Marc Chapelle and Antoine Simon:
In Search of Religious Freedom

    Settlement in Dürrmenz, Germany

"Henri-Arnaud-House" Waldenser Museum

Homepage of der Deutschen Waldenservereinigung e.V.

The German Huguenot Society

Deutschen Waldenserkirche




Home of Henri Arnaud in Schönenberg, now the Waldenser Museum
(Photographer unknown)

The Waldensian colony in Dürrmenz (Kingdom of Württemberg) was formed in 1699.  The 500 or so reformed protestant refugees coming to this colony from the Piedmont region were all called Waldensers regardless of their original place of residence or religious history (whether Waldenser or simply Calvinist).  They initially lived in houses left empty by families who had left, and other makeshift arrangements.  The first winter was bad.  Henri Arnaud became the first minister for this new congregation.   Construction of new buildings began in 1700.  Barracks had been built on land adjacent to Otisheim and called Säuberg.  Since this was done without consultation with the municipality, Otisheim refused to accept the Säuberg residents as citizens.  In 1701, Säuberg was renamed Schönenberg and founded as an independent hamlet.  It remained independent, and in 1718 a new church was built there.  Other communities were also formed named Sengach and Corres.  In addition to the concentration of colonists in Dürrmenz itself, later arrivals were scattered around other hamlets in the area.

It was the decision of the Duke Eberhard-Ludwig of Württemberg to settle these refugees in closed colonies, as free subjects (as opposed to serfs), and to grant them religious autonomy.   This decision was not simply kind feelings toward the refugees.   England, the Netherlands, and Switzerland were all supportive of the Waldensers such that they paid for most of Württemberg's settlement costs, but only if the Waldensers had the right to freely practice their religion.  Secondly, the Duke recognized the economic benefit of rebuilding the population of the region, which had been severely reduced through previous wars with France, as well as famine and epidemics.  In 1692, French troops defeated those of Württemberg Duke Karl Friedrich in a skirmish called the "Battle of Ötisheim."  After this defeat, approximately 100 buildings in Ötisheim were burned; probably the darkest day in the village's history.  Then there was the issue of religious practice itself.  The Waldensers, were represented by ministers Jacques Papon and Henri Arnaud, who demanded the right to practice their religion.  However, the Duke was limited to only allow two types of religion to be practiced in his territory, Lutheran and Catholic.  The Waldensers argued that they had much the same beliefs even before the reformation, and that the Lutheran Church was born from their ideas.  The Waldensers also claimed to have origins in the early apostolic church, which in later years was proven to be only a legend.  Nevertheless, the Lutheran clergy gradually accepted these arguments, and agreed the Waldensers should be allowed to settle there.   In truth, they believed the Waldensers would only practice the reformed religion temporarily, and would integrate with the Lutheran Church over time.  Ultimately, from 1818 until 1918, the Waldensers did lose their right to free practice of the reformed religion, and became part of the regional Lutheran church.

Marc and Antoinette Chapelle arrived in Lomersheim in  1699 or 1700, and then moved through Enzberg and then lived in Schmie.  Marc purchased some property in Lienzingen.  On 1 October 1733, he died in Lienzingen after being more than 70 years old.  In the death records he is referred to as a "Waldenser from Schmie".   There is record of only two children of Marc and Antoinette:  his son Salomon, born about 1697, and his daughter Marie, born about 1700 in Dürrmenz. 

In addition to Marc Chapelle's family, there are other Chapelle families in the region, and across western Europe as well.  However, little information exists to tie them together.  A Jean Chapelle is recorded in Schaffhausen as coming from Florac (near Finiels, France), as well as an Isaac Martin and  widow Chapelle and her 3 children from Gluiras (near Finiels, France).  A Chapelle is also mentioned in Cannstatt, now part of the Stuttgart metropolitan area, about 30 km to the southeast of Dürrmenz. 

Antoine and Marie Simon arrived in 1699, and had two sons: Antoine (born about 1683) and Henry (born about 1686) and a daughter Madelaine (born about 1697).  A second daughter named Marie was born about 1700 in Dürrmenz.  Madelaine became the wife of Salomon Chapelle sometime prior to 1725.  Sometime after 1712, Marie died, and Antoine then married Jeanne Latelle.  Antoine was registered several times between 1702 and 1712 as a Councilor (perhaps this is some sort of town council position).  He owned two houses in Dürrmenz and then after 1710 he moved to Schönenberg where he had a house, barn, and plot of land.  He owned one horse and between one and three cows (in various years).  To the rear of his land was the land of Johann Thiers.

Some future research is required to understand all the interconnections between the Chapelle, Simon, Rouchon, and Thiers families.  They will comprise a large portion of the emigration to Pennsylvania in the 1750 to 1753 time frame.

As a side story to the arrival of the Waldensers, it was one of the colonists, Antoine Seignoret, from the Piedmont who brought the first potato seeds to Germany.  These plants, which originated from South America, were already known in Spain and Southern France.  The Waldensers had cultivated them for generations in the poor soil of their mountain fields.  Now they grew them in the parish garden of Schönenberg, and distributed them throughout the Waldenser colony.   The ability to grow potatoes under poor conditions served to fill food supply gaps in poor growing years, and eventually won acceptance among the neighbors of these Waldensers.

Today, the villages of Dürrmenz, Lomersheim, Enzberg, and Lienzingen have all been integrated, at least administratively, into the city of Mühlacker.   Schmie has become part of Maulbronn.


Continue to the "Maulbronn Monastery" Page...


(1)  Bellon, Eugen.  Vertrieben, verweht, verwurzelt : die französisch-reformierten Einwanderer in Dürrmenz, 1699-1735.  (Sickte : Verlag des Deutschen Hugenotten-Vereins, 1987), 149.  Family History Library international book, no film copy.

(2)  de Lange, Albert.  "Fürstliches Mitleiden:  Die Aufnahme der Waldenser in Deutschland im Jahre 1699 und die Religionsfreiheit", Der Deutsche Waldenser, 2002, issue 2.  Online copy of article: <>

(3) Google Earth, <>





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