Barbara Eckhardt was born about 1614 in the quaint winemaking village of Beutelsbach, Germany to Johannes Eckhardt and Elisabetha Baurencontz.
Barbara was the fifth child born to her parents, but only the second one to live. Her older sister, Anna Maria, born in 1611, was three years old when Barbara was born. Those two girls must have been quite close, given their proximity in age and that they were the only two daughters that survived.
I suspect that a child was born between those two girls, and went to rest in the churchyard, within the protective walls, where no gravestones remain today.
In 1615, another child was born to Barbara’s parents, and died, buried in the churchyard where generations of family members rested.
In 1618, the 30 Years’ War, a religious conflict between Catholic and Protestant states in the Holy Roman Empire erupted in Prague and spread like wildfire, with Germany bearing the brunt of the devastation during the next three decades. Three decades – that’s an entire generation. Before it was over, 8 million would perish in brutal warfare and its aftermath. Some parts of Germany were entirely depopulated.
Barbara’s mother had another baby in 1618. Nothing more is known of that child, but we can well imagine his fate.
In 1619 and 1622, two more children joined the family, and miraculously, survived. I suspect that another child was born in 1620, but after the war began, the church records were destroyed, and the only way we know about survivors was if they later died in Beutelsbach, after the end of the war. Records partially resumed in 1646.
Barbara’s schooling was assuredly disrupted, if she had any education at all, given that soldiers on both sides were pillaging and robbing all of the villages in this part of Germany. Barbara would have been unable to read or write.
In 1626, after the Battle of Nordlingen, a resounding defeat for the Protestants, soldiers garrisoned in Beutelsbach, where they remained for years, taking whatever they wanted. As bad as things were, they got even worse in 1634.
By 1634, the war had been raging for 16 long years, and the soldiers had been quartered in Beutelsbach for 8 years. Barbara would have been 20 years old on that cold, tragic day, in the late fall or early winter.
Beuteslbach town elders had been bribing the soldiers not to burn their village, but for some reason, that was no longer effective. Maybe the soldiers wanted more money than existed or could be raised. Maybe someone was angry. Tensions were constantly high, like a wire stretched taut, and nerves were ragged, so who knows what snapped.
The soldiers burned Beutelsbach, killing anyone who resisted. We don’t know if every home in Beutelsbach burned, or just most of them. We know the church was spared, but again, the church was fortified behind a wall.
People died, although with only a few exceptions, such as Agnes Eyb, wife of Hans Lenz, we don’t know exactly who died that day. Beutelsbach church records don’t exist from this time period.
As the flames began consuming the village, Barbara would have smelled smoke. Soon, blood-curdling screams would have been audible everyplace in town – agonizing screams as people and animals burned and were murdered.
Barbara would have heard the roar of the fire and homes collapsing, all around her.
Thoughts raced through her mind, like a mad scramble.
What should she do?
The soldiers were killing anyone who resisted.
Try to assist the injured?
Could they be helped?
For God’s sake, they are family members.
Barbara had known everyone in the village for her entire life.
Or should she run?
Where would she go?
Was anyplace safe?
Could anything be saved?
OMG where’s my mother, brother, grandmother…
The residents must have wondered why God had foresaken them.
Barbara, along with her parents and older sister, Anna, probably rushed with their two younger siblings, Johannes Eckhardt, 15, and Cyriakus (Ceyer) Eckhardt, 12, from wherever they lived, racing up the church steps through the gate into the fortified churchyard and on into the church itself.
The doors slammed shut and were bolted.
If necessary, Beutelsbach citizens who made it that far would defend the church together, the last stand, or all die together trying.
They would have been protected, at least to some extent, from the soldiers who were slaughtering anyone who resisted, but they would have heard the carnage around them.
Was that someone’s voice they recognized?
They would have begged for God’s intercession – for him to save them, their family members, and their village. They would have bargained their life in exchange for someone else’s who was missing – not among them in the church.
Prayers and beseeching God for a miracle lasted for hours as the village burned.
Finally, the horror of the fire and wailing outside the church would subside to a whimper, then an eerie silence.
It was over, but was anything left? Whoever wasn’t in the church was probably dead or horribly injured.
They emerged to witness a nightmare scenario.
Could they even have funerals, or was a mass grave dug and hasty prayers said under the mocking eyes of the “victorious” soldiers?
We don’t know what happened in the aftermath of the fire. The residents would have had to find shelter someplace. Many, shellshocked, would have walked to a nearby village where they had relatives.
What else could they have done?
We do know, thanks to historian Martin Goll, that the number of Beutelsbach residents declined by about 50% during the war instead of growing as would normally have been expected. It was even worse elsewhere.
Martin reports that the Plague followed the fire, and people starved.
Yet, love somehow blossomed.
A war might be raging, and the village burned, but love found a way.
In 1636, Barbara Eckhardt would marry the butcher, Hans Sang (Sing) who lived up the road a mile or so, in the next village, Endersbach.
Barbara’s family may have sought shelter there after the fire, which would have allowed the young people daily proximity to each other to court.
Perhaps Hans helped Barbara’s family, or maybe her family even sought refuge with his. Regardless, they assuredly would have seen each other in church.
Barbara Eckhardt and Hans Sang, after saying their vows, settled in Beutelsbach. It’s likely that Beuelsbach needed a butcher after the fire.
Barbara and Hans set up housekeeping in the house adjoining the steps into the churchyard. They probably built this home, shown with the small red arrow in the drawing, below, literally on the ashes of whatever was there before. Perhaps it was where her parents had lived before the fire.
In this Beutelsbach drawing from 1760, 130 years later, you can see the circular church gate into the churchyard, and the adjacent building where Barbara lived with her family.
Barbara had 7 children, well, that’s 7 that we know of. There are a lot of gaps between the children we know about that assuredly equate to children who died.
Barbara’s first child was probably born about 1637, following her 1636 marriage, and could have been Hans.
- Hans Sing was noted in the church record as a “simpleton, with weak intellect, but he can repeat prayers.” He died in 1687 in Beutelsbach, which is how we know he existed at all.
- Michael Sing was born in 1639 in Beutelsbach, married Anna Maria Schilling, and died on March 7, 1725, also in Beutelsbach. He was a butcher, like his father, as was his only surviving son, Johann Georg Sing.
- Hans Georg Sing was born in 1640 in Beutelsbach, married Margaretha Ziegler in 1665, and died on January 21, 1676, in Grosheppach. He, too, was a butcher.
- At least two children would have been born, likely in 1642 and 1644.
- Barbara Sing, my ancestor, was born in 1645 in Endersbach, married Hans Lenz, a vintner, and baker, and died on July 10, 1686, in Beutelsbach. The fact that Barbara was born in Endersbach causes me to wonder if the family had to shelter again outside of Beutelsbach.
- Another child was probably born, and died, in 1647
- Anna Sing, also my ancestor, was born on March 6, 1648, in Beutelsbach, married Bartholomaus Kraft in 1666, and died on March 6, 1728, in Beutelsbach of a stroke.
In October 1648, the 30 Years’ War finally ended. For the first time in her life, Barbara was finally able to relax. She didn’t have to constantly be on alert for the smell of smoke, meaning that the town was burning again.
- Her next child was probably born in 1650.
- Martin Sing was born on May 15, 1652, in Beutelsbach and died early.
- Another child was probably born in 1654.
- Jakob Sing was born on April 30, 1655, in Beutelsbach and died there on July 17, 1713. Martin found no records of a spouse, nor of any children. Jakob would have been born when his mother was 41 years old, so it’s possible that he too suffered from a disability.
From 1682-1684, the Plague once again swept through Europe. Barbara, “hausfrau of Hans Singen,” died on April 7, 1684, followed by her husband, Hans, eleven days later, on April 18th.
An incredibly sad time for her family, many of whom were probably ill themselves.
At Barbara’s death, she had five living children and 12 known grandchildren, although there were likely more, specifically by the son who settled in Grossheppach, or other children who may have moved away.
Barbara’s Presidential Legacy
There was one child, though, that would secure Barbara’s place in history, and no, it wasn’t one of her sons.
- Daughter Anna Sing (1648-1728) married Bartholomaus Krafft (1643-1713.)
- Their son Johann Georg Krafft (1767-1724) married Anna Catharina Ritter (1673-1701.)
- Their daughter Maria Margaretha Krafft (1700-1747) married Johann Martin Wolflin (1690-1745.)
These couples, above, are also my ancestors. I’m doubly descended from Barbara through both of her daughters, so Anna Sing is my ancestor too.
However, my ancestor, Johann Ludwig Wolflin is Johann Conrad Wolflin’s brother, so our common lineage bifurcates here.
The Presidential line continues:
- Johann Conrad Wolflin (1729-1794) was born in Besigheim, Germany, immigrated in 1750, and died in Middletown, Dauphin Co., PA, where his surname was spelled variously, including Woelfle and Wolfle, then became Anglicized to Wolfley, which is how it must have sounded. He married Anna Catherine Shockey (1783-1803) in Pennsylvania and served in the Revolutionary War with his sons John and Jacob.
- Their son Ludwig Wolfley (1766-1822) married Anna Maria Toot (1786-1841.)
- Their son George Wolfley (1807-1879) married Nancy Perry (1812-1894.)
- Their son Robert Wolfley (1834-1895) married Rachel Abbott (1835-1911.)
- Their daughter Della L. Wolfley (1863-1906) married Charles Thomas Payne (1861-1940.)
- Their son Rolla Charles Payne (1892-1968) married Leona B. McCurry (1897-1968.)
- Their daughter Madelyn Lee Payne (1922-2008) married Stanley Armour Dunham (1918-1992.)
- Ann Dunham (1942-1995) married Barack Obama I (1935-1982.)
Their son, Barack Hussein Obama II, became the 44th President of the United States and served two terms, from January 2009 through January 2017.
I’m incredibly grateful to Martin Goll for his research and paper (in German) on President Obama’s line in Beutelsbach, and for connecting the dots to his immigrant ancestor. I benefitted immensely, given that this is my lineage too.
You can view President Obama’s detailed genealogy, here.
Of course, this means that Barack Obama is my cousin, and we share multiple ancestral lines.
After signing in, using WikiTree’s Relationship tool, above, I determined that Barack and I are 7C1R.
All of my Lentz Cousins are related to President Obama as well. So are all of my closer cousins who descend from Margaret Elisabeth Lentz, who married John David Miller, whose daughter Evaline Miller married Hiram Ferverda, and gave birth to my grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda.
This pedigree chart shows my Lentz line back to Jacob Lentz, who married Fredericka Ruhle, the immigrants in our line, from whom my American Lentz cousins descend. Johanna Fredericka Ruhle, shipwrecked on the way to the US in 1818/1819, was the granddaughter of Johann Ludwig Wolflin whose brother immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1750 and established Barack Obama’s line.
How cool is this! Barbara Eckhardt’s legacy, and indeed that of many Beutelsbach families (and ancestors,) is American President Barack Obama.
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