Indiana Branamans

Links to Indiana Information
* Christian Brenneman Heads West * On the Road to Indiana * Children of Christian Brenneman and Mary Cresner * Abraham (I) and Susan Kindred * Abraham (I) and Parthena Wood * Abraham (II) and Juliet McDade * Abraham (II) and Adeline Hamilton * Liberty Cemetery


Christian Brenneman (Branaman) Heads West

Christian Brenneman (III) was a true frontiersman.

His years on his uncle's farm would certainly have taught him the necessary survival skills: carpentry, farming, hunting, husbandry.  Christian was literate in both German and English.  His penmanship and grammar indicate that he obtained an above-average education.

A Lutheran hymnal published in 1770 is still in the possession of a descendant (Mrs. Georgia Goodwin of Indianapolis.)  The births and deaths of Christian and Mary's children are recorded in this book along with information regarding some of their grandchildren.

The cover page of Christian Brenneman's hymnal--Gesang Buch--includes a wood cut of Martin Luther.  It is dedicated to "Martin Luther and other Godly teachers."  The format of the book is similar to today's Lutheran hymnals.  The book was published in 1770 in Frnakfort, German.


The ragged edges of the hymnal (left) testify to its frequent use.  The book fit into a carrying case to protect the pages during travel.  The photo on the right shows the inside cover where Christian indicated his ownership in 1777.  The German-style script is difficult to read, but appears to be:  "Dies Buch gehort mier."  This statement, which means "This book belongs to me," was commonly used by Pennsylvania Germans.  It is signed "Christian Brenneman, 1777."  The birt of two of his descendants are recorded  underneath in English script.

On the Road to Indiana

Christian moved all through the Appalachians and Ohio Valley during his lifetime, moving onto new territories just a few years after the Indians were subdued.

[Click for map tracing Christian Branaman's movements from Pennsylvania to Indiana.]

He is believed to have left Pennsylvania in the spring of 1785.  He would have followed the trail blazed by earlier settlers through the Appalachian Valley.

Later in 1785, he married Mary Cresner.  "Cresner" is an anglicized version of the German name "Kostner."  The Cresners were residents of the ephemeral State of Franklin organized by settlers in the western lands of North Carolina (now a part of Tennessee.)  These East Tennessee counties operated an independent state government from 1784-1789.

The young couple, then, continued on to Lincoln County, North Carolina.  The trip would have been made in a Conestoga Wagon filled with farm implements, tools, and provisions.  A cow usually trailed behind the wagon.  By winter, they would have built a log cabin, cleared 30 to 40 acres, and put in a crop of corn.

The German pioneers usually worked together as a community, assisting neighbors in clearing the land.  The trees would be cut down then the logs were rolled together for burning.  (In contract, the fiercely-independent Scotch-Irish cleared their land without community support by girding the trees and waiting for them to rot away.)

During the first year, the pioneers would live on corn meal, pork and game.  Typical dress was the fringed hunting shirt, leggings, and moccasins.

After about four years of hard work, the pioneer would have built a house, bought a carriage, and started sending his children to school.  The early settlers also commonly sold their improvements after 4-5 years and moved on to repeat the process further west.

By 1805 the soil of North Carolina was depleted.  The Branaman family--like many other small farmers in Virginia and North Carolina--moved into the new states of Tennessee and Kentucky--the first areas settled west of the Appalachians.

The stream of settlers passing through the Cumberland Gap was described ay an observer as follows:

"As many as twenty-four horse coaches have been counted in a line at one time on the road, and large broad-wheeled wagons, covered with white canvas stretched over bows, laden with merchandise and drawn by six Conestoga horses, were visible all day long at every point, and many times until late in the evening, besides innumerable caravans of horses, mules, cattle, hogs, and sheep.  It looked more like the leading avenue of a great city than a road through Rural districts."    -- From: "The Southern Highlander and his Homeland," page 35.

Children of Christian Branaman (III) and Mary Cresner

Five children were born to Christian and Mary in Lincoln County, NC:

Each birth was recorded in the hymnal.  The spelling of the last name while in North Carolina and Kentucky was "Braneman," dropping the double "n" used in Pennsylvania.  The current spelling of "Branaman" was first recorded in the hymnal in 1816 after the family had settled in Indiana.

The hymnal includes three other births which "The Brenneman History" identifies as children of Christian and Mary with no information available regarding their descendants.  These three children were more than 10 years younger than Abraham and could be Jacob's children.  The children were:

The 1820 Washington County, Indiana census shows a Jacob Branaman as head of a household that included 4 males under 10 years of age.  It is possible that these three children are Jacob's children and Christian's grandchildren.

A letter from Jacob to his brother Abraham dated March 24, 1849, still survives which indicates that the brothers were not close.  Apparently Jacob had heard through a third part that his parents died nearly six years ago and that Abraham made the comment that Jacob didn't "have enough sense" to claim an inheritance.

Jacob's grammar and spelling reflect very poorly on the quality of frontier education.  [View original of 1849 letter.]  The text of Jacob's letter to his brother Abraham follows:

Washington County, In
March the 24th 1849

Der Sir we are all well at present it has been some time since I have heard from you and I would like to hear from you as luck would have it I have Sence enough to find out how maters is in respect to fathers estate and I want you to do something a bout it Shortly - or I will have to get some body to help you to see to it if you will send me forty Dollars soon and forty Dollars Christmart and I will give you a clair recept.

I don't want to have any Difaculty with you a bout it if can help it and if ther is no other way to settle but by law....that way I supose that this is apart that you said that I could get if I had sence enouf to no how to get at it i will borow some form somebody untill I get threw with you nothing more but remains.  Yours

            Jacob Branaman            to Abraham Branaman

Abraham Branaman (I) and Susan Kindred

Abraham Branaman (I) married Susan Kindred in 1820.  Abraham was 19; Susan, 18.  Abraham was a fourth-generation American.  The Branaman name had been Anglicized; English was their "first" language.  Now Susan Kindred became the first non-German wife.  The Kindreds also brought the Branamans into the English-based Baptist church.  [View Kindred Family History.]

Abraham and Susan were early pioneers in Owen Township, Indiana.  A new law in 1800 set the price of western lands at two dollars per acre and reduced the smallest amount that could be purchased to 320 acres.  The buyer paid25% down (a minimum of $160) and the rest over four years.  This enabled small farmers to purchase land directly from the government rather than through a land speculator.  A real estate appraisement dated April 27, 1859, shows Abraham owned 960 acres valued at $3860 (about $80,000 in 1990 currency.)

Many of the settlers in Owen Township had followed the same pattern as the Branamans: migrating from Pennsylvania southward through the Appalachian Valley to North Carolina--then pushing through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky--and finally crossing the Ohio River into Indiana.

The majority of the settlers were of English descent; the Germans and Scotch-Irish were already intermarrying with the English majority and losing their original ethnic identity.

The first religion to be practiced in Owen Township was the Dunkards, a sect closely related to the German Mennonites.  The name "Dunkards" is derived from the sect's belief in baptism by immersion.  Services were held in the homes in the 1820's; a church was never built.  The Dunkards were eventually absorbed into the Baptist Church.

The Clear Spring Baptist Church [See photo] was organized in 1847.  Meetings were first held in an old log school house.  A small frame church was erected in 1852, and the present building was built in 1868.  Early members included the Branamans, Kindreds, Hamiltons, Owens, Hinkles, Hannas, Foutains.

Abraham (I) inherited the family hymnal.  The births of his 13 children are all recorded on its pages.

Five sons were born to Abraham (I) and Susan.  Two were named for Branaman ancestors--Christian, the grandfather, and Abraham, the father.  The other three inherited Kindred family names:

Susan died during childbirth at the age of 29.

Abraham Branaman (I) and Parthena Wood

Abraham (I) remarried in a few years to Parthena Wood.  Their eight children were:

Abraham Branaman (II) and Juliet McDade

Abraham (II) belonged to the first generation born in Indiana.  "The History of Jackson County" published in 1886 included a brief biography, a portion of which is quoted below:

 "....His early school advantages were only such as the rude log house, with slab benches, afforded.  In the absence of window-glass, paper was used and that generally greased to make it both more durable and serviceable.  He worked for a time at the stone-mason's trade and acquired considerable skill in that trade.  He is a Mason and a member of the Baptist Church..."

Abraham (II) attended one of the first schools in Owen Township.  It was located on the Jacob Wells place about two miles northeast of Clear Spring (Mooney).  The pupils came from less than a dozen families who lived within 3 miles of the school:  Branaman, Kindred, Wells, Owen, Scott, Zollman, and Easton.

Abraham and Juliet were married in Lexington, Kentucky on October 15, 1841.  Juliet was a native of Kentucky and a Methodist.  The name "McDade" is of Scotch-Irish derivation.  No other history is known about the McDades.

Abraham (II) and Juliet had six children:

Abraham Branaman (II) and Adeline Hamilton

 After Juliet's death, Abraham married Adeline Hamilton; they had four more children, naming the first child "Juliet."  There was also a third wife, Hannah Shaw, but they had no children.

Abraham (II) and Adeline's children were:

Liberty Cemetery, south of Brownstown, Indiana

Three generations of Branamans are buried at Liberty Cemetery [See photos.]