Von Bierbach nach Chattanooga

Von Bierbach nach Chattanooga. That is the title of the newspaper story that appeared in last week’s edition of the Saarbrücker Zeitung, the “Saarbrücker Newspaper.”

“From Bierbach to Chattanooga”

And yes, the article refers to our Chattanooga, Ohio. It is the story of my immigrant ancestor after he settled in Mercer County, Ohio, in 1871. What he did, what his life was like as an American citizen, and what happened to him.

"From Bierbach to Chattanooga." "The Bierbach emigrants Jacob Mueller (sitting) in 1900 with his large family. In 1871 he went to the USA, where he was a farmer in Ohio."

“From Bierbach to Chattanooga.” “The Bierbach emigrants Jacob Mueller (sitting) in 1900 with his large family. In 1871 he went to the USA, where he was a farmer in Ohio.”

Never in his wildest dreams could my great-grandfather Jacob Müller imagine this. That nearly a century and a half after he emigrated, someone from his native village of Bierbach would want to know about his life in the New World. Not to mention the fact that his story and family photo would be published in a German newspaper and on something as inconceivable as the Internet, where anyone in the world can read it.

How could anyone from the late 19th century imagine these things? If Jacob thought that far into the future he would have wondered: Would there be any distant relatives living in my hometown of Bierbach in 2015? Would anyone in Bierbach know of my family and the contributions we made to the community? Were our emigrant stories passed down through the years? Would anyone remember my family at all?

Thankfully there are people who are interested in knowing what happened to the German emigrants after they settled in America. They don’t necessarily have ties to a specific family. They just want to learn about and write the emigrant’s story.

Kerstin Rech is one of the people. Kerstin lives in Stuttgart and is an author who writes novels and freelances as a newspaper journalist for various newspapers and magazines. One of those newspapers is the Saarbrücker Zeitung, “Saarbrücker Newspaper” in English. Saarbrücken is the capital of the state of Saarland, located in southwestern Germany, very near the French border. It is about 12.8 miles from Bierbach, as the crow flies. Bierbach, a little village in the Kingdom of Bavaria in Jacob’s time, is now in the state of Saarland.

Kerstin has family ties to Bierbach and chose to write an article about a local 19th century emigrant. She wanted write about his life in the New World and what eventually happened to him.

Kerstin found my website, likely from an Internet search for Bierbach, and read some of my blog posts. From that she learned that my great-grandfather Jacob Müller came from her region of Germany. She contacted me over six months ago and I provided her with information about Jacob for her article.

Her story was printed in the Saarbrücker Zeitung just last weekend, in the 25/26 January 2015 edition. The article was in the Heimat/Region (Home/Region) section of the newspaper.

As I told Jacob’s story to Kerstin we discussed why he emigrated. I mentioned that many Germans were lured to America by good cheap land because there was a shortage of land in Germany.  Families were large and often only the eldest male in the family inherited the family farm. There was just not enough land for everyone in the family and remaining siblings needed some form of employment. There was opportunity in America.

When I told Kerstin that Jacob purchased 80 acres of land in Blackcreek Township she was astounded. She questioned the 80 acre number, thinking I might have made a typo and actually meant 8 acres. She said that 80 acres would have been an almost unimaginable amount of land by German standards. But I explained that it was a fairly common amount of land to purchase in this rural area. I never really thought much about it because it was an average size farm around here, but it would have been a lot of land in Germany.

By German standards Jacob would have been considered prosperous. A wealthy farmer who owned a vast amount of land.

But prosperity is relative.

Jacob was probably of average wealth compared to the other farmers in Blackcreek Township. He may have even been a little poorer than average in his community. But with a lot of hard work and determination he cleared and worked and farmed and raised livestock on his 80 acres. He built a house and barn on his farm and raised a family of ten children, losing some of those children before his death in 1918.

Jacob was not prosperous by some standards, but by other standards he was quite wealthy.

Here is a link to newspaper article, if you would like to see it yourself: http://www.saarbruecker-zeitung.de/saarland/heimat/Von-Bierbach-nach-Chattanooga;art371088,5600009

A translation of the article is below, from Google Translate. It is a rather rough translation since the German language places verbs and adjectives in a different position in a sentence than we do. They also use the hectare as their land measurement and 80 acres = 32.375 hectares.

So far, a couple people from Germany have contacted me regarding the article. Who knows where that might lead…

Now I can answer at least one of the questions Jacob might have pondered. Yes, some people from your native land and community now know your story and how well you prospered in America.

Thank you, Kerstin, for telling Jacob Müller’s story.


Translation of the article written by Kerstin Rech:

Five million German immigrants from 1820 to 1920 in the United States. One of them was Jacob Mueller from Bierenbach. He tried his luck in Ohio – and even found oil.

They were not good times, raged 1870. The Franco-German war. In the Bierenbacher Dorfchronik one can read that the thunder of the guns on the heights Spicherer until after Bierenbach, today part of Blieskastel, could be heard. In this year the 27-year-old day laborer and small farmer Jacob Mueller made a decision that would completely change his life.

It was not just the war and material hardship, which led him. His great-granddaughter Karen Miller-Bennett found in researching their family history, that in 1870 for Jacob himself was also a tough year. His wife, Sophia, died in childbirth. A few months later, his father John died. These setbacks prompted the young man to America, as it had already done some Bierenbacher before him. With his mother Marie and the two sisters Catherine and Margaret, who were married to the equally derived from Bierenbach brothers Jacob and Phillip Linn subject.

Not irrelevant to his decision should the letters have been that, had written of his mother’s brother, Christian Kessler. Christian was in 1849 set out in the New World. In his letters he enthusiastically reported from cheap farmland.

With few possessions climbed Jacob Mueller and his family on May 31, 1871 in Bremen, the ship called “Bremen”. 16 days took the arduous crossing. On 15 June 1871, the Bierenbacher arrived in New York.

The German emigrants at that time was the largest non-English speaking group in the United States. The “most German” settlement area was in Pennsylvania, where the location of German Town was founded in the year 1683. Further preferred by German settlers States were Maryland and New York. From the middle of the 19th century, Wisconsin, Missouri and Ohio were driven increased. Jacob and his family it moved to Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio, near the border with Indiana. There, his uncle Christian Kessler had already established.

1873 Jacob bought in Black Creek Township two miles north of Chattanooga for $ 1,600 about 32 acres of land. On the fertile farmland he built his farm where he lived until his death. By 1900, he also discovered five oil wells on his land. But they were not very productive. 1876 Jacob took an American citizen. A year later he married Margaretha Stroebel. The couple had two sons, Johann Peter and Christian. Margaretha died in 1882, Jacob married in the same year, a native of Württemberg Christina Rüeck.

By 1900, he changed his name Müller in Miller that made him finally to the Americans, even though he had never learned the language properly. Jacob Miller died on 15 June 1918 aged 75 years. His farm still exists today. It is now managed by his great-granddaughter Karen Miller-Bennett and her family.


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    • Deb Reichard on January 30, 2015 at 9:53 am
    • Reply

    How cool! I have often wondered the same thing as to whether our “original” family members have wondered what happened to those that left the Mother Land. I have looked into some of the geographical area the Bollenbachers have come from and one day would like to visit. Thanks for sharing,

    1. Yes, I was very pleased and excited when this story was published last week. And pleased to find out that people are still interested in learning about what happened to their fellow Germans after emigrating. I also would like to visit their hometowns in Germany. Thanks for writing!

    • Linda Bollenbacher Hole on January 30, 2015 at 11:31 pm
    • Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, as well as all others I’ve read. I have ties to Chattanooga (Chatt), I grew up near Chatt as a child, also as both my great-grandfathers (my paternal grandfather’s father and my paternal grandmother’s father) were both from Germany, both were Bollenbachers, both lived in Liberty Township near Chatt and both had first name of Jacob. Talk about confusing! My paternal grandfather, Frederick Valentine Bollenbacher, owned and operated the Chatt Home Restaurant, now known as Chatt Bar (of course) until in the late 1940’s until he sold it due to declining health. I’ve also been to Germany when my sister’s husband was stationed in Schweinfurt in the US Army in the late 1960’s.
    Looking forward to reading more articles. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you. You have several ties to Chatt! Yes, a lot of Bollenbachers lived in the Chatt area at one time and I believe quite a few Chatt-area immigrants were from southwest Germany. The word must have gotten back to Germany that it was a good place to settle! How interesting that your grandfather once owned the Chatt Bar. Thanks for reading!

    • Sue (McGough) Schrock on January 31, 2015 at 9:56 am
    • Reply

    Hi Karen,
    I so enjoy your blogs about Chatt! I am just getting into the family history. Florence Gause has helped me a lot.
    I have a lot on the Baker side as they were the church members. But the McGough side is much harder. I get back to my great grandfather Henry and that is about it. I will be retiring soon. How that got here so fast I do not know!! Ha!! So should have more time. Any suggested sites would be appreciated.
    I was told that Lloyd McGough from Linn Grove was starting a McGough book. But I know he has passed away so that has not gotten me anywhere. Unfortunately I have not kept in touch with the McGough family other that immediate. Of course now I wish I had.
    Anyway I enjoy all your posts. Especially the one on the mausolim ,I know I didn’t spell that right, but I think you know what I mean. I’m not clear if it was my Great grandfather Baker or a relative you donated the land and helped build it. Could you clear that up for me?? Thanks Sue

    1. Hi Sue. Great to hear from you and of your interest in genealogy. It is a fun and addictive hobby. Some might even say an obsession! My first go to sites are FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com. Find A Grave is also very helpful. I will have to do a little research on your Baker relative who donated land. I will get back with you on that. Thanks for reading.

    • Deb Reichard on January 31, 2015 at 9:57 am
    • Reply

    I am a Bollenbacher from the line of the twin, William George Bollenbacher, brother to your great grandfather, Jacob. Both were sons of Jacob who came from Germany with his father Jacob and brother Carl, known as Charles. They both built homes and lived next to each other on Oregon Road in Liberty Township. My grandfather was Harold Bollenbacher, son of William. My Dad was Harold Junior. My Grandpa Harold and Grandma Martha lived in Chatt all of their lives and Grandpa also owned the Chatt grocery for years. I have done a lot of research on the Jacob Bollenbacher family. I think your Great grandma, Maggie was a sister also to my Great Grandma Mary Olga Hoffman. Geez, it gets confusing. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get the line from Jacob Bollenbacher’s family together for some kind of a reunion? I have a Bollenbacher reunion picture from around 1928. We think there is only one living Bollenbacher left in the picture and that is Bob Bollenbacher of Rockford. If you would like to see it, please let me know and I can e-mail you a copy. Thanks, Deb Bollenbacher Reichard, Fort Wayne, IN.

    • Mary Anne on January 31, 2015 at 2:55 pm
    • Reply

    OK Girls, You have the wheels turning! My husband’s grt. grandfathers were both Jacob, also! His
    grandfather was John, who was the first and only child of one of the Jacobs. His mother I believe was Helen Brickheiser, who died when John was born.
    I don’t know much about his heritage, but have a brief review of it that my brother-in-law, (deceased) once gave us.
    We know Bob Bollenbacher very well, so it would be interesting to find more out about our heritage.

    My Grandmother, also came from Germany and still spoke some German!

    Small world, right? Mary Anne Bollenbacher, living south of Chatt

    1. Maybe some of the Bollenbacher researchers can help you with that, Mary Anne. I have done hardly anything with the Bollenbacher lines, and there are a lot of them! I will probably eventually get to them on the Tombstone Tuesdays. Thanks for writing!

    • Mary Anne on January 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks Karen, for your interesting and informative articles.

    • Deb Reichard on February 1, 2015 at 12:53 pm
    • Reply

    Mary Ann,
    I have the Bollenbacher line (Jacob’s line who came from Germany with his father in 1854) from Johann Jacob Bollenbacher born in 1748 in Bayern, Germany. It is documented all the way through my family. If you are interested I would be happy to e-mail it to you. I will warn you, it is a pretty big file. Are you from the Jacob side or the Carl (Charles) Bollenbacher side? Both brothers came with their father to America in April of 1954 and both built homes next to each other on Oregon Road. Jacob’s home is currently owned by an Amish family. Let me know if you are interested. I would be happy to also copy, print and mail to you. Bob Bollenbacher of Rockford is my uncle. I got a lot of my Bollenbacher information from Dorothy Amstutz of the Geneva area.
    Deb Bollenbacher Reichard

    • Linda Bollenbacher Hole on February 3, 2015 at 8:39 am
    • Reply

    Deb, I know who you are now and I remember you from school. Mom used to get a few groceries at your grandfather Harold’s store and bought Avon from your grandmother, Martha. Small world! I remember my mom saying twins ran in our family (Bollenbacher side) but wasn’t sure where. I’ve done some genealogy on the Bollenbachers but maybe you could help me fill in some blanks. I’m on Facebook, just without my maiden name. Looking forward to working with you.
    Thank you!
    Linda Bollenbacher Hole.

    • Deb Reichard on February 9, 2015 at 5:39 pm
    • Reply

    Linda, sorry I did not check back on the post until today. I tried to contact you through FB but I am not sure it went through. I have communicated with Mary Anne Bollenbacher and sent her the folder information I have on the Bollenbacher family that came from Germany and those that stayed in Germany. I would be happy to share it with you. If you want to contact me, please do. Karen sent me Mary Anne’s email. Maybe she would send me yours or she can send you mine. Either way is fine with me. I contacted some of my close Bollenbacher family today to see if anyone would be interested in putting together a Jacob Bollenbacher Family Reunion. It would be cool to see just how many there are and what kind of information we all might have and put it all together.
    Looking forward to hearing from you. I am also on FB under Deb Reichard.
    Deb Bollenbacher Reichard.

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