Ban de la Roche Family History Project

Making The Decision To Leave Rothau For Pennsylvania

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In 1736, the family of Jacob Christman had to stick together since the Church they knew and loved was challenged when their landlord, d’Angevilliers’ created a Counter-Reformation against the Lutherans. D’Angevilliers installed a Catholic church in 1724 and ordered its Protestant neighbors to maintain the Catholic Church even though the church was empty. The new pastor, Léopold Georges Pelletier, was an advocate of Spencer’s Doctrine of Pietism, which was not well received by the Lutheran Reformists. Many devoted St Blaise parishioners quit attending church and so there was a sudden drop of reportage of sacramental events for the years of 1707 to 1712 when Pelletier was its pastor. Pietism so outraged the elder Sebastian Caquelin, to the point where he rallied his neighbors to join him in a pilgrimage to Pennsylvania . One wonders whether he would have changed his mind given the gift of foresight as such a pilgrimage cost him the life of his eldest son.

To stay in Rothau or leave for Pennsylvania must not have been too difficult of a decision for Jacob’s stepfather, Peter Brüllhard. Peter himself was trying to find his place in the world, having been a Swiss immigrant residing in the home of his wife, Odille. They had married when Jacob was a five-year-old boy, and the following years, brought Jacob two half-brothers named Peter and Jean in 1726 and 1728. Peter was a shoemaker from Walhern, and possibly an old family friend as Odille’s father was also from Walhern, and the people with whom she associated, were formerly from Walhern. One such friend is Peter Binkeley, whom in the New World, asked Odille and Peter Brüllhard to godparent his daughter, Christina, at the Holy Trinity Church of Lancaster, on February 17, 1738 . This church, a Moravian congregation, would later invite Old Jacob into the order and bring him from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.

When Jacob and his family left Rothau in the Spring of 1736, Rothau had been a flourishing agricultural and metallurgic community that managed to recover from several wars and a sudden influx of foreigners settling into their villages. As a result of these new residents, the better established 50 families with their small harvests could not feed the population that had grown from 700 in 1723 to 2,300 inhabitants by 1750. Coupled with the sudden population boom and the subsequent famine was the religious intolerance of the Catholic-Protestants against the Lutherans. So when Jacob and his family began their journey to the New World, while their future was unknown, it couldn’t have been worse than what they were already dealing with. And at least there would be some comfort in knowing that the trip would not be made without the support of friends.

Journeying to Pennsylvania, the families of Binggeli, Brüllhard, Cacquelin, Christman, Ganier, Jacob, Jaquelle, Kommer, Mareschal, Müller, Schlechter, Schmid, Teppe, and Verly, left their thatched roofed homes and packed up their belongings and made headway along the Rhine up towards Rotterdam. They traveled the river for two weeks and stationed at the port for three, going through their inventory of possessions as they heard that the King of England would tax them for any foreign goods.

Copyright 2004 by Louise Bialik Chrisman, reprint requires author's permission