The Old Speyrer House in Dörrenbach

by Ernst Lammering

(Translated by Gene Speyrer)


Earlier this summer I received a letter from John Allan Speyrer asking that I provide information about the old Speyrer house of Dörrenbach, Germany. Unfortunately, no records exist whch definitely establish the date of its construction.1

I was able to find the deed to the Speyrer house and learned interesting information from the year 1827 concerning Jacob Speyrer. If you will note from the family tree I constructed many years ago, you will find him. He was born on November 23, 1806, married Catharina Margaretha, born Schmitz, and died April 19, 1839.

Jacob Speyrer was a son of George Ludwig and Barbara Thomas, and was a brother of Conrad Speyrer, born August 26, 1816. There were exactly eight siblings. From this document one may gather that John Jacob Speyrer inherited the house in question from his parents George Ludwig and Barbara, born Thomas. Unfortunately it is not possible to trace it back any further

The ruin in front of which you, John Allan with Gene stand, is therefore the ancestral house of the Speyrers and the house where Conrad Speyrer would have been born.

Ludwig Speyrer, born July 17, 1844 and his wife Margareta, born Horner, inherited the house from John Jacob Speyrer, his father. From the marriage of Ludwig and Margaret were born nine children, and among them were two sons, Ludwig and Friedrich, who were killed in action during the First World War. The other children, Katharina, Ludwig, Salomea, Friederike, Margareta and George died without any children of their own.

Ludwig Speyrer, Hedwig's grandfather, died on April 18, 1913. His grave in Dörrenbach is still in existence.

In the year 1921, Ludwig's widow and his children divided-up the entire property. We still have the partition document. His widow Margareta and children distributed the house and most of the property to the unmarried son, George, so that he would have a means of livelihood. Under German law, the widow was entitled to the right to live in the house until her death. This we call the "Right of Domicile."

In the document in question, the house is described as follows:

Place Number 309, Residential house in the middle of the village. Number 91 with barn, stalls, cellar, distillery and courtyard.

Yes, a distillery! The Speyrer house was one of the few houses in Dörrenbach that had authorization from the government to distill alcohol on its premises.

George Speyrer lived alone in the house until the beginning of World War II. However, one day near the beginning of the war with France, all the townspeople of Dörrenbach had to flee the village because the village was in a danger zone. Towards the end of the conflict, in the summer of 1940, the population was allowed to return to Dörrenbach. A short time later, George Speyrer, sold the house to one of the long-time families of Dörrenbach. He then began working in a nursing home. He died on May 13, 1981. His remaining property (agricultural lands) was managed by me until his death.

On March 21, 1945 the village was 80% destroyed by artillery of the advancing American Army. This widespread destruction unfortunately included the old Speyrer house.

The new owner had the house rebuilt after the war, but unfortunately not in the beautiful, Fachwerk or half-timbered German manner, in which style the house once was.

My wife, Hedwig, was very sad over the loss of the old Speyrer home since it was the home of her grandparents. She had spent a large part of her fondly remembered childhood there with her grandmother and remembers with pleasure playing with the children of the minister who lived next door.

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1(Editor's Note: My brother, Gene, remembered that the date "1725" and the words "SPEYRER HAUS" appeared above the door leading to the cellar. Mrs. Doris ("Anna") Courville during a telephone call to Germany during August of this year asked Ernst if Gene's recollection was correct. It was! It would, therefore, be reasonable to assume that the old Speyrer dates to that year).


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