Outside the Pale: The Lore Family’s “Remarkable” Life Revealed Through the Newspaper – 52 Ancestors #324

Recently, I renewed a previously lapsed subscription to Newspapers.com (get 7 days free, here) in order to search for one particular event surrounding one specific ancestor. But then, as things do with genealogy, one thing led to another, and another, and to make a long story short…it was 3 AM and I wound up in Rushville, Indiana with Nora Kirsch Lore and her family in the very early 1900s. Talk about time travel!

I have written individual articles about the principles in this article, but this story is different than before. I’ve mentioned previously that the benefit of telling each ancestor’s life story separately is that you focus exclusively on just THAT one ancestor. Of course, they were born to parents, probably married someone, and had at least one child that survived to reproduce. Clearly, their story touches on the generations on both sides of them, and must, for continuity – but the story isn’t about anyone but that ancestor, told in their voice, from their perspective.

When you find a treasure trove that spans three generations of an extended family, and you’ve already written about the specific ancestors, it’s difficult to fit the new information into the cracks, because there aren’t any cracks big enough. Not to mention, this is a story all by itself.

Boy, is it ever!

The Papers

As luck would have it, some of the Rushville newspapers have been imaged and OCRed at Newspapers.com so that you can search by keyword(s), which is often first name plus surname in either a particular newspaper or a particular area, like “Rushville, Indiana” or simply “Indiana”.

The bad news is that the surname, Lore, is also a word and also part of other words, plus Curtis Benjamin Lore never used his full name. Most often, he went by Curt or C. B. Lore. Initials are particularly difficult to include reliably in searches. His wife’s name was Nora, but as it turns out, the custom of the day dictated that she was always referred to as Mrs. C. B. Lore until after his death when she was occasionally referred to as Mrs. Nora Lore. Often, she was still referred to as Mrs. Curt Lore or some other derivative that did not include her first name.

Frustrating? You think so?

I changed the search parameters several times, and hopefully, I found all of the references. I discovered that even using the same search criteria, sometimes results varied, so search thoroughly.

Another challenge is that due to the search and OCR challenges, maybe only 25% or less of the matches were truly relevant. However, that’s OK, because I really didn’t need to sleep for 3 nights anyway. Yes, I waded through and read more than 500, and probably closer to 1000 results. Let’s just say I know way more about Rushville Indiana than I ever really wanted to know. Why, it’s almost like I lived there right along with my ancestors!

It really was like time travel as I experienced, albeit second hand, what they experienced in the 1890s and the first two decades of the 1900s.

One last challenge is that you can’t presume that all of the years of a newspaper are imaged just because some of them are. No place on Newspapers.com could I determine how to ascertain which parts of a particular newspaper’s publications have been imaged. It’s certainly possible that some weeks or months or pages are missing throughout. Remember, absence of evidence does not necessarily equate to evidence of absence.

The Players

First, before we look at what the newspapers revealed, let’s take a look at the players that we’ll visit.

The photo below, taken about 1907 or 1908 at the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana includes many of the people you’ll meet including Nora Kirsch Lore, her parents, and siblings.

Left to right, I can identify people as follows:

  • Seated far left – one of the Kirsch sisters – possibly Carrie Kirsch.
  • Standing male left behind the chair – C. B. Lore, husband of Nora Kirsch – which dates this photo to before January 1909 when he became ill for the last time
  • Seated in the chair in front of CB Lore in a white dress – Nora Kirsch Lore, his wife
  • Male with bow tie standing beside C. B. Lore – probably Edward Kirsch, if not then probably Todd Fiske, husband of Lou Kirsch
  • Male standing beside him with no tie – probably Martin Kirsch
  • Woman standing in the rear row – Kirsch sister, possibly Ida.
  • Standing right rear with beard – Jacob Kirsch, father of Kirsch sisters and husband to Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.
  • Front adult to the right of Nora with child – Kirsch sister, possibly Lou.
  • Child beside Nora – Eloise Lore, her daughter, born in 1903, so dating the photo to about 1907
  • Adult woman, seated, with black skirt – mother to Kirsch sisters and wife to Jacob Kirsch, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch
  • Young woman beside Barbara to at right with large white bow – probably Curtis Lore, Nora’s daughter

Jacob Kirsch (1841-1917) and Barbara Drechsel Kirsch (1848-1930) are the parents of Nora Kirsch and her siblings. Jacob and Barbara lived in Aurora, Indiana where they owned the Kirsch House, a restaurant, tavern, and hotel that would be much like a B&B today. The Kirsch House was an exciting place, filled with travelers and colorful figures. In fact, it was at the Kirsch House that Nora met C. B. Lore who wasn’t quite exactly what he portrayed himself to be – single. His wife and children back home in Pennsylvania seemed to have slipped his mind until AFTER he had married Nora.

Whoo boy, is he ever lucky that Jacob Kirsch didn’t catch wind of that! In fact, I’m not at all sure that Nora or the Kirsch family EVER knew. There were so, so many secrets in this family.

Years of hidden drama in such a mundane, innocent-looking antique brick building. Nothing belies what lurked beneath.

Photo courtesy, Pat Allen, Allen Aerial

The Kirsch house is the L-shaped red brick building behind the depot and the white pickup truck. Today, you can still see the larger window where passenger tickets were sold.

The Kirsch house itself was interesting in other ways. Located strategically between the railroad depot and the Ohio River, in the background above, where paddle-wheeler riverboats docked, it was subject to massive flooding during the winter and spring months.

That’s the Kirsch House, just behind the RR crossing sign in 1937, courtesy of the historical society.

The basement bears the scars of many floods, and so too did the inside of the structure.

Flooding that included ice flows was more damaging yet. As you might imagine, stories about flooding, being trapped in floods and escaping from floods were legendary in the family.

It takes special people to live in a place where devastation visits regularly, and you know you’re just going to clean up and start over to have it happen all over again in a few weeks, months, or next year.

These folk were cut from a different cloth. Brave. Resilient. Not one bit risk-averse. It’s no wonder that these people or their parents were immigrants. That too required exceptional bravery.

Jacob Kirsch was quite the character, having one glass eye and other “interesting” characteristics.

The children of Jacob and Barbara, other than Nora, are:

  • Caroline (Carrie) Kirsch (1871-1926) married Joseph Smithfield Wymond (1861-1910). Joseph, a wealthy riverboat gambler contracted syphilis and eventually died of the disease. Then 16 years later, Carrie died too. She never had children. For obvious reasons, her family despised Joseph. He, in essence, killed Carrie, slowly and painfully. Given that Carrie’s father, Jacob Kirsch, was involved in one lynching AND was a crack shot, even with one eye, Joseph is lucky he didn’t “die by enraged father,” although maybe Jacob decided that a quick death would be too good for him.
  • Margaret Louise (Lou) Kirsch (1873-1940) married Charles Theodore “Todd” Fiske (1874-1908). Todd lost his job as a civil engineer and committed suicide by gunshot at the Kirsch House where they were living at the time. Lou never had children.
  • John Edward Kirsch (1870-1924) married Emma Miller and lived in Edwardsport, Knox Co., Indiana. Edward died at age 54 of paralysis, according to his death certificate, which generally means a stroke, given that he appears to have died the same day he became ill.
  • George Martin Kirsch (1868-1949) married Maude Powers and died in Shelbyville, Indiana at age 80 of a cerebral thrombosis, another form of stroke.
  • Ida Caroline Kirsch (1876-1966) married William “Billy” Galbreath (1891-1921) who died of acute alcoholism. She never remarried and never had children.

As you can see, there was a lot of grief under the roof of the Kirsch House.

Nora Kirsch (1866-1949) married Curtis Benjamin Lore in 1888 at the Kirsch House and eventually moved to Rushville Indiana, where drama to rival any soap opera unfolded. Their children were:

  • Edith Barbara Lore (1888-1960) married John Whitney Ferverda in Rushville, Indiana, and moved to Silver Lake. Edith is my grandmother who is absent in the family photo at the Kirsch House.
  • Curtis Lore (1891-1912), a daughter who died of tuberculosis in Rushville.
  • Mildred Elvira Lore (1899-1987) married Claude Martin in Wabash, Indiana, and moved to Houston, Texas (Absent in Kirsch House photo.)
  • Eloise Lore (1903-1996) married Warren Cook and moved to Lockport, New York. Eloise never had children.

The Lore of the Lore Family

If you just read the newspaper accounts, the Lore family looks like an upwardly-mobile, probably fairly well-to-do, carefree family – based on how much socializing they are doing. Of course, no one in Rushville had any idea that they had left Aurora, in part, to disguise the “premature” birth of their first child.

And no one, ever, knew about the past of roguishly handsome, charismatic C.B. Lore. Probably not even his wife and assuredly, not his daughters!

Looks, or in this case, snippets and sound bites, can be very deceiving.

Striking Gold Off the Bat

The very first newspaper entry is actually quite enlightening. Given that the 1890 census does not exist, this tidbit provides us with previously unknown information.

  • May 16, 1889 – In the column titled “Horse Talk” we discover that O. Posey and son, owners sold to C. B. Lore of Greensburg a horse named Moscoe for $400 at the Rush County Horse Breeder’s sale at the fairgrounds.

This had to be a racehorse. I wonder what Nora thought about this.

Horses would shape their future in unexpected ways.

Horse Racing In Rushville

As it turns out, Rushville was a race-horse town in the 1880s and 1890s, known for its fast horses. James Wilson began this legacy with one sire in the 1860s and 1870s that sired many record-breaking Standard Bred Trotters.

By the early 1890s, there were three competition harness tracks on the edge of Rushville, north, south, and east. Every township had at least one training track, and there were a total of 25 tracks in the county. Of course, racing-related people were attracted as were associated businesses. C. B. Lore could have been one of these.

The main track, Riverside Park, located by the old mill location in Rushville had a 60-foot wide regulation track and grandstands. A swinging footbridge was erected across the river to allow easier access to the track, saloons, of course, and businesses.

While the local articles don’t mention gambling, you know that betting was a big draw and lucrative business in its own right too, because betting and horse-racing go hand in hand. What the articles do say is that many of the large Victorian homes were built with “horse money.”

And you can bet that where there’s money, there’s always someone looking to turn a quick buck in less than scrupulous ways.

In September of 1899, the race at Riverside wasn’t held, but somehow a bogus record of the horses that “won” that day was submitted to the American Trotter Association. When the fraud was discovered, local horsemen and officials were expelled, the incident being called “one of the most extraordinary turf frauds ever perpetrated.”

The racing heyday was over, Rushville’s reputation forever tarnished, along with those who participated, but that didn’t mean individuals who loved horses and racing didn’t continue to breed horses and race.

In March of 1907, fifty horses were training at the local track according to the local paper.

But where was C.B. Lore during this time?

Where Was C. B. Lore?

The newspaper tells us what the 1890 census cannot.

  • October 2, 1890 – C. B. Lore of Greensburg was here Saturday.

Nora and C. B. married in January 1888. I know that Edith was born in Marion County a few months later, but between August 1888 when Edith was born in Indianapolis, and the 1900 census, I had no idea where they were living. According to this, in 1889 and 1890, they were living in Greensburg, Indiana. Who knew?

It’s about 20 miles from Greensburg to Rushville, and about 50 miles from Greensburg to Indianapolis.

And yes, Greensburg did have a newspaper, and no, it’s not available on Newspapers.com yet. Just in case you were wondering. Trust me, I keep checking.

This makes sense of another piece of information. The photo of Edith, taken when she was maybe 3 or so, was in a studio in Greensburg.

Also worth noting – those beads she is wearing were actual gold.


Not mentioned is that Curt and Nora’s second child, Curtis, a daughter arrived on March 8th, but we aren’t sure exactly where she was born.

In 1891, the Rushville newspaper notes that C. B. had drilled wells “here” but doesn’t say that they live in Rushville. Edith would turn three in August of 1891, so they were probably still living in Greensburg at this point.

Greenburg is most famously known for the tree growing from the roof of the clocktower – a site Nora and Curt would have seen.

On May 14th, 1891, Curtis sustained a financial loss because his drilling outfit burned. The paper says Greenfield, but I think they meant Greensburg. Greenfield is quite a distance away.

C. B. Lore had been a well-driller in Pennsylvania, which is what brought him to Aurora, Indiana initially. He drilled the Blue Lick Well, there, so the fact that he continued in the drilling business isn’t a surprise. It’s just that we didn’t know well-drilling was connected to Rushville before.

I’m guessing, since his rig burned, that it was something like this Drake Well, common in Pennsylvania where Curtis learned well-drilling.


  • On June 10th, 1892, Curtis, then a Rush County resident, filed a lawsuit.

This suit was apparently settled, as we hear nothing more. But who was John F. Pleffer and why did C. B. Lore sue him?

C. B. or Curt Lore was mentioned often in the local newspaper. Obviously, they moved to Rushville sometime in 1891 or early 1892.

  • On August 2nd, 1892, “Curt Lore shipped his horses to Columbus yesterday.”

I’m betting this was for a race, pardon the pun. The Columbus newspaper provides some context for this event.

  • On December 9, 1892, W. A. Jones, Rich Wilson, Curtis Lore, and William Dagler shipped several head of horses to Chicago to be entered in the great sale.


  • The April 14, 1893 newspaper tells us that Mrs. Curtis Lore visited at Indianapolis last Wednesday.
  • On August 1, 1893 report that Miss Lena Wise of Greensburg is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Lore.
  • On September 12th, Carrie Kirsch of Aurora is visiting her sister, Mrs. Curtis Lore.
  • On Friday, September 22nd the newspaper reports that Mrs. C. B. Lore entertained in honor of Miss Carrie Kirsch of Aurora.
  • On December 12th, Mrs. Curt Lore and children left today to visit homefolks at Aurora over the holidays.

So, I wonder what C. B. Lore was doing with himself while his wife and children were visiting her parents for a month.

1894 was a busy year.

  • January 12, 1894 – Mrs. Curtis Lore returned home last Tuesday from an extended visit with her parents at Aurora.
  • February 23, 1894 – Nineteen members of the “What Not” Club of this city went to Manilla last Tuesday and spent the day with Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Trees. A very pleasant day was spent by all. The list includes Mrs. Curtis Lore.
  • March 20, 1894 – Mrs. Cad Kirsch of Aurora is visiting Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Lore. This answers the question of who Cad was – Carrie – which means I have a photo someplace.
  • March 23, 1894 – Miss Lena Wise of Greensburg is visiting Mr. and Mrs. Curtis B. Lore.
  • April 3, 1894 – It appears that Curt has become an entrepreneur.

$12,000 is a HUGE sum of money in 1894 and converts to about $365,000 in today’s dollars. I can’t help but wonder where he obtained that kind of money. They didn’t even own a house.

  • April 6, 1894 – under the City Council news, we discover that Curt plans to build an ice house.

C.B. Requested that the land be donated to him, but the council had a different idea.

  • April 10, 1894 – C. B. Lore closed the contract last Saturday for the old site of the woolen mill on which to build the ice factory. Work will begin as soon as the weather settles.

According to Rushville history, the woolen mill stood on the riverbanks just south of the Presbyterian Church and was consumed by fire in 1887. The fire and flood-prone location would certainly make the site unbuildable for most purposes and therefore available for C. B. for his ice business.

On this 1908 plat map of Rushville, you can see Water Street, where the original mill was located, along with the footbridge.

On April 13th, Curt apparently bought the land.

It doesn’t say how much he paid, but he would have needed even MORE money. That’s no small building.

But wait, we’re not done.

Also the same page:

Now, in addition to horses, ice, and oil, C. B. Lore is one of the founders of the local phone company. Not only that, we know, based on this article that they would have a phone for $12.50, or about $380 today, in addition to his founding stock in the company.

Either his horses and wells were either wildly successful or he had found a monetary source someplace else. I can’t help but wonder about gambling which is often synonymous with horse racing. Big winners and big losers.

  • May 25, 1894 – C. B. Lore started his ice factory today.
  • June 9th – C. B. Lore is at Louisville, KY today to purchase a new ice wagon.

This ice wagon from this timeframe was from Washington, DC.

  • August 31, 1894 – C. B. Lore is putting down another well for use at the ice factory.

More and more money invested in the ice factory. I wonder if Curt could sleep at night. Nothing like pouring huge amounts of money into a business venture that has yet to produce much if any revenue.

  • September 11, 1894 – Miss Lena Wise of Greensburg is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Lore.
  • September 14, 1894 – Miss Edith Lore is at home from a visit with Greenburg relatives.

Who lived in Greensburg that was related? I still don’t know, but this might explain why Nora and Curt moved to Greensburg in the first place.

  • October 2, 1894 – C. B. Lore has an aluminum bicycle, the first one in the city.
  • November 20, 1894 – C. B. Lore is drilling a gas well near the ice factory. It is now over 450 feet deep and gas enough is supplied to make a blaze about 4 feet high.

C.B. is utilizing the land surrounding the ice factory to drill for gas.

On November 23rd, Curt was in the paper 3 times.

Wow, Curt has been busy!

Wait, what?

What? Now in addition to oil, gas, horses, ice, and a phone company, he’s establishing an electric company for commercial lights?

No moss is growing under this man’s feet!

  • December 7, 1894

1895 is, unfortunately, missing entirely from Newspapers.com. I need to know what happened with the lights!!!


  • Jan 10, 1896 – Civil cases set for trial, Indianapolis Brewing Co. vs Lore

A brewing company? Is Curt brewing beer too?

  • Jan 26, 1896 – Ladies Musicale met with Mrs. C. B. Lore on January 20.
  • Jan 31, 1896 – Curtis B. Lore resumed operations at his ice-plant yesterday.

Why had operations stopped? Does this have anything to do with the lawsuit? Maybe he bought equipment from them?

  • April 17, 1896

This is truly frightening. Runaway horses were a danger and killed many. Ironic that his horses became frightened by a bicycle, and he’s the one who introduced bicycles to Rushville.

  • April 21, 1896 – C.B. Lore (and others) formed a party of wheelmen which rode to Greensburg last Sunday and spent the day there.

Wheelmen refers to bicyclers. Curt would have been 40 years old.

  • April 24, 1896 – Mrs. C. B. Lore won a prize at a card party on Wednesday afternoon.

The following notification ran 8 different times in the local paper. I’m sure they saw it, and so did everyone else in town.

May 8, 15, 22, 26 and 29, 1896. Also June 2, 9, and 16.

The risks of entrepreneurship. Clearly, things were not going well. This would appear only to be for the pumps inside, not the building or the land. This would have been in addition to the initial $12,000 in a separate contract.

One interesting aspect is that they sued Nora too, which is very unusual for that timeframe. Apparently, Curt used the land as collateral, and this suit forces the sale of the lots to pay for the machinery.

This suit tells us exactly where this land is located. I wish there was a picture of his ice building.

Today, this is the Eagles Lodge.

  • May 19, 1896

Apparently, the horses were afraid of both “cars” and bicycles. This would have been train cars, not automobiles.

  • June 2, 1896 – Miss Mina Lore left last week to spend the summer with her grandparents in Pennsylvania.

Mina is Curt’s niece, his brother A. D. Lore’s daughter. So is Gertie mentioned on August 4th.

  • June 30, 1896 – Mrs. C. B. Lore and children left last Saturday for an extended visit with her parents at Aurora.
  • July 28, 1896

Indeed, there was betting involved. I KNEW it.

$25 doesn’t sound like much more than a friendly wager until you realize that’s about $800 in today’s dollars.

  • August 4, 1896 – Miss Gertie Lore of First Street is on the sick list.

August 18, 1896:

I believe this is baseball.

  • October 16, 1896 – A. D. Lore has moved his family to Albion, PA.

Adin apparently moved back to Pennsylvania, then to Ashtabula, Ohio before 1904 and lived there, working as a blacksmith and in the “car barn”, which I presume means rail cars, until the year before his death when he returned to Pennsylvania. At the time of his death, in 1913, he was working as a well driller and died of blood poisoning from an abscess on his hand.

  • November 10, 1896

Nora appears to have been somewhat of a socialite. I hope she enjoyed these years, because, sadly, they wouldn’t last.


  • February 5, 1897 – Miss Carrie Kirsch of Aurora is the guest of her sister, Mrs. C. B. Lore.
  • February 19, 1897 – Mrs. C. B. Lore and Mrs. George T. Aultman elegantly entertained a large number of friends at the Social Club rooms last Tuesday afternoon. Progressive Euchre was played. Dainty refreshments were served.
  • Feb 26, 1897

  • March 12, 1897 – C. B. Lore and Mrs. Lore are a team engaged in the duplicate whist tournament at the Social Club. The 4th contest will be held on Monday Night.

The number 428 is beside their names. According to Wikipedia, Duplicate Whist was the precursor to Duplicate Bridge.

A week later, they were still in the running as well as on March 30th.

  • March 23, 1897 – Miss Carrie Kirsch who has been the guest of her sister, Mrs. C. B. Lore returned home to Aurora yesterday afternoon. Also, C. B. Lore and Mrs. Lore are one of the standing teams engaged in the duplicate whist tournament at the Social Club. The next contest of the series will be Monday night.
  • March 23, 1897 – Curt Lore had a severe strain last Friday at the ice plant while lifting a heavy wood-rack, but is able to be out again.
  • April 23, 1897 – Curt Lore will manage the Rushville ice plant this summer.

This is an odd announcement, given that he purchased the land and built that plant. Of course, we don’t know if he lost the land when that suit was filed.

  • April 30, 1879 – Rev. C. W. Tinsley, C. B. Lore and Walter Wilson spent Wednesday at Indianapolis.
  • June 11, 1897

Amazing. Now it appears Curtis is going to manage a baseball team too. When does he find the time? What doesn’t this man do?

  • July 6, 1897 – Mrs. C. B. Lore and daughters are visiting her parents at Aurora.
  • July 27, 1897 – C. B. Lore left yesterday for a few days visit at Aurora.
  • August 3, 1897 – Orville E. Scott succeeded Curtis B. Lore yesterday in the management of the Rushville Ice Plant.

Based on this, I’m guessing Curt no longer owns that land or the plant. Did he lose all that money? What happened???

  • August 24, 1897 – Miss Lulu Kirsch and Will Fisk, of Aurora, who have been visiting C. B. Lore and wife have returned home.
  • September 7, 1897 – Mrs. Daisy Navin of Indianapolis visited C. B. Lore and wife last week.
  • September 17, 1897 – Mrs. C. B. Lore is visiting friends at Indianapolis.
  • October 15, 1897 – C. B. Lore put 37 new flues in the boiler at the Riverside dairy this week.

What? Add metal and furnace work to the list of things Curt does!

  • October 15, 1897 – Jacob Kirsch and wife of Aurora are the guests of C. B. Lore and wife, and will remain here until Monday.

This is the first of only two times that Nora’s parents ever came to visit. Of course, being the proprietors of the Kirsch House was a full-time 24x7x365 job, so it was probably very difficult for them to get away.

  • October 27, 1897 – C. B. Lore has filed a suit against the Rushville Ice Co., on account, Demand $350. John F. Joyce attorney.

Apparently Curt had to file suit for some funds owed.

  • November 16, 1897 – Curtis Lore has contracted to fit up an Aurora hotel with a hot water heating apparatus.

Add hot water heating to Curt’s skill set, which of course is not only for heating water, but likely for heating the building with radiators. They don’t say, but that hotel is likely the Kirsch House.

In 2008, the old Kirsch House structure was being evaluated by a structural engineering firm for the City of Aurora. In that report, they took photographs inside the building and noted that the original hot water radiators were still evident on the second floor and the plumbing and boiler remained in the basement. It’s likely that this is the handiwork of Curt Lore.

That stairway, slightly visible to the right in the photo above, and below, is the stairway his bride, Nora, descended on January 18, 1888, the day of their wedding, wearing a dress she made herself.

  • December 14, 1897 – Charles Morgan left yesterday where he will assist C. B. Lore in putting in a heating apparatus.
  • December 17, 1897 – The lady minstrel entertainment given at Melodeon Hall last night for the benefit of Canton No. 21 IOOF was a marked success in the high class of the performance given and the large audience which attended. The sketch given by Jesse Pugh and Little Miss Edith Lore in which the former took the part of the burglar was cleverly acted.

Little Miss Edith Lore was my grandmother, all of 9 years old. How I would love to peek back in time and see her as a child.

Rabbit Hole

I’m a quilter, and I couldn’t help but notice the prices of fabric in the newspaper.

At these prices, one could purchase enough fabric to make a full-size bed quilt for about 50 cents. In 2021, it’s closer to $150, at a minimum and that’s before batting, quilting, thread, etc. A single spool of thread today costs more than all of the fabric needed for a quilt then.

Currently, 100% cotton fabric sells for about $12 per yard, on average, and feather ticking for about $35 per yard. Linens range from $10 at bargain-basement prices to about $200 per yard for the finest.

Nora was a quilter. Was she, like me, drawn like a moth to a flame when fabric was on sale?

Nora created absolutely stunning applique quilts later in her life, in the 1930s, that would represent Indiana at the Chicago World’s Fair. I’m betting that back in 1897, with a six-year-old, a nine-year-old, and a calendar full of social engagements, her quilting was probably for sanity and utility, and not for show. Many of her quilts were loved and used by the family, for years. This yellow quilt, cherished by her daughter, Eloise, escaped much use.

I couldn’t help but notice this ad for Christmas handkerchiefs. Women of that time, before Kleenex, owned many handkerchiefs. Who didn’t need handkerchiefs? They were functional, pretty, and fun. Handkerchiefs made a lovely, thoughtful gift that didn’t cost too much.

Nora had an entire box of handkerchiefs, passed to her daughters eventually, then to Mom, then to me.

One of the favorite family quilts made by Nora was this blue quilt that was literally worn and loved to death. I used several of Nora’s handkerchiefs to patch this quilt some 30 years ago, giving it a second or maybe a third life, a century or so after Nora made this quilt. Perhaps in Rushville.

I can’t help but look at the ads for both the calico fabrics and the handkerchiefs and wonder if perhaps this quilt is the marriage of both.

Ok, climbing out of the rabbit hole and back to Rushville in 1898.


  • January 14, 1898 – Mrs. R. F. Scudder and Mrs. C. Lore will entertain this afternoon at the Social Club rooms.
  • January 18, 1898 – Mrs. R. F. Scudder and Mrs. C. B. Lore entertained 40 of their lady friends at the Social Club rooms last Friday afternoon and evening, at cards. A nice luncheon was served to the guests.
  • February 4, 1898 – S. H. Teneyck and wife and E. L. Lenix and wife of Indianapolis are the guests of C. B. Lore and wife.
  • February 11, 1898 – Mrs. C. B. Lore and Mrs. R. F. Scudder gave a masked party at the Social Club last Wednesday night which was attended by several couples.

Mrs. Scudder’s husband was the president of the Republican party in Rush County. I have to laugh at the idea of masked balls. Royalty in Rushville.

  • February 25, 1898 – The colonial party given at the Social Club’s hospitable home on First Street…on Washington’s birthday, was an event which will be looked back to with pleasure by the 50 lady friends and other guests that attended. The rooms were decorated in red, white and blue with pretty colors. In the dancing hall the pictures of George and Martha Washington were conspicuous being surrounded with stars and stripes.

During the afternoon the ladies played hearts, the scores being kept on red, white, and blue cards formed in the shape of a heart. The honors were awarded to Mrs. C. B. Lore.

I’m beginning to think any reason was a good excuse for a party.

I wonder if the women’s dresses looked anything like this drawing from the turn of the century.

Or perhaps these women from 1893.

Or these more matronly women.

The men in this horse-racing town might well have accompanied the women dressed like this, sporting gold-handled and gold-tipped canes and smoking cigars.

  • April 1, 1898 – The spectacular production of “Queen Flora’s Day Dream, or the Butterflies Frolic,” given at the opera house under the direction of Miss Beatrice Raymond of Chicago in which a large number of young ladies and children of this city took part was attended by a large crowd last night.

The two little daughters had to be Edith born in 1888 and Curtis born in 1891 because the next child was not born until 1899.

  • April 1, 1898 – Curtis B. Lore and wife to Harry B. Jones, lots in Rushville, quit claim $1000.

I wonder which lots these are. They must have been the icehouse lots. This is confusing. Perhaps deed records would help resolve this information. I need to look again. Maybe another trip to Rushville would be in order.

  • April 5, 1898 – C. B. Lore delegate to the Congressional convention.

I just had a feeling Curt would be dabbling in politics.

  • April 12, 1898 – C. B. Lore is a delegate of the second ward Republicans which met at the engine house. Each delegate was given the privilege to select his own alternate.
  • April 15, 1898 – C. B. Lore found a lady’s pocketbook on Main Street yesterday which the owner can have by calling on him.
  • April 19, 1898 – C. B. Lore was given a judgment against the Rushville Ice and Cold Storage Co. of $206 last Saturday morning. The claim was for services as Superintendent of the ice plant and the use of his team and wagon.

Apparently, Curt was providing management services, and delivery, but no longer had an ownership interest. I suspect as the result of that earlier lawsuit. Regardless, it appeared, at least until now, to be amicable, even though his interest had been foreclosed upon.

  • April 22, 1898 – Claim by C. B. Lore, assisting engineer for $3.75 filed
  • April 29, 1898 – Edith Lore and Master Thomas Wallace, two Juniors, sang a missionary song. This took place at the 6th Convention of the Christian Endeavor Union of the 14th district, held at the Presbyterian Church on Wednesday and Thursday. The church was handsomely decorated in white, pink, green and gold colors, and flowers.
  • May 13, 1898 – Application of Curtis B. Lore for street commissioner was read to Council and placed on file.

Now he’s applying for Street Commissioner too?

  • July 5, 1898 – C. B. Lore and wife went to Trader’s Point last week where they joined an Indianapolis camping party for a 2 weeks outing.

Trader’s Point is near Indianapolis in a now-defunct village near Eagle Creek Reservoir.

Ironically, we know that at least one child didn’t go along on this trip.

Thanks to my cousin, Chelsea, we have a photo of Edith in Aurora with her Rabe cousins taken in July 1898 at her great-grandmother’s house.

  • September 16, 1898 – The machinery in the old electric light building is being loaded on cars by C. B. Lore for shipment to Indianapolis.
  • December 27, 1898 – Mrs. C. B. Lore and children are visiting her parents at Aurora.

The pilgrimage home at Christmas time has lasted for four generations and counting, a luxury not afforded Nora’s grandparents who immigrated from Germany.


On April 8th, not reported in the paper, Mildred was born to Curt and Nora.

  • May 23, 1899 – Curt Lore and daughter of Rushville were in our city a short time this morning.
  • June 23, 1899 – Mrs. C. B. Lore and children are visiting her parents at Aurora where they will remain for 4 or 5 weeks.
  • July 21, 1899 – Mrs. C. B. Lore and children returned home yesterday from an extended visit with her parents at Aurora.
  • July 25, 1899 – Miss Carrie Kirsch of Aurora is visiting her sister, Mrs. C. B. Lore.

I wonder how Curt was involved with the Rushville Gas Company. Perhaps, given his oil and gas experience, he was simply providing an emergency service in a dangerous situation.

  • September 1, 1899 – Harry Siebern and C. B. Lore have formed a partnership under the name of the Cineograph Electric Advertising Company. They will visit surrounding towns and give entertainments. Siebern has resigned his position with Bliss and Dowing.
  • September 15, 1899 – The Warograph Company of this city, composed of C. B. Lore, Harry Seiburn and Charles E. Wolfe, will give an entertainment at Newsom’s hall, in Carthage tonight and tomorrow night. It is worthy of patronage.
  • September 22, 1899 – Charles E. Wolfe went to Mattoon, Illinois, yesterday where he will join the Warograph Company owned by Frazee and Tichenor.

Apparently, Curt has now formed two new companies and inside of a week, lost one of his partners.  A week later, Charles E. Wolfe joined the military.

In the book, “Film before Griffith” by John Fell, the author states that the “cinematographe” and “Warograph” were the very first examples of projected motion pictures. Although they were identical to each other in their workings and manufactured by Luciere Brothers, the subject matter to be shown determined the choice of machine. The “Warograph” showed pictures of the Spanish American War – hence its title – “and seems to have created quite a stir among viewers. It provided “motionized pictures” of an actual war which viewers had read about in the pages of the newspaper, even though the original footage had probably been staged at the Edison studios in 1898-1899.”

I certainly didn’t see this coming. I’m beginning to wonder if Curt moved to new things because he IS successful, or because he isn’t. Is Curt struggling here? Or are they well enough off that he simply has the freedom to do whatever moves him?

  • September 29, 1899 – C. B. Lore will give his warograph entertainment in the yard at the Pythian Hall tonight and tomorrow night.
  • October 3, 1899 – Jesse W. Guire went to Mattoon, Illinois, yesterday where he will join the Warograph Company owned by Frazee and Tichenor.
  • November 14, 1899 – Mrs. C. B. Lore went to Aurora yesterday afternoon to attend the wedding of her sister, Miss Lulu Kirsch which takes place this evening.
  • December 12, 1899 – C. M. Ford, of the Big Four office, is at Claypool, called there by the sickness of his wife. Curt Lore is attending to the duties during his absence.

C. M. Ford would be the local railroad stationmaster or agent. This tells us that Curt had a working knowledge of Morse Code, mandatory for communicating up and down the line. Another skill we didn’t know Curt possessed.

  • December 22, 1899 – C. B. Lore succeeded in getting out the tools, yesterday morning, which were lost in the gas well that William L. Price is drilling south of the race bridge.

It seems like Curt had a lot of experience in dealing with whatever problems surfaced.


The 1900 census shows Nora and Curt living in Rushville with 3 children, married 13 years, according to the census. They had actually been married 12 years, but often adjusted their marriage date to align in a more socially acceptable way with their first child’s birth. He notes his occupation as a “machinist.” Two female servants are living with them, ages 19 and 27.

To afford two live-in servants, they must be at least marginally well-off. They weren’t alone though. There were a total of 121 servants out of a total population of 6,027 for all of Rushville Township, which includes the city of Rushville.

Their neighbor is William Covertson, the railroad agent.

William Covertson and his wife Ethel whose full name was Ida Ethel Clark were the best friends of Nora and Curt Lore. They were neighbors, their children grew up together and they remained fast friends long after Rushville was in the rearview mirror.


  • February 20, 1900
  • February 27, 1900

  • March 23, 1900 – Under the title, Social Club Entertainment: A company of about 150 persons gathered at the Social Club last Tuesday night and after indulging in a fine supper, prepared by the ladies, they adjourned to the hall upstairs where a program which had been arranged by the gentlemen was rendered. The stage was nicely decorated with the national colors and a dressing-room arranged on one side for the performers. C. B. Lore in the part of a Dutch comedian, sang a song in the Dutch dialect.

A comedian?? It’s probably a good thing he didn’t quit his day job. At least we know the man wasn’t shy if he would sing in public and was confident enough to play a comedian.

  • April 17, 1900 – Mrs. C. B. Lore won a favor at a card party last Friday. At 6 o’clock a tempting supper was served.
  • June 5, 1900 – C. B. Lore signed a petition declaring that he was in favor of a street fair, along with many other individuals and businesses. No gambling games or devices nor any kind of vulgar or indecent shows will be allowed. Only clean attractions that will interest and amuse the people will be allowed.
  • June 26, 1900 – A party consisting of…C. B. Lore and family…spent Sunday near Moscow.

  • July 6, 1900 – Andy Pea had his merry-go-round at the 4th of July celebration at Laurel. C. B. Lore was there with his warograph. Both attractions were well patronized.

I wonder if Curt was promoting the Warograph for future bookings, or if one could pay and watch a movie on the spot. Now we know why he petitioned for the street fair.

  • July 10, 1900 – Mrs. Charles Fisk and Miss Carrie Kirsch of Aurora are visiting their sister, Mrs. C. B. Lore.
  • July 13, 1890 – A street fair was taking place in Rushville, with very large crowds with an estimated 7000 visitors in one day.

  • August 24, 1900 – Mrs. C. B. Lore and family returned home last Wednesday from an extended visit at Aurora. She was accompanied home by her sister, Miss Ida Kirsch, who will visit here.
  • September 28, 1900 – C. B. Lore and wife are visiting her parents at Aurora.
  • October 30, 1900 – Mrs. C. B. Lore entertained about 40 friends last Friday afternoon with cards at the Club House. A pleasant time was spent by all.
  • October 30, 1900 – Republican Rally – Third Division, all on horseback. New Salem Band, Aides included Curt Lore. Mounted Rough Riders and all persons on horseback.
  • November 23, 1900 – C. B. Lore is putting in a bathroom outfit for Dick Wilson in the house formerly owned by Mrs. Helen Wilson.

Homes are getting that all-important indoor plumbing!

It’s interesting to note that Rushville did have at least some telephones, but the ads in the same paper don’t list phone numbers for businesses, or anything indicating that they have telephones. I’m guessing this is before the days of phone numbers. You simply picked up the phone and asked the operator to connect you to a specific house. I’d also wager that most families didn’t have phones and that they were somewhat of a status symbol. Now I wonder if people had phones before indoor bathrooms.

  • November 27, 1900 – Mrs. Lore received a prize at the club house when Mrs. Sexton entertained a number of ladies.

All Hell Breaks Loose

Remember that horse racetrack scandal that took place on September 16, 1899, where the race didn’t actually occur, but a list of winning horses was submitted anyway?


This story was published nationwide on December 6th, and the local paper ran it on the following day.

If you’re guessing that C. B. Lore was involved up to his eyeballs, you’d be right.

  • December 7, 1900

The board of review of the American Trotting association investigated one of the most extraordinary turf frauds ever perpetrated, and at the close of the inquiry issued an edict of expulsion against the following persons, all residents of Rushville, Indiana.

Note that the parenthesis are my notes.

    • W. A. Jones (race track owner)
    • Harrie Jones (was in Evansville that day, son of W. A. Jones)
    • James Williams
    • W. J. Wilson (17 years old, son of Dick Wilson who was in Rhode Island with his horses)
    • W. W. Wilson (invalid and has been for several months)
    • J. D. Hiner (signed record knowing very little of its contents and because asked to do so)
    • C. F. Vance (signed papers at the solicitation of friends)
    • J. B. Vance (says he is driver, in case the race happened)
    • C. B. Lore (have not seen him, but newspaper was told he had no part in making the bogus record)
    • R. F. Scudder (says he is not a horseman and knew nothing about this until months later)
    • John Sail (colored stable boy)

The offense for which these people were put outside the pale of reputable turfdom – the sentence being effective on tracks of the National associations as well as the American – is the “faking” of an entire day of alleged trotting and pacing over the Rushville track on Sept. 16, 1899, procuring the admission of summaries of the same in the official records of the American Association as well as the year book of the American Trotting Register Association and then selling and otherwise making use for gain of the horses alleged to have made fast records on the day in question.

W. A. Jones (horse breeder in 1900 census) who owns Riverside Park informs the Republican that bona fide arrangements were made for a race meeting there on Sept. 16, 1899, and that he consented that two or three of his horses might be entered in order to fill out classes. In consequence of bad weather the meeting was not held. He had no other connection whatever with the affair.

Mr. Jones says that his son, Harrie Jones (horseman in the 1900 census, living with his in-laws), had no connection with the proposed races here. He was at Evansville that week with his string of horses, a fact with Secretary John Steiner, of the American Association knows, because he was, in his official capacity receiving reports from the Evansville races.

R. F. Scudder (Insurance agent in 1900 census) says he is not a horseman and had nothing at all to do with the proposed races, and did not sign or authorize anybody else to sign his name to any paper or record of that meeting. As a matter of fact, he never heard of any such record until months afterwards.

Jesse Vance (salesman in 1900 census, boarder, looks to be brother of Cicero) says his only part in the races was that of driver, in case they had come off.

Cicero F. Vance (widowed, drayman, boarder in 1900 census) says he signed the papers as one of the judges at the solicitation of some friends. Personally, he had no interest whatever in the matter.

John Hiner (liveryman in 1900 census) says he signed the record, knowing very little of its contents, and because he was asked to.

W. J. Wilson is a son of Dick Wilson (age 42, no occupation listed, his family lives with his wife’s family who list their occupation as “landlord”) and is about 17 years old. Dick was not here at the time, being in Rhode Island with his horses.

W. W. Wilson, better known as “Boo!,” is an invalid and has been for several months. (On the same page as this article, his death was reported on the same day of heart trouble. Born in 1862, son of late James Wilson, wealthy breeder who owned the original sire of the race horses in Rushville.)

We have not been able to see Mr. Lore (machinist in 1900 census) but are told that he had no part in making the bogus record.

John Sail is a colored stable boy.

Up to this date, no one has been found who made the bogus record of the races. Whoever it was has not helped the fast horse business in Rush County.

Oh boy, what a shameful mess.

It’s interesting that one man admitted signing the papers at the behest of others, but doesn’t say who. I can’t help but wonder if he did tell the association, and that’s why these men were expelled and publicly shamed.

Notice that there is no notice that year about what Curt and Nora were doing for Christmas. This was probably a very difficult time for them, especially Nora and the girls who clearly had nothing to do with this, regardless of Curt’s involvement.

This smacks of outright fraud. The value of horses depends on their speed and wins. It looks like the track owner, members of the wealthy Wilson family who were horse breeders, a few businessmen, a couple of people who worked at the livery and probably had little choice in the matter, and perhaps a few irresponsible fringe-element people looking to make an easy buck were all involved.

It’s hard for me to believe that no one knew anything – including Curt.

One Hum Dinger

This was one long decade.

Nora and Curt’s lives seem oddly juxtaposed against one another.

They seem wealthy and have servants, but don’t own a house.

They act the role of wealthy socialites but owe an incredible amount of debt, which is foreclosed.

Curt seems to be quite focused on success, trying one thing after another or perhaps several things simultaneously. Nora seems oddly disconnected from whatever he is doing – concentrating on cards, the social club, luncheons, her children, church, and visiting other similarly situated wives. Perhaps being able to provide Nora and his daughters with this lifestyle is part of what Curt feels defines him as successful.

But then again, they aren’t entirely disconnected. They went “camping” together for two weeks, having a child nine months later, and he traveled to Aurora to visit her parents. But then again, she went home for Christmas alone.

Rushville may be a small town, but there’s a lot of horse-racing money and proportionally many wealthy people. Maybe it’s similar, on a somewhat grander scale, to those make-it-or-break-it oil boomtowns where Curt was raised, back in Pennsylvania. Live fast and take risks, because tomorrow isn’t assured.

Curt had to be a scrapper his entire life. He was orphaned young and began making his way in the oilfields before he was even a teenager. He had certainly known fear and grief and hunger and cold and poverty. He seems to be driven never to endure those things again. He adored his daughters, and they, in turn, nearly worship him.

Curt was always busy, granted, but never too busy for his girls. He took them with him when he went visiting for business, or out to check on his horses – and they loved to ride along in the buggy with their father. As old women, they would talk about those cherished days in Rushville where he told them tales about his father being a river pirate. Maybe those weren’t tall tales after all.

In the span of a decade, Curt had:

  • Drilled for oil and gas in multiple locations
  • Bought and raced horses
  • Founded an ice plant company
  • Drilled water wells for the ice plant
  • Bought an ice delivery wagon
  • Lost the ice plant through foreclosure
  • Been hired as the superintendent of the ice plant
  • Started a telephone company
  • Started an electric light company
  • Applied to be the street commissioner
  • Founded a baseball team
  • Managed the team
  • Was perhaps brewing beer, or at least was sued by a brewing company
  • Founded two “moving picture” companies
  • Been the delegate for the Republicans
  • Applied to be the Street Commissioner
  • Functioned as a stand-up comedian at the “social club”
  • Installed indoor plumbing in homes
  • Installed hot water heat in a hotel
  • Repaired a broken gas line
  • Substituted for the local railroad station agent
  • Gambled, perhaps for high stakes, and apparently…lost
  • Suffered very public humiliation and expulsion from horse racing. Tarred with the brush of dishonesty and labeled, along with the rest, as “outside the pale of reputable turfdom.”

Did Curt simply think that rules were for other people and he was above all that?

Maybe not.

Perhaps as an orphan back in Pennsylvania, Curt had learned to do whatever needed to be done to get ahead, to survive. Perhaps he got carried away. Maybe founding those companies, in particular, the Warograph company, the day before the racetrack event, is a symptom of financial desperation.

Was he close to losing it all – and with it – his pride? Was he afraid to bringing shame to his wife, daughters, and her family? Was he afraid of losing or maybe worse yet, being pitied by his beloved daughters?

What drove Curt? He was, assuredly, a driven man. I keep hearing Kenny Rogers in my mind, singing, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.”

Curt was only 45 years old and seems to have lived enough for several lives already.

What tales will the next decade of newspapers reveal?



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Rudolph Muller’s Blacksmith Shop in Grossheppach

Just when you thought we were finished with Rudolph Muller and his wife, Margretha, in Grossheppach, we’re not😊

Cousin Wolfram, using the 1832 cadastral maps, made an important discovery and has been kind enough to share. THANK YOU!!!

Blacksmith and Ferrier

If you recall, in the Grossheppach records for Johann Rudolph Muller and his wife, Margretha, we discovered that Rudolph was noted as a blacksmith and ferrier in different records.

I asked Wolfram if he thought that perhaps Rudolph’s blacksmith shop was at the castle, given that horses were rare and that Margretha was listed as either a chambermaid or “waiting maid.” Both of those professions suggested that they worked for someone who had enough money to pay for non-essential items like horses and services like maids.

Wolfram had mentioned that he had not been able to determine, previously, the location of the blacksmith shop – but that has all changed now.

Make yourself a cup of tea, or beverage of your choice, because we’re going along with Wolfram on an adventure to find the elusive blacksmith shop!

Wolfram’s Discovery

I LOVE emails from Wolfram!

Here is something more which might be quite interesting.

One entire word about the job of a blacksmith in Großheppach. You need to know, horses were really rare. I have seen this in the inventory lists of mid/end 18th century. There is absolutely rarely a horse. Maybe only the mill, the castle and the Lamm Inn had horses. There was no need for it and the space of the valley did not allow to plant food for the horses. Even my mother told, there was only one house who had horses. Also oxes were not available, my mother told. They carried the carts either by hand (smaller ones) or with milk cows. I was also asking if it was difficult having cows for the carts. But she mentioned they had very calm cows. They were able to do everything. So for a blacksmith the job were not so much horseshoes (yes, sometimes for troups who came along). Mainly they were surely doing all kind of metal work. Tools for work, for the carts and for buildings.

Now, where the family was located in Großheppach. I did not know where he lived. But now I analyzed the facts:

I have following facts:

I have the cadastre of 1832. There are three smith’s named:

  1. Joseph Friedrich Löffler, Schmied
  2. Christoph Ellwanger, Schmied
  3. Johannes Lutz, Schlosser together with Johannes Pfund, Nagelschmied (= Nailsmith?)

Wolfram provided a document which included the following information based on the cadastral map of 1832.

Location #1

Urnummerkarte 095, Grunbacher Straße ca. Nr. 20

Hauptstraße 34, today Grunbacherstraße (number. 20 is no longer there)

Consisting of:

Area square rods [QR]
House and barn 12,8
Wooden hut 3,2
Courtyard space 9,9
Total 25,9
in sqm 212,6

[Quelle: Urnummernkarte NO 2922, Jg 1832]    [Quelle: Google Maps, 2015]



Joseph Friedrich Löffler, Schmied (blacksmith)

Here the explanation for the above location:

Ground of no.1 is named as a living house and barn, a wooden cabin and a courtyard. It does not look like a fix installed blacksmith. But it is located close to the castle (to the right) and close to the Lamm inn (to the left).

Location #2

Urnummerkarte 105, Brückenstraße 1

Mühlweg 1, steht nicht mehr, heute Brückenstraße 1. War Gasthaus zum Schlüssel. Dieses Gasthaus hatte den größten Saal im Ort, so dass hier de facto alle Hochzeiten gefeiert wurden. Auf älteren Gruppenbildern ist meist der Eingang, flankiert von zwei aufgestellten  Bäumen, abgebildet.

Deepl translation of above:

Mühlweg 1, no longer stands, today Brückenstraße 1. Was Gasthaus zum Schlüssel. This inn had the largest hall in the village, so de facto all weddings were celebrated here. Older group pictures usually show the entrance flanked by two upright trees.

Consisting of:

Fläche Quadratruten [QR]
Residential house 18,1
Staffeln (Seasons) 0,7
Scheuer [b] 8,0
Forge [a] 2,4
Oven the garden 0,4
Courtyard space 16,4
Total 46,0
in sqm 377,6

[Quelle: Urnummernkarte NO 2922, Jg 1832]    [Quelle: Google Maps, 2015]



Christoph Ellwanger, Schmied

Ground of no2 is named as living house, stairs (even there it is flat ???), barn, blacksmith, baking oven in the garden and courtyard. The blacksmith workshop itself is the small building right at the edge of the crossing.

Location 3

Urnummerkarte 170, Brückenstraße 5

Mühlweg 3 und 5, today Brückenstraße 5

Consisting of:

Fläche Quadratruten [QR]
Residential house 5,8
Courtyard space 5,4
Total 17,0
in sqm 139,5

[Quelle: Urnummernkarte NO 2922, Jg 1832]    [Quelle: Google Maps, 2017]



Johannes Lutz, locksmith and

Johannes Pfund, Nailsmith, joint

Ground of no3 is neighbor of no. 2 and next to the mill. Owner of this building is Johannes Lutz, locksmith and Johannes Pfund, nailer [= nailsmith?]

Wolfram’s Analysis

Only no. 2 is named as a blacksmith workshop. Therefore I think this was the original place. It is a good strategic place, by the way, because this was on the old street from east to west, it was on the way to the bridge over the Rems to reach Beutelsbach, Endersbach, Schnait or on the way to the south and finally, it was located next to the mill.

This place became a restaurant, I think in the 20th century (but I am not 100% sure), called “Zum Goldenen Schlüssel” (The golden key) and was THE RESTAURANT for all kind of events because they had the biggest room for celebrations (wedding, funeral feast…)

Also, my parents married there and my grandparents, and…

Basically, all old wedding pictures from Großheppach have this motive you can see an example in the picture below.

Now looking backwards. For sure I have a list of blacksmiths.

The inventory files from mid/end 18th century I have not analyzed fully. But I had a look in some records of the Barchet family (also blacksmith). There is saying, the house was standing “in the middle of the village, touching at the one side to the common entrance street, and on the other to Matthäus Lösch and Jerg Leonhard Stock.”

As Matthäus Lösch was a cooper in mid-1750s and the two houses east of the smith along the old roman main street were also owned from coopers in 1820, It seem that the Barchet owned this blacksmith in mid 1750s. But further backwards I actually cannot go.

 Finally, it is sure, that the place of a blacksmith was at that particular corner also in mid-1800s. And the probability is high, that 100 years before the blacksmith was at the same place as there was not so much movement those days in houses/jobs etc. And I am quite sure, Rudolph Müller owned this blacksmith at this particular corner or even founded it.

By the way, at the corner is today the butcher “Klass.”

Still today they have the golden key in their logo which is coming from the former restaurant “Zum Goldenen Schlüssel”. And it looks logic, that the real root of the key-logo is laying in the old blacksmith. I really have to ask the owner who is my friend 🙂


So, there you have it. Wolfram has been able to identify the location of Rudolph’s blacksmith shop which is of course where the family lived too. Comparatively speaking, their home seemed quite large. Did Rudolph build this home, and the forge, or did he purchase the property from an earlier blacksmith, perhaps from the heirs of one who had perished during the Thirty Years War?

Is there any hint of the blacksmith shop, or bricks from the oven, perhaps, still recognizable or to be found on the property, today?

This “corner lot” would have been a prime piece of real estate, passed by all travelers because it was directly on the road to the bridge and the mill, locations frequented by everyone.

I wonder if Rudolph knew the history of this road, that it was, in fact, the old Roman road.

That legions of men in boots had marched around the corner and past his blacksmith shop for hundreds, if not thousands of years. That battles had been fought here, and on the bridge nearby.

Some lucky men rode horses and those horses needed shoes. Perhaps Rudolph had some wine on hand too for thirsty riders as well as water for thirsty horses. At least men who owned horses had enough money to pay for his services and perhaps some discretionary purchases too.

Local farmers bringing their grain to the mill might have needed the axle on their cart or wagon fixed, or a tool or something else repaired. Rudolph was right nearby, literally next door, within sight.

Even people not needing a blacksmith’s services might have been lured by the smells of whatever was baking in that outdoor oven. Maybe the blacksmith’s shop became the corner gathering place where vineyards were discussed and the quality of fermenting wine along with the weather. Or if the visitors were women, who was courting whom, and later, who was “expecting.” Or maybe even more scandalous when that order was reversed.

I’ve noted the two blacksmith locations that were located very closely adjacent in 1832, 140 years or about 4 generations after Rudolph’s death, on the current map, above. The arrow at left is, of course, the blacksmith shop where Rudolph is believed to have lived, although the blacksmith shop is incorporated into the larger “residential” building which has been significantly expanded, and the garden oven is gone. It’s still quite recognizable 189 years after the cadastral map was drawn and would likely have been recognizable if a map had been drawn in Rudolph’s lifetime as well.

The arrow at right points to the location that was, in 1832 the locksmith and “nailsmith.”

The large building to the far right, in the corner, is the old mill, both then and now.

The long corner building appears to be where Rudolph and Margretha would have lived, with the blacksmith workshop right on the corner and a baking oven in the courtyard. Grain was readily available at the mill next door. This large oven and oversized residential building suggest that maybe Rudolph provided more than blacksmith services and wine to his visitors. Were he and Margretha also proprietors of a food establishment of some sort – maybe the equivalent “fast food” of the 1600s? Grab a glass of wine and a pastry, “to go,” or while you wait for your repair to be completed?

Was “waiting maid” perhaps a way of conveying that Margretha waited on customers, a waitress or server in today’s vernacular? Was this the actual beginning of what would evolve into the Golden Key restaurant? The location was certainly ideal!


Now it makes sense why the local miller at the time, Jerg Leonhard Herman and his wife Magdalena stood up as godparents for all but one of Rudolph and Margretha’s children. Jerg Leonhard was born in 1630, so the couple would have been the same age as Rudolph and Margretha Muller. They were not only neighbors, but the families along this stretch, the blacksmith, the miller, and the cooper were all tradesmen essential to life in a German village.

And now, of course, I wonder who Jerg Leonard Hermann’s wife, Margaretha, was. Were these couples related? Perhaps there is yet another chapter to this story and even more than meets the eye.



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Painting the Life of Rudolph & Margretha Muller in Grossheppach, Germany – 52 Ancestors #322

It never fails to amaze me when fate joins cousins from across the globe.

Yep, it has happened once again and I’m jumping for joy.

Johann Rudolpf Muller and his wife, Margretha had several children – among them, two daughters.

I descend from daughter Sibylla born in 1672, and my distant cousin, Wolfram descends from her older sister, Veronica, born in 1666. That makes us roughly 7th cousins.

Let me say before going any further that this article would not have been possible without Wolfram’s generosity – sharing his research, information, time, and photos. He has been immeasurably patient with me asking what probably feels like endless questions.

For me, the view he has provided of where our ancestors lived is like drinking the nectar of the Gods. This not only provides a glimpse into the village of Grossheppach, but transports me across time as well.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius.

This ancient stone marks the boundary of Grossheppach where it borders neighboring Kleinheppach. Gross means large and Klein means small. Of course, both are a matter of perception.

Originally, these two villages were one.

Großheppach and Kleinheppach emerged as a joint expansion site in the 9th century (at the time the Fronhof constitution was still in force) and was probably founded in Waiblingen. The place takes its name from the stream, which at that time was already called Heckebach or Heggebach, which stands for a stream between hedges; the village and corridor image of the Middle Ages was characterized by the many hedges that served as fences. The oldest spellings of the place name are Hegnesbach (1236) and Hegbach (1365). As an independently tangible place, Kleinheppach first appears as Heckebach superiori (1294) or Obernheggebach (1297).

Kleinheppach, the smaller village consisted of a church surrounded by a few houses in 1686.

Sometimes the church records of residents of Kleinheppach are mixed with those of Grossheppach in the Grossheppach church register.

Wolfram has a unique perspective because he still lives in Grossheppach, village of our ancestors, along the little stream beside the church, the blacksmith’s shop, the old inn, and the mill.

I’ve asked Wolfram a lot, and I mean A LOT of questions this week. I’m very grateful for his answers and insights, not to mention, pictures.

Did I mention pictures???

Grossheppach in Pictures

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius.

Yes, pictures of beautiful Grossheppach, today and yesteryear! Notice the stately church dome in the background.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius.

Many of these buildings hail from the time when Johann Rudolph and Margretha lived here. They walked these streets which were probably cobblestones or even dirt at the time and saw these very same buildings. This building on the corner above, now the Schreiber bakery, is one of the oldest buildings in town, built before 1560.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius.

The historic Lamm Inn was the only place for travelers to rest, standing across from the church in the center of the old part of town, also originating on the old Roman road before 1560.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius.

Rudolph and Margretha knew these buildings well. They would have been in and out of these structures over the years. Their daughter, Sibylla, may have been the midwife in Grossheppach before she became the official midwife in neighboring Beutelsbach.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius.

Given the apparent age of this building in this early 1900s photo, Wolfram thinks it’s from the 1800s. It’s not connected to our family.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius.

Wolfram tells us about the milk house:

The milk house was a house where the people sold their milk to if they had more than they needed. I am not sure. Maybe they did cheese out of it but definitively also butter. There you were able to buy milk, butter, cheese.

The people you can see on the picture was the family of my grand-grandfather.

The small child at the hand of my grand-grandfather Gottlob Stilz (1875-1942) was my grandmother Sophie (1909-1977). The wife is my grand-grandmother Sofie Böhringer (1881-1964) with her other child (aunt Anna Bertha) on her arm. The picture must be from 1912.

The house is not existing any more. But my mother told it was placed at today’s Kleinheppacherstrasse 26.

By the way, maybe interesting for you. Normally the people had beside the chicken, some cows for the milk and sometimes maybe meat. Most people were poor. And as you might know, a cow needs to birth every year a calf to get milk. Means you need a bull. So the bull was normally a municipal owned animal, so not everybody needed to have one. They had an extra stable for these bull which was called “Farrenstall”. Because the name of such a bull was “Farren”. In Großheppach it was located in former days in the town hall – ground floor;)

I’m sorry, but this made me just laugh out loud. I was raised on a farm in the US and am all too familiar with bulls. We too shared one bull for the entire neighborhood. You might say he got to go for slumber parties. Happiest bull ever.

German “farms” are much different than in the US. Because of the need to cluster houses together defensively, all the houses are built with the barns in the village, and the farm fields extend behind the village.

Medieval cities were walled, but in smaller towns, only the church and cemetery were walled. In some cases, estates that enclosed several houses and barns were walled as well.

In the Beginning

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius.

Let’s start closer to the beginning, with the bridge and the mill, above and also seen in this beautiful 1686 drawing of Grossheppach when Rudolph, Margretha and their children were living in one of these approximately 55 homes.

The count is approximate for two reasons. First, it’s hard to discern between roofs, and second, because some of those roofs are likely barns beside houses. I can’t tell. So perhaps as few as 20 or 25 houses.

In 1832, Grossheppach had a total of 125 houses.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Even in the 1950s, Grossheppach was still a small village nestled snugly in the Rems Valley beneath sloping hillside vineyards.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

We do know a few things for sure.

Rudolf and Margretha didn’t live at the mill, although they were quite close to the miller who stood up for several of their children’s baptisms. They didn’t live in the church or in the vineyards. People didn’t actually “live” in either of those places. Farmers and vinedressers lived in the village and walked up to the fields to work. The village was established in time out of mind beside the little stream of Heppach and grew slowly over many centuries.

Wolfram begins:

I can tell you the origin of “Heppach” which is “Heck-bach”. This phrase of the town is often shown in early documents. Origin is ‘Hecke’ and ‘Bach’ which basically means ‘hedge’ and ‘creek’. So the creek at the hedge, or hedge at the creek – as you wish😉

On your second picture you can see a big building close to the bridge. This is the old mill. The buildings still existing. And today the bridge is almost at the original place. Two years ago they digged part of an old bridge. You can read an article about the bridge here.

The archivist Bernd Breyvogel is working in the archive of Weinstadt which is – by the way – located in the old castle of Großheppach. In the 1970’s there was a reform and the 5 villages Großheppach, Beutelsbach, Endersbach, Schnait and Strümpfelbach went together to the new city “Weinstadt” but still the people here know which village they relate to;).

The article asks, “Is the historical bridge the bridge where there was heavy fighting between the imperial and Swedes with 300 dead in January 1643?”

Based on the archaeological dig in combination with this drawing, the answer appears to be yes.

As a genealogist, I have to wonder – how in the heck would a small village bury 300 dead people all at once. That’s probably more people than the entire adult population of the village, maybe more than the population of surrounding villages, combined.

The battle in 1643 occurred during the Thirty Years’ War. This bridge connects Grossheppach with the vineyards on the north side of Beutelsbach. Clearly, anyone living in either village would have been painfully aware of this battle. While Rudolf Muller wasn’t yet living in Germany, my ancestors from Beutelsbach certainly were, and they would clearly have heard that battle, assuming they weren’t involved in some way themselves.

That battle lived in infamy and shaped the village where Rudolph and Margaretha would settle 17 years later.

Wolfram continues:

About the small island close to the mill. This “island” can still be recognized, even though it is not in use any more. On site you can see, that there is the old mill race between the two old buildings. I marked it here into the google map. The one building above the yellow arrow is the one in the map of Kieser’s forest map with the mill wheels. The building below the arrow is built after 1686. But the river course of the Rems has been changed.

Ahh, this explains why I was having trouble finding that island on the map today.

By the way, you can also use Google Maps in 3D. Then you have even a more real and realistic view of my (actual) village:

Wolfram explains that Grossheppach is much older than this though.

As of location of this village you need to know, the village is placed directly at an old road from roman times. Which were going from east to west. The road is today located in Großheppach as “Grunbacher Straße” and “Pfahlbühlstraße” and came from Bavarian region along the former roman border “Limes” and finished in Bad Cannstatt.

There was a roman fort at this strategic place, built in the first century AD. Still today some construction from roman times in the ground of the former castle. Unfortunately, I have only found a site in German. Maybe Google can do the rest for you: https://www.roemerkastell-stuttgart.com/geschichte/

Also the corresponding Wikipedia article is only in German: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kastell_Stuttgart-Bad_Cannstatt.

But about the roman border “Limes” there is an article in English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limes_(Roman_Empire)

It’s only about 500 feet from the castle to the church, so it’s probable that this old portion of the village is much older than Grossheppach as we know it.

The Roman limes passed directly through Grossheppach, guarded by Roman soldiers from the first through the fifth centuries.

I can’t help but wonder how many of the original families in this area are descendants of the soldiers and local women. Y DNA of early families might well tell that story.

Grossheppach to Beutelsbach

It’s just over a mile from church to church, across the infamous bridge. Throughout Europe, it’s quite common to see steeples in every direction in the countryside, looking at the horizon across the fields. Most villages remained small and all residents needed to be able to fit inside the church and get there quickly.

The mile between villages would only have taken a few minutes to walk. During that 1643 battle, the sounds of armor clashing and the screams of men would have traveled piercingly through the air.

I sure wish Google had StreetView in Europe.

Understanding the dynamics of chronic warfare in Europe over the ages, the walled church and churchyard/cemetery make much more sense.

Both churches retain at least a portion of their original walled structure.

Seen from the air, the church in Beutelsbach is walled with a separate entrance through a small tower near the bottom of the photo.

The yard beside the church is the old cemetery where Rudolph and Margretha’s daughter, Sibylla would have been buried.

Residents would have gathered within those walled churches. Looking at the front, we can see the fortification slots that would allow archers to shoot from the church towers.

Safety was found within churches, in more ways than one. It’s no wonder that everyone lived as close as possible to the church, made of stone, easier to defend and less likely to burn.

The church would literally have been where the community sheltered and literally made their last stand.

Wolfram shares this bit of history:

Rudolph Müller was a farrier, specialized in horseshoes. But you need to know, this was a small village with not so many people living – especially after the 30-years-war. I estimate that 70 – 80% of the people died during the war – mainly from diseases and hunger.

There were some bad periods which were mainly two pest pandemics: 1627 and 1634 after the lost battle of Nördlingen where thousands of marauding foreign soldiers came down the valley of the Rems from Aalen and taking everything which was not nailed down. They destroyed even wine yards. The big and important city Waiblingen – which is only 5 km away – was destroyed totally (only 2 or 3 buildings from the period before are still available in the town). Details of the battle you can read here,

The Church

The church in Grossheppach is ancient, predating Rudolph and Margretha. Their children were baptized in this building. Some of their funerals were preached here too, just before their tiny caskets were carried out the side door into the churchyard, their final resting place. Eventually, Rudolf and Margretha would join them, the dust of their bones still lingering.

Wolfram tells us about the church:

The nave of the church was built in 1468, so it is a Gothic building.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

But they built on an older building which was has been built between 1300 and 1350 as a chapel and became a church around 1430. The chapel was built on a place which was part of the estate “Gmünder Hof” and was owned by the earl of Württemberg (by the way, three estates merged together and founded the village Großheppach).

In 1540’s the church converted from catholic to protestant by decree from Duke Ulrich of Württemberg. His son, Duke Christoph ordered on 30 Jun 1550 to stop catholic mass. The protestant baptism records of Großheppach are available from 1558. Earlier church documents are not available as far as I know.

The lower part of the tower is the oldest part (Romanesque) and might even older than the first chapel. Still today you can see the arrow slits on the east side. I am not sure, if those you can see on the south side are original. The helmet of the tower was different in the past and was looking similar to the one of the church in Endersbach:

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

In the local historic book is a small but quite nice drawing how it could has been around 1560. In the book you can read, that the drawing has been made according to researches of old documents:

You can see the gothic church with its churchyard. A high wall around with a 2-floor wall walk and arrow slits. Parts of the wall on the east and south side are still existing (west is left, east is right at the pic). On the right side you can see the former estate “Gmünder Hof” on the lower right corner of the estate you see a bigger timbered house. This is also still existing and contains today the bakery Schreiber (they have the world’s best Prezel!). Across the street you can see the Lamb Inn with its double roof.

Courtesy Wolfram Callenius

There’s a significant difference in this drawing from 1560, which was followed by the Thirty Years War which began in 1618, and the drawing from 1686. Wolfram doesn’t say when the three estates merged to form Grossheppach, but based on the 1686 map, I’d wager it was between 1560 and 1686. By 1686, based on the map, we know it’s called Grossheppach.

If more than half of the people died during that war, then some of these homes would likely have been empty. Families would have been recombining, attempting to make the best of things. If the three independent estates had not yet merged, it would have made sense at this time.

Income of the nobility relied on taxes, and if people weren’t living on the land and raising crops, there was nothing to tax. After the devastation of the war, Germany needed people to work the land again and rebuild the economy.

After the war ended, it was common for German localities to advertise, in the vernacular of the day, for settlers from neutral countries such as Switzerland that were relatively unaffected by the war – hoping to relieve overpopulation there and provide opportunities for land ownership, freedom of religion and other benefits that might entice settlers.

Devastation for some, leaving empty homes, meant opportunity for the next generation.

Looking at Google Maps, we see those same three buildings today. The church at left, the Lamm Inn with a yellow star and the bakery with red.

Wolfram tells us that in 1769 the top of the church tower roof was replaced by a baroque helmet. The original tower would have been in place when Rudolph and Margretha walked from their home, not far away, to worship.

I asked Wolfram if he had a photo of the interior of the church, and if the baptismal font is original.

Unfortunately, the inside of the church is very puristic.

In former days the church has been painted inside, like you can see in the church of Beutelsbach or Schnait today and there were pictures at the walls and statues.

Also the windows have been different.

The protestant pietists broke very much with the catholic and wanted to reduce more to the inner spirit of the people. They destroyed a lot of old interiors in all of Europe. So today the chorus area/chapel looks like this which is directly below the tower:

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

If the baptismal is original from former days I do not know and I was not able to find it in the Grossheppach history book.

The baptismal font is underneath that tablecloth.

When I first saw that church tower, I wanted to see what was inside. Church towers are often off-limits for safety reasons.

It was my lucky day because Wolfram sent several photos from inside of the church tower and narrates his visit.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

The picture is from inside the church tower. Normally the tower is closed and only some small wooden stairs are going up. The entry is outside from the north. Some years ago there was an open house day and I had the opportunity to get up the tower. I took some pictures.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Just look at this bell. I wonder if this bell was in place when Rudoph and Margretha lived there? Fortunately, Wolfram has the answer:

About the church bells – the biggest was from 1495, called “Hosanna bell”. But this bell was melted in 1904 into a new one after it has been broken during ringing on 28 Feb 1904. But this new big one has not been melted then. Neither in the first nor second World War. (You need to know, many bells have been melted because metal was rare). So at least the size and material is original:)


Then there were two smaller bells. They had to be melted in 1917 for the first World War. Only 1922 they had money enough to get two new ones but those both had to be melted again in 1942. The two small ones we have now are from 1948.


And here is a link for something you will definitively love. There are some videos of the church and you can hear the bells ringing 🙂


The history of the church provided in Wolfram’s link says that the church had a beautiful peasant painting above the pulpit at one time. I suspect this is beneath the paint and I can’t help but wonder if that couldn’t be painstakingly restored, or at least exposed. It also mentions that the church had an organ by 1600. I wonder how much damage the church sustained during the Thirty Years War. I suspect a substantial amount, but no one would want to carry parts of an organ or church bells away. The original organ was replaced more than a century ago.

You can see and hear Easter and Christmas services here and here 

Still, we know that even after a couple of remodels, it’s still the same church. Rudolph and Margretha sat in pews in this very place, baptized their children in this very building, probably in a baptismal font in just about that same location.

They would have been as at home in this church as they were in their own house.

They would have heard the voices of the bells every time they rang. They would have heard them ring to announce deaths, including those of their own children. The only thing they never got to do in this church, together, was to attend one of their children’s marriages. The family attended Margretha’s funeral in this very sanctuary in 1689 before any of their children married.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

This bell would have summoned residents to church on Sundays.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Of course, the beams had to be strong enough to support the weight of the bells and not shift as they rang. Thinking about the engineering required for these early churches and large buildings – it’s actually an amazing feat and not only do they still stand, they are functional. These buildings have truly withstood the test of time.

If only these walls, beams and bells could talk. What stories they could tell.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Two bells side by side. The bells do sound quite different.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Well, this is a mystery. Always a curious genealogist, I asked Wolfram about this whatever-it-is.

It turned out to be an old clock that used to be located outside on the tower.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Also this one which looks like a cupboard or cabinet, it is from the old church clock.

Today the clock is electric and this one is from 1900 and they placed it there. I do not know if this is the original place but there was space in the tower. As you can see on the picture there is some text. I will translate it for you:

“In memory of
Miss. Elise Vreede,
died here 19 Nov 1899,
donated from her three sisters
Mrs. Marie Schmid, Schorndorf,
Mrs Luise von Wendland, München,
Mrs. Therese von Abel, Grossheppach
In the year of salvation 1900.”

Therese von Abel was the local landlord’s wife. They lived here in the small castle.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

I would guess that this is the platform inside the tower and the steps to the bell lead upward from there. Back then, the bell-ringer would have climbed those steps to ring the bell as needed. It would be interesting to know how often the bell rang.

The churchyard in Grossheppach is now bricked with pavers, but the graves of both Rudolph and Margretha assuredly lie beneath these pavers, within the fortified walls.

Von Silesia711 – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66911538

Wolfram added information about the cemetery beside the church in Grossheppach.

As of cemetery: There were three of them. The oldest was around the church in the churchyard, you are totally right. Once this cemetery became too small because of higher population and some pandemic diseases and they needed to create a new cemetery. And outside the village also because of the pandemic. In Großheppach they built a new one northwest of the church. The location you can see here:

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

This second cemetery does also not exist anymore. And since some years people totally forgot about it. But then bones came out of the ground due to some new buildings, people remembered. By the way, the bones have been buried a second time on the actual cemetery. The third one is that what is used today, northeast of the church. The age I have to estimate (never thought about it) but it is maybe interesting for you to sort it historical wise. I think it is around 100 years old, maybe 120 years. But honestly, I do not know, it could be also only 80, or 150 years.

What this tells us is that in 1832, when this map was created, that part of the village was still pretty much vacant. Notice the fields surrounding the cemetery. What we don’t know, of course, is when it began to be used. Of course, I wonder if those soldiers were buried here in 1634, while spaces in the churchyard were reserved for Grossheppach families.

On this current map, I’ve marked the church. The red star shows the 1832 cemetery and the purple star at right indicates the castle.

The blue dots are the end of the walking path from Beutelsbach to the church in Grossheppach. It’s clear that the old village consists of the buildings immediately surrounding the church. You can view many at this link.

Extracting More Information

Understanding the culture and customs in the village allows descendants to extract more information about the life and time in which our ancestors lived.

Wolfram made this observation about the burial record of Johann Rudolph’s second wife, also named Margaretha.

Her second marriage:

“Den 12 Nov. ist H, Johann Heinrich Berger Schulmeister v. Gerichtschr. alhir Mit Margretha Margaretha Knauß[en] Copuliert word[en] ./.“ [On 12 Nov has been married here Mr. Johann Heinrich Berger, schoolmaster and law clerk (the one who was writing the official documents of the village) with Margretha Knauß.]

Margaretha’s burial record:

„Eodem ward begraben Margaretha, Rudolph Millers, gewesenen Schmidts u burgers allhir hinterbliebene wittib, (…) genannt die Knaußerin, weil ihr erster Mann Hanß Jerg Knaußen, Barbier alhier geweßen.“ [at the same date has been buried Margaretha, survived widow of Rudolph Miller, former smith and citizen here, (…) called the „Knaußerin“ because her first husband was Hanß Jerg Knaußen, barber here].

Interesting here is, that this wife was from a “better” family because she was the widow of the schoolmaster and law clerk Knauß. And well-off family members have mostly married in a family with similar social status. Means, the smith Rudolph Müller was also part of the “upper class”.


Wolfram found Hanss Rudolph and Margretha’s citizenship records in Grossheppach in 1662.

Hanß Rudolph MÜLLER/MILLER; von Stein am Rhein; „aus dem Schweitzerland“ [Seelenbuch GH, pg 431]; Bürger und Hufschmied zu Großheppach; * um 1632 Stein am Rhein [Fleckenbuch GH, pg 422]; □ 28.07.1692 Großheppach [TotB]

Hanß Rudolph becomes a citizen from Großheppach at 28.02.1662 together with his wife

No marriage record in Großheppach]

Margretha NN.; von Schefen [= Stäfa?], area of Zürich [Fleckenbuch GH, pg422]; from 1662 Bürgerin in Großeppach; * in Switzerland; „ein Cammermädgen“ [Seelenbuch GH, S.431]; □ 30.10.1689 Großheppach [TotB]; Die Margaretha becomes a citizen from Großheppach at 28.02.1662 together with her husband.

Their first child born in Grosshappach arrived in May of 1661 and died in October of the same year. On the last day of February in 1662, when both Rudolph and Margretha became citizens, she was about 4 months pregnant for their next child.

I have no idea what the criteria was at that time to become a citizen. Did Rudolph and Margretha always intend to become citizens, or did they make that decision after living there for some time? Did they discover that the village needed a blacksmith and ferrier and moved to Grossheppach from Switzerland intentionally for that position?

Were the local residents excited about the young couple settling in their midst, providing a much-needed craftsman?

Perhaps these new settlers helped them heal from the ravages of such a long, miserable war.

Drum Roll – Origins

Wolfram’s research about Rudolph and Margretha is very, VERY illuminating and resulted from his one-place-study research.

And now about the origin of Johannes Rudolph and his wife.

During searching for interesting sources for my study of Großheppach in the archive of Großheppach, I found a historical source which is called “Fleckenbuch”. Which means basically “book of the village”. The record started in 1529. The recorder of the village was writing important things in. Also people who became citizen in Großheppach. You know, church records are the most important while searching about family history. But sometimes also civil sources are important. Especially during and after 30-years-war many people moved around and settled somewhere. Furthermore, church books from the period of 30-year-war are often missing or information are listed bad. Even in the years after the war – so 1648 until around 1670 – church records are often not precise and information missing. In addition to this, these civil records become very important.

 As in this case with Johannes Rudolph Müller.

Anno 1662. „Denn. 28 Februarÿ seindt NachFolgende Persohnen zue MitBurgern vff: vnnd angenom[m]en worden.

1. Hannß Rudolph Miller, Huoffschmidt von Stein am Rhein gebürtig, vnd seine HaußFraw Margaretha. von Schefen, im Zürcher gebieth.“ [On 28 February following persons became citizens. 1. Hannß [= Johannes] Rudolph Miller, farrier and born in Stein am Rhein and his wife Margaretha, from Schefen, territory of Zurich.]

So it is written clearly that he came from Stein am Rhein.

The name of the town where his wife came from could be also read as ‘Schefer’, ‘Sehefen’ or ‘Sehefer’ but these villages cannot be located. So finally, this is open.

I can tell you, here and now, that indeed Rudolph has been located (thanks to cousins Wolfram, Pam and Tom) and we have a lead on a possible marriage to Margretha thanks to Tom’s sleuthing.

There’s going to be a wonderful article in the future. You’re just not going to believe how this unfolded between several very eager people. Now, we wait for another friend to see if she can find the original record we need.

Fingers crossed!

The Castle

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Rudolph was a ferrier, and Margretha was a “waiting maid,” according to Wolfram’s translation of her death record. Tom translated it as “chambermaid,” but the essence is the same. This makes me wonder if she was a “waiting maid” at the Grossheppach Castle. Who else would be able to afford a maid?

Von Khor – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3895183

This castle photo dates to about 1930, and below, the castle as restored today.

Von Silesia711 – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66831166

A portion of the original defensive wall remains today. I wonder how badly this structure was damaged during the Thirty Years War.

By Silesia711 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71895840

This castle dates to 1592 and was expanded in 1655. In addition to the castle itself, the property included a horse stable, below.

Von Silesia711 – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71895843

Is this the farm building at the castle where Rudolph shoed horses? I’d wager that answer is yes.

The castle cellar door is at right. The stone vaulted wine cellar dates from 1593 but I think that has a separate entrance.

Families who owned this castle were reportedly not aristocrats, but the bourgeois upper class.

Hmmm, a horse stable…Rudolph was a ferrier and Margretha was a “waiting maid”….

This surely makes me wonder. These families could assuredly afford both a ferrier and a waiting maid. Could Rudolph and Margretha possibly have lived in one of these buildings on the castle property?

Beautiful Vineyards

Grossheppach is located in the middle of the wine region where the entire economy is dependent on the grape harvest.

After the soldiers destroyed the fields in 1634, the residents would have immediately begun to replant the vineyards. From seedling to grape harvest takes about 3 years – years which are filled with pruning and cultivation. Baby and pamper those vines.

And pray. Pray that the temperature doesn’t drop below freezing and damage those tender shoots.

A good vinedresser knows how to strike the perfect pruned balance of shoots and buds that will produce not just a good harvest, but quality, sun-ripened grapes.

It’s very unusual to find a cousin, interested in genealogy and history, who still lives in the ancestral area. Wolfram has graciously provided several photos with historical significance, which I’m including here.

You can also see additional photos on his website, here, including basket weaving.

Why is basket weaving important? Baskets were used for harvesting grapes without damaging or bruising them.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Grapes were and are picked by hand, but that’s just the final task.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

When the vines are dormant in the winter, they need to be tended and pruned.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Vines are tied to stakes so that they will grow and produce as much yield as possible. Too much shade from leaves and other vines prevents ripening. Hence the ancient occupation in the wine region known as a vinedresser.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

This work needed to be done in the winter when the vines were dormant, without leaves.

Note the little buildings on the hills in the background. They look to be too small for people to live in, so I asked Wolfram.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Wolfram says:

The tiny houses are not for living. You are right, they are for the needed tools and in former times definitely also for sudden bad weather or to warm up by using a small oven inside. Still today you can see them. I guess you can see them also at google maps🙂

I never thought about warming up, but of course. Much of their work was done in the winter.

And yes, most pictures were from grape harvesting. For the people these were festival days. You collect the fruits of the whole-year-work!. When I was young it was still this way. And relatives and friends helped relatives and friends. Today it became different. It became more a business and during harvesting seasons there are also foreign workers from Poland etc. So on these pictures mostly relatives are working. But still today the most of the grapes are harvested by hand. This improves the wine quality.

“Festival days.” What a wonderful way to view this activity. Of course it was festive. A celebration. I never thought about that. I had commented to Wolfram about how happy everyone in the following photo looked. They are all smiling and happy, and the people sitting on the ground are eating grapes right out of the basket. They must have been luscious, sweet and warm.

I notice that the women all have their hair pulled back with scarves. Having long hair myself, this would be to prevent your hair from getting in the way and to prevent it from getting tangled in the vines and leaves. I’m thinking grape juice in hair would be very sticky.

I asked Wolfram about the various sized baskets, from small to the one on the man’s back, to the vat in the wagon behind the man.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Yes, these were the standard “baskets” for carrying the grapes. They were made from wood and they are called “Butte” (single) or “Butten” (two or more). In former days most of the people were poor. Horses were almost not existing (only at the mill). Mostly they had some single cows for the milk and some chicken for the eggs and meat. All for their own need. And the hills are quite steep. In some areas they were able to use cows to transport the grapes in bigger barrels (as you can see at this pic) but often they had to carry the grapes in these baskets downhill to the wine press. Therefore this bigger size. When I was young, we still had always these “Butten”. But made of plastic instead. Today you can drive almost everywhere in the vineyards in Großheppach with tractors through the rows. So you cut also by hand but you are using buckets to put in a 1000 l tub on the tractor.

The age of this picture is quite clear because the man with the “Butte” is my grandfather Hermann Mayer (1904 – 1996) and the wife with the white bucket is my grandmother, Sophie Stilz (1909 – 1977). And the wife next to her with the white cap is my grand-grandmother Pauline Mayer (1872 – 1945) 😉 My grand-grandmother died in 1945 and in 1939 my grandfather got injured very heavy and was not able to work for at least 1.5 years. And it seems for me the picture has been made before 1939. So maybe between 1932 and 1939.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

This “mountain press” was built in the Grossheppach vineyards in 1660, which means it was brand new when Rudolph and Margretha moved to Grossheppach.

I asked Wolfram about the mountain presses along with the man, the cart and what he was doing:

There were three presses in Großheppach. I tried to localize it but for me it was only possible for two of them.

The use of the small barrel honestly I do not know. It might can be for some wine. But definitively not for grapes, you carry them always open. It could also be used to transport cider. Unlikely water. The man is also interesting. He is wearing a backpack sprayer for agent. And therefore the barrel could be also for the agent.

I noticed in this picture that the vineyards seem to be fenced with rocks. This is somewhat enlightening because it’s reported in the records for Sibylla Muller’s husband, Johann Georg Lenz, a vinedresser, that “stones fell on his body and back.” Were those stones being quarried for the vineyards? I notice that the stones are all squared. Where were they quarried and how far were they transported?

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

This looks like a new vineyard, with the stakes for tying vines just waiting. Lots of small sheds for supplies. I must admit, I’m quite curious as to why it appears they were “starting over” with such a huge swath of land.

Wolfram included another photo of an old house in the vineyards.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Wolfram didn’t know the history of this structure, but it’s clearly old and is no longer standing today.

I asked if the vineyards are privately or governmentally owned.

The vineyards are privately owned. Behind my house my cousin has one of his vineyards here.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Wolfram indicated that most of the work was done by oxen and not horses. The vat is an open barrel into which grapes were deposited as family members picked the harvest.

He noted:

The man on the back is my grandfather Hermann Mayer (1904 – 1996) and right next to him his wife and my grandmother Sophie Stilz (1909 – 1977) And yes, it is a picture from autumn, harvesting grapes. My mother told, they had some cows for the milk. I do not know if they had oxes just for work. Maybe I should ask my mother.

Photo courtesy Wolfram Callenius

Translation via Google translate: Here too, grapes were harvested in 1928 in Bader, below the steep Buhlerbuckel. At the front as the smallest you can see my father Gottfried Klopfer holding his sister Johanna’s hand.


I’ve been drawn to vineyards ever since I can remember. I have no idea why. I like only a few wines – ones that tend to be sweet. Muscatos and Niagaras – and oh yes, ice wines.

Or maybe some Moscato wine and apricot liqueur. Oh yes!!!

Of course, a real vintner would laugh me right out of the building. These are “sissy” sweet wines when compared to the “real thing.” My husband accuses me of loving grape juice – and he’s right. I love grape juice too – including the sparkling variety.

But I love, and I mean LOVE vineyards.

Not to get all sappy on you, but, can I tell you a secret?

I got married at a winery. Outside, in the yard, with the majestic medieval stones providing a beautiful backdrop. The vineyards are right next door where you can’t see them in the photo.

Weddings don’t’ normally happen at wineries, but we told them not to worry – the yard outside would be just fine.

Such a beautiful day

You can see the barrels stacked behind the wedding party. We stood in front of the grape arbor, of course. What else?

The Mon Ami Winery original building was purchased in Europe in the 1870s, essentially in ruins, disassembled, transported to the US on ships, then reassembled.

When I travel, I almost always seek out wineries. I don’t actually mean to – it just kind of happens.

  • Indiana – check
  • Michigan – check
  • Ohio – check
  • California – check
  • Williamsburg – check
  • Texas – check
  • Austria – check
  • Germany – check
  • Norway – check
  • Australia – check
  • Homer, Alaska – check
  • New Zealand – check
  • Tasmania – check
  • North Carolina – check

Oh, look! I think I found the colonists…

Finding dark chocolate while following a “wine trail” I just happened across. Check.

Yes, I find wineries everyplace. I have never understood this allure, especially given that I’m not much of a wine drinker. Maybe it’s the old-world ambiance I love. Maybe it’s my roots showing through.

Our standing joke when we go wine-tasting is that Jim gets his and mine too, and I drive. But if there’s a lovely sweet wine, I’m sunk. Unfortunately, there almost never is – but I’m just happy being around grapes, vineyards and anything that smells like wine. Winery tours are always wonderful fun and every one is unique.

I’ve made grape and wine-themed quilts. There are also Quilt Wines but they look too dry for my taste.

Although in all fairness, I should warn you that quilting and wine do not pair well. Well, at least the mistakes are funny.

At one point, I made wine at my own very own “Ore Creek Winery.” Don’t ask, I’m not a vintner. I’m more the vinedresser. But designing and making those hand-stitched wine bottle labels was fun nonetheless.

I often take pictures of grapes when I travel, with the sun shining on or through them. They represent liquid sunshine and I feel incredibly close to both the earth and my ancestors.

It’s amazing where you find grapevines growing. While these are in a vineyard, it’s not unusual in Europe to find them growing up the side of a house or fence in a very small space. Grapevines are beautiful as well as functional.

I especially love grapevines with roses blooming nearby. Roses are often planted at the end of rows of grapevines in vineyards and serve as an early-warning system for fungus and other pests that invade both plants. If they appear in the rosebushes, the grapevines need to be treated before the year’s harvest is damaged.

Not only that, roses attract pollenators and beneficial insects, and they are a feast of color for the eyes, and the soul.

I even have wild grapevines growing in my yard that I can’t seem to get rid of. It’s like they sought me out and found me, compliments of my ancestors, I’m sure.

Yes, I know, my ancestors are probably rolling over in their graves at the thought of me trying to “get rid” of grapevines.

My husband tried to harvest these, and they are, bar none, the sourest grapes either of us has ever tasted. The birds wouldn’t even eat them and the bear threw them back. The raccoon and possums looked at us like we were crazy. No wonder their seeds are proliferating all over the place – no one wants them.

There’s simply not enough sugar or fermentation to fix this problem. We tried. But darn, those leaves, berries and vines are just so stunningly beautiful.

How ironic that my ancestors prayed for the vines and grapes to grown and here I am with doing everything possible to arrest their growth.

Nevertheless, these cumulative experiences connect me with my German vintner, vinedresser, vineyard roots.

My moth-to-flame attraction to anything and everything vineyard connects me to those ancestors – where they lived, what they saw and experienced. I can paint their lives in the colors and flavors of the vinebow.

Winemaking wasn’t just a part of their life – their entire economic existence depended on the ripening harvest on the hillside – whether they were vinedressers or the ferrier who serviced their horses and oxen. Everyone depended on the lowly grape.

I can close my eyes and almost smell the earthy soil and see them among the rows of vines, picking grapes in the warm sunshine, smiling at me across the centuries.

Or maybe, just maybe, they’re amused at their descendant with a wild grape problem.




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Margretha Muller (c1632-1689), Wife to Rudolph Muller, Born in Switzerland – 52 Ancestors #321

We don’t know Margaretha or Margretha’s birth surname, but we do know that she was born in Switzerland and married Johann Rudolph Muller, probably in Switzerland as well – sometime before the birth of their first child in Grossheppach, Germany in 1661. Clearly, the young couple migrated from Switzerland before that time, probably about that time, and not long after their marriage.

They theoretically could have met and married in Grossheppach, on the Rems River in Germany after both families migrated, but there are no records to support that theory – and church records in Grossheppach do exist during this timeframe.

It’s most likely that the newlyweds answered the call of the German nobles for settlers in the German lands that had been devastated and depopulated during the Thirty Years War which had ended in 1648. It took generations to recover from that war – in terms of rebuilding and in terms of population loss which averaged 50%, but ranged from 30% to 100% in various regions.

Grossheppach, shown here in 1686, was spared the worst of the devastation, so was probably more stable with at least some remaining original population. Note the mill – you’ll see it again later!

Grossheppach, a small village, is located smack dab in the middle of the wine-growing region, but Margretha’s husband, Rudolph, was a blacksmith and ferrier.

Like many women of that era, what little we know about Margretha is from the church records.

Margretha’s Birth

We can estimate the year of Margretha’s birth based on when her last child was recorded in the Grossheppach baptismal records.

Her first child in the Grossheppach church records was born in 1661 and her last child was born in 1675. If we presume Margretha was about 43 when the last child was born, that places her birth at about 1632, give or take a couple years in either direction.

If Margretha was born about 1632, she likely married sometime after 1652. She may have married and had children in Switzerland, but there are no burial or marriage records for Rudolph and Margretha in Grossheppach as parents to children not born there.

My suspicion is that the young couple married and saw settlement in Germany as the “great adventure” that awaited, promising reprieve from taxes among other perks for settlers.

Opportunity awaited.

They may have migrated with others. After all, there’s safety in numbers and family is more likely to help you in a time of need than unknown strangers.

One-Place Study

How lucky could I have been to stumble across a one-place study about Grossheppach families, which you can find here.

The one hint I can find about the Swiss location of Margretha is in the document of tracking “foreigners” in Grossheppach, in German, on page 59 where we find the locality, name of the individual, a year, and what the researcher found.

In this case, the locality is “Schefen, Kanton Zurich (=Stafa?), the individual is Margaretha, no known birth surname, This indicates von “Shefen” which translates literally to “from sheep,” followed by (wird Bg. in GH) which means became a citizen in Grossheppach.

Her husband’s information is noted with him being from Stein am Rhein. What the heck is Stein am Rhein? It’s the name of a village!!!

The researcher also lists Rudolph as “Bg.” meaning berger, and farrier. This is the researcher’s list of ancestors, so I suspect that the researcher descends through daughter, Veronica.

If this location is indeed accurate, this provides us with a location, probably for both Rudolph and Margretha. I’ve written to the researcher and heard back just before publishing this article today. Hint – there will be a chapter 2😊

Stein am Rhein is breathtakingly beautiful, the central, compact medieval old city still quite visible. It was probably walled at one time.

By Hansueli Krapf – Own work: Hansueli Krapf (User Simisa (talk · contribs)), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8395907

Be still my heart!

Stein am Rhein is a small, stunningly beautiful village on the Rhine River in Switzerland, with the medieval church still intact. Just take a look. OH MY.

By JoachimKohlerBremen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50871067

I’m trying to tell myself NOT to fall completely in love until I can confirm the accuracy of this information. I already want to climb on a plane.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87543300

Stein am Rhein is 20-25 miles from Zurich as the crow flies.

Church records do exist for Stein am Rhein, but I’d need the transcribed records, only available at the Family History library in Salt Lake, here, as opposed to the unindexed and German script original records, here. Not only that, but Stein am Rhein has records dating from the 1400s. I might have to seek out someone with expertise in Swiss records who can actually read that script!

Stein am Rhein would have been about a 100-mile journey to Grossheppach.

Let’s hope there are records in Switzerland and they are somewhat available. My heart is racing just thinking about an additional 200 years of possible records and ancestors.

Margretha’s Life’s Story Spun Through Her Children

A huge thank you to Tom for finding and translating these Grossheppach records.

By Silesia711 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66911537

Margretha’s known children were all born in Grossheppach and baptized in the local church which includes the remains of a fortified wall.

If Sibilla, born in 1661 was Margretha’s first child, this was truly a heartbreaking time. Margretha had looked forward to the arrival of her first baby, loved her, and then lost her 24 short weeks later. I wonder if the baby struggled from birth or contracted some childhood disease that ripped her from her mother’s arms and broke her heart.

Baptism: 6 May 1661 + Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Child: Sibilla

Parents: Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Jerg Lienhardt Herman; Margretha, Ulrich Schweikhardrt from Stutg(art); Sibilla, Stöckler(in) from Stutgardt, farm maid.

Note that one of the godparents was also named Sibilla, which might be a hint indicating a relative.

Burial: 19 Oct 1661 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Sibilla, 2 weeks old, child of Rüdolph Müller, smith

These churchyard fortifications likely enclosed the cemetery at the time Margretha buried her baby.

Von Silesia711 – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66911538

In this aerial view, you can see the area that would have been the cemetery, with its fortified wall remaining yet today, at the lower right.

The treed area may be another portion of the ancient cemetery, now returned to nature.

Margretha became pregnant about the same time that Sibilla died, and the first son, Hanss Rudolph, named for his father, arrived the following August.

Baptism: 7 Aug 1662 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Child: Hanss Rüdolph

Parents: Hanss Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Jerg Leonhardt Herman; Ulrich Schweickhart from Stutg(art); Sibilla Glöckhler(in) also from ?

The next two baptisms are somewhat confusing. Someone later stamped the church records with dates. Obviously these two children could not have been born 8 months apart – or at least not unless the first child died and the second child was very premature. If these girls had been twins, they would have been baptized at the same time. There are no death records, nor any further records for either Anna Magdalena nor Anna Margretha.

After I originally wrote this article, cousin Wolfram who lives in Grossheppach and has access to the original records and corrected this record for Anna Margaretha’s birth in 1663.

Baptism: 12 Feb 1663 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Child: Anna Magdalena

Parents: Hanss Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Jerg Schmid from Grunbach; J.L. Herman, miller; Daniel’s wife, Magdalena.

Baptism: 11 Oct 1664 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Child: Anna Margretha

Parents: Hanss Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Jerg Leonhard Herman, miller; Magdalena, wife of Daniel Ziegler; Anna Margretha, wife of Ulrich Schweickh(a)r(t).

Given that the next child, Veronica, didn’t arrive for 21 months, it’s unlikely that Anna Margretha died at or near birth.

Baptism: 29 July 1666 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Child: Veronica

Parents: Hanss Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Daniel Ziegler….; Hanss Eiber……; Maia Elisabetha Blaror(in)?

Two years and a few days later, Hanss Jacob joined the growing family.

Baptism: 9 Aug 1668

Child: Hanss Jacob

Parents: Hanss Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Ulrich Schweigger from Stuttgardt; Jerg Lienhard Herman, miller; Magdalena, Daniel Ziegler’s wife.

A death record for Hans Jacob exists on August 18, 1675, but with no parents’ names, and is most likely this child. Just 9 days after his 7th birthday.

The next baby arrived 16 months after Hanss Jacob, just before Christmas. By this time, assuming all children except two lived, when Anna Barbara was born, Margretha would have had four children ages 16 months to 7 years. I’d say she had her hands full.

Baptism: 17 Dec 1669 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Child: Anna Barbara

Parents: Hanss Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Jerg Schmid, schoolteacher in Grunbach; Jerg Lienhard Herman, miller; Magdalena, wife of Daniel Ziegler.

Anna Barbara died on October 31, 1679.

It would be almost three years before the next child arrived, hinting at a child that was stillborn in late 1671. We don’t see births of children who were not baptized in the records – nor burial records.

Baptism: 6 Sept 1672 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Child: Sibylla

Parents: Hanss Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Jerg Schmid, schoolteacher in Grunbach; Jerg Lienhard Herrman, miller; Magdalena, wife of Daniel Ziegler.

It’s interesting that they named a second child Sibylla. It’s also interesting that the original godmother, Sibilla, of the first Sibilla born in 1661 is not present for this baptism. That original Sibilla Stockler(in) or Glockler(in) was only present for the births in 1661 and 1662, causing me to wonder why she wasn’t present later, and isn’t present for this birth when the child is apparently named in her honor. Of course, this makes me wonder if she died.

This also causes me to ponder the possibility if she is a sister or maybe niece to Margretha. The (in) suffix to her surname indicates that she is not married, so either Stockler or Glockler would be her birth surname.

Fortunately for me, this child named Sibylla lived. She’s my ancestor and her story can be found here.

Baptism: 27 Sept 1674 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Child: Jerg Lienhardt +

Parents: Hanss Rüdolph Müller & Margretha

Godparents: Jerg Schmidt, schoolteacher in Grunbach; Jerg Lienhard Herman, miller; Magdalena, wife of Daniel Ziegler.

I noticed that Jerg Leinhard Hermann, the local miller, is the godfather for six of seven of Margretha’s children. This close association also suggests a close relationship. Their last child, who, unfortunately, did not live long, was named for Jerg Leinhard.

Burial: 31 January 1675 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Cause of Death: ?

Decedent: Jerg Lienhard, 18 weeks old

Child of Hanss Rüdolph Müller, smith.

It appears that Margretha ended her childbearing years in almost exactly the same way she began them. In 1675, Margretha was likely in her early to mid-40s. She had given birth to at least 9 children whose baptisms appear in church records.

Given the three-year space, she probably had one stillborn child who was simply buried but not baptized, meaning she had at least 10 children.

We don’t know that Margretha didn’t have more children that died in Switzerland before settling in Germany, or after the child born in 1675. We do know that the last child baptized, in 1675, Jerg Lienhard passed away 18 weeks later.

To Margretha, who 14 years earlier had lost her firstborn daughter 24 weeks after she was born, this must have seemed terribly, horribly familiar.

Margretha’s Death

Margretha died on October 30th, 1689 when she was about 57 years old.

Burial:30 Oct 1689 Grossheppach Evangelical Church

Buried the wife of Rudolph Müller.

At the time of her death, none of her children had married. Her eldest son would have been 27 years old, but he wouldn’t marry until 1696.

Daughter Veronica would marry a year after Margretha’s death, in 1690.

Sibilla, born in 1672 would have just turned 17 that late October day when the family gathered inside the medieval church to hear Margretha’s funeral sermon, then walked outside to bury her mother’s coffin. Sibylla didn’t marry for another several years, in 1698.

There are no marriage records for any other children, before or after Margretha’s death.

No grandchildren were born before Margretha died, so she never had the opportunity to enjoy those cherubic faces. I hope they all heard stories about Margretha and her life, including her family left behind in Switzerland.

In 1689, Margretha’s home was probably bustling with activity as her adult and near-adult children helped with household activities. Her son named for his father, or two sons if Hans Jacob survived, likely assisted Rudolph in the blacksmith shop and as the local ferrier.

Von Silesia711 – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66911528

The men may have worked in this very barn, or one similar, still standing, in Grossheppach.

The daughters would have assisted Margretha with the never-ending household chores and probably took care of her in her final illness.

Von Silesia711 – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66912145

Margretha’s home might have looked like, or could even been this medieval cross house in Grossheppach.

Von Silesia711 – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66911532

Or maybe this one.

Regardless, Margretha would have been in and out of all of these homes over the years. They would have been familiar, likely open to the neighbors, most of whom were related, at any time. Women likely came and went, especially in a time of need – childbirth, illness and the ever-present death.

Two years later, Rudolph remarried to another Margaretha. He died a year later, in 1992, joining Margretha and their children in the cemetery beside the church in Grossheppach.

It’s somehow ironic, and not just a little sad, that Margretha’s daughter, Veronica died in 1708 at only 41 years of age. Of course, there were many causes of death, but I always wonder about childbirth for women of childbearing age. Her sister, Sibilla, was a midwife and I wonder if she delivered Veronica’s children.

Unfortunately, the minister, in the Register of Souls, incorrectly attributed Veronica’s step-mother, who was also named Margaretha, as her mother. I realize that’s an easy mistake to make, but it hurts my heart for Veronica’s mother, our Margretha.

Hopefully, this error meant one thing – either Veronica and step-mother Margaretha had a wonderful relationship. Of course, it could also be that the minister was new to the church and didn’t know the family history. We don’t know exactly when this register was compiled, but it was clearly after 1711.

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.

This does cause me to wonder if step-mother Margretha truly was also from Switzerland, or if the two Margrethas have been intertwined, which I suspect is the case. If the step-mother is also from Switzerland, this tells us that perhaps several Swiss families settled in Grossheppach – and maybe they are related or from the same region or village.

Was our Margretha a chambermaid, or was the step-mother the chambermaid? Was chambermaid somehow different than “housewife” in that time and place? If so, how?


I’m always so grateful when ministers include the names of the various godparents with baptisms. I wish when records are indexed, the godparents’ names were indexed too, because they are often the keys to unraveling relationships.

I compiled this table of godparents in order to see who is found in multiple baptisms and what can be discerned about those individuals. People who journeyed from out of town were more likely to be relatives than those who might have been godparents because they were neighbors or village officials.

It’s worth remembering that the Godparents were responsible for raising the child, and raising them up in the church, if something were to happen to the parents. Before the days of modern medicine, that happened all too often. Godparents were making this solemn promise in from of everyone, including God.

Godparents made a serious commitment, which is why they are often trusted family members.

Child Godparent Location Comment
Sibilla 1661 Jerg Leinhardt Herman, Margretha In 1657, one Georg Leonhard Hermann married Maria Magdalena Krausin. This family seems to have been in Grossheppach for several generations, so not Swiss.
Sibilla Stockler(in) Stuttgart, farm maid Given the same first name, the distance from Stuttgart and her peasant status, this person is likely related.
Hans Rudolph – 1662 Jerg Leinhardt Herman This family is found in the region in the earlier 1600s, so not Swiss.
Ulrich Schweikhardt, Stuttgart I don’t find this individual, but I do find this family in Stuttgart earlier than this timeframe, so apparently not Swiss.
Sibilla Glockler(in) Also from…[probably Stuttgart] These 3 people at this baptism are the same as the 1661 baptism, so likely all 3 connected in some way. There is a 1626 birth in Stuttgart for Anna Sybilla Gletler or Gloeckler.
Anna Magdalena 1664 Jerg Schmidt Grunbach Jerg died in 1686 in Grossheppach. Grunbach was perhaps 2 miles distant.
J. L. Herman Miller Probably Jerg Leonhard Herman
Daniel’s wife, Magdalena Probably Daniel Ziegler, see below
Anna Margretha – 1664 Jerg Leonhard Herman Miller
Magdalena, wife of Daniel Ziegler
Anna Margaretha, wife of Ulrich Schweickh(a)r(t)
Veronica 1666 Daniel Ziegler
Hans Eiber Mayor in Grossheppach
Maria Elisbetha Blaror(in)?
Hans Jacob 1668 Ulrich Schweigger Stuttgart
Jerg Leinhard Herman Miller
Magdalena, Daniel Ziegler’s wife
Anna Barbara 1669 Jerg Schmid Schoolteacher in Grunback
Jerg Leinhard Herman Miller
Magdalena, wife of Daniel Ziegler
Sibylla 1672 Jerg Schmid Schoolteacher in Grunbach
Jerg Leinhard Herrman Miller
Magdalena, wife of Daniel Ziegler
Jerg Leinhardt 1674 Jerg Schmidt Schoolteacher in Grunbach
Jerg Leinhard Herman, miller
Magdalena, wife of Daniel Ziegler

Typically, when we see the same people repeat as godparents, especially when they have to travel from out of town, that often means they are relatives, and probably close relatives – often siblings.

Stuttgart is not nearby, about 11 miles distant. Either Rudolph or Margretha had some connection to the individuals from Stuttgart.

In this case, the fact that these families were living in this region for at least a generation suggests strongly that they were not from Switzerland, but perhaps they had married people who were, or there is a connection from an earlier generation.

By Silesia711 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66911535

Johann Rudolph and Margretha appear to be particularly close to Jerg Leinhardt Hermann, the local miller. They both would have seen the former Grossheppach mill, above and below, daily.

Von Silesia711 – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66911533

Why Johann Rudolph Muller and Margretha selected the same godparents for their children repeatedly will have to remain a mystery, at least for now.

Mitochondrial DNA

The mitochondrial DNA of Margretha would have been passed on to her children of both sexes, but only females pass it on.

We don’t know what happened to three daughters:

  • Anna Magdalena reportedly born in 1664
  • Anna Margaretha reportedly born in 1664
  • Anna Barbara born in 1669

We know that two of Margretha’s daughters did in fact marry and have children, Veronica and Sybilla.


From the Register of Souls, we see that Veronica had six daughters.

  • Veronica’s daughter Veronica born in 1700, died in 1717.
  • Veronica’s daughter, Anna Barbara Mahler married Jacob Kloepfer in 1732 and died in 1763. It looks like she had one daughter in 1733, but only three children are shown in the Grossheppach book through 1737.


Margretha’s daughter, Sibilla Muller born in 1672 married Johann George Lenz/Lentz in neighboring Beutelsbach in 1698. She had two daughters who lived.

  • Elisabetha was born in 1709, but we know nothing more.
  • Anna Barbara Lenz born in 1699 and died in 1770 married Johann Georg Vollmer in 1729, having four daughters who lived to adulthood:
    1. Barbara 1729-1744
    2. Maria Elisabetha 1732-1795
    3. Regina 1738-1740
    4. Anna Maria 1740-1781

Descendants of these females, through all females, to the current generation which can be male or female would carry the mitochondrial DNA of Margretha. I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first person who qualifies.

Stay Tuned

Just before I finished this article, I received a reply from the researcher who performed the one-place study of Grossheppach. They, indeed, to descend from Johann Rudolph Muller and Margretha through daughter Veronica – and – they have additional information they are willing to share. Bless that person.

As it turns out, they still live in Grossheppach.

I’m doing the genealogy happy dance.

Stay tuned. There’s more to come!



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Johann Rudolph Muller (circa 1630-1692), Swiss Blacksmith in Grossheppach, Germany – 52 Ancestors #320

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.

The art of medieval blacksmithing is described here and here.

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.

You can view more photos of Grossheppach here and here

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.

Rudolph’s Life

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.

By Marco Zanoli (sidonius 13:20, 18 June 2006 (UTC)) – Swiss Federal Statistical Office; census of 2000, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=875011

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 and died sometime between July 1718 and January 1735. 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.
  • 1663 saw Anna Magdalena baptized in February. She married Jacob(y) Sonntag on August 14, 1688.
  • Anna Margaretha was baptized in October 1664.
  • Veronica was born in July 1666 and married in 1690 to Hanss Jacob Mahler the local tailor. She died on January 11, 1708.
  • Son, Hanss Jacob Muller, was born in August 1668. Cousin Wolfram, living in Grossheppach indicates that one Hans Jacob died in 1675, but with no parents listed. 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 and died in October 1679.
  • 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 as a midwife.
  • 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, across from the church which existed then and still exists today as a restaurant. Trust me, I’d like nothing better right about now!

Cousin Wolfram, who lives in Grossheppach tells us that the Lamm Inn was the only inn in the village in olden times.

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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Sibilla Muller (1672-1746), Midwife and Typhoid – 52 Ancestors #319

Sibilla Muller was born September 6th, 1672 in Grossheppach to Rudolph Muller and his wife, Margaretha.

Grossheppach isn’t far from Beutelsbach where Sibilla’s future husband lived. He probably walked the short distance to court her regularly.


Sibylla married Johann Georg Lenz, a vinedresser, in 1698. We are fortunate that while they were married in the church in Beutelsbach, her home church in Grossheppach also recorded the marriage the following week. I don’t know, of course, but I’d wager that the newlywed couple attended the bride’s church the Sunday following their wedding, taking with them news of the good tidings of their marriage.

Johann Georg was turning 25 in a couple of weeks. Sibilla was already 25 and would turn 26 that September. High time to marry and start a family.

My friend, Tom, translates the Beutelsbach record:

The Purification (of Mary) (February 2nd), (married):

Hanss Georg Lentz, legitimate son of Hanss Lentz, citizen and vinedresser from here and Sibilla, legitimate, surviving daughter of the late Johann Rudolph Müller, former smith from Hoppach (Grossheppach).

Next, the Heppach record:

1st Sunday after Epiphany in the local church was proclaimed, Hanss Jerg Lentz, legitimate son of Hanss Lentz, citizen in Beutelsbach and Sibylla, surviving, legitimate daughter of the late Hanss Rudolph Muller, citizen and smith here; were married in Beutelsbach on the 2nd of February (1698).

Why would the couple marry in the groom’s church instead of the bride’s church, as was the custom?

Perhaps because her parents were deceased, and his father was still living?

Sibilla’s mother had died in 1689 and her father in 1692. The young couple made their home in Beutelsbach where he could tend the vines in the vineyard, as his ancestors had done for generations. They probably lived with his father.

Sibilla, also spelled Sibylla, died May 28, 1746 when she was 73 years old from a combination of asthma and typhoid, at least as best I can tell from present-day translations combined with older names for known illnesses.

Martin Goll compiled family information for Sibilla, here. Using an automated translation tool, we discover:

Daughter of Joh. Rudolf Müller, gew, blacksmith Heppach.

Can print and read something written. Has 8 1/2 year in Großheppach served here all. About 1740 was chosen for Midwife. Due to the head disease.

Cause of death: Asthma and typhoid

Profession: midwife

I don’t know what head disease translates to in modern terms. I don’t understand this translation in its entirety, but I can pick out relevant pieces.

The word “gew” did not translate.

It’s interesting, if this translation is literal then Sibilla did not begin her midwife career until 1740 when she was already 68 years old. I wonder if this translated strangely. Or maybe the 8.5 years in Grossheppach refers to midwifing there before Beutelsbach.

Maybe I can learn more by researching midwifery in Germany in that era.


According to the book, The Art of Midwifery, midwives in southern Germany in the 1600s and 1700s were actually public employees. Furthermore, midwife was the “best” career for women, of which there were very few, providing the midwives with a degree of independence not normally allowed women.

Most midwives were the wives or widows of artisans, minor city officials or day laborers. Many were not wealthy enough to own their own homes. They were respectable, but certainly not bourgeois, and were generally referred to by their clients and in municipal notes as either “Weib” or “Mutter,” not the more respectable “Frau.”

Midwives were actually sworn public officials beginning in 1489 in nearby Stuttgart, so probably in Beutelsbach as well about that time. The city councils took care to regulate the midwives, issuing, and changing ordinances.

Midwives were different from other women in this context, not to mention that they were actually paid. In the city and village payment records, midwives were listed right after surgeons and apothecaries, but of course, they were paid much less. Midwives received 2 to 8 gulden per year while the city barber-surgeons received 10-25 gulden. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the pay disparity increased.

Therefore, midwives earned money, but not enough to support themselves. Perhaps this was a subtle, or maybe not-so-subtle way to control these women, lest they become *too* independent.

Sometimes, when midwives performed additional responsibilities, such as caring for pregnant women during times of the plague, or in the city hospital, the midwife would receive a grant or additional money from the council – not because she deserved it, of course, but as a sign “of our goodwill and not their rights,” to quote municipal council records.

Sometimes midwives had to approach the council directly to request payment. They generally did not employ the supplicatory language common for women asking assistance but directly requested either salary increases or “the payment of rye and wood which is due to us.” It strikes me that they shouldn’t have had to ask at all, but perhaps that’s my 21st-century perspective showing through.

It’s also worth noting that a midwife who moved into a city or town would often ask specifically to be granted citizenship – a status not normally accorded to women specifically and which was accompanied by obligatory rights and responsibilities. Sometimes citizenship was offered in order to entice a midwife and her husband to move to a town. Apparently, a good midwife was in demand.

I wonder if this might be related to the commentary about Sibilla being in Heppach for eight and a half years. Perhaps as that village’s midwife before becoming midwife in Beutelsbach about 1840.

Wealthy women might want to arrange for their own midwife instead of receiving the services of the midwife selected by the council. Midwives who didn’t have a husband to rely on for income often took private clients in addition to their civic duty.

Wealthy women paid fees comparable with the fees that barber-surgeons received.

The cost of a simple, uncomplicated birth was similar to that of a circumcision. (I’m sorry, but this comparison just makes me cringe.)

A more difficult birth, such as a breech birth or twins was comparable to setting a bone or removing tonsils. (This made me cringe too, for other reasons.)

These comparisons are fascinating because I would not think of them as equivalent.

Midwives had to study as an apprentice with an experienced midwife for generally a year or more, then pass an examination in order to be licensed.

Sometimes physicians, who did not deliver babies and were not trained to do so, decided who was qualified to become a midwife.

As time passed, another layer of bureaucracy was added in many places in order to minimize the appearances of midwives who were considered to be “peasants” before the council. Upper-class women known as “honorable women” were paid to “manage” the midwives so that the councils didn’t have to deal with them directly. Both “honorable women” who knew nothing at all about the practice of midwifery and physicians participated in the quizzing, testing, and selection of midwives.

The questions in such an examination reveal the level of knowledge which city councils hoped every new midwife would have. First came questions about her training and experience. With whom had she studied and for how long? Had she had children herself? How many births had she seen or taken part in? Then came questions about the content of her training. What food, drink and baths will help a woman have an easy birth? How does she know if a woman is pregnant and does not simply have some other kind of swelling? How does she know whether the fetus is healthy or sick, alive or dead? What is the normal position for birth, and how is this to be brought about in the case of abnormal presentation? What should be done with the umbilical cord and afterbirth, especially to make sure that the latter has emerged? How are the new mother and infant to be best taken care of, and what advice should she give the new mother?

The doctors judged the prospective midwife’s answers about the medical aspects of delivery and pre and post-natal care while the ‘honourable women’ assessed her morality and character. Though the questions appear sensible, it is important to remember that the physicians holding the examination had received all their training through the reading of classical medical texts and perhaps observing a single autopsy on a female cadaver; they were thus testing the skills of women who may have observed or assisted in as many as a hundred deliveries, while they had never even witnessed the birth of a live child.

Additional Responsibilities and Expectations

Midwives were expected to determine if the mother was in need of food or clothing, in the case of indigent women in particular.

Another responsibility of midwives was the emergency baptism. The first known ordinance about midwives stated that if the midwife determined that a child was near death that she should perform an emergency baptism or “she would have to answer to God for her laziness and irresponsibility.”

I recall at least one instance in the church record where it was recorded that the grandmother performed an emergency baptism of a child immediately following birth.

Religious differences entered this realm, because when babies were supposed to be baptized, and in what way was deemed critically important – especially if they had to be rebaptized, just in case the child survived and/or the midwife might have performed the baptism incorrectly. At one point, “rebaptism,” because it was related to the “radical” Anabaptist religions, carried the death penalty, so everyone was walking on eggshells. It was perceived that the midwife literally held the destiny of the child’s soul in her hands.

Municipalities varied in their requirements – but some passed ordinances requiring the midwife to seek out a member of the clergy, a councilman, or in one case, the mayor, before baptizing an ailing child to be absolutely positive that the baptism was done correctly. Of course, the midwife had to weigh the responsibility of protecting the child’s soul by baptizing the baby without seeking permission-disguised-as-assistance and following the “rules,” which might mean the baby died without being baptized at all. The city that enacted the ordinance requiring midwives to seek out the mayor reported exactly zero cases of that actually happening. Apparently, midwives had plenty of common sense in addition to birthing skills.

In some cases, during a difficult birth that might or would result in a deceased child, such as when hooks had to be utilized to extract the infant from the birth canal, the child was actually baptized by pushing something with either “holy water” for Catholics or “baptismal water” for Protestants, into the mother’s vagina to reach the head of the child before it died. I have heard these colloquially called “sponge baptisms.”

I can only imagine what the mother was going through as this occurred, understanding exactly why, and that she herself was also on the verge of death.

It was up to the midwife to report the identity of the father if the birth was illegitimate and the father was previously unidentified. Midwives weren’t always trusted, so often one of the “honorable women” was sent to monitor illegitimate births where the father was unknown. It was believed that the mother would “exclaim the name of the father during the pains of birth.”

In larger cities, especially as guilds and others began to regulate the morality of their members, midwives were expected to report on any child that was born “prematurely,” or full-term, before 9 months had elapsed after the wedding.

Several church records over the years have commented about the bride being pregnant, although clearly, not all pregnancies were evident yet when the wedding occurred.

Additionally, midwives were entirely prevented from assisting with an abortion or participating in infanticide. Mothers who engaged in strenuous physical activity were suspected of attempting an abortion, as were women who took herbs or drugs.

Midwives were forbidden from burying a deceased child or fetus. Any child that died during or as a result of childbirth was to be observed by “3 or 4 unsuspecting female persons.”

Not only was it bad enough if your baby died, but 3 or 4 non-family members were requested to come into your house to view your dead baby. Peachy.

If something foul was suspected in the death of a child or fetus, the midwife was required to take a barber-surgeon with her to inspect the deceased child. The physician or barber-surgeon would possibly perform an autopsy which midwives were not allowed to do.

While the midwife could not normally bury a deceased child, since these already-dead babies had not been baptized and were therefore relegated to hell, the midwife was allowed to bury them since nothing more could be done for their souls and “no one would have worried about the type of funeral such a child received.”

I had to read that section more than once because even though I realize their beliefs were different then, the callousness of that way of thinking is still quite shocking.

The word of a midwife could easily condemn another woman.

Anytime witchcraft accusations were on the increase, so were accusations of abortion and infanticide. Some midwives were even accused of causing deaths through “natural” methods or witchcraft.

As if the midwife didn’t have enough to worry about, eventually, they were also responsible for attempting to enforce the desired level of morality.

As cities enacted more stringent sumptuary codes in the sixteenth century, midwives were required to inform parents about laws that governed baptisms so they would not, for example, spend too much money on the infant’s baptism gown or invite too many people to the baptismal feast.

Interestingly, this tells us a bit about what happened, socially, surrounding a baptism. In a small village like Beutelsbach, I wonder if the entire village attended the baptismal feast. Everyone would have been related.

I also wonder if baptismal gowns became heirlooms and were passed from child to child within the family.

How Many Babies Did Sibilla Deliver?

Beutelsbach was not a large village.

I counted the baptisms in the church book in Beutelsbach in 1740-1745. Of course, if there had been deaths where Sibilla baptized the child before it died, that child would probably not have been recorded in the births/baptisms – but then again – who knows. I did not look through the deaths to see if any children that died on the day they were born were also recorded in births.

Suffice it to say that assuredly, Sibilla had to perform at least a few emergency baptisms as infant death was rather common.

Year Number of births/baptisms
1740 40
1741 35
1742 36
1743 40
1744 49
1745 33

I stopped counting at the end of 1745 because Sibilla died midway through 1746.

Sibilla would have averaged about 39 births per year, or one birth every 9 or 10 days. if she was a midwife for 8.5 years, that equates to about 330 births.

At least some of those deliveries would have been close family members – grandchildren and children of her husband’s family members who had been living in Beutelsbach for generations. Some of her family members probably also lived in the same village since Heppach was only a half-hour walk or a mile or so away.

This birth information also tells us something about the size of the village in those years.

How Large was Beutelsbach?

A couple whose child did not die would have a baby every 18-24 months. For ease of math, let’s figure that couple would have a child in the baptismal register every other year.

Therefore, the number of child-bearing couples is double the yearly birth rate, or about 78. Granted, some couples appeared more often, but some couples had “aged out” of bearing children, so the number of households was likely not more than double the number of reproducing couples. Therefore, the village probably had about 150 houses, assuming each family lived separately. If each household had an average of 7 residents at any one time, the village had a total of about 1000 people.

This 1797 map of southwest Germany shows Beautelsbach, along with Grossheppach. Note the cemetery beside the church, which is difficult to see, right beside the cemetery. The actual village is located at 11 o’clock, above the blue pin, and the cemetery is at the end of the U-shaped street, on the way out of town. Based on a wider view of this map, I believe the little black dots aren’t houses, but are small stands of forest. Notice the rows of vineyards on the hillsides.


Sibilla had 8 children herself, all born in Beutelsbach, the first child arriving just 10 days or so before her first wedding anniversary. No need for the midwife to report Sibilla to the council, although I suspect most midwives were discrete and understanding.

  • Anna Barbara Lenz was born on January 23, 1699, and died July 15, 1770. She married Johann George Vollmer on October 26, 1729, and had 9 children. Given that 2 of her children were born in 1740 or later, it’s probable that Sibilla delivered at least these two of her own grandchildren. Three of these grandchildren died before Sibilla.

I would think that delivering your own grandchild who subsequently died would be doubly difficult. Thankfully, none of these children died at birth, but one died about 10 days later. Did Sibilla wonder if she could have or should have done anything differently, even if the death was clearly not her fault and had nothing to do with delivery?

There is a comment about Anna Barbara being in the house in 1746 with the “heated illness,” which is typhoid. This is when Sibilla died as well and is clearly remembered many years later. Anna Barbara could read and write.

  • Johannes Lenz born December 15, 1700, died December 24, 1700.

This must have been a miserable Christmas for Sibilla.

  • Jakob Lenz born April 1, 1702 died July 8, 1702.
  • Johann Adam Lenz born July 1, 1703, died July 11, 1746, just a few weeks after his mother died of typhoid. He too was a vinedresser. Martin Goll says, “When he was already married he had to be under occupation for 7 weeks, but deserted there because he already had a brother in the war.” He could read and write.

Johann Adam married Maria Katharina Bauer in 1735 and had 7 children before his own death 11 years later of typhoid. His last child was born two months after his death.

At least three of Johann Adam’s children were probably welcomed into the world by his mother. Two of his children died before he and his mother passed away, one that she would have delivered died about 2 weeks later, probably also of typhoid.

  • Margaretha Lenz born October 21, 1704, died March 15, 1717, at the age of 12. No cause of death is given, but I have to wonder why she died.
  • Johann Georg Lenz born December 2, 1707, died January 26, 1710, of smallpox. Smallpox was highly contagious and deadly about 30% of the time.
  • Elizabetha Lenz was born in 1709. Nothing more is known but she likely died. Some records are missing during this time.
  • Johann Jakob Lenz born July 25, 1712, died March 8, 1793, of a “sore throat.” Can read and write. Has served here and in Stetten for many years. Was elected as a Grenadier in 1734, was Captain of the Roman Company, and bought out in 1742.

Johann Jakob married Catharina Beerwarth on April 25, 1741, and had one child who was born and died a few days later in 1742. Sibilla likely delivered this child and knew there was a problem of some sort. Three months later, Catharina died too.

Johann Jakob remarried on November 12, 1744, to Katharina Haag in Heiningen. There was some question about his marriage certificate and military service at the time he was married and his first child was born. His mother may have delivered this child. The child was baptized in Beutelsbach but could have actually been born in Heiningen.


Clearly, Sibilla’s household and apparently the household of at least one adult child experienced an outbreak of typhoid during 1746. Typhoid is bacterial and treatable with antibiotics today, but it likely infected the entire village, if not the entire region.

In the book, A brief history of epidemic and pestilential diseases; with the principal phenomena of the physical world, which precede and accompany them, and observations deduced from the facts stated. : In two volumes, we find:

At Zurich in Switzerland and in Saxony prevailed a very malignant dysentery. Indeed for a number of years, at this period, dysentery was epidemic in many parts of Europe and America.

Typhoid is a person-to-person transmitted bacterial disease that can be passed through water, often through wells located in close proximity to septic pits. This 1939 conceptual illustration shows various ways that the typhoid bacteria could contaminate a well, creating a never-ending cycle of infection. Wells in German villages were generally in the center of the town, shared by all residents. Waterways, meaning creeks and rivers would be even more susceptible to contamination from fecal runoff.

Typhoid is mentioned decades later in reference to one of Sibilla’s adult children who did not die, so the outbreak must have been widespread and devastating.

I counted the deaths from 1744 through 1747 in the church records. It appears that the records may be incomplete in 1746 and 1747, with at least a couple of months missing from both years. The records are at least in disarray. This likely reflects the chaos of what was occurring in the village and it’s certainly possible that the Reverend and his family were ill too.

Year Deaths recorded in the church book
1744 34
1745 28
1746 71
1747 66

The death rate began to increase in April of 1746, rapidly, so the contamination must have occurred in March since typhoid takes about a month to kill its victims. Sibilla died on May 28th.

Life and Death

As I write this, in the midst of a pandemic at the very end of 2020, I’m struck by several thoughts.

Sibilla was one of the few women of her time who actually had a career, and one that paid, even if the pay was minimal and not on par with other medical providers. I’m so proud of her.

Clearly, Sibilla was well-respected or she would not have been asked to be a midwife and continued in that role until her death.

I wonder if Sibilla caught typhoid in the process of midwifing.

I wonder how much was understood of hygiene and the role of washing hands in both the prevention of infection during childbirth and as well as the prevention of transmission of disease. Based on later writings, I suspect that correlation had not yet been made.

Sibilla must have been concerned as she felt the first of the Typhoid symptoms that would have started about the end of April. Headache, low fever, weakness, fatigue, muscle aches, sweating, dry cough, loss of appetite – then progressing into more serious symptoms including a very high fever – then into death roughly 4 weeks later on May 28th.

At some point, Sibilla’s symptoms went from “not feeling well” to a nagging worry, to knowing, to being alarmed, to being terrified, to being so sick she just wanted to die.

According to WebMD:

People with acute illness can contaminate the surrounding water supply through stool, which contains a high concentration of the bacteria. Contamination of the water supply can, in turn, taint the food supply. The bacteria can survive for weeks in water or dried sewage.

About 3%-5% of people become carriers of the bacteria after the acute illness. Others suffer a very mild illness that goes unrecognized. These people may become long-term carriers of the bacteria — even though they have no symptoms — and be the source of new outbreaks of typhoid fever for many years.

This surely makes the moniker, “Typhoid Mary” much more understandable.

Given how many people died, that suggests that the entire village had to be sick. No wonder the burial records are incomplete and in disarray. And God help anyone who delivered a baby during this time.

Given what we are living through now, I don’t think I’ve ever felt such camaraderie with any ancestor before. While I’m not entirely surprised at that feeling, I am amazed to have that connection because of uncontrolled, fatal illness. The difference is, of course, that in 1746, they didn’t understand about transmission and how to prevent it. It would have, of course, required the entire village (and maybe neighbor villages too) to adopt those same prevention measures. Perhaps that would have meant boiling their drinking and cooking water at that time along with hygiene routines that included more hand-washing.

We do clearly understand what’s needed today, although many in our modern “village” refused and still refuse to take the proper precautions to protect everyone and modify their behaviors accordingly – just for long enough to get the current pandemic under control. Maybe small German villages would have had a better conformance rate, especially if the minister preached it from the pulpit and everyone literally knew and were related to people who were suffering and dying.

Sibilla and her son’s burial entries both convey the story of their deaths – as do so many others in the village. Her daughter’s death entry, 24 years later mentions that she lived through the 1746 “heated illness” as typhoid was described because fevers topped 104, followed by delirium, seizures, and death as the brain overheated and fried.

One day, the obituaries or burial entries for those of us who don’t succumb to Covid will also reflect that we lived through the epidemic of 2020, the dark winter of our time.

Sibilla, if she’s watching, must be incredulous and wondering why our “village” refuses to do the simple things we can, before it’s too late. After all, we have the advantage of knowledge. Knowledge of how the dread illness spread and how to protect themselves is something Sibilla and her family didn’t have and would have given anything for – and an opportunity we are collectively squandering.

It does, indeed, take a village.



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Phebe Crumley’s Mother Really IS Lydia Brown (c1781-c1830) – 52 Ancestors #318

This day took its sweet time arriving!

And yes, I’ve used DNA evidence along with every other shred of traditional evidence that I could dig up about either Lydia Brown or her husband, William Crumley. I’ve been trying to prove that the William Crumley who was the father of Phebe (Phoebe) Crumley either WAS or WAS NOT the William Crumley that married Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson in October of 1817, just months before Phebe’s birth on March 24, 1818, as recorded on her gravestone.

Of course, we all know that gravestones can be wrong.

Mitochondrial DNA testing told me that the mitochondrial DNA of the daughter, Clarissa, born on October 10th, 1817 to William Crumley and his wife, just a few months before some William Crumley married Betsy Johnson, matched the mitochondrial DNA of Phebe.

For good measure, the mitochondrial DNA of the daughter, Belinda “Melinda” Crumley born on April 1, 1820, also matches both Clarissa and Phebe. But again, we know that birth dates have been known to be wrong by several years – not to mention that there’s a possibility that the two women, Lydia Brown and Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson, could have been related. Nothing is ever simple, it seems.

A group of families including Crumley, Johnson, Cooper and Brown had traveled together for at least a couple of generations and we are unable to document these lines very well.

I even analyzed the handwriting of the various William Crumleys, and of course, there were several.

If you’d like to read the articles about this extremely difficult family to unravel, here’s a list along with a cheat sheet of who was whom. Yes, you need a dance card to keep track of this family.

Phebe’s father was William Crumley (the third) and either Lydia Brown or Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson was her mother.

This William is the grandfather to Phebe and appears to be who married Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson. He was the father of William Crumley (the third.)

William Crumley the third married Lydia Brown. The question has always been whether Lydia Brown died in 1817 after the birth of Clarissa, followed by William marrying Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson who gave birth to Phebe a few months later.

So, was Lydia dead, or wasn’t she?

Mitochondrial DNA results of the three daughters of William Crumley all match each other. I wish those early records hadn’t been so sparse. Unfortunately, the Hancock County, TN records have twice burned.

I think I’ve solved it – finally – based on the signatures of William Crumley.

Jotham Brown is the father of Lydia Brown.

Of course, if Phebe’s mother was NOT Lydia Brown, then Lydia’s parents don’t matter in my tree.


I’ve spent years going through twister-like perturbations trying to identify which William Crumley married Betsy Johnson. Whichever woman gave birth to Phebe in 1818 was my ancestor. Obviously, which William Crumley married Betsey Johnson makes a huge difference in my tree. I mean, I think I have it nailed down, but with this family, I’m never sure. Given all that, I’m sure you’ll understand my angst when an e-mail arrived this week.

When I saw the topic was this family again, I didn’t know whether to be hopeful or cringe.

Marlene, an unpaid volunteer was attempting to help a lady prove that Jotham Brown, Lydia Brown’s father, was a patriot through the Frederick County, VA tax lists.

Marlene, who is very nice, explained:

This is relevant because the revenue from 1782 and 1783 taxes were partly used to fund supplies to support the Revolution, so [Jotham Brown] appearing on the tax list may be considered patriotic service.

Do you have a copy of or a link to this 1782 tax list, in which Jotham Brown appears?

Any assistance you are able and willing to provide is VERY much appreciated!

When I wrote Jotham Brown’s story, I was only looking to place him in Frederick County. It never occurred to me that Jotham might be determined to be a Patriot in the DAR sense because he was on a tax list.

I didn’t need the original tax list, so I utilized a transcribed version of the 1782 Virginia census, provided by another researcher. Marlene reports that Binns Genealogy doesn’t show him on their lists.

A cousin found the Frederick County personal property tax lists for 1782, here, and there is no Jotham Brown in either 1782 or 1783 on the actual tax list. I read page by page.

A couple of days later, I heard from Marlene again about Phebe’s brother, Aaron Crumley.


I just read your 29 Jun 2019 blog about County Formation Petitions and found it very interesting. Your conclusions about which William Crumley married who and when made me wonder if you have looked at the marriage records of Aaron F. Crumley. Since the lady I’m trying to help descends from Aaron F. Crumley [and his 2nd wife] I’ve spent some time on this and note that when Aaron married for the 4th time, at age 63 [2 May 1886], the record in Miami County, Kansas indicated that his parents were William Crumley and [no first name listed] Brown. This leads me to the conclusion that Lydia Brown lived until at least 1823 when Aaron F. Crumley was born, so it must have been a different William Crumley who married Betsy Johnson.

Glory be. Marlene had just found what neither I, nor any of the other Crumley researchers had been able to find for decades. And, she very kindly shared. Thank you Marlene!

Truthfully, I didn’t know that Aaron had married a fourth time.

I showed Aaron’s birth occurring about 1821. The 1850 census Hancock County, TN shows him as age 29, so born in 1821. Other census records show him born in 1822, 1823, or 1824. Regardless of whether Aaron was born in 1821 or as late as 1824, all those years are after the births of all three daughters whose mitochondrial DNA matches each other, including Phebe who was born in 1818.

Aaron’s marriage record shows exactly what Marlene said.

Aaron’s age on May 2, 1886, was given, by him, as age 63, meaning he was born in 1823 or perhaps 1822 if he had not yet had his birthday for 1886. His Civil War draft registration from 1863 shows the same information.

Aaron married Mary Murry, age 32, which makes me wonder if he has previously unknown children from this fourth marriage. Mary’s FindAGrave entry, plus additional information indicates that yes, they did have children.

In 1913, Mary Crumley, widow of Aaron F, is living in Portland Oregon with Fred, Frank, and J. Harvey Crumley.

In 1909, in Spokane, we find Frank, Fred, and James K, a blacksmith all living at 2024 Augusta Avenue.

I do think Mary did have children, because the 1910 census shows Mary Crumley living in Spokane, Washington, age 54, widowed, married for 6 years, had 4 children, 2 living. She is living with sons Frank Crumley and Fred Crumley, ages 24 and 21, both born in Kansas.

Mary’s 1910 census entry, of course, tells us that Aaron Crumley died in 1892 at age 69.

While Aaron’s information is interesting, the real gold nugget here, for me, is that marriage entry for Aaron F. Crumley where he gives his mother’s maiden name as Brown.

Not Johnson.

Of course, this makes me wonder why her first name wasn’t recorded as Lydia. Other mothers in these records had first names. But then again, some mothers had no name.

Clearly, Aaron provided this information himself, because no one else would have been applying for his marriage license. He knew who his mother was – this is first-hand information. Thank goodness the clerk wrote SOMETHING down.

It’s a Wrap

We now have genetic evidence with three mitochondrial DNA tests, evidence based on the various William Crumleys’ locations and signatures, and finally, first-person evidence with Aaron providing the maiden name of his mother.

We now know that Lydia Brown lived at least past Aaron’s birth. Aaron appears to be the last child born, or at least the last one we know about.

From this information, we can estimate Lydia’s birth year.

If Aaron was born in 1822 and Lydia was age 41, that would put her birth about 1781.

We know Lydia married in 1806, so she would have been perhaps 21 at the time, putting her birth at about 1785.

I would say it’s safe to bracket her birth between 1781 and 1785, give or take another year or so in either direction.

We know for a fact, based on the 1850 census that says William had been married within the year, that William did marry in 1849 or 1850 before the census to a woman named Pya or Pequa.

The 1830 and 1840 census are inconclusive, although William is shown with a female the right age to be Lydia in 1830. In 1840, William, age 50-60 has no female his own age in the household, but is living with a female aged 60-70 which could be his step-mother, Betsy Johnson, after his father’s death.

The best evidence we have is that Lydia Brown lived beyond Aaron’s birth and probably beyond 1830, passing away sometime between 1830 and 1840 in Claiborne County, TN, likely living near what is now Turner Hollow Road, near Littleton Brooks and Eli Davis. We know from previous research that was where William lived.

One of William’s daughters married a Davis, one married a Walker from down Mulberry Gap Road, and Phebe married a Vannoy who lived nearby. Clarissa and William both went back to Greene County, TN, and married. The children seem to have scattered a bit, possibly after their mother’s death – so maybe Lydia’s death was closer to 1830 than 1840.

Crumley Cemetery

Today, there’s a Crumley cemetery on Burchett Hollow Road in Hancock County, the portion that was previously Claiborne, although Findagrave doesn’t show a mapped location.

Several years ago, my cousin provided a map of the Josiah Ramsey land division. Eli Davis lived near what today seems to be the Burchett Hollow land.

Overlaying that map with this map, today, and following Burchett Hollow to the end, I can see something that very much looks like a fenced cemetery with a few headstones.

The children of Aaron’s brother, John, and their descendants are buried in the Crumley Cemetery.

In the 1840 census, William and his son, John Crumley, are living side by side, between Eli Davis and Littleton Brooks.

I would wager that this land was indeed where the Crumley family lived – and where Lydia died when she was about 50 years old, then buried in a long-lost grave, probably marked with a fieldstone.



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Johann Georg Lenz (1674-1758), Stones Fell on His Body and Back – 52 Ancestors #317

Johann Georg Lenz, known as Jerg, was born on February 21, 1674 in the beautiful wine-region village of Beutelsbach, Germany to Hans Lenz and Barbara Sing.

Martin Goll, the local historian has kindly documented the various families Beutelsbach, here.

Martin, through a German to English automatic translator, provides the following information about Johann Georg Lenz:

Can read and write. Has always stayed with his parents. Has had to be sent to the field 5 times, and has had to endure a few months each time. He was unlucky several times while breaking stones, when stones fell on his body and back.

Cause of death: Old age

Occupation: Vinedresser

Let’s look at what each one of those statements tells us about Johann Georg Lenz, known as Jerg in the village.

If he can read and write, that tells us that Jerg went to school which would likely have been associated with the local church.

“He has always stayed with his parents,” would suggest that he never married, but that isn’t the case. I do wonder if this means that Jerg always lived in his parents’ homeplace, both before and after their deaths. Or perhaps it means stayed in the local village.

Martin Goll located and documented the Hans Lenz home in Beutelsbach. Whether or not Jerg lived here as an adult, he assuredly was raised here.

Homes of the farmers and vinedressers were located in the village, and the men walked up to the vineyards on the hillsides every day.

These vineyards had been long established when Jerg worked those vines, beneath the every-watchful sentry-like ruins of the castle, here. Today, those same vineyards line the hillsides surrounding Beutelsbach, creating artistic flowing designs.

I wonder about the commentary, “sent to the field 5 times.” Based on mandatory military service required for males, I would suspect that’s what this is referencing – not the literal fields where he went to work daily, probably from the time he was a small child, toddling along beside his father and the other village men as they manicured the vines.

1674, the year Jerg was born was after the Thirty Years’ War which had ended in 1648, although peace, such as it was, was short-lived in Germany.

Jerg’s younger brother served in the military at various times, including 1705, and it’s likely Jerg did as well.

Jerg’s occupation is given as that of a Weingärtner, the same as his father and generations of his descendants to follow.

A weingartner is a vine tender in the vineyards, literally a vine gardener or wine grower.

Given his occupation, passed down for generations, it’s unlikely that Jerg would be “breaking stones” in the vineyards, which had already been established for centuries by this time, so I suspect that his wounds from breaking stones would have occurred during his time “in the field” in military service, or perhaps elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

This ancient building in Beutelsbach assuredly stood when Jerg lived there and shows the squares stones used for the first story. Those would have had to be gathered or quarried, and cut and chiseled to shape.

I feel Jerg’s pain though. Having suffered a back injury in my 20s, I can vouch for the fact that while you may heal somewhat, your back is never the same again and you never recover completely. It reminds you exactly who is in charge every single day.

Chronic pain at some level was probably just a fact of Jerg’s life. At least the vineyards were beautiful and peaceful, even if you did have to climb up to them. Beutelsbach is in the valley along the river.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

Blog reader, Sharon, attended college in Beutelsbach when Stanford rented part of an estate, now the Hotel Landgut Burg, high above Beutelsbach. She returned for a reunion, and was kind enough to share her photos with me and allow me to share them with you.

As steep as this hillside is, I hope Jerg tended the lower regions or rode in the cart or on the wagon.

You can see more photos of Beutelsbach, here.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

This photo was taken by Sharon from the top of one of those hillside vineyard rows. I can’t help but wonder if any of those vines were tended by Jerg. Probably not, given that grapevines appear to live 100-120 years at the top end – but hey – maybe these vines are the descendants of those earlier vines just like I’m Jerg’s descendant.

You can see the incredibly beautiful vineyards above Beutelsbach, with wildflowers planted between the rows, here. They will take your breath away.


Germany, located in a strategically important location with the Rhine River as it’s east border, and also bordering France, was anything but a peaceful location.

By Ssch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=350991

Wurttemberg, located mostly east of the Rhine except where it bordered the Rhine on its south was positioned in the center of Europe which is on the way to and from almost everyplace. A crossroads that almost every army seemed to tromp through, if not attack. Some of the most chronic offenders were the French although they certainly didn’t have a monopoly on attacking the area that is today modern Germany. .

In 1688, 1703 and 1707, the French entered the Duchy of Wurttemberg and inflicted brutalities and suffering upon the inhabitants.

Jerg was born in 1674, so in 1688, he would have only been 14 years old, not old enough to serve in a war.

However, in 1703, he would have been 29, and 33 in 1707, a prime age to defend Wurttemberg.

It’s likely then that he would have been called into the military “field” and was breaking boulders when injured.

I would think for a back injury to be significant enough to warrant a legacy, the injury would have had to be substantial.

Yet, he died of old age, at age 84. His back didn’t kill him, although it may have felt like it was trying.

Little Ice Age

All of Europe suffered during the 1690s from failed harvests due to a Little Ice Age in which growing seasons were significantly shortened. The result was smaller harvests, less food, and in some locations, starvation, and depopulation.

Massive eruptions of volcanoes in Iceland in 1693 followed by two different volcanoes in Indonesia in 1693 and 1695 likely caused or contributed to these crop failures which continued to some extent through 1699.

One of the worst famines in the seventeenth century occurred in this part of Europe due to the failed harvest of 1693. Millions of people in France, Germany, and surrounding countries were killed. The effect of the Little Ice Age on Swiss farms was severe. Due to the cooler climate, snow covered the ground deep into spring. A parasite, known as Fusarium nivale, which thrives under snow cover, devastated crops. Additionally, due to the increased number of days of snow cover, the stocks of hay for the animals ran out so livestock was fed on straw and pine branches. Many cows had to be slaughtered.

This time of famine also led to economic strife, which in turn led to aggressive behavior of countries towards each other in an attempt to obtain scarce commodities.

Johann George Lenz Marries

People will be people, no matter what. In the midst of the famine and food shortage, Johann Georg Lenz got married.

On January 9, 1698, in the Grossheppach church book, we discover the entry for the marriage of Sybilla Mullers and Hanss Jerg Lentz, short for Johann Georg Lenz/Lentz, of course.

My friend and cousin, Tom, translates:

1st Sunday after Epiphany in the local church was proclaimed, Hanss Jerg Lentz, legitimate son of Hanss Lentz, citizen in Beutelsbach and Sibylla, surviving, legitimate daughter of the late Hanss Rudolph Muller, citizen and smith here; were married in Beutelsbach on the 2nd of February (1698).



This entry says they were married the week before in a church in another village? It’s not like Beutelsbach was far away either – just a mile and a half and a thirty-minute walk. If someone was hoping to “live in sin” in one village claiming they had been married in the other – rest assured that everyone would have known in BOTH villages.

Typically, a marriage was only recorded in the church books where the marriage occurred, by that minister.

Interestingly, this marriage seems to have been recorded in both churches, the home church of both the bride and groom, a week apart, something I haven’t seen before. I can’t help but wonder why.

Beutelsbach record, below, also translated by Tom:

The Purification (of Mary) (February 2nd), (married):

Hanss Georg Lentrz, legitimate son of Hanss Lentz, ciitizen and vinedresser from here and Sibilla, legitimate, surviving daughter of the late Johann Rudolph Müller, former smith from Hoppach (Grossheppach).

Why was this marriage recorded in both churches? Maybe to give genealogists twice the opportunity to find it some 322 years later😊.

The timing of the marriage in terms of the “Little Ice Age” may explain, at least in part, why the newly-married couple might well simply have joined his parents in their home. Houses couldn’t just be built willy-nilly either, so the “best” solution for everyone was likely to combine households.

However, that might not have been the only reason.

Jerg’s Mother Dies

1686 was a terrible year. The preceding ones hadn’t been much better.

Jerg’s parents, Hans and Barbara were married in January 1669, and like normal, their first child followed a few months later, a month before their first Christmas as a married couple. What a joyous Christmas that must have been.

Their next two children were born in 1671 and 1672, and both died within two days of each other in July 1678, at 6 and 7 years of age. I can only imagine their heartbreak. Something was probably contagious in the village and there was likely much more death too. It may not be a coincidence that while the plague was smoldering throughout Europe during this time, 1679 would see a massive outbreak.

Of course, right now I can certainly identify with that.

Johann George, Jerg, was their first son, born in 1674, followed by Daniel in 1675.

Elisabetha was born in 1677, and nothing else is known so it’s presumed that she must have died.

Anna Maria was born in December of 1678, 5 months after her sisters died, followed by Johann Jacob in 1680 and Philipp in 1681.

Additionally, Martin born in 1683 died 17 days later.

In April 1684, Jerg’s maternal grandparents both died. That’s 6 deaths if you’re counting, in less than a decade.

Finally, there was Barbara Lenz who was born on July 2nd, 1686. This must have been a difficult delivery, because Barbara, the baby’s mother, died 8 days later, on July 10th. The baby, Barbara, died 17 days after her mother.

Barbara’s daughters who died in 1678 had died on July 11th and 13th. This entire family must have dreaded every July which was probably remembered as a month of death.

Jerg was 12 years old when his mother died. At that time, he had 4 younger siblings ranging in age from 11 years on down to 20 months.

What were they to do?

The Burial

You can see a drawing of the church in Beutelsbach in 1883 with the adjacent cemetery, here. The description reads, “View over the fortified cemetery to the church with its half-timbered house.”

Sharon’s photo shows that same area today – and it’s almost exactly the same except the stream is now a street. Jerg would have walked up those steps many, many times.

Jerg might have vague memories of burying his sisters two days apart in 1678, when he was 4 years old.

He might have remembered burying his sister, Elisabetha, depending on when she died.

Jerg would have remembered burying his younger brother, Martin when he was 9 years old in 1684.

Jerg would have remembered burying both of his maternal grandparents in this same cemetery,11 days apart, in April of 1684 when he was 10 years old. His mother must have been horribly distraught. I wonder if whatever took them is the same thing that took both daughters two days apart in 1678.

In July of 1686, with the birth of Barbara, Jerg’s mother must have suffered terribly. Who knows what went wrong, but something very clearly did. Barbara died 8 days after giving birth and followed her parents into the cemetery just 27 months later.

Then, 17 days later, yet another funeral for the baby named after her mother.

Whatever happened during that birth, it likely affected both mother and child. In a German village, had the child been alright, a wetnurse could certainly have been found.

In addition to Jerg having suffered an incredible amount of grief in his short 12 years, his father, Hans, would have been grief-stricken too.

Worse yet, how was Hans supposed to go and work in the fields without a wife to care for the household and children? He did have a daughter who was 17, but she couldn’t keep house and take care of all those children herself. She needed to attend school and prepare for her own married life.

Life After 1686

I’d wager that Hans and his children banded together as best they could, with the help of their relatives who, of course, were their neighbors in this village – at least for the next 13 months until Jerg’s father did what any sane German man did under those circumstances. He remarried to a widow.

Jerg gained a step-mother and perhaps step-siblings. His step-mother would go on to “mother” him for 17 years, 5 years longer than his biological mother had been able to do.


When Jerg married Sybilla Muller in 1698, a few days before his 24th birthday, there would have still been three of his siblings living at home. His oldest sister had married 5 years earlier.

Daniel, at 22, would have been quite valuable as a hand in the vineyards where his “stupid eyes,” probably meaning crossed eyes or eyes that don’t look the same direction at the same time wouldn’t have prevented him from working with the vines. Daniel was unable to learn to read. Jerg’s father was in his mid-50s by then, and probably couldn’t work as hard as he used to. He was likely very grateful for both Jerg and Daniel.

Anna Maria who at age 20 was being courted by suitors, or at least one suitor, would marry later that year.

Johann Jakob at 18 and Philipp at 17 would have worked shoulder by shoulder with their father and their brothers, Jerg and Daniel, in the vineyards. All 4 boys spent their life as vinedressers and vintners. Neither of these younger brothers would marry until 1716 and 1717, although Daniel married in 1702.

Daniel, according to Martin Goll, spent most of his life with his parents too, except for a year that he spent working on field walls in Bittenfeld, 10 miles up the road.

It’s this note about Daniel that might, indeed, shed light upon why his brother, Jerg, was breaking stones, if not due to serving in the military. Field walls. While the fields today above Beutelsbach don’t appear to have walls, some fields did and do have walls. In some locations, hillsides had to be reinforced and on others, vines grew up walls.

We won’t ever know what Jerg was doing when he injured his back so severely, or why those stones fell on him, but we do know that he managed to work throughout his life in spite of his disability, dying on April 7, 1758 in Beutelsbach, beneath his much-loved vineyards, as an 84 year-old man.

He joined both his first and second wife, along with his parents and all but one of his siblings, Daniel, in the cemetery – although Daniel followed just 7 months later. Six of his own children awaited him there as well. Jerg only outlived two of his children and his third wife.

Life was harsh, hard and often devastating. Very hard. While our current pandemic is a once-in-a-hundred-years event – the plague festered, ebbed and emerged continuously in Europe. Losing children today to death is the exception rather than the rule, while for them, losing half their children to death before adulthood was “normal.” Death, warfare, and often hunger was their nearly constant companion.

Yet, somehow, Jerg mustered his strength and courage to survive all of those challenges.

It makes me feel good to know that my ancestor overcame a chronic back issue too, one severe enough to be recorded for posterity, becoming part of his legacy. Jerg gives me hope and inspiration to persevere. If Jerg can do this, before the days of physical therapy, hot baths, ice packs, and Tylenol while laboring long hours in the vineyard – so can I.



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Steffan Koch (born before 1595), Lutheran Pastor in Fussgoenheim – 52 Ancestors #316

Steffan Koch was probably named Johann Steffan Koch. Koch translates to “cook” in English, which I suspect may hold an invaluable clue as to the family history at the time surnames were first adopted in the region where his family lived in Germany.

Were it not for the Durkheim marriage document of his daughter, Margretha, we would know absolutely nothing about Steffan – not even his name.

My friend, Tom, translates:

On the same day (9 Sept 1650) Hans Georg Kirsch and Margretha, legitimate dau of M Steffan Koch, former pastor in Fussgonheim.

This record is absolutely fascinating for more than one reason.

  • First, this 1650 marriage does not take place in Fussgoenheim, but in Durkheim.
  • Second, the word “former” here could mean either of two things, or both. Former in this context often means deceased. However, Tom, a retired German genealogist is of the opinion that in this case, “former” probably means that he used to be the pastor in Fussgoenheim. Of course, it could mean both – that he was the Fussgoenheim pastor, and that’s he’s deceased.
  • Third, regardless of whether “former” means currently deceased or not, it clearly means former in the sense of “used to be,” because in 1650, the 30 Years’ War had just ended and no one had returned to Fussgoenheim. The question is, when was he the pastor?

Therefore, this marriage record provides us with extremely valuable information not available anyplace else.

We know Steffan was a minister and that the Koch family originally lived in Fussgoenheim before the Thirty Years’ War.

Von Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53102712

While no buildings remain from this time, this early house in Fussgoenheim probably dates from the rebuilding that occurred in the late 1600s or early 1700s and is similar in nature to the homes in Fussgoenheim when Steffan was the pastor there.

Fussgoenheim’s Lack of Records

There are no records from Fussgoenheim during or before the Thirty Years’ War. The church and all homes were burned and destroyed – along with all of the fields. In that time, homes were clustered centrally in villages, with barns attached, and the fields stretched out lengthwise behind the houses.

This arrangement provided at least some protection for the families.

The History of Fussgoenheim book tells us that there was a “court box” of court records, along with the Weistum, a document detailing accepted village customs, family history, and land ownership from 1627/28 that did survive, but was subsequently destroyed by the devastation in the War of Palatinate Succession (1688-1697) when the village was again burned to the ground.

Hereditary rights in this part of Germany at this time were not based on the eldest son receiving everything, but distributed among the heirs, including lessee rights to the farming the church properties. Therefore, from time to time, a Weistum, or summary, was produced and recorded, along with the various responsibilities.

For example, there were two schools and two mayors, one in the upper and one in the lower village, but one court with representatives of each “half” attending. The church marked the division between the two halves. The village fell under the jurisdiction at that time of two noble families, not one. Since time immemorial, according to the Weistum, one of the tasks shared by the entire community was the maintenance of the bells and the clock – oh – and yes, free wine for everyone.

Fussgoenheim produced two history books, both in German, one published in 1993 and one in 2001. By scanning select pages and using both Google and DeepL translators, I was able to sift through information about this timeframe.

Martin Luther

Before looking specifically at religion in Fussgoenheim, it’s important to note that Martin Luther only nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle church door in Wittenberg in 1517, sewing the first seeds of the Protestant Reformation. The Holy Roman Empire frowned on his activities, to put it mildly, and in 1521, he was banned and exiled, which only served to strengthen his resolve. Upon being freed in 1522, he decided it was time to act forcefully. From then until the actual Reformation in 1534 and until his death in 1546, Luther continued to guide his followers away from the Catholic tenets, rituals, and traditions, although he did call his services “Lutheran masses.”

By the time of his death, the Lutheran faith was sweeping across not only Germany, but much of the rest of Europe – and along with it, sowing division among the people, as you might imagine, and raising the ire of the established Catholic church. Luther’s ideas and concepts represented radical change that were believed to be heresy by many and the true salvation by others.

Lutheranism Comes to Fussgoenheim

The Fussgoenheim history book tells us that the transition to the Lutheran faith from Catholicism happened in Fussgoenheim no earlier than 1553 when Count von Falkenstein decreed the Reformation in this region. In 1560, the Count of Leiningen, who ruled over Fussgoenheim directly, converted to Lutheranism. In 1567, a request was made for a Lutheran pastor for the Fussgoenheim church, which was denied. Clearly, by this time, the conversion had occurred and the residents had little choice in the matter given that they were serfs, peasants, living under noble rule.

Another clue as to the effective date of the Lutheran conversion is a stone with the date of 1563 in a wall that was demolished in 1832 in the Fussgoenheim parish house that is believed to represent the date of the first rectory.

We only know the name of one other minister before the Thirty Years’ War in Fussgoenheim – Elias Roschel. The only two gravestones remaining from before 1700 are the 1605 and 1606 stones of Roschel’s wife and son. Until 1732, when Jacob Tilman von Hallberg, a noble who established another Catholic church, there was only one Lutheran church in the village, with one pastor at a time. Fussgoenheim was small and didn’t need more than one church.

These two stones are embedded in the outer wall of the nave of the church in Fussgoenheim which was reconstructed sometime about 1726, based on documents where von Hallberg was complaining because the townspeople did not (or would not?) pay for the building of the Lutheran church. Extant Lutheran church records also began in 1726.

This information tells us several things.

  • First, the local pastors were not local men. A call was issued and a Lutheran minister, when approved, came from elsewhere to serve the local congregation. Googling did not reveal where Lutheran ministers were trained at that time, but given that Catholic priests had to train in special seminaries, I’d wager that Lutheran ministers did too. The Lutheran faith was different than Catholicism but still used the same foundation pattern. Martin Luther was heavily involved with the University of Wittenberg.
  • Second, this tells us that although Steffan Koch was the pastor in Fussgoenheim before the war, it’s unlikely that his family originated in Fussgoenheim. We find no Koch families in the church records after the war, although that’s not necessarily unexpected because many families did not return to their original location from 30 years prior.
  • Third, the stones from 1605 and 1606 tell us that Elias Roschel was probably the minister in 1605 and 1606, so Steffan Koch was likely the minister sometime between 1606 and when the village was abandoned. But when was that, exactly?

Palatinate Campaign

Steffan Koch was probably the minister sometime between 1605/1606 and 1620.

The 30 Year’s War started in 1618 with the Bohemian revolt. The Spanish Hapsburgs committed to eradicating Protestantism from the face of the earth, with Jesuit-educated Ferdinand famously saying, “I’d rather see my lands destroyed than tolerate heresy for a single day,” and he set about ruthlessly doing exactly that.

By Barjimoa – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84113547

Not only was Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands profitable to the Holy Roman Empire, it was also a hotbed of Protestants – and the “Spanish Road” ran directly through the Palatinate. France, also strongly Catholic, sided with Spain and Italy, and the battle lines were drawn. Unfortunately, France also bordered the Palatinate.

Fussgoenheim, with fertile farmland and desirable vineyards, was nestled between the Rhine River and the Palatinate Forest, southwest of Mannheim, within about 40 miles of the French border.

By 1620, the Palatinate Campaign had begun, and the Pfalz was no longer simply “collateral damage,” but targeted directly.

In August 1620, 25,000 soldiers left Brussels and invaded the lower Palatinate. Disease followed the soldiers as well, infecting the troops as well as the residents.

For two years, battles raged incessantly until the villages were depopulated and the final cities, one by one, fell. In September of 1622, the Heidelberg fortress fell, followed by Mannheim on November 2nd and Frankental, without a fight, on November 29th.

Only two cities, Durkheim and Speyer still held. Both of those, on the other hand, were nearly completely destroyed in 1689 during the Nine Years’ War.

In 1626, all Protestant clergy had to leave the country on pain of death. Fortunately for the Germans, the Swedish King came to their aid and took back much of the land and cities previously lost, including Frankenthal. Between 1630-1634, many of the Protestant pastors returned to Germany, but shortly thereafter, France would attack directly through the Palatinate. Fussgoenheim was always “on the way” to everyplace it seemed, because the roads followed the river.

I can’t help but wonder where Steffan Koch and his family were sheltered during this time. What I wouldn’t give for his journal. As refugees, it’s unlikely they had more than literally the clothes on their back. While they may have found temporary refuge in cities, they would not have been residents, and therefore second-class citizens, serfs, with virtually no rights. Non-residents would have been the last to receive any type of assistance, including food.

While these military campaigns killed the residents and caused the remainder to flee by the fall of 1622, the war itself was far from over and would continue until a truce was finally called in 1648.

By then, the human and economic toll was devastating. The war was no longer really about religion, but about control and who would rule Europe.

Those who hadn’t starved or died had abandoned the farms, villages and cities, decades earlier. In some regions, the loss was 90% of the population, such as in Oberamt Zweibrucken and 87% in Kaiserslautern. In 1635 alone, 50% of the inhabitants of Speyer died of hunger and plague and the rest were impoverished and starving. How could they have even buried that many people? That year in Speyer was bracketed by years of plague and famine.

A peasant begs for mercy in front of his burning farm; by the 1630s, being caught in the open by soldiers from either side was tantamount to a death sentence

Constant troops, looting, combat operations, and decimation of both the population and farms meant that there wasn’t food for anyone – and the soldiers on both sides, often mercenaries, took what little could be found.

In 1649, the Deidesheim tax role noted that in many taxable places, including both Fussgoenheim and Ruchheim, “no living soul can be found anymore.”

The parish descriptions of the 19th-century lament the loss of tradition:

Now follows the time of the third Big Years War, whose darkness, as far as Fussgoenheim is concerned, has not been illuminated by anything shines as through the complete darkness that lies above it. For there are no after-judges are available, neither from priests nor others.

Twenty years after the end of the war, by about 1670, still, only 30 people lived in the village of Fussgoenheim.

By 1670, we know that Jerg Kirsch and his wife, Margretha Koch were two of those people. If children were counted among the 30, then their children would have accounted for another 6 or 7, if not more. We know of a total of 7 sons and no daughters, so it’s likely that they had children we are unaware of.

We also know that Jerg was co-lessee of the Jostens estate, so there was at least one other family involved who might well account for another 10 people. At that time, the former monasteries and religious orders owned much of the land in the Palatinate, and in Fussgoenheim.

The archivist at neighboring Schaurenheim was exactly right when he said that only a handful of families returned to any of these villages during this time after the war, and then very, very slowly. It’s likely that the villages were rebuilt by the offspring of those few families intermarrying.

However, the villages would again be abandoned in 1684 due to the Nine Years’ War, also known as the War of Palatinate Succession, when the rest of the Fussgoenheim records were destroyed. Still, some families returned, yet again.

Those hereditary rights to farm the land were likely powerful draw cards – and although rebuilding represented untold hours of labor – it was still better than nothing accompanied by no hope for better.

Questions – More Questions

I have so many questions.

  • Where was Steffan Koch from, before Fussgoenheim?
  • When did he serve the Fussgoenheim congregation?
  • When did he and his family leave Fussgoenheim?
  • Did they go directly to Durkheim, now Bad Durkheim, or did they attempt to shelter in other locations first?
  • Based on the description of Steffan as the former pastor in Fussgoenheim, it’s possible that he married a local gal.
  • Was Steffan deceased in 1650?
  • Did Steffan and his family have to leave the country in 1624, and if so, where did they go? Was Margretha born there?
  • Why did they come back?
  • Why was Steffan not involved as a pastor in the church in Durkheim?
  • What did Steffan do to support his family during that time, assuming he did not die in Fussgoenheim?
  • Did either Steffan or his wife survive the war? What about their children?

Steffan might have known Elias Roschel. In fact, if the wife and son died after Elias himself, Steffan might have been the minister to perform those funerals. If Elias died after this wife and son, Steffan could have been the minister to bury him.

Based on the dates we do have, we can estimate Steffan’s age, very roughly.

He was a pastor in Fussgoenheim, which tells us that he was an adult before 1618.

If his daughter was born between 1620 and 1630, based on her marriage date of 1650, it’s very likely that Steffan indeed did survive to leave Fussgoenheim and she was born in Durkheim or wherever they were living between 1618 and 1630.

Assuming Steffan’s daughter was born about 1630, and his wife was his same age, they could have been newly married, or married for 25 years when Margretha was born. We know Steffan was an adult by 1618, and let’s assume he would not be a pastor until he was at least 25 years old. This brackets his birth year between 1585 and 1593.

If Steffan lived to see his daughter marry, he would have been between 57 and 65 years of age.

Not elderly by today’s standards, but between the war, starvation, plague, and what would be considered normal health issues – it’s unlikely that Margretha’s parents were in the church with her on September 9, 1650. They were probably buried just outside, in the churchyard.

Steffan’s Religion

Steffan Koch was a man of the cloth. A believer in a new, or relatively new, religion, Protestantism, born of the desire to reform Catholicism. He probably knew people who had personally known Martin Luther.

Steffan was probably inspired with a convert’s fire – and he literally risked his life and those of every family member to defend those beliefs.

This wasn’t just a religion, but a movement questioning papal authority, errors, abuses, and discrepancies in the Catholic Church, such as the selling of indulgences.

Indulgences were sold in order to raise money and in order to reduce the amount of punishment one had to undergo for a sin.


Steffan would have been either first or second-generation Protestant. If he was born between 1585 and 1593, his father would have been born before 1565/1573, about the time that various regions in the Palatinate were converting.

Steffan’s grandparents would have been born Catholic and were probably practicing Catholics, so Steffan might well have been viewed as quite the rabble-rouser and trouble-maker, not just by the authorities, but by his family as well.

Clearly, Steffan’s beliefs were steadfast and unmovable, and he was completely committed. The church where he was assigned to serve would become his family away from home, even if his family, or at least some members, were supportive. Unquestionably, Steffan was on the leading edge of a new movement and any change that radical is bound to make many people uncomfortable for a variety of reasons.

Steffan would have known first-hand of the trials and tribulations being suffered by converts. He would have heard from other ministers when he was studying and from his family as well if they were the first generation to convert. He would have likely been warned and was prepared to suffer because anyone who has ever been on the leading edge of anything that’s disruptive to religious beliefs knows full well they’re on the bleeding edge.

Yet, Steffan clearly could not have understood or even imagined the magnitude of the suffering to come – although he did have the example of Christ’s life, especially at the end. Would that be enough to sustain him? We don’t know.

Steffan may have felt that the trials and tribulations he, his wife, and family had to undergo and suffer through were divinely ordained.

Having said that, I have to wonder if his wife and children survived the war. What about his parents, siblings and their children?

If they did not die a natural death, how did Steffan frame his understanding of the “purpose” of their deaths? How did he correlate a loving God with the fact that millions of people were dying? Did he not wonder why an all-powerful God did not stop the invading armies – either physically like the Red Sea parting, or by causing them to have a change of heart?

Did Steffan not wonder how a loving and caring God could allow his followers and believers to starve – including innocent children – perhaps his own?

How did Steffan reconcile this in his mind, with his family and parishioners who would have looked to him for guidance as a man of the cloth – even if he wasn’t the active pastor in Durkheim?

How did the heartache and utter devastation affect his faith? Did his faith sustain him in those dark days, or did he question his decisions of the past that led to the horrific suffering of the time in which he lived?

For. Thirty. Long. Years.

11,000 days of Hell on Earth.

Was his faith somehow reinforced or shaken? After all, the Catholics weren’t suffering.

What did he say if he was preaching funerals for those who starved to death?

Was Steffan angry with God?

The Comet

According to the article, Jeremiah in the Village: Prophecy, Preaching, Pamphlets, and Penance in the Thirty Year’s War, in 1618, at the height of the Lutheran apocalyptic fervor, a great comet blazed across the European sky, visible from September 6-25, sparking more than 100 pamphlets warning of God’s anger and prophesying doom. Pastors preached from the Old Testament in the spirit of the prophet, Jeremiah, in lengthy mournful lamentations that would come to be known as jeremiads.

As the war unfolded, ministers used the misery and suffering to call for more pious action. Seeing themselves as the chastened Israelites, ministers admonished that only increased religious action and adherence could save their countrymen. Jeremiah stated that God punished those who deviated from his commandments. Therefore, the Germans suffering such horrible devastation were undergoing punishment for their sinfulness and lack of repentance. God even sent a comet to warn them, yet they still had not adequately repented.

I shudder to think how the father or mother felt who watched their home burn, their children die and even their spouse perish. The guilt must have been as devastating as the war itself – to be blamed for something so incredibly beyond your control or even influence.

Conrad Dietrick, a Lutheran minister, on New Year’s Day 1619 published a pamphlet of his sermon that was very straightforward:

  • What comets are
  • What they mean
  • What we should do as a response to the meaning

Then, he answered his own questions:

  • God sent the comet as a warning because sin abounded in Germany, although that theme had been ever-present since the Turkish threat in the 1580s.
  • Mend your ways.
  • Stop disregarding God’s commandments and live a moderate and pious life.
  • God might not have to follow through on his threat to destroy his people if they heeded the celestial warning and subsequent warfare and live within the bounds of Lutheran discipline.

One pamphlet called out the deadly sins of the parishioners responsible for the devastation, such as the following, therefore making Germany responsible and subject to punishment:

  • Excessive pride and display
  • Swearing
  • Fornication
  • Disobedience to authority

Oh, and by the way, good deeds alone aren’t enough to get you out of this pickle and earn God’s Grace, because your sins are very deep.

Preachers and pamphlets were the social media, television and radio of the day.

By the end of the war, in 1648, one pamphlet published regarding the Treaties of Westphalia opened with the comet’s prophesying appearance in 1618 and closed with the war ending, “by God’s Grace,” in 1648. In other words, the people were suffering and had suffered through their own choices and actions. No one was going to feel sorry for them. They deserved what God saw fit to do to them, and probably worse.

It’s interesting to note, that whether true or not, the idea that the comet had appeared for 30 days across the skies was connected to the fact that the war had lasted for 30 years. In other words, by that time, the comet wasn’t just a warning, it was simply accepted as having been an accurate prophecy of what was to come.

During the war, the ministers attempted to make the essence of the sermons reach home in their communities – tailoring the message as needed. As the war dragged on, they became discouraged that their parishioners, the “common men,” were apparently unable to either understand or fulfill their messages. Many pastors became increasingly desperate for the much-needed change within their congregation necessary to end the war and suffering, and their sermons became increasingly reproachful and filled with missionary zeal.

They continued to predict that war would devastate Germany, and they would continue to be correct. Preaching itself became a form of prophecy and the ongoing war and atrocities only confirmed the message.

Sermons of one minister included the following New Years’ Day messages:

  • 1623 – Amos 4:6-12 – On the 3 punishments of the land/dearth, war and devastation with which God now afflicts our dear Germany because of its sins and how we should properly view them.
  • 1624 – Haggai 1:6-7 – Laid out reasons why it has happened that in these times no happiness, blessing, and increase for timely nourishment can be found.
  • 1625 – How we should act when we hear of foreign war preparations, recruiting, and troop movements.
  • 1626 – Habakkuk 1:12 – Why the armies on the march are an instrument of God’s punishment.
  • 1627 – Ephesians 5 – How one may properly get along in the current troubled times of war.
  • 1628 – How Christian subjects should pray for their rulers in these troubled times.
  • 1629 – Jeremiah 47:6-7 – The Lord’s sword – that is the word of the Prophet Jeremiah wherein the only proper cause is laid out, why one sighs and calls in vain for peace and an end to the war.”
  • 1632 – Jeremiah 15:11 – Land ruin and war consolation.
  • 1636 – The year of the plague in Ulm, the minister stated that 15,000 people had died that year, including thousands of beggars and refugees from neighboring villages. About one third were deaths of citizens from Ulm. Some days as many as 170 died – going on to say that those figures of death and misery needed no more explanation other than that provided in Psalm 107:17-20.

17 Fools by reason of their transgression, and because of their iniquities are afflicted.

18 Their soul abhorreth all meat and they are brought to death’s door.

19 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivereth them from their distress.

20 He sendeth his word and healeth them, and delivereth them from their graves.

  • 1637 – Jeremiah 14:19-20 – Hammer of Peace, wherein is reported, what the causes are that the Peace that we have longed for for so many years has not come at all or let itself be seen.
  • 1638 – Psalm 14 – Heartfelt Zionish New Year’s Sigh – This was the year that cannibalism was reported in Breisach during a siege.

One preacher said 8 times in a funeral oratory for a minor noblewoman, “O, that we have sinned so much.” The topic and images of both punishment and penance, along with exhortations, were common themes in the sermons of Lutheran pastors during the war. They repeatedly referred to and lamented, “Oh woe, oh woe, the great sinfulness.”

How did the residents feel who heard these sermons that clearly placed the blame for the war and their great suffering squarely on their own shoulders?

In 1630, the shoemaker, Hans Heberle, in Neenstetten wrote as a preface to his journal that he began with the 1618 comet:

Anno 1618 a great comet appeared in the form of a large and horrible rod of punishment, with which God mightily threatened us because of our sinful lives, which we deserved many times over and still deserve today…what it means – what also will come of it – that is something we may cry hot tears over, as we, alas, experience now and have experienced from 1620 up to 1630 and which can’t be described.

Depending on one’s perspective, two other dates for the “beginning” of the war are given in contemporaneous literature; 1617 which is the 100 year anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a particularly galling event to Catholics, and 1619 when Ferdinand was elected Holy Roman Emperor.

It seems that the more pious believers suffered inwardly, feeling responsible for the devastation by their failings. The less pious certainly suffered, but not from the added layer of guilt.

Most people seemed to believe what they were being told and accept the horrible responsibility for what befell them. In the words of one man, “our sins are more than the stars in the heavens, more than the sand on the sea, more than the dust on the earth. Because we have sinned excessively, the punishment has overwhelmed us.”

The ministers and people of the Palatinate, along with the rest of Germany, tried their best to make sense, through the lens of religion, of a situation over which they had no control. Anything resembling normalcy was entirely absent. By the time the war had ended, not only were millions dead as a result, untold more had died not directly due to the war, but due to age or being displaced, having begun their lives in bucolic villages where they expected to live out their lives.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

We don’t know if Steffan Koch lived to see the end of the war and his daughter’s marriage in 1650, but another pastor celebrated the end of the war in 1648 with one last passage from Jeremiah 33:47:

Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say:

It is a waste without man or beast,” in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord: “give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.

Indeed, two years later, Steffan Koch’s daughter would be the voice of the bride in the church in Durkheim.

The Church of St. Johannis in Durkheim

The church in Fussgoenheim was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War, so we have no record of what that church looked like, or even who was buried in the churchyard. The books of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials, written in Steffan’s own hand was destroyed.

We don’t know much about Steffan’s life after Fussgoenheim, aside from the fact that Durkheim is one of only two cities that stood, and that his daughter married into another Fussgoenheim family in 1650. Of course, we don’t know that Jerg Kirsch’s parents were actually from Fussgoenheim before the devastating war, or if the couple returned there because Jerg was able to obtain an order to become the co-lessee of the Josten’s estate in 1660.

What we do know is that from the time Steffan left Fussgoenheim, probably between 1620 and 1622, likely before the birth of his daughter, Margretha in about 1630, the church in Durkheim, for however long he lived, was his church home.

To the best of our knowledge, Steffan was never the pastor there, because he was not referenced as such in Margretha’s marriage record. Given that he certainly didn’t die until after Margretha was conceived, it’s likely that he spent at least some time in Durkheim, in the church there which does survive.

I would wager that Steffan helped the pastor there as he could – perhaps filling in when necessary. Durkheim suffered terribly from both plague and starvation during the war, so there would likely have been many funerals, some occurring hurriedly so that the body or bodies could be quickly buried.

So much suffering, so much need – so many who would welcome the comforting hand and prayers of a minister, even if Steffan wasn’t their official minister. He was still a man of God, having answered a higher calling. He would have known what to say to provide comfort for the grieving.

I can only extrapolate about how Steffan felt in Durkheim. It must have been some torturous combination of every-single-day terror, gratitude for surviving, at least so far, grief at the life they had to leave behind, grief over what their family, friends, and neighbors were suffering, probably grief over the deaths of his own family members, hunger, and overwhelming guilt if he indeed believed that God was punishing him for his lack of…well…pretty much everything. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to see your child starve and die if you believed their suffering was doled out by God because YOU weren’t pious enough.

On the other hand, Steffan may have somehow taken comfort in his religion. Given that his faith would have been strong enough to commit his life to convincing others that Lutheranism was indeed the way and the light, he probably believed that whatever happened was “God’s will” and that those who passed over were indeed sitting at the feet of God in Heaven – relieved from their earthly worries here.

Or, maybe some combination of all of that.

Since I don’t know what or how he felt but do know what the church looked like, I’d like to take a walk with Steffan and perhaps, to be able to glimpse at least this much through Steffan’s eyes.

Walking in Steffan’s Footsteps

The church of St. Johannis, or St. John, now known as the Castle Church was built in Durkheim sometime before 946, obviously as a Catholic church. Around 1300, the current church, minus the current spire, was built on the original foundation. Ironically, the church was built in part with indulgences for those believers who visited the church – one of the very things that caused Martin Luther to part ways with the Catholic Church.

In 1504 and 1508, burial crypts and a chapel were built on to the church and would have been present when Steffan walked those hallways.

Durkheim was not a small town. This illustration from 1450, 200 years before Margretha was married in the church there, shows that the houses were clustered closely together.

Limburg Abbey was destroyed in 1504, the remains resting high above Durkheim. You can take a stunning flight over by drone, here. While Steffan wouldn’t have had this bird’s-eye-view, he would have seen the ruined Abbey above the town – and you can see the town from the drone footage. Wow, just wow.

The Hardenburg castle stood sentry over Durkheim when Steffan trod these streets, although it lies in ruins today.

This 1630 drawing of the church with the Latin school across the yard doesn’t’ show the wooden crosses marking the graves in the churchyard. Steffan and others stood here all too often. I can’t help but wonder about mass graves during that time of inordinate death resulting from warfare, plague, and starvation.

By comparison, you can see the church today, with the churchyard now paved with brick or cobblestone. I can’t help but think of the generations of people whose ashes rest below. And yes, my mind does wander to bones and DNA.

This engraving, from 1650 shows the fortress and the church that Steffan attended, and where his daughter, Margretha, was married that very year. This scene would have been very familiar to the Koch family.

This drawing from 1787 shows the ruined abbey in the distance

Today, the church which sports a tall spire that was replaced in the 1800s nestles in the modern city of Bad Durkheim.

The ancient streets and a few old houses remain today, probably rebuilt after the devastating 1689 fire.

You can still walk up to the church on the old cobblestone streets, approaching from the rear, here. Steffan probably walked this pathway hundreds if not thousands of times. I have to wonder if the residents sought refuge inside the church from time to time as troops advanced.

Only the walls of the church remained after the church was burned in 1689, taking roughly 20 years to repair and rebuild. These walls stood when Steffan walked in the churchyard surrounding the church, now covered with bricks.

Von Immanuel Giel – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33547176

The original church was constructed at different times. Beautiful stonework with quarried stone corners on the rear of the Leininger burial chapel that was added in 1505. The door allowed the Count to exit the service without going through the church proper.

Von Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57943700

The church is beautiful, even without the new spire.

Walking around the church, we can see the burial chapel, built in 1505 and already more than 100 years old when Steffan lived there.

I wonder if the vine harkens back to the time before the churchyard was bricked or paved with cobblestones. We can’t see the beautiful door on this side of the church very well.

Steffan walked through the larger double side doors on the other side of the church. The door in place at that time would have led to the churchyard and was probably the doorway through which coffins were carried after the funeral service on their final journey.

The size of this side door and stones shows just how massive this church is and gives us some idea of why it took 35 years or so, from about 1300 to 1335, an entire generation, to build.

Inside the burial chapel, we find this stone of Agnes von Leiningen-Hardenburg who died in 1586. Did Steffan perhaps seek solitude in the quietness of this chapel from time to time? As refugees, they probably lived in cramped and noisy quarters with other families.

In the same burial vault, the stone of the Count who built the chapel beside his consecration cross.

Inside the burial crypt.

Today, the tombstone of the Limburg abbot who died in 1531 has been moved outside, but when Steffan sat inside this church, this stone was there was well. I wonder how Steffan felt about this, given that the Abbott was clearly Catholic at that time, and the devastation Steffan was living through day-to-day was wrought by a war with Catholics and Catholicism.

Von Altera levatur – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53165415

Another stone moved outside shows the alliance coat of arms of the Lords of Weingarten and those of Sickingen.

Von Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57943697

Steffan would have walked past, and perhaps stopped to tough this double epitaph carving of Count Emich XII. and Maria Elisabeth von Pfalz-Zweibrücken in the castle church, carved in 1612. She died in 1629, so it’s certainly possible that Steffan was present at her funeral.

Behind the figures is a relief of the Hardenburg Castle, home of the Leiningen family.

Von Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57943744

Did Steffan absentmindedly run his fingers along these carved branches, leaves, and acorns, silently praying for strength?

A lovely, friendly gargoyle that Steffan saw and perhaps loved too. Did he tell his children or grandchildren stories about this mythical beast? Gargoyles are said to protect what they guard against evil or harmful spirits. If the gargoyle’s mouth was open, it was devouring a giant. This gargoyle looks kind of like it’s contentedly chewing its cud.

This south aisle, facing west, probably looked much the same, without the modern accouterments, of course. Did the thick walls deaden the city sounds, allowing deep reflection?

Perhaps the single most iconic item of the Lutheran faith representing inclusion into the flock, both earthly and Heavenly, is the baptismal font. This font survived from 1537 and if any of Steffan’s children were baptized in this church, this was the font in which that holy ritual occurred. Given that he was a minister, Steffan may have baptized his children himself.

I can close my eyes and witness that act of faith, love, and devotion.

Von Immanuel Giel – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33547186

While the stained glass windows and cross are new, the nave is not. Steffan may have preached here and assuredly prayed in this sacred space; for safety, for deliverance, for himself, for his family, and for so many others. But more than anything, Steffan probably prayed to find a way to live better, more religiously, more piously, in order that God would not be angry with him.

Punishing anyone with warfare punished everyone with warfare. Steffan would have prayed to find a way to be a more convincing leader, not so much for himself, but for the other parishioners who suffered for 30 years, and more. If only, if only, he could successfully obtain God’s Divine assistance to convince them. If God would just grant him the words that would be convincing enough.

Not unlike how many of his descendants feel today, in the midst of another plague that could, in fact, be affected and slowed by convincing enough people to do so. A direct link from me to Steffan, across 400 years, almost exactly.

Given what Steffan went through, whether or not he survived the actual war and accompanying horrors, I’d expect that prayer is what defined his life – and probably his death. A lifetime of increasingly desperate prayer.



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Margretha Koch, (born 1625-1630), The Preacher’s Daughter – 52 Ancestors #315

I surely wish we knew more about Margretha Koch. We’re fortunate to have a few tidbits.

The first and only record for Margretha directly is her marriage to Johann Georg “Jerg” Kirsch in Durkheim on September 9, 1650. Given the customs of the time, she was probably 20 or 21 years old.

My friend, Tom, translates:

On the same day (9 Sept 1650) Hans Georg Kirsch and Margretha, legitimate dau of M Steffan Koch, former pastor in Fussgonheim.

By inference, this tells us that Margretha grew up entirely during the Thirty Years’ War which started in 1618, a few years before she was likely was born. By 1622, all of the remaining population in the Palatinate that hadn’t been killed or died as a result of the initial onslaught of the war had left the countryside with what little they had left, but not by choice.

The entire population became exiles with nothing more than they could carry, as shown by this painting, seeking shelter someplace, anyplace as a simple matter of survival. The cities swelled, then one by one, they fell either in battle or by siege.

This drawing of Casale Monferrato in 1630 shows the soldiers waiting. During a siege, the attacking soldiers simply surrounded a city and waited as the pinned-in residents starved and died. No food could get in, and they couldn’t escape without surrender.

During the siege of Prague in 1648, the soldiers waited until the residents were weak from hunger and thirst, then attacked.

Life in Exile

Humans have amazing resiliency. Margretha was probably born between 1625 and 1630. Only three Palatinate cities withstood the ravages of war and weren’t burned to the ground. Durkheim, now Bad Durkheim, was one of those, and that’s where Margretha would have been born to refugee parents. The first wave of attack in 1618 burned most of the Palatinate, so by the time Margretha entered the world, they were likely settled in Durkheim and had been for some time.

I wonder if the family lived in a communal home, crammed to the gills with other families in the same dire situation. Durkheim was a walled city, which afforded protection, but also prevented expansion to accommodate masses of refugees.

Margretha’s parents would have worried night and day about where their next meal was coming from and simply if they would survive to the next day and the next week. Since the fields had been burned by the advancing army, there were no crops nor animals. The grim reaper arrived as starvation. Estimates range as high as 60% of the population died, someplace from 4.5 to 8 million in a political-religious war with the French Catholics attempting to eradicate German Protestantism.

Note the devastated landscape in this 1647 painting of marauding soldiers.

Surviving a year might have seemed impossible, but one year poured into the next while the war was constantly fought around them – for 30 long years – one after the other.

Somehow, miraculously, Margretha survived.

Margretha, growing up had never known anything else. However and wherever they lived in Durkheim – it was “normal” to her.

The Church

The church was always the center of a German town, but in Margretha’s case, even moreso. Margretha and her family probably lived within sight of the church. Durkheim wasn’t exactly a large city and her father would have wanted to be near the church. After all – it was their cherished religion for which they were willing to sacrifice their lives.

We know that Margretha’s father, Steffan Koch, was a Protestant minister in Fussgoenheim before the war, so their home would likely have been filled with prayer and they would have attended church every Sunday in the nearby St. Johannis Church, today known as the Castle Church.


The Latin School Margretha would have attended was located just across the churchyard, which, at that time would have been filled with wooden crosses. This church had already been in use by then for hundreds of years, so graves were probably already being reused.

It’s certain that Margretha would have buried her parents here, unless of course by some miracle, they returned with Margretha and Jerg to Fussgoenheim sometime around 1660. There wouldn’t have been much if anything to return to.

The French burned everything more than 40 years earlier. The ONLY reason Jerg Kirsch with his young family would have left Durkheim at that point was for opportunity – and that came their way when, somehow, they became co-lessees of the Jostens estate. I must say, given that this was a lease from a religious body, I have to wonder if Steffan Koch was somehow involved with those arrangements.

We have no reason to doubt that Margretha was Jerg’s only wife, although it’s certainly possible that she died and he remarried.

The end of the war and the move to Fussogoenheim was neither immediate nor uneventful. The archivist in neighboring Schauernheim tells us that people didn’t begin to return immediately after the war. A few brave souls began returning about 1650 and even then, only a handful in each village.

Another War, Another Evacuation

After settling in Fussgoenheim in 1660 or so, the family had to hurriedly evacuate again in 1674 when France again annexed the Palatinate to the Rhine, declaring War on this region and in 1688, the French king instructed his soldiers that “the Palatinate should be made a desert.” They did their best. War had returned with a vengeance, along with starvation, with warfare not subsiding until 1697.

By the time they moved to Fussgoenheim, Jerg and Margretha would have had several small mouths to feed. By the time they left again, their youngest children, if they survived, could have been marriage age.

They remained in Durkheim the second time until after 1695 when their son, Wilhelm, married. If Margretha was still living, she likely returned to Fussgoenheim with her sons by 1701 when Adam was noted as Mayor.


We know, based on records from the mid-1700s in Fussgoenheim that Jerg had 7 children, which of course, means Margretha did too:

  • Johann Jacob Kirsch born about 1655, died before 1623 and married Maria Catharina, surname unknown. They had 6 known children beginning in about 1695 through about 1710.
  • Daniel Kirsch born about 1660, died before 1723. Nothing more known.
  • Johannes Kirsch, born about 1665, died November 15, 1738 in Ellerstadt, single.
  • Andreas Kirsch, born about 1666, died April 21, 1734, single or at least no children in Fussgoenheim. Lived in Oggersheim and Ellerstadt.
  • Johann Michael Kirsch, the Judge, born about 1661, died January 1, 1743, married Anna Margaretha Spanier, and had 6 children beginning in about 1700.
  • Johann Wilhelm Kirsch born about 1670, died before 1723, and married Anna Maria Boerstler in Durkheim in 1695. They had 4 known children beginning in about 1700 through 1718. A daughter, born about 1718 was named Anna Margaretha, likely for her grandmother.
  • Johann Adam Kirsch, born between 1650 and 1677, died before 1740, married a Greulich female, then Anna Maria Koob. He had 5 children, beginning about 1700 and continuing until about 1716.

Notice that there are no females listed. It’s possible they had no daughters, or we were unable to identify them through later death and baptismal records of other Fussgoenheim village residents. Many times women’s birth surnames were not recorded.

Let’s hope that Margretha had the opportunity to enjoy at least some of her grandchildren.

What Happened to Margretha?

We don’t have any idea when Margretha died, but we do know that by 1695 when Johann Wilhelm married, she was either deceased or a widow. Johann Wilhelm’s marriage record in the church states that Jerg is deceased.

Given that Margretha’s sons that we are aware of moved back to either Fussgoenheim or that region, if she were living at the time her son was married in 1695, she may well have returned to Fussgoenheim with her adult children.

By 1701 when we know that Adam was living in Fussgoenheim, Margretha would have been between 70 and 80 years old, so it’s certainly possible that she is buried in the graveyard outside the beautiful church in Durkheim, She could also have been buried in Fussgoenheim if she died while the family lived there between 1660 and 1674, or if she returned to Fussgoenheim after 1697 with her children.



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