Henrich “Henry” Heilig- Clockmaker Family (Logan)

Johann Henrich Heilig is my 6th great grandfather. He was born in in 1700 and married Susanna De Wees Rittenhausen in 1729. I wrote about the Rittenhouse family and their papermills here. Also, join the Rittenhouse Family Descendants and Friends Facebook page and learn about all the wonderful things they are doing to preserve the Rittenhouse legacy. There is a Rittenhouse Town Board of Directors. They also manage the Homestead House (1707) and the other houses in the village, as well as a Barn that was built during WPA and the grounds.

Some historians place Henrich’s birthplace as Hannover, German. But, other more recent historians say it is Baden-Wuerttenburg, Germany. Johann arrived in Philadelphia in 1720 on the ship “Polly.” Ships were not required to furnish a list of passenger names until 1727. Since their names are not shown on any lists after 1727, they must have arrived prior. Most information I have found says 1720.

Records state his Naturalization was on 11 Apr 1747. According to the Pennsylvania Archives. The requirements at the time were that they had to be a resident of the colonies for 7 years.


Henry, as he was now called, was by trade a clockmaker. It was a skilled and respected profession. At that time, clocks were for navigation and surveying, as well as time keeping.


Henry and Susanna lived first in Cheltenham. And, bought parcels of land in 1749 and 1750. It was on the boarders of Pennsburg and Upper Hanover Townships in Montgomery County. This land was from William Parsons who was a surveyor for the Penns. The homestead passed from Henrich to his son George. George passed it on to his son George Jr. and finally passed to the Hoch family in the 1860s. The house remains in the Hoch family today.


From the https://www.pennsburg.us/borough-history website:

Prior to 1684, the Lenape Indians roamed the hills and fished the streams of the land on either side of the Perkiomen Creek. In 1684, the Indians lost this land when  William Penn purchased it for reportedly “two watch coats, four pairs of stockings and four bottles of cider”.  In time, Pennsylvania Germans settled in the area. Around 1840, the area now know as Pennsburg began to take on the appearance of a village.  The hub consisted of a general store, a carpenter and blacksmith shop and several houses.

Most of the land was owned by the Heilig Brothers.  They owned and  resided in the oldest house in Pennsburg located at Seminary and Fourth Streets. The Heilig Brothers took it upon themselves to refer to this village as “Heiligsville”. Residents had their own ideas, and out of loyalty to the then Pennsylvania Senator, James Buchanan, wanted to name the area Buchanansville.


As the village grew in size, a meeting was held in 1843 at the Hilleg’s family store to decide on a permanent name and lay out boundary lines.  After a week long bitterly contested battle, it was finally decided to name the village “Pennsburg” after William Penn.


Henrich and Susannah had five children:

i. Heinrich Heilig, b. 1722 , ii. Jurg George Heilig, b. 1720; d. 1796, Upper Hanover Township., iii. Johannes Heilig (Source: Willbook I – 1796, 149-150.).
iv. Anna Maria Heilig (Source: Willbook I – 1796, 149-150.), m. Michael Slonaker., v. Susanna Heilig (Source: Willbook I – 1796, 149-150.), b. 1726; m. Henry Deany.


Johannes or John changed the surname to Highley. The other children kept the German spelling of Heilig.

This notation appears on a locally sold post card by Len Hillegass of the Heilig House: “The Heilig House at 313 W. 4th Street is considered to be the oldest house in Pennsburg. Wounded and ill Colonial Soldiers were cared for there by the very compassionate Heilig family during the Colonies’ fight for independence from British rule during the American Revolution.” Album by Reid Heilig
You can see other pictures of the house at https://imageevent.com/heilig/heiligheritage/heilighousepennsburgpa?n=1&z=2&c=4&x=0&m=24&w=0&p=0

Henry was a clockmaker. He passed down the art of his clockmaking skills to his children and nephews. One of the most famous being David Rittenhouse, who was an avid astronomer, he built complicated astronomical clocks and orreries, or planetary models, that not only kept time but predicted celestial events.

David Rittenhouse tall case clock. 1984.0416.007.

Henry is even listed in the U.S., Craftperson Files, 1600-1995.

With hand made brass works in the German style, it consists of 19 bells, a wooden cylinder with pins that activate 19 hammers to play tunes, a bone wave to switch tunes. Iron frame is dovetailed together. You can read more about each piece on Reid Helig’s site at https://imageevent.com/heilig/hheiligclock/themusicmechanism

Henry was buried along with this wife in the mostly Rittenhouse family cemetery, Methacton Mennonite Cemetery. Click here for a partial list of burials with links to tombstone photographs. Henrich’s and Susannah’s are below. This cemetery is located in Worcester Township, Montgomery County, PA.

There is a wonderfully thorough history written by Linton E. Love, a descendant of the Rittenhouse family. In it are the descendancts of Henry and Susannah. Linton has created a database extending from the 17th century up to
the 21st century from Claus to his 12,810 descendants as of March 2005!

Do you have a Heilig clock? You might!

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