Reiss/Jacques Reunion July 13, 2002

Hickory Grove Picnic Grounds, 12-Mile/Gubser's Mill, Kentucky

Kenneth and James Reiss (above, reunion organizers)



The following information was compiled in a booklet and distributed at the reunion by Kenneth and James Reiss:

We come here today to celebrate the more than 150 years that the Reis/Schalk families have been here in the United States.

The story begins in 1847 in the French Providence of Moselle, in the area of Alsace Lorraine, located near the Rhine River and the border of Germany. Our ancestors were French citizens, but spoke German and had German customs. The Jacques family home town was Hoste-Haut. The Reiss family was from a neighboring town in France named Puttelange-aux-Lacs.

We would like to edit the above statement to point out the importance of understanding "Alsace-Lorraine" refers to two distinctly different regions, and that Moselle is in Lorraine, NOT "Alsace-Lorraine".

Historical differences: The Alsace area, which was part of the Habsburg's empire, became French in 1648 (Treaty of Westphalia). Lorraine was ruled by the dukes of Lorraine, from the city of Nancy up to 1766. After the death of the last Duke of Lorraine, the province became a part of the French kingdom. Both Alsace and Lorraine remained French until 1870, when France lost the war with Germany. Part of the former Lorraine province, and most of the Alsace area, were again attached to the new German empire (Treaty of Francfurt, 1871) as a unique entity called "Elsass-Lothringen", which was translated in French as Alsace-Lorraine. This corresponded to a German administrative area which today approximately corresponds to the 2 Alsatian departments (Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin), and part of the Moselle department.

Cultural differences: Lorraine was predominantly Roman Catholic, whereas many French Protestants found political and religious asylem in Alsace during the 17th and 18th century, where protestants are strongly represented until today.

Linguistic differences: Alsatians and Lorrainers spoke, since the invasion of the former roman empire during the 5th. century German-type languages. Alemanic invaders established on both sides of the Rhine around Strasbourg, "Franc" invaders established north-west of the alemanic area. Both languages were German-typed, but, while most of the vocabulary was common, there were fundamental differences in pronunciation and grammar, still subsisting today and which may sometimes lead to misunderstanding or not understanding at all. This is why Alsatians and Lorrainers immigrating to the USA during the 19th. century were assimilated to "German speaking" if not to "Germans", especially during the 1970-1918 period. As a matter of fact, they were German citizens during that time (ex. François Jacques) . Nowadays, most French are unable to make the difference between what they consider just as German dialects ("Francique" and "Alsatien"). Each group is proud of its original linguistic heritage and should be. In each case it is easy for them to learn and practice the German language, but it is important to keep the difference.

Many thanks to Marcel Jacques for supplying us with this information about Alsace and Lorraine.

Please also visit this web site This Alsacian genealogist explains that "Alsace-Lorraine" does not exist and the term should be bannished from our vocabulary.

Coming to America:

In 1847, François and Catherine-Anne Trouy Jacques chose to leave France with their children and come to the U.S. (probably to avoid civil unrest). We are not sure of what seaport they landed in - New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore were all possible points of entry at the time-- but we do know they traveled to Cincinnati, OH and settled in the German area known as "Over the Rhine." Within a year though, they moved to Northern Kentucky and settled in the southern area of Campbell County known as 12-mile (later also referred to as Gubser's Mill).

They are believed to have had 10 children, of which eight would travel to the U.S. with them. Their oldest child Jean, was about 29 at the time the family left France. He was probably married with his own family and remained there. Their youngest son Nicholas, had died in 1840, before their departure.

Based on French records the children coming (in order of age) were: Elisabeth, Anne-Maria, Pierre, Jean-Pierre, Henri, François, and Joseph. Census records also indicate another son, Jean-Nicholas. Of the eight children, two were already old enough to be married and their spouses and child (grandson of François and Catherine) also traveled with the Jacques family to the U.S. Married at the time of their arrival to the U.S. were Anne-Maria to husband Jean Pierre Reiss, and Jean-Pierre to wife Marie Bonichot.

Anne-Maria Jacques had married Jean-Pierre Reiss who was from a neighboring town in France, known as Puttelange-aux-Lacs. The couple had two children: a daughter who had died before leaving France, and a son, Peter Reiss, who came to the U.S. with his parents. Another son (Henry) was born in Ohio, probably Cincinnati,before the family moved to Kentucky.

By 1848 or 1849, most of the Chalk and Reis families had moved to Campbell County. In 1849, a Cholera Epidemic broke out and many area people died, including in July of that year, Jean-Pierre Reiss. (He is buried in Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic cemetery, which is just a few miles from here.)

After her husband's death, Anne-Maria, along with her two sons (Peter and Henry), lived with her parents, until remarrying another new arrival to Campbell County, John Gubser. John Gubser came to the U.S. with his parents, brothers and sisters. The Gubser family was originally form Oberterzen, St. Gallens, Switzerland.

Although John Gubser married Anne-Maria Chalk Reiss, he did not adopt the two sons (Peter and Henry) from her marriage with Jean-Pierre. Had he adopted the sons, we would be having a Gubser-Chalk reunion, because there would not have been anyone by the name of Reis in Campbell County- at least none that descended from Jean-Pierre.

John Gubser went on to start a saw and grist mill in a valley along a creek that is today called "Gubser's Mill." 12-Mile Creek runs through this area, so the entire region is known by both names - 12-Mile and Gubser's Mill. Many of the fine stone buildings in 12-Mile are attributed to the Chalk family who were said to have been stone masons.

After arriving in the U.S., Elizabeth Jacques would marry twice. She first married Peter Sacksteder. They had two children, including a son also named Peter. The elder Peter Sacksteder died during the Cholera Epidemic, Elizabeth then married Frank Bezold, who would later open a grocery store in the 12-Mile area.

Difference in Spelling of Names:

The Jacques boys all took American-ized names, such as Frank, Peter, John and Henry in place of François, Pierre, Jean and Henry. There was apparently confusion over the spelling of the last name as well. None used the French spelling of Jacques. The parents, François and Catherine, and sons J. Nicholas and John-Peter are buried under the name of Chalk at Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery. Also at Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery is Peter buried as Schack, and Henry as Schaak. In Oakland Cemetery (located on Clay Ridge Road, Grant's Lick, KY)< Joseph is buried as Chalk and Frank as Schalk. Anne-Maria and Elizabeth are respectively buried as Gubser and Bezold at Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery.

The 1859 census has the parents - François and Catherine- spelled Shaup. That same census listed Reis as Rice, Bezold as Botsel and Scaksteder as Sackstater.

2001 Visit to France:

Kenneth and James Reis flew to Paris, France on June 20, 2001. They toured the city for 3 days and then rented a car to drive to the towns of our ancestors.

The towns Ken and Jim visited were Puttelange-aux-Lacs and Hoste. Puttelange is a town of approximately 3000 residents, while Hoste is a very small village. What struck both of them, was the idea that the entire area around both towns looked just like Campbell County. In fact, except for the buildings, it was hard to tell that you were not actually in Campbell County. Both towns were captured by the Germans in WWI and WWII, which resulted in most of the building being destroyed or damaged. With the exception of a few buildings, one of which is an old church, Ken believes that most of the existing buildings have been rebuilt since the 1950's. The buildings were reconstructed of concrete block with stucco overlay. It is thought that it was a cheaper and easier way to rebuild.

The old buildings not damaged or destroyed in the wars are stone similar to those in the 12-Mile and 4-Mile areas in Campbell County. The old stone building across from St. Peter and Paul Church here in Kentucky looks just like the older homes in France. Many residents work in the nearby coal mines, which are scheduled to be closed sometime in 2002, resulting in most people losing their jobs.

There are thousands of acres of farm land surrounding the towns, but hardly anyone makes a living farming. They raise a lot of wheat, corn and cattle. Puttelange has several lakes nearby, which are used for irrigation and drinking water. After all, the town is called Puttelange-aux-Lacs which means "near the lakes"!

The whole area dates back 2000 years, with the Romans having built a road right through the center of both towns. They have two churches in the town of Puttelange. They do not have enough priests and must share a priest with many other towns. Their oldest church, which was build in 1515, has a very old cemetery behind it. They also have a "new" church which was built in the 1770's. The new one was heavily damaged in WWII, mainly because the French Resistance used the bell tower to store their ammunition. The ammunition was blown up, which resulted in much of the church being destroyed. It took them 16 years to rebuild their church. When Ken asked the lady the name of their church, she said it was "Saint Peter and Paul." We probably know now how the church in 12-Mile got its name.

The following is a list of some of the names on tombstones in their church cemetery:

Schroder, Meyer, Wagner, Heck, Ziegler, Rough, Heile, Becker, Gross, Goetz, Ditsch, Simon, Prim, Lauer, Roth, Bihl, Jansen, Krebs, Betrand, Schwartz, Best, Decker, Schweitzer, Schneider, Hartman, Seibert, Schumacher, Wolff, Mayer, Kieffer, Lang, Fries, and Kraemer.

Look at the names and you can see that the 12-Mile ancestors did come from Puttelange and brought with them a lot of their customs, names and building techniques.

The Reiss family was also here, but there were no graves with the Reiss name on them. The reason is that in much of Europe, the cemetery plot is only used for a certain number of years and then the bones are removed to a bone crypt. The cemetery plots are then able to be reused. Most of the cemetery behind the old church had been used many times, each time with new names put on the tombstone with the old ones removed. There is an 80-year-old woman in a nearby rest home by the name of Reis and her daughter lives close by. Ken and Jim are planning on contacting the daughter.

In the town of Hoste, the mayor is a Jacques (which is the correct spelling for Chalk, Schalk, etc.), and the little church's cemetery is filled with Jacques family members.

Ken feels that, after having visited this region of France, that a very large percentage of 12-Mile's ancestors came from the two towns of Puttelange-aux-Lacs and Hoste. They chose a place to move to that looked like home.