Martin Dreisbach, b.May 23, 1717

If wives are honest and genealogies reliable, then my mother's mother's mother's father's father's mother's father was Martin Dreisbach, born May 23, 1717, in a house called "Leye" in a village called Raumland, in what was then the Earldom of Wittgenstein.  Three days later he was baptised in St. Martin's Church.  He immigrated to Pennsylvania sometime around the middle of the century, and died in Union County on February 18, 1799.  (These details are gathered from The Dreisbach Book, a geneaology published in 1998 by the Dreisbach Family Association.)

I have often found that going in search of out-of-the-way places my ancestors once lived is an excellent way to spend the day.  Yesterday's forecast was sunny and warm with a chance of afternoon ice cream--perfect weather for an excursion in search of Martin Dreisbach.

By German standards, Raumland is in the middle of nowhere.  To get there I took the local S-Bahn from Bonn out to the end of the line, where I transfered to a regional train, which took me to Siegen, where I transferred to an even more regional train, which took me to Bad Berleburg.  (That last train is just one or two cars long, and it has the single track entirely to itself.  From Bad Berleburg there is nowhere to go except back.)  Once I got to Bad Berleburg, I walked about 45 minutes to my destination.  Total travel time: about 4 hours each way. 

Raumland is very cute and very sleepy.  The only local landmark is the church (currently Lutheran), which sits atop a crest.  The surrounding homes are built in the local idiom, which is to say they have steep roofs and white walls, defined by sturdy dark timbers.  The village is interspersed with small pastures of grass and dandelions, where horses, cows, and kitty cats pass their days.

It took me a bit of wandering, but soon found an old home--currently used as a barn--neatly labeled "Leye."  (A note to any Dreisbach genealogists who might happen upon this blog entry:  The inside cover of The Dreisbach Book has an old photo of Raumland, with an arrow labeling the "Birthplace of Martin Dreisbach."  The arrow points to a building that is no longer there.  The building I found labeled "Leye" is the house immediately behind the building to which the arrow points, and can be matched with the old photo by the pattern of the beams.)  I spoke with several neighbors, none of whom had any special knowledge of the history of the house. 

At the top of the hill, the preacher's daughter was practicing riding a unicycle, and unlocked the church for me.  If you can read German, you can read more about its history here.  The short version is that it is the oldest surviving church in Wittgenstein, built around 1240-1260.  On one side of the choir, wall paintings depicting the way of the cross are visible.  They date to the second half of the 15th century.


Having seen all there was to see, I strolled back to Bad Berlesburg.  Nearly all the buildings there are covered in slate.

I don't know the whole architectural history of the area, but I'd be willing to guess that slate tiling is a more recent phenomenon, as you can infer from this photo of a house that has tile on the front, but visible timbering on the side.

And then I made my way home, again by way of Siegen, where I stopped to look around.

Having now been to the Siegtal (Sieg valley) I can see why travel books recommend it.  It's not dramatic, but its rolling hills, green pastures, and black and white architecture are pleasant and picturesque.


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