Johann Michael Führer ( † 1720)
Johann Michael Führer and his Background
The Family Union Fü(h)rer, Kassel, has tried to explore the history of their first known ancestor within the last decades in order to possibly find out about generations further back. This aim has not been reached, but many remarkable details of the vita of Johann Michael Führer got recognised. In the following I want to tell, what the old documents, deeds and files record:
It still is uncertain, when and where Johann Michael Führer was born. We assume he was born in the period between 1670 and 1680. He was a Protestant and belonged to the Protestant-Reformed church. He possibly came from Lower Hessia, but it is not possible to prove this assumption.
The first document we found containing his name Johann Michael Führer lists him as owner of a quarry and especially as "Entrepreneur", which means constructor. Being a constructor he had specialised on bridge-construction. If Johann Michael was a bridge-architect, could not be found out. The construction plans of Nienburg's first stone bridge were not designed by him, though we know from the documents and records that the bridge was built by him.
First written Register Entries and Documents
Approximately in 1712 or 1713 he married. Still we do not know where and when. In the townships of Nienburg and Minden - where he lived - corresponding to the entries in the church roles (the former registers of birth as well as of deaths, marriages etc.) were not found. Until today it still unknown is, which family his wife descended from.
In the files there is only one signature of her to be discovered: "Witwe Joh. Führer". It is just hypothetical that she might have been descended from the well respected Detleffsen Family from Minden which owned printing premises in Minden. This might be an error. We believe our ancestor's wife had the Christian name "Dorothea" just like her little daughter.
Johann Michel Führer’s Experience as Bridge-Builder
In the first respective document discovered Johann Michael mentioned as constructor in Minden/Weser. In 1711 he was the constructor in charge of the repair of the stone bridge across the river Weser in Minden.
Minden, at those times a fortified town, belonged to the Kingdom of Prussia. The contract to repair the bridge over the river Weser was concluded with the state. Therefore Johann Michael had to present his invoices to the government at Minden. The idiom "Prussian" was always connected with the attribute "sparingly" especially under the rule of the Prussian "King of Soldiers" (Soldatenkönig) Wilhelm I. Thus disputes arose about the invoices of the repair works.
Johann Michael had according to the records available worked "with strange diligence" at the bridge. He ordered the stones to be broken by his employees and therefore he asked for relevant payment. The Secretary of State von Ilgen residing in Cölln upon the river Spree demanded an expert's opinion by the Minden Government about the bills and claims presented by Johann Michael. This expertise was issued by the Fortress Master Builder General Jeyn de Bodt from Minden. According to this report all the claims of Johann Michael were justified. Thus on February 16th, 1712 the Secretary of State von Ilgen ordered the Government of Minden to pay all the bills.
Führer’s ambitious Plans
At the same time Johann Michael addressed the Secretary of State von Ilgen with the request to grant him the concession for a new quarry at Haus Berge. "Hausberge" nowadays is a small community several miles south of Minden. It also is a name of an elevation close to the "Porta Westfalica". Johann Michael intended to open a new quarry at this place. He believed not to be the only one having beneficiary from the concession. He believed that also the state should have a great interest in the quarry since the Princedom of Minden had to import all building stones up to then. Having a quarry in one's own country foreign exchange could be saved. Possibly the sandstones from the quarry at Haus Berge could be exported since they were of excellent quality.
The Secretary of State was a very accurate man. On February 2nd, 1712 he asked the Minden Government for an expert's opinion regarding Führer's application for the quarry. As it was discovered in later dated documents Johann Michael had received the concession applied for within the same year, obviously on the basis of a positive expertise.
Now Johann Michael combined the profession of a bridges -builder with the ownership of a owner. But his ambitions went further. Approximately in the year 1712 he filed an application towards the Prussian Secretary of State von Ilgen to become appointed with the office of the State Master Builder of the Princedom of Minden and the Ravensberg County. But unfortunately this application was rejected on February 10th, 1713 after a query towards the Minden Government.
Two reasons led to the rejection. As it so often happens in similar cases the budget did not have enough money to pay an extra State Master Builder. The Minden Government also believed that in general there was too little demand for repairs of Royal buildings to justify the employment of a State Master Builder.
But in order to employ Johann Michael the Government suggested to offer him the possibility of an engagement with the Magdeburg Bridge Construction. But this was not realised. We assume Johann Michael preferred to stay at Minden.
In order to acquire the interest of the Government Johann Michael added a remark to his application: "I know a quarry; the material of which might be burned to a good cement for the benefit of our Country."
The Government became interested. Thus Johann Michael was addressed by the Secretary of State to proceed in this matter even though he could not be appointed as State Master Builder. If Johann Michael really proceeded with burning of cement, was not found out.
The year 1713 passed by and the first son of Johann Michael was born on March 11th, 1714. On April 12th, 1714 the son was baptised in the Protestant-reformed Church of St. Peter at Minden and given the Christian names "Friedrich Wilhelm". The son's Christian names indicate that Johann Michael was a patriotic Prussian citizen admiring his King. Friedrich Wilhelm was not given a godfather according to the Parish Register. This was unusual in those times.
Early in 1714 he started his first journey to England with a great train. On his way he passed the town of Nienburg. In those times Nienburg was a Hanoverian fortress and the only location between the Prussian town of Minden and the Hanseatic town of Bremen where the King could pass the river Weser over a bridge.
The old wooden bridge had especially been fortified by the town. Though the bridge caused delays of the crossing traffic. Since the King had recognised this "bottleneck" for the traffic, he gave the Royal Order to start preparations for a state-financed construction of a stone bridge at this location. This was a "Royal Present" for the town of Nienburg.
In former centuries the traffic crossing the river Weser was carried over by a ferry. The first bridge to be built across the Weser, was built in 1616 as a wooden "summer"-bridge. But this construction had to be dismantled every winter and reconstructed every spring because of heavy ice-drifts on the River Weser. For a short period after the end of the Thirty Years' War  a pontoon-bridge connected both banks of the river. But already in 1663 it had been replaced by a permanent wooden bridge.
Illustr. 2 The wooden summerbridge, detail of the engraving by Merian, 1670
Contract to build Nienburg’s first Stone-Bridge
According to a memorandum of the Secretary of Finance (dated April? 22nd, 1714) this estimate was acceptable. Thus negotiations started and the Contract between Johann Michael Führer, the foreigner, and the State of Hanover represented by Prime Minister, Freiherr (Baron) von Bernstorff, was concluded.
This contract - and all its clauses in detail - was drafted by lawyers. Precondition was that Führer had to give a security of 5.000 Taler. The following further details and clauses of the Contract can be reconstructed from the documents still existing:
"Führer shall build the Nienburg Bridge according to the construction plan of Major Master Builder Borchmann against a lump sum of 24.100 Taler. He shall also deliver all the stones required on his own account and he shall be obliged to cut the stones. The timber shall be delivered by the state free of cost. He has to promise to store building materials on site permanently in a value of 5.000 Taler.
All risk in connection with the erection of the bridge shall be borne by the Constructor. He shall personally be liable for any and all damages to the fortifications and to other property in connection with the construction of the bridge. The material for the dams shall be delivered by the state free of cost."
The Contract consists of more than 27 articles.
Johann Michael deciphered the regulations more or less thoroughly and then he signed the Contract. On August 10th, 1714 the preparations of the location and the site started. The construction of the bridge itself begun in spring 1715.
The construction drawings show a bridge of a modern design. Even one hundred years later the bridge was regarded as an outraging construction of this kind throughout the Kingdom of Hanover.
The layout of the bridge was 420 foot length and 29 foot wide. The five arches of the bridge construction were oval shaped in order to avoid a greater height of the bridge. The arches (as seen symmetrically) did not exactly have the same widths. The middle arch had a width of 72 foot 7 inches, the second arch to the left 65 foot 3 inches, the second arch to the right side 64 foot. Of the smaller outer arches the left one had a width of 59 foot and the right one 53 foot 6 inches.
Construction Works of the Weser Bridge at Nienburg
The construction works of the bridge begun with piling up huge dams, in order to dam up and divert the raging torrent of the Weser. The foundation of the bridge was laid with many wooden piles in the river bed.
On July 31st, 1715 after the first two piers of the bridge - seen from the town- were built and the dam was closed, Major Master Builder Borchmann handed out to Johann Michael a second construction drawing containing major alterations of the design of the bridge. This construction plan provided an expansion of the bridge. At the same time the Secretary of State and the delegated building experts gave the order, that Johann Michael had to continue constructing the bridge according to the new design.
The costs of the construction must considerably have increased by the expansion of the bridge. But instead of claiming a revision of the Contract, Johann Michael missed to terminate the old Contract. Only eyes for his bridge - he did not want to leave the site unattended even for one single day - he did not even care about this uncertain legal situation. He relied on the righteousness of the King, as he mentioned later. He did not undertake anything.
Illustr. 3 This architect's drawing of the Nienburg bridge over the Weser was surveyed by Mr. G. Oldendorp, State Buildings Administrator of Minden, and shows the front view and the ground plan of the bridge - containing the exact measuring and the explanations - after the final reconstruction of the middle arch (seen from south).
The new design was not just to be followed since the progress of the works caused alterations of already finished parts of the bridge. The dams which had already been torn down after the foundation of the first two piers had to be piled up again and the water inside of the dams had to be drained by water machines again. High additional costs incurred - more than 1.200 Taler.
In the meantime - for the time of construction of the bridge - Johann Michael and his small family had moved to Nienburg.
In 1715 the construction of the bridge made good progress. From time to time Major Master Builder Borchmann came to control the site and gave instructions. Both sides did not always agree. Sometimes Johann Michael acted on his own authority; if he was right or wrong - can't be reconstructed. He had the stones for the building broken in his quarry at Haus Berge and shipped these by vessel to Nienburg. One of the ships carrying blocks of stone sunk next to the bridge. This misfortune incurred an expenditure of 1.000 Taler on account of Johann Michael.
The year went by - it was May 1716 - when several times before Johann Michael claimed the necessary payment by the Government, but in contradiction to the contract the payment was refused. May be that there was a dent in the finances of the state at that time. Which reason else could there be for the refusal of the payment due?
Slow Down of the Works due to delayed Payment
For the time thereafter Johann Michael had to slow down the construction of bridge due to need of money. The best time of construction, the months of May, June, July 1716 had passed by before it was possible for him to intensify and accelerate the works. But it was late in the year already. The high waters complicated the construction works and increased the costs. Some dams broke and had to be repaired. Also the ravelin-wall was damaged by the broken dams. Late in autumn Johann Michael suspended the work because high waters already caused danger for man and material. The construction of the bridge could not be continued for the rest of the year.
Thus having more time Johann Michael controlled the progress of the work and the incurred construction costs of 1716. He got to the conclusion that in the past year simply by belated payment of the state and due to the reason of working until the late autumn he suffered from damages up to 4,000 Taler. He even had to invest his own fortune and additional money borrowed from third party in order to continue the construction of the bridge. This was not the way to carry on. Thus on October 26th, 1716 he took up the pen and wrote to the King. The original letter was not found in the files but in a later petition Johann Michael repeated the contents of the letter as follows:
At the beginning Johann Michael gave His Majesty a detailed report on the progress of the bridge construction. Than he made complaints about the belated payment for the construction works and explained which costs incurred due to this fact and because of the second construction plan. After all he requested an independent advisory committee of local and foreign building experts, architects and engineers who should make an expertise on the bridge, the relevant costs of the construction works and the damages incurred. He suggested this way to be the most suitable to get his money back.
The King received his petition and decided:
Not a mixed committee but the two Hanoverian fortress officers Colonel von Welljen and Lieutenant Colonel Pauli should form a commission and draw up an expertise.
Meanwhile it was November 1716 and early in this month Johann Michael's wife gave birth to a little son. On November 10th, 1716 this son was baptised in the Protestant-Lutheran church of St. Martin at Nienburg and named Johann Bernhard. Godfather was Johann Bernhard Eden, Lieutenant in the fortress Nienburg. Eden was a resident Nienburgian citizen. During his career he worked his way up to the officer's rank and in his marriage he had several children which often died young of age.
Johann Michael Führer’s Fateful Year 1717
The fateful year 1717 began. On January 20th, 1717 Johann Michael received the regular call to deliver the security and to state on oath.
It is assumed that this was an administrative routine to be exercised for greater construction projects in order to make preparations for the coming construction period. Johann Michael asked for building advance payments totalling up to 16,877 Taler. He also asked for the order to continue the construction works of the bridge. But the payment was refused because His Majesty had not yet given respective "Ordré".
In the meantime the Hanoverian Department of Finance had totalled the costs with the result that the costs of construction of the bridge amounted to 28,207 Taler, which already had been paid towards Johann Michael Führer.
And now Führer demanded more than 16,000 Taler additional. And this although the amount of 24,100 Taler the total costs of construction of the bridge according to the Contract had already been exceeded?
This was the resume of the finance experts as seen from the armchair position. And thus they gave the respective order to the nominated experts' committee to scrutinise all the incurred costs. The task was to estimate especially which additional amount as extra on the contractual payment was incurred by the alteration of the original construction plan in 1715. The bridge had overcome the winter in bad shape. The middle arch broke down and the stones were lying in the river bed and impending to damage the bridge. Johann Michael was waiting for a long time. In the end the committee set up by the King appeared and scrutinised en detail.
On April 13th, 1717 the committee requested Johann Michael to present a statement of cost in writing. On the next day Johann Michael presented it and tried to prove that the additional amount incurred by the alteration of the original construction plan totalled up to 16,643 Taler.
The committee was not satisfied with this paper. Thus it gave the order that on April 15th, 1717 the Nienburgian officers of the fortress Captain of the Artillery Rodemeyer and Lieutenant Eden should come to an interrogation about the bridge-works. Lieutenant Eden is identical with the Eden who is the godfather of Johann Bernhard, Johann Michael's son.
The two state commissioners had prepared a questionnaire for the interrogation in order to examine technical details of the construction works of the bridge which could not be controlled at location. To explain this catalogue of technical questions would go to much into details. But it is a fact that all Questions had the goal to get straight, if on the first hand the construction plan was strictly followed, or on the other hand to recognise the reasons why the middle arch of the bridge had to collapse.
During the interrogation Captain Rodemeyer was very guarded with his answers and several times he testified not to remember exactly. Lieutenant Eden testifies more certainly. But there were no greater differences in their testimonies.
Führer’s Interrogation before the Committee
On April 16th the proceedings were continued. Johann Michael had to appear before the committee and he was questioned. Some questions were very revealing because they gave a good imagination of the proceedings .
Colonel von Welljen and Lieutenant Colonel Pauli:
"Why did He not make reservations against the Contract of 1714 and why did He keep aloof?"
"I did not make reservations because I believed in the generosity of my counterpart."
Colonel von Welljen and Lieutenant Colonel Pauli:
"Why did He not object before He undersigned the Contract since He knew the wording?" (This mainly refers to the risk clause.)
"I did not understand the legal consequences and thus I did not intend to amend anything. But I have made oral as well as written reservations. . . . After all I feel not to be bound to the Contract since this Contract was based on the first construction plan."
Colonel von Welljen and Lieutenant Colonel Pauli:
"Would He be willing to hand over the construction works to somebody else?"
"No - definitely I do not want that! If I am forced to present a statement of cost, I want to point out that nothing equivalent is written in the Contract."
Not only fiscal questions were asked by the commissioners, they asked for technical details, too.
Colonel von Welljen and Lieutenant Colonel Pauli:
"Your additional costs are your own fault Enterpressure Führer!"
"If the bed of the river had remained stable, the pier of the bridge would not be damaged and the respective costs would not be incurred."
"Why did He diverge from the construction plan and from the Contract?"
"I did not diverge from the plan. Merely I built the bridge a little bit higher and I
laid the three basic layers of stones by using square stones."
One more item was on the schedule.
On April 28th, 1717 the commissioners von Welljen and Pauli sent a preliminary account to the Secretary of State in Hanover. After stating several technical mistakes they came to the conclusion that Johann Michael violated the Contract in three points and that he disobeyed the instructions of State Master Builder Borchmann by his own discretion. The accidents which happened on the site were his own fault.
Final Statement of the Committee
In their final statement of May 4th, 1717 the commissioners were more reserved. They explained in detail:
"Führer is not able to present an appropriate statement of cost. The additional costs - incurred by the second construction plan - amount to 4,282 Taler. In total he is entitled to claim max. 5,797 Taler. He has already received 28,207 Taler but in comparison to this amount the total of 29,897 Taler would be due to him.
For the time being the further costs for finishing the construction of the bridge will be additional 20,605 Taler.
We assume that Führer's deviations from the original construction plan were partially caused by construction techniques. It was not possible for us to prove that he followed only his own interest with the construction works and that he tried to make any money by acting unlawfully.
There is no doubt that he exercised due diligence and industry. But it was also proven that Führer definitely has spent more money as estimated.
We therefore come to the conclusion that either one should subsidise Führer by a building expert or to hand over the construction works to a different master builder. Time is pressing. The decision should be taken immediately otherwise the best time of construction is passing."
Finally this report was handed over to the Secret Council at Hanover. Surely it was not in favour of Johann Michael. But one might assume that perhaps the local building experts were not objective. At least this was the suspicion of Johann Michael Führer. Thus he wrote:
"Now the mean misfortune which regularly hits all sober master builders so that they get envied and hated stroke me finally."
The Secretary of State was deciding slowly. On July 23rd, 1717 the King residing at Hampton Court in England received the first memorandum which is followed by a report of the Ministerial Colleague at Hanover on August 2nd, 1717.
The statement based on the expert's opinion of the commissioners had been drawn up by lawyers. They gave priority to the following:
"The total estimate has been exceeded and the completion of the bridge will cost several thousand Talers additional."
Moreover the contract has been breached in several items.
"The accidents at the site go on behalf of Führer himself. It was his own fault but he didn't follow the instructions of Borchmann. Führer did not show good will. He is insincere, stubborn and wilful. His Majesty should take the construction works away from him but should demand everything for what he is bound according to the Contract. First of all he should furnish the stones.
It is clear - free of cost since he has already received more money as calculated. - Finally we did not pay Führer any money when he wanted to continue the construction and when he pressed. We had the opinion that we could not take responsibility therefore because of his bad 'Conduit'.
Our building experts agree on continuing the construction of the bridge. Therefore we have asked the master builder Petrini from Lübeck to make suggestions for the most urgent works at the bridge which have to be executed this year. He did so - but the other master builder did not agree in all items. With only 8,000 Taler being available in the finances it is not possible to execute the works. But which title should we take the money from?"
Since many inquiries and his personal calls at the Secretary of State were unsuccessful and he did not receive sufficient answers he wrote:
"Not only that any and all payment to me that is due was blocked, pretending that His Majesty did not give respective "Ordré". On the contrary it seems that I get hindered to do all the necessary works at the site which urgently have to be done and that only third persons were let to report."
Finally in his need he addressed the Prussian judge of the Superior Court of the Princedom of Minden and told him the whole story. He was a man who respected Führer and who was willing to subsidy him. Therefore he travelled to Nienburg. There he inspected the bridge and wrote a letter to Secretary of State of Finance in Hanover as follows:
"To be perfectly honest, I can't find anything wrong with the bridge except it would not be finished soon. . . . If the following works would be done: . . . Thus, next summer the bridge could be finished in a way that many miles around no comparable work could be seen."
But this letter did not make any impression. It was taken to the files - but that's all.
The report of the Secretary of State reached the King. He read it thoroughly and wrote on the 13th, respectively on the 24th August 1717:
"I can't give you money. The proposals of the master builder Petrini from Lübeck for the works that have to be executed this year seem to be adequate. Realise these as far as the money lasts. Besides Petrini should make a statement about the additional costs connected with the further construction of the bridge."
The letter did not contain an order to withdraw Führer as master builder. The "Affair Führer" is not of importance.
Führer travels to the Royal Court in England
But Johann Michael did not give up. "If there is no definite decision taken by the Secretary of State, I have to call at the King personally. It is all about my bridge which is endangered. The best time of construction is passing. If nothing really happens the parts of the bridge already built are in real danger."
But it was not only the bridge which he had in mind it was his reputation as well as all his money that was about to be jeopardised. He already spent so much money of his own and which he had borrowed for the construction of the bridge that he would have been totally ruined, if he did not get the money back. At least a part of it! Too much was at stake.
Thus Johann Michael made the decision to travel to England.
At those times it was a long journey from Germany to England which cost a fortune. Approximately in the end of August, beginning of September 1717 he arrived at Hampton Court and requested an audience. If it was possible for him to have a personal audience at the King and if he was allowed to speak for himself, could not be found out. But the King received his substantial Memorial personally. Johann Michael writes the following by printing in a beautiful handwriting and - for those times - using an excellent High-German. The contents were:
"One fact I have to say frankly - in case the construction would not be continued immediately and before the winter - no one can blame me, if the whole works collapsed and a great misfortune happened. In great concern I came over here in order to inform His Majesty personally.
On the other hand I intended to ask to give an order to the Commission of Coronel von Welljen to estimate according to the rules of justice which costs the damages and the enlargement of the bridge have incurred. I also request that Your Excellency's Secret Council in Hanover shall get the order to pay me according to this statement of costs and to transfer the money needed to complete the construction.
This journey will decide about my poor wife's and my children's future welfare. We will all be lost if I could not obtain justice and mercy because I have spent my last penny for the erection of the Nienburgian bridge; moreover I have incurred great debts.
Since His Majesty never has treated anybody unjustified and never has ever incurred the tears of wretched I beg for Your compassion. . . ."
Johann Michael returned full of hope. At least he had caused a Royal Order to be sent to the Secretary of State at Hanover of which he carried home a copy.
Which order is to be issued by the King? On September 6th, respectively on the 17th, 1717 His Majesty wrote:
"Führer has handed me a memorial guided by a statement of costs. I am not able to judge the matter myself. Cause building experts to examine the account and to set up a respective committee! Every item contained in the statement of costs which is quite reasonable and adequate shall be paid to Führer.
Finally watch out that nothing regarding the bridge is going to be neglected and report to me which conclusion the building experts come about continuing of the construction of the bridge."
Where there Deficiencies in the Construction of the Bridge ?
Meanwhile the Secretary of State called in the building experts Borchmann, von Welljen, Pauli and Petrini, and later the Dutch master builder Alblas in order to give their view on the bridge construction. Also they should convene what had to be done urgently in the course of this year.
It was not difficult to prove Johann Michael's construction had some deficiencies. They count 14 in total.
But were these deficiencies the true reasons for the collapse of the arch of the bridge and of all the other damages?
Petrini is of the opinion that if the construction plan was strictly followed the "river-boards"  would have stood against all force of the raging torrent. But he can't prove if the bad river-boards caused the arch to break. But anyhow it cannot be denied: all the damages result from the raging torrent that came over the broken dam.
The gentlemen were not able to solve the question who definitely had the fault that the damages had incurred. They could not convene about the necessary measures to be taken.
The view of Petrini was not the same as the one of Alblas. They made a detailed report and sent it to the King. Since the Secretary of State felt attacked by Johann Michael's Memorial they used the letter guiding this report, dated September 28th, 1717, in order to give a negative spotlight on Johann Michael. Thus they wrote:
"Führer broke the Contract because he has exceeded the contractual payment for the bridge. We always gave him money but carefully. There were other breaches of the Contract, too. And he even deceived Nienburgian officials. All damages of the bridge were his fault and he must pay for these completely. We do not see that the bridge will be completed soon. The only things which could be done this year are: to clear up the river bed from wood bushes and the stones below the bridge resulting from the collapse of the arch. Finally, material for the next year should be brought to the site."
They did not treat Johann Michael just. He did not even get a red penny! The Secret Council came close to the royal order, but in which manner? The King read the expertise of the building experts, but what should he cause to be done? Is the construction plan of Petrini right? On October 9th and 10th, 1717 his judgement of Solomon was :
Finally Petrini and Alblas convened about what to do and the works to guard the bridge were executed.
Führer claims his rights in Hanover
In the meantime Johann Michael travelled to Hanover again and did not give up claiming for his rights. But his visits were totally in vain. He was only admitted to the lowest offices and thereafter was turned away. Finally on December 10th, 1717 he wrote another letter to the King:
"After I had returned from England I went to Hanover and urged to realise His Majesty's order. I merely received the answer that His Majesty has been sent a report and nothing could happen until His Majesty answers and gives an order. I therefore plead to examine my case and my invoices. Let me - as one who knows the river - finish the construction of the bridge."
This letter is deeply shocking. Such a letter could only be written by someone who desperately pleads for mercy and justice.
The King wrote to the Secretary of State again regarding die case of Johann Michael.
The Hanover Administration blames Führer towards the King
The Secretary of State answered towards the King on February 15th, 1718:
"We got knowledge about Führer daring to bother His Majesty again by moaning and with unjustified ideas in order to make you get involved again."
Thus they put him to pieces:
"All his bad luck Führer caused himself. The Dutch lock-master Metsma - a skilful man and having collected great experience under the Landgrave (Count) of Hessia at Cassel - stated how irresponsible and with which lack of understanding Führer had acted."
The report culminates in the words:
"Therefore we plead Your Majesty not to get involved with Führer again. He is not at all competent in this matter and he always acted "bona fide". He only seeks to get his own profit, since he is looking for a marketing possibility for the stone out of the quarry for which he has the concession near Minden. Führer could betray His Majesty again and could cause considerable extra costs."
This letter lead to the intended results. The King gives following order dated February 21st and March 4th, 1718:
"Führer shall get refusal. He shall not be in charge of the construction of the bridge any longer. Führer should be content that all the money he has received exceeding the contractual amount will not be claimed back although the bridge has not been finished yet. He should be grateful, too, that we do not claim compensation."
In the meantime Johann Michael was born a daughter. On March 17th, 1718 she was baptised in the Protestant-Lutheran church of St. Mary in Minden and named Dorothea Magdalena. Margarete Magdalena Detleffsen a born Foerster, the 2nd wife of the well respected and wealthy owner of a printing house Johann Detleffsen from Minden, was godmother.
Again Führer addresses the King
On March 8th, 1718, just several days before the birth of his daughter Johann Michael wrote to the King again. The wording of this letter was even more pleading and more desperate as the last one. Again he demands an investigation commission and the right to finish the construction of the bridge:
" . . . thus it is more in the interest of Your Royal Highness and more favourable for the work and cheaper, too, that the one finishes the construction who has begun the work and who knows about the water."
Alblas and Petrini still disagreed about how to continue the erection of the bridge. Petrini refused to participate in the erection of the bridge in case the construction would not be according to his own plan and under his command. In order to end the discussions, Metsma, the Dutch lock master was asked to impart and to give his opinion about the plans of Alblas and Petrini. Metsma rejected both plans and made his own suggestion. Now there were three different plans. The Secret Council was not able to make any decision. Thus they sent a report to the King with the three construction drawings attached on March 8th, 1718.
"Since the construction of this bridge is of high importance His Majesty should decide."
But the King did not feel to be competent, thus he demanded an expert's opinion about the Metsma's plan.
As you can see Johann Michael was right to believe it would be better, if a master builder being familiar with the circumstances would finish the construction.
All master builders - except Petrini - discussed Metsma's Plan. They agreed that it was impossible to execute his plan. The plan suggested by Alblas was discussed again and was - with a few minor alterations - regarded to be the best and the only one to be realised. So the Secretary of State gave the order to work after this plan. Alblas and Borchmann were appointed to continue the works in this year. Meanwhile summer had begun. It was almost July. Finally the construction of the bridge was to be continued. Johann Michael had already supplied all the required material for the works.
Nobody cared for Johann Michael any longer. He had desperately tried to get back in charge of the construction. Again and again he had travelled from Minden to Hanover and called at the Secretary of State: but he never got an answer. In the end on July 27th, 1718 he addressed another petition to the King. That was a long report guided by a statement of costs, a copy of the memorial he had delivered in England and a copy of the royal order dated September 6th and 17th, 1717. He wrote among other things:
"The order of the King has not been followed yet. Despite of the diligence, trouble and immense costs spared by myself I was not successful at all. The commission was never called in. I even did never receive an information whether in writing nor orally why this did not happen. I am in great poverty because of this unlucky matter that I was involved in being innocent. I have spent almost all my fortune on the construction of the bridge; moreover I had to borrow money from third parties. . . . .
Repeatedly I plead to call in an impartial commission that should be formed by foreign persons. If possible I would like to suggest the following persons: The Prussian Major General von Both (a man he knew from Minden) . . von Förschiner, the Major General of the General States of the Nederlands, and Coronel von Welljen ."
Johann Michael listed eight questions which should be researched by the commission and which should prove his innocence, his truthfulness and his uprightness.
The letter ended as follows:
"I believe in justice and in the King. God will look on the judicial authorities with favour for what I and all my family will always pray urgently."
On the next day, the 28th July 1718, he also appealed in writing at the Secret Council, Baron (Reichsfreiherrn) von Bernstorff, to support him towards the King:
"I plead for your clemency and remain up to my grave the subordinated and loyal knight of you my mercy Lord."
There was no found echo in the files. Obviously this letter was not answered.
The next document in the files dates from the year 1725.
The End of Johann Michael
Johann Michael worn down by the arduous years, the depressing financial situation and the injustice he suffered from. Neither with his support nor under his command the bridge was completed. Already in 1718 the bridge can be crossed by a small carriage. This is an indication for the fact that the construction of the bridge was in a further stage of completion.
Since Johann Michael did not receive any answer neither from the King nor from the Secretary of State he took his case to court. But before a judgement was given he died.
On December 12th, 1720 he took his last breath. Under the date of December 15th, 1720 the following is listed in the register of death of St. Mary at Minden:
This sentence could be interpreted in many ways. The most probable interpretation is:
Johann Michael's corps was buried in an exclusive mortuary. His coffin had a high vaulted lid as it is still customary nowadays. Surely friends of the family had supported his widow to have this ceremony according to his social standing. Where should the money have come from? The mortuary was proceeded without bells that means quietly. It was not unlikely that Johann Michael did not die naturally. Once his widow writes about a "deadly step". Also the fact that there were no bells at the ceremony might lead to the conclusion that he might have committed suicide. We will never find it out.
Appraisal of Johann Michael Führer and his Bridge
Looking back you could say that the construction of the bridge at Nienburg - Johann Michael's greatest work - obviously exceeded his capacities. His naive believe in juridical matters and his too little estimate for the construction of the bridge made him fail. His technical abilities might have been adequate for the task of constructing a bridge. Thus his fault regarding all misfortune at the site could never be proven although Johann Michael had been accused of 14 mistakes at the works.
We should remember Johann Michael as an agile employer and as a man of exceeding education. His work and his business meant to be all for him. He was a man who did not ask for self-interest; but for him the completion of a task was more than just earning money. Because of this point of view he may have been a little obstinate.
He certainly was an upright and contentious man against all slander. He disliked to make use of advocates and their work. He felt to have a vocation as constructor. But his fate was to fail with his greatest construction known.
Legal Proceedings and their late Success
She had to leave her children to another family's board and logging. She had no idea that the procedure of case in court would last for almost five years. Finally the decision of the Superior Court of Appellations was made in 1725.
The court passed the sentence that the state had to pay 7,000 Taler in favour of Führer's widow. In the end - but too late for Johann Michael - by this judgement it was recognised that the enlargement of the bridge had caused additional costs, the payment of which was not ruled by the Contract of 1714.
But the money received was just sufficient to satisfy all the creditors. In the years 1716/1717 Johann Michael had to pay 6 percent interest per year for all the loans according to a royal Prussian decree. His creditors were according to an old document: Wilhelm Heinrich von Dankelmann, ACE Kuhlmann Widow, Clare Elisabeth Plume, Johann Detleffsen and Conrad Nobet. Johann Michael's widow paid all the debts plus the interest incurred.
Advised by friends being experienced in juridical matters she sent a petition to the King on August 8th, 1725 in which she demanded that the state should also reimburse her the interest on the 7,000 Taler and all the further costs incurred since the day Johann Michael lost the command over the construction. Such a claim was justified, since the court had ruled that the Hanoverian government had to pay compensation.
If and when the government complied with this petition, we do not know.
The letter was personally signed by the widow of Johann Michael. This shows that she had been able to advocate her claims vigorously after being advised by her friends.
Signature of Johann Michael Führer's Widow (1725), States Archive Hanover
"Caused by the death of my husband and my stay in Hanover not only my housekeeping has become totally ruined, moreover my health has been damaged because of so much sorrow."
It is not yet known when "Dorothea" Führer died. Neither was found out what happened to her second son Johann Bernhard and her daughter Dorothea Magdalena.
We have good knowledge about the vita of their son Friedrich Wilhelm. Telling details of his biographyuld exceed the frame of this story.
In the end I would like to tell a little more about the Nienburgian stone bridge which was so directly linked to the fate of Johann Michael our ancestor.
Illustr. 4 NIENBURG in 1766
Plan of Nienburg showing the bridge of stone over the Weser (enlarged detail, scale app. 1:10.000, from the map of 1766 by the Chur Hanoverian Engineering Corps)
Final Completion of the first Nienburgian Stone Bridge
The bridge finally was completed under the command of Alblas and Borchmann, but it lasted till 1723 before the bridge could fully be opened to the public. Alblas and Borchmann were not tied to such a strict contract as Johann Michael.
The raging torrent of the Weser causing so many difficulties from the beginning of the construction had escalated the costs of the construction more and more. The total amount for the construction of the bridge was 62,106 Taler 3 Groschen and 6 Pennies. 14,533 Taler and 3 Groschen were paid by the Royal Rent Treasury, 42,572 Taler and 3 Groschen by the Military Treasury and finally 5,000 Taler by the Princedom of Hoya.
This might be regarded as a small amount in comparison to the costs of the construction of such a bridge; but possibly the communities surrounding might have helped with manpower. An official payment for such help was not included in this sum.
First repairs at the bridge had already to be executed in 1727.
In the night from the 14th to the 15th of October 1813 French soldiers retreating blew up the middle arch of the bridge with gunpowder lit by a fuse from the left bank of the Weser. The traffic crossing the river Weser was disconnected, even though only one arch had collapsed and the piers next to it had been damaged. Soon thereafter in April 1814 a wooden construction was incorporated and the bridge connected both sides again.
Illustr. 5 The engraving of 1827 by Captain R. Batty shows the view of the bridge as seen from the north after it was blown up by French soldiers retreating on 15th Octobere the middle arch being repaired by carpenters with a wooden construction.
In the years 1827 and 1828 the middle arch of the bridge was finally repaired in stone .
Illustr. 6 This early photo shows the bridge after the final reconstruction of the middle arch in stone during the years 1827/28.
Until 1905/1906 the bridge remained undamaged. In this year the bridge was dismantled because the shipping and road traffic was held up by the bridge. For almost 200 years it had been a link connecting East and West (Illustration 7). North of the town two new bridges were erected for the Railway and the road traffic.
Illustr. 7 NIENBURG in 1899 The Plan of Nienburg shows the bridge of stone over the Weser (enlarged detail, scale app. 1:10.000, from the Prussian Map of 1899 shows the Nienburgian City and the little suburb on the west bank. You can recognise the bridge and its piers.
At the location of the old stone bridge an iron hanging bridge for passengers was built. But this bridge was destroyed in World War II and afterwards dismantled because the shipping and road traffic was held up by the bridge. North of the Nienburg two new bridges were erected - one for the Railway and the other for road traffic. At the location of the old stone bridge an iron hanging bridge for passengers was built. But this bridge was destroyed in World War II and afterwards dismantled.
Again the raging torrent of the Weser passes the old place of the bridge. Only the old walls of both piers of the bridge at the banks of the river still remained.
Illustr. 8 This picture shows the ravelin wall on the west bank a former pier of the Weser bridge in stone, mounted by a little garden house (after the footpassenger bridge was blown up in World War II). The was taken in 1958 by the author.
illllustr. 9 NIENBURG in 1996The Plan of Nienburg shows the bridge of stone over the Weser (enlarged detail, scale app. 1:10.000, from the present Map of 1996 shows the Nienburgian City and the little suburb on the west bank. You can imagine the old place of the bridge. Still until today the streets leading to the old location.
New planning (since 1993) was finally successful. A new foot passenger bridge over the Weser at the historic place had been constructed between 1998 and 2000. The old piers constructed Johann Michael Fürer again are used as piers for the new bridge.
Illustr. 19 NIENBURG 2005 The new footpassenger bridge rests on the olf ravelin wall built by Johann Michael Führer. The picture was taken by Peter Josepeit, Nienburg
Addendum to the second Edition
Since the first edition more than forty years passed by. Meanwhile the researches never have ended. The Research of the actions taken was differently intensive depending on the goal aimed and on the possibility to reach any results by exercising reasonable expenditure. Preconditions for a successful research are initiative, fantasy, time and money. Moreover nowadays difficulties arise from the declining willingness of the addressed offices and persons to engage in the matter. The are expected to exercise due diligence to combine and to be helpful for the one who does research.
The research has been focused on several central points. Those were and still are: The origin of Johann Michael Führer and his family, his biography from his birth till he had moved to Minden in the Prussian Princedom Minden, the vita of his wife and their three children. Firstly the question had to be solved which the maiden name of his wife was. The author has not made any relevant progress. He has not had any more success as different generations of relatives before. The research files about "Johann Michael Führer" begun in 1900 and they became almost two inches thick although not every piece found was taken to the files. The research about the origin of Johann Michael Führer concentrated on similar combination of names with or without the Christian names Johann Michael in the period between 1670 and 1720. The evaluation was concentrated on two central points outside of Germany; Cantone St. Gallen, Swiss and the Roman-Catholic diocese Salzburg.
From both regions with either Protestant or Roman-Catholic citizens many refugees went abroad. Most of them came to Prussia, especially to East Prussia. Not only religious reasons caused emigration; there were also economical reasons. Mainly farmers had emigrated but quite seldom craftsmen, too. Regarding the Swiss Cantone St. Gallen the refugees mainly came from the communities Sax and Toggenburg.
The trails followed ended without success or were proven to be false, since there were also Roman-Catholics and our ancestor Johann Michael definitely belonged to the Protestant-Reformed confession. Other trails regarding the name Fü(h)rer - which is not so singular in Germany - led to Chur-Hessia, to the region Mühlhausen/Thuringia, to the East-Harz region and e.g. to Medebach/Sauerland. The research focused on these persons still was without success. An other method was to focus on Johann Michael's profession in order to find out about his origin. He was a professional engineer and “Entrepressure” when we first met him as bridge master builder and quarry owner around the year 1711. Thus he was no craftsman. He was of higher education; he had no university education, but a good all-round knowledge and
It is very likely that Johann Michael Führer proceeded two of these ways, the first and the third way. Probably he came around in northern Germany and in the Netherlands and there he collected wide knowledge and experience. Perhaps he had friends and good acquaintances in circles of the Prussian engineers. It is very astonishing that high officers and high officials of the local government in the Princedom of Minden supported Johann Michael towards the Secretary of State von Ilgen Prussian Central Government at Cölln upon Spree.
The fact that Johann Michael - when applying for the position State Master Builder in the Princedom of Minden and in the Princedom Ravensberg in January/February 1713 - did not succeed was neither caused by him nor by his lack of abilities. As it is often the governmental offices did not have enough money in the personnel funds for such a position. The Government at Minden joined by the Secretary of State von Ilgen felt that there were not enough royal buildings to justify the position of a State Master Builder.
Therefore they recommended that Führer should apply for a position at the Magdeburgian bridge construction where they thought he would have better chances. It seems that he was well known there. Since four years Führer already was an independent employer. He run a quarry at Haus Berge near Porta Westfalica. There were deposits of Jurassic sandstone and of chalk, too, which after burning became a good cement. Thus he made his living and was a person neededby the economy. As master builder he also had a market for his quarries.
Because of these reasons he remained in Minden where he was no domestic citizen since he was employed with the Prussian state. He was a foreigner residing in Minden. His way of education was linked to his confession. He belonged to the Protestant-Reformed confession like the Brandenburgian house of Hohenzollern. Thus it is hard to imagine that he was employed for longer in countries with the Roman-Catholic confession.
It is very likely that he married between 1711 an 1713, but not in Minden. His wife also came from somewhere else. She belonged to the Protestant-Lutheran Church. It is assumed that it was their first marriage for her and Johann Michael. There were no hints into any other direction. Just one signature of her was found in the files dating of 1725. After her husband died in December 1720 she signed - obviously - without practice and with little mistakes: "Witwe (Widow) Führer".
But there were only assumptions with regard to her maiden name. Her Christian name should have been "Dorothea". It is very probable because of the combination of the names in several certificates of baptism and entries in Registers of Baptism of the following persons: Her and Johann Michael's daughter Dorothea Magdalena, who was baptised on March 17th, 1718 in the Church of St. Mary at Minden, her granddaughter the daughter of her son Friedrich Wilhelm born on May 16th, 1750 in Felsberg: Marie Karoline Dorothea as well as the daughter of the printer and editor Johann Detleffsen (born 1678 in Stade) and his 2nd wife: Margaretha Magdalena a born Foerster was baptised and named Anna Dorothea in the Church of St. Martin at Minden on June 4th, 1716.
Even though the wife of Johann Michael Führer was not godmother, since he lived together with his family in Nienburg, it is remarkable the Christian name "Dorothea" was on all certificates, since the Christian name was usually given according to close relationship and in a special order. To find out about the family-name was even more difficult.
For a long time it was assumed that her maiden name was Detleffsen. Therefore the book of descendants of the well known family of printers and editors Detleffsen from Stade had to be checked. Detlef Detleffsen, born in 1642 at Stade, died in 1726 at Braunschweig, was printer. He was married with Abel a born Suhren. From this marriage descended children, among them Johann Detleffsen, born in 1678 at Stade, died in 1727 at Minden and the daughter Anna, baptised on June 8th, 1683 at Stade. Only this sister could possibly have been married by Johann Michael Führer. But neither in Braunschweig where her family moved to in the end of the 17th century in order to found a new publishing house and an important printing house nor in Minden existed hints in the files with Anna Detleffsen.
The fact that the young Führer family was not well known after they moved to Minden about the year 1710 and that a relation to the family or the publisher Johann Detleffsen living there since approximately 1700 is firstly to be recognised for later than 1715, does not lead to the assumption that both families were relatives. It is remarkable that Johann Michael and his wife named her first son (*1714) with the Christian names of the reigning King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm. They also became godfather or godmother after the year 1715. In both cases the families of the baptised children did not belong to the long established citizens of Minden.
Therefore no other argument is left to the author to maintain the thesis Johann Michael's wife's maiden name might have been Detleffsen. Both families were good friends, but not more.
Thus the researches about the maiden name and the origin of Johann Michael's wife were unsuccessful. She did not come from the surrounding communities of Minden, from Haus Berge or from Hanover.
After the year 1725 every track to follow is missing. It is similar with the two children of both Johann Bernhard and Dorothea Magdalena (born in 1716 and in 1718). We knew that their youth was not easy at all because Johann Michael's widow had to give her kids to friends or acquaintances for cost and lodging while she concentrated on the lawsuit against the Hanoverian Secretary of State in Hanover. Regarding the procedure of the claim more files have not been found in the archives at Hanover or Celle.
They might have been lost or burnt during the chaos of World War II or they might have been sorted out before.
The author found a remarkable note in the Journal "Vaterländische Archive" of 1822, first volume, by Spiel und Spangenberg, Verlag Herold und Wahlstab, Lüneburg. On page 282 ff. he found the history of the construction of the stone bridge over the Weser at Nienburg. In this objective story obviously researched in the files of the States Archive at Hanover the author makes the following statement:
Führer was according to all what you find a man who was not lucky in the result but who was capable to undertake to construct a bridge.
Thus the research lasting for long times has not yet been successful. We found out about some false assumptions, but the goal of the research still has not been reached.
Goslar, November 1997______________________________________________________________________
1. Entries in the Church Registers of Minden and Nienburg
2. File XXXI No. II 8 Des 92 of the Hanoverian States Archive
3. Files of the Prussian Secret States Archive "Rep." 114; 32.47: 32.15
4. Zeitschrift für vaterländische Geschichte und Altertumskunde (Journal of History of the Fatherland and Antiquity), edited by the Verein für Geschichte und Altertumskunde Westfalens (Association of the History and Antiquity of Guestfalia) 41st Volume , 2nd Unit, page 129, Münster/W. 1883
5. Beschreibung der Grafschaft (Description of the Princedom) Hoya and Diepholz by H. Gade, Nienburg/Weser, edited by Verlag J. Hoffmann u. Co. 1901
6. Pictures of the Museum of the Princedom Hoya and Diepholz, and pictures of the author
7. "Friedrich Wilhelm Führer, ein Leben in Unruhe", of Justus Fürer, edited by Verlag C.F. Beisel Nachf., in Heidelberg
8. Queries with Archives and others
 Johann Michael's surname was spelt with an "h". In the Church Register of St. Martin in Nienburg/Weser his surname was written without an "h"
 It is known that Johann Michael Führer had lived in Minden since 1711. So far as documents have been found, Johann Michael Führer was not registered in registers of citizens of Minden, lists of inhabitants, lists of guilds, lists of property owners and minutes of the council.
 The Detleffsens appear in the further vita of Johann Michael Führer several times. This might be an argument for a closer relation of the families.
 Johann Michael worked throughout workdays and Sundays. "Strange diligence" may stand for very special (due) diligence.
 Cölln upon Spree originally was a neighbour town of the old Berlin situated on a Spree island south of Berlin. Its name originates from Kollen, a little elevation surrounded by sump. Cölln later was integrated into Berlin.
 The Prussian Engineering Corps was in the process of organization since the beginning of the 18th century. Fortress constructors had major influence on the planning of the towns. Since 1702 in Magdeburg Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau was Governor of the Magdeburg Fortress and therefore in charge of the Fortress Construction Office.
 George Louis, Elector (Kurfürst) of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, * 28 May 1660 in Hanover, + 11 June 1727 Osnabrueck. He was the eldest son of Sophia of Hanover ('Electress of Hanover', had she outlived her cousin Queen Anne, she would have succeeded to the British throne before her son.) and Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, a German prince. See Illustration 1.
 The Thirty Years' War lasted from 1618 till 1648 and many European States were involved. In 1998 there was the 350 anniversary of the Westfalian Peace, signed at Osnabrück and Münster.
 a former German currency and a silver coin
 See Illustration No. 3
 At those times a bridge with oval-shaped arches was regarded as an audacious construction. Such a bridge construction was - beside Nienburg - only to be seen in Dresden, Regensburg, Prague, Toulouse and Paris.
 A fortification on the embankment at the Weser Gate
 After the great fire of the town of Sulingen in 1719 Eden, being Lieutenant-Engineer, he reconstructed the town following his own plans for the reconstruction.
 This shows that Johann Michael had well respected friends and acquaintances.
 according to the entry in the Register of Death of the Protestant Reformed Church of St. Peter at Minden
 Excerpts of the files are partly given in original wording, partly abbreviated or translated in a modern language.
 to dam the raging torrent off the bridge under construction
"Der Brückenbaumeister (The bridge constructor) Johann Michael Führer", an essay of the author held on February 26th, 1963 at Kassel, published with Hessische Familienkunde, 1963, 2. revised Edition 1998, edited by Sippenverband Fü(h)rer e.V., Kassel Various correspondence with the States Archives at Hanover, Wolfenbüttel, Magdeburg, Berlin-Dalem and Münster; with the municipal archives (Stadtarchive) at Minden, Sulingen, Hausberge, Hanover, Braunschweig, Hamburg and Stade, with the Convent Archive (Stiftsarchiv) of St. Gallen, Swiss; with the Salzburgian Association (Salzburger Verein) and with several genealogists.
[[  In order to have such a coffin with a high vaulted lid, instead of a flat lid - formerly called "nose-squeezer" - a special coffin tax had to be paid since 1636 amounting to 1 Taler and 4 Groschen.
 The files of this court got lost in World War II. The files of the Justice Office in Hanover were not registered (1958) and therefore could not be checked by the author.
 Johann Detleffsen, owner of a book printing-house in Minden and husband of the godmother of Dorothea Magdalene Führer
 The biography was written by Prof. Justus Fürer under the title "Friedrich Wilhelm Führer, ein Leben in Unruhe", 1906 [Friedrich Wilhelm Führer, A Restless Life]
 See Illustration No. 6