Johann Sebastian Bach An Orphan At Age Ten

(Maria Salome, sister of Johann Sebastian Bach, continues the story of Johann’s early years.)

You see, it has been nine months since our mother, Elisabeth, suddenly died and so much has changed! Our lives have been in turmoil since then.

As the eldest child and only daughter of the Ambrosious Bach family, I loved helping my mother with all the things around the house. But suddenly with mama’s death, I was left to care for my two little brothers.

Eisenach, Germany

Johann Sebastian was just ten when mama died and he misses her so much. He and Jakob are good though and are still practicing their violin and viola, and they both returned to the Latienschule a few months ago.

Papa was very sad, but after seeing the widow Kaul every Sunday for several months, he finally married her. Her name is Barbara Margarethe. She helped make our home happy again. We had a wonderful Christmas and Epiphany then one day, just a few short months after Papa married again, he came home from the court very ill. A few days later he died too. It was awful!

Now life has changed again. Our step-mother is now a widow for the third time, but this time she has the three of us to feed. She asked for help from the town council and they have given her enough money to feed only two of us. She has decided she must send my brothers, Johann and Jakob away.

Johann Sebastian and Johann Jakob Bach walk to Ohrdruf, Germany

My brothers have been told they will walk the thirty miles to our older brother Christoph’s home in Ohrdruf. I will miss them so much, but I know Christoph and his family will take good care of our brothers. So much death around my little brothers is not good. It is something that I know will stay with Johann and Jakob forever.

(This story is one of many vignettes from the multi-media and organ program, Bach and Sons, created by Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist and David Jordan, media artist.  Visit to discover more.)


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