Monday, December 16, 2013

European Adventure- Part 4

Sorry about the lateness of this post! I had it on my site; just forgot to click the "publish" button! 
Here is the final installment of my European adventure. We arrived back in Amsterdam on Sept. 16 for our flight home on Sept. 19. Therefore, we had some time to do some more exploring. The weather was kind of chilly and damp but that did not deter us. At the left is the Anne Frank home. You cannot truly appreciate the cramped conditions in which they lived unless you actually go through that upper floor. It was a very sobering experience.

My favorite pastime in Amsterdam was strolling along the canals. There are so many neat little shops and cafes along the way. I can't help but wonder how many cars they have to fish out of these canals! There isn't always a guard rail to stop you. There are flowers everywhere- on the bridges and in window boxes. 

I took this picture to show how some buildings are settling. You can see where one of the buildings is leaning forward. There were many places where either the left side or the right side is higher than its opposite. That probably makes opening a window alittle difficult!  

 The above picture is the Rijksmuseum which is the Netherlands' national museum. You could easily spend a day going through the exhibits. The highlight is the painting "Night Watch" by Rembrandt. I'm not a real artsy person, but you cannot help but be impressed by seeing  the actual  works of art that previously you had  seen only in pictures, videos, and history books.  One interesting sidelight of the museum is that entrance you can see in the picture. The two middle entrances are actually bike lanes that pass through the building. Apparently, the museum director attempted to have those lanes closed to bikes, but the bike "lobby" is so powerful in Amsterdam, it was kept open to bikes. If you could only see how many bikes there are, you could readily understand the power of the bike lobby! The city has a population of 800,000 people and there are 880,000 bikes! Yikes!

This last picture below was an amusing "find" for us. If you cannot read what is inscribed at the top of this structure, I repeated it in the picture's caption. The Latin phrase means "Wise men do not pee into the wind". Why does it say that, you may ask? This was a commercial building project in Amsterdam. The developer was having a lot of difficulties with the permit process. So, he submitted this phrase to the city fathers, who apparently, didn't pay much attention to what it meant and approved it! This was a way for the developer to get back at the city for making the process so difficult!
Homo Sapiens Non Urinat in Ventum

Well, the 19th came about and it was time to leave. We took a taxi out to Schiphol International Airport and it was soon off to Chicago on a nine hour flight. We arrived in Chicago around 1 PM and were to have a couple of hours before the connecting flight to Iowa. We got coffee and a newspaper to catch up on the news. I happened to look at the display of flights and noticed that our flight had been canceled along with many others. I will not get into the nitty, gritty of what transpired after that, but I was not a happy camper! My travel partner got to see an irritated side of me that he didn't know existed! We spent from about 2 PM until 8 PM that evening trying to figure out  connecting flights and getting accomodations for the night. The next morning, we were on a shuttle from our hotel in Schaumburg, IL back to the airport at 6:30 AM. Got to got through security! Finally after a short delay because the flight crew was late in arriving, we were off to  the Cedar Rapids airport and the end of a truly amazing trip.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

European Adventure- Part 3


In the map to the left, the green colored area is the state in which Erfweiler is located. In the map above, you can see where Erfweiler is in relation to Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

Inmy last post, we were in the Schell ancestral village of Erfweiler in Germany. We had enjoyed a great meal at a local eatery called the Jägerhof. The next morning, we were invited to Gerhard and Bärbel Zwick’s home for a typical German breakfast consisting of a variety of cheeses, thin-sliced meats, rolls, and coffee. After breakfast, Gerhard and Friedbert took us on a walking tour of Erfweiler. They pointed out some of the buildings and homes that would have been around when our ancestors plied the streets of Erfweiler back in the 18th and 19th centuries. They showed us the old school that Johann Schehl would have attended and the site of the old Catholic church that the family would have attended. We also got a little insight into Erfweiler during WWII. Since the town is very close to the French border, the Nazis ordered all villagers to evacuate for seven months after the war began in September of 1939. Near the end of the war when the Americans occupied the area, all the villagers in the upper old town had to evacuate so the Americans could set up camp there. Gerhard had a relative in Erfweiler who was killed after the villagers moved back in. He, unfortunately, came into contact with a grenade that had been left behind. Gerhard also had a relative who was killed during the D-Day invasion and another who was killed when German paratroopers tried to invade the island of Crete. We visited a town
Honoring town's war dead- there were two more plaques
cemetery with little hope of finding any tombstones of my ancestors. They do it a “little” differently in Germany. You lease a plot for between 15-25 years. After the lease is up and if no family member renews the lease, the plot can be re-used! What happens to the remains that were there, you say? Well, there are not many remains as they do not place coffins inside a liner. But if there are remains, they are just buried deeper! The headstone is removed and a new one is put in place. They even recycle the headstones. So, there are no headstones remaining for the dearly departed from long ago! We did find a Schehl gravesite but it was from a different line.

After the tour, it was time to return to Gerhard’s home for lunch. They had said the night before that we were going to have a “special” lunch on Sunday and then they started chuckling. That was of some concern to me; why the chuckling without explanation? Well, we got to the lunch after our tour. There was a large platter of sausages and brats, bread and rolls, a large bowl of sauerkraut (which was of special concern to me), and then a large sausage-like piece of meat on a large plate. It was probably about 4-5 inches round and maybe about a foot long. They said it was somewhat unique to this Pfälz region of Germany and it was called saumagen, which didn’t mean much to me. So, they sliced it and gave each of us a piece. I dug in and it was quite delicious. It was only after that that they explained that saumagen meant “sow’s stomach”! It seems that they stuff a sow’s stomach with a mixture of pork, potatoes, and seasonings; it resembles a meatloaf. The sow’s stomach is merely the casing for this large sausage. It really was quite good, but I don’t think that’s one thing I will soon try to make at home for (what should be) obvious reasons. After lunch, Gerhard and Bärbel took
Climbing around Alt Dahn ruins
From highest tower of Alt Dahn
to us to the neighboring town of Dahn. High on a hill overlooking the entire valley is an old castle called Alt Dahn. It is now a state park. It’s a pretty good hike up to the remains of the old castle from the parking lot. It was kind of misty that afternoon but you could see for a long way up there. After returning to Erfweiler, it was time to head back to Stuttgart with Friedbert and Gudrun. They dropped us off at our hotel and said they would come by in the morning and take us to the main train station downtown.

The next morning, we said our goodbyes and left for Amsterdam for our last German rail experience. Everything went well, except we had not made reservations so we wound up standing (with others) for part of the trip until many disembarked along the way. In Köln (Cologne) I had another encounter with German culture that I’m not used to. We had a little time to wait in Köln while waiting for our connection. I went downstairs to use the restroom. I was not expecting a couple of older women to be in there cleaning urinals while the area was being used! So, I just pretended to be German and went about my business “seemingly” unperplexed! Our connection to Amsterdam soon arrived and we were off to our final European destination before heading home. The next post will cover our last couple of days in Amsterdam and our unexpected confusion at Chicago’s O”Hare!

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 4, 2013

European Adventure- Part 2

Fabian, Gudrun, & Friedbert Schehl
When I left off last time, we were enroute by Eurail from Nürnberg back to Stuttgart. Upon arrival in Stuttgart, we headed back to the Hansa Hotel which is the same place we had stayed at the first time in Stuttgart. It’s not far from the train station, it’s in a quiet neighborhood, and it’s inexpensive! I called our cousin, Friedbert Schehl, who lives only eight blocks from our hotel. I had found Friedbert in my genealogy search and this would be our first face-to-face meeting. By the way, he is our seventh cousin. Our common ancestor is a sixth great grandfather. We were to go to Friedbert’s apartment for dinner that evening. He came and picked us up and I have to say, his English was not bad! At least, we were able to pretty much understand him. His English is a lot better than any German I knew. He had invited his son, Fabian, over to join us and act as translator, if needed. His wife, Gudrun, was preparing kasespätzle for dinner. It’s like a cheese and noodle casserole and was very good. Friedbert and my travel partner hit it off very good; both are big Bob Dylan fans! After a lot of talk and filling in details of our lives, it was time to head back to the Hansa. Tomorrow would be VERY exciting. Friedbert and Gudrun were going to drive us two hours to the west to Erfweiler, the Schell/Schehl ancestral village.
Schloss Solitude

We left midday for Erfweiler. Just outside of Stuttgart is a place called Schloss Solitude; it was a palace built by a noble as his hunting lodge. Some lodge, huh? Next it was on to one of those famous autobahns. We were traveling along at about 85 mph and cars were zipping by us. After crossing the Rhine, we entered an area that had many vineyards. We actually took a little side trip and crossed the French border to the town of Wissembourg. It’s another very charming medieval-style village. Gudrun went into a bakery and got a loaf of French bread and we just walked around town looking at the sites while tearing off pieces of bread! After spending about an hour, it was time to head off to Erfweiler, a mere fifteen minutes away.
House in Wissembourg


Erfweiler is a very small village of about 1,200 people. I would call it a bedroom community as most people work outside of town. There are only small businesses in town. We went directly to the home of Gerhard and Bärbel Zwick. Gerhard is the first person I was able to contact in Erfweiler over the internet. And it so happens that he was a boyhood friend of Friedbert’s. They had grown up together in Erfweiler. It was Gerhard who put me in contact with Friedbert.
Gerhard & Bärbel Zwick
Gerhard has a doctorate in chemistry and actually works in Karlsruhe, about an hour away. They live there during the week and are in Erfweiler for weekends. Gerhard speaks very good English because his job takes him all over the world and English is a common language for businessmen in Europe. We weren’t at the house very long before Friedbert and Gerhard took me on a hike through forests and up to the top of some rock formations that overlook Erfweiler. These forests had been their playground in childhood. The next day when we took a walking tour of Erfweiler and, today, on the forest hike, it was an indescribable feeling walking the same streets, hiking the same roads, and seeing some of the same buildings that my ancestors had seen. This would definitely be the highlight of my trip. Once we got back to Gerhard’s house, we had a little rest...a glass of beer and
Friedbert & Me above Erfweiler

Forest going to overlook
Gerhard showed me some of the photos of the town that he had on his computer. After about an hour, it was getting to be dinner time. Steve M had gone to our guest room located down on the main street in town. We all walked down town to get him and then go the a wonderful little German restaurant in town called the Jägerhof. I decided to get adventurous again and have something I had only heard of but had never had....sauerbraten. I was not disappointed! I decided this is something I would attempt to make back home (and I did!) That evening was so much fun. It was fun sitting back and
Jägerhof Restaurant
listening to the two families chat back and forth in German. I had no idea what they were saying but it was so much fun just listening. And they were so kind as to stop ever so often and include us in some English conversation. We wound up being there very late.....actually the waitress had left for the night and the proprietor (a friend of Gerhard’s) allowed us to stick around. There were more drinks to be had and I had the chance to experience something else for the first time.....I had never had schnapps! Finally, it was time to head back to the guest room and get some much needed sleep. Tomorrow would be Sunday and time to head back to Stuttgart before making our final train trip back to Amsterdam and our flight home. That will be in my next post.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

European Adventure- Part 1

At my house just before leaving
As I mentioned in my last post, I had made a trip to the Netherlands and Germany. I traveled with a friend with whom I had taught at East High in Waterloo. Steve Moravec was also in the history department there and is an experienced traveler to Europe. He is working on his family’s genealogy and had always been after me to make the journey and visit some of my ancestral “homes”. He finally convinced me to go when he offered to be a “travel guide”. That sold me on the idea!

We left from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on September 3 and arrived in Amsterdam about 9 hours later.
Bikes, bikes, bikes and more bikes!
We stayed in Amsterdam for three days. What a city it is! I simply could not believe the number of bicycles! They are everywhere and at all hours. The picture above is a three-level parking area for bikes. My favorite pastime  was walking along the canals. I did not realize how many they have. You can find so many quaint little shops and cafes along them.

On Saturday, September 7 it was time to use our first Eurail pass trip to go to Stuttgart. Our Eurail pass was good for five trips and we used every one of them. What a system! On all five of our trips, we got to our destination on the minute we were supposed to have arrived! I got my first introduction to German food at an outdoor restaurant in Stuttgart. It was time to experiment, so I chose an entree called schweinebraten and it was simply delicious. It was so good that I looked for a recipe and made it when I returned home! It was terrific again if I may say so!

On Monday, September 9, we headed out to an old medieval town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber. For a couple of old history teachers, this was quite the place. As you can see in these pictures, it has maintained its medieval charm quite well. Being medieval, the town was surrounded by a high protective wall. You can walk atop it nearly the entire length around the town- it’s about a 2-mile walk and this picture below shows the covered walkway on
Atop the wall
 top of the wall. More good food here-- I chose some schnitzel this time!

When Wednesday rolled around, it was time to board the train to Nürnberg, or Nuremberg as we know it. After finding a hotel, we took a stroll around the old part of town and came upon a Pizza Hut. That really sounded good so we ducked in and had some Italian for a change. The next day we toured the Nazi Documentation Center; they have done an excellent job in telling the story of the rise of the Nazi Party without pushing any agenda. The stories and displays pretty much lead you to the obvious conclusions. It’s good to have this kind of place lest we forget; as a matter of fact, there were several German army personnel taking the tour at the time we were there. I wonder if it is a requirement? We were able to walk
Zeppelin Field
over to Zeppelin Field where the large Nazi rallies were held and you can actually walk up to the reviewing platform that Hitler would have stood upon while reviewing the thousands of troops lined up before him. It was really a somewhat eerie feeling to be there. Again, a couple of old history teachers just really ate it up! We also visited the Albrecht Dürer museum which happens to be the home in which he lived in Nürnberg. He was a famous artist.
Dürer home

On Friday, September 13, we left for Stuttgart on our third Eurail trip-- two to go! I’ll continue the trip in the next post. If you happen to follow my other blog “Happekotte Happenings”, you will find this exact same posting there.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

John William Markus

Before I get to John’s story, I just wanted to mention that I took a little “sabbatical” from posting in September. I was on a trip to the Netherlands and Germany where I got to meet an eighth cousin on the Schell side in Stuttgart, Germany. He and his wife then took us to visit the Schell ancestral home of Erfweiler, Germany. I will have a post about that trip later. 

John William Markus was born in Quincy, Illinois on August 17, 1851 to parents John (Arnold) Markus and Catherina Margaretha (Margaret) Markus. They were immigrants to the United States from northeastern Germany; so John was in the first generation of the Markus family to be born in America. John was married to Rosa Freund before he married our great grandmother. That marriage occurred on May 7, 1874 in Quincy. There were 7 children from this marriage; I know that, at least, three of the children died as infants. Rosa died at age 28 on November 4, 1886 and there were five children at that time.

John and Mary Husam Markus

On April 24, 1888 he married Mary Anna Husam of rural Adams County, Illinois. On their marriage license, his age is 33 and her age is 19; so great grandpa was a few years older than his bride! Most of the records I have so far show him being born in 1851; so if that is correct John was actually 37 when he got married! From this marriage, there were six children two of which died as infants.

From the late 1880s to about 1900, he was a traveling salesman for Isaac Lesem & Co. I found a short article that said he planned on opening a clothing and furnishing store in 1900 in the new Heidbreder Building at 12th & Broadway in Quincy. I am assuming this did not come about because from about 1900-1912, John was a salesman for the Quincy Gas, Electric, and Heating Company. After that he went to work for the J.J. Flynn Company as a salesman on the road. Perhaps, this is where he met great grandma.

John was very active in church and fraternal organizations. He was a member of the Humane Society in Quincy. I found him mentioned as a member of the Loyal Americans of the Republic which was a fraternal organization. He was the second vice president of the Deutscher Katholischer Vereinsbund which was a state organization for the protection of Catholic rights for both churches and schools. John was an active member of the Western Catholic Union which is a fraternal benefit society that helps local charities and they also provide insurance. He also served as an alderman in Quincy city government in 1900-1901.

There was an announcement in the paper about John building a new home on Broadway between 16th and 17th. It said the cost of the home would be $8000! That was in 1893. And the home is pictured here and is still in existence. By the way, using an inflation calculator, that would be equivalent to a little over $200,000 in 2012 dollars!

Another interesting article in a 1907 Quincy newspaper talked about a Quincy delegation traveling to Rome for the golden anniversary of the priesthood of Pope Pius X. The cost of the trip would be $350 per person. It specifically mentioned John as expecting to go. I have not found out if he actually made the trip.

As you can see, John William Markus led a very full and active life. Losing his first wife and five children in infancy had to be very difficult; but he persevered. John died on June 29, 1935. And speaking of difficulty, there is my grandmother, John’s daughter, Beatrice Markus Schell who lived in that same house on Broadway. Beatrice and her husband Carl lived in the downstairs while her parents occupied the upstairs. I have mentioned this in a previous post, but Beatrice lost Carl on the 8th of June and then her father on the 29th of June. Now that’s what I call perseverance.


Pictured: John W Markus, Carl Schell, Virginia Markus, Mary Husam Markus, (child) Jim Schell, Beatrice Markus Schell

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Adam George Kolker

In the last post, I told you about Reinhold Schell, my great grandfather. His wife was Sophie Helen Kolker. Sophie was born on February 2, 1860 in Quincy, Illinois to parents Adam George Kolker and Elizabeth Scheiner. Adam has a very interesting story. I had never heard about his voyage to America and neither had many others in the family. I came across an article in a Quincy newspaper that indicated he nearly did not make it here. Newspaper sources said he was born  near Fulda, Germany in a small village named Lütterz. I have not been able to locate any records from that area yet to confirm this. His civil war draft registration lists his age as 28 in July, 1863. That would make his birth year about 1835. He apparently left Germany from the port of Bremerhaven on September 28, 1854 on the ship New Era. Aboard were nearly 425, mostly German immigrants. Forty people died on the voyage due to an outbreak of cholera. That was not Adam’s close call though! When the ship approached the New Jersey shore near the modern site of Asbury Park, it encountered a powerful gale on November 13. The ship ran aground off the coast but did not sink. Rescue efforts from the shore were prevented by the powerful storm. Only about 160 survived with many simply being washed overboard in the cold seas. Adam was able to survive by clinging to the mast with several others. I found an article in a New York newspaper and a book written about this tragedy; both had lists of survivors and those known to be lost. What I could not find was Adam’s name on either the survivor or lost lists. One of the newspaper articles says his life was in doubt for several hours after he was rescued. The reason his name does not appear on the lists of survivors and lost could be that others did not know him; he was not traveling with a family. Rescuers probably did not speak German which could have added to the confusion. I have no reason to disbelieve this story about Adam; I just have not found hard evidence except for the newspaper accounts. Another fact I do not know is whether or not he was traveling with his brother, William. A newspaper article about his death states that he left Germany with his brother and they spent a year in Maryland before coming to Quincy. It’s funny that William was not mentioned in either of the Quincy articles about the ship disaster. William was also a successful businessman in Quincy.

The New Era

Adam established himself in Quincy as a successful businessman. With his brother, William, they established a grocery store at the corner of Fourth and Maiden Lane and remained there for four years. They then moved to the southeast corner of Third and Hampshire for 25 years; that business was dissolved in 1870. The business was grocery and retail liquor. The store was quite successful. I realized this after finding a little snippet in an 1895 Quincy paper saying he had established bank accounts in the amount of $1000 for each of his seven children! That was impressive enough; but when I used an inflation calculator, that $1000 was the same as $27,700 in 2013 dollars! In studying his probate records, the estate paid his widow and children a little over $13,000. In 2013 dollars, that is the same as $378,000! This only makes me wonder why his widow, Elizabeth, has seven boarders with her on the 1900 census---this is only one year after the death of her husband! Didn't seem she needed the money. Yet another mystery.

This is a monument erected to commemorate those lost in the tragedy. However, it was washed into the sea during a severe storm.