Friday, October 12, 2018

Chapter III: Victor Hugo Steppuhn in America

The First Few Years

Annie Hubman, Victor's first wife, abt 1884
(photo from CyPatience)
The S.S. Gellert left Hamburg, Germany on Nov 4, 1880 and arrived in New York on November 15th.  We can only imagine what Victor's first night in America was like.  He needed to find a place to  sleep, look for work and deal with a new language to learn.  As I mentioned before history tells us there was a very large German population in New York and many new German immigrants started their own businesses.

At some between his arrival in New York and 1884, Victor was in Chicago and met his first wife, Anna "Annie" Hubman.

Annie and Her Family
Anna, or Annie as she was known, was born the second of seven children on June 9, 1860 in Greenwich Township, New Jersey.  Her parents were both born
This photo was taken in
Chicago in 1884, the year
Victor married Annie.
in Germany.  George Hubman was born in the 
Württemberg area of 
Germany in October, 1830.  His wife, Phillipina "Phoebe"  Trunzer was born in Kirchardt, also in Württemberg on May 3, 1836.  George and Phoebe were married on November 26, 1857 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 1860 George and family were living in Greenwich, New Jersey where he was a Laborer.  In 1870 they were living in Mantua, New Jersey where George was a Groceryman. By 1880 the family had moved to Chicago but Anna was not listed on the Federal Census for that year--she was working as a servant for the H.J. Corwin family in Hyde Park, Chicago.  Mr. Corwin was a manufacturer of Oil and Paints.   I'll leave it up to all our imaginations on how Victor and Annie met.

I don't have a picture of their marriage license but on Ancestry there is a link to Cook County, Chicago records that show they were married on August 7, 1884 in Chicago.  Victor was 25 and Annie was 24.  For the time they were a bit older than most couples.  I also found a newspaper article showing they were issued a marriage license the same day.  I don't know if they were married at the courthouse or if they had a small family affair with her parents and family in attendance.  

Welcoming Their First Child
George Victor Steppuhn was born May 9, 1885 in Chicago.  There are no Census records from this time so we don't know if the couple had their own place or were living with Annie's parents.  Chicago was a bustling city in the 1880s and saw the beginning of skyscrapers to facilitate booming business growth. 
Victor looking very dapper with Baby Rose in fancy buggy!
Photo from CyPatience

By 1887 we know that Victor and Annie are living in Omaha, Nebraska because their second child, Rose, is born on January 10, 1867.  In the 1889 Omaha City Directly it lists Victor and family living at 314 N 18th St and that his occupation is listed as a Clerk.  Where their houses would have been now stands the US District Court House.    I believe Rose was named in honor of Victor's mother

In 1890 Victor became a Naturalized citizen; we know this from the 1920 Federal Census.

Rose and George. George is lucky he is at the age where he gets
to wear short pants instead of dresses which is how they dressed
Victorian children until after WWI
Photo from CyPatience

In the 1890 Omaha City Directory the family has moved to 1310 S 13th. City Directories are a wonderful tool for genealogy research.  It usually list an occupation and a spouses' name.  The 1890 Directory lists Victor's occupation as a traveling agent for the E. Musselman Company, possibly a wholesale liquor house.

Family recollections tell us that Victor's family thought he had died and that they did not know what happened to him.  I can't help but think he must not have parted with well with his parents.  I can imagine he wanted to tell them about his new life and young family.  I think they would have been proud of him.  His sister Louise Clara Hedwig died in 1887 and his mother, the Baroness von Massenbach died February 21, 1888--did he know at the time?  I think he might have found out at some point as he named my grandmother Hedwig.

Victor Sues the Railroad
While traveling on business on February 24th he went to the Union Pacific railway station in Madison, Nebraska to catch a train to Norfolk.  The station was closed, weather was cold and the train was late.  In his suit Victor claims he caught cold and lost his hearing as he laid in his sickbed.  He is suing the company for $5,000.  I did not find any article on the outcome of his suit, but I did find two articles about his court case.

Tragedy Strikes the Family

Victor and Annie’s last child, Hugo, was born on June 27, 1892 in Omaha, Nebraska. A little more than one year later Annie dies in Omaha on July 18, 1893 at the age of 33. Since I don’t have a copy of her death certificate I don’t know what Annie died of but one relative (Joanne Shea Monaco) says it was due to delivery complications--that would have been a long time to suffer since the baby was born in June and she died the next July.

George Victor, Rose and Hugo Steppuhn - a few months after their mother's death.  Chicago1893.
The hat at their feet could be their mother's, or it could be Rose's
(Photo from CyPatience)

Victor Moves the Family to Carroll, Iowa

Sometime after Annie’s death, Victor packed up his children and moved some 100 miles to Carroll, Iowa. Carroll had a large German population including their own German-language newspaper—no doubt he felt right at home in Carroll.  It appears he got busy right away availing himself of the opportunities in the heavily-German immigrant population of Carroll. 

I found several newspaper articles that mention Victor. Following is one from the Carroll Sentinel from February 5, 1894:

Victor H. Steppuhn, of Omaha, Neb., has purchased the Diamond Saloon, formerly owned by Mr. Wieland. Mr. S. comes to Carroll well recommended and with a good reputation and long experience in the trade he is engaged in, having traveled for many years for wholesale liquor houses, and intends to run a first class establishment. He is a native of Germany and invites his country people to call on him. He will sell the best kinds of goods at reasonable rates. Call and see Mr. Steppuhn and he will use you well.

By July he has applied for a "permit" to run a retail saloon and then puts an ad in the paper advertising his business in The Carroll Sentinel.  In August he is renting more space for his stock of liquors and wine.

Victor Writes to the Editor
He wrote an impassioned letter to the Omaha World-Herald that seems to me to be talking about the troubles faced by "free-thinking"  folk involved in the liquor business. Iowa was not an easy state to try and run a liquor business. Iowa tried to pass legislation prohibiting all alcohol and when that failed the Mulct Law was passed by the Iowa legislature in 1894. This law provided, in effect, a local option to allow saloons. “The prohibitory law was not repealed, but it was provided that it might be violated upon consent of a certain percent of the people of a given community and the payment of a certain sum of money.”

The procedure under the Mulct law was that the prospective saloonkeeper would circulate a petition and get a certain number of signatures approving his operating the saloon. The Mulct law also set a number of other operating restrictions. Enforcement was local. Any citizen could file a civil case against a saloon violating conditions of the act and get injunctive relief closing the saloon as a nuisance or setting conditions on its continued operation.  (Click here to read article I gleaned this information from).

Victor Marries Again
Mourning for a loved one in Victorian times was elaborate and infused with rules of how long to mourn and what you were to wear; well it mostly applied to women.  Women were expected to mourn formally for their husbands for two years.  Men, however, could mourn for three months and then be free to re-marry.  If they had young children they were encourage to marry as soon as possible so they had a helpmate for the children's sake.

The Carroll Sentinel reported that a marriage license was issued to Victor and Miss Marie Ahrling on November 26, 1894.

Mary had been in the employ of Joseph M. Drees, attorney at law who was born in Boston but came to Carroll in 1873.  He also engaged in the insurance business and was an agent for a German line of steamers.

Mary Agnes Ahrling -- I can really see the
resemblance to my father, especially in the eyes
Rev. Father Joseph C. Nacke at Saints Peter and Paul Church married Victor and Mary on November 27, 1894.  Father Nacke was born in Elsen, Westphalia, Germany.

They had a wedding breakfast hosted by J.A. Rohner, a photographer.  He was burned out in the great Carroll fire of 1879, left town, but returned in 1881 to resume his business.

The article that mentions their wedding says that Mary should be a kind mother to his children and from all family accounts I have heard, she was indeed a very good stepmother to George, Rose and Hugo.

Victor Quits Saloon, Runs A Restaurant
In less than a year Victor is no longer the owner of the Diamond Saloon. He is now managing the J.M. Alber's Restaurant. Seems he ran a good Saloon as the article points out with a promise you'll have a great meal and experience.  Even though he was not in the Saloon business a newspaper article from July 30, 1895 tells us he was in a court battle with Margaret Runkle to gain possession of the old brewery property.  The jury found in favor of Margaret.

I recently found this article titled A Legal Outcast (on the left) where Victor had written an opinion piece for the Carroll Sentinel on February 21, 1895 regarding the mulet laws and how it pertained to the Diamond Saloon he owned.  He was a partner in the business with a Mr. J.M. Albers and they got into a disagreement. His attorney argued that the court had no jurisdiction because the Saloon was an illegal business according to section 16 of the Martin mulet law.  The case was thrown out of court by the judge and Victor wrote that "practically making the saloon in Iowa, even if operated under the mulet law, a legal outcast..." 

I believe this is the reason Victor went into the restaurant business.  This will not be first time we find articles written by Victor to local newspapers, he had quite a way with the pen; and this from a man who spoke no English when he came to this country--he had quite a command of this adopted language. 

The Family Moves Back to Omaha, Nebraska
The 1895 Iowa Census shows the family still living in Carroll but at some point the family moves back to Omaha.  Mary and Victor's first child together, George Victor Steppuhn is born on September 28, 1896 in Omaha. A little over a year later Mary Agnes is born on November 26, 1897.  Henry Anthony follows on January 17, 1898.

The Federal Census from 1900 shows Victor, now 41, renting a home at 2417 S. 29th St. in Omaha.  He is a laborer and has been unemployed for 4 months.  Mary is now 29 and has a very big family to take care of.
Victor Hugo's 1900 Federal Census.  Click on the picture to see expanded view.  Census records are critical for family history and can give you very interesting information on the family.

George is now 15, Rosie 13 and Hugo 8; all three are in school.  Victor is 4, Agnes is 3 and Henry 2.  On this Census Mary states she had 7 children but only 6 living so at some point they had a child that died young before 1900.

The Family Finally Settles in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Photo circa 1903 from Omaha, Nebraska

My grandmother, Hedwig Marie was born on July 29, 1903 in Omaha.  Sometime after her birth the family moves to Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is a little more than 5 miles east of Omaha.

By 1905 oldest son George had been serving in the Navy and had been present when the USS Bennington had a deadly boiler explosion in San Diego, California on July 21, 1905. Sixty-six of the Bennington's 165 officers and men died in this tragedy.

I found another "letter to the editor" from the Omaha World-Herald(right)--I tried to find the article he was writing about but no luck.  He does have a way with words though.

The 1910 Federal Census for Council Bluffs find a 51 year old Victor renting their 
Council Bluffs 1910 Federal Census
home with his occupation as laborer.  Mary states she had 8 children with 5 living so she had lost 3 of her own children with Victor over the years.  Victor is 14, Agnes 13, Henry is 12, Hedwig 7 and Magdalene is 3.

The Iowa Census for Council Bluffs of 1915 shows the family living at 2427
1915-1916 Victor publishes a Socialist
weekly on Saturdays
Avenue G and Victor, now 56, is still working as a laborer.  But he also has another interest going on.  I found a document from the Iowa Official Register for 1915-1916 that shows Victor was the editor/publisher of a socialist newspaper published weekly on Saturdays.  Old passions die hard it would seem for Victor.  According to some, the roots of socialism in America came with the arrival of German immigrants in the 1850s.  The socialist party in America was born and grew dramatically between 1900 and 1912.  At one point Socialists published 300 some newspapers--looks like Victor was one of them.

In addition to writing his socialist newspaper, Victor also wrote to The World-Herald.  This column were his thoughts on the preacher Billy Sunday.  To say the least, Victor was not a fan.

There was a response to Victor's opinion piece by a Mr. E.H. Packard.
1920 Federal Census
The family owns their home at 2533 Avenue H in Council Bluffs.  Victor is now 60 years old and working as a Laborer for a contractor.  Mary is 48 and keeps house.  Henry is 21 and is listed as having no occupation.  Hedwig (my grandmother) is 17 and works as a Cashier at a department store.  Magdaline is 12 and Eugene is 8.

1925 Federal Census
Victor is listed as 66 years old and he owns the house at 2533 Avenue H which is worth $4,000.  Victor states he finished the 12th grade and has been in the U.S. for 45 years.  Mary, 53, finished the 5th grade.  Henry is 27 and states he finished the 4th grade.  Magdaline is 18 and finished the 10th grade and Eugene is 13.  Victor lists his religion at Lutheran; all the others are Catholic.  Victor's daughter, Hedwig is on the previous page of the 1925 Census from her father as she and her family live very close by.

1927 Council Bluffs City Directory

This directory (left) shows Victor and Mary living at 2533 Ave H, Henry is a salesman and lives with Victor and Mary.  Hugo, a machinist, and his wife Ethel live at 2730 Ave C.

On August 21, 1929 The Carol Times report that Victor was visiting his wife's niece, Mrs. Frank Loeffelholtz and other friends since he lived in Carroll some 25 years previous.  Mary's niece is Mary Christina Ahrling, the daughter of Mary's sister Bernadine Ahrling.  It must have been fun going back to Carroll and connecting with his old friends and seeing how much the town had changed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Chapter IV: Victor Hugo's Family

Chapter IV:  Victor Hugo's Family

Marriage Into the Ancient von Massenbach Family

von Massenbach Arms
The origin of the von Massenbachs goes back as far as A.D. 711. About 1465, Bertold IX von Massenbach (ca. 1446-1523) migrated to East Prussia and obtained numerous properties in the gift of the Order of Teutonic Knights. It was his son, Bertold X von Massenbach, 1st of Stuttehnen, who is the founding ancestor of the two lines of the family that continue to this day.

So, Victor Hugo was born into a family of influence, power and wealth and his father’s marriage into the von Massenbach family undoubtedly added to their status.

Baroness Rosalie (Rosa) Luise Fredericke von Massenbach

Rosalie was born April 25, 1827 in Jesau, Kreis Bartenstein, the daughter of Baron Louis Alexander von Massenbach and Friederike Kuchmeister von Sternberg. She died February 21, 1888 in Grossenluder in Hessen when she was on 60 years old. As Victor mentioned in his handwritten note, her father owned the town of Jesau and helped "lick" Napoleon and her grandfather, Erhardt von Massenbach took part, under York, in the American Revolutionary War selecting his best men to sent to George Washington to fight against King George.

Louis Alexander Steppuhn

Victor's father, Louis was born May 19, 1823 at the family manor Lackmedian.  He married Rosalie on June 9, 1845 when she was 18 and he was 23. He died on May 13, 1907 when he was 83 years old. 

Chapter II: Victor's Road to America

Chapter II

Victor's Name: 

I have often wondered about his name--is he named after the famed French writer, Victor Hugo?  When you look at other family names, his name stands out as being so very different.  When Victor was born in 1859 Victor Hugo was already a well-known figure, even outside of France and exiled himself from France after Napoleon III's coup d'etat at the end of 1851.  According to his Wikipedia page Victor was a royalist in his younger years--were our Victor's parents admirers of the author Victor Hugo at that time?  Interesting to think about.  Steppuhn ancestor Wil Horwood agrees that he could very well have been named in the author's honor.  From Wil: 

It might be. France was seen as culturally advanced for several centuries before Victor Hugo Steppuhn was born. Nowadays, the English language is seen as the international language by many countries, but in those days it was French. Educated people could speak French and France had occupied many of the German states during Ludwig Benjamin Steppuhn’s life, why I think he was sometimes referred to as Louis Benjamin, using the French version of his name and why Louis Alexander was not Ludwig Alexander. 

Early Life At Lackmedien:  
I believe this is a photo of a young Victor
when he was in the military, it was one
of the photos in our great grandmothers
possessions but labeled without a name,
it only said "brother".
We know very little of Victor’s years.  He was the 5th of 7 children.  One sister and one brother died very young and Victor only had one other brother who lived to adulthood, Louis Alexander Benjamin Steppuhn (see what I mean by how unusual Victor's short name is). The picture on the left was in the photos found in great grandma Mary Agnes Ahrling papers when she died.  There were several photos of Victor's family, mainly siblings, and most were labeled with names.  This one was only labeled "brother" but I think it could have been Victor when he was really young.  What do you think?

Victor was born into wealth and privilege and his mother's family, the von Massenbachs,  had a very militaristic background.  As the two sons of the household (and from the existing photos) I'm sure both Victor and his brother Louis, served in the military for some period of time.  His mother was a Baroness and his grandfather was the Controller of Royal Possessions for Prussia, no doubt all the children had nannies and were given good educations.  But there was a lot of instability going on during Victor's early years that no doubt shaped his future.
This history is from the website of the
new owner of Lackmedien - you can visit it here.

1871 - The Year of Big Changes
In 1871, then Victor was just 12 years old, Germany defeated France in the 
Franco-Prussian War, making Germany a world power.  It was during this war when Prussian Prime Minister, Otto von Bismark, orchestrated the unification of the German States.  

According to the Lackmedien history (from Lackmedien's new owner's website) Victor's father, Louis Alexander, sold the Manor to Oskar Moldzio in 1871, who married Käthe Steppuhn.  Käthe was the daughter of Louis Benjamin's brother, Friedrich August Steppuhn.  It passed to her daughter Marie so it stayed in the Steppuhn family into the early 1900s.  The final owners were the Radtke family.
Why did they sell I wondered. Did the family fall into hard times?  Victor's father got a job as a high-ranking official with the North German Hail Insurance Company in Kassel in central Germany.  Again, I turned to my "cousins" I've recently connected with and Wil Horwood offered the following food for thought: 

I don’t know if they fell on hard times and don’t know how we could find out. There are some other possible explanations. Louis Alexander Steppuhn’s father acquired Lackmedien because he married the widow of the previous owner. Although Ludwig Benjamin Steppuhn had a military rank and was a magistrate, he might have benefitted more from the marriage than his wife and been able to be elevated in social position by becoming a landowner. When Louis Alexander sold it, to a man who married his niece, it might have been a reasonable step to take if new possibilities were presenting themselves. Prussia was an area of Germany that had experienced a lot of conflict with neighbours and uprisings from ethnic Poles and Latvians. Also, Germany was united in 1871 into a single country, so this might have provided opportunities to get away from a rural area into the bright lights of the big cities. Louis Alexander’s wife being a von Massenbach might have also provided some links because the von Massenbach family originated in Massenbach in western Germany, in Baden Wurtemberg, which borders on Hesse. A branch of the family had moved east several centuries earlier, but there might still have been contact and a sense of the von Massenbachs being one family.

Did the entire family move to Kassel?  Did Victor continue his education in local schools?  What helped to shape his Socialist leanings?  In 1879 his father was transferred to Berlin by the Insurance Company.  Was Victor already living in Berlin, possibly attending University?

Socialism Gets You A One Way Ticket to America

Ernst Hänselei painted this "Tavern Scene" in 1877 depicting a working-class
tavern as a setting for political discussion during the Reichstag election campaign
of 1877.  The election flyer pinned to the wall supports candidates of the Social
Democratic Worker's Party. Seattle opposite his listeners, the solid-looking Socialist
functionary holds a copy of the Volksfreund in his left hand.
Steppuhn descendant, Terry Patience Steppuhn, granddaughter of Victor Hugo,
provided this painting and 
remarked how the young man in the middle
looks like our Victor Hugo.
What we do know from family stories and history is that Victor definitely has Socialist leanings.  While in Berlin he wrote “unflattering” articles against Kaiser Wilhelm and the return of Imperialism published in what were referred to as underground newspapers. 

German Anti-Socialists laws were passed beginning October 19, 1878.  No doubt Victor's writing did not go over well with the establishment but being that he was from an influential family he was told to leave Germany immediately or suffer the consequences--at least this is story my father told me. 

I also wonder how his family felt about his politics.  Given his mother was a Baroness and from a long line noble and military scions, it must have affected them greatly.  Were they furious or more embarrassed by their son. 

I turned to Wil once again to get his take on what may have transpired to required Victor to leave everything he knew.  I still get the chills when I read the comment on Victor being "lost" in Amerika. 

(Victor's) sister Louise was my grandmother's grandmother. She was always told that Victor had gone to America and nobody knew what had happened to him. In the Steppuhn genealogy that Peter sent us, there is no death date or details about who he married or about his children. Instead, it states "ging früh nach Amerika, verschollen" which means "went to America early, lost". 
I think it was a very tough life in Prussia being on the edge of Germany near Russia. Lots of nations that had previously been conquered were re-awakening their national consciousness (like Poles and Lithuanians in Prussia and the likes of Serbians in Austro-Hungaria who would go on to assassinate the heir to the throne in Austria and trigger the First World War). The French Revolution in which the wealthy were executed and which led to the Napoleonic Wars across Europe was on the edge of living memory, and the year of revolutions in 1848 which affected a lot of European countries was quite recent. The documents that Peter Helm provided state that the Steppuhns were either Prussians or Lithuanians. If they were Lithuanians they might have been regarded as sell-outs who became Germanised for personal gain, and if they were Prussians they might have been regarded as part of the German elite who had colonised the Polish and Lithuanians. In both cases, they would have felt exposed as potential targets if people became political, and were dependent on the protection provided by the German Imperial power.
This is the ship Victor came to America on

Whatever the reason or feelings of his family, on November 4, 1880 when he was 21 years old, Victor departed on the Steamship Gellert from Hamburg for New York City. He left everything behind we are told, money, possessions and his family. As we've heard from other sources, his family thought he was dead. 

Below is a snippet from the Gellert’s passenger manifest where we see Victor’s name and age and that his residence was Berlin. He traveled in a second-class cabin that would have provided some level of comfort unlike many immigrants who had to travel in steerage. His occupation was listed as a landowner--others on the ship were businessmen, a shoemaker, locksmith, etc.  Did Victor stand on deck while entering New York Harbor and gaze upon the Statue of Liberty wondering what lay in store for him in his new land?   

Here is Victor's name on the ship manifest of the S.S.Gellert which set sail on November 4, 1880 from Hamburg Germany
New York City was popular with German immigrants.  By 1860 over 100,000 Germans lived in the city and owned 20 churches, 50 schools, 10 bookstores and 2 German-language newspapers.  It's likely Victor sought out fellow German immigrants when he first arrived.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Steppuhn Family History Chapter 1

Chapter 1: My Great Grandfather

Victor Hugo Steppuhn

Our great grandfather came from what was known as Prussia; a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918.  From the 1871 unification of Germany to its defeat in WWI, Prussia comprised almost 2/3 of the territory of the German empire.

According to Wikipedia Steppuhn is a Germanized Lithuanian family name, originating from East Prussia.  We can confidently trace the Steppuhn lineage back to Michael Gottlieb Steppuhn born April 26, 1699 in Waldau (Konisberg).  
Victor Hugo Steppuhn - Chicago 1884
This information comes from a book called AltpreuBische Geschleshterkunde that chronicles the histories of prominent Prussian families.  Most of the Steppuhns were known as owners of large ranches (Ritterguter), Government Officials and Military Officers.  Marriages with other noble families are found throughout the family history, as it was the case with Baroness Louise Friederike von Massenbach who married Louis Alexander Steppuhn, Victor's father and mother.

A Look at the Family Tree

As I mentioned we can confidently trace the Steppuhns back to Michael Gottlieb who was born in 1699, where we have records, mostly Church related that prove births and/or marriages.  Take a look at this family tree and see where Victor fits into the overall picture.  I'll go into the family a little more later.
Steppuhn Family Tree - From Michael Steppuhn-1665 to Victor Hugo Steppuhn - 1859

A Privileged Beginning at Lackmedien, the Steppuhn Manor

Louis Benjamin Steppuhn (my 3rd great grandfather) was born on August 30, 1792 somewhere in Prussia.  Around 1820 he married the young widow of the much older Count von St. Ingbrecht; her name was Johanna Christiane von Seidlitz-Kurtzbach.   When the Count died she inherited the Lackmedien Manor which became the home of the Steppuhns.  The village of Lackmedien was in what was known as East Prussia.  After WWII the area was divided between Poland and the USSR.  The name Lackmedian disappeared after 1945 and the village is now known as Debiany and is located in Poland.

Below is an account that was hand-written by Victor in the 1930s and shared with me by his great-great granddaughter Cynthia Steppuhn Patience:

This handwritten note was added to by Steppuhn descendant Cynthia Steppuhn Patience who is the daughter of Walter Steppuhn. who was the grandson of Victor Hugo through his first wife, Annie Hubman.

Slawomir lifting up one of the crosses they discovered in the neglected old
family cemetery at Lackmedien.  You get a sense of how big these crosses were.

Finding Lackmedien

My father told me many years ago that the Steppuhns owned a manor in Prussia.  I searched and searched online for a long time and then one day, when searching on the name Louis Benjamin Steppuhn I saw his name on a very old looking iron cross.  I followed the links and discovered the new owner of Lackmedien, Slawomir Kalinowski, a Doctor of chemistry at Warmia and Mazury University in Olsztyn, Poland.  

I believe he purchased it around 2004 and has slowly been restoring the Manor and planting so many trees and flowers that according to him makes it look like a botanical garden.  There is a park that surrounds the estate and Slawomir discovered the remnants of the Steppuhn family cemetery, so destroyed that is was difficult to even see the outlines of the graves.  He and some friends dug up two of the tall crosses; one for Louis Benjamin Steppuhn (1792-1855) and the other for Walter Eugene Steppuhn (1862-1901).

They planned to restore the cemetery and took some photos of the crosses before they called it a day.  Unfortunately, when they returned to start work again on the cemetery they discovered that thieves had cut up the crosses (made of cast iron) to sell as scrap metal--speculation was it would provide cash to buy vodka.  

They did discover some of the pieces of Louis Benjamin's cross and Slawomir was going to try and mount the pieces to something  and try to save at least one piece of history.  Luckily they had taken pictures of the crosses.  He said the police were not that concerned about the theft and did nothing about it.  Sounds like my city of Seattle.

I wrote to Slawomir when I first found his website and he was delighted to hear from me.  He said that occasionally Steppuhns stop by to see the old Manor.  He told me I could come and visit anytime and stay at the Manor. I recently (Oct 2018) contact him to see how he was doing and if he still owned the Manor.  Yes, he does but he's been very busy with his work but plans to stay at the Manor and continue restoring it this November.

Click here to visit Slawomir's website.  You can copy the url into Google web page translate to read it in English.

Looking at the whole Manor, taken Nov 4, 2005

The older part of the Manor, Nov 4, 2005

The younger part of the Manor, taken Nov 4, 2005

View from behind the pond on the north elevation of the Manor, taken Nov, 2005

The younger part of the Manor, visible from the side of the road (Nov 2005)

"Imagine coming down the road towards the grand manor (which some referred to as "the Palace") and seeing the buildings of the manor and red-bricked farm buildings riding the road between two ponds. The difference in level between the ponds was so high that the fountain located near the stream could operate without an additional pump.  In the Spring you relax to the nighttime frog concerts and beautiful scenery.”  Quote from Lackmedien's new owner.

Here is a little more history on Debiany from a Polish Wikipedia site and it mentions the Steppuhns' owning a former court and park there.