The Dorrs in France

In 2008 I finally made contact with the Dorr family in France. An individual in France was doing research on another Dorr family and found our website. He provided the names of Louis' father and grandfather. Based on this information a distant cousin, Jacques Dorr, discovered the website and has provided a good amount of information on additional generations and general information about the family.

There are indications that the first several generations used the spelling Dorre. The marriage certificate of Mathis Dorr, Louis' father, has the spelling of Dorr. The copy of the original handwritten birth act for Louis clearly uses the spelling Dorr.

The first Dorr that we have recorded information for is Nicolas Dorr who was born about 1650. He was a farmer in Obervisse, France. It's in the Lorraine region in northeastern France and borders both Belgium and Germany. Nicolas married Catherine Decker in Boucheporn in 1703. They had five children, the second being Jean Jacques, who is in our lineage.

Jean Jacques married Marguerite Paul from Varsberg, a town aproximately 5 miles northeast of Obervisse. Today Obervisse has a population of 120 while Varsberg has a population of approximately 2,500. He became a carver, innkeeper, and merchant. He evidently moved to Varsberg where the next three to four generations of Dorrs lived. They had six children, the first of whom, Jean Pierre, is in our lineage.

Jean Pierre married twice, the second time to Catherine Elisabeth from Varsberg from whom we descend. During this time some of the Dorrs went into the cloth making field and evidently became well off. Jean Pierre's brother, Nicolas, became the mayor of Varsberg. Mathieu (Mathis) was the last of 12 children. Jacques, who has provided much of the information, descends from Mathieu's older brother Jean Pierre.

Louis' father, Mathis, was a cloth maker and apparently well off. Evidently Mathis moved to Morhange to establish his business. He was born in Varsberg but all of his children were born in Morhange. Louis' brother Victor moved to the city of Nancy and was also a cloth maker. He is the one who sent Louis money over the years that Louis was in America.

Jacques sent a number of post card pictures of the Varsberg area. The following link shows a map of the area of France where the Dorrs lived. He also sent documents showing five generations in France. This link shows various pictures of France.

Jacques provided the following description of the Moselle area before 1870 and the role the Dorr House played in the local economy.

Moselle before 1870

Varied and very active industry, dealing particularly in iron and steel (annual production 10 million) which supplied to sheet iron mills, manufacturers of white iron tools, saws, files, hardware, and nails. Then came crucibles, glass, crystalware, earthenware, pottery from Sarreguemine, household linen, sheets, woolen goods, embroidery, papers, leather, glue, snuff boxes, sugar, an esteemed beer, brandy, lumber, curing of pork.

Commercial exports mostly were wood, salt, iron, tile, pottery, glass and crystal, and fabricated products.

Public education: lyceum (high school), colleges, elementary schools, seminaries, public library, 90% literacy.

Manufacturers of sheets and clothing.

The winter season gave rise to diverse manufacturing endeavors. The most widespread was that of hemp and linen cloth. It was mostly in the departments (political geographical areas) of Sarrguemines and Thionville that this industry was being promoted. The fabric was of average thickness, but of a quality that assured sales to the farthest regions of the French colonies (Algeria, Martinique). The Dorr House company furnished the hospitals of “Val de Grace” in Paris, those of Metz and Strasbourg (Alsace) as early as 1813.

The Dorr House, which centralized the trade, was the first one which produced three-quarter linens, semi-white, pure hospital sheets and oakum lines 9/16, for sacks.

Finally, it owned spacious laundries in the natural prairies, like those of Flanders (Belgium) and of Holland. Several merchants owned superb establishments, citing those of Chateau-Rouge and of Varsberg.