Category Archives: Freinsheim and Palatinate history

Hambacher Fest 1832

The Tenement Museum visitor center and shop at 103 Orchard Street, New York, New York has a great selection of books. I got caught up in such titles as:
When Did the Statue of Liberty Turn Green?: And 101 Other Questions About New York City, until a title caught my eye a few shelves over: The German-American Experience, by Don Heinrich Tolzmann. A must-buy. When I brought it to the counter, the salesperson sighed.

“You found one of two books we carry here about German Americans. I wish we had more.”

I should have asked her what the other title was, but my tour of 97 Orchard Street was about to begin. Back home, when I visited the Tenement shop on-line, I saw what the sales clerk meant. In addition to books about New York, the shop inventory listed books “Of Irish Interest,” “Of Jewish Interest,” and “Of Italian Interest.” Nothing “Of German Interest.” Humph. Maybe I bought the last one.

Tolzmann’s The German-American Experience is well researched. I love how it includes a write-up of Charles Sealsfield (a pen name–his real name was Karl Postl), whose books were as influential as James Fenimore Cooper’s “Leather-stocking Tales” series in giving 19th-century Germans an idealized vision of America.

hambach castle ruinTolzmann also briefly mentions “The Hambacher Fest and the Thirtyers,” something I rarely come across in English versions of German history. The 1832 Hambacher Fest is where the black, red and gold tricolor was first flown as a symbol of democratic rebellion.

From May 27-30, 1832, tens of thousands of craftsmen, students, farmers, officials, and young intellectuals gathered at the ruins of the castle of Hambach to listen to speeches on liberty, reform, and the tyranny of the German princes. Like the Wartburg Fest of 1817, the Hambacher Fest culminated in arrests, dismissals of professors from their positions, espionage, censorship, and police surveillance. These oppressive measures caused many to emigrate to America. (The German-American Experience, p. 166)

Hambach Castle, situated in the foothills of the Haardt Mountains near Neustadt, is now a museum. I found the interpretive displays there very informative. Here are just a few personalities of the day:

Friedrich Deidesheimer
The merchant and vineyard owner Friedrich Deidesheimer, of Neustadt an der Haardt, was a member of the Civil Guard, and in 1832 was a signatory to the invitation to the Hambach Festival. On May 27, Deidesheimer delivered a speech calling for a guarantee of civil rights and liberties by the prince and concluded with an appeal: “Long live freedom / Long live the order.”

Daniel Friedrich Ludwig Pistor
Daniel Friedrich Ludwig Pistor, of Bergzabern, studied law in Munich, receiving his doctorate in 1831. The political climate in Bavaria had intensified under King Ludwig I. At the Hambach Festival, Pistor gave a speech so revolutionary that he had to flee to France to avoid arrest. In absentia, he was sentenced to one year in prison. His radical writings in Paris earned him another indictment and conviction for treason. Living as an exile, Pistor joined the “covenant of the outlaws,” a circle of emigres. A clemency request was rejected by King Ludwig I.

Following the 1832 Hambacher Fest, which drew protesters from all over Europe, a June rebellion in Paris also failed. You may have heard something more about that French uprising than you realize. Does Les Miserables sound familiar?

1848: It’s complicated

I just finished reading The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht, wherein I was reminded that European history is … complicated.

Case in point, the 1848 uprisings in Europe. Or should I say, revolutions? Rappaport calls it 1848: Year of Revolution in his 416-page (not counting index and footnotes) book on the subject.

Several times now, after I’ve read excerpts of my novel to one audience or another, someone invariably comes up afterwards and says: “I had no idea there was a revolution for democracy back then.”

Back then? Right, mid-19th century Europe, the time in the U.S. of Emerson and Thoreau, of Alcott and Margaret Fuller, the transcendalist movement and antebellum period of President Zachary Taylor. Back in 1848, Germany was not even a country. That didn’t happen until 1871. Back then, the German-speaking regions of Europe were comprised of around 60 feudal states left over from the Holy Roman Empire, each with its own king, prince or duke.

The revolutions for a 1848 1849 rebellionconstitutional government, the right to assemble, freedom of the press, the right to vote, etc. spread not only in those duchies, but all across Europe. I’ve read many different accounts of that time, but a book I encountered recently: The Illustrated History of the 19th Century, puts it most succinctly:


Revolution characterizes the 1840s. … Nationalism and liberalism … simmer until, in 1848, they finally erupt in simultaneous revolutions throughout Europe. Famine and hardship too are key causes, often generated by the harsh social effects of industrialization. … [Revolts against King Ferdinand II in Sicily and Louis-Philippe in France] spur on a revolt in Austria leading to the resignation of Prince Metternich (1773-1859), the conservative and repressive chancellor of state. Further revolts erupt in Venice, Prussia, Poland, Milan, Hungary, and Parma against Austrian rule, as a revolutionary mood spreads throughout Europe. Pope Pius IX is forced to grant a constitution to the Papal States, but eventually has to flee to Rome. … The ending of the liberal movement in the German states sends a wave of immigrants to Wisconsin.

And Ohio, Illinois, and other U.S. States, I might add. These “liberal” scholars, lawyers and intellectuals came to the U.S. just in time for the anti-abolition fervor that would give rise to the Republican Party. 1848 revolutionary Carl Schurz was a key friend of Abraham Lincoln. So the year of revolution may have occurred across the Atlantic, but its after effects helped transform our country.

“The Next Big Thing” interview

Mary Biddinger, author of Prairie Fever, St. Monica, and O Holy Insurgency, has started a self-interview series called The Next Big Thing. I’ve been tagged to participate by the awesome memoirist and writing teacher Janet Buttenwieser, author of Guts.

Michael Harm, circa 1862What is the working title of your book?
The Last of the Blacksmiths.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Originally, I wanted to write a book based on several dozen letters in my family dating back to 1840, written by German immigrant blacksmiths and wagon-makers in Cleveland. The letter writers lived at a time when the city population was approximately one-third German. Since I had unique primary source material, I pondered making the book non-fiction. But every time I researched a clue in the letters, it led me to new layers of history – the “mean-spirited” monarchies of Europe, the recurrent bank failures in the U.S., the short-lived era of travel by canal, the apprenticeship system that had faded to non-existence by the twentieth century. I came to understand that my great-great-grandfather lived at a key point in the nineteenth century, when Cleveland was on the cutting edge of worldwide trade, westward expansion, the advent of modern technology, and the discovery of oil.

What genre does your book fall under?
In the end, I chose to write historical fiction, in order to create characters and scenes and dialogue, to flesh out history into three-dimensions. Even so, The Last of the Blacksmiths is based on a true story and real events.

What actors would you choose to play the parts of the characters in your book?
The German men would all have to be bearded and wear suspenders, like the Amish guys in the movie “Witness.” They would need to be broad-shouldered, too, what with all the blacksmith hammering.
James Marsden — protagonist Michael Harm.
Ron Perlman — Singely, Michael’s fellow blacksmith apprentice. Or possibly Sean Astin, since Singely has no neck.
Bernard Hill — Johann Rapparlie, Michael’s master and antagonist.
Bradley Cooper — Charles Rauch, Michael’s rival in carriage-making and in love.
Jodie Foster – as a young actress, Jodie would have made an excellent Elizabeth Crolly, with her piercing eyes and strong set to her jaw. Hilary Swank would be a good choice, too.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In 1857, Michael Harm leaves behind his family farm in the German Palatinate dreaming of wilderness, prosperity and freedom, to apprentice as a blacksmith in Cleveland, Ohio, wholly unprepared for what he finds—-strong prohibitionist and anti-immigrant sentiment, civil war, and an accelerating machine age that will wipe out his livelihood forever.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About 18 months. I spent over a year in research alone. I had much to learn about history, like blacksmithing for instance. I took a four-day beginning blacksmithing workshop, which gave me a profound respect for this ancient artisan craft (and I forged a fireplace poker, besides). I wrote the first 150 pages or so in the first year, then had the opportunity to spend a month in Germany. My “research trip” (which involved much wine-tasting) was graciously hosted by my German relatives. They escorted me to museums and castles and on bicycle tours to Roman ruins, and also translated for me during meetings with German historians. It was awesome, and a humbling experience. When I returned, with so many new insights, I realized that despite my best efforts I’d been incredibly naive. So I tossed everything out and started over on page one, cranking out a full first draft in five months.

What inspired you to write the book?
With the discovery of the letters, previous assumptions about Cleveland (where I grew up), about my family’s past, about my understanding of the nineteenth century, all took on new meaning. To hear in the letters from the people who actually lived it was inspiring. I felt compelled to tell their stories. We live now in such a technological, material age. How did we get here? Much of it began back in the nineteenth century, a pre-petroleum era we know so little about.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
My protagonist, Michael Harm, witnessed some amazing moments in history: When he was only seven, his rural village in the Palatinate was occupied by Prussian troops who had come to crush a democratic rebellion against the feudal monarchies. At age 15, Michael arrived in New York City as a major riot broke out between the Irish and the police in the Five Points Slum. Almost as soon as he reached Cleveland, a financial crisis sank the country into a deep depression. He saw the new Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln rise to power, the onset of the Civil War with its tragic loss of life. Then came Cleveland’s “Gilded Age.” The book explores not just my ancestors, but the German American immigrant experience.

Will your book be self-published or are you being represented by an agency?
My book will be published in the coming year by Coffeetown Press. My release date is February 15, 2014 — I’m really excited for that day to arrive.

My tagged writers for THE NEXT BIG THING are Connie Hampton Connally, Don Crawley, and Sandra Sarr.

Dialects and archaic words

My cousin in Germany found land records for my ancestors (in the Landesarchiv in Speyer) and her English skills are impressive, so she did me the favor of translating and explaining the documents.

“The sizes of the land pieces are measured in an old Bavarian unit. Tagewerk, which means ‘a day’s work’ and Dezimalen, which is the 100th part of one Tagewerk. One Dezimal is 34.07 square meters, and one Tagewerk is 100 Dezimale, or 3,407 square meters.” [I found substantiation of this measurement, and others, in a google books document: The Science of Measurement: A Historical Survey by H. Arthur Klein. 3,407 square meters equals .84 of an acre.]

My cousin also noted the four fields in four separate locations were described as being hinter der Burg (behind the castle), in der Thalweide (in the valley pasture) and so on. “The first piece is a vineyard (Wingert) of 32 Dezimale. The second piece is a field (Acker) of 34 Dezimale.” An interesting side note is that the fields were not located all in one place. My cousin tells me this was a kind of insurance, to protect against total crop loss if, for example, one field was hit by hail, or another by frost, etc.

The land records were in the “Kataster-Buch,” which was started by the Bavarian state (rulers of the Palatinate in that time period) in 1840 noting each landowner of the community and his property for tax reasons.

Persons who know German will have paused above at “vineyard (Wingert)” because the German word for vineyard is “Weinberg.” Isn’t it?

Now we’re talking dialects. When I briefly studied German in college, I learned there were two varieties, High German and Low German. I had no idea that each of those were also splintered into many different dialects.

Today, the German word most commonly used for farmer is Bauer, but in my ancestor’s day, the farmer (as opposed to the wine grower–Wingertsmann) was known as an Ackermann. Wait, Ackermann, as in “acre man?” Sorry, while my brain makes that association, the direct translation is husbandman, an archaic word by English standards, too. According to Merriam-Webster, a husbandman is one who plows and cultivates fields.

Regional dialect in the Palatinate is not as common as it once was, but it is still in use. This humorous book by Uwe Hermann, Die Abenteuer von Weck, Worscht & Woi: Der Wegweiser zur Pfälzer Lebensart (Weck meaning bread in Palatine dialect, Worscht meaning wurst or sausage, and Woi meaning wine) gives a glimpse into the dialect and culture. My relative Matthias sent it to me when I kept nagging him about Palatinate words. A translated title of the book would be: The Adventures of Bread, Wurst, and Wine: The Guide to Palatine Living. In the book, a cartoon bread, sausage, and bottle of

Weck, Worscht & Woiwine explore the humor, confusion and frustration sometimes created by the Palatine dialect, and also the fun-loving spirit of the people. A helpful glossary is provided beside each cartoon. Even some French words have seeped into the dialect (for instance, bottle is “Buddel (bouteille)” instead of “Flasche”). In part, this French influence came about because France ruled the Palatinate from 1794-1815, first by the French revolutionary armies, later by Napoleon.

Interview with Freinsheim historian Dr. Görtz

Recently, after a few years of email correspondence with Palatinate historian Dr. Hans-Helmut Görtz, I drew up the courage to ask him to review my completed manuscript Harm’s Way: A Blacksmith’s Journey for historical accuracy, in light of the fact I will send it soon to a publisher.

Dr. Görtz answered almost immediately in the affirmative, adding:
Harm’s Way – what a coincidence! A very short time ago I read a very touching book Out of Harm’s Way. The British author Jessica Mann (British crime writer and herself a war-time evacuee) … describes the fate of thousands of children sent overseas when the threat of a German invasion in England was imminent. Jessica’s grandfather Richard Mann, who in 1938 settled in Oxford, was a friend of Hermann Sinsheimer [a native of Freinsheim] and is mentioned in Sinsheimer’s letters to Frida Schaffner née Reibold. Together with Erik and Gabriele Giersberg, I have edited these Sinsheimer letters in a comprehensive book Briefe aus England in die Pfalz which came out only recently. But finally let’s come to your question. Of course I will support you as far as I can …”

Help me he did. As we have continued our email exchange, it occurred to me others will benefit from Dr. Görtz’s extensive knowledge, writings about history (a comprehensive list of his publications follows this interview), and insights about the Palatinate region he calls home.


For a number of years, Dr. Görtz, you have been a scholar of the history of the Palatinate. What is especially intriguing to you about this region?

Since 1983 I have lived with my family in Freinsheim. From the beginning on – as it is a tradition in my family – I was an active member in the Freinsheim Catholic community (a member of the parish council, a member of the parish administration council). In 1995, we decided to make a restoration of the historical organ (installed in 1825) in the Freinsheim Catholic church. I took responsibility to set up a Festschrift to be presented at the re-inauguration ceremony of the organ. For that purpose, for the first time I studied a little bit about the history of the Catholic community in Freinsheim during the 18th and 19th centuries, and I was quite fascinated. For me it was the starting point for an intensive and deep preoccupation with the history of Freinsheim and its environs. Since that time I published 4 books and about 35 papers in historical journals and have given a couple of slide lectures in Freinsheim, Mannheim and Heidelberg.

According to your internet bio (link here), you originally studied ancient languages, then went on to do graduate work in chemistry. What made you return to a study of history?

To avoid any misunderstanding: After elementary school, I attended a so-called “Altsprachliches Gymnasium,” a secondary school where we learned the ancient languages Latin and Greek and the modern language French (not English ! I never learned that formally in any school !). But at this school we also had an excellent education in mathematics and sciences. After the Abitur (final exam) I decided to study chemistry (a good choice !) doing my studies at the universities of Mainz, Freiburg and Ulm. After having finished my Ph.D. thesis in Ulm I joined BASF polymer research in Ludwigshafen in 1981 and worked there until my retirement in 2012.

It appears you follow in the footsteps of your grandfather, who was also a historian?

My grandfather Joseph Görtz, who unfortunately died in the age of 46 in 1934, was a teacher at the elementary school in Venningen and later on in Edenkoben in the southern Palatinate. He was very interested in history and wrote a remarkable booklet about the combat around the so-called “Schänzel” near Edenkoben during the invasion of French troups in 1794-95. He also left a manuscript on the history of the village Venningen, which has been edited decades later by my father Hugo Görtz. My father himself, a tax inspector, after his retirement spent a lot of time (together with my mother Marga) researching our ancestors. The result of their work is an elaborate book “Unsere Ahnen” in three handwritten and hand-drawn copies for my two sisters and me.

The town of your birth, Edenkoben, is the seat of the Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe. Did this offer an early influence for your love of history?

Perhaps you also could observe that young people have little or no interest in history, but my experience is that, with increasing age the interest in history also increases. Such is the case for me. In my youth I had no special interest in history. My memories of Villa Ludwigshöhe are very simple: Villa Ludwigshöhe is situated at the eastern border of the Pfälzerwald, this border consisting of chestnut trees. So my memory is walking there every fall with my grandmother to collect chestnuts to sell to a local grocery – a very welcome revenue for a boy in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

You must be a frequent visitor to the Palatinate archives at Speyer. Do you have any advice to genealogy researchers, for how to navigate the search for their ancestors at this archives and others in the region?

I have been in many archives, not only in Speyer, but frankly, I don’t feel too comfortable with your question, since genealogy is not my main area of study. So I would like to avoid your question a little bit by saying that there are genealogical societies with much knowledge and expertise, which it would be very worthwhile to contact. The corresponding society for our region is the Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde with a very useful library located in Ludwigshafen/Rhein.

Regarding the book Briefe aus England in die Pfalz, released at the end of 2012, which you co-authored to publish the letters of the Sinsheimer family. The writer and journalist, critic and lawyer Hermann Sinsheimer was a native to Freinsheim, and wrote about the city, did he not?

Hermann Sinsheimer (1883-1950) was born in Freinsheim. A lawyer by training, after practicing only a few years he abandoned his profession for theater, his true passion. Living in Munich in the years 1916 to 1929, he was a director of the Kammerspiele, chief editor of the satirical magazine Simplicissimus, feature writer and critic of Münchner Neueste Nachrichten. In 1929 he moved to Berlin, were he worked for the Berliner Tageblatt. Since Sinsheimer was Jewish, in the advent of the Nazi terror in 1938, he fled to England. He died in London in 1950. From 1946 until his death, Sinsheimer wrote numerous letters to his former Freinsheim schoolmate Dr. Frida Schaffner née Reibold. These letters as well as letters of his widow to the same addressee are the core of the book you are asking about. You see – the authors are Hermann Sinsheimer and his wife Christobel – not me and my colleagues. Nevertheless we have added an extensive introduction providing a lot of material and photographs about Sinsheimers ancestors, his brothers and sisters, his first wife and his second English wife Christobel and also about the living descendants of Sinsheimer’s sister in America. The book (768 p., hardcover, many photographs) is edited by the Stiftung zur Förderung der Pfälzischen Geschichtsforschung in Neustadt an der Weinstraße. It costs 49 Euros. Whoever is interested in buying a copy should just send me an email at The foundation will send it on their account.

Is there anything I should be asking, that might be of interest to genealogists and scholars of the Palatinate?

The history of the Palatinate is fascinating and nearly inexhaustible. For me the fascination is based on its historical diversity and lack of homogeneity: our small region was ruled by a lot of parallel rulers with their own territories: the prince electors of Palatinate, the counts of Leiningen, the bishops of Worms, the bishops of Speyer and so on … But not only diversity of lordship but also diversity in religion/confession: Reformed, Lutherans, Catholics, Mennonites, Jews …. last but not least: France …. we are close neighbors to France and remember: all the time before 1870/71 the invasions were from west to east, which the Palatinate had to suffer. The Palatinate region also benefitted from France, for instance with the introduction of the Code Napoleon, the Civil Code which remained in existence even after the French occupation ended.

Thanks so much, Dr. Görtz.
Dr. Hans-Helmut Görtz can be reached at
Am Wurmberg 11
67251 Freinsheim
Tel. 49 (0) 6353-7189

Books and Booklets by Dr. Hans-Helmut Görtz

Festschrift zur Orgelweihe der restaurierten Seuffert-Orgel in der Pfarrkirche St. Peter und Paul Freinsheim, Freinsheim 1996, paperback, 108 p.

Das Freinsheimer Gottfried-Weber-Haus und seine Besitzer in kurpfälzischer Zeit
, Sonderdruck, Freinsheim 2004 (offprint of identic paper from 2003 with some additions), paperback, 40 p.

Der kurpfälzische Vizekanzler Johann Bartholomäus von Busch (1680-1739) und seine Familie, Freinsheim 2005, paperback, 136 p.

Das kurpfälzische Amt Freinsheim – Entstehung, Personal, Amtsbeschreibung, Freinsheim 2005(reprint of identical paper from 2005), paperback, 72 p.

Das Kallstadter Gerichtsprotokollbuch 1533-1563, Stiftung zur Förderung der Pfälzischen Geschichtsforschung, Reihe A, Bd. 6, Neustadt a. d. Weinstr. 2005, LXXX, 328 p.

Das Kallstadter Gerichtsprotokollbuch 1563-1740, Stiftung zur Förderung der Pfälzischen Geschichtsforschung, Reihe A, Bd. 7, Neustadt a. d. Weinstr. 2010, CXL, 899 p.

Mit Köpf(ch)en durch Freinsheim
Brochure with coloured illustrations, Freinsheim 2012, 16 p.

Hans-Helmut Görtz, Gabriele Giersberg und Erik Giersberg
Hermann und Christobel Sinsheimer, Briefe aus England in die Pfalz
Stiftung zur Förderung der Pfälzischen Geschichtsforschung, Reihe E, Bd. 1, Neustadt a. d. Weinstr. 2012, XI, 752 p.


“Zur Veränderung der Einwohnerschaft von Freinsheim in der zweiten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts,” Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 15 (2002), 129-136.

“Ausländische Zuwanderer 1650-1710 im reformierten Kirchenbuch von Weisenheim am Sand,” Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 15 (2002), 137-140.

“Zum Taufnamen von Gottfried Jakob Weber, Mitteilungen der Arbeitsgemeinschaft” für mittelrheinische Musikgeschichte 76/77 (2003) 387-389.

“Das Freinsheimer Gottfried-Weber-Haus und seine Besitzer in kurpfälzischer Zeit,” Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfalz 101 (2003), 173-210.

“Das Freinsheimer Kirchenzinsregister von 1658 und das Freinsheimer Almosenregister von 1700-1702 als personengeschichtliche Quellen,” Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 15 (2003), 195-200.

“Dorf – Flecken – Stadt. Anmerkungen zum Status von Freinsheim bis zum Ende der Kurpfalz,” Pfälzer Heimat 55 (2004), 42-49.
Die Nagel’sche Erbteilung vom 27. Mai 1574 als Quelle für Freinsheimer Namen, Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 15 (2004), 418-420.

“Juden im kurpfälzischen Freinsheim – eine Spurensuche,” Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfalz 102 (2004), 139-155.

“Das Rittergeschlecht Nagel von Dirmstein, in: Michael Martin (Hg.), Dirmstein – Adel, Bauern, Bürger.” Stiftung zur Förderung der Pfälzischen Geschichtsforschung, Reihe B, Band 6. Neustadt an der Weinstraße 2005, S. 83-118.

“Das kurpfälzische Amt Freinsheim – Entstehung, Personal, Amtsbeschreibung,” Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfalz 103 (2005), 243-312.

“Kurpfalz 1690er Jahre: Führungspersonal gesucht – Hauptsache Katholiken. Zur Herkunft der Familien Gobin, Müssig, Lippe, Morass.” Mannheimer Geschichtsblätter. Neue Folge 12 (2006), 73-94.

“Vom Eichsfelder Jesuitenschüler zum kurpfälzischen Vizekanzler: Johann Bartholomäus von Busch (1680-1739).” Eichsfeld-Jahrbuch 14 (2006), 141-151.
Die Stadtdirektoren des 18. Jahrhunderts. In: Ulrich Nieß und Michael Caroli (Hrsg.), Geschichte der Stadt Mannheim, Bd. 1, 1607-1801, Ubstadt-Weiher 2007, S. 309-310.

“Personen ausländischer Herkunft im lutherischen Kirchenbuch Kallstadt 1656-1739,” Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 16 (2007), 296-302.

“Von Menschen und Büchern – Prozessakten erzählen über den Flecken Freinsheim vor 1600,” Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 16 (2008), 393-400.

“Juden im Herxheimer Gerichtsprotokoll (1780-1818),” Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 16 (2008), 433-442.

“Refugium Freinsheim: Der Dichter Julius Wilhelm Zincgref (1591-1635) und der Verleger Nikolaus von Pierron (1707-1760).” Heimat-Jahrbuch 2009 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim, Haßloch 2008, S. 88-93.

“Johann Bernhard von Ehm und die Schlacht vor Freinsheim im Jahr 1638.” Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfalz 106 (2008), 337-351

“Portraits in München aufgetaucht: Nikolaus von Pierron – ein Name bekommt Gesicht.”
Heimat-Jahrbuch 2010 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim, Haßloch 2009, S. 200-201.

“Reisenpforte und Heimpforte. Die Freinsheimer Stadttore und ihre ursprünglichen Namen.” Heimat-Jahrbuch 2010 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim. Haßloch 2009. S. 201-203.

“Leyfart von Heppenheim – ein unbekanntes Geschlecht des pfälzischen Niederadels.” Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfalz 107 (2009), 111-121.

“Die „avita nobilitas“ des Johann Bernhard von Ehm – doch wörtlich zu nehmen ?” Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfalz 107 (2009), 457-458.

Hans-Helmut Görtz und Reinhard Düchting, “Poesie in Freud und Leid: Das Leben des lutherischen Kallstadter Pfarrers Elias Saur (1642-1694),” Blätter für pfälzische Kirchengeschichte 77 (2010), 169-181.
Hans-Helmut Görtz und Mark Spoelstra, 300 Jahre Retzerhaus in Freinsheim – aber nicht dasjenige, das man kennt. Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 17 (2010), S. 72-77.

“Das Haus verkauft, die Brücken abgebrochen – Freinsheimer Auswanderer nach Amerika im frühen 18. Jahrhundert”
Pfälzisch-Rheinische Familienkunde 17 (2010), S. 118-128.

“Betreutes Wohnen Anno dazumal – Verpfründung in das Spital Dürkheim um das Jahr 1600.” Heimat-Jahrbuch 2011 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim, Haßloch 2010, S. 96-99.

“Literatur war sein Leben – Freinsheim verdankt Gert Weber Bücherei und Sinsheimer-Preis.” Heimat-Jahrbuch 2011 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim, Haßloch 2010, S. 134-137.

“Von Freinsheim nach Melk: Der Benediktinermönch Johannes Wischler (1383 – 1455).” Heimat-Jahrbuch 2011 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim, Haßloch 2010, S. 230-233.

“Graf Emich VIII. hilft Ostertag-Stiftung – Urkunden-Fund im Zentralarchiv der Evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz.” Heimat-Jahrbuch 2011 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim, Haßloch 2010, S. 193-194.

Hans-Helmut Görtz und Andreas Hecht, “Freinsheim und die Herren vom Stein,” Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfaz 108 (2010), S. 121-151.

“Johannes (Giovanni) Praga – ein Migrant des 18. Jahrhunderts – der erste Italiener in Freinsheim war Kaufmann und gut integriert”
Heimat-Jahrbuch 2012 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim, Haßloch 2011, S. 49-51.

“Unterwegs zu den Wurzeln – Sinsheimers Großneffe Fred Kolm besuchte Freinsheim”
Heimat-Jahrbuch 2012 des Landkreises Bad Dürkheim, Haßloch 2011, S. 190-192.

Dr. Görtz also presents a number of lectures with slides.

Emigration table of Freinsheim 1853-1881

In 2010, when I traveled to Freinsheim, it was my privilege to have a meeting with Dr. Hans-Helmut Görtz, a local scholar of Palatine history. He openly shared his knowledge and supplied me with many materials, including journal entries of the Protestant parish priest in the era my novel is set, articles about emigrants from Freinsheim during the decade my great-great grandfather left for Cleveland, and a book he had authored about local historical figure Johann Bartholomäus von Busch (Der kurpfälzische Vizekansler Johann Bartholomäus von Busch (1680-1739) und seine Familie). At the end of our meeting, Dr. Görtz assured me I should feel free to email him with questions. For the past couple of years, from time to time I have taken him up on his offer.

Cathedral at SpeyerHistory Museum of the Palatinate at SpeyerOver the holidays, Dr. Görtz sent me a pdf of a “Survey in table form of emigration to overseas countries from Freinsheim.” He found a copy in the Landesarchiv in Speyer (where one also can visit the 11th century cathedral and History Museum of the Palatinate, both pictured here). So far, I’ve been able to discern the following names: Wiegand, Selzer, Höhn, Schneider, Hoffmann, Kaufmann, Gumbinger, Diehl, Schulz, Amend, Retzer, Depper, Bisgen, Schwab, Bloch, Drescher, Haas, König, Kirchner, Weilbrenner, Weibert, Schalter, Arter, Reichert, Heinz, Schmitt, Först, Fränkel, Aul, Adler, Heim, Hermann, Jacob, Kohl, Köhler, Bawel, Debus, Schaadt. Check it out for yourself: Tabellarische Übersicht der Auswanderungen. The table is not complete (my ancestor Michael Harm, who left at age 15, is not listed), but I include it here for others who might have better luck, both with finding their ancestors and/or deciphering the Alte Deutsche Schrift.

The Rheinpfalz ladder wagon

A couple of years ago on the way to the Bewartstein Castle (near Erlenbach in the southern Palatinate forest), my cousin and guide Matthias got excited at the sight of this wagon sitting in a meadow by the side of the road.

“Oh look, it’s an old Leiterwagen,” he said, careening the Opel over to the shoulder. “I want you to see it. It was once very common in our region. The design is very clever– it can be used as one wagon with four wheels, or pulled apart into two separate drays. When it wasn’t in use, they would collapse it for easy storage.”

This Leiterwagen appears to be from the 19th century. Note the iron tires, iron fittings and chains, no doubt pounded into place by the village blacksmith. These wagons could haul hay or timber. With boards fitted over the side ladders, they hauled manure to the fields. This one is more elaborate for its covered top — most were left open to the air. The sleekness of the design was important for fitting the wagons down narrow village streets.

and grape rows.

At my relatives’ house in Freinsheim, they still keep their Leiterwagen, mainly as ornamentation.

In the New World, economy of space was not so important, so ladder wagons did not come into vogue. It seems the heavy-duty drays, Prairie Schooners, even the massive Conestogas (precursors to semi-trucks) were the wagons of choice.  At the Colonial Williamsburg web site, I came across this slide show about early American wagons.

Soccer back and forth

Yesterday afternoon, the European Soccer Championship quarterfinal between Germany and Italy was tough going. My son was home, watching it about two feet away from the screen because he didn’t have his contacts in.

“I wonder about the history of soccer,” I said from back on the couch like a normal person.

“It started in England,” he said, spooning breakfast cereal into his mouth. “They call it football, but ‘socc’ was the nickname for the association, and they added the ‘-er’ on the end.”

Huh. This morning, still bemoaning Germany’s heartbreaking loss, I began clicking around for more enlightenment. The research trail was labyrinthine, since the keywords “history of soccer” and “history of football” are interchangable in certain corners of the world. Still, I found the basics quickly: games where a ball is kicked by the foot date back to China 1700 years ago etc. etc. Fast forward to 1863, when two English Football Associations were founded: Association (“Socc-er”) Football and Rugby Football (the former being a game where the ball could not be touched by the hands).

Still, confusion reigned. For instance, in the Gale Cengage 19th Century U.S. Newspapers database, I found no mention of the word “soccer,” but “football” turned up the following.
Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, MA) Thursday, January 14, 1864
“A number of English gentlemen living in Paris have lately organised a football club, to which is to be added athletic indoor exercises of a gymnasia character. The football contests take place in the Bois de Boulogne, with the permission of the French authorities, and surprise the French amazingly.”

Hmm. Do they mean socc-er? Or rugg-er? (British nickname back then for rugby.) Interesting that the Boston Daily Advertiser is reporting the goings-on in Paris. Over a decade later, the same newspaper reports on a football match in Cambridge, Mass. between Harvard and Canada (Tuesday, May 09, 1876). The “Harvards” won, 1-0. But descriptions of the goals and touchdowns, movement up and down the field, etc. more closely resemble rugby.

Meanwhile, Germany did not found a football (soccer) association until 1900, one of the last countries in Europe to do so. One reason might be that, unlike the rest of western Europe, Germany was not a country until 1871. Early on, a memorable, crushing defeat for Germany occurred in 1909, when England trounced Germany 9-0. In the latter half of the 20th century (after two world wars, and decades where Germany was divided into two countries, then reunited), Germany had a string of victories, prompting Gary Lineker, England’s legendary striker, to state (after England’s 1990 World Cup loss): “Soccer is a game for 22 people that run around, play the ball, and one referee who makes a slew of mistakes, and in the end Germany always wins.”

A more complete exploration of 20th century German soccer can be found at

Add wine to the water

Do I have it backwards? Isn’t it supposed to be “add water to the wine?” Today, perhaps. But in Roman times, and still in the Palatinate, a favorite quaff is the Wein-schorle, a healthy dose of sparkling mineral water with wine added.

On my travels in the Palatinate (Pfalz) in 2010, cultural disorientation smacked me on the forehead my first night, while visiting the Bad Dürkheim Wurstmarkt. In one of the many vendor tents of this wine festival (which dates back some 600 years), I had no idea what any of the offerings on the sign meant. What on earth was a Wein-schorle? (a spritzer) A Trollschoppen? (a bumpy 0.5 litre pint glass, unique to the Palatinate). Traubensaft? (juice) Sprudel? (mineral water)

What’s more, I couldn’t help wondering, why are they diluting their wine? It seemed so strange, but turned out to be a wise choice — the Wein-schorle kept me hydrated, and alert enough late into the evening to be able to enjoy the fireworks display.

The disorientation continued the next day at Bewartstein castle, where I heard (or at least I thought heard — the tour guide was speaking German, my relative translating bits and pieces) that the best wine was reserved for the king’s knights at the castle, because if the water supply was poisoned, they would survive to protect the king. This concept cast a whole new perspective on the purpose of, and fascination with, wine-making. Water fermented with grapes in the wine-making process would render it safe to drink.

A week later, at Heidelberg Castle, I encountered the world’s largest wine barrel, the Heidelberg Tun. The barrel was built as a kind of “reservoir” — 55,345 gallons in all — to contain wine quotas, that is, the royal family’s taxes on wine growers under their rule. Imagine: all those wines dumped together in one enormous vat. What would be the point? Unless maybe, the water quality was poor, so the wine served as a substitute, or was mixed with mineral water to stave off illness?

Which makes more sense, except for the dance floor on top of the barrel. Perhaps the royal family’s motives were not entirely pure.

Mythic Palatines in America

I did not realize this book was so rare. My relative Angela gave a copy to me–Pfälzer in Amerika (Palatines in America) by Roland Paul and Karl Scherer–to help in my thesis research. Searching out a link to it for this blog, I notice it sells for a high price. I can see why.

It’s not such a big volume, but it’s packed with cross-cultural historical info. Published in 1995 by the Institute of Palatine History and Folklife, it offers articles about 18th and 19th century immigration to America from the Palatine region. Most of the text has English translations. Included are  maps and explorations of the “waves” of immigration and their causes, bios of notable personalities, and letters written by immigrants to America (only in German).

I find the bios especially intriguing. I had not realized that Thomas Nast (b. 1840), “cartoonist, moralist, and ‘president-maker'” was a contemporary of Michael Harm (b. 1841).

When in Germany, I visited Villa Ludwigshöhe above Edenkoben, and walked through that town, but missed the part of Edenkoben with the Johann Adam Hartmann fountain. Born in Edenkoben, Johann Adam Hartmann emigrated in 1764 to America, finishing his days in Herkimer, NY. A neighbor of James Fenimore Cooper, many claim the main character of Cooper’s most famous series (Last of the Mohicans, The Deerslayer, The Pioneers, etc.) is in part based on Hartmann. Pfälzer in Amerika states:

[After arrival in America in 1764], Hartmann became a woodsman and hunter on the Indian frontier. When the War of Independence began in 1775, he had already had ten years of hunting and fighting experience which he now put to use. In particular, he is said to have been instrumental in winning the Oriskany battle against the British troops and their Indian allies in the Mohawk Valley on 6 August 1777.

A memorial plaque has also been installed in the village. “In Edenkoben and elsewhere, it is firmly believed that next to Daniel Boone, the man from Edenkoben formed the most important model for J. F. Cooper’s character, Leatherstocking.”