In The Old Country.
The Empire of Austria (Kaiserthum Oesterreich), organized in 1804 from lands that were part of the Habsburg Monarchy, was the second largest country in Europe. From Vienna, Francis I ruled over Austrians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Romanians, Croats, Montenegrins, Italians and Serbs. For the most part the people in those regions retained their ethnic identities.
Since at least the late 1600's the Liebhart family, of Germanic ethnicity, lived in a town known at that time as Erdberg located just across the Austrian border about halfway between Vienna, Austria and Brno, Czech Republic.
The name Erdberg suggests an "earth mountain", and the area is home to a system of underground chambers hewn in the earth. The purpose has been lost to time, but the compartment with tall niches and seats carved out may have served as a place of worship. A castle is found in the nearby town of Joslowitz, and wine is produced from the vineyards in the region. Sugar beet, potatoes, cereals, corn and poppy seed grow in the farms that dot the landscape. By zooming into the map on the right, the church located at roughly the intersection of 397 and the Kanal Krhovice is visible. The family homes were located in the area off of the "green" to the right. An old map of the town may be viewed here. Look for the church or "kirche" in the lower left and the "markt-platz" to the right which is now the green.
Martin Liebhart and Christina Hammermuller were married 28 November 1854 in the parish church of St. Peter and Paul and consequently legitimized the birth of their son, our ancestor Franz, who was born in Christina's father's home on 14 September 1854. Martin was a domkar, that is, he did not have a tract of land, other than perhaps a small kitchen garden. Usually this meant he had a trade or worked for another farmer. The couple had a total of six children including Louis born 14 June 1861 and Lazarus born 14 December 1862.
The region suffered a number of assaults. Cholera plagued the population in the first half of the century, taking the lives of many in Erdberg. Severe storms destroyed vineyards as hail pummeled the orchards and farms in 1865. And in 1866, families were expected to billet hundreds of soldiers during the Austro-Prussian War as the two empires fought over the administration of Schleswig-Holstein.
On 30 March 1867 the realm became the Austria-Hungarian Empire, or Die im Reichsrat vertretenen Königreiche und Länder und die Länder der Heiligen Ungarischen Stephanskrone. Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria 1848-1916, King of Hungary 1867-1916 remained in control of the redefined territory.
Around 1877 Franz married Anna Marie Tessantz. She was born October 1849 in Erdberg. Soon their family grew with the births of several children, including our ancestor Elizabeth on 6 November 1880. The disasters did not relent, fires fueled by thatch raged through the town in 1872 and 1883 destroying a large number of homes and businesses. Perhaps it was a recruiter who swept through offering dazzling reviews of the "land of opportunity" or perhaps it was the constant turmoil that led Franz to believe a move to the United States would provide more security for his family.