Thursday, May 08, 2008

Alexander Mack: from Schriesheim to Schwarzenau

(This story excerpt of the life of Alexander Mack was written by Dr. Hermann Brunn of Schriesheim who, at the suggestion of M.R. Zigler, made several studies from local records.)

From Heidelberg it is a ten minutes trip to Schriesheim. The place is situated at the border of the Odenwald hills at the entrance of a valley about ten miles wide, which is flanked by the ruins of Old Strahlenburg Castle. But you will be disappointed, if you ask the natives for any information about Alexander Mack. If you are so lucky as to be understood, they will shake their heads: 'Alexander Mack? There is nobody around here with this name!' For usually nobody in Schriesheim knows the story of the founder of the Brethren.

This story is deeply buried in old papers and documents. Alexander Mack did not differ in any way from his fellow citizens most of the time he lived here. ... he was a young miller like many others until he came in contact with pietistic circles. So you'll find here nothing peculiarly interesting about him. ...

Along the Schriesheim Creek always have been lined up a row of water mills. About 1560 a certain Ebert Mack bought one of them and became the ancestor of a widespread miller dynasty in Schriesheim and the environments. One of his grandsons, George Mack, lost his mill by fire during the cruel Thirty Years War and turned to agriculture. He became sheriff and tax-collector, a well-to-do man who could give each of his seven sons a rather good education. ... The eldest son learned the milling trade, because his father probably hoped to build his mill anew. But this hope never materialized, so the young miller took over the management of the family farm, waiting for a change to buy a mill. This young miller, Johann Philipp Mack was the father of Alexander. ...

In 1679, 15 years after his marriage, he got a chance to buy one of the mills in the Schriesheim valley and a few weeks after that Mrs. Mack gave birth to a son, her eighth child ... Alexander.

Dr.Brunn continues to tell the story of Alexander Mack who grew up working in the mill along with his brothers. Mack came to know pietist Hochmann at Mannheim where Mack and other millers would deliver their flour. By 1706, Mack was facing diificult times in Schriesheim related to his pietist leanings and ultimately chose to sell his share of the mill to his brother Jacob and relocate in October 1706 to Schwartzenau.

Source: Story by Dr. Brunn as reprinted by Lawrence Shultz in
Schwartzenau: Yesterday and Today