Two local authors spoke to an audience of about 70 people Thursday night about a book they recently published titled “German Immigrants, American Pioneers: The Brunners of Schifferstadt.”
In their book, Patricia Ogden and Boyce Rensberger explore the life and times of the Brunners, the family who built Schifferstadt in the mid-1700s, as well as Frederick’s history and the home’s importance during that time period.
The book was published in late March.
The Schifferstadt Architectural Museum on Rosemont Avenue in Frederick is the oldest standing house in the county and is a designated National Historic Landmark.
The authors, in partnership with C. Burr Artz Public Library and Curious Iguana bookstore, held the talk in the library’s community room to chat about their research for the book as well as some of the history in and around Schifferstadt.
Ogden, a historian who began volunteering at Schifferstadt in 2010, said a lot of the museum’s visitors are descendants of the Brunner family. To offer more information on the family, she began researching the Brunners, “and it grew exponentially from there.”
“My goal was to give descendants a book,” she said. “But then I realized it’s more than family history, it’s a colonial history of Frederick.”
She then spent the next six or seven years digging up archives and other documents for the book.
The two authors met while volunteering at Schifferstadt. While she loved the research aspect of it, Ogden admitted she isn’t great at writing. That’s when she asked Rensberger to help her with the book.
Rensberger is a retired journalist with The Washington Post and The New York Times. He is also a descendant of the Brunner family.
The presentation featured a timeline of German immigrants — including the Brunner family — moving to the Frederick area, highlights from the book, pictures of the home and its unique features and pictures of original documents and court records from the 1700s.
Ogden told The News-Post that through her research, she found Frederick’s involvement in the French and Indian War most interesting.
“We don’t hear too much about that,” she said. “Everything about Frederick is about the Civil War. This house really belongs in the French and Indian War era.”
She said the fight for independence started in Frederick with the residents and the farmers not wanting to give up their horses and wagons to the British.
“They stood their ground, the farmers along with women, in front of soldiers,” she said. “There’s a first-person letter from the captain that was trying to obtain those horses and wagons. The women with their knives stood next to the horses to keep the soldiers from taking them.”
“That’s what I call the kitchen knife rebellion,” Rensberger joked.
Rensberger found what Benjamin Franklin thought of Germans interesting as he said it echoes what is happening today.
“The attitude of Benjamin Franklin toward the Germans immigrating is that if we don’t do something about [them] coming here, we’re going to lose our language, we’re going to lose our government,” he said. “Today’s talk of immigrants is such an echo of that period.”
Gaye Lynn Wilson attended the event from western Pennsylvania as she has a love of history and wanted to learn more about Schifferstadt. She drives past the home almost every day but never stops to visit the landmark.
She wants to research her own family’s genealogy but added it wouldn’t be easy with a last name like Wilson.
She wasn’t sure if her heritage dates back to Frederick County, “but there was a horse thief with the last name Wilson, so you never know.”
Mary Mannix, Maryland Room manager at the library, said Ogden spent a lot of her research in the Maryland Room. She has been waiting for years for her to write the book.
The library is always trying to highlight the work of its patrons and the people who research in the Maryland Room, whether or not they write a book.
“This really is an important [piece of] work,” Mannix said. “Schifferstadt is an important structure, the Brunners were an important family and the whole German heritage of Frederick County is very important.”