On this date, 24 August, in the year 1696, Johannerich “Heinrich” Wäschenbach passed away. He was my 9th great-grandfather.
Born in 1655, in Freudenberg, Prussia (now part of Germany), Heinrich Wäschenbach (also recorded as Waschenbach, Weschenbach, and Waeschenbach) was the son of Jacob Wäschenbach.
Although very little is known about Heinrich Wäschenbach’s life, much is known about his hometown, Freudenberg. Freudenberg is a small medieval town situated in today’s German province of North Rhine-Westphalia that lies on the German-Dutch holiday road called the Orange Route, joining towns, cities, and regions associated with the House of Orange.
In the 15th Century, Freudenberg was an Amt (office) and court seat. Both the village and the castle of Freudenberg were first referenced in documentation in 1389.
The castle was founded over the Weibe Valley together with a settlement by the Counts of Nassau as a corner post of their domain.
On 7 November 1456, Count Johann IV of Nassau, Vianden, and Diez gave the Freudenberg townsfolk their “freedom rights”. This was a kind of minimal town rights, but the document bestowing this distinction upon the town is taken as evidence of town rights being granted Freudenberg. Early in its history, Freudenberg was established as a flecken, meaning a market town. (The historic town core is referred to as Alter Flecken, alt means old, –er is a grammatical inflection).
In 1540, both the town and its castle were damaged significantly by a fire. On William “the Rich” of Jülich-Cleves-Berge’s orders, an impressive development project was launched in the mid-16th Century. The market town was given a new town wall with four gates. In the northwest, the Hohenhainer Tor was built, in the northeast the Weihertor, in the southeast the Braastor and in the southwest the Schultor (tor means gate).
Unfortunately, on 9 August 1666, the town was once again laid waste by a fire. Prince Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen built the town anew, using much the same layout, planned in 1540, as had stood prior to the conflagration. The castle, however, was not restored; only a few walls remained.
Five years after the town and its castle were nearly destroyed by that fire, Heinrich Waeschenbach married Maria Halm, daughter of Gerlach Halm, on 20 September 1671, in Freudenberg, Prussia.
The couple had at least one son, Roerig Wäschenbach (my 8th great-grandfather), who was born on 28 March 1675, Freudenberg, Prussia.
Tragically, Heinrich’s wife, Maria (Halm) Wäschenbach, died on 19 January 1682. She was only 25 years old.
Heinrich Wäschenbach lived another 15 years, dying on 24 August 1696, in Freudenberg, Prussia. He was only 41 years old.