Recently, I was involved in a heated exchange with a reporter, her editor and finally their publisher concerning the distorted view of our families place in Valley City’s history. I will not burden you with a rehash of that confrontation, but it did bring up an interesting question. What is a place in history, who decides what is significant?
For nearly twenty years, I have been researching my family’s history. First it was just a task of identifying the living relatives with their parent and grandparents. Then it evolved into a search of birth records, death records, census reports and other pieces of information generated by an increasingly records conscience society.
One branch of my family eluded me though, my paternal grandmother, Victoria Scheele Schug Holm’s family. Her mother’s first husband was Anthony Scheele, who had 10 siblings and was born in Carver County, MN in 1863. He died in 1892 when my grandmother was about 5 years old and her mother quickly remarried. Anthony Scheele, his parents, brothers and sisters disappeared from my families records. No gravestones, no letters, no bibles and no pictures. They just seem to have vanished!
During the last three years I have began to unravel the Scheele family history. One of the first surprises was that the person we had thought was Anton’s mother turned out to be his stepmother. His real mother was Helena Wahl, who had come from Wurttemberg, Germany with her husband Anton Scheele and her brother, Melchior Wahl arriving in Baltimore on May 5th, 1862. They had come from Germany to take over the land of her brother, Franz Anton Wahl, who had arrived in America in 1852 and had started a farm in Carver County, MN. Franz was seriously ill and had prepared a will, leaving the land and possessions to his sister, her new husband and his brother, Melchoir. By the time they arrived in Minnesota, Franz had passed away, and their new lives had begun in a strange land, with no friends and relatives to help and support them.
Just months after his arrival Melchoir would soon be caught up in the Minnesota Indian War of 1862 and continued his service into the Civil War. He perished on July 24, 1864 of disease brought on by a five mile forced retreat through the muddy bogs of the Battle of Memphis. He end came at the Overton Military Hospital.
In an ironic twist, Melchoir probably never became fluent in the English language before he died for his adopted country.