Paulin Propst, The Peasant's General, 1525

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Paulin Propst, The Peasant's General, 1525

By Bill Brobst and Janet Binkley, December 1998

From the Winter 1998 Issue, Brobst Genealogy News

(Note: the following story is based on information provided by Dr. Janet Binkley, a noted Brobst genealogist, and Dr. Franz Biglmaier, a German historian.)

Those of us who had ancestors who came to America in the early 1700s often inherited not only their genes and attitudes but their stories of why they immigrated. A prime story is often one of religion -- their attempt to flee religious oppression and to settle the new land with people of like mind. William Penn had opened the Pennsylvania frontier for just those people.

Still, we are often not aware of the extent of social disturbances these ancestors and their own forefathers experienced, how long the turmoil continued, or their role in it. The German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania mostly started arriving in the 1730s, but the religious and other social turmoil in the regions from which they came had started a good two hundred years earlier.

The Pennsylvania Brobst / Probst family arrived in America from Kandel, in the Palatinate or Pfalz area of Germany, which lies against Alsace and Belgium. A couple of generations earlier, those Probsts had lived further east, in southern Bavaria where Germany touches Switzerland. Just north of the eastern end of the Lake Constance (in German, the Bodensee) you find the city of Wangen in the region still called the Ostallgäu or Eastern Allgäu. Next to Wangen lies Niederwangen, which has absorbed a village now called Ettensweiler, which appears to be the birthplace of the Pennsylvania Dutch Probst ancestor Barthel (Bartholomäus) Probst (1626-1689), whose own father Rudolph (1595-1653) moved from Siselen in Kanton Bern, Switzerland, to Ettensweiler (called Ettweisen, Ettischweyl, and Ettisweiler at various times in the 1400s-1600s). Barthel himself later moved on to Kandel -- this makes three generations whose moves illustrate the disturbances of the time.

Before Rudolph Probst left Switzerland for the Ostallgäu, however, there were already Probsts in the area of Wangen, one of whom made it into the history books! We find him in the second volume of the Allgauer Chronik written by Alfred Weitnauer, a modern local historian from Kempten, a good-sized city in the Ostallgäu. In three places (pp. 39, 55, 92), Paulin Probst is mentioned for his role in the peasant uprisings of the early 16th century.

In 1525, according to Weitnauer, "on the 10th of May, the peasants marched from their five gathering spots in the Ostallgäu toward Fussen and joined the peasants who were waiting there before the gates, making a powerful army. Representatives sent by the Archduke of Austria attempted without success to persuade the peasants waiting at Fussen to accept the Treaty of Weingarten. Field Captain (Feldhauptmann) Walter Bach, who recommended that the peasants accept the treaty, was dismissed by the peasant army and mocked as he is paraded around the encampment in a wheelbarrow. In his place, the men elected Paulin Probst from Ettwiesen, a well-regarded, thoughtful farmer."

In 1527, Weitnauer reports, "the City of Zurich (Switzerland) turns to the Bishop of Augsburg (an important city to the east of Wangen) on the part of Paulin Probst, formerly the chief Field Captain of the rebellious peasants of the Allgäu. After the defeat by Leubas (near Kempten), Probst had escaped to Switzerland. The Council of Zurich writes that Probst had become Feldhauptmann of the peasant army against his will and that in that position he had continually attempted to convince the rebels to turn toward peace. In addition, for two years he has been forced with his wife and children to move from place to place, living in direst poverty. At first, the Bishop of Augsburg turns down the request for clemency, but eventually gives permission for Probst to return to the Allgäu."

In 1550, Paulin Probst appears again in the record: "After his son was killed in 1549, Paulin Probst of Ettwiesen, peasant leader in 1525, committed several breaches of the peace. For this reason, this man who in 1525 had sworn to keep the peace for all time was executed on the road from Markt Oberdorf to Schongau."

It appears that Paulin was within one generation of being an age contemporary of Hans Probst of Siselen, who was born around 1530 and has been thought by some to have been Rudolph's grandfather. Was Paulin Probst a relative, perhaps an uncle of Hans of Siselen? Or even Hans' father? Paulin could have been Rudolph's great-grandfather!

It should be mentioned that the name Probst is still current in the Allgäu as well as in the Swiss Kantons of Bern and Luzern.

This page was last updated on Monday, 21-Feb-2011 18:18:58 MST
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