This website is a compilation of records and documents gathered over many years of research into this remarkable family. Much of the material was received from others doing the same, and I am very grateful for their help and contributions.
Two hundred and twenty years ago, Emanuel Behe, his wife Mary, and their children boarded a sailing ship for a journey across an ocean and to a new life. The Europe they left was in the turmoil of the French Revolution. Alsace, on the border between France and Germany, and Emanuel’s place of birth, was invaded by Prussian and Austrian armies opposed to the revolution. Many in Alsace, German speaking people fearful of growing French nationalism, supported these invaders. When the French Revolutionary Army drove the invaders back across the Rhine, tens of thousands of German Alsatians fled before it. Whether these events were the reason for their family leaving to America, or if it was the economic opportunity which drove most emigration, we will likely never know.
The United States they came to was a new and vastly different land. The population was largely rural, numbering under four million. Rhode Island had just ratified the Constitution, the last of the thirteen colonies to do so. George Washington was in the second year of his presidency. The frontier was across the Alleghenies, and Lewis and Clark would not embark on their quest of discovery for another decade.
Into this new world the family arrived. Their early movements are not documented, though family tradition has them living in Conewego, Pa., for a time before settling in Loretto, a small community in the western hill country of Pennsylvania. The community centered on St. Michael’s Church, founded by the Russian prince/priest Demetrius Gallitzin. It was the first Catholic settlement in Pennsylvania west of the Alleghenies. There the family grew: children born and raised, land cleared and farmed, wars fought, railroads worked, money made and lost, marriages celebrated and deaths mourned. A series of struggles; sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always continuing on.
An American family, an American story.
This website is dedicated to the memory of these, our ancestors.