The journey of generations
Since the l998 family reunion, we have learned
more of the Fister family history. We know for sure that our great-grandfather,
John N. Fister was born Jean Nicolas Fister in Viller, Moselle, Lorraine,
France. With the aid of our cousins and lots of research by all, we have found
documents that trace the roots of our great-grandfather back to the mid 1600s,
with hints back to 1400 Norway.
While we do not yet know for sure, we may have descended from
master masons in a fjord of Norway, in a village named Fister...spelled just
that way. Those footprints are sketchy, but are picked up again in Vandans,
Austria with Christien Fister.
As in many cultures and countries, the wages of
war played a huge part in the settlement of our Fister ancestors in France. You
might remember the story of the Thirty Years War in Europe. In the mid 1600’s
the popullation of Alsace-Lorrain France was nearly eradicated by that war. Most
of the people of the region had either totally disappeared or had hidden in the
forests to avoid the rampaging armies.
The Thirty Years War destroyed not only 90% of the Lorraine population, it left
the buildings in total ruin and the farm fields fallow. The soil was
quickly eroding and brambles rolled freely in the wind.
The Duke of Lorraine Charles IV boldly decided to
repopulate the region. With the permission of the French King, he put out
a call to all Europeans, first to Catholic master masons for the rebuilding.
He would give them land if they were willing to farm the land according to
French government standards. At least three sons of our ancestor Christien
Fister -Amboise, Martin and Ottmar- moved fron Vandans, Austria, where they were
master masons, and settled in Eincheville, in the region of Moselle, in the
province of Lorraine, France. (Some might later speculate that the Duke knew of
the Fister talent of procreating.) Together, the three brothers had at
least 28 children.
OTTMAR BEGOT JEAN, WHO
BEGOT CHRISTOPHE,ETC, ETC, ETC...
Ottmar & wife, Suzanne Lorrain, begot Jean who with wife Christine Bayer begot
Christophe, who with wife Marguerite Kloster begot Nicolas, who with wife Marie
Adrian Kroutsche begot Claude, who with wife Madeleine Sibille, begot Jean
Nicolas, our great-grandfather, in the town of Viller. Please do not confuse him
with his older brother, Jean, who emigrated to America in 1868.
(Yep, that's right...Claude had two sons named Jean. He
also had three daughters named Marie!!) While our
ancestor Jean Nicolas was formally known as "John," he had the nickname "Nick."
We know that from his youngest son Victor's wife Mary McHugh.
They thought he was called "Nick" as a term of endearment, not because it was
As the story goes, while serving in the French
cavalry, Jean Nicolas Fister & Jean Decker were sent to deliver documents to
generals in Paris. Fister found them playing cards and partying with the
Prussian generals, the enemy!!!
In disgust, he quit and returned home to Viller with plans to go to America with
his best friend Jean Decker. Family stories are that he took a Prussian
horse with him for the ride home thinking Prussian soldiers were hot on his
Lucky for him but, unfortunately for Decker, the
papers that Fister delivered are thought to have restarted the war over Paris.
A few days before, Prussian Crown Prince Frederick III had defeated Napolean III
at the Battle of Sedan, leaving the road to Paris totally open to the Prussian
On September 19, 1870,
the Prussians surrounded the City of Paris. Thus began the Siege of
Paris...the city was under total blockade with Decker inside and unable to
leave. The Prussians intended to starve Paris into surrender.
Nothing and no one went in or out of the city....except hot air balloons.
inside the city walls were forced to eat dogs, cats and horses. Champion
racehorses and zoo animals were not spared. By late December 1870, two
favorites, elephants Castor and Pollox were slaughtered for food.
chefs tried to make the situation as appealing as possible as they gave fancy
names to the food they prepared. The menu reads:
- * Consommé de
au millet. (horse)
- * Brochettes de foie de
la maître d'hôtel. (dog)
- * Emincé de rable de
Sauce mayonnaise. (cat)
- * Epaules et filets de Chien braisés. Sauce aux
- * Civet de Chat aux Champignons. (cat)
- * Côtelettes de Chien aux petits pois. (dog)
- * Salamis de
Rats. Sauce Robert. (rats)
- * Gigots de chien flanqués de ratons. Sauce
Begonias au jus. (flowers)
- * Plum-pudding au rhum et à la Moelle de Cheval.
During this time, the city of Metz (near Fister's
home of Viller) fell to the Prussians. However, Winter was coming.
Supplies for the Prussian army around Paris were becoming scarce. The
politics of war made it seem to German citizens that the cost of war was growing
too much. Talk even started that the Prussians were incapable of defeating
the French. On January 25, 1871, Prussian King Wilhelm I ordered that
Paris be bombarded with heavy canon fire. Paris surrendered three days
later. Soon, Decker was also on his way home to Viller, looking forward to
seeing his friend and most especially leaving France for America.
Fister and Decker sailed from Liverpool, England aboard the SS Cuba and arrived
in Manhattan, New York on March 25, 1872.
a bright, sunny, Monday morning. The promise of America was before them.