Neuheisel/Emser of Jägersberg, Saarland

The George Neuheisel/Theresia Emser family immigrated to the United States from Jägersburg, Germany. At the time George and Theresia left their homeland, in 1844, Jägersburg was part of the Rhine District of the Kingdom of Bavaria. An atlas with no more detail than a Hammond's Contemporary World Atlas will not show Jägersburg. However, the nearby cities of Zweibrücken and Homburg should be shown. Both of these nearby cities are located in southwestern Germany, along the border between the German states of Saarland and Rhineland Palatinate, and near the border with France. Jägersburg is just outside and northwest of Homburg.

The area had been settled for many centuries before that. It first appears as a church-place named Hattweiler in 1279. At this time the area was owned by Count Heinrich of Zweibrücken. The name was changed to Hansweiler in 1590 by Johann I. The village was completely destroyed during the 30-years-war and it wasn't resettled until 1680-1690. Since 1749, it has been known as Jägersburg. The village was part of the Zweibrücken duchy. From 1793 to 1816, the area was under French control. (see more below in "A little ... German history")

Between 1752 and 1759, Christian IV, Count of Zweibrücken, built a palace in the area. This palace wasn't occupied continuously but was used as a hunting lodge. The operation and care of the palace and surrounding grounds provided additional jobs for Jägersburg residents. Prior to this, the economy was principally dependent on agricultural pursuits.

In 1802, the year after George was born, Jägersburg had a population of 513. In 1844, the year George and Theresia emigrated, the population had grown to 978.

More about Jägersburg

[The following essay was provided by a distant Emser relation. He graciously took the time to prepare this essay at our request. He also included some pictures and maps that have not been added to this a yet. His mother is Tom McCarthy's fourth cousin. She is descended from one of Theresia Emser Neuheisel's siblings. Dr. Ecker also provided the picture of the Emser homestead - "Die Lehmekaut"]

by Dr. Franz-Josef Ecker Drafted, July 30th 2002

Economic and cultural development of Jägersburg in the 19th century

In the course of the French revolution at the end of the 18th century the castle in Jägersburg (a copy of the Versailles castle near Paris) was destroyed. In 1796 this castle burned down and the fire was refueled for 8 days until the entire structure was demolished. It is reported that 4 farmers - among them Johannes Emser - took iron ovens and other valuables from the castles ruins. There are few reports on the impact of these events on the population. The time of royal banquets, deer hunts by the nobility, etc. was gone. Jobs lost, houses destroyed, harvests taken by soldiers,... It is known that people took stones from the castle for house re-construction and that the entire castle vanished from the landscape. In 1802 some families lived in the ruins - falling stones killed a child. In 1804/05 the parks and gardens of the castle had vanished too. French and Prussian soldiers were in and out of the area squeezing everything out of the population - food, livestock, and the few goods they had.

The following years are characterized by poverty among the local population. Land owning households were still relatively well off. When harvests were good they at least didn't starve. Compared to our life today they had a very modest lifestyle. In spring when the last potatoes of the former year were eaten and/or used as seedling for the next harvest food was often limited. Bread was valuable - locked away, breakfast and dinners were dominated by oats and barley soups, sometimes only floury watersoup. Meat and sausage dishes were a Sunday special - if at all.

Farmers lacked land to expand their farms. The village was surrounded by forests - prior hunting grounds of the local dukes and kings. This forest became government property with little use by the local people. The existing available land was needed to grow food. Greenfield sites for raising cows and cattle were almost non-existent and forest was not allowed to be cut down to create farmland. Also, with growing population, land was divided by inheritance laws, such that farm lots became smaller and smaller. (Note: Our ancestors, the Lehmekaut-Emser, were among the few wealthy farmers in the 1st half of the century. Balthasar Emser had 8 children, the land was divided and it took his son Heinrich (sister to your great-great-grandmother) almost half a century to buy all those one-eighth pieces back (One-eighth of the land of a wealthy farmer was too little for a young family - hence, unless land holdings could be expanded, the family lived relatively more poorly or needed other sources for making a living).

The average non-farmers household (craftsmen, laboreres,...) in Jägersburg also had some hens, one or two goats and maybe a cow - thus causing problems to get sufficient food for those animals. The tax register in 1847/48 lists 172 houses in total; 40 simple houses, 61 houses with barn and cow-sheds or stables and 71 houses with animal shelters. This indicates that most households did not have any farm or arable land, however, kept some animals which needed to be fed.

In spring when food storages were emptied everyone was out looking for eatables. Children were send out to get first greens for the animals and dandelion as an enrichment for lunch and dinner. [Note: Dandelion is still or again eaten a lot today]. Women cut grass at the edges of the forest and carried big bundles on their heads. People found cutting grass in the forest were punished by forest guards - paying money fines or a couple of days in prison. Grass was also cut in the moor or swamp the socalled "Bruch", this meant that women put out wooden planks to walk and hold on, i.e. often standing in the watery morass - a sickle in in one hand, wood bar gripped in the other. Men were busy to get a new storage of wood for cooking and heating in winter, however, access to wood which was so abundantly there was heavily restricted and watched by the authorities. My grandfathers told me many stories on how much fun they had playing tricks to the forest guards, tricks how an entire tree could disappear under there noses, sneaked out and never be found again, etc. If found, again, money fines or prison was the rule. According to my grandfathers "the old times were tough but everyone had fun, families literally worked together, singing in the fields together, laughing together, enjoying the rhythm of the year, belonging to a certain family, belonging to the village, much pride involved, .... happiness even when working hard and starving at times)

Later in the year the forests provided blueberries, also collected by women and children, which earned some extra money by selling them on the markets in the cities around. [Note: Today, many people collect mushrooms, however, I don't know any record that Jägersburg people ate them in the old days.]

Summer was dominated by field work. Potatoes were harvested and after harvesting the poor -not land owning population (craftsmen families, day laborers,...) were busy to look for potatoes still remaining in the soil - even during the nighttime in bad years!

In the first half of the 19th century bricklayers and stone cutters (in the stone pits) were second in numbers next to households related to the farming sector. Normally they only had regular work during summer time, and worked during those weeks in average 12 hours per day for 6 days. Being paid on a weekly basis, these families lived richly in summer and in winter often poorly. A joke-verse in Jägersburg says: "In winter for 10 Pfennige [cheap money] greasy bacon in summer juicy ham". In the tax register of 1847/48 a Johann Neuheusel is listed as bricklayer.

There were also several shoemakers and tailors (poorest group), weavers, carpenters, bakers and butchers. In 1816 there were two guesthouses in Jägersburg. Laborers used to spent salary days there drinking - wives collecting the larger portion of the weeks wage at the door before entering or pulling there man out before he could spent too much. To learn a craft for a boy in an average family was not easy - money had to be paid to the master. Young man also had to do military service. Usually they got the order to enroll and walked to the respective regiments barracks - even it was more than a 100 miles away. On the way the "poor " soldier slept in barns and lived - if he didn't have own funds - from alms.

In the second half of the 18th century coal was found in the neighboring villages of Höchen, Frankenholz and Bexbach. Coal mines opened bringing jobs and prosperity to many families. In 1860 Johannes Emser, Jakob Grummel and Peter Herz were registered as the first coal miners in Jägersburg. Jobs in the coal mines were attractive until World War II. Along with the coal then steel industry emerged in Homburg in the beginning of the 19th century and increasingly provided jobs. [Note: Today both coal and steel industries have almost disappeared in the neighboring villages and towns].

Jägersburg remained independent as a community with its own mayor rather long until it was made [people resisted!) a suburb of Homburg sometime in the 1980ies (Sorry - for not knowing the exact data - I know more old then recent history). The people of Jägersburg also didn't want industrial settlement within their community borders rather wanted their village with the forests and lakes become a health resort. It did not become the health resort it wanted to be but today it is attractive as a recreation area, people come to hike, bicycle, play golf, birds watching, ... The swamp or moor was still dangerous when I was a child, however, with more and more drinking water taken from the Bruch it dried out in recent years and is almost a part of the forest now.

Today, Jägersburg is a rather silent village except for weekends in summer or during the village festivals. Most people work in the cities of Homburg and Saarbrücken. The biggest employer is the University and the university hospital in Homburg [Quite a number of university professors chose Jägersburg to live]. Homburg also has a large beer brewery (8th biggest in Germany) and industry. Bosch has two manufacturing plants for electronics and Michelin produces tires. Besides that there are many small and medium sized enterprises.


Family history

Emsers have lived in Jägersburg for over 300 years. The Emser house is believed to have been built about the time the Emsers first arrived, circa 1707. The Emsers lived in Nantzdietschweiler before settling in Jägersburg. There are a number of phone directory listings of the surname in the area. Most of those are in the fairly large city of Homburg (46,000 in 2002).

Neuheisels have lived in Jägersburg for a very long time as well arriving by 1732. There also were a number of related Neuheisel families in the neighboring village of Waldmohr. According to family lore, the Neuheisels came originally from Hungary.

During the time when George Neuheisel and Theresia Emser were born, Jägersburg was part of France. Civil records of the time were written in French. However, various documents in the United States make it clear that George and Theresia considered themselves Bavarian Germans.

[Herman Neuheisel of Waldmohr, Germany provided much of the Jägersburg history and statistical detail included above. Herman, a distant Neuheisel relation - Tom McCarthy's fourth cousin - has been both helpful and generous. Together we have accomplished much, despite the fact that he has no English and we have no German!]

The emigration

Why George and Theresia chose to emigrate isn't known. There doesn't appear to have been a mass exodus from the area or a reason for one. None of George's siblings or cousins are known to have come to the U.S.A. although a number of Theresia's relatives did. (See discussion of "Related Emigrants" that follows.)

There are no census returns to analyze for clues, only vital records, i.e. births, marriages and deaths. For the twenty-year period from 1830 through 1849, the birth rate increased steadily until 1844, while the death rate, except for spikes in 1836 and 1843, remained fairly constant. After 1844 the birth rate gradually declined while the death rate just as gradually increased - evidence of an aging population?

An uneducated conclusion from this would be that during a period of peace and relative prosperity, the population had outgrown the available resources of food, clothing and shelter. So, some of the younger child-bearing people left to make a better life.

George and Theresia left Europe from La Havre, France on the 798+ ton Duchesse D'Orleans captained by A. Richardson. How, or by what route, they got to La Havre isn't known. The ship arrived in the Port of New York, New York City on 5 September 1844.

After the family arrived in the Port of New York, they must have journeyed almost directly to Burlington in Racine County, Wisconsin. For there, on Christmas Day, Theresia, who had been six-months preganant when she got off the ship in New York, gave birth to a daughter. The next record of the family is on 1 June 1846 in Lyons Township of Walworth County, the next county west (of Racine County). Here, on the 7th of July, George bought his first farm in America.

Walworth County, Wisconsin

Walworth County, Wisconsin was part of a vast tract of land ceded by various American Indian tribes to the United States in a number of treaties signed after the close of the Blackhawk Wars in 1832. Under the terms of the treaties, white men did not begin settlement on these lands until 1836. By that time, surveys had been completed and Walworth County had been named and its boundaries identified. Walworth County was bounded on the south by the state of Illinois, on the east by Racine County, on the west by Rock County, and on the north by Jefferson and Waukesha Counties. It consisted of sixteen townships arranged in a square of four townships east-west by four townships north-south. Each township was sectioned in a square as well with six sections east-west and six sections north-south for a toal of thirty-six sections per township. (If you do the arithmetic, Walworth County covers 368,640 acres or 576 square-miles.)

Lyons Township, which was called Hudson until the name was changed by an act of the state legislature in 1844, is more broken and varied in its topography than other townships in the county. The soil is mostly of a clay texture with sand and gravel in the hilly portions. [above two paragraphs quoted or paraphrased from The History of Walworth County, Wisconsin by the Chicago Western Historical Company, 1882] By 1850, Lyons Township had a population of 1,273.

Why George and Theresia decided to settle in Lyons Township is not at all clear. There were few Germans in the township and of those only Theresia's brother Philip Emser was related. Best guess: the land was cheap, available, and only six-miles from the German Catholic church in Burlington. In 1851, George and Theresia sold their holdings in Walworth County and moved to Franklin Township in Sauk County, Wisconsin.

Sauk County, Wisconsin

The land of Sauk County was acquired by the United States from an American Indian Tribe - the Winnebagos - by treaty to purchase in the spring of 1838. A year later, the United States commenced selling lots to white settlers. Sauk County, unlike Walworth County, is irregular in shape. It "is situated midway between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River in the center of the south half of the State." Sauk County is bordered by the Wisconsin River on its south, southeast and northeast sides. "The county is bounded on the north by Juneau, on the west by Vernon and Richland, on the south by Iowa, southeast by Dane, and east and northeast by Columbia County."

Franklin Township "has ... good tillable lands." ... "There is ... no lack of good water. Along the Honey Creek Branch, and" (in other places), "may be seen splendid farms under an excellent state of cultivation." ... "The inhabitants are principally foreigners, there being a very large German representation. The social and moral condition is similar to that of other localities made up largely of Germans. It is something after this fashion: Work hard all the week and have a good time on Sundays - or whenever you can for that matter." The first settler in the township "came in the fall of 1849." "The first road ... was from Prairie du Sac, via Honey Creek, but, in 1856 or 1857, a pretty direct road was opened ... to Spring Green." [above two paragraphs quoted or paraphrased from The History of Sauk County, Wisconsin by the Chicago Western Historical Company, 1880]

The village of Plain, seven-miles north of Spring Green in Franklin Township, was earlier called Logtown and before that Cramer's Corner. The Milwaukee & Prairie du Chien Railroad passed through what is now Spring Green village in 1856. Not surprisingly, a road into Franklin Township was opened about the same time. The village was incorporated in 1869. It acquired a Post Office circa 1870.

The lower portion of the county is traversed along an east-west line, roughly along the border between Spring Green Township on the south and Bear Creek and Franklin Townships on the north, by a row of hills approximately three hundred feet high. The lowest point in the township, in Section 2, is 784 feet above sea level.

Der apfel fält nicht weit vom baum

George and Theresia had fourteen children, eight of whom had children of their own. The eight had, themselves, 58 children, 28 of whom had children of their own. There were a total of 230 descendants in the first three generations. In spite of the fact that two of the original 'eight' left Sauk County for South Dakota, 124 of those 230 descendants had a presence in Sauk County. By "presence" is meant that they were at least one of born, married, died or buried there. The farm that George & Theresia bought in Franklin Township, Sauk County, Wisconsin is still occupied by their descendants over one-hundred-fifty years later.

Related Emigrants

Five of Theresia's siblings came to the U.S.A.:

1. Philip Emser - in Walworth County, Wisconsin from 1846 to 1849, in Sauk County from 1851 to 1854. Later whereabouts unknown.

2. Catharina Emser, married Joannes Walzer - whereabouts unknown.

3. Maria Emser, married Jakob Hess, immigrated to the United States in 1851 and located in Burlington, Racine County, Wisconsin. They moved to Sauk County in 1864 and lived in Spring Green Township.

4. Peter Emser, a blacksmith, lived in Reedsburg, Sauk County, Wisconsin. Peter married twice and had several children, all girls.

5. Balthasar Emser lived in Patterson, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. He had several children, all girls.

Other relatives of Theresia's that came to the U.S.A.:

1. Second cousin, Elizabeth Emser, married a shoemaker named Adam Hess, brother of Jacob Hess. Adam and Elizabeth moved to Sauk County from Jägersburg circa 1867.

2. First cousin, Balthasar Neuheisel, who with his wife, Barbara Müller, came to Lyons Township, Walworth County while George and Theresia were there - later whereabouts unknown.

(The above two cousins of Theresia's, Elizabeth Emser and Balthasar Neuheisel, were half-siblings to each other.)

3. The Balthasar Neuheisel mentioned in the previous item had a son Morris Neuheisel who lived in Reedsburg, Sauk County, Wisconsin. A mason by trade, Morris was married. He died in 1872, without issue, at age 32.

4. Nephew Heinrich Emser, a blacksmith, was living in Bethee, Mercer County, Pennsylvania in 1874. By 1882, he was living in Cleveland, Ohio.

Surname spellings

There are several variations of the Neuheisel name in German records around Jägersburg. These include Neuheisel, Neuheusel, Neiheisel, Neuhäusel (ä=ae) and Neuhäußel (ß=ss). Cannot say whether there are different clans implied by the different spellings. Civil clerks, that wrote the records, didn't always spell the name the same way that the people, being written about, signed the records. Our family members are usually listed as Neuheisel and are almost always signed that way.

In earlier times, the Emser surname was spelled Embser. Then, for a period of time, both spellings were used, sometimes interchangeably. In the U.S.A., have found nineteenth century records with the spellings Emser, Embser, and Empser. To the best of our knowledge, it is spelled exclusively Emser today.

A little bit of relevant German history

The German nation, as we know it in 2008, did not exist until 1871. It was created, primarily through the efforts of Bismark, from the numerous political entities that existed at the time.

During the 1700's there were about 300 political entities in the German speaking areas of Europe. By the late 1700's, this collection of kingdoms, duchys, countships and other minor states were organized into a loose trading federation. During this period, each of these entities continued to maintain their independence. In 1793, during the French Revolution, France annexed the area from their eastern border to the Rhine River. These areas today are: in the western part of the German state of Westphalia; most of Rhineland Palatinate; and all of Saarland.

By the time Napolean Bonaparte proclaimed himself Emperor in 1804, he had instituted a new calendar and developed a civil administrative bureaucracy whose duties included the keeping of vital records (i.e., births, marriages and deaths) - in French, of course. Prior to this time, such events were only recorded by the various churches. After Napolean met his Waterloo in 1815, the German area that had been annexed was relinquished by the French. The Congress of Vienna reduced the number of German states from 300 to 38. Then various parts of the recovered area were "assigned" to Prussia, Bavaria, and Oldenburg.

The part assigned to Bavaria was outside of its existing borders. This satellite jurisdiction, referred to as the Bavarian Rhine, included a duchy called Zweibrücken, which in turn, included the hamlet of Jägersburg. In the 1840s, when the Neuheisel family emigrated, Jägersburg was in the administrative jurisdiction (District) of Waldmohr in the Bavarian Rhine. Today, Waldmohr is in the State of Rhineland Palatinate. And Jägersburg, a village of 3,300, is in the District of Homburg, i.e. it's a suburb of Homburg, in the German State of Saarland.

After the first world war (WWI), the area known as the Saar, which was to become Saarland, and including Jägersburg, was occupied and administered by the British and French. This occupation lasted for fifteen years from 1920-1935. In 1935, the Saar was returned to Germany and made a state - Saarland, separate from Bavaria. Saarland was again occupied and administered by the Allies after World War II. It was finally reunited with Germany in 1957.

To recap this in timelines:

- Jägersburg was in the Zweibrucken duchy until 1816.

- The area of Germany between today's French/German border and the Rhine River, which includes Jägersburg, was part of France from 1793 until 1816.

- From 1816 until 1935 much of this same area was part of either the Kingdom of Prussia or the Kingdom of Bavaria, usually referred to as the "Rhein District" of one or the other. The last pieces of the Rhein District were separeted from Bavaria in 1949.

- Saarland was rcognized as a state separate of Bavaria in 1935.