The Augsburger Orphan Trail: Seventeen Minor Children Lost From Two Generations by Mary Ann Augsburger Kristiansen
Originally published in the April 2016 issue of Mennonite Family History
Where does one start on this path? A good place to begin is in Sainte Marie-aux-Mines near the city of Strasbourg, Alsace (a province of France). Sainte Marie is a beautiful mining town in the mountains, named after a historical church. The year is 1839. It is a cold December day and a young Swiss Anabaptist woman is in a hospital giving birth to a baby. Her name is Magdalena. She was born at Strasbourg in 1812, the seventh child in the family of Christian and Catherine (Stalter) Augsburger. This close family was part of a group of Amish Mennonites who had earlier fled to Alsace from Bern, Switzerland, due to religious persecution and compulsory military service.
Magdalena was unfortunately orphaned at the age of 12. The French hospital staff provides Magdalena with the best health care services possible, considering the sanitary conditions of the time. The caring midwives help Magdalena deliver a beautiful baby girl. Magdalena names her daughter Marie Eugenie. However, on January 3, 1840, Magdalena dies, presumably from the birth of her reported “pre-matrimonial daughter.” By January 15, 1840, infant Marie Eugenie also dies. Both deaths are reported by hospital staff, not by relatives. One wonders where Magdalena had been living before her baby’s birth. Was the name “Eugenie” chosen from the name of the birth father? Were there any family relatives or friends in Strasbourg who knew about and mourned the loss of this lovely mother and child? Magdalena was the next-younger sibling in age to Joseph Augsburger, this writer’s great-great-grandfather.
To tell Magdalena’s family story, we need to begin with her grandfather, Noah Augsburger. We will call him Noah I. (For the sake of clarification, some identical names will be labeled with Roman numerals.) Noah Augsburger I is born in 1730 and marries a woman named Julia Dobler. They have three reported children, all born at Sainte Marie-aux-Mines, France.
Child #1). Noah Augsburger II (b. 1755)
Child #2). Catherine Augsburger (b. 17 years later in 1772) we will call her Catherine I
Child #3). Christian Augsburger (b. a year later in 1773) we will call him Christian I
In 1786, Noah I and wife Julia (Dobler) Augsburger move from Sainte Marie-aux-Mines to the Canardière estate near Strasbourg. Noah I dies there before 1796—the year that his daughter Catherine I, at age 24, marries Jean Rothacker in Strasbourg.
During a quarter of a century from 1824 until 1850, 17 minor children from two descending generations of Augsburgers are left parentless. These orphans belonged to three different Augsburger family groups. We know their names, but few of their stories.
The 1824 Augsburger Orphans From Christian Augsburger I
Noah I’s youngest child, Christian Augsburger I, marries Catherine Stalter some time after his older sister Catherine I is wed. We will call his wife Catherine II. Christian I and Catherine II have nine children, all born at Strasbourg, France. Christian’s older brother Noah Augsburger II witnesses several birth registrations for his brother Christian I and wife Catherine II. On April 17, 1818, Christian I dies in France.
Widowed Catherine II migrates from France with her children, and resettles at her brother-in-law Noah II’s Hanfeld Estate near Starnberg in Bavaria. We do not know exactly which children came along with their widowed mother to Hanfeld, but there is evidence that Barbara, Elizabeth, Christian II and Joseph I joined her. One would think that the three younger children (Magdalena, Maria, and Jacob) would also accompany their mother. However, it was discovered that Magdalena at age 28 was in Strasbourg when she gave birth and died along with her newborn daughter.
When widow Catherine (Stalter) Augsburger II dies in 1824 at about age 52, her children have reached the following ages: Katharina (25), Barbara (23), Elizabeth (21), Christian (17), Joseph (14), Magdalena (12), Maria (9), and Jacob (8). (Since the first three children are age 21 or older, they are not considered “orphans” for this story.) The latest findings reveal that Elizabeth, the third surviving daughter, accompanied her widowed mother and several other siblings to Bavaria. The question remains, where did the children finish out their lives after their mother Catherine II dies? The list below provides all that is known about them at this time.
Catherine II’s surviving family of eight children include:
Child #1). Katharina Augsburger (b. 1799) does not die at Strasbourg
Child #2). Barbara Augsburger (1801-1854) dies at Hanfeld in Bavaria
Child #3). Elizabeth Augsburger (Sept. 23, 1803-Apr. 26, 1854) dies in Bavaria. In 1827, Elizabeth is working at an agricultural research dairy farm north of Munich where she meets her future husband, Christian Bürkli. Christian is a Swiss citizen who has come to work as a cheesemaker at the same facility. A few weeks before their marriage, Elizabeth converts to the Catholic faith. Swiss civil registers in her husband’s hometown of Untervaz in Canton Graubünden recorded their marriage, the birth of their two children, and the death of all four family members as occurring “in Bavaria.”
Child #4). Anna Augsburger (1806-1807) dies at Strasbourg at 13 months of age
Child #5). Christian Augsburger (b. 1807) does not die at Strasbourg. We will call him Christian Augsburger II. This Christian’s birthplace and date of birth in Strasbourg have been recently documented and verified by Bavarian genealogist Herbert Holly. However, documentation has not been found to prove that Christian II ever existed outside of Western Europe or died in America. From 1850 on, there is no evidence to show that Christian II is living in either country. Well documented are Christian II’s first marriage in Bavaria to Veronica Ingold after 1831 and his second marriage to Magdalena Salzman in 1841.
Child #6). Joseph Augsburger (1810-Jan. 30, 1851) dies in Dornach, Bavaria, at age 40. We will call him Joseph Augsburger I. The death record of this Joseph Augsburger was recently discovered in the Munich Archives after a six-year search by Herbert Holly. A Dr. Mazeller reported that Joseph died at 10:30 p.m., after vomiting blood. At the time of his death, Joseph was employed as a day worker on the Seidlhof farm. He lived at Dornach in house #7, the home of an Amish Mennonite family by the name of Schott. Joseph Augsburger is the birth father of Daniel Augsburger Sr., who was born in 1835 at Lindach, Bavaria, to Amish Mennonite Elizabeth Holly. Joseph I was buried in Dornach on Feb. 2, 1851. The Mennonite Bishop who presided at Joseph’s burial services was none other than Jacob Holly from Lindach near Anzing—father of Elizabeth Holly and great-great-grandfather of Herbert Holly. Elizabeth and Joseph’s son, Daniel Augsburger Sr., was buried in 1861 at Landes Mennonite Cemetery in Tazewell County, Ill. Daniel was the great-grandfather of this writer. In 1853, when Daniel Augsburger Sr. was fulfilling requirements for legal emigration to America, a note on Daniel’s passport document reveals that his birth father, Joseph I, was “of blessed memory since 1851.”
Child #7). Magdalena Augsburger (b. 1812) dies at Strasbourg in 1840, along with her newborn daughter, Marie Eugenie
Child #8). Maria Augsburger (b. 1815) does not die at Strasbourg
Child #9). Jacob Augsburger (b. 1816) does not die at Strasbourg
The 1837 Augsburger Orphans From Noah III
Returning to the familial line of four Noah Augsburgers, with Noah II being the older brother of Christian I, we focus on the son of Noah II who was born about 1792 on the Canardière estate at Strassburg in Alsace, France. He was one of four children. We will call him Noah Augsburger III. Noah III married Elizabeth Eyer. They had nine reported children. Sadly, both Noah III and his wife Elizabeth died in the spring of 1837. Their historical data is incomplete. In Bavaria, they lived part of the time at the Hanfeld estate near Starnberg, part of the time at the Hertleshof estate near Mindelheim, and part of the time at Penzing near Landsberg.
The following erratically organized birth list shows not nine, but ten children born:
Child #1). Noah Augsburger (1817-1817) was born at Hanfeld, and died as an infant. The Hanfeld records indicate that four sons and two daughters followed, who lived to adulthood. That leaves seven children: Christian, Noah IV, Joseph, Jacob, Daniel, Elise and Magdalena. Since five sons (not four) are mentioned, one of those boys must have died during childhood.
Child #2). Christian Augsburger (b. 1818), birthplace undetermined
*Child #3?). Noah Augsburger (b. Nov. 1819), has no birth number or birthplace listed; we will call him Noah Augsburger IV. He reportedly immigrated to America. Considering this disorganized count, facts are not clear that Noah IV is the son of Noah III, but circumstances strongly agree. For example, a Noah Augsburger and his wife Magdalena (Schrock), both from Germany, are buried in the Mennonite Cemetery in Hopedale, Ill.
Child #3?). Johannes Augsburger (1820-1820), no birth number listed, died after one hour, and is buried at Hertleshof estate. A mysterious entry is inserted later as to this infant’s true parentage, indicating this could be the extra child recorded.
Child #4). Joseph Augsburger (b. 1821) was born at Hertleshof; birth record states “child #4”
*Child #4). Jacob Augsburger ( b. July 19, 1823) was born at Hertleshof; birth record also states “child #4”; he reportedly emigrated to America. Facts are indefinite that he is the son of Noah III, but circumstances again make a strong argument for such. A Jacob Augsburger and his wife Barbara (Steinman) are buried in the Landes Mennonite Cemetery in Elm Grove, Ill., near Hopedale. In their family Bible, Jacob’s birthdate is given as July 25, 1824, just one year different than his recorded Bavarian birthdate.
Child #5). Andreas Augsburger (1825-1825) was born at Hertleshof; birth record also states “child #5”; and died two weeks later
Child #6). no name listed for this number
Child #7). Daniel Augsburger (b. 1830) was born at Penzing
Child #8). Elise Augsburger (1834-1921) was born at Penzing, and died in Burgweinting near Regensburg where she was buried.In 1868, Elise Augsburger receives an award for 20 years of faithful service as a maid on the farm of Christian Güngerich in Pössing, near Penzing. She never married and is found living in Arnstorf in 1900, where she was a member of the Regensburg Mennonite Church.
Child #9). Magdalena Augsburger (b. 1837) was born at Penzing
Noah III and his wife Elizabeth (Eyer) died just a few days apart in 1837; Elizabeth, of a stroke; and Noah III, of tuberculosis. Since tuberculosis can be chronic for years, it is evident that Noah would have difficulty working to support his growing family. From 1818 on, he had financial trouble, starting with his purchase of the Hertleshof estate which ended in foreclosure; then his family moves to house number 57 in Penzing. Seven of their children were left orphans: Christian (19), Noah IV (18), Joseph (16), Jacob (14), Daniel (7), Elise (3), and Magdalena (2 months). There are no hints as to what became of Christian, Joseph, Daniel, or Magdalena.
The 1850 Augsburger Orphans From Christian II
We now return to the fifth child listed for Christian I and Catherine (Stalter) II: Christian Augsburger II born in Bavaria in 1807. Christian II and Veronica Ingold became unwed parents of:
Child #1). Christian Augsburger (1831-1897) was born in Bavaria and died in Davis Co., Iowa. We will call him Christian Augsburger III. His parents, Christian II and Veronica Ingold, had three more children, all born at Probfeld/Klinghof in Bavaria, residence of Veronica’s parents—Jacob Ingold and Elizabeth Baumann.
Child #2). Elizabeth Augsburger (1835-1836) was born at Probfeld/Klinghof in Bavaria, and died in 1836
Child #3). Joseph Augsburger (b. 1837) was born at Probfeld/Klinghof in Bavaria—now called Joseph Augsburger II
Child #4). Jacob Augsburger (1839-1839) was born at Probfeld in Bavaria, and died two months later at Granville-l’Heure, near Le Havre, France; followed in two weeks by the death of his mother Veronica, in the same year and place. The location of these deaths suggests that the family was waiting to embark on an ocean passage to America from Le Havre. The long, difficult journey by horse-drawn buggy and riverboat from Probfeld in Bavaria to Le Havre in France most likely proved to be too arduous for mother and baby.
Widower Christian Augsburger II m. again in 1841 to Madeleine Salzmann, but Christian II later disappeared from the genealogical records. We have documentation of three of their children who were born in Lorraine, France, from 1842 to 1849:
Child #5). Daniel Augsburger (b. 1846) was born in Lorraine, France
Child #6). Jacob Augsburger(b. 1847) was born in Lorraine, France
Child #7). Henry Augsburger (b. 1849) was born in Lorraine, France
Why Christian II’s family chose to live in Lorraine, France, instead of Bavaria during that time, has not been determined. However, after the previous loss of his first wife and youngest child following the journey from Bavaria to Le Havre, it is reasonable to understand why Christian would settle closer to their planned place of embarkation for America.
In 1850, a ship’s manifest has an “Augstburger” family immigrating to America on the Lemuel Dyer and landing at New Orleans. The list matches perfectly for Christian Augsburger II’s second wife, Madeleine Salzmann, age 41, stepson Christian III, age 18, and half-brothers, Joseph II, age 12, Daniel, age 5, and Jacob, age 3. Infant Henry, most likely bundled in Madeleine’s arms, was evidently overlooked. Upon disembarking in Louisiana in December 1850, oldest son, Christian III, is written on the ship’s list as an 18 year-old, matching his birthdate of January 1831. The fact that he is first on the list should indicate he was considered to be the “leading male” of the family. Of primary importance is the fact that his father, Christian Augsburger II, was obviously missing from this group of travelers. Christian II was previously thought to have accompanied his family and subsequently lived in Iowa, but his name remains absent from documentation, not only from the ship’s manifest but from 47 of the following years of Iowa census lists.
A question arises: Why was Christian II’s name missing? Why would the Christian II Augsburger family risk traveling to another continent on the rough, stormy seas of the north Atlantic during the winter months without their father? If they had been living securely in Lorraine for some years, saving money for the voyage to America, they could have chosen a season of calmer seas. If a family crisis arose in the colder months, such as a sudden, serious illness or the death of their father, there would be slim hopes of continued survival in France, thus giving a critical reason for making the trip when they did.
After their mid-winter 1850 arrival in Louisiana, the Christian II Augsburger family is thought to have stayed with relatives in New Orleans for a while, such as documented Salzmans and Stalters who lived in the area at the time. There is no evidence of Madeleine (Salzmann) Augsburger moving on from this point. The family cannot be found together after arrival and were obviously gone from New Orleans before 1860. It stands to reason that the Augsburger children were absorbed into families of relatives and friends within the connected network of Mennonite communities in other states. Bavarian genealogist Helmut Gingerich has tracked some of the children to Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.
Christian II’s younger brother Joseph I, closest to him in age, died in January 1851 in Bavaria, soon after his brother’s family arrived in the United States. A description of Joseph I’s death indicated that he died of an unknown disease. Perhaps Joseph I had been preparing to emigrate along with his brother Christian and family but fell ill and returned to Bavaria. Perhaps Christian II and his wife Madeleine perished about the same time, of a similar contagious disease. Only hidden truths hold the reason why all three family members disappeared/succumbed within months of each other during winter 1850/1851.
Of interest is the fact that Joseph I’s out-of-wedlock son, Daniel Augsburger Sr., successfully emigrated three years later, at age 18. He settled in Tazewell County, Illinois, and started a family before his death at age 26.
After the Augsburger orphans’ New Orleans stay, their surname is mostly found spelled as Augspurger with a “p.” Specifically, Christian Augsburger III is the same person as Christian E. Augspurger, who purchased land, married Barbara Miller in 1864, and lived and died in Davis County, Iowa. He had three sons, Harold Elmer, Michael E., and William Harold. This writer has recently met Jo Ann and William H. (Bill) Augspurger of Davis County, Iowa. Bill is the great-grandson of Christian Augsburger III.
Jacob Augspurger is found in the 1910 census of Normal, Illinois, in McLean County. He was a member of the Normal Mennonite congregation. He died in 1912 of a fatal railroad accident. Jacob is the father of Catherine (Augspurger) Waters, who was born in Akron, Colorado. Catherine’s granddaughter, Martha (Kline) Sorensen, was born in Bloomington, Illinois, the same place where this writer grew up in the 1940s and 1950s. A connection has now been made with Martha Sorensen through email.
Henry Augspurger, the youngest orphan, is found living in 1860 and 1870 in the Oswald household in Morton Township, Tazewell County, where he was naturalized in 1872 and married Anna Risser in 1873. In 1880, Henry is in the census of Allin Township, McLean County, Illinois (now called Stanford). He is buried in 1921 at Milford, Indiana, the same place where Gridley, Illinois, Daniel Augsburger Jr. died in 1923.
A Joseph Augspurger is listed in the 1860 census in Partridge Township, Woodford County, Illinois (next to Tazewell County), living in the home of Nancy Johnson, but more confirming data is needed.
That leaves next-to-the-youngest orphan Daniel Augsburger, who evidently ended up in Illinois, working for various Mennonite families in Tazewell County. The following evidence paints a strong picture of Daniel’s possible life as a single person. A Daniel (spelled with a “b”) Augsburger is listed in 1870 as a farmhand, born in France, age 28, in a Schwarzentraub household in Morton, Illinois, Tazewell County.
In the same neighborhood in 1880, there is a Daniel Augsberger, age 40, born in Ohio, living with a Kennel family. In 1910, there is a Daniel Augsburger, age 62, born in Ohio, living as a boarder in a Litwiller household in Elm Grove, Illinois. On August 20, 1919, a Daniel Augsberger, born in France in 1849, died at Elm Grove as an “Inmate of Tazewell County Farm” (reportedly an institution for handicapped and aged people). A few statistics differ slightly, but none of Daniel’s immediate relatives provided the information for the census clerks. At the time of Daniel’s death, his brother Christian III was in Iowa, Henry was in Indiana, and Jacob was deceased. There are several reasons to believe, and none to doubt, that this Daniel is the missing orphan Daniel Augsburger.
As this story has unfolded, we see that the beautiful Bavarian countryside became home to some of these Augsburger orphans, while the others were transported to America. We have been able to trace a few of them along a partial trail, but sorry to say further knowledge of most of these family members has been lost to us. Had their parents lived, we may have had more histories and stories to share.
Whoever the Mennonite families were that fostered them, we like to think that the children were kindly treated and somehow able to keep in touch with each other over the years. Considering the primitive communication and transportation technologies of those times, they could easily have lost track of each other. Hopefully, the memories of their parents, the family love from their early childhood days, and the kindness of their new congregations provided them with security and happiness.
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