Our Roots In Germany


When Willibald Schulte arrived in New York from Germany on the SS Minnesota on December 6, 1870 he was 20 years old. But where did he come from and who did he leave behind? What was it like where he grew up? Are there still relatives living there?  Was Willibald's wife to be (Elisabeth Wiesener) from the same part of Germany? Read on to discover our roots in Germany and learn the answers to those questions.

Willibald and his wife Elizabeth didn't share much information about their homeland with their 11 children. When the Schultes in America had their first reunion in Bow Valley, Nebraska in 1990 they knew almost nothing about Willibald's origins. In fact, until recently they only knew that Willibald was from Westfalen in Germany.

There were only a few clues about where in Westfalen Willibald was from. A 1922 letter written to him by a niece in Germany said "Alle Ihre Brüder und Schwester in Selkentrop sind gestorben". Translated this means "all your brothers and sister in Selkentrop have died".  Unfortunately, Willibald himself had died a year before the letter was received.  Thus, it is thought that all communications between the Schultes in America and those in Germany ceased in the early 1920's. It was not until 1993 that the families rediscovered one another.

Another clue to Willibald's origin was one of his friends, Anton Hesse. He and Willibald travelled on the SS Minnesota to America and later Anton was best man at Willibald's wedding.  We knew that Anton Hesse was from "Burbecke", a small village in west central Westfalen. A third clue in the 1981 Willibald Schulte Book where it is stated that he was from "Crist Olofa", which probably refers to Kreis Olpe a nearby county in that part of Westfalen. These three place names - "Selkentrop", "Burbecke", and "Crist Olofa" - helped locate Willibald's home in Westfalen. This area is called Hochsauerland.  It lies about 75 miles north-northwest of Frankfort and 60 miles east-northeast of Köln. It is a beautiful wooded, hilly (almost mountainous) area with many small villages in serene valleys, and many livestock farms and lumbermills.  It is in the beautiful hills and valleys of Hochsauerland in Westfalen, Germany that we Schultes have our roots.

Our ancestors were farmers in Hochsauerland for several centuries before Willibald came along. We are told that our ancestors herded their animals for winter feed from the hills of Hochsauerland to the river bottoms of the Rhine River, some 60 miles southwest.

Prior to 1740, Germany was a collection of cities and states with no central government. In the absence of a central government the churches, especially the Roman Catholic Church, were the central authority. Taxes were paid to the church and most, if not all, records were kept by the local priest.  The parish records from St Cyriakus in Berghausen, and Saints Peter and Paul in Wormbach contain nearly all of the family history of our Schulte ancestors.  St Cyriakus and SS Peter & Paul were established nearly 750 years ago!  SS Peter and Paul  in Wormbach, where Willibald was baptized was built as result of a "rest stop" on a trader's trail where early Catholic missionaries gathered to convert Germanic people in the 13th century. Because of the historical significance of these churches the German government helps maintain them today. 

The earliest indication of our direct ancestors being in this area dates back to 1536 when Jacob Schulte paid a tax of 5 goldguilders to St Cyriakus church on 400 acres which was a lot of land in those days!!  The early Schultes attended church at St. Cyriakus in Berghausen but lived 2 miles up the valley in Little Kuckelheim.  In 1833 Willibald's 2nd cousin sold the original Schulte land in Little Kuckelheim.

Our Schulte ancestors left Little Kuckelheim in 1803 when Willibald's grandfather, Ludwig, married Anna Theresia Schauerte Göbel from Selkentrop.  Anna Theresia inherited the Göbel farm in Selkentrop therefore, according to German family name tradition, Ludwig adopted the name Schulte-Göbel.  Ludwig's son Heinrich (Willibald's father) took over the farm and thus also went by the name Schulte-Göbel. Today the house where Willibald was born is occupied by Willibald's great-great nephew, Marcus Schulte-Göbel.   When Willibald immigrated to America he brought with him only the name Schulte.

Another unique German family name tradition was that when a female was an only child she kept her family name upon marriage. Had it not been for this tradition, that of carrying on the family name through the female when necessary, twice in the recorded 460 year record of our family (1702 and 1721) we would have lost the Schulte name!

Willibald Schulte was born in Selkentrop on the 30th of May, 1850.  He was the youngest of 5 children and was 8 years old when his father, Heinrich Schulte-Göbel, passed away. Willibald's brothers and  sisters were: Franz Anton, August, Maria Elisabeth and Maria Wallaburga.  It was Franz Anton who stayed in Selkentrop and whose son Gerhard, and grandson Marcus Schulte-Göbel, maintain the original homestead today.  Notice that the names of three of Willibald's sons in America (Frank, Anton and August) corresponded to his brothers names in Germany!

The village of Selkentrop, where Willibald was born, was established in 1361 and celebrated its 625th anniversary in 1986!  Selkentrop is small having about 100 inhabitants. It is picturesque and fulfills visions of what a German farm village must look like. Flower boxes adorn nearly all windows and the streets are immaculately clean.  Several dairy farms are located within the village and it has a small, beautiful chapel named after St. Blasius.  The house in Selkentrop where Willibald was born is still occupied by our cousins.

The sign at entrance to the Schulte-Göbel house reads "Landhaus Schulte-Göbel - Gaststätte Pension - Ferienwohnungen" which means "Schulte-Göbel country guesthouse & vacation apartments". It was converted to a guesthouse in the 1950's and today is a well known vacation spot.  Landhaus Schulte-Göbel is a popular resort even in the winter when snowfall can be quite deep. Several popular ski-resorts are located about 12 miles east of the house.

Several other villages in the area have connections to our roots.  One is Wormbach, home of SS Peter & Paul Church where Willibald was baptized and where the Schulte-Göbels attend mass. You have to see this church and its splendid interior to fully appreciate its historical beauty.  Musicians from all over Germany come to Wormbach to play organ recitals on Sundays during the summer on a pipe organ installed in 1450!

About 3 miles north of Selkentrop is the village of Cobbenrode. It is here that Willibald's brother August lived. Recall that Willibald's brothers and sisters were Franz Anton, August, Maria Elizabeth and Maria Wallaburga. The August Schulte-Strommes family owns and operates a lumber mill in Cobbenrode.

Willibald's sister, Maria Wallaburga lived in nearby Schmallenberg. It was Maria Wallaburga's daughter that wrote the letter to Willibald in 1922. Maria Wallaburga married Franz Ax and their grandson and great-grandson operate a dairy farm on a hill overlooking Schmallenberg.

Willibald's wife Elisabeth Wiesener was born November 27, 1856 in the village of Dormke, a few miles northwest of Selkentrop.  Elizabeth's parents Conrad Wiesener and Elisabeth Stappert were married in 1848 in nearby   Schliperüthen in St Georg's church and Elisabeth was baptized there.  She, her parents and a sister immigrated to America in about 1860 and in 1863 were among the first to settle in Bow Valley.  It is doubtful that Willibald and Elizabeth knew one another before they met in Bow Valley.

This completes our journey back to our ancestral home in Germany. If you get a chance to visit Selkentrop in Hochsauerland, be sure to do so.  You will be awed by the beauty of the area and impressed by the hospitality of your German cousins!


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