Johannes H. Sauvage

Johannes H. Sauvage was born __ ___ 1698 in either Alsace, France or in Germany. His date of birth is based on the ships passenger lists. His place of birth is more difficult to establish. According to HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL ANNALS OF BERKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA (p. 1622) Soash_681, "John Sauvage, a French Huguenot, was born in Alsace in 1698, and the American progenitor of the Savage family in Berks county [Pennsylvania]." The article goes on to give very accurate information about Johannes Sauvage that has been verified. This seems to be the most accurate record of his birth.  The 1738 ship passengers' list gave his age as forty.

Alsace was technically French in 1698, but the land was disputed as it has been throughout most major wars, including the two World Wars. Most of its population would still have been German speaking, though French would have been the official language. No law could dictate what language was spoken in the streets and in the home, as the French have yet to discover.

The name "Johannes" is the German form of "John", much different than the French equivalent "Jean". This would indicate a German origin, but "Sauvage" is a relatively common French name, meaning "savage" and from the earlier source "of the forest". Alsace would be likely place of origin for this family, being between both nations.

His parents may have fled France in 1685, after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and settled in a German state, often the Palatinate.  Unlike France, Spain and Great Britain, there was no unified German nation at the time, with frequent political or religious wars between the local lords.  The family's migration to German lands would also explain the French/German name. However, most of those Huguenots had left Germany by 1705, which leaves unexplained why Johannes' family did not make the trip earlier as a part of the early German immigrations.  Unlike France, Spain and Great Britain who promoted migration to settle their new colonies, most immigrants from the German lands were fleeing war, famine and religious persecution.

Someone posted on that Johnnes Sauvage was born in 1698 in Plélan-le-Grand, Ille-et-Vilaine, Bretagne, France to Jean Sauvage and Jeanne Perrault and that Johan Heinrich Sauvage was born there in 1731.  I tried to contact her to find her sources, but she did not respond.  There are several problems with this claim.  This Jean Sauvage was baptized 16 October 1700, named Jan.  His parents were married 15 Jul 1698.  Most baptisms took place very soon after birth since so many children died young, but this birth date is not beyond the realm of possibility since there is no firm evidence that Johannes was born in the year 1698.  The biggest problem with this Jean Sauvage being Johannes Sauvage is the location of his birth.  Bretagne is in western France and has no history of early "German" influence.  Johannes' 1761 will was in German and the name Johannes is the German form of the French Jean.  It is far more likely that Johannes was born in Alsace which borders on the current German border.  This area has changed hands between France and Germany many times during the last 300 years.  There are many "French" in the area who speak French as a second language, with a German dialect being their native language.  This seems to be a much more likely location for Johannes' birth.  The Berks County, PA history also gives his birthplace as Alsace.   I went through the birth/baptismal registers for Plelan-le-Grand for 1730 to 1732, and there is no record of Heinrich's birth (Ille-et-Vilaine archives).  To make the leap from this Jan Sauvage (a common surname in France) being our Johannes Sauvage without some supporting evidence is impossible.  

Johannes Sauvage, his wife and at least one child sailed for America on the ship "Winter Galley." Soash_292  Only Johannes' name appeared on the passenger list as only males over 16 were recorded. The ship left from Rotterdam, Holland, making a stop in Deal, England. Only English ships were allowed to make the trip to the new colonies, so they had to make a stop in England. The ship arrived in Philadelphia on 05 Sep 1738. Most of the passengers were listed as Wurtembergers, Hannoverians, Saxons and Alsatians.    Although detailing the life of a different passenger, this link gives good information about the 1738 immigrants.

On the same day, Johannes signed the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown and the Province of Pennsylvania with his initials "I H S" but the S was backwards. "We, subscribers, Natives and late inhabitants of the Palatinate upon the Rhine, and places adjacent, having transported ourselves and families into the Province of Pennsylvania, a colony subject to the Crown of Great Britain, in hopes and expectation of finding a retreat and peaceable settlement therein, do solemnly promise and engage, that we will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Present Majesty King George the Second, and his successors, Kings of Great Britain and will be faithful to the Proprietor of this Province; and that we will demean ourselves peacefully to all His said Majesty’s subjects, and strictly observe and conform to the Laws of England and of this Province, to the utmost of our power and the best of our understanding." Soash_282

Johannes apparently could not read or write as he put his mark rather than signing his name. He also put his mark on his will, which was in German, rather than signing his name. This is important as much of the Anglicization of the Sauvage name probably would not have happened had he been able to write/spell his own name.   The pronunciation of Sauvage in French [SO vaj] differs little from Sowash in German as the letter "v" is pronounced as a "w" in German, so change to Sowash was a simple evolution.

Johannes appeared in the 1738 census  and tax list in Philadelphia Township of Philadelphia County, PA.  He may have immediately gone to where he later bought land.  

One source suggests that Johannes settled in Maryland, but this seems unlikely.  

A land warrant places Johannes in Berks County on 20 Mar 1743, with Johannes listed as "John Sauban/alias Sowass".  Soash_295 Soash_2227  Although the warrant listed the land in Philadelphia County, Berks County was formed in 11 Mar 1752 from parts of Philadelphia County, so although it seems Johannes moved, he remained in the same place, but the land where he lived became part of the new Berks County.

Nearly all farms raised sheep for wool and flax for linen. Wheat was the major crop, often producing a surplus to buy necessities. Paper money and coins were in short supply, so barter was common. See "Oley Valley Heritage" by Philip Pendleton for a good description of this time period.

Johan Sawasch and Susanna served as sponsors at the baptism on 21 Jul 1751 at Mertz Church of Johanes Biking, child of Caspar and Catharina (nee Wernerin) Biking.   This Reformed  and Lutheran church was organized about 1735, with the first log church built in 1747.  It is located about 1.6 miles east of Johannes' land in Dryville, PA.   No doubt Johannes and Susanna were members of the church as their oldest son Henry Sowash was married at the church in 1749 and several family baptisms took place there.

On 25 Mar 1752, Johannes received a warrant for twenty-five acres of land in the newly formed Berks County. Soash_2227  This land was a small triangle south and adjacent to his 1743 land.

From 1754-1763, northern Berks County was often under Indian attacks during the French and Indian War.

On 16 May 1755, Johannes placed an ad in German-language newspaper.  "Johannes Sowasch, in the city of Oley [Oley Township, Berks County], announces that a castrated ox has been held among his cattle for a year now; it is approximately two years old, red and white colored. Whoever can make additional identification and is the owner, should pick him up and pay the payment of the reasonable expenses." Soash_290

In November 1758, Rockland Township was created from part of Oley Township, making it appear that he has moved again, but the township name changed, not his location.  This happened again when part of Rockland Township was used to create Richmond Township.

Johannes' wife was Susanna _______________ , so named in his will. There has been much speculation as to her maiden name. One family story tells that her maiden name was Sauvage and she had no brothers.  She agreed marry Johannes if he changed his name to Sauvage in order to carry on the family name.  This custom was not uncommon in Germany.  Other sources suggest that she was the sister of Isaac Vial, age 29 in 1738, who was also on the "Winter Galley". He seems to be one of the few passengers with a name of obvious French origin. However, there seems to be no evidence to date to support this possibility. An Isaac Will (a possible Anglicization of Vial) is found in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia County, PA. in 1769 as a schoolmaster.

Johannes had two known children although Jordan's History of Westmoreland County, PA. (Vol. 3, p. 42) states that there were four. There are quite a number descendants in Berks County that do not fit into known family groups.  They all retained the Savage spelling rather then the Sowash spelling of the name.  The oldest known person on this "lost" line is Joseph Savage (10 May 1765-16 Dec 1846), probably the grandson of Johannes.  There are also quite a number of early Sawatch/Sawitch families that are connected.

The two proven children of Johannes are Anna Elizabetha and Johan Heinrich/Henry, both mentioned in Johannes' will. Nothing is known of Anna Elizabetha. No record has been found that offers a clue to whether she married or had a family.

Johan Heinrich must have been born in Europe as all males over the age of sixteen were required to sign an Oath of Allegiance upon arrival. He did not sign an oath until later, so he must have been under the age of sixteen when they arrived in 1738. He married in 1749, so he could not have been born after their 1738 arrival. He was probably born about 1731 in Europe and accompanied his parents to America. The passenger records only mention heads of families, so no proof exists as to who else came with Johannes on the "Winter Galley."

Johannes made his will on 16 Feb 1761 in Berks Co., PA. Soash_291 His name was written "Johannes H Sowas". He again made his mark.  It is interesting to note that Caspar Bicking was a witness of signing of the will, the same family for which Johannes served as a baptismal sponsor in 1751.  It is also important to note that he did not name an executor.

In the name of the Lord, Amen

Forasmuch as I, Johannes Sowas Rockland Township in Berks County, according to the will of God and laid down in bodily weakness, but yet in good reason and understanding, as I cannot know how soon the dear God will call me out of this world I will hereby put my Estate and Movables in order as follows –

First it is my will that my Son Heinrich Sowas shall be the only Heir to all of my Wealth and whole Estate as to my Right Title and Interest of all my land, as also to the Creatures together with the Equipment and Household Goods of what name so ever against which I reserve that my Son Heinrich Sowas shall provide for me and his Mother my Wife Susanna during our lives in our present dwelling house with Meat, Drink and Clothing, Together with all Things necessary for our Livelihood.

Secondly – it is my will that my Son Heinrich after mine and his Mother’s death shall pay his Sister Anna Elizabetha 40 shillings I say two pounds current money of Pennsylvania.

This aforewriting I subscribe by two Witnesses and Sealed with my own Hand I declare this to be my last Will and Testament, done ye 16th February, 1761.

Johannes H. Sowas  

The will was proven on 11 May 1761, so Johannes died between 16 February and 11 May 1761.  On 12 May 1761, his wife Susanna renounced becoming administrator of the estate in favor of "Henrich Sowas, the eldest son of the said deceased", since the will did not name an executor.  The naming of Henrich as the "eldest son" clearly indicates that there was at least one other son, probably the father of the Joseph Savage (1765-1846) above. In a 1909 history of Berks County, it mentions Johnannes' grandsons Johannes and Joseph (1794-1873). Soash_681 These are most likely great grandsons of Johannes, the sons of the Joseph (1765-1846) with the unidentified father of this Joseph being a brother to Henrich.

On 19 May 1761, Henrich was named as administrator of the estate Soash_1938 after his mother Susanna renounced her right. Soash_1936  On 18 May 1761, an inventory of the estate was made. Soash_1937  On 8 June 1761, Henrich settled the estate. Soash_4446

Susanna died __ ___ 17__, probably in Berks County. 

It is presumed that Susanna and Johannes were buried on their farm.  Early maps show a cemetery on the property which was vacated in 1865.  Soash_2227  In 1997 the Berks County Association for Graveyard Preservation surveyed the area, suggesting that the vacated graveyard may contain 98 graves, but there were no gravestones remaining. The Sauvage/Sowash/Soash Family Association tried to place a memorial on the graveyard, but the landowner proved uncooperative.  A memorial bench with an embedded plaque was installed near the graveyard on land owned by the Fleetwood Fish and Game Association in 2001 Soash_2225  The graveyard is located at Latitude  40.466695° Longitude -75.776837°

Johannes' descendants    Johannes Sauvage document packet      Reunion packet