This is Tim Benjamin’s article that will appear in the Evening Leader on Monday, March 16, 2020
I would like to introduce you to someone who means a great deal to me, his name is Johan Melchoir Spohn. You might wonder how I know this man. The truth is, I don’t. I have never met him, but I owe him a debt of gratitude I can never repay. You see, he is my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. That’s right, he is my Dad’s, Dad’s, Dad’s, Mom’s, Mom’s, Dad’s, Dad. He was born in Pennsylvania on March 4, 1757 and he died sometime in 1842. Sometime during 1775, he married Christina Ernest. Together, as best I can tell, they had one child, my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Solomon.
In 1889, Johan applied to become a Son of the American Revolution. That means his father, John George Spohn served in the American Revolution. John George was born in Germany and moved to the Pennsylvania prior to Johan’s birth. He joined the Revolution to fight for his new country and was able to come home to his wife, Margaretha, my 5th great-grandmother.
Johan was primarily a farmer in the area of Berks and Crawford, Pennsylvania. He was also active in his church, the Dunkel’s Reformed Church in Virginsville, PA. He sponsored a number of people for baptism in that church.
Johan went on to serve during the war of 1812. He filed for a soldier’s pension. When filing for the pension, he began to sign his name John Spoon, which is a more Americanized version of Johan Spohn. He also dropped use of his middle name of Melchior, which he signed quite often prior to the war of 1812. While I think part of the problem is his name was often misspelled in documents and he may have gotten tired of that, it seems like his time serving his country during the War of 1812 made him realize that this was his home.
He would have had faint memories of the American Revolution in that his formative childhood years would have been during the war and he would have known the struggle his German-speaking father would have gone through. He wanted to serve his community, which is why he would have applied to join the Sons of the American Revolution. This was an organization designed for community service and building up of the small towns springing up all over the country when the soldiers returned after winning the War for Independence. Being the first member of his family born in the United States, he would have had a great love of his country.
Johan lived out his life in the fields of Pennsylvania. He served his country in the war and he raised his family. Johan’s son, Solomon, was born in Pennsylvania on April 28, 1802. In the 1840 census, Solomon was listed as living in Pennsylvania. In the 1850 Census, he was listed as living in Wyandot County, Ohio. Interestingly enough, Solomon moved to a farm near Salem, Ohio. That is interesting because for 7 years, I served Salem UMC in Wyandot County from 2003-2010, very likely in the same area where my 4th great-grandfather would have lived and farmed.
It has probably been well over 100 years since anyone has thought about Johan Spohn as much as I have for this article. But he had a life, he had desires and he made an impact on the world if for no other reason than he set the stage for the life I live today.
The purpose of this article is every life matters. Did Johan or Solomon give any thought to a preacher being among their descendants? Probably not. But they both fought in wars so that I might know the freedoms and privileges I enjoy today. God gave us this life to invest in this world and He has asked us to make the most of it. Who knows who will be thankful for you in the next 100 years? Johan and Solomon never gave it a thought, but I literally owe them my life.