Nicholas Speaks (1782-1852), Founder of Speaks Chapel United Methodist Church – 52 Ancestors #234

Nicholas Speak, Speake or Speaks, depending on who was spelling it when, was an ancestor who reunited a family some 200 years after his birth on March 3, 1782 in Charles County, Maryland.

In the 1980s, when I first connected to the Speak line, I found my wonderful cousins, Dolores Ham and Lola-Margaret Hall.

Lola Margaret at church door cropped

Lola-Margaret assembled a great deal of research in order to portray Sarah Faires, Nicholas’s wife. Lola-Margaret above and shown here presenting “Sarah’s likeness” in the very church established by Nicholas.

Nicholas Speaks Dolores Ham.jpg

When I began researching Nicholas, cousin Dolores had already been on his trail for years. I am greatly indebted to both of my cousins for their diligent research and for sharing so freely. Nicholas has not been an easy ancestor to research.

Thank you.

Nicholas’s Birth

Nicholas was born to Charles Beckworth or Beckwith Speak and his wife whose identity remains unknown, in Charles County Maryland.

Nicholas Speaks birth.png

You’d never guess by the fact that Nicholas eventually established a Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia, but Nicholas was born Catholic. Someplace between Charles County, Maryland and Lee County, Virginia about 1820, Nicholas not only converted, he became a minister in the Methodist faith.

We don’t know much about Nicholas’s young years, but we do know that by 1787, his father, Charles, appears on a tax list in Rowan County, NC. Nicholas would have been about 5. Nicholas probably remembered little, if anything, about Maryland. We don’t know how long the family had lived in North Carolina prior to 1787.

Nicholas’s mother died sometime between his birth and July 16, 1789 when his father remarried to Jane or Jean Conners in Rowan County. If I had to guess, and I do, I would surmise that Nicholas’s mother died in North Carolina not terribly long before his father remarried, because raising children alone for a father in frontier North Carolina would have been next to impossible.

In 1789, Nicholas would have been 7 years old.

By 1793, Charles had purchased land in Iredell County, NC, which is located just east of the Appalachian mountain range.

Nicholas Speaks Iredell County.png

We don’t know exactly what, but something unfortunate happened, and Charles died before September 1794 when his estate was sold.

At this time, Nicholas would have been all of 12 years old, an orphan in a location with little family.

In May of 1795, guardianship of Nicholas and his siblings, Joseph, Thomas, John and James was assigned to one Richard Speaks for the boys and one Elizabeth Speaks for Nicholas’s sister, Elizabeth Speaks. Who are Richard and Elizabeth Speaks? How are they related to each other? We have no idea, but they were clearly kin of some description. We also have no idea what happened to any of Nicholas’s siblings.

What became of Nicholas’s step-mother, Jane or Jean? We don’t have the answer to that either – however – given the fact that the guardianship was not made until probably nearly a year after Charles death, I wonder if the children were living with Jane/Jean and something happened to her too during this time period.

Nicholas and his 4 brothers went to live with Richard who apparently lived in Rowan County on Bear Creek which intersects with the Yadkin River through the South Yadkin.

Nicholas Speaks Bear Creek.png

Bear Creek originates about 15 miles north of the Yadkin in a lake near 398 Log Cabin Road today.

Nicholas Speaks Bear Creek length.png

Nicholas lived someplace along this wooded creek which essentially parallels the road, above.

Nicholas Speaks Bear Creek near mountains.png

By 1797, Richard Speaks sold land in Rowan County on Bear Creek as a resident of Washington County, Tennessee – so apparently Nicholas, now 15, moved with his guardian, because that’s where we find Nicholas first appearing in the records a few years later.

Nicholas Speaks Washington County.png

It would be here that Nicholas met Sarah Faires or Farris whose father, Gideon, is noted in Survey Book I in 1781 as being entitled to 250 acres and stating that actual settlement was made in 1768. Sarah grew up on the frontier.

Washington County was the land of land and opportunity. Nicholas was probably relieved to stay in one place for a few years. His journey from Zachia Manor in Maryland to Rowan County, to Iredell County, back to Rowan and then to Washington County, Virginia, combined with the deaths of his mother, father and step-mother had to be unnerving for a young man. Perhaps they would have destroyed a lesser man, but they may have served to forge Nicholas’s personality and steel him for the future.

Nicholas Speaks Maryland to Washington Co.png

Yes, Nicholas needed to settle down for awhile and stay put.

Wedding Bells

Seven years after arriving in Washington County, Virginia, on August 12, 1804, at the age of 22, Nicholas Speaks married Sarah Faires.

NIcholas Speaks marriage.jpg

The marriage was performed by the Rev. Charles Cummings, a Presbyterian minister reflecting the faith of Sarah’s family. Rev. Cummings is buried at Sinking Springs, one of the churches where he preached.

Sarah and Nicholas probably attended either the Ebbing Springs Church (now the Glade Spring Church), or Sinking Springs Presbyterian church in Abington, Washington County, both of which were served by the fiery Reverend Cummings.

Let’s face it, even if Charles Speak and his wife were both practicing Catholics, there were no Catholic churches in the wilderness of the frontier. By the time Nicholas arrived in Washington County with his guardian, the family would have worshiped at whatever local churches existed.

As one of my minister friends so succinctly put it years ago, people attended the “church of opportunity” where they lived. Worshiping God was more important to them than the trappings and specific sect rules put in place by different versions of Christianity.

By 1804, Nicholas was a practicing Presbyterian.

The First Hint of Methodism

The first hint of how Nicholas might have become Methodist is held in the journal of Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury stating that he had visited in the home of Gideon Faires.

Asbury was one of the first Methodist Bishops in America, volunteering to travel the colonies, then the frontier, on horseback serving in essence as a horseback-riding missionary.

This suggests that it’s likely that Gideon embraced the faith of this new religion of Methodism, probably sometime after his daughter married in 1804, and possibly after Reverend Cummings death in 1816. Perhaps Sarah and Nicholas were also inspired by this new faith as Methodist circuit riders traveled the area evangelizing the new settlers.

The Revival of 1800, a series of evangelical “Camp Meetings” in Kentucky and Tennessee combined both Presbyterian and Methodist communion observances and impressed Asbury deeply. The Camp Meetings in which settlers’ entire families would travel sometimes for days by wagon to “camp” at a meeting house (church) or even in a field to hear evangelical preachers became a staple of the frontier social and religious life. These meetings continued into the 1900s in the area of Virginia and Tennessee where Nicholas established the Speaks Methodist Church.

Wikipedia tells us that Asbury preached in myriad places: courthouses, public houses, tobacco houses, fields, public squares, wherever a crowd assembled to hear him. Beginning in 1784 with his ordination and for the remainder of his life he rode an average of 6,000 miles each year, preaching virtually every day and conducting meetings and conferences. Under his direction, the Methodist church grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members and 700 ordained preachers. Nicholas would become be one of them.

According to cousin Dolores:

Nicholas Speak and his family participated in the camp meetings held at the Jonesville Campground, today the site of the Jonesville Campground Methodist Church. The first Camp Meeting was held about 1810, under a brush arbor. In 1827, a shed or tabernacle was constructed in the center of the grounds and covered with clapboards. The original camps were mostly built of logs inside the enclosure of the rock wall. Crude beds, tables and seats were built and left with the camp from year to year. These camps were burned during the Civil War when the Confederate troops camping there left hurriedly without extinguishing their fires.

“In the early days the people came from far and near, by wagon drawn by oxen or horses, by horseback, or walked to worship at the annual camp meeting. They brought with them enough food, bedding, and cooking utensils for their families and friends, also feed for their livestock, to last the duration of the meeting, a week or ten days.” (Early Settlers of Lee County, VA and Adjacent Areas, Volume I, 1977, Anne W. Laningham, pp. 9-10).

Our ancestor, Nicholas Speak, is listed as a participant in the early church minutes pertaining to this campground. In another reference to the camp meeting held at the Jonesville Camp Ground beginning Aug. 13, 1836 (also the time of a “Quarterly Conference”), Nicholas Speak is listed as a L.E. (local elder) and John Speak (son of Nicholas) is listed as a Classleader. (Ibid., pp. 9-10)

Dola Queener, then of Jacksboro, TN, sent me this explanation of Local Elder, since I am not familiar with Methodism. “Elders are ministers who have completed their formal preparation for the ministry of word, sacrament and order; have been elected itinerant members in full connection with an annual conference; and have been ordained elders in accordance with the order and discipline of the Methodist Church.” This comes from “The Book of Discipline 1984, page 219, Article 432-1.”

Elsewhere, I found reference to Nicholas as a “located minister,” which leads me to believe that Nicholas was the pastor of Speaks Chapel Church and did not preach at other churches on a regular basis.

Nicholas Speaks Jonesville campground.jpg

Photo courtesy Dolores Ham.

Life in Washington County, VA

Like Francis Asbury, Nicholas may have traveled to attend Camp Meetings in Tennessee and Kentucky, but he and Sarah lived in Washington County, VA where 9 of their children were born between 1804 and 1822. The last two children were born after the family moved to Lee County, VA about 1823.

Nicholas and Sarah owned land in Washington County, VA. In deed book 4, pages 231-232, we find that on October 17, 1809 William Brown and Elizabeth his wife of Washington County conveyed 60 acres lying on the south side of the Holston River. Unfortunately, the Holston has three branches in present day Washington County, so without running the deeds forward in time, it’s impossible to know which of the three branches hosted Nicholas’s land.

Then, on December 18, 1810, on page 396 of the same book, Nicholas Speak purchased 28 acres from Robert and Jane Caldwell lying on the north side of Little Stone Mountain, adjacent to William Hickenbottom’s land and also to the corner of Mifflin’s land, also in Washington County.

Little Stone Mountain is on the Powell River in present day Wise County, VA, bordering the Jefferson National Forest. This is rough terrain, and no place close to the Holston River. It’s possible that I’ve misidentified this location, but I don’t find another Little Stone Mountain and Wise County was taken from Washington County.

Nicholas Speaks Little Stone Mountain.png

Then, in deed book 5, pages 61 and 170, on February 16, 1813, Nicholas and Sarah sold both tracts to Christopher Ketring of Washington County, Virginia.

Where they lived from 1813 until 1822 when their last child was born in Virginia is a mystery.

Regardless of where they lived, the War of 1812 interrupted their lives.

War of 1812

Nicholas was drafted to served in the War of 1812 on August 15, 1814 and served in the 7th Regiment of the Virginia Militia in the Company of Abram Fulkerson, serving at Fort Barbour at Norfolk, VA.

Fort Barbour

Nicholas was honorably discharged from Fort Barbour (above) on February 22, 1815, making his way the 380+ miles to home, crossing a mountain range, probably on foot.

NIcholas Speaks Norfolk to Washington Co.png

Nicholas’s military file indicates that he was drafted in Virginia August 15, 1814 and served for 6 months and was honorably discharged at Fort Barbour on February 22, 1815.

Thankfully, even though Nicholas had lost his original discharge papers, in 1850, he petitioned for bounty land.

Nicholas Speaks War of 1812 petition.jpg

Nicholas’s petition from the National Archives packet carries his original signature!

Nicholas Speaks War of 1812 petition Sarah.jpg

Following Nicholas’s death in 1852, in May of 1855, Sarah petitioned for another bounty land grant, adding more information. Sarah and says Nicholas was discharged at Norfolk, VA and that he was drafted in Washington Co., VA She also states that they were married in Washington Co., VA in 1803 by Rev. Cummings, the Presbyterian minister. She provides Nicholas death date as well, June 2, 1852. Sarah signed with her mark.

The Move to Lee County, VA

In the 1820 census, Nicholas and family are living in Washington County, VA, but they moved to Lee County before the 1830 census.

Nicholas Speaks is in the 1830 Lee. Co. Va. census age 40-50, wife 30-40, 2 males 5-10, 1 male 10-15, 2 males 15-20, 1 female under 5, 1 female 5-10, 1 female 10-15. Three people were participating in agriculture.

We know the family moved about 1823 when the first land transaction occurred listing Nicholas as living in Washington County. Since the land was purchased in November 1823, did they move yet that winter, or did they wait until warmer weather?

Nicholas Speaks from Robert Cumings, November 29, 1823 – Lee County Deed book 5, page 145.

Nicholas bought another piece of land in 1837.

Nicholas Speaks from Samuel Ewing April 11, 1837 – Lee County Deed book 7, page 302.

We don’t know what motivated the move to Lee County. It appears that Nicholas and Sarah did not own land in Washington County, so the move to Lee County would not have been complicated by land ownership.

By 1824, Nicholas was on the Lee County, VA tax list, photo courtesy either Dolores or Lola-Margaret.

nicholas land entry

The Early Settlers of Lee County, Virginia book features Nicholas Speak on page 947, providing the following information:

Nicholas Speak of Washington Co., VA, on 29 Nov. 1823, purchased a tract of land lying in Lee, Virginia, USA on the head of a small east branch of Martins Creek (now known as Speaks Branch) containing 520 acres, from Robert E. &Mary Cummings of Washington Co. for $780 (DBK 5, 145).

After the purchase of this land, Nicholas Speak removed with his family to Lee Co., and settled on his newly acquired land where he became a well-known citizen and a leader in the County and the community. Nicholas Speak was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was the founder and a piller of the Church bearing his name–Speaks Chapel.

In deed book 8, p. 216A, Nicholas Speak conveyed the land for the Methodist Episcopal Church to Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, of Claiborne Co., TN, and Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs of Lee, Virginia, USA, for one dollar, and specifies that it shall be used for the said church.

Martin’s Creek, Now Speaks Branch

Over time, Martin’s Creek became known as Speak’s Branch.

Nicholas Speaks Speaks Branch.jpg

Speaks Branch, the beautiful little spring that sustained Nicholas and family.

Today, this property is located on Speaks Branch Road.

Nicholas Speaks Speaks Branch Rd.jpg

Speaks Methodist Church

In 1839, Nicholas insured his legacy, and his church, would last what I’m sure he hoped was forever.

Again, from the Early Settlers book under the title of “A Brief History of Speaks Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church:”

In the year 1839, Nicholas SPEAK, Sr., deed to the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church for their use, a tract of land or lot of land, as shown by deed DBK 8, p. 216A, recorded in Lee, Virginia, USA. The deed is the only written evidence I have been able to find in regard to the church. There is no written evidence in existence telling when the church was organized or by whom.

The original building was a large log structure, with seats made by split logs, with holes bored in them with pins inserted for legs. The heating equipment was made by two box like frames about 5 by 5 feet square, and 12 inches high, which were placed on the floor and filled with earth. In the center of these squares was heaped large piles of charcoal, which served as fuel and heated the building nicely, the smoke passing out through the roof as there was no overhead ceiling. The original building was used to teach school in for many years. I attended my first school there 75 years ago. (M. M. SPEAK) (Note by writer: No date is given for the compilation).

After the Civil War when the “division” came in the church, both branches of the Church used this building for worship for many years. Finally a misunderstanding arose in regard to who was the legal owners of the property. Most of the M.E’s withdrew their membership, and built a church over by Powell River. The church is known as the Fairview M.E. Church. This upheaval became near being the undoing of the two branches of the church in this community as neither has been very prosperous since, but, thankful to a ‘faithful few,’ Speaks Chapel is still functioning.

I am not a member of the Methodist Church but I have always been interested in Speaks Chapel and always will be. My parents and all their people were members of this church. “My sincere hope and prayer is: That God in his mercy and wisdom will help the church at Speaks Chapel to become strong again and once again become a ‘Power for God,’ as it was when I was a boy.

Names of some of the original members: Nicholas Speak, Sr. and wife; Jonathan Haynes & wife; James Bartley and wife; John Speak, Sr. and wife; Tandy Welsh; William Morgan; Adam Yeary; Charles Speak; Nathan Hobbs; Fanny Speak Rosenbaum; Rebecca Speak Rosenbaum; Henderson Rosenbaum; Samuel Speak & wife; William Hardee (Hardy) & wife.

Names of some of the present members now living near Speaks Chapel: Lillie Davis, Susie Levins, Mary Fee, James Rosenbaum, Charlie Ball, J. A. Rosenbaum, Vola King, Charlie Rosenbaum, John Ball, Mrs. Robert Saylor,Emma Edds, Roy DeBusk, Mae DeBusk, Sheffie Rosenbaum.” (Note: Mr. Robert L. Rosenbaum, a descendant of the Speak family, contributed the History of Speaks Chapel by M. M. Speak.)

This account given on pp. 951-952 of “Early Settlers of Lee, Virginia, USA”, as was the following deed. “Deed Book 17, p. 215, 30 May 1874: Samuel Speak, John Speak, James A. Speak, Fanny J. Rosenbalm; to John Speak, Stokely Dagley, Tilman T. Ball, John Botner, William H. Speak, James A. Speak, James Bartley, George Baumgardner, Jonathan Haynes, Fi[e]lding Speak, trustees, grant trustees and their successors…west side of Glade Branch, for the benefit of the Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church South joingly…free from ourselves, heirs….William A. Speak a justice acknowledged deed, etc.

In a letter to his daughter, Fannie Speak Parrott, Marion Mitchell Speak (b 1866) says, “It was the first church I attended preaching and Sunday School at.” Also, “I attended my first school at the old church house – as there was no school house in the neighborhood when I became school age.

Today, an old school or church bell is installed beside the church although the provenance is unknown.

nicholas church bell

Nicholas assuredly wanted to guarantee that the church would remain viable, which prompted him to deed the acre of land where the church stood to the church trustees, which included his son, Charles Speak.

Cousin Dolores transcribed the deed:

To Tandy Welch, Trustee of Speaks Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church

This Indenture made this ____ day of ____ in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine Between Nicholas Speak of Lee County and State of Virginia of one part and Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs, trustees in trust for the use and purpose herein after mentioned all of the County of Lee and State aforesaid (Morgan, Welch and Yeary of Claiborne County and State of Tennessee) Witnesseth that the said Nicholas Speak for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar in specie to him in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath given granted bargained and sold and by these presents doth grant bargain and sell unto the said Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs and their successors (trustees) a certain lot or parcel of land containing one acre and 9 poles lying and being in the county and State aforesaid and bounded as follows Beginning at a white oak on the west side of Glade branch S 150 W 13 poles crossing the branch to a white oak near rocks N700 E 13 poles to a double dogwood & white oak N 150 E 13 poles to a white oak thence a strait line to the Beginning to have and to hold the said tract of land with all appurtenances, and privileges thereunto belonging, or in any ways appertaining unto the said Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs and their successors in office forever for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States according to the rules and disciplin which from time to time may be agreed upon and adopted by the ministers and preachers of the said Church, at their general Conference in the United States. And in further trust and confidence that they shall at all times permit such ministers and preachers, belonging to said M. E. Church to preach and expound the word of God therein. And the said Nicholas Speak doth by these presents warrant and forever defend the before mentioned piece of land with the appurtenances thereto belong unto the before mentioned trustees and their successors in office forever against the claim of all persons whomsoever. In testimony whereof the said Nicholas Speak has hereunto set his hand and seal the day and year aforesaid.

Nicholas Speak {Seal}

At a court of quarter sessions continued and held for Lee County at the courthouse thereof on the 19th day of June 1839 This Indenture of bargain and sale for land between Nicholas Speak of the one part, and Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs of the other part, was acknowledged in open court and ordered to be recorded.

During this time, people came from a significant distance to attend church. Both Tandy Welch and Charles Speak lived in the 4 Mile Creek/Slanting Misery area of Claiborne (now Hancock) County, Tennessee on the Powell River, yet they were obviously faithful members.

Nicholas Speaks Speaks Chapel Slanting Misery.png

The earliest known picture of the Speaks Methodist Church is this one taken about 1910. I wonder if the bell was housed in the little steeple structure on top of the church.

Speaks chapel 1910

Another view, judging from the ladder, taken at the same time, photo provided by Dolores Ham.

Nicholas Speaks church 1910.png

The church is small and one room. This photo would have been taken 50 years after the “division” occurred. I can’t help but wonder if the division was precipitated by the Civil War.

This entire region was terribly torn, some fighting and dying for the South, and some for the North. Emotions ran high, not just during the war but for the following half century. Just about everyone had a family member who died in service and some families had members who died fighting for opposite sides. No one was ambivalent.

Nicholas’s son-in-law, William Rosenbalm, died in a Northern Prison Camp and Nicholas’s granddaughter’s husband, Samuel Claxton, died as a result of fighting for the Union. Those are only two examples. These families were ripped apart during and the generation following the Civil War.

Within the family, there is also a persistent rumor of a fire burning the church at one time, but no one seems to have any further information.

speaks chapel 1 cropped

The current church building is this same structure, with a couple of additions, so if a fire occurred, it would have been before roughly 1910. The building in the 1910 photo does not look new, so probably before 1900 if it happened at all. It could possibly have occurred during the Civil War when much unrest occurred in this region and troops from both sides moved through.

Nicholas Speaks church interior 2009

The interior of the church today probably doesn’t look much like the original. You can see more photos by reading the article about when I was baptized in this very church. What a special way to bond with Nicholas with my wonderful cousins in attendance. I felt Nicholas’s presence that day.

For many years, there were less than a dozen church members with a wonderful volunteer minister who could only preach every few weeks. Today many of those members have passed away and the minister is no longer regularly available for the few who are left. I believe the congregation has been combined with another church, and Speaks Chapel is now vacant – which pains my heart terribly.

The future of this historic church and building is uncertain. Currently the Speaks Family Association (SFA) provides some funding for maintenance and upkeep, but without a minister and members, the future may not be as a church.

Nicholas Speaks church commemorative stone.jpg

The Speaks Family Association erected this marker to commemorate the church.

The Cabin

Speaks old cabin cropped

Nicholas’s cabin was abandoned and in grave disrepair in the 1970s. In fact, the family today thought it had simply fallen down and disintegrated, but that wasn’t the case.

Nicholas Speaks cabin 1970s.jpg

The color photo was taken just before what was left of the cabin was disassembled and removed.

Seeing how tiny this cabin actually is, consider that Nicholas and Sarah raised 11 children here, along with several grandchildren.

This is the “mansion house,” Nicholas left in his will for his daughters, Fanny and Rebecca who were not married at the time of his death, which they were to receive after the death of Sarah. “Mansion house” at that time doesn’t have the same connotation that it does today. Mansion house was the primary home on a property. Many mansion houses were referenced as being about 12 by 16 feet, similar to what we see, above.

In the 1970s, a history teacher purchased Nicholas Speak’s cabin for the wood and subsequently, lovingly, integrated it with another cabin left to him by his grandfather.

Nicholas Speaks cabin reconstruction.jpg

The cabin was under re-construction, above.

Nicholas Speaks cabin dovetail corner.jpg

This beautiful building still stands today a few miles away, near Cumberland Gap.

NIcholas Speaks cabin porch.jpg

Not only were the owners extremely gracious and welcoming, inviting us to visit, the view of the Appalachian mountain woodlands is stunning. I could live right here on the porch. I can see myself quilting forever.

NIcholas Speaks cabin welcome.jpg

The owner was extremely generous, inviting me, Lola-Margaret and Dolores to visit and offering us a tour several years ago.

Nicholas Speaks cabin Dolores on porch.jpg

Actually, truth be told, I kidnapped both Lola-Margaret and Dolores and in essence, told them that they both urgently needed to come with me, “right now.” This was literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it was a now-or-never situation. They hurriedly told their spouses they were leaving the hotel with me, leaving the spouses quite befuddled, and we excitedly got into the car, with me explaining on the way. That conversation started out with, “Well, you’re never going to believe this, but….”

To say this visit seemed surreal is an understatement.

Nicholas Speaks cabin winter.jpg

This little cabin is stunningly beautiful. The downstairs is living area, with a contemporary kitchen added, out of sight in the rear. The owners sleep upstairs in a loft.

Nicholas Speaks cabin fall.jpg

Nicholas would love that Christmas is still celebrated inside his cabin with children’s voices echoing through the years .

Nicholas Speaks cabin Christmas.jpg

The boards on the rear wall are Nicholas’s. The owner cataloged each board, so he knows which sections are his grandfather’s and which are Nicholas’s.

NIcholas Speaks cabin hearth.jpg

The hearth and chimney stones were salvaged as well, although don’t recall if this hearth was either partly or totally from Nicholas’s cabin. I do know the current owner salvaged everything outside and inside, so if there were stones, they are here now.

NIcholas Speaks cabin Dolores Ham.jpg

Dolores sitting in the corner by the fireplace which is certainly the main focus of the room.

Nicholas Speaks cabin open door.jpg

It’s dark inside the cabin, even when it’s bright outside. The photo of Dolores and the one above were taken just minutes apart.

Nicholas Speaks cabin corner.jpg

The opposite corner. The doors to the right lead to a contemporary adjoined kitchen.

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The cabin is actually very small.

Nicholas Speaks cabin Lola-Margaret Hall.jpg

This is a terribly out-of-focus photo, but it’s Lola-Margaret in a corner of Nicholas’s cabin just the same and smiling like crazy.

Not only did this wonderful man salvage Nicholas’s cabin, barely saving it in the nick of time, he also saved Nicholas’s stepping stone from the front door into the cabin. He told me he just couldn’t leave it behind, abandoned.

NIcholas Speaks cabin step garden.jpg

He put the front step stone in his garden, until I visited when he asked me if I wanted the stone.


Are you kidding me?

The stone several of my ancestors trod, and some every single day of their lives?

Of course I want the stone!!!

We hoisted the stone into the back of my Jeep with much effort. That one rock made that entire trip worthwhile.

Nicholas Speaks cabin step here.jpg

The stone today that Nicholas’s descendants continue to utilize on a daily basis.

Nicholas Speaks cabin step my door.jpg

Outside my door. Eight generations and counting!

I was also gifted with these metal fireplace frames that came out of the cabin, but weren’t original to Nicholas’s time.

NIcholas Speaks cabin fireplace frame.jpg

I’m not sure what to do with these, so if anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.

The Barn

Nicholas clearly farmed in addition to preaching. Many preachers, especially of small churches were never paid. In the 1840 census, Nicholas still had 3 people participating in agriculture. He had 3 males plus himself. Two were older males. The identity of the second man aged between 60-69 is a mystery, but Nicholas and the two younger males were probably the ones engaged in farming.

An old barn remaining on what was the original property, near the church, retains the notches of yesteryear.

Nicholas Speaks barn.jpg

Did Nicholas hew these boards and strip the bark with an adze? They are clearly not milled, as you can see the individual adze marks.

This could well have been the barn that accompanied Nicholas’s cabin. In many of the earliest mountain homes, the barn was larger than the house. That was true on the farm I grew up on more than a hundred years later.

As we’ll see in a minute that Nicholas had lots of livestock.

The 1850 Agricultural Census

I expected with a small cabin, a large family and being a minister that the family struggled. In 1850, Nicholas is shown on the regular census as age 68, Sarah age 64, two unmarried daughters and a laborer living with them. At that age, Nicholas surely needed help with the farm.

Nicholas Speaks 1850 census.png

I thought they would have probably been poor, and that everyone in that geography was probably equally as poor. However, Nicholas listed the value of his real estate as $4000, substantially more than many of his neighbors.

Looking at the 1850 agricultural census for Lee County, VA shows something surprising. Compared to other families, Nicholas was doing quite well, by comparison to his neighbors.

Category Nicholas’s Answer
Improved acres of land 150
Unimproved acres of land 463 (can’t read the middle number well)
Cash value 4000
Value of farming implements and machinery 150
Horses 14
Asses and mules 0
Milk cows 18
Working oxen 0
Sheep 80
Swine 80
Value of livestock 800
Wheat bushels 150
Rye bushels 0
Indian corn bushels 2000
Oats bushels 700
Rice, pounds 0
Tobacco, pounds 10
Finned colon bales of 400 0
Wool, pounds 160
Peas and beans, bushels 15
Irish Potatoes (white), bushels 5
Sweet potatoes, bushels 100
Barley, bushels 0
Buckwheat, bushels 0
Value or orchard products 0
Wine, gallons 0
Value of produce in market gardens 0
Butter, pounds 100 (or 600, can’t read)
Cheese, pounds 0
Hay, tons 1
Clover seed, bushels 5
Other grass seeds 0
Hops 0
Hemp, dew rotted 0
Hemp, water rotted 0
Flax, pounds 200
Flaxseed, pounds 25
Silk cocoons 0
Maple sugar, pounds 15
Cane sugar 0
Molasses 0
Beeswax and honey, pounds 30
Value of home-made manufactures 150
Value of animas slaughtered 300

What can we take away from this? Nicholas had a lot of livestock, which probably explains the large barn, or maybe he even built more than one barn. Perhaps his children and their families were helping him farm. That’s likely, because James, John and Joseph Speaks were all neighbors and none of them owned property. They were probably all living in cabins on Nicholas’s land and the family shared the farm’s produce.

One thing seems to be assured – no one was going hungry.

Somebody was weaving and churning butter. I’d guessing that would have been the two unmarried daughters who were 23 and 25. In a farm economy, everyone worked from as soon as they were big enough until they died or became disabled.

Nicholas’s Will

According to Sarah, Nicholas died on June 2, 1852. He apparently knew he was gravely ill, because he wrote his will on April 22nd, and the will was subsequently probated on June 21, 1852. Men during that time didn’t write their will until it seemed a foregone conclusion that they were going to need one – and soon. That’s why there are so many intestate deaths.

Given the date the will was executed provides us some hint as to how long Nicholas was ill before he died. By late April, the handwriting was on the wall, so to speak, and 6 weeks later, Nicholas was gone.

I can’t help but wonder, given that he was a minister, if Nicholas was looking forward to passing over to what he perceived was his just reward. He would joyfully reunite with the people who had gone on before and wait for the people who would follow. Death might not have been frightening at all – at least not to Nicholas. But Sarah, who probably sat by his side as be became gravely ill, then held his hand as he passed over, was probably devastated, lonely and wondered how she was ever going to manage that farm alone, with only two daughters left at home to help. As Lola-Margaret says when she “channels” Sarah – she was surely grateful for her grown sons who lived close by.

I, Nicholas Speak a citizen of Lee County, in the State of Virginia being of sound mind and memory, do make, ordain, and publish this, as, and for my last will and testament hereby all former wills by me made.

Firstly, I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Sarah Speak all my estate, both real and personal, during her natural life, if she during that period remain a widow, but if she marry then it is my will that my said wife be endowed of my estate as though I had made no will.

Secondly, it is my will that, at the death of my said wife Sarah Speak, one hundred fifty acres of land be laid off so as to include the mansion house, outbuildings and spring of the tract on which I now reside for my daughters Fanny Speak and Rebecca Speak and give and bequeath the said one hundred fifty acres of land to my said daughters Fanny and Rebecca and to their heirs forever a moiety to each.

Thirdly, at the termination of the estate of my wife Sarah in my land as herein before provided I give and bequeath to each of my sons Samuel Speak, John Speak and James A. Speak and to their several heirs one hundred fifty acres not herein before disposed of, to Jesse C. Speak (my son) I give and bequeath ninety three acres of my land to him and his heirs forever.

It is my will that, if my before mentioned sons Samuel, John, James A. and Jesse cannot agree upon lines of division between them as regards the lands I have herein bequeathed to them then I desire the Court of Lee County to appoint three Commissioners to lay off the said lands in lots as nearly equal in value as may be, quality and quantity being considered and then for my sons to decide the ownership of the several tracts by lots.

The condition upon which I give and bequeath the herein before mentioned lands to my sons Samuel Speak, Johns Speak, James A. Speak and Jesse C. Speak and their several heirs, is that my sons pay jointly and in proportion of the value of their respective lots of lands the sum of seven hundred and fifty dollars as follows, to wit, one hundred fifty dollars to Sarah Bartlet, the like sum of one hundred fifty dollars to my daughter Jane Ball, and the like sum of one hundred fifty dollars to the six children of my deceased son Charles Speak to be equally divided between them the said children, the like sum of one hundred fifty dollars to the eight children of my decd son Joseph to be equally divided between them, and the remaining one hundred fifty dollars to the five children of my decd son Thomas, to be equally divided between them the said children and I direct that the herein before mentioned payments of money to be made by my said sons Samuel, John, James A. and Jesse C. shall be made at the expiration of one year after the death of my wife Sarah Speak to such of the children herein indicated as shall then be of the age of twenty one years or more and then to all the other children as they respectively arrive at the age of twenty one years.

I also give and bequeath to each of my daughters Fanny and Rebecca a horse worth sixty dollars to be delivered to them at the death of my wife Sarah Speak. It is my will that the remaining portion of my estate not otherwise disposed of by my wife at her death, be equally distributed among my heirs at law.

I hereby constitute and appoint my son John Speak Executor of this my last will and testament of which I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 22nd day of April in the year 1852.

Nicholas Speak (SEAL)

The foregoing instrument of writing was signed and acknowledged _in our presence by Nicholas Speak and declared by him as his last will and Testament, and we have subscribed our names thereto at his request as witnesses. Emuel Stafford, John M. Crockett

Nicholas seems to have forgotten about a land warrant, because he added a codicil on My 25th.

Whereas I, Nicholas Speak of the County of Lee and State of Virginia have made my last will and testament in writing bearing the date 22nd day of April eighteen hundred fifty two and have hereby made a disposition of all my land and personal property as will be seen by Reference thereto except my land warrant, which land warrant, now I do by this my writing which I declare to be codicil to my said will to be part thereof will and direct that said land warrant be given to the heirs of Joseph Speak they be eight in number four neffues and four nieces with all its appurtenances as theirs to have and to hold forever and lastly it is my desire that this my present codicil be annexed to and made a part of my last will and testament to all intents and purposes in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this the 25th day of May in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred fifty two.

Nicholas Speak (SEAL)

The above instrument of one sheet was at the date thereof …to us by the testator Nicholas Speak to be a codicil to be annexed to his last will and testament and he achnowledged to each of us that he had subscribed the same and we at his request sign our names hereto as witnesses

Emuel Stafford (SEAL)

Samuel Speak (SEAL)Virginia

At a court of quarter sessions begun and held for Lee County at the Courthouse on Monday the 21st day of June 1852.

The last will and testament of Nicholas Speak deed was proved by the oaths of Emanuel Stafford and John M. Crockett witnesses thereto…and the codicil to the last will was proved by Emanuel Stafford and Samuel Speak and on motion of John Speak Executor therein named together with Cavender N. Robinson, William Collin and William S. Ely his security entered into bond in the penalty of $1000….


Will Book No. 2, Page 209 – Sale Bill of property sold by Robert M. Bales Committee for Sarah Speaks on the 12th day of February 1859.

Admitted to record Monday 20th June 1859 – H.J. Morgan CC

From time to time property of Sarah Speak was sold by Robert M. Bales, Committee.

Sarah Faires Speaks died February 20, 1865.

April 1, 1865 – We the undersigned after being duly sworn have appraised or valued the following articles or species of property belonging to the Estate of Sarah Speak deceased (to wit) Stephen X. Bales Vincent Bales Appraisers Jos. A. Hardy

Admitted to record 28th March 1866

Dolores Ham tells us:

In Sept. 1866, John Speak filed suit for the sale of lands of Nicholas Speak and a division of proceeds or if that cannot be done, then a division of lands. The land was ultimately divided. Many descendants are mentioned in this document, including several who lived out of state.

Children of Sarah Faires and Nicholas Speak

It’s likely that Nicholas and Sarah had one child that that did not survive. They were married in August 1804, and their first child was born in November 1805. Children arrived every 18 months to two years, except for a 3 year span between Samuel and John, both born during the month of January in 1809 and 1812, respectively. A child likely arrived and died about mid-1810. Given the high infant mortality rate at that time, Nicholas and Sarah probably felt God was watching over them and considered themselves lucky to have lost “only one.”

  • Charles Speak, b. November 19, 1805 in Washington County, VA, married 27 Feb. 1823 to Ann McKee in Washington County, Va., died in Lee County, VA between 1840 and 1850.
  • Sarah Jane Speak, b. May 23, 1807 in Washington County, VA. married 1829 in Lee County, VA to James Bartley and died in 1859.
  • Samuel Patton Speak, b. January 29, 1809 in Washington Co. VA; married in Lee County, VA about 1827 to Sarah Hardy. He died March 20, 1861.
  • John Speak, b January 2, 1812 in Washington County, VA; m. Mary Dean and second to Susannah Callahan in 1870. He died after that but before February 27, 1896.
  • Joseph Speak, b. July 20, 1813 in Washington County, VA, died after the 1850 census and before his father wrote his will in April 1852. He was married to Leah Carnes in 1832 by his father.
  • Thomas Speak, b. November 26, 1815 in Washington County, VA, died possibly in 1843, but assuredly before his father wrote his will in April 1852, married Mary “Polly” possibly Ball.
  • Jane V. Speak, b. February 12. 1818 in Washington County, VA; m. January 15. 1855 to George W. Ball, II and died in 1878.
  • Jesse C. Speak, b. 3 July 1820 in Washington County, VA; m. in 1842 to Mary Haynes and died on July 26, 1878 in Laurel Co. KY.
  • James Allen Speak, b. June 15. 1822 in Washington County, VA; d. 9 January 1894 in Lee County, VA. m. about 1844 to Mary Jane Kelly.
  • Fanny J. Speak, b. June 25, 1824 in Lee County, VA, d. May 11, 1906.  Married 2 Nov. 1859 to William Henderson Rosenbaum, as his second wife. Fanny’s sister, Rebecca was his first wife. Rosenbaum died September 26 1864 at Camp Douglas, IL as a prisoner during the Civil War.
  • Rebecca Speak, b. July 12, 1826 in Lee County, VA, d. February 9, 1859, m.  February 9, 1854 William Henderson Rosenbaum as his first wife.

The Cemetery

Across the road from the Speaks Methodist Church is the family cemetery. Based on Nicholas’s will, there were probably at least three sons buried there before he joined them.

NIcholas Speaks cemetery door.jpg

In fact, you can see the cemetery as you look out the door of the church. Did Nicholas think about his departed children as he preached?

Assuredly, Nicholas had preached their funerals and probably laid them to rest as well as several unknown grandchildren.

Did Nicholas think about this every time he saw the cemetery, or did the cemetery provide him comfort to feel that in some way, they were still close?

Nicholas Speaks church from cemetery.jpg

The view of the church from the cemetery. This little white church in the wildwood, at the base of the mountain feels so soul-soothing to me. They ghosts of my ancestors embrace their descendants who visit.

Nicholas and Sarah are assuredly buried here, but their graves, along with many others are unmarked or marked only with now-anonymous field stones. Of course, during the lifetimes of his children and grandchildren, no one needed to mark the location of graves. Everyone simply knew, but that knowledge was lost over time.

Nicholas Speaks cemetery stones.jpg

Several years ago, the Speaks Family Association purchased a memorial stone and placed it in the cemetery.

Nicholas Speaks stone.jpg

The back lists their children.

NIcholas Speaks stone back.jpg

The stone is clearly close to Nicholas and Sarah and many of their children, grandchildren and descendants. The cemetery is small, on a hill overlooking the church.

Nicholas Speaks church from stone.jpg

Perhaps Nicholas has listened to the sermons every Sunday for the past 167 years – over 8500 messages delivered to the faithful in the church left for posterity by Nicholas.

Have subsequent ministers felt his gentle hand and unknown influence?

Nicholas Speaks unmarked stones.jpg

Does Nicholas rest under one of these stones? Does his son, Charles, my ancestor, along with his wife, Ann McKee? Surely so.

They are here.

NIcholas Speaks cemetery 2.jpg

It’s difficult for me to walk away from these places so loaded with the history and bones of my ancestors. They draw me back, again and again.

I always have to take one last painful look backward as I leave, sometimes knowing I’ll never return.

This land is infused with their DNA, and mine.

Nicholas’s DNA

The Speaks Family Association funded several DNA tests for known Speaks direct male linear descendants several years ago. Men inherit the Y chromosome from their fathers intact, so the Y chromosome  would be passed from Nicholas to his sons, and them to their sons, to Speaks males today – intact. The goal was to confirm a connection to the Lancashire “Gisburn” Speaks line, which was successfully achieved.

The good news is that the Speaks Y DNA is rather rare, meaning that 8 out of 11 matches at 111 markers are to other Speaks men, some of which are from the Twiston and Gisburn area of Lancashire. There’s no question that the US Speaks line descends from a common ancestor with those gentlemen.

Unfortunately, many early records are missing and the best we can offer today are approximations as to when that common ancestor lived. We know for sure that it was before 1633 when our immigrant ancestor. Thomas Speake was born, and probably before 1600, but beyond that, we can’t say. In fact, trying to solve this mystery is why we engaged in DNA testing. Some questions have been answered, but not all.

NIcholas Speaks Y DNA.png

From the Speaks DNA Project, open to all descendants, Nicholas’s branch is haplogroup I-BY14004, which is separated slightly from the Twiston group whose haplogroup is I-BY14009.

Nicholas Speaks block tree.png

The Y DNA block tree shows these two brother branches side by side.

The potential intersection of these two branches could be as long ago as 800 years, which would put the common ancestor in the 1200s. Once the private variants are resolved and potentially placed upstream in the tree, the SNP generations could be reduced by 300 or 400 years, so the 1500s or 1600s which would place the common ancestor not long before the records end.

We do know that the surname exists before the records begin in the churches in the area, so the year 1200, give or take, might not be as far-fetched as we might think. On the other hand, if the average SNP generation is 80 years instead of 100, then we’re dealing with 640 years which is approximately the year 1360. Of course, we’re dealing with averages, and who is exactly average?

Other matching surnames on the Big Y test are Carey, Hutchinson, Holmes, Hudson and Ashby, but these men are not STR matches which means that they are more distantly related than the Speaks men are to each other, but still within about 1500 years.

Moving up the haplotree, the first SNP that shows a cluster is I-BY1183, confirming the rarity of the Speak Y DNA.

Nicholas Speaks I-BY1183 SNP cluster.png

The two locations where clusters are found are dead center in England and in Germany as well, which could indicate that the testers knew the country where their ancestor was found, but not the more specific location.

This SNP looks to be about 3500 years old, roughly, and since it’s also found in Germany, one of our ancestors might have migrated from this region, or both groups of men could have migrated from another common region.

NIcholas Speaks I-S2606 SNP cluster.png

One branch further up the tree, meaning further back in time, S2606, between 4000 and 4500 years of age, shows a scattering across Europe as well as the Lancashire region of England, meaning of course that’s where the ancestors of those testers are found. This causes me to wonder how men carrying those SNPs managed to arrive in Lancashire, and no place else in England. Haven’t enough men yet tested, or is there a story there waiting to be discovered?

Did our line develop additional mutations, while their line didn’t? Or have they simply not tested as deeply as our line has?

It’s important to note that while these clusters show the location of the most distant ancestors of people who carry this terminal SNP, those ancestral lines may not have always lived there.

We know that haplogroup I migrated from the Near East into Europe at some point after the last ice age which occurred about 12,000 years ago and that by about 5,000 years ago, the parent haplogroup of our ancestors was found in El Mirador, Spain, having been discovered in an archaeological dig.

Did Nicholas’s ancestor migrate to Europe via the Mediterranean or through the Caucasus? We don’t know yet, but hopefully with the increasing number of people testing and ancient DNA remains being sequenced, more will be revealed in the next few months and years.

Further complicating analysis, the Y chromosome of ancient DNA is not analyzed to the level that we are able to analyze contemporary testers. Once the original academic analysis of ancient DNA is complete, it’s seldom updated as technology improves.

Nicholas’s Autosomal DNA

The Y DNA of Nicholas applies directly to all Speaks surname males. The historical information that the Y DNA conveys applies to all Speaks descendants, females and males who are related but don’t carry the Speak surname. Thankfully, autosomal DNA can be inherited by all descendants.

Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch all three provide segment information to testers that can be compared with other descendants to see which DNA segments carried by descendants today originated with Nicholas and Sarah. The Speaks DNA Project is at Family Tree DNA and welcomes everyone.

Using DNAPainter, I paint segments that descend from a couple, because unless you have the ability to match against the descendants of both sets of the couple’s parents, you can’t tell whether the segment came from Nicholas or Sarah.

NIcholas Speaks DNAPainter.png

I carry pieces of DNA from Nicholas or Sarah on chromosomes 4, 6 and 10. My favorite shared segment, though, is the large 18.2 cM, 4496 SNP segment that I share with cousin Lola-Margaret. That nice juicy large segment seals my special bond with Lola-Margaret.

There’s just something I love about looking at the pictures of Lola-Margaret and me, along with other cousins on our various adventures and knowing that our crazy sense of both adventure and humor might just have been inherited from Nicholas himself.

NIcholas Speaks cousins Charles County MD.jpg

Lola-Margaret, me and cousin Susan standing in “Speaks Meadow,” the land of Bowling Speaks, Nicholas’s great-grandfather, in Charles County, Maryland a few years ago on a great adventure.

NIcholas Speaks Lola-Margaret and me.jpg

Lola-Margaret and me searching for our common love, rocks, on our ancestral land. You might just say we’re the same kind of crazy😊

There’s just nothing like roaming ancestral lands, making discoveries and celebrating ancestors with a DNA-sharing, adventure-loving bonded cousin! Without Nicholas, I would never have found Lola-Margaret, Dolores, Susan, and my other very special cousins. I wonder if Nicholas is watching, laughing and chuckling, or maybe being horrified at our escapades.

Regardless, I am eternally grateful for them, all because of him!

Elijah Vannoy: For Want of $12.58 – 52 Ancestors #233

Recently, I’ve been reading the Claiborne County, Tennessee court minutes 1829-1843 page by page at FamilySearch. Not because I really WANT to, but because I need to and there is no every-name index available for the years in question. As genealogists desperate to discover information about our ancestors, we do what we need to do and there are lots of buried goodies here!

The court minutes are full of all kinds of routine proceedings which include a great deal of both evident and hidden information.

  • Men are assigned to road crews which tells you who their neighbors are and what road they live on.
  • Men are assigned to collect taxes in their districts, which tells you which district they live in and who was the head of the volunteer militia in that district. Both tax collectors and militia leaders are men clearly in good standing and healthy.
  • Residents who were insolvent and could not pay their taxes. These notes state that some had left the state or county.
  • Men were summoned for jury duty and served as commissioners which tells you that they were white, owned land and were considered upstanding citizens.
  • Wills were recorded, probated and estates managed. Supplies for the widows were portioned while the estate was in probate, which means the widow was named.
  • People, mostly but not always men, were arrested and their families or neighbors posted bond, assuring they would show up in court. Not a lot different than today.
  • Poor people were cared for in the homes of neighbors or other residents and the county paid for their care. A lot different than today.
  • Guardians were appointed for orphans and the orphans ages were given.
  • People were sued by their neighbors for trespass, which generally meant a disputed property line.
  • Registration of livestock earmarks.
  • Payment for wolf scalps, after which the sheriff burned the scalp so they couldn’t be claimed a second time by someone else
  • “Juries” were assigned to survey and lay out roads, “the best way,” with as little damage to property as possible. Often property owners adjacent the road were named.
  • A jailer was paid for each prisoner who was named, but there generally weren’t many.

Every now and then, something really scandalous happened – although most of the time the trials were financial in nature. In one case, three men were tried for fighting within sight of the court. I’d love to know what that was about.

One of the most common types of cases was debt. If the debtor had no personal property that could be sold, then their land was attached and sold for the amount of the debt in question. Generally, these transactions provided a description of the property in question, including location, landmarks and neighbors, which can be a godsend when the deed books in question have been destroyed or disappeared as is the case with some Claiborne County records.

Court ordered sales were often not recorded from the previous owner to the new owner, but from the sheriff or constable to the new owner, making tracking the land forward or backward using deeds impossible. The court records provide that missing link.

I’ve been looking for three things in particular dealing with two ancestors and one of their children. Mind you, none of which I’ve found so far which begets many questions and so far, no answers. But them, I’m only through page 360 of 736, which means I have a lot more opportunity to find something.

Plus, I’ve discovered that reading these court notes cures insomnia, but only as long as you are sitting in front of your computer😊

I did discover something about another ancestor, quite unexpected and heartbreaking.

Elijah Vannoy’s Trouble

Elijah Vannoy was born about 1784 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. I wrote about Elijah’s life, but when reading the court minutes, I discovered a chapter I didn’t know before.

Elijah was in Claiborne County by 1817 and obtained two land grants, one in 1826 and one in 1829. The land grant process took several years from the time a grant was applied for, the land surveyed, and the actual land was patented and registered with the county clerk – although the men were living on and farming the land that entire time. There were costs involved too; the filing fees, the surveyor and the recording fees. Many times grants weren’t actually recorded for many years, some descending to heirs without having been properly recorded.

On Elijah’s two land grants, his name is spelled Elijah Venoy and it’s spelled the same way in the court record as well. This makes me wonder if Venoy is how Elijah actually spelled his surname – although we know from his deeds that he didn’t write later in his life. However, in 1817, it appears that he did sign his signature and it was Vannoy.

Elijah makes a few other appearances in the records. In 1818, Elisha Venoy was assigned to a road crew. He was called for jury duty once in 1820, but never again. Many men were called repeatedly. Then, there’s a long gap.

On image 351, page 224 in the actual minute book, at the court session taking place on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 1834, I found the following suit which I’ve transcribed in summary:

Thomas R. McClary vs Elijah Venoy. Found for plaintiff against defendant for the sum of $12.58… no (personal) property found, debt levied against two tracts of land. 125 acres lying on the waters of Mulberry Creek, beginning on an oak and hickory, corner of my twenty five (should say 125) acre survey and survey of John Rays beginning with John Rays chestnut corner bounded by J. Coles and Bakers, this entry number 549 (difficult to read but verified with the actual entry) and 100 acres entry no 272 lying on the north side of Big Mulberry creek beginning at a white oak and maple near a branch and running due west and various other courses for ? so as to include the improvement he (Elijah) lives on. November 19, 1834. Court ordered the sale together with costs.

Elijah Vannoy 1834

Elijah Vannoy 1834 2

On November 19th, the sheriff had gone to Elijah’s and surveyed what property he had, culminating with the recommendation that he had nothing to sell, which meant no cattle, horses, pigs, corn, wagon, nothing. The sheriff’s recommendation was to sell not one, but both of Elijah’s tracts of land – which included the one Elijah lived on.

That’s Brutal

While I certainly understand that’s how the legal system worked, it’s brutal. Why take both of Elijah’s pieces of land? Why not sell one, the one without his home, and see if the debt was covered before selling the second one? 100 acres of land was selling for a lot more than $12.58 in Claiborne County at that time, especially with “improvements.”

In 1834, Elijah was 50 years old. His wife, Lois McNiel either had died since 1830, or would die before 1840. In the 1830 census, Elijah still had 9 children at home – 3 males and 6 females. At 50 years of age, Elijah had no prayer of starting over AND he had children to raise. By 1840, Elijah still had 4 children at home and Lois was assuredly gone.

It is the greatest of ironies that the property owner a few years ago still had Elijah’s original land grant for the property. Few of these State-issued grants remain nearly 200 years later, so this is a rare document indeed. These were the documents shown for the land to be registered, then retained by the property owner. And now, Elijah was losing this land.

Elijah Vannoy original grant

What was Elijah to do? Where would he live? How would he support his family without a farm or any resources?

Joel Tries to Help

As it turns out, in 1833, Elijah’s son, Joel, also obtained a land grant. Joel was young, just 20 in 1833, but Joel tried to help his father by putting a mortgage on his own adjacent land to prevent his father’s land from being sold.

In 1836, both Joel and Elijah are listed on the tax list, but by 1839, only Joel and his younger brother, Elijah Jr. who owned no land but paid a poll tax appeared.

The elder Elijah is missing on the tax list entirely, probably indicating that he is living with another person and had no personal property or real estate. He was not listed as a head of household, but he was a year later in the 1840 census, suggesting perhaps that he was still living in his house on land that someone else, namely Joel, owned.

A Poll Tax had to be paid by and for every while male age 21-50 in order to be eligible to vote. Elijah Sr. would have been 55 in 1839, so he would have been exempt from Poll Tax, but if he owned land or other taxable goods, he would still have had to pay the other taxes due.

Joel, however, is listed with 225 acres total worth $500. It appears that Joel probably owns his own 100 acre tract as well as his father’s 125 acre tract, which is probably where Elijah is living. It appears that Elijah’s 100 acre tract with the house is gone, although later deeds raise confusion about which property was actually retained.

Chickens Come Home to Roost

By 1841 the chickens had come home to roost. Joel and Elijah were refinancing, in today’s vernacular. Both men signed a joint deed of trust because they owed merchants more than they could pay. Elijah signed a mortgage against his wagon and team of oxen, Three months later, two more debts were filed and now both Elijah and Joel are signing deeds of trust for their land. Elijah was indebted to William Houston, merchant in Tazewell, for $33.08, plus interest and to William Fugate for $62.50.

Then, Elijah sells land for $5 to Walter Evans in a deed of trust, stating that if he doesn’t make payments, Walter can sell the land on the courthouse steps in Tazewell.

Elijah also sells land to William Cole for $50.

In October 1845, 11 years after the original Claiborne County suit, both Elijah and Joel, probably very weary of the battle, jointly sold Elijah’s land, signing together, for $250, half of Joel’s land value on the 1839 tax list. The debt being paid was probably to William Fugate because he witnessed the deed, probably anxious to walk out of the room with his funds.

These debts had probably been accumulating and increasing with each refinancing since before 1834. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, until that pattern was no longer sustainable.

By 1845, Joel was 33 years old and had lived with this problem his entire adult life. In January, he had married Phoebe Crumley and I’m sure they wanted to start a life of their own, unencumbered by the behemoth that was clearly not going to resolve itself.

Was There More to the Story?

In 1845, at more than 60 years of age, Elijah went to live with his daughter, Sarah and her husband Joseph Adams, probably a broken man.

Elijah died sometime between the 1850 and 1860 census, his burial location lost to time.

Joel remained in Hancock County (upper right, below) until after 1860 according to the census, but sometime during or after the Civil War, in which Joel was reported to be a Rebel sympathizer, he moved down the valley a few miles to the Little Sycamore community in Claiborne County to start over on what would become Vannoy Road.

Joel Vannoy Mulberry to Little Sycamore

This part of Hancock County saw families torn between the Union and the Confederacy, and not only was there fighting between the north and south, there was infighting between family members. Joel’s wife’s niece and family were murdered for being northern sympathizers.

By 1870, Joel was living in Claiborne County in the Little Sycamore community where his children were marrying neighbors. He apparently owned land, according to the census, but things began not adding up. First, just hints of trouble and oddities, then clear indications.

While Joel Vannoy did “purchase” land again, his life was haunted by the demons of mental illness. By 1872, in Claiborne County, land was deeded to Joel’s wife, Phoebe, instead of to Joel. Deeding land to a wife when the husband was living simply did not happen in that day, time and place. It became impossible to ignore these “irregularities.”

Apparently, by age 50, Joel’s mental health had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer conduct business. No one seemed to question why his wife owned the land instead of Joel, so Joe’s condition was clearly known as a fact and not disputed within the community or by the court.

Fourteen years later, Joel was transported to the “hospital for the insane” in Knoxville, not long after it first opened. According to records of the now-closed facility, obtained in the 1980s, other Vannoy family members were treated in the same facility some years later.

Fifty years of age is the exact age of Elijah in 1834 when the Claiborne County court ordered both of his pieces of property sold for a debt of $12.58 which is equivalent to about $360 today.

Maybe there was more going on than Elijah simply needing $12.58. Had Elisha been suffering from the same creeping and intensifying mental illness that Joel eventually suffered from too? According to family members, Joel’s condition worsened throughout his life. In the end, he had to be “watched” 24X7 and could never be left alone given that he was disconnected from reality. Based on what the family said and his behaviors, I would guess that Joel had a form of schizophrenia, which can be hereditary, and Elijah may have suffered from the same disease.

Any of these problems, unmanageable debt, possible mental illness, or raising children alone is bad enough. However, combined, they may have snowballed on both Elijah and Joel as well. How kind of Joel to attempt to help his father and how sad that it didn’t work, especially after such a long battle, approaching a dozen years.

I can see the two saddened men, father and son, walking together along this creek perhaps, on Elijah’s land, by then owned by Joel, perhaps trying to make it through until they could at least harvest the crops. Maybe, just maybe those crops would bring enough to pay the debt? Maybe this year?

Elijah Vannoy creek and entrance

But the fall of 1845 was no different and they had to make that final, agonizing decision to sell the last piece of Elijah’s land, acquiescing to the fact that they had reached the end of the road. The inevitable had arrived and there was nothing left for them to do. They had fought a long, losing battle and Elijah would have to leave the idyllic little valley and the land he had cleared and farmed along Mulberry Creek, for more than two decades, yet he would live close enough to watch another man farm the land for the rest of his life.

Elijah Vannoy Mulberry Creek

Still, Elijah handed his cherished grant paper for the land he had struggled so long to keep to the next owner. Elijah didn’t have to do that. The deed had already been registered. Thank goodness he did though, because it’s how we verified that indeed, we had found Elijah’s land. A gift to future generations that he didn’t know he was making.

Knowing that Elijah was raising children alone, having lost his wife, farm, home and resources is both tragic and heartbreaking, especially understanding that there may have been yet another health issue complicating factors. All for the lack of $12.58 in 1834.

But that I could send $12.58 back through time and perhaps change the final chapters of Elijah’s life.

Jane “Jenny” Dobkins (c1780-c1860), Roots 58 Years Deep – 52 Ancestors #232

Jane, sometimes known as Jenny Dobkins was born around 1780 someplace in Virginia to Jacob Dobkins and his wife, Dorcas Johnson.

Local Claiborne County, Tennessee, attorney and historian, P.G. Fulkerson (1840-1929), recorded his memories of the relationships of the early pioneer families which were later published in the local newspapers and historical society bulletins under the name of both “P. G. Fulkerson Papers” and “Early Settlers of Claiborne County.” P. G. would have been about 20 years old when Jane Dobkins Campbell died. If he didn’t know her, her certainly knew of her.

P. G. said:

Jacob Dobbins (sic)…children were Elizabeth who married George Campbell, Solomon married Nancy Adams, Jane married John Campbell, Jacob, Reuben, George married Nancy Parks, John and Peggy.

Jane’s birth year is as reliable as the 1850 Claiborne County census, which we all know is a “somewhat reliable” source.

Jane Dobkins 1850 census.png

In 1850, Jane is living with her son, Jacob Campbell and 70 years old would put her birth in about 1780.

Jane Dobkins 1860 census..png

Jane is found in the 1860 Claiborne County non-population census, known as the agricultural census, taken on June 1st, providing us with very interesting information about her agricultural possessions:

  • 75 acres of land, 57 unimproved (Wow, she’s living off of only 18 acres and likely has been her entire life.)
  • $1000 cash value of land, $30 value of farm equipment
  • 4 horses, no asses or mules, 2 milch cows, 2 working oxen, 5 other cattle, 17 sheep, 25 swine, all of which were valued together at $496
  • 63 bushels of wheat
  • No rye
  • 350 bushels of Indian corn
  • 30 bushels of oats
  • No rice or tobacco
  • No ginned cotton
  • 29 pounds of wool
  • No peas or beans
  • 10 bushels of Irish potatoes (white potatoes)
  • 15 bushels of sweet potatoes
  • No barley, buckwheat, orchard products, wine or other market garden produce
  • No cheese, hay, clover, grass, hops, hemp, flax, flaxweed or silk
  • 150 pounds of butter
  • 29 pounds of maple sugar
  • 30 gallons of molasses
  • No cane sugar or beeswax
  • 34 pounds of honey
  • $30 value of homemade manufactures (not sure what this would be)
  • $75 value of animals slaughtered

The photos of Jane’s land, today, show that it’s extremely hilly. Look at the mountain behind the house.

John Campbell house

But, it has a good spring!

The spring emerges from the earth beneath the rock pile in front of the trees, shown below. A fresh spring, meaning clean uncontaminated water was the single most important aspect of scouting for land.

John Campbell hs 11

Obviously, part of Jane’s land was farmable – but I’m shocked to realize how much wasn’t. It wasn’t lying fallow because it was noted as unimproved which means there were trees standing and it had simply never been converted into farmable land – if it even could be. Looking at the steep incline, that’s very questionable.

The agricultural census allows us a different kind of glimpse into Jane’s life. One thing becomes immediately apparent – at age 80 she could not have possibly performed all of the work necessary to plant, cultivate, harvest and process the items on the list above.

Interestingly, Jane isn’t found in the 1860 regular census. She would have been approximately 80 years of age. It has been presumed that she died between 1850 and 1860, but given that other estates of deceased people in the agricultural census are listed as owned by the heirs, Jane must have been living as of the census date. I wonder how she was missed in the regular census which was supposed to have been recorded “as of” the same date. She definitely is not listed living with Jacob Campbell in 1860 as she was in 1850.

Perhaps she died right around this time and was recorded on one form, but not the other.


Not only don’t we know exactly when Jane died, although at this point, I’d presume sometime in 1860, but we also don’t know exactly where she is buried.

Jane was married to John Campbell, but there doesn’t appear to be a Campbell Cemetery from this early date. It’s possible of course that she and John are buried in what eventually became the Liberty Cemetery, above their home, in unmarked graves. The earliest marked grave at Liberty dates from 1889 with the burial of Daniel Jones, but the marker is contemporary.

Jane dobkins Liberty Cemetery.jpg

If they are not buried in the Liberty Cemetery, then Jane and John are both likely buried in the beautiful Dobkins/Campbell Cemetery on her father’s original land which has remained in the family for more than 200 years.

Jane Dobkins, Dobkins Cemetery.jpg

The Dobkins/Campbell cemetery where Jane probably rests with her parents overlooks “Little Ridge” in the distance that separated her home from that of her parents.

Jane Dobkins Little Ridge.jpg

While today one travels the roads, in years past, there were shortcuts over the ridge between the properties. John Campbell and Jane Dobkins lived “above” current day Liberty Church, which didn’t exist then, and Jacob Dobkins lived on what is today the private road called A. L. Campbell Lane.

Jane Dobkins map Campell to Dobkins.png

Back then, there was assuredly a direct route over the hills through those passes to Jacob’s house.

What else do we know about Jane?

While we don’t know exactly when or where Jane was born, we do have some fascinating clues.

Jane’s Childhood

We know that Jane’s father, Jacob Dobkins, states in his Revolutionary War pension application that he enlisted in May of 1779 and resided at the time in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

Jacob provides further details of where he served until August of 1781, so it’s likely that Jane was born in 1779 or perhaps early in 1780. Jane’s mother, Dorcas, could have been pregnant when Jacob enlisted. If Jane wasn’t born by February of 1780, then she probably wasn’t born until at least May of 1782, 9 months after Jacob returned home from the Revolutionary War. It’s unlikely that Jane was born after 1780, because all 3 census records agree that she was born between 1770 and 1780.

Jane is reported by many researchers to have been born in Dunsmore County, now Shenandoah County, Virginia, but based on Jacob’s 1779 enlistment, the Dunsmore County location is at least somewhat questionable. Was Jacob living in Harrodsburg alone when he enlisted? It’s possible, but then his wife could not have gotten pregnant during that timeframe.

Harrodsburg was one of the first 3 settlements in Kentucky, established in 1774, abandoned the following year due to Indian raids, then re-established in 1776. Harrodsburg is considered to be the oldest city in Kentucky and the oldest permanent American settlement west of the Appalachians. Jane may have been born there.

Keep in mind that at that time, neither Kentucky nor Tennessee was yet a state, and that part of the country was indeed Virginia, which is where Jane’s 1850 birth location is given after “Tennessee” was marked through.

In 1788, we find Jacob purchasing land in Washington County, Virginia, but the family might never have lived there. The boundaries of Washington County were vast at that time.

In 1789, when Jane would have been about 9 years old, Jacob, signed a petition to the state of North Carolina submitted by the residents living south of the French Broad River, somewhat of a no-mans land; not Virginia, not North Carolina and not yet Tennessee either. These people, most of whom had once been living in the by-then-defunct “State of Franklin” were asking for assistance – or more specifically, protection from the Indians – a plea that was denied by the North Carolina legislature.

Many years of Jane’s life are missing, but we know that regardless of where the family was residing in 1789, in the 1790 census, Jacob is listed in Shenandoah County, Virginia with 8 people in his household. Did he move back, or did his wife and children never leave? That’s hard to imagine, especially since he had several children. Proximity is required for that to occur.

In 1794, Jacob is listed in Washington County, Virginia in a lawsuit with John Sevier, the eventual governor of Tennessee. In 1795, Jacob is deposed in Shenandoah County, VA. Of course, he didn’t necessarily live there at the time, and he was clearly a woodsman, comfortable with rough, mountainous travel. I do believe this man had a case of wanderlust!

On March 12, 1795, Jacob bought land on the Whitestone Fork of Bent Creek in what was then Jefferson County of the Territory South of the River Ohio, on land where he would live as Tennessee emerged as a state in 1796 and until Jacob moved to Claiborne County by 1801.

This is the land where Jane would have grown up, or at least finished growing up. In 1795, she would have been about 15 and approaching “courting age.” By 1800, she was likely already married.

Jane dobkins Whitethorn creek.jpg

Unfortunately, these photos were taken during a trip years ago and I wrote on the backs before I knew better.

Jane would have blossomed into a young woman here, meeting John Campbell as his family came and went up and down the main road. Perhaps she and her sister coyly flirted, waving as the Campbell men passed by in their wagon or on their horses. Perhaps John and George tipped their hats, finding every excuse possible to ride up and down that road, eventually falling in love with the Dobkins sisters.

The Charles Campbell family didn’t live far away in Hawkins County.

Jane Dobkins Whitehorn Creek map.png

From the Whitehorn Branch of Bent Creek to the area where Charles Campbell owned land, near the ferry crossing the Holston River, would have been approximately 8 miles via the main road.

The Dobkins sisters would have married the Campbell brothers in Hawkins County.

The land that Charles Campbell deeded jointly to sons George and John in 1793 could have been a wedding gift to both boys. Did they have a double wedding, marrying the Dobkins sisters? We simply don’t know. Many records are burned or otherwise nonexistent.

We can only imagine what a joyful day this must have been for both families!

A Permanent Home in Claiborne County, Tennessee

By 1801, Jacob Dobkins was in Claiborne County, and on February 26, 1802, John and his brother George Campbell, married to Jane’s sister Elizabeth, both sold the land they jointly owned in Hawkins County, originally sold to them by their father, Charles Campbell in 1793. Both John and George Campbell appeared in Claiborne County near Jacob Dobkins. On May 1, 1802, John Campbell purchased land.

Campbell map

On the map above, George Campbell’s land is at left, Jacob Dobkins’ land at right and John Campbell’s below – all roughly 3 miles apart as the crow flies.

By 1802, based on later records of their children, we know that Jane had at least one child, Jacob Campbell, who was born about 1801. Jane and John would have married in 1800 or earlier in Hawkins County. Perhaps she rode in the wagon from Hawkins County to Claiborne with an infant on her lap, pregnant for the next family member.

Based on what we know, Elizabeth’s birth year is reasonably well confirmed in 1780 or earlier, although it’s certainly possible that Jane was somewhat older and had borne several children by 1800.

From 1802 until her death about 1860, for 58 years, it appears that Jane lived on the land she and John purchased on Little Sycamore Road in Claiborne County, just above the Liberty Church and below the Liberty Cemetery today.

The changes that woman must have seen!

Jane Dobkins house location Liberty Church.png

The arrow points to the Campbell home. The church is the brown building in the left lower corner, and the Liberty cemetery is the loop road in the upper right.

Campbell house from cemetery

Looking down at the house from Liberty Cemetery, on top of the ridge behind the house.

Years later, Jane and John’s descendants donated an acre of land for Liberty Church, and later yet, gave land for Liberty Cemetery.

Jane Dobkins back of Liberty Church.jpg

Looking south at the back of Liberty Church from the Campbell homestead.

Jane Dobkins Liberty Cemetery towards Dobkins land.jpg

Over the decades, Liberty Cemetery has become a neighborhood burying ground. If you could see “over yonder,” across the hills, you would see Jacob Dobkins land in the distance.

Jane Dobkins Liberty Cemetery towards Estes land.jpg

George Campbell’s homestead is over yonder in this photo, as is the Estes land. Jane raised granddaughter Ruthy Dodson after Ruthy’s mother, Elizabeth Campbell Dodson, died. Ruthy married John Y. Estes in 1841. He probably came calling, walking right across these bothersome “hills” that stood in the way between him and his sweetheart.

Jane’s Home

Maybe Jane was tired – tired of migrating from place to place as a child on what was then the westernmost frontier. Tired of fearing for her life from Indian raids. Or simply tired of moving and the instability therein.

Regardless of the motivation, the two Campbell brothers with their Dobkins wives bought land in Claiborne County and never sold it nor moved. They put down roots, deep roots. Jacob Dobkins may have been an adventurer in the walkabout generation, but his daughters and sons-in-law clearly were not.

Jane Dobkins and John Campbell probably built this house, or at least the central core cabin, with their own hands. The owners told us that a small log cabin was in the center of this house, along with a “hidden room” beneath the foundation.

Campbell foundation

Perhaps memories of spending long nights hidden in fear for your life were all-too-present for Jane.

Campbell step

I love these original stone steps leading into the original cabin door of the home. Jane and John built this, log by log and nail by nail. Jane stepped through this door, on these steps, every single day.

The Vintage Tour

Jane Dobkins house.jpg

I was fortunate to visit several years ago and the owners were gracious enough to permit us to walk around and view the home’s exterior.

In 1830, John and Jane were both enumerated on the census as age 50-60, so born between 1770-1780.

John and Jane raised their children in this home on Little Sycamore, but in 1838, John Campbell died at about 66 years of age. The local carpenter built his casket, as recorded in his estate inventory, and John was laid to rest, leaving Jane to manage a farm.

In 1840, Jane was enumerated as the head of household, age 60-70 (so born 1770-1780), living with 2 other people, a male 10-15 and a female 15-20. These were probably her grandchildren through daughter Elizabeth who had died around 1830. Those grandchildren were probably a great comfort and help to Jane who must surely have been feeling her accumulating years.

By 1850, Jane was living with her eldest son, although they could all have been living on the old home place which fortunately, still stands.

campbell house 2

Walk around with me.

Jane Dobkins back of house.jpg

It’s easy to see as additions were made to the original home.

Jane Dobkins side of house.jpg

Beside the house, this spring nourished Jane and all of her children for her entire adult life.

Campbell spring 2

There was probably an empty hollowed-out gourd left by the spring for all to use as a cup. Dip, drink and enjoy the wonderful cool water emerging from mother earth in the sheltering shade of the old trees.

Campbell spring

I can close my eyes and see Jane walking to this spring several times each day. Furthermore, her milk and butter would have been put in a pool of the cool spring water to keep the milk from spoiling and the butter from going rancid. Water emerging from the earth is a consistent refreshing 52 degrees.

Jane visited this life-sustaining spring for roughly 58 years, and of those, more than two decades were as a widow.

At the end of her years, Jane probably sat in the shade reflecting, remembering and hearing the echoes of the voices of her children from decades earlier as they splashed gleefully in the welcoming water. Those children, some gone from this earth, some gone from Tennessee, and some with adult children of their own had picked up the torch and moved on.

Jane, probably on the north side of 80 years old was ready to pass over and join John.

Jane Dobkins Campbell’s Children

All known children of Jane “Jenny” Dobkins Campbell were born in Claiborne County, Tennessee.

  • Jacob Campbell born about 1801 married Temperance Rice about 1820 and died in 1879/80 in Collin County, TX having 8 children, 5 males and 3 females.
  • Elizabeth Campbell, my ancestor, born about 1802, married Lazarus Dodson about 1820 and moved to Alabama. She died sometimes between 1827 and 1830, possibly in Alabama, having 4 children, 2 males and 2 females. Lazarus moved back to Tennessee with the children, including Ruthy Dodson.
    • Rutha or Ruthy Dodson (1820-1903) married John Y. Estes and had 5 daughters, including Elizabeth Estes (1851-1946) who married William George Vannoy and moved to Nocona, Texas. Elizabeth had two daughters, Doshia Phoebe Vannoy (1875-1972) who married James Matthew Hutson and Eliza “Louisa” Vannoy who married Joe Robert Miller.
  • Elmira Campbell was born about 1804 and died after 1839 but before 1850. She was mentioned in John Campbell’s estate settlement in 1839 and was married to John Pearson, having at least 5 children, 2 females and 3 males. One daughter is possibly Catherine Pearson who was born in 1825 and married Walter Davis in 1842, having daughters herself.
  • Jane Campbell was born about 1807 and died in Texas. She apparently had one child but not by Johnson Freeman who she married about 1829 and was divorced from two years later. See a future article about Jane.
  • Martha Campbell born in 1807/1808 married about 1827 to Elisha Jones. She died after 1850 in Coles County, Illinois, having 9 children, 4 males and 5 females including Mary Ann Jones born about 1833, Elizabeth Jones born about 1836, Martha Jones born about 1839, Susan Jones born about 1843 and Margaret Jones born about 1847.
  • Rutha (also called Mahala) Campbell born about 1808, married Preston Holt about 1827 and died after 1870 in Grainger County, TN, having 12 children, 6 males and 6 females including Eliza Louvesta Holt born in 1828/1829 and married Hugh Bray, Matilda Holt born about 1837 and married James Alexander Willis, Nervesta Holt born about 1842 and married Anderson Kingsolver, Malissa Holt born about 1842 and married James M. Brewer, Clemantine Holt born about 1843 and Minerva Holt born about 1849.
  • George Washington Campbell was born in 1813 and married initially to Nancy Eastridge, then about 1844 to Mary, surname unknown. He died sometime after 1870, probably in Denton County, Texas, the father of at least one son, John.
  • William Newton Campbell was born on June 9, 1817, married about 1835 to Sydnia Holt and died on November 12, 1908 in Tillman Co., OK, having 12 children, 5 males and 7 females.

Given this information, Jane had at least 52 grandchildren and likely more since several are probably either unknown or died before they could be enumerated in the census.

Jane’s Mitochondrial DNA

You may wonder why I noted and bolded Jane Dobkins’ granddaughters through daughters but not males. Women contribute mitochondrial DNA to all of their offspring, but only the females pass it on. It’s not mixed with the DNA of the father, so the mitochondrial DNA passed down through all females to the current generation, which can be male, is that solely of our ancestor. In this case, that ancestor is Jane “Jenny” Dobkins who received it from her mother Dorcas Johnson.

We know almost nothing about Dorcas Johnson’s mother except her name which can’t be confirmed. Was she European or was she perhaps Native American? If she was from Europe, what part of Europe? What was her heritage before the reach of genealogical records?

Those are the answers held by mitochondrial DNA testing.

If you descend from Jane “Jenny” Dobkins who married John Campbell through all females to the current generation, which can be male, I have a free DNA testing scholarship for you. Simply add a comment to this article or e-mail me at robertajestes at with “Jane Dobkins DNA” as the subject. Guaranteed, that will get my attention right away! 😊

Traut Enterlein – Journeyman Apprentice; Now You See Him, Now You Don’t – 52 Ancestors #231

We only know two things for certain about Traut Enterlein. Where he was between March 25th and April 6th, 1822 and where he wasn’t on December 21st of the same year.

These are the dates when Elisabetha Mehlheimer would have conceived the child she bore on December 21st.

Easter that year fell on April 7th, so maybe they were celebrating the end of Lent, or the beginning of spring, or maybe Traut was moving on and the local people hosted a goodbye party for him with lots of good German beer and wine.

Traut Enterlein may never have known he was a father, at least not to Barbara Mehlheimer who was born to Elisabetha Mehlheimer on December 21, 1822 in Goppmannsbuhl, Germany.

Barbara was given her mother’s surname when she was baptized, because apparently Traut was gone and the couple never married.

Truthfully, it may not have been his fault. He was an apprentice, a journeyman on his requisite walkabout.

Traut medieval apprentice.jpg

No, Traut wasn’t a baker’s apprentice as shown in this medieval print, but apprenticeships began in the middle ages in most trades and crafts. Apprenticeships still exist today in parts of Europe, particularly in Germany.

The Baptismal Record Tells a Story

My friend Chris translated Barbara’s baptismal record from 1822:

Göppmannsbühl number 64 [This must be a lot number in Göppmannsbühl.]

Barbara Melheimerin is born the 21 December 5 o` clock in the morning and was baptized the 26th of the same month.

Father: reportedly Traut Enterlein, clothier apprentice from Klein Schlaßung [?] in Saxony.

Mother: Elisabetha Margaretha Melheimerin, daughter of Johannes Melheimer, master weaver in Göppmannsbühl

Godmother: Barbara Melheimer, unmarried daughter of Johannes Melheimer, master weaver in Göpmannsbühl

Order of birth: the third child

Kind of birth: easy, fast

Midwife: none

Wow, no midwife. The baby must have been delivered by Elisabetha’s mother or maybe even Elisabetha herself.

One interesting note is that Barbara was Elisabetha’s third child, and she had apparently never been married because her surname is that that of her father. When Barbara was born, Elisabetha was 38 years old, which begs the question of Traut’s age.

We know that Traut would have been a minimum of 18, so let’s just use 20, meaning that he was born in 1802 or before. If he was Elisabetha’s age, he would have been born in 1784 which would have made him 38 as well. Typically, one doesn’t think of an apprentice in their late 30s. Apprentices began working at their trade in their teens. The best we can do is to bracket his birth between 1784 and 1802 and his death, sometime after April 7th, 1822. Not very definitive.

So Many Questions

Was Barbara a surprise to Elisabetha after enjoying a few glasses of wine at a festive dinner a few weeks earlier, perhaps? Did Elisabetha hide her pregnancy as long as possible, perhaps even up until the time she delivered? Is that why there was no midwife? In a small village, the midwife would have been easily accessible, living just a few houses away.

Was Traut already working elsewhere in his apprenticeship when Elisabetha discovered that she was pregnant? Would it have mattered, especially if there was a significant age difference between the couple?

Was Traut unable to be found? How would you find a wandering journeyman? Were there perhaps extenuating circumstances that we’ll never know about involved?

Chris wondered about the situation too, and wrote the following:

Why did the young Elisabetha Margaretha Mehlheimer, unmarried mother of your Barbara Mehlheimer born in 1822 not marry the father of Barbara, Traut Enterlein? This is a tough one.

Honestly, we will probably never know. What I can tell you is that Traut Enterlein did not marry or die in Wirbenz. There is a church book register for all baptisms, marriages and burials from 1815 onwards and the name Enterlein or Enderlein is not in there at all. My guess – but mind, only a guess! – is that Traut Enterlein had already moved on to another place when Elisabetha Margaretha Mehlheimer found out she was pregnant.

About Traut Enterlein: I searched for the name and did not find anything at all. I did find some mentionings of the name “Enderlein” (not in Wirbenz) and so assume this may have been the usual writing.

In the 1822 baptism entry, he is called a “Tuchmachergeselle”. I translated this to “clothier apprentice”. But thinking about it again, I wonder if you are familiar with the German term “Geselle”, since I think it is not something common in the US or even the UK: In former times it was required for any craftsmen that after completion of their apprenticeship they had to move through the country and work for other masters. Read more (in English) in this Wikipedia article:

These “journeyman years” is what Traut Enterlein obviously was doing when Barbara Mehlheimer was born. So this makes me think that he worked (probably for Johannes Mehlheimer, the father of Elisabetha Margaretha) in 1821/1822 and then moved on. But this is only my hypothesis.

I am not sure at all about the place of origin of Traut Enterlein. It clearly reads “in Sachsen” = “in Saxony”, but the town name is much less clear. I have looked and tried Google searches again and again and have not found the place. It probably is not “Klein Schlaßung” either but rather it is two “e” in the middle and a “z” at the end of the word, which would make it something like “Klein Schleßenz/Schlessenz”. But I cannot find such a place name either. I am sorry, but I think I am lost here and cannot help you further.

What makes it worse: The church book records from Saxony (and the entire Eastern part of Germany) are hard to access and many of them are not even on microfilms yet. So there are less possibilities for searching.

Journeyman Years

The article Chris directed me to elaborated on something I was told in Germany a few years ago. Journeymen wore distinctive clothing as they roamed about the countryside carrying their only belongings, a parcel of clothing, and staying with families.

Given that Traut was a clothier apprentice, he could well have been working for Elisabetha’s father and moved on before he knew that Elisabetha was pregnant. This makes sense, given that Elisabetha’s father was a weaver.

In a certain tradition, the journeyman years (Wanderjahre) are a time of travel for several years after completing apprenticeship as a craftsman. The tradition dates back to medieval times and is still alive in German-speaking countries. Normally three years and one day is the minimum period of journeyman/woman. Crafts include roofing, metalworking, woodcarving, carpentry and joinery, and even millinery and musical instrument making/organ building.

In medieval times, the apprentice was bound to his master for a number of years. He lived with the master as a member of the household, receiving most or all of his compensation in the form of food and lodging; in Germany it was normal that the apprentice had to pay a fee (German: Lehrgeld) for his apprenticeship. After the years of apprenticeship (Lehrjahre) the apprentice was absolved from his obligations (this absolution was known as a Freisprechung). The guilds, however, would not allow a young craftsman without experience to be promoted to master—they could only choose to be employed, but many chose instead to roam about.

Until the craftsman became a master, they would only be paid by the day (the French word journée refers to the time span of a day). In parts of Europe, such as in later medieval Germany, spending time as a journeyman (Geselle), moving from one town to another to gain experience of different workshops, became an important part of the training of an aspirant master. Carpenters in Germany have retained the tradition of travelling journeymen even today, although only a small minority still practice it.

In the Middle Ages, the number of years spent journeying differed by the craft. Only after half of the required journeyman years (Wanderjahre) would the craftsman register with a guild for the right to be an apprentice master. After completing the journeyman years, he would settle in a workshop of the guild and after toughing it out for several more years (Mutjahre), he would be allowed to produce a “masterpiece” (German: Meisterstück) and present it to the guild. With their consent he would be promoted to guild master and as such be allowed to open his own guild workshop in town.

Some wandering years extended much beyond the 3 years and 1 day. This man’s ropemaking apprenticeship lasted for 8 years as the man worked in 112 places in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It’s a fascinating read, with a corresponding map here. This journeyman who worked 112 places in 8 years averaged 52 days in any one place. Now Traut’s absence makes much more sense. In fact, based on this, it’s very likely that by the time Elisabetha suspected that she was pregnant, Traut was already gone. This next paragraph calls into question what would have happened if Traut has discovered that Elisabetha was pregnant before he left.

The journeyman brotherhoods had established a standard to ensure that wandering journeymen are not mistaken for tramps and vagabonds. The journeyman is required to be unmarried, childless and debt-free—so that the journeyman years will not be taken as a chance to run away from social obligations.

This begs the question of what would have happened to an apprentice that fathered a child during their wandering years. What would have happened to Traut and his apprenticeship? Was it possible that Elisabetha didn’t search for Traut, on purpose?

In modern times the brotherhoods often require a police clearance. Additionally, journeymen are required to wear a specific uniform (Kluft) and to present themselves in a clean and friendly manner in public. This helps them to find shelter for the night and a ride to the next town.

A travelling book (Wanderbuch) was given to the journeyman and in each new town, he would go to the town office asking for a stamp. This qualifies both as a record of his journey and also replaces the residence registration that would otherwise be required. In contemporary brotherhoods the “Walz” is required to last at least three years and one day (sometimes two years and one day). During the journeyman years the wanderer is not allowed to return within a perimeter of 50 km of his home town, except in specific emergency situations, such as the impending death of an immediate relative.

How could apprentices be informed that a relative was ill or even had died before the days of modern technology? How was the wanderer tracked? It seems to me that when you returned at the end of your journey, it’s entirely possible that you could find your entire family deceased or having moved. At least others could tell you where they had gone, but if it was to America, the apprentice would clearly never see them again unless he too emigrated and attempted to find his family. After many years of being on their own, that seems unlikely. Skills they would assuredly have learned are self-reliance and adaptability.

At the beginning of the journey, the wanderer takes only a small, fixed sum of money with him (exactly five Deutschmarks was common, now five Euros); at its end, he should come home with exactly the same sum of money in his pocket. Thus, he is supposed neither to squander money nor to store up any riches during the journey, which should be undertaken only for the experience.

There are secret signs, such as specific, involved handshakes, that German carpenters traditionally use to identify each other. They are taught to the beginning journeyman before he leaves. This is another traditional method to protect the trade against impostors. While less necessary in an age of telephones, identity cards and official diplomas, the signs are still retained as a tradition. Teaching them to anybody who has not successfully completed a carpenter apprenticeship is still considered very wrong, even though it is no longer a punishable crime today.

Traut journeyman's traveling book.jpg

This traveling book, from 1818 in Bremen would be similar to the book that Traut probably carried with him. That book, if we could find it, probably carries the signature of Elisabetha Mehlheimer’s father, Johannes, vouching that Traut had indeed spent time in his workshop. Johannes was called a “master weaver” in the baptismal record, which also tells us that Johannes likely served an apprenticeship in the same way as well.

Journeymen can be easily recognized on the street by their clothing.

Traut journeyman's clothing

By A.stemmer, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The carpenter’s black hat has a broad brim; some professions use a black stovepipe hat or a cocked hat. The carpenters wear black bell-bottoms and a waistcoat and carry the Stenz, which is a traditional curled hiking pole. Since many professions have since converted to the uniform of the carpenters, many people in Germany believe that only carpenters go journeying, which is untrue – since the carpenter’s uniform is best known and well received, it simply eases the journey.

The uniform is completed with a golden earring and golden bracelets—which could be sold in hard times and in the Middle Ages could be used to pay the gravedigger if any wanderer should die on his journey. The journeyman carries his belongings in a leather backpack called the Felleisen, but some medieval towns banned those (for the fleas in them) so that many journeyman used a coarse cloth to wrap up their belongings.

Clearly many records are missing today in Germany, but it does make me wonder if Traut died. No marriage, later births of children or death is found for anyone with any similar name, anyplace. Or, perhaps the minister in Goppmansbuhl recorded Traut’s surname as it sounded to him, which may not have been how it was recorded elsewhere.

I would think, however, given that his journeyman’s book was issued from a specific place that we would find records of him there, either before or after his apprenticeship, or both.

Or maybe Traut never made it home. A person traveling on foot throughout the country, known to probably be wearing a gold earring and bracelet might be a target for those very items meant to keep them safe.

Perhaps Traut literally did just disappear, paying for his own funeral with his golden jewelry.

Traut’s Story

My own year spent abroad opened my eyes – widely. I can only imagine what many years would do for a young person, teaching them self-reliance, resiliency, resourcefulness and of course a trade.

Oh, the stories that Traut must have had. How I would love to hear those and all about his journey. The good and the bad. Those years surely shaped him. What did he do? Where did he go? Were there a few special relationships, or was there a different girlfriend in every village? How many children does he actually have? Of course, as we’ve demonstrated, maybe Traut didn’t even know the answer to that question. It’s very unlikely that he knew about Barbara.

Even if we did find Traut in the records, unless we also miraculously found an existing journal or at least his travel book, we would never share a glimpse into those years except for this one very important record in which one single word, “Tuchmachergeselle,” revealed so much.

Traut’s Staff?

As I researched for this article, I remembered a “staff” that has descended in my mother’s family and went digging in the umbrella stand to find it.

No one knew where the staff originally came from. It just kept being passed on, generation to generation. Many of the family heirlooms that my mother owned came from the “Kirsch House,” which means they descended through Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.

Traut Pedigree.png

My mother cherished heirlooms, even if she didn’t know their provenance. The fact that they had been passed down within the family was enough.

Traut staff.png

This staff descended along with a beer stein and plates from the Kirsch House, owned by Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel. Did this belong to them, or did this staff arrive through Nora Kirsch and Curtis Benjamin Lore in the next generation? Was this staff something cherished by Elisabetha Mehlheimer and brought to America by her daughter, Barbara Mehlheimer who married George Drechsel?

In Mom’s later years, she “spruced” this staff up a bit with a new coat of shellac or something similar, and I know she added the rubber foot so she could use it as a cane. She received lots of compliments, questions and comments and when asked about the source, she simply replied that it was a family piece.

Ironically, I think the reason it descended to Mom was that it was deemed “just an old stick” and “not worth anything” to others who were looking for sales value and not family value.

Wouldn’t it be the greatest of ironies that I inherited this “homely” cane because no one else wanted it and it actually was Traut’s stenz used during his journeying? It had to come from someplace and it was clearly treated as an heirloom for generations even though we don’t know why or where it came from today.

Is this even remotely possible?

Nora’s Twilight – 52 Ancestors #230

It happened during the opening keynote session at RootsTech 2019 in the cavernous conference hall at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. The stage lights were shining brightly on Steve Rockwood who was delivering the introductory keynote about connections across generations with our family and ancestors. The rest of the room was movie-theater dark.

Steve was talking about connecting, about how you FEEL, about the extremely strong emotions brought to the surface as we connect with and belong to family, both past and present.

I was but a dot in the massive sea of humanity, huddled side-by-side on plastic chairs in the darkness.

Then I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. I ignored it the first couple of times, but when it vibrated a third time, I thought perhaps I should take a look, just in case, with my family so far away.

What I saw was an e-mail from a cousin who I had found a few days earlier. Perhaps “found” isn’t the right word, because I had met Patty some 25 years ago when we had lunch at a local restaurant to discuss our family.

Patty is my second cousin. We didn’t know each other growing up, because our grandmothers lived in different parts of the country – mine in Indiana and hers in Texas. Her grandmother, Mildred was known to me, but I never met Mildred since she lived in Houston, even though she didn’t pass away until 1987.

My own grandmother, Edith, Mildred’s sister, died in 1960, leaving only one other sister, Eloise, the baby who didn’t pass over to join her sisters until 1996 at the age of 92.

My mother was always close to Aunt Eloise, a bond that tightened after my grandmother passed away. Eloise always talked fondly about Mildred who was 4 years her senior, born in 1899.

Back in the 1990s, Patty and I met one time at the local Big Boy Restaurant and exchanged stories. Since then, Patty and I lost touch with each other and we both lost the older generation.

I was quite surprised and pleased to find a DNA match at 23andMe and recognized the person as Patty.

Just before I left for RootsTech, Patty and I exchanged a brief e-mail wherein Patty said she found a letter from Nora, our great-grandmother, to Mildred.

I wrote about Nora Kirsch Lore’s life, here, but Patty had more information that she was willing to share.

That’s the thing about genealogy, you just never know what might pop up.


Nora’s life began in 1866, just after the Civil War and long before automobiles. Those were the days of horses and buggies. Nora’s daughters rode in the carriage with their father to check on his race horses, shown in the photo below. Nora’s earthly journey ended just 6 years before the beginning of the space race.

Buggy ride

It’s hard to fathom that one person’s life could be bracketed by that much change in only 82 years.

I recently found a few newspaper articles that mentioned Nora.

In 1921 Nora was living in Wabash, Indiana, then Chicago, Illinois later in 1921, 1922 and 1923. She followed where her husband’s job took them.

By 1930, Nora was living in Wabash again, and the 1930 census tells us that her mother, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch was living with her. They rented a house on Sinclair Street and Nora gave her marital status as widowed.

Nora had married her second husband, Thomas Harry McCormack, in 1916 in Rushville, Indiana.

In 1920 they were married and living together, but sometime between 1920 and 1930, they separated.

Eloise or mother told me that Nora believed McCormack was dead, and that could be why she called herself a widow in 1930. It could also have been due to embarrassment. Nora and Tom never divorced, but she also wasn’t exactly married either. He just left and she had no idea where he was.

I recently found a death certificate for Tom indicating that he died on May 1, 1936 in Chicago. Mother mentioned that eventually, someone in his family told Nora that he was dead. She wasn’t notified when his death occurred.

Nora Kirsch Lore McCormack 1940 census.png

In the 1940 census, Nora was still living in the same location in Wabash, at 123 West Sinclair, with a note that the information was provided by a neighbor. I’ve never seen that type of note before. I wish all census takers made notes like that.

Nora is again listed as a widow, and this time, she actually was widowed. Nora was shown as 65 years old, but she was actually 74. Obviously the neighbors perceived her as younger than she was.

In a September 1940 newspaper article published in Rushville, Indiana, Nora mentioned that she was living in LaFountain, Indiana with her daughter, Mildred, but was thinking about “returning some time to Wabash.” She clearly liked Wabash and lived there longer than she lived anyplace else in her life, except perhaps her childhood home of Aurora, Indiana.

On April 28, 1941, the Warsaw (Indiana) Union mentioned that Mrs. Nora McCormick from Wabash was visiting her daughter, Mrs. John Ferverda and family who lived in Silver Lake, Indiana at that time.

My mother would have been 18 years old and she loved her grandmother.

Based on this information, it appears that Nora began living with her daughters in 1940, but may have returned to live in Wabash for some time. On the other hand, the newspaper article may have been inaccurate or made an assumption, knowing Wabash is where Nora had lived. Wabash and LaFontaine are only 10 miles apart.

Mom had a few photos of Nora and we can piece together a bit of her life between 1941 and her departure for other worlds on September 13, 1949.

Nora 1944

This photo of Nora appears to have been taken about 1944, judging from the approximate age of the young man in the photo, Mildred’s son, Jerry Martin. Jerry was born in 1924 and I would guess to be about 20 in the photo, or maybe a couple years older.

Nora 1940s

Based on this information, it appears that Nora began living with her daughters in 1940.

In the last photos of Nora, she has a somewhat vacant or disconnected look on her face that I’ve come to associate with dementia.

Nora, Mildred and Eloise

If I recall correctly, Mom said Nora went to live with Eloise in Lockport because she really couldn’t care for herself anymore.

Patty’s Information

Patty found two things – a letter and a tax receipt for the mysterious property in Florida.

We had heard about property in Florida for years. We don’t know where it was, who owned it, or when it was either acquired or disposed of.

There’s a photo taken in Florida when Nora was much younger, with “Aunt Lou Fiske” who married Arthur Wellesley in 1920. It’s possible that this Florida property had been in the family for some time, since the 19-teens.

Eloise and Mildred in Florida

There is also a much later photo of Eloise and Mildred riding bicycles in Florida that I would guess are from perhaps the 1970s. Eloise looks to be in her 50s or 60s and Mildred perhaps in her 60s or even 70s. Given Eloise’s hair style and Mildred’s birth year of 1899, I’d wager this was taken about 1970-1973. I remember Eloise’s hairstyle being wildly popular when I was in high school and Mildred looks to be about 70, give or take.

The properties behind them look to be inexpensive modular type homes, maybe even double-wide trailers. I can’t tell.

Would it be possible for this same property to have been in the family for that long?

Nora Kirsch Lore McCormack tax receipt.png

Nora Kirsch Lore McCormack tax receipt page 2


Nora Kirsch Lore McCormack tax receipt 3.png

We were in luck. The 1940 tax receipt for Nora McCormick was sent to 123 West Sinclair, Wabash, Indiana – the same address where she had lived in both 1930 and the 1940 census and the location of the Florida property was given as lot 19, block 4 in the city of Okeechobee.

Nora Okeechobee.png

Utilizing the Okeechobee GIS system, I found a property matching that description about 25 or 30 miles from the oceanfront beaches that had been discussed in family stories, but much closer to Lake Okeechobee.

Nora Okeechobee plot.png

The parcel is bordered in red, with the property description card, below.

Nora Okeechobee property card.png

Today, this property is a vacant lot.

NOra Okeechobee neighborhood.png

Clearly, this was a plotted subdivision.

Nora Lake Okeechobee.png

It’s not exactly “in” the city as I expected, but this property is listed with a city address.

Using Google Maps, I was able to take a closer look and found the property.

Nora Okeechobee aerial.png

I was able to “drive” down the street, much to my surprise since it’s clearly a dead-end with no center line.

Nora Okeechobee parcel.png

While this property is vacant today, it doesn’t look like it always was. Notice the gravel patch under the tree.

“Driving” up and down the street, some homes are newer, but there are still many remaining that look similar to the homes in the photo of Mildred and her sister, Eloise.

I wonder how Nora was able to afford this property. Who bought it originally, and who sold it? She was widowed with children and no money when her first husband, Curtis Lore, died in 1909, then abandoned by her second husband sometime before 1930.

Perhaps when Barbara, Nora’s mother died, in 1930, Nora inherited something. Patty said that Nora had paid the taxes since about 1935 and that Nora would always send the tax receipts to Mildred, telling her to be sure to save them, because it’s the only proof she had that the taxes were paid. In 1939, the payment was returned because it was 40 cents short.

Clearly, Mildred did a fine job of saving those receipts. We still have this one today, 79 years later!

Nora’s Letter

The second thing that Patty had was a letter from Nora to Mildred, postmarked February 12, 1949.

Nora's letter to Mildred 1.png

Nora's letter to Mildred 2.png

The handwriting isn’t bad for a woman who was on the far side of her 82nd birthday.

Amazingly, I can actually read those words that would become the last thing we, her remaining family, have from her. Her handwriting was a little wobbly, but far better than mine ever has been.

By 1949, Nora was living with Eloise in Lockport, New York. Nora had lost one daughter in 1912 to tuberculosis, two and a half years after the same disease took her husband. Nora’s three surviving daughters would have been 61, 50 and 46 that year. Nora had 4 grandchildren, 2 sons by Mildred and a daughter and son by Edith.

Mom was that daughter, Jean, born in 1922.

By 1949, Nora would also have had 5 great-grandchildren, including my brother John born in June of 1943. Unfortunately, Nora’s grandchildren lived no place close to New York so she wouldn’t have been able to see them☹

Nora’s letter reads:

Lockport, New York

Dear Mildred I want to write and thank you for the lovely Tan Kid gloves you sent me for Christmas I sure was so pleased with the gloves they sure were lovely Tan Kid gloves I was so pleased I did need the lovely Kid gloves and I want to thank you for the nice Candy you sent I do love candy and I want to thank you for the lovely candy you sent I do love good candy. But my dear you spent to much on me of course we all enjoy the Candy and I thank you again fore your nice selection of candy and I sure appreciate the nice selection (over) so many thanks to you ? and I sure was surprised by the lovely things and I wish you all a very Happy New Year we are all well and hope you are all well and wish each one of you many more Birthdays. I hope little Johnie is fine and I hope he keeps well I would love to see Him and each one of your family. I do hope Johnie is well and is a fine little fellow and that each and every one is well Wish Jean good health and lots of good Health for little Johnie I Hope he got the little Horse and was so pleased I thought little Johnie would like the little Horse I sent be a good Boy Johnie I hope to see you some time. Hope John and all Keep well we are all well. I’d love to see you all lots of Kisses. Mawmaw. Nora.

I didn’t correct the punctuation or the spelling, because that lends to the authenticity of the letter and the place where Nora was in her life at the moment in time.

I found Nora’s letter heart-wrenching.

Nora clearly did have dementia. There’s no doubt based on this letter which confirmed what I suspected from the photos. We don’t know why she had dementia, of course, but Edith, her daughter was showing signs at 72, although Edith also had undiagnosed heart issues that caused her death. My own mother was having small strokes that probably caused her dementia before her death of a massive stroke at 83.

It took Nora more than 6 weeks to write the thank you letter, although you can clearly tell that she had been excited to receive the gifts and wanted to write the letter. She repeated herself over and over and couldn’t really make conversation about what might have been going on in their lives. If you live just outside of Buffalo, New York in mid-February, you’d likely talk about the snow. But no mention of that or anything else in her world.

Nora seems to be struggling to convey the social niceties, such as saying thank you and wishing everyone well. I so want to hug this woman who died before I was born.

Mildred’s children were Jim and Jerry and neither had a son named John. My mother, Jean, had the only Johnie (Johnny) in the family, and he would have been 5 years old, the perfect age to indeed love a little horse. Nora confused which of her children had daughter Jean, thinking that Mildred would know about Jean and Johnie. Nora’s other daughter, Edith, was Jean’s mother and Johnie’s grandmother.

It’s unclear if Nora had ever seen Johnie who was born in 1943, but one thing is for sure, she never saw him again. By this time, Nora couldn’t travel alone, that’s for sure – although you can feel the aching in her letter to see Johnie – even 70 years after she penned those words.

Eloise never had children, her husband, Warren, having been disabled not long after their marriage in 1929.

In 1949, Eloise was caring for both her mother and her husband, or perhaps her mother and husband were caring for each other while Eloise worked to support the family.

Nora passed away 7 months after she wrote this letter, on September 13, 1949. I don’t have her death certificate, so I don’t know the official cause of death. Maybe Patty knows or has that document.

I do know that Nora specifically requested that she NOT be buried under the surname of McCormack. Her body was transported back to Rushville, Indiana for burial where she was laid to rest beside her daughter and her first husband, Curtis B. Lore, 40 years, shy 2 months after his death – as Nora Lore, not as Nora McCormack. Thomas McCormack had been nothing more than a bad dream, a flash in the pan, as permanently erased as Nora could make him.


But the final ache in my heart was seeing Nora’s next to last word. Not her name, Nora, but the word Mawmaw.

As I sat in the inky darkeness of the conference center, with Steve Rockwood’s voice in the background, I looked at Nora’s handwriting on the tiny screen between my knees. I read that word and vividly remembered the pink ribbon banner on my mother’s own casket that said “Mawmaw.”

Tears filled my eyes, blurring everything except memories.

Mawmaw was a tradition. Barbara Drechsel, Nora’s mother was probably Mawmaw too, as my mother was to her grandchildren.

Mother was adamant about that. She was never Grandma or anything other than Mawmaw, as my grandmother was to me.

I realized sitting there as Steve talked about traditions and generations that I had failed to understand the importance of Mawmaw. That the grandmothers for who-knows-how-many generations in my family had called themselves and been called Mawmaw. It was right there in this sad letter in Nora’s own handwriting, in what was probably the last letter she ever wrote. She blew kisses and signed off, calling herself Mawmaw. That, she knew clearly.

Without intending to, I had failed to continue an important tradition. I never chose what my grandchildren call me. I should have been Mawmaw. At least a 4 or 5-generation tradition has been lost forever. I wish I had realized.

My son will never be Pawpaw and my granddaughters will never be Mawmaws themselves now either.

I’m sorry.

I’m so very sorry.

It’s such a little thing that’s a big thing that could have been the umbilical cord linking future generations through that special name to the past. A torch to be passed, a right of passage.

A simple word that provides a connection and immediate comfort to those who have their own Mawmaw.

Salve for the soul aching with loss.

On September 13, 1949, as mother dealt with her own broken marriage, fiancé’s death and tragedy following on the heels of World War II, her Mawmaw slipped away forever through the veil of dementia into the twilight beyond.

Mom Rushville 1940s

My very sad mother beside Nora’s grave, not yet covered with grass, at left, beside C. B. Lore’s stone

The Muller House on Kreuzgasse; Humble Beginnings in Schwarzenmatt, Switzerland – 52 Ancestors #229

Just when I thought I was done with the Muller story, as in end-of-the-line done, another wonderful gift arrived for the Miller descendants in the form of a chapter from a book written by Peter Mosimann and his wife, Berti Mosimann-Bhend whose family owned the Muller home in Schwarzenmatt, Switzerland for generations, and still does.

Peter Mosiman very kindly sent this chapter of his out-of-print book to Chris, who sent it to me. I did my best translating it using

An automated translator can only do so much, even a good one, so I sent the translated text back to Chris, who very patiently reviewed and retranslated over 260 places in this document over the holidays, in spite of having a young family. I feel like I need to apologize to Chris, because this isn’t even his family – although I wish it was.

This may not be your family either, but if you have Swiss or “Alpine” family from Europe, this is probably the story of your family. The goats, the cheese, their hand tools, carvings about God in their barns and…well…just come along. There are amazing photos and it’s never going to get any more “real” than this unless you have a time machine.

Thank You

My humble thanks to Chris and to Peter Mosiman for his permission to use his chapter and his photos to document the beautiful home of our Heinsmann Muller, the grandfather of Johann Michael Muller (Miller) the second who was born in 1692 in Steinwenden, Germany. At least, it’s very likely Heinsmann’s home. We know it was in the Muller family a generation later.

This historic home was built in 1556, according to the date carved into the wall, 100 years before Johann Michael Muller was born, but half a century after we know that a Muller man was living in Schwarzenmatt.

Johann Michael Muller the second, whose father was born in Schwarzenmatt, along with his half-brother, Jacob Stutzman whose family was also from this region and possibly from this village, immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1727, founding both the Stutzman and Miller lineages in the US. Our roots run deep in this valley.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Peter and his wife, Berti Mosimann-Bhend for preserving and restoring this wonderful historical home for future generations. You can read in the text the extent of their frustrations but were it not for their perseverance, there would be nothing left today.

Before we read Berti’s chapter, lets take a look at the earliest history of Schwarzenmatt, the quaint Swiss alpine village where Johann Michael Muller was born to Heinsmann Muller in 1655.

Come along…

Prehistory of Schwarzenmatt

As we travel further back in time in the human occupation of our planet earth, records become increasingly scarce. Eventually, of course, the only records are archaeological sites found in caves and shelters where our very distant ancestors lived. Pathways faintly threaded through the mountains and forests connecting one location with the next, or shelters with hunting grounds.

During the Middle Ages forts and castles were built along these routes to protect access, although all are in ruins today. Villages were established as waypoints, probably accidentally, beginning with a single hut, and grew slowly over time.

The villages and farms in this region came under Bernese control in 1386 and at that time, several villages were listed, including Boltigen, first mentioned in 1286, and Schwarzenmatt. The Boltigen church, St. Mauritius is first mentioned in 1288, so enough people were living there at that time to warrant the erection of a (then Catholic) church in the community.

Traditionally, villages in this valley imported grain from Bern and raised cattle on the valley floor and in seasonal alpine herding camps. Some trade occurred over the Juan Pass, shown below, crossing the Alps to France as well.

CC BY-SA 3.0,

Our Muller family is first found in the records of Schwarzenmatt in the early 1500s, at least by name, but humans inhabited the alpine valley and mountains long before. Who knows, these early settlers could have been our ancestors, or they could have moved on or eventually their lineage might have been wiped out.

The first trace of human habitation is found about a mile and a half as the crow flies, above Schwarzenmatt in the mountains towering over the village.

By Ulrich Eranrb, Boltigen BE, Switzerland – Self-photographed, CC0,

The Ranggliloch Mesolithic shelter from about 15,000 years ago is a cave above what eventually became a mule path known as the Juan Pass (1509 meters) that connects Boltigen in Switzerland with Jaun in France and passed directly through the tiny village of Schwarzenmatt.

The Letter

Now that we know a bit about the earliest history of the area, let’s turn to Chris who tells us that a letter arrived from Peter Mosimann which included the chapter on the house on the Kreuzgasse in Schwarzenmatt, from the Boltigen book. This chapter was written by Peter’s wife Berti Mosimann-Bhend whose family owned the Muller home.

From Chris:

The second-last paragraph in the letter by Peter Mosimann may be a good summary:

“Heintzman Müller certainly lived in Schwarzenmatt in 1653, but whether he lived in our house hasn’t been proven yet. In former times, young families often spent some time at home, but when there were several children, then they moved out and often lived nearby. It should also be remembered that in some larger houses there were two fireplaces, so that we cannot deduce the exact number of houses from this directory.”

Let me add that there is indeed a Wolfgang Müller on the 1653 house list, so it is hard to tell, if there may in fact have been two Müller families in Schwarzenmatt. Personally, I do not think so, but it remains a possibility.

On the bottom of the letter there is a note that in 1653 (year of Schwarzenmatt house list) a peasant war was taking place in Switzerland. I was not aware of this, you can read about it in English here.

The book chapter itself gives no new genealogical information for you, Roberta, except one notion on page 289 that a Benedikt Müller is on record as a Schwarzenmatt resident as early as 1502. Besides that, I am sure you will like the photos!

On the pages 293 and 294, there is a colored floor plan of the house, “black” being the remains of the original building from 1556 and all further parts added from 1705 onwards That means that if Heintzmann Müller and son Michael indeed lived in this very house, then it was about one third of the size it is today – rather small!

Also, please note that from page 308 onwards additional houses are described, not the house on Kreuzgasse.

I was excited to see that one Benedikt Muller was living in Schwarzenmatt in 1502, 153 years before Johann Michael Muller was born in Schwarzenmatt in 1655 to Heinsmann or Heinzmann Muller, however his name was actually spelled.

If we use the 30-year generation as an average, we can presume that Heinsmann was born in about 1625.

  • Heinsmann’s father – born about 1595
  • Heinsmann’s grandfather – born about 1565
  • Heinsmann’s great-grandfather – born about 1535
  • Heinsmann’s great-great-grandfather – born about 1500
  • Benedikt Muller – born about 1470.

Did we just reach back another 5 generations in the Muller family in Schwarzenmatt? It’s certainly possible, but very unlikely that we will ever be able to connect those dots.

The Muller House on Kreuzgasse in Schwarzenmatt

This next section is the chapter itself, translated with and improved by Chris. I have left the translation largely intact, even when it’s stilted, in order not to inadvertently change the meaning.

Page 1 of the pdf that Peter sent, page 289 of the original book, on the bottom right of the page.

In the gable triangle, the year 1556 is at the upper left corner; the house is therefore one of the earliest dated rural residential buildings of the municipality Boltigen and perhaps even of the entire Bernese Oberland; today it forms a rare example of the small rural house type of the 16th century. So that one can imagine the time, in which this house is built, can visualize something better.

I would like to remind you of some important events of that time:

  • 1492 Christopher Columbus discovers America.
  • 1509 Nikolaus Kopernikus explains that the sun is the center of our planetary system.
  • 1515 Battle of Marignano. End of the Swiss great power politics.
  • 1517 Start of the Reformation in Germany by Martin Luther.
  • 1519 Magellanes is the first to sail around the world.
  • 1528 Reformation in the state of Bern.
  • 1531 Kappeier wars. Death of Ulrich Zwingli.
  • 1536 Bern conquers Vaud.
  • 1556 Emperor Charles V of Habsburg abdicates. “In my kingdom the sun never sets.”
  • In Boltigen the entries in the first church book (Eherodel) begin.
  • 1564 The Geneva reformer Johannes Calvin dies.
  • 1572 Persecutions of Huguenots in France. Bartholomew’s night.
  • 1588 England destroys the Spanish Armada.
  • 1608 Invention of the telescope.

It was the time of the masters, the patricians, Schultheisse and Landvögte, but also the time of the muleteers and rice runners, religious wars, plague trains, witches and Anabaptist persecutions, the Renaissance and the Baroque.

Probably the house on the Kreuzgasse was built on the Allmend built. It stands in a striking, sunny location of the settlement, directly on the old alpine and mule track (IVS: BE 25.1) from Boltigen via Reidigen to Jaun and more into the Gruyère region.

Before 1615 there were in Schwarzenmatt only a few courtyards, only four prove themselves with certainty, which also included our house; next to it there were some individual farmsteads (Tuor 1974: 64).

The house may have always been our ancestors. Documents of the State Archives and archival material the community of Boltigen and the Säuert Schwarzenmatt as well as private purchase contracts suggest this. In Schwarzenmatt are already 1425 Agnes Spilman (BU: 271), 1502 Benedikt Mueller (U 2) and 1558 Peter and Paulj Spylman (K 1: 4) detectable. The Spielmann Families and Mullers have been at least since the 15th century and 16th century settled here. Barbara owned in 1720 Spyllman in the Säuert Schwarzenmatt a “Hauß and Spycherblatz” [house and granary] (SSB: 54). 1741 lent Hans Spillmann Saltigen 179 Kr 6 bz 1 X and gave as a deposit the so called “Lehngut” [feud ?] and the house in Schwarzenmatt including beunden [a piece of land with a fence] and garden (AG: 25).

Andreas Müller married Johanna Horner (died 1768) in 1731.

Barthlome Müller (born 1731) her son, took Anna Zimmermann from Wattenwil (died 1775) as his wife. Since Barthlome had fled for unknown reasons around 1770, Anna and her children had to be supported by the community as in the poor calculations (MA 1:1773 f.). Single mothers were I’m afraid it was very badly placed back then. Jakob, Barthlomes and Anna’s son, married her already in the house on the Margaretha Spielmann living in Kreuzgasse (1742-1819); unfortunately, Jakob died very early (1758-1785). In his widow Margaretha lived with her two children two children Anna (1779-1837) and David (1782-1817) and her sister Magdalena Spielmann (1747-1812). Both women were sentenced in 1786 by the choir court for unauthorized serving of wine without permission, each penalty of 1 lb (C VIII: 31 0). Already their father, the mule skinner Hans Spielmann (died 1784) had to appear before the choir court several times because of unauthorized sale of wine and unauthorized [“Wirtschaft” is an inn, so “Winkelwirtschaft” could be an inn at a street corner, but I am guessing. Alternatively, it could as well be a specific juristic term for unauthorized sale.] at the Schafscheid [a place, where sheep are separated in different groups and directed on different roads] in Schwarzenmatt (C VI: 404, 409, 412). In 1805 Margaretha was (owed?) the Moneylender Johannes Zabli at Brunnehus 33 Kr 1 0 X accrued interest owed (EA: 12).

Kreuzgassen: Magdalena and Margritha Spielmann have all the house rules. 1808. AGM: 18.

Page 2 of pdf, page 290 of document.

The Kauf-Beyle of 1819/1825 states that “the lower half of the house (on Kreuzgasse) belongs to David Müller (1782-1817). Children of thought Schwarzenmatt “I belong to.” These five children were siblings of the seller Anna Spielmann, Johannes’ daughter from Weissenbach. She had inherited from her grandmother Margaretha Müller, née Spielmann, widow of the late Jakob …, half of the house. According to above Purchase and sale of orphans of Boltigen Municipality in Anna’s name her part of the house to old Gerichtsäss Jakob Gobeli zu Weissenbach (1746-1839), husband of Anna Müller (1779-1837).

Anna Müller’s brother David (1782-1817), Jakob’s son, married (Eherodel burned) Magdalena Karlen (1775-1827). He died as a soldier in a hospital in Holland. Their children were David (1803-1878), Magdalena (born 1805), Anna (born 1811), Christian (born 1814, teacher) and Margaretha (1816-1862). Later, Jakob Gobeli must have passed on his half of the house to these five children.

David Müller (1803-1878), known as “the hunter”, married in 1825 with Barbara Reidenbach (1798-1853). Her children were Barbara (born 1825, died in the USA). Caroline (1833-1903). Susanna (born 1834), David (1840-1897 died in Ohio) and Friedrich Wilhelm (born 1842, died in the USA).

In 1837 David acquired his four siblings’ shares in house and real estate, so that he is the sole owner of the in the house on Kreuzgasse. Caroline was my great-grandmother, she took (married) in 1868 in Spiez, Friedrich Bhend (1836-1904), of Jacob blessed, to man; he was cheese maker and Salzer and came from the small town Unterseen, his hometown. In 1872 David Müller sold the whole property for 6’700 Fr. to his daughter Friedrich Bhendin. His children were Louise (1872-1884) and Frederick (1873-1943). He married Susanna in 1903.

Katharina von Allmen (1877-1950); both were my Grandparents. They had three boys: Friedrich (1904-1984), Johannes (1906-2005) and Karl (1909-1973).

Johannes Bhend and Elise Stalder (1911-2008), my parents [the parents of Berti Mosimann-Bhend] held their wedding in 1935 and were gifted with five daughters: Rasmarie (born 1935), Hulda (born 1937), Elise Bertha (born 1940), Therese (born 1943) and Verena (born 1946).

If this chart is accurate, Berti and I are 9th cousins, once removed, or 9C1R. The three people in red immigrated to the US, and we’ll meet David, highlighted in red, later. Back to Berti:

After the move of my parents to the old age center “Bergsonne “the house in Zweisimmen was uninhabited since 2002. In February 2009 I bought it from the community of heirs.

With the “Ferien im Baudenkmal” Foundation FIB”, a sub-organization of the Swiss Heritage Protection, in 2010 an agreement was signed for 30 years completed. For the gentle reconstruction and the conversion into a holiday home was the subject of an architectural competition, won by the architects Bühler AG in Thun.

The house was built on top of it, after a six-month delay due to a neighbor’s building objection, from May to Christmas 2011 by the Foundation; in cooperation with the cantonal authorities. preservation of historical monuments, but mostly disregarding my wishes as owner and financier.

Unfortunately, the work was not done at all gently, as promised before, and without feeling for the historically valuable, interesting house! Thereby especially local craftsmen. On 21 December 2011 took place the inauguration, and on 25 December the first holiday guests moved in.

Image on page 290

The house on the Kreuzgasse in Schwarzenmatt from 1556. Susanna Katharina and Friedrich Bhend-von Allmen [his family name] stand in front of the ring fence.

With their children Friedrich, Karl and Johannes. Little boys used to wear skirts. The rings of the fence were made of green, slender twigs of dance. In front of the house stands a “Scheielizaun”. Photo from 1912, owned by B. Mosimann.

The house property bordered 1872 “above (N) at the Magdalena Eschler Soil, outside (E) and below (S) an the alley and inside 0NJ at Susanne Stocker Erben Bäunde.” To the house belonged a house pasture or five feet right on the Hausweidreidigberg and the ground serving summation or right of pasture to the of summed up Schwarzenmatt grounds. It was the impetus after with the alley maintenance complained [I am guessing again: “Kaufbeile” is probably the archival folder for house purchases] in 1872.

The house possesses an old house right (HV: 18), which the residents are entitled each year to take one of the following forest ranger marked fir tree, called lot wood, for his own use to fell. An old house belonging to the house winter right of way allows them to use the logs in winter with the horn sledge to the western neighboring property to lead it there to firewood, and next door to it in the woodcut. In spring, all the traces of logging on neighboring land removed be. The current owner refuses to know anything about any old rights.

All over the world, people used to use the material which nature has offered on the spot; thereby are the characteristic houses of a region of the country which fit in perfectly with their surroundings. The most important building materials in the Bernese Oberland were wood and stone well into the 20th century; both stood in the immediate vicinity in sufficient quantity and reasonably priced, so also for our house. The walls of the basement, the west wall, the wall between cook and stable as well as the pedestal of the east wall between the house door and the stable door consist of unhewn quarry stones, from boulders and brook debris in all sizes; they all originate from the near environment or even from the pit itself. The stones are made with only little lime mortar connected, plastered and white limed over. The art of masonry was here in the valley at that time still little developed and stands in contrast to the to the remarkable carpentry of this house.

In 2011, we invited the archaeologists of the Service (ADB) for a tour of the old building but unfortunately the offer was not used.

The house underwent various structural changes. 9.11.2009.

The roofs of the residential part and the stable were 1951 only with shingles, later then partly above the shingles covered with bricks, such as those around the new fireplace. Around 1960 the whole western part of the wall above the dwelling covered with bricks. 1977 one laid over the shingles of the apartment – in place the brick – Eternit plates and over the shingles of the stable brick.

(Page 4 of pdf, 292 of original)

During the reconstruction of 2011 the whole, well preserved cement asbestos roof together with the existing shingle roof again for no reason through heavy tiles is replaced. A good shingle roof insulates against summer heat and winter coldness; therefore it was in the Gaden [The “Gaden” must be a specific Swiss German term of a room. I never heard it before and cannot find information about it online.] never unpleasant even in the worst summer heat warm. Since the air here in the mountains in the evening always cooled, we girls in the Gaden could always sleep well. At the part of the stable the wooden roof bricks of the shingle roof, held by wooden hangers, unfortunately unnecessarily discarded. In addition the good roof bricks that had been stored in the hayloft disappeared without a trace.

West wall of the kitchen during reconstruction. 10.07.2011.

Above: Large eaves with typical 16th century ridge console.

Above: Year 1556. 9.11.2009.

Above: Strange holes in the beam above the room door. In the square hole on the upper right was the joist of the former.

“Welbi” (hallway) from 1951. Right: Holes to snap in the rod of the fireplace lid [I cannot offer a better translation than this. Fitting places for a rod used to open/close the fireplace.]. 26.2.20

Page 5 of pdf, page 293 of original.

Construction phases: Plan photographs autumn 2009 by architect Hans-Ruedi Roth. Spiez:.

  • Black – 1556 Original building. One room wide, two room deep with open smoke house. Later the installation took place of a wooden fireplace. The stove firing with stove plate and boiling stove were located at the western exterior wall of the kitchen.
  • Blue – 1705 Extension of a barn on the north side. Independent ridge, staggered opposite the main building.
  • Red – 1903 Widening of the Stuben floor to include the eaves arcade. Two new parlours with three are built on the ground floor, resp. two single windows. The three symmetrically arranged gaden windows were only changed in 1952.
  • Yellow – Modifications and installations after 1952.

Above: Facade west and east. Below: Front and back of the house.

Page 6 of pdf, page 294 of original

Ground floor plan.


Page 8 of pdf, page 296 of original

The ground floor originally only possessed one single room. Around 1900 the story was renovated and east, so that a small adjoining sleeping room was established. During the renovation of the front of the room, unfortunately only narrow walls were inserted between the windows; but before that, the opened window shutters were in place during the day. This “improvement” was fashion at that time.

Between the parlor and the stable there was originally an open smoke kitchen, where the rising smoke is through the cracks of the roof; and in the process the soot adheres to beams and walls, that’s why the one upstairs is black today. Later the open western half of the kitchen is a large, pyramid-shaped wooden fireplace. After a post-butcher feast, from the middle of the winter onwards, ham, bacon sides and sausages were stored and smoked on wooden rods in the upper half of the upwards tapered room, safe from mice. Through the open chimney also light fell in the kitchen. Today’s small roof window shows about the where once the former fireplace led out into the open air.

In the kitchen, on the right parlor door post old drill holes arranged vertically on top of each other are visible; in it one could see the long rod for adjusting the fireplace lid. On the left side you can see a lot of weird ones all over the beam above the door, 1-2 cm deep square smaller and larger holes. However, they cannot, as is was assumed, be marks caused by halberds that were smashed in there a long time ago, the holes are too small and their cross section would have to be rhombus-shaped, the specialist of the archaeological (A: Wulf; 4.3.2013). Also nail holes are hardly an option, they are too little for that deep. Since the holes end sharply, they could perhaps be marks of flails [“Morgenstern” in German can mean both “morning star” as well as “flail” – I know, that sounds strange…].

Rescued remainder of the original debris from the rubble dump.

Substructure. It is 21.5 cm high, 15.2 cm wide, with a scratch plow pattern characteristic of the time and bore the ceiling up to the wooden fireplace until 1951. It is another confirmation the year 1556 (Rubi 1972: 57). The incisions for this beam is still visible on both kitchen walls.

To the right of the room door stood the wood-burning stove, which was also used to heat the tiled stove in the living room. In front of the cooker and the “Buuchchessi” [I have no idea, again Swiss German specific…] the kitchen floor without any basement below it consisted until 1951 made of large natural stone slabs; otherwise wooden shutters formed the floor the kitchen. With these stone slabs was later below the little garden door. The large, whitewashed wall framed by a small “Buuchchessi” was for cooking laundry. There was no “Schüttelstein” [must be a specific kind of stone for dish washing] yet; we washed the dishes in a basin on the kitchen table and simply poured the dishwater out to the Hostettli [Swiss German…]. We drew hot water with an oval water cup the “Water Ship”, a tin ship, with a copper rectangular container with lid on the side at the wood-burning stove. When in the stove was fired, we also have hot water.

The other households in Schwarzenmatt had to obtain their water at the different wells of the village until their houses built around the middle of the last century got a water connection. But in front of our house entrance has always been a well of our own with water rights for it (purchase records 1819/1825); there the water rights are we fetched the drinking water with a kettle. This kettle stood to the right of the woodcop door [I do not know the term, it describes a specific kind of door] and hung in it a “watergätzi” (ladle). Not until 1951 did the kitchen a connection with cold water and a back then usual [“Schüttelstein” again must be the place for dishwashing, but I do not know the exact meaning of the word] made of white stoneware. At this opportunity, a hole was broken through the west wall and a large window with sash bars, double glazing and shutters was built in. At the same time, the wooden fireplace was torn out as well, a floor was built in at the entire length of the kitchen and the steep, turned-in staircase to the upper floor turning 180 degrees [was built in]. The beautiful old two-part front door with knocker was sold and replaced by a one-piece the upper half of which consists of a window that can be opened. The kitchen has been equipped with the two the new windows is now much brighter. The electric light reached the village of Schwarzenmatt in 1928 (PBS:254), the telephone came into the house in 1956.

In the upper floor the large Gaden served on the east side for the storage of supplies and the small Gaden (with stove hole) as bedroom. Both rooms received early light through three small windows, all with one sliding window vision. During the reconstruction of 1951 these windows were replaced by four larger ones, and it was two rooms of the same size, but now brighter.

An antique dealer from Grubenwald convinced our mother to sell the old windows to him for little money and he built them in at his rustic “Restaurant Schlössli”.

The original Gadenwand [“Wand” means “wall”, but since I do not know what a “Gaden” is, I cannot further describe its meaning] would be on the arcade side very well preserved. In the wall, on the outside at different heights thumb thickness, good hand-long wooden nails for hanging tools and clothes, because cupboards were hardly used here until the 18th century known. It is possible that these nails were (page 9 of pdf, page 297 of original) even so-called corn nails and thus relics of the former granary. On one wall-length, arm-thick wooden pole, hanging on ropes at shoulder height, Papa lined up all kinds of agricultural objects like Treicheln, bells, calf and goat bells, chains and ropes. A 150 x 40 cm long and safe from mice needed wooden board mother, to put on tea and aromatic herbs, dried fruit and keep scrawny beans in linen bags. The pergola [arbor] also served as a screed [“floor screed” is the term my dictionary gives me, it is a kind of wooden floor]. During the conversion of our resistance – the wooden nails sawn off short way and the beautiful old wall behind an isolation layer hidden. Due to the excessively thick insulation of the floor, the room lost so much height that you could no longer stand erect.

The window sill with grooved bevels is typical of the 16th century and well preserved in the area of the corner combs. 9.11.2009

Above 9.5.2012.

Above: The grooved bevels in the living room are a feature of the 16th century. 11.4.2011.

Above: Door fitting of the living room door. Around 1760. 15.3.2011.

The typical gaden windowsill of the 16th century with grooved chamfers in the area of the Gwätte harrows (corner combs) still preserved; other embellishments when different grooves didn’t exist back then. It will can hardly be explained unequivocally, why the carpenters of the Oberland around 1600 as on order of the grooved trains cultivated over a century on the cornices and other parts of the building and from then on, for a while, only the Cube as a decorative element. “In the history of the Bernese carpentry, there was never a single change that occurred as quickly as the one around 1600 in the Oberland” (Rubi 1975: 34; Rubi 1980: 27) The still Gothic grooved bevel on the outer wall, above the sitting stove of the living room as well as at the lintel of the door of the house door and the room door confirm the notched year 1556.

The custom of using the year of construction on the building as a jewelry form has only very hesitantly spread in the Alpine region in the course of the 16th century. Before 1550 only isolated numbers; the oldest preserved one comes from 1516 at a house in Hasli near Oey, parish Diemtigen (Fiückiger R.: 129).

Page 10 in pdf, page 298 in original

The parlor used to have a large tread stove from sandstone; it was heated from the stove in the kitchen. The stove stood directly above a walled-in rock in the basement. Above the oven hung the “Ofestängeli”, a finger-thick wooden pole; it was used for hanging up and drying of wet clothes, small clothes, diapers, dads calf bandage etc. ln the corner above the stove can be in the hallway is a wooden lid which can be closed with an oven lid or “gaden” lid can be opened, so that the hot air can ascend into the cold “gaden”. Sometimes we girls slipped up through the hole when we went to sleep. Often we would take a rest on the oven warmed cherry stone baglet with us to bed.

Candle holder made of brass sheet; tallow light, so called “Meijulämpli “with drinking glass insert and suspended tallow bowl, 19. 2 tallow bowls made of brass turned, end of 18th century. House on the Kreuzgasse. 2010.

Wick or light cleaning scissors made of iron. Candles were up to beginning of the 19th century made of animal fat (tallow). The longer the wick, the more sooty and dripping they became. The burned tip of the wick therefore had to be regularly shortened (snuffed) with the wick scissors. To prevent the cut-off wick from falling off, the scissors [had] a box to hold the hot wick. Length: 15 cm. House on the Kreuzgasse. 2010.

The furnace had a “Ofeguggeli”, a niche in which the Mother kept food warm for a late coming home family member. In the autumn we dried in it plums, pear and apple slices. Around the oven ran a low “Ofestüeli”, a small wooden stove bench; Papa liked to sit on it when he tied the shoes or wrapped the calf pads in winter.

In 1972 the old, cozy sandstone stove needed repair and had to give way to a tiled stove; its “Ofeguggeli” now had a metal door. Unfortunately this cozy sitting stove was also torn out during the conversion.

In winter the living room was the only warm one until 1951, well-lit room throughout the house. Here we all ate meals. After we finished dinner Papa sat at the big table in the parlour, writing, mother sewed, knitted or mended dresses, socks and lingerie, we girls did our homework or played. In the cold kitchen was only cooked, washed up and I got the laundry.

The windows and doors are protected against rain and breeze. The pergola on the east side was a kind of winter garden; the morning sun warmed them even on cool days so that my old parents could stay there on their bedside. Such arbours (I do not have a good translation for “hilbe” – again, probably Swiss German) belong to many old Simmentaler houses. The door and some of the windows were unfortunately removed during the conversion, instead of renewed, so that it is now on the pergola with the coziness is over, because it rains in, often an uncomfortable draught prevails and you also feel exposed.

The tiled stove from 1972. 9.11.2009.

Under the pergola was the small chicken yard, in front of the fox protected by wire mesh. This pergola was supported with five poles. Why with the conversion three have been removed, we don’t understand; now the gate to the chicken coop is jammed because of this. When I was a child, my mother owned a dozen chickens, but no rooster. She bought from the chicken dealer Peduzzi, who is on a motorbike with side-mounted (page 11 of pdf, page 299 of original) the so-called “one-day chicks”. We held these until they were bigger, on the always warm room oven in a box with interspersed sawdust; then we brought them for a while in a small Hostettli (Swiss German again…) enclosure. The money from the egg sale was a welcome addition to the household budget for the mother.

Of course cats always lived with us because of the mice, too.

Above: Stove hole closed. 11.4.2011.

Above: stove hole open. 25.11 .2012.

The cellar and wooden doors, the stable door, the door on the upper pergola and the former front door are typical doors of the 16th century. They consist of two wide, up to 6 cm thick boards. Groove and comb connect them at the contact surfaces, and two entirely slightly wedge-shaped burr strips with dovetail profile keep them together. Since these boards can move in damp conditions weather laterally expand, but in drought it will the doors seldom fit exactly in the door frame. Folds of the posts (Rubi 1980: 112).

In 1705, in the extension of the ridge, an economic section on the day. Various holes, grooves, rectangular recesses and other characters on the bars prove that the timber has already been used in another building was used, which at that time was quite customary. Such re-utilization can be seen in our house at other places as well. For example, two former parlor joists with planed profiles serve as posts of the outer wooden door, another beam with profile was used as rafter on the roof of the upper and a former pergola cornice with a 17th century diamond pattern was used as a support for the cellar ceiling.

The part of the barn had a hay stage, a scattered pergola and three small stables for four to six goats and two pigs. Through the two coverable feeding holes in the floor boards, left and right of the gate door, daddy threw hay from the stage directly into the feeding troughs.

(page 12 of pdf, 300 of original)

Above: House before the reconstruction. 24.7.2008.

Above: under the pergola supported by five posts was the chicken yard, behind the Wall of the chicken coop. 27.5.2011.

The stables underneath the economic section shows various interesting details, e.g. over the ridge purlin a stapled rate pair (I have no idea even in German, what “verklammertes Rafenpaar” is supposed to mean, it must be a specific term in carpentry – not my subject…) or the gate door at the north wall with its ingenious wooden lock and the inscription “DMD 1844”; it is to be opened with a wooden key. DM is David Müller (1803-1878), D probably means David’s. On the stable wall of the on the east side is a wooden jug, from which the goats licked their salt – today also a rare object.

The small board, which the wall underneath before the salt was unfortunately thrown away during the conversion.

Above: Door to the wooden mop of wood.

Above: Strip with dovetail profile on the upper half of the barn door. 3.7.2011.

The eaves-side of the building is supported by two posts. The scattering pergola was covered from the hayloft by a small door; this opening existed, as the beam construction and Roth’s plans clearly show, already since 1705 the addition of the economic section of the building took place.

Flax, cereal cows, or also litter (dry leaves, fern, niche) stored, therefore evenly, the scattering hood. It is not comprehensible for us that the monument care this completely intact pergola, which is formerly an important function in everyday farming life as the first action at the beginning of the I’m afraid the reconstruction was cancelled. Double incomprehensible, because it robs the big canopy of its supports. The carpenter warned, if much snow the protruding roof could break.

Such scattered foliage belonged in former times practically to all stable barns. Some of them are used as threshing floors. (Tuor 1974n5: 169) and can still be seen in the valley today (page 13 of pdf, 301 of original) and can be observed at numerous houses. Probably found the many old, tanned boards of our Scatterbugs and others, on stage for decades stored boards with planing profiles on any noble building in Gstaad use. A few windows of our house front we discovered in summer 2012 by chance at a chalet converted into a holiday home in the community Oberwil, the others found elsewhere can be used again.

The stone slabs between the house and stable entrance come from the surrounding area and the reddish plates from the Roteflue Alp.

Directly behind the stable part supports the upper neighboring garden a 1 to 1.5 m high, today cement grouted quarry stone wall. They already existed in 1611, because at that time a “Hanns Spillman vff der mur’ (K 1: 191). This one lived in the neighboring upper house, which will later be my grandsons and my cousin today. Martin Bhend.

Economical part of 1705 with step-down cottage 0/VC). Stables, scattering arbour and hayloft, in front the upper Hostettli. 9.11 .2009.

Above: Wooden castle at the gate of the hayloft. 11.4.2011.

Above: Detail of the corner combing (Gwätt) with Ratennagel (large hardwood nail) for stabilizing the Beam. 3.7.2011.

Above: Salt can for goats. 9.3.2011.

I love this goat salt lick. I can see them standing there yet today!

Above: Between house entrance and stable. Above the spreading hood. 24. 7.2008.

Next to the barn door stood the wooden cottage (outhouse); at whose back wall served as a horizontal board with two round holes for dismounting. The septic tank had to be occasionally with a “Bschüttigoon” (small, wooden scoop on long wooden handle) exhausted will be. With the liquid manure the vegetables in the garden were or she was fertilized with a lockable liquid manure cart on the Maadli flood and distributed it there.

This still completely intact little cottage, which nobody stood in the way, would have stood nevertheless with the change can stay! This would have given the holiday guests the former simple states and to show it as a ski and sledge room or playhouse that kids could use. The house was supposed to be an architectural monument. Give the holidaymakers a little idea how the lives of the former inhabitants of this area could have played!

Old. original kitchen window with sliding window.

Page 14 pdf, 302 of original

The saying “Fear God and keep his commandments” is carved in Gothic script above the stable door. 20.4.2011.

Stone slab floor in front of the stable. If the stones are wet, their red color is more visible. 9.3.20 11.

Above 2, cellar wall made of found stones with a ventilation formed by four stone slabs. 10. 7. / 25.9. 2011.

Scattered pergola, two-part barn door and little exit cottage on the covered cesspit. (outhouse) 9.3.2011 .

Right: Departure. 9.9.2011.

Page 15 of pdf, page 303 of original

Wooden mop with exterior wall of “Müselen” (wood chips) and door; brick kitchen wall. 9.11.2009.

Above: Cellar door with bar grille. 9.3.2011.

Above: Cheese tower with rinds and cheese boards. 15.3.2011.

I love this cheese tower! I can see the Muller family making, and then checking the cheese.

On the west side of the farm building is the woodcut; it can be entered directly from the kitchen. A wooden door leads out of the mop of hair. The doorposts consist of old beams, which have planing profiles. Above the lintel donated a window the room brightness. Before the reconstruction wood splinters stacked up to under the roof and branches the outer walls, so that a closed hilber where daddy spent hours and hours in the winter wood sawed and split.

The cellar is half deepened in the ground and possesses a stamped ground. Attention deserves the wooden bar grids of the outer cellar door; with this you can the enclosed room can still be ventilated. In always cool cellar we supplied buckets, tubs, pickling barrels for fruit and the garden tools; but we stored especially potatoes and vegetables, milk and milk products.

Butter. Daddy took care of our alp cheese on the cheese tower. Not only the cheese tower in the cellar, but also others objects stored in the house show that in former times whose inhabitants were alpine shepherds who made cheese:

  • Cheese vat: 60 cm copper belly cauldron diameter, capacity about 80 litres. In it during cheese making, by heating the milk, the cheese mass won.
  • Järbe: Wooden ripening for shaping the cheese mass (in cheese cloths), outside around with adjustable pull cord to tighten. They were used for larger hard cheese. Cheese boards: while pressing on the table was the fresh cheese mass between two round boards in the first place.
  • Cheese tower: three round, staggered trays, through the center of which is a ground level in a large stone and ceiling joists rotatable axis guides. Then the cheese from the alp Reidigen (Rieneschli), where we our cattle summered, salted by their parents, well-groomed and, protected from mice, for personal use and kept it in a safe place. A rarity!

Alp Reidigen is about 2 miles as the crow flies.

  • Gebsen: cooped, round, low vessels from wood, in which the milk is stored overnight in the cool Milchgadeo or cellar was kept, so that on the surface, the cream was eliminated. This could be skimmed off in the morning with the shallow Nidelkelle and processed into butter.
  • Vätterli: round, turned or coopered wooden moulds with grooves and little holes in the bottom, through which drained the cheese milk. For the production of Cheese and goat cheese.

Tools stored in the house for various activities and repairs testify to the fact that the former residents knew how to help themselves in everyday life. So shortly before 1950, father Hans and uncle Karl covered the whole roof with shingles. We found when clearing out the house before the conversion of all kinds of tools and equipment for:

  • Cheese drill to take a cheese sample; wooden ladle.
  • Carpenters and carpenters carving tools
  • Chisels, all kinds of saws (e.g. clamping or frame saws), burr saws, large and small drills, various axes and planes, hammers and pliers
  • Wooden angle and scale (EIIstock), whetstone
  • Cooper: pulling chair, pulling knife, plane with slightly bent up sole
  • Roofer: black bucket with string, hammers
  • Nails, wedge.
  • Masons: trowels, spatulas, hammers
  • Wooden rubbing board
  • Forestry worker: Zappi, sweeper hook, crowbar, iron for debarking, axes, crop!, Guntel. Iron and wooden crossroads, big forest saws, foxtail, iron chains etc.
  • Butcher: brewing trough, butcher’s collar, large hardwood meat board, butcher knife, meat saw, meat hook, meat grinder, piercing machine (for closing the sausages).
  • Shoemaker: Special hammers, shoe last, iron fitting foot, shoe nails
  • Veterinarian: Trocar (french trocart). Metal instrument for stinging bloated cows (rumen).

Above: Vätterli (cheese mold)

Above: Cheese vat

Page 17 of pdf, 305 of original

Above: All kinds of hand-forged nails with square cross section found in the house.

Above: Hand carved spoon; wooden clothes pegs (“Gäbeli”); milking grease box made of cow horn and inserted wooden floor, which is attached to the milking chair strap with a cord.

Above: 2 artificial chairs and an artificial stick. When spinning, the flax is tied to the top of the stick and put it in the tube of the chair.

Above: Chipboard holder for resinous woods for the lighting.

The house was once used for spinning and weaving, because on stage we found corresponding objects such as breaking, weaving shuttle, spinning wheel, bobbins, three-legged artificial chair with artificial sticks, reel, peg. etc. From former own production are today 200-year-old pillow- and bedding suits still available. You carry partly embroidered monograms, e.g. “DM 1 0”. (David Müller 1 0 pieces). These suits were then in the Simmentalertruhe, which is being restored today in the living room. 1747 learned the daughter of Andreas Müller with her mother Johanna Horner the weaving craft (C VI: 419).

Other items kept in the farm building bear witness to the once arduous life of the mountain farmers:

Horn sledges were used to transport wood,

Branches, straw or hay, wooden bowls for discharge of liquid manure and other substances for the carriage of water, huts for carrying dung, rope cloths for scratching hay and lischnen (sedge grass), hay ropes with truffles to bind the Burdines from hay and Emd; these so-called “Fertli” were on his back from the meadow to the hayloft.

I wonder if this is what is being carried in the photo below.

Also, a wooden dustpan, dung forks, hay forks and wooden hay rakes with long stems are available. A flail points to former threshing (page 18 of pdf, 306 of original) treidebau. The wooden equipment and tools the respective owners and occupants of the house burned well their monograms in order to protect them from confusion. To protect the world.

V.l.t.r.: Water briquette,

Hut with “Brätschel”

Melchter and KalberkübeL

Beautifully woven huts with wooden carrying straps, “called “Brätschel”, were used for entering smaller quantities of hay or grass, but also for transport and food to our agricultural and food processing businesses plots of land or on the mountain; occasionally they even took a toddler with them. On the Räf was carried all sorts of loads, especially wood and cheese; they leaned on the long, decorated puzzles with an iron tip at the bottom. We can today, we can hardly imagine the long distances that are possible and height differences the people in former times had to cover every day and what heavy loads and on their backs in huts and on rafts that we have carried with us.

All sorts of small tools, the use of which today is hardly known anymore, came to light in the house: a ring pliers and open, different large copper and brass rings with pointed ends for pig wrestling. A ringed trunk (nose) hindered the animals to stir up the soil or to damage the edge of the (fence or) to gnaw away at a wooden feeding trough. Since 2008 the Animal Welfare Act prohibits the marking of pigs. (I love that translation, though it is utterly wrong – “pig wrestling”! Indeed what is meant here is a tool to mark pigs with metal rings. “ring” in German is “Ring”, “wrestling” is “Ringen”…)

With a pair of ball pliers you could use lead balls yourself for cast muzzle-loading rifles. Maybe this pliers for making balls with a caliber of 17 mm belonged to my great-great-grandfather David Müller, called “the hunter” who lived in the house. Such pliers were in use until the end of the 19th century.

Above: Ball tongs. Length 14 cm. Right:

Ring pliers with rings. Length 17 cm.

On the ground, directly in front of the whitewashed southern house wall, formed long, thick wooden boards a 1.30 m wide, slightly elevated floor, which can be used for all sorts of ???. Thanks to the large canopy, it rained it seldom on, so we here in summer grass from the “ribbons” (grass ribbons on both sides of the alleyways) and we could have dried it. In autumn we spread out on these boards the harvested onions and dug up (page 19 of pdf, 307 or original) DahIienknoiien to dry out. Also boxes with red Geraniums stood here in late autumn until the first frost. Papa “Baumgretzen” stratified directly at the wall. (lumber) Between the boards and the fence was a small garden. In spring winter follies, snow and March bells blossomed there, crocuses, April bells and daffodils, in summer all kinds of meadow flowers and low along the fence roses. Even medicinal plants like warts grew here and cheese herb. Also an apple tree and in the corner a stick of gooseberries were present. At an old red climbing rose climbed up the edge of the house.

Carved chair back from 1739. House on Kreuzgasse.

In the course of the rebuilding of the house – without us to ask – one day the whole good soil of this garden with all the bulbs, trees and boards was simply lifted up and taken away. As a replacement a boring, splintered one was created, in summer hot forecourt, as it is in the Simmental otherwise is barely visible.

On the small meadow of the upper Hostettli, in spring snowdrops, marchdrops, aprildrops and daffodils; in summer, forget-me-nots followed, mat nails, Küherkäppli, red clover, more meadow flowers and all kinds of grasses. Also, this earth has been taken away; now there is a splintered parking for two cars. This bare house environment hurts us; it must be changed urgently!

The triangular garden in front of the house, “Haltenboden” “called ” (plot with summation to be served on the Schwarzenmatt area), was founded by David Müller in two halves acquired the first 1839 and the second in 1853. The purchase of this plant blossom enabled the inhabitants to grow flax close to the at home and better self-sufficiency with vegetables, potatoes and berries. Remarkable is still that the second half salesgirl, Elisabeth Tänzer. on the Eschiegg, who needed the proceeds to “give birth to her daughter Elisabeth to pay the apprenticeship fee, which the weaving craft learned.” (production certificate 1839; axes of purchase and letter 1853)

Above: Snowdrops and winterlings in Mätteli in front of the house. 14.3.2009.

Above: Kitchen and living room wall with eternit protection and climbing rose. The stone embankment had to give way to the new water pipe. 27.5.2011

Page 20 of pdf, 308 of original

The vegetable garden was protected against the cold Bise by a board wall provided with deck loading, as it is protected by a here in the valley belongs to almost every old garden. The inner wall along grew a rhubarb stick, productive currants and raspberries, also a gooseberry bush. In flower gangs on the upper side fence and next to the garden paths winterlinge, schneeund March bells, tulips, April bells, daffodils, irises, larkspur, lupines, flake flowers, roses, buschelfriesli, big daisies, pansies, asters, flox and fire lilies. They are being converted to buried to a large extent by excavated material or else disappeared.

The “Maadli” also belonged to the operation of my parents, a mat (mat=food, does this mean garden) situated above the Dachebüel. David Müller had the one part 1849 from the Burgergemeinde for the price of 250 Kr and the other part 1864 of the Stocker brothers for 2070.50 Fr. in increases (PG: 133; axes of purchase 1864).

Note, this is where discussion of the other buildings in the village begins, according to Chris, but I am retaining this section because it paints such a vivid picture of the life and times of the people who lived here. Our ancestors saw and were in these buildings too. For all we know, these buildings were built and owned by additional ancestors. Heinsmann had to marry someone and the family surely lived nearby!

On an artificial small terrace on a slope in a very beautiful location the oldest stable barn of the municipality Saltigen stands there, dating from 1688. It is preserved by the monument preservation as worthy of preservation. It is built entirely as a block building, on the upper floor, however, as a loose block construction, so that the hay stick can pass through the “gime” (spaces) is ventilated. Access to the barn is from the valley side, that to the hayloft on the mountain side. The stable floor is in the back deepened in the slope and secured by quarry stone walls. The longitudinal stable contains one store each for grass and small cattle and a feeding walk. On the east side there is the cromes for the litter (foliage, niche, straw).

Above the stable floor, a beam shows the following Inscription (antiqua. notched, unfortunately only partially legible):

The small barn is still used today as a storage room. The building is in a bad condition and should urgently be redeveloped; but the preservation of historical monuments is on our request has not yet occurred. Below the mother moved the old barn on her big planzbiätz beans and autumn vegetables such as cabbage, cabbage and cabbage and palatine turnips.

In 1927, a new and larger plant was built on Maadli land. Barn built, still today called “Nöji Schüür”. They has the following inscription on the top bar: “BI. Fritz Bhend + Katha. v. Allmen. Built in 1927 Z.mstr. SI. Stryffeler.” To the building wood of the broken off old Eggscheune use. It was the Ueltschi brothers, cattle breeders, Boltigen, bought for 800 Fr. (Receipt). To it was agreement of the acid meeting necessary (PBS: 229).

Garden with traditional shop wall as protection against the iron and fence with wire mesh against the street. 30.5.2009.

Page 21 of pdf, 309 of original

The former vegetable garden, bordered at the top by a local “Scheielizaun”, was a flower meadow before the restoration.


Under which “Maadli” ran past, uphill of the old path and ending up far behind the new barn, a beautiful, about 300 m long, up to 1 m high dry stone wall. It was mostly covered with hazel herbaceous perennials, hedge roses and Maples stocked and offered small birds and lizards shelter. Directly below the new barn the wall contained a small niche; inside there was an old iron stove. The mother prepared and then we’ll have lunch each time our family in the “Maadli” on the mucky tedding, cherry picking, haying or Emden was.

The old Maadli barn from 1688 with two plum trees; the snow pushed the lower tree down in February 2012. 5.4.2011.

Page 22 of pdf, page 310 of original

Above: Back side with gate to the hayloft.

Above: wooden door hinge of the gate. 5.4.2011.

In 1977 the wall was completely demolished, because they corrected the old way, extended it, asphalted it. and as a rhinestone vision with three loops up to the willow. Our own small spring because of the large earthworks and excavations above the old barn. The old way could possibly a part of the medieval mule track.from Adlemsried to Tubetal and Eschi.

The medieval mule track.

New Maadli barn from 1927. 5.4.20 11 .

Also the food south of the “Maadli” with barn, called “Lehn”, 1915 by Friedrich Bhendvon Allmen, and the “Grimattli” belonged until the inheritance from 1951 of the Bhend family, also in Ruere a third of the “war moss” (Lischenland with Heufimmel and forest), the “Untere Stierenweid” (lower bull pasture) (residential house with economy part, 16th or 17th century and 1735th inscription: IM ESM ZM ZM HST HR 1735, antiqua notched) with a freestanding barn, and the “Grabenmatte”; then a third of the Grabenheimwesen” (country and barn); further behind Ruere, below at the old Waldweidgasse, indoors to the “forest pasture”, the “Waldweidli” with a hay house, a bovine pasture, Wiesland and forest; in addition the third part of the Sennhütte on the “forest pasture” (four cow rights, pasture, with and complaints, with forest share). The whole property was taken over by the three Bhend families and jointly farmed.

The “Grimattli” or “Grünmattli”, underneath the “Maadlis”. came on the 3rd Hornung in 1837 in the possession of my ancestors. The barn standing on it was fire insured for 2′ 100 Fr. (Certificate of Inheritance 1951); unfortunately it was torn down in autumn 2011. In of a shopping hatchet reads: “Know and know be thither: That the respectable old court apostle Jacob Gobeli, from and to to Weißenbach, for himself and his heirs: to his beloved cousin, the honourable David Müller, David’s son, from and to Schwarzenmatt, and eat inherit the two property effects listed below

  1. A home being to said Weißenbach, called Schußeli, containing a residential house together with attached barn and stabling.
  2. A piece of land called the Grimmenmatte, in the Bäuert Reidenbach, with a coating standing on it.

The purchase price was 1,000 Kr Berner- or 2,500 f Swiss currency (axes of purchase 1837). Jakob Gobeli’s wife died on 18 Hornung 1837. Anna née Müller; she was the sister of David Müller. Jakob, at that time 91 years old and childless, donated then on 17 June 1837 to his “beloved godchild David Müller” 500 Kr or 1 ‘250 f to the remaining. Purchase remainder (donation 1837). On the vegetable blossom at the “Grimattli” my parents built potatoes every year until the distribution of the inheritance in 1951. The land was planted on this parcel every few years. Shifted.

Maadli. Drawing P. Mosimann.

My great-grandfather Peter von Allmen (1843-1918) and his wife Magdalena (born Boden, 1848-1924) possessed in Ruere many real estates; 1876 Peter was also (page 23 of PDF, page 311 of original) owner of the house on the Unteren Stierenweid and 1878 of the Grabenhaus (LB II: 38, 17). After Magdalenas death, the whole property was taken over the same year. The three heirs Peter (born 1910), son of Peter. (1871-1913), and the daughters Magdalena (born 1872) and Susanna Katharina (1877-1950). Since Susanna Katharina 1903 Friedrich Bhend (1873-1943) had married, came now about a third of the former large Ruere-owned property in his family.

On November 4, 1939, Friedrich Bhend, my grandfather sold to the private docent and medical doctor Max Müller, then director of the of the Psychiatric Clinic Münsingen, the beautiful, large, residential building in Ruere, built around 1700, which is today a protected monument. After the war began, rented also other rich lowlands in the Oberland houses or flats as possible escape accommodation-for their families. The purchase price for the building including 781 m2 of land was exceptionally low. The longer uninhabited house was located in a house with a in quite bad condition and had to be renovated. The unique house sale inspired Werner Juker in 1952 to his novella “The House in Ruhren” (or “Horen”). The house was built by the three current Müller heirs fortunately largely in the original, almost museum-like condition the kitchen furniture, for example, with the the Buuchchessi, the wood fireplace, the windows partly with the bull’s-eye slices, the shingle roof. In the house there are neither Electricity nor water (A: M. Müller, 17.8.2011). In the barn connected with the residential building the current owner Ernst Gobeli still livestock. Already 1734 is from “the sloppy house in the ditch” to read, because there had often been operated Winkelwirtschaft (C VI :32, 116, 173, 176, 180).

Above: The Grimtlischeuer shortly before the dismantling. Photo: Ueli Stryffeler.

Above: Remains of the barn, on the horizon the old Maadli barn. 24.3.2012.

Page 24 of pdf, 312 of original

When Susanna Katharina had died, in 1951 the still considerable possessions among the three Bhend brothers divided.

They received:

– Fritz: The whole “Untere Stierenweid” with farmhouse, the “Grabenmatte”, a third of the “Grabenheimwesens “, a third of the “war moss” and the “Waldweidli”.

– Hans: In Schwarzenmatt the lower, smaller house, called “Auf der Kreuzgasse”; the “Maadli” (as the compensation, because of the relatively new barn); from the “Lehn” the external (front) part, two cow rights on the “forest pasture” and one sixth of the Sennhütte.

– Karl: In Schwarzenmatt the upper, bigger house, bought 1924 (certificate of inheritance 1951). called “Uf the Mur”; the “Grimattli”, from the “Lehn” the inner (rear) part, two cow rights on the “Waldweid” (forest pasture) and one sixth of the hut there (Erbgangsangs- Das Grabenhaus in Ruere. 13.9.2011 . Below: 1 0.8.2011. document 1924). Karl’s son Martin sold the “Grimattli” the farmer Ueli from Schwarzenmatt Stryffeler, who will break off the barn in 2011.

I didn’t.

The Grabenhaus in Ruere. 13.9.2011 .

Above: 1 0.8.2011.

Buuchchessi (covered), fireplace, wooden door in the ditch house. The kitchen in the “Haus auf der Kreuzgasse” was quite similar until 1951. ” looked like. 16.10.2011.

Page 25 in pdf, 313 in original

The house on Unteren Stierenweid dates from the 16th/17th century and was extended in 1735. Recordings around 1970 and 2010. Photo: Preservation of monuments in the Canton of Berne.

A beam above the residential part of the Sennhütte on the “Waldweid” bears the following inscription: “BL PVA 1\ MB. ZM HK 1896”. BL means builders, PVA Peter von Allmen (1843-1918), MB Magdalena Floor (1848-1924), ZM Master carpenter HK(?). The house has on the ground floor stables for young cattle and goats, above a living room, a kitchen and a Milchgaden, behind it a cowshed and a hay stage under the roof.

The “forest pasture” is a Vorsass. The flat stones from the nearby streambed belong to the flysch of the Simmendecke; they were bricked up unprocessed.

After the distribution of the inheritance in 1951 Hans, my father, was compelled, as a supplement to his own business, from Karl Stocker, teacher in Boltigen at that time to rent the steep, arduous “Büelacher” and the even more stubborn “Farnerenrain “. Also, he farmed the northeastern of the Büelachers situated property with name “Schmidsweg, which belonged to Altred Wüest. We were a simple family of mountain farmers, and the parents during the Second World War, always easy to take care of her five girls every day. I had little spare time, because in all the families I had to the children, in keeping with their powers, the in the operation. Nevertheless or perhaps just because of that I lived in the old house on Kreuzgasse. Happy childhood.

Berti Mosimann-Bhend
Cooperation: Peter Mosimann

Above: The mountain hut on the Waldweid. 7.10.201 0.

Right: The walls consist of unhewn stones from the nearby stream bed.

13.9.20 11.

Page 26 of pdf, 314 or original

The house on Kreuzgasse. Dächenbühl in the background. February 1968.

The house on the Kreuzgasse. Behind the economic part is the upper house, called “Uf der Mur>>. 23.11.2008.

This ends the above translation of the wonderful chapter by Peter Mosimann and his wife, Berti Mosimann-Bhend.

Life in Schwarzenmatt

Some of these translations were a bit rough, but translating their life then for us to understand today is rough, regardless of the language. It truly is another world away, in both geography and the lives these mountain farmers and their families lived.

I found it interesting to note the discussion about the well. It seems this location was the only property to have its own water source, which tells you EXACTLY why this home was build where it was. I’d wager that this was the very first house or hut, at the time, to be built in Schwartzenmatt. Clean water equates to life. Contaminated water means illness and death. The first settler got their choice of where to build their camp and that prime real estate location was clearly adjacent the water source.

I was surprised that they received both electricity and phones as early as they did, considering the terrain. However, the poles for power lines which also carried phone lines would have snaked up the valley right alongside the stream.

The artifacts found and the carvings speak in whispers about the lives of Heinsmann Muller, and probably long before. The earliest people who lived in this half house/half barn hut environment would have guarded their livestock, goats and pigs, closely. Cheese and meat meant life. The growing season was short and the elevation high, which further reduced the time for crops to ripen.

When I lived in the Swiss Alps in 1970, just about 30 miles away and across a few mountains, in July and August, much snow remained on the ground in the ski resorts. In other locations, alpine meadows above the tree line were snow free and literally carpeted in Edelweiss and meadow flowers, exactly as described by Berti.

A wild Alpine garden stretching as far as the eye could see, without end.

By Matthias Zepper – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Perhaps now I understand my breathless enchantment with this landscape so foreign to my young American eyes, yet so hauntingly familiar. Indeed, I felt that I had returned home and have longed to return since the day I left.

By Giettois – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Not the Only Immigrants

I was surprised to read that three different children of David Miller, “the hunter,” immigrated to and died in America. How would they have even known about America in this remote location? Why would they leave?

It’s also ironic that my own Miller ancestor, great-grandson of Johann Michael Muller/Miller, the immigrant, was named David Miller and his son, John David. David has been a Miller name for generations and I can’t help but wonder if its genesis was in Schwarzenmatt.

David Miller, “the hunter” who lived in Schwarzenmatt had a son, David, who was reported by Berti to have died in Ohio.

As fate would have it, my own Miller ancestor, Daniel, whose brother was David, and who both had sons named David, also lived in Ohio.

I told you the name was popular. Carrying the same names also makes it difficult to sort through the various men.

Could I possibly find the David Muller who was born in 1840 in Schwarzenmatt and died in Ohio?

He probably had absolutely no idea that he was related to any Miller already living in the States. After all, by 1680, Johann Michael Muller had left Schwarzenmatt and his son immigrated in 1727, 160 years before David would be born in Schwarzenmatt.

By the time David immigrated, 150 years more or less would have passed since Johann Michael Muller Jr. would have immigrated.

No, surely David had no idea at all.

The question is, could I find him?

David Muller (1840-1897) Who Died in Ohio

The family members who migrated to America obviously kept in touch, because the family who stayed in Schwarzenmatt had knowledge of the death year of David who moved to Ohio. He probably had no idea whatsoever that his Miller cousins, a few generations removed were also living in Ohio about 200 miles away and in nearby Indiana.

It’s clear that my Ohio clan had lost the oral history of where, in Germany they had originated, and Switzerland was lost entirely to history.

Finding David in Ohio was more difficult than I expected.

The only reasonable candidate that I located was found buried in the Old Lutheran Cemetery in Bethleham Twp. Stark Co., Ohio, having had served someplace in the Civil War.

David Miller died on January 30, 1897 and was married to Mena Strubel in 1878 according to a later census and the marriage record of one of his children.

According to the 1880 census, they had:

  • Barbara 4 (born 1876)
  • Mary C, 2 (born 1878)
  • David born in May of 1880

In 1900, I find Mena, born Oct 1854, with:

  • Unnamed child probably born 1880-1882
  • Carrie (female) (born in April 1884)
  • Charles (born August 1887)

Obviously I’m missing a child according to the 1900 census that shows Mena with 6 children living. That child was probably born after 1880 but before 1882 so they would be old enough to be gone from the household by 1900. David and Mena also had one child that died.

One very pleasant turn of events is that in 1880, David Miller actually says he was born in Switzerland. He is the only David Miller in the 1880 census anyplace that says he was born in Switzerland, so, I’m pretty confident we found the right David Miller.

Sadly, in 1897, David Miller of Navarre, Stark County, Ohio met his demise in a train accident according to this brief article in the Stark County, Democrat published on February 4, 1897.

Is This the Same Family?

I suspect so, but there is no absolutely proof. We are missing a definitive link between Heinsmann and Berti’s family line that begins in the documentation with Andreas who was born in 1710 or earlier, given that he had a child in 1731. We know that Heinsmann had a son, Johann Michael Muller, in 1655 who could have been his first or last child, or in-between.

Heinsmann could have been Andreas’ father, uncle, grandfather, related more distantly or not related at all. I must say, in a tiny village with only a few farms, that’s probably unlikely, but given the common name of Muller it could certainly happen. I learned long ago to never assume anything.

We’re also missing a definitive link between the David that died in Ohio in 1897 and the Schwarzenmatt line, although that connection seems firmer.

To prove definitively that Berti Mosimann-Bhend’s Muller line is one and the same with the Johann Michael Muller line, a Y DNA test needs to be taken by one of the male children descendants of David Miller who died in Stark County, Ohio in 1897 and a male Muller who is known to descend from the Schwarzenmatt line. The Y DNA, passed from father to son ad infinitum would match, or closely enough to establish the ancestral relationship between:

  • Johann Michael Muller who immigrated to the US in 1727
  • Muller family from Schwarzenmatt
  • David Muller who died in 1897 in Ohio

Maybe someday one of the Schwarzenmatt descendants or David Miller’s descendants will find this article and reach out. I am offering a DNA testing scholarship for a male Miller descendant of both lines. If this is you, just leave a message in the comments.

I sure hope the genealogy bug bites someone in the Miller family!

Last in the Series

This is the last in the long series of Muller/Miller articles. I hear you laughing now, because I know I’ve said that before – but I really think this one is it. We’re now back beyond the reach of records and before even Chris can excavate anything more.

Perhaps one day the next generation will add to this story when, if we’re lucky, new records are found, transcribed, indexed and translated.

It’s been a long journey from Schwarzenmatt in the 1600s to Indiana in the 1900s when Eva Miller married Hiram Ferverda and had my grandfather. The Muller lineage may reach back even further in time, to Benedikt Muller who lived in our quaint alpine village in 1502, more than 500 years and 15 generations ago.

Clearly, the red generations between Heinsmann and Benedikt are speculative, and I don’t want to portray them otherwise. Miller is such a common name.

Berti is probably a 9th cousin once removed, give or take a generation. That’s an amazingly long time – roughly 23 generations counting both lineages.

I would love for Berti to take an autosomal DNA test. There’s a small chance that she would match my mother, especially considering that it’s very likely that Heinsmann Muller’s wife, the mother of Johann Michael Muller was a young lady from the same village, or at least the neighboring farms. There were only a limited number of families living in that area in the early 1600s and every family intermarried into the mix.

Fingers crossed that somehow, someplace, DNA tests or new records surface to prove me wrong once again about this being the “last article!”

In the mean time, a deeply heartfelt thank you to the many people, in particular Chris, Tom and now, Peter and Berti, who have helped compile and reconstruct the stories of the Muller men of Germany and Switzerland, their wives and many descendants who have scattered like alpine meadow seeds on the winds of time throughout the world.

Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler (1772-1823), Weak Child, Baptized in a Hurry – 52 Ancestors #228

The family in Fussgoenheim, Germany said that Margaretha was supposed to have been a twin. Her birth year was given as 1774 by a cousin who lived there.

Her twin was reported to be Anna Elisabeth Koehler who married Johann Matthias Koob. The problem is that I was unable to find a second child, a twin, born in October 1781 when Anna Elisabetha was born. Plus, the years of 1774 and 1781 aren’t exactly twin material.

Furthermore, I could find no record of any twins at all in this family. Twins, especially twins that survived, were extremely rare due to the propensity for twins to be born prematurely.

Of course, every Koehler family in this entire region named their daughters the exact same names, so sometimes it’s very difficult to assemble these records into families unless the records are very precise or you can retrofit using multiple records.

As it turned out, I spent years spinning my wheels about twins when it didn’t matter.

The German relatives were insistent though, and I thought surely, surely, they knew what they were talking about. Marliese, the mother of my corresponding cousin was a pen pal with Kirsch/Koehler family members in the US during the bombings in WWII – not all THAT far removed from when Anna Margaretha died. A little over 100 years. Marliese, then a teenager, lived in the same village and her family knew the family history. Her grandparents were still living, reaching back generationally into the mid-1800s. Who was I, a Johnny-come-lately, to question?

By the time I started asking questions, another half century+ had passed and the cousin’s daughter in Germany was NOT pleased about me asking “Do you know where your Mom found that piece of information?” over and over again. Eventually, I stopped asking for fear of receiving NO information. Not long after, she stopped writing. I think she was experiencing heath issues. I was extremely grateful for what she did provide, because photos and other items she sent would have been impossible for me to discover any other way.

Thankfully the family in Indiana, so grateful for those WWII letters, had saved them and shared them with me. God bless those cousins, in particular Irene Bultman, all now gone to dwell with the ancestors.

I’ve now killed the twin rumor, but what do we have left?

Margaretha Elisabetha’s Son’s Marriage Record

One reason this family was so difficult to unravel was because Margaretha Elisabetha’s name was recorded more than one way. In her son, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s marriage record, her name is given simply as Margaretha.

Typically, using German naming conventions, the first name is never used except formally, with the middle name used as the common name. Given the German naming convention, Margaretha would have applied had she been named Elisabetha Margaretha or Anna Margaretha. In fact, any first name plus Margaretha for a middle name – since German children were called by their middle names.

Except…except…she wasn’t named Elisabetha Margaretha but Margaretha Elisabetha. It also turns out she wasn’t Anna Margaretha, another candidate, either. But getting to this conclusion was a twisty turny mud path with potholes thrown in for good measure.


I was only called by my middle name, in addition to my first name, when I was in one heap of trouble. I wonder if that came from Mom’s German side.

Difficult Puzzle

These records were so difficult to sort through back in the 1980s when I realized I really needed to sort through them and not just take family information as gospel. You might laugh today, but truly, that was quite a surprise revelation to me, and I didn’t come to that realization until I received conflicting information from 3 different cousins, all of whom “should know.”

I still remember that day, realizing that EVERY piece of information I had might be in error, because some of it unquestionably had to be wrong. Three different people for a mother simply could not be accurate.

I had to start from scratch.

I was not happy. I think that was the day I went from a genealogical gatherer to a hunter. Something I never intended to be.

But I had to sort that one question out.

Just that one question….

Yea, right. The moon is made of cheese and the earth is flat too.

Research in the 1980s 

Research in the 1980s was challenging in and of itself – the genealogical equivalent of walking uphill in the snow, both ways.

First, I had to visit the local Family History Center and search through the indexes for names of people who might be the person of interest. Some indexes were computerized, some were on fiche and some indexes had to be ordered on microfilm.

After finding the index entry I was interested in, I had to order the photo image of each record from the church at the Family History Center and wait for its arrival. Many of these images are available online today.

I would go back to the FHC (20 miles each way) to retrieve the record when it arrived from Salt Lake City. Then I packaged up the image, along with the church index record that I had ordered from and sent everything to Elke, my German translator.

Elke translated each record by hand and sent the entire document set back, stapled together, thankfully. From these individual records, I assembled families, first on group sheets and then in PAF, Personal Ancestral File, a now-defunct genealogy program that ran on a computer that was physically huge, but much less powerful than our phones today.

Hard to believe we ever accomplished anything, but we did – just V-E-R-Y slowly!

Internet searches are truly a Godsend.

Bread Crumb Trail Builds Family Records

Along the way, as Elke translated each record, I assembled a series of hints. For example, from Margaretha Elisabetha’s children’s marriage records, we discovered that Margaretha Elisabetha was alive in 1821 but dead by 1829. Those records bracketed her death year, but her death record itself was stubbornly elusive.

Andreas Dies

In 1819, Margaretha Elisabetha’s husband, Andreas Kirsch died at the young age of 45, leaving a 47 year old widow with children to raise. I’m suspecting that Margaretha Elisabetha and her surviving children worked in the fields together outside the village of Fussgoenheim. What choice did she have except to do the work of her deceased husband in addition to her own?

In 1819 when Andreas died, Margaretha Elisabetha’s family consisted of at least 3 if not 4 living children.

Child Birth Date Age in 1819 Comment
Andreas Kirsch August 17, 1896 23, if alive
Catharine Barbara Kirsch Sept. 13, 1798 Died in 1817
Johann Adam Kirsch Dec. 5, 1798 (clearly there is a year or parent issue – two children cannot be born 3 months apart) 21, died in 1863 May not be her child. No birth record found. Married Maria Katharina Koob.
Johannes Kirsch Aug. 11, 1801 Died in 1811 Never married
Anna Margaretha Kirsch Feb. 16, 1804 15, died Nov. 30, 1888 in Indiana Johann Martin Koehler in 1821
Philip Jacob Kirsch Aug. 8, 1806 13, died May 10, 1880 in Indiana Katharina Barbara Lemmert in 1829

Three or four children ranging between the ages of 23, if Andreas (Jr.) was alive, and 13 were living when Andreas (Sr.) died. Philip Jacob Kirsch continued his father’s name by naming his youngest son Andreas, or Andrew in the US, but that son died at 4 years of age.

I’m guessing that the family remained together, with everyone living in the same house or with the eldest son as the family morphed. As her family matured, Margaretha Elisabetha gradually changed from being the head-of-household to the matriarch and then, perhaps, to being cared for by others until she passed.

Unfortunately, Margaretha Elisabetha died in 1823, just two weeks shy of her 51st birthday and just prior to the 4th anniversary of Andreas death. Philip Jacob, her youngest child and my ancestor was only 17 at the time.

Daughter Anna Margaretha Kirsch had already married in 1821, so Philip Jacob likely lived with his sister and her husband, Martin Koehler. That probably explains the bond between these two families, because in 1848, both families would immigrate to the US together, settling in Ripley County.

Records Confuse the Issue

OMG, I have no hair left! And I was doing this to relax.

Let’s just say that finding a death record for the person who DID turn out to be Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler under the name of Anna Margaretha Koehler Kirsch really threw me for a loop.

Everything was right – the parents, the husband,  AND, there was indeed one Anna Margaretha Koehler born to those parents. But was Anna Margaretha who died in 1823 really the daughter of Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherin named Anna Margaretha or was that daughter Margaretha Elisabeth?

“Anna Margaretha” Dies

Sadly, Margaretha Elisabetha or Anna Margaretha, the wife of Andreas Kirsch, whatever her name really was, didn’t have a lengthy life – at least not by today’s standards. She passed away at 50. I always wonder about my ancestors’ causes of death.

Furthermore, her death record, which in essence the only “tombstone” she has today is recorded under the wrong name.

Margaretha Koehler death

Andreas had already died in 1819. Margaretha died only 4 years later. Tom was kind enough to translate Anna Margaretha’s actual death record from the Fussgönheim, Bavaria Evangelical Church records.

Margaretha Koehler death 2

On the 21st of April 1823 died and on the 23rd was buried, Anna Margaretha KIRSCH, widow of the late Andreas KIRSCH, aged 49y11m22d.  Her parents: Peter KÖHLER from Ellerstadt and Anna Elisabetha SCHERR.

Dang! Now what?


I thought, based on that death record, that I had incorrectly identified Anna Margaretha Koehler as Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, her sister. Documents had been recorded both ways, so I eventually had to make a chart.

First, I checked her children’s birth records.

Name Birth Date Death Date Mother’s Name in Record
Andreas Kirsch Aug 17, 1796 unknown Margaretha Elisabetha in birth record
Catharina Barbara Kirsch Sept. 13, 1798 May 28, 1817 Margaretha Elisabetha in death record. Name not recorded in birth record.
Johann Adam Kirsch No record translated, may not be her son
Johannes Kirsch Aug. 6, 1811, age 10 years 1 month Margaretha Elisabetha in death record
Anna Margaretha Kirsch Feb 16, 1804 Indiana in the US Her 1821 marriage record says she is the daughter of deceased Andreas Kirsch and Elisabetha Koehler, present and consenting.
Philip Jacob Kirsch August 8, 1806 Indiana in the US 1829 Marriage record says he is the son of Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Koehler. Birth record says Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler

Ok, can we find Margaretha’s own birth record? Maybe THAT will shed some light on the situation.

Birth Date

The birth date of April 30, 1773 was calculated from the death date in the civil death record of Anna Margaretha Koehler Kirsch. We’re fortunate that the death record included her exact age and the names of her parents, including her mother’s birth surname.

Margaretha Koehler birth calculator

Years ago, Elke translated the birth records of the children of Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherin who lived in Ellerstadt. Peter was the proprietor of the inn called “The Lion” and they had several children, all born in Ellerstadt.

The problem is that they had other children that preclude Anna Margaretha from having been born in 1773, the death record year, or 1774, the year provided by the German cousin.

  • In 1772, Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was born on April 30th.
  • In 1774, Maria Eva Koehler was born on February 23rd.

Clearly, neither of these daughters are named Anna Margaretha nor are they born in 1773.

However, the fact that the actual month and date of the Margaretha Elisabetha maps correctly to April 30th in the civil death record suggests that the death date year calculation used in the death record was off by a year.

Furthermore, Anna Margaretha in the death record is actually Margaretha Elisabetha who was 50 when she died, not 49, based on two pieces of evidence; the day/month match and the consistent use of the name Margaretha and often Margaretha Elisabetha in additional records.

It’s also helpful to know that when deaths were recorded in church records, generally the minister would go back and look up the birth record if the person was born in the same location. However, civil registrations had to take the word for the birth date/year from the people reporting the death who were clearly upset. Registrars recorded the name as they heard it, possibly not knowing the deceased as the local minister would.


That was a lot of heavy lifting.

Margaretha Elisabetha’s Birth Record

Margaretha Elisabetha was born in the village of Ellerstadt, not far from Fussgoenheim where she would live with Andreas Kirsch. Ellerstadt was literally the next village over, 2.6 km or a mile and a half, and the fields tended by the residents of the two villages would have intersected.

I wonder if the young people flirted while tending the fields, or if they met at church, or if the families had simply known each other for generations. Perhaps they “met” as toddlers playing while their parents worked and perhaps tended grape vines in the vineyards.

Koehler Ellerstadt Fussgoenheim

Today this region is wine country, probably much as it was when Margaretha Elisabetha was born there in the spring of 1772.

The page in the church book recording Margaretha Elisabetha’s birth was titled in Latin, a remnant of Catholicism and the Holy Roman Empire. This made me wonder if the church was Catholic, but it was Protestant.

Margaretha Koehler baptismal 1772


On the 30th of April, at noon, about 11 or 12 o’clock, was born here a little daughter and due to weakness, as baptized the 1st of May. The father is Peter Koehler, proprietor of “The Lion,” from here and the mother was Anna Elisabetha. Godparents were Johann Jacob Muller, master miller from Heuchelheim and his wife, Anna Margaretha who have her in Holy Baptism the name Margaretha Elisabetha.

Aha, so maybe they met at The Lion as the families intermingled.

Heuchelheim could be another hint as to family members. If they weren’t related, why would a couple from 10 miles away travel to Fussgoenheim to stand up as godparents, especially on quick notice, for a weak child, who they would be obligated to raise if something happened to her parents?

Margaretha Koehler Heuchelheim Fussgoenheim

It’s humbling to realize that Margaretha Elisabetha almost didn’t live. This may be the first record I’ve ever seen where a child was baptized “quickly” because the child was felt to be at risk of death actually survived.

Lucky for me that she did.

But this record also served to add to the confusion because I originally suspected that this child had, in fact, perished and perhaps there really had been another child born in 1773, a year later, perhaps with the same name. Reusing a name after a child had died was a typical German custom, although I’ve always wondered how they knew which child they were referencing.

What evidence could I accumulate as to the name and identity of the wife of Andreas Kirsch? Is she really Margaretha Elisabetha born in 1772, an unrecorded child by the same name born in 1773, or Anna Margaretha born in 1765 to the same parents?

Why do these people have to name multiple children with the same names? Were Margaretha Elisabetha and Anna Elisabetha both called Margaretha? No wonder someone thought there were twins. Maybe German Mom’s just named everyone the same thing so when they yelled out the back door and called their kids, they just had to shout one name for each gender and everyone showed up!

“Margaretha, Johann, time to eat!” and poof, all 10 kids plus the husband ran inside! Of course in a German village, using that logic, half the town would have arrived.

How sure am I that my ancestor, Andreas’ wife, really is this weak child? Or is she the older sister, Anna Margaretha, as stated in the death record, 9 years older than Andreas who was born in 1774?

Something is wrong, but which something and how, exactly, is it wrong?

Is this question really settled?


In date order, I created a summary of the pieces of evidence that we have for both names.

Type of Evidence Date Anna Margaretha Margaretha Elisabetha
Anna Margaretha Koehler March 10, 1765 X
Birth of Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler April 30, 1772 X
Birth of Andreas Aug 17, 1796 X
Birth of Catharina Barbara Sept 13, 1798 X
Birth of Johann Adam (may not be their child) Dec. 5, 1798 ? ?
Birth of Johannes Aug 11, 1801 (1811 death record might show more) X
Birth of Anna Margaretha Feb. 16, 1804 ? ?
Birth of Philip Jacob August 8, 1806 X
Death of Catharina Barbara May 28, 1817 X
Death of Andreas Kirsch May 20, 1819 X
Death of Anna Margaretha Koehler, wife of Andreas Kirsch April 23, 1823 Calculated birth date as April 30, 1773
Marriage of Anna Margaretha Sept 30, 1821 Margaretha Elisabetha and Margaretha, separately
Marriage of Philip Jacob Dec. 22, 1829 Margaretha Margaretha

Margaretha alone, without any other name, could be either person.

However, the correlation between the calculated birth month/day and Margaretha Elisabetha’s birth, plus the fact that the only record in which the name Anna Margaretha appears is her death record, except for the 1765 birth record with a different month/day, pretty much confirms that Andreas’s wife’s true name was indeed Margaretha Elisabetha and that she was the daughter born in 1772.

In other words, it’s her death record that has the wrong name. Kind of like putting the wrong name on the tombstone, for eternity.

And that, I surely hope, is the final (and correct) answer!

The Kirsch and Koehler Houses

I am incredibly grateful to Marliese, my cousin who was raised in Fussgoenheim. She and her daughter blessed me with some photos that are nothing short of amazing.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch home

Marliese labeled this first photo as the “Old Kirsch home in Fussgoenheim” where she grew up. The man at left looks like he’s wearing a long white butcher’s apron.

The entrance door appears to be in the black portion of the house which I took to be either a barn or garden area. That may be incorrect. I wonder the purpose of the architecture of the black area with the small door. In the photos below, some other houses seem to have similar structures.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler homes

The second photo, above, is labeled my Marliese as the Koehler house with an X and the Kirsch house with an O, although according to the first photo above, the houses would have been switched. Which house is which doesn’t really matter, because we descend from both families.

The close proximity of the houses surely explains the generations of intermarriage, although the early Kirsch records are in Fussgoenheim and the early Koehler records are in Ellerstadt. Based on this photo, at some point both the Kirsch and Koehler families lived in Fussgoenheim as neighbors.

Fussgoenheim street.jpg

This last photo is of a Fussgoenheim street, and I’m presuming the X marks the same location, just viewed from further away. You can see that other homes have a similar “barn door” like structure, with an embedded house type door.

Could this photo be of some sort of parade?

I don’t know enough about vintage automobiles to determine the model of the black vehicle. VW Beetles all look the same.

The Volkswagen was invented in 1938, but not put into significant production until in 1945, after WWII. This photo was probably taken after that but note the horse-drawn wagons as well.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler homes 2

One final photo shows people on the street in front of these homes, probably family members.

I surely want to know if these buildings still exist – and where they were. Unfortunately, Google Street View that provides actual “driving experiences” isn’t available in Europe.

I discovered that if you move sideway on Google maps, even though you can’t actually drive up and down the streets with Street View, you can still see and view the structure of the homes at least somewhat.

The building at left above is unique because it has the house, then the large black area which looks to enclose a garden or barn area, then another piece of the house on the other side before the next house with the 2 upper and 3 lower windows.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler

There’s no way to verify, at least not that I know of, that this was the original Kirsch/Koehler home. It’s a very good possibility due to the small, what appears to be flat roofed building, to the right that seems to match the style of the Kirsch home.

The house directly to the right of the truck which would have been the other Kirsch/Koehler house has clearly been torn down and replaced with a modern building.

Fussgoenheim aerial Kirsch Koehler large scale

Yes, I really did “drive” up and down the streets as best I could looking for a similarly shaped structure. It’s interesting how actually long and skinny these homes were with the fields to the rear. In one of Marliese’s letters, she stated that in the early 1900s, a field of 8-12 acres was sufficient to support a family.

Marliese, the German cousin, is related through both the Kirsch and Koehler families as well. The families intermarried significantly. Looking at the proximity of the houses, you can certainly see why.

People married their neighbors. Young people courted the people they knew.

The Oldest Known Photo

One last photo was passed down years ago through Joyce Heiss, another cousin, providing enough information that I could determine how this woman fits into the family tree and how I’m related to her.

Anna Elisabetha Kirsch Koehler 1828-1876

I initially thought, based on the comment that she came to America with her children after her husband’s death that this was Anna Margaretha Kirsch, the daughter of Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, born in 1821 who married Johann Martin Koehler. Anna Margaretha Kirsch immigrated to the US after her husband died, so this seemed to be a perfect descriptive fit – well, except for the name. We already know how confusing names can be.

However, this photo is of a different woman entirely. I had no idea this woman, the daughter-in-law of our Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, immigrated too.

This photo is of Anna Elisabetha Kirsch born Dec 14, 1828 in Fussgoenheim to Johannes Kirsch and Maria Catharina Koob, probably in the Kirsch house in Fussgoenheim shown in the house photos. She married Philipp Jacob Koehler (1821-1873), the grandson of Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler through daughter Anna Margaretha who married Johann Martin Koehler.

Confused? Me too.

This is like extracting tentacles of an invasive vine wrapped around a tree – MY family tree in this case.

It’s Complicated

Yes, it’s complex – and complicated further by the fact that her husband, Philip Jacob Koehler, died in Indiana in 1873, not in Germany as reported on the photo.

Philip Jacob Koehler 1821-1873 pedigree

In the pedigree chart above of Anna Elisabeth’s husband, Philip Jacob Koehler, the people with the upper-case names are my direct line ancestors. I’m related to Anna Elisabetha Kirsch and Philip Jacob Koehler, individually, several times over.

Anna Elisabetha Kirsch and Philip Jacob Koehler had 5 children, one of whom died for sure as a child in Germany, one who probably died in Germany and three who immigrated and settled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

  • Martin Koehler born July 16, 1848 in Germany died on January 3, 1913 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and married Henrietta Doerner.
  • Margaretha Koehler born October 14, 1849 in Germany died on June 19, 1903 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and married Johann Freidrich Stuber (1847-1934). They had 7 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood.
  • Jacob Koehler born May 28, 1859 in Germany, married Wilhelmina Heckhauser.

This family settled close to my Kirsch family who lived in both Ripley County and Aurora in neighboring Dearborn County, just downriver from Lawrenceburg.

Aurora to Dearborn Indiana map

Anna Elisabetha Kirsch died in 1876 of tuberculosis in Dearborn County and is buried in the Riverview Cemetery just outside Aurora. The two Kirsch families knew they were related, although, to the best of my knowledge they weren’t sure exactly how. Or, perhaps they knew exactly and that knowledge was lost over the next hundred years.

Anna Elisabetha Kirsch 1828-1876 pedigree

Anna Elisabetha Kirsch is related to me on several lines on her maternal side. If I could reconstruct the Johannes Kirsch and Anna Margaretha Koob line, I’m sure I’d share even more ancestors with Anna Elisabetha.

Anna Elisabetha Kirsch shared several ancestors with her husband too. I’m betting they lived in the Kirsch and Koehler homes in Fussgoenheim and grew up as children, neighbors, playing outside together. This pedigree is what endogamy looks like. Some great-great-grandparents appear three times, and probably more if I had information on the missing generations.

Anna Elisabetha Kirsch, Philip Jacob Koehler pedigree

Given that Anna Elisabetha is the oldest known photo of any Kirsch/Koehler/Koob ancestor, and I’m related to her through so many lines, I’m betting that my ancestors bore some physical resemblance to her. I look at her photo and wonder which of her features my ancestors shared and passed on down. Are some of her features my mother’s and mine as well?

DNA Anyone?

I’m betting that I would share a LOT of DNA with Anna Elizabeth and perhaps with her descendants if they were to DNA test as well. There’s a lot of common DNA between Elizabeth’s children and the children of my ancestor, Philip Jacob Kirsch. Anna was Philip Jacob’s first cousin, once removed on her mother’s side and also related to him on her father’s side as well. Perhaps it’s a good thing they immigrated to a location where there were unrelated people to choose from as spouses.

Philip Jacob Kirsch pedigree

Anna’s husband was Philip Jacob Kirsch’s nephew on his mother’s side and his first cousin once removed on his father’s side.

Anna was Philip Jacob Kirsch’s 1st cousin once removed on his mother’s side, and his second cousin once removed, as well as his first cousin once removed and second cousin, both, on his father’s side.

If you’re thinking that this isn’t a family tree, but a vine, you’re right.

Even though Anna Elisabetha Kirsch Koehler is not my ancestor, given how many ancestral lines we share in common, her descendants may match genetically as closely as if she was a direct ancestor. We share that many ancestors and there is only so much DNA in an ancestral population to pass around!

This is the perfect example of why endogamy can be confusing, both in the records, pedigree charts and when looking at DNA results where endogamous relations appear to be closer in time based on how much DNA is shared than they actually are.

Perhaps one day another Kirsch or Koehler cousin from the Lawrenceburg lines will DNA test and we’ll know how much ancestral Kirsch/Koehler/Koob DNA we share. Fingers crossed!

Elias Kirsch (1733-1804) and the Fall of the Holy Roman Empire – 52 Ancestors #227

Elias Kirsch and his family lived in Fussgoenheim – that much we know for sure. Unfortunately, the Fussgoenheim records are in sorry shape.

Fussgoenheim records include the following:

  • Baptisms: 1726-1798 and 1816-1839
  • Marriages: 1727-1768 and 1816-1839
  • Deaths: 1733-1775 and 1816-1839

Those books are not complete, with pages missing and significant water damage. In the words of Tom, my trusty cousin and retired German genealogist, “these are some of the worst German records content-wise I’ve ever perused,” followed by, “your gang is never easy.”

Isn’t that the truth!

Given the situation, we’ll just have to piece Elias’s life together as best we can from what records do exist.

Keep in mind that my collaborators, Chris and Tom, did not transcribe every single church record. They have looked at most of the Kirsch records, and Thomas graciously completed a spreadsheet of what he found.

However, if the records are ever entirely transcribed, we may find significant missing information in the baptisms and other notes in records not found under the Kirsch surname. Godparent notes sometimes describe the relationships between various people, including the godparents and the child being baptized, or the godparents and the child’s parents, or even the godparents’ relationship to each other – any of which might serve as either outright confirmation or breadcrumbs.

So, hopefully, over time, we will discover more than we know today. We’ve been able to piece quite an interesting story together from the breadcrumbs we do have.

Elias Kirsch was Born in 1733

Elias Kirsch baptism 1733

Elias Kirsch May 6 1733 baptism Taufen 1726-1798

“6ten May Ist Joh. Michael Kirsch und seiner Haußfrau Anna Margaretha Ein Söhnlein getauft worden noie [abbreviation for Latin “nomine”] Elias Nicolaus … gett [? cannot read this, but it must mean: witnesses] waren Elias Nicolaus Schnell und seine Haußfrau von Dürckheim”


“On 6 May was baptized a son of Johann Michael Kirsch and his wife Anna Margaretha by the name of Elias Nicolaus. Witnesses have been Elias Nicolaus Schnell and his wife from Dürckheim.”

From this record, we know that Elias Nicholas was named after Elias Nicholaus Schnell who lived in Durckheim, now Bad Durkheim.

It’s likely, but not a given, that Elias Nicolaus Schnell or his wife are related to either Johann Michael Kirsch or his wife, Anna Margaretha, whose last name we don’t know. Otherwise, there’s no reason for them to know each other or travel from Durkheim to Fussgoenheim for a baptism. I was not able to find any records for Elias Nicholaus Schnell, unfortunately.

Bad Durkheim to Mutterstadt map

On the map above, we see that Bad Durkheim is about 11 km or 6.7 miles from Fussgoenheim. Other locations relevant to this family are Ellerstadt and Mutterstadt where the Kirsch and Koehler families would both live when they migrated to America in the mid-1800s. Mutterstadt is about 5 miles via road from Fussgoenheim. In essence, this is all one big community.

Rhine valley map

All of these villages are located in the Rhine Valley plain, but Bad Durkheim borders the beginning of the low-mountain region known as the Palatinate Forest, shown in green at left on the map above and in the photo below.

Palatinate Forest

By Dr. Manfred Holz (Diskussion) – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Elias Marries

We don’t know exactly when Elias married, but it was sometime before his first child was born in 1763. The available marriage records list dates from 1727-1768, but clearly Elias’s marriage record is missing. What we do know, though, through the subsequent baptism records of his children, is that Elias married Susanna Elisabetha Koob.

Children of Elias Kirsch

Tom found the baptism records for four children of Elias Kirsch and Susanna Elisabeth Koob born in 1763, 1766, 1772 and 1774.

The records go strangely mute after that.

Are there any other clues?

Multiple Men Named Andreas

Andreas seems to be a popular name in the Kirsch family.

Chris says:

For your information: There are burial entries for an Andreas Kirsch in 1762 (“Andreas Kirsch, the Elder”) and 1774 as well. So there have been several Andreas Kirschs in Fußgönheim at the same time.

This is potentially relevant because Elias named a son Andreas Kirsch in 1774.

There is a gap in the burial entries from January 1743 to 1762. (The burial in January 1743 for Johann Michael Kirsch the elder is the last one for a long time!). There is another gap from 1776 up to 1816. I found no burial entry for Elias Kirsch or his wife in the years from 1762-1775.

In summary, I am afraid there is not much more I can search for.

So, the entire family disappeared from the records? However, given the evidence that I’m alive and descended from Andreas, they clearly didn’t disappear in fact. It’s just that I can’t find them.

Did Elias Die in 1804?

I frustrate myself incredibly when it comes to the Kirsch family, in part because I began this research 40+ years ago which I simply wrote down what people told me and gave no though to recording sources, or asking them how they knew a given piece of information. It seemed rude to ask, like I was questioning their truthfulness when they were trying to do me a favor. Besides, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t remember.

I was very young and very naïve. I know, right?!!

And I’m paying the price now. At least I was bright enough to WRITE THINGS DOWN!

In my genealogy software, I showed a death date for Elias Kirsch of May 2, 1804. A date that specific is too detailed not to have been found someplace. It’s not an approximation based on a child’s birth or marriage record, for example. But where did I come up with that date, and how?

I began searching relentlessly. Finally, I found a note from a German cousin decades ago where Elias’  death date was shown and the location was noted as Fussgoenheim, the village where Elias and my cousin both lived. This led me, of course, to presume (cousin word to assume) that the cousin had access to local records.

I had no idea at that point in time that the local Fussgoenheim records had been destroyed or were otherwise absent. Besides, absent at the local Family History Center might only have meant that the records weren’t (yet) filmed, not that they didn’t exist. I had already copied the Fussgoenheim church record images. I later copied the Fussgoenheim Civil Records as well, trying to fill in blanks, but all for naught.

Where did this death date come from? Not the church records and not the Civil Records. Not a family Bible because there wasn’t one. Believe me, I asked about a Bible AND I would have remembered that for sure.

Found It!

I had searched (again) some time ago when I started this article, but I searched one more time – this time with different search criteria. That old adage, “cast the net wider,” might work. I searched for any Kirsch who died in 1804 in Germany, with no first name or location.

What popped up was a shock.

Kirsch French church

A death record alright, but a FRENCH death record.

Kirsch French Elias death

That’s not possible. Elias was very clearly German. Besides, he lived and died in Fussgoenheim, not Ludwigshafen, right?

Kirsch French Elias

These Ludwigshafen records show a death date of February 4, 1804 in Ruchheim for Elias Kirsch, but is this the same Elias Kirsch? The cousin’s original note said May 2nd, 1804 in Fussgoenheim.

Ruchheim is approximately 2.2 miles from Fussgoenheim, so it’s certainly possible.  As we know, there were several Kirsch men in this area, so I was very cautious.

Tom originally translated the death record thus:


Date of the Act: 16 Pluviose in 12th year of the French Republic or 6 February 1804.

Death Act No. 36

The 16th day of the month of Pluviose in the year 12 of the Republic, the Death Act of Elias KIRSCH…..the 15th Pluviose in the morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. at the age of 71 years son of the late Michael KIRSCH and Margaretha his rightful? wife from the declaration made by Andreas KIRSCH, ? and farmer here……and Kristoph Braun…farmer …..

Klingenburger, mayor and civil registrar. Mayor’s signature as well as signatures of Christoph Braun and Andreas Kirsch.

We asked Chris, a native German speaker to help fill in some of the blanks, and he very kindly did so, in the midst a whirlwind time in his life. (Thanks so much Chris!)

Death Act No. 36

The 16th day of the month of Pluviose in the year 12 of the Republic, the Death Act of Elias KIRSCH died [verschieden] the 15th Pluviose in the morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. at the age of 71 years, son of the late Michael KIRSCH and Margaretha his rightful [yes! recht=mäßige] wife from the declaration made by Andreas KIRSCH, citizen [Br. = short for: Bürger] and farmer here, who declared that he had been a son of the deceased [als welcher gesagt hat er seie ein Sohn des Verstorbenen] and Kristoph Braun, citizen and farmer here, who declared that he had been a neighbour of the deceased and who signed this document. [Br. und Ackersmann allda [?] als welcher gesagt hat er seie ein Nachbar des Verstorbenen, und haben unterschrieben.]

Klingenburger, mayor and civil registrar. Mayor’s signature as well as signatures of Christoph Braun and Andreas Kirsch.

The parents’ names match Elias’s church birth record and the birth year too. Not only that, but Andreas is confirmed in this death record as the son of Elias. Everything aligns – same family. The discrepancy in the death month and year, in part, might be explained by a difference in date conventions in the US and in Europe.  In the US, the abbreviation 2-4-1804 would be February 4, 1804 and in Germany, it would be April 2, 1804.

This sure make me wonder how many of my ancestors’ dates are incorrectly interpreted by me.

Kirsch French Andreas signature

The death record is signed by Andreas Kirsch, and Andreas was Elias’s youngest child and one of three sons.

It looks like we found Elias’s death record alright, but how did Elias suddenly become French?

French Occupation!

The answer lies in the French occupation of the German left bank, the area between the Rhine River and France.

In the 1700s, Germany was still ruled by the Holy Roman Empire and was divided into sections ruled by Princes and royal families. The map below shows the Holy Roman Empire in 1789.

Holy Roman Empire 1789

Wikimedia commons map by Robert Alfers

You can see the Pfalz region in the closeup, below.

Holy Roman Empire Pfalz

The Rhine had for centuries been the road into the heartland of Germanic Europe facilitating transportation and trade. Of course, along that road marched and floated armies and invaders as well.

Wars in this part of Europe had been occurring regularly for hundreds of years by this time, and probably as long as humanity occupied this part of the earth.

The German people were weary. They had been displaced over and over again since before the 30 Years War which laid waste to and depopulated this part of Germany.

By the late 1700s, the German princes feared a Revolution, while the intellectuals hoped that the French would defeat royal absolutism. The common people, my families, were caught in the middle and could only deal with the outcome – whatever that happened to be.

When the French Revolution began in 1789, it was just one more in a succession of conflicts that dragged on until France officially occupied the German lands west of the Rhine.

In 1792, a conflict broke out, initially over the rights of German Princes with holdings in France, but it quickly expanded. The hostilities revealed that the civic ideals and French military were more than a match for the Germanic princes, vestiges of the Holy Roman Empire with no coordination among their fiefdoms, concerned about their own turf and not any consolidated whole.

The German lands saw armies marching back and forth, bringing devastation (albeit on a far lower scale than the Thirty Years’ War, almost two centuries before), but also ushering in new ideas of liberty and civil rights for the people.

According to Wikipedia:

Europe was racked by two decades of war revolving around France’s efforts to spread its revolutionary ideals, as well as to annex Belgium and the Rhine’s Left Bank to France and establish puppet regimes in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. The French revolutionaries’ open and strident republicanism led to the conclusion of a defensive alliance between Austria and Prussia on February 7, 1792. The alliance also declared that any violation of the borders of the Empire by France would be a cause for war.

Prussia and Austria ended their failed wars with France but (with Russia) partitioned Poland among themselves in 1793 and 1795. The French took control of the Rhineland, imposed French-style reforms, abolished feudalism, established constitutions, promoted freedom of religion, emancipated Jews, opened the bureaucracy to ordinary citizens of talent, and forced the nobility to share power with the rising middle class.

Feudalism was a social system wherein the nobility held land from the crown in exchange for military service. Vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles and peasants, villeins or serfs were obligated to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor and a share of the produce in exchange for military protection.

In other words, no one other than the crown or nobility actually owned land. Freedom was restricted and military duty was mandatory. It wasn’t quite slavery, but it certainly restricted freedoms in many ways. In essence, it was economic slavery with no way to free oneself. Even emigration required permission.

The French-imposed reforms beginning in 1793 proved largely permanent and modernized the western parts of Germany. However, despite these welcome reforms, when the French tried to impose the French language, German opposition grew in intensity. The French had crossed an emotional line in the sand.

A Second Coalition of Britain, Russia, and Austria then attacked France but failed. Napoleon established direct or indirect control over most of western Europe, including the German states.

Clearly, based upon these civil records, the mandate of the French language was implemented and upheld, at least officially. Knowing the tenacious nature of the German people, I’m sure not one word of French was spoken when they had any choice.

The Encyclopedia Britannica adds:

After 1793 French revolutionary troops occupied the German lands on the left bank of the Rhine known as the Palatine Region, and for the next 20 years their inhabitants were governed from Paris. Yet there is no evidence that the Germans were dissatisfied with French rule or at least no evidence that they strongly opposed it. Devoid of a sense of national identity and accustomed to submission to authority, they accepted their new status with the same equanimity with which they had regarded a succession to the throne or a change in the dynasty.

Wikipedia tell us that:

Following the Peace of Basel in 1795 with Prussia, the west bank of the Rhine was ceded to France.

Napoleon I of France relaunched the war against the Empire. In 1803 he abolished almost all the ecclesiastical and the smaller secular states and most of the imperial free cities. New medium-sized states were established in south-western Germany.

The Holy Roman Empire was formally dissolved on 6 August 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (from 1804, Emperor Francis I of Austria) resigned.

In 1806, the Confederation of the Rhine was established under Napoleon’s protection.

Confederation of the Rhine 1806

By ziegelbrenner – own drawing/Source of Information: Putzger – Historischer Weltatlas, 89. Auflage, 1965; Westermanns Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, 1969; Haacks geographischer Atlas. VEB Hermann Haack Geographisch-Kartographische Anstalt, Gotha/Leipzig, 1. Auflage, 1979., CC BY 2.5,

The Confederation of the Rhine, a confederation of client states of the First French Empire, existed from 1806 to 1813.

With the defeat of Napoleon’s France in 1814, Bavaria was compensated for some of its losses, and received new territories such as the Grand Duchy of Würzburg, the Archbishopric of Mainz (Aschaffenburg) and parts of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. Finally in 1816, the Rhenish Palatinate was taken from France in exchange for most of Salzburg which was then ceded to Austria in the Treaty of Munich (1816).

It’s no coincidence that we see the church records recording births, deaths, and marriages resume, in German, in Fussgoenheim in 1816.

The French rule was over. The official language returned to German, although I’m willing to bet that while the upper-class society spoke French, the peasants and farmers in the villages never did.

They simply waited.

Some, of course, like Elias, died waiting – but his grandson Philip Jacob Kirsch, born in 1806, two years after Elias’ death, tired of constant turmoil in the Palatinate, would take his German-speaking family to Indiana in 1848 where they still spoke primarily or at least occasional German for another 100+ years.

Some of that strong German bloodline is discernible in his descendants today.

Kirsch Autosomal DNA

Because the Kirsch family didn’t immigrate until the mid-1800s, we don’t have as many descendants in the US today to DNA test as lines that have been in the states since colonial times.

Thankfully, another Kirsch descendant and his family are also interested in the Kirsch genealogy and agreed to DNA test.

It’s particularly interesting, because while Mr. Kirsch’s daughter and I don’t have an autosomal DNA match, he and my mother have a significant match, on six substantial segments, shown in red below. In fact, other than immediate family, my Mom is his closest match.

Kirsch Autosomal DNA

On the chromosomes above, Mr. Kirsch is the background person with mother being the red segments matching Mr. Kirsch. For purposes of comparison, I’m the light blue that matches with Mr. Kirsch and my mother on chromosomes 8 and 11. Notice the huge red piece of DNA that I didn’t receive from Mom on chromosomes 3 and 14, the first half of chromosome 11 and the smaller segment on chromosome 4. In these locations, I received my mother’s father’s DNA, because I certainly didn’t receive her DNA from her mother’s Kirsch lineage.

The largest segment that Mr Kirsch and mother share is 42.67 cM and the smallest segment larger than 5 cM is 10.27 cM. Four other people also match both Mr. Kirsch and mother, above, as well. Two matches don’t have trees, one lives in Germany and one in the Netherlands.

Of course, Mom and Mr. Kirsch share both the Kirsch and Drechsel DNA, given that Elias’s great-grandson, Jacob Kirsch, married Barbara Drechsel in Aurora, Indiana. We could be seeing a combination of segments descended from both Barbara and Jacob.

I inherited very little of this specific Kirsch/Drechsel DNA, and my children inherited even less. Obviously, Mr. Kirsch’s daughter didn’t inherit the segments from her father that I share with him, given that she and I don’t match. It’s amazing just how quickly descendants can go from 163 cM of shared DNA in one generation between two people on 6 segments greater than 10 cM, to no match between their children. Genetic roll of the dice.

I do wonder if any of these segments descended from Elias or if they were introduced by a wife’s line in the 4 generations (inclusive) between Elias Kirsch/Susanna Elisabetha Koob and Jacob Kirsch/Barbara Drechsel where the line splits into sibling lines in the late 1800s.

Kirsch Autosomal DNA pedigree

Of course, every segment has its own unique history, so these segments could descend from multiple ancestors in the pedigree chart, above – Kirsch, Koob, Koehler, Lemmert and/or Drechsel.

We won’t know unless some Kirsch and Drechsel descendants who descend from ancestors upstream of Jacob and Barbara test and match some of these segments. One thing is for sure, one way or another, this DNA originated with our ancestors someplace in modern day Germany, a place then known as the Holy Roman Empire.

Hendrik Ferverda (1857-1898) and the Secret That Killed Him, 52 Ancestors #225

Sometimes, when you’re researching your family, you discover something that just doesn’t seem right.

Just doesn’t make sense.

Over time, things begin to feel odd.

Pieces that don’t fit.

heart missing piece

Or pieces that are missing…that shouldn’t be missing

That’s what happened with Hendrik Ferwerda, born to Bauke Hendrick Ferwerda and Geertje Harmens de Jong on October 5, 1857 in Eernewoude,Tietjerksteradeel, Friesland, Netherlands. Continue reading

Edith Barbara Lore Ferverda and the Indiana Constitutional Election of 1921 – 52 Ancestors #223

Edith Barbara Lore Ferverda with son Harold Lore Ferverda about 1920 or 1921 with the crossroads “downtown” of Silver Lake, Indiana that consisted of a building on each of the 4 corners in the background.

My grandmother, Edith Barbara Lore was born on August 2, 1888 and died on January 4, 1960. Today, I’m celebrating what I feel is a landmark aspect of her life on this, the 59th anniversary of her passing over.

John and Edith Lore Ferverda, 1959

Life in Northern Indiana in 1920

The Presidential election of November 1920 marked the first time that women were provided with the right to vote (nationally) in the US. My grandmother, Edith, would celebrate her 12th wedding anniversary to John Ferverda on November 17th that year. She would have been 32 years old at the time, with a son who would turn 5 on November 24th.

Her husband, John Ferverda, owned the local hardware store in Silver Lake, Indiana, F&F, short for Ferverda and Frye. Edith and John were members of the local Methodist Church. John’s parents who lived a few miles up the road were Brethren, although apparently much less conservative than most Brethren of the time, judging by the fact that three of their sons served in WWI. Edith’s father had passed away, but her mother by 1920 had remarried and had moved to Chicago with her husband.

All in all, Edith seemed to blend in to the conservative heartland of Indiana “near-the-farm” life. While John and Edith did not own a farm, aside from chickens, they lived in a crossroads town that consisted of only 452 people in 165 households according to the 1920 census (yes, I counted), which meant that they were surrounded on all sides by farms and farm culture – which clearly flavored the atmosphere of tiny Silver Lake.

It was then and remains now a small, sleepy community where the local drive-in root-beer stand, the lake and the neighbors provided the only entertainment, outside of church of course.

At that time the B&K rootbeer stand, the drive-in on State Road 15 on the north side of town across from the Marathon Gas Station still remains. The cemetery, where virtually everyone in Silver Lake, including Edith, is buried is a block or so behind the gas station, towards the lake. I remember stopping at the rootbeer stand after visiting my grandparents’ graves. You also passed the cemetery and said a “drive-by” hello to any relatives reposing there on the way to swim at Silver Lake.

At that time, the cottages around the lake were separated from the town itself by the cemetery and a few farms which have been developed at least somewhat now. After all, the population of Silver Lake has doubled and the people have to live someplace.

It was into this community that Edith had moved from Rushville, Indiana after marrying John Ferverda. Rushville was significantly larger, with trips often to both Indianapolis and Cincinnati, vibrant centers of commerce and culture compared to Silver Lake.

Edith’s mother, Nora Kirsch Lore, started and owned a tailoring business after Edith’s father passed away, and Edith’s grandmother, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, in 1920, hadn’t yet retired as the proprietor of the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana.

I’ve often wondered how Edith actually felt about settling in a small, extremely conservative town in the midst of a Brethren/Mennonite community.

Anabaptist Conservative Culture

Mennonite and Brethren wives didn’t work outside the home. They were identified with their husbands. When their names were mentioned, it was almost always as “Mrs. John Doe,” not as Jane Doe. They joined women’s church clubs of like-minded women and birthed lots of children to help with farm chores. These women worked hard on the farms, plus cooked, cleaned and took care of the ill.

I don’t know whether they liked or were happy with their lives or not. It’s doubtful that they gave that much consideration because it’s not like there were any other options, and their conservative church/family life is what they had been raised to revere. The words “obey’ were still in all wedding vows and were taken literally by both genders.

But not Edith. She had been raised in a culture of strong women, brazenly independent for their time, and had married into the Brethren culture.

I don’t know if Edith’s husband was “dismissed” from the Brethren Church for marrying an outsider, but regardless, he and Edith joined the Methodist Church in Silver Lake where they were life members.

The Methodists were somewhat less restrictive than the Brethren, but the conservative culture ran strong throughout the region.

Few women “worked,” at least outside the home, and for the most part, it was the perception and possibly the reality that the only women who worked were those who “had to,” implying that somehow their husbands weren’t manly enough or successful enough to support their families. If your wife worked, it was a slap in your face and implied some very “un-nice” things about you as a man.

In addition to their jobs, working women still had the same responsibilities at home, just much less time in which to accomplish everything. They generally didn’t garner the compassion of other women, who somehow felt that they “deserved” their fate and looked down upon them for working.

Edith worked anyway, as a bookkeeper, beginning in 1925, if not before. She literally worked from then, through the depression when there was no other family income, until just a few days before her death in 1960. Edith did what she needed to do for her family and God help anyone who got in her way.

Women’s Suffrage

This is the backdrop against which I’ve wondered how Edith felt about Women’s Suffrage. Women obtained the right to vote in August of 1920.

Did Edith vote in the 1920 Presidential election in which Republican Warren Harding won? If so, did she vote Republican or Democratic? Given how strongly Republican Kosciusko County was at that time, along with her husband’s strong political leaning, I’m guessing that I know which way she voted, assuming she voted.

I’ve speculated that indeed, she probably did vote because she was always a woman with an opinion and not afraid to speak her mind, in SPITE of where she lived and regardless of who approved, or not.

I’m not sure I’ve ever really appreciated Edith’s bravery under the circumstances. Social ostracization is a powerful deterrent, especially in a small town where it’s easy to become a minority of 1. Reading the local Indiana newspapers over the past several days as I’ve been sidelined by the winter crud has made me appreciate the life she led and the woman she chose to be.

The Election

It was in the Warsaw Union Newspaper, serving the 12,000 residents of Kosciusko County that I found clear evidence of Edith’s involvement in the election process – and the fact that she was indeed working at least episodically before 1925.

As it turns out, Edith was appointed to serve as clerk for Lake Township’s second precinct for the Special Election to be held on September 6, 1921.

Warsaw Union Newspaper, August 3, 1921, found on MyHeritage

Not only was Edith selected to serve on the Special Election board as Clerk, but Edith was NOT addressed as Mrs. John Ferverda, using her own first name. In later editions of the paper referring to the election and beyond, she was (generally) listed as Edith L. Ferverda.

When she married, Edith replaced her middle name of Barbara with her maiden name of Lore. For 1908, that was a radical way to preserve your birth surname and make a subtle statement. I think she would be proud of her granddaughter who retains her birth surname as well.

One of the ballot issues, as you might have guessed, had to do with women’s rights to vote.

On JStor, the Journal Article “Amendments to State Constitutions 1919-21”, pages 251 and 252, provides the following information about the special Indiana Constitutional Election:

And lastly, this…

Indiana ratified the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote on January 16, 1920, following the proposal for the 19th Amendment proposed in Congress on June 4, 1919. The amendment didn’t become federal law until August 18, 1920 with Tennessee being the deciding state to ratify the constitutional amendment.

So, how did the 1921 Indiana Special Election go?

Early returns on September 6th weren’t very positive.

At 2:30 on election day, it seemed that few voted. Women seemed indifferent, but perhaps those who didn’t want to vote, wouldn’t regardless of the Constitution, and those who did care had already gained that right.

Certainly, in Kosciusko County, there were very few non-naturalized females, if any. The topic probably wasn’t terribly relevant. The legislation was apparently in response to the recent war – or perhaps it was an attempt to limit the number of women voters. It would be interesting to understand why a separate amendment would be required if the law regarding citizenship was already in place for men. In 1851, in Indiana, section 2 of the Indiana Constitution read:

Section 2. In all elections, not otherwise provided for by this Constitution, every white male citizen of the United States, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, who shall have resided in the State during the six months immediately preceding such election; and every white male, of foreign birth, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, who shall have resided in the United States one year, and shall have resided in the State during the six months immediately preceding such election, and shall have declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States, conformably to the laws of the United States on the subject of naturalization; shall be entitled to vote, in the township or precinct where he may reside.

Regardless of disparity, if any in 1921, between males and females, the amendment was passed, but county-wide interest seemed light, according to the Sept. 7th paper.

Only about 2.5% of the county population voted. The “tax amendment” was the least popular of any.

Today, here’s how Article 2, regarding Suffrage and voting qualifications reads in the Constitution of the State of Indiana.

On a national level, today, noncitizens cannot vote in federal elections, but states control who can vote in state and local elections. Back in the 1700s and 1800s, vast tracts of land were available for homesteading and voting rights had been extended to immigrants who had filed their intention to become citizens in order to attract people by letting them know they could have a hand in deciding their own future. Territories needed to attract people to settle those lands in order to have sufficient population to become states, and states needed to have their land settled and cultivated as well, producing taxable revenue.

Edith, Leadership by Example

We will never know how Edith voted in the privacy of the voting booth, but her involvement in 1921, so soon after women obtained the right to vote tells me one thing positively. Edith was no wall-flower.

I imagine Edith walking up to the voting booth on that first election day in November of 1920, perhaps amid disproving stares, maybe with her child in tow, among all men, and voting anyway. A small but tiny act of protest. Then deciding that SHE would be the woman there to welcome future women and sealing the legitimacy of women in the polling place. Edith perhaps knew that the best was to effect permanent and positive change was through encouragement – that old honey versus vinegar adage.

Edith’s immediate involvement in the electoral process almost assures us that she DID vote, and DID care, and DID what she could in the time and place she lived to make a difference. Her name was in the newspaper, so EVERYBODY knew. She was the face of women in the polling place, the silent, or maybe not-so-silent, example for others. Encouraging participation. Encouraging involvement. Encouraging women to step out and step up to the polling booth – and to vote. They knew at least one woman, Edith Lore Ferverda, would be there to greet them with a warm reassuring smile and show them what to do – how to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Women setting examples and encouraging other women was critically important, with the small steps of thousands paving the way 98 years later for the swearing in this week of the 116th class of Congress, the most diverse we’ve ever seen as a country.

I like to think that in some small way, in the tiny community of Silver Lake, where Edith was front and center in Indiana’s 1921 Special Constitutional Election, willing to be present in the polling location, and the voting booth, seen and heard, that she in some way helped with the forward, positive momentum that set the stage for the day when women didn’t just serve as clerks, but in elected positions. Currently, 23.7% of the members of Congress are women, with 25% in the Senate and 23.4% of the House of Representatives.

Nearly a century is a long time, but I think Edith would be proud to watch the swearing in ceremony that just occurred. What a wonderful way to celebrate her passing-over anniversary. I’m incredibly proud to be her granddaughter and thankful for those old newspapers that revealed a previously unknown chapter in my grandmother’s life.

The journey of 1000 miles (or a hundred years) begins with a single step.

Edith, your small steps and public example were not in vain. Thank you!