Chapter 1: How it all began

Not with Adam and Eve shall this family chronicle begin, but with Adam and Anne, born 1917 and 1920 in Eutingen by Pforzheim. It is not much that we know about them in contrast to other persons of the Baroque period.

For example, the German Empress, Maria Theresia, who also first saw the light of the world in 1717, or 5 years before that Frederick II, King of Prussia was born. It would be no problem to write about them. Every detail of their destiny has been recorded by historians. Their acts of „bravery", their glittering feasts, and the magnificent enfolding of the court life, could fill whole libraries.

Allegory of poverty Allegory of powerty 

by A. van der Venne
about 1600

A farmer driven from his house and farm is here the symbol of feudal oppression and the resulting poverty.

Source: Illustrierte Alltagsgeschichte des deutschen Volkes, p.15.

And years later, Goethe writes to Herder:

"Poor folk must always carry the burden, and it does not matter to them whether it becomes too heavy to bear on the right or the left side."

About the fate of the small folk very little is known, even though it was they, who, through their daily work, laid the foundation for the riches of the crowned heads. From the Register of Persons of the Parish Books of Eutingen near Pforzheim, we have learned the following (details see: List of descendants):

Kirchenbuch Eutingen 1717Johann Adam Reble, occupation: brick-layer, born 27 SEP 1717, son of Jacob and Anna.
First married 1744 to Anna Maria Magdalene Elsaesser, born 1720 in Eutingen. 4 children, 2 living, among them son Johann Reble, born 1745 in Eutingen. Second married 1756 to Anna Maria Buechel. 2 children. And finally (without date) around the year 1763, the meager entry:
To Juetland

What is hidden behind this entry ? How much affliction and want must overtake a family with several children, the father over 45, to turn their backs on their home, in order to begin a new existence in the Cold North?

Let us begin our search with the material foundations. As occupation, it is recorded that Adam Reble is a bricklayer. That means in those days a job as a day-laborer ... when there is work. But can a family exist from occasional jobs in a village of round about 400 souls, where economy is exclusively based on agriculture? Hardly not!

Allthough the strategic site of Eutingen is not bad: on the half distance between Karlsruhe and Stuttgart and approximately in the intersection of two passage roads (east/west and north/south). But in those days this is more a plague than a blessing, because traffic roads are first of all military roads.

Certainly, the fortified town of Pforzheim is in view, but the unfree peasants of the environment have no refuge-right in times of war. The only protection is very often to flee in the surrounding woods, provided they still exist. Because of the enormous need for coal in the production of iron - not at the least for military purposes - the forests are already vastly exploited.

The horror of war

The people are treated worst during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), when the population of Baden is decimated by 2/3. With difficulty the foreign armies have left Baden, new mischief pulls over the land. 1689 Eutingen, as well as Pforzheim, are burned down from French troops. 1691/92 and 1695 again French quartering, also 1701-14, whereas 1707 the parish register is burned. 1733-38 Baden is inundated with French, Austrian and Russian troops, as well as 1740-48 and during the Seven Years’ War 1756-63, in which all European great powers are involved (see below: "The power-politic background of the colonization period").

And even in „periods of peace" living in the country is a permanent fight of survival, because feudalism means that worldly and parochial masters own the land, which is the most important means of production. Bondsmen, serfs and partly free farmers cultivate this land and therefore have to perform duties.

Tributes of the countrymen  for the feudal masters 

  • ZEHNT (tithe) = 10% of the harvest to the church 
  • GUELT = 20-30% of the harvest to the landowner 
  • BESTHAUPT = an inheritance tax to be given to the feudal master: the best head of cattle at the death of the man, the best cloth at the death of the woman. 
  • FRON (soccage) = regional different ca. 2 weeks at the sowing-time and 2 weeks at the harvest the peasant has to work with his own equipment around the estates of his feudal master.
of the   
in Eutingen/ Baden  

 year   inhabitants  
1277   100  
1696   220  
1780   517  
1855   920  
1900  2064  
1976  6930

From this tributes lives the ruling class: the princes and sovereigns, the counts and kings ... and their clerks: the jurists, priests and writers, the tax-collectors, the spies and the armed-knights.

Yet the productivity is extremely low, especially in the agriculture, which is done in ways similar to those of the Middle Ages. The acreage yields little and the number of cattle is small. One hears about failing harvests, dying livestock and of much begging by the poor.

Bondage lies like a shackle over the land and curbs progressive thought and initiative. To this is added religious persecution mania. Someone who lives for example under a Catholic land-owner and accepts Protestantism, must be prepared to accept additional persecution and oppression.

Thought begins to grow among the crowned heads of the time, that things can’t go on as they are and that reform is urgently needed. The aim of this „Reform from higher up", is not that the needs of the lower classes should be eased or alleviated, but that the State should gain more revenue and thereby have more power.

Reform steps of the rulers to increase the productivity

  • the introduction of the general school-attendance in Prussia (1717) and in other German small states;
  • the introduction of the potato, which is growing also on poor ground and therefore a good mean against extreme poverty;
  • some attempts to abolish bondage and other chains in agriculture, in order to increase the productivity and - last not least
  • the efforts to develop uncultivated deserts with the help of the state, the so called „Binnenkolonisation" (= inland-colonization).

The standard are the exemplary attempts of the Dutch cultivating marshy country and the recolonisation of depopulated East-Prussia by 15,000 emigrants from Salzburg, who were thrown out of their catholic native places, because they were Protestants. And so some influential people at the court in Copenhagen are thinking about, how to get more money for the Danish kingdom.

There is plenty of uncultivated land and there are also strategic plans at hand, for example the expert report of the German economist Justi, who says, that the Danish state has to invest 1 Mio. Reichstaler (converted from the purchase-power ca. 30 Mio. $ or EURO) and give the new settlers 10 years of tax-freedom. After this period let them pay taxes and the invested money will be back within 5 years.

Justi’s report pours oil on the flames. So in the year 1759 there is a tempting announcement published in the REICHSPOSTZEITUNG at Frankfurt.

We the royal majesty of Denmark (... etc.) promise ...
  • a good piece of land with a house 
  • freedom of taxes and other contributions for 20 years
  • Danish passes and letters of recommendation 

People, who are appealed to this, shall come to Frankfurt, where they get a compensation for their traveling expenses in Danish Reichstaler: 30 for a man, 20 for a female and 10 for a child from 12 to 16 years.

Frankfurt on the Main, the 28th of May, 1759.
Johann Friedrich Moritz, Royal Danish Legation-Council

 The first trek

The advertising has success and in winter 1760 the first trek starts in the direction of north: 265 families with round about 1000 persons from Baden, Württemberg and Hessen.

The few belongings are loaded on covered wagons. The adults are going on foot. Ca. 30 kilometers they are reaching by this way per day. Traveling is hard and burdensome in these days. It is war in the middle of Europe and the wintry streets are rough and dangerous.

More than 4 weeks they are rumbling and humbling forward. They are exposed to the wind, the coldness and more or less friendly landlords. Not all of them are strong enough to resist illness and sickness. In what mood may one of the families have been, starting in Frankfurt with 4 children and arriving with only one, because 3 are victimized to the hardships of the traveling.

Next chapter: The new homelands  | German Version: In der neuen Heimat