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Bubonic Plague

Among the major events that impacted the lives of our ancestors were the natural disasters that periodically visited Europe. One of the most devastating of these was the bubonic plague, which was also called the Black Death. It got its name of the Black Death from spots of blood that formed under the skin and turned black.

The bubonic plague is a bacterial disease, Yersinia pestis, also called Pasteurella pestis. It is a member of the family of Pasteurella bacillus, one of which causes the disease tuberculosis. The bubonic plague is communicated to man and other large mammals including horses, cows and sheep from the bites of fleas that were transported by the rats that lived among the population. Over the period of recorded history, three major epidemics, or pandemics, of the plague have been reported. The first occurred in 542 - 543 AD. The second occurred in 1346 - 1350 AD. This second pandemic killed about 25 million people, about one-third of the population of Europe.

While the 1346 - 1350 AD pandemic of bubonic plague was the most destructive, the disease continued to arise throughout the century. Over the next 250 years the plague reappeared on the average of once per generation. During this period a major but more localized outbreak killed about 20% of the population of London in 1665. Ironically, this outbreak was checked by the great fire of London.

The third pandemic began in Manchuria in 1890 and by 1900 had found its way to San Francisco. During this third pandemic over 12.5 million people in India and Asia died of the disease.

The incubation period for the bubonic plague is from 2 to 6 days. Victims usually died within a period of about 4 days following the initial symptoms. The first symptoms include fever, vomiting, and giddiness. The more advanced symptoms include swelling of the lymph glands in the groin and armpit. The black blotches followed soon after. A French physician at the time of the 1346 - 1350 AD pandemic noted that if the boils that were formed in the groin area reached the surface of the skin, the patient might live. But this seldom happened and most patients died. For those who survived the disease, however, they were permanently immune from getting the disease again.

The 14th century epidemic seems to have begun by the disease being carried from central Asia to the Crimea by a Tartar (Mongol) raiding party. From Crimea it was carried by people fleeing the Tartars to the Mediterranean by ship arriving at Genoa, in Italy, in 1347. It spread west and north, reaching Paris and London in 1348, and Scandinavia and northern Russia in 1349. The disease devastated entire regions. Houses stood empty and towns were abandoned. Fields became littered with unburied corpses. In the catacombs of St. Stevens cathedral in Prague, the author personally observed tons of human bones racked neatly into recesses in the passageways and in small rooms. These bones had been picked up from fields surrounding Prague and sorted by type of bone. The result was racks of femurs bones, racks of rib bones, racks of skulls, etc. With the passage of the plague about 25 million people in Europe alone (about one quarter of the population) were dead. No one knows how many more million people died in Asia or in other parts of the known world.

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Sanitation in 1348 was extremely poor. Rats found an enormous food supply and numbered into the hundreds of millions. But, since no one knew the cause of the plague, no corrective action was taken. Instead, being a culture based strongly in religion, a belief in witches and other primitive beliefs, the reaction to the plague was to seek an explanation in the unknown. One result was that the plague was blamed on minority groups such as the Jews. Many members of these groups were put to death for their suspected roles.

By 1400, the approximate date of birth of our earliest known ancestor, The "Old" Wagner (about 1405 - after 1465), the 1346-1350 pandemic of the Black Plague had passed. It returned four more times during the remainder of the century, however, with occurrences in 1361-1363, 1369-1371, 1390 and again in 1400. So by the time of the birth of our ancestor, The "Old" Wagner, the plague had several times been a danger to his immediate family.

One of the results of the Bubonic Plague of 1346-1350 was to create a serious shortage of labor. The peasants who lived on and worked the lands of the sovereigns for the first time had significant leverage with their sovereigns. Soldiers that were needed to staff the ongoing military conflicts were in short supply. Wages and prices soared. The peasants used their new-found leverage to demand more rights and better standards of living. This brought them into conflict with their sovereigns and local governments. The governments had the military, however, and the peasants were neither organized nor trained. Their main method of resistance was by withholding taxes and service. In many cases the government acted ruthlessly to put down confrontations and usually were successful. But, all of these factors further weakening the basis for the feudal system, and eventually it collapsed.

The Reformation

By the 14th century the Christian church had evolved into an organization with some very unique characteristics. One of these was the incorporation of many different aspects of magic into their theology. Highly structured services and rituals had been concocted to support the evolved theology. Much of this evolution occurred during a period when the belief in witches, goblins, elves, ghosts, fairies, alchemists, astrologers, healers, and other beliefs were on the rise. By the13th and 14th centuries corruption within the church reached epic proportions. Europe was full of tales about simoniac bishops, nepotistic popes, promiscuous priests, idle monks, and, above all, the sheer worldly wealth of the Church. Many people of the Christian faith disapproved of the direction of the church and called for reform.

Martin Luther (1483 - 1503) was not the first to protest. For example, in 1490 a fanatical friar, Fra Girolamo Savonarola (1452 - 1498) in Florence, Italy raised a revolt that for a short time was quite popular. Within a few years, however, his supporter lost interest and Savanarola was executed by burning for his troubles. Martin Luther, himself a part of the Christian Church, was one of those who agonized over its inappropriate policies and teachings and the conduct of the clergy. On October 31, 1517 Luther nailed a sheet of 95 Theses to the Wittenberg castle church door in protest and in an effort to suggest a course for reform.

Luther's Theses found wide support among many of the princes of Germany. They also struck a cord with many of the peasants who were oppressed by the yoke of the feudal system. In the name of religious reform many of the peasants

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rallied against their overlords in the Peasants' War (1524 - 1525). Luther took a stand with the princes and condemned the peasant uprising. Unorganized and untrained the peasants were no match for the professional armies of the princes and within a short period over 150,000 of them had been killed.

Martin Luther was not the only voice of protest against the Catholic Church. In 1522 in Switzerland, Huldrych Zwingli (1483 - 1531) challenged the Roman Church. King Henry VIII of England separated the English Church from Roman. King Henry VIII was more motived by his own ambitions than by theological differences, however. In 1541 Jean Calvin (1509 - 1564) founded one of the most widely influential branches of Protestantism.

Several books have been written about the corruption of the Catholic Church and the subsequent Protestant movements. It is not the purpose of this book to review this material. Rather, it is intended to examine how these events impacted the lives of our ancestors.

With the conversion of principalities, communities and individuals from Roman Catholic to Lutheran or other reform variants of Christianity, property including churches, monasteries, tax bases and other sources of Church wealth were suddenly lost to the Catholic Church. This did not sit well with the Catholic Church. Also, clashes developed over theological issues. These losses and differences resulted in conflicts within the communities and between principalities. The hemorrhaging within the Catholic Church effectively paralyzed the Church for a number of years which provided time for the several Protestant groups to take root.

An uneasy arrangement was reached between the Catholics and Potestants in 1555 at the Peace of Augsburg. Each prince was to decide on the religion of his subjects. Only Lutheranism and Catholicism would be allowed. This made for a religious patchwork, and the Catholics feared further Protestant advances. In December 1607 when the Duke of Bavaria provocatively seized the city of Donauworth in Swibia in order to stop Protestant interference with Catholic processions,

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10 Protestant princes convened an Evangelical Union to defend their interests. This resulted in a confrontation by the Catholic League. In effect, this could have been the preliminaries of the Thirty Years War which began in 1618.

Thirty-Year War (1618 - 1648)

The Thirty-Year War resulted in the devastation of our ancestors' homeland. The causes of the war were a combination of things. One was the age-old German conflict between the Emperor and the princes. Another was the extension of the international wars of religion between the Catholics and the Protestants. Still another was the power struggle that was going on between the countries of Europe. Many books have been written on the Thirty Year War. Suffice it to say that the land of our ancestors in the vicinity of Rumbach saw some of the most destructive action of the war. It was crisscrossed by several international armies that provisioned by living off the land. An experience of one of the villages is given here as an example of what must have happened many times.

In January 1634 twenty Swedish soldiers rode into Linden in Franconia, demanding food and wine. They broke into one of the thirteen cottages, belonging to Georg Rosch, raped his wife, and took what they wanted. Shortly afterwards, they were ambushed by the villagers, stripped of their clothes, loot and horses. The next day, they returned with a constable, who arrested four men for assaulting the Swedes. He [presumably, the constable] then made a report to General Horn, naming one of the soldiers, a Finn, as Frau Rosch's rapist. What happened next is not clear; but shortly after the village was registered as uninhabited. Their numbers did not return to their pre-war number until 1690.

To make matters worse, Rumbach suffered a return of the Bubonic Plague in 1635-36. In a document prepared by Rev. Dennis A. Kastens the following statistics are offered for the county of Amt Wegelnburg in which Rumbach, Schoenau and Nothweiler were located: War, famine and disease (primarily Bubonic plague) saw the loss of over 75% of the population, 66% of the residences, 85% of the horses, 82% of the cattle, 83% of the goats and 100% of the sheep. The Schoenau population of 102 persons in 1634 was reduced to two families.

During the hostilities, the Rumbach church wall on the village side was hit by cannon fire about November 1635, but was repaired by 1638. In 1676 the county of Amt Wegelburg had only 40 families. There were repeated "Wars of Reunion," pestilence and famine until the Peace of Ryswick in 1697.

When the Thirty Year War was concluded by the Treaty of Westphalia, the population of Germany had been reduced from 17 million to about 8 million.


The guild was a very important system in the lives of a majority of our ancestors. While not so important to our early Wagner, Cuntz or Reiss ancestors, their importance grew until by the mid-1700s they played a major role in the commercial lives of communities.

The guild was a system that came into existence to benefit and protect its members. The model for most guilds probably came from the merchants' guilds which were originally set up to protect this commercial group from pirates and bandits who preyed on shipping and overland caravans. As villages and cities grew and work became more specialized, guilds formed to

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protect the niche and livelihood of these groups. The system of guilds served for many years eventually succumbing to industrialization of the 1800s. Many guilds continue to exist today, albeit with some modification and a much diminished role and level of authority. The most common form of today's guilds are the various labor and professional unions.

In the guild, every master had once been an apprentice; every apprentice could hope to be a master. Each guild was exclusive, one existing for members of every distinct trade--furriers, tanners, bakers, weavers, goldsmiths -- protecting them from interference from outside and disciplining them within the guild. The system was so powerful that any member who broke a labor law was hauled before the mayor in the Guildhall rather than before the court of the monarch. The guilds had fought long and bitterly for their rights. They held no nonsensical ideas of free trade but created monopolies by their very existence, jealously reserving for their members the rights of manufacture and sale of specific goods. The intake of apprentices was carefully controlled because, if the members of any one guild became greater than a locality could support, then the profits of all were reduced. The son of a freeman could always count on being accepted, sometimes without premium; children of non-freemen always had to pay a premium and were admitted only when a vacancy occurred.

The limitation of the number of apprentices was not only designed to produce a steady, if limited, flow of masters, but to ensure that a master did not take on more apprentices than he could effectively control. The guilds were very much aware that the price they paid for a monopoly was that the standards of their goods must be first-class. Apprenticeship was therefore a means

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of training a man thoroughly in the mysteries of his craft. It was a lengthy and arduous period for a high-spirited youth. His indentures were irrevocable on both sides and he received no payment during the period--anything up to twelve years--while he was under his master. The master, on his side, took the youth into his household, kept him in necessities, chastised him when required, and paid him a set sum at the end of his term. His apprenticeship concluded, the youth became a journeyman, free to work for whom he pleased within his craft. Technically, the journeyman was hired by the day, from which practice came his name. In certain classes of work which required continuity of process, such as weaving, he was usually hired for as long as the work lasted whether it were for a week or a year. It was usual for journeymen in search of employment to assemble in some public place at a particular time. Such a practice, although it seems to hint more of the slave-market than the hiring of free men, was a protection for the workers. An engagement entered between master and man under the sharp eyes of other craftsmen ensured that no man would accept wages beneath the minimum. The masters also approved of the practice, for it prevented any one of them employing cheap labor and thereby being able to undersell his rivals. The working day was, quite literally, a day--from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. between March and September and from dawn till dusk in winter. The men usually had half an hour for breakfast at about 9 a.m., and an hour and a half for dinner in the afternoon. The journeyman could, and often did remain a simple day laborer for the rest of his life. But it was also open to him to enter the ranks of masters by means of an examination and the presentation of his 'masterpiece', some object of his craft made to satisfy the rigorous examination. The use of the word 'masterpiece' today has been limited to works of high art, but the term also covered, for example, the

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correct tanning of a skin by tanners, the correct dismembering of a carcass by butchers. The journeyman, having satisfied his examiners, could in his turn set up shop and employ apprentices and journeymen. He would probably continue to work side by side with his men; there were great and wealthy masters but the majority were simply 'master-craftsmen', small, independent men employing two or three others, and producing most that was required for a civilization.

The system began to crumble during the sixteenth century, weakened from within by the short-sighted selfishness of the master-craftsmen. The admittance of journeymen into their number was at their discretion. It was therefore a simple matter to ensure that a favored journeyman--a son, a nephew, a relative of a friend--received a perfunctory examination, while the examination for others became more and more exacting. The numbers of men forced to remain journeymen increased, foreshadowing the 'working class' of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The French government, which more than any other attempted to control the details of working life, made some effort to stop the process. It was ordained that no more than three months should be taken for the making of a masterpiece and that a journeyman could appeal to a jury appointed by a judge. But, as processes became more complex, and industries larger, it became increasingly difficult for an ordinary man to find the capital to set himself up in business. The guilds themselves were becoming less independent, so that master-drapers became virtual employees of the weavers and master-printers fell into dependence upon the booksellers. The smaller guilds fought back stubbornly, resisting to the end that distribution of labor which is the foundation of modern industry. Some recognized the necessity of combining with a related trade and allowed their members to be simultaneously members of that trade. But the making of the masterpiece remained the final test and the would-be master was obliged to perform all stages of the work. 'The future hatter was given a pound of wool and other raw materials, and had to produce a finished hat, dyed and trimmed with velvet. He had to do everything himself, from fulling the wool to placing the feathers in position.'

It became increasingly obvious that such a method of working was wasteful in both time and materials, the end product being therefore far more expensive than it need be. The great woollen industry had long recognized the fact, establishing a precedent for others to follow. Wool was the universal clothing material; all classes in all countries were dependent upon it for their wardrobe in greater or lesser degree. It provided constant employment for thousands, from the shepherd who tended the sheep to the tailor who made the finished product. But the nature of the material is such that it was impossible for any one man to control personally all the processes from beginning to end.

The loss of economic power of the guilds was hastened by the industrialization that occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries. The concept of organized labor continues, however, in the form of the modern day labor unions and in the professional unions such as the American Medical Association.


From our vantage point in time, here in the year 2000 A.D., it is difficult for us to even believe that there was a time when people took the subject of "witches and witchcraft" seriously. But, the people who lived in Germany and many other parts of the world at the time of our ancestors did take 'witches' deadly seriously. It is estimated that in Germany alone in the

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16th century, 100,000 witches were executed. And, these were only the witches who were found to have done harm to people or their livelihood. Most of these so called witches were old women, but many young women and men of all ages were also included. Most of these people died horrible deaths such as burning, hanging, drowning or during torture to extract confessions or as the result of tests performed on them to determine if they were really witches.

Unbelievable? Maybe not when you consider the time and circumstances. Christianization of the masses came toward the end of the first millennium. Before that time, the tribal inhabitants of the area practiced a number of pagan religions. Some involved sacrifices and the belief in spirits, deities, and demons. When Christianity was imposed on these people, largely by fiat, it represented relatively minor change to their religion; sometimes only a change in the names of deities. In-depth changes in religious philosophy took generations and centuries to achieve.

In many respects, the Christian religion of the time was quite similar in their belief in spirits, devils, demons, good people (saints, clergy, popes) and bad people (possessed of the devil). The main difference was that Christianity required that the pagan believe in the Christian set of spirits, devils, demons, saints and bad people as opposed to their own. Promises of heaven and threats of hell and the vivid descriptions of each were certainly equivalent to and philosophically translatable to a witches Sabbath and the powers of evil. In fact, the two were linked in that witchcraft was considered to be based in evil and sponsored by the Christian devil.

The Christian religion taught that all things were controlled by God. Man's role was to discover the 'Will of God' and to obey. In most matters man had no control over his own life and the things that happened to him. Sickness and health, life and death, plagues, peace and disaster, and the very basis of the class society were all believed to be the 'Will of God.' There was practically no knowledge of science, of the causes of disease, or of natural phenomena. These were all explained by religion. In fact, efforts to understand some of these phenomena on the basis of science were frequently condemned by the church as heretical. It is not surprising that among the lay population, one myth could not be distinguished from another or that people could not discern what was the "correct" myth as opposed to the "incorrect" myth. The validity of some of these myths must have been made even more persuasive when scenarios were linked as were the Christian devil and hell with the concept of witches, goblins, elves, etc. In many respects, witchcraft was really a part of the Christian religion that backfired.

Since witchcraft was 'known' to be a 'true' phenomena to the people of 14th to 18th century


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Europe, it was integrated into the culture. Many clergy either believed in witches or supported it as a manifestation of the Christian devil here on earth and worked diligently to rid the land and religion of them. It meant fighting the devil - it was a duty.

In this environment it was all too easy to become suspected of being a witch. Once a citizen became suspect, her or his relationship with the rest of the community was significantly changed and the chance was high that they would be blamed for the next misfortune, natural or unnatural disaster. Being suspected of being a witch also put the person at risk of being one of the 1,000 or so people who would be killed that year for someone else's suspicion.

French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

The events at the end of the 18th century in western Europe were dominated by the French Revolution (1789 - 1815) and the Napoleonic wars. Located near or in the Alsace-Lorraine region, depending on the period of history being considered, Rumbach, Germany and surrounding villages could not help but be effected by the events in France. (Currently, Rumbach lies about 6 miles from the German-French border.) The impact on the communities around Rumbach would have ranged from rumors of conflict, to the French army marching through our ancestors' fields and villages.

One of the almost immediate results of the French Revolution was the adoption of a bill of rights for French citizens. As Napoleon waged war to expand the French empire, one of his policies was to spread the Napoleonic Code to other countries. When Rumbach and the surrounding areas were again invaded, the French army entered our ancestors'

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homeland unopposed and established their policies and government of "liberation." The county of Amt Wegelburg was barely recovering from the devastation of the Thirty Year Wars and bouts with the Black Death. Many of the residents were relatively new immigrants from places such as Switzerland who had re-populated the area.

In addition to the stress of having an unwanted government of "liberation" imposed on the area and falling under the occupation of a foreign power, the occupation imposed new religious stress on the communities. The French were predominantly Catholic which conflicted with the Protestant norms which had developed. Still another problem was that the French army conscripted men from the areas that they conquered or annexed to help supply their forces which moved on to campaigns in places like Italy, Egypt and elsewhere. These conscriptions further weakened the occupied lands.

It was at the time of this last French incursion that the final generation of our European ancestors was born. Johann Michael Jung (May 13, 1802 - December 9, 1879) and his future wife, Catharina Barbara* Brubach (March 10, 1801 - March 12, 1890) were born after the bloody French Revolution was complete and at the time when Napoleon Bonaparte was establishing himself as Emperor over the expanding French Empire.

By today's standards our ancestors were subjected to a plethora of events and conditions that greatly impacted their lives. From religious demands, a corrupt church, plagues, religious wars, waves of foreign invasions and occupations, vocational demands by the guilds, witches and revolution, our ancestors were continually pushed and pulled by extremes. Life was hard enough trying to cope with the normal demands of poverty, weather, sickness, and little chance of finding relief. But with the addition of the many external forces, it must have made life extremely difficult.


Our history books are replete with reasons for the immigration of ancestors and no doubt they are usually more true than not. But, one of the lessons we should learn from viewing this spectrum of reasons, is that there were many reasons. What then were the reasons for our ancestors immigration, or can we even identify one or a few major reasons that are valid?

One of the main reasons, I believe, was for personal gain - an opportunity to make a better living. There were many other reasons that combined to push the decision to emigrate, but opportunity was probably the strongest.

Unlike our world today where people can pretty well select their career, pursue an appropriate education and move into the vocation of their choice, the world of our ancestors was much more rigid and inflexible. Education for most jobs was available only from a parent or through the efforts of a parent. Vocational lines were controlled by guilds that decided how many and who would be in the vocation. It was possible that a maturing male might, with considerable assistance from his parents or other influential person, become an apprentice in a trade outside the family business, but this was the exception. In most cases, if you were born into a family of farmers, weavers, or herdsmen, you would become a farmer, weaver or herdsman. There was little choice.

This feature of the society helped to maintain the family structure. For example, a family of weavers, as were our Jung family, would pretty much be forced to remain together. Frequently, they would remain together in the same house. If the family were fortunate enough to be sufficiently wealthy to have a large house, several families of the extended family might live there with the eldest (usually the parents) living on the ground floor level and younger members living in the upper stories.

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This family oriented societal structure also had its problems. The overall facilities that a family had with which to earn a living was almost always limited. If the family were farmers, the size of the farm would be limiting - if the family were weavers, the guild and the available market would be limiting. Initially, when the children were growing into adulthood, they would help the parents with the business. This would be the period of their familial apprenticeship. As the family aged and the parents requirements for income became less, more of the business would shift to the children who were by then raising their own families. If the family included several children, as they usually did, the family business would be too small to support them all. Someone had to leave, start their own business, or move to another vocation. All of these options were extremely difficult in an area and economy that was not expanding.

While it was common among families of our ancestors for the business to pass to the oldest son of the family, this option was frequently overtaken by events. Frequently the oldest son was born while his father was still young. By the time the oldest son married and began his own family, his father was still relatively young and still had most of his family at home to care for. I this case, the eldest son might remain at home to help with the business or if the business were not large enough to support two or more families, he might have to look elsewhere for a means of livelihood. In any case, the pressure was sure to mount for some of the siblings to fend for themselves as best they could. When the option to emigrate to a new country opened with its promise of land and opportunity, it caught the attention of many families experiencing difficulties with the placement of emerging families. This was the case with our ancestors who immigrated from Switzerland to Germany and later our German ancestors who moved to America.

This brings us to the point in our family history story when the various family lines of Jung, Brubach, Neuhart, Frank and others began to emigrate from their European homeland to America. Each family, no doubt had their own unique reasons for emigrating. But as the years have passed their reasons for emigrating has been lost in the pages of history. We will probably never know their various reasons.

In the section that follows we will focus on our individual family lines. The Time Line provides more historical information. The Family Tree charts lays out, in graphic format, the family organization. Details about each ancestor are contained in the Ancestor Data. Finally, selected Descendants Outlines help us, the descendants, orient ourselves in our Family Tree.

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