Nicholas in Falkenstein, Pfalz

Engraving by Merian the Elder: Falkenstein Castle from about 1642, prior to the time Nicholas would have arrived in Falkenstein.

icholas was the Yager who emigrated to the New World. But first, Nicholas may have traveled within Germany in order to marry Anna Maria, daughter of Christian Siebers of Falkenstein, a village in what was called the Palatinate in Germany, now called Pfalz. Falkenstein village once served Falkenstein Castle, located on the Donnersberg, the highest mountain in Pfalz.

To reach Falkenstein, Nicholas may have traveled from the Sinntal region in Hessen — which joins the Main River near Frankfort – and across the Rhine at Mainz. Nicholas and Anna Maria married at the Evangelical Lutheran church in Marienthal, Pfalz (then the Palatinate), just a short distance from Falkenstein.

The church register reads:

“ist Nicolaus Jager, Paul Jagers, Inwohners zu Meierspach aus Hessen ehel. Sognmit Anna Maria, Christian Siebers von Falchenstein ehel. Tochter copuliert worden.”
Marienthal Church

Nicholas and Anna Maria were married in this Evangelical Lutheran Church on May 11, 1706, in Marienthal, Pfalz. Photo by John and Eleanor Blankenbaker. Text from The Germanna Record, No. 10, April, 1967, by Claude Yowell.

Nicholas and Anna Maria had five children, some of whom were christened in Marienthal, some in Winnweiler. There was no church in Falkenstein at this time and it seems that a boundary ran through the village. The children were Maria Barbara, born 19 May 1797 and christened 3 days later at Marienthal; Adam, born 30 September 1708 and christened on 8 October 1708 at Winnweiler; Maria Gertraud, born 18 March 1711 and christened 11 days later at Marienthal; Anna Maria, born 15 November 1714 and christened on 18 November at Marienthal, and Anna Margaretha, born 14 April 1716 and christened 5 days later at Winnweiler.

We know little of the lives of Nicholas and Anna Maria in Falkenstein, but it does appear that Nicholas had family who were living not far away. His son Adam's naturalization papers in Virginia say that Adam was born at Falkenstein, in the Dukedom of Neuberg, in Germany. Christening documents in Winweiller also tell of a godfather who had attended Adam's christening in Winnweiler, Pfalz, in the Duchy of Neuberg, Johan Adam Yager, a soldier of Wolfstein. The term "a soldier of Wolfstein" may refer to a region in upper Bavaria, but it seems more likely that the Wolfstein referred to here might be a village just to the west of Falkenstein. A godmother, Barbara Yager, was the daughter of Claus Yager of Munchweiler. Munchweiler is a village in Pfalz, Germany, just southwest of Falkenstein.

The villages of Marienthal and Winnweiler are respectively on the north and south side of the Donnersberg, and the village of Falkenstein itself is located on a spur of the mountain top on which is Falkenstein Castle. Little today can be learned about the castle, although signs on the castle say it was destroyed in 1647, but the village would perhaps have housed various persons working for the castle. The landscape is not unlike the Blue Ridge of Virginia, and, like the Blue Ridge, was a wine-making region.

The rulers of this territory were the Palatine Electors, to whom Nicholas' son Adam eventually referred to as the "Duchy of Neuberg." At the time Nicholas married Anna Maria, the ruler was Johann II Wilhelm (John William), Elector Palatine of the Rhine, ruling 1690-1716. He was born 19 April 1658, son of Philipp Wilhelm von Pfalz-Neuburg (1615-1690), Elector Palatine of the Rhine, 1685-1690. Johann Wilhelm succeeded his father as elector in 1690. He was a Catholic who caused a forcible evacuation of Mennonites from Rheydt in 1694, confiscating their property, but yielded to pressure from King William of England and restored their property in 1797.

Falkenstein Ruins today

Our Nicholas and Anna Maria were not Mennonites, and we know little of the status of Lutherans in the Duchy of Neuberg under Catholic rulers, or why Nicholas and Anna Maria might have decided to leave Falkenstein for the New World. But they did leave in 1717, the year after Johan Wilhelm died, and his brother, Karl III Philip (Charles Philip), inherited the office. Karl Philip was born 4 November 1661, the seventh of seventeen children of Philipp Wilhelm, Elector Palatine, succeeded to the office of elector in 1716. Mennonite historians state that the period of his rule was one of oppression for the Mennonites. He died in 1742.

Nicholas and Anna Maria's only son, Adam, emigrated with them, but only one daughter, Anna Maria, came to the New World with Nicholas, his wife Anna Maria and Adam. We do not know what became of her after she arrived, a puzzle yet to be untangled.

The Yager family left Falkenstein for the New World in 1717, probably in July of that year. We believe this to be the case because we know that the Clore family, from across the Rhine in Gemmingen, near Heidelberg, left Gemmingen at that time, according to church records. Even if the families did not travel together down the Rhine, certainly they were together on the ship leaving London, which we believe occurred in October of 1717. NEXT: Journey to the New World

Copyright © 2011 Virginia Nuta