The Remeli family arriving to pre-revolutionary Pennsylvania
Sixth great grandfather Johann Michael Schick was born in the fall of 1675 in Waldmohr, Germany, a town in the Kusel district in Rhineland-Palatinate. He and his first wife, Anna Maria Bambo (1676), had five children together before she died in 1721 at the age of forty-four. Her youngest child was three at the time of her death.
Anna Mario Bambo died in June 1721, and three months later in October Johann Michael, likely in great need of a mother for his five children, married thirty-one year old Anna Maria Flemich (1690). They had a son and daughter together. Of Johann Michael’s eight children, one died within a year of birth and two emigrated to the British Colonies in the mid 1700s. The history of his oldest child, Anna Catharina Barbara Schick (1698) and her husband, Ambroßius Remeli (1702) in pre-Revolutionary United States is well documented and some bits of one account by Robert Wayman are included here. Note there are multiple spellings of the original Remeli surname, In the Colonies they dropped the Johann/Hans and Anna/Maria generic forenames in favor of their individual “middle” names.
The Remaleys were refugees escaping the brutal Catholic persecution of Protestants in Germany and they were relying on the decades’ old promise from William Penn of safety and prosperity in “The New World”. This had been a predominantly Protestant area since the Reformation took hold there in 1556.
The Palatinate suffered perhaps the most severely during the Eighty Years War, and the continuing religious wars thereafter. The Remelys’ imaginations must have run insanely wild with ideas of what lay ahead, and what would happen to all their family and friends that stayed behind in Germany; a very real chance of peril no matter which way they went.
The area around Weisenheim Am Sand, in the Bad-Dürkheim district of the Rhineland-Palatinate, is one of the mildest regions in Germany and is particularly suitable for growing wine and fruit. Also the area is known for its spas and Salt Springs since 1387. In 1594, the first saltworks was built. This connection to salt shows up in this early American family history later on.
Ambroßius was married to twenty year old Anna Catharina when he was sixteen in January of 1719. His father was dying and as the oldest son (of two) he stood to inherit the bulk if not all of the estate. His father likely wanted to make sure the fortune, whatever the amount, was properly secured through an advantageous marriage. Anna Catharina’s family came from Bavaria to the Rhineland in the early 1600s, first in Simmern, a prosperous market town, then to Johann Michael’s birthplace of Waldmohr, Kusel. The family moved to Weisenheim Am Sand around 1698, just before the turn of the century.
The family made its escape via Holland, a major point of departure and escape for Protestants. From there they went to London to secure a place on a ship bound for America, under British rule at the time. They were Pietists, also known as Pietistic Lutherans, “a movement within Lutheranism that combines its emphasis on biblical doctrine with an emphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life.” [ref]
When Ambroßius and Anna Catharina decided to make the journey to Philadelphia they had seven children with them, the youngest being eight years old. Anna Catharina was by then 51 and Ambroßius 47. Near the end of summer 1753 they all boarded the English ship “Richard and Mary” and set sail for Philadelphia, arriving on a mild, partially sunny, but humid Sunday, September 17, 1753.
As Pietists they likely appreciated that a year earlier, Christopher Saur, a German printer in Philadelphia, printed the first Bible in America. Just shy of 300 years earlier Guttenberg printed THE first full version of the Bible in 1455 at Mainz, a day’s walk (30km) from Weisenheim Am Sand, the Remeli’s point of departure and where the rest of the family remained for a few more generations.
Travel costs for German immigrants at this time were much higher than for others because of a monopoly on the shipping trade for this population, sometimes threefold higher cost. After having trekked from Germany to the Netherlands, their weeks in London waiting for the ship were difficult no doubt. There were several hundreds of immigrants all vying for passage, many in desperate straits. Voyages lasted from a minimum of 44 days to a maximum of 280 days. Usually voyages in the 18th century were longer, and more difficult, than those in the 19th century. Can you imagine?
Fortunately, they would meet kindred souls when they arrived. The first wave of Germans recruited by William Penn had already made their way over the sea and started building settlements, first in Bucks County and then moving further into western Pennsylvania encroaching on the indigenous population and their land. Two other branches of our family had arrived earlier in the mid 1600s founding Germantown, PA, and the other, a Dutch line, came to Upstate New York, Fort Orange (Albany) in the 1730s, later being a founding family of Brooklyn, New York.
It has been said that one of Ambroßius’ sons, Johann George, who was an Indian scout, brought salt over the mountain to Pittsburgh, a small town at the time, 280 miles west of the family settlement in Lehigh Township. He likely had learned the salt trade back in Germany and applied it to his advantage here in his new country.
“Prior to and during the revolution, Western Pennsylvanians used pack horses to deliver salt from the east or from Kentucky. In the 1790’s, when salt was scarce, buyers were more than happy to trade twenty bushels of wheat, or even a cow and a calf. By 1796 residents of the state’s western counties realized it was cheaper to purchase salt from New York than eastern Pennsylvania. Soon five thousand bushels of salt were being shipped from New York’s Ononadago Salt Works to Pittsburgh each year.” (ref)
“By 1776, two hundred thousand Germans would be in America. The Remaley family could boast by the second world war that they had taken part in every American war from the Revolution onward,” writes Mr. Wayman in his account.
Ambroßius and Anna Catharina both died in 1776, she on 27 August at Unionville Center, Pennsylvania, 160 miles west of where they had settled in Lehigh Township, Northampton County and where it is presumed Ambroßius died. She was 78 and likely had moved after his death to live with one of her adult children living further west out on the frontier near Ohio. Perhaps George took her there on one of his salt runs from New York.
How did Ambroßius die? Naturally, or due to conflict, whether that be with the British or the indigenous population? One wonders if she had even heard about the signing of the Declaration of Independence earlier that same August when she died . Where they came from in Germany power changed hands and borders were redrawn regularly, usually after years of bloody fighting. Did they think the “American Experiment,” a Democracy, would last, that the journey from Germany to PA was worth it? I am grateful for all their sacrifices and labors! We are still working on it, especially during this very fragile time, and hopefully we all can recognize who and what brought us our freedoms.
“The Germans were known for having large farms. It is perhaps more realistic to claim that they bought as much land as they could afford and often saved to buy more as they were able. This is not surprising. Many of them came from small villages where to be a full-time farmer or miller was the height of success.”
This was as true of the Remelay family in Pennsylvania as it had been for them and the Schicks in the Rhineland Palatinate. Their history is as connected to the land as their souls were to God, evidence of which is extant today in Pennsylvania and the eastern colonial states.
Researching and fleshing out this story over just a few hours again reminds me of how fortunate we are in this age to be able to so easily trace and detail the lives of those who made it possible for us to be here today. It is worth every frustration and dead end one runs up against with this kind of project. What keeps you exploring, pushing through to find your family history narratives? We would love to hear about them and answer any questions you might have about the proces. Don’t be shy, share your comments or send us an email. Thank you for your interest and be sure to revisit as we add more tip tricks and stories about ancestry research.