Remembering Our Ancestors: Josef Kappius Sr.

This week in 1882, our (Great-) Grandfather Kappius was born. Happy Birthday, Great-Grandpa Josef!

On the last day of April in 1882, Josef Kappius, our (great-) grandfather, was born in Bochum, Germany to Johann Kappius and his wife Gertrud Haselhorst.  Johann had left his hometown Haaren a couple of years prior and had settled in Grumme, today part of the city of Bochum in North-Rhine Westphalia.  He and Gertrud, who originally came from Störmede, had married on 8 September 1881 in Bochum, and Josef was their first son; their second son Wilhelm was born three years later.

Josef maintained his connections with his father’s family in Haaren and eventually was apprenticed to his uncle Konrad Kappius who owned and ran a wheelwright’s shop.  We assume that it was during his time in Haaren that Josef met his first wife Antonie Lingemann: Her father was first teacher at the village school there.  The two got married around 1906, and they had three children together, one son (Jupp, my father) and two daughters (Gertrud and Elisabeth).

The young couple did not live in Haaren, however, but in Bochum with Josef’s parents, or at least with his mother, for by 1907, Johann Kappius had already passed away as far as we can discern.  In Bochum, Josef did not work a s wheelwright, but earned a living as a traveling salesman.

The marriage did not last very long, in fact, it probably had failed by 1915 already, and the couple separated.  Antonie died in 1924 at the age of 42 in Rostock in north-eastern Germany (over 300 miles from Bochum).  How, for how long, or even why she lived there in the end we have not been able to find out.

What either of them did during WWI  – both were 36 years old when WWI began – we do not know either, but we do know that the children stayed with their father in Bochum and that Josef married again in 1927.  His second wife was Ida Selma, and Josef’s brother Wilhelm, by now better known as Father William for he had become a Roman Catholic priest and was living in Crofton, NE, presided over the marriage: Documents prove that he traveled to Germany for the occasion.

WWII still finds Josef in Bochum, by now 57 years of age and probably too old for regular active service in the Wehrmacht, but he survived the war and kept up his good relations with his relatives in Haaren, especially with his cousin Anton, one of Uncle Konrad’s sons who had inherited and continued his father’s wheelwright’s shop.  Anton’s family enjoyed Josef’s long summer visits and many entertaining anecdotes have been kept alive about him to this day.  Apparently, Josef was an amiable man who had colorful stories to tell about his many travels and who brought wonderfully thoughtful gifts when he visited.  Truth be told, most of what I do know about my grandfather I have learned from the family in Haaren, and especially from my Cousin Katharina who passed away only relatively recently.

Josef Kappius died on 14 June 1955 in Recklinghausen, just 9 miles away from Bochum.  When he had moved there, during or after the war, we do not know, but since Bochum was largely destroyed during the last year of WWII, he might very well have lived there the last ten or twelve years of his life.

Rest in Peace, Grandpa Josef.  We have not found your grave yet, but maybe one day we will.

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Josef Kappius (30 April 1882 – 14 June 1955)




Remembering Our Ancestors: Franziskus Xaverius Kappius gt. Reelen

Nobody would have called our 2nd and 3rd great-grandfather ‘Franziskus Xaverius’. In his hometown Haaren, he would have been known as ‘Reelen’s Xaver’.

When Franziskus Xaverius Kappius was born on 3 April 1821, four generations of Kappius farmers had been living in Haaren, where they worked the Reelen farm.  But Reelen’s Xaver was not going to inherit his father’s farm, in fact, none of his three brothers or three sisters did because when Xaver was in his mid-fifties, the farm was lost.  His father Franziskus Heinrich (or Hans, for short) had been taking out loans on the farm and the land since 1820, and he did not live to see the farm, or what was left of it, being sold in the end, he had very little to leave behind when he died in 1861.

Nevertheless, during Xaver’s childhood things might still have been reasonably good on the farm.  On 3 February 1849 when he was still working the farm together with his father Hans and brother Anton, Xaver  married Angela Tacken, and all of their eleven children, five boys and six girls, were born in Haaren.  It is quite possible that Xaver, being the second son of his parents and hence not the heir to the farm, lived in a smaller house that also belonged to the Reelen estate into which his (by then widowed) mother and his brother Konrad moved with his family after they had to sell the farm finally in 1877.  Said smaller house is still family property and inhabited by a descendant of Konrad.

Xaver, Angela and their oldest son Johann (see below), who was not married yet in 1877, decided to move to Bochum at this point, more precisely to Grumme, a district north of the city center.  Bochum was a coal-miner city, as most of the cities in the Ruhrgebiet used to be, and so both Xaver and Johann found engineer’s jobs in one of the mines.  For three generations, the Kappius family stayed in Grumme, in a house on Grummer Strasse which today is lined with cherry trees and known for their gorgeous pink blossoms in the spring (see image above).

Xaver died last Sunday 132 years ago, on 1 March 1888 in Grumme at the age of 66.  Rest in Peace, Great-Grandpa Kappius.

In many families, birthdays cluster around certain months.  March is one such month in our family, contemporary as well as in the past.  And so we also remember this week our (great-) grandmother Antonie Lingemann (1882 – 1915, Xaver’s grand-daughter-in-law), whose birthday would have been on 5 March, and also our (2nd) great-grandfather Johann Kappius (1851 – bef. 1907, Xaver’s oldest son, see above), whose birthday would have been this day, 6 March.  Besides, our twin cousins Franziska and Margarethe Pohlschmidt (Xaver’s great-granddaughters), whose children’s pictures could very well show our own children dressed up in 1920s fashion, were born on 6 March, too, in 1918.

Happy birthday!

Margarethe and Franziska in the center, with younger siblings Louise and Wilhelm, around 1924.

Remembering Our Ancestors: Jupp Kappius

Today we remember my father Jupp, whose family relations were a closed book for us for a long time.

Josef Kappius, known to everyone only as Jupp, was born at the onset of the 20th century, on 3 November 1907, in Bochum, Germany.  He was the first child and only son of Josef Kappius Sr. and his wife Antonie Lingemann, both of families that originally came from Haaren at the borders of the Sauerland.  But Joseph Sr. and his brother had already been born in Bochum, where their father Johann had moved after the farm and lands that the family had owned in Haaren was lost.

Regardless, Josef Sr. and Antonie most likely met in Haaren, where Josef Sr. was learning the wheelwright’s trade at his uncle’s shop.  By the time Jupp was born, the young couple was living with Josef Sr.’s parents in Bochum.  Withing the next five years, two more children were born to the couple, both girls.

We have a photo of Jupp’s grandparents, and we are not sure whether they are the Kappius or the Lingemann grandparents, but some life facts and events indicate that they are most probably the parents of Jupp’s mother Antonie, Josef Lingemann and his wife.  He was first teacher at the local school in Haaren and much involved in the affairs of the village, as teachers used to be.  We hope to discover more about this line of the family still as the Lingemann’s were closer to Jupp’s heart, but things are going slow in this research area.  They appear to have relocated to Schmallenberg in the Sauerland after leaving Haaren in the early 1900s, where many Lingemann’s still reside to this day.

Jupps Grosseltern
(most likely) Josef Lingemann and his wife Louise Becker, Jupp’s maternal grandparents

Now, Jupp’s life wasn’t very long – he died on 30 December 1967 in Dortmund at the age of 60 – but rather intense.  He lived through both great wars in Europe and was quite involved in the social and political re-shaping of his country after 1945.  He was married twice and, against all odds, fathered two children in his later years.  I have written about his personal life before, so head over to the article if you are interested.  Today, however, I would like to say a few more things about the Kappius family in Haaren.

Recently, we have discovered online access to the church books of the Roman-Catholic St. Vitus church in Haaren, and family members have been very diligently scanning the material for the name Cappius.  The result, in short, is that we can now say with some certainty that just about all people who live in Haaren and bear the name Cappius/Kappius, regardless of their various house names, go back to one and the same ancestor:  Johannes Franziskus (most likely called Johann Franz) Cappius, who is first documented as living in Haaren on 23 June 1726.  On this day, he married his first wife Anna Freitag (or Freytag) in Haaren.  They had 10 children together, many of whom did not live to see adulthood, and after her death in 1753 Johann Franz married again, this time Catharina Winhusen, with whom he had four more children.  He died on 27 April 1767 in Haaren, two years before his second wife.

Johann Franz was not born in Haaren, it would seem:  If our research is correct, he was born after 1698 in Giershagen, part of Marsberg in the High Sauerland area, and a very pretty little village.  But we say this with some hesitation because we are not completely sure yet of this fact.  Before 1726, the name Cappius does not show up in any of the Haaren church records, and the only Cappius recorded that could have been Johann Franz’s father was Johann Phillip Cappius, who died in Haaren on 10 February 1735 and had been born in Giershagen in 1672.  The only fly in this ointment is that we have not yet found proof that Johann Franz was indeed the son of Johann Phillip: We have found several children mentioned, but no Johann Franz among them.

From Johann Franz, who was the 6th great-grandfather of my father Jupp, the patri-linear line resided in Haaren until Jupp’s grandfather, who was born in Haaren but died in Bochum.  Now, the really funny and somewhat odd thing about all this is that after Jupp’s father, who still had good contact to his uncle and cousins in Haaren and visited them there frequently until very shortly before his death in 1955, the family contact with Haaren was completely severed.  None of Josef Sr.’s children, as far as we know, had any contact with Haaren anymore, or ever talked about the family in Haaren to their children and grandchildren.  This connection was only very recently reestablished (within the last decade), and while it appears to not have been a priority to my father whom we remember today, I am sure it is important to research and document the family roots, and that he would not be displeased at our doing so.

Rest in Peace, Jupp.  We remember you, and we love you, and we hope to find out more about the family of your beloved mother as well.

Josef 3 - Edited

Remembering Our Ancestors: Angela Maria Tacken

This week 128 years ago, our 2nd (and 3rd) great-grandmother on the Cappius side passed away at the age of 68.

Haaren, a small but very old village in Germany which today belongs to Bad Wünnenberg, is the place to where we can trace the Cappius/Kappius family in history.  There, they lived since the late 18th century, and there they still live, not all of them, but many.  Their farm and extensive lands, and with them their house name Reele(n), eventually got lost, but parts of the family just moved to another house in town that also belonged to them, and this property is still family owned.  Haaren is full of Kappius families who all are related to each other to one degree or another; you just have to go back far enough and find the connections.

Angela Maria Tacken was born on 10 Jan 1823 in Haaren.  Her mother Christina Müller was originally from Wünnenberg, her father Heinrich Tacken was a day laborer in Haaren.

Angela married Franziskus Xaverius Kappius at St. Vitus church in Haaren (picture below) on 2 March 1849 when he was 27 years old, and she was 26.  The family lived in Haaren on the Reelen farm, the place that gave the family the house-name Reele(n) as an attachment to their family name.

Angela and Franziskus Xaverius had eleven children together between 1849 and 1869, three of which did not live to adulthood.  Their first son and second child Johannes was our (2nd) great-grandfather, and it appears that he moved to Grumme, a district of Bochum, with Angela and Franziskus when they left Haaren.  The reason for their move was probably the loss of the farm which happened around 1877, and the smaller house in Haaren was a good bit smaller than the farm had been and had only room enough for their son Konrad and his quickly growing family.

In Bochum-Grumme, Franziskus Xaverius died on 1 March 1888.  On 16 December 1891, only three and a half years later, Angela Maria Kappius died as well and was laid to rest in Bochum together with her husband, as far as we know.

Rest in Peace, Great-Grandma Kappius.

St. Vitus in Haaren

Remembering Our Ancestors: Margaretha von Reele

“Tante Rita” felt strongly about our family identity bound up with the house name Reelen.

On 3 September 1935, Margaretha Krüger was born in Bochum, coal-miner city in western Germany and home to the family of Johannes Kappius since the late 19th century when the Reelen farm in Haaren was lost and Johannes moved his family to the nearby city to find work in the mines.  Margaretha was Johannes’ great-granddaughter, in other words, she was my cousin, second daughter of my father‘s sister Gertrud Kappius and her first husband Richard Krüger.  72 years later, in 2007. she died in Seattle, WA.  In between lies a long and interesting life on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Margaretha Rita Krueger

Magraretha, or Rita, as she was called, grew up in Bochum with her sister Maria Theresia, and one can assume that not much of her first ten years were actually spent there because Bochum was heavily bombed during WWII, to the point where not much of it was left in the end.  But Rita survived, and so did her parents and her sister.

After the war, in the early 1950s, Rita married Raymond L. Brown of the American Air Force who had been stationed in Germany, and the two went to live in Arizona for the next 20 years.  In 1962, Rita became an American citizen.

Eventually, however, the marriage broke and Rita took the ship back home to Germany.  On the boat she met Christian Wätjen, a gentleman whose family was obviously of northern German extraction.  The two married, and they lived in the Bad Segeberg area in Schleswig-Holstein for the next 30 years.  But eventually, Rita returned to North America, living first in Canada and then in Seattle, where she died in 2007.

Between 2000 and 2007, Rita changed her name to Margaretha von Reele.  She had always been interested in genealogy, first to find out more about the little family riddles one inevitably encounters when talking about the past with your relatives, but eventually she was most intrigued by the loss of the house name of the Cappius/Kappius family.

The Cappius family had settled in Haaren latest around 1720, according to our oldest records, and around 1760 they acquired a farm that came with a name attached to it, like all farms and houses in Haaren did.  Those names were, quite logically, called “house names”, and to this day, the German term “Hausname” is used synonymous with family name or surname.  But back in the day, a house name was not the same as a family name:  There were many families by the name of Cappius in Haaren, and so they were distinguished from each other by the houses they occupied and the names that went with them.  Thus our branch of the family became known as Cappius Reelen.  Lots of land belonged to the farm eventually, and a second, smaller house in town as well, but times were hard in Haaren in the mid- to late 19th century, and by and by debt mounted and the land had to be sold off acre by acre, until in the end the farm could not be kept either.  The smaller house was then home to the remaining Kappius Reelen family, but most family members had already left town, like my great-grandfather, to settle where a living could be made, or to go to the military.  Since they were not connected with the house anymore, they dropped the name of Reelen from their last name, or took up other house names as they bought new houses.

By the time Rita started looking into all this, she had primarily her mother as a source to rely on, and Gertrud herself had already been born in Bochum and no relationship with the family that was still living in Haaren, although her father surely did until he died in 1955.  It is quite possible that Rita wasn’t yet interested in family history while her grandfather was still alive.  From her researches, probably conducted in the 1970s and onward, Rita concluded that it was a shame how the name had been lost, as with it some of the family identity was lost as well.  Therefore, she eventually changed her last name to “von Reele”, and sought to free the family from the stain on their reputation.  She even thought that some criminal act had possibly led to the Roman Catholic Church confiscating farm and land, but I have not been able to verify this suspicion.

While it is true that the family lost land and farm, they continued to be, and still are known by their house name Reele, although none of them actually called themselves by the house name only.  Rita’s great-uncle Anton, whose father had still lived on the Reelen farm and later in the small Reelen house in town before he built a new one for his growing family, was known throughout his life as “Reelens Anton”, and his children did not develop a similar sense of loss about the family name as it wasn’t really lost after all.  True, it wasn’t officially used anymore, but it surely was still part of their identity as it continued to distinguish them from other branches of the Kappius family.

There is one member of the family that shared Rita’s concern for the family name, down to the spelling of Cappius with a C, and that was my great-uncle Father Uncle William, who came to the United States in 1913 after his ordination and lived in various places in Nebraska until his death in 1945.  He, too, was quite interested in the Reelen part of the name but was unable to find out much about it, as we can gather from his letters to my father.  He refused to spell his own or his nephew’s last name with a K, which appears to have led to some confusion in the internment camp in Australia where my father received his letters in the early 1940s.  Maybe distance makes a (perceived) loss of identity be felt even more keenly.

Rest in Peace now, dear Rita von Reele.  It is indeed a shame that much of your research was lost after you passed on, and that we cannot read anymore all the facts and anecdotes you gathered.  But maybe that would have been too easy anyway, and we are meant to look again into the past ourselves and piece together the long and the short of it.

Tante Rita 70 Jahre alt
Rita when she was 70 years old

Remembering Our Ancestors: Cousin Katharina

On Monday, 19 August 2019, Cousin Katharina passed away at the good old age of 89.  With her, we have lost a family historian to whom we owe much.

Cousin Katharina, her full name being Maria Katharina Johanna Kappius, later Schmidt, was born on 20 January 1930, in Haaren, Germany.  Her grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers, which makes her my 2nd cousin 1x removed.  She was the eldest of four children, three girls and one boy.  The family lived in a farm house and thus weathered WWII relatively unharmed, albeit being located only about 5 miles north-east of the SS School in Castle Wewelsburg, and the KZ that was located there also.

DSCN9952 - Edited
This excerpt mentions the beginning of the anecdote about how Katharina’s father, Reelen’s Anton, went snooping around the KZ Wewelsburg and got caught doing so, but was released the next morning unharmed.  He had bought a wood lot in the vicinity which provided him with a credible reason for being in the area.

On 24 Oct 1955, Katharina married Rudolf Schmidt in Lennestadt-Altenhundem, in the German Sauerland, and there she lived until the end of her days.  Her husband died in 1982 already, 37 years earlier than she did.  They had five children together, three boys and two girls, and by the time she died, Katharina was a grandmother many times over.  For many years she had an apartment upstairs in her oldest son’s house.

Although where she spent most of her life is not at all far from where I lived until the early 2000s, Katharina and I did not meet until I had already moved to the United States.  Thus, all the personal contact we have had was either via good old-fashioned letters, or, periodically, via video-chat, something very newfangled that dear Katharina could appreciate because, like she said, you can have someone over for a Kaffeeklatsch (that is, coffee, cake and a chin-wag) without even having to provide either the coffee or the cake!  But I owe her a lot, and she has grown very dear to me in the five years that I knew her.

You see, Katharina was the family historian of the Kappius-clan, so to speak.  Just about everything that I know about my father‘s side of the family, apart from very few anecdotes and one photo that isn’t even clearly labeled, I know from Katharina.  She provided me with memorabilia as well as a goodly amount of historical facts and family ‘stories’, so much so that I was able to develop a whole new relationship to my paternal relatives and ancestors.  From her, I received the first picture of my paternal grandfather that I had ever seen, and the first picture of his brother whose letters to my father we have, but we didn’t have a photo.  Through her, I learned why our family name used to be Cappius Reelen, and where the clan had lived for many generations as farmers.  From her I learned what kind of a person my paternal grandfather was, and how much he was appreciated by his family back in Haaren.

So I asked her to write down her memories.  A big request, no doubt, but she began writing it all down even before I had asked.  All pictures in this post show passages from her notebook that she sent to us.  It is one of my most treasured genealogical, and personal, assets.

Katharina Schmidt passed away on 19 August 2019, and has been laid to rest in her home town yesterday in the afternoon.

Thank you, Katharina.  Thank you for being who you were, for all your efforts, for your laughter, and for your thoughtfulness.  We miss you, but Rest in Peace now.

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This is how Katharina’s account ends, with a last reference to my grandfather Joseph Kappius Sr. and how his good business relations helped her family in times of financial crisis.

The featured image relates how WWII ended in Haaren with American tanks rolling into town during mass on Good Friday in 1945.

The song below was played at Katharina’s funeral, in particular for it being in Plattdeutsch (Low German).

Remembering Our Ancestors: Konrad Cappius

Reelen’s Konrad was the first of the Cappius clan to carry the “house name” of their farm in Haaren, Germany.

This past Tuesday 292 years ago, our 6th (and 7th) great-grandfather Konrad Ignatius Cappius was born in Haaren, a small but old village in the Sauerland in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.  Haaren was first mentioned in 975 in a church document, but historians suspect that is quite a bit older than that.  While the name indicates that the village was founded by the Franks, and it lies at a cross-roads where traditional merchant and military routes meet, archaeologists have also found Stone-age tools and weapons in the area.  So Haaren, under this name or another, goes back a good long time.

This is a postcard from the area around Haaren.

Our branch of the Cappius family first moved to Haaren around 1720, and Konrad was the first generation of Cappius’ born there on 30 July 1727.  He married Katharina Maria Kluten in 1750 and they had at least three children.  Around 1765, the family began to add the house name “Reelen” to their family name, indicating that they had bought a farm in Haaren and were henceforth to be distinguished from other families of the same family name by the added house name, i.e., they were known now as “Cappius Reelen”, or “Reelen’s Konrad”, “Reelen’s Katharina” and so forth.

St Vitus Haaren
St. Vitus in Haaren, Germany

For two generations the Reelen farm including extensive lands stayed in the family, until it was lost after the Napoleonic Wars in the late 19th century, piece by piece, first the land ace by acre, then the farm house.  If you can read German, head over to my father’s site for the whole story.

But back to Konrad Ignatius.  We do not know when he died, but his son Johannes Bartholomaeus Cappius, born in 1755, took over the farm in 1781.  Chances are Konrad Cappius did not see the dawn of the 19th century.  If his wife Katharina went before him or lived to bury him, we do not know either as we have neither her birth- nor death date.

Rest in Peace, Great-Grandpa Cappius.  We assume and hope you were laid to rest in your native soil, maybe around St. Vitus church even.

Remembering Our Ancestors: Antonie Lingemann

Today we remember my paternal grandmother Antonie Cappius née Lingemann.

Today we remember our (great-) grandmother on my paternal side, Antonie Lingemann.

Antonie was born on 5 March 1882 in Haaren, North-Rhine Westphalia, the home-town of the Cappius-Clan back in the day.  Haaren is where the family farm was located, but in the late 1880s, farm and land had already been lost to a large extent and the family had moved to a different house in Haaren, where one of the Cappius-brothers ran a wheelwright shop.  Other Cappius brothers had left Haaren and settled in nearby Bochum for the obvious work opportunites.

Antonie was one of three daughters of Josef Lingemann, first teacher at the local school in Haaren, and his wife.  When she was grown, she married Josef Cappius Sr., probably around 1900.  Chances are good that Josef Sr. met Antonie while he was apprenticed at his uncle’s wheelwright shop.  The two had three children together, two daughters, Gertrud and Elizabeth, and a son, my father Jupp Kappius.  The spelling of the last name – Cappius or Kappius – seems to have changed back and forth during that time.

The young family lived together in Bochum, in the house of Josef’s parents Johannes and Gertrud (Haselhorst) Kappius, wher Antonie took care of the children while Josef’s salesman’s job took him far and wide, primarily into eastern Europe.

Antonie Lingemann portrait
Antonie Lingemann (1882 – 1924).  Quite obviously, this photo is a cut-out from a larger picture, but we do not know who else was in the photo.

While my father was still a child, Antonie left the family and ended up moving to Schwanbeck near Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where she had another daughter named Hanni.  But unfortunately, Antonie died relatively young, on 8 December 1924, at the age of 42.  Her youngest daughter was raised by her sisters in a small community in the High Sauerland called Schmallenberg where the Lingemanns seem to have settled after leaving Haaren.  There are many Lingemann’s living in that town to this day.  Her three older children, my father included, grew up with their father and grandparents in Bochum.

My father kept the above photo of his mother in loving memory of her.

Rest in Peace, Antonie.

Remembering Our Ancestors: Josef Lingemann

Today we remember my paternal great-grandfather, last seen alive on the West Front in late 1915.

lingemann or kappius
Josef Lingeman and his wife, presumably pre-World War I.

It is an unfortunate fact that I know precious little about my father‘s side of the family: Partly because my father was a generation older than my mother, partly because he had no ties with his living kin except for one half-sister, all that we had to go by were anecdotes, and very few photos, until the internet came along and research became a whole lot easier.  The above is one of those photos, showing, so we thought, my father’s parents, but it is not so.  The couple above shows my father’s grandparents instead, and here begins our conundrum because we do not know anybody who might be able to still recognize these two people and tell us for sure if these are his maternal grandparents (last name Lingemann) or his paternal grandparents (last name Kappius).

For the purpose of today’s post, though, I will assume that the gentleman shown above is Josef Lingemann, standing next to his wife, whose name we, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, do not know.  When Josef Lingemann was born or where, we also cannot tell, but it must have been around 1850 because we know that in 1875, he was an adult and had a job.  He and his wife were living in Haaren, Wesphalia at the time, a small but old (first mentioned in documents in the year 975) village which was part of Prussia between 1815 and 1918.  There, Josef was the 1st teacher at the local school from 1875 to 1899.  His daughter Antonia Lingemann, mother of Jupp Kappius, my Dad, was born there in 1882, and so were her two sisters of whom we, you guessed it, know very little.

In 1884, we find Josef and about 50 other men from Haaren founding an organization that had a rather interesting purpose.  Farming was no easy task towards the end of the 19th century, and many farmers had to go into debt if their crops failed or their cattle got sick.  Since there was no bank to go to, they borrowed money either from the church or from the resident Jews.  As a security, the farmers had to put their land and farm houses on the line, and when they failed to pay back their debt, they lost their farms, like my family did during that time (that’s a different story for another blog post at some point in the future).  Incidentally, a good many families from Haaren ended up in Nebraska during this period (as did my great-uncle, but that, too, is a different story for a different post).

The situation in Haaren was by no means unique.  Twenty years earlier, a young man by the name of Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen had observed the suffering of farmers in the Westerwald area who were often in the grip of loansharks, and conceived the idea of cooperative self-help.  He founded the first cooperative lending bank, in effect the first rural credit union, in 1864.  His ideas he published, thus giving other communities a guide on how to establish similar local organizations.

The cover of “Raiffeisen-Ratgeber: Die Darlehnskassen-Vereine” 1866 by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen.  In it, Raiffeisen sets out how to establish credit unions and other co-operatives.

Just such an organization with the explicit purpose to help impoverished farmers and to prevent poverty they founded in Haaren that day in 1884, calling it the “Haarener Spar- und Darlehnskassenverein”, and its purpose was to encourage saving and prevent debt.  Raiffeisen’s principle was followed all over the place and to this day you can find such banks in Germany, Austria, Switzerland as well as some Eastern European countries.  It helped people keep their farms everywhere, and it surely kept families from Haaren in town, and it is remembered as a great achievement and improvement for the community.

But back to the immediate family history:

After 1899, Josef Lingemann left Haaren, most probably for Schmallenberg, another old community (first mentioned in documents in 1243) a little further south, in the Sauerland region.  We know that two of his daughters lived there still after WWII, and we find it listed as his place of residence during WWI.  This is also the last reference we found to Josef Lingemann in history:  On a list published on 4 Dec 1915, he shows up as “missing” in a publication concerning soldiers in WWI, missing and taken captive according to foreign message (see the featured image).  In other words, he was a POW, and at the time he must have been up there in age for a soldier, probably around 60 years old already, because he cannot have been much younger than 20 in 1875 when he became 1st teacher in Haaren.  He belonged to the 5th company of Infantry Regiment 158, part of the VII Army Corps, which places him at the Western front during this particular time in history, but I have been unable to figure out where exactly he would have been when he was captured.

That’s the last we heard of him, so we do not know if he survived his captivity.  All we have left is the above photo that shows a man you can very well imagine being 1st teacher at the school and co-founder of a credit union, as well as a soldier when he must  have been older than the usual fighting age.

Schmallenberg in the Sauerland region in Germany was the last place of residence listed for Josef Lingemann.


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