Scene Five, Act Three - Webenheim, Germany, in 1896
By the Cousins Four,
The last scene in our story set in Webenheim was in 1876. Now 20 years have passed and the generations have changed. By 1896 the Moschels remaining in Webenheim had become accustomed to their relatives living in America. Some Moschels moved from Webenheim as many as 43 years ago and the rest at least three decades earlier. That is a long time. Only two people lived in Webenheim in 1896 who carried the Moschel name descending from the original family of Georg Moschel and his wife Marie who died in the 1850's. This is amazing considering the number of people involved. Four of Georg and Marie's children lived and died in Webenheim, but five of the couple's offspring with their families emigrated to America between 1853 and the mid 1860's.
The only two people remaining with the Moschel name were Louise Moschel (81), who was the widow of Philipp Moschel, and Louise's unmarried daughter, Louisa, who was 51 in 1896. This is truly a name that was about die in the community. Louise and Louisa were living together in 1896 in the home of their husband and father, Philipp, who had died eight years earlier in 1888 at the age of 75.
The rest of Louise Moschel's children were situated as follows. Her son Christian was living in Peoria, Illinois, and Louise had grandchildren and great grandchildren by 1896. It is assumed she did not see any of them because we have not verified trips back to Webenheim by Christian or his family. Louise's daughter, Jacobina, died in Illinois in 1869, and then her daughter Catherine married Jacobina's widower, Herman Gerbing. It is unknown whether Catherine was alive in 1896 and, if so, whether she remained in an institution for the insane as described in earlier pieces. We know the children of Jacobina and Catherine were alive, and their mutual husband, Herman Gerbing was alive and lived in Portland, Oregon, in 1896. All of his children had moved from the Midwest to West by this time, with the exception of Herman Jr who moved back to Illinois.
Louise's second child remaining in Webenheim was her daughter Caroline Moschel Schmidt, 45, who was married with five children ranging in age from 14 to 23, none of whom were married. Louise and her unmarried daughter, Louisa, lived within walking distance of Caroline and their family.
Before turning to the family story, a brief detour to the situation in Webenheim in 1896 may be interesting.
Webenheim, Germany - 1896
What do we know about Webenheim from 1876 to 1896? On December 1, 1892, the peasants of Webenheim tallied their livestock. The results were: 121 horses, 809 ox/cows, 2 sheep, 72 pigs, 16 goats, and 31 bee hives. The people, evidently, were not counted. On December 1, 1900, a census accounted for a population of 846 in Webenheim. One hundred and fifty (150) families in Webenheim were involved in agriculture and sometimes secondary occupations that brought in additional income. The livestock population had grown a bit in the 8 years. There were 158 horses, 847 ox/cows, 300 pigs, and 14 goats. The bees must have buzzed away!
The primary occupation in Webenheim was farming. The 1900 records stated there were 166 buildings. In June of 1899 the 150 farmers of Webenheim worked on 2184 acres, which averages 14½ acres per farmer. They grew the following: 934 acres of grass and clover to feed cattle, 407 acres for potatoes, 383 acres of rye, 314 acres of oats, 96 acres of wheat, and 50 acres of barley.
A 1893 record tallied the following occupations: 3 joiners (carpenters), 1 lathe worker, 2 seamstresses, 1 barber, 1 livestock grain merchant, 1 iron worker, 1 railroad worker, 2 tailors, 5 blacksmith, 9 shoemakers, 2 wagon makers, 2 bakers, 2 weavers, 1 beer master, 1 bricklayer, 1 grocer, 1 cigar maker, 1 police deputy, 1 sheep herder, 1 stone-mason, 4 pub owners, 1 forest ranger, and 1 gamekeeper, and the rest were farmers. In 1891 thirty-three Webenheim farmers organized an agricultural cooperative based on the ideas of similar cooperatives begun in Prussia at the same time. The first local chairman of this farm cooperative was Christian Agne. The farmers had the opportunity to purchase livestock insurance since the late 1870's which certainly spread out their risk in raising livestock.
There were several business establishments in Webenheim in this era. Of the four pubs in Webenheim, one was owned by Friedrich Klein, great uncle of Otto Klein, grandfather to Cousin Four writer/researcher Markus Klein. The pub also served as a grocery store. The names of the four pubs were Kuntze (which was located next to Philipp Moschel's house), Kiresse, Kruwwel's, and Kleins. It was common for pub owners to own a secondary business. Klein's pub/grocery sold oil to the community to light the street lights. The owner of the Kiresse was also the mayor of Webenheim. The Kuntze pub was also a hardware store. The beer from all of these pubs probably came Becker's brewery in St. Ingbert which was established in 1877 or from Karlsberg brewery in Homburg which was established in 1878 or the Walsheim brewery.
The Klein Pub was formerly owned by Friedrich Reitnauer in 1882. Reitnauer lists the furniture in his pub as: 14 benches, 9 tables, 50 chairs, 6 barrels, 8 lamps, and 100 glasses and bottles. Ah, the attention to detail in German history, don't we all love it. This pub also had a dance hall and residents danced there on new year's eve and for the annual fair.
In 1896 there were two teachers in Webenheim. One was Jakob Stucky and the second teacher was Friedrich Zwick. The pastor in 1896 was Theodor Sutter and the mayor was Jakob Schunck. It should be noted that Mr. Stucky and Mr. Sutter both descended from Swiss emigrants who came to Webenheim in the 17th and 18th century. Immigrants became influential in the community in a relatively short period of time, much like the Kleins did in far away Beatrice, Nebraska, during the same time.
Signs of social progress in Webenheim included the first apartments for poor residents in 1884, a larger cemetery in 1897, and village street lights in 1886.The town erected 14 hexagonal street lamps which were made in the factory of Klöpfel and Son from Erfurt (Saxony). These were lighted with petroleum oil, which came from Klein's store.
Another kind of social progress indicator is the organization of a women's club in Webenheim. The primary purpose of the organization is unknown. It could have been primarily social activity, cultural enrichment, civic betterment for the community, or perhaps a combination of the three. What we do know is that the organization had a savings bank account in Zweibrücken in 1888 of 103 Marks. Go girls go!
Industrialization in the whole region of the Saar River was apparent in the late 1800's. There were several coal mines and iron works (i.g. St. Ingbert, Neunkirchen, and Saarbrücken- Burbach). These industries were all within 15-20 miles of Webenheim. The Saar region was the largest iron producer for one whole century in Germany.
Webenheim's location has been destiny for many wars, and thus military presence has always been a key issue for Webenheim residents. In August 1896 the military preformed summer maneuvers in the Webenheim area and were quartered there. The military group housed in Webenheim was the Third Squadron of the Royal 5th Cheveauxleger Regiment. This was a light cavalry regiment. It was only in Bavaria that these so called light horse regiments existed until 1918. This same military group quartered in Webenheim in August of 1898 and August 1900. The 1896 summer maneuvers in Webenheim involved of 103 men. Most males in Webenheim served in the 22th Infantry Regiment in Zweibrücken, and thus were not a part of this light horse regiment.
One further point about Webenheim is worth noting before we turn to the family story. Due to its relatively isolated location, Webenheim was often a minor character in the developing Bavaria/Germany. However, we do find one indication that Webenheimers felt a part of this larger world beyond their doors and fields. A new regent of Bavaria was proclaimed in June 1886, after the disastrous reign of Ludwig II, who was proclaimed as psychologically incompetent. The new regent, Prince Luitpoid, visited nearby Zweibrücken in 1888 and three days later the Webenheimers flew the flag, no doubt the Bavarian flag, on the church steeple in Webenheim.
So it is into this small world and larger world that we now visit the Moschels remaining in Webenheim in 1896 and their nearby neighbors, the Scherers.
The Moschel and Scherer Families in Webenheim - 1896
As stated, only two people with the last name of Moschel remained in Webenheim in 1896.They were Louise, 81, widow of Philipp Moschel who died in 1888 and her daughter, Louisa, 51 and single. They lived together. The daughter/sister of these two women is Caroline Moschel Schmidt. Caroline is married to Friedrich Schmidt and has been for 24 years in 1896. Caroline and Friedrich are the parents of six children: Friedrich, 23; Christian, 22; Karoline, 19; Ludwig, 16; Wilhelm, 14; and Jacob (age unknown). None of these children are married in 1896 and we have reason to believe they are all still living at home, which would certainly make for a very active household.
The other family we are following in Webenheim is that of Jacob Scherer. Jacob is the son of Charlotte Moschel Scherer. Charlotte was the woman who emigrated to America in the 1860's, leaving her husband and only child (Jacob) behind in Webenheim. Charlotte is also one of the people pictured in the picture case sent back to Webenheim in the 1860's. She has represented somewhat of a "mystery woman" to the Cousins Four and an interesting person to follow. Her son, by definition, is also interesting to follow.
In 1896 Jacob Scherer was 53 years old and living in Webenheim in a house financed with the money his mother Charlotte sent from America. Jacob's mother Charlotte was dead in 1896, but we do not know when she died. We do know Jacob's father died in Webenheim in 1875. In 1896 Jacob had a household of three living children, two dying when they were toddlers. The three children living in Webenheim were Frederick who was 23, Herman (21), and Anna (14). Jacob's fourth living child was Christian, who was 19 in 1896, but emigrated to America in 1894. This fact is verified in the Moschel Record. If Christian went to America in 1894, he would have been 17. One wonders why he went and not his two older brothers. None of the rest of the Scherers settled in America, thus why does one of them choose to go and at such a young age. More mystery.
The letter of John Klein written in 1893 in Chenoa, Illinois, and sent to his sister and brother-in- law in Beatrice, Nebraska, is reproduced in the "Beatrice 1896" piece on our website. In the letter John Klein writes on December 13, 1893, "I am enclosing a letter from Jacob Scherer, I recently wrote him 3 pages full. Gretchen wants the letter back." What this tells the Cousins today is that there is active exchange of letters from Webenheim to America three decades after the Moschels left the area. One can surmise that Jacob is writing to his cousins (both in Illinois and Nebraska) to enlist aid in settling his son Christian who is coming to America. We also know Christian travels back to Webenheim at least twice in his life, perhaps once to get a wife and a second time before the first World War to see his surviving sister and brother.
Thus, dear reader, you now have a few of the facts known to us as we begin our historical fiction journey. When we started this 1896 series of pieces, the intended main theme was for Margaret Moschel Klein in Chenoa, Illinois, to write a round robin letter to her sister, Catherine Moschel Klein, in Beatrice, Nebraska, who would sent it on to her first cousin, Caroline Moschel Schmidt in Webenheim. I (Theresa) thought of this vehicle, but as our several months' research has gone on, the evidence does not support the women keeping the family contact. The hard fact is that John Klein wrote a very long letter to Beatrice and a very long letter to Webenheim to a person that was his wife's cousin and to a place where he was not born, but his wife was. Then we have evidence that Jacob Scherer is writing to America. Do the women not know how to write? Are men the social web of connections during this time frame in history? As in each piece we write, we have more questions than answers.
A Slice of Life in Webenheim in Fall 1896
It was a beautiful fall day in Webenheim. The kind of day you wait for all summer when it is much too hot and the days are too long. The days were now shorter; the leaves on the trees were turning; the crops were in; and the nights were getting cooler. Caroline Moschel Schmidt had the luxury today of taking a little walk by herself and just letting whatever thoughts wanted to come to mind do so. It was one of those kind of days you wanted to remember what was good about life. Caroline realized that she had many things that were good.
She had six children who all lived to adulthood, unlike her mother who had five children die before her and another in the U.S. whom she had not seen for decades. Caroline had a husband who was alive and healthy; they lived in a good house that came from her mother-in-law's side of the family; and they had good crops this year. They were blessed. Life was good.
Life also looked hopeful for the future. Caroline had no doubts her oldest three children would marry soon. Her oldest sons clearly had prospects for marriage, but she would not be surprised if her third born, Karoline, married first. Karoline was young at 19, but her heart was already taken and had been for some time by Ludwig Schunck. Caroline decided she would not care one bit if that marriage occurred tomorrow. Her fondness for her future son-in-law, Ludwig, had been set years ago when his mother died when Ludwig was 12 and he began to spend more and more time in their household. Ludwig's first reason for coming had been her son Christian, who was just his age and they were school mates. As the years passed, the attraction clearly became her oldest daughter. That was fine with Caroline. It would be a good match.
Ludwig was called affectionately Hirsche-Lui among his friends and family, and it was the name that Caroline used for him. Hirsche-Lui was a good man. He had worked with his father in farm work since he left school, and he was a member of the choral group of Webenheim and had been for 6 years. He had a beautiful baritone voice and would often be the person, when he visited, to start family group singing.
Caroline knew she was going to see Jacob Scherer later today. The two had agreed to write a joint letter to their Illinois cousins, knowing that it would also be passed on to those in Nebraska. Caroline often thought of her first cousins in Illinois and Nebraska and wondered about their lives. It sounded so different from what she was experiencing. They understood her life well, but she could only begin to grasp their lives. Her cousin in Beatrice, Catherine Moschel Klein, sounded as if she lived in a house fit for a queen, and Cousin Margaret Moschel Klein in Illinois also seemed quite well off. What in the world was life like for these women, her childhood playmates? They sent pictures of their families and houses and businesses. It all seemed so strange; so foreign; sometimes wonderful, but mostly just different.
Caroline began thinking more of what to write in the letter. In the last letter she had told them about Wilhelm's confirmation. Perhaps this time she would talk about the upcoming Kirmes Festival, which celebrated the consecration of the church on the third Sunday in October. She knew they would always want to hear about that since they remembered it from their childhoods. She, too, could remember when they went to the woods to cut a tree and then decorate it with ribbons and a big tassel on the top and then display it in a town pub. Then, on Kirmes Sunday, they would carry the tree through the town with singing and trumpets and drums. The tree would then go back to the pub where it started and everyone in Webenheim was gathered. The Kirmes preacher then stood on a ladder and gave a speech in rhyme and noted happenings of the last year, mostly funny and embarrassing incidents. Caroline could remember one year when she was made a bit of fun of after she and Friedrich married in 1873 and the marriage was put in rhyme that fall.
Caroline no longer got nearly as much enjoyment out of the Kirmes Festival, but certainly her children did and they were planning for it right now. The Festival still lasted three days, and on Kirmes Monday youth took the tree through the town collecting money to pay for the festival. On Kirmes Tuesday the Kirmes butcher took a decorated sheep on another town procession. The last event was to bury a bottle of wine near the church as a symbol that another Kirmes has passed.
Yes, yes, it was here again, Kirmes Festival time and Caroline would report it all to her cousins in America. Then would enjoy thinking back to the time of their own participation in the event.
Dear reader, we stated in the first paragraph that only two people named Moschel remained in Webenheim in 1896. The Cousins Four pondered this. A name dies in a community and what does that mean. Cousin Greg developed the statistics that answer for us the question of when did the most Moschels live in Webenheim? Greg says, "The time when there were the most Moschels in Webenheim was the end of the year 1851. At that time George Sr. was still living plus daughter Elizabeth, 7 sons, 5 daughters-in-law, and 29 grandchildren for a total of 43. I did not count daughter Charlotte and granddaughter Jacobina Pauly since they were married. In the year 1852 George Sr. died and one grandson immigrated to the U.S. and from then on it was a steady reduction of the Moschels in Webenheim."
Thus, the Moschel name began dying in Webeneheim, but some of them were coming to America. Since we wrote the 1896 Beatrice piece we have uncovered the fact that three U.S. Moschel cousins have traveled to Webenheim in the last three decades "looking for something." The three of us have tried to establish a link with the past, perhaps trying to understand a geographical place or trying to understand what the Moschels were like in Germany. Cousin Gretchen went to Webenheim in 1999; Cousin Theresa in 1978, 1997, and 2002; and now we've discovered another cousin through this project who has made the same journey to Webenheim in 1991. Her name is Donna MOSCHEL Munch.
Donna found the website and her first words to us "I have never found anyone else interested in the Moschel line, therefore it went on the back burner of my research. I just want to tell you all how much I am enjoying your stories. They make the family come alive. I have printed all of them out and have them in a notebook to share with my sister. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! to all the cousins involved in this wonderful project".
And now Donna will help us move forward. We have found someone in U.S. with the birth name of Moschel!! We don't have the Moschel name left in Webenheim today, but now we know it lasted in America for quite some time!
In the next scene we will try to understand how the relationships of the American and German relatives change as the world changes. Our scene will be set in November 1918. World War I has ended; perhaps family relationships across the Atlantic have ended as well. Join us on this continuing journey. We know we will find out more about the past as well as ourselves in the process.
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