In the 1600s in Europe, Protestants were troubled by religious persecution and,
consequently, thousands of them fled their homes, moving their families
northward to Holland, thence to England and, for many, ultimately to the new
land in America. Among those central Europeans seeking a better life was the
Oberholtzer family of Switzerland.
The Oberholtzer family originated in the Swiss village of Oberholtz, south of
Zurich, before the 15th century. However, in 1661, one family left Switzerland
for the Palatinate in Germany. Later, the Oberholtzers, along with other
Mennonite Swiss and other protestant (or non-Catholic) groups from central
Europe left for Holland and England. From their camps in England, refugees left
for the new world in 1710. Landing in Philadelphia, they subsequently moved
westward, settling on land in what is today known as Lancaster County,
The flow of refugees from Europe to Pennsylvania increased steadily over the
following years. As land in Lancaster County became fully taken up, other
counties were opened, and new settlements sprang up in several nearby counties.
The refugee families thrived in their new homes and ultimately their descendants
moved south and west to claim land in less populated areas of the New World.
Today, those descendants may be found all over the United States. Meanwhile, the
Martin Oberholtzer Family in Terre Hill, Lancaster County formed an Oberholtzer
Family Association. Later, as the primary organizers, they changed the surname
spelling to Overholser.