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Background on the Palatinate

For an excellent resource on the Rheinland-Palatinate see this website put up by the German Genealogy Home Page.

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica Gumbsweiler and Buborn lie in a part of Germany known as the Pfalz, specifically, in the Lower Palatinate. After World War II, this area was joined with a part of the Rhineland to form the German state of Rhineland-Pfalz with the capitol of Mainz. The Pfalz, however, is historically identified with the Upper and Lower Palatinate, a region with an extremely complex history. In early medieval Germany, these were the lands of a leading secular prince of the Holy Roman Empire, the count palatinate. Starting with Louis I in 1214, the rulers of the Palatinate were from the Bavarian dynasty and eventually achieved the right to participate in the election of the Emperor.

In the 1560s, under Elector Frederick III, the Palatinate adopted Calvinism and became the bulwark of the Protestant cause in Germany. In 1608 his son, Elector Frederick IV, became the head of the Protestant Union, a military alliance. The Thirty Years War began around 1618 with a quarrel between supporters of Frederick V and the recently crowned Roman Catholic King of Bohemia, Ferdinand. The Palatinate, along with Germany, was plunged into a devastating conflict that left much of the land desolate. Before the end of this war, France, several German states, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands all had become involved. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 restored the Rhenish, or Lower, Palatinate to Frederick's son, Charles Louis.

The Palatinate was to face another assault from France near the end of the 17th Century. The War of the Grand Alliance involved Louis XIV of France, which was claiming part of the Palatinate, pitted against the League of Augsburg, a coalition of European princes. It lasted from 1689-1687. The Treaty of Ryswick restored the contested lands, but the land was so ravaged that many of the early German settlers of America, including the Pennsylvania Dutch, were refugees from the Palatinate. There appear to have been close political and cultural ties between the Palatinate and France during the 18th Century.

1789 marked the French Revolution, but within the decade, Napoleon executed his European conquests. The Brittanica says "During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars the Palatinate's lands on the west bank of the Rhine were incorporated into France, while its eastern lands were divided largely between neighbouring Baden and Hesse." Individual states were dissolved and religious holdings were secularized. However, with the Battle of Waterloo and the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, "the region was divided by the Congress of Vienna among Prussia, Bavaria, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Nassau." This can be seen in the map of Germany immediately below.

In fact, a very close look at this map renders comprehensible the apparent conflict between the census report that Margaretha was from Prussia and Abraham was from Bavaria, on the one hand, and what the present day map tells us, namely that they were just a few miles from one another. For, apparently, at that time a tongue of Prussia south of Koblenz cut across the northern section of the Rhenish Palatinate. If we had access to a more accurate map of that time and place, the border between Prussia and Bavaria just might have separated Buborn and Gumbsweiler.In another place on the Internet, I once read that the border between Prussia and Bavaria crossed the 8 km between Buborn and Odenbach no less than eight times. Odenbach was the birthplace of a Moellendick ancestor, written about in another part of this website.

This very brief and simplified telling of the history of the Palatinate has brought us up almost to the time that Abraham and Margaretha emigrated to America. In a wonderfully detailed article by Heinrich Becker, About the Forgotten Daughters and Sons of Dittweiler (which I have translated from the German) we find a history of the tiny part of the Great Wave of emigration that occurred from the Kohlbach Valley in the Pfalz from 1830-1880. According to Mr. Becker, in addition to the political upheaval that residents of the Palatinate had endured for centuries, there were the additional stresses of agricultural depletion of the land and continued population expansion. He documents how several families transported themselves from the Pfalz to Washington County, Ohio over a period of years. Many times older married couples left their married children in the "old country" and reestablished themselves in the new world. As they encountered the freedom, the rich lands and the opportunity for acquiring them, these settlers wrote letters exhorting those remaining behind to come and join them.