Solingen Germany

From Encarta:

solingen coat of armsSOLINGEN, Germany, in Westphalia, near the Rhine river, stands on a hill bordering the Wupper River, 20 miles northeast of Cologne. It has Catholic and Protestant churches, a synagogue, schools of various grades, hospital, electricity and all the conveniences of a modern town. It is a center of steel and iron industry in Germany.

The municipality was established in 1374 and the town became famous for its sword-blades. There are numerous metal factories which turn out fine cutlery, copper and brass-ware, and surgical instruments, etc., while several thousand workmen make small articles of cutlery at home. In addition, there are paper, linen, cotton, silk, soap and other factories. Solingen cutlery as been famous since medieval times and is supposed to have been introduced by crusaders from Damascus. Pop. 165,000 in 1997.
("Wappen" translates to standard in English}

Cousin Henri provided us the following description of "Prussia" which so many of our ancestors referred to their origins in pre-Germany.
You ask to me whether Solingen is in Prussia! I would answer you, that Prussia does not exist any more since the end of the First World War. The German federal Republic now consists of " Länder ". Solingen is now in " Land Nordrhein-Westfahlen ".
If we go back in time, the situation changes. At the time when Caspar Engels and his family emigrated to Klingenthal, Solingen was located in the duchy of Berg, which had been attached into 1618 to what was going to become in 1701 the kingdom of Prussia. See map of Prussia. At the time of Caspar, " Friedrich Wilhelm I " was the king of Prussia. Portrait of Friederick.


Caspar Engels I died in Theegarten a few kilometers from the center of Solingen in the year 1726 and was first married there about year 1669 and was born about 1646 although his birth or marriage record has not been located. Below is a sketch made of the town of Solingen in 1647.

1647 print of Solingen town

In the year of 1600, Solingen consisted of 188 houses with about 1200 inhabitants. This was the period when the medieval blade makers from Solingen became famous all over Europe and quite wealthy. The 30 Years War (1618-1648) put an end to Solingen's prominence and it was 100 years before it fully recovered from the effects of the War along with the rest of Germany. (A brief history of the War can be found on the Church of the Brethren web site (www.cob-net.org/text/history_30yearwar.htm).

Castle Berg A few kilometers from Solingen, is located the Schloss Burg (Castle Berg), home to the Counts of Burg, who initially used the site as a fortress beginning about 1000 A.D. during the time of the crusades. Today it is a part of the 600 year old, world renowned flatware center of Solingen, and was the actual capital of the Bergische Land during the Middle Ages. It was the seat of the Counts of Burg, who ruled their delightful little realm from here. See the Wupper River valley map. The castle is located at coordinates P-10. (Click on the thumbnail at the left to see a full size view of the castle.)

In the first half of the 12th century, Count Adolf of Berg resolved to build a new castle. He found the ideal site on the Wupper, high upon a mountain cliff. The old, small castle on the Dhünn was transferred over to the Cistercians, who first built a monastery there, and later the famous and well known Altenberg Cathedral. The family of Berg would come to be closely tied to the monastery that was always well provided for by the Counts. It would also become the grave church for the counts.

The Counts of Berg, originally from Cologne, had conquered this land to which they gave their name. The first castle must have looked downright modest. Only the Keep was constructed on a big, broad scale. It was living quarters and defense. But already, at that time, a wall surrounded the entire grounds, including the craftsman settlement, and served to its defense. Around 1150 Adolf entered the Altenberg Monastery. It is said, that the cruelties of war had influenced him.

More than 100 meters above the Wupper, Schloss Burg is enthroned upon a mighty cliff rising out of the river. On the east side of the castle, which was especially open to danger, a deep wide moat was dug out of the sheer rock. Here rose up a shielding wall which protected the high castle keep from attack. On the other three sides, the estate lands, originally free from trees and bushes, fell below in a steep slope, making attack almost impossible.

engelbert statueWithout a doubt, Count Engelbert II was the most famous of the Counts of Berg. A statue of him stands in front of his castle. To this day, the castle dimensions are essentially those which Engelbert maintained during his short reign. At the time of his death he was just 40 years old. In just a few years - from 1218 to 1225 - he built up the castle to be his splendid ruling seat and an insurmountable mighty fortification. - His high office seemed to demand just such a fortification. The "palas" of the castle is an impressive building; the Keep projects wide above the Bergish Land. The walls and towers surrounding the castle render it impenetrable. A craftsman settlement grew up inside the castle estate where some 500 people lived, worked, and defended the castle in case of attack. Strangers in those days must have been amazed by the gigantic proportions of the castle.

cryptEngelbert II, Archbishop of Cologne, Regent of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, had enemies among the empire's nobility and his own family. He had taken many privileges from the nobles and conferred them upon the cities, which had become economically strong and desired political power. And his family never forgave him for illegally seizing control of the Countship of Berg after his brother, Adolf III, fell in battle in the Crusades in 1218. Engelbert had become too powerful for his enemies. His power was also reflected in his mighty castle. On the 7th of November 1225, he was ambushed and killed by a group of men led by his cousin Frederich of Isenburg. After over 750 years, his remains rest in a costly shrine in the Cathedral in Cologne, where over 35 fatal sword blows have been noted on his bones. His cousin was tortured to death on the wheel in Cologne for his part in the assassination.

In 1386, the castle was no longer used as a residence by the Counts of Berg. The Counts, who by this time were already elevated to Dukedom, built their residences in Dussledorf. From then on it served as a show place for special events and a hunting lodge.Berg coat of arms

Only one more time, during the 30 Years War (1618-1648), was the castle used as a fortress. It was fought over with ever changing results. The Swedes tried to capture it in 1632. From the Western heights of the Wupper, bullets and rockets battered against the fortress. One tower burned, other parts of the castle were already fired. The roof of the Keep was removed as a tactic to forestall fire shots. The Swedes could not conquer the castle!

After the War, when the business of battle had come to an end, the imperial troops holding the Schloss Burg leveled all the defenses; the walls, the towers, and the mighty Keep. The razing of the castle complex and other buildings was more gradual. Later only one official, who had to collect money from all the taxables in the area such as the smithies and mills on the rivers and streams, resided in the remains of the castle. In 1850 Schloss Burg was finally sold as salvage because all that remained were ruins and gravel. In 1880, local citizens began rebuilding Schloss Burg to the complete state we see it today.

Caspar Engels (I) was probably born in the year 1646 which was before the end of the 30 year war. Therefore, it is a good possibility he was born in or around the castle grounds.


In September 2001, Ken Engle and wife Carol, cousin Adell Crouch and husband Harry visited the Solingen area. While visiting the Castle Burg we picked up a copy of the history of the castle. In 2006, I made an OCR copy of the brochure describing the history of the castle from the 10th century until today. An Adobe Acrobat version of that brochure can be found here. (Caution: It is 2 Megabytes in size so is suitable for viewing to people with high speed connections.) Castle Burg History


From the www.studebakerfamily.org/history.html History of the Studebaker Family. "Life in early 18th Century Germany had become very difficult for anyone who valued their personal freedom. Wars, religious conflicts, rapacious rulers and a stifling guild system tended to make it difficult for anyone who desired a better life. Hearing of a freer life in the new world, a family named Staudenbecker decided they wanted to worship however they chose, and have more freedom for their personal lives. The Staudenbeckers were blade-makers in the City of Solingen, which was (and still is) famous for its cutlery. Leaving was not as simple as it might seem."

"Fearful of exporting their blade-making skills, the cutlers guild required that anyone leaving the guild had to work at another trade for five years in another city before they could emigrate. The Staudenbeckers did so, and moved to Hagen, Germany for the required five years. In 1736 they finally were free to move to the new world. Two brothers, Clement and Peter, a cousin, Heinrich, and their families journeyed down the Rhine. Various petty noblemen stopped them every few miles and forced them to pay "tolls", which amounted to whatever they could extract from the traveler. An unconfirmed family tradition says that the highly skilled Staudenbeckers built false sides and bottoms in their luggage and shipping crates, where they hid the bulk of their money. Once they reached the sea, they booked passage on the Harle, arriving in Philadelphia. When they arrived, the immigration clerks, unfamiliar with German pronunciations, recorded their names as "Studenbecker." Other records recorded their names as Studebaker, Studibaker, Studabaker and other variations."

In 1730, the Engels family led by Caspar II, some fellow artisans, and in-laws were induced to immigrate to Klingenthal France to establish their Iron working technology for the benefit of the French government. It is reasonable to assume that the environment in Solingen was as bad for the Engels as it was for the Studenbeckers.

Return to Germany