Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Day 2 in Treysa (continued)

Stadtkirche, Treysa.
Church where generations of Henkels worshipped.

Entrance to Stadtkirche, Treysa.

Hospital of the Holy Ghost, Treysa.

Stadtkirche, Ziegenhain.
Nicholas worshipped here before leaving for war in America in 1776.

Interior of Stadtkirche, Ziegenhain.

Museum der Schwalm, Ziegenhain.

Regimental drums, Museum der Schwalm.
As Regimental Drummer, Nicholas would have drums identical to these.

Following closely on the genealogical update, we were told that the Evangelische Kirche (Protestant Church) in Treysa of the mid 1700s still existed, the Stadtkirche. It had been part of a Dominican cloister since about 1350, but in 1531 Landgrave Philip, in support of the Reformation, converted it to the Protestant parish church. We asked if there was a cemetery connected with the church, hoping to check out the headstones for a Henkel ancestor. The law in Germany, however, permits the reuse of graves after 30 years. People from the same families were usually buried with others in the family plot, so headstones/markers would be of little use after many years.

He told us that he personally knew the last male Henkel, who died about 50 years ago at about 30 years of age, and that the house sold some years later. This, of course, meant that he knew where the Henkels lived, and would take us to the house. It turns out that it is only about 25 meters from the Rathaus (Town Hall), and we had unknowingly taken pictures it of the previous evening. He would also get additional information on the history of the house.

We then went for a short walk to see the Henkel house, take some photos, and then met the current owner who also has a business next door. He was the same man who had helped us find an Internet CafĂ© the evening before. After excusing himself for a few minutes, he returned with legal documents of sale of the Henkel house to his family in 1975. Of course, I took photos of those as well. Then it was off to take photos of the church where Nicholas Henkel’s family had worshipped. This was where his grandparents and parents had been married, and where Nicholas’s birth and baptism/christening had been recorded. Then it was off to see the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, a medieval charity institution for the needy, aged and infirm, first mentioned in a document from 1367. Part of it now contains the local Treysa archives, which would be searched for records on the Henkel house.

In the afternoon, Evelyn and I took a taxi to Ziegenhain, the fortress about 5 km from Treysa where Nicholas had been a regimental Drummer. This was also where Nicholas departed in March 1776 headed for war in America, and to which he had returned in 1783 following the war. As the Museum der Schwalm was not to open for about an hour, we headed to the local Information Office. The lady there spoke English, could not have been more friendly, and while giving us a brochure on Ziegenhain, made arrangements for a personalized tour of the town for 4:00 pm. She also said she would deliver a photocopy of some papers on Hessian Troops from Ziegenhain to our hotel that evening.

After taking many more photos around Ziegenhain, we were the first into the Museum der Schwalm. Again, a volunteer spoke English, was most helpful, and after hearing of our connection to the town took us on a personalized tour of the exhibits. Among the displays was one of a shoemaker shop, just as Nicholas would have grown up in under the watchful eye of his Master Shoemaker father Johann Hermann Henkel. Also on display were original regimental drums identical to that used by Nicholas. Local clothing, furniture, handcrafts, etc. were also on display. At 4:00 pm we met our guide, who explained the significance of each of the historical old sites in the town, all of which would have been familiar to Nicholas. Included among those was the Protestant Church within the Fort where Nicholas would have attended services before heading off to war. Then it was time to get a taxi back to Treysa, tired but pleased with all of the information received.

Shortly after this, while going out to take evening photos of the older area of Treysa again, we crossed paths with the lady from the Information Office in Ziegenhain. She had a copy of 7 pages from a story of Hessian Troops from Ziegenhain for us as promised earlier. Without exception, everyone we met in Schwalmstadt either spoke English, or made an effort to help us find someone who could. And being a small town, we kept crossing paths with people we had met before, although we had only been there a little over 24 hours. That the area was not spoiled by flocks of tourists was confirmed when we could find no one who could think of any place to buy a souvenir of the town. (To be continued)

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