How History Makes a Difference – Three Families of Maison Steinbuchel

We live in a designated Kansas State Historic Landmark, The Steinbuchel House.  We are fortunate there is 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.

Maison Steinbuchel

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.

Copies can be found here and there, but at the moment are they are limited.  I read the book when we first bought the house and  refer to it often.

Three Families

Peter Stackman

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.

Marie-Louise Hahn

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.  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.
he 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, it was the norm.

German-American Families

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 about the families who lived here, I am in awe of the juxtaposition of those choices and providence.
We all have “what ifs” that have shaped the very moment we are in.  Can you recall one?  Please share in the comments! 

I am a former air traffic controller, pilot, Aircoupe owner, married 42 years to a great guy. We live in a 125+ year old historic Victorian, enjoy cats, vintage anything, precious friends. My passion is Giving Lost Stories A Voice – Giving Found Materials Fresh Form and Purpose!

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