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. 
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.  “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.  The snuff box remained in the family until sometime in the 1940s when it was sold. 
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,  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.”
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.  As was the custom, Salome and Johann had their marriage blessed by the Catholic Church. This blessing occurred in the family chapel at Behlsmühle. 
Johann and Salome started married life with great hope and promise. Their first child was born on December 22, 1838.  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…” 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.” 
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.
Oedekoven, Administrative District Cologne, Germany, “Births,” 1811, No. 23, 12th Certificate of Birth, Johann Fasbender. Cit. Date: Apr 1999.
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.
“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).
Interview with Arthur Ellenbecker, by Susan C. Fassbender, Appleton, Wisconsin, 6 Dec 2002.
Administrative District Cologne, Germany, Certificate of Marriage, “Fasbender to Bel, 1838, No. 7”. Cit. Date: 6 Oct 1999.
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.
Interview with Arthur Ellenbecker by Susan C. Fassbender, 10 Aug 1999, Appleton, Wisconsin.
Oedekoven, Administrative District Cologne, Germany, “Births,” 1838, no: 139, Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender; Schloß Augustusburg, Brühl. Cit. Date: 29 Sep 1999.
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.
Thomas H. Ryan, History of Outagamie County Wisconsin (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911), 924.
I was first introduced to Behlsmühle in 1999 while visiting with Arthur Ellenbecker, the grandson of the Fassbender patriarch and immigrating ancestor, Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender. As we sat talking with Arthur in his home – the very home that his grandparents purchased when they “retired” to Appleton, Outagamie, Wisconsin, he stood up to take a picture off of 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 and the Tempel-Mühle (Temple Mill). Today, in 2021, the building is called Behlsmühle, for Joseph Bel. The manor, first mentioned in print in 1362, 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 French conquered the Rhineland during the French Revolution. It was at this time they also confiscated the property of the churches and monasteries of the region. Over the next 20 years, they sold the property back to the German people to fund the war. It was at this time that Joseph Bel had the opportunity to purchase the property. The property included an oil mill, a 4-wing structure, a chapel, and a two-story manor house.
In 1812 Joseph Bel became Mayor of the 14 villages that comprised the Borough of Oedekoven. He held this position for two years. Joseph died at the age of 66 on September 12, 1837,  having spent his later years as a Gutsbesitzer, or “Gentleman Farmer.” 
Behlsmühle still stands. In 1984 the manor house was given Monument status. The plaque on the house reads: “Anna 1818 Joseph Bel.”  While the house and the mill’s wheel still stand, the rest of the property has been converted into a multi-family housing complex.
Administrative District Cologne, Community Oedekoven, Germany, death certificate no. 68 (1837), Joseph Bel; Schloß Augustusburg, Brühl. Cit. Date: 27 May 2002.
Rheinisches Amt für Denkmalpflege, Central Monuments Archive, 23, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, Alfter, KZ.
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.  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.
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.
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,”  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.
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.
Commemorative Biographical Record of the Fox River Valley Counties of Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago, (Chicago, Illinois: J. H. Beers. 1895), 571.