This story was recorded in the collections of two separate family members. Kathryn Kimlinger Koppy wrote it in a letter to her cousin Wilfred Kimlinger in 1973. The other version was in a short family history written by Patricia Billig Justin in 1984. She recorded the recollections of her grandmother, Mary Britz Billig, her father, Lawrence Billig, her two aunts who were Franciscan nuns and her two uncles who were Franciscan priests. Mary Billig is the daughter of Margaretha Kimlinger Britz, who was one of John Kimlinger's sisters. This is a family story held for many generations.
Mathias Gerthen is John Kimlinger's maternal grandfather. He was born in what is now Luxembourg. In the last part of the 1700s, Mathias was a member of the French Nobility in the Alsace Region of France. Alsace borders Germany and Switzerland. It is an area long fought over by Germany and France and is not far from Trier. Mathias is said to have had bright red hair.
The French Revolution of 1789 saw the downfall of King Louis the 16th and of the French Nobility. In the 1790s, Napoleon sent his troops to capture and kill those Nobles. Many were executed by use of the guillotine. Many others were forced to flee to the east. Mathias was one of those.
Mathias headed for Germany on foot. Along the way he prayed fervently for his safety. He approached a bridge guarded by Napoleon's soldiers, some of whom were on horseback. It was a bridge that he needed to cross to enter Germany. As he approached the bridge a man appeared. That man walked with him and forcefully directed the soldiers to let Mathias cross. They obeyed and allowed him to cross. After he had reached the other side safely Mathias turned to thank the man, but he was no longer there. That man was St. Joseph.
Mathias settled near Baldringen. He started a family and had a daughter named Maria. Maria became the wife of Joseph Kimlinger. Joseph and Maria are the parents of John.
None of us would be here today without the protection of St. Joseph some 220 years ago.