Person:Phillip Fischbach (1)

Phillip Fischbach
m. Abt 1650
  1. Clara Fischbach1651 -
  2. Johannes Fischbach1653 -
  3. Jacob Fischbach1656 - 1712
  4. Jost Fischbach1658 -
  5. Phillip Fischbach1661 - Aft 1715
  6. Gerlach Fischbach1662 -
m. 20 May 1683
  1. Clara Fischback1684 -
  2. Anna Els Fischback1685 - Aft 1760
  3. Catherine Fischbach1687 - 1731
  4. Maria Els Fischback1687 - 1760
  5. Agnes Fischback1689 -
  6. Johannes Fischbach1691 - 1735
  7. Hermann Fischback1693 - Bef 1776
  8. Maria Els Fischback1696 -
Facts and Events
Name Phillip Fischbach
Alt Name Philip Fishback
Alt Name[1] Philipp Fischbach
Gender Male
Birth? 3 Apr 1661 Seelbach, Nassau-Siegen, Germany
Other? 3 Apr 1661 Seelbach, Nassau-Siegen, GermanyChristened
Marriage 20 May 1683 Trupbach,Siegen,Westfalen,Prussiato Elizabeth Heimbach
Death? Aft 1715 Germanna, Fauquier County, Virginia

Phillip Fischbach was one of the Early Settlers of Germanna Colony

Image:Germanna Banner.jpg

Immigration to Germanna Colony

Phillip Fischbach and his family are listed among the first group of settlers to Germanna Colony in Virginia in April 1714:

  • Philip Fischbach (Fishback), 53, schoolmaster, b. 1661 and came with his wife Elizabeth Heimbach (Hanback); son, John, b. 1691; son, Harmon, b.1693; daughter, Mary Elizabeth, b.1687; and daughter, Mary Elizabeth, b. 1696.

Information on Phillip Fischbach

PHILLIP FISCHBACH was born in April 3, 1661 in the village of Seelbach, near the city of Siegen, in Nassau County, Germany. The county of Nassau-Siegen was located about sixty miles southeast of Cologne, in a line toward Frankfort, and was in, what was later (1815) to be, the Prussian Province of Westphalia. Philipp was the son of Johannes Fischbach II and Catharina Heimbach and was born in March 1661, for he was brought for baptism at Siegen of Judica Sunday, 1661. His godfather was Philipp Heimbach of Seelbach.

Seelbach was but a small village of Trupbach and the city of Siegen. Siegen was first mentioned in documents in 1079, though it existed long before that date. It grew up around a castle that was one of principal residences of the counts of Nassau. It was, long ago, a walled city. The county of Nassau-Siegen dated back to the thirteenth century.

The rulers of Nassau-Siegen were among the first fruits of the Reformation, but the country was on the borderline between Protestantism and Catholicism. It always remained partly Catholic, and occasionally, a ruler was Catholic. When a Catholic ruler was in power cruel persecutions were inflicted upon their Protestant subjects. These did not cease even with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1649.

The families of Heimbach and Fischbach were Protestant, of the German Reformed Church. Members of the Siegen Parish remained staunchly Protestant, and this was a source of continuing strife for many years. By the time Philipp was a young man, the conflict had been fueled again by the accession of William Hyacinth as Catholic Prince. He rigorously enforced the Catholic control of the schools and levied high taxes.

When the Protestants signed a protest and submitted it to the Emperor, he became indignant, and arrested many of them. When he had one of the leaders beheaded, he was deposed. However, the situation did not improve, for foreign troops then occupied Nassau-Siegen, and they continued the policy of Catholic control of the schools. A further act of oppression against the Protestants, was to refuse them burial of their dead in the cemetery of Weidenau, a small village near Siegen. By the year 1712, another conflict erupted on Corpus Christi Day when the foreign troops opened fire on the troops of the Protestant Prince and many lives were lost.

The family of Phillip Fischbach had long lived in the Nassau-Siegen area. His father, Johannes II had been born in Trupbach in November 1631; his grandfather, Johannes I had died there by May of 1672. He and his wife, Elisabeth, the mother of Johannes II, were living in Trupbach by 1624. He is thought to have been born in Freudenberg about 1600.

The roots of Johannes Fischbach I were deep in Nassau-Siegen. His name had been derived from the village Oberfischbach, being one of the communities near Siegen. The village was probably by a brook abounding in fish and thus, the first settler was identified as "from the fishbrook."

Oberfischbach, Freudenberg, Neiderndorf and Trupbach were among the villages in an iron ore producing area. As far back as the mid-fifteenth century, Tyl va Fispe was the owner of the Neiderndorf iron smelter. He was also Schultheiss, or the count's representative and the chief justice in the district of Freudenberg. He, not only, owned the Neiderndorf Ironworks, but he leased the count's iron works at Freudenberg. He was apart owner of the copper and iron mines on the Lurzenbach.

The ownership of the Neiderndorf smelter passed to his son, Johannes, former Schultheiss at Freudenberg and ultimately, to his five children, of whom Theiss was one. Theiss Fischbach was probably born about 1515 and had died before August 1566. His widow, Treina (Cathrina) stood in his place. He and Cathrina had seven children. Theiss Fischbach II, of Freudenberg is regarded as one of the sons. There were no other Fischbachs of the correct time and place.

After 1566, no express documentary records exist for three decades, to offer any firm evidence of relationship of the Fischbach family. Because of this, it cannot be certain that Johannes Fischbach, I of Trupbach was the son of Theiss. In the universal special tax list of 1599, the family name of Fischbach occurred only in Oberfischbach, Freudenberg and Niederschilden. Theiss Fischbach of Freudenberg in 1599, had a new taxable property in Freudenberg of 188 ½ Gulden.

While it cannot be stated, definitively, that the great grandfather of Philipp was Theiss Fischbach II, there seems little doubt that his family ancestry lay through the line of Theiss Fischbach I. The artisan skills of Philipp had been handed down through the iron-smelting interests of his early ancestors.

It was because of the iron-mining, smelting skills of Philipp and his countrymen in Nassau-Siegen, that the Baron von Graffenreid wrote to them. He had been instrumental in establishing a community called New Bern in North Carolina of miner-emigrants from Switzerland. The whole community had been destroyed and the inhabitants massacred by the Indians. Baron von Graffenreid was captured, but was able to escape and make his way to Virginia.

Governor Alexander Spotswood had discovered iron on land that he owned, and deemed it of great value to himself and the colony of Virginia, to mine the ore. He had been unable to persuade either the Trade Council of London, or Queen Anne, to fund his project of improving the iron mines discovered near the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Governor Spotswood befriended Baron von Graffenreid, he was encouraged to pursue his venture. Von Graffenreid, not only felt certain of the presence of the iron ore, but of the possibility of obtaining skilled iron workers from Germany to carry on the mining. The two evidently entered into some kind of agreement, for it seems that von Graffenreid must have been authorized to write the miners of Nassau-Siegen and offer them inducement to immigrate to the Virginia colony.

Thus, on the heels of the renewed persecution of the Protestants, came the opportunity to escape the oppressive Catholic rule and to embark upon a new life. With the continuity of generations of family in Nassau-Siegen, it was a hard decision to make. Philipp and his wife, Elsbeth were living in Trupbach, and had made their home there for some thirty years.

Trupbach was a little village, in a small valley, about a mile north of Siegen. It was a secure familiar place to live. It was not certain that Philipp would improve his and Elsbeth's lot, but they might be able to offer the settlers a prosperous life. While their province was a prosperous one in Germany, the political and religious unrest had taken its toll, and finally after much talk and soul-searching, Philipp and Elsbeth agreed it would be good to leave their home and make the long trip to the new colony of Virginia. Seelbach and Trupbach were two villages quite close to each other and to Siegen. With so many family connections, it was not hard for Philipp and Elsbeth to meet. Philipp's mother had been a Heimbach, the daughter of Georg Heimbach and Elisabeth Neiss of Seelbach. Philipp married Elsbeth Heimbach, the daughter of Johannes and Clara Heimbach of Trupbach. She was born about 1662 and she and Philipp were probably third cousins. They married on May 20, 1683 and lived in Trupbach.

All of their children were born there. Clara, who was named for her Grandmother Heimbach was born in 1684. Anna Els (Elisabeth) followed in 1685 and their third daughter, Maria Els (Elisabeth) was born in 1687. Philipp and Elsbeth had a fourth daughter, Agnes, born in 1689, before they had a son. Johannes, their first son was born in 1691 and Hermann was born in 1693. A fifth daughter was born in 1696, she was the second Maria Els. This may not have caused confusion in their identity when they were living, but it certainly created problems several generations later.

It is not known exactly what Philipp did for a living. It is certain that he was connected with the mining of iron, for he qualified as a member of the group of skilled miners who immigrated to the colony of Virginia. He and Elsbeth must have led a simple village life, centered around their family and their church. The dissension and ultimately, the persecutions inflicted upon them by their Catholic neighbors, created a constant anxiety in their lives.

When Philipp and Elsbeth Fischbach heard of the invitation of von Graffenreid they were no longer young by standards of those days. Philipp was fifty-two and his wife about a year younger. Clara and Agnes had evidently died young, as their was no further record of them. Anna Els had already married Hans Jacob Richter. Both Maria Elizabeth were still living at home, the older was twenty-six, while her sister was almost ten years younger. Johannes was still living at home at twenty-two, as was his nineteen year old brother, Hermann.

It was probably a family decision to travel to Virginia. Their son-in-law made the decision to travel with them, as Jacob Richter, his wife, Anna Elisabeth and their young son, Johannes also made the trip. It was very likely that the decision was made jointly with the Utterbachs of Trupbach. The wife of Hermann Utterbach was Elisabeth Heimbach, perhaps related to Elsbeth Fischbach.

The number of miners grew; they came from the surrounding villages of Muesen, Neiderndorf, Oberfischbach and Eisen. Most of them were younger than Philipp and Elsbeth, that is, except their minister from Oberfischbach, the Reverend Heinrich Haeger. He was born in September 1644 and was approaching seventy. He and his wife and two daughter joined the group. His daughter, Agnes was to marry Johannes Fischbach, after they left Nassau-Siegen.

There were, in all, forty-two persons who reached the colony of Virginia. The family names, as they were to become in Virginia were: Brumbach, Coons, Fishback, Hager, Hoffman, Hitt, Holtzclaw, Kemper, Martin, Rector, Spilman, Utterback and Weaver. A number of them were already related and more became related by marriage eventually.

As has so often been the case, these educated, thrifty, intelligent people left their homes in good faith and were the pawns of other seeking self-gain. They were invited to the colony, by Governor Spotswood of Virginia, though Baron von Graffenreid, both of whom hoped to gain mightily from the venture. The Nassau-Siegen emigrants landed in London in the fall of 1713, "with no one to meet them or provide for their passage to Virginia."

Baron von Graffenreid arrived after they did, penniless, and excused his lack of planning by saying they had come "inconsiderately", without orders. It was too late in the year for a ship to sail to Virginia, so they were forced to remain in England for the winter. It is not known where they spent the winter, but they evidently left shortly before the close of 1713, for a letter dated March 15, 1713, from Governor Spotswood, told of the miners.

Governor Spotswood made plans to settle the miners on his land, at the frontier's edge. He was able to secure financial assistance from the colony under the guise of using the unsuspecting immigrants as a buffer fort against the Indians. This would, then, secure and expand the frontier. The location was above the falls of the Rappahannock on a branch that came to be called the Rapidan River.

To finance their voyage to Virginia, the immigrants pooled their money and accepted the advance of passage of two English merchants, additionally. When they arrived in the colony they were indebted, collectively L150, and in no position to demand what had been promised them. They were innocent inhabitants of the dangerous frontier and tenants on the land of Governor Spotswood, Baron von Graffenreid had hurriedly made plans for them in England as winter was coming on and he suffered from gout.

The site Governor Spotswood chose for the settlement of the Germans, and thus, the fort against the hostile Indians, was located on the south bank of the Rapidan River in a big horseshoe bend of the river, about twenty miles above its confluence with the Rappahannock River and a dozen miles from the iron mines. The colonial government agreed to finance the building of a fort and to provide ammunition and two cannons. The immigrants arrived in April 1714, in the Virginia Colony. Their new settlement was in the western extreme of Essex County and was named Germanna. The area became Spottsvania County in 1720 and today, is located in Orange County, which was formed form Spotsylvania in 1734.

Because of their indebtedness, or perhaps anyway, Governor Spotswood denied their claim to the land; and to repay the passage money that he had advanced, allowed them to live as tenants on the 1287 acres (which had been set aside for them and he had taken up). They did not serve as indentured servants, but paid rent to Governor Spotswood amounting to about twelve days work a year for each household. Since the immigrants arrived too late in the season to plant, they were exempted from the tax levy imposed on all of the colonists for seven years. Governor Spotswood did not exact rent from them for the first two years.

The Germanna Colony was an outpost of the Virginia colony, in the northwestern Piedmont. Because of its location where the fall line of the river came closest to the Valley of Virginia, Germanna became a natural gateway from the Tidewater to the Piedmont and the Valley region, and thence into the Allegheny Mountains. It was the gateway to the west.

By the fall of 1715, the Nassau-Siegen families had built their palisaded settlement. They had formed a five-sided enclosure of stakes, or palisades. In the center they had built a pentagon shaped blockhouse, to which they could retreat were the Indians to breech the enclosure. They used the blockhouse as their assembly hall, but more importantly, as their church. The Reverend Hager regularly conducted divine services there.

Across two sides of the pentagon enclosure they built nine log houses in a line. Before each house, about twenty feet away, was a small shed for their hogs and hens. On the opposite two sides of the pentagon were vegetable gardens laid out. The description of the Germanna settlement was later found in the diary of John Fountaine, which he kept when he accompanied Governor Spotswood on his expedition into the Blue Ridge Mountains, the famed "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe."

The Fischbachs and their countrymen lived frugally and simply, miserably, as described by Ensign Fountain. They had built the necessary homes for their families. Those who had come as bachelors did not warrant a house, at first. Philipp and Elsbeth occupied one of the houses with their four adult children. The children were of marriageable age and each soon married and required space to live. Ultimately, there would be thirteen cabins.

All of the accounts of the Germanna Colony and the Fischbach family state that Philipp and Elsbeth Fischbach did reach the Germanna settlement on the Rapidan. It is not know how long they lived afterward. It is significant that the commemorative marker to the settlers names both John Fishback and Harman Fishback as heads of families of the immigrants and no mention is made of Philipp. it is thought that he died soon after they settled, and it is probable that this is so.

It is possible that Philipp did not make a will; for he had no property. The land they lived on was leased and they had all put their money together to secure passage to the colony. It is inconceivable that his sons would have traveled to Essex County Courthouse to record this will had he made one. It would have been a distance of some fifty miles. It is suggested that Elsbeth died shortly after their arrival, also. It is thought that ll of these German settlers had family Bibles that they revered. Some have survived, but the Bible of the Fishback family has not been found.

When the Germanna Colony settled in Essex County, a special parish was created for their community. St. George Parish, not to be confused with the English St. George Parish, was created from St. Mary's Parish in 1714. It was abolished in 1720, with the creation of Spotsylvania County, and the English St. George Parish. Because it was removed from existence, none of the parish records of the German parish have survived.

Much research has been conducted by the descendants of the Germanna folk. Several descendants have gone to Germany and also been in contact with people in the Siegen area who have helped with the research. There are a number of family histories that have been written of these German settlers and many articles about the colony and their settlements.

There is, today, a Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies that was chartered in March 1956. It owns 270 acres of the original Germanna tract and the area is being developed as a memorial to the early settlers and their descendants.

Historians and descendants alike can be specially grateful for the manner in which Willis Miller Kemper has presented the histories of the Kemper and the Fishback families. B. C. Holtzclaw has written a scholarly work, that is the official publication of the Germanna Foundation, about the ancestors and descendants of the Nassau-Siegen Immigrants. These source should be explored for a more detailed account of these people, and both their homeland and their adopted home.

  1. Germanna Record No. 5: Ancestry & Descendants of the Nassau-Siegen Immigrants to Virginia 1714 - 1750
    Pages 145 - 168.