Johann Michael Propst was born in 1712 in Bonnigheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany (known as the Rhine Palatine part of Germany). He was the son of Hans Michael (b. 1686) and Barbara (b. 1681) Propst. He went by the name Michael throughout his life.
In 1733, at the age of 21, Michael came to America with his parents and sister Barbara. They traveled from Germany by way of Rotterdam and England on Captain Hugh Percy’s ship, “Samuel”. They arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 17, 1733 and the family settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
On September 25, 1733, Michael married Anna Marie Keller in at the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The church is pictured here below.
They went on to have four children together:
- Philip Propst (b. 1735 – d. 1780)
- Daniel Propst (b. 1736 – d. 1782)
- Leonard Propst (b. 1737 – d. 1801)
- Johann Michael Propst (b. 1738 – d. 1738)
In 1735, Michael purchased 153 acres of land from John Smoze in Lancaster County for the purchase price of 78 pounds. Michael listed his occupation as a tailor at the time.
In the delivery of their youngest son in 1738, both Michael’s wife and son died. Michael quickly remarried Maria Margaretha Corell on December 3, 1738 in New Holland, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They went on to have four children together:
- Johann George Propst (b. 1739 – d. 1750)
- Frederick George Propst (b. 1740 – d. 1801)
- Johann Michael Propst (b. 1743 – d. 1829)
- Margaretha Barbara Propst (b. 1745 – d. 1829)
Following the birth of their youngest child, Michael’s wife died in 1745 during childbirth. Michael again quickly remarried in 1745 to Catherine Elizabeth (last name unknown). They went on to have eight children together:
- Catherine Barbara Propst (b. 1745)
Ludwich Lewis Propst (b. 1746 – d. 1799)
Frederick George Propst (b. 1748 – d. 1801)
Maria Elizabeth Propst (b. 1750)
Maria Eva Propst (b. 1751 – d. 1785)
Barbara Probst (b. 1754 – d. 1829)
George Peter Propst (b. 1755 – d. 1792)
- Heinrich Propst (b. 1759 – d. 1820)
In 1748, Michael and the family moved to Augusta County, Virginia (later renamed Pendleton County, Virginia and then later West Virginia). He purchased 110 acres along the South Fork near what became Propst’s Church. In 1749, he is recorded to entertain many Moravian missionaries from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in his home along the South Fork. There is speculation that he was in fact Moravian, though he was married in a Lutheran church and later founded the oldest Lutheran church in Pendleton County, West Virginia.
By 1750, Michael was listed as a tithable member of Augusta County, Virginia. In 1756, Michael founded the village that would become known as Propstburg and is listed as the road overseer. In 1758, he is also listed as a member of the Virginia Colonial Militia.
In 1761, Michael purchased 415 acres from seller Wood, Green and Russell near Brandywine, Pendleton County, West Virginia.
Michael was naturalized on May 18, 1762 in Staunton, Virginia.
In 1766, Michael purchased 60 acres on South Form Mountain and purchased another 72 acres in 1771.
In 1767, he was appointed a “Processioner” on the South Fork of the Potomac.
In 1769, Michael sold, for 5 shillings, 3 1/2 acres of his 415 acre tract in Propstburg for the building of the first Lutheran Church in West Virginia. Today, the third “Old Propst Church” stands on that site, along with the cemetery where Michael and his wife, Catherine, are buried. This marker is found on the side of the road on Route 21, two miles south of Brandywine, Pendleton County, West Virginia, near the church which is pictured to the right.
Michael was a soldier in the French & Indian War and was then exempted from the Revolutionary War in 1775.
One of the farmhouses on the Propst land is pictured here dating back to the late eighteenth century. It is the farmhouse of Noah Propst, a family member, and an example of the homes on the Propst land.
Michael died sometime between July and August of 1789 in Propstburg, Pendleton County, West Virginia. His will is dated Dec 19, 1785 and ensured that his lands stayed in the family. To date, the original Propst lands in Pendleton County still remains in the hands of Propst descendants and the local telephone books are full of Propsts. His will lists wife, Catherine Elizabeth and son, Henry Propst. Also listed are: Daniel Propst, Sophia Propst, a widow; eldest daughter, Catherine Barbara Propst; second daughter, Elizabeth, wife of John Cowger; youngest daughter, Mary Eve Propst; granddaughter, Elizabeth; sons, Leonard, Frederick, Michael, Henry; heirs of Daniel Propst.
Michael is buried in the Propstburg Lutheran Church Cemetery in Pendleton County, West Virginia. He has two headstones in the cemetery. The original stone says: “M.P. 1789″. A newer marker for John Michael Propst has been added in the churchyard laying beside the original marker of limestone or sandstone. The final picture is a view of the Propstburg Lutheran Church Cemetery as it exists today.