|The origins of the Klemmer family name|
This page is constantly being updated. Look forward to indepth coverage of this Palatine German family's trials and tribulations in the Old and New World. The story begins in the late sixteenth century during the persecution of the Huguenots in the Alsace Lorraine region of France. Frantz Klemmer, who was born in 1620 in Zurich, Switzerland, is to date the earliest traceable ancestor of most Clemmers and Klemmers now residing in the United States. This Web resource will explore the reasons why his grandson and great-grandsons were compelled to embark on an unknown and dangerous voyage to Philadelphia, PA in search of religious freedom and a better life. It is to these individuals that my time and effort are dedicated so that others may have a better understanding of the deplorable conditions in the Rheinland/Pfalz region of Germany in the aftermath of the Thirty Year War's widespread destruction.
|Click on coat of arms for description.|
As of March 1994, the earliest direct ancestors of the Dallas, NC Clemmer family that we can find are Frantz "Tommi" Klemmer and his wife, Barbara Urmer Klemmer. We think they were born about 1620, and the first written documentation we have places them in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland. We believe they were driven out of France about 1650 by the Catholics who were persecuting Protestants at this time, and Eastern Germany and Switzerland were safe havens for Protestants driven from France. Don't think that Frantz and Barbara Urmer Klemmer abandoned their homeland and friends over a small disagreement with a religious creed or ceremony. It was common in 1650 France to be killed because of your Protestant beliefs by the predominant Catholics who comprised ninety percent of the population. There were no laws to protect Protestants during this time because the French people believed the Catholic king was appointed by God (divine rule) and whatever the king said was the law.
Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church in Germany, and his followers were known as Protestants or protestors. The "Protestant Reformation" began in 1517 in Germany and gradually spread into other European countries. By 1599, the first French National Church was formed in Paris, and its members were known as the Huguenots. Most ofthe Huguenots lived in eastern France, close to Germany. The Catholic versus Protestant conflict in France resulted in five civil wars, fought mostly in the eastern regions. The most infamous incident of this period was the Saint Barthalomew's Day Massacre on August 24, 1572. On this day the Catholic King, Charles IX, tried to assassinate every Protestant leader in the country!
After decades of fighting, in 1598, King Henry IV issued the "Edict of Nantes", guaranteeing religious freedom in France. King Henry hoped this would unite France so that he could concentrate on expanding French Colonies worldwide. By 1685, the French King Louis XIV (1643-1715) had built the strongest army in Europe and he decided it was time to permanently eliminate the Protestants. So King Louis revoked the "Edict of Nantes", declared Protestants to be enemies of the state, seized their property, and sent his troops to drive them out of France. Over the next few years it was estimated that between four hundred thousand to one million protestants fled France. Those that remained were severely persecuted. Between 1700 and 1710, the King's army burned approximately 450 Protestant villages in eastern France, and murdered all the inhabitants they could catch.
Although they were driven out of what is today France, the possibility exists that Frantz and Barbara Klemmer may have considered themselves Germans. The region that is the west bank of the Rhine River is known as the Alsace region, and France and Germany have fought over this Alsace region for centuries. The prolonged conflict known as "The Thirty Years War" was won by France in 1648. The resulting treaty of Westphalia gave the Alsace region back to France. If Barbara and Frantz Klemmer considered themselves German Protestants, they would not have wanted to live in Catholic France, and this is about the time they showed up in Switzerland. Even though Alsace has been part of France since Germany lost World War I, many inhabitants still consider themselves to be German descendants, and the German language is commonly heard.
While in Switzerland, Frantz and Barbara Klemmer had at least one son, Hans Jacob Klemmer who was born about 1650 and died October 23, 1728. Jacob Klemmer moved down the Rhine River from Zurich to the town of Ludwigshaffen, Germany. About twelve miles west of Ludwigshaffen is the small village of Friedelsheim. There on September 17, 1678 Jacob Klemmer married a local girl, Ann Catherine Pfaffman, daughter of Hans Jacob Pfaffman. Wouldn't it be interesting to know how and where the newlyweds met? Anyhow, Hans and Ann had one son baptized in Friedelsheim, Johan Heinrich Klemmer. They considered Friedelsheim home and there on September 16, 1710, Johan Heinrich Klemmer (then 22 years old) married Ann Catherine Daughneir, widow of Michael Daughneir. They had at least two sons born in Friedelsheim, Andreas Klemmer who was born in 1712 and Johan Ludwig Klemmer, born in 1718. In 1730 Johan Heinrich Klemmer took his oldest son Andreas and sailed down the Rhine River and across the Atlantic Ocean to Pennsylvania in the "New World". Their ship was the "Alexander and Anne" and they arrived in the city of Philadelphia on September 5, 1730.
We cannot find any record of Johan Ludwig Klemmer (aged 12 years) coming to Philadelphia with his father and older brother. He must have stayed behind with his mother and any other siblings or perhaps he stayed with other relatives. There must have been compelling reasons for the family to split up in 1730. Maybe they planned to reunite in America after a year or so. However, twelve years later, Johan Ludwig was still in Friedelsheim, Germany. At 22 years of age on January 24, 1742, Ludwig married Anna Elizabeth Böckle, the daughter of Heinrick Sinn. Johan Ludwig and Anna Klemmer had one son, Jacob Klemmer born in Friedelsheim about 1743. Then in 1747, Ludwig, Anna, and their young son Jacob sailed to Philadelphia, Pennslyvania. Shortly after they arrived in America they went to Littlestown, PA (located just southeast of Gettysburg in present day Adams County). There on February 10, 1747 at Christ Reformed Church, the Reverend Michael Slatter baptized George Valentine Klemmer. The baby's parents were listed on the church records as Johan Ludwig and Maria Elisabeth Bekelin Klemmer from "Friedelsheim in the Pfalz, Germany".
Christ Reformed Church
Littlestown, PA in June 1996.
site of Christ Reformed Church
Littlestown, PA in June 1996.