Choices in Life

We were all born with Free Will. We can make choices in our life that will affect how we live, and how we relate to others. The decision is ours. These decisions are made in our work lives, and in our family lives. Many times based purely on emotion, not allowing the facts to even play a role in our decision. Jobs are lost, and families torn apart. Sometimes irreparably.

Henry Fassbender, January 17, 1906

One such family that did not allow this to happen was the Schultz/Steffen family of Ellington, Outagamie County, Wisconsin. As a young family they had experienced much tragedy. Married sometime between 1876-1877, Mathilda Lemke and Albert Schultz set up household in Ellington as a farm family. Over the next seven years they would have five children, losing one as an infant. Edward was born in 1877, the unnamed infant in 1879, Albert in 1880, Ida in 1882, and Emma in 1884. Tragically July 5, 1888, as Albert would pass away. There is no death record recorded in the Outagamie County Courthouse, but we know the date from his tombstone. He was buried in Ellington Union Cemetery, which is located in Stephensville, Ellington Township, he was just 35 years old. Two years later on June 14, 1890, thirty-year-old Mathilda married William Steffen in Ellington, their marriage overseen by a Lutheran minister. Unfortunately it has not been easy trying to identify exactly where they attended church, I know from obituaries that in later years they all attended St. Paul Lutheran Church in Stephensville.

Ida Schultz Fassbender, January 17, 1906

Just as the Fassbenders have been Roman Catholic for “as far back as can be traced,”1  I believe that the Schultz, Lemke and Steffen families professed the Lutheran faith as far back as can be traced.

These strong ties to both the Roman Catholic and Lutheran faith must have been a big topic of conversation between Henry Fassbender and Ida Schultz as they met, began dating, and ultimately decided to get married. What was that conversation like, when Henry and Ida sat down with Ida’s mother and step-father to inform them first, that they were getting married, and second, that Ida was going to convert to Catholicism?

Ida studied her newly professed Catholic faith at St. Joseph’s parish in Appleton, and “converted her preferred faith” on January 4, 1906. Her sponsor was Agnes Fassbender. I don’t have an Agnes Fassbender in my database! This mystery continues. Is it Henry’s older sister Anna? Or could it be Hubert’s wife, Anna? Or is it Elizabeth Ellenbecker who would be Ida’s witness when she married Henry at St. Joseph’s, on January 17, 1906. Following their marriage they set up housekeeping in Hollandtown, Brown County, Wisconsin, where just two months earlier Henry had purchased the White Clover Co-op.

The fact that Ida made the decision to convert to Catholicism had to have been difficult for the Schultz/Steffen family to comprehend. In some families this would have torn the family in two, the couple to move on, and not be a part of the family from that point forward. But this did not happen. Over the next decades, the Appleton and Kaukauna newspapers were full of society tidbits telling of the visiting habits of the two families. Not a month went by where one side or the other was traveling, and staying weeks at a time, to visit. When Mathilda died in 1929, her grandsons, Harold, Norbert and Bernard Fassbender were pallbearers. A family united until the end.

We should all aspire to understand, to listen, and to learn. Emotion should not play a “forever” role in our relationships with others, especially with family.

SOURCES:

  1. Commemorative Biographical Record of the Fox River Valley Counties of Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago. (Chicago, Illinois: J. H. Beers. 1895), 571.

Schafkopf in the Afternoon

When Peter Fassbender at age 62 moved to Appleton in 1901 to “take life easy,” ((“Old Timers,” (AppletonAppleton Review, 10 Oct 1930, p. 2, col. 1-2. Cit. Date: 23 Oct 1998)) he did anything but that. After the sudden death of his son-in-law, Peter Ellenbecker later that year, he welcomed his daughter Elizabeth, and her son Wilbert into his home. A few months later, he welcomed a new grandson, Arthur, as Elizabeth was pregnant with her second child at the time of her husband’s death. In addition to the hustle and bustle of a young family, his eldest daughter, Anna, was taking in sewing, and her clients were coming and going on a regular basis.

By 1921, as he reached 82 years of age, I imagine that he did slow down a bit, and “take life easy.” Daily Schafkopf/Schafskopf (today more commonly known as Sheephead/Sheepshead, and no, I don’t know how to play) sessions were now part of his routine. He stated in an interview in 1930, that he played daily “at the service building on the fair grounds, where he meets a number of his old cronies and shows them how to play that grand old game.” ((ibid.))

While he was playing this “grand old game” at the fair grounds in 1930, in August of 1921, the daily matches were held at Fire Station No. 2, which was located on the corner of State and Eighth Street, a block north of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and a few blocks from Peter’s home further north on State Street. That is, until the common council made the decision to close No. 2, and join it with the main station “uptown,” testing the plan of a centralized station. The headline and subheading clearly states how the men felt about this decision: “Closing Of Third Ward Engine Station Robbed Pionneers [sic] Of ‘Clubroom.’ Aged Men of Third Ward Resent Loss of Forum for Discussion of Public Questions Over Friendly Games of Skat and Schafkopf.” ((“Closing of Third Ward Engine Station Robeed Pionneers Of ‘Clubroom,'” Appleton Post-Crescent, 9 Aug 1921, Tuesday, p. Three, col. 2-3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 6 Apr 2013)))

This “band of disconsolate old men” were “cherishing a bitterness” over the loss of this space, where they had gathered for nearly  half a century, to “heatedly discuss” “questions of national importance” based on “information obtained from assiduous newspaper reading, backed up by well developed imaginations and ripe experience.” ((ibid.))

The article interviewed several of the men who were regulars at the station house, and they all mourned the loss of this place where a game of cards could be started at any hour, where the latest newsAppleton Post-Crescent, 9 Aug 1921 was heard and given, and “profanity and vulgar talk” was never heard.

One of the men interviewed was Gottfried (Fred) Siegert, the father of Anna Siegert, who was the wife of Peter’s eldest son, John. It gives a wonderful look into his life.

“Gottfried Siegert, 444 Cherry-st., another veteran of the civil war, was a frequent afternoon visitor, his favorite game being Schafkopf. Mr. Siegert is 85 years old, and is as active and erect as a man of 60. He lost one eye in military service and has only partial use of the other, but even with this handicap of sight and age he holds his own in a game of ‘sheephead.’ Mr. Siegert came to Outagamie-co. in 1858 and lived the greater part of his life on a farm a short distance from Appleton which he cleared. He said he missed the engine house and his old associates.” ((ibid.))

Gottfried died March 28, 1925, and is buried next to his wife Mathilda in the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in King, Waupaca Co., Wisconsin.

SOURCES:

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A Trip Home

Kaiser Wilhelm der Große In late 1898 or early 1899, 60-year-old Peter Fassbender returned to Oedekoven for a visit. He made the trip with his friend and neighbor, Joseph Tennie. Not much is known about this trip, but what we do know is gleaned from the return trip passenger list, manifested on Ellis Island, March 7, 1899. For the manifest Peter states that he is a naturalized citizen, he had been in the U.S. for 43 years, he was in possession of a ticket all the way back to Appleton, Wisconsin, he had paid for his own passage, and that he was currently in possession of more than $30.00. ((Ancestry.com, Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957 (Digital image by subscription, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com), from National Archives microfilm T715), Peter Fassbender entry; Kaiser Wilhelm der Große Passenger Manifest, 7 Mar 1899, page 9 line 15, T715; roll 50. Cit. Date. Oct. 2002.)) All of this is true, having been verified by other sources, but the passenger list goes on to ask the following questions: Ever in Prison or Almshouse or supported by Charity: No, Whether a Polygamist: No, Condition of Health, Mental and Physical: Good, Deformed or Crippled, Nature and Cause: No. While I believe his statement of “No” to all of these questions was a true answer, would anyone actually answer these questions with a “Yes?” Well, other than if there was an obvious deformity, as that could not be hidden.

What I find most fascinating about this trip, is the ship that he chose to return home on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große. The ship was built for  Norddeutshcer Lloyd by AG Vulcan Shipyards. The ship, named for his grandfather, was launched by Kaiser Wilhelm I, on May 4, 1897. It was the first ship to have a four funnel design, which for the next decade represented size and safety. It consumed 560 tons of coal per day.

In 1898, traveling at 22.5 knots, it was the fastest merchant ship in the world, carrying 24% of the First Class passenger revenue on the North Atlantic to New York.

The ship which was top-heavy, was known as “Rolling Billy” by her regular passengers. She could hold 332 First Class passengers, 343 Second Class passengers, and 1.074 in Steerage.

In 1913 the ship was rebuilt to carry Third Class passengers only, and when the First World War broke out, she was requisitioned and turned into an armed cruiser. The Kaiser was sunk August 26, 1914 off of Rio de Oro, Africa.

What I find confusing about this passenger list, is that it seems to go on forever with no organization. I cannot tell (yet) what class of passenger he traveled as. I cannot believe that he would have traveled steerage, but there is not clear statement of class of passenger noted on each page. More work will need to be done to figure this out, but in the meantime I found this really cool YouTube video with many images of the ship. Enjoy.

SOURCES:

The 1890 Census

The filing continues. This time I am working through an electronic folder of “paper” from Ripley County, Indiana, and my Francisco and Gray families. When I was putting together one of my “Day in the Life” series in 2014, I remember coming across this newspaper item from January 2, 1890, and laughed out loud. Anyone who has done census research will certainly be able to relate.

The item reads: “It won’t be a great while now until the girls will be hiding the family Bible and dodging the census taker again. How time flies, and how provoking some things are.”

Now if only we could actually LOOK at the 1890 census.

So what was happening in the Francisco family on this day in 1890?

“John A. Francisco is suffering heart trouble at his home. He has been confined to his room several days, and as he is 77 years old, it is quite hard on him, but we hope to see him out soon.” ((The Ripley Journal, 2 Jan 1890, col. 2; digital images, Find My Past (www.findmypast.com : accessed 5 Sep 2014), Historical Newspapers.))

Sadly, he passed away June 14th of that year. His wife and “life companion,” Sarah Ann Ellison Francisco, had passed away on September 9th the year before, and according to his obituary he had not been the same since that time. He was laid to rest next to her in Perseverance Cemetery as “Hand in hand they lived; side by side they rest in death.” ((“Sleep Comrade. Sleep,” The Ripley Journal, 19 Jun 1890, col. 4; digital images, Find My Past (www.findmypast.com : accessed 5 Sep 2014), Historical Newspapers.))

SOURCES:

Letters to Germany

At the turn of the century, (yikes!) I spent a lot of time in the Kaukauna Public Library snooping on the lives of the Fassbenders living a century ago. As I moved through the years scanning the Kaukauna Times, a weekly newspaper, I not only followed the lives of my Hollandtown ancestors, but would often print items that were about Outagamie County that interested me. It’s always about the background information to flesh out the two dimensional look at the people I am researching.

Kaukauna Times, 20 Apr 1917

Kaukauna Times, 20 Apr 1917

This past weekend I spent some time filing. Paper filing, electronic filing, it all needs to be done. While going through a file of paper, I found this item. The paper was dated April 20, 1917. What caught my eye, then, and now, was the headline: “No More Mail to Germany. Letters From United States to Germany Have Been Stopped.” No letters would be received or delivered until this “unpleasantness is over.” I can only imagine the fear, sadness, even heartbreak over this news. Although my Germany ancestors had been in this country for many decades by this time, they still had family and friends back in their homeland. Letters brought news of births, deaths, moves, and even the occasional plea for financial help. The sense of loss, and being cut off had to be acute. There was no longer any way to learn how family was faring during this awful war. How long would it be before the “president and the kaiser are again in a mood to shake hands?”

Germany formally surrendered on November 11, 1918, and the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war, was not signed until June 28, 1919. Over two years would go by with no news from home, or any way to get news to family. I wonder if the letters put into the “dead letter office” were ever delivered.

We live in such an age of instant news through 24 hour television, the internet, and telephones, both land line and cell, that allow us to keep in touch, with each other, and with what is going on in the world. Imagine waiting over two years for news from home.

Strength at Christmas

Tapper_Gretje_1890caMy great-great grandmother must have had to muster tremendous strength each year at Christmas time. Her name was Gretje Folkerts Mùller, and she was born October 15, 1835, in Bangstede, Hannover, Germany.1  She moved from this small community to the “big city” of Emden, Hannover, Germany in her early teens, to work for her eldest uncle as a maid.2 It was while living in the seaport of Emden, that she met and married, Albert Heinrich Klöfkorn, born June 4, 1833,3 a ships captain. Albert came from a long line of seagoing men, and he owned and captained a ship he had named Drei Schwestern, or Three Sisters. The couple married in Emden, on March 5, 1865, he was 31, Gretje was 29.4 Albert and Gretje would have four boys, all born in Emden. Johannes Warnerus, born May 18, 1865,5  Folkert, born July 22, 1866,6 Anton Herman, born February 14, 1868,7 and Heinrich Albertus, born March 11, 1870.8  I would like to think that they had a good marriage and a happy family life, although family legend, and some knowledge of the times, there was friction from the Klöfkorn family as this Lutheran woman married into their Catholic family.

December 1870, and Christmas was just around the corner. Albert was out at sea with load of grain. On December 20th, his ship went missing when it reached the point where the river Weser flows into the North Sea.9  Five days before Christmas, Gretje and her four boys, ages five to just six months old, were preparing their home for the birth of Christ, when word came that her husband’s ship was lost at sea. He was 37 years old. I can only imagine what that Christmas must have been like. The devastation. The despair.

I have no idea what Gretje did to survive the next years, how did she support her family? But I do know she was still in Emden in January 1872, when her eldest son Johannes tragically died a the age of six.10  She stayed in Emden for another year, before packing up her three sons and making the trip to the United States. Her younger brother, Johann (John) Folkert Müller was already residing in Lake County, Indiana, USA at this point in time, and letters had been going back and forth between them. It was on April 20, 1873 that she, along with her three sons boarded the S.S. America in Bremen, with a stop in Southhampton on May 3rd, before finally entering the New York harbor on May 16th. It was not an easy journey, as they had “experienced westerly winds with high seas the entire passage.” They traveled steerage, and numbered four of the 737 other passengers. It must have been a miserable trip.11  Reaching Castle Garden, they were noted on the manifest, dated May 16th, that entering the country were Aug H. Klöfkorn, age 38, Volkert Klöfkorn, age 7, Anton Klöfkorn, age 5, and Hinrich Klöfkorn, age 1.12 

There is not only the question as to why did she travel using her husband’s name, but she gave the ages for herself, and two of her children incorrectly. At the time that she sailed for America, Gretje was 37 years old, her son Folkert was 6, Anton 5, (correctly stated for the manifest), and Heinrich was 3. Family legend states that Heinrich died at sea. He is not noted on the manifest taken at Castle Garden as having died at sea, but if Gretje could pass him off as a one year old, he must have been a small, possibly sickly little boy. We lose all sight of him after his arrival in the United States.

Gretje and her sons headed across the country, most likely first stopping to rest at the home of her brother John in Indiana, before moving to Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. It was here on January 4, 1875, that she married Edzard Heinrich Tapper.13  Edzard was also from Ostriesland, Germany. Born about 1841, his roots, and actual age are a bit of a mystery. Edzard had emigrated in 1869, and was a general merchant. The couple first resided in Lansing, Cook Co., Illinois, before moving the family to Hammond, Lake Co., Indiana in 1879, where they set up a general merchandise store on two acres of land, at the corner of Hohman and Sibley Street.14

Fast forward to Christmas 1881. On December 20th, 40 year old Edzard headed into Chicago to attend to some “law business.”15 While he was in the city, he decided to stop in to see a dentist, the Sovereign Brothers, who were located at 107 Clark Street, and have his teeth extracted. (??!!) It was noted by the dentist that he appeared to be “under the influence of liquor,” so he at first declined to administer chloroform. Edzard insisted, a doctor was called to administer the drug and to monitor the patient during the extractions.16  Soon after the dentist began extracting the teeth, Edzard did not look “right,” and so he stopped. But unfortunately, it was too late, Edzard passed away from the effects of the chloroform.17

Two Christmases, eleven years apart. December 2oth. Two husbands. Two tragic, unexplained deaths.

I cannot imagine what she must have been thinking, feeling, that December 20, 1881, when news came from Chicago that her husband was dead. She must have had vivid flashbacks of another December 20th, when news came that her husband was lost at sea.

But she carried on (well what else could she do?), creating a sort of empire with her son Anton (Tony), my great-grandfather, out of the business she had started with Edzard, and later through real estate dealings. She passed away February 24, 1900, at the age of 64, and we believe that she is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Hammond, at the Tapper monument.

SOURCES:

  1. Ludwig Janssen Hans-Rudolf Manger and Harm Harms, editors, Die Familien der Kirchengemeinde Bangstede (1724-1900) (Aurich, Germany: n.p., 1987, 2nd edition 1994),  number 1353. Cit. Date: 20 Jul 2001.
  2. Compiled by the Miller Family, The Miller Family (Canada: Self Published, ca. 1970s),  from  a “Copy of paper written by John F. Miller in German.” Cit. Date: 20 Jul 2001.
  3. Janssen and Harms, Bangstede Ortssippenbücher (OSB),  number 1353. Cit. Date: 20 Jul 2001.
  4. ibid.
  5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009), entry for Johannes Warnerus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642478, Disk 126); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
  6. Database and images (www.vorfahrensuche.de : accessed 24 Jul 2001); 5 Sep 2008: no longer online. Cit. Date: 5 Sep 2008.
  7. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009), entry for Antonius Hermannus Kloefkorn (PIN 444161, Disk 90); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
  8. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009), entry for Hinrich Albertus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642585, Disk 126); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany.
  9. Karl-Heinz Wiechers, Und fuhren weit übers Meer. Volume 2: Die Häfen der Ems [And Drove Over the Sea. Vol. 2: Harbours of the river Ems] (ISBN: 3922365434), transcribed copy, received from  Gerriet Backer.  Cit. Date: 28 Feb 2000.
  10. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch, entry for Johannes Warnerus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642478, Disk 126). Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
  11. “Marine Intelligence. New York…Friday, May 16. Arrived.,” The New York Times, 17 May 1873, p. 12, col. 5-6; digital images, ProQuest Historical Newspapers (www.proquest.com : accessed 17 Feb 2006).
  12. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C., “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Oct 2004), Anton Klöfkorn; manifest for S.S. America, dated 16 May 1873.
  13. Illinois. Cook County, Vital Record: Illinois Certificate of Marriage, Volume 91, license number 19890.  Cit. Date: 11 Oct 1999.
  14. The Hammond Daily News, editor, Hammond Indiana, Industrial Edition of The Hammond Daily News (Hammond, Indiana: The Hammond Daily News, December 1904),  21. Cit. Date: 27 Feb 2002.
  15. “THE CITY ~ The Chloroform Victim,” (Chicago) The Chicago Tribune, 24 Dec 1881, Saturday, p. 8. Cit. Date: 30 Nov 2004.
  16. F. J. S. Gorgas M.D., D.D.S. and James B. Hodgkins D.D.S., editors, The American Journal of Dental Science (Baltimore, Maryland: Snowden & Cowman, 1882), Vol. 15, Third Series: 409-416. Cit. Date: 2 Sep 2009.
  17. ibid.