“Prepare your outside work, Make it fit for yourself in the field; And afterward build your house.” Proverbs 24:27 NKJV
My mother’s paternal great grandfather, Frederick Konrad Regetmeyer, immigrated from northern Germany in the mid 1860’s. How that came about is told in a series on circles. After he was naturalized as a US Citizen, through the network of German immigrants, he became aware of land grant opportunities in Kansas. In the midst of dreams, he no doubt knew from others that living in a hole in the ground, a dugout, was part of the journey.
The German Immigrant Network
Newlywed Life And A Dugout
This weekend I will be joining my mother, her brother and members of three of the seven branches of my maternal grandfather’s siblings for a family picnic near Boise Idaho. Sometime in the 40s or 50s three of my grandfather’s six siblings moved from Kansas to this area so I only knew them by name. A large reunion of the Rightmeier clan in Kansas in 2005 and the advent of Facebook reinstated relationships geography had eroded.
When my husband and I had an opportunity to visit Varenholtz in 1998, we found a landmark never mentioned in any of the family stories: Schloss (Castle) Varenholz. The castle location was the seat of a family of Knights , under Heinrich the Lion. Built to its current size in 1596 by Simon VI, the son of a staunch Catholic Count, who ruled the region and fiercely resisted the Protestant movements in the area.
When the elder Count died, the care of Simon VI, his son, was left to Phillip of Hessen. Although the Count gave strict orders that his son be educated in the Catholic faith, Phillip did not adhere to this request and Simon was educated as a Lutheran, and later studied “at a reformed school in Strasbourg” where he became a follower of John Calvin (1503 – 1564). It was in this way that Lippe became a mix of Lutheran and Calvinistic influence.
Regetmeir to Rightmeier
My maternal great great grand-father, Frederic Regetmeier, immigrated to the United States in 1864 at the age of 14. During this period, a long-term drought, along with political and religious unrest made living conditions in Lippe quite desperate. In other words the feudal system was breaking down.
The life they knew was disappearing. Word of the opportunities in America sparked by desperation, drove young Frederic and his brother August to make the voyage. In reality the brothers were stowaways on a ship to New York. It is said they jumped ship in New York harbor and swam ashore.
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.
Stories are Gifts
- 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 never found. There is a sense of her processing the last of her loss by preserving his story and the story of his family.
- Lastly, a third reason, 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?
“Sometimes love isn’t fireworks, sometimes love just comes softly.”
― Janette Oke,
The time-line of Herman’s journey to Kansas where he met Marie-Louise
In summer 1988, after moving into Maison Steinbüchel, we tackled a pile of rubbish and sand from under the apple tree beside the garage along the alley. A trumpet vine had taken over the area, growing up into the tree, masquerading what was in store.
Once the vine and rubbish were removed, we discovered a large pile of sand and soil left over from a project the former owners had embarked upon. This was moved to the front corner to form a berm flowerbed.
As we reached ground level, we realized this was the site of an ash pit where decades of trash were burned. What began as a clean-up project was now an archaeological dig.
Patent Medicines Yesterday and Today
A Story. My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind. — Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights
The time-line of Herman’s journey to Kansas where he met Marie-Louise
.“And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise of the age-old foundations; you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” Isaiah 58:12
Maison Steinbüchel or The Steinbüchel house?
“Marie-Louise Steinbüchel, wife of prominent Wichita real estate man, Herman Steinbüchel, was born in Strasbourg, France in the 1860s and came to Wichita as the bride of Peter Stackman, another famous Wichitan. The unique combination of Richardsonian and Victorian architecture of their residence as well as the position of the family in the community, led to the designation of 1905 Park Place as a local Historic Landmark in 1977. The residence was placed on the local Historic Register in 1978 and named a Kansas State Historic Landmark in 1992.”
The registers show the designation simply as The Steinbüchel House. We began calling it Maison Steinbüchel, not to be pretentious, but rather to bring to the forefront Marie-Louise Hahn Stackman Steinbüchel’s French Alsatian roots. These roots are quite precious to us and are how our paths converged even before we were aware of it.
Our Journey into the Story
We live in a designated Kansas State Historic Landmark, The Steinbuchel House. I am re-reading a book that tells the story of how three families converged to become the household that occupied this property. From 1912 to the late 1940s, this clan shaped
the story of this home. The book is currently an out-of-print volume entitled “A Living Gravestone” by Elisabeth Guldner Wilson. She was the daughter of Marie-Louise Hahn Stackman Steinbuchel who was the central figure in this convergence. We were given a copy of the book when we purchased the house and have since acquired several copies including an autographed one. You can find copies here and there, but at the moment are they are limited. I read the book when we first bought the house and have referred to it from time to time since. After almost 30 years in the house, this read through is even more meaningful.
- Marie-Louise Hahn, born in Strasbourg, France in 1866
- Peter Frederick Stackman. born about 1845 in that part of Germany, now Poland
- Herman Joseph Steinbuchel, born August 28, 1845 in Cologne Germany
After establishing a tailoring business which employed eight tailors, building a house with a barn on the eastern portion of the granted land, a livery stable and several other buildings in the area, in 1885 he took a trip back to Europe. Some friends gave him the name of a family in Strasbourg to stay with.
While passing through a yard, Peter spotted Marie-Louise, just 20 years of age, and was smitten. He was quite a bit older and living in America, and on this basis, Marie-Louise’s mother opposed the marriage. He returned to America, but began a correspondence with Marie-Louise.
After the death the mother, Peter returned to Strasbourg. Following a time of courtship and preparation, they were married June 14, 1887 at St. Thomas Church in Strasbourg. After only three years of marriage, living in Wichita and six weeks after the birth of their third child, a son, Peter Stackman contracted the flu and died on Good Friday, 1890.
Herman Joseph Steinbuchel
arrived in the United States around 1869 at the age of 24. He worked on a farm in New Jersey and became a citizen on July 21, 1874. In 1872, He applied for and received a land grant of 160 acres in St. Marks, Kansas about 20 miles west of downtown Wichita. Realizing quickly he was not suited for farming, he became the insurance agent of the German-American Life Insurance Company of San Francisco for the State of Kansas. He opened offices in Wichita and eventually became the agent for Mr. and Mrs. Peter Stackman.
Families and Providence
Circles. In order to share this circle, I need to provide a bit of my family’s German history. Specifically my maternal grandfather’s. It all centers around a small village in the northern District of Lippe Germany: Varenholtz. When we visited Varenholtz in 1998, we found a landmark never mentioned in any of the oral (where
most of our information came from) or written (which was not abundant) history of our family: Schloss (Castle) Varenholz.
This castle was the seat of the knights de turns, (of Varenholtz, under Heinrich the Lion (1323). Built to its current size in 1596 by Simon VI, the son of a staunch Catholic Count, who ruled the region and fiercely resisted the Protestant movements in the area. When the elder Count died, the care of Simon VI, his son, was left to count Phillip of Hessen. Although the Count gave strict orders that his son be educated in the Catholic faith, Phillip did not adhere to this request and Simon was educated as a Lutheran, and later studied “at a reformed school in Strasbourg” where he became a follower of John Calvin (1503 – 1564). It was in this way that the area was a mix of Lutheran and Calvinistic influence.
Circles: Regetmeir to Righmeier
My maternal great great grand-father, Frederic Rightmeier, immigrated to the United States in 1864 at the age of 14. (I say immigrated, but in reality he and his brother were stowaways on a ship to New York. It is said they jumped ship in New York harbor and swam ashore , but that is another story). The reason for this desperate trip is that my ancestors were tenant farmers for the local land owner. He was a descendant of Simon VI.
The usual arrangements were , they worked a portion of the land for a place to live, food and some small share of the crops they grew. During the time of my ancestors there was a long-term drought and the land was simply not producing. In addition, the political and religious climate was unsettled. In other words the feudal system was breaking down, and the life they knew did not appear sustainable. Word of the opportunities in America sparked by desperation, drove the young Frederic and his brother August to make the voyage.