Background on the Palatinate
For decades, I have been trying to learn the history of Germany as it impacted on my German ancestors, and especially the history of the Rhineland-Pfalz region of Germany, from whence came six of my eight maternal great great grandparents.
The Original Article
Years ago I wrote this summary of an encyclopedia article back in the days when it was freely available on the internet. Today, you can only get about 10% of the article for free. I slanted the summary so as to make sense of how my great great grandparents, Abraham Fickeisen and Margaretha Müller, came together and formed a marriage.
According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Gumbsweiler and Buborn [my great great grandparents' respective birthplaces] 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 palatine. 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 1689-1697. 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."
Some of this can be seen in the map of Germany immediately below. It also makes clear that Bavaria, Hanover, and Prussia were the major political forces active in the area that is now Germany during the first half of the 19th Century.
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.
The Heinrich Becker Article
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.
The Vormärz Period (1815-1848)
Over the years, I have become more and more aware that the history of the emigration of my Fickeisen, Noe and Buertel ancestors is very likely to have been related to what could be called the German Freedom Movement, although historians apparently call this period the Vormärz Period, because its end is marked by the German Revolution of March 1848.
The Flags of the World website lists the 36 founding members of The Deutsches Bund which was created by the final act of the Congress of Vienna on 8 June 1815. It is an interesting website to browse.
Facts about the German Freedom Movement are readily available on the web and in enyclopedias. I have found the account of Robert Shea, The German 1848 Revolution: A German Perspective, to be very helpful. He writes that the Deutches Bund was established to encourage peace and stability in Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. A part of this program was to strengthen the positions of ruling monarchs and eradicate liberal ideas threatening to undermine them. In the rural areas (such as the small villages where my ancestors lived) the people were scarcely aware of these political events. In Shea's words, "Theirs was the world of Biedermeier, the term used to describe this period of comfortable, but stagnant and sleepy, inward-looking and narrow-minded society."
However, intellectuals, including professors and students, became increasingly frustrated with the oppression of free speech, and longed for a truly unifed Germany, as opposed to this quite loose confederations of emperors, kings, grand dukes, dukes and princes. Some were inspired by the revolutions in the U.S.A. and France which had occurred a few decades earlier and also by the literary works of writers such as Gottlieb Fichte and Ernst Moritz Arndt. People were singing the German folksong, "Die Gedanken Sind Frei."
In the years immedately following the formation of the Deutches Bund and through the 1820's, student associations (Burschenschaften) were formed with "Ehre, Freiheit, Vaterland" (honor, freedom, fatherland) as their motto. The student festival at Wartburg Castle in October, 1817, in commemorating both the Protestant Reformation of 1517 (against Rome) and the Battle of Leipzig of 1813 (against France), spoke to the value of the unity of the German people, as opposed to the fragmentation implicit in the Deutches Bund. Wartburg was in Thuringia, two states to the east of the Pfalz.
Quoting Shea's website, "On May 27, 1832, approximately 30,000 people, many of them again students and Turner, gathered at the Hambacher Fest to voice their demands for a liberal, unified Germany, for freedom of the press, for the lifting of feudal burdens, for religious tolerance--and even, as demands grew bolder and more radical, for proclamation of a republic. Predictably, a wave of arrests followed, as well as new laws to suppress liberals." Now Hambach is in the Stadt of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, which is in the eastern Pfalz. This is about 100 km across Pfalzer Forest from the little towns of my ancestors. Some of them undoubtedly had heard about this uprising and its surpression by the authorities. Great great grandparent Adam Buertel, Jean Adam Fickeisen and George Jacob Noe were all in their early to middle adult life when these events happened.
Shea says "By March of 1848, Germany was a tinderbox waiting for a spark." In the 15 years previous to this date, several factors contributed to this condition. Economic growth and the establishment of free trade areas and also the spread of railroad connections were steps toward unification of German states. Although it wouldn't have directly affected my rural ancestors, "beginning industrialization, combined with a rapid growth of population, led to the formation of an urbanized working class which mostly lived in utter poverty and misery." [Shea] An example of this was the uprising in 1844 of weavers in Silesia who demanded an increase in subsistence wages and who were put down by the Prussian army. And finally, in 1847, widespread crop failures led to famine, unemployment and hunger riots.
The Wikipedia article states what happened in 1848 in Germany most succinctly:
"Liberal pressure spread throughout the German states, each of which experienced the revolutions in their own way. Fearing the fate of Louis-Philippe of France, many kings capitulated to the revolutionaries at least temporarily. The revolution was triggered by events in France at the end of February [e.g. the abdication of King Louis-Phillipe] and soon spread to Germany, known there as the March Revolution. In the south and the west of Germany, large popular assemblies and mass demonstrations took place. They primarily demanded freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, arming of the people, and a national German parliament."
Of particular interest is the opening of the First German National Assembly (Nationalversammlung) in Frankfurt, Germany on May 18, 1848 at Paulskirche in Frankfort. There, 585 freely elected delegates from all the German states met with a large agenda. So many of the delegates were professors or had graduated from German universities that the assembly was called a parliament of scholars. They planed to create a modern, liberal constitution as the foundation for a unified Germany, which would include a bill of rights for the German people. Facing enormous setbacks, including a lack of support and respect from either the radicals or the rulers of the German states, the Nationalversammlung managed to hammer out and pass a draft of a constitution on March 28, 1849. The new Germany was to be a constitutional monarchy, and the office of head of state (Kaiser, or Emperor) was to be hereditary and held by the respective King of Prussia. When they offered it to Frederich Wilhelm IV on April 2, 1849, he refused to accept it. In fact, he was insulted by this offer from those who he thought had no right to do so. After that the Nationalversammlung gradually fell apart.
Many Germans left in dissolusionment after the failure of this revolution. They were called Forty-Eighters, and many were on on official wanted lists. I now wonder if my great great grandfather, Adam Buertel was a Forty-Eighter. The graph below is quite suggestive of this.
Certainly, Daniel Hirsch—about whom I have written a summary of Ernest Thode's translation of a German article on him by Walter Nikolaus.—was a Forty-Eighter. Hirsch emigrated to Washington County, Ohio in May of 1850 after being banished from Altenkirchen a month earlier. He soon settled in Fearing Township and became the pastor of the Berg Church, eventually pastoring several churches in the area.
Incidently, my research has led me to discover that one of my other great great grandfathers, Andreas Noe, emigrated in 1852 with his father, George Jacob Noe, his mother and his brothers and sisters along approximately the same path as that followed by Daniel Hirsch two years earlier. Here is their data.
On the other hand, Andreas Noe's father-in-law, Theobald Harth, brought his family (and Andreas' future wife, Carolina) to Washington County, Ohio in the late spring of 1846. This fact is interesting, if only to show that the "last straw" for some of these ancestral emigrants was neither the German Revolution of 1848 nor the famine year that proceeded it.
Last but most assuredly not least, the data on the Fickeisen emigration is given below. We do not know the date of emigration, and it is most dear to my heart that I find this out. We can surmise that it was before 1850. You can read this wonderful story about their trip across the Atlantic Ocean, told to my mother, Lorene Andris, by Margaret Mueller, her grandmother and Abraham Fickeisen's wife.
Sections on the Vormärz Period, The Revolution of 1848 and the Forty-Eighters added by Jim Andris, August 7, 2006.