George Bisbing and His Hearth

There was a story about a Whitpain Militia member who made a hearth out of 50 flat tombstones from an abandoned cemetery:

"The story goes on that the ghosts of those fifty dead would gather each night at George Bisbing's fireside."

Who Was George Bisbing?


George Bisbing (1729-1808) was born in Goshenhoppen, PA in Berks County. He then moved to Whitpain, and lived there all his life. Based on the name and origin of the town, George came from German descent. He was the son of Henrich (Henry) and Margaretha Ingelraht Bisbing.


He was a farmer while living in Whitpain, according to a list of taxables in Whitpain in 1785. He was a member of the Whitpain Militia during the Revolutionary War, as a private under the leadership of Captain Abraham Wentz.


He was married to Margaret Elisabeth Kugler, and had 7 children.


George was buried in Saint John's Lutheran Church Cemetery in Centre Square.

Whitpain Farm


The Whitpain Farm dates back as early as when William Penn stepped foot into today's Pennsylvania.

"In 1683, he became seized in fee of 4500 acres in Philadelphia County, Province of Penn."

This tract belonged to a man name Richard Whitpain. He was a butcher from London, England. He distinguished his tract of land by calling it "Whitpain's Plantation" or "Whitpain's Creek."


The thing was that Richard didn't step foot into Pennsylvania. It was only his family members and relatives who came to Philadelphia to attend Quaker monthly meetings.


His son Zacherias took over the plantation, and gathered a number of tenants around him, including his sister Ann and her husband Thomas McCarty. They were recognized as the first settlers in Whitpain Township.


In 1704, Ann and Thomas bought 250 acres of land on the south side of Skippack Pike. In the same year, Thomas cleared some parts of their land to build a stone house and barn. The features on the house included original paneled solid oak doors, multi-paned windows with locks reminiscent of pre-Revolutionary days, and a loft that could be used as a hideout for the Indians.


Another feature of the homestead was the springhouse. The springhouse was erected over the stream's cool running waters of Prophecy Creek. The purpose of the springhouse was to preserve food in different climates. There was the stone corner chimney used to "smoke" meat in; the lower level was where provisions were kept cold and stored in metal containers.

Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left; J.L. Scott, Publisher
Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., 1916, Plate 28; A. H. Mueller, Publisher

Ann died in 1714, and her grave was located on the edge of the property. Her grave was enclosed with a white picket fence. It was considered the oldest private burying ground in Whitpain.

"The stone monument is an excellent example of colonial memorial sculpture with its winged grim-faced cherub at the top and floral decorations along the sides. The barely visible inscription reads, 'Here lyeth ye body of Ann, late wife of Thomas McCarty, who departed this life March 21 ye year of our Lord 1714-15. Age 57.' On the back of the gravestone is written:

"Although my body lies in earth,

I wish my friends both joy and mirth.

Their interest prize

To live with Christ we all shall rise;

For as the Scripture text declares

That we shall rise; and if not heirs,

Then woe be to that mortal man

That in God's judgement cannot stand."


Fun Fact: A burial site of Hessian soldiers from the Revolutionary War, who were killed on the property while chasing the American patriots after the Battle of Gettysburg, was also preserved.

George Bisbing and Whitpain Farm


George Bisbing bought the property during pre-Revolutionary War time. George added an authentic English library to the original homestead in 1776. Also in 1776, he built a great, large, hospitable-looking fireplace with an oven back of it.


He knew that the fireplace needed flat stones, so he went to an abandoned gravesite, and took 50 flat tombstones for his fireplace. When George sits by the fireplace, the ghosts of the 50 stolen tombstones gathered around the fireplace every night.


NOTE: It was a custom for him to spend hours by his fireside.


NOTE: He had an obsession with the idea that he would have a shortage of virgin timber. He refused to burn anything buy cornstalks.


After George died, it was claimed that his ghost came back and haunted the fireplace. Possibly to "keep tabs" on that timber he was obsessed about.

Take-Aways

  • The fireplace inside the Whitpain Farm was considered a controversial piece of architecture.

  • It's unusual for someone to take abandoned tombstones, and use them for a fireplace.

  • It's unknown where exactly George Bisbing found the 50 abandoned tombstones.

Unfortunately, the house is gone, and is now an open space. It's unknown if the gravesites of Ann Whitpain and the Hessian soldiers are still there. And since the house is gone, I would assume the ghosts of the 50 tombstones and George Bisbing will not come back to haunt the fireplace since the house was demolished.


So does that mean George Bisbing's ghost rests in peace? Were the 50 ghosts of the tombstones still not satisfied with the fact that their tombstones were stolen by George Bisbing? If they weren't, are those ghosts still roaming around the township?


What do you think what happened to George Bisbing's ghost, and the 50 ghosts of the tombstones George used for his fireplace?

Bibliography


"Ancestor Search: Search for Revolutionary Era Ancestors." DAR: Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogy Research. Accessed September 22, 2020. https://services.dar.org/Public/DAR_Research/search/.


"George Bisbing (1729 - 1808)." Ancestry. Accessed September 22, 2020. https://www.ancestry.com/genealogy/records/george-bisbing-24-w2gmf.


Historical sketches : a collection of papers prepared for the Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (Norristown: Historical Society of Montgomery County, 1915): 202-203.


Mueller, A.H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 28, 1916.


Smith, J. L. Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left, 1893.


Whitpain... Crossroads in Time. (Montgomery County, PA: Whitpain Township Bicentennial Commission, 1977): 66, 312-318, 395.


"Whitpain Farms: 1994 Merit Award Winner." Montgomery County Planning Commission: Land Development Awards. Accessed September 23, 2020. https://www.montcopa.org/DocumentCenter/View/3133/LDA_1994_Whitpain_Farmpdfassetguid88a9e3f9-fc78-4023-b70f3577395fce2b?bidId=.


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