Chapter One - The Early Swiss/German Probsts - The Brobst Chronicles

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Index and Table of Contents to The Brobst Chronicles
Title Page
Chapter One - The Early Swiss/German Probsts
Chapter Two - The History Of The German Immigration To America
Chapter Three - The Struggles of the Settlers
Chapter Four - The Early American Pennsylvania Brobsts
Chapter Five - Children of Philipp Jacob Probst
Chapter Six - The Other Children of Philipp Jacob Probst
Chapter Seven: The Other Children of Christophel Probst
Chapter Eight: Other Interesting Brobstology Intermarriages

Chapter I


In the beginning there was Hans. Hans Probst, that is. Or so we think. We start with one of the earliest known Swiss Probsts - Hans, who was born (ca 1531) and raised in the city (Der Stadt) Bern, Switzerland1. The parents of Hans and of his older brother, Benedikt (ca 1529) are not known.

"Bern" means "bears" in German, and it was known as the "City of Bears". Bern is the capital of Switzerland and of Bern Kanton (county), in mountainous west central Switzerland. In 1528, a dispute with the Roman Catholic Church led to the official acceptance of Protestantism. Bern is also the home of the historic 16th century Clock Tower.

As best we can tell, American Brobsts descended from that Hans Probst. Benedikt, Hans' brother, produced a parallel chain of Probsts, some of whom are known to have emigrated to the USA and settled in Utah and elsewhere,2 and are documented in the archives of the Mormon Church; many of them came to America via Bavaria. They did not become "Brobsts".

But we may reach back further than the Swiss in the 1500s. There is a report that the Probsts descend from an ancient Austrian family which traces its ancestry as a family of Slav and Magyar origin before the year 1100 and appears first in the ancient records in Austria. This has not been researched, however. The name �Probst� was well known and highly respected in Switzerland.

There were other Hans Probsts who lived in Bern (in the �suburb� L�tzenfl�h) at that time, and the record is not too clear just which Hans we descended from, or if we descended from him at all! We believe it was the 1531 Hans, but the record is not clear. Also, there were Probsts in Der Stadt Langnau, Switzerland, about 20 miles east of Bern, and in Aarberg.

With a few exceptions, the Saxon "Propst" family (unrelated to us) from northern Germany is not discussed in this report (see Appendix 4 about the Propsts).

Hans' son, Niklaus (b. 1554), and his brother, Hans Michael (b. 1557), were also born in Bern, in the suburb (Dorf) of Siselen. Niklaus (Nicklaus) and his wife, Margreth (b. 1556), had a big family3: six boys and six girls, all born in Bern (probably Siselen) between 1578 and 1604 (including Rudolph [b. 1595]).

It must be recorded that there is no firm evidence that Rudolph was actually the son of Niklaus and Margreth. He is not shown on the primary list of births in his church records, although he fits nicely within that list.4 He could have been baptized in a different church, however, or by an unidentified itinerant minister who recorded Rudolph's birth in his own pastoral records. I have not attempted to resolve this speculative question. So maybe it all began with Rudolph!

(I note, however, that Rudolph would have also fit nicely into the family of Benedikt Probst, b. 1568 in the village of L�tzenfl�h, Bern, and his wife Barbel nee Zimmerman, and that may be why some researchers have placed him there. But that doesn't make either family the right place for Rudolph! Benedikt's father was also Benedikt, b. abt 1551, whose father was the same Benedikt, b 1529, mentioned earlier.)

Whatever his roots, Rudolph and his wife (whose name is not known) were born about 1595 in the village of Siselen, Kanton Bern, Switzerland. Around 1625, shortly after their marriage, they left their Swiss home and moved nearly 150 miles northeast into southwestern Bavaria, in Allg�u, to a little Schw�bish village called "Ettischweyl im Allg�u" (later Ettisweiler; today it is Ettensweiler)5 , a small village a few miles southwest of Wangen in the parish of Niederwangen (near Lake Constance, on the Swiss border, near to and east of Zurich).

(Note: Wangen is near Kempten, after which Kempton, Berks County, was named, and also near Schwangau, the home of the famous 1869 Neuschwanstein Castle after which the Disneyland Castle was modeled.)

What caused them to uproot themselves from their Swiss homeland and their other family members to move to Wangen is not yet known, but it may have been just the need to find their own "turf". The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) decimated the population of Baden-Wurttemburg, Bavaria, and Schwabia, and Rudolph may have just responded to the German call for new settlers. The presiding duke of Bavaria and Schwabia promised the new settlers to be free of taxes for some years if they would come to replace the residents who had been killed and take over that land to produce crops for the people and income for the duke. It may also have been that Rudolph was seeking physical therapy treatments in the famous hot springs of Wangen. A history of the town of Wangen may be found in Appendix 9 to this report. Why did he choose Wangen for his new home? There were other Probsts there who had earlier arrived from Switzerland; a Justin Probst lived there in the early 1500s and became quite famous as a leader of the peasant uprisings (See Appendix 9).

They settled quickly into their new environment. Rudolph became a "Gemeinsmann" (citizen) of Ettisweiler; he apparently was or became a Roman Catholic, since there was no Protestant church nearby, although the existing church records show no trace of Rudolph. Rudolph's only son Bartholom�us (Bartholomew, shortened to "Barthel") was reportedly born in Ettisweiler in 16266, just a year after their arrival there. Rudolph died in Wangen in the mid-1600s.

The war ended in 1648. The 23-year-old Barthel, still unmarried, responded to encouragement of the Pfalzgraf (Palatinate prince) for new settlers. New immigrants were needed to replace the losses during the wars, and had been promised freedom from taxes for some years. In 1652, Barthel ("Bartholm�us" in the records) sold some land (probably his father's) in Ettensweiler, and left for the flat, rich farmlands of the southern Palatinate of Germany.

It's about 150 miles between Wangen and the lower Palatinate, as the crow flies. Unfortunately, only the crow can travel straight in that direction due to the mountains (Schwaben Alb) and the dense Black Forest. So he floated down the Argen (river) to the Bodensee, and then down the Rhine, west and then north, and settled in or near the little village of Minfeld, just a few miles west of Kandel. His new home was in southwestern Germany, near to and south of Landau, north of Zurich, and west of Munich. Kandel lies on the Otterbach river, a tributary of the nearby Rhine, about fifteen miles west-northwest of Karlsr�he, in the Germersheim area of Rheinland-Pfalz, and about seven miles north of the French border of Alsace. There he met and married Susanna (nee Fischer) Negel, widow of Herr Negel.

(Note: throughout this discussion, I use the terms "Palatinate" and "Pfalz" interchangeably. "Palatine" is merely the English translation of "Pfalz". The names of the towns in this area, on both sides of the border, are a curious mix of German and French.)

After their wedding in Kandel, Barthel and Susanna (Barthel was her second husband),7 had eight children, all born in or near Kandel and/or Minfeld: Hans Michel I (1654), Hans Michael II (1655), Hans Jacob (1658), Christophel (b. 1661)8, Hans Barthel (1664), Utilia (1666), Hans Georg (b. 1668), and Johannes (b. 1671). In 1997, the author noted during a visit to that area that no Probsts currently live in Kandel or Minfeld, although there were twenty of them in nearby Karlsr�he.

Christophel was the father of the first early German immigrants who came to America. He was a master potter ("Meister Topfer"), as were his father-in-law and several of his sons. Chris tophel and his wife Eva Christina (nee Hoffman) Probst9 raised ten children between 1690-1712: Johannes (1690), Philipp Jacob (1692), Zacharias (1695), Maria Catharina (1697), Anna Maria Margaretha (1699), Johann Michael (1701), Elisabeth Margaretha (1703), Johann Christopherus (1706), Eva Christina (1707), and Maria Sarah (1711), all born in Minfeld (Kandel)10. Christophel remained in Kandel, and died there in 1719 while several of his children were still minors.

"Who we are is who we were" (From the film "Amistad")

At the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, there is a sign which states that one Christophel Probst gave assistance to the Jews in Germany in the 1940s; perhaps this benefactor too was a descendant of the earlier Christophel! It may also have been the Christopher Probst who was executed by the Nazis in February 1943; he was one of a group of Munich students caught while dropping leaflets from a gallery into the main lobby of the University, calling upon German people to free their country from the criminal dictatorship that governed them, to demand an end to persecution of the Jews, and to demand peace.

It is noted that at the time when Philipp Jacob Probst, his French Huguenot wife C'erine, and his three sons came to America, they were French citizens, living in Bas Rhin, Alsace, just over the French border from Kandel. Later records of the Kandel church show that there were Probsts living there as late as the early 1800s. In addition, there were many Probsts living in southern Alsace (Haut Rhin), having emigrated there from Switzerland in the 1600s and 1700s.

There is voluminous information on record on these old births/deaths/marriages from the 1600s and 1700s in Kandel. We have been privileged to have the benefit of much research done by Brobst researchers such as Alice-Ann Askew and by Werner Esser of Kandel11.

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1. Parish Records (Archives); Dr. Robert Oehler, Kasernenstr. 21D, Bern, Switzerland , courtesy Alice Ann Askew *** [return]

2. "CHURCH", a publication of the Mormon Church, Salt Lake City, UT, July 15, 1978. ** [return]

3. Parish Records (Oehler) *** [return]

4. The birth records show six girls and five boys, without Rudolph, but with a gap in the birth record from 1590 (Anni) to 1597 (Elsbeth). They had babies every year or two, so this is an unusually long gap between births! Perhaps Rudolph's birth record is just missing. But there is a reasonable question of whether Rudolph was in fact a son of Niklaus and Margreth. **[return]

5. Private correspondence from Stadtarchiv, Grosse Kreisstadt Wangen im Allg�u, 20 January 1998 *** [return]

6. Parish Records (Oehler) *** [return]

7. German (Kandel) Marriage Archives from the year 1653, Entry #111 under the name "Probst" [[email protected]] indicate the marriage of Susanna Negel, widow of Isaac Negel, to Barthel Propst on January 18, 1653 *** [return]

8. Kandel Baptismal Records for the year 1661 show the birth date of Christophel Probst. *** [return]

9. Kandel Marriage Records for the year 1690 show the marriage of Christophel Probst to Eva Christiana, daughter of Hans-Michael Hof. ***[return]

10. Correspondence from Mary Brobst in Yale, Iowa, dated Feb 23, 1993, gives the birth date as 1699. ** [return]

11. Werner Esser [[email protected]]; contact courtesy of Carol Gilliland and Bo Breneman [return]

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This page was last updated on Monday, 21-Feb-2011 18:19:15 MST
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