An American Family History

Herman Yerkes


"[L]iberty must at all hazards be supported.
We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.
But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us,
at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood."

-- John Adams, 1765


Yerkes has also been spelled Gerkes, Gerckes, Jerghes, Jerghjes, Jurckes,Yercas, Yercks, Yerkhas, Yerkas, Yerkiss, Yerks, and Yerkus
A militia is a military unit composed of citizens who are called up in time of need.
An early American tavern (or ordinary) was an important meeting place and they were strictly supervised. Innkeepers were respectable members of the community. Taverns offered food and drink. An inn also offered accommodation.

The Dutch were the first Europeans claim land in New Jersey. The region became a territory of England in 1664 when an English fleet sailed into New York Harbor and took control of Fort Amsterdam.

Herman Yerkes was born on January 18, 1720 in the Manor of Moreland. His parents were Herman Yerkes and Elizabeth Watts. He was a farmer, a miller and a large land owner.  

His first wife was Mary Stroud. They declared their intention to marry at the Goshen Monthly Meeting in Chester County, Pennsylvania on January 30, 1750. They married on March 22, 1751 at Plymouth Meeting House. Mary was born about 1722 in Whitemarsh. She was the daughter of Edward Stroud. While married to Mary, he became a member of the Society of Friends.

Herman and Mary's children included:
William Yerkes (1752, died in infancy),
Elizabeth Yerkes Hufty (1753, married her cousin John Hufty),
Catherine Yerkes Howell (1755, married Reading Howell),
Edward Yerkes (1757)
Sarah Yerkes (1759),
Stephen Yerkes (1762, married Alice Watson),
Mary Yerkes (1765),
Harman Yerkes (1767, married Margaret Long), and
William Yerkes (1769, married Letitia Esther Long). 

Mary Stroud Yerkes died about 1771. After her death, Herman became affiliated with the Southampton Baptist Church.

He married Mary Houghton, the widow of Richard Clayton, in the same year as the Boston Tea Party on September 30, 1773 at the Southampton Baptist Church by the Reverend Jonathan Blackwood. 

The family were actively involved in the American Revolution. Harman enrolled in the Warminster Company of Associators. Their home was near the battles and one time Mary's house was searched for an American Soldier who she had hidden in a haystack. Their daughter Catherine's husband, Major Reading Howell, was a quartermaster of the Second Regiment, Hunterdon County militia in the early days of the Revolution. On April 5, 1780 he was commissioned deputy quartermaster-general of the Continental army.

In 1780 Harman Yerkes (probably Jr.) was in the 3rd Company, First Battalion of the Philadelphia County Militia.

Mary died in 1785.

He married Elizabeth Ball, the widow of John Tompkins. They married on March 28, 1788 at the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. After they married they moved to his Elizabeth's home, on the Old York Road where she had kept an inn and store.

In 1790 the Harman Yerkes family was in the Manor of Moreland, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

He died on November 29, 1804 in Moreland and was buried in the Southampton Baptist Church Burial Grounds. Elizabeth died in 1819.
Children of
Herman Yerkes
& Elizabeth Watts:
  • Anthony Yerkes
  • John Yerkes
  • Sarah Yerkes Hufty
  • Josiah Yerkes
  • Herman Yerkes
  • Silas Yerkes
  • Elizabeth Yerkes Howell
  • Stephen Yerkes
  • Elias Yerkes
  • Titus Yerkes
  • The Manor of Moreland was composed of a tract of ten thousand acres, and was created, in 1682, by a grant from William Penn to Dr. Nicholas More. Most of the Manor was in Philadelphia County, but is now Moreland Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

    The Society of Friends (Quakers) began in England in the 1650s, when they broke away from the Puritans. Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn, as a safe place for Friends to live and practice their faith.

    The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the 13 colonies which became the newly formed United States.



    4.362. Mary Yerkes,
    Wife of Harman Yerkes of Warminster,
    late Mary Clayton (sic)
    May 10, 1784,
    Proved February 1, 1785.
    Bro. Joseph Houghton and Isaac Hough,
    exrs. Richard Houghton son of Joseph.
    Elizabeth and Mary daus. of Bro. Joseph.
    Elizabeth wife of Isaac Hough Jr.
    Nieces Sarah Vanhorne and Jane Livezey, dau. of Sister Dinah, December'd.
    Nephew John Houghton, December'd.
    Friend Isaac Hough, Sr.
    Wit: Harman Yerkes, Mary Yerkes, Wm. Vanhorn.


    Bucks County, Pennsylvania is one of three original Pennsylvania Counties and was formed in 1682. Originally it was a large territory that included all of what would later be Berks, Northampton, and Lehigh.

    The Boston Tea Party was on December 16, 1773. The Sons of Liberty destroyed an entire shipment of the East India Company's tea by throwing it into the harbor.

    Chronicle of the Yerkes Family: With Notes on the Leech and Rutter Families, by Josiah Granville Leach

    Harman Yerkes (Herman2, Anthony1), fourth son and fifth child of Herman Yerkes by his wife Elizabeth Watts, was born in the Manor of Moreland, Montgomery (formerly Philadelphia) County, Pennsylvania, 18 January, 1720; died there, 29 November, 1804.

    He began his business career as a farmer and miller. From 1752 until 1755, he engaged in mercantile pursuits at Plymouth, but returned to farming the latter year, and continued therein until 1788. He was a large land-owner. His first real estate purchase was made when he was but twenty-six years old, and consisted of a tract of one hundred and thirty-seven acres, located in Plymouth Township, Montgomery County, which he bought, 18 May, 1747, from his brother John, paying him therefore two hundred and ninety-seven pounds.

    It is believed that he removed to the land so purchased at about the time he acquired the same, and that he continued there until about 1762, when he is supposed to have become a resident of Warminster, Bucks County, where, in 1765, he was an overseer of the poor, and where, in 1772, he purchased a plantation of one hundred and eighty-one acres from Joseph Noble. This tract was situated on the Street Road at what is now Johnsville Station on the Northeast Pennsylvania Railroad, and on this tract Harman Yerkes established the first homestead of the Yerkeses in Bucks County, and there some of his descendants have ever since resided. He returned to the Manor of Moreland in 1788, which continued to be his place of residence the remainder of his life.

    Mr. Yerkes was an active supporter of the War of Independence, and in 1775 he and his son Edward, who was but eighteen years of age, enrolled themselves in the Warminster Company of Associators. On 31 July, 1777, he was recommended to the Executive Council by Judge Henry Wynkoop to look after billeting the poor. It is probable that his military service was with the militia only. On more than one occasion the British troopers from Philadelphia were his unwelcome visitors, and his family was subjected to the actual terrors and trials of grim war. In this connection Judge Harman Yerkes, of Bucks County, has contributed the following item:

    His wife, Mary Clayton, proved herself worthy of the duty of taking charge of a young family in such times, as is shown by the following incident, which the writer heard related from the lips of one (Stephen Beans, then a small boy) who was present." The house then occupied by the family stood where the smaller end of the present homestead now stands. It contained a sitting-room and kitchen on the first floor, with an out attachment used as quarters for the slaves. The second floor was divided into convenient rooms by plain board partitions.

    The battle of Crooked Billet fought in 1778, began less than two miles away, and the retreat, or rather rout, of the Americans drifted directly over the adjacent lands. Some of the most harrowing scenes of that dreadful butchery occurred within sight of the Yerkes homestead.

    "The narrator of the story lived at the next place north, on the Street Road, and, the men of the neighborhood being away at the scene of strife, or in concealing the horses and cattle, he [Beans] accompanied his mother to the Yerkes place at the first alarm. While the two women and children were in the sitting room, an American soldier hastily ran into the house, coming from the south side, and took refuge under a bed which stood in the northeast corner of the room. He stated that he was being pursued by the enemy, and in much alarm asked that his place of hiding be concealed.

    Mrs. Yerkes told him he would not be safe there, but that by going out of the back door he could put the house between him and his pursuers, and might reach the next place, where there was a large pile of buckwheat straw, in which he could hide himself. He obeyed her directions, and in a very short time four British soldiers came in the opposite door and inquired for him. The ladies protested that he was not there. The soldiers then looked under the bed, searched the up-stairs rooms, and, after maliciously sticking their bayonets through the bed-clothing, continued the pursuit.

    "The American afterwards returned and thanked the ladies for his deliverance, and stated that the British had trampled over the straw and thrust their bayonets far into it, but fortunately without touching him. They spoke of setting fire to it, but owing to some alarm, abandoned the idea and departed."

    The religious affiliations of Harman Yerkes are matters of some interest to his descendants. His earliest church connection was, probably, either with the Low Dutch Church, in which faith his father was no doubt born, or with the Baptists, the faith of his mother, but on the eve of his first marriage he identified himself with the Society of Friends, his first wife being of that persuasion.

    After this, his speech and manners are said to have conformed to the custom of the Friends; nevertheless, his second and third marriages were performed by Baptist clergymen, and he seems to have become a member of the Southampton Baptist Church, Bucks County, as he was one of the committee of that church, in 1772, for the building of a new meeting-house, and was buried in the graveyard of the same. These latter facts suggest the strong probability that shortly before his second marriage he attached himself to the faith of his mother, and of his distinguished grandfather, the Reverend John Watts.

    His death is thus recorded in the American Daily Advertiser, under date of 7 December, 1804:

    Died, in Moreland Township, Montgomery County, on the 29th of November, Mr. Harman Yerkes, in the 85th year of his age, and on the 2nd inst his remains were interred in the Baptist burial-ground, at Southampton, followed by a numerous train of relatives and friends. In him was united the tender husband, the affectionate father, and the steady friend.

    Yes, he must die! the nearest friend must part;
    The Victor Death, excepts not of a claim;
    And though the stroke may crush a kindred heart
    He heeds it not,—to supplicate is vain!

    He has gone, his spirit has flown to regions of everlasting bliss; but long will he exist in the hearts of those whom he hath left behind,—yea, until time with them shall be no longer, until they like him shall be no more.

    He married (1), at Plymouth Meeting-House, 22 March, 1750-51, Mary, daughter of Edward Stroud, of Whitemarsh. She died circa 1771, and

    he married (2), 30 September, 1773, Mrs. Mary (Houghton) Clayton, widow of Richard Clayton. She died in 1785, and bequeathed a sum of money to the Southampton Baptist Church for building a wall around its graveyard, with which church she was actively identified, and by whose pastor, Reverend Jonathan Blackwood, she was married to Mr. Yerkes.

    He married (3), 28 March, 1788, Mrs. Elizabeth (Ball) Tompkins, widow of John Tompkins. She died in 1819. After this marriage Mr. Yerkes removed to his wife's home, on the Old York Road, in Moreland, where the "widow" Tompkins kept an inn and store, the management of which now fell to Mr. Yerkes.

    Children of Harman and Mary (Stroud) Yerkes:
    William Yerkes, born 10 February, 1751-52; died in infancy.

    Elizabeth Yerkes, born 5 September, 1753; married, 14 April, 1770, John Hufty.

    Catharine Yerkes, born 19 June, 1755; died prior to 30 June, 1821; married Major Reading Howell.

    Edward Yerkes, born 19 April, 1757; was a soldier in the Revolution and later a sea-captain; died at sea.

    Sarah Yerkes, born in July, 1759; died in infancy.

    Stephen Yerkes, born 20 October, 1762; died in 1823; married Alice Watson.

    Mary Yerkes, born 5 January, 1765; died unmarried.

    Harman Yerkes, born 25 July, 1767; died 12 February, 1837; married Margaret Long.

    William Yerkes, born 23 June, 1769; died in 1823; married Letitia Esther Long.

    Slavery is an immoral system of forced labor where people are treated as property to be bought and sold. It was legal in the American Colonies and the United States until the Civil War.
    Byberry is a township in the northeast corner of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. The Walton brothers were early settlers. Moreland Township was just west of Byberry. When Montgomery County broke off in 1784, Moreland was divided into two townships, both called Moreland. In 1917 the Montgomery County Moreland split into Upper Moreland Township and Lower Moreland Township.
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    ©Roberta Tuller 2023
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