Roolf & Ostien History

In the 1860s, brothers Henry, Frederick, Jacob, and Phillip Ostien emigrated from what was then called Bavaria, now in the western part of Germany.  Henry and Frederick arrived in the United States abord a ship named The Plymouth Rock on 13 April 1864.

They were likely recruited by American coal mining companies looking for skilled coal miners.   Although their village in Germany was in farmland and they were probably originally farmers, during the mid-nineteenth century each village was expected to supply a quota of coal to the king.   Because the land was not naturally rich in coal, the miners became experts at ferretting out thin ribbons of coal from beneath the ground.   This expertise is what attracted the American companies to recruit workers in the region. 1

Naturally Henry and Frederick ended up in a hot-bed of coal mining in southwestern Pennsylvania. In 1873 they purchased their first parcels of land on the northern face of what eventually became known as Ostien Hill.   Phillip and Jacob soon followed.   They purchased the land plus the rights to the coal underneath from the New York & Cleveland Gas & Coal Company, and soon had created a network of mines underneath the homes and streets where they lived.

Henry Ostien fathered 11 children, 9 of whom married and produced more children.   Unfortunately, Henry died in 1887, just before his last child was born.   His wife Kunigunda (who also went by the name Mary) carried on raising and supporting her nine children.   She eventually owned much of the hill, and distributed parts of it to her children.   She lived a long life, finally passing on in 1923.

The Ostiens celebrated their families' heritage with a great reunion in 1934.   A treasured picture of that reunion shows most of the sons and daughters of Henry and Kunigunda, plus many of their grandchildren.

However, the family eventually grew apart.   The mines were exhausted and closed up, and families eventually moved away.   The last Ostien descendent left the hill in the 1980s.

In 1997, Keith Ostien of Lansing, Michigan tracked down hundreds of descendents of Henry and Kunigunda Ostien, plus other Ostiens from Frederick's line and others that have yet to be firmly located on the family tree.   He also made a crucial connection with Ostiens still living in Germany through his contact with Michael Ostien in Germany via the Internet.

This culminated in the hugely successful 1997 Ostien Family Reunion, where over 220 Ostien descendents and family gathered in Monroeville, PA.   The highlight for many was a guided tour back to Ostien Hill to see where our grandparents and great-grandparents grew up.

In 1999 the German Ostiens, coordinated largely by Michael Ostien in Germany and facilitated by Keith Ostien in the U.S., arranged a reunion in Germany.   Twenty-one Americans traveled back to visit their ancestral homeland, and met many Ostiens who still lived in Germany.   Among the stops was at the village of Lauschied, birthplace of the American Ostien family lines including Henry, Frederick, Phillip, and Jacob.

A new international Ostien family reunion is now being planned for the year 2002 to continue this great tradition.

1 Provided through research conducted by Rita Davis.

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