Rudolph Muller lived in Grossheppach, Germany, sometimes known as Heppach, in the 1600s.
While Grossheppach is located in the middle of the wine region, as seen in this photo and the village shield, Rudolph didn’t work in the vineyards. Nor was he a miller, as his surname would suggest. Rudolph was a blacksmith.
The Village Blacksmith
This 1606 print of a German blacksmith shows us what Rudolph’s blacksmith’s shop would have looked like, and the tools he would have worked with. Google translate provides us with the following”
Work block; Anvil; Hammer; Pliers; Poker; bucket
Description: The brother works a glowing metal tip with a hammer, which he holds on the anvil with pliers. Further metal points lie next to the anvil and on a table in the background of the workshop. There is a second anvil here. Various saws hang on the wall and on the wall bracket in the window opening, a large saw blade lies on the ground in the foreground, while a poker and metal spikes lie in the fireplace.
One thing is for sure. It was beastly hot, especially in the summers, probably outright miserable from time to time, and dangerous. Notice the bucket which would have contained water, on the floor.
Rudolph was probably burned in one way or another almost daily. Metals were scalding hot after being taken out of the forge, and hammering caused hot sparks flying everyplace. I shudder to think about his unprotected eyes.
Unknown to them then, carbon dioxide poisoning is also a concern for blacksmiths, but I’d wager their shops were probably pretty open due to heat.
They didn’t have safety goggles back then, or welder’s gloves. While this man is wearing long sleeves and some type of apron, I think, his legs are bare as are his hands and face.
I wonder if Rudolph might have been hard of hearing in his later years due to the noise of years of constant pounding.
Rudolph died at 59 years of age. No cause of death was entered, but I can’t help but wonder why he died.
Rudolph’s First Appearance
The first record we find is the birth of Rudolph’s daughter, named Sibilla, in 1661, in the Grossheppach church records. That daughter passed away and is not to be confused with the second daughter named Sibilla, born in 1672 who survived and is also my ancestor. I can’t help but wonder if the fact that they attempted that name twice means she was named after the mother of either Rudolph or Margaretha.
Both Rudolph and his first wife, Margaretha, were born in Switzerland, as determined by their death records, which means that either they married in Switzerland and subsequently settled in Heppach, or they met and married in Heppach.
Baptisms records begin in Grossheppach in 1558 and marriage records in 1564. Part of 1627 is missing due to an epidemic, according to this site. Deaths begin in 1648, immediately after the Thirty Years War.
Therefore, if Rudolph and Margaretha had married in Grossheppach, there should have been a record, so we can probably presume they married in Switzerland sometime between 1650 and 1660, and may have had their first children before arriving in Grossheppach.
All early villages grew up beside a stream, the life-giver, and nourisher to people and animals. You can see the little stream of Heppach as it exists today, here, connecting Grossheppach with its neighbor village, Kleinheppach. The word grossen translates to “huge” and klein means “small.” There doesn’t seem to be a translation for heppach.
The stream named Heppach connects those two villages and looks quite small today. This early drawing shows the Rems River, not the stream of Heppach that empties into the Rems.
This drawing, made in 1686 from Kieser’s forest map would have been created during the time that Rudolph was the village smith. In fact, his house would have been one of those shown. The village wasn’t large, about 55 homes, as best I can tell, with maybe between 5 and 7 inhabitants each.
The church, as always, was in the center of the village and the cemetery would have been located outside, in the churchyard.
By 1686, Rudolph would have buried at least two children there and would bury his wife just three short years later. But in 1686, Rudolph and his family would have been living happily in one of these houses, going about the routine of daily life in the village.
An artist drawing the village would have been quite an interesting event. Perhaps Rudolph and the other villagers would have watched the artist as he worked, or listened in the evenings at the pub as he told tall tales about other German villages he had visited. Did they look at their own houses on the map and comment?
Another view shows the village from the opposite perspective.
The same area today, for comparison. That little river island looks to be long gone, or under the bridge.
I can locate the original Kirschstrasse on this current map, along with the castle for orientation. The church, with a different steeple, is located at the end of Kirschstrasse and matches up with an 1832 map.
The orderly rows on the hillsides are vineyards as seen looking down at the region from the top of one of the hills.
The map below shows the distant hills with the villages clustered in valleys along the streams.
These villages were not isolated.
Rudolph’s daughter married Johann Georg Lenz from Beutelsbach, across the Rems River, and spent her adult life living there, but she was clearly within walking distance of her family members. It’s less than 3 miles from Beutelsbach to Kleinheppach, north of Grossheppach.
History and Vineyards
The vineyards in Grossheppach reach back into time immemorial. As with any location, geography and climate dictate what can be grown, and agriculture defines the occupation and lifestyle of the residents. Viticulture has sustained the Grossheppach residents, along with their neighbors, probably since humans have inhabited this valley and figured out what happens when you ferment grapes.
Historical information is found on the Wayback machine, translated as follows:
The first mention of this village [vineyards] is when the knight ‘Fridericus miles de Heggebach’ in 1279, Master Rudolf (doctor in Esslingen) bequeathed three “Jauchert vineyards” from Großheppach to the Bebenhausen monastery in addition to his house in Esslingen.
A castle site mentioned in 1485 once had a wooden castle on which Staufer ministerials – the Knights of Heppach – sat; they are first mentioned in a document in 1236 [where Grossheppach was identified as Hegnesbach.] The monastery Gundelsbach was founded by a hermit in 1359 for the St. Pauls hermits, to which houses and farms have been attached since 1470. The church consecrated to St. Aegidius – a foundation of Waiblingen – was raised to an independent parish in 1489. In 1769 the church received a so-called ‘Welsche Bell’ as a tower dome.
Note that Welsche likely refers to the colloquial term for “French-speaking Swiss, their portion of Switzerland known also as Welschland.
Next to the church, the renaissance castle is a landmark of Großheppach. It was built in 1592 by the Württemberg Chancellor Dr. Martin Eichmann from a town house; at the same time he acquired various rights on site. The castle property later passed into the hands of the noble families von Abel, von Goeben and von Gaisberg.
During the uprising of the ‘poor Konrad’ in 1514 (see also the local history of Beutelsbach), Großheppach saw peasant revolutionaries in its corridors. On Easter Monday 1514, the goat Peter moved with a group of farmers to the Rems between Beutelsbach and Großheppach in order to subject the newly introduced weights of the Duke of Württemberg to a ‘water test’: the weights promptly sank below what the farmers saw as a judgment of God. They marched against castles, cities and monasteries, but were soon blown up. The leader of the Großheppacher Fähnlein, Klaus Schlechthin, later took part in the peasant uprising of 1525 and was captured in the Battle of Böblingen and executed by running the gauntlet.
During the Thirty Years’ War, on January 21, 1643, there was a skirmish between the imperial and Swedes at the Remsbrücke, where around 300 soldiers were killed. In the War of the Spanish Succession [1701-1714], Großheppach was again the starting point for warlike ventures. On June 13, 1704, the greatest generals of the time – Prince Eugene of Savoy, the English military leader Marlborough and Margrave Ludwig von Baden – held a council of war on the operations of the Battle of Höchstädt here in the Lamm Inn, which still exists today.
The listed buildings of the Häckermühle and the town hall from the 16th and 17th centuries are well worth seeing.
The only evidence we have of Rudolph’s age is the age at which his wife had their last child which was born in 1675. If Margaretha was 43 at that time, she would have been born about 1632, so we can assume he was born sometime around 1630, or perhaps slightly earlier.
Rudolph would have married between 1650 and 1660, most likely, and they would have packed up their cart, maybe hitched up a mule and walked from someplace in Switzerland to Germany, assuredly after all danger from the Thirty Years War had abated.
Most German villages had been heavily depopulated during the war, although Grossheppach did not appear to have been abandoned. In the best-case scenarios, German villages lost only one-third of their population. Some lost 50%, and some were entirely destroyed and depopulated.
This settlement pattern suggests that Rudolph came from the German-speaking portion of Switzerland.
How might Rudolph and Margaretha have made the journey to Grossheppach?
While we don’t know Rudolph and Margaretha’s departure point in Switzerland, we do know that the Bernese Oberland was far more Protestant than much of the rest of Switzerland.
The mountains southwest of Bern marked the dividing line between the German and French-speaking regions of Switzerland. Regardless of where they originated in the German-speaking region, it was not a short journey and was probably a one-way trip – forever leaving family behind.
This trek was likely not undertaken by water unless they navigated the Rhine, then backtracked down the Neckar (against the flow) followed by the Rems.
Perhaps German villages issued advertisements or notices that they were looking for specific skilled trades. Maybe Rudolph knew that Grossheppach needed a blacksmith. It’s certainly possible that they joined with other family members, either as they journeyed or joined those who had already settled in Germany.
Rudolph’s daughter, Veronica’s death record gives us the closest approximation with the phrase, “Switzerland Cand.”
Seelenregister (Register of Souls) Grossheppach Evangelical Church
Veronica (spouse of Johann Jacob Mahler); died 11 January 1708, aged 41 years, 6 months.
Father: Rudolph Müller, citizen and farrier (smith) from Switzerland Cand (Kanton?); died 1692.
Mother: Margaretha, born in Switzerland, a chambermaid; died 23 March 1711, about 71 years of age.
Note by Tom who performed these translations: This Margaretha is Veronica’s step-mother. Her birth mother died in 1689 and was also named Margaretha.
If anyone has any further idea what “Cand” might mean other than perhaps Canton, or which Canton, I’d be forever grateful.
I do wonder if the newlywed couple set off for Germany on a great adventure, arriving before their first child did. Of course, they could have married a few years earlier and had already begun their family when they decided to leave, which meant travel would have been more difficult. If so, there are no marriage records for those earlier children in Grossheppach, although, clearly they could have married in nearby villages.
- One way or another, Rudolph and Margaretha had settled in and welcomed a baby, Sibilla in May of 1661.
- Heartbreak followed a few months later. Sibilla died in October, when she was just 24 weeks old, the first family member to be buried in the cemetery beside the church.
- In August of 1662, Hans Rudolph, named for his father, joined the family. Johann Rudolph Muller married in 1696 to Anna Barbara Mercklin. We don’t have the Y DNA of Rudolph Muller, which is passed from father to son. If Hans Rudolph and Anna Barbara had sons, who had sons, whose descendants carry the Muller (or derivative) surname today through all males, I have a DNA testing scholarship for that Muller male.
- 1664 saw Anna Magdalena baptized in February and Anna Margaretha baptized in October. The church has stamped dates (clearly in the 20th century) on the baptisms, and they show two children, born to the same parents, one baptized in February and the second in October of 1664, which is of course not possible if the babies were baptized shortly after birth. There is no additional information about either of these children, so we have no idea if they lived or died.
- Veronica was born in July 1666 and married in 1690 to Hanss Jacob Mahler.
- Son, Hanss Jacob Muller, was born in August 1668. There is nothing more about Hanss Jacob, but the fact this the next child arrived 16 months later suggests that perhaps he died. If he did not die and had male children who have direct line male descendants today, they would qualify for the Y DNA scholarship as well.
- Anna Barbara’s baptism is recorded in December 1669. No further information about this child either, but there is almost three years before the birth of Sibilla which makes me wonder if they lost a child.
- September of 1672 welcomed the second daughter named Sibilla who married Johann Georg Lenz/Lentz in 1698 in Beutelsbach, living the rest of her life there.
- Jerg Lienhardt was born in September of 1674 and died in January of 1675 at 18 weeks of age.
That was the last child and the last church entry for 15 years. But on October 30th of 1689, Margaretha, Rudolph’s wife, died.
We don’t know exactly how many children were living at this time. There were no marriage records yet, and the oldest child, Hans Rudolph, Rudolph’s namesake wouldn’t marry until a few years later. He would have been age 27, living and working at home when his mother died.
At least two daughters were living; Veronica who would have been 23, and Sibila, the youngest, who would have been 17. It’s possible that up to four other children were living as well. Rudolph wasn’t alone, nor did he have a number of small children.
A year later, almost exactly, on October 28, 1690, Rudolph’s daughter, Veronica married the local tailor, Hanss Jacob Mahler.
Perhaps that wedding made Rudolph ponder marriage again and realize that he did not want to remain a widower forever. Or, perhaps his daughter had done a good deal of the cooking and domestic work and simple logic kicked in when a local woman was widowed and started looking admiringly in his direction. Necessity often plays cupid.
Rudolph did what most people of that time did if their spouse died. He remarried.
Marriage: 11 August 1691 Grossheppach Evangelical Church
Johann Rudolph Müller, from here with Mrs. Anna Margaretha Berger(in), surviving widow of Herr Berger, former court bailiff? from here.
However, Rudolph didn’t live much longer himself, passing away in July of 1692.
Burial: 28 July 1692 Grossheppach Evangelical Church
Joh(ann) Rüdolph Müller was buried.
I sure wish they had recorded Rudolph’s age and birth location. Just a few strokes of the pen could have told us so much.
Rudolph’s second wife, Margaretha, not to be confused with his first wife of the same name, died in 1711.
Burial: 23 March 1711 was buried Margaretha, surviving widow of Rüdolph Müller, former smith and citizen here……..Knauss(in)…..aged 71 years.
Marriage: 12 Nov 1678 Grossheppach Evangelical Church
H(err) Johannes Heinrich Berger, …master and juror here with Margretha Knauss were married.
Given that Margaretha (born Knauss) married previously in 1678, at the age of 38, she likely had a child or two, and Rudolph probably had step-children that would still have been at home when he married Margaretha in 1691.
The Sweet Spot
Rudolph was born during the Thirty Years War, but in Switzerland where the residents were unaffected. Switzerland was an oasis of peace and prosperity. No one wanted Switzerland to fall, because the Swiss provided mercenaries to many other countries. In essence, that was payment for keeping the war off of their land.
Brave or hopeful, or both, he moved to Grossheppach as a relatively young man, probably as a newlywed.
Rudolph’s children did not marry during his lifetime, so he never got to know any of his grandchildren, but he did manage to actually live in the “sweet spot” in German history.
Rudolph didn’t live in the Palatinate which was constantly being overrun by the French in the 1670s, 1680s, and 1690s. I don’t know why he chose Grossheppach instead of the Palatinate, but that was either smart or fortuitous.
Rudolph died before the beginning of the War of Spanish Succession in 1701, so he avoided warfare for his entire lifetime – a rare event for any German in the 1600s.
The Lamm Inn
Grossheppach seemed to be a quiet village. After a long day standing and pounding at the forge, Rudolph probably walked a few feet to the Lamm Inn, which existed then and still exists today with its golden lamb beckoning thirsty travelers. In fact, you can book a stay yourself here. Trust me, I’d like nothing better right about now!
Of course, given that wine was produced locally, Rudolph wouldn’t have been drinking German beer, but whatever was available from the cool wine cellar. His body probably ached, and he was hot and thirsty, so he would have been grateful for anything cold, along with warm friendships.
Oh Rudolph, I so want to visit you.
To sit in the Lamm Inn where you sat.
To walk on the cobblestone streets where you walked for more than 30 years.
To discover which home was yours, and maybe, if I could be so lucky, the remnants of your forge.
To sit in the church where you assuredly sat, every Sunday, along with too many more “funeral days.” Maybe I would luck into “your pew.” I would close my eyes and feel your spirit nearby.
I want to stroll the churchyard, knowing that you are there, somewhere, along with Margaretha.
Would you know that I am visiting? That some part of your DNA has come home to connect with your ashes and dust?
And, if I listen oh-so-carefully, will you whisper in my ear where, in Switzerland, you were born?
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