Or “Where in the World is Our Founding Father?”
Burial Location with New Markers -
Peter Filbrun (originally Johann Peter Fillbrunn), the first recorded Filbrun to come to the United States (see “Filbrun Family Biographies”), died December 12, 1873. He was buried next to his first wife, Elizabeth Harshbarger Filbrun who had died on September 11, 1856, in Hickory Grove Cemetery, behind the Maplegrove Old German Baptist Brethren Church at 7524 Agenbroad Road, Bethel Township, Miami County, Ohio. (Note: “The Fillbrunn Family History”, published in 1985, incorrectly lists burial at “Spring Grove Cemetery, Miami County.”)
In April, 2008 a new granite marker containing the same wording as on the deteriorating marble grave stones of Peter and Elizabeth Filbrun was placed between their original grave markers. (See photos) The small Hickory Grove Cemetery has been well cared for over these many years by members of the Maplegrove Church Cemetery Committee, but time and weather made the original grave markers all but unreadable by 2005. With the Committee’s approval, one of Peter Filbrun’s great, great grandsons, William S. Filbrun, had a new stone installed so that any genealogically-interested Filbrun could easily find the final resting place of the founding father and mother of most of the Filbruns in the United States.
At the same time a similar granite marker containing the wording from the deteriorating grave stones of Peter and Elizabeth’s middle son and daughter-in-law, John and Lydia Filbrun, was placed between their original grave markers. (See photos) This second stone is located in the same row, separated from Peter and Elizabeth’s by three small markers bearing the names of children of John and Lydia who died in infancy in the 1850s. (See “Filbrun Family Biographies”.) Peter’s oldest son, Joseph, is buried at Lower Stillwater Cemetery, Salem Bend Drive, Madison Twp., Montgomery County, Ohio. Peter’s youngest son, Henry, is buried at Bear Creek Cemetery, 172 North Union Road at State Route 35, Trotwood, Montgomery County, Ohio.
An even older Filbrun relative-by-marriage is buried in the row just behind Peter and Elizabeth Filbrun. There the original, but clearly legible, limestone grave marker can be seen of Peter’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Harshbarger, who died in 1833. She died only two or three years after arriving in Ohio with her husband, Henry Harshbarger, and her daughters and sons-in law. If Henry is buried in Hickory Grove Cemetery, his grave stone has vanished long ago.
Maplegrove Old German Baptist Brethren Church Background –
One of Peter Filbrun’s ancestors was Alexander Mack who is considered one of the principal founders of what became in America the Old German Baptist Brethren Church. Following periods of religious persecution in Germany, Mack and his followers came to America in 1729. When Peter Filbrun arrived in 1818, he settled in the area of Virginia where many immigrants from his part of Germany lived. Whether Peter was already a member of the church Mack had founded or whether he became one in America is not known.
We do know that when Peter and his family moved west to Ohio in 1830 with his in-laws (the Harshbargers and Arnolds) they all were German Baptist members. They soon were attending the church located in a hickory tree grove that became the Hickory Grove Old German Baptist Brethren Church. One of the beliefs of their branch of the Brethren church that caused Alexander Mack’s group to flee from Germany was the need for baptism by full immersion. This undoubtedly was a strong factor in locating the Hickory Grove Church next to, and eventually over, a spring of pure water.
In 1881, the members split into two groups nationwide – the Old Order and the Conservatives. In Miami County a law suit was even filed concerning the location of the new church in relation to the stream fed by the Hickory Grove spring. Peter’s son, John, was a trustee of the Old Order and John’s son, David, was a trustee of the Conservatives. Peter, who died in 1873, didn’t live to see this strife take place and, as a peace-loving Baptist, certainly wouldn’t have approved of his grandson suing his own father. Fortunately, the law suit was settled in a compromise allowing the new church to be built by the Old Order. (For more information about the beginning of the Brethren Church and Alexander Mack, see “A Brief History of the Brethren Church” under “History” and “Alexander Fillbrunn (1644-1682)” under “Filbrun Family Biographies”.)
But why the discrepancy in names – Hickory Grove and Maplegrove? Sadly, the hickory tree grove died away and the church members decided it would be appropriate to use a more accurate name. Thus the church became the Maplegrove Old German Baptist Church while the cemetery, at least for most people, has kept its name Hickory Grove Cemetery.
How to Find Hickory Grove Cemetery –
Hickory Grove Cemetery is located behind the Maplegrove Old German Baptist Church at 7524 Agenbroad Road in Bethel Township, Miami County, Ohio. Directions from the intersection of Interstate 70 and Ohio Route 201 (Brandt Pike) are: Take Rt. 201 north from I-70. From the Rt. 201 & Rt. 40 (National Road) intersection traffic light in Brandt, continue about ¾ mile north on Route 201 (past Bethel School) to Agenbroad Road. Turn right on Agenbroad and continue about ¼ mile to #7524. Turn right onto the gravel lane at the Maplegrove Church sign. The white frame church is partially obscured by trees from Agenbroad and is about two city blocks back this lane. Hickory Grove Cemetery is behind the church. There is parking behind the church or you can drive very near the grave sites if you stay on the large grass area to the right of the small cemetery.
The Peter and Elizabeth Filbrun and John and Lydia Filbrun grave markers are in the second row of old graves. You will see a large walnut tree and a large cedar tree on your left and a tool shed on your far left just before these rows of old graves begin. The new markers placed in 2008 between the original Filbrun markers make these grave sites easy to locate.
Hickory Grove Cemetery is one of the most private and peaceful small, rural cemeteries you will find. It is simple, quiet and well-cared for. While the hickory trees that gave the cemetery its name died away long ago, plenty of maple, walnut, cedar and other native trees are present. These, together with the neighboring open farm fields, provide our Filbrun ancestors with surroundings they would have been familiar with even 150 years ago. Surely they must be at peace here.
William S. Filbrun
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