing the search for Bachman descendants.

Some Bachman researchers have proposed a connection between the George and Maria Bachman family of Upper Saucon Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania and an early Bachman who may have served as secretary to William Penn during his exploration of the American continent, while others claim that the naturalist and clergyman John Bachman, 1790-1874, closely allied with John James Audubon, was a descendant of this same Northampton family. Neither relationship has been documented and both remain unproven, although the new DNA evidence casts the possible connections in a more favorable light.

An early mention of the ancestry of the clergyman John Bachman, 1790-1874, is found in the following paragraph in Bachman's biography, John Bachman, the Pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church, Charleston, published in 1888. The compilation was begun by Bachman's grandson, the Reverend John Bachman Haskell, who died before publication, with final editing by C. L. Bachman. Quoting from a scientific article in a European journal, Bachman himself wrote in 1858:

"My paternal ancestor was a native of the Canton of Berne, Switzerland. After visiting England he came to America as private secretary to William Penn. Finally he settled near Easton, Penn. As a reward for faithful services rendered to the infant Colony, the Government granted him two Townships of land called, 'Upper and Lower Sackeny,' which are now settled by his numerous descendants. He was the seventh generation from the above. My ancestors on my mother's side, were from the kingdom of Würtemberg, Germany." (p. 9)

"His branch of the family removed to Dutchess County, New York. His father, Jacob Bachman, lived in the little town of Rheinbeck, near Schagticoke. He was a successful farmer, who provided well for the comfort of his family. His mother, Eva, possessed sterling qualities; both parents were godly, active members of the Lutheran Church, in the Gilead Pastorate, N.Y. The family consisted of one daughter, Eva, and three sons, Jacob, Henry, and John." (p. 10)

We also learn that "John's father fought in the Revolutionary War." (p. 12)
A Bachman - Penn connection was also mentioned in the 1923 publication Tennessee, the Volunteer State, 1769-1923, by John Moore in connection with Rev. Dr. Jonathan Waverly Bachman, soldier and noted Presbyterian pastor in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Jay Shuler, in his 1995 book Had I The Wings; the Friendship of Bachman and Audubon, embellishes the earlier paragraph as follows:
"His great-grandfather, George Bachman, a native of Switzerland who emigrated to England, came to America in 1753 as secretary to William Penn. Johnny's older brothers were Henry and Jacob, who was named after his father. His only sister, the youngest of the Bachmans, was named for her mother." (p. 18)
Could Shuler have done a bit of research and simply assumed the connection to George Bachman, 1686-1753, given George's stature in the Saucon area?

Bachman's most recent biographer, Lester D. Stephens, in his 2000 book Science, Race, and Religion in the American South: John Bachman and the Charleston Circle of Naturalists, 1815-1895, begins his story with John's life in Rheinbeck, New York, and does not attempt to trace Bachman's ancestry.
"A year after he was born, in a 'humble stone house' in the town of Rheinbeck, New York, his father Jacob, grandson of an immigrant from Switzerland, and his mother Eva Shop, whose ancestors were natives of Würtemberg, had moved up the Hudson." (p. 11)
Known facts, some newly available, do not provide evidence that William Penn had a secretary named Bachman or that there is a connection to the George Bachman family of Upper Saucon.
  • William Penn was not in the colonies after 1701; he died in England in 1718. William traveled to the American continent twice, 1682-1683 and again from 1699-1701. James Logan served as Penn's secretary the latter trip; Logan remained in the colonies and died in Pennsylvania in 1751.
  • George Bachman was born in 1686. He therefore could not have accompanied Penn to the colonies on Penn's first trip and would have been a lad of thirteen at the time of the second trip. (J. Ross Baughman, Apart from the World, 1997).
  • George Bachman was from Richterswil, Canton Zurich, Switzerland, not Berne. (J. Ross Baughman, Apart from the World, 1997).
  • George's father, Jodocus Bachman, was in Richterswil in 1678 at the time of his marriage and again in 1658-1686 around the time of George's birth. It is highly improbable that he accompanied Penn to the colonies during that same time period. (J. Ross Baughman, Apart from the World, 1997).
  • George Bachman could not be both John Bachman's great-grandfather (as asserted by Shuler) and be seven generations removed (as stated in the 1888 biography).
The noted genealogist Mary K. Meyer wrote in the Baughman-Bachman Quarterly, April 1988:
"Myth-Legend No. 2: William Penn's Secretary. The tale that J. George Bachman was William Penn's secretary has been bandied about for years and years. There is no truth to that legend at all. George Bachman died 9 November 1753 aged 67 years. He was therefore born between 10 November 1686 and 9 November 1687. William Penn arrived on the Delaware in 1682, some six years prior to the time that George was even born. Talk about precocity. William Penn's secretary was one Phillip Theodore Lehman. He was a German."
We are thus left with the conclusion, based on currently known facts, that while it is possible but unproven that a Bachman served as secretary to William Penn, the naturalist John Bachman, 1790-1874, was indeed descended from the same Richterswil family as Swiss immigrant George Bachman, 1686-1753, who settled in Upper Saucon, Northampton.

A discussion of some aspects of the Bachman and Penn relationship can be found on the Baughman GenForum. If you have additional information on this matter, please contact Sue Phillips or Phil Ritter.