52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Strong Woman

Choosing just one strong female ancestor to write about this week was quite difficult! However, one stands out to me as showing extraordinary strength and bravery through a series of hardships, my 4th great grandmother, Anna Krieg Althauser. This will be a two part post: this week’s post will focus on her strength and next week’s post, while also continuing the theme of strength, will also focus on how a little bit of luck helped change her future.

Anna’s beautiful signature.

Anna’s Background and Early Life

Anna Krieg was born born 8 February 1808, the third of nine children born to Martin Krieg (1772-btw. 1840 and 1850) and Barbara Mörch (1783-1849). Anna and her family lived in Opfingen, a village in the Grand Duchy of Baden in what is now Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Anna’s father, Martin, was a middle class citizen of Opfingen (an important distinction in the German states) and farmer.

Although I do not know very much about Anna’s younger years, I can make some assumptions. Anna was literate, as were both of her parents.  In 1803, an edict issued by Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden decreed that schools that functioned throughout the year had to be established in every town, not just schools that operated in the winter when children were not needed in the fields. Children were to begin school when they turned 7 years old and attended until the age of 13 for girls and 14 for boys. At school, children learned “spelling, reading, writing of the German language, arithmetic, singing, Bible history, and materials of religious instruction.” In addition, “finishing schools” were also required in each town, including catechism, vocational (for girls, spinning, knitting, and sewing), Sunday, and middle schools. Girls could attend the first three schools. As Anna was a part of the middle class, she would have attended the regular school and probably the three finishing schools as well.

Anna’s Prenuptial Agreement

Anna probably knew her future husband, Jakob Althauser, her entire life. Jakob was born on 11 October 1807 in Opfingen, the only child of Jakob Simeon Althauser (1782-1838) and Anna Sutter (1785-1838). Jakob the father was a baker and owned some property in town.

On 9 January 1832, a marriage contract between Anna Krieg and Jakob Althauser was drawn up, and it would play an important role when Anna’s marriage turned sour. The contract had six sections, but the most important ones are abbreviated as follows:

  • Jakob owns approximately 1000 guilders of property.
  • Anna possesses approximately 400 guilders of property.
  • The mother of the bride, Barbara Mörch, purchased a two-story house, barn, and stall in Opfingen. Barbara Mörch allows her daughter to inhabit most of the rooms as long as she and her husband pay 500 guilders. Jakob Althauser accepts this, but insists that his father, Jakob Althauser, shall be allowed to live in the house as long as he lives.
  • The mother of the bride also reserves the right to move into the upper room in the attic if she so desires and to be able to live there.
  • If one part of the future couple dies without children, the longest living part shall be able to use all of the assets of the deceased for life.

Anna and Jakob’s prenuptial agreement is a fascinating document.

  • It is the first prenuptial agreement that I have found for an ancestral couple.
  • The document and contents were driven by the wishes of Anna’ mother, Barbara. Anna’s father, Martin, was not involved at all; he didn’t even sign the agreement.
  • Monetary values are assigned to the property that both Anna and Jakob were bringing into the marriage.
  • It contains a great description of their house and some of the outbuildings.
  • Both Barbara and Jakob Simeon Althauser’s futures were secured (why were Martin Krieg and Anna Sutter not included?)
  • It also allows Anna to live in the house for as long as she lives, thus giving her some security.

Anna’s Marriage

Anna and Jakob married on 12 Jan 1832 in Opfingen. The couple moved into the two-story house in Opfingen and began their lives as a married couple. Their first child, daughter Pauline, was born on 31 August 1832, a little of seven months later. It is possible that Anna delivered her early, but it is also possible that Anna was pregnant when she married Jakob. Two more children were born in quick succession: a son born 30 October 1833 and who died two days later and Andreas born 9 November 1834.

However, sometime around 1834, Anna and Jakob separated. This extremely period of Anna’s life tested her fortitude. It is difficult to determine exactly when the separation occurred, but some clues suggest a timeline. Martin and Barbara Krieg became indebted to Georg Küchle of Opfingen in the amount of 8 guilders 31 including interest on 1 July 1834. Their son-in-law Jakob agreed to take on the debt himself, although by 1837 he still had not repaid the it. This indicates that in July, Jakob was still on amicable terms with his in laws. Andreas was born in November, but no other children were born to Anna and Jakob until the birth of their short lived son, Jakob Friedrich, on 24 July 1838. So, Anna and Jakob were likely separated from as early as July 1834 until as late as October 1837 (assuming Jakob Friedrich was a full term baby).

What were the reasons for their separation? Like most marital problems, the reasons were complicated and there are probably quite a few other aspects that I will remain lost to history. However, some of the details came to light in a hearing at the Grand Land Office. Martin, Barbara, and all of their children (other than Anna) wished to immigrate to the United States, and in order to do this, they had to settle all debts they owed. On 20 March 1837, the Kriegs admitted that there was still an unpaid debt to Georg Küchle, but it was no longer their responsibility. This prompted Jakob to respond by accusing the Kriegs of not giving him the 400 guilder dowry agreed upon in his and Anna’s prenuptial agreement which should prevent their departure from Opfingen. The Kriegs fired back, stating that Jakob and Anna had willingly separated from each other, and because Jakob refused to support his wife and children, they were not obligated to give him anything. Martin, Barbara, and Jakob agreed to bring the issues before the Mayor and City Council.

This family feud in a very public place suggests that there were probably deeper issues that were causing Anna and Jakob’s marriage to disintegrate. At this time, I do not know what those were. Was Jakob an alcoholic? Was he abusive? Was he unfaithful and keeping a mistress? Was he just an irresponsible and thoughtless person? Perhaps other records in Germany could answer some of these questions. But from what I can glean from the records I do have, it seems the problems had been festering for years. Anna was very brave to leave her husband and raise her children when Jakob refused to be literally hold up his end of the bargain.

On 15 April 1837, Anna took matters into her own hands. She requested an appointment at the Grand Land Office to settle the disagreement between her husband and her parents about her dowry. Her request was granted and the appointment was set for Wednesday, 19 April at 8:00 a.m. Due to illness, Martin was unable to attend, but Anna and Barbara fought for what they believed right. The hearing went like this:

  • Jakob: Because the Kriegs wanted to immigrate, they should pay him the dowry owed before they left.
  • Barbara and Anna: Barbara and Anna came to an agreement before the hearing. In lieu of the 400 guilders, Barbara transferred fields with grapevines, an herb garden, and other goods totaling 250 guilders to Anna. She also agreed to forfeit the ability to live in the two-story house.
  • Anna: She was perfectly happy with the arrangement, and her husband should accept this because “he has not even brought a kreutzer of the 1000 guilders of dowry that were set forth in the marriage agreement.” She also blamed their separation on Jakob, saying that he would not provide for her or their children.
  • Jakob: He agreed that he had not brought his dowry to the marriage, but it was because he was still living with his parents, and as the only son and child, he would inherit everything.
  • Jakob: He also stated that Anna left him without his consent, and he would not accept the 250 guilders.
  • Barbara: If Jakob refused to pay the 1000 guilders, she was in her right to refuse to pay the 400 guilders.
  • Jakob: He made his own counter offer: he would be satisfied with 300 guilders.
  • Anna and Barbara: They refused his offer and maintained their position.
  • Land Office: They decided to appeal to Jakob’s parents for the 1000 guilders.
  • Jakob: Agreed to Anna and Barbara’s conditions, but he would not pay any of the court costs.
All parties agreed to Anna and Barbara’s conditions.

After the hearing, the Kriegs immigrated and around October, Anna and Jakob had reconciled. Anna showed remarkable strength and courage by not only leaving her husband when he treated her and her children poorly, but argued against him at a court hearing in favor of herself and her mother. Sadly, difficulties in her marriage and other aspects of her personal life continued to occur.

Family Tragedies

Anna gave birth to eight children, but sadly, three of them died when they were very young. First, an unnamed son died at two days old. After a painful separation, a fight in court over money, and a reconciliation, Anna had to face the terrible tragedy of losing two more children. Jakob Friedrich, the first child born after they began living together again, died at six days old. Anna became pregnant almost immediately after the birth of Jakob Friedrich and gave birth to her second daughter, Anna, on born 9 May 1839. Little Anna died on 20 May.

Anna experienced a reprieve from heartbreak when she gave birth to her last three children – another Jakob Friedrich (b. 1840), Johann Jakob (b. 1843), and Wilhelm (b. 1846) – who all survived to adulthood. This was a much needed time of happiness between the problems of the 1830s and the hardships yet to come.

Anna’s husband, Jakob, was by profession a farmer, yet for unknown reasons, he still was unable (or unwilling) to provide for his family. It was possible that she and Jakob had separated once again, as after the birth of Wilhelm in 1846, she did not have any more children although she was still within childbearing years. By the end of the 1840s, Anna no longer owned the house given to her by her mother, and she and her children were being completely supported by the charity of the town. She was listed as “poor and asset-less,” with no property to her name.  Jakob was supposed to inherit everything that belonged to his parents upon their deaths. However, when he died, he left no property, which indicates that he was also forced to sell everything he owned. Without other details, it is unclear what problems in their personal lives caused Jakob and Anna to lose literally every asset they had in the world and plunged them into penury.

Jakob died on 9 July 1852 at the age of 44 years old. My 3rd great grandfather, Wilhelm, remembered “being held in someone’s arms over his (father’s) bed while he was dying.” Jakob was buried two days later.

Anna now faced a dire situation. Even though her husband failed to take care of his family for a large portion of their marriage, and she had been completely dependent on the community for basic necessities for several years, with his death, she had even fewer options open to her. What happened next will be the subject of next week’s post! With a stroke of good fortune and a brave plan, Anna again ensured the well-being of her family.

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