About Allemaengel

Johann Georg NUNGESSER he arrived at Philadelphia 11 Aug 1732. By the mid 1740s Johann settled in an area known as the Allemaengel region in Lynn Twp. of what was then Bucks Co., PA (The township was later part of Northampton Co. and today is part of Lehigh Co.) He built his home near the present-day Red Jerusalem Church.

What exactly is the significance of the name, Allemaengel? Here is a summary of the findings of my research on this matter.

The French refer to the region in and around Stassbourg, regions around and along the Rhine River, northeast of present day France as "ALLEMAGNE"

Jon Bond of the Albany Twp. (Berks Co.) Historical Society wrote the following in response to my query about the origins of the name:

There are several theories regarding the origins of the word "Allemaengel" and its application to an area which comprised parts of Berks and Lehigh Counties. Historians differ on the meaning of this word, some feeling that it shows the privations faced by the early "German" settlers who forged their new homes with scant means and minimal experience working the soil of this area (blue,resistant strata of shale). Others suggest an opposing meaning; that the area was able to provide the people with all their wants, or all necessities Still others think that it refers to an area in Germany from which the people immigrated. Whatever the meaning, it became apparent that the land was indeed bountiful and the population expanded rapidly in the mid to late 1700s. My personal belief is the latter...I can imagine my forbears coming to these beautiful rolling hills and valleys and realizing their dreams of starting new lives in William Penn's "Holy Experiment". With their German agricultural ingenuity, they soon strengthened the soil with lime and good old-fashioned manure. From our history, we find the Philadelphians were sometimes awe-struck by the bounty of agricultural products which originated from counties like Berks, Lancaster, Chester etc.

A friend who is a native of France and a teacher of foreign languages had the following comment:

It is very true . The German word "Mangel" means "need", "privation" and "alle" of course means "all", the reason there is an "e" after the "a" is that in the plural form "Mangel" become "Mängel" with an umlaut "ä" over the "a" OR an "e" after the "a" as in "Maengel". Now there are other close words: "Menge" = abundance, "Mengen" = mix, blend in. From the language point of view I would favor the first meaning simply because of the "ae" spelling ... And then there is still Allemagne, with the "n" AFTER the "g" which deals with Germany.

My great grandfather’s 1860 Webster dictionary adds some insight in it’s definition:

ALLEMANNIC, a. Belonging to the Allemanni, ancient Germans, and to Alemannia, their country. The word is generally supposed to be composed of all and manni, all men...This is probably an error. The word is more probably composed of the Celtic, all, other, the root of Latin alius, an man, place; one of another place, a stranger...The name Alemanni seems to have been first given to the Germans who invaded Gaul in the reign of Augustus

So it appears that the name is indicative of the geographic region from which the early settlers of Lynn Twp. originated. But it also appears the name indicates an ethnic group that settled that region of Germany. The names Alemannisch, Allemannic, Alemannic, Schwyzerdutsch, and Alsatian all apply to early tribes of Austria.

The Kistler name is commonplace near the Red Jerusalem Church. The church sits on a hill overlooking the Kistler Valley. The stone marking the site of the original log church is dedicated to a Kistler, and their are many Kistler gravestones in the cemetery. The following information describes this family’s Allemannish origins. (The information appeared on “The Kistler Family Tree” web site. The link is currently defunct.)

The Kistlers, like thousands of other American families, descended from the Allemanni. it is supposed that the great Germanic races were the rear guard of the Aryan migrations into the West. the course which brought them out of Asia into Europe ran across Armenia, around the Black Sea to the northwest. Thence westward through what is now Russia, into the countries where they were destined to establish themselves. The began to appear between the Main and Danube about the beginning of the third century. the Franks called them the Allemage. The name as well as the language of the ancient people of southwestern Germany , or the Palatinate, is still known as the Allemanni.

From various other sources:

"It is probable that the Rebsamens are descended from the Germanic tribe 'Alemanni' who lived from the third century onward in what is now Southern Germany, and the German Swiss territory around the upper reaches of the Rhine River and its sources. The Alemanni people are often described as having very black hair, light skin and light eyes. They carried on a running fight against the Romans from the third to the fifth century. The tribal name is also spelled 'Alamanni' and 'Allemanni.' Their language was a dialect of Old High German."

"In 213 AD Roman literary sources mention the appearance of Alemanni horsemen for the first time. Suebian groups gathered to form up battle troops and called themselves "Allemanni" ( which could get its meaning from "all men" in German: "Alle Mannen")  They left their original settlements at the Elbe river and moved forward to the Roman frontier. 

Emperor Caracalla gathered a great army in Raetia, probably at or near by the limes fort Aalen in Baden- Wuerttemberg ( see trips to Roman remains in South-West Germany!). The Roman army crossed the Raetian Limes and defeated the Alemanni for the first time. ( Just a few kilometers from Aalen the remains of a triumphal gate through the Limes are preserved as part of a wide spread open-air museum "Raetian Limes" in Dalkingen. It is believed that this unique building was set up at the place where the Roman army crossed the limes and marked the place as a triumphal gate to celebrate the victory. Some parts of a huge emperor statue were found during excavations in 1978- they are now presented in the Limesmuseum Aalen)." 

Erocus, king of the Allemanni, supported Constantine around 310 A.D.

In 510, Clovis attacked and defeated the allemanni, who lived along the northern Rhine.


All of this information sent me to Hammond’s Historical Atlas. The Alamanni appear on a map showing barbaric migrations in the 4th and 5th centuries. The occupied the region along the Rhine from present-day Switzerland north to Frankfurt. In later maps of 600 and 800 A.D. Alemania appears as a state within the Frankish Kingdom. It included Switzerland and extended northward to Strassburg. By 1000 A.D. Alemannia, also labeled Swabia was a part of the Kingdom of Germany including eastern Switzerland, Strassburg, Ulm, and Augsburg. By 1200 Alemannia is replaced by Swabia. [view these maps]

Clearly Alemannia refers to Switzerland and the Rhine valley (the Palatinate) and originates with the Allemanni, an early European tribe.

I am now convinced that Allemaengel name has its origins with this tribe, and the “Allemaengel region” refers to the Palatinate and Switzerland.

One point of historical significance appears in many sources. Around 500 A.D. the Frankish king, Clovis defeated the Allemmanni at Zulbich, near present-day Bonn. This was a period when the Roman empire was attempting to expand northward to Christianize the barbarians. On the field of battle, Clovis vowed to be baptized if victorious. He was, and became a Christian. After this victory and conversion, he essentially handed the Frankish kingdoms, including the conquered Allemanni, to Rome.

Now for a bit of speculation: The Kistler homepage described above clearly shows that family to be descended from the Allemanni. The earliest Kistler mentioned was Chief Magistrate of Berne, Switzerland around 1440 He was the great-grandson of King Rudolph. It’s not much of a stretch to suspect that the descendants of the Allemanni, especially their royalty, carried a bit of a grudge against Rome after being defeated and handed over. Later during the Protestant Reformation the region suffered through more than a century of religious warfare between Catholics and Protestants

I doubt that the early Berks settlers knew much about this history. They probably left Germany to escape religious persecution as did many of the Germans we know know as the “Pennsylvania Dutch.’ But after surviving the centuries-old hatred between ethnic groups in Europe and the warfare that has resulted, I don’t think it’s unlikely that the 18th century Allemanni could still have harbored some deep-seated ethnic and religious prejudices. Perhaps the Allemaengel region of Berks Co. was named as a way of saying, “Ha! We have our own land, again!”


-- H. Deemer, June, 2001