We do not become righteous by doing righteous deed but, having been made righteous, we do righteous deeds. Martin Luther
I am not a Lutheran. Although I appreciate much of their theology, I attended a Methodist Church growing up. A movement that grew out of the Anglican church and although much removed from its roots – the tree does flow back into the Roman Catholic faith. However, there is no disputing the effect the reformation had on both the faith of my childhood as well as the path my German ancestors took.
In the mid 1860’s my great great grandfather and his brother, left Germany for the United States. The conditions that created the need to leave home were a combination of religious and economic upheaval. This led to a major shift in the social structure of the time. There were some natural climatic cycles that also affected the food supply of the region. A long standing backdrop to all of this was the protestant reformation which began about 350 years prior. At the time my ancestors made their move, the effects of Martin Luther’s actions had all but crumbled the feudal system.
I have no doubt that once in the United States my ancestor clung closely to the German speaking community of immigrants as he made his way west to Kansas. Once settled in Kansas, he became a part of the Methodist church as Lutherans were not a major part of the landscape in northern Kansas. However, this could have been the influence of my great great grandmother as to what church they affiliated with. I get the sense that he was a man of faith, however tending to the land and ensuring his family was fed took priority over religious activities. Still if it had not been for the Reformation, I am not sure what the time line would have looked like for my family.
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 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.
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious – Albert Einstein on Education
Maison Steinbüchel, a Kansas State Historic Landmark and our home, is named for the family of Herman Frederick Steinbüchel , the second husband of Marie-Louise Hahn. I have been digging into the details of the three family lines that converged and lived
References to the education the children received in early Wichita are scattered throughout several chapters in the book. Education is about much more than mere knowledge. It’s impact rests on the how, where and who did the educating as much as what was studied.
Between the two marriages there were six children born. A daughter born to the first marriage died in infancy.
Education In The Early Years
The Stackman-Steinbüchel children’s education began at home with a governess. Little is known about who this woman was, her exact duties or for how long she worked with the
children. Poking around census and city records has not revealed any details and likely will not, as the records of the 1890 census were for the most part, destroyed in a fire in 1921 She is mentioned only once in the book when when it was stated that Marie-Louise had tried to play match maker with Herman Steinbüchel and her at one point.
Their Grammar school education was received at the Pro-Cathedral school at second and St. Francis. It was run by the St. Joseph Order of Nuns. In looking at this Order’s roots from France, I can’t help but think of the European influence and no doubt having some French spoken among the sisters would have connected Marie-Louise’s language heritage to her children’s daily life, if not her Lutheran faith.
Middle And Upper School Education
At some point when the household was becoming rather over grown with five children, it was decided the three older ones would be sent to boarding school. The two girls were enrolled at Mt. Carmel Academy on the western edge of then Wichita. Friz, (Frederick Charles) was taken to the Catholic Christian Brothers in St. Joseph. Mo.
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.
First appears in Wichita in 1872 having traveled from St. Louis recovering from a failed business. He was a tailor by trade and during his first visit decided Wichita was not yet ready for his services, so he moved to Topeka. While there, he applied and received a grant of 160 acres on the Arkansas River west of downtown Wichita. This land, in part, is now where the Wichita water plant, Cowtown Museum, the Wichita Art Museum and Botanica are located.
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.
Marie-Louise and Herman had met once in passing while Peter was living. The Stackman’s, traveling in their buggy, met Herman as he passed by on horseback. He was introduced to Marie as the family’s insurance agent. It appears in the process of settling the Stackman estate, Marie and Herman became better acquainted. She attempted to set Mr. Steinbuchel up with the governess, but he had his eyes on Marie. Eighteen months later, on September 6, 1892 they married. She was then 26 years of age.
Families and Providence
So the three family convergence was complete. It is a very German-American story. This was one of the eras when Strasbourg, France was a part of Germany. This was also a time when a large number of Germans were immigrating to Kansas, lured with the prospect of becoming land owners via the homesteading process while escaping the unstable economic and political conditions in Europe.
This three way convergence would have been highly unlikely within a European context. The Hahn-Stackman union might have occurred as they were of equal economical social class, but had Peter remained in eastern Germany, geography would have made their meeting unlikely. The Steinbuchel union, however, would have been unthinkable as they were from an aristocratic titled lineage in Cologne Germany. This and geography would have, no doubt, prevented Marie-Louise and Herman from ever crossing paths. But for Wichita, Kansas, America.
My own maternal ancestors immigrated and made their way to northern Kansas during this same time period. They came as farmers and remained farmers. The German, French and Eastern European immigration to America during this time had a profound impact on the cultural, economic and political landscape of Kansas, my beloved state. I sit in awe at how the choices people make when opportunities opened up impacts for decades. As I sit in the upper parlor, where Marie-Louise retreated to, writing this series on the families who lived here, I am in awe of the juxtaposition of those choices and providence.
As the Psalmist says, SELAH – pause and think about that.
We all have “what ifs” that have shaped the very moment we are in. Can you recall one? Please share one in the comments below.