THE KILTS FAMILY AT HENAU, GERMANY
Martha Witthoft Kopra
October, 1991, my husband and I spent two weeks in Germany. I was excited to learn, before we left, that Hank Jones had discovered where Conrad Kilts was from in the Hunsrück Mountains: Conrad was from Henau; his wife, Susanna Margaretha Moor, was from Swarzerden; and they attended church at Kellenbach. They left Henau in 1738 to emigrate to America with their four sons, Johann Peter, Johannes, Johan Adam, and Johann Nickel. We would spend several days visiting Conrad's home turf!
We started our tour of Kilts Country 45 miles west of Frankfurt at Bad Kreuznach, a city known for its 15th-century bridgehouses over the Nahe River and its thermal baths and kur clinics. We followed the scenic, remote Nahe River, winding through quaint villages and vineyards and orchards. Grape pickers climbed up and down the steep hills with large green buckets over their backs, picking grapes, and dropping the grapes over their shoulders into the buckets. We stopped at the 7th-centruy Kloster Disibodenberg and were treated to a delightful wine tasting in the formal parlor. We walked through the walled medieval city of Meisenheim and stopped at Waldböckelheim to see the hilltop Evangelische Bergkirche and at Monzingen to see the beautiful old fachwerk houses.
At Simmertal, we left the vineyards of the Nahe River Valley and followed the meandering Simmerbach (brook) north into the low, rolling hills of the Hunsrück Mountains. Forests were interspersed with villages and cultivated fields. Henau, Schwarzerden, and Kellenbach are on the southern edge of the Soonwald (forest) near the town of Gemünden. Gemünden, called "The Pearl of the Hunsrücks," is a pretty little town on the banks of the Simmerbach with guesthouses, restaurants, and shops. The castle on the hill above the town is lit up at night. The largest town in the area is Kirchberg with a picturesque downtown shopping area and many fachwerk buildings.
The area is dotted with trails and is popular with hikers. Near Henau is the ruins of Koppenstein Castle. Hiking trails lead through the woods to the tower. Handrails and metal stairs in the tower allow hikers to climb to the top to see all over the valley.
Kellenbach is on the main road to Gemünden and Kirchberg. The Kilts family was baptized, confirmed, married, and buried here at the Lutheran Church, a picture-book white structure on a hill above the town. The village has a Catholic chapel and a guesthouse (opened seasonally).
Henau and Schwarzerden are reached by winding roads from Kellenbach or Gemünden. The four villages are only a few miles apart. Henau and Scharzerden are small, rural, mountainside villages across the valley from each other, a valley formed by the Asbach (brook). One can see one village from the other--the best views of Henau are from Schwarzerden and vice versa. As the crow flies, the distance is less than a mile, but longer by the road that winds down and around from one village to the other.
We checked the phone book for names similar to Kilts in the surrounding villages. We found one: Herman Kilz in Henau. We stopped at Herman Kilz's house a little before noon, and Mrs. Hilda Kilz invited us in. Soon the family came home for lunch: Hilda's husband, Hermann Sr., their son, Hermann Jr., and his little daughter, Sabrina. They telephoned their neighbor, Walter Glöckner, who had written a book about Henau. They also invited a high school student to help translate. So we ended up with a kitchen full of people!
We showed them information about Conrad Kilts. In Walter Glöckner's book, we learned that Johann Thiel Kilts and Johann Adam Kilts were in Henau in 1743. Conrad's brothers were Johann Diehl and Johann Adam; these men appear to be the same men listed in Walter Glöckner's book!
The family showed us their genealogy chart that began with Jacob Kilts in
1811. They had no information about their family prior to 1811. An interesting
coincidence: Hilda is descended from Jacob Kilts. She married
Hermann Kilz; he is not related and is not from the Henau area.
We had a very pleasant visit with this family. We have corresponded with them and hope to learn if there is a relationship between the Hermann Kilz family in Henau and our ancestor, Conrad Kilts. That is: Is Jacob Kilts descended from one of Conrad Kilts' brothers, Johann Thiel/Diehl or Johann Adam?
We also visited in Kirchberg with Hermann Jr.'s cousin, Alfred Bauer. (He is not descended from Jacob Kilts). Alfred is very interested in Conrad Kilts; he teaches history and Latin and is doing research on the emigration of the Palatines.
We attended church services at Conrad Kilts' church in Kellenbach and arrived just as the church bell started to ring. As we entered the side door, all eyes turned to inspect us. About 15 people were in attendance plus the confirmation class--six well scrubbed boys sitting in the side pews. The church is small with the traditional high pulpit and beautiful organ in the back of the church.
We followed the service in the hymnbook and worshiped in German. A retired minister led the service; the regular paastor was on holiday in East Germany. We were moved by the worship service. Perhaps our Kilts' ancestors worshiped in this same place! The date on the outside of the church is 1757; we do not know if any of the building dates before 1757. A stone plaque in the back of the church came from the middle aisle when the church was renovated and probably dates from Conrad Kilts' time or before. The old cemetery is under the lawn beside the church.
After the service, we introduced ourselves to the pastor and visited with the organist and a member of the congregation. They were very interested that a member of their church emigrated to America. We signed the guest register, and the organist helped us write, "Meine Vorfahren waren Conrad Kilts, nach America 1738 ausgewandert."
We drove a few miles to Brauweiler, a little town on the side of a mountain where one of the godparents of Conrad's sister, Anna Christina, had lived. We parked the car and ate our picnic lunch at a scenic spot on the side of the road.
Before leaving Kilts Country, we made a side trip along the beautiful Mosel River Valley through the cities of Zell and Cochem to tour the Castle Eltz.
Our trip to Kilts Country was a fascinating experience. We're looking forward to our next visit.
Table of Contents, Kilts
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