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The Vollraths

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Former Town Hall (Rathaus) in Frohnlach

The Vollrath family lived in Frohnlach, Germany, located in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria in the district of Coburg. It is the easternmost part of the municipality of Ebersdorf bei Coburg. It is also at the northern edge of the Lichtenfels Forest.

The Lichtenfels Forest was a formal Imperial forest and at its edge, a settlement called vronenloh was built in the 11th Century. Its name meant meant "manorial forest." The first mention of Frohnlach was in 1260 by Count Henry II von Sonneberg, the founder of the Sonnefeld Monastery. It is believed that Frohnlach was older than that, but proof of its true age has not yet been found. On 23 April of that year, the Count gave the newly founded monastery the village of Frohnlach as a present.

As long as the Sonnefeld Monastery owned Frohnlach, it gave its lands to the residents to farm. In return, the farmers provided tithes and compulsory labor to the Monastery. Twenty-five able-bodied men of the village would participate in its defense as necessary.

In 1532, the Monastery was dissolved during the Reformation and its properties, including Frohnlach, went to the Protestant Electorate of Saxony. By then, the first privately owned properties were already beginning to appear in Frohnlach because of the decades of mismanagement of the Monastery and of the aftereffects of the revolutionary Bauernkrieg (German Peasants War) that lasted from 1524 to 1525.

During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), the one street village was overrun and impoverished by the long and frequent billeting of and plundering by soldiers. They were Imperial troops, Hungarians, Croats and Lombards engaging in the back and forth battles. Major General Heinrich Holk's cavalry were not only known for their ferociousness in battle, but also in pillage and rape and were described as "notorious even in an age of atrocities." The played a major part in the devastation and looting of the Electorate of Saxony.

In Frohnlach, they took what they wanted, tore down houses and burned others. By 1635, many residents had to leave their homes and farms because they were unable to sustain themselves. In addition to people dying from hunger, disease spread throughout the land.

Bavaria sided with Napoleon during his war against the Prussians and two units of his army were camped outside of Frohnlach. Thousands of Bavarian soldiers lost their lives, above all, in Russia in 1812. However, Bavaria fulfilled its dream of military glory and greatness on the international stage. Napoleon led Bavaria to victory, not defeat like Prussia. The alliance with the Emperor of France brought Bavaria a royal crown, territorial expansion unchanged to this day, and its first liberal constitution.

Not only did the Bavarians have to provide soldiers but the kingdom itself also had to once again endure pillaging, devastation, starvation and fear. Bavaria was constantly being crisscrossed by allied and enemy armies on the move with marauding soldiers, leaving behind bare fields, stables, granaries and pantries. Bavaria was also the scene of battles between French armies under Napoleon and his opponents, primarily Austria.

Bavaria did manage to switch alliances just in time away from Napoleon’s falling star and toward its former ally, Austria. Although Bavaria did not take part in the final decisive battle against Napoleon in which he suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Nations at Leipzig in October 1813, it was on the side of the victors. This enabled it to retain the territories it had gained through Napoleon at the Congress of Vienna. At the end of this era, Bavaria was bankrupt, its economy was devastated, and it did not recover from its losses until decades later.

This is what my Vollrath ancestors experienced and it was into this world that my Vollrath immigrant ancestor was born.

Anna Margaretha (Margaretta) Vollrath was born on 13 February 1806 in Frohnlach. She was the daughter of Johann Lorenz and Margaretha Barbara (née Knauer) Vollrath and the oldest in a family of 11 children. Johann was a potter in the village. He died when Anna Margaretha was 19 years old.

In 1826, Frohnlach fell to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha where it stayed until it became part of the Free State of Bavaria in 1918.

Anna Margaretha married Johann Nicholaus Oberrender on 20 April 1829 in Ebersdorf, about 6 miles from Frohnlach. They lived in Ebersdorf and conducted a tailoring business with Johann's father, Peter, for the next 11 years (for my post about the Oberrenders, click here).

On 10 May 1840 Johann and Anna Margaretha, along with 5 children, sailed from Hamburg to the United States. It took them 65 days to cross the Atlantic. They settled in Conyngham, Luzerne County, PA where they lived for the rest of their lives and had 11 children.

Johann died in 1877 and Anna Margaretha died on 2 February 1893.


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