Family Legends - Musselman

Everyone over their life hears during family reunions or at Thanksgiving dinner gatherings the family “legends“, those stories of ancestors who either met a famous person, accomplished some great feat, was a war hero, invented a time saving device or somehow brought honor and glory to the family name. There are also those stories of ancestors known as the “black sheep” of the family with a bit of a shady past or reputation. As a rule these accounts were handed down over the generations by word of mouth and so can be unintentional twisted, changed, or modified by the time the current generation listens to the story. Most of the time the narratives are taken as the absolute truth just because it was grandmother who told the legend and she would certainly know the facts, even if the event occurred over hundred years prior to her birth.

Various family surnames are immediately associated with well known customer products, for example; Eastman, Heinz, and Kraft, to name a few. So with the surname “Musselman” and origins in Pennsylvania, a major family legend for a line of Musselmans in the 20th century was that the family had an ancestor who started and owned the famous Musselman Applesauce and Apple Butter Company of Pennsylvania. Even when grocery shopping, there were no other brand of apple sauce and apple butter purchased but “Musselman”, just to keep it in the “family”. Of course, the legend did explain that total Musselman family ownership was sold years ago because the company had gotten so substantial.

To investigate this legend it made sense to start with the present-day company and see what they had as their history. A reply letter from the company yielded little or no information, whoever responded was not sure of the company’s history. Then checking with other Musselman query sites on the Internet it was found that anyone with a “Musselman” surname on their family tree felt they were also directly related to the founders of the company. While continued researching the Musselman name and applesauce was when another researcher’s information was discovered. Jan Hall had checked deeper into the early beginnings of the company in Biglerville, Adams County, Pennsylvania to find the original owners. Sometime from 1905 – 1907, John S. Musselman, Sr. (a Mennonite) and his sons purchased a small failing vegetable and fruit canning plant in Biglerville. John had experience with fruit canning because he already had a small fruit plant in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He soon brought in his son, Christian H. Musselman and his daughter-in-law, Emma G. Musselman to assist in the management and production of the canning plant. Putting in a tremendous amount of effort by the couple paid off because they became the leaders in the production of apple products at the plant. Christian’s father and brother soon sold their interest in the company to Christian and Emma.

By 1912 a second plant was opened in Gardners, Pennsylvania. Even during the Great War, 1917 – 1919, their plants managed to maintain a steady flow of canned fruit in spite of wartime shortages of necessary fuel and equipment. Into the early 1920s Christian and Emma created a third plant in West Virginia and added apple butter, cherries, peaches and tomatoes to their canned products. The company continued as a success even after Christian Musselman’s death in 1944. It was Emma Musselman, along with her children who assisted in running the business. The Musselman Company merged with Pet Milk Company in 1961, and then was purchased by IC Industries in 1979. In 1981, The Musselman Division was sold to private owners, who changed the name to Musselman’s Fruit Products. Knouse Foods purchased the Musselman Fruit Products in 1984 and have held it ever since. Best of all, the Knouse Foods Company is still making many of the Musselman products just as they were done decades earlier by Christian and Emma.  

To further verify that there was no direct relationship with the Christian H. Musselman and his ancestors to a branch of Musselmans, Christian’s line was taken back to his father, John, to his grandfather, Christian, and to his great grandfather; Samuel Musselman (also spelled Mussleman and Mupselman). The U.S. census records and the Family History Center records of IGI covered the decades of Christian’s ancestors. The line went back to Christian H. Musselman’s 6th great grandfather, Christian Musselman (Mosiman) born 1633 in Lauperswil, Bern, Switzerland. None of these individuals or their siblings matched with the branch of Musselmans investigating. Not to say there may not be a relative related as a fourth great uncle but no known direct lineage was located.

So do a complete investigation on any of those family legends.

Photos: Musselman Apple Butter and Apple Sauce.

Related FamilyTree Blogs:

Recording Family Legends

Basic Ideas When doing Family Research

A Winter Project

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