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Knack/Steimel Family History

I recently found some great info to place our Knacks and Steimels back to Germany.  This means my whole grandmother Elmera Pollei side of the family is 100% of Germanic origin.

Neal Ekengren


Johann George Steimel

This column describes the Steimel (Steimle) side of the family from Baden, Germany.

John H. Knake

This column describes the Knack (Knake) side of the family from Hesse, Germany

1700-1800 - The century began with the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) which involved the dominant power France and its claim to the Spanish throne. The Baden areas of Germany were ravaged by the troops of Louis XIV the “Sun King”.  The rest of the century was a constant struggle to rule the politically fragmented landscape of this part of the Holy Roman Empire.

1806 - German lands are a mosaic of patrimonial fragments that form the Holy Roman Empire.  Napoleon conquers it all and establishes new political boundaries.  The impact of Napoleon on German history cannot be overestimated.

The Baden areas become The Grand Duchy of Baden which is an independent country with a centralized, absolute monarchy.

The Hesse areas become The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine which is an independent country with a centralized, absolute monarchy.

Baden, Germany

Hesse, Germany

1782 - Johann George Steimel is born in Kappelrodeck, Baden, Germany.  Kappelrodeck is a town in Western Baden-Württemberg, Germany which is on the border with France and very near Switzerland.

Johann Jr. parents Johann Steimel Sr. and Magdalena Straub and their ancestors are documented back to the early 1700’s in this area.

1823 - Johann marries Marie Ann Feist (b. 1799).  They have several children including

George Sr. (b. 1824 our ancestor)

Nicholas Sr. (b.1829)

Bernhard (b. 1832).  

1838 - John H. Knake and Maria Engelhard have our Philipp Knack as son.  We know Philipp was born in  Rotenburg, Hessen, Germany so it is likely the family is from there.  

Old German vital records are quite fragmented and sparse.  However, Archivinformationssystem Hessen is promising to post vitals from Rotenburg in the near future which might help further investigation.

Abt. 1849 - George Steimel Sr. marries Emile Berger (Burgher) (b. 1832) and they have their first son George Steimel Jr.

Brother Nicholas Steimel marries sister Sophia Berger (b. 1838).  

I’m assuming that Emile Berger and Sophia Berger are sisters and maybe I can find the parents in Baden, Germany.  I’m assuming that Nicholas gets married BEFORE they move to Canada in 1854.  That would make Sophia around 16 years old when married.

The tourist town of Rothenberg, Germany is a #1 tour bus destination.  Rotenburg is part of various ethnic areas defined as Franconia, Hesse, and Bavaria.

Prussian militaristic expansion and German unification begins with the The First Schleswig War (1845) against Denmark.  Many nations are soon drawn into the conflicts of The German Revolutions (1848),  The Austro-Prussian War (1866), and The Franco-Prussian War (1870).

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

1854 - Marie Ann Feist emigrates to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with the older children including brothers George Sr. (and family) and Nicholas Sr..  Father Johann George remains in Germany with the younger children.

George Sr. is 30 years old.

Nicholas Sr. is 25 years old.

Bernhard is 22 years old.

Why did only part of the family migrate?  Was Marie Ann ever actually married to Johann?

1859 - Philipp Knack emigrates to USA.  He is listed as a farmer traveling on the ship Stella from Bremen to New York City.

Did John emigrate to avoid the numerous conflicts and Prussian aggression and their economic impacts?

During the middle and late 19th century, Wisconsin and the Milwaukee area became the final destination of many German immigrants fleeing the Revolution of 1848. In Wisconsin they found the inexpensive land and the freedoms they sought. The German heritage and influence in the Milwaukee area is widespread.

1854 - 1863 - George Steimel Sr. and Emile Berger have 3 more children in Canada.  Caroline Steimel (b. 1854) is our ancestor.  George is a farmer at this time.

Brother Nicholas Steimel Sr. and Sophia Berger have 4 children while in Canada.  Nicholas Jr. is born.

Brother Bernhard Steimel has remained in Germany and has married Katharina Koeninger in 1858.  They have 4 children in Germany.

1862 - Philipp marries Dorothea “Mary” Wahl (b. 1842 Baden Germany) in Franklin, Wisconsin near Milwaukee.

The marriage record lists our people as Philipp Knake and Mary Wall.  All future references use Knack and Wahl which would seem to be the more proper spellings.

Suttons Bay, Leelanau, Michigan, USA

1854 - Suttons Bay Michigan is created as a wood supply station for passing wood steamboats.

1864 - The entire Steimel extended family moves to Suttons Bay, Leelanau, Michigan, United States.  Brother Bernhard now moves from Germany to co-locate with our Leelanau Steimels.  

George Steimel Sr. buys a farm here and continues with his farming.

What was the attraction that brought all our Steimel to Michigan from Canada and Germany? The boom in lumbering is likely the reason.

The Steimel family in Suttons Bay, were considered one of the founding families. The family owned a hotel called the "Bay House", later changed to the "Steimel House". Members of the Steimel family owned a meat market, worked in the school system, and also held government positions such as Village Marshal (Charles E. Steimel), and Village Treasurer (Oberlin Steimel). There were also family members that worked on the steamboats, carrying passengers from Suttons Bay to Wisconsin.

In the 1870’s lumbering in Northern Michigan greatly increased. New mechanical tools such as steam-powered (versus water-powered) sawmills and circular saws expanded the ability to process high volumes of lumber quickly. Railroads made it possible to harvest timber year round, in previously inaccessible places away from rivers. By 1880 Michigan produced more lumber than any other state.

1865 - 1867 - Philipp and Mary have sons William and Ernest.  

There are probably more family members but the records at this time are incomplete.  I need to get more complete records for both of Johns wives and children.  The fate of Dorothea Wahl is not known.

1874 - George Steimel Sr. builds and runs the Bay House Hotel in Sutton Bay

George Steimel Jr. runs a drug store and is the township treasurer.  He partners with Mr. Heuss to construct a planing-mill at Suttons Bay.

1874 - Philipp Knack marries Carolina Steimel in Suttons Bay, Michigan.  This joins our Knack and Steimel families.

Philipp is known as a wood dealer.  He probably visited Suttons Bay wood dealers and met Steimels who were working on the Lake Michigan steamboats.  This was his introduction to George Steimel and his daughter Caroline.

Phillip Knack and George Steimel are business partners.  An advertisement for their business

Groceries, Provisions, Dry Goods, Notions, Hardware, and Woodenware.   We keep a large line of Canned Goods, Coffees, Teas, and make a specialty of fine Tobaccos and Cigars. All goods marked with plain figures, and strictly one price to everybody. b. Country produce purchased for cash or in exchange for goods.

1876 - 1878 - Philipp and Carolina have children Alwina (our ancestor), George, and Ella.

1898 - Otto August Pollei marries Alvina Knack.  They move to New Ulm, Minnesota and have a family.  The story of our Pollei ancestors is told here.  Our Pollei ancestor also emigrated from German territories in 1867 at nearly the same time as our Knack and Steimel ancestors.

August Otto Pollei(2).jpg

1917 - A "Tent Chautauqua" arrived in Suttons Bay.  A reference to Nixie Steimels Bay House Hotel is found here.  

Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists of the day.  Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is "the most American thing in America".