Francois Joseph Schmitt
- Born: 1 Apr 1822, Artolsheim, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France 31
- Marriage: Marie Anne Waltspurger on 26 Nov 1845 in Artolsheim, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France 30
- Died: 10 Apr 1896, Wadesville, IN at age 74
FROM HERMAN MUEHLBAUER ON HIS GRANDFATHER SCHMITT (1985):
His family lived in the province of Alsace Lorraine, which is near the French border. They lived in a large complex of buildings and the family all lived together on the farm. The main building was called the new house (although it was very old) and had many additions down through the years as the family grew. It was called the new house because the ruins of the old house were still partly standing. The old house was made of fieldstone while the new house was built of cut stone.
The family lived near one of the nearly dozen "free" cities in the Alsace province and were one of its "protectors." According to Grandpa, the family had lived there for many, many generations.
The family owed its allegiance to the Hapsburg family and was bound to serve it when called upon. In the meantime the sons, uncles, brothers, nephews could serve any Duke, Count, Country, etc. for a given period of time by requesting permission from the ruling Hapsburg. When that period of service was over they had to reapply for permission again.
Although the farm consisted of hundreds of hectors, it could not support all of the extended family so that some of them had to go to work. Soldering was their job and profession and they had no trouble selling themselves to other armies on a contract basis.
Some of our ancestors served in the Austrian-Hungary armies, Napoleon I, III, Bismarck, Duke of Burgundy, etc.
Alsace Lorraine was often overrun by other armies and after major parts of the farm were confiscated or given up for ransom when the wrong group won. If the winners were friends the land was returned and possibly even a little extra. So down through the generations the size of the farm was always changing.
The sharecroppers or tenants were assigned to the land, similar to renting and stayed with the land regardless of which the winners of the many wars assigned to the land.
The line of authority transferred from Baron to eldest son, who then moved to the new house. Very often this forced brothers of the former baron and their sons to go elsewhere to offer their services. It kept peace in the family. The new baron had to stay on the land and protect it, train his small army and remain on call for any need of the Hapsburg family.
FROM GERMAN GENEALOGY WEB PAGE (1997):
Always closely tied to the Rhine River, which forms its eastern boundary, Alsace has found itself a border region for most of its history. It was first conquered by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC and remained a part of the Roman province of Prima Germania for the next six centuries.
The region was conquered by the Alemanni, a Germanic tribe, in the 5th century AD and then by Clovis and the Franks in 496. Under his Merovingian successors it was Christianized and became a duchy.
In the ninth century, this region became part of the heartland of the re-constituted Roman (more accurately "Carolingian") Empire of Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse). When Charlemagne's grandsons divided his Empire at the Treaty of Verdun of 843, Alsace with Lorraine (Lotharingia) became part of a narrow middle strip granted to Lothar with German- and French-speaking kingdoms to either side. Buffeted on both sides, the new kingdom did not last long and Alsace eventually became a part of the Holy Roman Empire as a result of the Treaty of Meersen in 870. At about this time the entire region began to fragment into a number of secular and ecclesiastical lordships, a situation, which prevailed until the 17th century.
It was during this period that Strassburg (Strass=street and burg=fortification), which had been an Episcopal see since the 4th century, became part of the Holy Roman Empire in 923. In 1262, after a long struggle with the ruling bishops, the citizens gained the status of free imperial city for Strasbourg. A stop on the Paris-Vienna-Orient trade route, as well as a port on the Rhine route linking southern Germany and Switzerland to the Netherlands, England and Scandinavia, it began to flourish and became the political and economic center of the region. Cities such as Colmar and Haguenau also began to grow in economic importance and gained a kind of autonomy within the "Decapole", a federation of 10 free towns.
In 1469, following the Treaty of St. Omer, Upper Alsace went to Charles of Burgundy who also ruled over of Netherlands and Burgundy). Although Charles was the nominal landlord, taxes were paid to the German Emperor. The Emperor was able to wreak this tax to his advantage and managed to gain full control of Upper Alsace in 1477 when it became part of the personal demesne of the Habsburg family, who were also hereditary rulers of the Empire.
By the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, Strasbourg was a prosperous community, and its inhabitants accepted Protestantism at an early date (1523). The reformer Martin Bucer was a prominent Protestant reformer in the region. His efforts were countered by the Roman Catholic Habsburgs who tried to eradicate heresy in Upper Alsace. As a result, Alsace was transformed into a mosaic of Catholic and Protestant territories.
This situation prevailed until 1639 when most of Alsace was conquered by France as part of the conflict of the Thirty Years War. So, in 1646, beset by enemies in the Thirty Years War, the Habsburgs were forced to sell their territories (mostly in Upper Alsace) to France, which had occupied it, for the sum of 1.2 million thalers. Thus, when the hostilities finally ceased in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia, most of Alsace went to France with some cities remaining independent. The treaty stipulations regarding Alsace were extremely byzantine and confusing; it is thought that this was done purposely so that neither the French king or the German Emperor could gain tight control, but that one would play off the other, thereby assuring Alsace some measure of autonomy. Supporters of this theory point out that the treaty stipulations were authored by Imperial plenipotentiary Isaac Volmar, the former chancellor of Alsace.
The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) had been one of the worst periods in the history of Alsace. It caused large numbers of the population (mainly in the countryside) to die or to flee away, because the land was successively invaded and devastated by many armies (Imperials, Swedes, French, etc.). After 1648 and until the mid-18th century, numerous immigrants arrived from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Lorraine, Savoy and other areas.
France consolidated her hold with the 1679 Treaty of Nimwegen which brought the cities under her control. This settlement was reinforced at the 1691 Peace of Rijkswik (Ryswick) although the Holy Roman Empire did not accept and sign the document until 1697. Thus was Alsace drawn into the orbit of France.
The year 1789 brought the French revolution and with it the first division of Alsace into the départements of Haut- and Bas-Rhin. Many of the residents of the Sundgau made "pilgrimages" to places like Mariastein, near Basel, in Switzerland, for baptisms and weddings.
During the last decade of the 18th century, many Alsatians were in opposition to the Jacobins and sympathetic to the invading forces of Austria and Prussia who sought to crush the nascent revolutionary republic. When the French Revolutionary Army of the Rhine was victorious, tens of thousands fled east before it. When they were later permitted to return (in some cases not until 1799), it was often to find that their lands and homes had been confiscated. These straitened conditions led to emigration by hundreds of families to newly-vacant lands in the Russian Empire in 1803/4 and again in 1808. A poignant retelling of this tale based on what he had himself witnessed can be found in Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea.
In response to the restoration of Napoleon, in 1814 and 1815, Alsace was occupied by foreign forces, including over 280,000 soldiers and 90,000 horses in Bas-Rhin alone. This had grave effects on trade and the economy of the region since former overland trade routes were switched to newly-opened Mediterranean and Atlantic seaports.
At the same time, the population was growing rapidly, from 800,000 in 1814 to 914,000 in 1830 and 1,067,000 in 1846. The combination of factors meant hunger, housing shortages and a lack of work for young people. Thus, it is not surprising that people fled, not only to Russia, but also to take advantage of a new opportunity offered by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Empire had recently conquered lands in the East from the Turkish Empire and offered generous terms for colonists in order to consolidate their hold on the lands. Many Alsatians also began to sail for America, where after 1807 slave importation had been banned and new workers were needed for the cotton fields.
Many American and Russian recruiters worked for shipowners and made grandiose, fictitious promises to the restless Alsatians. Once they agreed and surreptitiously left Alsace, they often found themselves forced into indentured servitude. This was so abused in fact that in 1818 the Louisiana general assembly enacted legislation protecting the rights of such immigrants, which sometimes led to new tactics such as shipowners demanding exorbitant passage fees. Even so, tens of thousands of settlers emigrated to Russia and the United States between 1817 and 1839. The Panic of 1825 can be cited as another spur to emigration.
In the 1840's, enterprising Alsatian Henri Castro contracted with the Republic of Texas, to bring in Alsatian settlers in exchange for large land grants. Thus, starting in 1842, many left for Castroville and other Texan communities, Castro proving to be only second to Stephen Austin in numbers of settlers attracted.
In 1871, as a concession after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1), France gave up Alsace, along with the Moselle portion of Lorraine, to the new unified Germany and the history of Alsace becomes that of the Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen or Alsace-Lorraine. This period of Germanization continued until World War I (1914-1918), at the conclusion of which, Alsace returned to French control.
A similar transfer occurred during the World War II conflict (1939-45) at the end of which the region was again ceded to France. Still today, however, two German language newspapers are published here. There is even still spoken here and there a German dialect Alsacien (Elsässisch), but it is vanishing.
Cause la grippe.
Noted events in his life were:
• Immigration, 1855, New York.
• Occupation: Farmer. 32 According to Fa. William Engbers, the Schmitts first moved to Princeton, IN and bought the farm in Posey County sight unseen. They were never very happy with it.
Francois married Marie Anne Waltspurger, daughter of Ignatius Waltspurger and Marie Ursula Klein, on 26 Nov 1845 in Artolsheim, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France.30 (Marie Anne Waltspurger was born on 9 Mar 1825 in Artolsheim, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France 33 and died on 3 Nov 1900 in Wadesville, IN.)