Zirkle Family in America

Considerable information about the history of the ZIRKEL Family in America is contained in a sermon delivered by the Reverend Gordon Zirkle on the occasion of the 225th Anniversary Service of the founding of the Little Zion Lutheran Church, Indianfield Road, Telford, Pennsylvania on May 20th, 1955. Ludwig Zirkel donated the land, assisted in building it, and worshipped there with his family. The Reverend Gordon Zirkle's address is as follows:

"Congratulations Dr. Brobst and to all the members of Little Zion Lutheran Church on the celebration of your Two Hundred and Twenty Fifth Anniversary Year!

I have come to join my voice with yours, here in the house our fathers built, to enter into his court with praise as the Psalmist says, for today, the Festival of Pentecost, we are indeed grateful to God for the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I commend you for your faithfulness for two and a quarter centuries, and I rejoice with you on this anniversary year for you are an active, living, growing congregation.

More than two centuries ago when our forefathers, the pioneer settlers, walked upon this new land, they were happy to be here, for the Rhine River Valley in Germany had become a difficult place in which to live and raise a family. The pioneers who settled here in Indianfield, were refuges as well as immigrants from Germany. The Rhine Valley had been a battlefield, caught between armies going back and forth over it. There were wars and rumors of wars, marching and counter marching, hoof beats and shrieking outcries, burning and burying, and blood and grief and senseless destruction for as long as anyone could remember. During the Thirty Years War, whole areas were depopulated.

In the early 1700's, William Penn went to the Rhine Valley, seeking people to settle in his vast tract of land that the King of England had granted him. His mother was German, so when he went through the Rhineland speaking German and inviting people to the New World, there was a great response. Soon there was a steadily growing stream of hundreds, then thousands, who pulled up their roots and headed for the colony far across the vast ocean. Not only was there plenty of land for everyone, its chief city had an appealing name; Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.

There were calm days in crossing the ocean, when the ship would stand still for many days for the want of wind.  On other days, the North Atlantic would test their limits of endurance. Sailors were thrown about as they climbed the rigging, set the sails, battened the hatches and lashed the shifting cargo, as if fighting for their very lives against the raging sea. The passengers were herded below deck, tossed upon each other in the swirling filth. Their food was often foul and wormy, and many were afflicted with scurvy, fever and epidemics. As much as a fourth of the passengers died during the voyage and were buried in the North Atlantic.

When at last they arrived at the Port of Philadelphia, we can only imagine how happy they were to be in the New World   But if they had not been able to pay their fare, they faced the German Slave Market, as it was then called, and were auctioned off as indentured servants to work seven or more years of servitude. When the immigrants reached the growing edge of the wilderness, they leased a tract of land in the wild area, where they began anew to plant their crops, put down roots and to establish themselves. This church was founded about two years before the birth of George Washington. The Will of Ludwig Zirkel reads in part as follows:

"I, being sick and weak in body, but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God….Be it known that I, Ludwig Zirkel, a long time agoe, have given one acre of my land for the proper Lutheran Church where the congregation have built upon, one church. She is to have and to hold, so long as the sun and moon is shining."

With the marriage of his daughter Margaretha, is recorded in your Church Register, in 1753, a notation "have gone to Virginia". Little Zion left an impression upon the Zirkel Family which they took with them to the Virginia frontiers. I feel sure that Pastor Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, the Patriarch of the Lutheran Church in the Colonies, was responsible for this. There were problems within the congregations young people. He wrote in his journal between 1749 and 1751 that due to the congregation having an unworthy pastor, that he himself "instructed the poor young people who had been neglected, and confirmed thirty-two of them".

In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Five Zirkel Brothers were active in the church. Andrew was a delegate to the Ministerium of Pennsylvania in 1784 at which time Pastor Paul Henkel was licensed to preach. Michael Zirkel had his 14 children baptized at St. Mary's Lutheran Church in New Market, my home church.

When the younger generation became crowded for land, they went West and were among the first settlers of Ohio. The signpost of the church they founded at Thackery, Ohio, to this day, bears the name of "Zerkel Lutheran Church".

By faith our forefathers sold their homes, left their native land, crossed the vast and furious ocean, endured servitude, hewed down the forests, cleared the stump, broke the sod, built log houses in the East and sod houses in the West. They constructed barns, court houses, churches, schools, and roads; voted in new governments and created a new style of living, a Nation Under God, who sustained our fathers and is leading us forward toward brotherhood and plenty for all, till the time comes when we shall be gathered up with our faithful brothers and sisters of all generations, "Before the Throne of God and the Lamb".

Little Zion Lutheran Church has been for two and a quarter centuries, a well beside the road, offering refreshment to countless travelers. Here is a quiet place to pause and converse with the Architect of the Universe, and consider the wonder of it all.  May your blessings in the centuries ahead, be as many as the  pebbles on the seashore and the stars in the Heavens! Congratulations."

NOTE: The Family Zirkel arrived from Germany, at Philadelphia, in 1724. Ludwig Zirkel had 5 sons and 2 daughters. He purchased land North of Philadelphia, in Telford, where the family lived until his death in 1748. The mother and the 7 children moved to the Shenandoah Valley about 1751. They settled in the New Market area where they prospered in land holdings. They established schools, churches, farms, and other businesses that are still carried on to this day. On Holmans Creek, near New Market, VA, the Ludwig Zirkel II farm shared a common boundary with the grandfather of Abraham Lincoln. And later, in Oklahoma, a family of Zirkle's were next door neighbors to the James Family (Frank & Jessie). Another illustrious member of the family, Dr. Milton Zirkle, was a Biologist on the Manhattan Project, that developed the Atom Bomb.

Today, members of the Familie Zirkel are to be found in all walks of life, and are scattered throughout the United States.

Information received from Wilhelm Zirkel, Ravensburg, Germany, relates to the origin of the family name. It was written in a book published by Duke Ferdinand of Bavaria, in the year 1603:

"The name Zirkel is explained by Dr. Brinkmeier (Glossarium, Vol. II, p.754) and Dr. Karl Brechenmacher, German Family Names of 1503 as follows: From Bezirk, the German word for County or District, Zirkel or Ring, Round or Gaurde (Wachrunde). Therefore, the original name, Zirker or Zirkeler would have come from a characteristic of the original father during the introduction of family names as such, must have been recorded in the 14th century. The name Zircon first appears in Austria in the 14th century, and reappears in Germany as Zirckel, and becomes Zirkel, in the 15th Century."

Downloaded on 20 Jul 2011 from http://www.zirklereunion.org/?p=1.