Maison Steinbüchel, a Kansas State Historic Landmark and our home, is named for the family of Hermann Frederick Steinbüchel, the second husband of Marie-Louise Hahn. Previous posts, told how this all came about. Further details are documented in the book “A Living Gravestone” by Elisabeth Gouldner, his daughter. Hermann and Karl Steinbüchel two brothers from Germany, came to the United States around 1868 under somewhat strained circumstances. In the book, the author mentions the situation then, in an appropriate discrete and kind manner, moves on. She simply says “Herman then left his position with the paper and publishing company (in Cologne) and with Josephine and Karl sailed for New York”.
Once in the United States, Hermann, age 24 and Karl, age 26, worked on a farm in new Jersey. Hermann soon moved on to work in a syrup factory working two shifts saving all the money he could. He then owned a tavern for a short while. At some point they moved to Kansas, Herman (now dropping the double “n” in his first name) was naturalized as a United States citizen on July 21, 1874. He and Karl applied for and received a 160 acre land grant in St. Marks, Kansas, 20 miles west of Wichita.
The Homestead Cabin
They each built a two room cabin and became farmers. However, Herman found early on that farming and a diet of prairie chickens did not suit him. He found a position with the German-American Life insurance Company of San-Francisco as their agent for the State of Kansas.
Apparently Karl continued tending the farm. Herman, recognizing its future value, persuaded his father Karl to bring the rest of the family to America and take over the claim. His father agreed, as he was needing a change. The death of his wife Helena, Herman’s mother, from pneumonia and the lingering embarrassment over Josephine’s situation gave this opportunity for a clean start in the new world worth the effort and risk.
And a massive effort it was. Karl, the elder, sold the family’s holdings in Germany and with seven of his unmarried children, booked passage to the United States. Only one, Joseph who was married, remained behind. The book gives a detailed list of the personal belongings they shipped, then carted by wagon to St. Marks. Things such as fine linens, oil paintings, Meissen dishes, etc. What a site it would have been for this, now family of nine, and all that remained of their noble life in Germany to pull up to the two room prairie house.
Saint Mark The Evangelist Church
In St. Marks, there is a beautiful Catholic church established in 1875. Paul Steinbüchel, the youngest son who immigrated with Konrad is buried in the cemetery. The first spring after the family’ arrival, Paul, the youngest at fifteen and Johanna, seventeen, became ill with typhoid fever. Paul died and was initially interred on the homestead. His remains were re-interred on the church grounds a short time later.
Germaina Near Saint Marks
Today, records show that their homestead was in an area named Germania a few miles west of St. Marks, KS. I have no doubt that the St. Marks Parish was the place of worship for the family until they moved into Wichita in 1901. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and continues as an active congregation today.
When I visited the building and grounds this spring, I was in awe of the beauty of the building and aware of the eternal aspects of its presence. Knowing just a sliver of one family who clung to their faith as represented in this place during a most challenging transition gave me courage.
A Faith Project
After almost 30 years in our home, we are about to embark on the transformation of Maison Steinbüchel. This historic restoration is more than re-doing a building preserving historic integrity, which in and of itself is daunting. It is connecting the past to the present while preparing for the future. This home has stood for 130 years. It is not a museum, but a structure which shelters lives. I am glad the family who eventually lived here for 40 years had a foundation of faith, for this truly is a faith project. Yes, it is.
Do you have a “faith project”? A dream bigger than you, that only faith can buoy along? Perhaps it is rooted in a deep sense of history and the need to continue the story. Please share in the comments below.