Monday, June 1, 2009

Bingen Homestead, Great-Grandparent treasure trove

This past weekend turned out to be quite exciting. On Saturday I drove to Milwaukee to meet my cousin Jack Bingen Copet who I have corresponded with for a few years now about the Bingen family.

Jack showed me around Allenton and Addison, two small communities in Washington Co. This included several churches and cemeteries. The last cemetery we visited was St. Anthony, which contained the graves of my ancestors Johann Bingen and Anna Maria Mueller as well as Anna Mueller's parents, Mathias Mueller and Elizabeth Bommersbach.

After wandering around outside of St. Anthony's church for a while we went to the top of the hill where a cousin of ours, Dorothy Weiss, lives. Jack wanted to ask her all she knew about where the Bingen homestead was, and who we might ask for permission to look at it. We were told that it was just ruins back in the woods somewhere, but we still agreed that it would be very interesting to look at anyways.

We drove to this person's farm and asked them if they knew anything about it. The man who owned the farm told us it was back along this, basically, wagon trail, and that it would get brush-y and we'd have to go for a little jog but that the foundation was still there and the remains of a summer kitchen.

We started driving back on the trail but it was crazy- lots of rocks rutting the entire thing, huge dips and other similar things, so we eventually abandoned the car and set out on foot for as far as we could go on the path.

The entire path was overdrawn by a canopy of trees, bright new green leaves leaving dappled splotches of light all on the ground. We walked briskly to avoid the perpetual onslaught of bugs, but were constantly looking around everywhere for signs of what we had been told to look for. We walked very far back along the path and eventually ran into a full-blown forest where the path we were on split in two directions. Each of us went down one way and then came back, deciding we still didn't see anything.

We gave up and traipsed back to the car, determined to ask Mark, the farm owner, some more questions to try to find what we were looking for. Just as we reached it we took another look at the square of grassy field next to the car. I had briefly considered the spot right when we stopped, I guess using my affinity for archaeological concerns, but I hadn't seen anything conclusive that looked like a foundation from where we were on the path.

We asked Mark, and he offered to take us on his 4-wheeler to show us. Of course, he stopped right where we had stopped the car. The ruins were back behind some of the huge overgrowth of grass and weeds, prickly plants and so on, that had taken over the small square of land since a home had been there. Mark left us, and Jack and I proceeded to jump through the tall foliage to where we could see a lot of stones. We found the back edge of what we believe was the foundation of a house, the stones perfectly aligned in a straight edge.

Well we took a lot of pictures, took a couple of interesting rocks from there and then left.

Yesterday I was at my grandmother's house doing some yardwork and we decided to go in the basement to try to find the elusive little book that Mathew Diebold wrote all of his plans in for building the Diebold house that now stands on Breese Terrace here in Madison.

We found a large box and the first thing I saw was a bag of pictures!! I couldn't believe it. My grandmother didn't understand, either, because she had thought all of our family pictures were upstairs and already indexed. But no, here is a nice big collection I now have to get labelled and indexed for my photo porject.

Also in the box was a huge assortment of memorabilia from my great-grandparents Blanche Tice and Sylvester Diebold. We found a program from a 1914 horse show that had Mathew Diebold's most famous horse, Lady Broderick, being shown by his son James Diebold.

Blanche's yearbook from Marshfield High School were there as well as her nursing yearbooks from when she attended nursing school at St. Joseph's in Marshfield. There was also a scrapbook album Blanche had assembled from her Junior, senior and post-hs years including a lot of interesting mementos, old crepe napkins and other things, and at the back a series of journal-style entries detailing trips and other high points in life after graduating from high school. Included in this was the chilling "Joe died" on a particular June day. Blanche was initially engaged to Joe Marsh when he signed up for service and had acute appendicitis strike him soon after arriving at camp. He underwent a number of botched surgeries and eventually died, and this is what caused Blanche to enter nursing school. So, this was altogether extremely poignant look into Blanche's early life.

I found another box with an old metal chain link purse that must have been hers as well as some drawings Sylvester did in middle and high school - ca. 1915! They are pretty fantastic and all in good shape still. These were very exciting finds!!

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