Bähr (Baehr) – Biar
Our Bähr to Biar Lineage
Hans Bähr and Urthe Kayser
George Bähr (Juri Biar) and Wurta Paulik
Johann (Jan) Biar and Hanna Hennersdorf
Johann (Jan) Biar and Anna Maucke (Małke)
Michael Biar and Anna Schneider
Johann Biar and Magdalene Möhle (Mehle)
Andreas Biar and Maria Therese Hattas
Johann Otto Biar and Lydia Lina Moerbe
Biar Descendants in Germany
The Biars in Australia
Translation of Letter dated 22 April 1881
Coping with Gröditz Records
Gröditz (Groeditz) and Hrodźiščo
Sermon Delivered by Rev. F. H. Stelzer at the Funeral of Otto Biar
Sermon Delivered by Rev. F. H. Stelzer at the Funeral of Lydia Biar
This history is about the Biar family and covers some of its genealogy and a variety of subjects pertinent to the family’s background. It was not my intention to write a complete history and genealogy of the Biar family. My resolve was to go back as far as possible and bring the family from Lusatia and “transplant” it in America. Perhaps some day someone will bring the history and genealogy up-to-date.
My knowledge of German enabled me to do much research in that language. The fact that I spent two years (1945-1947) with U.S. Army Intelligence in Germany gave me an insight into gathering information. Researching your “roots” is much like collecting intelligence data – you need to fit the bits and pieces together. In work like this persistence, accuracy and perseverance are of utmost importance.
In 1972 I made a trip to the Bautzen area in East Germany and visited many of the villages listed in this history. Another trip was made in 1982 and two short trips were made in 1992 and 1994. There was also very much correspondence with various people, most of it in German.
I want to thank all those who helped me with dates of birth, marriage and death. If any of you want to use parts of this history, or make a copy of all or part of it, you have my permission. However, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you and invite your comments. This history has been revised several times and copies have appeared under several titles. I had no intention of revising it again, but since I lost my last revision in my old computer, I loaded what I had into my new computer and, naturally, I revised it again, hopefully for the last time. Should you find any errors, please call them to my attention. As corrections and additional information become available addenda may be warranted.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the late Frau Annemarie Mihan, Niedergurig, Germany, not far from Bautzen, who supplied much of the information of the early history of the Biar family and who answered a multitude of my questions. It was a great pleasure for me to meet this fine Christian lady in 1982. At least 25 letters flowed each way. Frau Mihan was in her middle eighties when she suffered a stroke and died in 1989. Her late husband, Johannes, was a descendant of Peter Kayser, the father of Urthe, the wife of Hans Bähr (Baehr). There were several marriages between the Bähr/Biars and Kaysers. Johannes Mihan also had Moerbe ancestors and was related to me on my maternal side. In 1992 I had the pleasure of visiting Frau Mihan’s son, Johannes, in Niedergurig.
Descendants of our Biar family live on 3 continents: Europe, North America and Australia. Those in Europe are the descendants of the half-sister of the two Biar brothers who migrated, Johann to America and Andreas to Australia. I am indebted to Mr. Geoffrey Saegenschnitter, Greenock, South Australia, for getting me started on the search for my “roots” and giving me a wealth of information. Back in 1970, while writing his history of the Biar family in Australia, Geoff contacted my youngest brother, Harold, in Thorndale, Texas. He wanted to know if Harold had any knowledge of the Biar family in Germany. Since I spent over two years in Germany and knew the German language, Harold asked me to help. We have been in contact with Geoff ever since. He and his wife, Enis, visited us in 1977 and 2000. Geoff’s distant cousin, Christine Biar from Hahndorf, South Australia, visited us in 1978 and her parents, Eric and Joyce Biar, in 1986.
For those who do not know me, permit me to mention that I am a native of Thorndale, Texas. My parents were Otto Biar and Lydia, née Moerbe. In 1947, while working for the War Department in Germany, I married Stefana Todt, who was born and grew up in Neisse, Silesia (Schlesien), Germany. Since 1968 we have been living in Denver where I completed 36 years as an accountant with Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) before retiring on 1
August 1983. Having no blood relatives in Colorado we moved to Carrollton, Texas in 2001.
My search for our Biar ancestors took me to Germany, to a region called Lusatia (Lausitz). They lived, for the most part, in Kreis (County) Bautzen in Upper Lusatia (Oberlausitz), northeast of the city of Bautzen. At the time of most of my research, Kreis Bautzen was a part of the District (Bezirk) of Dresden, one of the 14 districts that made up the former East German Republic.
After World War II about one-fourth of German territory, all east of the Oder and Lusatian Neisse Rivers, referred to as the Oder-Neisse Line, was given to Poland and Russia. The rest of Germany was divided into two countries. West Germany, known as the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland), was orientated toward the west. East Germany, known as the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), was one of the eastern block of nations which embraced communism. East Germany did away with former provinces or states, such as, Saxony and Brandenburg. In the place of provinces 14 administrative districts (Bezirk – Bezirke) were formed. These were named after the chief city in each district. In 1990 the two Germanys were united and the country is now known as the Federal Republic of Germany. Provinces were re-instated in the east. Former Silesian territory on the west side of the Lusatian Neisse River is now included in the newly-formed Province of Saxony. This is the area from where most of the Prussian (Silesian) Wends migrated to Texas. The Saxon Wends came from Saxony toward the south.
When our Biar ancestors came to Texas in 1854 they were known as Wends, in German, Wenden. At one time all Slavic people who lived in Germany were called Wends. Later, the Slavic speaking people who lived in Lusatia were referred to as Wends. However, today, the Lusatian Slavs, often referred to as Wends, are officially known as Sorbs – Sorbian (German: Sorben – sorbisch) (Sorbian: Serbja – serbski). The Sorbs are the only people in Germany that can still be identified as Slavic. All others have been totally assimilated by the Germans and their languages have disappeared. Sorbs is better usage than Wends. However, most people in Texas have never heard of the Sorbs, but are acquainted with the Wends. In this composition our ancestors are referred to both as Wends and Sorbs.
Lusatia was the homeland of the Wends or Sorbs for centuries. The region of Lusatia is divided into two parts, Upper Lusatia (Oberlausitz) in the south and Lower Lusatia (Niederlausitz) in the north. The Sorbs in Upper Lusatia spoke Upper Sorbian (Obersorbisch) while those to the north in Lower Lusatia spoke Lower Sorbian (Niedersorbisch). At the time of the Wendish Emigration of 1854, the southern part of Upper Lusatia belonged to the Kingdom of Saxony (Königreich Sachsen), while the northern part belonged to the Province of Silesia(Schlesien) in the Kingdom of Prussia (Königreich Preussen). Lower Lusatia was located in the Provinces of Silesia and Brandenburg in Prussia.
My search took me back to the time of the Thirty Years War. This war, which began in 1618, ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Many battles were fought in Lusatia. Less than 50 per cent of the Wendish population survived this catastrophe. Lusatia had five epidemics of the plague from 1625 and 1643. Nearly 2/3 of all property was destroyed. It took the German territories almost two hundred years to fully recover from this terrible war. Our Biar ancestors survived this and many other wars and hardships. They were hardy peasants.
The German language employs the modified vowels (Umlaut – Umlaute) ä, ö and ü. As a rule, all German names of persons, places, etc., on church and archive records and maps employ umlauts to indicate modified vowels when applicable. We retain umlauts in English by writing the ä, ae; ö, oe; and ü, ue. Thus, Bähr is written Baehr; Mörbe, Moerbe; and Wünsche, Wuensche. The spelling of place names with umlauts, when applicable, has been retained throughout this history. However, the spelling of personal names with umlauts was discontinued after the names were “transplanted” in Texas.
BÄHR (BAEHR) – BIAR
The German name, Bähr (Baehr), which means “bear” in English, was the family name of our Biar ancestors recorded in the Gröditz (Groeditz) church records in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The alternate spelling Bär (Baer), also appears in the records. In legal documents in the archives in Bautzen, the German name Bähr was used as late as 1802.
In early church records Bähr and Bär were often recorded as “bar” in the possessive form of Bar\schen and Bar\sches, without the umlaut. My German-Upper Sorbian dictionary indicates that Bär was taken into Sorbian as “bar”. This was confirmed by Dr. Helmut Fasske, Sorbian Ethnological Institute in Bautzen. He wrote that the b in bar is a soft b and in Sorbian must be followed by a soft vowel, either e or i. We know that i was chosen and that is how we got our family name of Biar. What if e had been chosen? Imagine Bear!
Bihar is probably a phonetic spelling of Biar. No close relationship has been established between persons bearing the names Biar (Bähr) and Bihar. However, it appears that they originally belonged to the same family. People from the same family sometimes spell their surnames differently. There is an entry in the records that “on 3 June 1704: Hans, the old Bihar, was buried.” Since he was not identified as a blacksmith, or the family of the local blacksmith, it is doubtful that he was closely related to the Biars or Bährs, who, as a rule, were referred to as blacksmiths. Biehar is an alternate spelling of Bihar.
The writer feels that the original Bähr (Baehr) was of German instead of Sorbian origin, the reason being that the name was actually “Sorbianized” and there was no translation involved. Bear (Baer) is Mjedwjedz in Sorbian. Gröditz, for the most part, was a Wendish village and, as late as the 1880s, Dr. E. Mucke reported that of the 390 inhabitants 338 were Sorbs and 52, Germans. It appears that the ratio of Sorbs to Germans was greater than that in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is difficult to explain why there was a German blacksmith in the village of Gröditz in the 17th century. One explanation could be that after the Thirty Years War Gröditz was without a blacksmith and found one with a German name. Another explanation could be that a soldier with that name came to Gröditz after a war, perhaps the Thirty Years War, when many mercenaries either fled or were discharged, and stayed in Lusatia. Still, another explanation could be, that a person named Bähr fled from religious persecution and took refuge in Gröditz. Lusatia was a place of refuge for many Protestants who fled from the Catholic lands to the east. It could also be that a very large person was referred to, or perhaps nick-named, Bähr (bear) and eventually adopted the name as his surname.
On the ship register the name is spelled Bjar. This spelling does not appear in the early records and is considered an alternate spelling of Biar. There is a business in Bautzen called Küchen Bjar [Kuechen Bjar], so-called, because they sell only kitchen furniture and appliances. The proprietor, Horst Schmieder, is a grandson of August Bjar, who started the business as a furniture factory. August had his roots in Gröditz, although he came from Rackel. I have located a Walter Bjar, who lives in Weigsdorf-Koeblitz southeast of Bautzen, near Mt. Czorneboh, and somewhat removed from Gröditz, which is northeast of Bautzen. However, he was unable to tell us where his ancestors originated. Even though Biar is the way we spell our family name, it could have been either Baehr, Baer, Bihar, Biehar or Bjar. Pastor Johann Kilian preferred Bjar, because that is how he spelled the name on the Ship Register and early Serbin records. Bjar has the advantage that all of us would pronounce our name the same way, instead of the original Bee-ar, used by some, and By-ar, used by others.
OUR BÄHR TO BIAR LINEAGE
The records in Gröditz indicate that our oldest identifiable Biar ancestor was Hans (Johannes) Bähr. His wife’s name was Urthe, nee Kayser. It was their son, George, who first used our family name of Biar. Names of persons and places listed below are spelled just like they appear in the records, including umlauts. The church records in Gröditz date back to 1666.
Hans (Johannes) Bähr married Urthe Kayser
D. 8 Apr 1680 [#]:Gröditz, Saxony D. 14 Mar 1669 [#]:Gröditz, Saxony
George Bähr, aka Juri Biar married 3 Nov 1693: Gröditz, Saxony to Hanna Kayser
B. 28 Feb 1668 [*]: Gröditz, Saxony B. 10 Jan 1676 [*]: Drehsa, Saxony
D. 9 Sep 1757: Gröditz, Saxony D. 9 May 1698: Gröditz, Saxony
George Bähr, aka Juri Biar married 1 Feb 1700: Gröditz, Saxony to Wurta Paulik [+]
B. 11 Dec 1676 [*]:Drehsa, Saxony
D. 6 Apr 1739 [#]:Gröditz, Saxony
Johann (Jan) Biar [+] married 5 Nov 1743: Gröditz, Saxony to Hanna Hennersdorf
B. 27 Mar 1703 [*]: Gröditz, Saxony B. 17 Dec 1723 [*]: Cortnitz, Saxony
D. 29 May 1760: Gröditz, Saxony D. 17 Jul 1765 [#]: Rackel, Saxony
Georg Böhmer married 20 Jan 1761: Gröditz, Saxony to Hanna Hennersdorf
Johann (Jan) Biar married 25 Feb 1772: Gröditz, Saxony to Anna Maucke, aka Małke
B. 2 Jun 1751: Gröditz, Saxony B. 5 Sep 1754 [*]: Cortnitz, Saxony
D. 28 Mar 1802: Gröditz, Saxony
Michael Biar married 5 Jan 1800: Gröditz, Saxony to Margaretha Schulze
B. 18 Oct 1773: Gröditz, Saxony B. 11 Feb 1776: Cortnitz, Saxony
D. 18 Aug 1850: Gröditz, Saxony D. 15 Oct 1820: Gröditz, Saxony
Michael Biar married 14 Oct 1821, Gröditz, Saxony to Anna Schneider [+]
B. 19 Dec 1784: Nechern, Saxony
D. 18 Mar 1841: Gröditz, Saxony
Johann Biar married 17 Aug 1845: Kotitz, Saxony to Magdalene Möhle [Mehle]
B. 16 Feb 1823: Gröditz, Saxony B. 19 Nov 1824: Särka, Saxony
D. 10 Jun 1885: Serbin, Texas D. 18 Sep 1867: Serbin, Texas
Andreas Biar married 8 Feb 1876, Serbin, Texas to Maria Therese Hattas [+] (See % in notes)
B. 28 Oct 1853: Gröditz, Saxony B. 1 Mar 1856: Brenham, Texas
D. 8 Feb 1916: Serbin, Texas D. 30 Aug 1894: Serbin, Texas
Andreas Biar married 16 Feb 1896, Serbin, Texas to Magdalena Groeschel
B. 28 Nov 1851: Weicha, Saxony
D. 29 Nov 1937: Serbin, Texas
Johann Otto Biar married 17 Jan 1905, Thorndale, Texas to Lydia Lina Moerbe
B. 1 Oct 1879: Serbin, Texas B. 8 Feb 1885: Fedor, Texas
D. 14 Nov 1956: Taylor, Texas D. 24 Jan 1957: Taylor, Texas
Given names and original surnames, including maiden names, of persons born in what is now Germany, are spelled the way they appear in the church records where the baptisms are recorded. If more than one spelling is rendered then the standardized German spelling is used. The spelling of places was taken from a modern German map, including the German umlauts. States, countries, etc., are in English. “Also known as” (aka) was used to translate the German genannt. It indicates that a person underwent a name change.
B. indicates date of birth. D. indicates date of death. P. indicates place of birth, or death. [*] after B. indicates date of baptism instead of date of birth, [#] after D. indicates date of burial instead of date of death, [+] indicates our ancestor when there was more than one marriage. [%] The name HATTAS in the records in Lusatia is practically always spelled HOTTAS or HOTTASS. Pastor Kilian, however, used HATTAS and HATTASS and the Serbin records also used those spellings.
A little over 50 percent of the Wends who migrated to Texas in 1854 came from the Province or State of Silesia (Schlesien), in the Kingdom of Prussia (Königreich Preussen). They came from the Counties (Kreis – Kreise) of Rothenburg and Hoyerswerda. The rest came from the Kingdom of Saxony (Königreich Sachsen), from the Counties of Bautzen and Löbau (Loebau). After the unification of West and East Germany in 1990 the area covered by the above counties is now included in the newly-formed Province or State of Saxony in modern Germany.
George is usually spelled GEORG in German. However, there are numerous instances in the old records in which the name is spelled GEORGE. This is the reason why George is spelled both ways in this history. Juri is George in Wendish.
HANS BÄHR AND URTHE KAYSER
The Church records at Gröditz, the home of the Biars, begin in 1666. Previous records were probably destroyed by fire. Among the entries for 1668 is the baptism of our ancestor, George Bähr, as follows: “1668, 28 Febr. ist Meister Hanssens des Schmiedes Söhnl. Georgins getauft” (1668, 28 February, Master Hans, the blacksmith’s son, George, was baptized). In other records this blacksmith is identified as Hans Bähr, a typical German name. Hans Jack) is the nickname for the German Johannes and Johann (John) and Bähr is translated Bear.
There is no way to determine with any degree of certainty just how many Hans Bährs lived at Gröditz during the latter 1600s and early 1700s. Only one birth (baptismal) date is available: that of Johannes, born on 19 September 1672. He was either the brother, or the half-brother of, our ancestor, George Bähr (Juri Biar).
When the estate of Peter Kayser of Gröditz was settled in 1669, Hans Bähr was mentioned as one of the three brothers-in-law of Peter’s son, Matthäus, and served as Matthäus’ trustee. Hans was married to Urthe, the daughter of Peter Kayser. Some records spell this surname Közor (Koezor). Közor appears to be the phonetic spelling of the Sorbian Kejzor, which means Kaiser (emperor) in German. Kayser is an alternate spelling of Kaiser. Neither the date of birth nor the date of her marriage to Hans Bähr is available. According to the late Frau Annemarie Mihan, Urthe must have been born around 1640 in order to take her apparent place in the Kayser family. Urthe died at Gröditz in March 1669.
There is an indicant that Hans married again but this cannot be substantiated. When he died at Gröditz in April 1680, he was identified as a master blacksmith and church elder.
GEORGE BÄHR (JURI BIAR) AND WURTA PAULIK
George Bähr’s baptismal date was 28 February 1668. His father’s name was Hans Bähr. His mother’s maiden name was Urthe Kayser. George’s first wife was Hanna, née Kayser, who was born at Drösa (Droesa), now Drehsa, on 10 January 1676. The marriage took place on 3 November 1693. She died at Gröditz immediately after the birth of their daughter on 5 September 1698. On 1 February 1700 George Bähr married Wurta, née Paulik, also from Drösa. When their son, Jan (Johann), was baptized on 27 March 1703, the parents’ names were recorded as “Juri Biar und Wurta geb. Paulik” (Juri Biar and Wurta, née Paulik). Among other entries, George is sometimes identified as “George Bähr genannt Juri Biar” (George Baehr, aka Juri Biar). Juri is Sorbian for George. I am certain that George Bähr and Juri Biar was the same person. George was the hereditary blacksmith (Erbschmied) at Gröditz. An entry in the church records reads that George Bähr was buried on 9 September 1757. It is interesting to note that his original name was used instead of Juri Biar. Since no other record of his death has been found it appears to be authentic. His age was 89 years. In the Gröditz records for 6,April 1739 is the entry:“Wurschla Schmieds Hausfrau begraben” (Wurschla, blacksmith’s housewife buried). It is my conjecture that this meant the burial of Wurta Biar, née Paulik. Their son, Jan, was our ancestor.
JOHANN (JAN) BIAR AND HANNA HENNERSDORF
Johann was born at Gröditz in March 1703. His parents were George Bähr, aka, Juri Biar, and Wurta, née Paulik.
Johann, the village blacksmith, married Hanna Hennersdorf on 5 November 1743. She was born at Cortnitz in December 1723. He was 40 years old at the time and she, 20. This difference in age has been checked and re-checked several times and so far nothing has been found to contradict this difference in age. Her parents were Jan Hennersdorf and his wife, Ursula, whose maiden name is not available. Hennersdorf is a German name which means “Henry’s village.” This could very well be the name of the village where the Hennersdorfs originated. There is a village by this name about 10 miles west of Bautzen. It is a very short distance from the Marienstern monastery at Kuckau where the present day Catholic Sorbs live. Bernhard III, a Saxon nobleman, founded the monastery in 1248. We must remember that all Sorbs were Catholics before the Reformation. The name “Hennersdorf” implies that the village was founded by German settlers. The fact that Jan Hennersdorf used the Sorbian given name of Jan implies that he was “Sorbianized.” There was a Peter Hennersdorf among the Wends who migrated to Australia in the middle of the 19th century.
Johann Biar died in May 1760 and was survived by his widow and three sons. The following is a translation of the notice of the sale of the blacksmith shop at Gröditz recorded in the archives in Bautzen under the date of 3 January 1761: “Georg Bochmer, lessee of the blacksmith shop at Gröditz desires to marry Hanna, the late blacksmith Hans Bähr’s surviving widow [and buy the blacksmith shop]. The blood brother of Hanna, Hans Miedrach [Mittrach], a farmer at Buchwalde, is appointed to serve as her trustee. For her husband’s surviving children: Hans Bähr, 9 years, and Georg Bähr, 6 years, the renter, Martin Adam or Bedrich from Wuischke, is appointed. Her blood brother, Martin Wiederach from Cortnitz, is appointed as trustee for the son, Christoph Bähr, 4 years. The value of her [late] husband’s property is 250 Thalers. Funeral expenses – 10 Thalers.”
Signed / Ana Baren
Signed / George Böhmer (Boehmer)
Please note that Jan Biar was referred to as “Hans Bähr” in legal records. Hanna signed her name ANA BAREN. Hanna and Anna (Ana) were frequently interchanged in the records. I am at a loss why she signed her last name BAREN, without the umlaut. Perhaps she forgot to place it there. It was not unusual to end surnames with “en” and “in” in the records, especially when listing sponsors at baptisms. It was not uncommon that persons with the
given name of Georg were shown as “George” in the records. Please note the spelling of Bochmer in the notice and that the signature is Böhmer. It should be pointed out that at this time, most peasants could barely write their names. One thing is certain: at that time there was no standard way to spell our ancestors’ names.
Many names were spelled phonetically by those who made the entries in the records. This is the reason for the great variation in spelling of names. It is interesting to note that Hanna’s two bloodbrothers had the surnames Miedrach [in church records, Mittrach] and Wiederach, even though Hanna’s maiden name was Hennersdorf. In other records it is revealed that all three of the above trustees changed their names after their marriages.
Hanna married Georg Böhmer on 20 January 1761. His dates of birth and death are not available. Hanna died at Rackel in July 1765 after being married to her second husband for 4 years. As far as I know, there were no children from this marriage. She reached the age of 41 years. Johann and Hanna’s oldest son, Johann, was our ancestor.
JOHANN (JAN) BIAR AND ANNA MAUCKE (MAŁKE)
Johann (Jan) was born at Gröditz on 2 June 1751. His parents were Johann (Jan) Biar (born in 1703) and Hanna, née Hennersdorf. Johann, like his forefathers before him, was the blacksmith at Gröditz. He married Anna Maucke (Małke) at Gröditz on 25 February 1772. She was born at Cortnitz on 5 September 1754. Her parents were Jan Maucke (Małke) and Hanna, nee Kayser. Maucke is the German phonetic spelling of the Sorbian Małke. In Sorbian Małke is written with a slash over the l, (ł). The ł is pronounced like “u.” Other examples of ł are Łuzica (Lusatia) and Pawoł (Paul). Maucke and Małke are essentially pronounced alike, although the l sound is now used in Germany as well as in Texas. There are some records which read: Maucke genannt Małke (Maucke, aka Małke). The Sorbian Małke means Klein in German, a common German name; in English it means little, small,
Johann (Jan) was the hereditary blacksmith at Gröditz even though his father died when he was only 9 years old and the blacksmith shop was sold by his mother to his step-father, Georg Böhmer. At the age of 14 his mother died. Since we do not have the date of death of his step-father or whether or not his step-father re-married, we do not know with whom Johann and his brothers lived until they reached maturity. Johann, as the oldest son, had the right to inherit the blacksmith shop when he reached maturity. However, there were provisions to pay out his brothers and this procedure was handled by the court. Johann and Anna had an only son, Michael, who was our ancestor. Johann died at Gröditz on 27 March 1802. To date I have been unable to find the date and place of Anna’s death.
MICHAEL BIAR AND ANNA SCHNEIDER
Michael was born at Gröditz on 18 October 1773. His parents were Johann (Jan) Biar and Anna, nee Maucke, aka Małke. Michael, like his father, was identified as a master hereditary blacksmith. An excerpt from the records of 1802 in the archives in Bautzen states that Johann Polter, aka Małke, farmer at Wuischke, was appointed “the trustee of the widow of the recently deceased blacksmith and small farmer, Johann Bär [Baer], 29 years.” This is the most recent record I possess in which our ancestors were referred to by the surname Bär (Baer). Michael’s first wife was Margaretha Schulze, who was born at Gebelzig, just across the border in Silesia in Prussia, on 11 February 1776. Her father’s first name was Georg and the name of her mother is not available. They were married on 5 January 1800. Eleven children were born to this union but only one daughter, Anna, born on 10 October 1807, reached maturity. Another daughter, Magdalena, reached the age of eleven. All the rest died even younger than that. Margaretha died at Gröditz on 15 October 1820. Anna Biar, the daughter of Michael and Margaretha, married Andreas Małke from Cortnitz on 21 January 1834. The descendants of this couple are the nearest Biar relatives in Germany of the Biars in America and Australia. Anna died at Gröditz on 31 January 1882.
On 14 October 1821 Michael married Anna Schneider. She was born at Nechern on 19 December 1784. Her parents were Peter Schneider, aka Zimman, and his wife, Anna, whose surname is not available. Michael and Anna had two sons, both born at Gröditz. The eldest of the two sons was Johann, who was born on 16 February 1823. He immigrated to Texas in 1854. The Biars in America are his descendants. The younger son, Andreas, who was born on 6 January 1827, went to Australia in 1854. The Biars in Australia are his descendants. Anna died on 18 March 1841 at the age of 56. Michael died on 18 August 1850 at the age of 76. Both died at Gröditz.
JOHANN BIAR AND MAGDALENE MÖHLE (MEHLE)
Johann was born at Gröditz on 16 February 1823. His parents were Michael Biar and his second wife, Anna, née Schneider. On 17 August 1845 Johann married Magdalene Möhle (also Mehle) from Särka. She was born on 19 November 1824 and her parents were Andreas Möhle and Anna, née Wuchatsch. Andreas Möhle came from Krischa, Silesia, which was re-named by the Nazis and is now Buchholz. Anna Wuchatsch came from Särka. The Andreas Möhles made their home in Särka after their marriage. Since Särka belongs to the parish of Kotitz, it is very likely that Pastor Kilian married Johann and Magdalene because he was the pastor at Kotitz at the time of their marriage.
In some of the records in Gröditz, Johann is referred to as a Meister Erbschmied (master hereditary blacksmith). As the oldest son he inherited his father’s property. He was also referred to as a Häusler (cottager), which means that he owned a house and perhaps a little land within the confines of the manor for gardening. The house was located near the site of the former manor house (the manor house was destroyed by fire in 1922 and re-built), where in feudal days the nobleman or his caretaker lived. One part of the building served as living quarters while the other part housed the blacksmith shop. In 1972 I spent about 30 minutes visiting the Lehmann family who owned it. The house bore the number “3.” One unique feature of the living quarters was that the doors between the rooms were very low and the average person had to stoop to pass through them. Perhaps at the time it was built, people were not as tall as they are now. Johann Biar sold the house and adjacent property for 1100 Thalers to finance the immigration to Texas in 1854. The buyer was a person named Dutschmann whose wife was a Biar descendant. The property still belongs to the Dutschmann family. When I saw the house in 1982 it was still in good condition. In 1992 when I was in Gröditz I noticed that the house was being renovated. In 1854, Johann and Magdalene and two small sons, immigrated to Texas, together with a large group of over 550 Wends from Prussia and Saxony. I do not know the specific reason or reasons why the Johann Biars chose to leave their homeland. It must have taken very much courage and fortitude to leave relatives and friends behind and start all over in a new country, with a different climate, customs and language. The late Rev. Gerhart Laser, a former pastor at Hochkirch, summed up the reasons for emigrating in a letter to me in 1972: [They] “searched for religious freedom, separation of church and state.” [There was] “the addition of social abuses, suppression by the large landowners, and the like.” He also wrote that in 1850 Pastor Kilian led a delegation to Dresden and that Johann Bjar (Biar) was a member of that group. The Johann Biars settled at Serbin. Here, Johann was a farmer.
Johann and Magdalene had seven children, five sons and two daughters. The first three children, all sons, were born at Gröditz. The first son died at birth. The other two, Johann (Jr.) and Andreas, accompanied their parents to Texas. In 1854 Johann was 4 years old and Andreas was 1. The other four children were born at Serbin. One daughter, Maria Theresia, born in 1859, died at the age of five. Those reaching maturity were as follows:
NAME BORN DIED SPOUSE
Johann (Jr.) 30 Aug 1850 20 Jun 1923 Agnes Handrick –
Andreas 28 Oct 1853 08 Feb 1916 Maria Therese Hattas – 1856-1894
Maria 29 Aug 1856 05 Aug 1924 August Schulz – 1850-1924
Ernst August 17 Jun 1862 10 Oct 1888 Anna Helene Zschech –
Johann Hermann 27 Oct 1864 29 Nov 1950 Anna Lydia Miertschin –
Magdalene died from typhoid (Nervenfieber) at Serbin on 18 September 1867 at the age of 42 years. Johann died at Serbin on 10 June 1885 at the age of 62. Both are buried in the Serbin cemetery.
ANDREAS BIAR AND MARIA THERESE HATTAS
Andreas was born at Gröditz, Saxony, on 28 October 1853. He came to Texas with his parents, Johann Biar and Magdalene, née Moehle, in 1854, when he was only one year old and grew up on his parents’ farm near Serbin. On 8 February 1876 he married Maria Therese Hattas. She was a daughter of Magdalene Kieschnick, born at Brenham, Texas, on 1 March 1856. She was known by the surname “Hattas” after her mother married a widower, Johann Hattas (Hottas), and he adopted her. The officiating pastor of the wedding of Andreas and Maria was Rev. Timotheus Stiemke, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Warda, Texas. It appears that St. Peter’s Congregation at Serbin had a pastoral vacancy at the time of the wedding. The Biar and Johann Hattas families both belonged to St. Peter. The original congregation, St. Paul, split into two congregations in 1870, and the two did not re-unite until 1914, 44 years later. Johann Hattas was born at Reichwalde, Silesia, on 22 January 1828. He was the only child of Andreas Hottas and his first wife, Maria, née Schulz. Maria Schulz was born at Reichwalde; the date of birth is not available. She died at Reichwalde in 1842. Johann came to Texas in 1853 with a small group of Wends, who preceded the large immigration to Texas in 1854. On 28 January 1856 he married Marie Schmidt, alias Kowar, in Serbin. She was born at Reichwalde on 28 July 1836. The daughter who was born to this union died as an infant and Maria died at Serbin on 31 July 1858. Magdalene, also known as Lena, [probably from the Wendish Madlena] Kieschnick was Johann Hattas’ second wife. She was born at Dauban, Silesia, on 2 December 1830. Her parents were Johann Kieschnick (1795) and Agnes, née Kalich or Kohli. She came to Texas with her parents and brothers and sisters as part of the large immigration of Wends to Texas in 1854. Johann and Lena were married at Brenham on 1 January 1959. The officiating pastor was Rev. J. G. Ebinger, pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, Brenham. Salem Lutheran Church belonged to the Texas Synod. After their marriage they made their home in Serbin. Andreas and Maria had four children, two sons and two daughters, as follows:
NAME BORN DI ED SPOUSE
Johann Ernst Gerhard 30 Nov 1876 20 Nov 1954 AnnaLehmann –
Johann Otto 01 Oct 1879 24 Nov 1956 Lydia Moerbe – 1885-1957
Emma Maria Theresia 18 Jun 1882 04 Jul 1921 August Menzel –
Maria Magdalene 02 Sep 1885 25 Jul 1963 Robert Malke –
Their son Johann Otto was my father. Maria died at Serbin on 30 August 1894. Andreas married Magdalina Groeschel on 16 February 1896. She was born at Weicha, Saxony, on 28 November 1851. Her parents were August Groeschel and Agnes, née Malke. Andreas and Magdalina had no children. Andreas died at Serbin on 8 February 1916. Magdalina died at Serbin on 29 November 1937. Andreas and his first wife, Maria, and his second wife, Magdalina, were all buried in the Serbin cemetery.
JOHANN OTTO BIAR AND LYDIA LINA MOERBE
Johann Otto, who went by his second given name, was born at Serbin on 1 October 1789, the son of Andreas Biar and Maria, née Hattas. Both parents were of Wendish or Sorbian descent. Otto was confirmed on 26 March 1893 by Pastor C. Bernthal of St. Peter Lutheran Church at Serbin.
Otto Biar came to Thorndale in 1900. His brother, Gerhard, who preceded him to Thorndale in 1899, worked on the Carl Michalk farm when he was asked by Michalk to accept employment at the German Mercantile Company. Gerhard said that he was a “Landsmann” and was not interested, but suggested his brother, Otto. Otto accepted the offer and packed his box with personal belongings at Serbin, boarded a SAAP (San Antonio – Aransas Pass) passenger train at Northrup, transferred to an IGN (International Great Northern) train at Rockdale, and after traveling a little less than 50 miles, arrived in Thorndale, where he made his home the rest of his life. Before he married he lived with the Hermann Moerbe family, where, according to a daughter, he was accepted like a brother. He worked at the mercantile store until the treasurer absconded with the money and the store went bankrupt. Otto was a farmer for the rest of his life. On 17 January 1905, Otto married Lydia Lina Moerbe, oldest daughter of Carl August Moerbe and Ernestine, née Michalk, both of Wendish descent. Lydia was born at Fedor on 8 February 1885. She was confirmed by her uncle Pastor Emil F. Moerbe, on 3 April 1898 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Giddings. She came to Thorndale with her parents in 1899. After the mercantile business failed, Otto and Lydia and family lived on a farm north of town, just outside the city limit. In 1936, after the death of Lydia’s mother, the family moved to the C. August Moerbe (Lydia’s father) residence south of town. After the death of Lydia’s father in 1944, the residence, together with about 110 acres of land, was purchased by the Otto Biars. Otto and Lydia were active members of the Lutheran Church their entire lives. Otto served St. Paul’s congregation in Thorndale as president, elder, lay reader, secretary and other capacities. He was a gifted musician. He was an organist and a member of the Männerchor (male choir) for many years. For a long time he played in the Thorndale Band. Lydia was a good homemaker. She knew how to manage a home and take care of a large family. Otto died in a Taylor hospital on 14 November 1956 and Lydia also died in a Taylor hospital on 24 January 1957. Both were buried in St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery in Thorndale. They were blessed with 12 children. All were born at Thorndale.
1. Hedwig Otillia was born on 14 August 1906. She was working in Houston when a typhoid epidemic struck and she died from it on 17 December 1927.
2. Henry Otto was born on 12 January 1908. On 18 December 1934 he married Hannah Simmank, who was born at Thorndale on 28 January 1910. They resided in Austin for a number of years, where Henry worked as a grocery store clerk until he entered the U. S. Navy during World War II. After the war he was a carpenter and lived in Thorndale. They were blessed with three sons; Henry Harold, Olin Fred and Howard Louis. Henry also served in the Navy during the Korean War. He died in the Veteran Hospital in Temple on 20 April 1975 and Hannah died on 28 April 1976.
3. Martha Ernestine was born on 19 August 1909. She worked in San Antonio for many years. During World War II she worked at Kelly Air Force Base. The last 24 years before her retirement she worked for Frost Brothers. Martha died in a San Antonio nursing home on 1 February 2003 at the age of 93.
4. Edna Lydia was born on 17 March 1911. She worked in Houston for a short time before her job took her to Los Angeles. During World War II she worked for Lockheed Aviation Company. After the war she was employed by Newcomb Electronics Corporation for 20 years prior to her retirement. Edna died in a nursing home in San Antonio on 16 January 2004 at the age of 92.
5. Carl Alvin was born on 28 October 1912. He became a Lutheran pastor, graduating from the Springfield (Illinois) Seminary in 1938, and served congregations at Spring and Lincoln, Texas. On 4 August 1940 be married Lillian Schmidt, who was born in Houston on 12 November 1917. Their daughter, Ruth Ann, was adopted. Carl died at Lincoln on 31 December 1973. Lillian resides in Giddings.
6. John Walter was born on 11 March 1915. Walter served in the U. S. Army Air Corps during World War II and spent several years in England. After the war he worked for Celanese in Bishop, Texas, before he went to work at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi and later, Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. On 2 February 1957 he married Edna Kappler, who was born on 28 August 1915. Walter and Edna had one daughter, Nancy Janelle. He
died in a nursing home in Natalie, Texas on October 26, 2005 at the age of 90 years.
7. Martin Albert was born on 10 April 1917. Before and during World War II he served in the U. S. Army Medical Corps. During the war he made a number of voyages on a hospital ship, mainly to England and back, but also one voyage through the Panama Canal to the South Pacific to New Guinea. After the war he made his home in the Dallas area and was employed at several places, including Simplex Time Recorder Company, a Chevrolet sales and service company, Snap-On Tools Corporation, Utility Trailer Sales and, before retirement, Great Dane Trailers. On 19 January 1952 he married Gertrude (Trudy) Foerster, who was born on 15 January 1927. They were blessed with five children: James Andrew (who died in infancy), Timothy Allen, John Charles, Deborah Helen and Andrew Frederick. Martin and Trudy make their home in Garland, Texas.
8. Bill Edwin was born on 7 July 1919. During World War II he served in the U. S. Army Air Corps for 3 years before being transferred to U. S. Army Intelligence. He spent over two years in Germany. On 12 June 1947 he married Stefana Todt, who was born on 18 February 1925 in Neisse, Silesia (Germany), Bill worked for Atlantic Richfield Company for 36 years, working in Midland (twice), Odessa (twice), Corpus Christi, Bakersfield (California) and Denver. Bill and Steffy have two children, Rita Marianne and Norman Edwin. After retiring in 1983 Bill and Steffy lived in Denver for 18 years before moving to Carrollton, Texas in February 2001.
9. Otto August was born on 15 July 1921. After serving in the Pacific Theater during World II and seeing combat in Okinawa, he worked for Celanese in Bishop for a year and then 5 years for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Kingsville. After that he moved to San Antonio and spent nearly 33 years as a dealer for Snap-On Tools Corporation before retiring in San Antonio. He died on 13 January 1997 at the age of 75.
10. Ruth Eleanor was born 9 March 1924. For a number of years she made her home in Austin where she married Dewayne Farschman on 14 April 1951. At that time both of them were employed by Austin Laundry Company. Dewayne was born on 10 September 1918. They left Austin and made their home in Amherst, Ohio,
Dewayne’s home town. They were blessed with 3 children: Mark Wayne, Joyce Ann and Linda Ruth. Dewayne died on 7 January 1984. Ruth continues to reside at Amherst.
11. Doris Erna was born on 14 April 1928. She made her home in Austin and went to work for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. On 19 February 1955 she married Marvin Urban, who was born on 1 June 1924. After a few years they moved to San Antonio and later to Grand Prairie. They have one son, Jeffrey Glenn. Doris worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for 37 years before retiring. Doris and Marvin continue to live in Grand Prairie.
12. Harold Alvis was born on 19 November 1931. He served in the U. S. Army during the Korean War. After his discharge from the Army, Harold returned to Thorndale and went to work at Alcoa’s Rockdale Works. On 21 October 1956 he married Rosalie Wuthrich, who was born at Thrall on 4 January 1938. Their marriage was blessed with 4 children: Lorna Diane, Beverly Gail, Rhonda Fay and David Harold. Harold and Rosalie live on the Biar home place, which they bought and farm, together with some rented land.
BIAR DESCENDANTS IN GERMANY
With the departure in 1854 of Johann Biar (1823), who migrated to Texas, and Andreas Biar (1827), who went to Australia, the surname BIAR died out in Gröditz. They left behind their half-sister, Anna Malke, née Biar. Her descendants are our closest Biar relatives in Germany. Starting in 1972 until his death in 1983, the writer corresponded with Walter Benad, a descendant of Anna Malke, who lived in Briessnitz, a small hamlet about two kilometers from Gröditz. He was a widower with one daughter, Elisabeth. The author visited Walter Benad and daughter, both in 1972 and 1982, while he was in East Germany. The second time he also met Karl Höntzsch, Elisabeth’s husband. Since her father’s death, he has been corresponding with Karl and Elisabeth. Thus the writer is in contact with Biar descendants on two continents besides North America. The author also visited the Höntzsches in 1992 and 1994. Karl and Elisabeth visited us in Denver in the summer of 2000. After World War II the mother of Horst Schmieder, the proprietor of KÜCHEN BJAR (Kitchen Bjar) in Bautzen, contacted Mr. & Mrs. Otto Biar (the author’s parents) in Thorndale, Texas, who sent her a number of CARE packages. Her father was August Bjar, who had his roots in Gröditz and who started the furniture business in Bautzen. The author also contacted Horst Schmieder when he started his search for Biar ancestors in East Germany. He stayed with the Schmieders on his 1972 and 1982 trips to the Bautzen area. owever, the relationship is very distant and Horst Schmieder did not know anyone with the name of Biar or Bjar in the Bautzen area.
THE BIARS IN AUSTRALIA
Andreas Biar, the younger brother of Johann Biar, who came to Texas in 1854, was born at Gröditz, Saxony, on 6 January 1827. Just like his brother, Johann, very little is known of Andreas’ early years. He was a sponsor at the baptisms of his nephews, Johann and Andreas, who were born to Johann (Sr.) and Magdalene, née Moehle, at Gröditz. In both instances he was referred to as a farm-hand (Dienstknecht). He was still single when he left Hamburg for Australia in July 1854 and arrived at Adelaide, South Australia, on 11 November 1854. It would be very interesting to know why one of the brothers decided to migrate to South Australia while the other one decided to go to Texas. The fact that they both emigrated in 1854 is also noteworthy. They both knew of the other’s intentions when they went their separate ways, never to see each other again. The only close relative they left behind was a half-sister, Anna Malke, nee Biar. When the two brothers departed no one with the surname of Biar remained at Gröditz. It is believed that Andreas sailed from Hamburg to Australia on the ship “Steinwerder”, arriving there in November 1854. The voyage from Hamburg to Australia took about 3 months. Christiane Hiller, née Petschel, describes the voyage her family made to Australia in 1848 in her autobiography which bears the title: Of the late Frau Pastor CHRISTIANE HILLER. I feel that the inconveniences, hardships, seasickness, illnesses, deaths, etc., were also experienced by our Wendish ancestors except that the voyage to Texas took only 3 to 4 weeks compared to the voyages to Australia which took 3 months. A copy of this valuable autobiography has been placed in the library of the Texas Wendish Museum at Serbin.
Andreas married Magdalena Lehmann on 3 November 1856 in Australia. On the marriage record her father’s name was given as Christoph Lehmann. She was born at Jerchwitz, Silesia, on 19 December 1834. Andreas and Magdalena knew each other in Germany before they emigrated, he in 1854 and she in 1855. Magdalena worked at Gröditz before she went to Australia. Even though Gröditz was in Saxony and Jerchwitz in Silesia, the villages are only about 3 miles apart. She was well-acquainted with Pastor Johann Kilian and at one time went to church at Weigersdorf. We have found a letter in which she wrote that she was in love with Andreas and followed him to Australia. By the way, a book printed in Australia relates that she sailed on the ship “Bielefeld” which arrived at Melbourne on 25 November 1855. Another passenger on this voyage was Peter KSHIESCHAN (Zieschang), who later returned to Germany and then came to Texas and settled at Noack. Andreas and Magdalena were blessed with 6 children as follows:
NAME BORN DIED SPOUSE
August 03 Nov 1857 09 Sep1935 Johanne Lousie Roocke
Maria Magdalene 04 Sep 1859 12 Sep 1914 Hermann Wilhelm Noack
Johann 20 Oct 1863 03 Mar 1939 Sarah Atkins
Andreas 15 Oct 1865 Auguste Emma Nitschke
Anna 05 Sep 1867 28 Jul 1933 J. Friedrich Roocke
Magdalene 21 Jun 1870 01 Sep 1956 Paul Adolph Doering
Their descendants held a family reunion in 1971. A book entitled: Family History of Andreas Biar and His Descendants – 117 Years in Australia was written for the occasion by a great great grandson of the original immigrants, Mr. Geoffrey Saegenschnitter, Greennock, South Australia. His grandmother’s name was Agnes Antonie Alma Saegenschnitter, née Biar. Up to 1971Geoff had identified 394 direct descendants of Andreas Biar and Magdalena, née Lehmann, in Australia. This writer placed a copy of this excellent history in the library of the Texas Wendish Museum at Serbin. We know that the brothers’ families correspondedwith each other because 41 old letters from Australia to Texas have been found. One letter was found by Mark Biar, Ft. Worth, and 40, by the late Edwin Biar, Giddings. In two instances as many as 3 letters [from different family members] were mailed in one envelope. The letters span a period of 45 years. The earliest letter was dated 22 April 1881 and the latest, 3 January 1926. It is safe to assume that there was correspondence from the beginning, perhaps in 1855, so that the Biars in Australia and Texas corresponded with each other for 70 years. The letters that have been found were written by the immigrants, Andreas, Sr., and his wife, Magdalena; two of their sons, August and Andreas, Jr.; and a granddaughter, Martha Semmler, née Noack. Mrs. Semmler was a schoolteacher before her marriage. The only letter found that was written by Andreas, Sr., to his brother, Johann, Sr., at Serbin, was dated 22 April 1881. A re-produced copy and a translation appear elsewhere in this history. All the rest of the letters, except one, were sent to Edwin’s grandfather, Johann Biar, Jr. in Serbin. The remaining letter was written by Magdalena to Mark’s grandfather, Hermann Biar in Giddings, Texas. A translation of this letter appears in the history of the Biars of Australia written by Mr. Geoff Saegenschnitter.
The letters cover the routine of daily life in Australia, with its joys and sorrows, good harvests and poor ones, droughts and floods. In spite of short-comings and frailties, which affect all of us, these people had a strong faith in their Savior, which was repeatedly emphasized in their letters and also quoted in hymn verses. Andreas, Jr., wrote that his parents usually spoke Wendish to each other and that he was also conversant in that language. Andreas, Sr., referred to Wendish newspaper articles and a Wendish periodical named NOWINKA, which he believed was also received by his brother’s family in Texas. However, none of the letters or parts of the letters which were found were written in Wendish. All were written in German. The writer was puzzled by the fact that the hand-writing of Mrs. Magdalena Biar’s letters varied so much until in one of her letters she stated that she usually dictated her letters to members of her family. All letters have been translated by the writer and copies have been placed in the library of the Texas Wendish Museum in Serbin. In 1970, after an interlude of almost 45 years, the Biar descendants in Australia and America have again established communications.
TRANSLATION OF A LETTER WRITTEN ON 22 APRIL 1881
BY ANDREAS BIAR, ST. KITT, SOUTH AUSTRALIA,
TO HIS BROTHER, JOHANN BIAR, SERBIN, TEXAS
22 April 1881
It is already more than 2½ years ago that I received a letter from you. The last one you wrote was on 18 June 1878. I did not get any letter later than that. If I am not mistaken, I wrote you in January 1879 and waited for you to write again but without success. Long ago I would have mailed you a book of the immigration of Lutherans to Australia and the Australian Lutheran Church but I have been waiting for you to write again. So I
am sending it along with this mail with the hope this letter finds you and your family in good health. Also enclosed is something from the local newspaper about Pastor Krause from America and about T. F. Krumnow about whom you found something in the Wendish newspaper. I believe that you subscribe to NOWINKA.
Michael Docke and I receive it every month. Dear brother, as far as we are concerned we are all still well, thank God. Our oldest son, August, got married last year in February and has rented a farm of 250 acres for 4 pence per acre, which also cost me a great deal of money, 200 pounds if I want to figure it all. He lives about 20 miles from here. One-half of the land is still bush land. This year he had a fairly good harvest of over 800 bushels. The second son, Johann, is learning to become a wheelwright in Dutton at Master Jaehne (Father Jaehne came from Bautzen). The third son, Andreas, is with me at home. He has been sick over one year so that he could not work, neither was he permitted to work. He hurt himself by loading a plow onto the wagon. In addition to that, other complications set in. He has visited many doctors and chiropractors, which also cost me a lot of money. Now he is well again and can work. He is now plowing with three horses, using a double-plow. Maria is still at home, but I do not know for how long. Anna is with August. Magdalene goes to school in Dutton, 1 hour away, because our school was suspended. There were too few children for us to keep our teacher. We still have divine services every Sunday in the school building. I conduct church services every Sunday. Pastor Appelt does not come more often than every 6 or 7 weeks to officiate.
Dear brother, now I want to report to you about my past harvest; unfortunately, it was not too much to cheer about. The harvest was very short here in our region, mainly due to the long drought and the redrust, so that nearly one-half of the crop was not saleable, because the wheat is like caraway seed. In addition to that, there was a long continuous rain from which the wheat lost its color and weight so that it was nearly unsalable. In some areas it was even worse. The people did not even harvest their seed. On the other hand, in other areas they had very good harvests. Thereto also must be considered the low price because America flooded the market in England. The price of the best wheat is 3 shillings, 10 pence; barley 2 shillings, 6 pence; butter, 1 shilling, 1 pence; eggs, 10 pence per dozen – all very low prices for what the farmer has to sell. This harvest I had a little over 700 bushels of wheat and 40 bushels of barley. It is now very dry here andlittle pasture for livestock. Since the harvest we did not have a soaking rain and the cattle have to be fed a little at home. Now is the worst time for cattle because last year there was also not much grass due to the drought. I have enough feed for the horses, hogs and chickens, since I had over 200 bushels that could not be sold. I have four draft horses; 1 colt, 1½ years old; 14 head of cattle; 10 hogs; some geese and about 50 chickens.
Dear brother, I have plenty of time now, as long as there is no rain. Then I will start to sow. About 40 acres are already plowed and there are 60 more if we get some rain soon. Plowing dry ground does not go very well and takes very many plowshares; a dozen cost 11 shillings. Early sowing is usually advantageous. Whatever is sown in June does not do very well. Moreover, in the spring, in October and November, we still have much rain and
no hot winds. I am fallowing half of my tillable land so that the land will get a rest. Then a person has good grazing for the cattle. It has become unclean with oats and grass because it was impossible to keep all the land clean. Wild oats have run off many a farmer from the land because when it is plowed up it remains dormant in the ground; then when it is no longer plowed, it grows better than ever. Now I want to close with the hearty wish that this letter will find you in good health. Many hearty greetings from me and my wife and children to you and your family. Write me again as soon as possible. Greet all my acquaintances and relatives. I remain your brother,
P. O. Dutton
South Australia Translated from the German by Bill Biar, 8 August 1976
Andreas Biar, Sr., died on 2 November 1896 at the age of 69 years and his wife, Magdalena Biar, nee Lehmann, died on 18 June 1916 at the age of 81½ years. Exhibit I is a photocopy of the letter written on 22 April 1881 by Andreas Biar, Sr., St. Kitt, South Australia, to his brother, Johann Biar, Sr., Serbin, Texas.
COPING WITH GRÖDITZ RECORDS
All the early Gröditz records are in handwritten Gothic script, often referred to as Fraktur Schrift. In the 1930s the teaching of this script was discontinued in Germany, just about the time the author learned it in parochial school. The records are very hard to read, since the authors often wrote hurriedly and used abbreviations that are no longer in use or have lost their meaning. Besides that, the records leave much to be desired. Especially noticeable is the failure to list the mothers’ names on birth records and the brides’ names on marriage records. The following presents some of the difficulties encountered when using these old Gröditz records. Sometimes only the occupation of a man is given; such as, “Der alte Schmied” (the old blacksmith). In other instances, only the given name is recorded. For example, “1668, 28. Febr. ist Meister Hanssens des hiesigen Schmiedes Söhnl. Georgins getauft.” (1668, 28 Feb., the local blacksmith, Master Hans’ son, George, was baptized). The father’s surname was not recorded and both, the given name and surname, of the mother were omitted. “1672, 19. Sept. ist Meister Hanns Barschens hiesigen Schmiedes Sö. Johannes getauft.” (1672, 19 Sept., the local blacksmith, Master Hans Bar’s [Bär’s] son, John, was baptized). Here we have the full name of the father, but the mother’s name is not mentioned. Shouldn’t the father’s surname be Barsch? After mulling over this for a long time the writer concluded that it could not be Barsch because when Barschens and Barsches were used it was always in the possessive case; that is, Bar/schens and Bar/sches. In other records, “Bähr” and “Bär” were used when the possessive case was not involved. Also the blacksmith shop was identified with “Bähr” and “Bär” in the legal records and never with Barsch. By the way, the English word for the German Barsch is perch (the fish) and in Sorbian it is pjersk. “1700 Gröd. d. 1. Febr. ist George Bär hiesiger Schmied mit Wurta Paulickin v. Drösa ehel. cop.” [ehel. cop. = ehelich copuliert]. (1700, Gröditz, the lst of February, George Bär, the local blacksmith, was legitimately married to Wurta Paulick from Drösa). If the bride’s name had not been mentioned, it would have been very difficult to identify George Bär [Bähr] as Juri Biar in subsequent records. “Gröd. 1670, 26.1 Mstr. Hanss hiesiger Schmied cop. mit seiner Braut” (Gröditz, 1670, 26.1, Master Hans, the local blacksmith, married his bride). The groom’s surname is not mentioned and the name of the bride is not mentioned at all. “1739, 6. April Wurschla, Schmiedes Hausfrau begraben”(1739, 6 April, Wurschla, blacksmith’s housewife, buried). If the given name Wurschla is a form of Wurta, then the deceased was probably Wurta Biar, née Paulik, wife of George Bähr, also known as [aka], Juri Biar. By now the reader has probably noticed that the records are not always clear. This is one of the reasons why many researchers want to know the names of sponsors (the German words used are Pate [singular] and Paten [plural], (the older forms are Pathe and Pathen), at baptisms. They also want to know the names of witnesses at weddings and trustees at hearings settling inheritances. In most instances, the persons named are blood relatives and the spelling of their names help to identify the person in whom they are interested. This could be called “circumstantial evidence.” By now the reader has probably noticed that German records are inclined to use abbreviations, even though the above, for the most part, are easy to figure out. But, as a whole, the Germans use abbreviations whether they are needed or not. The bad thing is that many cannot be found in German dictionaries. Coping with the Gröditz church records, as well as, those of any of the other parishes where our Wendish ancestors originated, is challenging to say the least.
GRÖDITZ(GROEDITZ) OR HRODŹIŠĆO
When one drives into the village of Gröditz the first line of the road sign along the highway reads: “GRÖDITZ” and underneath, in smaller letters, the second line reads: “HRODŹIŠĆO”. Gröditz is the German name, while Hrodźišćo is the Sorbian name. Gröditz is in Kreis Bautzen, Kreis being the equivalent of our county. Artifacts dating from the Bronze Age have been found in the vicinity of Gröditz. Pottery from the Billendorf Period, the
transitional period from bronze to iron, have been found in fields near Gröditz. It is usually accepted that in the sixth century, after the Völkerwanderung (barbarian or German migration), Slavs migrated into Upper Lusatia, drifting into the vacuum created by the departure of the Germanic inhabitants. After members of the Milceni tribe of the Sorbs arrived in the area a large hill-fort was constructed at Gröditz. In German, a hill-fort is called a Burgwall, a fortified earthen rampart. A hill-fort is also known as a Schanze in German, that is, an entrenchment. The hill-fort at Gröditz is known as a “Skalenschanze,” being near the Gröditzer Skala. Skala means gorge or ravine in Sorbian. Thus, the hill-fort at Gröditz is on a cliff near the Gröditzer Skala through which a small stream, known as Löbauer Wasser, flows. In Sorbian Hrodźišćo (“h” is silent when followed by “r”) has reference to “the village at the large hill-fort” (in German, Ort am grossem Burgwall). Much of the old half-circle earthen rampart or hill-fort at Gröditz is still visible today. When the Germans conquered Upper Lusatia around the year 1000, Germanization started immediately. Landed-estates, more often than not, were given to German knights (Ritter), probably for their service during a war of conquest. Other landed-estates were given to noblemen. Place names were often Germanized by keeping part of the Sorbian name, usually the first syllable, and adding a suffix. In olden days Hrodźišćo was spelled with a “G.” The Germans kept the first four letters, Grod, eventually placed a vowel modification mark (umlaut) over the “o” and added the diminutive suffix itz, and that is how we got Gröditz. In the County of Bautzen alone there are over 50 place names that end with itz and witz. That is why we know that our ancestors came from old Wendish or Sorbian territory. It is really a wonder that remnants of the Wends or Sorbs and their language remain to this day. A landed-estate owned by a knight or a nobleman was known as a Landgut, that is, a manor. The Sorbian people, as well as, other peasants, living on these manors and/or in these villages became serfs or bondsmen, subjects of knights and noblemen. The manorial house, where the knight, nobleman or the caretaker lived, was surrounded by the huts of the peasants and the manorial land surrounded these villages. Some villages had more than one manor. Most of the manorial land was owned by knights or noblemen and many of them had more than one manor. There were, however, small holdings of land by individual peasants in varying amounts and with varying rights within the manors. After the Sorbs were subjugated there was still much virgin land in the area to be cleared, to enlarge the arable land in established manors and to establish new ones in the Bautzen area. However, there were not enough Wendish serfs available so that German colonists were recruited in the west and brought to the east. This is why there were many manors with both Sorbian and German peasants. In 1222, Gröditz was known as Graedis; in 1378, Grodes, in 1485, Graedis; in 1545, Groedis; in 1682, Gradiz. Spelling of place names changed from time to time. In 1719 the Sorbian name is given as Rodźischcźo.
Originally, Gröditz was a Rittergut, a manor wned by a knight. The name of the original feudal lord is not vailable. In he 13th and 14th centuries the family name was von Porschitz. There is a sndstone heraldic emblem over the portal of the church tower at Gröditz which mentions a Peter Porschitz. In the 15th and 16th centuries the feudal lords were named von Maxen. The von Maxens were active in political circles, as well as, large land owners. From 1600 until around 1900 the name was von Gersdorff. Peasants in Saxony were freed in 1832; however, most of the land of the former manors remained in the possession of large land owners. Christianity came to Upper Lusatia after the Sorbs lost their independence around the year 1000. We have no records of just when Christianity came to Gröditz. The earliest written reference to Gröditz found to date is a Latin document, dated 1222, which named nine churches to be placed under the newly-established St. Peter’s Cathedral in Bautzen. The document identifies Gröditz as Gradis. Thus we know that our ancestors were Christianized at least 300 years before the Reformation or around 775 years ago. The first church building must have been rather portly and artistic because a portal of the original church has been preserved to this day. It is made of granite and has a stone cross inserted into the arch above the portal. It is over 750 years old. It serves as the door to the sacristy in the present church building. Gröditz became Lutheran in 1560. The parish church at Gröditz, the third largest village church in the area, serves the people of 13 villages and hamlets surrounding the village. The manor house at Gröditz was destroyed by fire in 1922. It was soon re-placed and after World War II it was a TB sanitarium. It is now used as a home for retarded persons. Many of the old buildings near the site of the manor house, in which the lowest class of peasants lived back in feudal times, were still standing in 1994. These peasants were referred to as Gesinde, that is, domestics, menials, day laborers, etc. Their living quarters were above the animal stalls. For many years the old buildings near the site of the old manor house were used to raise hogs. Under the East German regime the land around Gröditz became the site of an agricultural collective. These were called LPGs, which stands for Landwirtchaftliche Produktions Genossenschaften. Since the unification of the two Germanys these collectives were transferred to private ownership. In many cases they are run by the persons who operated them before unification. Map 1 shows the manorial estates in the County of Bautzen as of 1832. Map I identifies the Manorial Estates in the County of Bautzen in 1832.
Sermon Delivered by Rev. F. H. Stelzer
the Funeral of Otto Biar
Rev. Stelzer’s sermon was re-constructed by the writer from his notes for the children who were not able to attend their father’s funeral.
Date of Death: November 14, 1956
Date of Funeral: November 16, 1956
Jeremiah 31: 3 – “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
Beloved Mourners and Friends!
1. “I thank you for that sermon; it was comforting. I thank you. It is not my custom to praise and flatter my pastor, but this morning’s sermon had a special appeal. It was so comforting to me.” These were the words Mr. Otto Biar spoke to me as he shook hands with me after I had preached a sermon on the text John 4: 46-54 (the nobleman’s son) just three weeks ago. He had suffered with a severe case of arthritis for several weeks and was unable to come to church for one or two Sundays. And he received so much comfort when I spoke of God’s intention, when He lets us endure afflictions. God does this (1) to keep us from losing our faith; (2) to strengthen our faith. Nothing encourages a pastor more than to have the assurance that his parishioners leave the church comforted, satisfied, edified, with greater faith, greater love, greater zeal and greater strength to continue on their Christian pilgrimage.
2. I doubt that there is any person living or dead who has heard more of my sermons than the deceased, whom we are today giving a Christian burial. He will never hear me preach another sermon. And I will never again hear him say to me: “I thank you for that sermon.” His soul is now in heaven.
3. The text which I have chosen seems very fitting for today’s occasion, for the constancy of God’s love was a sturdy staff on which our fellow Christian often leaned during his earthly pilgrimage and which supported him especially during his last sickness. Let us consider “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee,” for it tells us:
I. HOW RICH ARE THE EVIDENCES OF GOD’S LOVE IN THE LIFE OF THE DECEASED.
II. HOW EVEN MORE STRIKING ARE THE EVIDENCES OF GOD’S LOVE IN THE DEATH OF THE DECEASED.
1. GOD’S LOVE WAS EVIDENT IN THE LIFE OF THE DECEASED. From eternity God loved the deceased and wanted him always to be one of His very own. With loving-kindness God drew him into His Kingdom of Grace, when he was but an infant of a few days, by the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Not all are thus blessed! His childhood was in that place on earth which is closest to the gate of heaven – a Christian home. Not all are thus blessed! His formal schooling he received under the influence of Christian teachers who gave him a never-to-be-forgotten understanding and appreciation of many of the great truths and stories written in the Bible and helped to prepare him confidently to renew his promise of allegiance to God by the rite of confirmation. Not all are thus blessed! Mrs. Werner, who is nearly 99 years old and waiting for her Lord to call her home, told me Wednesday afternoon, when I visited her, that she recalls seeing the deceased in church in Serbin at the altar promising God faithfulness until death. In the course of time, God gave him a consecrated Christian mate with whom he established a Christian home, blessed with a dozen children. Not all are thus blessed! Ever and again throughout his life our departed brother demonstrated that he was fully conscious of the great love God had for him by responding to the encouragement of St. John: “We love Him because He first loved us,” and “If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another,” I John 4: 19 & 11.
2. We have not gathered here today to eulogies the deceased. He would be the first to object to it. The strength of his Christian character, the zeal and high devotion of his Christian life are known to all of us. The memories we have of him we shall cherish through the years, and they will be his eulogy. He would nod approval if we summarize his life in the words of Paul: “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave himself for me,” Gal. 2: 20. God granted him the three score years and ten mentioned by the Psalmist and seven years more. There is no doubt about it: God loved your husband, father, grandfather, friend, during his earthly life. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”
1. THE EVIDENCES OF GOD’S LOVE ARE EVEN MORE STRIKING IN HIS DEATH. God was merciful to him for death came quickly, sparing him a long siege of suffering. Let me say very frankly that I have enjoyed a high privilege in having been permitted to minister to the deceased, not only during his last days on earth, but for over 37 years. We often spoke together of the love of God. I prayed with him, I witnessed his joy and confidence in his Savior, and his resignation in his Savior as things earthly faded and things heavenly became more real to him. The last word of God I discussed with him on the day before his death was: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none on earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” Psalm 73: 25-26. He died as he professed and lived: “I believe in God, Who created me, my loving Father. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, my Lord, Who has redeemed me. I believe in the Holy Spirit, in the forgiveness of sins, in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” The manner of his dying was like a great “Amen” to that confession. God’s eternal love in Christ the Savior was his happy hope even in death.
2. The love of God which through Baptism drew our brother into the Kingdom of Grace has now through death drawn him into the Kingdom of Glory. God has removed him from a sorely bewildered world. No more will tears gather in his eyes, no more will pain and sickness attack his body, no more will sighs escape his lips. He has fallen asleep on things earthly at what seems to be a late hour in the history of the world. He will sleep peacefully through all the dark years ahead. His last resting place will be the cemetery. The word “cemetery” comes from the Greek and literally means “sleeping place.” When he awakes a crown of everlasting life will be granted him as a permanent gift of God’s love.
3.To the members of the bereaved family let me say that your lives will be brightened by the assurance that God also loves you. Through your sorrow the love of God is inviting you: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Matt. 11: 28. God be with you! Amen.
Delivered by Rev. F. H. Stelzer
the Funeral of Lydia Biar
Rev. Stelzer’s sermon was re-constructed by the writer from his notes for the children who were not able to attend their mother’s funeral.
Date of Death: January 24, 1957
Date of Funeral: January 25, 1957
II Corinthians 5: 1-3 – “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.”
BelovedMourners and Friends!
1. Again death has knocked at the door of our congregation. This time death claimed a member, who was separated by death from her husband only two short months ago.
2. Her soul has now joined the soul of her life’s companion in heaven. Of this we are confident, for we know her childlike faith and her Christian life and her patience in bearing all the burdens of life laid upon her to test and strengthen her faith.
3. Oh, that all of us may live a Christian life and depart in true faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and thus reach our heavenly home.
4. To encourage us to take our life seriously and not to meet death unprepared, permit me to direct your thoughts to the text before us, which gives us “A DESCRIPTION OF A CHRISTIAN, WHO IS READY WHEN THE LORD SAYS, ‘COME.’”
According to the text:
I. A true Christian lives in the sure hope that he shall some time reach the “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
II. A true Christian has at all times an “honest desiring” to reach that home, which Jesus has prepared for him.
III. In order to be sure of reaching the eternal home in heaven, a true Christian daily keeps himself prepared to make the transition from his earthly temporal home to the permanent “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
1. A Christian who is ready for eternity, lives in the sure hope that he shall someday reach the “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” A Christian “knows,” as our text says, that “our earthly house of this tabernacle will someday be dissolved.” A Christian will not try to evade the fact that his body, made of the dust of the earth, will again return to dust and ashes, and fall apart as on old house or tabernacle, and that the soul will then move and leave the body.
2. This knowledge does not make a true Christian sad and gloomy, but fills his soul with the sure hope. And what is that sure hope? Our text explains it in these words: “We have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Let us ponder over these heartening words for a moment. “We know,” our text says. A Christian does not imagine this, he is not uncertain about his future, his condition after death. How does he know? Who told him? God Himself has told him in His unerring word. And what has He told him? This, that when “our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,” then, “we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” and this heavenly house will not dissolve like the earthly house, but it endures in all eternity.
3. This a Christian believer knows. He is not in doubt about it. For Jesus has given him this assurance in His word as we read in John 14: 2-3: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and received you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Ordinarily, the thought of death makes a person sad. But it is not so with a Christian believer. When the thought of death forces itself upon him, he looks beyond death and thinks of the “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” which he will be permitted to enter. What a wonderful, blessed exchange: a frail earthly house with a strong heavenly house. Yes, and this a Christian believer knows. Of this he is sure. And this sure hope helps him to face death cheerfully. He even welcomes death. Blessed is everyone who can meetdeath so calmly and fearlessly.
4. We proceed with the second “description of a Christian, who is ready when the Lord says, ‘come.’” A true Christian has at all times an “earnest desiring” to reach that home which Jesus has prepared for us.
1. In our text we read these words, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” “In this we groan,” our text says. As long as a Christian lives in this earthly house of his body he has aches and pains, which often bring much misery. But the sinful thoughts and desires from his natural sinful heart at times break out in words and deeds, bring a Christian his greatest heartache, so that he feels constrained to say with Paul: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7: 24.
2. On the other hand a Christian “earnestly desires to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” A Christian knows that this heavenly house is prepared for him. So from year to year the desire to enter the new home becomes greater.
3. Since, however, a Christian does not know the exact time when this earnest desire will be fulfilled, he daily keeps himself prepared.
1. The last words of our text read: “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.” What is meant by our nakedness and by being clothed? Our nakedness is our sinful condition, our original sin and our actual sins. With our own filthy dress we cannot stand before God. Therefore, we repeat this precious prayer again and again, as did also the deceased the afternoon before her departure, when I visited her in the hospital:
“I pray Thee, my heavenly Father:
Let me fall asleep in Jesus’ wounds,
There pardon formy sins abounds,
Yes, Jesus bloodand righteousness
My jewels are and royal dress
With these before my God I’ll stand
When I shallreach the heavenly land.”