Hans Sang (Sing) was born in 1614 in Endersbach to Johannes Sang and Anna Enssle.
He was assuredly baptized in the former Collegiate Church, which still stands. The tower was constructed in 1729.
Hans would never have remembered a childhood without warfare.
In 1618, when Hans was only four years old, the Thirty Years’ War erupted, devastating this part of Germany. More than two-thirds of the residents perished, succumbing to warfare, starvation, plague, and other opportunistic diseases like dysentery and cholera.
Hans, however, was one of the lucky survivors.
Hans would one day become a butcher, which means he had to apprentice with someone. We don’t know his father’s occupation, which could have been a butcher as well.
We don’t know when Hans’ parents died, according to this genealogy based on church and civil documents, but based on the fact that his last known sibling was born in 1625, it would appear that both of his parents were living for at least the first 11 years of Hans’s life.
Records from that time are scarce to non-existent. What the soldiers didn’t burn, they destroyed or stole. It’s a miracle that the church itself wasn’t burned. The rest of the town may have been. For all we know, the minister may have died or been killed, with no replacement. In other words, there may have been no one to record anything.
The war raged around Hans. Perhaps the fact that he was a butcher’s apprentice saved him. Armies had to eat.
In 1634, Hans would have been 20 years old. In German culture, not quite of age to marry, but living in a warzone would have changed the norms of the day.
Endersbach, with her church marked by a red star in the center of town, above, was a mile or so down the road from Beutelsbach, her center marked with a red pin.
In fact, the families of the two towns intermingled regularly and had likely been related for centuries. Endersbach is first found in records in 1278 as Andrespach, so had been in existence for hundreds of years, as had Beutelsbach – both settlements along the Rems River.
Soldiers had been quartering in Beutelsbach for some time, and probably in Endersbach too. Pillaging was a given, but town elders, as well as the citizens, paid the soldiers as much as they could come up with to protect the town from burning.
Apparently, the payment either wasn’t enough, or something else happened, because in the late fall or early winter of 1634, neighboring Beutelsbach burned to the ground. The church was fortified, so it’s certainly possible that at least some of the residents took shelter within the church walls, inside the church, which held.
Would Endersbach burn too?
Did Endersbach burn?
The Endersbach church was also a walled church, built between 1468 and 1491 with the intention that the residents would all shelter within the church that could be much more easily defended than individual homes, clustered in the village. Homes also served as farms, with a barn, livestock and fields stretching out directly behind the house. Houses abutted each other for protection.
Fortified churches were built as defensive structures and incorporated military features, such as thick walls, battlements, and embrasures probably initially constructed to withstand the Ottoman invasions of the 1400s and 1500s.
You can see portions of the remaining Endersbach church wall in this contemporary photo.
When Beutelsbach burned, the Endersbach residents likely filled their leather fire buckets with water, shown below, gathered their families, and quickly ran to the church.
Probably a lot of praying occurred that day, not just for their own protection, but for their neighbors and relatives whose homes they could see burning in the distance as thick, acrid smoke drifted over the vineyards on its way to Endersbach.
There was never any doubt who was in charge during a war.
Following the torching of Beutelsbach, the local residents would have had to take up residence someplace else, at least for a while. Some probably sheltered with family and friends in Endersbach.
Heartache and disease accompanied them, with unsanitary conditions causing illness and death among those who didn’t burn or die defending their homes.
Perhaps that’s when Hans Sang or Sing took a shine to Barbara Eckhardt whose family was from Beutelsbach. Did her family seek refuge in Endersbach?
Hans and Barbara married sometime in 1636, in Beutelsbach, where Hans became a citizen.
Two years after that devastating fire, I’m sure Beutelsbach was still trying to recover and rebuild – still in the midst of a war. Regardless of everything else, life had to go on in some way. People still married, began families, and shepherded the next generation into the world.
We don’t know if every house burned, but we do know that Beutelsbach lost about 50% of its residents, perhaps more.
If the local butcher was one of those who perished or was burned out, Beutelsbach would have encouraged Hans, the butcher’s apprentice from neighboring Endersbach, to take up residence. Of course, Barbara’s attention would have sweetened that deal and made Beutelsbach look very attractive to Hans – a win-win for everyone.
Even though Beutelsbach church records weren’t kept again until after 1646, we do know something about Hans and Barbara’s children who survived and remained in Beutelsbach. Their death records often give an age, therefore revealing at least the year they were born.
After their marriage, life became at least somewhat normal, as normal as life can be during a war that has lasted your entire lifetime. Children were born, and some died. Everyone went to church on Sundays. Birthdays accumulated. Christmas was celebrated, and candles lit the church beautifully.
Hans did quite well for himself as the Beutelsbach butcher. His home and butcher shop was right at the base of Beutelsbach’s fortified church wall at Marktplatz 8.
The seam in the roof, just to the right of the red car, divides Marktpfalz 8, at left, from Marketpfalz 10. As you can see, it’s actually a small residence, snugged up against the church wall on one side.
Hans and Barbara lived in the last house before the church, or the first house when leaving the church. It was easy to pick up meat on the way past.
All homes were clustered in the center of town, their barns and field stretching out behind, as you can see on this 1832 Beutelsbach map. Vineyards, tended by the citizens, were located on the hillsides.
Unfortunately, in 1832, Marktpfalz 8 no longer existed, unless the numbering has shifted. The space is vacant on the map, so has apparently been rebuilt. It appears that the neighboring property, Marktpfalz 10, remains the same with a recognizable footprint.
However, it’s probably not the marketing and retail opportunity that made this location so desirable to Hans.
If Beutelsbach was to be attacked or burn again, all Hans and Barbara needed to do was grab their kids and literally run outside their front door and up the steps to be inside the wall.
No one was closer to safety. We don’t know how many times they sheltered in the safety of the church, but we can say with certainty that they did during the first dozen years of their marriage as the war continued, day in and day out, swirling around them.
No wonder Hans and his bride set up housekeeping in Beutelsbach. Opportunity among chaos.
When the 30 Years’ War finally ended in 1648, Hans was 39 or 40 years old. He would have seen literally generations of soldiers marching through both Endersbach and Beutelsbach, up and down the roads, pillaging as they went. It didn’t matter which “side” the soldiers represented; no one was safe. Fear and running for safety was the only life Hans had ever known. The war was finally, finally, over.
I can only imagine the celebrations throughout Germany.
This print from Nuremberg shows a fireworks display celebrating the end of the war.
Martin Goll, a historian, and descendant who lives in Beutelsbach today, tells us that by the time Hans died, on April 18, 1684, he was a wealthy man, at least compared to other Beutelsbach residents.
Hans Sang or Sing had defied the odds. He lived through a brutal war that lasted three decades and took two-thirds of the people living in this part of Germany. He managed to not hurt himself badly enough as a butcher to perish of infection, didn’t starve to death, evaded or survived the plague, dysentery, and typhoid, well, right up until he didn’t.
Against incredible odds, Hans lived to be 70 years old – and then, and then – he died from the Plague. He wasn’t alone. Eleven days earlier, his wife, Barbara, died as well.
Ironically, this would be the Plague’s last stand in most of Europe for many years before it would rear its ugly head again.
I’d wager that many people in Beutelsbach died in the days and weeks surrounding Hans and Barbara’s deaths. Many more were probably quite ill, but recovered.
Did the minister survive? If so, was he well enough to perform funerals? Were the dead buried, then the funerals following at a later time?
Were Hans and Barbara’s funerals combined?
I’d love to hear what the minister had to say at Hans’s funeral before he was buried in the churchyard, inside the wall, just a few feet from his modest home that he shared with Barbara for nearly half a century. Surely, they were buried side by side, Hans joining Barbara a few days after she departed this life.
Those early graves aren’t marked in the churchyard today. We simply know that they are there, silent sentries to ensuing generations.
But wait, that’s not the end of Hans’ story – there’s more. There is something else that would cement Hans Sing’s place in history – just not in his lifetime. Hans never knew about this, because it hadn’t happened yet.
Hans Sing is the ancestor of a United States President. And yes, that means that President is my cousin.
I’ll tell you “the rest of the story” when I write about his wife, Barbara Eckhardt.
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