The Life of Daniel Hirsch
Daniel Hirsh was an extremely important figure in the history of German American immigration in Washington County, Ohio in the 19th Century.
Daniel Hirsch was born on March 18, 1815 in Homburg in the Bavarian Rhine Palatinate. He attended the teacher's institute in Kaiserslautern between ages 17 and 19 and taught at a girls' school in Waldmohr for two years. At the young age of 21, he applied for and got a job as the schoolmaster at the Protestant school in Altenkirchen. The school had been poorly run by the preceeding schoolmaster for many years, and now he was expected to improve attendance and instruction there. The salary was poor and he was required to work at other menial jobs to survive.
Married and a dignitary of the Altenkirchen community
In his 24th year Hirsch married Philippina Weiss, the daughter of a wealthy mine owner in the community, and thus became one of the dignitaries in Altenkirchen. They lived in the teacher's residence in the new schoolhouse. Over the next ten years, five children were born to the couple. During this period, he was also outspoken and critical of the monarchy, authorities and surrounding states.
Events surrounding his life
Daniel Hirsch was born into a difficult time, because the land had already been occupied for 22 years by the revolutionary troops under Napoleon and annexed to France. After Bonaparte's defeat in Russia, troups returning through the Pfalz infected citizens in many villages with typhoid fever. On 30 May 1814 the First Peace of Paris ended the war. In a few years, the Rhineland Pfalz was controlled by Bavaria. The past years of war, the crop failures due to thunderstorms, and the high tax burdens imposed by royalty, all of these experiences affected Hirsch.
In the year 1830 in reaction to increasing dissatisfaction and agitation of some subjects, the Bavarian King Ludwig I developed policies which increased censorship, customs taxes and tolls on roads. Another crop failure occurred in 1831. On 27 May 1832 over 20,000 people gathered at Hambach Castle, where two leaders, Siebenpfeiffer and Wirth, gave fiery addresses blaming this misery on royalty, the aristocracy. The government eventually cracked down on 208 men and women in the area, who fled to Switzerland and the U.S.A. 28 of these were from Hirsch's town of Homburg.
Two more decades of difficulties ensued—periods of famine, economic depression, military conscription. After two years of depression, the February (1848) Revolution in France occurred, and this inspired fighting in several German cities. This "freedom movement" led to the opening of the German Naional Assembly where leaders hammered out a "Bavarian Constitution." The refusal of this Consititution by the monarchy led earlier revolutionary leaders in the Pfalz to form a provisional government of the Pfalz in May, 1849. However, assisted by Prussian troups, the Bavarian government suppressed this revolution with extreme severity.
Daniel Hirsch as banished revolutionary
According to Gearhart's translation of the Nikolaus article, "with great enthusiasm Daniel Hirsch placed himself in the service of the new movement and condemned the barbarity of the royal power." He founded in his hometown a people’s organization and wrote a petition to the National Assembly in Frankfurt. Accounts of this activity portray him marching to speak under flag and drumbeat, a very colorful yet dramatic image.
Naturally, he was identified as one of the leaders of the rebellion. Possibly because of his family and the influence of his wife's father, Hirsch was spared a prison sentence, but was relieved of his teaching position. In a later school newspaper article, Hirsch himself tells his colleagues that after seeking employment and being refused at 18 different places, and with the knowledge that he is now branded as a revolutionary and an outlaw, he is reluctantly now setting out for "the banks of the Ohio," where he hopes he and his family can find at last freedom.
Life in the U.S.A.
Hirsh and his family emigrated on May 1, 1850, just one month after having been removed from his teaching position, and arrived with 12 of his young students, mostly unmarried. The family stayed in Buffalo, New York for a few months. Hirsch then moved to Erie, Pennsylvania with his family, where he taught school and singing, and where a son was born. At the end of 1851, Hirsch and his family settled in Fearing Township in Washington County, where he soon became the pastor of the Old Berg Church, formally titled "First Evangelical Protestant German Church in Fearing Township." He held this position until 1873. While this was his primary duty, he exercised a much broader influence.
Over a period of thiry years, Hirsch developed a phenomenal career as a spiritual and educational leader of the German emigrant community in Washington County, Ohio. According to an email from Ernest Thode, the seven church areas shown on this website's topological map are correctly identified as churches which Daniel Hirsch regularly pastored at some time during this period. He also conducted German school during two decades of this period. After leaving the Berg Church as pastor, he served as pastor of the St. Jacob's church from 1873 until 1881, when he retired.
Here rests in peace our husband and father Pastor Daniel Hirsch. born March 18, 1815 in Homburg, Rhein, Bavarian Pfalz, died May 19, 1893. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. The spirit speaks: They rest from their labor and their works follow them.
On the second panel:
Philippine Weiss, his wife, born February 22, 1819, died July 27, 1907.
The Berg Church Records
Daniel Hirsch left several volumes of church records. They were, of course, written in German fractur script. Barbara Gearhart Matt has translated these records. So far as I know only two copies exist. One set of volumes resides in the Washington County Local History and Genealogy Library at 418 Washington Street, Marietta, Ohio. The other belongs to Mrs. Matt.
I feel an enormous debt of gratitude to Pastor Hirsch for writing these records down, and Barbara Gearhart Matt for translating them and making them available to the English-speaking world. If it were not for these records, I would know almost nothing of my German ancestors other than my mother's many tales about them.
A note on the sources of this article
I have drawn my article mostly from the Thode translation of the Nikolaus article, but perspective has been drawn from the other references.
Heinrich Becker, (trans. by Jim Andris), About the Forgotten Daughters and Sons of Dittweiler.
Heinrich Becker, Von den vergessenen Töchtern und Söhnen Dittweilers. pp. 15-23. In Wir "Diewiller Waffele:" Geschichten aus und um Dittweiler zum 675. Jubiläum der erwähnung 1316 und 12. Kreisheimattag.
Walter Nickolaus. Daniel Hirsch Lehrer — Revolutionär — Pfarrer. in Westricher Heimatblätter, März 1993, Nummer 1, pp. 4-42.
Walter Nikolaus, Daniel Hirsch: Teacher, Revolutionary, Pastor, 1848 Freedom and Unity, Germany and Europe. trans. by Barbara Gearhart Matt, edited by Jim Andris. unpublished manuscript.
Dieter Zenglein with collaboration from Walter Nikolaus and Heinrich Becker, Translated by Ernest Thode. To the Banks of the Ohio: an Essay on Emigration of People from the Kohlbach ("Coal Creek") Valley to America Especially Washington County, Ohio in the 19th Century. 1988. in celebration of the Bicentennial of Marietta and Washington County.