In late September 2001, Ken Engle and wife Carol, along with cousin Adell Crouch and husband Harry visited the Solingen area for two days. Cousin Adell speaks some German and she had briefly visited the area some years ago but before she knew our ancestors originated from there. It must be noted that the area was heavily bombed in during WW II because of the many factories in the area. Therefore, it was not expected that much architecture from the 17th century would still exist in the town itself.
We first visited the famous Klingenthal Knife Museum located in Solingen. It is quite large and houses a collection of cutlery and bladed weapons of war dating to the Middle Ages. A sample of old swords engraved with the Masters who made them or their owners can seen below. It was fascinating to see the evolution of cutlery eating utensils from the Middle Ages down to the present.
We also purchased a book from the museum containing many of the registered trademarks of the master metal workers dating back to the 17th century. The sample page below is headed by a Caspar Engels who cousin Henri believes is Caspar II because it provides the right of inheritance to two of Caspar's known children (kindred). Of course it is obvious, there are many more Engels in the book but we and Henri are still in the process of confirming their relationship to our family. We are inclined to believe that the Hans Caspar Engels listed below Caspar II, is Caspar Engels I, as it lists a brother-in-law (Schwager) by the name of Peter Herbertz. In 1719, the year of this trademark registration, Caspar I was married to an Anna Margaretha Herbertz. Further work is required to confirm this hypothesis.
We then visited the Schloss Burg. The recreation of the Castle faithfully followed the plans and descriptions from the 13 century. The interior of the Castle has been turned into a large museum of medieval culture. The day we were there they were holding a "Fest" on the castle grounds with booths selling food and trinkets. Probably not much different on market day in the 13th century. The view from the castle over looking the heavily wooded Wupper Valley is quite lovely as seen below.
We then wound our way down to the bottom of the valley a few kilometers from the castle to visit one of the last water powered mills (Kotten) from the 17th century. This one, Wipperkotten, is the last of 26 of its type found on the lower Wupper. It is unique for its double wheels operating from a common mill race so that two separate mills could operate at one time. The entrance to the mill race is shown in the picture below. The low dam across the sparkling river on the left funnels a portion of the water into the mill race and appears to be a natural stone shelf in the river. The two head gates to the double mill appear in the foreground.
This drawing of the Wipperkotten illustrates how two mills with two separate water wheels could share the same mill race. The grinding stones setting outside would have been inside and connected to the wheels so that the blade only had to be held against wheel to get sharpened with minimal physical labor. The mill on the right had a forge, as can be seen by the smoke stack, and the forge air bellows could be driven by the water wheel as well. Each water wheel is capable of generating 42 h.p. which certainly is impressive for the times.
The last photograph below shows the size of the mill buildings as it looks towards the mill with the forge and its smoke stack across the mill race. The living quarters for the operators and owners were on the second floor with the only access from an outside stairway to minimize the amount of toxic fumes drifting up into the living quarters.
Is it possible that our ancestors owned or were employed in this mill which was in operation since the beginning of the 17th century?
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