A Perfect Wedding

Horseshoe Bay, Door County, Wisconsin

Horseshoe Bay, Door County, Wisconsin

Yesterday, we had the privilege to witness the marriage vows of the daughter of dear friends of ours. The family moved into the house next door 19 years ago, when the bride was just five years old. It was a beautiful day, unlike this morning as I sit here listening to, and watching the pouring rain.

The wedding took place in Egg Harbor, Door County, Wisconsin. For most couples this would be considered a destination wedding, but as the bride’s family has owned property in Door County for years, it was home. The wedding was perfect. It has been a very long time since we have attended a wedding where as much detail and thought went into the ceremony, as into the reception. It was a ceremony filled with love – love for each other, for family, and love of God. This theme was followed through as we settled in for a delicious meal, and listened to the loving words that each of the fathers, the bride’s brother, and their attendants shared with the couple, and with us.

Obviously I enjoyed myself. The beautiful setting of Door County, and the Horseshoe Bay Golf Club, created a mini vacation for us. But all of this beauty is not the reason for this post, the sharing of love on the other hand is the reason for the post.

In the month of July we lost three family members. One too early from cancer, and the other two, a brother and sister, who had lived long and fulfilling lives. Sitting through the funerals, one thought kept coming back to me – how sad, that while the priests did their best, but because they did not know the deceased well, if at all in this day of combined parishes, they missed the boat as to how amazing these people were. Or they just rambled on with platitudes to fill time.

By contrast, yesterday I sat listening to the priest from Stella Maris parish give a meaningful homily for this young couple that he barely knew. He has a strategy that I wish would be used for funerals, and for weddings. He prefaced his homily by stating that as his parish was a destination wedding spot, he in a sense, vetted each couple to see if they were indeed ready for this important sacrament. As part of the process he asked each of them to write down five words that described themselves, five words that described their fiancé/fiancée, plus answer other questions that forced the couple to look at themselves, and to look at their intended. The homily then was built around the answers that he received. The result was meaningful, humorous, and at times touching, for not only the couple, but to those of us witnessing their wedding.

As I listened, I couldn’t help but think that if this model was used as part of the funeral preparation, funerals would be much more meaningful. And I bet it would ease a lot of the stress of creating a homily about a person you never knew. When meeting with the family at the time of planning, asking them to each list five words that described their loved one, would give a much more rounded and personal view of the deceased. I know that I would have appreciated this approach as funerals for immediate family members had been prepared.

Weddings and funerals. It may be because I am a genealogist and family historian that I want to hear something meaningful. Something about the couple/person that I can take away from the day, and ponder.

Yesterday gave me much to think about.


My Genealogy Bucket List

The site of Doctor's Hospital, NYC

The site of Doctor’s Hospital, NYC

I was born in New York City, in a hospital that is now a high rise condo building, and was baptized in church that has since been razed, and parts of it placed in a chapel that is a few blocks away from the original site. Although the apartment building we lived in is still standing, it has now been condoized (is that a word?) It’s not my parents New York City!

My first visit to New York took place over my 25th birthday. Gary and I were there to attend the Eastern Dairy Deli Association conference and show. My mother asked us to walk by our old apartment at 649 2nd Avenue, so that she could see what it looked now, 25  years later. She said upon seeing this image that the building looked the same. Although I am sure I did not!

649 2nd Avenue, NYC. October 1987

649 2nd Avenue, NYC. October 1987

It would be another 25 years before I would have the opportunity to visit the “site” of my baptism. By this time the church, the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which had been built in the Greek Revival style in 1915 at 307 East 33rd Street, had been razed. It had been closed in January 2007, merging with the Church of Our Lady of the Scapular-St. Stephen, and was razed in 2008.

A small chapel dedicated to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary was opened in May 2009. It is located at 325 East 33rd Street. According to the church website, the statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Sacred Heart of Mary as well as those of St. Jude and St. Anthony are from the old church, as is the “baptismal font and the copper cross above it are from the church. Within the worship space on the north wall is the restored painting of the Sacred Heart. There are six restored and backlit leaded glass windows on the east and west walls that were originally in the church. The altar was created by using central panels from the side altars of the church along with some new marble pieces. The cross with corpus that hangs on the reredos as well as the electronic organ were also taken from the church.”

Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, NYC

Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, NYC

In 2012 as Hurricane Sandy was gathering strength, we headed south from our daughter’s apartment on East 93rd Street, to walk past the apartment (completely hidden by construction on 2nd Avenue) towards the chapel. We were lucky in that the chapel was open, but we didn’t have much time to look around as they were ready to lock up for the day. I snapped a few pictures, but was unable at that time to ask about the origins, or even photograph the baptismal font. We were able to get some nice shots of the chapel courtyard.

Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary

The day we visited the chapel was Saturday, October 27, 2012. As I mentioned earlier, we had no idea how strong, and exactly IF Hurricane Sandy would hit New York. At this point in time, we assumed that we would still be able to enjoy my birthday, celebrating on my actual day of the week, and date of birth, and be able to get on the plane home early Monday morning.

Well we soon learned that we would have to make other plans. As this was our first trip together to New York to visit Kate, we had turned in hotel points for the weekend visit. Kate was living in a very small

Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, NYC, 27 Oct 2012

Chapel of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, NYC, 27 Oct 2012

studio apartment. Space was limited, and we had assumed that we wouldn’t be able to comfortably sleep three in the apartment. Gary and I got up early Monday expecting to be able to get to the airport, but no flights were going out of LaGuardia. So we hightailed it up to our daughter’s apartment, knowing that if we waited too long we might not get a cab. We spent the next five nights living together, sleeping Tetris style, between her twin bed, a twin air mattress, and the floor.

It was an adventure. It was actually kind of fun. Well, fun for us as we were not in the flood zone, we did not lose power – although we watched transformers blow to the north of us, and we watched on TV as lower Manhattan flooded – and we had enough food and wine. We learned on this trip that

Tetris style sleeping arrangements

Tetris style sleeping arrangements

we could easily spend a visit staying all together, in a small apartment in Manhattan.

As part of my Genealogy Bucket List, I did want pictures of the baptismal font. Kate was kind enough to head down to the chapel and snap a couple of pictures for me. Thanks Kate!

Next on the Bucket List is to see if the original St. Francis font is still in the church in the Hollandtown church. This font would have been used to baptize my father-in-law and all of his siblings, and also would have been used for Gary and his brothers.

Baptismal Font, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, NYC

Baptismal Font, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, NYC

Baptismal Font, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, NYC

Baptismal Font, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, NYC

The Cook Peony

Cook Peony Blossom

Family lore states that when the Cooks left Stockbridge, Calumet, Wisconsin in the late 1870s they took clippings of the peonies that were growing on the property. We know that they did like peonies, as they can be seen in later Cook photos taken in Unity, Marathon, Wisconsin.

As far back as my memory goes, my paternal grandmother lived in one side of a duplex that she owned in Neenah, Winnebago, Wisconsin. As with most homes where the driveway marches closely to the house leading to a detached garage, there was a strip garden next to the house. Included in this small garden was an enormous red peony plant. Again, family lore tells the tale that this was an actual clipping of the peony that grew on the Cook property in Stockbridge. While I cannot speak to that, as we would have to analyze what variety of peony grew in Wisconsin during that time period, and was this that variety of peony,  I can state that when my mother and I left the duplex for the last time that May day in 1986 following my grandmother’s death, we made the decision to dig up the peony, the Cook Peony.

Cook Peony

The Cook Peony

I may never know if this peony can be dated back to the 1800s, but I can attest to the fact that this peony, which was included in every garden during my grandparents years in Wausau, Marathon, Wisconsin during the 1930s, moved with them to Nicolet Blvd. in Menasha, Winnebago, Wisconsin, and then on to my grandmother’s 1960s duplex, has now lived in a garden at my parents home since 1986. And in addition, a transplant has been happily multiplying here in my own garden since the late 1990s. That is still an old peony.

A “Shiny!” Distraction

This past weekend I became distracted. Headed off onto another path, and away from my intended goal. But that’s o.k. On Saturday I gave a talk about land records at the Menasha Public Library. It went well, and we ended with a great give and take conversation, with everyone sharing their own experiences in the archives and with the records. I had included in one of my slides the Campbell homestead, and in the course of the talk mentioned that not everyone was able to identify a home as still standing, and still being lived in by the descendants of the builder – in this case his great-grandson. At the end of the talk I was asked to go back to that slide, and a woman asked me whose house it was. When I told her she said “that’s MY family!” I had found a cousin of my husband’s. She is only just starting her search on this side of the family, and does not have any photos. Thus my distraction. Since Saturday I have been hunting and gathering and preparing photos and information to share with her. So much fun to have seen her face when I showed her a picture I had in the Dawson file, and she clasped her hands and said “that’s my dad!”

Hubert and Henry. The Fassbenders, the Cheese, and Wisconsin

Hubert and Henry, ca 1930

Hubert and Henry, ca 1930

Hubert and Henry are the youngest sons of Peter and Elizabeth (Nettekoven) Fassbender, and it would be their youngest sons who would embrace the cheese industry, making it their life work. The boys were just 12 and seven in 1887, the year that Peter began making cheese, and so you could say that they “grew up in the business.”

As I have mulled over the “how” of telling their story, I have decided that I will try to run their experiences in a parallel manner, year to year. The reason is that because their stories intertwine, even in the early years before they were successful business men operating factories just 7 miles apart. Hubert owning and operating the South Kaukauna Dairy Co., and Henry, owning and operating White Clover Dairy. The problem? Their preference for using their initials instead of their full names. Granted, most often Henry would include his middle initial “J” going by H. J. Fassbender, while Hubert would use H. Fassbender, there was still confusion.

Early in my research I was lucky enough to have gotten to know Hubert and Henry’s nephew, Arthur Ellenbecker. Arthur passed away shortly after his 100th birthday in 2003, having shared many stories with me, but leaving me wanting to know more. Arthur is the son of Elizabeth (Fassbender) Ellenbecker Tatro. Elizabeth was the middle sister of Hubert and Henry having been born in 1877, and the three were close as siblings and friends. Arthur admired his uncles “Hoobert” and “Henery,” and he also worked for Hubert in the 1930s. His life story is a part of this story that I will attempt to tell.

This will not be a definitive work, as I have not yet gone to Madison and gone through the incorporation documents, and other items that may be filed with the company records. It is on my list of To Dos, but I do not think that the story will be any less for not knowing these details. As for details, the life of Henry will appear to be more rich with information, but that is because the Hollandtown community section, or what I like to call the “gossip” column, which frequently reported on his comings and goings. Whereas Hubert lived a much more quiet life in the larger community of Appleton. But I have plenty of information for my tale.

The Early Years. The Fassbenders, the Cheese, and Wisconsin

I was wrong. I thought that because I had been researching this topic since 1998, that it would be a SNAP to write the story up to oh, say 1918. I was wrong, because even during these early years there is this strange entwining of names, and the question of which man is this story referring to? But to continue the tale.

Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender was born and raised in Oedekoven, Rhine Province, Germany.  In 1856 at the age of  18, he emigrated to Wisconsin, settling with his mother and step-father in Granville, Milwaukee Co., Wisconsin. In 1862 he married the “girl next door” Elizabeth Nettekoven, the Nettekoven’s having settled on the land adjacent to Peter’s family. During their first year of marriage, Peter and Elizabeth lived on a rented farm in the Milwaukee area before packing their ox-cart and making their way north to Outagamie County. When I first read about their five day journey, I had what I thought was an insane image of them walking up Highway 41, but looking at this David Rumsey map of Wisconsin dated 1855, I see I was not too far off.

1889 Plat Section

Foote, C. M. 1849-1899. (Charles M.); Brown, Walter S. / Plat book of Outagamie County, Wisconsin

They made the decision to settle in the town of Ellington, Outagamie County, and on November 12, 1863, Peter purchased a sixty acre plat for $950.00 in Section 25.1  Peter worked hard cultivating the land so that it would be in good condition for his crops. In 1868 he added an adjoining 40 acres of Section 26 to the original 60, and in 1883 purchased an additional 40 acres in Section 24, creating a total of 140 acres of good rich farm land.2

Peter and Elizabeth were blessed with nine children. Anna born in 1865, John Mathias 1866, Joseph Peter 1868, Conrad Henry 1869, Mary Francis 1871, Hubert 1875, Elizabeth Mary 1877, Henry John 1880, and Maggie, who was born in 1882. Six lived to adulthood as they lost Conrad in 1869, Mary Francis in 1871, and their youngest daughter, Maggie, the summer of 1900.

As Peter decided to add cheese manufacturing to his mix of business, he enlisted all four of his surviving sons to work with him in the factory, and this allowed him to expand until he was running three factories as part of his family business. His eldest son, John, began working at age 16 as a laborer for cheese factories in the area. He returned home in 1887 when his father built his first factory, remaining with him till 1890 when he “embarked on the business himself, conducting a factory for five years.” In 1895 John married and soon moved to Appleton “where the next five years were spent in various occupations” until 1902 when he returned to farming, purchasing land in Black Creek, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin.3 While John lived in Appleton for those five years, I believe he must have retained ownership of the factory, as I find him listed as “John Fastbinder” in the Biennial Report of the Dairy and Food Commissioner of Wisconsin, as owning and operating an unnamed cheese factory in Greenville, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin in 1899.4

Peter’s second son, Joseph’s first love was for the land, and although he spent time working in the factories, he soon returned to farming. He “always remained on the home place, of which he took charge at the age of thirty years, and three years later he bought the land.”5 He married in 1902, and remained on the family farm for the remainder of his life.

Peter’s youngest sons were Hubert and Henry John. Funny, I have yet to find a middle name for Hubert, although I have found reference to the letter “F”  being used. Hubert and Henry literally grew up with their father making cheese in addition to farming, and the cheese industry became their chosen profession, both men owning and operating successful factories in the Fox River Valley. This is their story.


  1. “Wisconsin, Outagamie County Records, 1825-1980,” images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 01 Apr 2014), Land and Property > Deed record, 1863-1864, vol. 16 > image 416 of 609; citing Outagamie County Courthouse, Appleton.
  2. Thomas H. Ryan, History of Outagamie County Wisconsin (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911), 767.
  3. Thomas H. Ryan, History of Outagamie County Wisconsin. (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911), 764-765.
  4. Wisconsin. Dairy and Food Commission, Biennial Report of the Dairy and Food Commissioner of Wisconsin. (Michigan: University of Michigan, 1899) : accessed 26 Mar. 2014.
  5. Ryan, History of Outagamie County, 923-924.