…Comes around, or so they say. My maternal grandfather’s roots, Lyman Burdette Rightmeier, centers around a small village in the northern District of Lippe Germany: Varenholtz. During the time his grandfather, Frederick Konrad Regetmeier, lifed there, the region was governed bu Count Simon VI, the son of the staunch Catholic Count Bernhard VIII, who ruled the region and fiercely resisted the Protestant movements in the area.
When the elder Count died, the care of Simon VI, his son, was left to count Phillip of Hessen. Although Count Bernhard gave strict orders that his son be educated in the Catholic faith, Phillip did not adhere to this request and Simon was educated as a Lutheran, and later studied “at a reformed school in Strasbourg” where he became a follower of John Calvin (1503 – 1564). and so northern Germany became a mix of Lutheran and Calvinistic influence.
Regetmeir to Rightmeier
My maternal great great grand-father, Frederic, immigrated to the United States in 1864 at the age of 14. I say immigrated, but in reality he and his brother were stowaways on a ship to New York. It is said they jumped ship in New York harbor and swam ashore , but that is another story. The reason for this desperate trip is that my ancestors were tenant farmers for the local land owner, a descendant of Simon VI.
The usual arrangements were working a portion of the land for a place to live, food and some share of the crops they grew. During this period there was a long-term drought and the land was simply not producing. In addition, the political and religious climate was unsettled. In other words the feudal system was breaking down, and the life they knew did not appear sustainable. Word of the opportunities in America sparked by desperation, drove young Frederic and his brother August to make the voyage.
At the same time, the family name made a journey. It left Germany as Regetmeier, was recorded as Rightmeier on Frederick’s naturalization papers, took a slight turn to Righmeyer on the Kansas land Grant papers, but in most other records has remained Rightmeier since arriving in the United States.
Fast forward to 1984. My husband entered the Protestant Theology program at the University of Strasbourg, France. I took a year-long pause in my career with the FAA and enrolled in the débutante French language program at the same university and earned a degree in French. This is the same ” reformed school in Strasbourg” that Simon VI, attended.
Do you see it?
- never learned to read or write.
- never went to school.
- lived seven years with a German family in Iowa during which he earned his freedom and became a naturalized US citizen.
- spoke primarily German even after he came to the US.
- become a land-owner by homesteading in northern Kansas a status he could never have achieved in his native Germany. It was a hard life. It contained risks, heartache and disappointment but the land he worked was his.
- was rich. Little did he know he not only took a leap of faith for himself, but for those who would come after.