Category: Fassbender

Schafkopf in the Afternoon

When Peter Fassbender at age 62 moved to Appleton in 1901 to “take life easy,” [1] 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.” [2]

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.” [3]

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.” [4]

Appleton Post-Crescent, 9 Aug 1921

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 news 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.” [5]

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:

  1. “Old Timers,” (AppletonAppleton Review, 10 Oct 1930, p. 2, col. 1-2. Cit. Date: 23 Oct 1998.
  2. ibid.
  3. “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.
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid.

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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.

A Story Too Late

As a genealogist you get used to discovering stories about family long after they are gone. Most of the time it is enough to just know the story, to fill in voids in the family history. But every once in a while, you discover a story that you wish, oh you wish, that you had known before it was too late. This is one such story.

The St. Francis Schut is a Hollandtown tradition that dates back to 1849. It was originally held on the “Schut Grounds” near St. Francis on the second Sunday in August. As the Schut grounds are located so close to the road that leads into Hollandtown, the event has been moved to a clay shooting range, and the original grounds left as a historic spot. The Schut in a nutshell is you have the “bird” that has been placed on a high pole, and the participants/shooters take turns shooting directly at the bird till the last piece is shot down, and the King is crowned. Then everyone heads to Van Abels for dinner. Don’t yell, I said it was a nutshell version.

Fassbender_Bernard_1920-06-17_Kaukauna-Times
The Kaukauna Times, dated 17 Jun 1920

In 1920 the Schut was held June, and as happened every year, it was a popular event, cars and other “machines” lined the road. My father-in-law, Butch, was seven years old that summer and was playing with friends alongside the road. We know from newspaper articles that Henry was a frequent participant in the Schut, so it is likely that the whole family was at the Schut grounds enjoying a Sunday with friends and neighbors. According to this newspaper report, Albert Haas came down the road at a “high rate of speed” and as he moved through the pathway left by the parked cars “swerv[ed] sharply narrowly missing three youngsters and in the consequence struck Bernard.” The article states that no bones were broken, and no internal injuries, but he was badly bruised.

Oh how I wish that I had found this in time to ask him about it. So many questions unanswered. Did the family know Albert Haas? Did he take responsibility for his actions? Granted Butch and his friends probably should not have been playing near the road, but Albert should have known to slow down when passing the Schut, and I find it hard to believe that other people were not standing in or near the road. But mostly I wonder how he felt, how long did it take for him to recover, were there any lasting effects from the accident.