Fredericka (Not) Moselman, But Ruhle/Reuhle (1788-1863) and The Voyage From Hell, 52 Ancestors #123

Fortune cookie

Fredericka Lentz is one of the women we only knew through her husband and children, as of two weeks ago. Last week, we expanded Fredericka’s life through German church records, and this week…well…you won’t believe what we found.  I don’t want to spoil this absolutely incredible, almost unbelievable story, so you’ll just have to follow along.  Consider this your “get a cup of tea” warning:)

Not one story remains about Fredericka individually, and were it not for stories about her husband, written by their grandson as a tribute to her husband Jacob, we would have known almost nothing about Fredericka, nor would we have had tidbits to take our research further. I was incredibly grateful that her surname, Mosselman, was provided in that document.

The tribute written about Jacob Lentz, Fredericka’s husband, includes the following sentence about Fredericka, and that was it:

“He married Frederica Mosselman who was born in Wuertemburg, Germany March 8, 1788. She died March 22, 1863.”

Of course, the story of Jacob’s tribute applies to Fredericka too, by proxy. You can read the tribute letter in full here, in Jacob’s first article.

Not Mosselman

As grateful as I was for the tribute letter, recent research by a retired genealogist specializing in German records (thanks Thomas) has revealed that Fredericka’s surname wasn’t Mosselman, Moselman, Musselman or anything similar. In fact, her surname was Ruhle, also spelled Reuhle.

Of course, researchers searched for a Lentz – Mosselman marriage for decades – all to no avail – because it never happened. In the meantime, the marriage of Jacob, also spelled Jakob, and Fredericka, also spelled Fridrica, along with the births of their children had been indexed in the Buetelsbach church records where both of their families lived for centuries.  Jacob’s last name there was spelled Lenz.  You can read the article about how the brick wall fell here. While it’s an article about Jacob, it certainly applies equally to Fredericka too.

Thomas, who broke through that brick wall, sent this information:

Jacob Lenz, bapt 15 March 1783 in Beutelsbach, Schorndorf, Wuerttemberg, son of Jacob Lenz & Maria Margaretha Grubler. Jacob was a vinedresser.

Fridrica Ruhler, bapt 14 March 1788 in Beutelsbach, d/o Johann Adam Ruhler, vinedresser & Dorothea Katharina ?

 Had the following children together without the benefit of marriage:

  1. Jacob Friedrich Lenz, born 28 Nov 1806 in Beutelsbach.
  2. Johannes, born 9 Dec 1811 in Beutelsbach; died 9 May 1814 in Beutelsbach.
  3. Elisabetha Katharina born 28 March 1813 in Beutelsbach.
  4. Maria Barbara, born 22 August 1816.

This information, while not yet complete, certainly was very compelling and got the proverbial ball rolling.

Of course, the surname Reuhle is spelled Ruhle, Ruhler and other variant ways. Spelling was not standardized and neither was penmanship.

Our Fredericka was born and baptized a Lutheran. Below, her baptism record.  Her entry is the last one on the second page.

Fredericka 1788 birth

Here’s a closeup.

Fredericka Ruhle 1788 baptism

Can you read that German script?  Me either.  Thank goodness for people like Thomas who can and do for those of us who cannot.

According to the church records, Fredericka, as her name was spelled in America and how I’m spelling it for consistency, was listed in one church record as Johanna Fredericka, which probably accounts for why the 1850 census in Montgomery County, Ohio lists her first name as Hannah. Obviously the census taker wasn’t German and didn’t understand German naming conventions where the middle name is used as the given name.

We next find Fredericka in the church records in 1806.

A Bit of Scandal

Last week’s 52 Ancestor’s story was part two of Jacob’s story, which it so happens needed to be told before Fredericka’s story.

German church records revealed a great deal – who stood up with the child being baptized, sometimes the birth date along with the baptismal date, sometimes the father’s profession and always if the parents were or were not married.

Jacob and Fredericka were not married when their first child was born on November 28, 1806, and the church dutifully recorded that detail. Jacob, however, claimed the child, named after himself, and he and Fredericka were subsequently married on May 25, 1808.

Lentz Jacob and Fredericka marriage

According to “Understanding Your Ancestors” by Leslie Albrecht Huber in an article which first appeared in the Germanic Genealogy Journal:

Illegitimacy in the 1700 and 1800s took on a much different appearance than illegitimacy today. Although it was common for couples who weren’t married to have children, it was uncommon for these couples not to marry eventually. In essence, many illegitimate children were born into family units, although their families lacked the official blessing of the state church. These couples often lived together and considered themselves families at the time of the child’s birth.

Couples delayed marriages for several reasons. Sometimes, they didn’t have the money to pay the marriage fee. Other times, the church was far away or the pastor wasn’t easily accessible. Some German states, in an effort to control the booming population, placed legal restrictions on marriage, making it more difficult. And sometimes, the couple simply didn’t feel that much concern about whether marriage or children came first. Peasant society had its own marriage customs apart from the customs of the state church. In earlier times, the community had viewed living together, making a commitment to one another, and especially having children as basically equivalent to getting married. Despite valiant efforts by churches, stamping out traditions and convincing people to first perform the ceremony in a church proved difficult.

At that time in Germany, a male had to prove he could support a family before the couple was allowed to marry, so a good many children were born before their parents married. Jacob was a vinedresser in a vineyard, so he clearly wasn’t wealthy.  Like most of the other people who lived there, he was a peasant.  Their second child, named after Fredericka, came along in1809, a little over a year after their marriage.

A second son, Johannes, arrived in December 1811 and died on March 9, 1814, probably buried in the churchyard in Buetelsbach, shown in the vintage postcard below.

Fredericka Beutelsbach postcard

Just 19 days after her son’s death, Fredericka gave birth to Elizabeth Katharina who would die on the way to America and was buried at sea.

Two years later, their last child to be born in Germany, Barbara, arrived in August of 1816 and was reported in the tribute letter to be a baby when Jacob and Fredericka left for America in 1817.

The church records tell us that Jacob and Fredericka obtained permission to immigrate on February 12, 1817. They probably left shortly thereafter, because they had to travel from Beutelbach to a port city where they would board a ship destined for America.

I have to wonder if Fredericka made one last trip to the cemetery, perhaps to say goodbye to her grandparents, siblings who had perished, and her child. It’s very difficult for a mother to leave a child behind, even one who is buried.  I’m sure leaving was a mixture of sorrow and anticipation mixed with a touch of fear, dread and excited expectation for what the future held.  I wonder if Fredericka had any type of foreboding about the trip.

Jacob and Fredericka probably sold most of whatever they had. Peasants didn’t own land, so their holdings might have been a cow, furniture and some tools.  They turned whatever they had into money to pay their passage, probably took one trunk of belongings for the entire family, or maybe two, and set out with in essence what they could carry for the new world sometime in the spring of 1817.

Of course, they couldn’t have anticipated the extreme danger and high seas adventure they would endure for the next 2 years. Their lives turned into an episode of “Survivor” with no “out” for them.  Their lives not only took a tragic turn, it also took one that had the potential to change the permanent course of their future, derailing their dreams, and along with them, the lives of everyone in America who descends from them today.  They almost didn’t make it to America.  One of their children, Elizabeth, didn’t.

However, Jacob and Fredericka didn’t set sail alone.

Fredericka’s Parents

Fredericka’s parents are shown on the Family Search site, along with her siblings, based on church records.

Fredericka parents Family Search

Furthermore, it looks like Fredericka’s grandmother was also a Lenz. According to church records these same families lived in Beutelsbach and the neighboring village, Schnait, for as long as memory served, beyond the reach of church records, and they were inter-related over and over again.  The very definition of endogamy.

Fredericka’s siblings were:

  • Johann Ludwig who was born June 3, 1790 and died in the same village where he was born on April, 17, 1847. He married Sabine Mayerle in 1830 and then Maria Magdalena Vollmer in 1846. They had one male child, Johann Ludwig Ruhle, born in October 22, 1846 and died in Stuttgart on August 13, 1893.

Fredericka Johanna Ludwig Reuhl

  • Johanna Dorothea born March 18, 1793, below.

Fredericka Johanna Dorothea Reuhl

  • Johann George born April 25, 1794

Fredericka Johann George Reuhl

Catharine Margarethe born March 20, 1797, her birth recorded below, marked with the cross which means that she died as an infant, perhaps not long after her birth.  The Beutelsbach heritage site shows her death as October 23, 1797.

Fredericka Catherine Margarethe Reuhl

  • Johanna Margarethe born January 20, 1800, her birth recorded in the church records below.

Fredericka Johanna Margarethe Reuhl

There’s one more piece of information here for us. According to the tribute to Jacob, one of Fredericka’s sisters immigrated with the couple.  Johanna Margaretha is the sister who immigrated with Fredericka.  The word immigrated, in German of course, auswandern, is written under Johanna Margaretha’s name.  She would have been just 17 when they left.

Fredericka Family Search

According to church records utilized to create a tree and assemble families at Family Search, Fredericka’s parents were married on June 5, 1787, with Fredericka being the oldest child born the following March.

Beutelsbach has assembled a wonderful heritage book and put the family information online. This is a very rare and blessed event.

According to this information, Fredericka’s father, Johann Adam Ruhle was born January 30, 1764 in Schnait and left for America. Her mother, Dorothea Katherina Wolfin was born August 10, 1755 in Beutelsbach and left for America as well.  At least now we know that Fredericka wasn’t also saying goodbye to her parents in the graveyard on that cold late-winter day in 1817.

Fredericka’s parents were married on June 5, 1787 in Beutelsbach.

Fredericka Beutelsbach parents marriage

The church record, shown below, is somewhat unusual because the date of the event is shown below the records, not above the record.

Fredericka parents marriage

When I first saw the birth records of Fredericka’s siblings, I wondered why there were only children born from 1788 to 1800, a span of 12 years. I wondered Fredericka’s mother had died young.  At that time, I didn’t yet have her mother’s birth record, so I didn’t know her age at marriage.  The fact that her mother didn’t marry until she was 32 years old reduced her reproductive years to about 12.  Few children doesn’t always mean the wife died young.  I do wonder why she waited until age 32 to marry.  There must surely be a story there that we’ll never know.

The most surprising piece of information in these records is that Fredericka’s parents also immigrated to America. In addition to Fredericka’s youngest sister, her brother Johann George Ruhle born in 1794 immigrated as well, but her brother Johann Ludwig who was born in 1790 did not.  He died in 1847, a “weingartner” in Beutelsbach at age 57 of a brain injury.  I wonder how he felt being the only family member left behind?

In Germany, you didn’t just pack your bags and set off for America. You had to apply for permission to leave.

Permission to Leave

This book, “Königlich-Württembergisches Staats- und Regierungsblatt: vom Jahr … 1817,” in English, the “Royal Württemberg State and Official Gazette: by the year… 1817,” copied at Google, has the actual German records of who was authorized to leave.

Fredericka permission to leave

On page 199, you’ll note in the text (9 lines from the bottom) that Jacob Lenz and Johann Adam Ruhle are listed one after the other. The date of the publication of this group is on the following page, given as March 1718.

I asked Thomas about this list, and he indicated that it wasn’t at all a social listing, but official legal notices of people about to depart so that their debtors, if they had any, were aware they were about to emigrate and could settle up outstanding accounts. Those practical Germans.

I utilized one of the online translators to translate this and it says:

“Young Jakob Lenz under representation of old Jakob Lenz. Johann Adam Ruhle under representation of the shoemaker, Wilhelm Schweizer.”

How the heck did Thomas find this? He Googled in German.  In this case, “Jacob Lenz auswandern 1817.”  Practical Thomas!

Thanks again to Thomas, we have the published list of who applied and was granted permission to leave in Wurttemberg between 1816 and 1822.

On this list, we find the following Lenz men. The first date is the date of application and the second is the date of approval to leave.  Keep in mind that this includes their family, wife and children, even adult children if they are still living at home.

    • Lenz, Daniel Beutelsbach Schorndorf November 14, 1816 November 18, 1816 Weingaertner
    • Lenz, Daniel Schnait Schorn Dorf 19 Apr 1817 1 May 1817
    • Lenz, Gottfried Beutelsbach Schorndorf 29 Mar 1817 April 7, 1817 single
    • Lenz, Jakob Lenz young Beutelsbach Schorndorf 19 Mar 1817 28 Mar 1817

All of these Lenz men were from either Beutelsbach or Schnait, so they would be family members of some description. Those two towns are about two miles apart.

The Reuhle men were listed as follows:

    • Ruehl (in), Katharina Plieningen Stuttgart February 24, 1817 2 Mar 1817 to America or to Russia
    • Ruehle, Johann Adam Beutelsbach Schorndorf 19 Mar 1817 28 Mar 1817
    • Ruehle, Matthaeus Calw April 10, 1817 April 14, 1817 Nadler to Russia

The only Reuhle from Beutelsbach is Johann Adam, Fredericka’s father.

Their application date and their approval dates for the Lentz and Reuhle families are the same. These people emigrated as a family group.  So it wasn’t just Fredericka’s sister who came to America, but her parents and brother as well.

It must have been very difficult for Fredericka and her family to say goodbye to her one sibling left behind. Her brother Johann George was 27 when they left, but he wasn’t married, so there was nothing really to hold him to Beutelsbach.  I wonder why he stayed. Maybe he was the one with the foreboding.

The Journey

The tribute to Jacob tells us a somewhat incredulous story of the journey to America. While this story is very unusual, it’s so unusual that there must surely be a grain of truth someplace. No one would just make this up.  Here is what the tribute says:

Finally all arrangements were completed and bidding farewell to all their relations he and his family with his wife’s sister began their journey in 1817 (the words “in 1817” are omitted in the second version) to the land of his dreams. Thus they left Wuertemburg, Germany to return no more.

Ships were very different then than what they are now, and as their finances were limited. They did not have the best accommodations that were furnished to the more favored, even in that early day.  But they were willing to endure the hardships of an ocean voyage that they might come to the land about which they had heard so much.  Strange as it may seem to us now, they were to spend about 3 months on the ocean before landing on American soil (the words “on American soil” are omitted from the second version).  But now comes a very strange and trying part of their experience.

They experienced much of the ocean storm and the time seemed long. As the time came that they could reasonably expect to end their journey and set foot on the new world, everyone was making preparation to quit their ocean home.

But many days passed by and no land came in sight. Everyone became restless and there were many misgivings.  They sought explanations from the captain of the ship but his explanations were not satisfactory.  One part of their diet was a large kettle of soup or hash of which they all partook.  Some actions on the part of the captain as he was about where this food was being prepared at a certain time aroused suspicions of those in charge of preparing the food and instead of serving this food it caused the arrest of the captain of the ship.

A sample of the food was preserved and found to contain poison enough to kill many more than were on board this vessel. The captain’s purpose was to poison the crew and turn the ship over to pirates. He was later executed for this.

The ship without a captain wandered around in the northern waters for some time and finally landed (shipwrecked) way up on (the western coast of) Norway where they have six months of day and six months of night; thus were your (my) early ancestors brought to a disappointment in life that they were never able to find words to express. Landing in Norway where conditions were very unfavorable and where but few people live, instead of in America.  Their money all gone, strangers in a strange land, unable to speak the language, without (a) home (and) friends or prospects (“or prospects” omitted from second copy), a sad condition.

Fishing and weaving were the only things in sight and this they did, thus managing to get along for a few months. It was not possible for them to save anything out of the meager rewards for their work, but they still kept their steadfast purpose, to finally in some way reach America.  (Second copy says “It was not possible for them to kept their steadfast purpose, to finally in someway, reach America.”)

After 6 months of weary waiting in that northern climate, an opportunity came their way. A certain ship was to leave their port for the new world and proposed to enter (so they entered) into a contract, stipulating that they should be bound out to services to anyone that would pay their passage and food expense.  The time of service was to be determined by the bidding of interested employers after landing in America.  They would be indentured servants. (Previous sentence not in second copy.)  It was stipulated that the family was not to be separated.

With this contract they set sail the second time for the land beyond the sea, not knowing what would befall them or how they would be dealt with in the future (rest of sentence not in second copy) that was veiled with clouds that seemed to be very dark. All they knew was to commit their all into the hands of the overruling Providence “That doeth all things well, patiently labor, and wait for the future to unroll whatever was in store for them.”

(The passage was $30 each for mother and father and $15 each for Jacob and Fredericka. Elizabeth died on the ocean and Barberry was a baby.)

They landed in New York on the 1st day of January 1819 (rest of sentence omitted in second copy) some 18 months or more after leaving Germany.

Additionally, another family line said that Jacob and family wound up in Bergen, Norway and that they were in the hospital there for several weeks.

Truthfully, I discounted the hospital part, figuring there were no such things at that time, and I questioned the Bergen information. However, who would just pull the town of Bergen, Norway out of their hat?  That too was so specific that it seemed their might be grains of truth there too.

Thomas and I discussed this scenario and both of us agreed, and Thomas set about googling and searching once more.

Start Writing Part 3

A few hours later, I received an e-mail from Thomas, quite late one night, that was titled, “You may have to start writing part 3.”  I laughed when I saw that, figuring he was pulling my leg since I had to write two stories about Jacob, but I stopped laughing very quickly when I saw the contents of that e-mail.

Thomas had found confirmation that at least the shipwreck had happened, at the Norwegian archives along with a translated, a list of people who had been on the ship and who had died after arrival in Bergen.  Holy chimloda!

“Emigrants from the Zee Plough who died before, during or after arrival in Bergen and was buried from Korskirken.”

Kirskirken translates as “The Church of the Cross,” shown below.

Fredericka Church of the Cross

By Thomasg74 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 no,

The list of burials includes their age and location of birth, in addition to their death date and burial date.

There were 3 individuals from Beutelsbach and 4 from Schneit, spelled Schnejdt.

This strongly suggests that indeed, this was the ship that Jacob’s tribute recants. None of our family members are among the list of those who died while in Bergen, but there is a Ruhl child born after arrival in Bergen who died.  However, that doesn’t mean our family members didn’t die on the way, and we know that Elizabeth, Fredericka’s daughter, died at some time during the voyage.

Furthermore, based on this record, we now have the name of the ship, the Zee Plough which is Dutch and translates to Sea Plow.

For me, and I think for Thomas too, this was like throwing gasoline on a fire and resulted in frantic Googling on both his part and mine. E-mails were flying back and forth like a house afire very late into the night, or more accurately stated, into the early morning.  At one point, Thomas said, “I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone” and I knew exactly what he meant.  The best description I can give of this experience is “intensely surreal.”  I have never experienced anything like this in my 35+ years of genealogy research and neither had Thomas.

The question remained, though, whether this just happened to be ship with German passengers that shipwrecked near Bergen, or whether this was the ship Jacob and Fredericka were on. Were her parents on this ship too?  Did they survive?  Her siblings?

This scrap of information introduced so many questions.

Fredericka Zee Plough

This is a drawing of the Zee Plough.

Now, googling in both German and Norwegian, Thomas found the Norwedian Wikipedia page about the Zee Plough.

The Sea Plow

The Zee Ploeg was a Dutch emigrant ship which sank off Bergen in the autumn 1817 on its way from Amsterdam to Philadelphia with around 560 emigrants from Württemberg onboard. The passengers were farmers and craftsmen who were members of a religious movement (separatists) inspired by Württembergeren Johann George Rapp (1757-1847).  He had established the society “Harmony” in Pennsylvania in 1805.

Even though the Wikipedia page says that the ship sank, it didn’t, but was disabled when its masts broke.

The year 1816 had been difficult, with poor harvests and a very cold winter.  At this time over seventeen thousand emigrated from Wurttemberg.

The Zee Plough was 136 feet long, 32 feet wide and almost 16 feet tall, with 3 masts. In September 1815 conducted a trial voyage to Suriname with Jan Poul Manzelmann as captain and they returned on July 4, 1816. On behalf of the Handelshuis Zwichler & Comp, the ship now carrying 560 emigrants to the United States.

The boarding was scheduled for 30 March 1817, but was first carried out a month later. Not until late in August, the captaincy from Amsterdam with Hendrich Christopher Manzelmann from Lübeck as Captain with his 21-man crew.  The ship had to return after 11 to 12 days due to the storm in the English Channel , and a minor casualty.  At the next attempt the Captain went up North and High North Scotland, but fell again in a storm.  This time the masts broke and the ship ended after a time by Skjellanger, northwest of Bergen, on September 25.  The ship was towed to the port of Bergen on September 29, and was anchored.

Before the accident 100 passengers died of famine and disease, including all of the thirty who were born aboard. The passengers did not disembark, and while the ship lay at anchor at Sandvik Flaket (a marine channel, shown below) an additional sixteen died.

Fredericka shipwreck

This channel is truly far north in Norway.

Fredericka Shipwreck Norway

Possibly due to these deaths Lars Monrad (1762-1836) believed that the ship had to be quarantined because of the outbreak.

Fredericka Elsesro

The ship was towed to Elsesro, just north of Bergen, shown on the map above.

The painting of Elsesro, below, from about 1807, would have been much like Fredericka would have seen.

Fredericka Elsesro painting

Fredericka must have been extremely grateful to see terra firma and to know that they weren’t all going to die on that ship, floundering in the sea. It was a long way from Sandvik Flaket to Elsesro.

Fredericka shipwreck to Bergen

A few days later, the ship was towed to Bergen and anchored and the survivors were allowed to debark. I’m sure they couldn’t get off that ship quickly enough.  Food, any food, was most welcome I’m sure, as was solid ground.

Bishop Claus Pavels (1769-1822) expressed concern about how the penniless town of Bergen should be able to accept these refugees. Many of the sick were eventually lodged in a farm in Kong Oscars gate 22 (St. Jorgen’s Hospital, now the Leprosy Museum, shown below), which was at that time a military hospital.

Fredericka hospital

Ironically, there is mention in the Lentz oral history of the group staying in a hospital in Norway for several weeks. The oral history seems to have been accurate.  This hospital is where Fredericka and her family would have lived for some time.

In Bergen an additional 40 passengers died and were buried in peace at the Church of the Cross in Bergen.

Fredericka church

By Thomasg74 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 no,

Fredericka would have seen this tower of the ancient church as she attended those 40 or so burials.

By Thomasg74 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 no,

By Thomasg74 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 no,

Were some of her distant family among those who died?  Had her family members been buried at sea?  Her daughter?  Her parents, brother and sister?

Graveyards in Europe are not treated with the same reverence as they are in the US. Graves are routinely reused in Europe. The graveyard beside the church is now a park, but still referred to as “Grave.”

Fredericka chapel

The interior of the church,  where I’m sure Fredericka prayed fervently for deliverance of her family.  They couldn’t stay in Bergen, they couldn’t go back, so they had to go on.  More danger lay in front of them.

The ship Sea Plow could not be repaired and was sold at auction in December 1817.

In October 1817, the Norwegian government compiled one of two lists of the names of the surviving passengers. This list was published in an article by Dr. W. Weintraud.  I’m attempting to obtain a copy of this list, hoping that it will confirm that Jacob and Fredericka were on this ship, and that perhaps her parents survived as well.

Weintraud reference

Oh, and just as an aside, the Western Reserve Historical Society claims the journal is not in the Ward collection, although I wonder if they looked elsewhere.  The Allen County Public library lists this document in their catalog and you can order the film from the Mormon Church, so I haven’t struck out yet!

During this time, while the German families were stranded in Bergen, some Norwegian families of a similar religious persuasion (Rappites) began to consider emigration as well, and were soundly discouraged from that line of thinking. A Norwegian government official said about a visit when they came to speak with him about the possibility: “I advised them against the thought. I recounted the misfortunes the Germany emigrants had been exposed to and explained that the easy and inactive life the emigrants were leading at the moment – it was perhaps this which had misled these peasants – would come to an end as soon as the season allowed us to send them back to their homeland.”  The Norwegians did immigrate beginning in the 1820s, despite being soundly discouraged from doing so.

The Germans, however, from Wurttemberg could not go back. That was one of the stipulations of leaving.  The Duke of Wurttemberg had officially warned his subjects that the door operated only in one direction.  Other parts of Germany did allow a return, but only after posting a bond, something none of these people could do.

They also couldn’t stay in Bergen where they were unable to support themselves and unwelcome, so finding a way to America was their only option. Life must have seemed very bleak at that time for the Jacob and Fredericka, with no good options.  I wonder if they second-guessed their decision to leave.

After a few months most of the passengers departed for Philadelphia. Around 80 of them rented sailing ship “Susanne Cathrine” which sailed August 13, 1818.

The rest (273) went on the ship “Prima” of Larvik, owned by H. Falkenberg and Captained by Jacob Woxvold. Prima was hired by the Norwegian government, and arrived after a redirect to Baltimore in January 1819. Around 100 Germans returned to Germany. Some of the passengers filed afterwards lawsuit against Captain Mantzelmann to recover freight and other costs.

Who Was Johann George Rapp?

Have we discovered perhaps the reason behind Jacob and Fredericka’s emigration? Was religion behind this exodus, rather than weather or economic opportunity?

In the article titled, “George Rapp’s Harmonists and the beginnings of Norwegian Migration to America,” Karl Arndt tells us more about George Rapp, his son Frederick and his religious sect called the Harmonists and also known as Rappites. At the time of the sailing, George and Frederick Rapp had established the town of New Harmony, Indiana, land on the frontier of a newly formed state. The Rapps recruited heavily in Wurttemberg, holding out the lure of free land from the government and paid passage for those who would come and settle.

For Germans who spent their entire lives, for generations, tending vines on someone else’s lands, the allure of land was irresistible. In addition, the Rapps ordered a large selection of grape vines and fruit trees.  The families who came along knew just how to tend those vines.  In one of the letters to Germany, the Rapps stated:

“There are no poor people here who must suffer need or who could not feed themselves.  Much less would they have to worry that their sons would be taken away as soldiers, the laws of the land here are exactly the opposite of a monarchy.  Everyone has the freedom to express himself freely.  Also complete freedom of conscience is introduced in all America so that every person according to the conviction of his own conscience can perform unhindered his Divine service.”

Those are powerful words to families who have just suffered famine in Germany in 1816.

In order to encourage immigration and migration to New Harmony, Indiana, the Harmonites invested in money to pay passage for many Germans, several of whom disappeared after they disembarked here in the US after their passage was paid. The Harmonites continued to try.  Initially, about 150 people of the nearly 600 who embarked on the Sea Plow were believed to be Harmonites.  About 60 wanted to take them up on their offer of paid passage from Norway after the shipwreck.  In the end, about 15 wound up in New Harmony, Indiana.  Not a very good investment for the Harmonites. The supreme irony is that the Harmonites eventually said of these Germans that “they are too wild for our community.”  Of course, “wild” is very much a matter of perspective.

There was one detrimental factor that many people just couldn’t get past, relative to the Harmonites or Rappites as they were known. As Arndt stated, “George Rapp’s most effective substitute of self-disciplined celibacy lacked the essential mass appeal.”  I do wonder, if George was celibate, how was his son Frederick was born.  But, I digress.

The Harmonites had trouble recruiting and keeping people. Few want to commit to a life of celibacy.  Eventually they were so successful with the recruits that stayed that there was no one left in future generations to perpetuate their cause.  Recruiting for a celibate religion is a difficult task indeed.

It’s very doubtful that Jacob Lenz and Fredericka here Harmonites. It’s very clear from looking at the births of their children that they were not celibate.  They are also not noted by name, nor are her parents or siblings, in any Harmonite correspondence.

Fortunately, some of the Harmonite letters still exist, and contain valuable information about what happened.

On February 24, 1818 Christian Friedrich Schnable wrote from Bergen stating that the emigrants had already sacrificed their worldly estate and they found themselves in a land where they could not remain. He states:

“On September 5th, we lost all masts, also we were very badly treated by our disloyal captain.  He did not give us the food which he was obligated to give us according to contract.  This brought about great sickness so that over 200 souls died.”

We know that a total of 353 Germans sailed for America in 1818, and we know that between 560 and 600 people sailed initially in 1817 on the Sea Plow, so the difference would indeed be between 207 and 247 people. Starving yourself and watching others die of starvation intentionally at the hands of the cruel captain must have been a horrific ordeal.


After floundering at sea for weeks, starving, being towed to Elsesro and finally to Bergen where the surviving passengers were allowed to disembark, I wouldn’t blame Fredericka if she dropped to her knees, kissed the ground and gave praise. Surely, as she watched fellow passengers die, she knew that she and her family may have been next.  Did her daughter die during the voyage?  Her parents, brother and sister?

By Gerd A.T. Mueller - User:Gatm - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Gerd A.T. Mueller – User:Gatm – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

These reconstructed buildings on the Bergen waterfront are very similar to what Fredericka would have seen. Norwegian cities cling to the waterfront as the mountains rise behind them, as you can see in the photo of Bergen, below.

By Espt123 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Espt123 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

In Norway Jacob and Fredericka worked, fishing and weaving fishing nets, until they could arrange passage again, except the second time, they had no funds and had to agree to become indentured servants upon arrival to pay for their passage.

According to the tribute letter, their daughter, Elizabeth died at sea, although it is unclear whether it was during their first unsuccessful attempt to arrive in America or the second, successful, attempt.

Regardless, that must have been a very, very sad time for Fredericka. I can only imagine the agony of dealing with a child growing ever-increasingly ill, then realizing they were going to die, then watching them die, probably while holding them.  The mother, I’m sure, prepared the child’s body for burial, such as it was, at sea.

Bodies buried at sea were typically wrapped in some type of cloth and weighted so they didn’t float. The only thing worse, I think, than watching your child disappear beneath the waves would be to watch it float as the ship sailed away  in the distance – or worse yet, floating alongside for days.

Elizabeth would only have been 4 or 5 years old when she died.

Fredericka must have asked herself if the seemingly cursed voyages to America were really worth all of this trouble and heartache. After all, coming to America was Jacob’s dream, not Fredericka’s.

On To America

In the summer of 1818, 80 of the more well-to-do passengers chartered the ship Susannah Catharina and arrived in Philadelphia two months later, on October 23rd.

Arndt tells us that once in port, the Germans were not allowed to go ashore unless they could prove they would not be a public burden. “Since most of them could not show proof, they were sold or had to permit themselves to be sold at public auction.”  The Harmonite offer of redemption was only valid of course for those who would follow their ways and join them in New Harmony.  Even so, the Harmonites had problems converting “Indiana” money and debts into something a ship captain from Europe docked in Philadelphia would accept as payment to allow the passengers with unpaid passage to depart.

Arndt reports that Rapp had suggested that the passengers with unpaid passage be indentured with a special clause stating that the liberated person should be free again within 6 to 9 months in return for the repayment of the money for their passage. This would buy Rapp time to deal with his monetary conversion issues and not obligate the passengers after their debt was paid. Typical indentures lasted roughly 5-7 years.  The Jacob tribute story indicates their indenture was for 3+ years.

Clearly Jacob and Fredericka were not on this ship, as they didn’t have any money and they report their arrival in January of 1819, but Rapp’s suggestion for the October passengers, still on board that ship in mid-November, may well have applied to the next group that arrived in January as well. It’s known that the ship Susanna Catharina was still anchored in the harbor will into the spring of 1819, likely with Germans still aboard who could not pay their passage and who were waiting for Rapp to redeem them.

Furthermore, the information above regarding a reduced period of indenture correlates with another part of the Jacob Lentz tribute story, as follows:

A certain ship was to leave their port for the new world and proposed to enter (so they entered) into a contract, stipulating that they should be bound out to services to anyone that would pay their passage and food expense. The time of service was to be determined by the bidding of interested employers after landing in America.  They would be indentured servants. (Previous sentence not in second copy.)  It was stipulated that the family was not to be separated.

With this contract they set sail the second time for the land beyond the sea, not knowing what would befall them or how they would be dealt with in the future (rest of sentence not in second copy) that was veiled with clouds that seemed to be very dark. All they knew was to commit their all into the hands of the overruling Providence “That doeth all things well, patiently labor, and wait for the future to unroll whatever was in store for them.”

(The passage was $30 each for mother and father and $15 each for Jacob and Fredericka. Elizabeth died on the ocean and Barbery was a baby.)

They landed in New York on the 1st day of January 1819 (rest of sentence omitted in second copy) some 18 months or more after leaving Germany. Very soon after landing advertisements were sent out giving contract notice,  description of the family, amount of money to be paid and setting the date when they would be bound out to the one that would pay the money for the least period of service.

The momentous day soon came. They were placed on a platform before the crowd, the contract read, the amount of money to be paid was stated and the bidding began.  Of course anyone had the privilege to talk with them beforehand.  The bidding was in time of service.  One bidder would offer to pay their fare for 10 years services, another for nine, another for 8, another for 7, and so the bidding continued until finally their service was declared to the successful bidder for 3 years and 6 months.  They went with him to his home at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, wondering, wondering, wondering what it all meant to them.

They worked with a will and did their best to please their employer so he would have no just cause to hold them for service longer than the specified time.

They soon found that their employer and his wife were very good people asking reasonable work and supplying them with a comfortable home and an abundance of food. Contrasting this kindness with what they had to meet in the two preceding years, they were content and the future looked brighter to them, as they were now sure that in a few years of time they would be free to start life over again in this land where they had longed (long hoped) to be.

After they had worked about 8 months their employer invited them into his parlor one morning and kindly explained to them that according to customary wages, they had earned enough to pay their fare across the ocean and that was all he wanted, that he appreciated very much their faithful service. There were at the liberty to do for themselves and to work for who or where they would and their wages would be theirs to do with as they wished.

Freeing them of over two and a half years of service was so unthought-of on their part that they could never thank those people enough for their great kindness. So he often told it to his children and asked them to tell it to their children – that they might know and appreciate this kindness that was shown to them at the time it meant so much.

The Ship Prima

The last ship to leave Norway with the shipwrecked Germans was the Prima. On May 4th, 1819, a few months after the Prima’s arrival earlier that year in January, another Harmonite letter tells of the near catastrophy.  These ships carrying Jacob and Fredericka seem jinxed.  I can only imagine their horrific fear as they once again were endangered on the sea, seemingly sure to perish.

This letter reports that the group passed through a violent hurricane that threatened to capsize their ship.

We find additional information about this journey in a paper written by Ingrid Semmingsen titled “Haugeans, Rappites and the Immigration of 1825,” published in “Norwegian-American Studies, Volume 29” in 1983. This immigration is referring to the Norwegian immigration to the US.

Semmingsen states that aboard the Zee Plough were:

“About 500 emigrants – all from Wurttemberg, petty farmers and craftsmen who had resolved after the unusually severe winter of 1816 to leave for America. 1816 was the year “when summer never came.” Some of the immigrants, probably about 150, called themselves separatists.  They were religious dissenters and political malcontents who stoutly resisted any attempts by the Norwegian authorities to induce them to return to Germany.  They maintained they would be subject to persecution there.  They were followers of Johann George Rapp, gone to America in 1803.

Some of the Germans had paid all or part of the passage due the Dutch shipping company and they brought legal action against the skipper in an attempt to regain their money. Several of the emigrants still had some funds left, but most of them were poor.  A certain percentage were “nonpaying passengers” who had entered into an agreement with the skipper that they would raise the necessary funds on arrival in America by enlisting as indentured servants or laborers.

The whole group of emigrants was in miserable condition after floundering in the North Sea storm for nearly 2 months, during which time a number of them had perished. As a result, there were orphans among them and some 40 of the passenger were so feeble that they were sent to a hospital.

Fortunately the Norwegian doctor who was put in charge of them found nothing contagious. Nevertheless some deaths did occur after arrival in Bergen.

As events would have it, the entire group had to spend the whole winter in Bergen. The sailing season was past and the city authorities in cooperation with the Norwegian government had to take measures to provide them with housing and other necessities.  The years 1817-1818 were the worst Norway had to endure after gaining independence in 1814.  Crown Prince Carl Johann who would become king in 1818 even gave assistance from his own private funds.  Finances were desperate and political unrest was smoldering.

Even under more normal circumstances, it would have been a formidable task for a city with fewer than 15,000 inhabitants to improvise charitable organizations to assume responsibility for 500 practically helpless foreigners, many of them political refugees. In 1817 it must have seemed an event of catastrophic proportions.  Not until the summer and fall of 1818 did the immigrants leave Bergen.  The first group left  in August and docked in Philadelphia in late October and the second on the vessel Prima did not arrive in Baltimore until shortly after New Year’s, 1819.

Semmingsen goes on to say a few pages later that:

The Norwegian government had advanced 1,300 pounds toward their transportation which it hoped would be refunded when the ship reached an American port. The full cost of transportation ran to 2,200 pounds and the difference was arranged for by a naturalized German in Kristiana named Grunning.  More is known about this second crossing.

One of the crew of the Prima, presumably one of the officers if not the captain himself, wrote an account of the journey which was published in a Norwegian newspaper in 1826. He reported that there were 2 Catholic families among the passengers and the rest were Lutherans.

The people were described as religiously-minded, virtuous, and, considering their social class, well-bred. All of them had prayer books. Every morning and evening they prayed to God in a solemn and touching manner and sang hymns in clear, pure voices.

Before retiring they entertained themselves with song, dance, music, and games. On occasion they also passed the cup of friendship among themselves.

Skipper Woxland chose the southern route. This was undoubtedly wise considering the lateness of the season when he set sail. He took the Prima south to the coast of Portugal so as to utilize the trade winds, and it paid off “With the never-failing dominance of this wind” they reached the West Indies, but there they ran into trouble. They had to fight a raging storm, the shipowner reported to the government, and they had to dock in Baltimore instead of in Philadelphia, which was their real destination.

But according to the report the ship, crew, and passengers were well received. A committee was appointed by the citizens, which consisted partly of fellow-countrymen of the newcomers. They brought food aboard the ship and also raised money to help defray travel expenses.

Furthermore, arrangements were made to secure employment or land for the emigrants. Everything was managed “in the best of order” to everyone’s satisfaction.

Only the leave-taking with the skipper and the crew was a sad experience for the emigrants. Many of them had learned to speak Norwegian during the long stay in Bergen, and they promised that they would never forget dear Norway or “the kindly disposed citizens of Bergen.”

Not all the passengers were as favorably impressed by their reception in America as this report would imply — at least not four persons who were bound for Harmony and who, a few months later, sent a letter from Philadelphia to “Dearly beloved brothers and sisters in God’s congregation in Bergen.”

To be sure, they praised the skipper and crew who, with God’s help, exerted themselves to the uttermost in order to save ship and passengers when a “terrible storm” almost caused the ship to capsize; but they were dissatisfied with Harmony, which had not “given orders to redeem us.” They also had encountered trouble with getting their passage paid for, and they were forced to seek release from paying the big bill “charged against us for the care we received in Bergen.” Clearly, the emigrants also had to work as indentured servants. “Then we were sold for the passage money: one down south, another up north; only four of us are here together, the others are scattered.”

However, they continue, “America is a good country. Poor people live better here than the wealthy ones in Bergen and Germany. Wages are good. While we are in service, we are given good food and clothing and we have many free periods. We hope that we will soon earn our freedom and then be gathered together as one congregation.”

The Lawsuit

Apparently, there was indeed a lawsuit, although the outcome is questionable. The Jacob Lentz tribute says that the Captain was hung.

According to this information from the Norwegian archives website, and auto-translated, it looks like the Captain may have been in jail and the suit may have been dismissed. However, look who filed the suit.

Carl O Gram Gjesdal mention proceedings against Zee Plogs captain in jail in the new year 1818. The occasion will, according to Gjesdal, have been that two passengers, Jacob Lentz and John Fiedler, had appealed to the authorities and received a licence to ‘ on ustemplet paper for the person in question under the law that let make the cases that they find themselves occasioned that grow toward the bemeldte captain, kapt. Poul Jan Manzelmann ‘.  Do you know where this thing is located? It should have been accusations of drunkenness, poor seamanship, embezzlement, brutality, abuse, and murderer tampering attempts.  He was also of some of the responsibility for that small children died during the crossing due to malnutrition. It was difficult with the evidence, and DOM’s formulation, according to have been Gjesdal,: ‘ the captain should replace them to citanterne for erholdt forlite provisions after unwilling men’s discretion … By the way he should as far as compensation is concerned, is considered to be free.  Iøvrig rejected the case. ‘ Mvh Arnfrid

This tells us a couple very interesting things. First, Jacob, according to the earlier discussion, would have been one of the passengers that originally paid his way and that of his family.

Second, this begs the question of why Jacob would have been the one to file the suit. Was it burning anger over his daughter’s death?  His in-laws perhaps?  Or had Jacob assumed something of a leadership position among the immigrants?  Why Jacob?


After arrival, Jacob, Fredericka and the remaining three children were indentured to a kind family living in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. In addition, the tribute letter says that Fredericka’s sister also immigrated with them, but her sister’s name is not given, nor is any additional information.  The fact that Fredericka’s sister was mentioned, but her parents and brother were not begs the question of whether the rest of her family perished, or perhaps the oral history has lost those pieces of information.

I have never been able to find any information about the sister, but given that we didn’t have a name, and I was looking for a Mosselman female, I would never find her of course.

One thing I do know is that the sister does not seem to be living with Jacob and Fredericka in the 1840 census, which is the first census we have enumerating the family.

To date, I have not had any success finding Fredericka’s parents or brother in America. Her father, Johann Adam Ruhle would have been 56 years old in 1820, the first possible census where he could have appeared.  Her brother, Johann George, would have been 26 and would only have been individually recorded in the census if he were a head of household.  They could have been indentured at that time as well.  There is so much we just don’t know.

Freedom in America

The Jacob Lentz tribute letter reports that the family was not split apart when they were indentured to a couple who lived in Shippensburg, PA. Even more remarkable, this very kind couple released them from their indenture after only 8 months for “service rendered.”  Finally, they were free in America to make their own way, but what a price they had paid.

Adam Lentz, Fredericka’s first child born in America, was born August 30, 1819 in Pennsylvania and named after her father. This suggests that Fredericka got pregnant while at sea, in the first couple weeks of December 1818.  She probably did not realize she was pregnant when they were auctioned, which makes the fact that they were released 8 months into their indenture even more remarkable.

Perhaps, the family simply felt sorry for the very pregnant Fredericka who was working desperately hard so that their indenture would not be extended, in addition to caring for her own family. Typically, a pregnancy during an indenture extended the time the individual had to remain indentured, because the owning family did not get full service from that individual during the pregnancy or while the woman was caring for a newborn.  Often, the indenture was extended for up to 2 years.

The tribute letter tells us that Jacob and Fredericka stayed in Pennsylvania for nearly the next decade, moving to Montgomery County, Ohio in 1828 or 1829. Unfortunately, we don’t find the family on the 1820 or 1830 census in either Pennsylvania or in Ohio, so those two decades are still blank slates.

Montgomery County, Ohio

Fredericka had daughter Mary, on May 9, 1829. In the 1850 census, when Mary and her new husband were living with Jacob and Fredericka, Mary’s birth state was recorded as Ohio.

Lentz, Jacob 1850 census

In 1860, Mary’s birth location is also recorded as Ohio. In 1910, in Bartlesville, Washington County, Oklahoma, she gives her birth location as Pennsylvania as she does in the 1885 Kansas census where she is listed as M. A. Overlees.  Based on the birth locations of her children, Mary seems to have moved to Indiana between 1852 and 1854, to Illinois between 1866 and 1870, to Kansas before 1885, to Oklahoma before 1910 where she died in 1916.

Based on the varying information, we don’t know if Mary was born in Pennsylvania before Fredericka came to Ohio, if Mary was born in Ohio, and if so, if Fredericka was pregnant in a covered wagon at 41 years of age. For her sake, I hope not.  I strongly suspect that the earlier 1850 census where Mary was living with her parents would have been more accurate than a later census.  Fredericka, after all, knew unquestionably where her daughter was born.

It’s likely that Jacob and Fredericka were in Montgomery County in or by 1829, and were somehow missed in the 1830 census.

We also don’t find Jacob Lentz on tax lists in Montgomery County until the mid-1830s. In 1841, they purchased land from their son, Jacob F. Lentz, who seemed to be somewhat of an early realtor.

This would be the only land that Jacob and Fredericka owned, their homestead, and where they spent their final years. By 1841, Jacob was 58 years old and Fredericka was 53 – old to begin farming, but very grateful I’m sure that the past quarter century of turbulence and turmoil were over.  Jacob left when he was 34 years old to establish a more stable life – and it wouldn’t be until 24 years later that he finally owned his own land.  I’m sure this was really not what he and Fredericka had anticipated.  It had been a long, hard journey.

Fredericka and Jacob lived their lives on a farm just north of the intersection of Olive and Shiloh Springs Roads from at least 1841 through Fredericka’s death in 1863.  Today, a church stands on the front part by the road, plus two houses, but the rest is farmland just like it was when Jacob and Fredericka lived there.

Lentz Jacob land satellite close

This house, one of the two standing on the land they owned may have been the original farmhouse. If so, this was the only home Fredericka had that was “hers.”

Lentz Jacob house closeup

Jacob and Fredericka sold their land to son George in 1855. Jacob would have been 72 and Fredericka 67.  A year later, George sold it back to them as a life estate.  This deed was not registered until 1865, but since Fredericka signed to release her dower rights, we know that it was indeed executed in 1855, as her portion of the deed says, since she had been dead two years by 1865.  As far as I know, dead people can’t sign deeds, although apparently at one time dead people could vote in Chicago.

The deed does not show that they signed with an X, so apparently they could both sign their names, but probably in German script. Unfortunately, deeds recorded in deed books don’t hold original signatures.

We don’t know if Fredericka ever learned to speak or write English. They lived among a group of Germans in Ohio, attending the Brethren church whose services were in German as well.  If Jacob and Fredericka did learn English, it was probably very rudimentary. Ironically, Fredericka likely had at least a passing knowledge of Norwegian.

Religion and Life in Ohio

Jacob and Fredericka both started life as Lutherans, but ended their journeys on this earth as a part of the pietest movement. Even though they traveled on the ship with a group of Rappites, and one of their Lenz kinsmen seems to have been of that persuasion, there is nothing to indicate that Jacob and Fredericka embraced that religious leaning.

At some point in their lifetime, Jacob and Fredericka became Brethren.  Fredericka lived in the time when the wife followed her husband’s direction, so we’ll never know if Fredericka actively converted, or converted because her husband thought it was a good idea.

What we do know is that their two oldest children were not Brethren, but the rest seemed to be except for the youngest, Mary, who removed to Oklahoma. Mary’s husband was a Baptist, so perhaps she too was being a good and dutiful wife – not to mention there were no Brethren churches on the Oklahoma frontier.

Jacob and Fredericka attended the Happy Corner Brethren Church in Montgomery County. This church was established in a log cabin about 17 years before they arrived in Ohio.  It was a small church and would have provided a close, family-like atmosphere of other German families, something very welcoming to Fredericka, I’m sure.  Other than her husband and children, Fredericka had no known family in America, no sisters to talk to, no cousins, no one of her own blood on this entire continent, except perhaps for that elusive sister who was likely back in Pennsylvania, if alive at all.  Her brother may have survived as well, but if he did, he wasn’t living near Fredericka in Ohio.

The church stood at the intersection of Old Salem and North Union Road, about two and a half miles from where Fredericka lived. This would have meant that unless they had a buggy, which was very unlikely, they would have hitched the horses to the farm wagon and the family would have ridden to church in the wagon.  I’m not sure what they would have done in the rain.

Lentz Jacob church to home

The white church building at that location today was built not long after Jacob and Fredericka began residing in the cemetery down the road.

Lentz Happy Corner

One of the things that church woman have done forever is to quilt. They made quilts for their families, for newlyweds, for new babies and for missionary and charity work.  I quilted at my home church with my mother and she quilted with her grandmother.  Often, when a minister left a church for a “calling” elsewhere, the congregation women made him a quilt to say goodbye.

Several years ago, I became aware of a Happy Corner quilt for sale. I was extremely excited, until I realized it was made in about 1945, 80+ years after Fredericka died.  None of these women would have even known Fredericka.  Nonetheless, in an odd way, I felt that this quilt stitched the past and present together.  I know that Fredericka likely participated in a similar activity, 100 years earlier.

Fredericka happy corner quilt

Fredericka’s Death

Thankfully, the tribute letter also tells us when Fredericka died. Her gravestone was too badly deteriorated by the time cousin Steve Lentz took photographs, so if dates were ever there, we can’t read them now.

The Brethren newsletter was called the Gospel Visitor, and while Jacob’s death in 1870 was submitted by the local minister, Fredericka’s was not. It’s sad, because in many ways it seems that Fredericka spent her entire life being unrecognized and later, forgotten.

The cemetery is not directly adjacent, beside or behind the church, which is somewhat unusual.

Lentz Happy Corner cemetery satellite

The church is on the southwest corner of the intersection of Old Salem Road and North Union Road, and the cemetery is located a few hundred feet east on Old Salem Road, marked by the small grey pin above.

It’s a beautiful cemetery, punctuated by mostly older burials.

Lentz Happy Corner cemetery

Cousin Steve visited years ago and took photos of both Jacob and Fredericka’s stones.

Lentz, Jacob-Fredericka graves from Steve-a

In the photo above, Jacob’s stone is the white stone with his name showing. In front of his stone and to the left in the photo is a small stone with no visible name.  That stone belongs to Fredericka.

Lentz, Fredericka Lentz grave from Steve

You can see at one time that it said Fredericka wife of Jacob Lentz.

By the time I visited in 2004, you couldn’t even see the stone because it was obscured by a very healthy yucca plant, as seen below..

Lentz Happy Corner cem

Jacob joined Fredericka 7 years later. Unfortunately, it appears that there was no space beside Fredericka for Jacob, so their graves are slightly offset.  At least they are buried in earth and not in the Atlantic Ocean someplace.

The Children

Wives were helpmates to their husbands and mothers to their children, and not necessarily in that order.

I’m sure Fredericka’s children were near and dear to her heart.  If she was like other mothers, there is nothing more important.

Let’s look at what we know about each of the children. Unfortunately, Jacob did not leave a will when he died, and no probate was filed, so I’ve used alternative information to assemble the names and lives of the children.

Beginning with the 1840 census, I correlated known or suspected children against the census entry. Jacob Lints is shown in Madison Township with several family members. I’ve noted Jacob’s children where they would fit according to their known birth dates and the census categories.

  • Male 50-60 (born 1780-1790) Jacob
  • Female 50-60 (born 1780-1790) Fredericka
  • Male 5-10 (born 1830-1835) unknown, possibly Lewis
  • Male 10-15 (born 1825-1830) Benjamin born 1826
  • Male 15-20 (born 1820-1825) George born 1824 married in 1846
  • Male 20-30 (born 1810-1820) Adam born 1819 married 1843 to Margaret Whitehead
  • Female 10-15 (born 1825-1830) Mary born 1829, married 1848
  • Female 15-20 (born 1820-1825) Margaret born 1822, married December 1840 to Valentine Whitehead

The children of Jacob and Fredericka as I know them today::

  • Jacob Freidrich Lentz (spelled Lenz on his baptismal record) born Nov. 28, 1806 in Beutelsbach, Germany and married Sophia Schweitzer on May 6, 1830. In the 1880 census he is listed as a real estate agent census and shows parents born in Baden. He is identified as Jacob’s son in a local Dayton history book. His children are listed as Harriett born 1836 and married Jacob Shumaker, Margaret “Mary” born 1839/1840 married Cincinnatus Stimson, Jacob Franklin born 1840 and married Sarah “Sallie” Quimby Pierce, Cyrus Lentz born 1834 and married Mary Elizabeth Whitehead in Elkhart County, Indiana in 1855 and Charlotte Elizabeth Lentz born 1831/1833 married Daniel Donson. Jacob died on March 23, 1887 in Dayton, Ohio and is buried in the Woodland Cemetery. Jacob’s first name, at least, was for his father and his grandfather as well.

Lentz Jacob Friedrich baptism

  • Johannes Lenz was born on December 9, 1811 and died in Germany on March 9, 1814, just 2 years and 3 months of age.

Fredericka Johannes Lenz 1811.png

  • Fredericka (Freidrica) Lentz born in Beutelsbach, Germany July 3, 1809, married Daniel Brusman in Pennsylvania, identified by her son Lafayette’s death certificate as Fredericka Lentz.  According to the 1850 census, she had daughter Adaline born 1832 in Ohio, Margaret born 1835, died 1874, Ann born 1838 married James Gallagher and had daughters May and Effie, Lafayette born 1841 married Sarah Coffman, Jacob born 1844 and married Margaret Covery and Lorenzo born in 1848 and married Nancy Jane Harmon. Daniel Brusman died before the 1860 census and at some point, Fredericka remarried to Harry Gallagher. She died October 8, 1897 and is buried in Polk Grove Cemetery, Montgomery County, Ohio. Fredericka was named for her mother.

Fredericka Friedrica 1809

  • Elizabeth Katharina Lenz was born in Beutelsbach, Germany, on March 18, 1814 and died at sea on the way to America.  Katharina was Fredericka’s mother’s middle name, by which most German women were called.

Fredericka Elizabeth Catharina Lenz 1814

  • Barbery Lentz, baptized Maria Barbara Lenz in Germany on August 22, 1816, was a baby when her parents sailed for their new home. Sister Yost is mentioned in Jacob’s obituary. Barbara married Henry Yost and her death certificate in Elkhart County, Indiana gives Jacob’s name as her father. Based on her death certificate, she was born August 21, 1816. The 1850 census shows her children as Jane born 1841, Harrison born 1846 and William born in 1849 but dead before 1860. The 1860 Montgomery County census shows Lucretia age 7 and Lucy E. age 3. The 1870 census shows them in Montgomery County, but by 1880 they were in Elkhart County, Indiana. Barbara died on November 9, 1899. Her father’s name was given correctly, but her mother’s was listed as “don’t know” then scratched out. The informant was Jane Pollock, probably her daughter, who would clearly have known her grandmother before Fredericka died in 1863 when Jane would have been 22 years old. Many German babies were given the first “saint’s name” of Maria. Jacob’s mother was Maria Margaretha and his sister was Maria Magdalena.

Fredericka Lenz, Maria Barbara 1816

Maria Barbara’s birth record in the church book in Beutelsbach, Germany and her death certificate in Elkhart County, Indiana, below.

Lentz Barbara death cert

  • Adam Lentz born August 30, 1819 in Pennsylvania, married first in 1843 in Montgomery County, Ohio to Margaret Whitehead who died in 1844 in Elkhart Co. He then married Elizabeth Neff in 1845 in Elkhart County, then left and went to Montgomery Co., Illinois where he was listed the 1880 census with his parents having been born in Wurttemberg. By 1900 he was in Bates County, Missouri. The tribute letter states he was the son of Jacob. Adam died August 4, 1906 in Adrian, Bates County, Missouri. Adam had children Mary born 1848, Henry born 1850, Warren born 1853, Aaron born 857, Samuel born 1860, Marven born 1860, Clara Ellen born 1864, George William born 1867, John Adam born 1867, Charles Alfred born 1873.  Missouri did not maintain death records until about 1910. Adam was named for Fredericka’s father.  One of the two tribute copies came from Adam’s grandson.
  • Margaret Elizabeth Lentz was born December 31,1822 in Pennsylvania and married Valentine Whitehead December 31, 1840 in Montgomery County, Ohio. He died in 1851 in Elkhart County, Indiana. She remarried to John David Miller on March 30, 1856 and died July 4, 1903. She identifies her parents as being born in Wurttemberg in the 1880 census.  Her death certificate names her father as Adam Lentz, who was actually her brother. Margaret had children by Valentine Whitehead; Emmanual born 1849 married Elizabeth Ulery, Mary Jane married John Ulery, Jacob Franklin married Eva Bowser, Lucinda married Joseph Haney, Samuel married Henrietta, Sarah born 1864 died 1867, Ida born 1867 died 1893. By John David Miller Margaret had children: Evaline Louise born 1857 and married Hiram B. Ferverda, Ira Miller born 1859 and married Rebecca Rodibaugh and Perry Miller born 1862. Margaret Elizabeth was named for Jacob’s mother, Maria Margaretha and his sister, Catharine Margaretha. Fredericka’s sister was also named Catharina Margaretha and of course, Elizabeth was the name of the child who died on the way to the US.

Fredericka Margaret Lentz Miller death cert

On her death certificate, Margaret’s father is listed as Adam, who was her brother, and her mother is unknown. Her son-in-law was the informant, which explains why the names were incorrect.

john david miller family

Margaret is shown here with her grown Miller family.

  • George W. Lentz born Feb. 11, 1824 in Pennsylvania, married Sarah Spitler or Spitzler about 1845. She died in 1853 and he married Catherine Blessing in 1855 in Montgomery County, Ohio, and gives his parents as having been born in Wurttemberg in the 1880 census. Jacob Lentz is living with George in 1880. George has children with Sarah Spitzler; Mary Ann born 1846, Susanna born 1848, Sarah born 1851, Lucinda born 1853, Jane born 1849. With Catherine Blessing he had Amos born 1855, Martha born 1857, Isaac born 1859, Lydia born 1861, Aaron born 1862, Emma born 1865, Amanda born 1867, Ida born 1868, Jesse born 1870, Ira born 1872, Anna Belle born 1875, Warren George born 1877 and Effie born 1880. George died Oct. 19, 1887 and is buried in the Bear Creek Cemetery in Montgomery County. George was named for Fredericka’s brother Johann George.

Fredericka George Lentz Catherine Blessing

George Lentz and Catherine Blessing

  • Benjamin Lentz born May 7, 1826, married first Sarah Overlease (Overlees) in Montgomery Co, remarried to Catherine Halderman in 1859 in Elkhart Co., Indiana. In the 1880 census, gives his parents birth location as Wurttemberg.       His death certificate gives Jacob as his father, but his mother is listed as unknown. With Sarah he had children: Adam J. born 1850, Henry born 1853, Lewis born 1856. With Catherine he had children: Whitney James born 1879, Ira born 1860, Alice born 1864, Milton James born 1869, Matilda born 1862, Josephus born 1866 and Hulda Margaret burn 1874. Benjamin died October 17, 1903 in Kosciusko County, Indiana. We don’t know who Benjamin was named for, but all Germans were named “for someone,” often the person who stood up with them when they were baptized as their Godparents. Godparents were expected to take the child who was their namesake to raise in the event of the death of the parents.

Fredericka Benjamin Lentz crop

Benjamin Lentz

Lentz Benjamin death cert

  • Mary Lentz born May 9, 1829 in Pennsylvania, married Henry Overlease on December 1, 1848 in Montgomery Co., Ohio and in the 1850 census, the couple was living with Jacob and Fredericka (listed as Hannah) Lentz. Mary died on May 18, 1918 in Bartlesville, Washington Co., Oklahoma and is buried in the White Rose Cemetery. In 1860, they too were living in Elkhart County, Indiana. In 1880, in Neosho Co., Kansas, Mary gives her parents’ birth location as Wurttemberg. Mary had George born 1850, died 1871, Warren born 1852, Sarah born 1854, Mary Ann born 1857 married a Forrester, Milo born 1860, Francis born 1866, William born 1870, Perry, Laura Frances died 1916, Jesse L born 1877 and Effie born 1875 married a Wylie and moved to Portland Oregon. Mary and her husband were Baptists. Mary would have been named for Jacob’s sister Maria Magdalena, perhaps, or his mother, Maria Margaretha.

Fredericka Mary Lentz Overlease

Mary Lentz Overlease

  • Possibly Lewis Lentz born in 1832. Lewis Lentz may or may not be the son of Jacob and Fredericka. He is living with Barbara Yost, Jacob and Fredericka’s daughter, in 1850 and there is a male in Jacob and Fredericka’s household in 1840 of this age. Lewis’s death certificate says his father’s name is George, but Lewis moved to Indiana when young with and his children would never have known his parents in Ohio. If Lewis was the child of Jacob and Fredericka, we don’t know who he was named for.  It would be very interesting if Lewis’s descendants participated in DNA testing.

Fredericka Lewis Lentz death cert

We have the death certificates for 3 of Fredericka’s children, and on all three, her name is unknown. I find that incredibly sad.  The woman who sacrificed so much forgotten so quickly.


Fredericka’s mitochondrial DNA would have been contributed to all of her children, but only passed on by her daughters. Only females pass mitochondrial DNA to their children.  Therefore, anyone today who carries her mitochondrial DNA must be related to Fredericka though all females, although in the current generation, males can test, so long as they connect to Fredericka though an all female line. 

In the section above, candidate grandchildren are noted in bold, and I am listing them individually below.

The 3 surviving daughters of Fredericka Ruhle Lentz with female descendants:

1. Fredericka Lentz Brusman married Daniel Brusman

  • Adaline Brusman born 1832 in Ohio
  • Margaret Brusman born 1835, died 1874
  • Ann Brusman Gallagher born 1838 married James Gallagher
    • May Gallagher
    • Effie Gallagher

2. Barbara Lentz Yost married Henry Yost

  • Jane Yost born 1841
  • Lucretia Yost born 1853
  • Lucy E. Yost Pollock born 1857 married a Pollock in Indiana

3. Margaret Elizabeth Lentz Whitehead Miller married Valentine Whitehead, then John David Miller

  • Mary Jane Whitehead Ulery born 1851, married John Ulery
    • Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ulery Mutschler married Albert Mutschler
  • Lucinda Whitehead Haney born 1842 married Joseph Haney
  • Evaline Louise Miller Ferverda born 1857 and married Hiram B. Ferverda
    • Edith Estella Ferverda Dye married Tom Dye
      • Ruth Dye
    • Elizabeth Gertrude Ferverda Hartman born 1884 married Louis Hartman
      • Louisa Hartman Tenney married Ora Tenney
        • Helen Tenney Nine married Norman Nine
          • Lisa Nine
      • Roberta Hartman Frush married Rulo Frush
        • Carol Frush Slaymaker married William Slaymaker
          • Nadine Slaymaker
          • Nancy Slaymaker
    • Chloe Evaline Ferverda Robinson born 1886 married Rolland Robinson
      • Charlotte Robinson Howard married Bruce Howard
        • Susan Howard Higg married Richard Higg   
        • Mary Carol Howard Bryan married David Bryan
          • Kerrie Bryan
          • Julie Bryan
        • Sally Howard         
    • Margaret Ferverda Glant born 1902 married Chester Glant
      • Mary Glant Wigner married Varrill Wigner
        • Kari Anne Wigner
      • Joyce Ann Glant Zimmerman married Delferd Zimmerman
        • Nancy Zimmerman
        • Beth Zimmerman

I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone who descends from Fredericka Lentz and carries her mitochondrial DNA.

Autosomal DNA

One of the issues we have with autosomal DNA is that so many of the people who have tested today descend from the marriage between Margaret Lentz and John David Miller.  We can’t tell which DNA is Lentz DNA and which is Miller DNA.  If you have tested or want to test and descend from the Lentz (or Lenz) line through any child, please contact me and let’s see if we can discover which DNA belongs to Jacob and Fredericka.


Fredericka’s life initially seemed to be rather mundane, the unexciting routine line of a pietist Brethren wife in the early 1800s. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Fredericka was born in 1788 Beutelsbach, Germany as a Lutheran. She married in 1808 to Jacob Lenz, later spelled Lentz, after having their first child in 1806.

Fredericka and Jacob suffered through the famine year of 1816 when crops didn’t develop, which may have helped them decide to emigrate in 1817. They applied for emigration permission in early 1817, not waiting to see if another devastating agricultural year would follow.  Crop failures in 1816 had caused a sharp increase in food prices followed by demonstrations in front of grain markets and bakeries which escalated into riots, arson and looting.  The summer of 1817 in Germany would have been similar, had they waited, but their summer of 1817 was infinitely worse.

The Dutch ship, Sea Plow, was scheduled to board on March 30, 1817, but didn’t board until a month later. They sailed, but after 10-12 days, they had to return to port after they encountered problems and a casualty of some sort.

They left again, apparently sometime in late July or August, and Captain Manzelmann attempted to sail north of Scotland. The story is never fully told, but apparently the Captain attempted to poison the passengers and then starved many of them.  Roughly 200 died, including all babies born.

On September 5th, the ship lost all of her masts and was floundering.  They finally shipwrecked on the northern coast of Norway which sounds terrible, but in actuality, saved their lives. The ship was towed towards Bergen, where they were apparently quarantined for a time, probably in Elsesro, on September 25th.  Finally, on September 29th, 1817 the ship was towed to Bergen and anchored.

Bergen was less than happy with this situation. People were hospitalized and dying.  More than 40 additional passengers, of the roughly 560 immigrants died in Bergen and were buried, bringing the death count to over 200.  The Bergen population was trying to figure out how to feed and care for everyone while the Bergen politicians were trying to figure out how to send them all back to Germany.  Nothing could be done during the winter months, as the season was over and sailing was unsafe – and these folks had certainly had enough of unsafe sailing.

We do know that Jacob and Fredericka were on this ship, because Jacob filed suit against the Captain, although it appears the suit may have been dismissed. According to the note at the Norwegian National Archives, Captain Monzelmann was everything Jacob had described, and perhaps more.  Negligent, drunk, scheming and a cold-hearted murdered, starving his passengers.  He’s lucky they didn’t out right kill him.  I don’t know why they didn’t.

In the late summer of 1818, out of desperation, Norway commissioned a boat to sail for America with the Germans aboard. The second journey was also fraught with peril, sailing into a hurricane someplace between the Caribbean and Baltimore, Maryland, where they put into port because they had to.  The journey was over, the crew saved the ship and passengers, even though they never made it to Philadelphia, their original destination.  At least they arrived alive.  I’d wager there wasn’t enough money on earth to get those passengers on another ship of any description.  Baltimore it was!

Fredericka, I’m sure, vowed to never set foot on a ship again. We don’t know if her parents survived or if her brother or sister survived, although I suspect if anyone survived, it would have been her sister since she was mentioned in the tribute to Jacob Lentz.

The Norwegians hoped to recoup their costs when the ship arrived in America by having the passengers indenture themselves to pay for their transportation. The costs were more than just transportation and included the costs of caring for them for the year while they were in Bergen as well.

Given that many of the passengers had originally paid their own way, found themselves in a life-threatening predicament through no fault of their own, shipwrecked in a foreign land and had to indenture themselves and their family members to buy their freedom after arriving in America – indenture must have been a bitter pill to swallow. What else could go wrong?  Or, perhaps they were just grateful to be alive.

For Fredericka, pregnant and having suffered the death of her daughter, Elizabetha, if not additional family members en route, she had suffered enough.

We know from the story that Fredericka and her family were indentured, but not for as long as they could have been – only 8 months or so. This seems to be the first stroke of good luck they encountered.  Perhaps a good omen!

Fredericka may have lost additional children. There are two somewhat suspicious blank spaces between her children’s births. There is a 4 year gap between Adam’s birth in 1819 and George in 1824, and a three year gap between Benjamin born in 1826 and Mary born in 3 years and 2 days later in 1829.

Jacob and Fredericka reportedly stayed in the Shippensburg area for roughly a decade before they headed to Montgomery County, Ohio about 1829. They are not in the 1830 census, but we do find them in the mid-1830s on tax lists, in the 1840 census and in 1841, purchasing land from their son.

They had finally achieved the American dream, although it had been a very long time coming. They were in their 50s, quickly approaching their golden years.

It wasn’t until recently that we were able to piece Fredericka’s family back together – and it was quite challenging.

The fact that Fredericka and Jacob had become Brethren didn’t help. Brethren are known for their lack of record keeping within the church.  Brethren also don’t like government or anything having to do with filings documents at court houses and only did the bare minimum necessary.  So it should not surprise us that Jacob had no will nor was a probate filed upon his death.  His children, if he had anything left, simply took care of things themselves and apparently without legal bickering, as no lawsuits followed.

Fredericka was alone in Montgomery County except for her husband and children. There was no extended family, no village full of cousins, aunts and uncles like where she grew up in Germany.  Given the heartache and loss Fredericka endured getting here, she likely clung to her family closely.  But alas, some of her children were drawn by the same bright shiny allure that drew Fredericka and Jacob to America – affordable land on the newest frontier.

Before her death in 1863, several of her children would have already packed up the wagon and left for the next frontier, where land was available cheaply – following the same path into the unknown that Jacob and Fredericka has themselves followed a few decades before. The frontier at that time was Elkhart County, Indiana.  At least her children had each other there, along with cousins and other German Brethren church members.  That’s more than Fredericka had.  Her offspring was beginning to build a new extended group of family members in new villages dotted across the American landscape near Brethren churches.

Of Fredericka’s living children, the following left for Elkhart County, Indiana before her death:

  • Margaret Lentz Whitehead
  • Benjamin Lentz
  • Adam Lentz
  • Mary Lentz Overlease
  • Lewis Lentz (if he was her son)

It must have been excruciating for Fredericka to realize she was seeing those children, and her grandchildren, for the last time in her life as she waved goodbye, watching them disappear into the distance until they were no larger than a dot…and then they were gone…forever.  She repeated this scene, not once or twice, but either 4 or 5 times.  That poor woman.  Bless her heart.

Four children remained near their parents in Montgomery County, Ohio, and it’s likely that Fredericka lived with son George and his family from 1855 until her death in 1863.

  • Jacob Lentz
  • Fredericka Brusman Gallagher
  • Barbara Lentz Yost
  • George Lentz

Barbara Lentz Yost and her husband also went to Elkhart County, but not until after Fredericka and Jacob had passed on.

I find it incredibly unfortunate that not one of her children who had a death certificate, which means the 3 or 4 children who died in Indiana, had Fredericka listed as the mother. She was always listed as “unknown.”

However, Thomas may finally have solved the mystery of where her Mosselman surname came from, although it’s actually rather disconcerting.

Captain Manzelmann was a very important figure in the lives of Jacob and Fredericka in a less than positive way. Jacob sued him.  Manzelmann may well have been directly responsible for the death of their daughter and perhaps other family members.  Manzelmann would have been a name repeated in Jacob’s stories as the epitome of evil.

Two generations later, writing Jacob’s tribute and trying to remember his grandmother’s surname, the name Mosselman may have come to mind and sounded very familiar. It may have gotten attached to Fredericka as her surname.  If this is in fact the case, posthumously, I’m sure it was very distressing to Fredericka, for multiple reasons.  It would have been most distressing to have been given the name of her daughter’s murderer, if in fact Elizabetha died on the first part of the journey.  Even if Elizabetha didn’t die until the second journey, it still stands to reason that Fredericka could well have blamed the evil Captain, because had he not starved them and shipwrecked them, there would have been no second voyage.  Either way, Manzelmann was clearly a villain and Fredericka would not want to be mistakenly attributed his surname.

As I look back as these past two weeks when the information just seems to flow in buckets with an unreal sense of urgency – perhaps I can now better understand.

Not only is Fredericka no longer unknown to us, her life was not quiet or boring. It was probably far more “exciting” than she ever wanted.  She may always have regretted leaving Germany, given the cost of passage was a quarter century of her life and at least one child.  It seems like she and Jacob were caught in a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation.  Famine was a possibility either way.  If they were hungry in 1816 in Beutelsbach, they nearly starved in 1817 and 1818 didn’t promise to be much better.  As indentured servants, at least they ate and nobody died, at least not that we know of.

Now we know the story of her unspoken bravery, her stamina, and her silence. Sometimes silence isn’t quiet, it’s just that we didn’t know the rest of the story.  Even though we have nothing in her own voice, I can hear her across the years speaking to us – and can feel the fire-forged iron that enabled her to survive.

Fredericka, we hear you, and we now know that your surname was not, absolutely was not Mosselman, but was Ruhle or Ruehle. We know your story, how you suffered and survived, in spite of everything.  We know who you were and we know who the Manzelmann monster was, the two never to be confused again.  Thank you for helping Thomas and I make that discovery and set the record straight.  Now, you can truly rest in peace!

Fredericka RIP



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17 thoughts on “Fredericka (Not) Moselman, But Ruhle/Reuhle (1788-1863) and The Voyage From Hell, 52 Ancestors #123

  1. Thanks for documenting this beautiful information! You mentioned that Thomas is retired – does he ever still hire out as a researcher? If so, can you provide some way to contact him? Thank you!

    • Thomas reads the blog, so if he is interested, I’ll forward your information and let him contact you. The reason I haven’t used his last name is because I knew he’d be swamped:) From what he has said, I don’t think he wants to do customer work anymore.

      • Even though this is an older post, I just read it today. I certainly appreciate the diligence you exhibit in relaying the events and history of those ancestors. I am very curious that they might even be part of my family from that same area who were also vine keepers/tenders in ‘Wurttemberg”. I also would love to contact Thomas. Thank you again.

  2. That’s a lot of info, to think the shipwreck in Norway was such a major issue back there that there would be traces left in paper.

    I remember reading about the year without summer, but I didn’t remember the exact year, maybr it’s time to look again in my tree and see who was alive in 1816…

  3. How fitting that Frederika’s story was told on World Refugee Day !! Her family’s decision to escape their overwhelming troubles in Wurttemberg sounds very much like many of the motives of the 65 million refugees today…

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  8. I am almost positive that I had family who sailed on De Zee Ploeg and then sailed again on The Prima to America. Were you ever able to find passenger lists for these ships? Thank you.

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  10. thank you so much for this. aabsolutely fascinating, as I think one of my ancestors was on the Sea Plow. but I believe he went back to Wurtemburg.

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