July 14, 2001
Mt. Ruhama Church,
RECAP OF A
Pioneering Summitts shaped Catawba.
Family helped develop
settlements in Piedmont into active industries
MAIDEN -- For years, the Summitt family thought their ancestors were Scots-Irish. Then they found the tombstone.
It stands in the cemetery of St. Johns Lutheran Church in Conover, its indented letters so worn by time and weather that Paul Summitt had to rub shaving cream on the stone to see the inscription "Hir ligt begraben Frantz Sammet ..."
Here lies buried Frantz Sam-met, born in Germany in February 1741, who sailed to the American colonies in 1753, who eventually settled in what is now Catawba County and Anglicized his name to Francis Summitt.
"Julia and I came down here about six years ago and found the tombstone ... that was a major breakthrough," Paul Summitt, a family genealogist and retired attorney said Saturday. He and his wife, Julia, had traveled from Freeport, Fla, to Mount Ruhama Baptist Church in Maiden for the first Summitt family reunion. "That's what's known as finding the big kahuna."
You could call Francis a proto-Catawban. His and other German Lutheran families began moving in the mid-18th century from their farms in Pennsylvania and other northeastern states to settle on the Piedmont's arable, largely untouched land.
In time, the farms and settlements became significant land holdings and bustling towns with active industries, and the descendants of German Lutherans still hold considerable sway over the culture and commerce of the Catawba Valley. Families like the Summitts are to Hickory, Newton and Conover what the Pilgrims are to Plymouth.
Paul Summitt had found the root of the family tree, the grave of his great-great-great grandfather. He and other Summitts around the country decided to hold a reunion - a union, really, since most of the Summitts had never met each other. Some didn't even know the others existed. They needed to find a site.
"We thought, "What would be significant for all of us?" said Marilyn Kay Summitt, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney and Francis Summitt's great-great-great-great-granddaughter. "What would be better than the place where he moved, where he lived and was buried?"
So about 70 Summitts from nine states gathered Saturday at Mount Ruhama. They'd planned to meet for three days at St. Johns," but a February fire destroyed the church's sanctuary and forced a change in plans.
"I now have 100 new relatives I'd never met before," Marilyn Kay Summitt said. "It's so fascinating to walk around and see the same nose structure, hear the same children's names, find out we've gone into the same fields ..."
Francis Summitt was the forefather of an entire line of Summitts who eventually settled in Tennessee and Indiana and now live all over the country. The most famous is Pat Summitt, the University of Tennessee women's basketball coach, who married into the family.
Paul Summitt believes Francis traveled with his family on the ship Beulah from Rotterdam, arriving in Philadelphia on Sept. 10, 1753. The family may have lived in Pennsylvania for a time, then western Virginia. Francis bought land in Lincoln County in 1769.
Finally, around 1800, Francis bought 376 acres in the Lyles Creek area just north of Conover, in what was then called Tryon County. He owned about 650 acres when he died in 1818, passing it on to his 12 children.
Through the years, some of the genealogical lines get blurry. Not all of the Summitts at Mount Ruhama on Saturday could trace their lineage back to Francis Summitt, or his children, or his grandchildren. Those who could wore long, scroll-like attachments under their nametags that listed known ancestors in reverse order by generation.
Spellings back then could be arbitrary. "Sammet" shows up in old records as "Samet, .... Summit, .... Sumitt" and other variations. Fluid spellings give genealogists headaches, but discovering places of residence in old land records, even old Bibles, helps ease the pain.
"If you can fred out where your ancestors lived, 99 times out of 100, you can find land records, death records," Paul Summitt said. "It's just a process of elimination."
The process has gotten easier in the past decade. The same family historians who pore through dusty, parchment-thin death records in the basements of courthouses use the latest technology to fmd each other.
"When I began using Internet research,
I was trying to hunt for information on my great-grandfather,
Joseph Harrison Summitt. I did a name search for anyone named
Summitt, and I found some names," Marilyn Kay Summitt said.
"They said, "Well, let's enter your name into our
databank' ... we all started using the same family tree-maker
program, and we got a match. It's wonderful."
PHOTOS BY ERIK PEREL - SPECIAL TO THE OBSERVER (From left) Derick Hartshorn, Georgia Summitt, Debra Summitt and Debby Summitt take a group picture of the Summitt family during "The Ultimate Summitt Gathering: The National Reunion 2001" Saturday at Mount Ruhama Baptist Church in Maiden.
[Charlotte Observer article,
July 18, 2001, pg. 1V, by Greg Lacour]
The following is an e-mail message sent to the
Summitt family members from
Glen Summit of Beverly, Mass.
I returned to Boston from Catawba County yesterday following what was a very fruitful and enjoyable time at Mount Ruhama Baptist Church for the Ultimate Summit/t Gathering: the Reunion of 2001. Summits arrived from Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and, of course, from throughout the great state of North Carolina. Many of them met each other for the very first time after years of sharing family research through e-mail.
Two of the newest member of the Summitt Family were also able to make it. Allison Summitt Miller who was born January 26, 2001 in Virginia came with her mother Julia Summit-Miller. And Caleb Tate Summitt who arrived May 23, 2001 came with his parents Paul David and Nancy Summitt.
Within minutes of beginning, important documentation about Isaac Lanford Summit was presented by descendants of him who still live within minutes of the church. Geneva Ennis brought a copy of Isaac's Bible, which was presented to him during the Civil War by his brother-in-law John Franklin Abernathy in October 1862. It contained the only known documented listing of his birthdate: September 15, 1832.
The Bible also included two letters that Isaac wrote from
the battle lines in Virginia just before he was mortally wounded
at the Battle of Reams Station in Culpepper County, Virginia. The
letters spoke of the difficulty of getting letters through to
home due to cut railroad lines, as well as speculation about what
Grant was about to do. He lovingly asked his "two little
gals" to be good for their mother, Perlina (Abernathy)
Summit, who is my great-great grandmother. A full transcription
will be provided at a later point of the letters.
Geneva was kind enough to allow me to make legible copies of everything. She even brought me to the spot of the old Summit homestead on Mount Ruhama Church Road where Paulina Summit lived in a very old home. (I believe this land to be originally Isaac's and it is still in the family) Nearby she showed me the home of Naomi Summit Caldwell, which is still standing on Mount Ruhama Church Road.
John Allen and Debbie Summitt of Indiana brought a 3-generation print out of the descendants of Johannes Frantz Sammet that took five and half hours to print. After taping it together it spanned the length of an entire hallway in Mount Ruhama, (possibly 30-40 feet long) and about 4-5 wide. It was certainly an amazing example of how prolific the Summit family has been in this county and throughout the United States. Marilyn Kay Summitt of Florida provided name tags for everyone with their complete genealogy, usually completely back to old Francis himself. I gave a short presentation on the early Sammets in Berks County Pennsylvania and their migration routes to Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and probably North Carolina. Paul Moody Summit of Missouri gave an excellent overview of the Summitt Family Quarterly newsletter and its website. Paul Clayton Summit provided excellent insight, as usual, into descendants of Francis Summit himself, the patriarch of the North Carolina Summits.
We also had the distinguished pleasure to meet both Derick Hartshorn as well as Pat Cloninger, local residents who both gave insightful talks of both the history of Catawba County Churches and how to research your family effectively. Pat descends through Dolly Summit, the daughter of Johannes Frantz Sammet, who is buried at Saint Johns Lutheran Church in Conover. Derick for a few minutes escaped with myself, Paul David Summitt of Indiana, and Paul Clayton Summitt of Florida to the old Huit-Tepps Cemetery located in the midst of a residential neighborhood to see where Margaret Summit-Huit is buried in this small family plot. She was born September 19 1780 and then married Louis Huit on November 19, 1816. She died August 31, 1835.
We later ventured out to Mountain View Baptist Church at the re-direction of Pat Cloninger to attempt to find the old grave of Jacob Summit, the son of old Johannes Frantz Sammet. He signed a letter of defense for Reverend Henkel on January 1st 1820 as a member of Lebanon Meeting House, which originally stood near the present church. However, we had some difficulties finding stones that matched up with the time period we were looking for. Then it was found that a marker in a clearing stated that many unmarked graves were in this area toward the back of the cemetery and near a spring. If Jacob is anywhere, he may be in the area not marked.
The Charlotte Obsever arrived at the church with a photographer and interviewed a number of individuals and to capture some images for the July 18th issue of the paper. If you are not local to the Charlotte area, you can go on-line and read the article that way. The Observer took a number of photographs of everyone in attendance on the steps of Mount Ruhama for the article.
Many thanks to Bob Shuping, the son of Maudella Alice Summit, for organizing this event. Especially for keeping it all together, even though our original meeting point burned to the ground a few months ago, St John's Lutheran in Conover.
88 McKay Street
Beverly, MA 01915-3032
"A generation of men is like a generation of leaves: the wind scatters some leaves upon the ground, while others the burgeoning wood brings forth and the season of spring comes on. So of men one generation springs forth and another ceases." - Homer
(this database contain over 17,000 individuals, the majority are Summits)
C. Summitt, P. O. Box 99, Freeport, FL 32439
e-mail address Psumm@AOL.com
By far the largest and most complete Summit family database has been compiled by
Summit, 88 McKay Street, Beverly, MA 01915-3032,
Work: 617-373-7951, e-mail email@example.com
His database can be accessed online at URL http://wc.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=glen.
He welcomes all inquires.