Adolph Meissner and Loretta Haskins
by Loren Meissner, Aug 2002
1. Ancestors of Adolph Frederick Meissner (1861-1939)
Christoff stood beside his cabin, next to a mine shaft near the top of the Erzgebirge ("ore mountains"). This rolling ridge lies along the eastern border of the German province of Saxony, about 3000 ft. above sea level.
Christoff, his brother Elias, and their father Georg Meichsner had built their cabin several years before. This cabin and others nearby were used by miners who extracted iron, tin, silver, coal and other minerals; and there was a larger building nearby that housed a glass works.
It was December (1653), and snow flurries drifted across the mountain plateau. Down the valley ten miles west, Christoff saw the village of Eibenstock where he had been born and where he lived when he was not working at the mine. About four miles east was the village of Platten, across the border in Bohemia (later, Czech Republic). No natural rampart marks the border, and battles between European kingdoms continually shifted the political boundary back and forth across the rolling ridge. For the past 100 years, since the Lutheran Reformation, Saxony had been a Protestant province. Platten had once been part of Saxony, but a battle during the Counter-Reformation had moved the border again, and Platten was now within the Catholic kingdom of Bohemia.
Miners from Platten had told Christoff there was trouble brewing in their town. In spite of a treaty that promised religious tolerance, the Catholic authorities intended to displace the Saxon (Lutheran) mining superintendent Johann Loebel (Löbel), charging that he had cheated on mining royalties. He would be removed from his position unless he converted to the Catholic faith. Instead, Loebel and the other Protestant families planned to leave Platten and move back across the border into Saxon territory, and Christoph and the other miners had promised to give them whatever help they could. On Christmas eve thirty-nine Lutheran families from Platten (about one hundred persons in all) trudged through the snow carrying all their possessions on their backs, and were given shelter in the Meichsner mining cabin, the other nearby cabins, and the glass factory.
The story of this migration to escape religious persecution is still well known throughout the Erzgebirge. It somewhat parallels the story of the Pilgrims' voyage to America in 1620 except that the Platten miners had to travel only about four miles.
Loebel, Meichsner, and others sent a petition to the Saxon Elector Johann Georg I, requesting permission to establish a town on the ridge. The petition was granted, with the proviso that the town should be named Johann-georgen-stadt. Johann Loebel was the first mayor.
Johann Georg I, Elector of Saxony
In 1715, about 60 years after the founding of Johanngeorgenstadt, Johann Loebel's great-granddaughter Maria Catharina Loebel married Christoff Meichsner's grandson Christian Meichsner, a Master Craftsman (blacksmith) for the mines. The number of Master Craftsmen in any village was strictly controlled by the Guilds, and a Journeyman blacksmith usually had to wait for advancement to Master status until the death of an older smith. But Master Christian Meichsner used his influence to obtain Master status for his infant son Christian Friedrich Meichsner at the age of four.
The boy did not take advantage of this opportunity, however. He left the mines and the mountains to study for the Lutheran ministry, at Leipzig and elsewhere in the low country. His first and only pastorate was at Schoenbach (Schönbach), some 100 miles north and east of his birthplace. The church at Schoenbach was rebuilt or extensively remodeled during his tenure (1753-1800) and is still standing. Two large portraits face each other across the front of the sanctuary: one of Martin Luther and one of Christian Friedrich Meissner.
Church at Schoenbach
In Johanngeorgenstadt, Christian Friedrich and his ancestors usually spelled their surname as Meichsner, but in Schoenbach he consistently spelled it Meissner. The first European fine porcelain factory had been established at Meissen near Dresden about 1710, and Meissner ("from Meissen") was already a common Saxon name usually written as Meißner, with the character ß representing double s.
Albrechtsburg Castle at Meissen, site of first European fine porcelain factory
Friedrich Adolf Meissner, grandson of Christian Friedrich, was born in 1804 at the Schoenbach parsonage. His father Ernst Meissner (who had succeeded Christian Friedrich as pastor at Schoenbach) died in 1817 when Friedrich was 12, and his mother died about two years later. His mother's brother, a gardener at the Saxon court in Dresden, became Friedrich's guardian and sent him to an Agriculture school.
About 1824 Friedrich left Saxony on a trip to America, and on his way he met Elise Henriette Sophie Von Mithofen in Hamburg. He returned from America and in Feb 1827 he married this lady. Their daughter (Karoline) was born in Nov 1826. The marriage was not a happy one. In Feb 1838 his friend Doris Sennewald gave birth to a son, Georg Heinrich; Friedrich Meissner was probably the boy's father.
In 1843, when Friedrich was 38 years old and Karoline was 16, he built a large brick house in Kummerfeld near Hamburg (which is still standing), with the help of Georg Gerstenberg and others. In Sep 1845 he left his wife and daughter and sailed to America. Soon afterward Karoline married Georg Gerstenberg.
Doris Sennewald, now widowed, accompanied Friedrich to America, with Georg Heinrich (known as Henry) and her three older children. They lived for a few years in New York and Massachusetts, then moved to Florida where Doris died in 1853. By 1856 the other children had left and Henry, now 18 years old, moved with his father to Wisconsin. Henry later enlisted in the Civil War and lost a leg, returned to Wisconsin for a short time, and then moved west.
Friedrich lived alone on his Wisconsin homestead for two years. Judging from his letters, he was again feeling the need of female companionship, and in 1858 (now 53 years old) he met 21 year old Eva Dorathea Krauss who had immigrated from Germany to Ohio about 10 years before. They were soon married and eventually had five children: Ernest (b 1859), Adolph (b 1861), Dorathea (b 1863), Carl (b 1864), and August (b 1866). Friedrich continued to farm on the homestead; when he was almost 80 he complained that his grown sons liked to go to bed late at night and rise late in the morning, which made them useless as farm helpers. He died in April 1899, a few months after his 94th birthday, and was buried in a plot on the farm.
Dora and Carl never married. Their mother Eva died in 1926, Carl in 1933, and Dora in 1946; all were also buried on the farm north of Cashton WI. When Dora died, the farm was sold except for the burial plot and an access easement to it.
Eva's brother Henry Crouse moved west in 1873 and settled in Utah; Ernest later joined him there and then proceeded to Oregon where most of his descendants settled. Most of August's family remained in Wisconsin.
James Cole, Loretta's 6th-great-grandfather, was born in England in 1600, came to America in 1632, and died in Massachusetts in 1688. Various records more or less agree that he was married in England around 1625, but they disagree as to whether the marriage was in London to Mary Lobel or in Barnstaple (Devon) to Mary Tibbes.
Although Mary Tibbes is favored by the evidence (see also James Cole for more recent data), Mary Lobel has an interesting background. Her father, Mathieu Lobel, was born 1538 in Lille, France. He was a physician at Montpelier, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. He also practiced medicine in Antwerp, being attached as Physician to William of Orange; from Antwerp he came to London and was Physician to James I.
Besides being a distinguished physician, Mathieu Lobel was a student of Plant Physiology, and wrote several books about medicinal plants. He discovered the medicinal qualities of the plant Lobelia and named it after himself. The next time you see a row of tiny dark blue flowers bordering a walkway, you can say to yourself, "That plant is named after Mathieu Lobel, who might be one of my ancestors." If true, the Frenchman Mathieu Lobel is almost the only known ancestor of Adolph Frederick Meissner or Loretta Haskins who was not either German or British (including England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales) by descent.
The other exception is Loretta's great-grandmother Lovina Vanderpool whose paternal grandparents came from Netherlands and whose mother was one-half Oneida Indian (a branch of the Mohawk tribe).
Dr William Brey
Loretta's maternal grandfather, William Brey (originally Bray), wrote in his Family Bible his own name and those of his half brothers and half sisters:
According to family tradition (probably originating from William himself), "William's father was a red-haired Irishman and his mother was one-quarter Indian."
Nothing is known of William's father except his hair color (red) and his surname (Bray); the fathers of half-brothers Anthony Johnson and John Robinson are unknown except for their surnames. However, census records show Anthony Johnson living near Towanda between 1840 and 1870; and John Robinson (living in Roscoe IL, where William Brey was married) was in contact with William in the 1860s.
The surname of half-sisters Mary Ann and Elizabeth Clark leads to an important clue (noted by Don Vanderpool, 2005). Near Towanda in 1822 Aaron Clark, a pilot on the Susquehanna River, married Lavina Johnson; and the 1830 census lists Elvina Clark with five children whose sex and ages (given in the census only as 5-year brackets) agree with those in the Family Bible list (above). This Elvina or Lavina (Johnson) Clark is very likely Lovina Vanderpool (b 1788), a daughter of Anthony Vanderpool (1754-1840) and Elizabeth Johnson (1751-1837).
Anthony Vanderpool's parents, Anthony Sr (b 1717) and Jacomynite van Seyl, were immigrants from the Netherlands. Elizabeth's origins are less well known, but her mother is said to have been a (full-blooded) Indian from the Oneida tribe of the Mohawk nation (making Elizabeth one-half and Lovina one-quarter Indian). Anthony grew up in the Mohawk Valley near Johnstown, the home of the British Supervisor of Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson, who is said to have sired children of local Indian women. There is in fact a possibility that Elizabeth may have been a daughter of Sir William; however, it must be noted that Sir William had a legitimate daughter Elizabeth who definitely did NOT marry Anthony Vanderpool.
3. Adolph and Loretta
Adolph Meissner and Loretta Haskins were married at Cashton, WI on 17 September 1883 and moved west soon afterward, first joining Adolph's brother Ernest in Oregon. They remained in southern Oregon for more than ten years, raising food crops which they sold to miners. The list of birthplaces of Adolph and Loretta's eleven children reveals something of their sojourn:
Thalia Dorothy Dillie b: 25 May 1884 at Cashton, WI
From 1908 to 1911 the family lived in Texas. By this time the four older children had left the family: Dillie first married in 1906, Albert in 1911, Adolph in 1910, and Louis in 1915.
They lived near Medina, Oaxaca, Mexico from August 1911 until April 1914, then moved to Upland CA where Dillie was living.
Adolph and Loretta with children (L to R) Paul, Edith, Carrie, Percy James, Lillian, Charles, and Manly. (Identity of the man at far left is unknown).
In 1916 Adolph and Loretta moved to Panama with Manly, Charles, Paul, Lillian, Edith, and Percy James; Carrie remained in CA and was married in 1918. In Panama the two older boys worked on the final stages of Panama Canal construction; by 1920 the others had moved to an upland "plantation" (jungle clearing) near the Costa Rica border.
Panama, 1919. (Back row:) Manly, Charles, Loretta, Adolph, Paul;
In 1922 they returned from Panama to Southern CA, where Dillie, Albert, and Carrie were living. In June 1924, Loretta died in an auto accident while seeking yet another "promised land" near Palmdale CA. Four years later Adolph married Mattie Applegate McLennan and farmed on her land in Oklahoma until his death in 1939.