CHRISTMANS OF BAN DE LA ROCHE, ALSACE |
All roads in the genealogical databases have lead to "Rodan, Steinthal," as the originating place for Jacob Christman, the Moravian of Guilford, North Carolina. However, not only would all roads lead to Rodan, but could go no further as by chance one day, a person entering Old Jacob’s birth place made a spelling error, and thereafter, subsequent researchers quoted and published the same misprint. Rodan was never meant to be Rodan but Rothau, a small village nestled in a French valley called Ban de la Roche on the western side of the Rhine River. But were it not for Steinthal, the actual name, Steintal (Stone Valley), would not have been found.
Steintal, founded in 1059 upon a former Celtic settlement plundered and assimilated by Romans, borders the Strasbourg diocesan land of the Vallé Rothaine where churches were established in Belmont, Fouday and Rothau before 1200 . When the family of Rupe (Stein) became Steintal’s landlord, a castle called Stein (Rock) was erected and the domain then became known as Ban de la Roche when the French inherited it in 1584. The new owner, Georges Jean the Count of Veldenz, purchased the area for 47,000 florins and got his money’s worth for the poor and arid ground brought about metal bearing wealth.
Elevated at 387 meters, Ban de la Roche is situated in a green valley surrounded by running streams. With constant moving water around the perimeter, the topsoil most fertile for agriculture is washed away, producing mediocre soil. While the soil is not ideal for farming, its topography offered its inhabitants opportunities for industrial mining, pottery and accessible travel via rivers. In some ways, it was an early suburban lifestyle; one could comfortably live in a hamlet and maintain a small farm while commuting to work some three kilometers away. Such lifestyle was bourgeois, or middle-class. Noted in the vital registries, the Christman families of Waldersbach, Neuvillers, Solbach and Rothau were bourgeois, holding positions in the justice system and associating with the nobility.
In 1649, Ban de la Roche encountered a bloody rampage lead by Guerotheé the Younger, and so the administrative center for the area was moved to Waldersbach and Rothau where Jacob’s family lived. Because of this move, two centuries documenting the activities of the Christmans and their associates were protected. An early Christman vital record dates to 1632 when Jacob’s great-grandfather, Georg Christmann of Fouday was given the nickname of Salm for his "thirty years of service to the Count of Salm." Like so many other Christman records, Georg Christmann’s name was inverted to become Christman Georg. Thereafter, subsequent Christmann families would be entered in registries with the spelling of "Christman" with one "N."
What Georg Christmann and his son must have witnessed in their community of 1200 is a tragic tale of mass hysteria. For between the years of 1607 to 1630, over one hundred people were accused of practicing witchcraft. Eighty individuals were found guilty and publicly executed by the hands of Meister Bernhardt who charged 10 florins per witch to be ignited . Those singled out were unmarried crippled men and widows who lived with their sons. But no one was safe, even families with children were subject to accusation, interrogation, torture, and death by fire. The worst accuser of all was Catherine Maréchal of Rothau who named her mother, brother and a young girl. Five more couples were accused, and perished in flames, leaving behind seventeen orphans.
After the lunacy of the Ban witch killings, many families fled to the city of Barr. To restore order to the community, the French-speaking Lutheran Pastor of Waldersbach, Nicolas Marmet, set up a tribunal to prevent future acts of intolerance. Pastor Marmet developed the Protestant identity during times of crisis, and was responsible for vital records of his parishioners from 1612-1675. Because of his notes, three generations of family history exist. Additionally, prior to the great 1736 exodus, Pastor Marmet laid a foundation in his church of Waldersbach that would be succeeded by Jean Oberlin, the Lutheran pastor who established the first kindergartens, orphanages and pharmacies. Pastor Oberlin resided in Waldersbach from 1767 until his death in 1826 and is buried in the small Fouday cemetery beside the Christmans.
One presumes that Pastor Oberlin moved to Waldersbach because it had been vacated thirty years before. The rise and fall of the Ban’s population had everything to do with whether there was a war going on. After the witch killings and Thirty Years War, the Christmans moved from Fouday and Waldersbach to Barr. Old Jacob’s great-grandfather, Christian Christman, also known as Colas Colas, was born in Barr on May 14, 1637, and his family remained there until 1664 when they moved into the smaller populated village of Solbach to become Solbachois. Prior to their return, the population of the Ban had dwindled down to 250 residents for the entire region. Yet the War of Holland, ravaged Alsace and burned down the village of Belmont in 1675. Therefore families fled once again, but the Verly and Ringuelsbach families remained. Sixteen years later, Odille Verly, daughter of Jean Verly and Marguerite Neuvillers, was born in Belmont.
Odille Verly’s father, Jean Verly, was from the Wahlern village in the Canton of Bern, Switzerland. Jean Verly immigrated to Belmont with the Binggeli, Brüllhard, and Müller families. They had been neighbors in Guggisberg, Switzerland and continued their relationships into Pennsylvania and Salem, North Carolina some decades down the road.
While the family of Christian Christman resided in Solbach, they celebrated their baptisms in Waldersbach, and laid to rest their loved ones in Fouday, suggesting that the family plot is in Fouday. This pattern continued until Old Jacob’s father, Jacques, moved in 1719 with his bride, Odille Verly, to Rothau where their first and only child Jacob was born on May 4, 1720. Eight months later, Odille lost her father on New Year’s Day, and then her husband the next week. Records do not indicate cause of death, but several young people died in January 1721, so there may have been a viral epidemic at the time.
The new mother, second time widow, grieving daughter, Odille, at age thirty had to carry on. For five years she remained single, raising her son, Jacob, attending to requests for stepping in as godmother to friends and family. Prior to her marriage with Jacques, Odille was married to Jean Michel Gagnier on 16 AUG 1712. But sometime between 1712 and 1719, Jean Ganier died, leaving Odille in Rothau. One wonders whether she had children from her first marriage. While the notes collected here are focused on the Christmans, there is mention of Odille’s probable uncle, Jean Ringuelsbach, sponsoring an infant by the name of Peter Ganier on 31 OCT 1713. Could this Peter Ganier possibly be an older half-brother to Jacob? Of note, in 1721, another Odille Verly, the daughter of Jean Adam Verly of Solbach, married a Jean Ganier. Such duplication of names is common.
NAMING PATTERNS AND THE ST BLAISE RECORDS
From reviewing parochial records of the Ban de la Roche communities of Fouday to Rothau, circa 1550 - 1760, along with the 1655 Ban de la Roche Census, and Robert Lutz’s paper, The Population of Ban de la Roche After the Thirty Years War, there is evidence that names intended by parents were often modified by ministers. However, the ministers of the Ban did their best to preserve names while residents lived their lives unaware that while Mr. Loux might have called his son “Jean” at home, in the church (owned by government), Jean was known as “Hans Wolf” or sometimes “John Wolf.”
Depending on which Seignory was in power, the Ban’s Lutheran ministers, Marmet and Binninger, were forced to switch from French to German, creating a hybrid language called Patois. The Patois method was not just reflective of the Ban’s bi-lingual culture, but inspired by a need to preserve records that would revert back to German. Thus the registries were a problem for French-literate ministers to maintain as their handwriting shows strain and disinterest until names and dates are recorded.
How a resident of Rothau, or Rothauqois, survives name translation is interesting to follow because residents were generally illiterate and could not sign their own name, therefore the ministers would write the participant’s name and have the participant mark an X. Also, it was common practice for ministers to use two notebooks, one private ledger in native French, and the other in Patois-German for the official record. Since a secondary record is sometimes available, intended names are better verified.
Complicating intended names is the cultural and religious behaviors of the Ban residents. When a child may be given two names-- a first and middle, the first is a Christian name to honor their patron saint while the second is the name the child is to be called by. Yet this rule changes if a child is not given two names. Then, a child is called by his or her saint’s name. Thus “Jean Jacob” would be known as “Jacob,” and his mother, Odille, would be called “Odille” because she did not have a middle name but Alsace’s saint, Odille (the 8th century girl who was a blind but restored to sight after baptism).
Further adding to the complication of naming patterns is how parents paid homage to their ancestors by naming their children after their parents and grandparents. The homage Jacob Christman paid his family, was shown by how he named his first son, Johannes Jacob, after his father, and his second son, Johannes, after his father-in-law, Johannes Heckendorn. This is why there can be two Johns in the same family. The naming order goes something like this:
Perhaps this seems like a very well ordered system with naming a child, however, if there are two brothers creating children every year and they are following this naming pattern, then there will be multiple children with identical names. This is why the ministers tried to personalize their entries by including additional notes on the participant’s village, vocation, and whether elder or younger. As there were many repeated names for Jacob Christman’s family, one finds not just one Jean Christman nor one Odille Verly, but several. And so it is important to take a closer look within each registry to notice the details, especially the notes on godparents as usually these people were also family. Whatsmore, while there is evidence of a naming system for the Ban families like the one above, this system is not a hard and fast rule, so please note that the system is a helpful tool in aiding research for when one needs a jump start with locating unknown family names.
Another naming system utilized by the St Blaise ministers occurred when there were two people of the same name mentioned in a single event. In such cases, a minister would invert one of the participant’s names to differentiate one from the other. This was a sensible method until dealing with a name like Christman because “Christman” is interchangeable with “Christian” and sometimes “Nicolas.” In the entries of Christian Christman, the son of Nicolas Christman, the Patois translation reads “Colas Colas son of Colas Colas.” Does this mean that Nicolas Christman’s father’s surname was Colas? Evidently not because Nicolas’ grandfather, Georg Christman, had his name inverted when called “Christman Georg.” And so, when “Colas” is used as a first name, it means “Nicolas,” but when used as a surname, it means “Christman.” And when “Christman” is used as a first name it means “Christian,” while the second name becomes “Christman.” And if a third name is thrown into the mix to honor Saint Nicolas, to make “Colas Colas Colas,” the name would then be known as “Nicolas Christian Christman,” and the child’s parents would probably call him “Chris” at home.
MAKING THE DECISION TO LEAVE ROTHAU FOR PENNSYLVANIA
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 Wahlern, and the people with whom she associated, were formerly from Wahlern. 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 already experienced. 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 colombaged homes and headed north along the Rhine to Rotterdam. They traveled the river for two weeks and stationed at the port for three, preparing to trade their possessions in Cowes as they were warned that England would tax them for foreign goods although most of their belongings were handmade.
THE PRINCESS AUGUSTA EXPERIENCE
Of the families represented in the Ban de la Roche Registry included within this section, is Jacob’s next of kin found on the Princess Augusta Ship Manifest of 1736 -- his stepfather, Peter Brüllhard; uncles Didier Verly, Peter Binggeli and Jacob Müller; cousin, Christian Teppe; and, future in-laws, the Heckendorns. Were it not for the St Blaise vital records of Ban de la Roche, the ship manifest of the Princess Augusta that sailed in 1736 may have looked like a document about individuals and not an entire region from Alsace. However, placing the manifest alongside the Ban de la Roche records, one sees that such a journey was not individual but collective. The people on the ship were not strangers to one another but a community making an exodus out of harm’s way.
While many relatives of Jacob Christman are listed in the published records of the Princess Augustus Manifest of 1736, he is probably omitted because he was 16 years old and therefore represented by his head of house, Peter Brüllhard, as it was the order that all children 16 and under, along with the females no matter what age they were, to be represented by head of house and not reported by name. Thus Jacob is omitted from the list, but there is a Jacob Christman, age 25. Efforts have been made to locate this person in the St Blaise registries but no record has been found for him nor a 40-year-old Jean Christian (Christman). Current discovery suggests that the Jacob Christman and Jean Christian mentioned in the Augusta manifest may have originated from the neighboring Plaine community east of Fouday, or closer to Barr where some Christmans migrated after 1700. Barr is in proximity to Württemberg where Christman researchers claim as the place of origin, while others favor Rotterdam where Jacob of 1711 departed on the Princess Augusta.
The Ban families made their exodus along the Rhine for a three-week journey to Rotterdam, Holland. Once settled, the elders went about securing a passenger ship that would first take them to Cowes, England where they would exchange their possessions even though they were handmade. With newly acquired English-made products, the families believed they would be spared of taxation in Pennsylvania as England decreed all foreign goods would be subject to an import tax. With their belongings stowed among the cattle and freight merchandise, the passengers boarded the Augusta and patiently sailed for three long months through summer weather. The ship, while called Princess, was not a luxury liner. Some three hundred and thirty passengers along with fifty or so crew sailed across the Atlantic in the most dreadful of conditions. Only the strong survived. One who did not was Sebastian Caquelin, age 22 . From the letter of a passenger who sailed the Princess Augusta, there is this accounting:
Having arrived to the New World, and eager to take their belongings to their new homes, the passengers were detained and their belongings, every scrap, seized. In other words, they were pirated. In the following document from the German-Swiss Ancestors' Forfeited Goods and Disposal of the Same , there is this accounting of the pilgrims losses:
How Jacob came to settle into Guilford is a story about a man who while just trying to stay afloat in life, managed to do so through upheavals in his homeland, an exodus across the great Atlantic, and arrive to manhood with hardly a scrap to call his own. His mother, a daughter of a man who left his home in Walhern for religious freedom, passed on his stamina and trust in God that would make their survival possible. Little did Jacob know that the silver lining journeyed beside him as they sailed summer over the Atlantic on a ship that would not last another voyage. Come September 1736, two teenagers, Jacob Christman and Barbara Heckendorn, arrived to a new world-- an Adam and Eve in their own right.