When F.J. Biltz escaped his guardian in Mittelfrohna with his half sister Louise, as I related in the last posting, he was only 12 years and three months old. They survived an arduous journey by ship across the Atlantic and a steamboat trip up the Mississippi river, finally to settle in Perry County, Missouri, close to the shores of the Mississippi. They arrived there in January of 1839. There he soon became one of the first eleven students, seven boys and four girls, in the log cabin school house in Altenburg, Missouri. One of these four girls was Marie von Wurmb, who ten years later would become his wife.
The first years in Perry County were not easy years. The community of immigrants was soon hit by a scandal surrounding their leader, who was soon kicked out and banished from ever returning. In addition to that there were the typical hardships involved in everyday pioneering: building shelter, providing for nourishment, dealing with diseases and death, and general daily survival. I’m sure that many of the settlers often thought back with fondness of the relative luxury they had left back in Germany. However, only a very few of them actually gave up and returned to the old country.
The story among F.J. Biltz’ descendants over a century and a half later was that after he had been in the US for a while he heard from his relatives in Germany that if he had stayed there he would have inherited a house and a share of a stocking manufacturing business back in his native Mittelfrohna. Unfortunately the lawyer representing him in the homeland was (according to complaints) prone to procrastination. Fortunately, the story goes, in the end Franz Julius was sent a complete and accurate accounting of his inheritance and was paid out his share.
This was the report that I had heard many years ago, and when I was looking for a contact person in the area of Mittelfrohna in the final months of 2019 I was hoping that I would find some information that would fill out details of this inheritance story. As hinted at in my previous posting, I was very successful.
In response to a request to the state archives in Chemnitz, a larger city very close to Mittelfrohna, they sent me pages from the old property records for Mittelfrohna. The page titled “Schulden” (i.e. “debts”) in these records mentions the name “Franz Julius Biltz”. Two times as a matter or fact!
The first time is an entry dated 19 January 1847 recording that 300 thalers from the property was owed to Franz Julius, who at the time was a year away from graduating at the seminary in St. Louis. The entry makes reference to an agreement from 1844. My guess is that that might have been the time when the local authorities realized that there were people besides the current owner of the house who had certain rights to the house. Three years after this agreement, in 1847, Franz Julius’ rights were then finally formally noted in the property records.
The second entry is dated 26 May 1853 and records that Franz Julius Biltz, through his lawyer, acknowledged the receipt of the 300 talers owed him. Thus in the end he did get the inheritance that was his by right.
There were six years between these two entries. This would seem to reflect the reality of the family tradition that Franz Julius’ German lawyer was not particularly zealous in his efforts to obtain the inheritance owed to his client.
So how much money was 300 thalers?
I’m not sure exactly how to go around figuring this out, but I did find one website that provided me with an estimate of about 15,000 modern day euros or dollars. That’s a pretty tidy sum!
By 1853, the year he received the money, he had been married to his old schoolmate for four years. He and his wife already had two baby daughters so there were mouths to be fed. They wound up having 12 children of their own and in addition adopted two further girls. Any additional funds would have been helpful in a situation like this, I’m sure.
Franz was certainly happy to receive this bit of extra cash. It was unfortunate that he had had to wait so many years for it, but the wait had certainly paid off for him.
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Very interesting, Matthew.