Speyrer Family Visits To Germany

A Talk by Ernst Lammering


This talk was given by Ernst Lammering of Bad Bergzabern, Germany to those who gathered in Basile, Louisiana for the Speyrer Family Reunion on October 12, 1996. The translation is by Gene Speyrer, who is shown to the right of Ernst Lamming reading his translation at the family gathering.

Dear Speyrer family members,

When your ancestor Conrad decided in 1842 to emigrate to North America, he was 26 years old and was eligible for marriage. At that time, all Germans, but especially those living in the Rhine-Pfalz, were suffering not only from political turmoil, but also from hunger and miserable conditions, so that young people did not see any chance for a better life there.

So it is understandable that not only young men went out for an unknown foreign country, but also families with their children. The hope for a better future encouraged them to undertake this long and arduous journey.

We nowadays cannot imagine the burdens they bore. The trip across the Great Water- as Germans used to say- took many long weeks and many travelers did not know their destination. Many became sick or died or did not reach their intended port.

In 1790 riots and wars caused more than 14,000 people from the Rhine-Pfalz to emigrate to America. Many of them settled in Pennsylvania, where even today a great number of their descendants live. In this foreign country they converted empty landscapes to fertile fields, through hard labor and personal deprivation.

People who emigrated to Russia at this time used to say: ''The father's part is death, the son's part is hardship, and the grandson reaps the harvest.''

So Conrad left his country, his parents, his family, - and never saw them again. We do not know if his parents ever got any sign of life from their son. But we hope so.

Please imagine the following: a soldier leaves the home of his parents and goes to war. His mother standing in the door says good-bye to her child with a heavy heart, knowing that she may never see him again. I think that Conrad's mother felt like that, and she indeed never saw him her son again.

She gave him something valuable, the Bible, and she told him to read it in hard times to find new strength. That Bible still exists and looking at it every one can see that Conrad followed her advice.

We should reflect for a moment on how Conrad reached his goals. With energy and will power he began to build a life for himself in his new homeland.

He soon did this with the help of a wife, whom he found here, and whom we link with him. Today you can all see what a large group of descendants they brought forth.

Conrad left for North America in 1842 and never returned to Germany, that we know of. Between 1842 and 1949 stands a long period of many years.

In 1949, the war had been over for 4 years. In 1948 we had a currency reform, new money was issued, but people still suffered great hardship here and on the French border. In Dörrenbach 90 percent of the homes were destroyed. The farmers were still getting their fields back in shape and fighting hunger. At this time there came a question from America to the town government of Dörrenbach about the condition of the Speyrer family.

Hedwig's mother, at that time the only Speyrer living in Dörrenbach (you can see it in the family tree that John Allan drew up) was summoned by the Mayor and gave the requested information. If I remember correctly, the request came from John Allan's and Gene's father.

Soon after this, Gene and John Allan came and searched for their family roots. Some 107 years had passed, a long time.

At the end of his year studying in Rome, Jude came to us and stayed for three months. He made friends with young people in Dörrenbach, especially with the Catholic pastor, Father Krill and Raphael Rahn. We always had the impression that he liked to be with us and with the people of Dörrench.

We well remember what Hedwig's mother said when Jude said goodbye and returned to his homeland:

``You will see that Jude will one day become a bishop.''

That was a shrewd prediction.

Then, there was an interval of over 40 years of silence, no connection, the contact was interrupted. But no, others came. Ten years ago Eli and Lucienne Speyrer came. Soon after, on a short visit came Father Jules, with Emile and ``Sis'' Benoit.

The big festival, the one thousand year jubilee of Dörrenbach, approached and then came Father Jules, Dr Tom and Marie Louise LaHaye, Randy and Cynthia Speyrer from New Orleans, and Ivy Hollingsworth, who celebrated her 80ieth birthday with us. Dominic Speyrer was also there. For the Saturday celebration Jude came, who in the meanwhile had actually become a bishop.

From Rome, Michael Champagne and some friends came for a visit. Anna and Doris Courville, who also belong to the family, made a visit with us as well.

Once again Father Jules came, this time with his sister Lee, and "Sis" and Emile Benoit, as well as Jude with his brother Alfred.

It was a moving experience when Bishop Jude and Father Jules celebrated Mass in the packed church in Dörrenbach, a church shared by Catholics and Protestants, the church where Conrad Speyrer was baptized and was confirmed.

It should be mentioned that The bread and wine that were used in the Mass today come from Dörrench and were brought back by Bishop Jude when he made his last visit to us.

Finally, the last visitor we had was George Potter, who recently dropped in for a short visit.

We have been happy to invite into our home, all who have come.

In 1993, I was the first member of the family from Germany to come to Louisiana. I shall never forget the Mass in the church at Leonville and the subsequent gathering in the parish hall.

I promised then to come again for the family reunion and here I am. My wife who had expected to come along has had to stay at home for reasons of health. So only three of use have come to the reunion, but there is one who carries the name of Speyrer and that is Norbert Speyrer.

We thank you for your kind hospitality. We shall cherish and remember today and all the days that we will be with you.

My thanks for your kind attention and we wish you happiness and success on this family festival.

Ernst Lammering

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