The origins of the Klemmer family name

This page is constantly being updated. Look forward to indepth coverage of this Palatine German family's trials and tribulations in the Old and New World. The story begins in the late sixteenth century during the persecution of the Huguenots in the Alsace Lorraine region of France. Frantz Klemmer, who was born in 1620 in Zurich, Switzerland, is to date the earliest traceable ancestor of most Clemmers and Klemmers now residing in the United States. This Web resource will explore the reasons why his grandson and great-grandsons were compelled to embark on an unknown and dangerous voyage to Philadelphia, PA in search of religious freedom and a better life. It is to these individuals that my time and effort are dedicated so that others may have a better understanding of the deplorable conditions in the Rheinland/Pfalz region of Germany in the aftermath of the Thirty Year War's widespread destruction.

Click on coat of arms for description.

Klemmer History 1620-1790
compiled by Charles W. Hite, Jr. and John F. Clemmer III

As of March 1994, the earliest direct ancestors of the Dallas, NC Clemmer family that we can find are Frantz "Tommi" Klemmer and his wife, Barbara Urmer Klemmer. We think they were born about 1620, and the first written documentation we have places them in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland. We believe they were driven out of France about 1650 by the Catholics who were persecuting Protestants at this time, and Eastern Germany and Switzerland were safe havens for Protestants driven from France. Don't think that Frantz and Barbara Urmer Klemmer abandoned their homeland and friends over a small disagreement with a religious creed or ceremony. It was common in 1650 France to be killed because of your Protestant beliefs by the predominant Catholics who comprised ninety percent of the population. There were no laws to protect Protestants during this time because the French people believed the Catholic king was appointed by God (divine rule) and whatever the king said was the law.

Martin Luther challenged the Catholic Church in Germany, and his followers were known as Protestants or protestors. The "Protestant Reformation" began in 1517 in Germany and gradually spread into other European countries. By 1599, the first French National Church was formed in Paris, and its members were known as the Huguenots. Most ofthe Huguenots lived in eastern France, close to Germany. The Catholic versus Protestant conflict in France resulted in five civil wars, fought mostly in the eastern regions. The most infamous incident of this period was the Saint Barthalomew's Day Massacre on August 24, 1572. On this day the Catholic King, Charles IX, tried to assassinate every Protestant leader in the country!

After decades of fighting, in 1598, King Henry IV issued the "Edict of Nantes", guaranteeing religious freedom in France. King Henry hoped this would unite France so that he could concentrate on expanding French Colonies worldwide. By 1685, the French King Louis XIV (1643-1715) had built the strongest army in Europe and he decided it was time to permanently eliminate the Protestants. So King Louis revoked the "Edict of Nantes", declared Protestants to be enemies of the state, seized their property, and sent his troops to drive them out of France. Over the next few years it was estimated that between four hundred thousand to one million protestants fled France. Those that remained were severely persecuted. Between 1700 and 1710, the King's army burned approximately 450 Protestant villages in eastern France, and murdered all the inhabitants they could catch.

Although they were driven out of what is today France, the possibility exists that Frantz and Barbara Klemmer may have considered themselves Germans. The region that is the west bank of the Rhine River is known as the Alsace region, and France and Germany have fought over this Alsace region for centuries. The prolonged conflict known as "The Thirty Years War" was won by France in 1648. The resulting treaty of Westphalia gave the Alsace region back to France. If Barbara and Frantz Klemmer considered themselves German Protestants, they would not have wanted to live in Catholic France, and this is about the time they showed up in Switzerland. Even though Alsace has been part of France since Germany lost World War I, many inhabitants still consider themselves to be German descendants, and the German language is commonly heard.

While in Switzerland, Frantz and Barbara Klemmer had at least one son, Hans Jacob Klemmer who was born about 1650 and died October 23, 1728. Jacob Klemmer moved down the Rhine River from Zurich to the town of Ludwigshaffen, Germany. About twelve miles west of Ludwigshaffen is the small village of Friedelsheim. There on September 17, 1678 Jacob Klemmer married a local girl, Ann Catherine Pfaffman, daughter of Hans Jacob Pfaffman. Wouldn't it be interesting to know how and where the newlyweds met? Anyhow, Hans and Ann had one son baptized in Friedelsheim, Johan Heinrich Klemmer. They considered Friedelsheim home and there on September 16, 1710, Johan Heinrich Klemmer (then 22 years old) married Ann Catherine Daughneir, widow of Michael Daughneir. They had at least two sons born in Friedelsheim, Andreas Klemmer who was born in 1712 and Johan Ludwig Klemmer, born in 1718. In 1730 Johan Heinrich Klemmer took his oldest son Andreas and sailed down the Rhine River and across the Atlantic Ocean to Pennsylvania in the "New World". Their ship was the "Alexander and Anne" and they arrived in the city of Philadelphia on September 5, 1730.

We cannot find any record of Johan Ludwig Klemmer (aged 12 years) coming to Philadelphia with his father and older brother. He must have stayed behind with his mother and any other siblings or perhaps he stayed with other relatives. There must have been compelling reasons for the family to split up in 1730. Maybe they planned to reunite in America after a year or so. However, twelve years later, Johan Ludwig was still in Friedelsheim, Germany. At 22 years of age on January 24, 1742, Ludwig married Anna Elizabeth Böckle, the daughter of Heinrick Sinn. Johan Ludwig and Anna Klemmer had one son, Jacob Klemmer born in Friedelsheim about 1743. Then in 1747, Ludwig, Anna, and their young son Jacob sailed to Philadelphia, Pennslyvania. Shortly after they arrived in America they went to Littlestown, PA (located just southeast of Gettysburg in present day Adams County). There on February 10, 1747 at Christ Reformed Church, the Reverend Michael Slatter baptized George Valentine Klemmer. The baby's parents were listed on the church records as Johan Ludwig and Maria Elisabeth Bekelin Klemmer from "Friedelsheim in the Pfalz, Germany".

J. Jeffrey Clemmer in front of
Christ Reformed Church
Littlestown, PA in June 1996.
John F. Clemmer III at original
site of Christ Reformed Church
Littlestown, PA in June 1996.

The sponsor of the baby (George Valentine Klemmer) was one George Valentine Böckle, who we think was the brother of Elizabeth Böckle Klemmer. Obviously the baby was named after George Valentine Böckle and thus would have been the first George Valentine Klemmer in the Klemmer lineage. "Felty" is the German nickname for Valentine, so the child was probably called Felty Klemmer. Later in Littlestown, Ludwig and Maria Böckle Klemmer had two more sons, Lorentz (born about 1751) and George Ludwig (born about 1753). Note that two of the boys had the same first name, George Valentine and George Ludwig.

In 1754, the family of Johan Ludwig Klemmer moved southwest from Littlestown, PA to what is today Williamsport, MD. At this time the border between Maryland and Pennslyvania was hotly disputed, and many settlers were killed over who owned what particular homestead. The famous Mason-Dixon survey line was started in 1763 to clearly mark the boundary between these two colonies and stop the murders and violence. Since Williamsport, Maryland is only 50 miles from Littlestown, J. Ludwig may have thought he was still in Pennsylvania. We haven't found a deed recorded in either state, but this area was so wild that there might not have been any paper claim to the land. In addition to the border dispute between the colonists of Pennslyvania and Maryland, both France and England also claimed this area! The French had a lucrative fur trade with the Ohio Valley Indians and supplied them with modern guns, steel knives, and hatchets. The Indians did not like the white man moving west into Indian land and starting farms anyway, so when the French offered money for any English scalps, the Indians were happy to collect them. The fighting increased in 1754 in America and in 1756 England and France formally declared war worldwide. In Europe it was called the "Seven Years War" (1756-1763) and in North America, it was known as the "French and Indian War". The year 1756, when the war was declared, was a terrible year for the Klemmer family. Johan Ludwig and Elizabeth Klemmer had a daughter who accidently drowned. They had her funeral on August 20, 1756. As they were returning home on horseback, near Huyets Crossing, MD, they were attacked by 15 Delaware Indians. Johan Ludwig Klemmer and the other men were killed in the initial attack. Valentine (9 years) and Lawrence (7 years) and their mother were captured. The following day as the Indians moved the captives to Wills Mountain Indian Village (one mile west of Cumberland, MD), Elizabeth Klemmer tried to escape but was brutally massacred by the Delawares. The two Klemmer children, Valentine and Lawrence, remained in Wills Indian Village until the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763. Soon after this, they were returned to the white settlers and the boys eventually reunited with their older brothers in Pennslyvania. So the boys spent about seven years as Indian captives. This account is recorded by J. Thomas Scharf in "The History of Western Maryland" but needs some explaining. Scharf says on August 20, 1756 one "Ludwig Claymour" was killed in an Indian attack, but we know this was our Ludwig Klemmer because of an orphan court record in York County, Pennsylvania in 1765. In this record, one Jacob Froneback petitions the York County Orphan Court to repay him from the estate of Ludwig Klemmer deceased, for raising Ludwig's orphan son, one George Klemmer, "whose father was killed and his mother captivated (sic) by the Indians". The orphan George Klemmer was about 4 years old when he was delivered to Jacob Froneback of September 1, 1756. This was about 12 days after Scharf reports that "Ludwig Claymour" was killed on August 20, 1756. Also the orphan George was delivered to Jacob Froneback by Valentine Böckle, who was the sponsor of George Valentine Klemmer at his 1747 christening.

We have some more York County Orphan Court documentation on the four brothers, Jacob, Valentine, Lawrence, and George.

1. May 28, 1765- Ludwig Klemmer deceased, died with no legal will, so his son George Ludwig age 12 had a guardian appointed for him, one Casper Cline. We know this could not be George Valentine because Valentine was born in 1747 and would be close to 18 years old in 1765.

2. May 31, 1768- Ludwig Klemmer is deceased, and his two orphan sons Lawrence 17, and George Ludwig age 14, get one Thomas Fisher appointed as a guardian. Valentine would be 21 and Jacob 25 so they would not need a guardian. Also on the same day (May 31, 1768), Henry Cline as executor for the estate of Valentine Böckle deceased, gives money to Jacob, Valentine, Lawrence, and George Klemmer. We believe these boys are brothers and apparently they were together in 1768 in York County, Pennsylvania to receive money from this estate.

The next written reports on these boys is 11 years later. Three of them were still in York County, PA and appear on the York tax lists of 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782, and 1783. Listed close together are Valentine Klemmer, Lorentz (Lawrence) Klemmer, a joyner, and Ludwig Klemmer, a shoemaker. Jacob is missing, but we are lucky to find the three boys together, because the Revolutionary War caused many families to move. The missing brother Jacob may have gone to Alleghany County, MD.

Only one year later on September 26, 1784, there is a baptism recorded at Christ Reformed Church in Littlestown, PA. The baby is Susanna Charina Klemmer and the parents are George Valentine Klemmer and his wife Margaretha Klemmer. Incredibly this is the same church where George Valentine Klemmer was christened in 1747! Note the name Margaretha as the wife of Valentine Klemmer.

Moving ahead one year to 1785 but still in Littlestown, PA, we have a will filed for one George Valentine Clemmer (Klemmer). He says he is in poor health and names his children as John Ludwig (Valentine's father was Ludwig also), George, Elizabeth, and Susanna Charina Klemmer. Also Valentine names his wife Margaretha as a coexecutor with Adam Wintrot. This legal will was probated in Littlestown so we think Valentine died there. However, we have not been able to find a gravesite in Littlestown for a George Valentine Klemmer born 1747, died 1785. Also we have no more written evidence on his wife Margaretha. However, we believe the four children listed in Valentine Klemmer's last will and testament of 1785 in Littlestown, PA are the John, George, Elizabeth, and Susanna who were in Dallas, North Carolina in 1790. The explanation is complicated so we need to finish in Littlestown before we tackle it.

Valentine Klemmer's youngest brother George Ludwig Klemmer and his wife Modlena and children moved to Rockingham County, Virginia in 1788. Then in 1803, they moved to Rockbridge County, Virginia. Why did the Klemmer boys move south after living so long in Pennsylvania? We think the State of Pennsylvania increased taxes drastically to pay for the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). Also the states offered Revolutionary War veterans land instead of money as payment. Many took the land. This put more settlers on the roads and made travel easier and safer. There was a wagon road that stretched along the base of the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to Greenville, South Carolina. This road was known as the Carolina Wagon Road and was used extensively. We do know why the Klemmer boys didn't go west. INDIANS! After they moved from Pennsylvania, the name was always spelled with an English "C" instead of the German "K", Clemmer.

If you would like to contribute to this project or have questions please contact Charles W. Hite, Jr.

Featuring These Clemmer Net Destinations:

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