US East Coast Drive with Two Cousins: We Meet in Philadelphia

May 6, 2019

Two cousins, one Swiss and the other American, are traveling this time on the east coast of the US discovering more family heritage. Pius App flew into Philadelphia yesterday (May 5, 2019) from his home in Davos Platz, Switzerland, and I drove in from my home in Bristol, Indiana.

Pius App and friends in front of his Berghotel Schatzalp in the Swiss Alps

He is the owner of Schatzalp, a ski area and historic hotel in the Swiss Alps about 1,000 feet (305 m) above Davos. We met in the Philadelphia Airport Marriott Hotel over a beer, and here is where we spent the first night.

Although Pius was born in Switzerland, both of our family lines come from Germany, and today we began our trip to visit the original App homestead where Johann Michael App settled after arriving in America 267 years ago in 1752. Michael, as he was known and my 5th great grandfather, came from a small area in southern Germany, and probably left for economic reasons. After his arrival in the colonies he did what most German immigrants did… he looked for land to settle that was away from other settlers, had good water, had good timber, and was good farmland. He chose a perfect place.

His original 80 acres is located about 70 miles (113 km) northeast of Philadelphia in what is Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Township in Northampton County, near a town called Walnutport.

1752 log home built by Michael App for his family

As you can imagine, almost every tree was a walnut tree and that is the material he used to build his log home in 1752. The cabin stood until 1985 when it finally fell down. It was snug and contained just two rooms – the first floor and the second floor– with the entire west end being the fireplace. It measured about 20 feet on each side. Unfortunately, the home did not last much longer than 1985 when it collapsed onto the road and was removed. The owner of the property salvaged what lumber he could and incorporated it as fireplace mantles and beams in the stone house he was renovating about 50 yards (50 m) away. This house

1799 Stone home of Friedrich App

The builder’s mark showing the date Friedrich’s house was completed in 1799

was originally built in 1799 by Michael’s son, Friedrich, from stones he found on his own 80 acres. The current owner of the home and the land (since 1983) gave us a tour of the place.






Barn built by Michael App in 1752-1753

Stone foundation on the northeast corner of the barn is preserved



Michael had also built a stone barn in 1752-1753. It was also taken down in 1985 because it was dangerously unstable. However, the current owner left a few stones standing from the northeast corner of the barn as a memorial. If you ever wondered what a Colonial barn looked like, this is it.









Along the way to the homestead, we visited some family members in two old German cemeteries.

Pius App visits Friedrich App and his wife, Barbara’s gravesite.

Gravestone of Friedrich App, Revolutionary War veteran

Friedrich App was a Revolutionary War veteran. We actually have three App Revolutionary War soldiers… Johann Michael App, his oldest son Friedrich, and his son Mathias.











The other family member was my 5th great-grandmother, Elisabet App, who died at the age of 29 in 1791 just a few days after giving birth to my 4th great-grandfather, Leonard App. Without her, none of my family line in America would exist.

Gravestone of Elisabet App, died 1791

Elisabet may have died from a disease. The stone’s writing is translated as: “Here Rests Elisabet App, wife of Mathias App (nee Homich) Born Nov 6, 1762. Died Jan 8, 1791. Age 29 years, 2 months, 2 days. “Ente von Plag” means, roughly, “Died of the Plague”.

Since the App homestead is so close to the Appalachian Trail (about 2 km, or a little over a mile) we found our way to the Danielsville trailhead. The trail looked a little “rough”, and to us we thought it might be a good idea to hike anywhere except on the trail itself.

Pius at the Spinnerstown Hotel Restaurant

Later that evening we went to the Spinnerstown Hotel Restaurant (near Quakertown, Pennsylvania) where we could “replenish our bodily stores” from just imagining ourselves hiking the trail.

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Memories of the App Gold Mine

When John App (read his blog story here) arrived in Tuolumne County, California in the autumn of 1852, his goal was to find a rich gold-bearing quartz mine. It did not take long for him to find a promising vein on the southern end of what is known today as the California Mother Lode. Here is a photograph of the exact spot near Jamestown, California that family tradition says he made his discovery.

The location near Jamestown, California where John App discovered a large gold bearing quartz vein.

John quickly assembled all of the necessary paperwork and laid out the plans for the mine. In late September he travelled to Sutter’s Fort, now Sacramento, to take Leanna Charity Donner as his bride. They were married on September 26, 1852 by Reverend O. C. Wheeler, and had waited for this day for a few months since John wanted to be sure that everything was organized for their new home. However, Leanna did not come to Tuolumne County with John immediately after the marriage since he first wanted to build a house for them. She came about a month later to a new home that was completed enough for their satisfaction. He was 31 years of age and she was 17. In those days a large age disparity was not uncommon.

The home of John and Leanna App near Jamestown, California.

Much more detailed information about the App Mine, one of the most productive of the southern mines, will be made available later. In 2014, Frank Gurney (of Jamestown), husband of John and Leanna App’s great granddaughter, Evelyn, spoke about his recollection of the App Mine and the surrounding area. Frank was 91 years of age at the time of his interview and had very clear memories to leave with us. He passed away only a few months later. We can be enormously grateful for people like Frank Gurney who share the stories of who we are and that would otherwise be forgotten.

Here is Frank’s story of the App Quartz Mine from August 19, 2014.

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US West Coast Drive with Two Cousins: in Seattle (Day 2)

July 22, 2017

On this morning’s walk along the waterfront park there were several cruise ships docked, and as I’ve said, they seem to come and go without much detection. The waterfront is a busy place, nautically speaking, and because of the geography the Pacific coast is actually about 150 miles (240 km) away from this place. Even the big container ships, pulled and guided by tug boats, glide past without much noise.

The waterfront’s Ferris Wheel

Harbor cruise boats and sailboats of all sizes are normal sights in the harbor from our hotel. Further down the street is the Seattle Aquarium, a big Ferris wheel, and plenty of places to find something good to eat. The traffic on the waterfront’s street seems to be in a state of perpetual congestion, although the drivers seem to be civil to one another and to the hundreds of pedestrians who are all looking for something in particular along the waterfront.

Tomorrow we travel back home. Pius has a long flight to Frankfurt, Germany, a four hour layover, followed by a flight to Zurich, Switzerland, and ending with a two hour drive back to Schatzalp. Crossing nine time zones is something that he is familiar with, but still it is sleep that needs the immediate attention. Within a few mornings of his arrival in the mountains back at Schatzalp the temperature for him was 32 degrees (0 C) and a little bit of snow.

April and August

Here is his report: “Der April macht was er will” (means something like “April does what it wants”), a saying that we have in German about the weather in April. “But we have August. You see, April even renamed itself”.

My flight is not quite so romantic, but sleep is not an issue. First to Spokane, Washington, then Minneapolis, Minnesota with a speedy 30 minute layover, and on to Grand Rapids, Michigan with a two hour drive home to Bristol, Indiana. Our temperature is warm, but not like the 110 degrees (43.3 C) in California.

It was nice for us cousins to spend time together driving (and driving) and discovering sights, some of which neither of us had seen before. Nothing can replace the conversation and camaraderie along the way, which was easily as magnificent as the scenery.

Bis zum nächsten abenteuer…
Until the next adventure…

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US West Coast Drive with Two Cousins: in Seattle (Day 1)

July 21, 2017

This morning I took a four mile walk north along the waterfront in Seattle through a park. Mount Rainier stands alone as I looked across the harbor in Seattle. Like Mount Shasta it is an active volcano, but Rainier is considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanos in the world.

Pike Place Market – Seattle, Washington

Only a few blocks from here is the “Pike Place Market” which we have visited a couple of times. It is truly a diverse street market, but I would suspect that most of the customers were tourists. Trip Advisor says: “One of the few authentic farmer’s markets in the United States, this hub of delicious scents, delectable eats and delightful personalities attracts nine million visitors a year.” I suppose some people might consider the fish stands a “delicious scent”… but not me. Pius went clothes shopping today and I took the camera to the market.

Big cruise ships routinely “park” at the dock in front of our hotel. They do it at night and are so quiet that we haven’t been able to watch them arrive or depart. How does a 1,000 foot (305 M) cruise ship just sneak in and then leave without detection? I don’t know, but they do it.

Just a relaxing day today.

Click this image to see all photos (with descriptions) from the day:
West Coast Trip - July 21, 2017

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US West Coast Drive with Two Cousins: to Eugene, Oregon

July 20, 2017

Today was a driving day, but as we drove to Eugene, Oregon one of the attractions near our route was Mount Hood.

Mount Hood

It is an 11,250 foot (3,429 meters) active volcano in the Cascade range and its last eruption was in 1907. Unfortunately, the today was overcast and rainy but Pius quite often thinks “outside the box” so that he still managed to get a beautiful “photograph” of it.

Mt. Hood painting




He took a photograph of a painting with his phone camera. It was hanging on the wall outside of the men’s restroom at the “Original Breakfast Café” in Albany, Oregon where we had breakfast. In this one, Mount Hood is only a few inches tall and is not an active volcano.


We dropped off the rental car at the Seattle airport and it wasn’t easy to find a cab, but eventually we were successful. We are staying at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront hotel until we depart for home on Sunday, and it is really a nice place. Only one comment was made today about Pius’ service in the Navy and it was from a waiter at the restaurant at our hotel. He never really caught on to the story, but Pius and I enjoyed the moment.

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US West Coast Drive with Two Cousins: to Crater Lake, Oregon

July 19, 2017

We left our motel in Redding at 7:15 am today and headed north to Crater Lake in Oregon. Retracing our path from Friday we passed Mount Shasta and what a sight it was. Driving to Redding yesterday we could see him from 50 miles (80 km) south, and today he could still be seen from where we ate breakfast 75 miles (121 km) north. Mount Shasta is a volcano and so it stands alone in what looks like lava beds. Because of this, it the view is not obstructed… and it helps that it is 14,300 feet (4,359 M) tall.

As we were driving northward we first entered the Klamath National Forest and it is one of the most beautiful forests of its kind. Evidence of past forest fires could be seen. There were a couple of very large and wide open flat places such as “Butte Valley”. These were being farmed with crops and also were irrigated.

Cinder’s Cafe – Worden, Oregon

We ate breakfast at “Cinders Cafe” in Worden, Oregon (just south of Klamath Falls, Oregon) which isn’t really a city. It’s more of a few buildings along the road, but the café was genuinely as local as it gets and Cinder took very good care of us.

We entered the Crater Lake National Park at the south entrance. The lake itself is circular so it is possible to drive all the way around it, but today most of the road on the eastern side was closed because of snow that still remains from last winter’s enormous snowfall.

Crater Lake – Oregon

The water in Crater Lake (Oregon) is so blue because of its purity (and therefore clarity), that any photograph almost looks fake. 7,700 years ago this 12,000 foot (3,650 M) volcano erupted and then collapsed upon itself forming a caldera that is now filled with water nearly 2,000 feet (600 M) deep. Today, the rim of the “crater” is at about 7,000 feet (2,100 M), the surface of the lake itself is at an altitude of 6,000 feet (1,800 M) and is about 5 miles (8 km) in diameter. Wizard Island is a volcanic cinder cone and rises about 700 feet (215 M) above the lake surface.

Our destination for today is Eugene, Oregon. When we arrived we ate supper outside at the Elk Horn Bar which was only about a mile from the motel and nearby Oregon State University. Tomorrow we are driving toward Portland, Oregon on our way back to Seattle and the Seattle Marriott Waterfront hotel.

Click this image to see all photos (with descriptions) from the day:
West Coast Trip - July 19, 2017

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US West Coast Drive with Two Cousins: to Redding, California (again)

July 18, 2017

My cousin, Pius App, is a “story magnet”, and this is today’s memorable story from our west coast trip. He has a special interest in the USS Zumwalt, a recently commissioned hi-tech naval destroyer, and yesterday our cousin, Pat Hillman, presented him with an official USS Zumwalt cap. Pat’s husband grew up with Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. (Chief of Naval Operations 1970-1974) and their families have been very close over the years.

Pius in his USS Zumwalt hat

This morning, in the motel restaurant, Pius was wearing the hat and a veteran rushed up to him and asked about his service in the Navy. It took Pius by surprise and he told the man that he was not from this country… and the man hurriedly walked away.

It happened again tonight at dinner. We were placing our order and a veteran, spying the hat, came up to Pius and asked how long he served in the Navy explaining that he was in the navy for 20 years himself working for Admiral Zumwalt. Pius told him the same story about how he was from another country, and also explained about how he got the hat. The man thought that was a great story and we all had a good laugh.

I think that Admiral Pius App, now of the Swiss Navy, gets a lot of respect whenever he enters a room wearing the USS Zumwalt hat.

We drove today from our motel in Fresno, California to the Thunderbird Lodge in Redding, California (the same place that we stayed last Friday). Driving north on US 99 we could easily see the smoke from the Detwiler wildfire that we saw at Lois & Jerry’s OD Ranch. By this afternoon it had grown to 20,000 acres (81 sq km) burned and only 5% contained. We also saw smoke from another (smaller) wildfire six miles (9.6 km) southwest of our motel in Redding.

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