Calling all Brubakers.
And sons of Brubakers. And great-great-great-granddaughters of Brubakers.
Your legacy in America is 300 years old, and hundreds of your relatives are preparing for the mother of all family reunions.
Those who trace their ancestry to the Brubaker family will gather at Millersville University from Thursday through next Sunday to hear speakers, connect with distant cousins, take heritage tours around Lancaster County and join together for the dedication of a family monument.
And they will celebrate how the family has grown and prospered since the arrival from Europe in 1717 of Brubakers who bought and farmed land in the Rohrerstown area.
Years of planning
Last week, a much smaller group of Brubaker descendants — four people from the celebration planning committee — gathered at a picnic table in Noel C. Dorwart Memorial Park in East Hempfield Township.
They sat near a large rock bearing a plaque that faces lands settled three centuries ago by three Brubaker cousins fleeing religious persecution in Europe: Hans, John and John Jacob Brubaker.
Sharon Hines, an administrator at a veterinary clinic; her brother, Ken Brubaker, a
semi-retired physician; Eileen Bender Johns, a retired drapery manufacturer; and Doug Brubaker, an East Hempfield Township supervisor who is part of the Brubaker Inc. plumbing and heating business, all say they’re looking forward to connecting with lots of Brubaker relatives they’ve never met.
For Johns, the 300th anniversary memorial rock and plaque are the culmination of a dream she has been working on for eight years.
That monument will be dedicated Saturday morning, with hundreds of Brubaker descendants in attendance at the park.
Hines says about 400 people from about 28 states and Canada are already registered for the reunion conference, titled “300 Years of Brubakers in North America.”
She expects up to 100 additional walk-ins next weekend.
“This is our 95th year (of having reunions), says Doug Brubaker, a member of the board of the Brubaker Family Association. “The association got started in 1919, and they’ve had a reunion every year (since), save for four years during World War II.”
“One of the cool things about the reunion,” Hines says, “is that it brings together people and roots.
“Kids are lost these days,” Hines adds, “and this brings together a family. Whether you’re from Virginia, Georgia … Florida, California, it gives them a sense of belonging.”
Where they came from
They belong to a line descending from families that originally lived near Lake Zurich in Switzerland, Ken Brubaker says.
“We have been able to trace the name Brubaker in Switzerland back to about 1335,” he says.
“The original name was Bruggbach ... which means bridge over water,” Ken Brubaker adds. “That’s changed many times … with many different spellings.
Persecuted as Anabaptists, and seeking a place where they could worship freely and buy good farmland, the Brubakers headed for the Alsace-Lorraine and Palatinate regions of Germany.
Still thwarted in worship and work, Brubaker says, families that included Lancaster County settlers Hans Brubaker and Christian Hershey bought 1,000 acres of prime farmland in the area around Rohrerstown from William Penn’s agents.
They came here in three ships in 1717, Doug Brubaker notes.
Hershey and Brubaker eventually split the acreage between their two families.
The Brubaker celebration isn’t just a joining of family members over food and photo albums.
Speakers addressing Brubaker history and how it’s being preserved are scheduled throughout the weekend
There will be sessions on Brubakers as civil servants, Hines notes. Her brother, Harold Brubaker, a retired North Carolina General Assemblyman, along with former Pennsylvania Sen. Michael Brubaker, will talk about the legacy of Brubakers in politics.
Jack Brubaker, LNP’s columnist, The Scribbler, will answer the question “Why Did the Brubakers Settle in Lancaster County?” in his presentations.
Darvin L. Martin, who has spent the last decade analyzing DNA data from local Swiss-German families of Amish and Mennonite background, will talk about what Brubaker DNA says about the family’s European origins.
“We have writers, and the decorative arts represented, as well,” Johns notes.
For example, local artist Linda Brubaker will talk about early American decorative arts.
“It’s not just about our roots,” Hines says. “It’s also about understanding the kinds of businesses Brubakers have been in and how creative they are.”
Being a Brubaker
Being a Brubaker means something special to each of the committee members.
“For me, Hines says, “it’s a sense of having family to belong to and having that background of strength and faith.”
“We have a really rich faith heritage,” Ken Brubaker says. “To know that your forefathers and mothers actually were willing to worship in a way that was not considered acceptable, and be at risk of losing your life ... to me, that’s just something I have an appreciation for.”
Learning more about her Brubaker heritage, Johns says, “helped me to get my family in order. I had never known that my great-grandfather (had) lived across the street from … where I lived in Rohrerstown.
“Once I was well on my way to figuring out who I was,” she adds, “I thought it might be my job to let my whole family know who they are since they are now part of that connection.”
“I just buried a 99-year-old grandmother Saturday,” Doug Brubaker says. “And four months ago I buried a 98-year-old grandfather on the other side of the family.
“And I’ve been supremely blessed, until recently, (to) have three of my four grandparents living in their upper 90s,” he says.
“They are part of a heritage,” he adds. “And my being (the) third generation involved in a family business ... it just reminds me of the principles and values of strength, consistency and dependability.
“That’s kind of the hallmarks of our heritage and our tradition,” he says “and we try to live that out even to this day.”
“Hopefully, we can help (those at the reunion) appreciate our very rich heritage when it comes to faith,” Ken Brubaker says, “and to appreciate the diversity that exists among us.
“There are (Brubakers) in many, many fields, with many, many gifts,” he adds. “And to be able to get together and say, ‘Hey, that’s my cousin,’ that’s going to be very special.”