From Die Familie Riehle newsletter – Volume III, No. 1, March, 1984
Copyright Joan Riehle Ruse, 1984
It has taken one hundred and thirty years to receive this postcard, and it didn’t arrive in the mail. DAN RIEHLE went to Germany and in three days found it and brought it home. This period of one hundred and thirty years included two World Wars and numerous local uprisings and still the records our family are preserved in the churches and archives of Baden, Germany.
When Dan Riehle called me from New York’s Kennedy Airport on Wednesday, November 23, 1983, the day before Thanksgiving, I knew we would always be grateful to him for his efforts on behalf of all our family. He has bridged the Atlantic and found the ancestral home of the Riehles!5
Wagshurst, Baden, is a small farming community of 1200 inhabitants1 nestled, in the rich Rhine Valley of Baden between Strasbourg, France, and the Forest on the East. The village lies about one-third of the distance between Strasbourg and the city of Baden-Baden, in a fertile area of excellent commerce and agriculture. Although a few old houses remain from the time our ancestors left1, the village probably bears little resemblance to its appearance in the 1850s. Since 1973 Wagshurst has been a part of Achern, a town of 20,000 inhabitants to the northeast.
Since the church records of Wagshurst begin in 1780 and records of our ancestors are found elsewhere before this time, we can assume there was no Catholic church in Wagshurst before 1780 and that the Catholic villagers attended church in the parent parish of Renchen, a town a few kilometers to the southeast. The church shown on the postcard is not the original building.
During the early 1850s when Martin and Clemens Riehle left Wagshurst, there was no religious or political upheaval to cause them to flee their homeland. Yet the greatest percentage of German immigration occurred in 1854 when over 215,000 Germans came to America. Economic conditions in Germany were not favorable. The failure of crops, the rise of food prices, the destruction of local industry through competition with machine-made products, all contributed to the exodus. Local governments often encouraged their people to emigrate. At this time a railroad ran from Strasbourg through Paris to the French port of Havre and improvements in ocean travel had made the journey shorter and cheaper and guaranteed a safer voyage.
Perhaps the ancient wanderlust of the Teutons still existed in the blood of their descendants. Perhaps one of the many pamphlets put out by the shipping companies describing utopian conditions in America circulated among the villagers of Wagshurst. Perhaps the young men in their prime fled to avoid military conscription which at that time was mandatory in Germany for all males at age twenty. Or perhaps a Riehle relative who had emigrated earlier wrote home with glowing descriptions of the opportunities for prosperity in America.
The farms of the Rhine valley were small and many had been farmed by the same families for generations. It was the custom for the eldest son to inherit the farm of his father. If the father was well-to-do, he could provide for all his sons; if not, the younger sons of necessity entered another occupation or emigrated. Why Martin Riehle chose to settle near Buffalo, New York, and Clemens near Cincinnati is yet unknown. The Germans had an uncanny knack for selecting land that would yield good crops. The size of the trees and the vegetation, the closeness of a river or stream -all contributed to their choice. Were there already Riehle relatives living near Hamburg, New York, or near Perintown, Ohio? Through further research both in this country and in Germany, some of these questions will be answered.
From copies of records brought back from Germany by Dan Riehle and from further correspondence with the Pastor of the Catholic church in Renchen, Baden and with the Mayor of Wagshurst, a genealogical history of our ancestors in Germany has emerged.
The earliest of our family found was one BARTHOLOMÄUS RIEHLE and his wife ANNA MARIA DANHAUSER* who lived in the village of Wagshurst in 1756 when their son, JOHANNES, was born on 8 November of that year and was baptized in the Catholic Church in Renchen2. JOHANNES RIEHLE married HELEN VIOX who was born 4 February 1760 in Renchen,4 daughter of SEBASTIAN and SALOMEA (KNIERIM) VIOX, residents of Renchen.2 JOHANNES and HELENA RIEHLE had, among others, a son JOHANN GEORG RIEHLE who was born 25 April 1795 in Wagshurst1,3. GEORG RIEHLE was a farmer and citizen of Wagshurst who married at age 25, on 31 July 1820 to AGNES HURST. She was born 21 January 1799, daughter of JOHANN and CATHARINA (ARMBRUSTER) HURST.
Their children, all. born and baptized in Wagshurst were.
- JOHANN RIEHLE, born 10 January 1821; died at age 1 year, 4 months, 24 days on 3 June 1823.
- VALENTIN RIEHLE, born 15 February 1822; died at age 63 on 24 April 1885 in Wagshurst; married twice and became the father of 15 children.
- CATHARINA RIEHLE, born 18 October 1823; death date unknown; married at age 21 on 18 August 1845 to MARCUS SIEFERMANN and had 4 children.
The mother of these children died on 15 February 1824 leaving a 2 year old son and a 4 month old daughter. Less than three months after her death, GEORG RIEHLE married again to MARIA ANNA KRAUS who was born 21 June 1799, a daughter of JOSEF and HELENA (HUBER) KRAUS of Wagshurst. GEORG and ANNA’s children, all born and baptized in Wagshurst were:
- HELENA RIEHLE, born 15 February 1825; died at age 30 on 23 June 1855; married JOSEF ECKSTEIN (1821-1905); became the mother of four children before her early death six days after the birth of her fourth child.
- CUNEGUNDE RIEHLE, born 27 February 1827; death date unknown; married at age 21 on 27 November 1848 to BERNHARD BERGER and had at least one daughter.
- ANNA RIEHLE, born 7 June 1829; died unmarried at age 23 on 3 October 1852 in Wagshurst.
- MARTIN RIEHLE, born 11 November 1831; died at 91 on 29 September 1922 in Hamburg, New York; emigrated in 1851; returned to Germany circa 1859 to marry MAGDALENA OCHS who was born in Renchen, Baden, daughter of John and Elizabeth (BENZ) OCHS.2 They returned to America in 1861 and had ten children, seven of whom lived to maturity.
- CLEMENS RIEHLE, born 20 November 1833; died at age 94 on 21 February 1927 in Perintown, Ohio; emigrated in 1853; married in Ohio (1) CORNELIA MOHR and (2) PHILOMENA WEIDEMER and had seven children, five of whom lived to maturity.
- DAMASUS RIEHLE, born 9 December 1835; died at 3 months on 23 March 1836 in Wagshurst.
ANNA (KRAUS) RIEHLE died on 26 May 1836, two months after the death of her youngest child leaving seven motherless children, between the ages of 2 and 14 years. GEORG RIEHLE married for the third time on 26 January 1837 to MARIA ANNA GRAF who was born in Ottersweir, a village north of Wagshurst, and who was the widow of MELCHUR SCHUH of Gamshurst, another nearby village. One child was born of this marriage:
- GEORG RIEHLE, born 24 April 1839; died at age 78 on 4 May 1917 in Boston, New York; a town near Hamburg where his older half-brother, Martin, had settled; emigration date unknown; married and became the father of six children.
There is no record of the date of GEORG RIEHLE Senior’s death in the church books of Wagshurst. His third wife, ANNA (GRAF) RIEHLE, died on 17 June 1854 in Wagshurst when her son was 15 years old. Martin and Clemens had already gone to America, the daughters were married, and the eldest son, Valentin, was married and already the father of four children.
Further research should add much additional information about our family in Germany.
- Letter dated 13 February 1984 from Herr Berger, Bürgermeister; Wagshurst, Baden. West Germany.
- Certified letter dated 21 January 1984 from Rev. Lothar Butscher, Katholisches pfarramt, 7592 Renchen, West Germany.
- Photocopies of Wagshurst Catholic church book brought from Germany by Dan Riehle in November of 1983.
- Renchen, Baden, church records -this date, differs from the birth date of 11 May; 1762 sent by the Mayor of Wagshurst.
- Our thanks, also, to ALICE (RIEHLE) RILEY, [Mrs. Stephen T.] of Weston, Massachusetts, a granddaughter of Martin Riehle who, in a letter dated 31 May 1982, remembered her Aunt Helen Riehle saying that her mother, Magdalana (Ochs) Riehle was born in “Reinike, Baden”. This was the key that opened the door for Dan Riehle at the Karlsruhe Archives.
* Editor’s note: additional ancestral information has been determined, subsequent to this article. See Clemens.