John Boorem I



The Boorem family can trace its roots back to immigrant pioneer John Boorem, who probably arrived in America in the early 1890s. According to his burial record he was born on 7 March 1771. Although there exists certain family tradition that mentions a connection with the 18th century Huguenot exodus from France, all reliable pieces of evidence point to John Boorem being of German extraction. He settled in a German community, married a German girl, attended a German church, and is buried in a German cemetery. As such, it is highly improbable that our immigrant ancestor was not of German extraction.

John Boorem settled in Nazareth Township in Northampton County Pennsylvania in the mid to late 1790s. There he married Catherine Fry circa 1796 and began raising a family which included at least seven known children. John's estate papers tell us that our ancestor was a carpenter by trade, although he was apparently also a farmer. As a carpenter, it's conceivable that he was responsible for helping build some of the early houses in the small village of Hecktown, where John and his family lived.

The Dryland Reformed Church in Hecktown got its name because early settlers noted that the land seemed to enjoy greater elevation than most of the surrounding area. It was said that the church was situated on "good dry land," and this early Northampton County church adopted that name. John and Catherine's first child John was born circa 1798, followed by Jacob in 1799. Beginning with the baptism of Jacob, the family makes its first appearance in the records of the Dryland church. This is significant because Jacob's baptism is the earliest Boorem family record I've discovered.

Catherine Boorem was confirmed at the church on 28 April 1799, and her husband John Boorem was confirmed as a "married" adult" in April of 1801. During their marriage Catherine gave birth to seven known children, three boys and four girls, although only Mary, John, Jacob, Catherine and Elizabeth would survive childhood. Mary Boorem married Jacob Bunstein and raised a large family of eleven children. John Boorem II married Elizabeth Nauman and will be discussed later in this essay. Jacob Boorem married Catherine Bunstein and died without issue in 1856. Elizabeth Boorem married Philip Schechterly, and Catherine Boorem married Henry Broeder/Brader, and raised a family of eleven children.

For reasons unknown, John Boorem, the immigrant, died 25 April 1810, one month short of his 39th birthday. Although life expectancy for men was shorter in colonial times, John's death at age 39 has to be considered premature. It is therefore almost a certainty he died from either illness or accident. Although there were Indian attacks in the region, the colonial records of Pennsylvania fail to identify John as a casualty, nor is he listed among provincial troops charged with protecting that area of Pennsylvania.

John Boorem's extensive estate inventory gives us a remarkable insight into the day-to-day lives of our colonial Boorem ancestors. In addition to an extensive list of carpenter's tools, the inventory includes wool, flax, two spinning wheels for making cloth, beehives, a frying pan, corn, cattle, a stove, coffee pot, sugar box, grinding stone, and John's gun, referred to in the estate papers as a "firelock."

John's widow Catherine was granted letters of administration on her husband's estate on 21 August 1810, however shortly thereafter her brother, John Fry, filed a protest at the court in Easton against Catherine's appointment. Apparently he felt that he should be allowed to administer his brother-in-law's estate rather than his sister. In those days women had little legal standing in such matters, however, remarkably, John Fry's protest was denied and Catherine Boorem was allowed to administer her husband's estate. Her final accounting was returned on 14 November 1812, and after all debts and bills were settled, the estate showed a balance of $188.22, far from an insignificant amount of money in those days. In 1810 Catherine Boorem is listed as the head of the Boorem household, appearing as "Widow Boorem" for Nazareth Township.

In her later years Catherine lived with her son Jacob Boorem in Lower Nazareth Township, where for many years Jacob served as Justice of the Peace, beginning a long tradition of Boorem family members serving in local governments. Catherine Boorem died in 1850 at age 76, having survived her husband by some forty years. She was buried at the Dryland Cemetery, along with her husband John, and their children Sarah and Joseph. Jacob Boorem and his wife Catherine were also eventually buried at Dryland, making a total of (at least) six Boorem family members interred in this early Northampton County church. Today most of the original markers have been removed from the older part of the cemetery, including stones that may have once marked the graves of our ancestors. In their place are two dedication markers erected as a tribute to the church's early members.

"To the memory of those buried on Dryland
graveyard. These men, women and children
lived not only for the cause of America,
but all mankind."

Dryland Church Cemetery, Nazareth, Northampton Co., Pa.


John Boorem I: Documents and photographs

1800 Census, Nazareth Township, Northampton County, Pa. In 1800 the Boorem family resided in the small community of Nazareth in Northampton County. John Boorem I makes his first and only census appearance in 1800 where hs is listed as "John Boram".

Administration document from the Estate of John Boorem on file at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton, Pa. (file #2711). The papers name John's wife Catherine as executrix of her husband's estate, and the papers also tell us that John Boorem was a "house carpenter."

Additional photographs and map of the Dryland Church Cemetery
Continue the story with John Boorem II
Return to the main page at the Boorem Family Web Site

Text and photographs copyright © 2014 by Jeffrey L. Thomas, with all rights reserved