|Arrow shows Schell ancestral area|
John Schell, Sr. was the head of the first of our Schell family lines to come to America. Back in Germany, he was known as Johann Schehl. I am not certain as to why or who changed the name. It could have been to Americanize the name, but I do not know that for certain. Johann was born in Erfweiler, Pfalz, Germany on May 16, 1788. One year after Johann’s birth, this area would come under the control of Napoleon. He would continue to control the area until his defeat in 1815. After that, this Pfalz region was actually a part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. The Pfalz region of Germany was called Rhenish Bavaria. The word “Rhenish” refers to its location near the Rhine River. I was privileged to have been able to visit Erfweiler in the fall of 2013 and you can see some pictures of it in my earlier posts on the trip to Europe.
This next part is taken from a biography in an Adams County, Illinois history book. I warn you that much of this has not been corroborated, but it is quite a story about Johann before he came to America. If it is true, it could certainly explain why he would have wanted to leave this part of Germany. I also do not know who provided the information as this book was printed well after Johann had died.
Johann, it is claimed, had served in Napoleon’s army for eleven years. The area was under French control; so he may have not had a choice. It says that he served in Spain (The Peninsular War: 1808-1814). That could be true as he would have been age 20 in 1808. He was taken prisoner by the Spaniards and treated brutally. The Spaniards said they would release him upon the condition of him joining the British army. Britain was Spain’s ally in this war. Johann agreed and the British sent him to Canada for three years. He was eventually released and returned home to Germany. That is quite a story if true!
After he returned, Johann married Barbara Zwick on February 17, 1817. Barbara was from the nearby community of Bruchweiler. They had a daughter, Appolonia born on May 2, 1819 followed by son, John, Jr. on June 7, 1821. They would have two more daughters, Barbara and Margaretha, who died as infants. According to church records, there was another son, Friedrich, born on July 17, 1827 and I have not been able to find out what became of him. He was not with them in America and I suspect he may have died young also. I just have no proof of that yet.
The Schehl family would leave for America in February of 1832 and I will continue with that story in my next post.