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Visit to Johanngeorgenstadt 05 Nov 2006
L to R: Ivette & Paul Meissner, Tobias & Barbara Damm, Harald & Frank Teller

JOHANNGEORGENSTADT

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Schwibbogen from Johanngeorgenstadt

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Pferdegöpel at Johanngeorgenstadt

Compiled by Loren P. Meissner

SUMMARY

Note: italicized words are names of places (cities, regions, etc.). Square brackets "[]" are explanations that I have inserted. Direct ancestors are marked *.

Before 1600 there were Meichsners living in the Ore Mountain region (Erzgebirge) of Saxony (now in the southeastern part of Germany) on the boundary with Bohemia (which is now the Czech Republic). Mining records of the area show that the most common spelling used by early ancestors of this particular family was "Meichsner". I think it is not quite a coincidence that family members who left the Erzgebirge and moved to other parts of Saxony soon after 1700 settled on "Meissner": that name is much more common throughout Germany, and Meissen porcelain was becoming famous about the same time.(Germans often write the double-s as a single character. In Germany, for example in phone books, Meissner and Meißner are considered to be the same name.) Also, it must be remembered that until about 300 years ago most people could not read or write, and names were often spelled rather arbitrarily when written down by church or government officials. (See name_origin.htm and mining_records.htm )

One of the earliest records is of Christoff Meichsner* (or Christoph: b1630) who came from Eibenstock. His grandfather had been a miner on the Fastenberg ("spruce mountain"), probably as early as 1600. In 1644, Christoff Meichsner* bought a cabin (Waldhäuslein = small forest house) on the Fastenberg that had belonged to his father Georg Meichsner (see Von Waldhäuslern auf dem Fastenberg ). There was also a glass works on the Fastenberg (Bohemia is famous for fine glass). Just over the border in Bohemia was the mining town of Platten, where Johann Löbel* (1592-1666) was superintendent of mines (Bergmeister). In December 1653, Johann Löbel* was forced to leave Bohemia because of religious persecution, so he came to the Fastenberg. On Christmas Eve, several families including about 100 men, women, and children followed him from Platten to Fastenberg. These emigrants were called the "Exulanten" or exiles, and the story of their journey over the snowy mountain to avoid religious persecution is as famous in the Erzgebirge as the story of the Pilgrims or of the Mormons in the U.S. (However, a big difference is that these Exulanten had to travel about four miles.) Some of the exiles lived for a time with Christoff Meichsner* and other miners in their cabins. Others moved into the glass works, which was owned by the Löbel* family. Early in 1654, with the permission of Johann Georg I, who was the Elector (Kurfürst: elector of the Holy Roman Emperor) for Saxony, Christoff Meichsner*, Johann Löbel*, and the others founded the town of Johanngeorgenstadt on the Fastenberg.

Master Christian Meichsner* (1687 - 1769) and  Maria Catharina Löbel* (1698 - 1772)   were married in 1715 at Johanngeorgenstadt. Christian Meichsner* was a son of Georg Meichsner* (b 1653) and a grandson of Christoff Meichsner* (b 1630). Maria Catharina Löbel* was a great-granddaughter of Johann Löbel*. [But one record says that her name was Johanne Christiane Löbel*.] Their son, Christian Friedrich Meissner* (1721-1802), left Johanngeorgenstadt, attended Leipzig University, and became minister of the Lutheran church in Schönbach near Löbau (east of Dresden). He was minister there for almost 50 years, from 1753 until his death in 1802. The church building that is still in use at Schönbach was constructed during his tenure. He had two wives and 16 children.

Ernst Friedrich Meissner* (1764 - 1817), son of Christian Friedrich Meissner*, was born in Schönbach. He was appointed assistant minister in 1790 and became minister of the same church in Schönbach when his father died in 1802. When he died in 1817, he left three sons, Friedrich Adolf Meissner*, (1804 - 1899), Ernest Meissner (1806 -1825), and Karl Friedrich Meissner (1808 - 1885).

Friedrich Adolf Meissner* (1804 - 1899)was born in Schönbach (in Saxony) and died in Wisconsin. He moved to America in 1845 and settled on a farm near the present town of Cashton, Wisconsin. He had several children, including Adolph Frederick Meissner* (1861 - 1939).


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Schwibbogen from Johanngeorgenstadt

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Pferdegöpel at Johanngeorgenstadt

There is now a website featuring the traditions of Johanngeorgenstadt, especially the Schwibbogen and the Pferdegöpel, at: http://www.pferdegoepel.de/ If you can't read German, just look at the pictures.

Or go to at: http://www.pferdegoepel.de/dp_frame.htm and click "links" in the banner on the left side, to find more information (in German) about the Erzgebirge, Germany in general, and the town of Johanngeorgenstadt.


NEWSPAPER ARTICLES, 1929-1936

The following information was translated by Loren P. Meissner from various clippings supplied by Kurt Burkhardt of Johanngeorgenstadt about 1984.

The German word "Exulanten" (borrowed from Latin) is translated here as "Exiles" (capitalized). This term has special significance in the Erzgebirge, much as "the Pilgrims" has in the United States.

The term "superintendent of mines" is used to translate "Bergmeister." Frank Teller of Johanngeorgenstadt explains that the Bergmeister is a public official who is responsible to higher political authorities for all aspects of operation of the mines; and, in particular, for ensuring that the government gets its share of taxes or royalties from the mines.

Loren P. Meissner and his wife Peggy have visited Johanngeorgenstadt several times, the latest in 1996. Also, in 1989 they visited Schönbach and the church where Christian Friedrich Meissner and Ernst Friedrich Meissner were ministers between 1753 and 1817, as well as the parsonage that is on the same site where Ernst Friedrich Meissner and Friedrich Adolf Meissner were born. The present minister gave them an excellent woodcut of the church.

1929 -- Reference:

"Heimatblatter" [Regional News], supplement to "Erzgebirgischen Volksfreunds" (newspaper article), 17 Mar 1929, no. 3; from

"On the 275th Anniversary of the Exile Settlement"

... To conclude our anniversary study, some notes follow concerning the first mayor [Burgermeister], the first superintendent of mines [Bergmeister], [and] the first minister ... of the newly founded city.

Johann Löbel the elder* was the first mayor. His residence stood on the south side of the market place (today's Reinhardt house). He had previously been superintendent of mines in Platten. When he was threatened with dismissal from his office by the Imperial [religious] Conversion Commission, he decided to leave immediately, rather than to give up his Lutheran faith. Löbel* was married to Ursula Uphofin* for 51 years. The couple received a privilegium [tax exemption] for the aforementioned house, because it had served several times as a travel lodging for the Elector [Johann Georg II, Duke of Saxony and an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire] (on 12 July 1661 and on 16 July 1665). In June of 1708, August the Strong also stayed in the Löbel house. In 1661 Löbel* donated a carved baptismal font to the Church of the Exiles. In 1723 a grandson of the first mayor, the postmaster Johann Christian Löbel, lived in the Löbel house.

Abraham Wenzel Löbel* was the first superintendent of mines. He lived on the north side of the market place (today's Saxon House). Löbel* played an important role in the establishment of the Johanngeorgenstadt mining authority. He was a son of the first mayor, who had been superintendent of mines in Platten for 22 years. At the time the city was founded, Abraham Wenzel Löbel* [at age 22] was steward of the salt chests, for which he received 16 groschen per week. Then he personally invested 200 taler in the mine works. Because of his loyal voluntary service, on 16 January 1662 he was given the position of superintendent of mines, which he held until his death in 1707. He died at the age of 76 and was survived by 100 descendants in all, including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His wife was the daughter of the butcher Johann Roth*.

Polycarp Weber was the first minister. On the eighth Sunday after Trinity 1654 he preached his inaugural sermon. Weber was a son of the minister at Schwarzenberg. Weber worked in Johanngeorgenstadt for 26 years; the first three years in the chapel of the hammer mill at Wittigsthal, then 23 years in the "Church of the Exiles" of the city. He died on 31 June 1680 in Schwarzenberg at the home of his stepfather Hahnel, where he had gone after taking part in the funeral of the minister Hat in Grunstadel.

- by Director Robert Jahn.


1934 -- Reference:

"On the Summit of the Erzgebirge", a supplement to "Zwickauer Neueste Nachrichten" (newspaper article), No. 8, 1934:

Building Blocks of Johanngeorgenstadt, by Robert Jahn

Chapter 5. City Government. From the founding of the town in the year 1654 until 1933, that is, up to the beginning of the National Socialist [Nazi] regime, 42 mayors held office. Their official titles changed in the course of time. From 1622 to 1835 there were two mayors in office at a time; so the first was called "ruling mayor" or "consul regent" and the second was called "attending mayor" [vice-mayor] or "consul". After the General City Regulations were issued in 1835, only one mayor held office at a time, and he was no longer permitted (as previously) to have another concurrent secondary occupation; also he was no longer permitted to have other city elders or officials act in his stead. Some 25 mayors became mine officials, businessmen, postmasters, tax officers, or lawyers after the end of their term as mayor, and they had previously been city bailiffs, city clerks, city judges, or city councilmen. Of the 17 mayors of the last [i.e., 19th] century, 13 were lawyers, 2 were managers in the Civil Service, and 2 were businessmen who were appointed as "interim council directors" during extended vacancies. During the first 80 years, the average term of office was 10 years, and in the following 200 years it was 6 years. Decades of progress alternated with periods of decline. Circumstances were always stronger than the intentions of the person in office, so that under the official record of each individual mayor might be written "Unda fert - nec regitur" = "The wave carries, but will never rule."

For the first time, an account of the lives and the achievements of the governing mayors will be reported, based on the local Council files.

1. Johann Löbel*, born 7 May 1592 in Platten, married Ursula Uphof* in 1611; was city judge and superintendent of mines in Platten, emigrated in 1653, was elected on 12 November 1656 as the first mayor of Johanngeorgenstadt; died 6 January 1666 in Johanngeorgenstadt. Löbel* descended from an old line of miners, who can be traced back to 1415 in Wunsiedel in the Fichtelgebirge [Spruce Mountains]. In 1421, one Fritz Löbel* received a fief [feudal estate] from Margrave Friedrich of Brandenburg, consisting of the mine works at the Fliegenberg and Sahlich near Thiershain, and in 1426 a lake near Wunsiedel. [Johann] Löbel's* father, Wenzel*, was city magistrate and chamberlain in 1595, and was later city judge in Platten. While our Johann Löbel* was still superintendent of mines in Platten, the Catholic Conversion Commission threatened to expel him from office if he would not become a Catholic. Löbel* immediately decided to resign rather than to give up his Lutheran faith. An oil portrait of the first mayor is located in the Registry Office at the city hall, and another in the church. The city records contain minutes of all the city council meetings that were chaired by Löbel*. For the investigator of local history, they represent the most important source for portraying the history of the founding of our city. Because Löbel* had left three houses in Platten, his local house (which was built on the south side of the market-place, and which had repeatedly served as a travel lodging for the Elector) was granted a "privilegium" by Johann Georg II, giving his children and descendants complete exemption from taxes and assessments on the property. In 1661, Löbel donated a carved baptismal font....

5. Johann Löbel , Jr, born 29 March 1613 in Platten; in 1646 he was superintendent of mines in Platten. His father was the first mayor of Johanngeorgenstadt, Johann Löbel Sr*. He emigrated with his parents to the Fastenberg, was the first judge of the new city, then the fifth mayor. His wife was named Anna Maria Rother.

6. Augustin Löbel, born 10 July 1643 in Platten. His father was Georg Abraham Löbel, former superintendent of mines in Fruhbuss; his grandfather was the councilman and merchant Abraham Löbel in Platten. Before he took office as mayor of Johanngeorgenstadt, he was a city council member and city judge....

Accomplishments of the mayors during the first eight decades are listed in chronological order.

  • 1655: October 15 -- Laying the cornerstone of the Church of the Exiles.
  • 1657: 1 June -- 150 residences have been built in the city. The council petitions for augmentation of the city's privileges. 15 February-Consecration of the church.
  • 1661: 12 July-Authorization of the city court seal (a diamond shaped wreath with electoral swords flanking the city tower).
  • 1663: The city was given permission to cut and use an additional 666 "schragen" of lumber (a "schrage" is 3 cubic meters) [hence 2000 cubic meters or 70,000 cubic feet-this might be enough to build 70 or more houses]. Since construction of houses for the new city was nearly complete, payment for the use of the wood was required.
  • 1666: Construction of the school building was completed.
  • 1667: The heredity preserve was granted.
  • 1669: Construction of the city hall was completed.
  • 1670: The city ceded land for the building of sheds, mills, and residences for the blue dye works at Jugel [now a section of the city].
  • 1673: The city hired a brew inspector. A jail cell was built in the city hall.
  • 1675: Space for a city park was reserved at the Provincial gate.
  • 1678: 28 August-a pharmacy was built....

1936 -- Reference:

 "Nachrichterblatt Anzeiger fur Johanngeorgenstadt und umgegend" (newspaper article), 9 Dec 1936:

Johann Löbel the Elder*

The first elected mayor of our city posessed one of the most remarkable styles of leadership in our city's history. He lived during the period of the counter reformation, the re-Catholicization of Germany-a region which at the time of his birth was seven-tenths Protestant; which during the prime of his manhood had to endure the impoverishment of our Erzgebirge by the 30 years' war; and which at the end of his life witnessed the construction of our mountain city, under the protection of Saxony, by the hands of his fellow believers who had gone weeping into exile. It was not German nature, but Roman force, that determined our borders in those days. The German ancestry in the blood of the founders of our city rebelled against the violent command for police action, whose goal was to deny the Protestant mountain people their freedom of conscience. It was then that the superintendent of mines of Platten assumed leadership of a group of venturesome Exiles who took up the valiant battle cry, "Jesus nobiscum-state!" [Jesus is with us-stand fast! (Latin)].

Johann Löbel* was born 7 May 1592 in Platten. He married Ursula Uphof* in his youth (1611), and he died 6 January 1666 in Johanngeorgenstadt. On 22 October 1629 he became the city judge, and later the superintendent of mines, in Platten. His extensive property is recorded in the minutes of the town council, page 20. His signature appears on page 92. Johann Löbel* was the youngest of 12 children. His father, Wenzel Löbel*, was magistrate and chamberlain in Platten in 1595. The Löbels descended from a line of miners, who can be traced back to 1415 in Wunsiedel in the Fichtelgebirge [Spruce mountains]. Among the later descendants, there were three brothers who moved to Thuringen, to Vogtland, and to the Erzgebirge. Fabian moved to Reudnitz (near Greiz), Hans to Delsnitz, and Wenzel* to Platten, where they lived until the Platten city mine was founded. Ultimately the three brothers came and worked together in the tin mine at Platten. This Wenzel (I)* died in 1543, Wenzelslaus II* after 1571, and Wenzel III* is the father of our Johann Löbel*.

On 10 December 1653, Johann Löbel* fled to our Fastenberg, when he was threatened with dismissal from his office by the state [religious] Conversion Commission. Johann Löbel* was the father of eight children: David, Johann, Elizabeth, Abraham Wenzel (who died soon after birth), Rosina, Abraham Wenzel* (named after his deceased brother), Helena, and Abraham Wenzelslaus. All were born in Platten. When home-sites on the Fastenberg were distributed, Löbel* chose the south-east corner of the market-place (today's Reinhardt house). In 1667 his daughter Rosina, who had married the Platten city judge Seeling, assumed ownership of the three houses that Löbel* had left behind in Platten. On 18 October 1665, a quarter of a year before Löbel's* death, he received a "privilegium" from the Elector, giving his children exemption from taxes on his house in Johanngeorgenstadt. This was intended as compensation for his financial loss in Platten, and as gratitude since this house had repeatedly served as a travel lodging for the Elector (on 12 July 1661 and on 16 July 1665). The Elector had intended to be present at Löbel's* golden wedding anniversary, but plans for the celebration had to be cancelled due to the illness of Löbel's* wife. An oil portrait of our first governing mayor can be found in the city hall, and another in the church. On Whitsunday [Pentecost], 1661, his golden wedding anniversary, Löbel* donated a carved baptismal font [to the church]. The little round table with a pewter bowl is still in use.

From among Löbel's* official activities, the following may be mentioned. The city records contain minutes of the city council meetings that were chaired by Löbel* from 1656 to 1659 (see the official records). These are the most important source for portraying the history of the founding of our city. (Compare "Pictures from Old Johanngeorgenstadt", in the 1927 newspaper, by W. Neumerkel.) Löbel* was elected to the position of mayor on 21 November 1656. Before this, Zacharias Glassman had acted as mayor; he had voluntarily directed the first construction projects. Löbel* was sworn into office on 3 December 1656. This solemn ceremony was concluded with an address to the city council, given by Polycarp Weber. The council meetings were held at Löbel's* house. Construction of the city hall did not begin until 1663, and Löbel* did not live to see it completed. By 1659, 147 houses had been built. In 1657, Löbel* was present at the consecration of the church. In 1661 he was appointed bearer of the city court seal (a diamond-shaped wreath with the city tower in the center, flanked by electoral swords). In 1663 a twice-yearly fair and a weekly market were initiated. A hereditary preserve, for space and pasture land, was granted on 13 February 1662. Wood to be used as lumber was allocated to the townspeople in 1664, in the amount of 666 "schragen" (a "schrage" is 3 cubic meters). In 1665 the "Vereinungsrezess" [unity agreement-a labor contract?] was concluded. In his dealings with the craftsmen, Löbel* demonstrated his true devotion to the welfare of the city, using wise discretion ("not through unduly strict rules, which would not be practical in this new city"), by persistence, and by moral example (he did not tolerate "stiff-necked resistance in the form of a little rebellion, which was not worthy of the Exiles"). Free from moodiness, purposeful, and endowed with a sense of the practical, Löbel* is credited with advancing the steady growth of the new city without any notable setbacks.

- R.J. [Robert Jahn]

 


The Meissner Line:

(From Kurt Burkhardt of Johanngeorgenstadt in a letter to LPM 18 Oct 1983.)

Christoff Meichsner* (or Christoph), tailor from Ziegenschacht, "Church Father"; d 10 Sep 1664.

"... Concerning the Meichsner/Meissner line, this is a ... line whose roots appear at about the time of the Exile. With regard to the head of this line, Christoff Meichsner*, presumably he was the same Christoff Meichsner* who was one of the Exiles [but Frank Teller says that JGS mining records show he came from Eibenstock, not from Platten] and one of the signers of the [1654] petition to the Elector Johann Georg I, and who had settled here on the Fastenberg long before the general Exile. This patriarch was described as "tailor from Ziegenschacht". Ziegenschacht (probably a variant of "Zinnschacht" [tin mine]) is the part of Breitenbach that lies on the other side of the border, and in fact is at the place where the railroad track to Karlsbad crosses over. You may have seen it yourself when you visited here. This place is always visible from Johanngeorgenstadt." See also Von Waldhäuslern auf dem Fastenberg

Link to more documentation about Christoff Meichsner and Caspar Bernd, including a German version of a part of the 24 Feb 1652 petition, quoted from the booklet "Die Gründungsgeschichte von Johanngeorgenstadt" by Dr. Friedrich Francke (1854) and based on the Engelschall Chronik (1723).


In Jan 1884 FAM saw in the Milwaukee Herald an announcement of the 50th wedding anniversary of August Meissner who came from Mülhausen near Erfurt. On 20 Jan he wrote to inquire about the possibility that they were related. On 27 Jan, having received a friendly reply, he wrote:

"... although the branches of our tree may be far apart, they may all have come from the same root. My friends in Germany [i.e., in Schönbach], in whose memory my father and grandfather still have a good place, took the trouble to search for the origin of the Meissner family and informed me about the result some years ago in a letter. As you have the same name, you might be interested also so I am enclosing some excerpts.

"In the year 1650, the Emperor Ferdinand III expelled all his Lutheran subjects from his lands. On 24 Feb 1652 a petition signed by Kaspar Clauß [should be Caspar Bernd] and Christoff Meissner was sent to the Elector, saying,

'Our grandparents, miners, have built themselves cabins on the Fastenberg near the Bohemian border some time ago, to stay in while working. Later they settled there permanently. Also the forester of Burghartsgrun gave them some land on a yearly lease, to be used as pasture for a few head of cattle. They also paid civil and church taxes. Now we would like to take up residence in these cabins that we inherited from our parents, but we need to rebuild them first. We therefore beseech you to give the order that these cabins and pasture land which were given to them shall be granted to us as a hereditary possession, in return for a stipulated inheritance fee, and also that the lumber shall be granted without a fee.'

These first eleven settlers on the Fastenberg were followed, on the cold winter night of Christmas 1653, by 39 other families from Platten, carrying all of their possessions on their backs."

The letter from Germany quoted here by FAM was one he received in December 1876 from Wilhelm Rudolf Jähring (minister at that time in Schönbach); see T182. This excerpt is apparently derived from the 1854 booklet "Die Gründungsgeschichte von Johanngeorgenstadt" by Dr Friedrich Francke. This booklet is based on Engelschall's 1723 "Chronicle," but Francke uses the erroneous name Kaspar (or Caspar) Clauß.

See also 1998 article about Christoff Meichsner and Caspar Berndt from Freie Presse, "Von Waldhäuslern auf dem Fastenberg: Über die ersten Bewohner einer Gegend, in der man 1654 Johanngeorgenstadt gründete" [From cabins on the Fastenberg: Concerning the first residents of the area where Johanngeorgenstadt was founded in 1654", by Jörg Brückner.


Christian Friedrich Meissner* "Attended ... Johannis school in Leipzig, 1740 the Bautzen school, 1744 Leipzig University, and then to Wittenburg;" minister at Schönbach near Löbau 1753 - 1802 -- see  FAM T233

Burkhardt lists 2 sons: Ernst Friedrich*, d Schönbach 1 May 1817, minister; and Christian Friedrich, d Strahwalde 1818. Burkhardt's data comes from Johanngeorgenstadt church records, which may not reflect later events.

FAM T233: "Christian Friedrich Meissner* had two wives and 16 children." FAM says that he had the following uncles and aunts (besides his father, Ernst Friedrich*):

First wife of Christian Friedrich Meissner* (?)

- Karl Friedrich; had son Karl

- Wilhelmine Friedericke; m Moser (mother of Karoline Christine Zimmermann)

- Johann Christian

- Gottlieb Friedrich; had 1 daughter

- Wilhelm Friedrich

First or second wife of Christian Friedrich Meissner* (?)

- Wilhelm Friedrich

Second wife of Christian Friedrich Meissner* (?)

- Gotthelf Friedrich; Pirna, no children

- August Friedrich; Dresden, left 2 daughters

- Unruh


see also WORLD CONNECT SITE
Ancestors of Adolph Frederick Meissner

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