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John Balthazar Dingledine1

b. 24 August 1767, d. 6 November 1849

Family Susannah B. Firestone b. 24 March 1780, d. 9 April 1851
Marriage* 5 March 1812  Lexington, Rockbridge Co., VA, BALSOR DINGLEDINE & SUSANNA HOYLMAN, 05 Mar 1812, Rockbridge, Virginia, Principal=Susannah B. Firestone1,3 
Child  1. Susan Dingledine b. 28 Sep 1812

Occupation*   Shoemaker1 
Note*   Balthazar was the son of John Balthazar Dingledine (b. 31 Jul 1729, Klein-Gumpen, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany) and Ann Eva Keil (b. 25 Nov 1733, Klein-Gumpen, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany).

He was previously married to Anna Catharine Weber with which he had 2 daughters:
1) Anna Elizabetha Dingeldein (b. 14 Jan 1797, Unter-Ostern Germany)
2) Anna Margaret Dingledine (b. 24 JAN 1798)

Elizabetha was married to John S. Moore in Rockbridge with which they had several children. They emigrated to Greene Co., IN. Margaret died falling overboard from the ship during their passage to America in 1804.1,2 
Birth* 24 August 1767  Uterostern, Strakenburg, Hess-Darmstadt, Germany1 
Marriage* 5 March 1812  Lexington, Rockbridge Co., VA, BALSOR DINGLEDINE & SUSANNA HOYLMAN, 05 Mar 1812, Rockbridge, Virginia, Principal=Susannah B. Firestone1,3 
Census 1820  1820 Federal Census, Virginia, Botetourt County, No Township, Series: M33, Roll: 130, Page: 109
Dingledine, Baltzer (Line 28) 001112-11001-0201-0000-0000-0000-00004 
Census 1830  1830 Federal Census, Virginia, Botetourt County, No Township, Series: M19, Roll: 189, Page: 273
Dingledine, Baltz (Line 6) 0010000010000-0101001000000-000000-000000-000000-000000-5-00000-00005 
Census* 1840  1840 Federal Census, Virginia, Roanoke County, No Township, Series: M704, Roll: 578, Page: 220
Dingledine, Baltser (line 4) 0010000010000-0000000010000-000000-000000-000000-000000-3-0100000-0-0-000-000-00-00-00000006 
Death* 6 November 1849  Salem, Roanoke Co., VA1 
Burial* after 6 November 1849  Salem East Hill Cemetery, Salem Twp., Roanoke Co., VA, Transcription: Dingledine, John Baltzer Born 24 Aug 1767 Died 6 Nov 1849, sec 2 - 4- 22

(John & Susannah were originally buried in hte family cemetery but later moved to East Hill after the death of one of their children.) 
News/Obit 1999  (A Guide to Historic Salem -- Volume 5, Number 1 -- Spring 1999)

From Germany...
1832 Letter Relates Cousin's Sad Story

By John Long

An old letter recently uncovered at the Salem Museum sheds some interesting light on the hardships of life in 19th century Germany, with a fascinating Salem connection. The 1832 letter in German is from Johann Balthasar Dingledine, of Obermossau in the Hessian Odenwald, to his cousin of the same name, who lived near Salem.

The letter is part of a collection of papers recently donated to the Museum by John McCauley and his sister, Dorothy McCauley Butler. The papers were collected in the late 19th century by the noted historian of Roanoke County, William McCauley, who served as the County's Clerk of Court for many years. Along with legal documents, bids for construction projects, political letters, and Confederate amnesty oaths, museum intern Melanie Allred found the original letter in German, dated 1832, along with a translation apparently made some time later judging by the condition of the paper.

The test of the translation of Herr Dingledine's (or Dingledein's) letter is found in the adjoining article.

J. Balthasar (spelled Balsor, Peltzer, Palythazer, among half a dozen other variations) Dingledine of Salem was a prosperous farmer who lived on the site of what would become Lakeside Amusement Park (now Lakeside Shopping Center). He was born in Germany in 1767, and came to Rockbridge County probably in the middle eighteen-teens. There he married Susannah Firestone Hileman, and the two moved to the outskirts of Salem (then in Botetourt County) in 1819. Their farm, later known as Dingledale, encompassed much of what is today the Edgewood and Conehurst neighborhoods. The Dingledines had one daughter, Susan, who married John McCauley in 1835; their son was William McCauley, author of the monumental 1902 History of Roanoke County.

Was there a happy end to his letter? The McCauley papers at the Museum give no indication of a response, favorable or otherwise, to Herr Dingledine's request, although the family apparently attached enough siginificance to the letter to preserve it for future generations. We may surmise however that little or no help came from his American cousin, because later local censuses never mention another J. Balthasar Dingledine in residence in Salem.

However, there is evidence that the author of the letter did eventually make his way to the promised land of Virginia. Immigration records in the Virginia Room of the Roanoke Public Library list a Balthasar Dingledine coming to the US from Germany in 1838 with his family (no family is mentioned in the letter, but could that not be a deliberate omission on the part of the author?). In the 1840 census, a Baltzar Dingledine is found in Shenandoah County with seven children, one of several families of that name listed in that area. While this is not enough evidence to consider the matter closed, it seems reasonable to assume that Dingledine, refused by his Salem namesake, found another rich American relative to sponsor his trip over.

Readers who are happy with the previous analysis should stop reading here. Others who are interested in another alternative, more disturbing interpretation of the letter are invited to consider the following information.

Salem Historical Society President Inez Good, a long time German professor at Roanoke College, recently spent some time examining the Dingledine letter and proposed that the 19th century translation may have missed a crucial piece of data. The German word for cousin, as translated above, is "Vetter," while the word for father is "Vater." This raises some interesting questions. It must be misspelling, one of several noticeable in the letter. But which word is misspelled? Could it be that the German writer was not a cousin, but a son of the Salem Dingledine?

If so, he would almost certainly be illegitimate, since Baltzer Dingledine was married in America. The will of Baltzer Dingledine of Salem makes no mention of a son, although this does not necessarily discount the possibility that one existed. There seems to be no way of confirming their relationship at this time, but some aspects of the letter make more sense if written from a desperate son to his absent father. Phrases such as "my share of your wealth" and "my Vatter would send for me" take on a new light. Reread the letter, substituting the word father for cousin at every appearance, and decide for yourself.

We may never know for certain the answers to these mysteries, but the letter nonetheless provides us with an excellent 160 year old reminder of how fortunate our ancestors were who made it to America.

Here Is the Letter

Editor's Note: Following, translated from the German, is the letter that is the subject of the accompanying article.

Obernassau March 30, 1832

Much beloved Cousin-it would give me much pleasure if my letter should find you enjoying good health, as for me I am thanks be to God, well & healthy.

But as regards my temporal circumstances I am forgotten altogether by my parents, and I have not a person who cares for me or looks after me. My Mother is right old, she has enough to do to support herself in our poor part of the country. Dear Cousin since I am grown I have been on the alert for any kind of work, I have served the farmers a long time, but I could not save (or lay by) anything, as the business is very dull in our country, ever one is glad if he can just live and not have to make any debts. But which has not happened to me yet. Dear Cousin, I remember well the last time you fed me at Mr. Peter Meger house in Obernassau, and we have not seen each other since, but which is my only wish if I could but talk to my dear cousin in America once more, perhaps he could give me better advice and assistance. Dear Cousin I dare (or venture) to write to you with a sad heart, I hope also that you will not think ill (or hard) of me for I have always believed that some day you would send me a letter, but which has not happened so far. Dear cousin as far as I can learn you are in the best of circumstances in America and I have to spend my life here in poverty if you withdraw the duty you owe a cousin. Dear Cousin I would like to ask something of you, so many people are leaving for America to seek their fortune if would give me much pleasure if you could have me come over and live with you, if you could send me some money or assure me some other means by which I may be enabled to emigrate to America. Should it not suit you to have me come over, do not forget me anyway but see that I get my share of your wealth, in order that I might say that I have a dear cousin. Dear Cousin I did not know it myself but when the counsellor told me that when I was 13 years old my cousin would send for me, but I am now 32 and he had not thought about me yet. You will not blame me for reminding my dear cousin of his duty. I am without means, and whoever is, is not noticed at all. As already stated if I only had enough money to pay the passage, I would have been in America long ago, where I also could support myself better. I hope my dear cousin will open his good hand and help me over the ocean, and I will show my gratitude as much as is in my power. Dear cousin I hope you will not forget me and will send me a good answer to my request. Dear cousin write to me as soon as possible. I remain yours truly, Johann Balthaser Dingledein.2 
News/Obit* 1999  (A Guide to Historic Salem -- Volume 5, Number 2 -- Summer 1999)

Letters Show USA As Land of Plenty

In the last issue of Historic Salem, we highlighted a fascinating 1832 letter from Johann Balthasar Dingledine of Germany to his older relation of the same name, living near Salem. The writer was requesting financial assistance to emigrate to America from his poverty-stricken homeland. The account ended with a minor mystery: were these two men cousins, or father and son? The confusion results from the dubious spelling in the original German of the word "Vatter," which may be taken as either cousin (Vetter) or father (Vater). We concluded that the mystery may never be solved.

The letter evinced considerable comments from readers. Several pointed out one phrase in the translation in which "cousin" and "father" do not appear to be interchangeable: "I have to spend my life here in poverty if you withdraw the duty you owe a cousin." However, in the German, a more accurate translation might be "a Vatter's duty," leaving open the possibility that the one owing the duty could be either father or cousin.

However, the most informed commentary on the article came from John William McCauley of Salem, a grandson of Roanoke County historian William McCauley and great- great grandson of Balthasar Dingledine. Mr. McCauley feels certain that the two Dingledines were cousins, since his genealogical research, going back to his German roots, has never indicated any son of Dingledine left behind in Europe. In addition, he has uncovered other interesting bits of information about this early Salem settler.

Baltzer (as it is usually Anglicized) Dingledine was in fact married in Germany prior to emigrating to America, but his wife died giving birth to their second daughter in 1798. In 1804, he decided to take his two daughters to America; however, the youngest, then six, fell overboard in transit and drowned. Of his family of four, then, only he and his daughter Anna Elizabeth made it to the United States, where it can be happily reported that his fortunes improved.

He settled first in Rockbridge County, where he remarried in 1812, and was naturalized in 1815. About 1819, the couple moved to the outskirts of Salem, then in Botetourt County, to a farm named Dingledale (currently Lakeside Kroger property). He became one of the region's most prosperous and influential citizens.

The letter from Germany attests to Dingledine's prosperity. No one writes to a poor relation for financial help. Furthermore, Dingledine was apparently besieged by other such requests from German relatives eager to try their fortunes in the new world. John William McCauley has in his possession two other such letters, written by other relatives at about the same time as the first (perhaps all were delivered in the same mail packet).

Reichelsheim, March 20, 1832

Dear Godfather:

From different emigrants who have written letters to their home have I learned that you are yet alive and that you are in good financial circumstances. My father, Georg Weber (Carpenter) of this place died about twenty tears ago, and left besides myself six children. I am married to the son of Conrad Volk, brickmason, of this place, have three children, and am very poor. Could and would you therefore in one way or another assist me, or make my passage to America possible (to which place so many people from

this neighborhood are going). If you could and would, I would be under everlasting obligation to you. I hope you will not forget me in my sad, wretched condition, and with my compliments to you and family, especially to my godfather, I remain your true godchild,

Katharina Volk, nee Weber

Weber was the maiden name of Baltzer Dingledine's late wife in Germany, so this goddaughter was likely some relative by marriage.

The second letter is from yet another Baldaser Dingledein, the third in the family with that name. It had no translation, and so the difficult task of deciphering it was turned over to Historical Society president Inez Good and Roanoke College German professor Jim Ogier. The letter was in poor shape, and the writing in places indecipherable, so the below excerpt is only fragmentary. Note also that it was a common practice to use third instead of second person in German letters.

To Mr. Baldaser Dingeldein in Ameriga:

Much loved cousin, I greet him and his wife and all other friends many thousand times. If you receive this letter in good health my heart rejoices because we are separated so far from each other, we have to report to each other with silent words. . . Our father had gotten much in arrears. His property has been sold and he has not received his bread and his children [have] no home. Our father died in 1826. Our mother still lives. He has left nothing but seven children. . . Our father was sickly for many years. I have taken care of the land for 18 years and have fulfilled all the duties of a child. . . and have not a good limb left from it.

That is very sad. I have built a little house and I have little else and have to feed myself miserably. None of us are doing well. . . Much beloved cousin, if he believes it would be for me to make the trip with my wife and children and if he wants to help me a little then I will undertake the trip and come to him. We can no longer come up with the taxes. That is why so many people emigrate from their fatherland. . . Much beloved cousin, I beg fervently that he may be so good to write to me, and the money should go to the Frankfurt exchange. I greet them all.

written the ___ April, 1832

Baldaser Dingledein in Unterostern

Like the previous letter, there is no indication of an answer, positive or negative, to these two appeals. Still, the requests help to demonstrate the view many Europeans held of America: a land of plenty where the poor become rich. In the case of Dingledines, and many of our other ancestors, the picture was an accurate one.
News/Obit 2003  (A Guide to Historical Salem - Volume 9, Number 2 -- Fall 2003)

Local Cemeteries Reveal Salem’s History
By John and Candy Long


Dingledine: This prominent German family of early settlers owned the area around Lakeside and Conehurst. Some Stoutamires, a neighboring family, were buried there as well. Their graves were moved from there to East Hill.2 

Last Edited 28 Jan 2006

  1. [S504] Kathleen A. Hunt, 14 Sep 2003.
  2. [S505] A Guide to Historic Salem, online
  3. [S334] Unknown compiler, "LDS International Genealogy Index", Ancestral File.
  4. [S279] 1820 U.S. Federal Census , 1820 Federal Census.
  5. [S121] 1830 U.S. Federal Census , 1830 Federal Census.
  6. [S3] 1840 U.S. Federal Census , 1840 U.S. Federal Census.

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