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The Benchoff Family

By Don Benchoff

Christof Freidrich Banzhaf (1745-1831) arrived in Philadelphia on the ship called William Johnston in 1764. He was from Bavaria and settled near present day Emmitsburg, MD where he was a farmer. When the Revolutionary War began, he joined the British Army (we always assumed he joined the English army, but have no evidence of that). He was captured by the Revolutionary Forces and placed in prison at the Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania.

As a Prisoner of War at the Carlisle Barracks he met Suzan Crawford who he later married. In 1781 he was released from prison and was given the choice of being sent back to Germany or taking up land in Pennsylvania. He chose the latter and settled in Charmian near modern day Blue Ridge Summit. He is said to have gone west to Johnstown with his daughter and her husband. Unfortunately, his grave along with others was washed away in the great Johnstown flood.

His son David Benchoff (the spelling of our branch of the family has remained the same since David) 1782-1851, married a Suzana Tressler and had a homestead in Charmian and Blue Ridge Summit. They had 12 children, one of which was my great grandfather, Alexander Benchoff. Alexander married a Mary Jane Harbaugh of the family of the Herbachs of Graceham Moravian Church, Graceham, Frederick County, MD. Alexander Benchoff was captured by General JEB Stuartís Cavalry in October of 1862.

My father always told me that Alex had something to do with the county road system at the time at what level, I am not sure. In any event, he lived in a brick house along the main street in Fairfield for many years. He had three children, Clayton, Edward McPherson (my grandfather 1869-1946) who was a blacksmith and lived in Greencastle until his death and Jennie Benchoff who married a Rickard and had 3 children.

I don't know how accurate all of this is some of the information came from a John Manahan (a Benchoff on his mother's side) who was a professor at the University of Virginia. He later married the woman who claimed to be Anastasia, the surviving daughter of the czar of Russia which was later proven not to be true based on forensic evidence.

The family homestead in Charmian still stands and the last time I was there, it was still owned by members of the Benchoff Family. There is a graveyard on the property and many ancestors are buried there.

*(The spelling of our last name is as follows: Banzhaf, Benchoff, Benshoff, Benshoof as well as other variations)

Know more about the Benchoff Family?
If so, send their story to us at: history@emmitsburg.net