Are you a Helbling descendant who is good with knives? Can you deftly carve a large turkey at Thanksgiving, debone a chicken breast in just a couple quick strokes, or gently filet a fish? Then you may have have some of the butchering talent passed down through the Helbling DNA.
Franz Xavier Helbling (1800-1876) and his brother Jacob (1813-1872) were butchers, and Jacob is credited with being one of the first butchers to have a stand at the Pittsburg market. (Yes, that is how they spelled Pittsburgh back in the day.) With both brothers being butchers, it is highly likely that their father, Franz Xavier Helbling, (1773-?), was also a butcher. Franz had a son who became a butcher, but the family trade ended there.
I have found 4 IRS Tax Lists for 1862-3 for this family, and they show that there were more Helbling butchers than just these two in Lawrenceville, a suburb of Pittsburgh.
(Tax rates are 30 cents per head of cattle, 5 cents for a calf, 10 cents for a hog, and 5 cents for sheep.)
#1- September 1862
Francis Helbling- 6 cattle + 1 calf + 1 hog= $1.95 in taxes.
Jacob Helbling- 6 cattle + 1 calf + 1 hog= $1.95 in taxes.
Jacob Helbling- 4 head of cattle= $1.20.
#2- October 1862
Francis Helbling- 6 head of cattle + 2 calves for a total of $1.90.
Jacob Helbling- 6 head of cattle + 1 calf = $1.85 in taxes
Francis Helbling- 10 head of cattle +2 calves + 3 hogs + 4 sheep= $3.60 in taxes.
John Knipschield- 12 cattle + 1 calf= $3.65 in taxes.
(We do not know Mary Theresa Knipschield’s siblings nor parents- maybe this is her brother and why she came to America?)
#3- November 1862
Francis Helbling- 3 head of cattle for a total of $0.90 in taxes.
Jacob Helbling- 5 head of cattle + 2 calves = $1.60 in taxes
Francis Helbling- 9 head of cattle + 5 calves + 1 hog for a total of $3.05.
Jacob Helbling- 6 head of cattle + 2 calves = $1.90 in taxes
#4- October 1863
Francis Helbling- 7 head of cattle + 1 calf for a total of $1.45.
Jacob Helbling- 6 head of cattle + 3 calves = $1.35 in taxes
John Knipschield- 13 cattle + 6 calf + 4 hogs= $3.14 in taxes.
Robert Helbling- 4 head of cattle= $0.80
(Not sure who Robert Helbling is…more research needed.)
Being a butcher in the 1800s was a lot different than today- no tractor trailer driving to the grocery store loading dock with cuts of meat that only need a little trimming for the expensive meat case. As can be seen from the tax lists, our ancestors had to grow their own meat, kill the animal, butcher the carcass, utilize and dispose of the offal (undesirable parts), and package it when the customer chose the perfect steak. Cattle back then were a bit smaller than today, about 1,100 pounds vs today’s 1,500 pound cattle; an animal that size was a lot to manage. A lot to feed, too, to get to that weight- they would have had to purchase hay and corn to grow those calves, or grow their own.
After dressing the animal, i.e. cutting off all the undesirable parts, the remaining meat cuts would be about half the weight of the live animal. Of course, back then they also ate parts we are not always inclined to eat, such as tripe, tongue, heart, etc. Being German, they probably made some amazing sausage out of the leftover parts, and head cheese too, so their yield would probably have been higher than today’s. (Of course, our industrialized livestock farming of today uses all those undesirable parts- they just don’t tell us what it is in. Often it is fed back to animals, one way mad-cow disease is spread.)
Our ancestors who farmed, which was a majority of those in the 1800s, had to do this too, but on a much smaller scale.
So, the next time you are wrestling a 24-kb Thanksgiving turkey as the whole table of guests watch, remember that culinary knife skills may be in your DNA, and you can do it!
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) Obituary for Rosina Wiesert Helbling, wife of Jacob Helbling.
The Pittsburgh Press, Nov. 30, 1907, page three http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=nhobAAAAIBAJ&sjid=CEkEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4329,6709035 &dq=helbling+death&hl=en
2) September 1862 Tax List: U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918AuthorAncestry.comPublisherAncestry.com Operations IncPublisher Date2008Publisher LocationProvo, UT, USA
October 1862 Tax List: U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918AuthorAncestry.com. Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.Original data – National Archives (NARA) microfilm series: M603, M754-M771, M773-M777, M779-M780, M782, M784, M787-M789, M791-M793, M795, M1631, M1775-M1776, T227, T1208-T1209
[Ancestry.com is in the midst of switching viewer styles and I cannot get to all of the sources for each of the IRS records. Please let me know if you need more information.]
3) A Century of Georgia Agriculture, 1850-1950 by Willard Range, 1954. https://books.google.com/books?id=s_GPG0k7XwUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:%22Willard+Range%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JusAVeOtHYuZNt3rg9AL&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false
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