Conrad Ritter / Rutter:  Pennsylvania Pioneer

More on When and How the Rutters Settled in Leacock

Analysis of when the Rutter’s moved to Lancaster and how they acquired their 588-acre tract of land in Leacock Township.


It is conceivable that the Rutters took up the land in Leacock even before the 1728  date noted in the patent.  Paul Lightner Whitehouse, in his excellent website "The Lightner Family," uses land records in Bohemia Manor and tax records in Conestoga to show that the Lightner family moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania in 1724-25.[i]  It is tempting to assume that all of the settlers from Bohemia Manor moved together at the same time.  Certainly families and friends moving to the frontier in groups was a common practice that made sense in terms of mutual support and security.  However, in the case of the settlers from Bohemia Manor, this may not have been the case.

The biggest drawback to assuming a joint migration is that none of the other Bohemia Manor emigrants appear in the 1724/25 tax lists for Conestoga.  Nor do they appear on the Conestoga tax lists for the years 1725/6 – 1726/7, the last tax lists that remain in existence for that period.[ii]  On the surface, this would seem to prove that the other Bohemia Manor emigrants did not arrive until after 1727.  But it is important to remember that only those who had obtained official land rights from the provincial authorities were taxed.  Those who did not have some form of title to the land would not show up on the lists.

The tax lists were not limited to only those who held a land patent or deed of purchase.  The lists also included those who had an official survey returned to the Land Office, even if they had not yet completed the process by filing for a patent.  However, the tax lists did not include outright squatters, or those who had received a warrant (the first step in the patent process), but no survey.  This makes sense, since collecting taxes from squatters and warrantees might be seen to confer rights to land which had not been granted.

Adam’s Lightner’s purchase of 200 acres in Leacock serves as a good example.  Lightner purchased the land from Anthony Prettor, the eastern half of Prettor’s 400-acre tract on Muddy Run.  Although Prettor had not yet filed for a patent on this land, he had arranged for a survey in 1717.[iii]  Accordingly, Prettor’s name was added to the Conestoga tax lists from 1719/20. 

In the Conestoga tax list for 1724/5, Adam Lightner’s name was added to the list right under Prettor’s,.  This makes it clear that Prettor sold the 200 acres to Lightner and reported the sale to the land authorities.  Accordingly, they reduced Prettor’s tax burden and added Lightner to the tax list. 

Note that this only happened because Prettor had a recognized claim to the land in the form of a survey.  None of the other Bohemia Manor emigrants  – Rutters, Skiles, Elrods, Everts, Noachers, Douglas’s or Littles – appear to have settled on land that was previously surveyed or patented.  As such, they would not appear on the tax lists until they obtained official warrants and the surveys were returned to the Land Office.  In all cases, the warrants were not issued until after 1730.  Does this mean they were squatters?  Possibly, but not necessarily.   

The 1763 preamble to Joseph Rutter’s patent states that the Rutters had the “consent of the Commissioners of Property” when they took up their land in 1728.[iv]  If so, why were they not issued a warrant until 1733?  One possible explanation is that the Land Office was reluctant to issue warrants during the 1720’s because ownership of the Province was in legal dispute in England.  Before his death in 1718, William Penn mortgaged the province to pay off his debts.  As a result, it was unclear whether the land (and money obtained from sale of the land) belonged to his heirs or his creditors.  For this reason, the provincial Land Office only issued enough warrants to service Penn’s mortgage debt.  While the Commissioners of Property were reluctant to issue warrants, they did issue “tickets,” which had the same validity as warrants in ordering surveys.[v]  In this case, however, the surveys were not returned to the Land Office until official warrants could be issued, and this came to pass only after Penn’s heirs regained clear ownership of the province in 1730.  It is possible the Rutters and other Bohemia Manor emigrants received such tickets, but if so, no record remains to this day.

Another possibility is that the Rutters purchased land from the leaders of the Palatine community in Conestoga, rather than directly from the Proprietors.  Because many Palatine settlers were unfamiliar with the land acquisition process, and because many of them did not speak enough English to communicate effectively with the Land Office, Palatine community leaders such as Martin Kendig and Hans Herr took it upon themselves to repeatedly purchase large tracts of land which they then resold in smaller subdivisions to other Palatine immigrants.[vi]  The records suggest that some English speculators also did the same.  For example, the Pennsylvania Archives note that in 1719 David Powell purchased the rights to 3,000 acres of land in Conestoga for 300 pounds, which he then sold to "diverse Palatines." [vii]

Traces of this system can be still be found in the records where a settler is said to have warranted land “in right of” someone else.  For example, such a notation can be found in the records for Theodorus (Dorus) Eby’s tract on Mill Creek, where notes on the survey indicate that the warrant was issued “in right of Martin Kendig and Hans Herr.”[viii]  Eby’s tract was warranted and surveyed in 1724, before the chaos of the late 1720’s when the Land Office was effectively shuttered and the Conestoga country filled with immigrants seeking a homestead.  Once some form of order was re-established with the resumption of proprietary control by Penn’s heirs and the establishment of Lancaster as an independent county, such resale agreements may have been honored by the land officials, but not noted when the official warrants and surveys were issued.  For now, this conjecture must remain simply a possibility that requires further investigation and proof. 

All we know with certainty is that the Bohemia Manor emigrants took up their lands in Lancaster sometime between 1723 and 1729,[ix] and that they did not obtain official warrants until 1733 or later.  Indeed, some of the families never did obtain surveys or patents for their land.  The Elrods, for example, received a land grant for 300 acres in 1733 from the Commissioners of Property,[x] but never seem to have obtained a survey.  We know where they settled only because Elrod’s name appears written in the margins of surveys done on behalf of his neighbors.  Records indicate that Elrod again pulled up stakes in the late 1730’s and relocated to the Monocacy River in Frederick County, MD.  His land was divided by his neighbors - John Swope, Peter Eby and John Line – who reported in 1740 that they had purchased the rights from Elrod when he vacated the property.[xi]  This represents another case of “unofficial” land sales among settlers that were only later sanctioned by the Proprietary Land Office.


 [i] Paul Lightner Whitehouse, “The Lightner Family,” www.home.comcast.net/~whitehouse-family/

[ii] Chester County Archives, Chester, PA, County Tax Ordered 1719, C-2, through 1726, C-8a

[iii] Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives & History, PA State Archives, Records of the Land Office: Copied Surveys, 1681-1912, survey no.s D-78-202 and D-78-203;  www.phmc.state.pa.us/

[iv] Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives and History, Pennsylvania State Archives, Records of the Land Office, Lancaster County Patent Books, series AA, volume 4: 369-372

[v] Donna Bingham Munger, Pennsylvania Land Records; A History and Guide For Research (Scholarly Resources Inc, Wilmington, DE), pg. 59

[vi] Martin Hervin Brackbill, “New Light on Hans Herr & Martin Kendig,” Papers of the Lancaster County Historical Society, Vol. 39, No 4, 1935, pg. 81

[vii] William H. Egle, Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd Series, Vol. XIX, Minutes of the Board of Property of the Province of Pennsylvania (K.K. Meyers, State Printer, Harrisburg, 1893), pg. 663

[viii] Survey copied from Taylor Papers collection and in my possession, but survey number unknown

[ix] John Crowman deposition of 1723 indicates that Conrad Rutter was still in Cecil Co., MD, at that time.  Conrad Jr. is listed as a sponsor at the baptism of Wilhelm Skiles, held at the New Holland Trinity Church in 1730, indicating that the Rutters were living in Lancaster Co., PA, by that year.

[x] Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives & History, PA State Archives, Records of the Land Office: Warrant Registers 1733 - 1957, pg. 55;  www.phmc.state.pa.us/

[xi] Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, Bureau of Archives & History, PA State Archives, Records of the Land Office: Copied Surveys, 1681-1912, survey no. A-185-183;  www.phmc.state.pa.us/