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The Foreign Colony in Billigheim and the Surrounding Area by Theodor Gumbel

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“The Foreign Colony in Billigheim and the Surrounding Area”

Author: Theodor Gumbel1 ([Published in Geschichtsblatter des Deutschen Hugenotten-Vereins (Historical newsletter of the German Huguenot Association), Magdeburg: Heinrichshofen’ sche Buchhandlung, 1894. Translated by Barbel Johnson, typed and edited by Gary Horlacher, prepared for Kenneth Craft, September 1995]) (1894)

Translated by: Barbel Johnson (1995)

When Duke Karl Ludwig of the Palatinate, son of the unlucky Duke Friedrich V. started his rule over the inheritance of this forefathers on Oct. 7, 1649, after the end of the 30-Years War, he found that stretches of land in the Neckar Valley, as well as both shores of the Rhine River, which had once been so blessed and densely populated, were now in an awful state. The towns were deserted. Some had been turned into heaps of rubble, and the circles of wealthy villages and markets surrounding them were extremely run-down and almost desolate. The small part of the population that was still there, barely two percent of what it had been [before the 30-Years War], were poverty-stricken and rough due to War, plunderings, and lack of law and protection.

It was indeed a different challenge for the Duke to re-establish law, order, and safety, and also to have the desolate farms worked again and to revive the depopulated lands. He left no method untried and his energy brought success. First of all, he invited the Palatines who had emigrated, to return to their homeland, and promised them important rights and enticing advantages. Later he offered the land to colonists from foreign countries, from Switzerland, France, Holland, and England, and promised them significant advantages as well. The Palatinate showed a different face, even just a few decades later. New life developed in the towns, trade and change flourished, prosperity grew; the villages too were filled again with diligent inhabitants and the fields presented a lovely picture of growth and thriving. That was exactly what motivated the former inhabitants to return to the area, they knew how lovely the climate and how fruitful the ground were in the sunny Palatinate on the Rhine River, where the grapevines bloom and even fruits of the South grow wonderfully. However, other reasons were also important to them; especially for those foreigners from France and the land of the Walloons [Belgium-Netherlands-Northern France], for whom the ground at home had become too hot due to the continual persecutions and oppression to which they were subjected by reason of their faith.

They knew that here in the Palatinate, where many of their brothers in the faith had found refuge earlier under the mild scepters of Duke Friedrich III and Duke Johannes Casimir, they would find protection and a new home.

Duke Karl Ludwig was not of the same caliber as his religiously engaged predecessors. In regard to religious questions, his thoughts were very liberal and straight forward. He was much less concerned with the religious persuasion of the immigrants than with the question of whether they would be useful and diligent as business men and farmers. Lutherans and Catholics were just as welcome to him as the Reformed; the sectarians just as much as those of proper faith. At least he made a concerted effort to also satisfy the religious needs of both the natives and the immigrants as best as possible, and to help them attain well-organized structure in their religious life.

These circumstances were at least not resistant and inappropriate for the positive development of religious life in the Kurpfalz [Palatinate].

And as the situation was in the Palatinate in general, so it was especially in those parts of the country to which we shall turn our attention in this monograph, in the district of Germersheim, especially in the southern part of this district, in the sub-district of Billigheim which includes the villages of Rohrbach, Steinweiler, Archenweyer (disappeared since the 17th centry), Klingen, Impflingen, and Erlenbach.

However, the immigration of the foreigners inasmuch as it demands our interest, is not only limited to the area of the Palatinate, but in the same manner, if not more so, in some cases the surrounding villages, such as Muhlhofen, Dierbach, Barbelroth, Winden, Hergersweiler, etc., etc., which then belonged to the Pfalz-Zweibrucken District of Bergzabern. The latter villages accepted, a large number of foreign settlers whose descendants, as I wish to emphasize here, can be found in these communities to this day in fairly large numbers. A short description of the situation prevailing then in the area of Pfalz-Zweibrucken, especially in the district of Bergzabern, can not be avoided.

The 30-Year War had brought the same terrible consequences here [in the Zweibrucken district] as in the Palatinate. The land was desolate and ruined. Therefore the then ruling Duke Friedrich (1640-1661) tried with great diligence to revive and re-cultivate the depopulated areas with new settlers. However, the difficulties were too great and the wounds too deep; so it was not possible to make rapid progress and even his successor Duke Friedrich Ludwig (1661-1681) was only partially successful, especially since only a few years later a new war broke out and pestilences decimated the population.

The still well-preserved parish registers of Barbelroth Parish present a vivid picture of the sad circumstances of those times.

Whereas at the beginning of the 30-Year War 30-40 children are brought to baptism each year, their number steadily decreases from 1627 on, sinking down to two or three per year between 1643 and 1646, and in the two years 1647-1648 there are no baptisms at all. There was simply nobody left. Only one person is said to have been alive in Winden during the years 1632-164. Because of this, the parish there [in Winden] was disbanded and remained united with Barbelroth until 1704. Even though from this time on, a whole group of villages is included in Barbelroth Parish, for almost two decades, only four to six baptisms take place each year. A steady increase is not seen until the year 1661 and later. Foreign names also occur more and more frequently then, but the high point of earlier years is not reached again so soon, even though with the beginning of the 18th Century growth from without and strengthening from within make satisfactory progress.

Other than the returning natives, the first arrivals after the 30-Years War are individual families from Hessen, Wuerttemberg, and German speaking Switzerland. Other foreigners show up very rarely. Names include Bellard 1654 (and Schad*2 from Hellaw in the area of Schaffhausen 1661) in Dierbach, Piccard* from Metz 1656 in Muhlhofen and Dierbach, Ulb from Verga in France (a loose scoundrel) and Selos* (later Schloss) from Flanders in 1664 in Dierbach and Barbelroth, Gaulieu and Cantique 1665 in Oberhausen, Johay, perhaps Lehaye, Montignon* (travelers in the Palatinate), Rotru and Bevier* 1664 in Winden.

 The growth of the foreign population increases from the year 1669 forward and continues until 1674. In this unfortunate year, immigration is abruptly halted by the infamous invasion by the French under Turenne, and especially the year 1677 brought severe trials to all the inhabitants of the district of Bergzabern, when the French undertook their devastating marches of destruction and plunder from the fortified castle of Philippsburg nearby. At that time, many families were reduced to begging once again. Most of these foreigners were once again of Swiss origin, mostly from the area around Zurich and Bern, yet without a doubt some of these Swiss were originally from France and had only lived in Switzerland temporarily. Their names are as follows:

Buri from Vanerland 1668
Saury from Bern Canton 1670
Pistor* from Dun in Switzerland 1699
Bartoly 1668
Gwelen from Bern Canton
Spori from Zurich Canton
Schweyn* from Bremersdorf, near Zurich 1669
le beer (le Pere*) from Utischdorf in Switzerland
Fleute from the Bern Region 1672 to Barbelroth
Font 1669 to Mulhofen
Fievre*, Ballieu 1671
Ferreu from Eindersus 1672 to Dierbach and Deutschhof
Bavure*1668
Dillion (Ptillion?*), Ponta 1670 to Winden
(*The names marked with an asterisk still occur [in the area] today.

Unfortunately dependable documentation about the situation in Billigheim and the surrounding Palatinate communities at that time is missing, since all the records of Billigheim, which had been brought to Leinsweiler due to the heavy plundering of Billigheim by the French who were advancing towards Landau in 1703, were destroyed by fire.

However, a few pieces of information can be compiled from printed sources.

According to dependable information, a small Walloon congregation was already present in Billigheim during the reign of Duke Johannes Casimir, probably a daughter community of Schonau or Frankenthal, because [the book] Hauser [author], Geschichte der Rheinischen Pfalz II (History of the Rhineland Palatinate II), p. 138 includes Billigheim with the Walloon communities founded at that time. The remark made by Herr de Schickler in his publication: Eglise du Refuge, p. 22, where he writes, “Their ministers (those of the Palatinate community) gathered and concentrated on the church that had been created in Billigheim from where 24 among them wrote of their distress to the Harlem Synod [1626]”. This also documents the existence of a colony in Billigheim at that time. However, this colony likely disbanded again during the 30-Years War.

Perhaps the notice, that “many years ago Pastor Samuel Druais (whom we meet as Walloon pastor of Lambrecht) served a number of Walloons before 1635 who were in the process of forming a community in Bergzabern, but soon disbanded again due to the commotions of War”, refers to this colony. The Walloons of Bergzabern were probably an offshoot from Billigheim.

The first trustworthy information concerning the existence of a Walloon community in the 17th Century is found in the “Typographischen Pfalzischen Bibliothek” (Speyer and Leipzig 1785), 1st piece, p. 105. It says there under paragraph 5:

The Walloon community in Billigheim was not a daughter of that in Frankenthal, but a community, which came to the Palatinate much later, towards the end of the 17th Century. It is so unusual in regard to the type of farming practiced there that it has earned a special mention. These colonists, who originate from the area of L’Aloeuve, along the southern shores of the Leye on the borders of Artois, (see G. Blaen: Theatru, Orbis Amst, 1731 on the chart under the title Novus XVIII inferioris Germaniae provinciarum Typus) received their privileges under the rule of Duke Carl Ludwig according to the printed, very rare document: Concession donnee aux nouveaux-venus du Pais de L’alloeuve [Decree of rights given to the New Arrivals of the Country of l’Alloeuve] printed in Heidelberg by Aegide Walter L’Annee, 1664. According to this document, they were allowed to settle, not only in the city, but in the entire district, namely the six villages that belonged to it, i.e., Rohrbach, Steinweiler, Erlenbach, Impflingen, Klingen, and Archenweyer, and at the same time they were exempt from many obligations other citizens were subject to. They had their own council, preacher, and school teacher, chosen out of their midst, whose salary was paid from the estates of the religious administration, and were able to leave again within the first twenty years without paying the tenth penny [emigration tithing tax]. They were also exempt from the head tax for the first three years, as well as customs, duties, and all other obligations, even if their number increased to 1000 families. The industriousness in their farming, for which they are well known, can also be seen in their descendants, especially in the town of Billikam [-Billigheim], where farming is booming and the trade plants, rips, flax, and hemp are being cultivated and significant trade reaches as far as Strassburg, Switzerland, and the Rhine areas of Worms, Oppenheim, and Kreuznach.

According to another piece of news, found in Vierordt’s, Geschichte der Evangelischen Kirche (History of the Lutheran Church), II, p. 332, the Walloons who settled in the Palatinate villages of Billigheim and Morlheim, who were expelled again later (1699) originally came from Lowen3 in Brabant. The tables found in a document located in the General Land Archive in Karlsruhe (Generalien, Kirchendienst #4369), also agree with this information. The same carries the title, “Accounting of the Walloon Parishes in the Palatinate which contains the names of the families and souls which constitute the churches, the names of the pastors and schoolmasters, and lists the amount of wages paid by the Administration in 1724. Under paragraph 3 it says:

Report of the Reformed Walloon Church of Pelican [Pelican = Billigheim]. The church of Pelican in the district of Germersheim was established under Duke Charles Louis [Karl Ludwig] in the year 1664, who ruled in favor of the Walloons who came from the country of Loewe [de la Loewe]2 (Perhaps this is a mix-up with L’Alloeuve.) because of their religion. He placed them in the village of Pelican [Billigheim] and six other villages surrounding that village, gave them a pastor and a school teacher, if they gave the names of 50 families. This church was fairly large at first, but later a large part of the residents left for the country of Brandenburg, because of oppression they endured before the time of the Reunion of France in the district of Germersheim.

Finally Hauser a. a. O. II, p. 586 reports that in the year 1665, a small group of peaceful residents of the Lucerne V alley in the Piedmont, namely Italian Waldensians, took up residence in the district of Germersheim and in addition to freedom from taxes and freedom to practice trades and to move, received their own community administration and a minister elected by them, information that deserves to be noted even if it doesn’t refer to Billigheim in particular. These Italian strangers, the greater part of whom settled in Baden, especially Welschneureuth, have made great accomplishments in the agriculture of Southern Germany, because they brought the first potatoes into the country. Potatoes had been known in the valleys of the Piedmont for over fifty years already, whence they came from Genoa. They probably also introduced the so-called Lucerne Clover, which bears the name of their home town of Lucerne, near the river Pelice.

Unfortunately, the materials that could be used to determine the correctness of these contradictory or rather complementary, pieces of information are not available for the above mentioned reasons. Yet on the other hand, we have no reason to doubt their validity. From this information, we draw the conclusion that at the beginning of the 6th decade of the 17th century, a good sized colony composed of Northern French Walloons, possibly also Piedmont Waldensians, can be found in Billigheim, whose leadership is composed of French-speaking pastors and teachers and who enjoy significant privileges.

At that time, the German-speaking inhabitants of Billigheim were apparently only small in number and those who were reformed joined the French community. However, later the German community had become stronger, and the pastors were required to hold the services in French and German by turns until finally in the second half of the eighteenth century, the foreign community became more and more spread out and finally was absorbed into the German Parish (1770).

Before the confusion of the 30-Years War, a well organized church hierarchy was present in Billigheim. The Lutheran Parish which had long been connected with a “superintendency” later an “inspection”, was in existence since 1548, which is earlier than elsewhere in the Palatinate. In addition, a “deaconate” was established between 1603 and 1621, which was occupied by nine pastors during that time period. After the parish had been destroyed through the calamities of the War and the town was almost devoid of inhabitants, the pastor’s position also remained unfilled and a separate reformed pastor doesn’t appear again in Billigheim until 1650, namely Emmanuel Ritter.

The foreign community was served by native pastors since 1674. The first one was Jeande Combles. With some interruptions, he worked here until 1674. Along with him, sometimes residing in the neighboring Steinweiler (1666-1668) Jean Jaques Reich is named, who served the parish again later (1675-1678) from Lambrecht.

Apparently the murderous invasion of Turenne in February 1674, dealt an almost deadly blow to the flourishing communities in Billigheim and the surrounding areas. At that time, Billigheim was burned down completely, as also the entire District of Germersheim, which Duke Karl Ludwig had tried so hard to build up for the last twenty years, was reduced to rubble. Thus the inhabitants had once again lost all their belongings and were also not able to recover during the years that followed since the latter brought rampages of war, destruction, and plunderings over and over again. No wonder that the communities quickly became depopulated. It was like this in Billigheim as well. Therefore the parish no longer had its own pastor and Pastor Reich, who had taken up residence in Lambrecht beginning in 1675, because he was pastor of the Walloon community there, came to Billigheim only sporadically.

The suffering became increasingly worse until it finally reached its climax in the year 1689 with the burning and the barbaric destruction of the Palatinate. A French cavalry regiment had already invaded the district of Billigheim on Apr. 3, 1680, and on Apr. 4, 1680, French officials appeared who claimed Billigheim District completely in the name of the King of France, posted French Coats of Arms, released the inhabitants from their oath of allegiance to the Duke and government of the Palatinate, and drove all objectors from their homes and farms. On May 19, 1680, the inhabitants of Billigheim were forced to pledge allegiance to the King of France.

Of course these were especially bad times for the foreigners who were doubly hated by the French troops and the French priests accompanying them. No doubt only those who had to, remained. Times had to get worse yet to force those who were still hesitant to emigrate. And they did get worse. All in all, as told by the historians, a sort of dull resignation spread among the populace, with the passive resistance of the populace to give in to their tragic fate. Only here and there a few reformed pastors remained who had the courage to complain loudly about the brutal violation of natural and contractual rights and to protest, for which [acts] they had to accept dire consequences.

Unfortunately, only a few names of members of the foreign colony in Billigheim from that important time period have become known. These are the following: Layro 1669, Broe, and De Fease 1670; Herlan, Herpain 1679…

In the Aweibrucken region, the situation was no less desperate than in the Palatinate. There Duke Friedrich Ludwig had tried in vain to stand up against the brutal behavior of the French, who had declared him to be devoid of his office and honor. He died in 1681 as a dethroned Duke. But even under his successor, King Charles XI of Sweden, who, incidentally, never set foot in the Zweibrucken Territory, the heavy pressure of the French Government and the French Rulers lay on the Ducy for almost a decade. The French, who almost ignored the authority of Duke Christian II and later Duchess Charlotte Friederike, took the law into their own hands and especially in regard to the Protestant pastors and their church, allowed themselves gross injustices. Finally the Peace of Ryswick in 1697 brought some relief and improvement.

Soon afterwards, in 1698, King Charles XII of Sweden and Duke of Zweibrucken proclaimed a law according to which foreign Protestants of both confessions [Lutheran and Reformed] were invited to take up residence in the Duchy of Zweibrucken with the assurance that they were allowed free practice of their religion and total freedom of conscience. At the same time, this law allowed Reformed [individuals] of foreign nationality in the districts of Meisenheim, Zweibrucken, and Bergzabern, pastors of their own nationality and the use of the German Reformed Churches.

Especially Swiss citizens took advantage of this “graceful permission”, as mentioned by Pastor J. Schneider from Neckarsteinach in an essay, “Regarding the History of the Reformed [Church] in Alsace” (Ev. Ref. Church paper “Kirchen-Zeitung” 1875 #27, 28), and settled in the district of Germersheim as well as in the neighboring territory of Guttenberg. This immigration began as early as the middle of the 17th century and lasted for about eighty years. This was also a very strong one. Represented in this movement are all sections of the German Switzerland: Zurich, Basel, Appenzell, St. Gallen, Glarees, and especially Bern. The settlers themselves were mostly from the lower classes: artisans, day laborers, farm hands, and herders.

Another witness for the assumption, that even before 1698 a large number of French speaking settlers resided in the villages of Winden, Dierbach, and Barbelroth is a request composed in French, which was directed at Duke Friedrich Ludwig under the date Oct. 5, 1679. It was signed by thirty residents of the three villages, requesting that a French speaking pastor be hired. The parish register of Barbelroth confirms this as well.

Prior to 1688 we already find the following foreign surnames in the separate communities:

In Winden: Rotru, Johay, Bavieur (later Befier*, also Bavouire), Montgnon (later Montillion*) 1666; Dillion (Ptillion*), Ponta, de la haye* 1670; Boufing* 1678; Cinnet* (Swiss) 1679; Dupont, Tavernier* 1684; de la bame from le may in Picardie 1686; Larame 1686.

In Muhlhofen: Piccard*, Belling, Font 1699 [?1679]; Veud 1680; Daudigny, le Feure, Gobert (Combert, Gumbert*), Bondame (Bontam, Boudemont*), 1685.

In Barbelroth: Bellard 1654; Piccard* 1656; Ries (Swiss) 1662; Selos from Flanders 1664; Bartoly, Trailles (Trolly) 1668; Pistor* from Dun, Gwelen (Swiss) Sperri (Swiss), Schwein* (Swiss) 16690; le Beer (le pere, Swiss) 1672; Crotton, du camp 1679; le luc 1685; du pui from Neuenburg 1687; Chandres (Swiss) 1688.

In Dierbach: Bellard 1654; Schad* from Hellaw, Schaffhausen District, Ramey, Ulb from Verga 1661; Fierri, Hreb (Swiss), Ballieu 1671; Ferre of Hindersuss, Switzerland 1672; le coyer, Coulon (Couley), Paris from Fierros in Picardie 1684.

In Hergarsweiler: Fridlin (Swiss) 1663; Vantier (Vannier*) 1685.

In Oberhausan: de pui (Swiss) 1664; Gaulieu (Canlieu) 1665; Piccard* 1667; Buri 1668; Sauri (Swiss) 1670; Fevure, Sperry 1673; Eccard 1693.

In Deutschhof: le fievre 1671; Balleux 1679; Alar, Blue, Baucar, Moppine; du pois 1686.

Then in the Palatinate (Kurpfalz), the following names appear:

In Billigheim: Layro 1669; Broe, de fease 1670; Balleux, Herlan 1679; Guemar 1685; Ardin 1686.

In Steinweiler: Ferran (Swiss) 1671; Boquet* 1679; Ptillion*, de luc 1685.

In Rohrbach: le jeu 1684; Barbier (Barbay*)

In Minfeld: Furgti, Trois 1656; de la cerite 1664; Nigoth 1668; Ereb, Baudieu 1671; Boquet* 1685.

In Ingenheim: Nefeglise 1666; Herlin (Herpin) 1679.

In the meantime, events happening in France caused the increase in emigration of the Protestants there at an even more accelerated pace than before. The persecutions under King Louis XIV, which had already increased to a significant degree soon after Mazarin’s death in 1662, began to be greatly amplified after the king had ended the Dutch War with the Peace of Nymwegen in 1679. The goal was the destruction of Protestantism. The Reformed were thrown out of all public offices and from 1681 on, military force was used to pressure Protestants to convert to Catholicism. Beginning in 1685, the “Dragonades” were expanded all across the South as well as other parts of France. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes took place in the same year. Church services held in private residences were forbidden, churches torn down, and preachers banned. Even the emigration of the Huguenots was forbidden by punishment of the galleys and loss of property. In spite of this, more than 500,000 Calvinists managed to escape to foreign countries in the years 1685-1700. During that time period 97,816 refugees travelled through Frankfurt alone. In Switzerland, especially in the Bern Canton, they were granted friendly asylum, but very soon this Canton was so overcrowded that refugees that these had to pick up the wandering stick once again when their hopes of returning to their homeland soon turned out to be idle dreams.

In Winden, the descendants of the refugee families there are entertaining a tradition that the main immigration of the foreigners took place during that time period, which followed immediately after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. At that time, the government of Zweibrucken assigned a farm to each of thirteen Huguenot heads of households and at the same time granted them significant relief from obligations. The native country of these emigrants was supposedly the area of Nimes in Languedoc. In my opinion, the actual date of these concessions by the Duke is a few years later, in 1698, when the King-Duke Charles XII published the edict mentioned above.

It is not very likely that the revocation of the Edict of Nantes resulted in an immediate or rapid increase in the foreign colony. Rather the parish registers of Barbelroth indicate that a significant increase happened in the 1690’s and even more so in the first few decades of the eighteenth century.

I lack the tools to measure the circumstances that occurred in Billigheim.

A welcome, even though sparse, glimpse of the ecclesiastical circumstances of the foreigners at that time, who were spread out among the communities of Barbelroth, Winden, and Dierbach, is granted by the request of thirty residents of these villages for a French speaking pastor, dated 1679, which was mentioned earlier. In this document, the Duke of Zweibrucken was asked to permit Jacques Francois Chevallier, who they had called from Switzerland, to act as their pastor and take up his residence in Barbelroth, Dierbach, or Winden. Among other things, they mention in their request that the number of parish members who have been seeking a refuge under the mild scepter of the Duke of Zweibrucken is constantly growing due to the arrival or more and more refugees.3 (3Cf. Union 1885 No. 32.

In another letter, the said J. Fr. Chevallier himself requests the same favor which his brother Jean Niclas Chevalier, then pastor in Billigheim, had been granted in the year 1683, when the Duke of Zweibrucken assigned him the parish of Sumpfthierbach. He stated that he had studied theology for six years, as well as having occupied himself with philosophy for three years at the academy of Lausanne, in such a manner that he was now well prepared to serve in a church position. At the same time he requested ordination as a pastor. In the beginning, his request appears to have been unsuccessful, because he didn’t become pastor in Dierbach until Dec. 7, 1698 (according to his own records) and later, 1700-1709, took care of the parish from his residence in Barbelroth. (“In the year 1698 on the 7th of December, I Chevallier, became pastor in the church in Dierbach, which includes three churches in the district of Barbelroth, and before, under the reign of King Charles XII I had served for seven years and several months in the sacred ministry in Duchrod and Hundsbach in the district of Meisenheim.”)

In addition to him, another pastor was hired in 1704, Joh. Lorch, who however only preached in German.

During that time, Pastor Chevallier was on duty, the church in Barbelroth was restored and rededicated, after having been burned down by the Spanish on St. Jacob’s Day 1622 along with the churches in Steinweiler, Rohrbach, and Langenkandel. Pastor Chevalier had earlier collected money for the church himself in Switzerland.

In the Duchy of Zweibrucken, an area of rest and recuperation came about after the Peace of Ryswick and during the reign of the Swedish King Charles XII, who had entrusted the affairs of state in the Duchy to energetic royal officials. Even though the government tended to prefer the Lutherans and gave them advantages, the Reformed Church also enjoyed strong and lasting protection, especially against the bullying of the French and the Catholics. However, the situation was different in the Kurpfalz [Palatinate].

In the Kurpfalz [Palatinate], the behavior shown by the government towards the Reformed subjects and especially the reformed foreigners since the death of the last Protestant Duke, Philipp Wilhelm [1685-1690] became more and more unfriendly, even downright hateful. The very first Catholic Duke, Philipp Wilhelm (1685-1690) who soon after taking office promised the same Freedom of religion to the Protestants in an edict dated Oct. 15, 1685, as was already promised to the Catholics, later enacted measures which deeply hurt the Protestant’s feelings and freedom of conscience. In addition, there were terrible tribulations through melac’s murderous gangs, who destroyed the Palatinate countryside in a most devilish manner in the middle of the Winter of 1689. Luckily, the district of Germersheim remained relatively untouched at that time.

Circumstances worsened even more under the reign of the later Duke Johannes Wilhelm (1690-1716) who allowed the Protestants to be subjected to bitter injustice and continuous serious abuse, even though he had also promised freedom of religion upon taking office. At that time, whole parishes were lost in the district of Germersheim, so that only five of 24 Reformed pastors were still present, whereas on the other hand, 33 Catholic priests had been added. Billigheim was among those five communities. The Catholics took over very many Protestant churches more often, the “Simultaneum” was introduced, a consequence of the “addendum” to article IV in the Peace Treaty of Ryswik. In Billigheim, the “Simultaneum” was introduced in 1697 in the protestant church, which had been built in 1522, and it still exists. The religious declaration pronounced in the year 1705 confirmed the “Simultaneum” but required that a separate pastor should be hired from Billigheim to serve the German and French Reformed communities simultaneously.

That the Palatine government was not too fond of the foreigners can be seen from a decree issued in 1699 that states that “this run-down bunch of scoundrels” had to leave the Palatinate in the shortest time possible and take their preachers with them, since one was not inclined to have the land sucked dry and on top of that offend the French crown.

We already know from the previously mentioned accounting of 1724, that towards the end of the 17th century, a large number of Reformed foreigners moved on into Brandenburg. In addition (according to Vierordt a.a.O. p. 337) twenty-five Walloon refugees from Billigheim and Morlheim asked for assistance from the Duke of Baden-Durlach, Fredrich VII, who promised them a piece of land on Dec. 10, 1699, so that the village of Friedrichsthal was built there during the following year. Others of their Reformed compatriots were assigned land in Langensteinbach and Auerbach.

Thus, with the beginning of the 18th century, the colony of foreigners had been decimated, yet not died out or disappeared, even though hard times fell over Billigheim again in 1703. This was the plundering by the French who were moving ahead to lay siege on the Castle of Landau. Yet the remaining remnants of the colony were sparse enough. During the time period 1705-1746, the average number of children baptized each year was three; in 1724 the number of souls among the Walloons was listed as 137, among the French speaking Swiss 34, the French refugees 19. All in all, only 37 purely French and 34 foreign German mixed families were counted among those who were purely German. The number of foreign families became smaller from year to year and finally, by the year 1770, the foreigner’s colony had disappeared. (“The church was extinguished by 1770” Frd. De Schickler writes a.a.O., p. 86).

At the beginning of the 18th century, every year saw a little bit of grown in spite of all the bad times. New names always appear alongside the old ones, yet many of the latter also disappear again.

The names which occur in the records from 1692-1748 are as follows:

In Billigheim: De la haye*, Ptillion*, Montillion* 1695; Archet from Buhl in Flanders 1696; Bondame (Bontam, Bondemont)* 1699; Dondier, Remo* (also Remaux, de Reman, Swiss, later Catholic) 1710; de monton from Lausanne, Guinand* 1703; Baques*, Bourgignon, Corge, du Moulin, Breton, Bally 1705; de la croix, de la cour, la courage, de fievre*, ‘le luc, le Brand, de latre, Corneille* 1709; Punier 1710; de la place, Guillion 1711; Savary* (Swiss) 1712; de prez (dupre*) 1714; Viande, Vache, Bruvuri from Friedrichsthal 1720; Bossut, de Gorget* from the Walloon Pact 1721; Getune, Rugur 1722; Erny* from Langendorf, Switzerland, le beau*, Schulmeister, Monn*, Marbey (Swiss) 1726; Gachot, Garnot 1731; Lotty (Swiss) 1734; Le cour 1740; Soutevin 1741.

In Morlheim: Bondame (Bondemont*) 1699; de fievre* from the region of Brussels, Renaud (Remau*, de Renau) 1701; Corneille* 1706.

In Steinweiler: Ptillion*, de luc 1685; de latre 1692; de la haye* 1696; Bodelle 1699; Vannier*, le beer (le pere*, Swiss) 1700; Ranaux*, Salingre 1701; devin* 1702; le fievre*, Guinand*, Crepret 1703; Boudemont from Friedrichsthal, du Moulin, Gerardin from Annweiler, 1707; Gamber (Compere, combert, Gumbart*) 1708; la place 1709; Gorge 1711; Monte (Motte) 1712; Arcy 1721; Bonmonte 1739.

In Archenweyer: Blue, Bucar, Bouquet*, Rossignol 1685.

In Rohrbach: Bourgignon, du Moulin, Chalete 1705; Jacob (Swiss) 1709; Boudemont* 1736; le corbier 1737; Gerardin 1738.

These several families from the palatinate appear at the same time or later in the Zweibrucken villages, so it is possible that at the time of the oppression of the Lutherans in the Palatinate, several foreigners transferred their residence from the Palatinate to Zweibrucken District. There, during the said time period, the following names appear:

In Winden: Vannier* 1698; Bennier, la bame, Rossignol, Gymar 1701; Jaque* 1702; La place, Montillion*, Corneille*, Bitte 1709, Bourquin* 1738.

In Muhlhofen: Belling 1694; Herancourt* 1695; Berdolet 1693; le fivre 1703; Baumon, le jeune 1709; Gedier 1713.

In Barbelroth: Liner (Swiss) 1693; de la bonne ville, du bois 1696; Cotoson from Languedoc 1699; Benard, Torny, le vent, Calame from Welsch-Neuburg 1700; herpin*, le corbier from the Labrey Province (possibly le breuille in Piedmont), Paches, de pany, donvier, dumontier from Lausanne 1701; Troilly, Swiss 1703; Perrin, Swiss 1711; Bute, Swiss, bouche, Rumiere from Prony near Valance 1715; Sporry, Swiss, Bourquin* 1724; Mote* from Ingnie, Switzerland, Allemann from Semecur near Metz 1725.

In Dierbach: Le coyer, Coulon 1685; Barbier* 1692; Hallebard 1709; Nivard 1703.

In Minfeld: Bardolet 1699; le jeune 1722.

In Ingenheim: Cavin* 1701.

In Appenhofen: Munier* 1732.

In Oberhausen: Menni 1690; Sperry, Bourquin* 1709; Roselle 1729; Pillar 1738.

In Hergersweiler: Vantier* 1685; Divine (Diffine)* 1688; Rohin* (Bohein) 1688; Jamini (Swiss) 1700.

The following statistical information can be added: during the time period mentioned, the alms donated in the Walloon community of Billigheim reached the highest amount in 1709 with 92 florins, the next highest was reached in 1705 with 70 florins, the smallest in 1714 with 21 florins.

The number of children being confirmed each year is unusually large, especially when compared with the small number of baptisms. The reason for this phenomenon can probably be found in the fact that Walloon parents living outside Billigheim, did not always have their children baptized there, whereas the confirmations of the entire area took place in Billigheim. Even the Reformed French military families in Landau brought their children to Billigheim for confirmation. In general, it appears as though the French (and also German) Reformed families in Landau sought and found contact with the Billigheim community. They also showed their gratitude for this support by making a gift of Holy cups to the Reformed church in Billigheim in the year 1750.

It deserves to be noted that the Dutch general synods continually showed a strong interest in the fate and continued success of the Walloon communities in general and specifically in the parish of Billigheim. Thus among other things, the Synod of Breda decided in May 1721, that “gifts of love” should be sent to the preachers and teachers of the churches and schools of Mannheim, Heidelberg, Frankenthal, and Billigheim, since these groups were getting by without any Dutch help. “One doesn’t want to let the minister fall there.” The money collected at the Synod for this purpose came to 178 Florin, 8 Sous. The remainder should be sent to Amsterdam, even more so since only five Walloon mother churches remain in the Palatinate (including Otterberg) (see journal: The Frenchy Colony, 1892, p. 7 essay by Dr. Tollin) that the French-Reformed community of Billigheim consisted not only of the Palatine, but also the members from the Zweibrucken area villages and that all “members” contributed to the salary of the pastor and were also represented in the Consistory, in clear from a comment in the above-mentioned accounting of 1724, where it says, “There are still many French and Walloon families in the Duchy of Zweibrucken, and from time to time they come together in the congregation of Pelican [Billigheim], but like the privileges accorded to those of Pelican [Billigheim], they don’t listen to the German pastors established in their places, where they have the responsibility to cure the souls and exercise the pastoral functions.”

This can also be clearly seen from this document which was found in the parish archives of Billigheim dated July 1, 1692, which states, “We, the mayor and council here (Billigheim), as well as the entire consistory of the new community here, in Steinweiler, Klingen, Morlheim, and Winden, hereby announce publicly that, with permission of the honorable ruler, as well as the repeated intercession of the church elders of the Reformed parish of Strassburg in our behalf, we have received the grace and blessing from the honorable mayor and council of the City of Bern that the dear and honorable Herr Johann Marius, formerly pastor in Lausanne, Switzerland, area of Bern, is sent to us as a German-French speaking pastor according to the document dated June 3rd of this year.”

Pastor Marius received free lodging and 300 florins per year, to be paid quarterly.

This pastor Marius began the new parish register after the old church records had been destroyed, namely in such a manner that he kept a separate register for both parish, i.e., French and German, the former in the French language. His successors kept up this practice for at least some time. The names of the pastors are:

1.       Joh. Nicol. Chevallier 1678-1692

2.       Joh. Jac. Marius 1692-1704

3.       Joh. Konrad Kilian 1704-1724, as well as inspector

4.       Otto Valentin 1724-1732

5.       Christian Haldi 1732-1748

6.       Jakob Maurel 1748-1752

7.       Johann Blasius 1752-1772

The pastors didn’t always show the proper kind of respect [for the French], but rather have been guilty of neglecting them from time to time. In this regard, the somewhat lax Pastor Haldi is admonished in 1733 that during the catechism studies he was required to use the French language when teaching French speaking children. On another occasion, in 1747, the Walloons complained that they had not received a sermon of their own for ¾ year, whereupon Vicar Watzenborn is advised that he is required to hold French services again regularly.

The rhythm of services was organized in such a manner that the Pastor of Billigheim, who served the German community every Sunday, had to preach in Billigheim for the Walloons every two weeks as well as in the German Reformed affiliate of Ingenheim. After each three times 14 days the service was held in the affiliate of Appenhofen rather than Ingenheim.

Once again in 1750, shortly before the dissolution of the French community, complaints about neglect of the French sermon on the part of the pastors, whereas, as noted in 1752, the Walloons did not deserve that [neglect[ since they had always done so much good for the parish and were still helping now.

Over the course of time in all those communities, the natives and foreigners became integrated. The foreigners took on the native language and forgot the language of their forefathers. They became acquainted with the customs and philosophies of their surroundings, the earlier memories faded away, the unique aspects and peculiarities disappeared, and thus the many families with foreign names still present today, have become good Palatines, who have learned to love the German soil where their forefathers had found refuge during times of danger, and who are devoted to their German fatherland with heart and hand. Even through all the changing times in all the storms of the past, they have, with negligible exceptions, remained true to their evangelical faith and are regarded as worthy and trustworthy members of the Protestant Church in the Palatinate. And when here and there in their circles the spirit of Atheism and moving away from God looms threateningly, may these pages remind them that apostasy from the faith of their fathers, not to mention anything else, constitutes a sin against the memory of their forefathers who rather left house and home and gave their property and their blood, than to deny their faith and become confounded in their testimony. Thus we want to call to them in closing the beautiful words of Paul, written to the Ephesians,

This you are no more guests and strangers, but rather citizens with the Saints and the companions of God. Build on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, since Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone, on which the whole building is joined. Grow to be a Holy Temple in the Lord on which ye shall also build to make a house of God in the Spirit. [Ephesians 2:19-22]

Bissersheim, in December 1893. Th. Gumbel, Pastor

Faber’s Publishing Company, Magdeburg


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