What did the vegetation consist of at the location of Frankenmuth prior to European settlement? It was a beech-sugar maple forest. The answer was easily found using Michigan Natural Features Inventory’s “Vegetation circa 1800 Maps.” These maps show the vegetation growing in Michigan at the time of the General Land Office cadastral surveys taken between 1816 and 1856. According to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory website, “Surveyors took detailed notes on the location, species, and diameter of each tree used to mark section lines and section corners. They commented on the locations of rivers, lakes, wetlands, the agricultural potential of soils and the general quality of timber along each section line as they were measured out.” From theses notes the Michigan Natural Features Inventory created color-coded maps for each of today’s Michigan counties. The maps include township section outlines and numbers making it easy to locate a particular location. They can be accessed here.
“No doubt you have been curious for some time how large our Frankenhilf colony will be. Do not be disturbed when I tell you that as of now my family is the only one that will go there.”
-Carl Gottlob Ammann
Carl Gottlob Ammann (surname also spelled Amman) and his family were the first settlers of Frankenhilf, known today as Richville. Frankenhilf was founded in 1850, the fourth and last of Pastor Wilhelm Loehe’s mission colonies in the Saginaw Valley. Three letters written by Ammann were preserved and translated, and this typescript is now available for free download on FamilySearch.
The first letter relates the settlers’ journey across the ocean and onward to Frankenmuth. Ammann discusses the settlement at Frankenmuth, the defection of his fellow colonists, the procurement of provisions, and the selection of the site of his family’s new home.
“During the winter many Indians on the hunt camped near us…They are civilized to a certain extent, but they have no permanent residence.”
Gottlob Ammann’s second letter to his parents tells of local Native American population, the construction of a road from Frankenmuth to Frankenhilf, the clearing and planting of the land, and the construction of his family’s new log cabin home. He also explores his and other settlers’ adaptation to life in America.
“There will always be a Christmas tree decorated with homemade confections.”
Pending Christmas plans are outlined in Ammann’s 1852 letter. He exchanges family news with his parents and discusses the burgeoning church which meets in his home.
Details found in the letters help paint a picture of early life in Frankenmuth and Frankenhilf. Mentions of other early settlers in the area are also sprinkled throughout the texts. They are a worthwhile read for those researching family in this area.
Ammann, Carl Gottlieb; Vollmer, George, translator; Hock, Albert L., translator. “Letters of Carl Gottlieb Ammann: the first settler in Frankenhilf, 1851.” Typescript, n.d., FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 17 July 2014), Family History Books.
Ann Bernthal (1861-28 September 1861) was the daughter of Rev. Georg Bernthal and his first wife Maria née Von Renner. Little is known about Ann. Transcribed church records note she died the same day as her mother. Her grave marker reads she was 8 months old. She is buried at Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery, Bonfield, Pilot Township, Kankakee County, Illinois where her father was minister.
Maria (Von Renner) Bernthal (about 1840-28 September 1861) emigrated with her family from Prussia, arriving in the United States on 23 June 1855. She married Rev. Georg Bernthal in 1860 in Kankakee County. Maria was the sister of August Karl Woldemar Von Renner who was a college classmate to her husband. Prior to her marriage, she resided with her parents in Bremen Township, Cook County, Illinois where her father farmed. Maria is remembered to have died from a rattlesnake bite. There is no extant headstone to mark her grave.
Kankakee Valley Genealogy Society, Pilot Township Cemetery Book (Bourbonnais, Illinois: Kankakee Valley Genealogy Society, 1997), 20 & 24.
Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois), Ann Bernthal marker, personally read, September 2012.
”New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 April 2014), manifest, Bark Copernicus, 23 June 1855, list stamped 540, “Erste Cajute” [First Class] line no. 4, Maria von Renner, age 15; citing microfilm publication M237 (Washington: National Archives and Records Administration), roll 153.
”Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900,” database, Illinois Secretary of State, (http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/databases/marriage.html : accessed 13 July 2014), entry for George Branshal-Mary Renner, 30 August 1860, citing Kankakee County, Illinois [Marriages] Vol. 00B, license no. 00000427.
“Jubilee Celebration and Most Remarkable Tribute to Lutheran Pastor and Teacher,” The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, 15 August 1909; digital images, Ancestry.com , Historical Newspapers Collection.
1860 U.S. census, Cook County, Illinois, population schedule, Township of Bremen, p. 73, dwelling 572, family 548, Woldemar Von Renner; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 July 2014), citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 169.
Lavon Wilcox, compiler, Pilot Township (n.p.: Kankakee County Bicentennial Commission, c. 1976), 69.
Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (Bonfield, Kankakee County, Illinois), grave markers, personally read, September 2012.
While recently vacationing on Prince Edward Island, Canada, I waded in Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is named for the same saint as St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth. Interestingly, I’ve observed that Frankenmuth locals tend pronounce the name of the church in the English fashion, while visitors use the German pronunciation.
St. Lawrence of Rome was a third century Christian martyr. When asked to turn over the treasures of the church to the government, he brought forward the poor, crippled, and widowed as the church’s treasures. More can be read about the life St. Lawrence at AmericanCatholic.org and Wikipedia.
Anna Christina Caroline (nee Gallmeyer) Rook (29 September 1884-28 September 1915) was born in Preble Township, Adams County, Indiana, the fifteenth of sixteen children born to Friedrich Wilhelm and Wilhelmina (nee Boese) Gallmeyer. She married Rudolph August Rook, a young minister, on 20 July 1913 at Zion Lutheran Church in Friedheim, Adams County, Indiana. Anna died one day short of her thirty-second birthday in Ruth, Huron County, Michigan where her husband preached at the local Lutheran church. She had one son. Family lore said she died in child birth; her death certificate records “hemorrhage of brain” as the cause of death.
Anna is buried at Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Sherman Township, Huron County, Michigan. A worn and crooked headstone with only her name “Anna” legible lies to the left of a larger Rook family marker; however, no other headstones share the Rook plot.
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church (Friedheim, Indiana), “Adams County, Indiana; Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church – Friedheim; Record Book 1879-1926,” p. 73, no. 18, Anna Christina Caroline Gallmeyer baptism (1884); Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Marvin Hinkle, compiler, “Church Records; Zion Lutheran Church – Friedheim [1836-1975]” (typescript, 1982), p. 142, no. 2398, Rudolph Aug. Rook-Anna Gallmeyer marriage (1913).
Huron County, Michigan, death certificate no. 20, Anna Rook, 28 September 1915; digital image, The Archives of Michigan (http://seekingmichigan.org : accessed 08 July 2014), “Michigan, Death Records, 1897-1920.” Anna’s death certificate provides a day of birth different than recorded on her baptismal record.
Zion Lutheran Cemetery (Ruth, Huron County, Michigan), “Anna” and “Rook” markers, personally read, May 2012.
Unlike its counterparts of more recent American wars, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution does not lie at Arlington Cemetery. Instead, it can be found in the tiny church yard burial ground of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s not grandiose in scale; in fact, it’s easy to miss. Hidden inside a walled court-yard, the inscribed table tomb lies behind an iron fence, quietly reminding passers-by of the heroism of our lesser known, and unknown, American fore-fathers.
This quiet resting placing should not be confused with the larger monument, The Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Enjoy your Independence Day celebrations!
Margaretha Barbara (Hildner) Bernthal (12 February 1827-06 January 1895) immigrated to the United States from Germany sometime prior to her marriage to Georg Konrad Bernthal on 02 August 1854. She died of dropsy and was survived by six children and twenty-eight grandchildren. The deceased is laid to rest in St. Lorenz Lutheran Cemetery not far from her husband.
Elaine Huber, translator, “St. Lorenz Lutheran Church (Frankenmuth, Michigan, Book I: (1847-1857)” (typescript, 1990, St. Lorenz Lutheran Church Offices, Frankenmuth), No. 121. This family record provides her birth date as 11 February 1827.
“St. Lorenz Lutheran Church (Frankenmuth, Michigan) Burials 1858-1916″ (typescript, 1993-, St. Lorenz Lutheran Church Offices, Frankenmuth), 1895 : 1.
St. Lorenz Lutheran Cemetery (Frankenmuth, Saginaw County, Michigan), Margareth Barbara Bernthal and Georg Konrad Bernthal markers, section 01; personally read, 2012.