Recollections of Chattanooga, Ohio

Rev. Reuben Valentine Smith at the dedication of Zion's cornerstone, 1916.

The following narrative was written by Rev. Reuben Valentine Smith in 1955. It is his personal account of his experiences as a pastor at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chattanooga, Ohio, from 1899-1905.

How I Came to Chattanooga

It is my belief that Providence directs our lives and that God rules His Church, although the human factors by which His Will is carried out often do their part imperfectly and at times even perversely.  Yet I do not think that it was by mere chance that I was called to Zion’s Church at Chattanooga.

There had been some trouble in the congregation arising chiefly from the introduction of English services, and the pastor had accepted another call.  So the officers had written to Rev. Philip Schmidt, who had been their pastor many years before.  He was then at Grove City, near Columbus, a friend of mine but not a relative.  He recommended me, and the congregation sent me the call.  The remuneration was to be $350.00 a year, parsonage, fuel and horse feed.  Twenty cords of good beech wood were neatly piled up along the drive.  I did not have a wife and I never owned a horse, but I could live in the parsonage.  I accepted the call.

On a Saturday afternoon in June 1899, I rode my bicycle out from Celina, set up my bed in the parsonage and was installed the next day.  When the members saw me they were sorely disappointed.  I was twenty-two years old and did not look more than nineteen; I was not the least bit impressive in size and quite evidently a town boy.  They were puzzled over the choice Rev. Schmidt had made, but their doubts and misgivings were dispelled in a practical way.

The deacons had planted about half of the parsonage lot in corn and had not done anything to it since.  It was the end of June and the corn was about knee high and the weeds were higher.  As a boy I had spent several weeks every summer on the farm of my great-uncle.  (It is now the airport of Columbus.)

At breakfast on Monday morning, wishing to show off my knowledge of farming to Mr. Becher, I remarked that the corn ought to be plowed.  He saw how much of a pretense that remark was and he called my bluff by saying: “Why don’t you plow it?”  I refused to be intimidated and came back with “I would, if I had a horse and a plow.”  Mr. Becher capped that by offering the use of a horse and plow, and the result was that the first bit of pastoral work that I did in my first charge was the plowing of a corn patch.

The next few mornings I also cleaned up the garden and the lawn.  When the members came to church on the following Sunday and learned that I had done the work myself it created somewhat of a sensation and removed their misgivings about my ability to adapt myself to country life.

Zion Lutheran School with parsonage in background, Chattanooga, Ohio. (c1904)

The School

The church council was holding its meeting on the lawn on a warm evening late in June.  Various matters had been discussed when one of the members said, “Reverend, when are you going to start the school?”  I said, “What school?”  The answer was “Our preacher teaches a German school for our children every summer.”  My reply was,”There is nothing about a school in the call.”  They said, “Oh yes there is.  It says ‘the pastor is to take care of the instruction of the young’.”  I had thought that this meant catechetical instruction such as I had given.  They told me that it meant that I was to teach school several months every summer; that I could take it easy–three half days a week would be enough.

It was a good thing that we were sitting in the dark and the expression on my face was not visible.  My reply was that three half days a week would be only a mockery of a school; that if they really wanted an effective school I would give them one: five days a week, full time from July to Christmas, and in alternate years the catechumens would go on until Easter.  What a job I was wishing on myself!  They enthusiastically promised that they would see to it that the children would attend.  So, that arrangement was accepted and carried out for the six years of my incumbency.

The school house was something–it was an old building about 28 by 14 feet.  Some of the weather boarding was loose and part of the plastering was cracked.  Instead of desks and seats there were old oaken benches with writing boards, each bench seating four pupils.  There was an old box stove and a small reed organ.  Later, largely through the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Herzog, we got an adequate building.

But we had a real school.  The children came, an average of 35 to 40 a day, ages 6 to 14.  They kept me busy.  It was a new experience and a challenge for me.  I read books on teaching methods and did my best.  I believe to this day that my hard work was not wasted and that the school was a real blessing to the congregation.

Incidentally, we also had fun.  The boys helped me harvest the corn and I bought some equipment and we, including me, played baseball and football.  This shocked some of the older members, but the youngsters liked it.  One of the boys who was with us a part of the time later did quite well in professional baseball.

To be continued next week.

The Rev. Dr. Smith was born 14 February 1877 in Columbus, Ohio, to Benjamin L. and Mary Ann (Poth) Smith.  He graduated from Capital University in 1896 and from the ELT Seminary in Columbus in 1899. He served at Zion, Chattanooga, from 1899-1905 and at a church in Marion, Indiana, from 1905-06. He returned to Columbus and became a college professor and Dean of Classic Language at Capital University from 1906-1955. He completed nearly fifty years of uninterrupted teaching and missed only two days of classes during that time. He was married to Nora Mangold. Rev. Smith died of a sudden heart attack in Columbus on 18 November 1955 at the age of 78.

Tombstone Tuesday–M. Margaretha Schinnerer

M Margaretha Schinnerer, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Van Wert County, Ohio

This is the tombstone of M. Margaretha Schinnerer, located in row 4 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Van Wert County, Ohio. The gravestone is inscribed: M Margaretha, daughter of Friedrich and Maria Schinnerer, died 27 September 1861, age 5 years, 11 months, 18 days.

This tombstone is weathered and very difficult to read. I relied in part on the Van Wert County, Ohio, Cemetery Inscriptions, Vol. V, Van Wert County Chapter OGS, 1992, and the church records of Zion Lutheran, Schumm, to confirm the inscription on the stone.

According to her baptismal record at Zion Lutheran, Schumm, Maria Margaretha Schinner (sic) was born 9 November 1855 in Dooplen [Dublin] Township, Mercer County, Ohio. She was baptized 11 November 1855 at home. Her parents were Mr. Friedrich Schinner & his legal wife Margaretha. The sponsor at her baptism was Mr. Martin Schinnerer. [Martin would have been her uncle.]

Her death record from Zion, Schumm: Maria Margaretha Schinnerer, born 9 November 1855, died 27 September 1861 at 11:30 in the evening, age 5 years, 11 months, 18 days. She died of a throat disease.

Maria Margaretha was the fifth child born to Friedrich Schinnerer and his wife Margaretha “Maria/Mary” Deier. They had eight children but only two of them lived to adulthood. Friedrich Schinnerer lived in Mercer County until about 1873, when he moved to Van Wert County, about a mile east of Willshire. Maria Margaretha probably died in Mercer County.

The children of Friedrich & Margaretha (Deier) Schinnerer: Rosina Dorothea (1849-1849), Susann Barbara (1851-1851), Friedrich Pankratius Martin (1853-1861), Anna “Rosine” (1854-1890; married River Henry Schumm), Maria Margaretha (1855-1861), Maria Magdalena (1857-1934; married Christian Hofmann), Johann Martin (1859-1860), Johann Martin (1861-1862).

Maria Margaretha was my great-grandaunt.

Bierbach–Jacob Müller’s Hometown

Bierbach, Germany, and the surrounding area

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the immigration of my great-grandfather Jacob Müller/Miller. He was born and lived in Bierbach, Kingdom of Bavaria (now Germany). What was the little village of Bierbach like during the time Jacob lived there?

Bierbach was part of the Bavarian Pfalz, also called the Palatinate. It is located in south-western Germany.

One of the best sources of information for all those little German villages is the Meyers Orts und Verkehrs Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs, 1905. It is a large gazetteer which describes towns & cities as they were between 1871 and 1919. It is valuable because it lists about 200,000 places in the old German Empire as well as information about their parish and civil registries. The Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne has a copy of this book and several years ago I went there to look through it.

I was prepared when I went to the library to look at the Meyers Orts gazetteer. I made a list of every German town and village that I knew of that was connected to my German ancestors. The gazetteer is printed in an old Gothic typeface so I also took along a “cheat-sheet” showing the Gothic letters and their modern-day writing equivalent.  Otherwise I don’t think I would have recognized most of the letters.

Once I found the information about a town in the Myers Orts I photocopied the entry and brought the copies back home to translate at a later time. The print is pretty tiny so it also helped to enlarge the copies or have a magnifying glass handy.

This Meyers Orts is written in German and it uses abbreviations and codes. I definitely needed something to help me decipher and understand their system. Luckily there are several guides that explain the abbreviation table and how to understand the book. I used the following sources:

  • The German Researcher, Fourth printing, Fay Dearden & Douglas Dearden. Payson, Arizona: Family Tree Press, 1998.
  • A Genealogical Handbook of German Research Volume I, Larry O. Jensen. Pleasant Grove, Utah: Jensen Publications, 1980.
  • Understanding Meyers Orts, Fay S. Dearden. Payson, Arizona: Family Tree Press, 2000.

The last source is a small and portable booklet. All were very helpful.

The 1905 Meyers Orts describes Bierbach as a small village on the Blies River, in the country of Bavaria, in the provincial district of Pfalz.  The district office was in Saint Ingbert, the civil registry was at Blieskastel, and the district military office was in Zweibruken.  The population was 808. There was a post office in Bierbach but the nearest telegraph office was at Einod. Bierbach had a savings & loan organization and a town cattle insurance corporation. There was a lumber company, a basket-works fabrication, and a stone quarry there. I have since read that basket making was a major occupation in Bierbach at that time.

Wikimapia says that Bierbach was first mentioned in 1230. According to Heraldry of the World Bierbach is supposedly named after St. Pirminius, who brought Christianity to the area in the 8th century. The name Pir(mins)bach later bacame Bierbach. The Bierbach arms was granted on 8 November 1954 and shows a canting bend (Bach=stream, brook) which starts in the local forests, indicated by the green color. The escutcheon shows the image of St. Pirminius.

Bierbach coat-of-arms. Image used by permission from Heraldry of the World website.

Bierbach is now in the state of Saarland, the District of Saar-Pfalz Kreis and was incorporated into Blieskastel in 1974. Today the town has a population of about 2000.

Another very helpful source of information about Bierbach is Einwohner von Bierbach bis 1830 by Hans Cappel, 1980. This book has been microfilmed and is available from the Family History Library. It gives the names of the residents of Bierbach from 1830 back to the late 1600s. Luckily for me the information about the residents was translated and typed. The history of the town has not been translated and is typed in German.

Thanks to digitization and the Internet the Meyers Orts is also now on-line at a couple websites. and FamilySearch both have it. It is still written in the Gothic German type. It had not been translated. However you can search for a town very easily.







Tombstone Tuesday–Anna Rosina Geisler

Anna Rosina (Hoffmann) Geisler, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Ohio.

This is the tombstone of Anna Rosina Geisler, located in row 7 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Van Wert County, Ohio. The gravestone is inscribed: Hier ruht in Gott Anna Rosina, ehefrau von Georg Geisler, Geb. den 18 Feb. 1829, Gest. den 25 Nov. 1899. Alter 70 Jahr, 9 Mo, 7 Ta. When translated the marker reads: Here rests in God Anna Rosina, wife of Georg Geisler, born 18 Feb 1829, died 25 Nov 1899, aged 70 years, 9 months, 7 days.

Anna Rosina Geissler’s death record as it is written in the church records of Zion Lutheran, Schumm: Mrs. Rosina Geissler, born Hoffmann, born 18 Feb 1829 in Waldeck, Dieketsbuehl [spelling uncertain], Bayern, died 25 Nov 1899 of jaundice, age 70 years, 9 months, 15 days. She was buried on 28 Nov 1899 in the parish cemetery.  Text 1 Thes. 4: 13-18. [note: In the church records the name Geisler is sometimes spelled Geissler.]

Anna “Rosina” Hoffmann married Pankratius Schinnerer [brother of my great-great-grandfather Friedrich Schinnerer] on 25 November 1853. According to Zion’s records they had four children:

Maria Margaretha Anna, born 12 July 1854
Margaretha Katharina, born 2 Jan 1856
A stillborn child born on 29 January 1857
Johann Martin, born 21 January 1858

Johann Martin was the only one of their children that lived to adulthood. Pankratius Schinnerer died on 8 July 1857.

Widow Rosina Schinnerer then married Georg Geissler on 12 Aug 1858. According to Zion’s records they had five children:

Conrad Christian Adam, born 9 June 1861, died 3 May 1863
Catharine Friederike, born 1 January 1863
Johanne Margarethe Elisabeth, born 10 October 1865, died 6 March 1868
Twins Anna Magdalene and Catharine Elisabeth, born 30 April 1868. Catharine Elisabeth died 23 March 1913 and Anna Magdalene was the second wife of “River Henry” Schumm and died 2 March 1946.

I used Zion’s church records to continue to piece together the rest of Rosina’s life. The church records show that a Georg Geissler died on 16 April 1872. This was probably Rosina’s husband. He was buried in the church cemetery but his tombstone does not appear to be in the church cemetery today.

Zion’s records then show that widow Rosina Geisler married Johann Lutz on 21 May 1877 in the church. Armed with this new information I checked the census records. Names were spelled various ways in the census records.

In 1870 the Geisler family was living in Willshire Township, Van Wert County, Ohio. In the household:
George Geisler, age 44 (born c1826) in Ohio
Rosine, 41 (born c1829) in Ohio [I question the place of birth]
Frediak, 8 (born c1862) in Ohio [listed as a male]
Magdalna, 2 (born c1868) in Ohio
Catharine, 2 (born c1868) in Ohio
Sheimner, M., 12 (born c1858) in Ohio [most likely Johann Martin Schinnerer, son from 1st marriage to Pankratius Schinnerer]
Huffmin, E., 13 (born c1857) in Ohio

In 1880 the Lutz family was living in Willshire Township. In the household:
John Lutz, 33 (born c1849) in Hesse Darmstadt
Rosean Lutz, wife, 51 (born c1829) in Biern
Frederike, daughter, 17 (born c1863) in Ohio
Catherine, daughter, 12 (born c1868) in Ohio
Magdalena, daughter, 12 (born c1868) in Ohio
Martin Shinerer, single [no relationship given], 22 (born c1858) in Ohio
Adam Glessing, farm labor [no relationship given], 30 (born c1850) in Württemberg

As usual, the research answers some questions but then other questions arise. The names and ages of the individuals match, so I feel this is the right family. But I have to wonder about the age difference between Rosina and Johann Lutz. When they married she was 47 and he was 28! Then there is Rosina’s tombstone. Her name is Geisler on her tombstone. Her death record also calls her Mrs. Rosina Geisler. Questions, questions, and more questions!

Closeup view of Anna Rosine Geisler tombstone, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Ohio.

I would love to hear from anyone that has additional information about Rosina Hoffmann Schinnerer Geisler Lutz.

Zion Cemetery, Schumm, in Autumn

I stopped at the Zion Lutheran Cemetery at Schumm last Sunday and it was a beautiful fall day. It was a perfect day for looking at and photographing tombstones. The trees here are just about at their peak and the woods across the road was very colorful.

(Page numbers of the sources of information used from the Zion Lutheran, Schumm, church records available upon request.)

Family Quilts

Quilt made by Chrintina Rueck & Rosina (Schinnerer) Schumm, c1881.

This week I have an interesting story that connects both sides of my family, the Millers and the Schumms, long before my parents were ever married.

This story involves my great-grandmother Christina Rueck, before she and Jacob Miller married. It also involves my mom’s side of the family, the Schumms.

The Schumms were from Ruppertshofen, Wuerttemberg. Johann Georg immigrated to America with his five children in 1833. They settled a couple miles east of Willshire, in Van Wert County, Ohio, in 1838. Their settlement consisted of the small village of Schumm and Zion Lutheran Church. They also owned a lot of land east of Willshire.

The Schumm women in the Willshire area were known for their fine quilting. In fact most of them were avid quilters. Back then women sewed out of necessity but many also liked to quilt. My grandma Schumm also loved to quilt. I remember her talking about quilting with the ladies of the church. The women would regularly meet at the church or in someone’s home and they would stitch on the same quilt all day long. I’m sure they would catch up on the latest news in the Schumm area while they stitched. That was part of the fun! Those Zion Lutheran ladies made beautiful quilts. Their designs were intricate and their stitches were very small. No machine-stitched quilts for the Schumm quilters!

The Rueck family was from Appensee, Wuerttemberg, and they immigrated to America in 1880. Their family at that time consisted of the parents, Jacob and Marie Regina (Gross) Rueck, eight children and one grandchild. Christina was the oldest child in the family. The family settled in Van Wert County, Ohio. In 1881 Jacob purchased 80 acres of land along the St. Marys River. Their property was a little east of Willshire. The Ruecks had settled in the land of the Schumms.

The Ruecks lived in the Willshire area for only a couple years. Christina’s family moved to Oregon about 1882 but Christina stayed behind in Van Wert County. She was about 23 years old and she was seeing Jacob Miller at the time. She didn’t want to go out west with her family and leave Ohio and Jacob behind. But Christina needed a place to stay. She stayed with a neighboring family, Henry and Rosina (Schinnerer) Schumm and their family.

Henry and Rosina Schumm also lived along the St. Marys River. Henry was known as “River Henry”. This name was to distinguish him from several other Henry Schumms living in the area at the time.

During the time Christina Rueck stayed with the Schumm family Rosina taught her how to quilt. Together Rosina and Christina made these two quilts. Both women worked to piece and stitch the quilts and Christina kept the finished quilts to use in her home with Jacob Miller. The quilts were made about 1881 and my mother now has them.

Quilt made by Christina Rueck & Rosina (Schinnerer) Schumm, c1881.

Clara (Miller) Reef, the youngest child of Jacob and Christina (Rueck) Miller, recalled her mother saying, “all the Schumm women wanted to do was to quilt”. Christina learned to quilt from the best quilters around!

Christina (1858-1945) was my great-grandmother but what was my relationship to the River Henry and Rosina (Schinnerer) Schumm? This gets a little complicated because I am related to the both the Schinnerers and the Schumms, so I am related to both River Henry and his wife Rosina.

Rosina (1854-1890) was my great-grandaunt. She was the daughter of Frederick Schinnerer and his first wife Margaretha Deier. Frederick and Margaretha were from Ipsheim, Bavaria, and they immigrated in 1849. They first lived in Mercer County, Ohio, near Rockford, and later moved to Van Wert County, east of Willshire.

River Henry (1844-1922) was my great and great-great-granduncle. He was the son of Johann “Ludwig” Schumm, who was one of the Schumm immigrants. River Henry married Anna Magdalena Geissler (1868-1946) after Rosina’s death.

Christina Rueck and Jacob Miller were married in 1882 and the quilts were stitched before they were married. These are photos of the two quilts that Christina and Rosina made together.









These two beautiful quilts have this very special connection to only two people in the world–our son Jeff and me! That makes them pretty special indeed!

Unfortunately, I have not inherited the quilting gene. I can sew and I used to like to sew a lot, but not anymore. I don’t even like to hem a pair of slacks these days. I would never have the patience to make a whole quilt. All that precise cutting and tiny stitching–not for me. About the only needlework I enjoy is counted x-stitch. Does that count?