Francis Summit & Family



Paul C. Summit


The Summitt Name

 For many years, researchers of the Summitt line seemed to assume the family was of English heritage related to the normal English meaning of  "highest point, part, or elevation" as with the top of a mountain.  This view was shattered with the discovery of the German Lutheran heritage of early Summit(t)s in Eastern Tennessee and Central Indiana.  These Tennessee and Indiana Lutheran Summit(t)s turned out to be directly related to a Francis Summit who settled in the Tyron County area of North Carolina in the latter part of the 1700s, later to become Lincoln County and then Catawba County.  In modern terms, this area is northwest of Charlotte in the area of the towns of Hickory, Newton, Lincolnton, and Conover and crossed southwest to northeast by Interstate 40.

 Francis Summit and his family were apparently the only Summit family in this community.  They were a part of a  growing German community in North Carolina settling west of the Catawba River and from all appearances were devoted Lutherans from the beginning1.   As often happened when continental Europeans found themselves in the English colonies, the names took on a variety of spellings as they appeared in English official records, often in not so successful phonetic replications, or in their native language journals and records.  The early records relating to Francis Summit and his family give an example of these variations as follows:

Frantz (cis) Sammet -- Tombstone old German script located in the St. John's Lutheran Cemetery North of Conover, North Carolina.

Francis Summat (Ger Johannes Frantz (cis) Samet) -- Surety for marriage bond for his daughter identified as Magdlin Summit to Jacob Thronbarg (Ger Dronbarger, Jacob) dated 25 July 1813; witnessed by Philip Henkel (brother of David Henkel, Pastor for the St. John's Lutheran Church at the time)(Bynum, Marriage Bonds of Tryon and Lincoln Counties North Carolina).  This marriage bond contains the only known German signature of Johannes Frantz Samet.

Johannes Frantz/Francis Summit, Lorena Shell Eaker, German Speaking People West of the Catawba River in North Carolina 1750 - 1800, p. 447.

Francis Summit, the form used almost uniformly throughout the estate records and the surname in recording the name of the deceased, his widow, and his children.

Fras Summit -- Revolutionary War Account records of North Carolina (1782).

Frank Summit -- 1790 Census for North Carolina in Lincoln County.

Francis Summit --1800 Census for North Carolina in Lincoln County.

Francis Summit -- 1810 Census for North Carolina in Lincoln County.

Francis Sommit, Surety for marriage bond for his son identified as Daniel Sommit to Sally Moser dated 3 December 1813, witnessed by Philip Henkel (brother of David Henkel, Pastor for the St. John's Lutheran Church at the time)(Bynum, Marriage Bonds of Tryon and Lincoln Counties North Carolina).

Daniel Summit, clear inscription on the tombstone of the son of Francis Summit in St. Paul's Lutheran Church Old Cemetery, Monroe County Tennessee.

Daniel Sammit, Daniel Sammet, John Sammet, Christian Sammet -- forms of the name of individuals known to have been Francis' sons found in various St. John's Lutheran Church and Green County Tennessee Lutheran records recorded in German.

 This author has concluded that the German name of the above individual was Johannes Frantz Sammet and the English version was Francis Summit.  It is likely that the old German  script form on the tombstone of "tz" is a German form of "cis" and thus "Francis".  The German name "Sammet" means "trader in velvet".  This German spelling of the name is particularly important to family researchers since it is probable that the first immigrant(s) in this family entered the port of Philadelphia under the name "Sammet" and used the name in Lutheran records.

 It has not been determined exactly who, and whether with collaboration and communication to other branches of the family, decided the "Summit" name should acquire the second "t" to become "Summitt".  On the tombstones in the Old St. Paul's Lutheran Cemetery in Monroe County, Tennessee, the tombstones of Daniel, the youngest son of Francis, and his wife have the name spelled "Summit", as did the author's great, great grandfather, Jonathan.  The author's great grandfather, James Lee Summitt, was the first in his line to use two "t"s.  On the other hand, the tombstones of three sons of Daniel-- Eusebius, Joseph, and Peter--have the name spelled "Summitt".  Similar phenomena occurred with the Indiana Summit(t)s.   Christian Summit, the eldest son of Francis Summit Senior, buried in the Old Dutch Cemetery in Monroe County, Indiana, spelled the name "Summit", while other descendants of Christian buried in the same cemetery reflect the name "Summitt".  The Summits who settled around Sims, Arkansas shortly after the Civil War have fairly consistently maintained a one "t" structure.

 Needless to say, researchers of the Summit(t) family today will finding living individuals spelling the name with either one or two "t"s, including some tracing their lineage to Daniel Summit.

Francis Summit
(1741 - 1818)

 It is believed that  Frantz Sammet/Francis Summit, the most common German and English versions of his name, respectively [hereinafter generally cited as Francis Summit], entered the country through Philadelphia and came to North Carolina about 1769.  He was born  in February 1741 (as indicated on his tombstone in St. John Lutheran Cemetery near Conover, North Carolina), probably in  Germany.  There are numerous clues suggesting he was a fairly mature person when he came to the United States, such as knowledge of the German language, a willingness to assert the German nature of his name on occasion, owning a German language bible and probably other German language books, and having his tombstone inscribed in old German script.  Some have speculated that Francis was the son of a Jacob Sammet, who arrived in the port of Philadelphia on September 10, 1753 on the ship Beulah2  and might be the Jacob Sammet subsequently located in Earl Township in Berk County, Pennsylvania or the Jacob Summett given a land grant in 1778 by Lord Fairfax in the Northern Neck of  Virginia in Hampshire County (now West Virginia).  Others have wondered if the Frantz Samant that entered through the Port of Philadelphia in 1768 was not in fact Frantz Sammet.  All of this is speculation.  This author leans toward to view that the 1753 Jacob Sammet entering on the ship Beulah is the original German Summit immigrant likely accompanied by his family as was common and might have included our North Carolina Francis Summit.  The only way to resolve the speculation would be to locate the exit documents of Jacob Sammet in Germany to identify his party or pertinent domestic Lutheran or family records--a task not undertaken to date insofar as this author can determine.

 The author has concluded that Francis Summit probably settled on about 150 acres of land in the Leepers/Killian Creek3  area of Lincoln County, North Carolina [then Tyron County] about 1769 on land that belonged to Charles and Robert Abernathy.  The deed from Charles and Robert Abernathy to Francis Summit was actually executed and recorded April 1, 1789, but it was not uncommon in those early days for German immigrants to settle on land without the formalities of ownership.  Shortly after Francis Summit executed the deed for the Abernathy tract, he obtained another 150 acres or so by grant dated May 18, 1789 from the State of North Carolina abutting his already owned land.  His neighbors as noted in the 1789 land grant were John Sutton, John Devault, and George Kominger (probably Cloninger).  Mark Smith has noted4:

If Frantz was on Leepers Creek, he would have been in the East end of today's Lincoln County.  This Creek is near to Killian's Creek, where there was a German congregation, commonly called "Ore Bank," "MacPhelah," or simply, "Killian's Settlement" * * *  My research indicates that the congregation was as early as 1767 (probably much earlier).  In 1767, the "meeting house" is mentioned on a land record, so at least one was already there. * * * [T]he congregation could have been as early as 1754.

 Setting the arrival time in North Carolina and in Lincoln County as about 1769 is speculation to some degree, primarily because the original Abernathy deed to Francis Summit was executed in 1789.  This author believes the evidence supports the conclusion that Francis Summit came to this area of North Carolina well before the 1789 land transactions and that he was living on the Abernathy tract for a substantial period before that tract was actually transferred to him for the following reasons:

First, it is clear Francis Summit owned the Abernathy tract prior to the May 18, 1789 date of the land grant since the land grant survey dated April 29, 1787 (two years before the Abernathy deed) notes his already existing ownership of this tract .

Second, Francis Summit's eldest son, Christian, was born in North Carolina as evidenced by his tombstone and corroborated by 1850 and 1860 Indiana census information indicating he was born May 30, 1769 in North Carolina5  [Christian died on April 18, 1865 in Monroe Co. Indiana, at the age of 95 years, 10 months, and 18 days].

Third, Francis was in North Carolina and received some kind of payment out of the North Carolina Revolutionary War Account in 1782.

Fourth, Francis Summit had five sons and three daughters at the time of the 1790 Federal census for Lincoln County, North Carolina shortly after the 1789 land grant--all but one can be demonstrated as having been born in North Carolina and three specifically in Lincoln County (Margaret, 1780, Francis Jr., 1783, and Elizabeth, 1787).

Finally, it is difficult to imagine this German immigrant farmer to be in Lincoln County, North Carolina with a wife and eight children over this period of time without obtaining land long before 1789.

 Francis Summit was married to a woman named Dolly (perhaps before he came to North Carolina) and they ultimately had at least twelve children--six sons and six daughters--all of whom survived Francis.  Census information gives an idea of the development of the family6.

 The 1790 census indicates that the Francis Summit household was made up of 5 males under 16 (Christian, Jacob, Francis Jr., John, and Henry), 1 male 16 and over (Francis Sr.), and 4 females (Dolly the mother, Dolly, Margaret, and the unmarried Elizabeth).

The 1800 census indicates the household had 2 males under 10 years (Henry and Daniel), 2 males 10 to 16 years (Francis Jr. and John), 2 males 16 to 26  years (Christian and Jacob), 1 male over 45 years (Francis Sr.), 2 females under 10 years (Mary Magdalin and Catherine), 2 females 10 to 16 years (unmarried Elizabeth and Betsy married to David Dronbarger) , 2 females 16 to 26 years (Dolly and Margaret),  and 1 female over 45 years (Dolly the mother).

The 1810 census indicates the household had 1 male 10 to 16 years (Daniel), 1 male 16 to 26 years (probably Henry), 1 male over 45 years (Francis Sr.), 1 female 10 to 16 years (probably Catherine), 1 female 16 to 26 years (probably Magdalin), and 1 female over 45 years (mother Dolly).  The names associated with each category, of course, should be considered educated guesses.

 Francis Summit was granted a 9 pounds, 4 shillings payment out of the North Carolina Revolutionary Army Accounts effective July 4, 1782, with interest of 14 shillings 6 pence to October 29, 1783, for a total payment of 9 pounds, 18 shillings, and 6 pence7.    There is no information concerning what Francis did for this payment.  It has been speculated that it was for furnishing some goods, services, or the use of land.  Lincoln County, of course, was in the general path of General Cornwalis' march northward from South Carolina to Virginia late in the war and not far from the site of the famous battle of King's Mountain.  In fact, no one really knows what the payment to Francis was for.

If Francis did indeed settled the Abernathy property about 1769, as believed, Francis and Dolly lived on their land in the Leepers/Killian Creek area for most of the next thirty years--a period during which they had all of their children8.   It is not known which Lutheran church this family was affiliated with, but it is clear from later records that they were active Lutherans.  Francis Summit moved with most of his family over to a Lyles Creek9  location just North of Newton and Conover, North Carolina at least by 1802 (but probably not much before) when he bought 376 acres of land from a Joseph Cowan10.   Francis bought another 560 acres of land in the Lyles Creek area from David Lowrance in 1805 and a year later sold the Leepers Creek property to Alexander Brevard and Joseph Graham.  The move probably was made to bring the family into the worship environs of the relatively newly established St. John's Lutheran Church or to get closer to the towns of Newton, Conover or Hickory.

Two of his children, Elizabeth and John, were confirmed at St. John's on August 18, 1804, placing their births probably in the mid-to-latter-part-of the 1780s.  As far as can be determined, none of Francis Summit's sons acquired land of their own in North Carolina, so it would seem that the sons, with the possible exception of Jacob, at least remained essentially as a family unit working land originally acquired by Francis well into their adulthood.  Francis sold land to Frederick Hoke in 1817 and owned about 625 acres at the time of his death.

 Francis Summit died February 27, 1818 in Lincoln County (to become Catawba County in 1842), North Carolina.  Rev. David Henkel pastor of the St. John's Lutheran Church conducted a funeral service on February 28, 181811.   His German name as indicated on his tombstone was Frantz Sammet.  The old German "tz" script used is apparently translated as "cis", thus the name Francis.  Some of his children's names occur in German in Lutheran records as Samet/ or Sammet.  He is buried in the St. John's Lutheran Cemetery north of Conover, North Carolina.  His full name was Johannes Frantz Sam[m]et as indicated on the marriage bond for his daughter, Magdlin [Mary Magdaline], dated July 25, 1813.  His wife, Dolly, survived him, but not much else is known about her, such as her maiden name, when she died, or what happened to her after his Francis' death.  She may have gone to live with one of the children after Francis died, since the estate records clearly indicate the household and personal property of Francis was completely liquidated.  Dolly was apparently Francis' first and only wife and the mother of all the children, with oldest daughter being named Dolly.  She was designated as over 45 years of age in the 1800 census, as was Francis, but she was probably somewhat younger than Francis since she was still having children into the mid-1790s.   Dolly may also be buried in the St. John Lutheran Cemetery, but a grave marker for her has not been identified.

 As noted, Francis died on February 27, 1818.  He died intestate (without a will).  His widow, Dolly, elected not to act as executor of his estate and Christian Summit was appointed Administrator.  A committee of three men in the community (Alex Lowrance, Eli Perkins, and Henry Dellinger) were appointed by the court to recommend an allowance for the widow for the first year, a task they completed by signed report dated April 30, 1818.  In the meantime, Christian was engaged in the normal tasks of an Administrator of inventorying and disposing of the personal property in the estate, collecting money owed the estate, paying debts and settling claims against the estate, and distributing the residue of the estate to the heirs.  In May and July, the personal property of the estate was inventoried and sold (apparently in a good old fashion estate sale), with each item listed, name of purchaser, and price paid.  The total value of the personal property came to 995 dollars and 29 1/4 cents, which, when combined with two notes due the estate, brought the total personal property value of the estate to 1795 dollars and 29 1/4 cents.  Disposition of the proceeds were made by Christian to the heirs and creditors of the estate and an accounting made to the Court.  The land in the estate was divided by deeds dated October 20, 1818 between four sons, who bought out the interests of Jacob Summit and five daughters and their husbands:  Francis Summit, Jr. (120 acres); Daniel Summit (125 acres); Christian Summit (250 acres); and John Summit (132 acres).  Henry took his legacy out of the personal property of the estate.  A careful review of the estate papers reveals the makeup of the family at Francis Summit's death:  Dolly (the Widow); Christian, Jacob, Francis Jr., John, Henry, and Daniel (the sons); and Margaret, wife of Lewis Huit, Catherine, wife of Henry Huit, Dolly, wife of John Cloninger, Elizabeth, wife of David Dronbarger, Polly (Mary Magdalin), the wife of Jacob Dronbarger, and Betsy , apparently unmarried (the daughters)12.

 Marriage bonds in Lincoln County, North Carolina, or other reliable sources indicate the following marriages of Francis Summit's children13:

 Dolly Summit to  (1) John Cloninger, ca. 1800
 Christian Summit to  (1) Catherine Link, April 6, 1802
    (2) Elizabeth Master, June 9, 1803
    [(3) Hannah Ellett, April 12, 1846 in Indiana]
 Margaret Summit to (1) Michael Deitz, ca. 1804
    (2) Lewis Huit, November 19, 1816
 Jacob Summit to  (1) Polly (Mary) Cloninger, December 25, l805
 Francis Summit to  (1) Elizabeth Shook, January 19, 1809
  Elizabeth Summit to (1) David Dronbarger (Thornburg), February 17, 1810
 Daniel Summit to  (1) Sarah (Sally) Moser, December 3, 1813
 Magdalin Summit to  (1) Jacob Dronbarger (Thornburg), July 25, 1813
 Henry Summit to  (1) Catharine Moyers (or Myers) , December 26, 1815
 Catharine Summit to (1) Henry Huit (son of Lewis), October 21, 1817

 The order of these marriages may not represent the order of birth but it is probably close.  This writer has concluded that the children were born in the following order: Christian (1769), Dolly and Jacob (in the 1770s), Margaret (in 1880), Francis Jr. (ca. 1783), John (ca. 1785), the unmarried Elizabeth (ca. 1787), Henry (ca. 1789-1790), the Elizabeth married to David Dronbarger( ca. 1790-1791), Mary Magdalin (ca. 1793), Daniel (April 5, 1795), and Catherine (ca. 1797).

What Happened to the Francis and Dolly Summit Children?

 While it is not within the scope of this paper to expand upon what happened to Francis Summit's children, it might be useful to give a brief over view on some of them.

Christian Summit and his wife Elizabeth Master moved with their whole family to the Stinesville-Ellettsville area of Monroe County, Indiana just West of Bloomington in 1827 and could legitimately be considered the patriarch of that branch of Summit(t)s in his 95 or so years.

Dolly Summit and her husband, John Cloninger, apparently stayed in Catawba County.

Margaret Summit and her husband Lewis Huit also apparently stayed in Catawba County.

Jacob Summit is last noted with a large family of six sons and 4 daughters in the 1820 Federal census for Lincoln County, North Carolina.  He probably stayed in Lincoln County with his family and may be the "patriarch" of most of the North Carolina branch of Summit(t)s.

Francis Summit, Jr is listed in the 1820 censuses for Lincoln County with a growing family of two sons and four daughters.  He is listed as a single head of household in Knox County, Indiana in the 1830 census and returned to Catawba County by the 1850 census (and probably well before that) noted as age  67.  He is living with probably four of his children ranging from age 12 to 31; nothing is known about what happened to his wife, Elizabeth Shook, and the children by her, although they are worth exploring as possible sources of future North Carolina generations.

Elizabeth Summit and her husband, David Dronbarger, and Magdalin Summit and her husband, Jacob Dronbarger have not been researched.   Dronbarger and the possible variations on this name are incredibly difficult to track with any certainty.

John Summit is a little of a mystery. No record of his marriage (or marriages) has been found but he appears in the 1830 census for Monroe County, Indiana with an established family of a wife and six daughters.  He moved next door to Owen County, Indiana by the 1840 census and has one young son and six daughter but no wife.  By the 1850 census, John is found in Madison County, Missouri apparently with his young son and four daughters, with another daughter apparently living in the vicinity.  What happened to him and his children thereafter is unknown.

Henry Summit moved with his wife, Catherine Myers, to Knox County, Indiana probably shortly after his father's death in 1818, raised a large family, and died there; he would be considered the patriarch of the Knox County branch of Summit(t)s.

Daniel Summit moved with his wife Sarah Moser to Greene County (1816-1822), Jefferson County (1822-about 1834), and finally Monroe County (died in 1838), Tennessee with his family and became the foundation of a large family of East Tennessee Summit(t)s.  An article on the Daniel and Sarah Moser Summit family has been placed on the Monroe County, Tennessee GENWEB site at URL

Catharine Summit and her husband, Henry Huit, probably stayed in Catawba County.

Elizabeth Summit (apparent unmarried daughter) probably stayed in Catawba County (assuming she is the Betsy/Elizabeth Summit reflected in the 1830 and 1850 census).  There is a possibility that the census Elizabeth Summit is the divorced or separated wife of Francis Summit, Jr., Elizabeth Shook Summit.

While we know a lot about some of these children of Francis Summitt Sr. and their descendants, such as Christian, Henry, and Daniel, there is much information to be gathered and evaluated.  Hopefully, this information can provide a starting place for some.

Article Notes:
1. An excellent review of the early German settlements West of the Catawba River and a compilation of names and information on these settlers is provided in Lorena Eaker's German Speaking People West of the Catawba River in North Carolina 1750 - 1800 and Some Emigres' Participation in the Early Settlement of Southeast Missouri currently still in print and available from Mrs. Eaker.

2. This Jacob Sammet is apparently the only confirmed passenger list "Sammet" with a documented entry into the United States during that time period.  Francis, of course, was a minor at the time and ordinarily would not have been listed.  Immigrants on the ship Beulah (Captain Richey) arriving from Rotterdam by way of Cowes, England, were qualified for entry on Monday, September 10, 1753.  A list of the men on board consisted of eight Catholics and the rest Lutheran, including a Jacob Sammet.  The qualifying list for this arrival thought perhaps to be a medical qualification included a Jacob (mark x) Sammet.  A third list apparently signed at the courthouse at Philadelphia (probably involving an oath of allegience) included a Jacob (mark x) Sammit and noted that the ship Beulah was freighted with Palatines from Rotterdam.  See Pennsylvania German Pioneers, by Ralph Beaver Strassburger and William John Hinke (1880).

3.  Leepers Creek has been described as being formed by the junction of Sawmill and Lippard creeks in the northeast part of current Lincoln County and flowing southeast to join Killians creek to form Dutchmans creek.  It appears as Leapers creek on the Collet 1770 map.

4. Letter to Paul C. Summitt dated September 21, 1995.

5. Admittedly, it is not possible to resolve 1790 through 1820 North Carolina census indications that all of the children were under 16 years of age in 1790, that Christian was under 46 in 1820, and Jacob was over 45 in 1820, but the author has no reason not to believe the accuracy of the more precise information in the 1850 and 1860 Indiana census information and the tombstone inscription for Christian.

6. Caution should be used in definitively using census information to form conclusions, particular on age classifications.  Discrepancies between census information and other sources for which no apparent reason can be given will occasionally be noted herein.

7. North Carolina Archives Revolutionary Army Accounts, Volume I, page 60, Folio 2.  This Revolutionary War notation has proved sufficient to have Francis Summit designated as a "patriot" for purposes of qualifying for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution.

8. If it is correct that Christian was the eldest son, he and other children should have been confirmed in the Lutheran Church during the circuit riding days of Rev. Johann Gottfried Arendt; Francis had five sons and three daughters at the time of the 1790 census and had six sons and six daughters at the time of the 1800 census.  His last son was Daniel Summit (the author's great, great, great grandfather) born on April 5, 1795 in Lincoln County,
North Carolina.  The author is not aware of any Arendt records on the Frantz Sammet (Samet) family, but his extant journals are fragmentary.

9. Lyles Creek rises in North Catawba County and flows Southeast into the Catawba River and appears on the 1770 Collet map as Liles Creek.  St. John's Lutheran Church sits on the highest point in the area overlooking the Lyles Creek to the North.

10. An abstract of this 1802 deed erroneously places Joseph Cowan in Lincoln County and Francis Summit in Rowan County.  An examination of the deed itself shows the reverse:  Joseph Cowan was from Rowan County and Francis Summit was from Lincoln County.

11. Source of the funeral information was L.L. Lohr transcription of the diary of Rev. David Henkel 1812-1830.

12. It is not totally clear that Betsy is a different person than Elizabeth, the wife of David Dronbarger, also listed as Betsy in the marriage bond; however, a Betsy Summit shows up by that name in the estate papers as an heir and a Betsy Summit/Elizabeth Summit born ca. 1787 is listed in the 1830 and 1850 census records, respectively.  In addition, after reviewing numerous records, the surname Huit, Cloninger, and Dronbarger have been selected as the most probable spelling of these names.  It is not uncommon, however, to see variations, such as Hewit, Huet, Kloninger, Tronbarg, and Thornburg, and any research on these families would have to identify the alternatives.

13. Marriage information is unavailable for John and a daughter named Elizabeth (Betsy) believed to be a different person than the wife of David Dronbarger, also named Elizabeth.
A tabulated descendant chart of the line of Francis Summit can be found here.
NOTE:  This Article appeared in substantially the same form in the Summitt Family Quarterly, Vol. 1, Issue 4 (Winter, 1996) published and edited by Paul M. and Mary Summitt (website  It also appears on the Francis Summit Genweb website "".  Numerous individuals have contributed to this information.  Especially helpful were the late Mark Smith, historian for the St. John's Lutheran Church in Conover, North Carolina and Author of  Lifting High The Cross For 200 Years: St. John's Lutheran Church (edited by Robert C. Carpenter, 1998); Evelyn D. Rhodes, genealogy services librarian with the Catawba County library in Newton, North Carolina; Lorena Eaker, author of  German Speaking People West of the Catawba River--1750-1800; Harless Brakebill in Monroe County, Tennessee; LaRue Summit Williford in Houston; Helen Summitt Galyon in Sweetwater, Tennessee and her sister, Flora Mae Keene in Knoxville; James Bruce Summitt in San Antonio; Helen Summitt, the wife of the late Daniel W. Summitt, in Plainfield, Indiana; John Allen Summitt in Indianapolis; and my daughter Julia Summitt Miller in Forest, Virginia.  Comments and inquiries should be sent to:

Paul C. Summitt, P. O. Box 99, Freeport, FL  32439
e-mail address

By far the largest and most complete Summit family database has been compiled by

Glen Summit, 88 McKay Street, Beverly, MA 01915-3032,
Work: 617-373-7951, e-mail

His database can be accessed online at URL
He welcomes all inquires.

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Last rev. - 3 July 2001