The Fassbenders, the Cheese, and Wisconsin

1926ca - Milk Cans

I first started researching this topic in 1998 at the request of my father-in-law who wished to know more about his grandparents. It still saddens me that he did not live to enjoy my findings, but even more so, that I was unable to discuss the stories, and to ask what he remembered about the events that I was uncovering. The prompt to blog this history is the fact that these stories are disappearing. That the successful cheese factories that were built by the Fassbender men and later sold to large corporations have had the story of their origin either altered or deleted from the company history. I can’t let that happen.

Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender had been residing in Ellington Township, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin for approximately 9 years when in 1872 he decided to enter the cheese and butter manufacturing business. He chose a site across the road from the family home to build his first factory. By 1887 the factory had a capacity of 11,000 pounds of milk per day, which Peter obtained by purchasing milk from his farming neighbors, and from 24 of his own cows. Peter’s eldest son, John, returned home to work along side his father. As a 20 year old, he was an experienced cheesemaker, having worked in various cheese factories since the age of 16. [1]  Peter also enlisted the help of 19 year old Joseph, and two years later in 1889, 14 year old Hubert joined the family business. [2]  Showing remarkable skill and interest in the making of cheese, Hubert would be in “full charge of the factory” by the time he turned 16 in 1891. [3]  It was at this time that John left his father’s factory and “embarked on the business himself, conducting a factory for five years.” [4]  The youngest son, Henry, was not yet born when his father began making cheese and butter, so he literally grew up in the factory and would follow in his elder brothers footsteps, and in time become a cheesemaker in his own right.


  1. Thomas H. Ryan, History of Outagamie County Wisconsin (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911), 764.
  2. Ryan, History of Outagamie County, 958.
  3. The Appleton Post-Crescent, “Rotary Club Hears Talk On Creamery Business.” 18 April 1929.
  4. Ryan, History of Outagamie County, 765.

Mrs. Lizzie Campbell and the St. Joseph’s Union

St. Joseph's Union

My mother-in-law, Marie, kept a treasure box. Buried deep in the attic of her home I found an old Whitman’s candy box, and inside the box was a treasure trove of Holy Cards. Holy Cards that she had received as gifts, as rewards for good behavior, and some she just saved because they were pretty. In amongst these treasures from the 1930s, I found a different sort of card. This card lacked the pretty coloration of the rest of the collection. Turning it over I was amazed and delighted to discover that it was a card that had belonged to Marie’s grandmother, Elizabeth Bradley Campbell who had passed away in September 1900 at the age of 43, leaving a husband and eight children behind. A son Stephen had died of pneumonia just three years before in 1897.

The back of the card stated that Mrs. Lizzie Campbell was a member of the St. Joseph’s Union. This was her certificate of membership, “…having paid 25 cents, [approximately $6.80 in today’s money] the Annual Subscription for the ‘Homeless Child,’ is a Member of St. Joseph’s Union until March 1, 1898.”

Membership Card

The card goes on to state: “The object of this Union is the protection of homeless and destitute children, and the spiritual and temporal welfare of all subscribers to the ‘Homeless Child.’ His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII on the 27th day of February, 1883, graciously granted exclusively and for ever to the Members of St. Joseph’s Union (established by Father Drumgoole in the year 1876) and Indulgence of 400 days to Members who recite twice a day, the following prayer…”

Who was Father Drumgoole, and what WAS St. Joseph’s Union? Setting out on a websearch, I was surprised at how much information could be found about Fr. Drumgoole. While not all sites mentioned St. Joseph’s Union, it was clear that he was the patron for homeless news boys in New York City. This site is I feel is particularly good for background information:, and to read the full life story of Fr. Drumgoole, this book published in 1954 looks to be an easy read: Children’s Shepherd, The Story of John Christopher Drumgoole.

1900-St-Marys Hilbert

The goal of the St. Joseph’s Union was to raise awareness and money throughout the United States and the world. This small card is evidence that this goal was achieved. The Campbells lived on a farm just outside of the small town of Hilbert, Calumet Co., Wisconsin, and attended church in Hilbert, where the Rev. Father Rhode was pastor. I would love to understand how he promoted the society to his predominately German congregation.

Till the End of Time

This post was not part of the original blog “The Aroma of Bread,” but I think that it belongs catalogued with these posts.

As we continue to work on preparing my in-laws home for sale, rooms are cleaned out and items tossed or prepared for the estate sale. Last night I attacked a box of sheet music that had resided in the attic for decades. Not being able to resist, I started sorting through the pages. I hadn’t gone too deeply into the box when I hit gold! My mother-in-laws piano report card from when she was 16 years old and taking lessons back to back with her brother Arthur. Marie on piano, Arthur on violin.

The next item to make my heart sing was the 1945 piano music for “Till the End of Time.” I had chosen this song to end the video I made about two years ago to honor my in-laws. How many people are lucky enough to possess moving images from a wedding that took place in 1946? I chose the song hoping that it had been a favorite, but figuring that I would never know. But last night I learned that they did enjoy this song. I still think it is a perfect way to end the video.

St. Francis Catholic Church Our Favorite Recipes, 1988, p.90

It’s a Google World

It is hard to remember the internet without the term “Well just Google it!” What a difference it has made in our lives, and in our genealogy.

I recently began working on a revised edition of my book about the Fassbenders, and one sleepless morning I attacked the pages of the book that chronicle their lives in Oedekoven, Germany. It had been a few years since I had Googled Oedekoven, and wanting to beef up the early history section of the book, I started an intense Google search. Knowing the Fassbenders had been Roman Catholic for “as far back as can be traced,” [1] I was looking closely at the history of the Catholic church in the region. My morning Google search showed me that the small chapel built in Oedekoven in 1756 was only large enough for private prayer, so regular church attendance in 1856 still occurred at St. Lawrence in Lessenich. This confirmed why all of the baptism, marriage and death records were recorded in this nearby village. Wikipedia, translated from its German page, gave me an insight into the chapel, now called St. Mary’s Marriage.

1904 St. Mary's Marriage

Later that morning as I was heading down to our lower level, I stopped on the landing to look at a chalk drawing that I received from Peter Fassbender’s grandson, Arthur. The drawing was done in 1904 by an unnamed cousin of Peter’s. Looking at the drawing I let out a gasp! For up in the hills sat the exact chapel that I had been learning about during my Google morning.

If you haven’t Googled an ancestor’s homeland in a while, do so, I bet you will be amazed at what has been uploaded since you last searched.


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

It’s a New Day

I have started my journey with a new website platform. Moving the site to WordPress allows me the freedom to update and blog whenever, and wherever I may be. I am no longer chained to just one computer located in a static location. I am looking forward to the freedom this allows me!