by Reverend Nelson R. Sulouff © 2006-2009

A 1776 immigrant, Johannes Zulauf, is the forefather of all SULOUFFs and nearly* all SULOFFs in America. He was shipped to America in the Knyphausen Regiment, which was contracted on 15 January 1776 by the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel to serve King George III of England in the latter's effort to extinguish an uprising in America. Both parties to that contract expected the use of massive military force would settle problems in the American colonies within the 1776 campaign period. Neither of the contracting parties anticipated it would take seven years before the conflict would eventuate in independence for the British colonies in America.

Johannes Zulauf was born in 1753 (computed from his gravestone in Old Church Hill Cemetery, near Port Royal, Juniata Co., Pa.). Exactly where he was born is still being researched. Here, in a nutshell, is the research accomplished to date (12/5/2009):

A family oral tradition, remembered by a 3rd greatgrandaughter of the immigrant, Helen (Sulouff) Emminger (1915-1999), as she received the tradition from her grandfather, Oliver Burns Sulouff (1862-1947), states that Johannes was "from Elberfeld." A very old town named Elberfeld was located at the northernmost curve of the Wupper River north of Cologne, Germany. In 1929 this town was incorporated into the city of Wuppertal. A research hypothesis, held for many years, assumed this Elberfeld was probably Zulauf's hometown. More recent research renders that hypothesis unlikely: (1) searching for many months through microfilms of 18th-century Elberfeld church records has failed to provide support for the hypothesis and (2) this Elberfeld lies about 100 miles west of the recruiting area assigned to the Knyphausen Regiment in the mid-18th Century. In fact, recent research points to Alsfeld-Hattendorf as a more likely provenance for the immigrant, Johannes Zulauf. A tradition traced back to Johannes Zulauf's youngest daughter, Elizabeth (Zulauf) Noetling (1798?-1888) and passed down in an old handwritten note through six generations of Noetling descendants, states that Johannes' father was named Walter Zulauf and that he died during the Seven Years War. A submission made to the International Genealogical Index (IGI) since 1991 lists a Walter Zulauf born about 1722 in Alsfeld-Hattendorf to parents Adam and Anna Kunigunde (Stotz) Zulauf. The IGI listing also indicates that Walter's parents, both Adam and Anna, were born, married and died in Alsfeld-Hattendorf. This town was located on the southern border of the assigned Knyphausen recruiting area in 1776. So Alsfeld-Hattendorf now appears to be the most likely birthplace for our Johannes Zulauf.

At this point, a noteworthy coincidence siezes our attention. A small village just over a mile southeast of Hattendorf, is today called Elbenrod. In some old records its name also appears as Elberod. In German the "-rod" ending signifies forest land cleared for farming. The "-feld" ending signifies a tilled or pastured field. So the family tradition from Helen Emminger that Johannes Zulauf came from "Elberfeld" might refer to the little village southeast of Hattendorf that is now known as Elbenrod. Perhaps Johannes called this town Elberfeld or Elberod when explaining, in German, the name of his hometown. Or perhaps Johannes wrote the town's name as Elbenfeld or Elbenrod and somewhere in transmission the name was transliterated incorrectly. Search continues at this writing (April 2009) for the mid-18th Century records of the evangelical (i.e., protestant) congregation(s?) in Hattendorf and Elbenrod . It has been learned that these records are preserved in the nearby Immechenhain evangelical parish, which in today's parish structure includes the evangelical congregation in Alsfeld-Hattendorf. (Today's picturesque evangelical church building in Hattendorf, built of sandstone, dates to 1856.)

Hessian military records reveal that Johannes Zulauf arrived in America at Staten Island on 15 August 1776 with the Minnegerode (3rd) Company of the Knyphausen Regiment. As a member of this company, he participated in the battles of Long Island, Brooklyn Heights, White Plains, and in seizing Fort Washington on New York Island (Manhattan). Between 28 November and 14 December 1776 he marched with his unit across Jersey and was stationed at Trenton in December 1776. His name appears on a list of those Hessians who successfully evaded capture when Washington's forces crossed the Delaware and raided Trenton the day after Christmas in 1776 (ref: Marburg 4h 328, 113 3a). The 753 Hessians who escaped at Trenton were re-outfitted and placed in a temporary unit called the "Combined Battalion." As a member of the Combined Battalion, Zulauf participated in the Philadelphia campaign: he was at the Battle of Brandywine; spent the winter of 1777-78 in Philadelphia; the next Spring was at the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse; and then returned to New York Island in July 1778. Here the Combined Battalion remained inactive for a little over a year while exchanged prisoners and new recruits from Hesse-Cassel were added back into their ranks. By the Fall of 1779 the Knyphausen Regiment was finally restored to full strength and the Combined Battalion was decomissioned.  However, the Regimental colors, carried so proudly before the Battle Of Trenton, were not presented at recommissioning ceremonies. The Landgrave of Hesse, so mollified by the debacle that had befallen his troops in Trenton nearly three years earlier, insisted the units of the Kyyphausen Regiment should prove themselves in battle before he would restore their colors.

On 8 September 1779, Johannes Zulauf, in the recommissioned Knyphausen Regiment, sailed out of New York harbor in a British flotilla headed for Canada to stave off an anticipated attack from the French (who had recently entered the war on the American side). It appeared the Regiment might soon have opportunity to prove themselves in battle and rid themselves of the humiliation of having no identifying colors to carry aloft during troop movements. Unfortunately, soon after leaving the Raritan Bay, the British flotilla was caught in an off-shore hurricane that scattered and battered the ships. Johannes' ship, a British brigantine named TRITON, was driven southward instead of northward. It lost both its masts and all its guns in the storm and was captured by American privateers off the Jersey coast on 26 September 1779. 
(Details of this sailing, the storm, and the capture of Hessians on board the TRITON are recorded in the extant journal composed by Captain Andreas Wiederhold, commanding officer of the company in which Johannes Zulauf served.) On the German list of prisoners taken off the ship in Little Egg Harbor, the name Johannes Zulauf is listed among four men categorized as "Dienbe" (Servants). Zulauf and fellow prisoners were marched hastily across Jersey and incarcerated in Philadelphia's Old Gaol. There, on an English list of the prisoners dated 11 October 1779, his name appears among four categorized as "Servants to Officers." From there the Hessian officers and servants were moved on wagons to Reading, Berks Co., arriving the evening of 15 October 1779.

For over a year Johannes Zulauf was classified as a POW in Reading, during which time he and three other men served as attendants to the two Minnegerode Company officers, Captain Wiederhold and Lieutenant Breide. As officers' attendants, they would have been in the private employ of the officers, would essentially have been civilians with a pseudo-military status, and would not have worn military uniforms. Johannes' duty with these officers ended when the officers were exchanged and returned to New York Island (i.e. Manhattan) in November 1780, at which time Johannes remained in Reading. Between that time and 1783, his name appears on Hessian rosters with the consistent notation, "POW." Occasionally there is the additional notation, "location unknown." Family tradition received from Helen Eminger Sulouff, again citing her grandfather Sulouff as source, holds that Johannes was engaged as a scullery worker in a large red brick mansion at an iron furnace during the period of his transition from military to civilian status. Mrs. Emminger stated that in her younger days she travelled some distance with several family members to visit the site of this iron furnace and that, regretably, she could no longer remember its precise location. Johannes Zulauf's name does not appear on the rosters drawn up in the Summer of 1783 in preparation for return of the Hessians to their homeland.

Pastoral records and tax lists disclose what Johannes was doing instead of answering the musters that rounded up Hessian POWs for their return home. He had become married and a resident of Berks Co. His marriage record, written by German Reformed Pastor, William Boos, and dated 28 March 1783 (pastoral acts book preserved in the German Reformed Church Archives, Schaff Library, Lancaster, Pa.), states Johannes was then a resident of Brecknock Twp., Berks Co. His wife was Maria Margaretha Spahr, daughter of Johann Frederick and Anna Margaretha (Schnaeder) Spahr. According to tax records, the Spahrs were residents of Robeson Twp., adjacent to Brecknock Twp. Johannes' bride went by her middle name, Margaret. Her Spahr ancestry has been traced back to the late 15th C. in Germany and Switzerland (courtesy of the late Max Spahr, Pocatello ID). Tax records for 1783 and 1784 show Johannes became a resident of Robeson Twp., Berks Co. On these tax records his name is spelled "John Sulouf," the earliest known deviation from the earlier surname spellings, Zulauf and Zulauff. A surname spelled Zulauf, Zulauff, Sulouf, or any conceivable variant has not been found in the 1790 federal census. Moreover, efforts to identify the Zulauf family living within a household of known relatives in Berks County in 1790 have been unfruitful. No explanation is known for this lack of mention in the first federal census.

Johannes and his wife had at least a son, Jacob, and a daughter, Mary, born in Berks Co. before the family moved west across the Susquehanna River into the northern tip of York Co., Pa. in late 1791. A 1792 deed (preserved in Pennsylvania Archives, Harrisburg Pa.) shows that 142 acres in Newberry Twp.,  York Co., had been conveyed to Johannes Zulauf on 11 March 1791. Since ownership of this acreage was transferred from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we presume Johannes built the 2-story log house situated on the property. The house is still in use at 471 Ironstone Road, which now lies in Fairview Twp., York Co. The old log house now serves as the front portion of a frame building that triples the size of the original residence. The 1798 federal 'glass' tax lists the Zulauf house at this location as 18'x15' and the barn as 31'x20'. The barn no longer exists but an old barn bank, located about 40 yards northwest of the house, confirms where the barn had been located. Since this property appears in the 1798 federal 'glass' tax listing, the house would have had glass panes in the windows rather than the translucent window coverings of vellum or oiled paper which, at that date, were more frequently used for homes built in that area. In the late 1990's, this writer was kindly invited by the current owner to tour inside the house. Windows in the front parlor were observed to have prominent bubbles in the glass panes, most likely dating from original construction. The room's walls were rough, reflecting the wild grape vines typically used as laths to secure plaster on interior walls of homes in that era.  The 1800 federal census shows Johannes with wife, five boys, and four girls in the Zulauf household at this location.

It is evident that the Zulauf family worked hard and lived frugally: they accumulated some measure of wealth over the ten years spent on this York Co. farm. In 1802 Johannes purchased 206-acres of farmland for 600 pounds Sterling
(about $3000), without encumbrance, in (then) Mifflin Co. Pa., near the village of (then) Perrysville. (The deed, preserved in the Mifflin Co. PA courthouse, shows the Zulauf surname erroneously spelled Zuliff.) When Juniata Co. was taken off of Mifflin Co. in 1831, the Zulauf farm came into Juniata Co. and in 1843 Perrysville was renamed Port Royal. In this locality, except for the signature on his will, Johannes Zulauf consistently used the name "John Sulouff" and that is the name inscribed on his gravestone. The name of this family appears as "Suloff" on a list of those who, in 1803, established the first German Lutheran Church in the area, located at what has come to be known as "Old Church Hill," about two miles southeast of Port Royal. (Ref:  History Of That Part Of Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys....; 1886: Philadelphia, footnote p. 804).

Numerous court documents related to settlement of the Zulauf estate, dated between 1838 and 1850, paint a picture of life on the farm in Juniata Co. The farm stretched for 226.5 perches (3737 ft.) along the Tuscarora Creek, which defined its southern boundary, and then the irregular eastern boundary stretched for a distance of about 280 perches uphill to its northernmost corner. Its boundaries and fields were marked off by split-rail fences fashioned from wood secured "on the place." Lower portions of the farm along the Tuscarora Creek were subject to flooding each Spring, damaging rail fences and crops. There was a hand-dug well under roof that provided water for the family and, customarily, there would have been a second dug well near the barn. A springhouse was erected over a spring where items that required cooling were stored. Next to the house was a sizeable truckpatch, surrounded by a "pale" fence, for growing vegetables. There was a 100-tree apple orchard and a cider press. Beekeeping equipment in the inventory indicates they kept bees and had their own honey. Items listed in the estate inventory show that crops raised included wheat, rye, hay, corn, oats, hops, and clover seed. Livestock included chickens, horses, cows, pigs and sheep. Cobbler tools in the inventory suggest Johannes may have made shoes, or at least repaired them. The lot of equipment and tools in the inventory for both farm and house indicate this household was virtually self-sustaining, typical of the pioneer farming families who settled in this region in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.  (Ref: 26 documents preserved in Johannes Zulauf Estate File, Juniata Co. Courthouse, Mifflinburg PA)

Four sons and four daughters born to John and Margaret Sulouff married and had children. About half of their sons and grandsons simplified their surnames from SULOUFF to SULOFF. Daughters married men named KUNKLE, SHULTZ, WISE, and NOETLING. At this update on 8/19/2010, the family historian has information on ten generations, including 2438 descendants and 1218 spouses of descendants. John Sulouff wrote his will in 1828 and signed it "Johannes Zulauf" (preserved in estate file, Juniata Co. courthouse, Mifflinburg PA). He died 23 May 1838 and is buried in the churchyard of Old Church Hill Lutheran Church, Port Royal, Juniata Co. PA. His wife, Margaret, died in 1841 and is buried by his side in Row 15. A memorial plaque, erected in 2006 by this writer, has been placed between their headstones. Three of their children are also buried nearby in Row 15, and this old churchyard contains graves of quite a number of later descendants. Today there are SULOUFF and SULOFF families still living in the Juniata River Valley. Recorded descendants are found living around the U.S.A. from Florida to Oregon and from California to Massachusetts. A few descendants live permanently abroad: one  descendant family is known to be in its fourth generation in England and another is known to be in its third generation in Australia. 
*US Census records 1900-1930 include names of a dozen SULOFFs, a few of whom are shown to be 20th C. immigrants from Russia and the remainder are immediate descendants of these new immigrants. We conclude the concurrence of surnames is purely coincidental and that this small, new SULOFF clan cannot be descendants of the 1776 American immigrant, Johannes Zulauf.
The above biographical sketch is essentially a concise version and updating of material included in earlier works by the same author. In the 1996 Journal Of The Johannes Schwalm Historical Association, Vol. 5, No. 4, the author published the journal's 20-page lead article, Part One of "Johannes Zulauf, Soldier-Immigrant." In the 1997 issue of the same journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, he published Part Two under the same title (pp. 17-37). Part Two focused on 58-years of the immigrant soldier's life as a civilian in Pennsylvania. The author's book, A SULOUFF AND SULOFF FAMILY HISTORY, published in 2001 with a revision and enlargement to 801 pages in 2003, includes additional information and research on the subject. (Library Of Congress call number CS71.Z8662001;
LOC Control number 2002278123; Dewey Classification number 929/.2/0973 Z1). The book is distributed by Rev. Nelson R. Sulouff, 1416 E. Mule Train Drive, Oro Valley AZ  85755-8834. Further details are available from the author via E-mail addressed to

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