Ihmsen Emigration to America

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•  I have been researching the American Ihmsen family for more than 15 years now and never was really sure, if they belonged to my German Ihmsens. My line of the family never remembered that there had been any emigration.

For a long time while researching my glassmakers in the Paderborn area, for a long time there had been a suspicion, that Christian Ihmsen along with his family, as well as his partner Friedrich Goebeler and family had secretly left Westphalia around the end of 1780 after their glass venture in the Bodenthal near Schwaney had gone broke. The reason for this belief was, that no trace of these families had been found after mid 1780s in Germany.

My first discovery indicating a possible Ihmsen in the US was the 1790 Maryland Census. There was listed a “H. Wm. Impson”.

Who could this be? Was he an Englishman, or could it be an Ihmsen whose name simply was misspelled? Further findings on the same page supported the idea, that this "Impson" could actually be an Ihmsen, since there were two other familiar names also connected to the glassworks near Schwaney:
 - "Adam Cocklenberg" (Kohlenberg).
He had married Anna Angela Wilhelmina Goebeler, a daughter of Friedrich Goebeler, as well as
 - "H. Wm. Gabler" (Goebeler), Heinrich Wilhelm, a son of Friedrich Goebeler.

Also on that page were names of other well-known German glassmaking families: "Becker" and "Seitz". At least I was pretty sure I had census pages that listed German glass makers, but which works did they work for.

Through Internet searches and message boards I finally came in touch with Sandy Palmer, a descendant of Friedrick Goebeler, today Americanized Gabler, and a descendant of the Kohlenberg family – Bob Fout of Fredrick, MD. They enlightened me about the “New Bremen Glassmanufactory”, the glassworks of Frederick Amelung and supplied me with information about this works.

With their immense help, especially of Sandy, we could find the Frederick church books. There we found entries for marriages of many of the Goebeler/Gabler children (See end of the page), and two Ihmsen marriages (One of these, up to today, we could not really decide who the person involved was). There were also entries of several christenings and marriages where the Ihmsen name appeared as witness or sponsor. The Ihmsen name though often was anglicized and misspelled, so that sometimes we were not sure, if it was really that name, or something else. Still, all these findings together strengthened the suspicion, that there really were Ihmsen glass makers on American soil.

To this day no shiplist with their arrival in America could be found, also no other records, documents or newspaper articles in Maryland that proved their being there.

Around the end of the 1790s, after Amelung closed down, the Ihmsens and at least the older generation of Gablers moved to Baltimore. In church books there we found Charles Emsen (Ihmsen) christening a son there in early 1800, as well as the death entry for Fredrick (Fritz) Gabler.

(American) family lore has it, that Charles Ihmsen opened up Baltimores first glass works at the foot of Federal Hill. No record about this could be found (yet), and generally information about this Amelung works (Baltimore Glass Works) is sparse. Most likely it was Amelung Jr. (Magnus) who founded the works early 1800, and Charles was either a (silent) partner, or worked for him.

This “family lore” is contained in a summary about the Ihmsen family compiled by a Mrs. Phillips in the early 1900s and now can be found at the Senator John Heinz History Center Library and Archive. It contains mistakes, especially where Charles’ wife is concerned. There she is supposed to be connected to Napoleon’s Marshall Ney, which simply by the time frame concerned is impossible. This document also states, that the Ihmsens were glassmakers for 200 years and came from Westphalia from “Ihmsen Hof” in a place called Steinbach. This lore strengthened my belief that the two Ihmsen families were connected, although the facts are pretty shaky.

The glassworks near Schwaney was located in the Bodenthal valley near a rivulet, that might have been called Steinbach (stony rivulet) and internally they may have called their residential community Ihmsen Hof (Ihmsen courtyard). These names though never show in any official documents.

It is unknown if the Ihmsens were glassmakers for 200 years, but it is possible.Originally they came from Hessia (of protestant faith) where most of the reknowned glassmaking families in Germany originated (like Becker, Gundlach, Seidensticker, etc.) and moved around 1727 to the bishopric Paderborn in Westphalia (region of Catholic faith). Where they had lived in Hessia is unknown.

About 1810 Charles had moved to Pittsburgh, working first for O’Hara, and then partnering in a glassworks under the name of Ensell, Wendt and Company. He lived in South Birmingham.  Charles appears in the 1810 and 1820 censuses. Why he cannot be found in the 1800 census (neither MD nor PA) we do not know.

So far it is unknown when and where Christian Ihmsen and his wife died and were buried, also, what became of most of their children.

A question that kept us occupied for a long time was, why Christian Ihmsen and Friedrich Goebeler did not show up as heads of family in the 1790 census. Intense research finally made the answer simple. As shown in many other families the census taker, when he came for questioning, did not list the name of the head of family but the name of the person he actually questioned. Since the spelling of names in those days was not standardized, many names were written down as heard, which explains why the many names were spelled incorrectly. On top of this, if the census taker was of English origin, many German names were unknown to him, and he simply wrote them down according to possible variants he knew from the English names. Ihmsen became Impson.

Who then were H. Wm Impson and H. Wm. Gabler from the 1790 Maryland census?

At the time of census questioning the heads of family surely were at work at the glassworks, so these names have to be sons, who either did not work, or were, for whatever reason, at home.

- H. Wm. Impson accordingly could only have been  a son of Christian Ihmsen, and this would have been Henrich Elias Wilhelm IHMSEN born Oct 24, 1777.
- H. Wm. Gabler then would have been a son of Friedrich Goebeler, and this could only be Henrich Wilhelm GOEBELER born Oct 5, 1775.

Charles Ihmsen, who went to Pittsburgh and there became one of the founders of the glass industry must have been Friedrich Ernest Carl IHMSEN born Dec. 10, 1770, the oldest son of Johann Christian. As oldest son, according to family tradition, he called himself Carl, or Americanized to Charles.

Nevertheless everything said so far was pure speculation for a long time, based only on the facts, that the American Ihmsens came from Westfalia and had been glassmakers for a long time.

A third point was the spelling of the name. By 1830 the Ihmsens in Pittsburgh wrote their name uniformly, like the German with an “h”. In Germany there exists only one family of Ihmsen that writes their name with an "h". There exists also the name “Imsen”, but at least as far back as 1700 no familial connection to this family, who had nothing to do with glass making, could be proven. Further, this family Imsen did not live in the Paderborn area. Also, there is no connection to the noble family “von Imbsen” (von Immesen) in the Paderborn bishopric, that now has died out in the male line.

Then, finally in spring 2011 the long searched for proof was found, that the Ihmsen families in the USA and Germany were related to each other! A little sentence at a church book entry for a christening finally showed this desperately< sought for connection. The entry for the christening of a Johann Christian Carl Schmerz in February 1796 in the church book of Barntrup, Lippe showed as godfather "Joh. Christi. Imse" and in a comment the important information "in Neubremen in America wohnhaft" ["living in New Bremen in America"].

This Johann Christian Carl was the first son of a daughter of Johann Christian  Ihmsen, Johanna Wilhelmina Charlotte, who had married Christoph Ludwig Schmerz in Barntrup. Christian Carl Schmerz later emigrated with his family to Pittsburgh. One of his sons became very successfull in the glass industry there, another was successfull in shoe and boot whole sale.(1)

Johanna Wilhelmina Charlotte Ihmsen most probably did not emigrate with her father. She probably stayed with the family at the Emde works. In the year 1794 a son of hers, Friedrich Rudolph Joachim LORENZ, was christened in Diestelbruch, Detmold, Lippe. The christening entry included the remark "unehelich" ["illegitimate"] behind the name. This Friedrich Lorenz also emigrated to the USA, married, strangely enough, a daughter of Charles Ihmsen in Pittsburgh and had 12 children with her. He himself became important in the glass and steel industry in this town and was also engaged in banking.(2)

Johann Christian Ihmsen had, as suspected, fled from the bishopric of Paderborn after the brankruptcy of the works in the Bodental, probably via Lippe, and emigrated secretly. After the bankruptcy of Amelung he had returned home to participate at the christening. Surely it was no accident that the ceremony took place in the protestant land of Lippe. Christian surely could not dare to return to the bishopric of Paderborn, since he most likely would have been arrested because of his debts and his illegal emigration. The christening surely had been a big family festivity which probably was attended by most of the family to hear news of the New World. Whether Christian came together with his wife to Germany is unknown. Also we do not know (yet?), if he stayed in Germany and where he died and was buried. If he stayed in Germany he surely continued working, possibly for the Fleckenstein's glassworks in Schlangen, operated by his wife's family.

About the Ihmsen family in Pittsburgh and its early influence on the glass industry much  information can be found at the following Internet site:


In the year 2010 two articles were published, where, independently from each other, Lawrence Jessen and Sandra D. Palmer(3) in the USA and Karl-Heinz Poser(4) in Germany wrote about their supposition, that certain ornamentations and patterns on glasses, that were cut in Amelungs New Bremen Glassmanufactory, make it reasonable to suppose that they could have been cut by Christian Ihmsen.

The following Goebeler / Gabler children were found in Maryland church books:

 - 1784 in Schwaney, Westfalia: Wilhelmine Gaebler and Johann Adam Kohlenberg.

 - 1. George Wilhelm Thomas, born Apr 9, 1801, Frederick, chr. Jun 2, 1801
Godparents: Wilhelm Emmesen (Ihmsen?), George Kramer
 - 2. Adam Christian, born Dec 2, 1802, Frederick, chr. Jan 21, 1803.
Godparents: Christian u. Friederika Gebeler, Elisabeth Imsen (Ihmsen?), Christina Brauern

 - 3. Mary Elisabeth, born  Feb 9, 1805, chr. May 16, 1805
Godparents: Mary Christ. Ebert, Carolina Stendly (Stender?)

 - 4. Eleonora Sophia, born Jul 19, 1809, chr. Aug 18, 1809
Godparents: Raphael u. Eleanora Darnan

 - Mar 24, 1788: Friderika Gaebler and Johann Fred. Wilhelm (Balheim) Bollheim
Witnesses: Fridr. Wilh. Gaebler, Henr. Appel. Brandt
She probably is a daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm Gabeler, Christina Friderica Judith, born 1764.


  - 1. Friderike, born Nov 5, 1799, Glassworks New Bremen, died Jul 25, 1801.
Godparents: Fridrich Wilhelm Gebler, Catharina Franks

 - 2. Friedrich Wilhelm, born Sep 9, 1802, Glassworks New Bremen, chr. Jan 21, 1803.
Godparents: Wilyam Imsen (Ihmsen?), Sophia Geblern

- Dec 11, 1798: Lotty Gabler and Henry Speelmann.
She probably is a daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm Gabeler, Anna Charlotta, born 1777.


  - 1. Friedrich Thomas, born Oct 21, 1800, Glassworks New Bremen, chr. Jun 2, 1801
Godparents: Fridrich Gaebler, Fridrich Brauer.

- ca. 1800: Anna Carolina Elisabeth Gabler and Thomas Stenly.
She probably is a daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm Gabeler, Anna Carolina Elisabeth, born 1771.


  - 1. Catharina Wilhelmine, born Oct 28, 1801, Frederick, chr. Jan 11, 1802.
Godparents: Wilhelmie Kohlenberg, Friedrich Gäblen.

 - Aug 19, 1803: Johannes Madera and Theresia Gebeler.
She probably is a daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm Gabeler, Elisabeth Theresia, born 1784.

  - Jul 30, 1804: Gottlieb Gebler and Susi Madera.
He probably is a son of Friedrich Wilhelm Gabeler, Gottlieb Anton, born 1779.
 - ca. 1797: Johan Christian Gabler and Sophia Margarethe Kramer


 - 1. Alexander, born Oct 09, 1801, Frederick, chr. Jan 01, 1802.
Godparents: Adam Kohlenberg, Fridrich Brauer, George Kramer, Elisabth Gebler.

 - 2. Johan Christian Jr., born May 22, 1804, Baltimore, chr. Aug 12, 1804 Baltimore
Godparents: Ludwig Reppert, F. Steph. Fechpel [Faupel? possibly] and Christian Reppert.

1.and 2. Informationen about the illegal birth of Lorenz, as well as informations about the Schmerz Family I received with great joy 2011 per e-mail from William Schmertz in Columbus, Ohio. Through this he gave the impulse for further, more in depth research. Many thanks for this!

3. Sandra D. Palmer / Lawrence Jessen, Notes on our Search for the New Bremen Engraver, The American National Glass Club Bulletin, No. 217 (Summer 2010)

4. Karl-Heinz Poser, Amelung-Glaeser, von Ihmsen geschnitten, Der Glasfreund, Heft 37, November 2010



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