Spengler Family

PAIR OF IMPORTANT SHENANDOAH CO., VA SPENGLER FAMILY BIRTH CERTIFICATES, watercolor and ink on laid paper. First example depicting a central image of the Prodigal Son with walking stick and pack, flanked by elaborate floral urns and above a panel inscribed "The Prodigal Son / He gathered all together & took his / Journey into a far Country & wasted all / his Substance with riotous Living Luke 15." The reserve below is inscribed in a combination of English and German: "Joseph Spengler [Son of Philip Spengler Esqr. and Re= / gina his espoused Wife] was born in the Town of Strasburg / in the County of Shenandoah in the State of Virginia / the 12th Day of November Anno Domini 1790. / Joseph Spengler wurde geboren den 12lm Nov. 1790 / H.D. pinxit et scripsit."Second example depicting a female flanked by bold floral urns above a lower reserve inscribed: "Margaret Spengler (Daughter of Philip Spengler / and Regina his espoused Wife) was born in the / Town of Strasburg in the County of Shenandoa / in the State of Virginia on the 26th Day of March / in the Year of our Lord 1799, about I, oclock, P.M." Together with a file of family history records, copies of associated family photos, conservation reports, &c. Attributed to the Reverend Heinrich Diefenbach (1771-1837). Circa 1800. 8 3/4" x 6 3/4" and 8 7/8" x 7 1/8".
Exhibited: Color copies of this pair are currently on exhibition at the Heritage Museum, Dayton, VA - "Bernhart & Company - Shenandoah Valley Folk Art Fraktur (1774-1850)".
This pair of certificates has an uninterrupted, six-generation history of family ownership as follows: Johann Philip Spengler (1761-1823); to his son Joseph Stover Spengler (1790-1876); to his son David Morris Spengler (1834-1904); to his daughter Ellen G. Spengler (1869-1948) who married Robert Samuel Fritts, 1892; to her daughter Vera Fritts (1898-1990); to her daughter who is the present owner.
Catalogue Note: Heinrich Diefenbach was a Reformed minister who worked in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, North Carolina, Berks County, Pennsylvania, and Ohio from roughly 1799 to 1837. He is recorded as a fraktur artist/scrivener by an entry in his journal noting that while staying at his father's house in Augusta Co., VA in 1802, he made three baptism certificates for members of the Kirchoff family. The current location of the Kirchoff certificates is unknown. Heinrich Diefenbach was born in 1771 near Hagerstown, Washington Co., MD. He moved with his family to Augusta Co., VA, just north of Staunton, in 1784. He was a student of theology under Reverend Bernard Willy (1751-1809), a Reformed minister and scrivener who worked in a wide area of present day West Virginia lying just west of the Shenandoah Valley. Diefenbach also studied and travelled widely with the Reverend Paul Henkel in the Shenandoah Valley and North Carolina. He served his first parish in Augusta County in 1799-1800. It is likely that Diefenbach produced the Spengler certificates while he was ministering in Augusta County shortly after Margaret Spengler's birth in 1799; or, he could have drawn them during his 1802 trip through the Shenandoah Valley, contemporaneous with the Kirchoff certificates mentioned in his journal. The attribution of the Spengler certificates to Heinrich Diefenbach is based on the "H.D." signature seen on the first example in combination with and supported by the temporal and geographical analogy between Diefenbach's vocation and the provenance of the certificates. This pair represents the only works attributed to Diefenbach at this time; their identification establishes a benchmark for future attributions. Joseph Stover Spengler (1790-1876) and Margaret Spengler (1799-1848) were two of four children born to Col. Johann Philip Spengler (1761-1823) and Regina Stover (1763-1814) near Strasburg, Virginia. Joseph was married twice, fathering 18 children, the last of whom died in 1923. He was educated as a lawyer but chose an agrarian life, overseeing a farm of more than 1,000 acres in the Eastern District of Shenandoah County near Bentonville, in present day Warren County. The 1840 Federal Census recorded Spengler's household as totaling 23 residents including 12 slaves. Spengler served the newly-formed Warren County as a Justice of the Court in 1836, Sheriff from 1837-1839, and again as a Justice from 1840-1846. His real estate holdings were assessed at $266,000 in 1870.Little is known of the life of Joseph's sister Margaret, other than her birth and death dates. She apparently died a spinster.