After many years of research by dedicated descendants, the emigrant experience of Christian and
Charity (Beamer) Bodenhamer is slowly unfolding. Christian and Charity were the progenitors of the North Carolina
Bodenhamers and vague traditions of their early lives, largely oral, live on today. While these narratives and
various legends of the past are not recorded in history, all of them merit exploring.
Foremost of the traditions is the belief that three Bodenhamer brothers left Bodenheim, Germany, for Philadelphia in the middle of the eighteenth century. Another is that Christian and his future wife were on the same boat. Perhaps the legend of romance between Christian Bodenhamer and Charity Beamer is best remembered by descendants. Christian was from a wealthy German family and Charity from an impoverished one. As the story goes they fell in Love but their families disapproved of a marriage. Charity chose to run away to America and Christian realizing what her fate might be paid her passage. It is feasible that Christian and Charity were of opposing backgrounds since this story has lingered in the minds of descendants through the years. Be that as it may, from wherever or however they came, and for whatever reason, their dreams upon arrival in America were of a life in a brand new world, and this new life promised to be filled with struggles, privation, and adventure.
The family is well defined in the records of North Carolina, but no mention is made of the place from whence they came. That they came from Bodenheim is still not factually supportable, but With the similarity of names it seems reasonable to assume this premise. Here one is faced, however, with another complexity: there are two Bodenheims in Germany and one must ask from which Christian might have come.
The Consulate General of the Republic of Germany locates one Bodenheim uber Euskirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia, and the other uber Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate . If one examines the terrain and the inhabitants of the two provinces Westphalia is a flat rural country: her people are farmers, gentle and peaceful. The Rhineland is a rugged hilly country right for the growing of grapes. Her people are strong and rugged, and capable of enduring hardships. Much history has been written of this ancient city.
Bodenheim is situated in the Rhine-Hesse hill country near the Rhine river where the "fully blessed vineyards swing toward the west," about 10 kilometers southward to the provincial capital of Mainz. There the friendly wine city of Bodenheim greets the visitor. Vineyards in best location mean solid properties of this rich city. In the middle of the 18th century there were about 1200 inhabitants in Bodenheim...in 1968 over 4500.
On July 22/23 of 754 a winery was given to the Monastery of Fulda, and this means that wine was grown there long before; until today wine making and wine trade are of great importance. Vast castles and estates, partly from the first decades of the 17th century, recall a rich past. Of special importance is the present city hall--built in 1608 with its repeatedly renovated precious frame work and hand-carved original coat of arms on the alcoves--that served as a court house, and the beautiful bay window of the Molsberg House on the Mainzer Pfort Street.
Excerpts from The Best Latin in Paradise Rhine-Hesse, by Michael Fritzen: -(An old writing)
...after a great, but often horrible past Rhine-Hesse has been pushed into a provincial corner...Rhine-Hesse a paradise?...When God created man he built a body from earth. The place where this took place was Bodenheim. The cradle of mankind stood here. To their heart's desire Adam and Eve walked around in God's Rhine-Hesse paradise inmidst of which stood the tree of good and evil. The most beautiful apples were on it. Therefore the place where the tree stood is named Nierstein. When both ate from it in Nackenheim they saw that they were naked.
From Allgemeine Zeitung, 9-16-1977 Newspaper about the Wine Festival at Bodenheim/Rhine:
The oldest and largest wine making community on the Rhine front has its festival established in 754. The present Mayor's office was once a court house belonging to a high church official with his coat of arms. Since the middle ages Bodenheim belonged to the St. Alban's Seminary in Mainz. Emperor Maximilian, in jesting asked the coat of arms of the seminary to depict a donkey which it really did. As the coat of arms of Bodenheim stands now, the city is represented by a manger, the seminary by a donkey. The city of Bodenheim is proud because the donkey represents diligence, frugality, patience and forbearance. The donkey did not have to drink water, but only wine and cleaned himself in wine also.
The close relationship between Bodenheim and Mainz is evidenced by a building decree of the City of Mainz for the construction of the battlement which dates back to the 11th century...Bodenheim was one of the settlements whose inhabitants were responsible to keep the battlement and most of the city of Mainz in good repair and ready for defense. The inhabitants settled in three villages: the upper and lower Bodenheim and in Weistesheim....
One now asks why so many Germans left their homeland and for understanding one needs to look
back in history. The last of the great religious upheavals was the Thirty Years War, a confused and desperate struggle
which turned large areas of central Europe into wilderness and shrank the German population from 18 to 14 million.
This conflict between German Protestants and Catholics brought such desolation that two centuries lapsed before
any alleviation came about. Marauding bands roamed the countryside robbing and murdering peasants. Disease and
starvation had to be endured. When Elector Karl Ludwig ascended the throne, the people found him a wise and benevolent
ruler. With his death in 1680, however, another incursion was taking place. King Louis XIV, of France, seeing that
Germany was prostrate and disunited started ravaging and burning extensive areas along the Rhine. Life for the
people was a succession of terrors in 1688. The reasoning of the French king was to keep the Rhine country a desert
so that it could not serve as a base of attack for his enemies.
From Rhinelanders on the Yadkin. by Carl Hamer, Jr.:
Central Europe experienced a bitterly cold winter in 1688-89, and it was then that the city of Mannheim was burned and the splendid castle of Heidelberg was left partly in ruins...The inhabitants of the smaller towns and countless villages fared even worse, as they fell more easily as prey to the greed and cruelty of the French troops. Nearly five hundred thousand Palatines were driven forth into the snow from their burning homes. Those who were not cut down by the enemy, or who escaped immediate death from the terrible cold, faced not only exile but famine and pestilence. Holland was the immediate refuge for whoever was able to flee the country. The seaports of the Netherlands and England formed the gateway to America. A German colony already established in Pennsylvania offered hope to the more venturesome souls among the survivors.
In 1707, came the War of the Spanish Succession bringing more destruction to the left bank of
the Rhine and rendering great numbers of inhabitants homeless. One mass emigration involving thousands of Palatines
found their way to England where queen Anne received them with great kindness. They were naturalized as British
subjects prior to being sent as colonists to the Hudson Valley. However, England soon lost her sympathy toward
the Germans and they began arriving in America direct from their homeland. And so it was that thousands of American
immigrants sailed from Dutch Ports, especially Rotterdam during the 18th and 19th centuries. The majority of these
were Germans who never lived in the Netherlands, but passed through on their way to America.
Historians agree that unsettled conditions in the homeland were an important factor in the migration to America: the destructive wars, religious persecution, and oppression by tyrannical rulers. Knowledge of America was necessarily vague: the attraction was in it being a new country that held promise of higher income for the artisan and of cheaper land for the peasant. In later years, however, if one asked these immigrants why they left the Fatherland, they had no logical explanation. It should be remembered that the first settlers in North Carolina were attracted by economic rather than religious reasons.
If Christian Bodenhamer was among the immigrants coming from this area, history tells us that the trip on the Rhine was slow and hazardous. Many ventured forth on foot. Even after arriving at the port of embarkation in Holland, weeks could pass before passage to America was obtainable. Only a limited number of ships were available and the charges for passage were beyond the means of most. Almost all ships sailed under the English flag and touched at a British port before crossing the Atlantic. The typical voyage was from Rotterdam to Cowes (Isle of Wight) then to Philadelphia. Many of the emigrants left Germany without proper permits or were young men avoiding military service. This may account for the lack of findable records today on Christian Bodenhamer.
Philadelphia exceeded all other ports for immigrants from the Fatherland before the Revolution. By 1727 the influx became so great that the authorities began to keep records. Some 12,000 Germans reached Pennsylvania in 1749. Examining these ship arrivals by Strassburger and Hinke:
At the Court House at Philadelphia, Thursday, the 14th Sept. 1749.
Present Benjm Shoemaker, Joshua Maddox, Esquires.
The Foreigners whose names are underwritten, in the Ship Two Brothers, Thomas Arnot, Master, from Rotterdam, & last from Cowes in England, did this day take & subscribe the usual Oaths to the Government. By list 105. 312 Persons, from the Electorate Palatine & Triers.
Among those on board were;
JOHANN CHRIST BADENHAMMER
JOHANN CHRIST BOHMER
JOHANN PETER BOHMER
On September 21st, 1751, Johann Wilhelm Badenheimer arrived in Philadelphia on another sailing
of the Ship Two Brothers. On Sept. 29, 1753 Johann Peter Badenhamer arrived on the Ship "Snow" or Rowand.
It is always possible that a relationship existed between these three men but there is no conclusive evidence at
this time beyond the similarity of family names. It is to the study of Johann Christian Bodenhamer, therefore,
that we now turn. The ship chronicles seem to uphold the age-old story that Charity Beamer came on the boat with
Christian in the middle of the eighteenth century. Women and children were not named on ship lists, but since three
Bohmer men were on board, there is a strong chance of credibility these were her family. Little evidence is afforded
to support the romantic story which has Charity "running away" from her home in Germany.
It is highly probable that the Bohmers were redemptioners--emigrants from Europe to America who obtained passage by becoming indentured servants for a specific period of time. Since John, however, son of Christian and Charity, was born in the spring of 1752, the parents were married not too long after their arrival in Pennsylvania; hence Charity could not have been indentured long.
The family lived in the German-Dutch settlement of Pennsylvania and in nearby New Jersey for a period of twenty-five years. Christian is remembered as being a "farmer of note". From the Parish Register of the German Reformed Church in the Township of Alexandria, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, 1763-1802, descendants are indebted for further proof that Christian and Charity lived in New Jersey at least part of this period. This church located in the village of Mt. Pleasant is supposed to date back to 1752 and was shared by both the Presbyterian Congregation and German Reformed. It was spoken of as the "log meetinghouse congregation." The pastor of the German Reformed Church in 1763 was Rev: Joseph Dallicker...Their services were conducted and the Parish Register kept in the German language....
Born June 10, 1763 baptism 11 July 1763 Christ. son of Jo. (?) Wagner and Mar. Sophia (Apgar or Ahgen). Witnessed by Christ. Badenheimer & Dorothea Reinschmidt.
Born Aug. 23, 1763 baptism Oct. 10, 1763 Maria, Daughter of Jo. Mich. Jung. and An. Quick. Witnessed by Elis. Gerd. Badenheimer.
Born June 20, 1?63 baptism July 9, 1764 Christian son of Christian Badenheimer, Elis. Gerdr. Bohmen. Witnesses Adam Wagner & Mar. Veron: Creisen.
Born 1767 Mar. 10 baptism Apr. 20, 1767 Gertraut daughter of Christ. Patenheimer & Elis Gertraut. Witnesses John Linnert & Gertraut Endris. Baptised by I. G. Alsentz.
Born 1767, May 29, baptism June 8, 1767 Jacob son of Henrich Schneider (?) & Elisabetha. Witnesses Chris. Patenheimers & Elis Gertraut, his wife Baptised by I. G. Alsentz.
In the same church record appear the names of one Paulus Biehm, and one Job. Bihmer with Maria,
his W. (Further research might prove these individuals to be of the Bohmer family.)
In addition to the church records of Christian, he appeared eight times in the Court of Pleas of Hunterdon County during 1765 answering to charges on a small debt. Three of the entries follow:
August Term of the Court of Pleas and quarter Sessions 1765 Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
The Grand Jury came into Court, and being called over appeared and Delivered in the following Indictments, which they found and Allowed the Court, to mend the form, and not allow, the Substance, and then the Grand Jury, were Discharged with the Constable that Attended them.
In Case of special bail being Put in this cause of A Dicton being filed, upwards of twenty Days Past and no Plea being filed, it is Ordered on Motion of Abram Cottnam Atty for the Pet that Judgement be Entered for the Pet for want of a Plea Nisi of and that amount of injury of Damages do issue. William Rea
In case of the Sherriff having Returned the writt of issued in this cause, with an inquisition thereunto annexed whereby it is found that the Pet hath sustained damages, by Occasion of the in the said writt Certified and charges, to seven Pounds Seven Shillings Proclamation money and for his costs and charges to six pence, it is thereupon ordered on motion of Atty. Cottnam, Attorney for the Pet that the said writt and Inquisition be filed, and that judgement be entered Nisi etc. Christian Bottenhamer
In case of this ordered on Motion of Wm Rea that if the Defendant in this Cause will Pay the Costs and charges. that Attending the Executing the Court of Inquiry in this Cause to the Pltf's Atty. within five days from this day that therewith Interlocutory Judgement, and also the writt of Inquiry and Inquisition and the above Judgement entered thereon, shall be all set aside, and be void and that the Pet. shall accept a Plea, in the said Cause, and proceed to Tryale, as if no such writt of Inquiry, had ever issued but if the said Defendant shall make Default in the Payment of the said Costs, and Charges, within the time Aforesaid that then the Pet. may proceed, and issue Execution Against the said defendant, on the above Judgement.
The orthography of family names now used will be of interest to descendants. In German the name Bodenheimer itself means one from Bodenheim. Christian signed the oath of allegiance when he arrived at the Port of Philadelphia in 1749 as Johann Christ. Badenhammer. In the aforementioned church records he was Christ. Badenheimer and Chris. Patenheimers, doubtless variances in translating. In North Carolina his name became Christian Bodenhamer. His wife has always been known by descendants as Charity Beamer, but in the baptismal records she was Elis. Gerd. Badenheimer,Elis Gerdr. Bohm., and Elis Gertraut. In the publication Lambert Janse Van Alstyne and Some of His Descendants, 1897, the author explains that the name Gertruyt or Gitty is translated to Gertrude or Charity in America; thus Elis. Gerd. Badenheimer of The Jerseymenrecords became Charity Beamer in North Carolina.
The spellings most commonly used today by descendants of Christian and Charity are Bodenhamer, Bodenheimer, and Bodenhammer. On the early land deeds and in the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in Rowan County, scribes often wrote the name as Botinghamer because it was puzzling to understand the accent of these early Germans. A scribe in listing those appearing in court one day ended his page by writing: "There are others I cannot understand." A Botinghamer was serving on the jury that day! By 1800 with the blending of races and cultures this problem was becoming blurred. Generally though, the name was written Bodenhamer or Bodenhammer. The earliest personal signature found is that of William, the third son of Christian and Charity, where he and his neighbors signed a petition in 1785 objecting to a road as "being burdensome to the inhabitants and not likely to be of benefit to the public." Here he signed clearly as Wm. Bodenhamer. This was eleven years after the family came to North Carolina. The oldest known Bible also records the name as Bodenhamer. In continuing this study Bodenhamer will be used unless descendants have designated otherwise.
In the pension papers of Agnes Bodenhamer, wife of the second son of Christian and Charity, she states that the family came to North Carolina in 1774. This date is also supported in a letter written in 1899 by Lucinda Melvina (4) Bodenhammer (see # 210). By this time land to the north was becoming not only scarce but expensive. These reasons led many Germans to seek new homes in the spacious southlands. An inflow of the Germans into North Carolina came into full swing between 1750 and 1775. The Colonial Records of North Carolina state they took the Shenandoah route and followed the Staunton River through the Blue Ridge--a distance of over 400 miles--into the "Great Yadkin Valley." The Yadkin River and its tributaries drained most of North Carolina from Greensboro on the east to the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west. Abbotts Creek on which the Bodenhamers settled is a tributary of the Yadkin. Here the settlers found many springs, fine creeks, excellent pasturage, as well as good lowlands for raising crops.
It would seem certain that the Bodenhamers were a part of this inflow in the fall of 1774. They probably traveled to North Carolina in a conestoga wagon, driving their livestock before them. These large, heavy, broad-wheeled covered wagons had been invented in Pennsylvania by the Germans in 1750 and had to be pulled by six large horses. The following Spring on 2 Mar. 1775, "Christian Bodenhamer purchased 5 3/4 acres of land on both sides of Abbotts Creek from Abraham Teague." Gardens were their first permanent sources of food and this small tract of land would assure them of self-existence.