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Jacob Naff, Sr. & Eva Katherine Flora/Florh Naff

Note: Much of the below information is either quoted directly from, or based on the genealogy, "Naff and Related Families, Swiss Ancestors of Naffs & Neffs in the USA and Descendants of Jacob & Eva Catherine (Flora) Naff and of Sebastian and Mary (Saylor) Naff," by John Wesley Boitnott, Printed by Park View Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, copyright 1979. Pages 22-25.

Jacob Naff, Sr., is the immigrant ancestor of most of the Naff families residing in the present day Roanoke, Rocky Mount, and Boones Mill area of Virginia. Indeed, some of his descendants can be found across the United States and the world. Not many families retained the spelling of the surname "Naff." As the descendants of Jacob Naff, Sr. moved westward, most families began to spell the name as "Neff."

Jacob's surname was written in various forms, first appearing as Jacob Knaff in his land grant from Governor Randolph of Virginia in 1782, as Nafe in a deed in 1791, as Jacob Nave in his will in 1802; and, finally, as Naff in a deed from Isaac N. Naff to Abraham Naff in 1849.

According to John W. Boitnott's research, Jacob Naff, Sr., was born circa 1727, in the borderland between Switzerland & Germany (The Palatinate). He emigrated from Rotterdam by way of Deal, on the ship Dragon. This ship arrived at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the 26th of September, 1749. The "A" lists are the Captains' Lists of passengers being imported (these are usually the most inaccurate of the three); The "B" lists are the Oaths of Allegiance to the King; the "C" lists are Oaths of Abjuration. About 500 people arrived with him and according to the ship's records, they came from the Palatine and Zweybruchen, Germany.

Determining The Correct Name of Jacob Naff's wife:

Most of the original information regarding the name of Jacob Naff's wife has been taken from Walter Bunderman's book, "Flory, Flora, Fleury Family History", published in 1948. In this book Bunderman shows a photocopy of a baptismal certificate, dated 8-September-1733, for Katherine Flory, daughter of Joseph Flory. It has not been proven that this is a baptismal certificate or exactly what the name on it reads. The certificate is unclear, very old and difficult to read. Fold lines in the paper have made some of the words almost impossible to decipher. Florey/Flora researchers are making every effort to further document the name of Eva (aka Eva Catherine, Katherine, Katherina) as well as to determine her ancestry and the background of her father, Joseph Flory. See Joseph Floriey and His Descendants. See Katherine in the second generation, number 1.7. Also see "Myths" at the Florey web site.

John Boitnott gives as his references for the name "Katherina," Walter Bunderman's book,(3) Bunderman, page 25; and the book by Joel Cephas Flora, A Genealogy and History of Descendants of Joseph Florey of Franklin Co., VA, Copyright 1951, page 16. We can assume that Joel Flora used Bunderman's book as his reference. See Boitnott References. Unfortunately, Jacob Naff, Sr. did not give the name of his wife in his will or in any other of his legal documents.

After noting the above sources for Eva's name, John Boitnott states: "In view of these facts, I [John Boitnott] choose to call her Eva Catherine." Naff and Related Families...."(4) Boitnott, page 22. It seems fairly apparent that John Boitnott was the first to call Jacob Naff, Sr.'s wife Eva Catherine. He seemed to find an easy solution to the conflict between the names Katherina/Katherine and Eva by combining them as "Eva Catherine."

"He [Jacob Naff, Sr.] married circa 1755, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Katherina Flure (also known as Eva Flora/Florh, Eva Catherine Flurin, Floriey, Flory, Flora) daughter of Joseph Flora/Floriey...According to tradition, she was born on board the ship which brought her parents to America. They came from the Palatinate, Germany, to Philadelphia on the Ship Hope, arriving there 18 Aug. 1733. She, Katherine Florin, was baptized 8 Sept, 1733. (3) Bunderman, page 25. This was twelve days after the ship landed, so the tradition may be in error or it could mean that baptism could not be administered on board the ship and was deferred until the family was settled on land."(4) Boitnott, page 22.

John Boitnott gives as his source for the following information Marshall Wingfield's "Pioneer Families of Virginia." Wingfield does not give a date for the marriage of Jacob, but he does state on page 163 that Jacob Naff, Sr. married "...Eva Flora whose parents came from Germany."

Susan Hessing, who inherited the original Isaac N. Naff "Autobiography" and so graciously furnished me with a copy, also has family letters in which Jacob's wife was referred to as "Eva," but never as "Eva Catherine" or any name other than "Eva." Katherine was called Eva by her grandson, Isaac N. Naff, in his unpublished autobiography. A copy of the passages in Isaac Naff's autobiography which mention his grandmother, Eva's name, can be viewed at "Autobiography."

It has been suggested that the name "Eva," as set forth in Isaac Naff's autobiography was merely a family nickname. There are no official documents setting forth this name for the wife of Jacob Naff, Sr., and there is still the purported baptismal certificate found in Walter Bunderman's book. Thus, the name "Eva Catherine," as coined by John Boitnott and passed down in the genealogies, will remain the name of Jacob's wife until proof is found.

"She, Katherina Flora(3)Bunderman, page 26, had two sisters and five brothers. One of her brothers, Jacob, moved to Franklin County, Virginia at the same time she did and became the ancestor of the Flora families there. Other brothers became ancestors of Flory families of Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia."(4) Boitnott, page 22.

"Presumably after marriage Jacob Naff, Sr. settled on or near the Susquehanna River in an area that later became Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Later, ca. 1770, he moved his family to Frederick Co., MD, and still later ca. 1782 to Franklin County, Virginia. "The land on which he settled his family in 1782 or soon thereafter was by grant of Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia."(4) Boitnott, page 23. View Jacob Naff, Sr.'s Land Grant.

Jacob's brother, Sebastian, moved his family to Virginia in 1792. Isaac N. Naff, a grandson of Jacob, Sr., described the location of their settlement as follows:

"After a number of years, the two brothers removed, with their families, from Franklin Co., Pa., to Franklin Co., Va. Sebastian had but two children, both sons, and settled at the junction of the North and South Forks of the Blackwater, which to this day is one of the most beautiful, the most fertile and most productive portions of that large county."

"Jacob, with his family except two of his children—Abraham and Sarah who remained behind...settled on the head waters of Magadee, likewise at the confluence of the North and South branches. Here the ground was equally fertile and productive, but with the smallest areas, much more rugged, being almost wholly surrounded by lofty spurs running down from the Blue Ridge and forming a hollow square or cove like basin. The water that gurgles from the mountainside is pure and cold as if issuing from a modern refrigerator, and the scenery superbly grand, enchanting.(2) Isaac N. Naff, page 1.

"The land is on the headwaters of Maggodee Creek, most of it between the north and south branches, flowing rapidly from spurs on the south side of the Blue Ridge Mountains...While the landscape probably has not changed very much in nearly two hundred years. . All of the land and the buildings seen in the snapshots now belong to descendants of Jacob, Sr. As a matter of fact, no one other than a descendant, or the spouse of a descendant, has ever owned any of it.

"From this place, descendants spread into the northwest quadrant of Franklin Co., where they are now numerous, and from these two areas to the great South and West."(4) Boitnott, page 17.

"The families of Sebastian and Jacob spoke German and read German. How soon they learned to speak English is not known. Jacob Naff, Jr., was able to speak a little English and read it with difficulty. Rev. Isaac N. Naff, a son of Jacob Naff, Jr. and Elizabeth (Stover) Naff, was the first Naff to become a minister of some note. Isaac was able to preach in German and in English. In his autobiography, Isaac N. Naff writes about the language problem in the home of his parents as follows: 'In the family circle they invariably used the German language, except when strangers were present who were unacquainted with the language. Then they used the English...'(2) Isaac N. Naff, page 2.

"My grandfather, [John Boitnott's grandfather] Jacob P. Naff, taught me to count up to ten in German and then told me that he was about nine years old before his parents decided that the family should give preference to English in speaking, reading and writing.

"Whether Sebastian and Jacob Naff claimed a church connection before coming to America or not is not known. It is probable, however, that they were baptized at birth by the Lutheran or the Reformed Church. It is known for sure that both married women from "Dunker" (Church of the Brethren) homes. While Katherina [Eva] Flora, who became Jacob's wife, was baptized at birth by the German Reformed or Lutheran Church, it is known that her parents, several brothers and a sister, were baptized by the "Dunkers" in the Conestoga Congregation in Pennsylvania. Sebastian's wife, Mary Saylor, was the daughter of Daniel Seilor (Saylor), a well-known "Dunker" of the Conestoga area, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and later of Frederick, Maryland. It is also known that Jacob Naff, Sr., became a minister in the Church of the Brethren. Many descendants of both men have been members of this church, and numerous ministers have come from among them."(4) Boitnott, page 20.

"When Jacob and Sebastian settled their families in Franklin County, Virginia, 1782 and 1792, respectively; it was a frontier country and they were real pioneers. Franklin County was organized in 1786; the place where Jacob Naff settled was in Bedford County at the time.

"Both families probably bought what they needed and transacted business at Rocky Mount, about twenty miles away for Jacob's family and about twelve for Sebastian's. Transportation was by horseback, buggy, or wagon; stage coaches by the 1850's. Some mail service was available to Jacob, Sr., and descendants through Rocky Mount by December 19, 1810, Boone's Mill by February 18, 1828, and Naffs by January 27, 1855 to December 15, 1925. Jacob Naff, III, a grandson of Jacob, Sr., was the first postmaster of Naffs, Virginia. Since 1925 the area served through Naffs post office has been served through Boones Mill."(4) Boitnott, page 21.

Jacob Naff, Sr. died in Franklin County, Virginia, probably in 1806, before Oct. 6, the date on which his will was probated. He was buried in Franklin County Virginia on his farm land.View Will of Jacob Naff, Sr.

Eva Katherine died in Franklin County, Virginia, circa 1820, or about fourteen years after her husband. Both were buried on the farm where they settled about 1782. The home place where they were laid to rest became the burial ground for four or more generations of descendants. It is generally known as the Naff Family Cemetery and is located at Naffs, just south of Roanoke, Virginia, on or near Mills Mountain, Franklin County, VA.

"There were twelve children, the first seven or eight born in Pennsylvania, the remainder in Frederick County, Maryland as follows:"4 Boitnott, page 25.

[Editor's note: Although twelve children are stated, Boitnott lists them as follows on page 25 of his book, making a total of eleven children.]

    i. Mary Naff - born circa 1756, Pennsylvania, died circa 1856, Franklin County, Virginia. Mary died unmarried in Franklin County, Virginia, circa 1856, about age 100. She probably made her home with her parents as long as they lived. In 1850, according to the U. S. Census of that year, she was 94 and living with Jonathan Naff, a nephew. Her father bequeathed her a double share of the estate by his will probated in 1806.
    ii. Abraham Naff - born 22-Feb-1758, Pennsylvania. He married Katy (unknown). He sold his 320 acres on Blackwater River (Franklin Co., Va. Deed Book 5, p.144). Soon after this sale he moved his family to Preble Co., Ohio (possibly Lewisburg, Ohio).
    iii. Sarah Naff - born circa 1762, Pennsylvania.
    iv. Isaac Naff - born circa 1763, Pennsylvania.
    v. Elizabeth Naff - born circa 1765, Pennsylvania.
    vi. Jacob Naff, Jr. - born circa 1767, Pennsylvania.
    vii. Joseph Naff - born circa 1769, Pennsylvania (possibly Frederick County, Maryland),farmer, married 07-Mar-1796, in Franklin County, Virginia, Mary Magdeline Hergerdeez, born unknown, daughter of Conrad Barnhart, mother unknown. She died before 5-Jun-1848, Franklin County, Virginia. Joseph died before 1810, Franklin County, Virginia. Joseph Naff became a farmer in Franklin County, Virginia, for on 24 February, 1795 he, Joseph Nave, bought 200 acres on Little Creek from Abraham Rowland for 250 pounds (Deed Book 4, Page 637). Some time later, 16 August, 1804, he, Joseph Nafe, bought 298 acres on Little Creek from Henry Kinsey for 300 pounds. (Deed Book 4, Page 637). He, Joseph Nafe or Nave, paid taxes on 200 acres 1796-1804 and on 298 acres in 1805. (Land Tax Records). There were no children of this marriage.
    viii. Jonathan Naff - born circa 1771.
    ix. Susanna Naff - born circa 1773.
    x. Catherine Naff - born circa 1777.
    xi. David Naff - born circa 1780.

(1)Naff, Rev. Isaac N., "Autobiography." Unpublished. Written about 1894. A typed copy made available to John W. Boitnott by Mrs. Edith Naff Montgomery.

A copy of Jacob N. Naff's "Autobiography" was made available to Betty Naff Mitchell by Isaac N. Naff's great-great-grand daughter, Mrs. Susan Naff Hessing of Boise, Idaho, in March, 2002. E-Mail Susan Naff Hessing.

(2)Naff, Rev. Isaac N., "Autobiography." Unpublished. Written about 1894. Page 1-2.

(3)Bunderman, Walter A., "Flory, Flora, Fleury Family History." Copyright 1948.

(4)Boitnott, John Wesley, "Naff and Related Families, Swiss Ancestors of Naffs and Neffs in the USA." Copyright, Parkview Press, Harrisonburg, VA., 1979.

"A myth is something that almost everyone believes or accepts, but which is not based on fact or evidence. A myth can turn out to be a truth, once the evidence is found, or it can turn out to be a falsehood, once evidence to the contrary is found. In genealogy, more often than not, a myth continues to be a myth simply because evidence cannot be found to either prove or disprove it. A myth can also remain a myth to those who are simply unwilling to consider the evidence."

Dwayne Wrightsman
Lee, NH
July 14, 2001


Last updated July 16, 2002
Copyright © Betty Naff Mitchell.