Hans Lenz (1645-1725), Wealthy Vintner – 52 Ancestors #363

Hans Lenz was born in 1645 in Beutelsbach, Germany, three years before the end of the 30 Years War. Unfortunately, the church records for this time period, between 1626 and 1646 were destroyed during that war by the legions of invading soldiers.

Hans was lucky to have survived. Most of his siblings didn’t. That warfare not only outright killed much of the populace, those that weren’t murdered directly often died of starvation or dysentery.

Luckily for the Lenz family, as horrific as this time was, they had two things that the soldiers wanted and couldn’t produce for themselves. Wine and bread.

Records show that the soldiers quartered with Hans’s father, but failed to “pay” for their wine. Of course, the fact that his father, also named Hans, had wine to turn over, and bread to be stolen, and continued to produce both was probably what saved his family.

The war ended when Hans, the son, was about 3 years old. It’s unlikely that he retained much memory of the war years, invading troops and their atrocities. By the time he was forming memories, his father would have been baking for the citizens once again, probably getting up before sunrise to produce fresh bread and pastries for the hausfraus as they did their market shopping for the day.

Hans the elder sold bread to the women in the mornings and wine to the men in the evenings.

Hans the younger grew up with the yeasty smell of baking bread wafting through the house, probably waking up daily to that wonderful scent.

His parents, Hans Lenz, the baker, and Katharina Lenz, both born in nearby Schnait were likely related, but church records don’t reach far enough back to identify the intersection of their Lenz lines.

Beutelsbach

Beutelsbach is a beautiful, quaint village beneath steep hillside vineyards, shown in this drawing dating from about 1760. Scattered houses surround the medieval church, its spire reaching for the heavens. The church was the center of village life, and of the village itself.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

The hillsides don’t look much different now.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

Hans would have climbed these hills to trim the vines of yesteryear, just as these grapevines have been trimmed and manicured today. In this photo, you can see the church tower in the distance. Hans would have been able to keep an eye on the village, surrounding area, and his home from these vineyards.

The Baker’s House

Photo courtesy Martin Goll.

Hans Lenz grew up in this home near the church in Beutelsbach. Descendant and historian Martin Goll identified this building and shared the photo, indicating that at least the bottom portion referred to as the basement or cellar is authentic to the period when Hans lived there.

Hans’s father, Hans the baker, died in 1667, just 14 months before Hans, his son, married Barbara Sing on February 23, 1669, in Beutelsbach.

Based on this autotranslation of the marriage book, it appears that Hans Lenz was serving in the military at the time he married and showed his license locally, perhaps?

Marriage book:

Gefreyter and hrn. Captain of Roman Compagnie. Has shown his marriage certificate of Mr. Obrist Lieutenat Pentz which of Mr. Specialis von Schorndorf by me been fitting, on it he gives the Conzesion to the Copulation.

It appears that Hans Lenz was serving in the Great Turkish War and received permission to marry.

Wine Merchant

Photo courtesy Sharon Hockensmith.

Hans did not follow in his father’s footsteps as a baker, but instead became quite wealthy, at least comparatively so in Beutelsbach terms, as a wine merchant.

As the only known son, he apparently inherited his father’s substantial estate. In addition to the bakery/home, the estate included 8 vineyard fields, as compared to the normal one field that was sufficient to earn a living.

Hans was the first of many vinedressers in the Lenz line. In addition to maintaining and harvesting his own grapes, Hans also ran a wine business, as did his father.

Martin Goll has compared many estates in Schnait and Beutelsbach and indicates that typical vinedressers processed and sold their grapes, but did not press them into wine and did not then sell the wine to consumers or merchants. Hans was the exception.

In addition to being a vinedresser, Hans was a very successful merchant and vintner, as indicated by his estate inventory after his death. Hans owned multiple properties, including, “house with barn and garden in the upper lane, 500 bottles, housing 370 bottles, cellar 170 bottles. Total assets 14,642 bottles.”

Yes, you read that right. More than 14,000 bottles of wine. I have to wonder where he stored all that wine, and if that was why the cellar in the photo of his home is so large, compared to others. I also wonder if the 14,642 was supposed to be the value of the bottles of wine, instead of a total.

According to Martin, Hans’s estate was worth almost 15,000 guilders.

I couldn’t figure out exactly the equivalent in today’s dollar, but Martin wrote that Hans’ heirs received about 2000 Guilders each which left them well-off but not wealthy like their father.

Hans may have been the wealthiest man in Beutelsbach.

The Lenz Home at Stiftrasse 17

Hans’s home and wine business was ideally situated in the center of town, at present-day Stiftrasse 17, where the streets converged, only a couple doors from the centrally-located church.

This was critical, not just for being right on the path to the center of town where everyone had to pass, but also because the church was fortified with a protective wall. Living just a stone’s throw away meant one could quickly gather family members inside the fortification in times of danger. Memories of the Thirty Year’s War weren’t yet distant. I wonder if the family ever needed to seek refuge inside the church walls.

On the Google Maps image above, you can see the fortification tower with the red arrow at the top, and the connecting wall by the lower red arrows. The Lenz home is indicated by the red pin.

On the 1760 map, the red arrow points to the building I believe to be the Lenz home. Note the large cellar in this drawing.

Married Life

According to the Beutelsbach Local Heritage book, Hans Lenz and Barbara Sing (or Seng) were married for 17 years, bringing 11 children into the world.

Taking the babies for baptism was just a short walk of a few feet.

Three children died before their mother, as infants. We have no death or marriage record for one daughter, so we don’t know what happened to her.

Barbara, their last child was born on July 2, 1686, and probably named in honor of her mother. Baby Barbara died when she was just three weeks and 4 days old – 17 days after her mother’s death. I’d wager this was a difficult birth and a crushing blow to Hans and their surviving children.

Barbara Sing Lenz died on July 10, 1686, at 41 years of age, leaving Hans with a critically ill week-old newborn infant plus 7 additional children ranging in age from 17 down to not-quite-5.

Hans was probably a much better vinedresser and vintner than single father, so he did what any other German man from that era would have done.

He remarried 13 months later to Barbara Roller, born in 1648, the widow of Sebastian Heubach from Endersbach. It’s unknown whether Barbara had children from her previous marriage, but it’s likely that she did.

Barbara would have mothered her own children, plus his too. The younger children may have been too young to remember their mother, so Barbara Roller Lenz was the only mother they ever knew.

Hans and Barbara had been married for 16 years when Barbara died on May 7, 1704 at 56 years of age. No children were born to their marriage.

By the time Barbara died, Hans’s children would have been grown.

Hans married again about 1705 to a woman named Anna who was born about 1650. They were married for approximately 20 years. Anna outlived Hans by three years, passing away on Christmas Eve in 1728.

Joining the Barbaras

Hans was “probably 80 years” old when he passed away. It’s hard to grieve this man’s passing. Given that he was born during a devastating war, he had an amazingly long and prosperous life.

Hans was born into a privileged family, at least compared to others, served his country honorably, and came home to inherit the family home and businesses.

Apparently, Hans wasn’t keen on being a baker like his father, but he did become a very successful vintner.

The great griefs in his life were likely the deaths of his parents and siblings, of course, in addition to the deaths of two wives and at least 5 and probably 7 of his children before he passed over to the other side.

We don’t know Hans’ cause of death, but it would probably have been attributed to “old age.” 80 at that time was ancient! He has cheated death so many times.

On a crisp winter’s day, on January 22, 1725, Hans joined all three Barbaras, his two wives and baby daughter, and all those who had gone before.

Photo courtesy Sharon Hockensmith.

The minister likely preached his funeral the next day, or maybe the day after, as the townspeople, along with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even a few great-great-grandchilden gathered to celebrate his life. The church would have been packed.

After the minister finished the sermon inside the sanctuary, Hans’ coffin would have been carried into the churchyard where he was buried in what is now an unmarked grave, perhaps between his beloved Barbaras.

Maybe afterward, the chilly mourners gathered around the corner at his home to toast Hans one last time with wine from his own wine cellar.

Here’s to you, Hans!

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1 thought on “Hans Lenz (1645-1725), Wealthy Vintner – 52 Ancestors #363

  1. Allegedly, risen bread began when somebody skimmed the yeast bloom off a ferment (probably beer rather than wine) and put it in their dough, probably with an accidental delay before baking. So these two yeast-based foods make some sense together. They were certainly in constant demand!

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