Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Rollenhagens.

Christian Friedrich Rollenhagen was born in 1832 in the tiny town of Brusewitz, Prussia, second oldest son of Friedrich Wilhelm Rollenhagen and Anna Luise Eggert. The Rollenhagens are known to have lived in the area since at least the 1770s.

Fred, as he was later known, trained as a master tailor. He was married in 1857 to Hanna Frederike Theel, who had been born in Brusewitz in 1833, the daughter of Gottfried Theel and Anna Marohn. Frederika must have gotten pregnant on their wedding night, because 9 months and 9 days later she gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Auguste Emilie. A son, Emil Amandus, was born in September 1860 in the nearby town of Hansfelde.

A photograph from the early 1900s of Brusewitz, Anna Rollenhagen in the foreground.

In 1862, the couple, their two children, Frederika's parents, her brothers Friedrich and Christoph, and her sister Maria traveled to Hamburg and boarded the Sir Robert Peel and spent weeks sailing to the United States in steerage. Why they came to the United States has been forgotten. They would later move to places that were very similar, in terms of climate, geography, and vegetation, to Brusewitz.

Sir Robert Peel.

The Sir Robert Peel was launched in 1852 and sailed primarily between Hamburg and New York City, carrying immigrants. The ship would later sink in November 1863 in the North Sea.

There were 293 passengers aboard the vessel. Six died during the voyage, including the Rollenhagen's 21-month-old son Emil Amandus.

Rollenhagen and Theel families, listed on the 24 June 1862 passenger list for the Sir Robert Peel.

The Rollenhagens and the Theels headed west, settling on Grand Island, Erie County, New York. They lived in a log house, with Frederick working as a farmer. A son Herman was born in August 1864.  A state census was taken in June 1865.
Rollenhagen family in the 1865 New York state census.

In February 1866, my great-great grandmother Anna Maria Dortea was born. I have a hand-painted fraktur that was created using a piece of ordinary lined paper, the blue lines highlighted with gold.

Anna Rollenhagen fraktur.
The family moved to Michigan soon afterwards, they were there by March 1867 when son Otto Frederick was born. The couple's last child, a daughter Edith Augusta Marie, was born in July 1869.

In August 1870, the couple and three children- Amelia, Herman, Anna, Otto, and Mary; Gred's brothers Herman and August, who had come over from Brusewitz, and a servant girl, Augusta Daubach (who would later marry one of the Rollenhagen brothers)- lived in Crockery township, Ottawa County, Michigan. Fred worked as a farm laborer while Fredrica kept house. They owned $300 in real estate and $150 in personal property (tools, furniture, clothing).

The Rollenhagens in the 1870 census.

In June 1880, the couple and their four children- Herman, Anna, Otto, and Edith- lived in Ravenna, Muskegon County, Michigan, where Frederic worked as a farmer and Hannah was keeping house. All four children had attended school in the last year.

The Rollenhagens in the 1880 census.

In June 1900, the couple, their son Otto, his wife Adaline, that couples four children, and a servant woman lived in Ravenna. Fred was still farming, helped out by his son.

Rollenhagen household, 1900 census.

My grandmother had a photograph of Fred and Fredericka. I suspect it was taken sometime between 1890 and 1905. Fred has a full head of hair and a big bushy beard. A watch chain and fob are visible, the pocket watch is tucked into a vest pocket. His jacket is mostly unbuttoned, I'm not sure if this was because he was chubby, or it was to show off the watch chain, or because it was the style. Fredericka has an elaborate lace collar, pinned at the neck, and is holding, apparently, a handkerchief.

 Fred and Fredericka.

Fred died in October 1906 from "dropsy of the heart," probably a heart attack. His death was reported in the Coopersville (MI) Observer on 19 October 1906: " The funeral of Frederick Rollenhagen, who died last week Thursday at his home near Dennison, was held Tuesday morning with services at the home at ten o'clock and in the church at eleven o'clock. The burial took place in the Coopersville cemetery. The Rev. L. E. K. Hagen of Grand Haven officiating.  Mr. Rollenhagen was one of the oldest residents of the community and had lived in the vicinity of his late home for about fifty-four years. He was born in Germany, September 10, 1832, and is survived by four children and eighteen grandchildren. Death was caused by dropsy of the heart."

Fred's death certificate.

After Fred's death, Fredericka continued to live with her son Otto and his family in Ravenna.

Rollenhagen household, 1910 census.

Fredericka died in April 1914 from pneumonia. Her obituary appeared in the A May 1914 issue of the Coopersville (Michigan) Observer:  "OBITUARY. Fredericka Theel, daughter of Gotfried and Anna Theel, was born in Germany, December 12, 1833, and died April 18, 1914.  She was married to Frederick Rollenhagen, February, 12, 1857. Six years later together they left their native land for America, Settling first in New York. After about three years residence in New York they removed to Nunica, Ottawa County, Michigan. Then in 1871 to the home in Ravenna township, Muskegon County, where she lived until her death. She was the mother of six children, Emelie A., Mandus, Herman A., Anna M., Otto F., and Edith A.., three of whom, one buried at sea, together with her husband, have gone before. There remain two daughters, Mrs. Anna Clawson, of Traverse City, and Edith, now Mrs. Hoyt Taylor, of Coopersville, one son Otto F. Rollenhagen who now occupies the old home in Ravenna township, thirty-five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren with many friends and neighbors.
She was an earnest Christian, a loving wife and mother and will be greatly missed by the church, family and friends.
Card of Thanks
We take this method of thanking our friends and neighbors, who so kindly assisted us during the sickness and burial of our beloved mother. Your kindness will never be forgotten.

Fredericka Rollenhagen death certificate.

Fred and Fredericka are buried in the Coopersville-Polkton Cemetery in Coopersville, Ottawa County. THe opposite side of the tombstone has an inscription for Fredericka's father Gottfriend Theel.

Fred and Fredericka's tombstone.

My uncle has a spinning wheel that was handed down in the family. My grandmother gave me the fraktur and a Tea Leaf cup and saucer that once belonged to Fredericka.

Tea Leaf cup.

Brusewitz is now part of the Poland, the German residents driven out at the end of World War II.

In 1998, I traveled first to Brudzewice, Poland, It is still a small town of brick homes, the barns connected directly to each house. Women were working in potato fields and called out to me and the ex, wondering who we were and what we were doing. We didn't speak Polish and they didn't speak English, so we could not communicate.

Afterward, I went to southern Germany and met my Rollenhagen cousins, the descendants of a brother who came to the United States, but was sent back to Brusewitz after the oldest brother, who had remained behind, died prematurely. He ended up marrying his brother's widow and the modern Rollenhagens descend from that couple. My cousin Claus created a website for the family, which I helped out with information I collected here in the United States.

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