Franz in West Virginia

Six days after my visit to Franz Kotz’s hometown in Germany, I visited his hand-built home in West Virginia.

Just six days after our visit to Sulzau, Germany – the original home of my great-great-great grandfather Franz Kotz – I was chatting with another direct descendant inside the home Franz built in West Virginia, holding his Wander-Buch and following his youthful travels in my imagination. Read on!

Kotz homestead, Wardensville, WV

My distant cousin, of my parents’ generation, continues to live in the house, which remains in fine shape due to his tender care of the family homestead.  He and his wife showed me many dozens of documents from Franz – including the Wander-buch, the Heimath-Schein (certificate of residence in Sulzau), and a one-page legal document that appears to be from the district court in Sulzau.  I spent a couple hours photographing all the documents, in hopes that I might later decipher more about Franz and his origins, and return to Sulzau and the current records office (in Horb) to see if I can dig up more.

For the first time I was able to see (and photograph) the interior of the Wander-buch, which acted like a passport from his home (the Kingdom of Württemberg) while he traveled and worked in the region.  At each stop there is a note and a stamp from the relevant town official, as shown below.

Horb, Germany, 1 April 1844.

Sulzau, Germany, 11 April 1844.

? Germany, 24 June(?) 1844

Offenburg Germany, 24 June(?) 1844 Franz Kotz documents; Wanderbuch pages 8-9

? 27 June 1844

Zürich(!), Switzerland, 28 June 1844

Helfenschwie? 30 June 1845

Wattwyl (St.Gallen), Switzerland, 13 December 1845

Oberhelfenschwil (St.Gallen), Switzerland, 13 June 1846

Franz Kotz documents; Wanderbuch pages 10-11

Wattwyl (St.Gallen), Switzerland, 11 April 1848

Sulzau, Germany, 17 October 1848

Horb, Germany, 18 October 1848

Sulzau, Germany, 24 October 1848

Franz Kotz documents; Wanderbuch pages 12-13

Port D’Anvers, 3 (month?) 1848

Signed by the Commissaire Maritime, and written in French, this final entry may reflect his port and date of departure from Antwerp (aka Anvers, Belgium) for his life in the New World. The French month name is hard to discern, and the year may actually be 1849.

Franz Kotz documents; Wanderbuch pages 14-15

It appears to say that he boarded the American ship “Peter Hattrick”, with Captain Rockwell.  I see the Peter Hattrick arrived in NYC on 2 January 1849, after sailing from Antwerp, but can find no accessible manifest for that ship (though it may be available in the National Archives). There is a record of passengers arriving NYC on the Peter Hattrick on 3 July 1849, which had also sailed from Antwerp. No Kotz in that list, but that ship was likely too late to correspond to the Antwerp departure date in the Wander-buch.

Sketch of Ship Peter HattrickQuoting from a different family’s history, “The Ship Peter Hattrick of New York, was built in Essex, Connecticut (not Massachusetts!), in 1841 by Richard P. Williams, Master Builder for Essex and New York owners. She was built in the New City Shipyard and registered 555.89 tons, was 133 feet x 30.4 feet x 21 feet, and had a figurehead of a man. Cost to build was $38,235. She was first commanded by David Rawson Post, followed by John E. Rockwell, his nephew. It was sold foreign at New York in 1855. Following is a photo of a painting on glass by P. Weytz of Antwerp, Belgium, showing the Ship Peter Hattrick of New York passing Ostend (Oostende, Belgium) on May 3, 1842. History and photo source: Connecticut River Museum at Steamboat Dock, Essex, CT,”

There is much more to decipher about Franz Kotz’s history.  I’ll share updates sometime later.  Meanwhile, to follow our adventures and travels, by email or RSS, click “Follow” at right. 

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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