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Exploring Michael App’s German Origins

Chapter 3

To learn more about Michael App’s origins one can apply what is known about cultural habits in the early 1700’s in Germany, patterns of immigration, and everyday life in a new land. In Germany, there were times when congregations of both Lutheran and Catholic faiths shared a common church building. The Lutherans made use of it for part of the day, and the Catholics the other part of the day. Some current day App family members in Germany affiliate with the Catholics, and in America many of them affiliate with the Lutherans. In America, Michael App and his family attended Evangelical Lutheran churches close to where they lived in Pennsylvania. Most notably these were the ones built by the Allemangel Lutherans, such as today’s Zion Stone UCC church, and today’s St. Paul’s UCC church (there are App family burials in the cemeteries of these two churches). According to a Berks County (near Northampton County) government webpage, the first settlers in the area were of German descent. Settlers originally referred to the area as “Allemaengel” after an area of old Germany now encompassing part of Switzerland, from which many of them came.

A comprehensive review of traveling Lutheran minister Rev. Daniel Schumacher’s various records may reveal more about Michael App’s family origins. Lutherans from the mid-1740s were in Albany Township near the Berks/Lehigh County line. Lutherans also came here from Albany Township and from Lynn Township in Lehigh County. In 1746 Rev. H. M. Muhlenberg, pastor at New Hanover, arranged for 50 acres (20 hectares) to be used by the Allemangel Lutherans to build a church. The earliest surviving record book was begun in 1768 by Rev. Daniel Schumacher, though it is known that Rev. Tobias Wagner had served the congregation earlier.

Baptisms, in those days, usually had a family member or close friend serving as a “sponsor.” It is said that “if you want to know about a person, talk with their friends.” It’s possible that by researching the lives of these sponsors, more can be learned about Michael App. His daughter, Anna Maria, was baptized at the Allemangle Lutheran Church (located in Albany Township on the border of modern Berks and Lehigh counties) on March 5, 1758 at age three weeks. Her sponsors were Conrad Bielmann and Anna Maria Färmern (single). This rite was performed by Reverend Daniel Schumacher, who kept a detailed record of each baptism he performed. As a side-note, one year later, in 1759, Conrad married Anna Catharine Grimm.

Conrad Bielmann (Billman, Bilmann) was born on June 16, 1740 in Lynn Township in Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Hanns David Bilmann (born 1706 in Germany) and Anna Maria Bentz, German immigrants from Biberach an der Riß, Duchy of Württemberg. They arrived in Philadelphia from Germany on September 16, 1736 aboard the ship “Princess Augusta” (from Rotterdam) settling in Lynn Township (today’s Lehigh Township). In 1756, when Conrad was 15 years old, his mother and two of his siblings, Maria Elizabeth (b.1743) and Johann (b.1746), were murdered by Indians. It is possible that Michael App and his family back in Germany were good friends with Hanns David and his family (implying that they came from the same location in Germany), the families having been close friends there.

Information about Michael’s German origin and immigration experience might also be learned by researching the stories of the people with whom he traveled. Standing next to Michael App on the ship St. Andrew was Christian Stäbler. There is a Stäbler family document that provides some interesting context. The document also shares a travel experience similar to what Michael may have experienced. Shipping companies advertised their services by going into German neighborhoods to contract with groups, in this case, to travel to the new American colonies. Since these neighborhoods could be miles (kilometers) apart, entire shiploads of passengers were not necessarily from the same “neighborhood.” The Stäbler family surname comes from three small villages about 15 miles south of Stuttgart, in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. The 3 villages are: Musberg, Echterdingen and Leinfelden. They are all about 2 to 5 miles (3 to 8 kilometers) apart.

It is not known whether Michael App and Christian Stäbler knew one another, but the stories from the Stäbler family provide an interesting background of the trip that many German immigrants made. A married couple immigrating could be worth more to the English crown than singles, but it appears that Michael and Elisabeth (Polsie) were not married until 1753, shortly after his arrival in America late in the fall of 1752. If Michael’s travel experience was similar to the Stäbler’s, he would have followed the Neckar River north until it joined the Rhine River. Then he would have taken the Rhine north into Rotterdam (Netherlands) to board the ship to Plymouth, England, and finally to Philadelphia. Historians point out that the passage from Europe to the Colonies during the 1750’s was quite dangerous. Ships were filled to the brim with immigrants and many died along the way due to poor accommodations, a lack of food and clean water, and disease. The journey took close to 5 months.

There was also a man standing next to Michael on the St. Andrew named Rudolf Edel. His given name could also be Rudolph or Rudolfus, and his surname was probably Edele (with the extra “e” at the end). From a German App family tree that two Swiss cousins provide online, a woman named Helena Edele (1769-1855) married Michael App’s grandson, Johann App (1767-1829). Work needs to be done to know if it is the same family Edele, and exactly where the family lived in Germany. They may have been close friends with the Apps in that community.

Many of the early German settlers in Pennsylvania came from the Palatine area of Germany. However, it is doubtful that this area was Michael’s homeland since his ship, and its arrival date, does not appear on any list of Palatine ships to Philadelphia.

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