Paper and Stone

By Bishop Jude Speyrer

As 1996 approaches, activities relating to the Speyrer Family Anniversary celebration in October of next year are picking up speed. The NEWSLETTER you hold in your hand for instance, was one of the first tools designed for announcing and recording those activities.

Back in 1991, things were just as feverish in Dörrenbach, but on a grander scale when the town was just one year away from its 1000 Anniversary. In many ways the momentum we sense building up among us is similar to what Ernst Lammering described in an old letter to Father Jules Speyrer. Rereading this letter, I was intrigued by another story it tells and wondered how many people have heard about what happened.

Some called it serendipitous. It seems that workers repairing the church for the big celebration came across a metal box concealed between two rafters in the steeple. What did that box contain? Inside, the carpenters found a four-page document dated 1791, written and signed by one Johannes Anthon.

Always with a passion for mysterious discoveries, I can remember my growing interest as I first read Ernst's report. I retell it here today, hoping that you too will sense the same thrill I experienced back then. Let us briefly review the tale

But first, back to Ernst's letter. Most of it describes the residents' preparation in the months immediately prior to July 10, 1992, the start of the 1000th anniversary observance. In those days, no one in Dörrenbach, it seems, had time for sleep. All were busy making arrangements; no one was left in peace. With barely nine months to go, the top floor of the city hall had been quickly converted into a central headquarters. Seven committees (consisting of from two to twelve members) were getting their projects in shape. Some worked on the area's history; some reviewed plans for dealing with record traffic in streets designed more for the horse and buggy.

Some people worked on the budget, calculating costs while others ordered materials and recruited staff. In short, there was no lack of jobs for those willing to work.

Suddenly, in the midst of all this commotion important historical documents were found. In the church tower, (where close-by lie the graves of many Speyrer and Cuntz family members), carpenters brought to light a cache of yellowed papers.

What follows here is a translation provided by Klaus Lammering, son of Ernst and Hedwig Lammering. (His mastery of English equips him to teach the language, where he did for several years in Singapore).

"Announced and known, may all and every descendant who has the opportunity to read this, be saved.'' This is how the document starts, which was placed, according to then mayor Nicholas Hey, in the top of the church tower after the repairs of 1791 were completed. This document names local officials, and even comments on the effects of the then raging revolution in France on politics and religion.''

Documented too is the composition of the two denominations in town (Lutherans: 846; Catholics 187). Also included is a schedule of services in both churches. The papers further inform us that in the previous year, the Dörrenbach city hall was renovated and that a guardhouse was built. They add that 1791 was a very good year for wine; even the market price is quoted.

The document concludes:

"Finally, our regards to our descendants. May the God who has kept Dörrenbach safe beneath this fatherly eye continue in time to come to watch over Dörrenbach in the centuries ahead. The one who believes in Him will not want for anything.''

Before the roof was laid, workers carefully placed the box between two rafters for later generations to find. The authors concluded their message by signing their names: ``Michael Hof, from Oberotterbach and Michael Schoenlaub, of Schweigen, both members of the roofers' guild.''

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In our own attempt to leave a lasting record of the 1996 Speyrer Family Anniversary celebration, repairs and renovations are currently underway at the grave-site of Conrad Speyrer in the church cemetery of Grand Coteau, La.

Although not yet completed, even today there is already something to be seen.(Editor's Note: The renovation was completed in late December) Visitors to this burial ground will find a large stone already bearing the date of 1996, and which refers to the devotion of Conrad's grateful descendants. This memorial, we hope, will serve as a reminder for those who follow us. When they grow old enough to wonder about the origin of the Speyrer family, this new stone's inscription will be there to inform them.

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