Karen Portzer, PNB Accounting Analyst

Karen Portzer J. WebsterMy American Story begins with Swiss emigrants in the mid-1700’s who left their homeland to settle in the fertile farmlands of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When I visited Switzerland, I was amazed at the similarities in barn designs and covered bridges that are characteristic of Pennsylvania. I am still in the process of trying to document a long lost cousin relationship on this line to the founder of a small chocolate candy manufacturer in a town called Hersey.

The Scotch Irish came next and settled in Central Pennsylvania around 1800 to either farm, or establish a blacksmith shop. Some fought in the Civil War for the equality of all and preservation of a union. My great-great-grandfather enlisted in the Existing Emergency in June 1863. That emergency was provoked and invoked by the southern forces heading for Harrisburg, except the southern troops needed footwear, so detoured for a shoe manufacturer in a town called Gettysburg, so they never captured Harrisburg. He and his siblings, shortly thereafter, moved to Altoona, home of the engine and machine shops for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Meanwhile, my German ancestors were arriving between the 1849-85 during times of unrest and famine in their homeland. They settled in German catholic communities in Carrolltown, and St. Mary’s Pennsylvania as well as Egg Harbor, New Jersey. One family lost everything when the ship capsized near Cape May, New Jersey, probably from the remnants of the Great Gale of 1848 that leveled Tampa. My French line arrived and settled in coal mining region of Schuylkill County. My Ulster Irish families settle in the city of brotherly love and the birthplace of democracy, Philadelphia, during the Irish potato famine migration.

The American Story is filled with hopes and dreams of a better life, while overcoming obstacles, hardships, challenges and struggles along the way. It’s a story that hasn’t changed in over 200 years.