In Darkness Visible John Paul appears as Karl Bernhard (the surname of his paternal great-grandmother). Karl and John Paul share similar backgrounds: born in Germany, emigrated during the American Civil War, served as firemen on a U.S. Navy vessel, died in an explosion caused by saboteurs in the Homestead Works in September, 1892.
|Wedding portrait of John Paul Busch and Susanna Bollander|
My host and guide in Weißenstadt was Max's daughter and my third cousin, Hanne Heuer, a native of the town. Hanne attempted to school me in the Weißenstadt dialect, which is unique to the town. Hanne's mother Tilly, who grew up on a nearby farm, still does not know the nuances of the town dialect, even after living there for six decades. Tilly, however, speaks German with the regional Fichtelgebirge accent, which John Paul probably spoke.
John Paul was the eldest child of Johan G.Pösch and Katherina Ruckdäschel. I considered using her surname as Karl's in the book, but decided that it would be too weird for anglophone readers. I have since found out via ancestry.com and Hanne that Weißenstadt over the years, including today, has been crawling with Ruckdäschels.
But I digress.
1. The Town Square. The buildings surrounding this market square were standing in 1863, when John Paul left for America. In 1823, much of Weißenstadt was destroyed by fire, so these buildings post-date that. The square is at the top of a steep hill, apparently for protection, and the town was built around it.
2. Wunsiedler Strasse, top. This view is taken from the same spot as the previous photo, but to the right. Wunsiedler is one of Weißenstadt's main business streets. The Pösch Backerei, at #1, is the second building at left.
3. City Hall. Presumably, there are no rats in this Rathaus, only civil servants.
4. The Bakery. This spacious three-story building has been home to many generations of Pösches.The doors at left used to be the delivery entrance for horse-drawn vehicles. The Pösches didn't become bakers until after John Paul left town. JP was trained as a tanner, but also learned how to fire a boiler in the town brewery. l-r, Tilly, me, Hanne, her brother Werner, and his wife Petra.
Pösches. The minister here gave Max a copy of the church records of the Pösch family, going back to Peter in 1529. The records previous to that were lost when the church was burned down during the Thirty Years' War.
14. Lake Weißenstadt panorama (Hanne and her husband Otto at right). The original lake was expanded in the 1980s to shore up the region's faltering economic base. Once an area known for porcelain factories and granite quarries, Upper Franconia fell on hard times. The much larger lake is now a tourist center, with a huge campground, restaurants, and a fancy spa hotel on its shores. John Paul wouldn't recognize the lake today.
15. Pema bakery shop. This commercial bakery in Weißenstadt produces heavy whole grain breads that are sold world-wide. To my amazement, my local food co-op, The Wedge, sells this bread. Small world.
16. 19th century houses. In contrast to the house on the river, these lovely old houses are well maintained. They sit on one of the lanes behind the church.
Pösches are buried here, including Max and his parents.
Pösch might have Czech origins.
--Photos by Trilby Busch