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Taufschein of Georg Miller

Heltzel, Henry
Place Made:
Shenandoah County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
ink and watercolor on laid paper
UNFRAMED: WOA: 12 1/8; HOA: 14 1/4
FRAMED: WOA 15″; HOA 12-15/16″
Accession Number:
Birth and baptismal certificate. Ink and watercolor on laid paper. The main inscription and a baptismal verse are enclosed by a central compass-drawn heart, with two baptismal verses in the two lower hearts. Centered above the large heart is a single rosette flanked on either side by symmetrical vines and leaves ending in two large stylized pomegranates. Vines, leaves ending with large tulips fill the spaces between the three hearts and appear to be growing out of what may represent a tulip bulb. The whole is surrounded by a linear and floral border filled above and below with vines, leaves and flowers and on the sides with rounded leaf patterns. The fraktur has been executed in black ink applied with pen and thin washes of watercolor paint. The inscription in old German script on the reverse lists the children born to George Miller.

Georg / / Miller Ist. / geboren in virginien Schenandoa // County dem 16ten mertz 1786 / seine eltern sind Georg Miller und // seine ehefrau Margaretha, sein Tauf – / zeuge ist Maria Wolffin, er ward // getauft von Abraham Gottlieb Descher – / Wann wir kaum geboren werden, Ist vom ersten augeblick, Bis ins Kühle grab / der erden, Nur ein kurtz gemessner Schritt, Ach mit jedem augenblick, Gehet unser kraft / zuruck, und wir sind mit jedem Jahre, Allzu reif zur Toden Jahre. Doch wer- / weis in welcher Stunde, Uns die letze Stimme wecht, Dann Gott hass mit seinem / minde, Keinem Menschen noch entdeckt, Wer sein hauss nun wohl bestelt, Geht / mit freuden aus der welt, Da die sicherheit ingegen, Ewigs sterben kan erregen.
George Miller was / born in Virginia Shenandoah // County on the 16th of March 1786 / his parents are George Miller and // his honorable wife Margaret, his spon / sor is Maria Wolff, he was // baptized by Abraham Gottlieb Descher – Scarcely born into the world, it is only a short measured pace from the first step to the cool grave in the earth. O with every moment! Our strength diminishes, and with every year we grow more ripe for the bier. And who knows in what hour the final voice will awaken us, because God has not revealed this to anybody yet. Who tends to his house will depart from the world with joy. Because surety, in contrast, can provoke eternal death.

Next portion in old German script:
Nicht nur ein blosser Heuchelschein,
der wahre Glaub und Liebe rein,
muß in dem Herzen wohnen
Not just a mere pretense,
the true faith and pure love
must dwell within the heart.

In lower left heart:
Ich bin getauft, ich steh im Bunde
durch meine Tauf mit meinem Gott!
So sprech ich stets mit frohem Munde
in Kreuz, in Trübsal, Angst und Not.
Ich bin getauft, des freu ich mich;
die Freude bleibet ewiglich.
I am baptized, I stand united
with my God through my baptism.
I therefore always speak
joyfully in hardship,
sadness, fear and need.
I am baptized, that’s a joy for me.
The joy lasts eternally.

In lower right heart:
Ich bin getauft; ob ich gleich sterbe,
was schadet mir das kühle Grab?
Ich weiß mein Vaterland und Erbe,
das ich bei Gott im Himmel hab;
nach meinem Tod ist mir bereit´
des Himmels Freud und Feyerkleid.
I am baptized, and when I die,
how can the cool grave hurt me?
I know my fatherland and legacy
that I will have with God in Heaven.
After death, Heaven’s garment of joy
and celebration is prepared for me.

Reverse: In old German script, a listing of children born to George Miller. (To be translated)

Artist/Maker: Heinrich (Henry) Heltzel (Hoeltzele) (1788-1867, w. ca. 1810-1828). A large number of birth and baptismal certificates created for families and members of the Lutheran and Reformed churches in the Stony Creek area of Shenandoah County, Virginia, have long been attributed to an anonymous artist known by the working name of the “Stony Creek Artist.” The mystery of the artist’s identity was solved by the discovery of a student copy book now in the collection of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley containing the 1826 signature of “H. Heltzel” now identified by independent scholar Gene Comstock as schoolmaster, Henry Heltzel. Comstock’s research, using both genealogical and stylistic evidence, has provided ample evidence pointing to Henry Helztel as the Stony Creek Artist. For full details see: H. E. Comstock. “Stony Creek Fraktur Artist Identified.” MESDA Journal, Vol. 31, No. 2 – Vol. 32, No. 2 (Winter 2005 – Winter 2006).
Rather than the “heavenly curtain” which appears on many of Heltzel’s works, this example uses the format of three large hearts framing the inscriptions. This three-heart format resembles the format frequently used by the artist Friedrich Bandel (See MESDA Acc. # 2910, Taufschein for Catherine Bender.) Other motifs associated with Heltzel’s work include the two large pomegranates on either side at the top, the four and five-petaled rosettes, calligraphic flourishes, stylized tulips ending in c-scrolls, the thick framed floral border with modified fleur-de-lis at the corners, and the use of subdued pastel colors.
Although Heltzel used both English and German in his works, this example is all in German, and uses the fraktur Gothic lettering as well as the German cursive script executed in his meticulous hand on evenly spaced lines. The child’s name is inscribed in large letters at the head of the text, a feature that is found in all of his works. The verse in the lower point of the large heart is written in old German script.

This taufschein commemorates the birth and baptism of George Miller, born on March 16, 1786 in Shenandoah County, Virginia. His parents were George and Margaretha (Wolfe) Miller and his baptism witnessis recorded here as Maria Wolfe. The minister at the baptism was Abraham Gottlieb Descher. According to the records of the Zion-Pine Church of Stony Creek, one of the earliest congregations in the Valley, the baptism of Joh. Georg Müller took place on 30 July 1786, and the sponsors were Conrad and Anna Maria Röder. It is probable that Maria Wolfe, listed on this Taufschein as the baptism sponsor was the sister of the mother, Margaretha Wolfe Miller.
The minister at this baptism, Abraham Gottfried Descher, was the first regular Lutheran pastor for the New Zion-Pine Church at Stony Creek that served both Lutheran and Reformed members as a union church. He served the congregation from 1786 until 1791, during which time he kept a record of the members of the congregation listing the officers, baptisms, and communicants. Several of the family names in Pastor Deschler’s registers are related to MESDA’s fraktur collection, including Miller (Müller), Heltzel (Hoeltzele), and Bender (Painter). On the reverse of this taufschein a list written in old German script records the births and deaths of the children of George Miller and his wife Margaretha Foltz Miller. This form of birth list was often found on the reverse of taufscheine and also in family bibles, as was the case in the bible owned by Georg Miller’s father.

Comstock, H.E. “Stony Creek Fraktur Artist Identified.” MESDA Journal vol. 31. No 1 (Winter 2005 – Winter 2006)
Wust, Klaus, editor. Lutheran Zion-Pine Church Record 1786-1827. Edinburg, VA: Shenandoah History, 1985

Credit Line:
James R. and Marilyn S. Melchior Purchase Fund