Müllenborn, a district of Gerolstein, is where my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Matthias (Heep) Happ, lived hundreds of years ago. It is where his son, John Happ was born, and later moved to the nearby town of Gönnersdorf (picture at left). From there, John Happ took a courageous step and decided to travel to a new world with his family. When looking at various pictures of Müllenborn and Gönnersdorf, there are not enough adjectives to describe such beauty and enchantment. Breathtaking, romantic and inspiring without a doubt. I have a personal belief that such an environment, especially coupled with a strong religious faith, yields to imaginative and positive thinking. Positive thinking in that area was definitely needed back in the 17th and 18th Century, as unfortunately, the people faced rough times. Gerard Happ, my great Uncle, describes the history and situation very well with a note on the Happ Family Tree.
Who among us today would take such a risk as John Happ did, leaving his homeland with a wife and ten children? And facing not just the dangers of a long voyage in a small crowded vessel across the ocean, but also the risk of so many uncertainties to follow. The risk of more months or even years of additional travel overland. The risk of obtaining the necessities to provide for a wife, ten children and a father-in-law during the entire journey. A journey to make a homestead in a strange land where even the ability to communicate is another burden. Most people living in our modern American culture and environment can not even imagine, much less attempt, something so wide and encompassing. Yet it all made sense to John Happ. And I, like my forefathers before me, thank God for giving him such powerful gifts: an intense religious faith, a healthy environment for mind, body and soul, adept personal skills, and incredible foresight.
My special thanks to Eric Meeuwsen for allowing me to use his extraordinary photos from Gönnersdorf. In most cases, I tried to keep the original photo for clarity, but these are large files and may take awhile to appear in your Web browser.
– Rick Happ