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Hans Voller
Battle of Grandson, 1476
Zurich Gold Merchants
1st Family Scholar
30-Years War
Birstein, Germany
German-Russian Lines


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Hans Voller of Switzerland

The Van Leer family history begins in the Prätigau mountain area near the village of Fideris in what is now the canton of the Grisons. (Map1: Europe)

This Swiss district was called Rhaetia during the Roman Empire (15 B.C. - 260 A.D.).  The native inhabitants were of a mixed tribe of Celts and Etuscans.  As masters and settlers, the Romans permanently influenced the culture and language of Rhaetia.

German conquest (The Alamannia) replaced the Roman culture and language in most parts of Eastern Switzerland.  However, a version of Latin continues even today in the Grisons (Rhaeto-Romansh).

The relationship of Hans "Voller" (Generation 1 in this document) to the "Valär" family is speculative--but reasonable.  It is also possible that his "relationship" to the Valär family was not a blood relationship, but that he was subservient to the family--i.e. a bondsman.

According to documents provided by the Raetian Museum in Chur, it is believed that the Valär family was descended from a Rhaetian nobleman named Valerius.  The name was spelled "Vadrain" or "Foedrain" in Romansh.  German spellings are common starting in the 14th century.

The Valär family tree allegedly includes a knight who fought in the crusades.  Positions held by the Valärs in the 14-17th centuries included "overseer of castle record" and "bailiff" at various villages in the Prätigau. (Ref 2: Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Schweiz)

The Battle of Grandson, 1476

March 2, 1476, is a red-letter day in both Swiss and Van Leer history.

At the conclusion of the battle, our ancestor Hans Vollers from Prätigau was awarded with treasure and elevated to the "burger" class in the city of Zurich.  Hans "von Lähr" registered his coat-of-arms in Zurich in 1488.  (Ref 1: Zurich State Archives.)

Since the Grisons did not participate in the Burgundian War, it is possible that Hans had moved to Zurich prior to the war and was recruited from Zurich.  As an immigrant from the Grisons, Hans probably spoke both Romansh and German.

The literature available indicates that Hans was basically a "nobody" before March 2, 1476, and  it does not detail what he did to earn this elevation.

The burgers of 1476 represented the middle class of tradesmen and artisans who--along with the nobility--elected city officials and established laws.

The Battle of Grandson was a crucial battle with Burgundy.  The Swiss played a decisive role in rebuffing the attempts by the King of Burgundy from expanding his kingdom which lay between Louis XI's France and Emperor Frederick III's Holy Roman Empire.

After Switzerland had, by her own strength, overthrown one of the powers of Europe, the bonds uniting her to the Holy Roman Empire were gradually slackened.  Although technically a part of the Holy Roman Empire, the "idea" of a separate Swiss identity was born on the battlefield of Grandson.

Kaspar and Christoph von Lähr--Gold Merchants

Hans Vollers, the hero of Grandson, lived in Zurich after the Burgundy War.  His son, Kaspar von Lähr (Generation 2 in this document) established a business in the gold trade which was continued for several generations. (Ref. 3: Zurich document dated 1927).

Kaspar's son Christoph (Generation 3) was also a gold merchant.  Christoph, however, is not named in the Swiss documents of "notable" Swiss.   According to the Vanleer papers on file at Chester County Historical Society in Pennsylvania, Christoph was identified through a marriage record; he married Sophie Schäfer in 1564 at the Zurich Cathedral. (Ref. 5: "Vanleer Papers, Lineage Wheel")

Johann Theobald von Lähr--First Family Scholar

Johann Theobald von Lähr (Generation 4) is described in the above Zurich reference as the "first scholar" of the family.  He was Pastor of Kurzdorf and Netenbach in Switzerland in 1610.  A second biographical sketch was located of Johann Theobald after he moved to Germany about 1613. (Ref. 4: Hessische Staatsarchiv Darmstadt).  This reference documents that he attended Heidelberg University in 1596.  He was a clergyman in Birstein, Germany during the 30 Years' War between Catholic and Protestant forces.  (See Map 1 - Europe - for location detail.)

The 30-Years War

The Protestant Reformation (from 1517 when Martin Luther first challenged church authority to 1648 when the Peace of Westpalia was signed) was a volatile period in European history when religion became one component of significant social changes:

The Thirty Years' War covered the period 1618-1648.  Germany was the battleground between Protestant and Catholic powers.  The death and destruction experienced by Germany during the Thirty Years' War was proportionally greater than that experienced during World War II. The devastation is difficult to comprehend.  There was constant brutal warfare between outside armies.  Each army burned the peasants' crops, murdered, raped, plundered.  Plague, disease and starvation accompanied the military violence.

The Heidelberg Calvinists were a leading force among the Protestants.  Johann Theobald von Löhr would have been in the midst of the upheaval when he attended Heidelberg in 1595.  And as clergyman for the state church in Birstein in the County of Güdingen between 1614 and 1624, he would certainly have been involved.  He  died during the war years, but there is no record as to the cause of his death.

Johann Balthasar von Löhr of Birstein, Germany

Johann Balthasar (Generation 5) is listed as the oldest child of Johann Theobald von Löhr in documents supplied by Hessisches Staatsarchiv Darmstadt. (Ref. 4).

The Hessian Genealogical Society of Darmstadt provided additional information: (See Ref. 5: "Vanleer Papers, European Chapter")

Johann Balthasar von Löhr (Generation 5), a citizen of Birstein and church warden of Birstein, was still  living on Feb. 11, 1679.  He married  Katharine Reiffschneider, the daughter of Zacharias Reiffschneider of Fischborn; she was buried in Zurich on Feb. 11, 1679.   Four children were listed: 

6.   Anna Amalia, born 1659.  Married Conrad Jacob Kemp in 1677.  Her second husband was Konrad Jacob Hermann.  No additional information has been located.

6.   Johann Balthasar von Löhr II, born 1661.  Married, first, Elizabeth Schmitt in 1679.   In 1689, he married a second time to  Sophia Layos.   The German and Russian descendants of one of their children--Charlotte (1690-1727) and her husband Johann Heinrich Koch have been identified. 

6.  Johann Ernst von Löhr, 1665-1670.

6. Johann Georg von Löhr (Generation 6), was baptized on July 21, 1667.  The American line came through this youngest son.