Last name alternately spelled "Graf" or "Groff" or "Graff". Some Descendants chose the spelling "Grove". The German "Graf" translates to "Earl" in English, and Hans Graf gave his name to Earl Township, Pennsylvania.
The Graf family known in this area (Zurich) since the early 14th century were a branch of an ancient rabbinical line.Forced to convert from Judaism or die by the murderous Roman Catholic Church,they did protest and became Anabaptists,in Hans case a Mennonite.
He was named after his grandfather,Hans Jagli Graf.
Hans grew up in Barschwill Switzerland.
He was falsly accused of treason and fled to Alsace France where he bore the title,Baron Von Weldon. He was cleared of the charges at home and invited to return and reclaim his position and wealth but he refused and instead answered the call of William Penn to come to America. His wife refused to come with him to the new country and she remained there. They had one son Jacob 1684-1766, he was not mentioned in Han's will.
Some historians believed he and his wife Barbara Brackbill lived at the Ephreta Cloister(and had forsaken worldly posessions).
Hans arived in Penn's Colony in 1695 just a few years after its inception, he purchased a 175acre farm near Germantown and was a part of the community there.
In 1703 he married Susanna(the maid) and started a family of 9.
In 1715 they sold the land to Garret Rittenhouse, son of William the Mennonite preacher and paper maker.
They had been hearing for years about the good land farther west and the led a group of fellow Swiss Mennonites with them to Saurersburg and bought 1000acres on the Pequea creek.
Later as the story goes, in persuit of run away horses, discovered the area that became the Earl Township. Named to honor him, Earl is the english name for Graf.
One of the first Groffs in America, especially in the Pennsylvania area, was Hans Conrad Groff. He settled in the region later to be Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania (the area famous for the 'Pennsylvania Dutch').
From Baretswil, Switzerland and a prominent family, Han Groff was the son of Max Graf of Switzerland.
However, Hans left his homeland with his brother, Michael or Martin (1675 - 1760) to escape religious persecution. The family were of the Mennonite faith / practice. They first traveled to Alsace, Germany for a short time then arrived in Pennsylvania about 1695, an area open to religious immigrants and welcomed by William Penn.
Hans carried with him the family bible printed in 1585. First he was in Germantown, PA. He sent for his family. His wives over the years were Susan Orendorf Kendig and Anna Bare.
Hans Groff purchased vast amounts of land by the early 1700s. The land originally purchased from the William Penn family by Martin Kendig then was sold to Hans Groff.
His log home alongside a large white oak tree was built on ‘Graf’s Run’ / 'Groff’s Dale' (named for Hans Groff) in Lancaster Co. which was very much a wilderness. It was a few miles west of New Holland, PA and eventually became known as Groffdale.
Working as a farmer, Hans then became a trader of goods. Hans (also referred to as 'John') traded many items with the local Indians(even learning their language), such as vegetables, milk and blankets in exchange for furs. Over the years he became quite wealthy.
Land for the Groffdale Mennonite Church was given by Hans Groff in 1717.
His sons who carried on the family lineage were: John (born in Switzerland), Peter, David, Daniel, Marcus and Samuel. Some sons and grandsons over the years changed the spelling to ‘Grove’.
Hans was said to have been married twice, first was to Ursula Neukomm about 1683, and believed to have had one child through the marriage. Then later re-married to Susanna Orndorf about 1700 and had what was believed to have been ten children along with her.
West Earl Township Lancaster, Pennsylvania - He was the first settler in 1717, named in his honor 1729 "Earl being the English of Graf."
A stone was finally placed at his grave site, but his grave was unknown for quite some time. But after much searching it later was discovered in the graveyard of the Groff Meeting House. It was marked with only a simple slab of sandstone with the initials "H G".
Spouse: Susanna Orndorf Graf (1680 - 1746)*
Hans Grof (____ - 1788)*
David Groff (____ - 1784)*
Marcus Groff (1712 - 1791)*
John Groff (1722 - 1797)*
Groffdale Mennonite Brick Church Cemetery
The first Settler,
Came from Switzerland A.D. 1696.
Settlement was made at the head of Groff's Run.
He purchased 1419 Acres of land from John
Richard, S Thomas Penn, for 141L. 18 S.
[equal to $686.80] along Groff's Run. He Built
a log Cabin on the old Groff farm A.D. 1717.
His purchase included the land on which the
Groffdale Meeting House is built.
Died A.D. 1746."
Wikipedia says: Hans Groff (1661–1746) founder of Earl Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was the uncle of the father of Jacob Groff. He is believed to be the oldest known member of the Groff family in North America and the holder of the title Baron von Welden of Grafenwald Castle near Bäretswil, Switzerland.