Saturday, February 4, 2012

Another Time

Bill Meyers, William F. Meyers, sent me three images of religious text written in German. The first was the cover page of Johann Hübner's, Two times two and fifty select biblical stories from the old and new testament, composed for the benefit of youth, (published 1814). The second is a page, I believe, from Hubner's collection of stories. It is the 44th story of Hubner's book, von Peter Berlangnung, which, for now, I am translating as the making of Peter. The last image is from the Gospel of Mark, On Easter Day, the first sermon, Mark, chapter  16, verses 1 - 8. The images are Bill's and permission to use them was graciously given.

Johann Hubner, Two times Fifty-Two Excellent Bible Stories
from the Old and new Testament, especially prepared for Youth.

Story 44, the Making of Peter

The Gospel of Mark, On Easter Day, chapter 16, verses 1- 8.

I have to admit that I was a little taken back to get them for several reasons. First, I had taken German in high school and college, so it would be fun to take a stab at translating the pages. Second, I love old books, and the history behind them. Finally, as Bill said in his email with the images, there is a bit of a mystery as to whether the books belonged to Mathias Van Huss or Valentine Felty Van Huss.

The Clues

Mathias was born in 1795, the year his father Valentine crossed into eastern Tennessee and settled near Fort Watauga, present day Elizabethton. Johan Hubner's book is the 1814 edition. That makes Mathias at least 19 years old at the date of publication of the one book. Of course, dad was considerably older. For that reason, Mathias seems to be favored as owner of the books. Unless, Valentine used the books in instructing other youth.

What is the case for Mathias? ... Mathias was the fifth child of Valentine Felty Vanhooser Jr. and Elizabeth Worley. Elizabeth, being descended from English stock, would not seem a likely candidate to teach her son German. That is unless we go back into Elizabeth's family history. She was the daughter of Valentine Worley and Anna Barbara Spraker. And, Anna Barbara Spraker was the daughter of Johann Christopher Sprecher and Elizabeth Reigher, both of whom were German to the core. Rutledge Family History.

For that matter, Mathias' grandmother on his father's side was Maria Barbara Zerwe ‎(Zerbe). She was thoroughly German on her side of the family. She and Mathias' grandfather, Valentine Felty Van Hooser, Sr. were married in the German Lutheran Church in a German community in Tulpenhocken, Pennsylvania.

One last clue is Mathias name which is the German form of Mathew.

All this leads to the conclusion that the Vanhooser/Van Huss line went from Dutch to truly Deutsch, at least in language. Either Mathias or father Valentine would have spoken German.

As I live in Kansas with my wife who is descended from a Van Huss, it is not all that surprising. For Kansas gave rise to many communities in the late 1800's and early 1900's which were German, Swedish, and even Czech in origin. Language and culture have a way of hanging on. Sometimes time moves slowly.

Thank goodness.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Van Huss - What is in a name?

"What's in a name?" Shakespeare has Juliet questioning Romeo, "That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet." Romeo And Juliet, Act 2, scene 2, lines 33-49. Juliet, of course, was concerned with the deadly antagonism between the two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, and prevented their love from being fulfilled.

So, what is in the name Van Huss? The name is certainly a place name, literally translating as "from Huss". It comes from the the fact that Jan Fransse Van Husum, first Van Huss in America, lived in the city of Husum, in North Friesland, on the far north coast of Jutland, in what was then the Duchy of Schleswig. Jan's father's name was Franss, and they were either Dutch, Frisian, or German depending on the year for political control often changed hands as did the weather. The language spoken in Husum was either Dutch or Frisian. There was at the time a community of Dutch who were in the process of reclaiming land from the sea. Frisian, the local dialect is an off shoot of German and still spoken today by about 10,000 souls.

Jan married a local girl, Volckje Juriens Nordstrand. Her surname was a combination of the name of her father Juriens and the fact that her family lived on Nordstand (Noortstant in Dutch), a small island in the North Sea just to the west of Husum. In 1634, the island was flooded. Of the family, only Volckje and her sister Annetje survived. Five years later, Volckje and Jan would marry in the city of Amsterdam, and then immediately set sail for the New Netherlands. In America they settled in the tiny community of Beverwyck, part of the larger area known as Rensselaerwyck. Annetje would also marry and come to the New Netherlands.

In the New World, the name took. Jan Franss Van Husum and his growing family thrived and flourished. In his marriage license of 30 April 1639, Jan listed his profession as varensgezel, a sailor. But, once in Beverwyck, Jan took on the attributes of  farmer and businessman - buying and selling beaver pelts from the local Indians, acquiring land, and even, at one point, running a bakery.

Through succeeding generations, the name would change. Van Husum became Van Hoesen in New York in keeping with Dutch. Off shoots of the family would spread across the United States. However, the branch of the family that was to become Van Huss, took the path of migrating in the 1750's from New York to Pennsylvania, then to North Carolina and Virginia. At about the time of the Revolution, the family settled in the far western reaches of Virginia in and around Washington and Wythe Counties. Then, in 1795, Valentine Felty Vanhooser, Jr. crossed into Tennessee and settled near Elizabethton, Tennessee. One branch of the family headed for Texas, some to Kentucky and other states. My wife's branch, Valentine Worley Van Huss and his sons, headed for Kansas after the Civil War.

Through the years, the name Van Husum had changed first to Van Hoesen in new York. In Pennsylvania, it became Van Hooser, or Vanhooser. It stayed that way in North Carolina and Virginia, only sometimes being shortened to Hooser in some records. When Valentine Felty Vanhooser, Jr. crossed into Tennessee in 1795, he was still using the name, as it is written on the deed that he recorded in the courthouse in Elizabethton.

At some time he or his son Mathias, who was born in 1795, changed the name to Van Huss. Mathias used this surname throughout his life, and the courthouse reflects the name change in all subsequent land dealings. The spelling made its way back across the Appalachian Mountains and took in Virginia, where one can find the Van Huss Cemetery in Wythe County, Virginia.