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2004 Update - The Gansmann Family – Biblis, Hesse Darmstadt to Belleville, Illinois

Anna Gansmann married August Franke II in Belleville, St. Clair County, Illinois, on 06 May 1897 in St. Peter's Cathedral. Their marriage was registered with the county and provides the information that they were married by Max Koch, Catholic Clergyman of St. Peter’s Cathedral and that Joseph Franke, brother of the groom, and Clara Gansmann, sister of the bride, were the witnesses.

August Franke (father of August III who married Katie Currie and gave rise to all of us) was born in Langendorf, Silesia, 26 Jun 1866, one of six children of August I and Theresia Bannert. The entire family moved to Illinois in about 1881, when August II was about 15.

Anna was born 23 Dec 1877 in Belleville, Illinois, the oldest of 13 children (7 girls, 6 boys) of Henry Gansmann and Francesca Pfeiffer.

Annie must have had a shock in moving to St. Joseph’s Colony. She had been born in Illinois, as had her father, and so she likely spoke English as her first language. St. Joseph’s Colony spoke German. August III said that he spoke only English when, at the age of 7, the family moved to St. Joseph’s, and he had to learn German there. Annie was the child, niece and grandchild of prosperous brick manufacturers and lived in an urban area of Illinois, right next to St. Louis, Missouri. She moved to a sod hut in the barren prairies of Saskatchewan where she had few amenities. She was married in a Cathedral that was built in 1842 and on arrival in St. Joseph’s, there was no church. There was no school for her children. What a life of contrasts.

When Annie moved to Saskatchewan with August in 1906, she probably thought she would never see her family again. And it was long time. After August II died in 1936, Annie returned to Belleville to visit her siblings – all of whom were still living. The local paper, the Belleville Daily Advocate, on Wednesday, May 26, 1937, published a picture of the event entitled REUNION OF 13 BROTHERS AND SISTERS.

 The caption reads, "Children of the late Mr. and Mrs. Henry Gansmann of Swansea who were reunited after a period of 31 years when Mrs. Anne Franke, the eldest of the children, arrived here from her home at Leipzig, Saskatchewan, Canada. Reading from left to right, front row, seated: John Gansmann, Swansea; Mrs. Clara Egbert of Portage de Sioux, Mo.; [missed Anne Franke]; Mrs. Louisa Schneider, Swansea, and Henry Gansmann, Swansea. Rear, Albert Gansmann, Belleville; Mrs. Frances Stonewater, Belleville; Nick Gansmann, Belleville; Mrs. Theresa Wagner, St. Louis; Louis Gansmann, Swansea; Mrs. Elizabeth Sheehey, East St. Louis; Peter Gansmann, Belleville; and Mrs. Josephine Schildroth, East St. Louis. A reunion of the family including 100 relatives will be held Saturday evening at the Dewey Rod and Gun Club."

Anna’s Parents – Henry & Francesca

Henry Gansmann was born in Lebanon, St. Clair County, 10 Aug 1856, one of 4 children of Nicholas Gansmann and Cleopha (Clara) Seitz.

Francesca was born 30 May 1859 in Freudenricht, Altbaiern (Bayern or Bavaria), Germany, the oldest of 6 children of Thomas Pffeifer and Margareth Schoen. Francesca’s parents likely immigrated to Illinois about 1860 when she was a year old.

 Henry was shown in the 1880 Census and in an 1891 Belleville City Directory as working in a Brick Manufacturing operation – owned by his father Nicholas. However, by 1900, Henry and Francesca had moved from Belleville to Swansea (a matter of miles) and were operating a Saloon. Francesca’s father Thomas had operated a Saloon and perhaps, after he died in 1892, Henry took over that operation – more research required here. It appears that by 1910, however, Henry was working in a Coal Mine. He died at age 56 in 1912, a year after Francesca – again, more research required to determine what caused their deaths. Both Henry and Francesca are buried in the Green Mount Cemetery, Swansea, Illinois.

Henry’s brother John took over the Brick Manufacturing business as is shown in the following extract from the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (edited by Newton Bateman, LL.D. and Paul Selby, A.M.) and History of St. Clair County (edited by A.S. Wilderman and A.A. Wilderman) Volume II, Illustrated, Chicago, Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers. 1907:

GANSMANN, John, of the firm of Gansmann & Mueller, brick manufacturers (Swansea), Belleville, was born in 1863 at O'Fallon, Ill., and was educated in the schools of that place. His father, Nicholas Gansmann, commenced the manufacture of brick in 1872 on the site of the Gansmann & Mueller Works. Mr. Gansmann's partner is Mr. J.A. Muller. The plant has a capacity of 16,000 bricks per day. Mr. Gansmann understands the business thoroughly and has met with great success. In 1886 he married Miss Anna Meyer, a native of Belleville, and the following named children have been born to them: William, Francis, Nick, Lillie, Katy and Louisa. In his religious belief Mr. Gansmann is a Catholic.

Anna’s Grandparents – Nicholas and Cleopha

Nicholas Gansmann was born 25 Dec 1826 in Biblis, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany. He was the youngest of 6 children of Georg Gansmann and Eva Reis. Cleopha Seitz was born 26 Feb 1829 in Lorsch, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, one of 8 children of Peter Seitz and Catharina Elbert. Lorsch is about 10 miles from Biblis.

From the Germans to America books, "Clopha" Seitz, age 21, from Hesse, appears to have traveled alone on the Ship Fides out of Le Havre, arriving in New Orleans on 23 April 1850.

We have not found a ship’s record for Nicholas but he could have come up the Mississippi River from New Orleans, too. This was a common way to arrive in St. Louis, rather than over land from New York. In 1850, Nicholas was living in St. Louis, Missouri, with his brother Adam and his wife Katarina who had arrived 4 years earlier, on the Ship J.H. Cooper.

A short 6 months after arriving, Cleopha (Kleopha) married Nicholas in St. Louis, on November 24, 1850.

Both Nicholas and Clara are buried in the Green Mount Cemetery, Swansea, Illinois.

Anna’s More Distant Ancestors

Nicholas came from a long line of Gansmann, Reis, Wetzel and others who lived in Biblis, Hesse Darmstadt. We can trace Nicholas back to Valentin Gansmann, born c. 1567 in Waldforster, Hesse Darmstadt who married Anna Margaretha Hoffmann, born 02 Jun 1588 in Biblis, Hesse Darmstadt, daughter to Jakob Hoffmann and Margaretha Koch.

Was it a coincidence that the priest who married August II and Anna Gansmann was named Koch?