A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. Marcus Garvey
I have been diving into the histories of the families which converged into one and eventually made their home at Maison Steinbüchel, the Kansas Historic Landmark where we have made our home since 1988. I am grateful for the personal history put together in the book “A Living Gravestone” by Elisabeth Wilson Guldner, the daughter of Hermann Joseph Steinbüchel of Cologne, Germany, Marie-Louise’s second husband. In 225 pages she covers, to varying degrees, the family history from the 1100’s up to the death of her mother in 1947. Whew!
Stories are Gifts
Elsabeth wrote the book to her grand-children for several reasons:
To compile family documents and record stories as she recalled them. Reading the book is like having a conversation around a fireplace, as you took a walk or even worked on some task in the kitchen or garden, with her.
To honor her son who died in WW II and was never found. There is a sense of her processing the last of her loss by preserving his story and the story of his family.
There is a third reason that the author wrote the book which I doubt she had any conscious intention of: To provide valuable information on which the basis of an Historic Designation might be granted to a significant property. As current owners and caretakers of this house, this book provides invaluable information from which to draw on.
What a gift. The book is a perfect example of why we all, including you, should record in some way, your stories.
Was ist das Steinbüchel?
Pages 10-20, of the book, are devoted to the Steinbüchel ancestry. At the time of the writing in 1973, the author simply compiled the information at hand, written and oral. It appears to be fairly accurate, as far as it goes. Googling “steinbüchel” today, a wide variety of things pop up: family names, German businesses, streets, a village and maps, etc. So what is this Steinbüchel? (Was ist das Steinbüchel? – (imagine said with a German accent.) It is in fact, both a family and a place – or really, places.
In our preparations to move to Brussels in 1995, Max Steinbüchel, the great grand-son of Marie-Louise, whom we had met on several occasions, sent us a map of the locations of the Steinbüchel estate in Germany. He also sent a list of contacts of Steinbüchels in the area. It was not until in spring 1997, we were able to plan a trip to Cologne. We wanted to locate some flatware in Solingen (a story for another time) a town just north east of Cologne. Since the Steinbüchel estate was on the way, we hoped to find it as well.
Off we went, speaking little German, not realizing the day we chose was a German holiday. For some reason the contacts Max had provided did not work out. Still, we found the town and somehow managed to stumble onto the manor house. Max told us of its existence. It was deserted and in rather poor condition, but we found it. We walked around, took pictures, tore the Steinbüchel page out of the local phone directory and went shopping for the flatware. That was a bust as well. It was not a satisfying trip – at the time.
A Knighthood near Cologne, Germany
The earliest mention of Steinbüchel found thus far via the internet is about the same era as mentioned in the book: circa 1200 A.D. The site states in “1158 Konrad von Steinbüchel acquires a knighthood”. Knights were essentially a private army of a King or Lord. Knighthood in High Medieval Germany were a part of nobility and generally included land with the title. Little did we know that the name of our Historic Home was also the name of a sort of township near Cologne Germany. Steinbüchel became so named for Sir Konrad von Steinbüchel, the Knight to whom it was given as a part of his title. Today, Steinbüchel is one of several villages in the area that make up the municipality of Leverkusen.
Nobility Lives On
The next mention of the Steinbüchel in the book is 500 years later in 1775. Hermann JosephSteinbüchel was born in 1945. His father was Bernard Karl Steinbüchel (who went by Karl) born in 1811. Karl was the son of Johann Joseph Steinbüchel born in 1775. All were said to be from Cologne (Koln) Germany. (I assume they were actually born on the Steinbüchel estate). Even these many years later, the noble blood of this family remained. Karl had an uncle, Bernard. the eldest brother of Hermann Joseph, who became a Catholic priest and eventually became an archbishop, serving in the position of Bishop of the Bruhl District south of Cologne. Uncle Bernard oversaw the education of his nephew, Karl and thus had much influence over his well-being. Bishop Steinbuchel’s final services were held in the Cologne Cathedral in 1846.
Hermann was the third of eleven children who lived. There were three who died in infancy, thus a total of fourteen were born to Hermann’s parents, Karl and Helena. She came into the marriage with a large dowry. Shortly after marrying, she inherited an additional sum of money when her father died. Karl decided to retire from his jewelers business and built houses on the Rhine river, then later a retirement home in the Eifel region of Germany. So why would this seemingly well-to-do family of German nobility decide to relocate to America?
Opportunity on the Heels of….
According to the book, while working for an uncle at a newspaper and publishing house in Cologne, Hermann began to read accounts of the New World, America and the opportunities it had to offer. Then when his older sister tried to elope with a young man from the village, the family intervened and prevented a marriage from going forward. Already with child, Hermann, along with his brother Karl accompanied their sister to New York where she was placed with Catholic Nuns to have her baby. This was Hermann’s chance in America.
More Than Memories
Today as I write this bit of history for my BLOG, I realize how valuable our trip to the Steinbüchel estate was. The links in this post to maps and the current state of that manor house, would be less solid had we not walked those places ourselves. The fact that we not only walked the streets of the German Steinbüchels, but also walk the halls in our own home of those who came to America is quite surreal. By the way, we did get the flatware which is connected to the house as well. As I said, another time.
Your Stories are a Gift Waiting to be Given
The goal of these kinds of stories is to spark awareness in your part of the universe. Could it be that some unspoken desire, a chance meeting, a new job assignment might be a seed of something greater? As I dig around in these photos, re-read the book, reflect and compare, I find myself in awe. I am enriched today, aware that many of these past events were almost prophetic in tone.
This story has more to tell. What about yours? What will you record today? Perhaps an outline or bullet points? Key events? What would you tell your grand children? What would you ask your ancestors if they were still here? Please comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe!
I went for a ride on my vintage French ten-Speed Motobecane bike this morning (we do have new things, but like my profile says – we enjoy vintage stuff a lot). I had a book to return to the library, so I decided to get my daily exercise by biking to the Wichita Downtown branch. It’s just over two miles one away and there are bike routes most of the way. It was perfect day for such a ride.
I have made this trip several times for various reasons. My husband and I usually ride our bikes when we go the the annual WIchita Riverfest. It is much easier than driving, trying to find parking, then walking. I also me bike to the gym sometimes, so I am well warmed up when I get there. Today’s ride had another dimension.
Bike Ride into History
Since I have been looking into the history of the families for whom our historic home is named, I am seeing buildings and properties in the downtown area with fresh eyes. Today as I rode past city hall, I thought of Peter Stackman’s tailor shop. Housed in four 1870’s wooden buildings at the address where the tall city office structure stands .
As I passed First and Water Streets, now parking lots, I thought of the livery Mr. Stackman owned, where folks “parked” the transpiration of the day: horses and buggies.
Riding past houses, many the age that would have been new in his day, I thought about the excitement he must have felt as the city grew around him. I thanked him in my thoughts, realizing that he and people like him are the reason I have my life today. They:
dreamed, hoped and invested
Invested time, money and energy into the fabric of this city.
I am grateful they did. Some say the hardships were costly and they were. Peter died at about age 50, of the flu. He left behind a young widow and three children. One son just six-weeks old.
Yet, I am personally reaping some part of the harvest of his risky investment. If only for a pleasant bike ride on a lovely St. Patrick’s Day in Wichita, KS. Thank you Mr. Peter Stackman, for coming to this country.
It might be surprising how the people associated with those familiar spots have impacted your life in some way.
What do you know about the places you pass everyday?
“and so it is with God, this is the place where faith comes in. Knowing something is right but not knowing just how it fits together or even maybe even why.” …from The Writings of HANCOCK , Error & Faith
There is a tradition among some Native American people to have a member of the tribe record their history. This was someone who documented, usually in pictorial form on an animal skin, significant events of the tribe. In some cases these skins were used as the wrapping for objects used in religious ceremonies into a sacred bundle that was passed down through generations.
In March of 2000, my father, Paul E. Hancock moved to heaven. For us left behind, it was too soon. Seventy is not old in today’s world, but there are forces in this realm that conspire. As a result, good people, like my dad grow weary of the fight. In this case, it was a form of cancer. One that was hard to diagnose and even more difficult to treat. He left behind a sturdy family that has continued without him, but not without his wisdom, character, work ethic and faith as guides.
Just before Daddy died, he handed his version of our family’s sacred bundle. It contained all of the ancestry research he had painstakingly gathered, as well as all of his writings. I have compiled his writings into a book.
Daddy’s faith, like many of his generation, was not worn on his sleeve. It was rather a personal and mostly private faith. He endeavored to live his faith through his daily deeds. Yet he wrote about it sharing those writings with a select few. His writings told of his relationship with Jesus Christ, his constant journey of discovery and what that relationship should look like to others. In later years I had the sense that he struggled, but I suspect that had more to do with his failing health than any inner doubts.
This past week a fundraising event around this film occurred at the Historic Murdock Theater. It was even more engaging the second time. Like the song, the story behind it never gets stale. The Lone Chimney Films website has lists of screenings where you can view the film. It is worth any effort to see.
Of course knowing the producer/director, Ken Spurgeon makes it more personal. My husband serves on the same faculty at Northfield School of the Liberal Arts, so we enjoy a bit of the inside scoop and benefit of Mr. Spurgeon’s gifts and talents on a regular basis.
We also know many of the actors, some in person and others from their iconic place in our own lives through their careers in the entertainment world. It was inspiring to see the merging of such seasoned with new talent, from local and beyond, into this wonderful film.
My Western Home
The film tells the story behind the song, Home on the Range, first known as “My Western Home”. About where it really came from and how we almost lost it. It is the Kansas state song but, more than that, it is a song that is timeless and familiar. Recognized worldwide, some call it the national anthem of the West. The places used in the film are all familiar to me. From the countryside to the buildings, I know these places. I was home as I watched.
Yet, behind this film and its story underlies the purpose of this and the other projects Lone Chimney Productions does. They go beyond entertainment, past education to identifying stories. Then proceed to, not just repeating the story, but to preserving them. In the process, one is not only entertained but educated and nurtured.
This resonates with my soul and illustrates the purpose of this BLOG. It’s stories, yours and mine, from which we learn, are entertained, build on and interrelate with each other. Stories give voice to the voiceless and substance to the intangible. Without story, our own and others, life is empty and even pointless. It contains no history or future. Although living in the present is vital, connecting to our past and future hint at the eternalness within our hearts.
Today’s activities are tomorrow’s stories, no matter how exciting or mundane they may be. When the words to Home on the Range were written, its author had no idea that 150+ years later, His story would inspire thousands of people all over Kansas including legislators at the Kansas state capitol.
Your stories matter. Tell them, write them down. They are not unimportant and will not grow old. Ever.
Begin today by sharing one today in the comment section below: