Tag: Oedekoven, Germany

Fassbenders at Tempelhof Manor

I was introduced to Robert Thomas’ book Geschichte des Ortes und der Bügermeisterei Oedekoven: History of the Village and Borough of Oedekoven1 in 1999, but it is only recently that I have been able to actually see the pages. And while the book answers many questions, it also raises so many more.

During a 1999 visit with Arthur Ellenbecker, grandson of Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender, he stated that before his marriage, his great-grandfather, Johann Fasbender, had lived in an apartment behind the “third upper window from the right” of Tempelhof Manor. 

Thomas states through Google Translate: “Several generations of the Faßbender family subsequently lived in the former Tempelhof, the part of the manor house with the chapel, while the part of the farm belonged to the Raes family. The merchant Bel, also known as Mair von Oedekoven in French times, still lived as a landowner on the Tempelhof in 1825, but may have given up his ownership of the former Tempelhof in Oedekoven shortly afterwards.”2

The paragraph previous to the one above tells of the French needing to sell land “due to great financial needs.” In 1804 they sold a house and a field to Th. Faßbender, and a house, garden, vineyard, and a meadow to P. Schmitz. In 1808 the French sold Tempelmühle, Tempelhof manor, the chapel, fields, vineyards, and meadows to Joseph Bel. [Blog post: Tempelhof Manor and Tempelmühle aka Belsmühle]

Writing about the Tempelmühle, Thomas writes of the sale of the mill to Joseph Bel, and states that the property “remained in the possession of the Bel family throughout the French administration and up to the present day [1978].”3 He even runs through the generations of ownership, ending with the fact that the last generation to run the mill was married in 1906 and that his daughter was the present [1978] owner, and the mill “is now used only as a residence.”4

Tennessen family legend states that Mathias Tönnessen worked for Joseph Bel as his chauffeur and “chief-hunter” in the years before Joseph’s death. Mathias was only 14 years old when Joseph passed away.5

To summarize without conclusion:

April 1808 – Joseph Bel purchases Tempelhof Manor including the chapel, fields, vineyards, meadows, and the Tempelmühle.

May 1808 – Joseph Bel marries Anna Maria Schweikart.

1814-1816 – Bel is the mayor of Oedekoven.

1825 – according to Thomas, this is the last time Bel is noted in documents as the owner of Tempelhof Manor and Chapel.

After 1825 – Speculation that Bel gave up his ownership of the Tempelhof.

1830 – Joseph and Anna Maria’s 4th born child, Carl Michael marries Maria Gertrud Löltgen and took over the role of Miller at Tempelmühle.

1837 – Joseph Bel dies in Oedekoven.

1838 – Johann Faßbender and Salome Barbara Bel marry in Oedekoven.

1838 – Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender is born in Oedekoven.

1843 – Johann passes away in Oedekoven.

1848 – Salome Barbara Bel Faßbender marries Mathias Tönnessen in Oedekoven.

1856 – Mathias Tönnessen, Salome, Peter Fassbender, Henry and Philip Tönnessen emigrate to Wisconsin, United States.

1857 – Anna Maria Schweikart Bel passes away in Poppelsdorf.

1860 – Salome dies in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

1864 – A fire at Tempelhof destroys the courtyard and damages the chapel.

1864 – The chapel is decommissioned, a “figure of Mary” and the altar is moved to the Oedekoven chapel, St. Mary’s Marriage.

January-March 1899 – Peter Fassbender returns to Oedekoven for a visit.

Did Joseph leave Tempelhof Manor and move his residence to Tempelmühle, hiring Mathias Tönnessen as his chauffeur and “chief-hunter?” Did the Fassbender family subsequently move into the manor, Johann’s room being behind the “third upper window from the right?

And then there is this image from the Robert Thomas book. The caption reads: “Owner family of the former Tempelhof around 1900.”6 The photo can be found elsewhere with this Google Translated caption: “Tempelhof, the family who owned it, turned to the photographer around 1900. In the background the former chapel of the Tempelhof. Photo from the private archive of Heinrich Arenz, Oedekoven.”7 I have cropped it to focus on just one figure. I am not saying that this is Peter Fassbender (who was home for three months in 1899), but it could be. But if not, the family resemblance is strong.

PS: I HATE how large these photos are, but for now I have to go with it.


  1. Robert Thomas, Geschichte des Ortes und der Bügermeisterei .Oedekoven: History of the Village and Borough of Oedkeoven (N.p.: Hrsg. von Gemeinde Alfter/Pfarrgemeinde St. Laurentius, Lessenich, 1978). ↩︎
  2. Thomas, Geschichte des Ortes und der Bügermeisterei Oedekoven, p. 92. ↩︎
  3. ibid, p. 233. ↩︎
  4. ibid, p. 234. ↩︎
  5. Roger Tennessen, email to Susan Sternitzky Fassbender, 2001. ↩︎
  6. Thomas, Geschichte des Ortes und der Bügermeisterei Oedekoven, p. 89. ↩︎
  7. https://heimatverein-oedekoven.de/jahre-bis-1945/ : accessed 1 Jul 2023. ↩︎

Johann F. Faßbender and Salome Barbara Bel

Johann F. Faßbender was born February 2, 1811, the sixth of seven known children born to Johann and Maria Apollonia Stüsser. Then as now, the birth needed to be recorded with the government officials. The very next day Johann, “age fifty-four years farm-worker living at Oedecoven” trudged through the early morning chill with his newborn son (the average February temperature for Oedekoven is 37°F). He appeared before the mayor of Oedekoven to present the child, declaring his name as Johann. [1]

Very little is known about the life that Johann and Maria Apollonia led. We know that they were successful farmers who made sure their children received an education and served as needed in the German army. Johann was also a skilled artisan. A 1921 article published in Wisconsin newspapers, tells of a snuff-box, given to his grandson while on a visit home to Germany in 1901. [2] “The cover is inlaid with mosaic work which represents two robins on a bough tree. The stones are no larger than a point of a pin and a magnifying glass has to be used to distinguish them. [3] The snuff box remained in the family until sometime in the 1940s when it was sold. [4]

Born October 19, 1812, in Oedekoven, Salome Barbara Bel was the fifth of ten known children born to Joseph Guilleaume Bel and Anna Maria Schweikart. 

Joseph passed away September 12, 1837, at age 66, [5] and so did not live to see his daughter Salome marry Johann F. Fassbender a few months later on Thursday, April 19, 1838. At 10:00 a.m. 27-year-old Johann and 25-year-old Salome appeared before the mayor of Oedekoven requesting to be married. They arrived with the required proof that they had posted the announcement of their wish to marry on the main door of the town hall on April 8, and again on April 15, 1838, and that no “contradiction against this marriage had been brought.” The mayor confirmed that Johann had been born on February 2, 1911, Salome on October 19, 1812, that the father of the groom had died on January 12, 18135, and the father of the bride on September 12, 1837. After the “co-present mothers of the bridal pair” agreed to the marriage, the mayor read aloud the vouchers, and “the sixth chapter of the marriage-title of the Civil Code.” He then asked Johann and Salome if they were willing to marry each other, and upon receiving an affirmative reply, he announced them “together legally married.” 

The chapel at Behlsmühle

Joining them in the mayor’s office, and acting as witnesses, were Johann’s brothers, 28-year-old Adolph, and 31-year-old Theodor, both stating their profession as “farmers in Oedekoven,” and Salome’s brothers, 27-year-old carl, profession, farmer, and 29-year-old Joseph Ignatz, who was an innkeeper in Duisdorf. Signing the marriage document was the bridal couple, Salome’s mother, Anna Schweikart, and the four witnesses. “The mother of the new husband declared not able to read and write. [6] As was the custom, Salome and Johann had their marriage blessed by the Catholic Church. This blessing occurred in the family chapel at Tempelhof Manor. [7]

Johann and Salome started married life with great hope and promise. Their first child was born on December 22, 1838. [8] One can only imagine how cold it must have been, when two days later at 9:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Johann arrived at the office of the mayor of Oedekoven and “presented to [him] a child of male sex,” declaring they were giving him the first names: Peter Joseph Hubert. Acting as witnesses were his brother, Heinrich, and Johann Lommerzheim.

Over the next five years, two more children would be born to the couple, but neither survived to adulthood. Nothing is known about these children other than what was included in published biographies about their brother, Peter. “She [Salome] was the mother of three children, all of whom are dead save our subject Peter Fassbender…”[9] and “…[Peter] is the only survivor of three children born to John and Salome Fassbender, the former of whom died in 1843 in Germany, leaving three children, of whom Peter is the only survivor.” [10]

The day before Peter’s fifth birthday, December 21, 1843, Johann died. The civil record that records his death does not include any details as to the cause of death. Witnesses to the death record were Heinrich Faßbender, and Johann Lommerzheim, the same men to act as witnesses to the birth of Peter just five years earlier.


  1.  Oedekoven, Administrative District Cologne, Germany, “Births,” 1811, No. 23, 12th Certificate of Birth,  Johann Fasbender. Cit. Date: Apr 1999. 
  2. I believe that the trip referred to in this story was made in 1899, not 1901 as I have yet to find a trip made that year.
  3. “Has Snuff Box More Than 100 Years Old,” The Capital Times, 10 Feb 1921, p. 3, col. 7; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspapersarchive.com : accessed 6 Nov 2002).
  4. Interview with Arthur Ellenbecker, by Susan C. Fassbender, Appleton, Wisconsin, 6 Dec 2002. 
  5. Administrative District Cologne, Germany, Certificate of Marriage,  “Fasbender to Bel, 1838, No. 7”. Cit. Date: 6 Oct 1999.
  6. Administrative District Cologne, Germany, Certificate of Marriage, “Fasbender to Bel, 1838, No. 7”; Community Oedekoven, Circle Bonn; Schloß Augustusburg, Brühl. Cit. Date: 6 Oct 1999; translated by Karl Wüllenweber.
  7. Interview with Arthur Ellenbecker by Susan C. Fassbender, 10 Aug 1999, Appleton, Wisconsin.
  8. Oedekoven, Administrative District Cologne, Germany, “Births,” 1838, no: 139,  Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender; Schloß Augustusburg, Brühl. Cit. Date: 29 Sep 1999.
  9.  J. H. Beers & Co., editor, Commemorative Biographical Record of the Fox River Valley Counties of Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and of Many of the Early Settled Families., 2 (1895; reprint, Chicago, Illinois: J. H. Beers & Co., 2004), volume I: 570.
  10.  Thomas H. Ryan, History of Outagamie County Wisconsin (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911), 924.

Tempelhof Manor and Tempelmühle aka Belsmühle

REVISED 17 Jul 2023

This post was first written and published with the title “Behlsmühle,” on July 23, 2021 – just about two years ago. I published it knowing that there was a piece of the puzzle missing. I could not match the map showing the location of the mill with the chalk picture shown below. Where were the hills leading up to the chapel? But what was the answer? A few weeks ago I was contacted by a generous man who lives in Oedekoven, and he kindly assisted me in sorting it out. Setting me straight. 

So let’s begin again.

“Peter Fassbender Received This Picture From his Cousin. 1904 From Germany”

I was introduced to Tempelhof Manor in 1999 while visiting with Arthur Ellenbecker, the grandson of the Fassbender patriarch and immigrating ancestor, Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender. As we sat talking in his home – the very home his grandparents purchased when they “retired” in 1901 to Appleton, Outagamie, Wisconsin – he stood up to take a picture off his wall. We immediately offered to assist him, but he brushed off the help stating that it wasn’t heavy, as he had dropped it a while back and the glass had broken. 

Handing the framed image to us, he continued with the story. We had been talking about his great-grandparents, Johann Faßbender and Salome Barbara Bel. The image he handed us was a chalk drawing of the property in Oedekoven, Germany, owned by his maternal great-great-grandfather, Joseph Bel. Arthur told us that before his marriage, his great-grandfather, Johann, had lived in an apartment behind the “third upper window from the right.”

The property was known as Tempelhof Manor.

The manor originally belonged to the Hospital of St. John and St. Cordula in Cologne run by the monks of the Johannites. The monks were descendants of the Tempel-Knights who operated many hospitals along the roads leading to the Holy Land and the Temple of Jerusalem. The history of this property is long and filled with land leases of the vineyards and farmland, the French conquering the Rhineland during the French Revolution [1789-1799], and confiscating the property of the churches and monasteries of the region.

But the house…

The two-story manor house is the oldest part of the building, being built with “field-fired bricks with window embrasures in house stones.” The chapel was added in 1755 and was consecrated that same year. In 1756 the farmyard with a large gateway was constructed. Using the same materials as the manor house, the two-story building had a cellar for the storage of wine and fruit. A keystone was placed on the basket arch gateway, showing the arms of the Knights of St. John, and included the date, 1752 [7?]1. The agricultural area surrounding the property was large, including 12 1/2 acres of “arable” land, four acres of vineyards, and one acre of meadow.2

The French held Tempelhof Manor and other properties as a veterans’ endowment until first in 1804 and then again in 1808 when the lands were sold at public auction. In 1808 on July 21st, Joseph Bel, a merchant from Bonn, purchased for the sum of 48,400 francs, Tempelhof Manor and the Chapel, and Tempelmuhle a seed oil mill a short distance away on the Hardtbach River.  Included in his purchase were 22.17 hectares of field, 1.66 hectares of vineyards, and 2.85 hectares of meadows. One hectare equals 2.471 acres.3

In 1812, while the French were still in power, Joseph became “Mair von Oedekoven,” and was mayor of the 14 villages that comprised the Borough of Oedekoven. He held this position for two years.4

Joseph did not live to see his daughter Salome Barbara marry Johann Faßbender on April 19, 1838, as he died at age 66, six months before the marriage, on September 12, 1837.5 His later years had been spent as a Gutsbesitzer, or “Gentleman Farmer.”6

Tempelhof Manor and Chapel today. The gateway was to the right of the Chapel.

A fire in 1864 burned part of the farmyard to the outer walls, damaging the adjoining manor house. The courtyard was not rebuilt. It was at this time that the chapel was decommissioned, and the altar and pictures were transferred to the Oedekoven chapel, St. Mary’s Marriage. Following the fire, and until World War II, the chapel housed the wine press. At some point during the war, it was set on fire by children playing in the room.

Two sides of the chapel still existed in 1956 when a reconstruction of the building took place. The chapel door leading to the street was bricked over, and the coat of arms which was above the door was removed and embedded in the wall of the chapel. Today the manor house is a residential building.7

The oil mill, known as Tempelmühle is located a short distance away on the Hardtbach River. The mill had a long history in Oedekoven before Josef Bel purchased it in 1808. The mill, now known as Belsmuhle, was still in the Bel family in 1978. In 1984 the manor house was given Monument status. While the house and the mill’s wheel still stand, the rest of the property has been converted into a multi-family housing complex.


  1. The keystone still exists, and while the numbering looks to be 1752, the building was not begun until 1756, so is it a 7? Or was the manor house built in 1752?
  2. Robert Thomas, Geschichte des Ortes und der Bügermeisterei Oedekoven: History of the Village and Borough of Oedkeoven (N.p.: Hrsg. von Gemeinde Alfter/Pfarrgemeinde St. Laurentius, Lessenich, 1978), p. 90.
  3. Thomas, Geschichte des Ortes und der Bügermeisterei Oedekoven, p. 92.
  4. Karl Wüllenweber, “Josef Bell,” email to Susan Sternitzky Fassbender, 23 Nov 1999.
  5. Administrative District Cologne, Community Oedekoven, Germany, death certificate no. 68 (1837), Joseph Bel; Schloß Augustusburg, Brühl. Cit. Date: 27 May 2002.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Thomas, Geschichte des Ortes und der Bügermeisterei Oedekoven, p. 93. 
  8. Thomas, Geschichte des Ortes und der Bügermeisterei Oedekoven, p. 234. 
  9. Rheinisches Amt für Denkmalpflege, Central Monuments Archive, 23, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, Alfter, KZ.

A Trip Home

REVISED 31 Jul 2023

This post was first written and published on 8 Jan 2016. I have learned so much more since that time and rather than write a new post, I have decided to revise the existing one. 

Kaiser Wilhelm der Große

In late 1898 60-year-old Peter Fassbender returned to Oedekoven, Germany for a visit, traveling with his friend and neighbor, Joseph Tennie. We know his approximate time of departure as it was reported in the newspaper upon his return that “Mr. Fassbender, who has been visiting relatives in Germany since the first of Jan…”1 It must have been hard for Elisabeth to see him go, although she had only been six years old when her family left Oedekoven for America in 1846.

This was his first visit home since emigrating in 1856. It had been 43 years since he had stepped foot in his native land, had much had changed. A fire in 1864 had changed the appearance of his former home, Tempelhof, as the farmyard was gone, and the damaged chapel and been decommissioned. [Blog Post: The Chapel on the Hill]. I wonder if one of his first stops was to the Oedekoven Chapel, St. Mary’s Marriage, to look at the altar and statue of Mary that had once been sheltered in the Tempelhof Chapel?

All that we do know about this trip is that Peter was gone for two months. He traveled from Oedekoven to Bremen to board the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große on February 28, 1899.2  The top-heavy ship known as “Rolling Billy” by her regular passengers could hold 332 First Class passengers, 343 Second Class passengers, and 1.074 in Steerage. 

 The return trip home started in Bremen, Germany. I believe that Peter and Joseph were traveling 2nd class, as they were not manifested with the 3rd or steerage class passengers who needed to be cleared by a physician who stated that he had “…made a personal examination of each of the passengers named,” before they were allowed to board. The passenger list does not designate the classes, and it appears to me that the even-numbered pages are missing. What would they have paid for this ticket? All I know is that shortly after their return it was announced that the minimum rates for steamships bound for Southampton and Bremen had been reduced by $10.00 to $25.00. First-class cabin rates were reduced $25.00 to $75.00 from April 2 to May 9th, and between Jun 6 to July 7th, the rate was set at $100.00.3 Which is $3,676.01 in today’s [2023] money.4

Traveling from Bremen they stopped on March 1st in Southampton, England, picking up 2 passengers, before heading to Cherbourg, France, and then to New York. I do believe that there are missing pages to this passenger list, which makes me realize how lucky we are that we do have a record of Peter and Joseph’s return trip. The Chicago Daily reported on March 8th on the return of J. P. Morgan “from London on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse,”5 yet his name does not appear on the passenger list, and he most likely boarded in Southampton. 

The trip was made in record time, the Baltimore Sun reported that they had made “the run of 3,148 knots to Sandy Hook light ship [Sandy Hook, New Jersey Lighthouse] in 5 days 21 hours and 8 minutes, at an average speed of 22.33 knots per hour, lowering her best previous record from Cherbourg by 1 hour and 12 minutes. The trip is remarkable from the fact that it was made in the month of March, in winter weather…”6

I wonder what Peter thought as he sailed into New York Harbor on March 7th. Much had changed since that day 43 years before when, after a trip of one month, two days the Ship Chimborazo entered the harbor. The skyline of New York City was different, much larger. This time the Statue of Liberty was there to greet him, having been dedicated just 12 years earlier. Beyond the statue stood Ellis Island, open for just seven years, he would not be passing through Castle Garden on this trip. And certainly, there was a sense of comfort in knowing that, unlike the passengers who were newly immigrating, he could freely walk off the ship, enter the city, and travel home to his family in Wisconsin.

The passenger list was manifested at Ellis Island. 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 $30.00.7 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, that could not be hidden.

His exact date of arrival home to the farm in the Town of Ellington is not known. A notice in the  Appleton Evening Crescent dated Tuesday, March 21st stated that he had “returned a week ago…” So, it is safe to say he arrived home sometime before March 14th. 

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  Norddeutscher 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, representing size and safety for the next decade. 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.

In 1913 the ship was rebuilt to carry only 3rd class passengers, and when the First World War broke out, she was requisitioned and turned into an armed cruiser. The Kaiser was sunk on August 26, 1914, off of Rio de Oro, Africa.


  1. “Bungert and Wittlin,” Appleton Evening Crescent, 17 Mar 1899, Friday, p. 4, col. 5; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 2 Sep 2018).
  2. National Archives, “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database and images, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2010, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed October 2002). Microfilm serial: T715, 1899, Kaiser Wilhelm der Große, p. 9, line 15, Peter Fassbender; citing The National Archives at Washington, D.C.
  3. “North German Lloyd’s Cut,” Naugatuck Daily News, 7 Mar 1899, Tuesday, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE.com, (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 1 Jan 2007).
  4. https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/1899?amount=100
  5. “Coal Interests in Great Pool,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 8 Mar 1899, Wednesday, p. 1, col. 1; digital images Newspapers.com, (www.newspapers.com : accessed 7 Sep 2018).
  6. “Topics in New York,” The Baltimore Sun, 8 Mar 1899, Wednesday Morning, p. 2, col. 7; digital images, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : accessed 8 Sep 2018).
  7. National Archives. ancestry.com, Microfilm serial; T715, 1899, Kaiser Wilhelm der Große, p. 9, Line: 15, Peter Fassbender.

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.