The Wynhoffs, Appledorns, Verfurths and their descendants

Two old photo albums have appeared out of the past. They probably belonged to Kate Verfurth (ed. Katharine D Verfurth 23 Nov 1858 - 3 Aug 1944) Luth. After her death they were passed on to her son John Henry Luth (ed. 5 Aug 1880 - 7 Dec 1962).

He was the last living person to remember who these people were and knew what they looked like. In some cases he was trying to remember and have a record for us; but became a little mixed with his generation terms. There still may be some errors but if you know better and have proof, change the information and let others know. People don't always write down exactly what they readily know and then there was this problem of Mary Verfurth, (ed. Maria Catharina "Mary" Wynhoff 5 Nov 1837 Till-Moyland, Rheinland, Preußen, Germany - 13 May 1865) who was forbidden to say she was a part of the Hapsburg family. Surely there must have been stories which were not quite the truth to avoid telling what she was forbidden to say. So let's try to straighten out the thinking.

The Wynhoffs (ed. John Henry Wynhoff 21 March 1799 Till-Moyland, Rheinland, Preußen, Germany - abt 1880) and the Appledorns (ed. Dorothea "Dora" Van Appledorn 26 Aug 1806 Till-Moyland, Rheinland, Preußen, Germany - abt 1880) were a small portion of the Hapsburg family. (ed. Mary was the fourth of their nine children.)

This part of the family lived in Munich, Germany in the "Official Residence" in the winter time. In the summer they made the journey to Vienna to live in the summer palace. It took many years to build this sprawling castle, but around 1850 it was nearing completion. It took hundreds of people to keep up the building and many more to feed them all - besides people to do official work for the state. This was not only home, it was the "Department of State". In either case this meant many people had a very special need, and many had a special job, especially the Royal Family and they must have the best. Clothing was one of the constant needs for everyone. No matter how beautiful the clothes, the shoes must compliment them.

Henry Wynhoff was a good shoe maker and so he made shoes and he needed help. He traveled around buying leather goods and all the dyes and items needed for shoe making. On one of those trips he found a very young, likeable, boy - about age two - who seemed to have no home or name. Henry took the boy home with him, kept him under his wing and trained the boy in the trade of making shoes.

The boy needed a name. The boy chose to be known as John Henry Verfurth (ed. 26 Sep 1830 Till-Moyland, Rheinland, Preußen, Germany - 17 Sep 1875 Tripoli, Bremer County, Iowa, USA). Henry, for the man who had given him his home and training. Verfurth, in honor of the town, Verfurth, Germany, in which he had been found by Mr. Wynhoff. Perhaps he just liked the name John, or they had had been calling him "John" all this while. There seems to be no indication that John ever made shoes after he came to America. But sometime later Henry Wynhoff also came and sold shoes in his store in Waverly, Iowa.


Behind the palace one day, Mary was over by the area where the horses were stabled when she came across John, who was down on his knees with his arms spread out and strapped to a large curved pipe about 3 or 4 inches around. His black hair hanging down his face, glasses askew, and his body dehydrated as he had been there for some time. He was to be beaten by someone for some unknown reason. Mary pleaded his case and so John was set free. It was undoubtedly this incident that brought them together and some time later had asked permission to marry.

The Hapsburg were not to marry out of the family! So if they insisted they would no longer be a part of the Royal Family. Only persons from other royal families were accepted as the proper people to marry. This is how lands and people were acquired. It helped to keep the system secure, the "gossip" under control and the bloodline pure.

Each castle had to be under constant guard and alert at all times. Otherwise the castle might be taken by the enemy and the people taken as hostage or even killed. Visiting dignitaries were sometimes a problem as they never stopped in public hotels. So no matter what the time of day or night they arrived, the banquet table was spread with the best there was to be had. Sometimes dances followed and the people made merry until the guest went to bed.

Readiness for these occasions was a constant effort. Mary's children seemingly did not understand this at all. Neither did they have a very accurate picture of her former lifestyle, but rather thought of that time in the terms of a "fairy-tale" princess.

Her readiness training was not wasted as attested to by Kate Verfurth in an incident that happened in their "log cabin" that John H. Verfurth had built in Racine County, Wisconsin.

One day, John took two heavy bags of wheat on his shoulders and walked 20 miles to a mill, to have the wheat ground into flour. While he was gone some partially clothed Indians with feathers in their hair, walked past the open window and smelled the bread being baked. The indians put their head inside. Mary was afraid, but offered the men some bread. They refused the bread but indicated they wanted flour - finely ground, indicating this by rubbing their thumbs with the forefingers. By pointing to the sun she was able to indicate a new day by the sun. Tomorrow they would give them flour.

The next day the Indians returned for the gift of the flour and they all became friends. Her calmness had saved the day for herself and her children, and no harm came to John Henry on his way home

This story was told to me many years ago by my grandmother Kate Luth when I was a little girl. She had much admiration for her mother. I often asked her about her mother and she would only say her mother came from a royal family in Germany. When I was eleven or so I asked her for the name of this Royal House. She closed up her lips, threw up her hands and walked out saying to my father, John Luth, "Where does this kid get all these questions?'. Did she know the name Hapsburg?

In December of 1988 I (ed. Frances Elizabeth Luth Bullis, born abt 1915 Wisconsin.) was able to visit the castle in Vienna and the Official Residence in Munich, Germany. They are both museums now and are still beautiful. It is worthwhile to visit both castles as it gives a real appreciation of where Mary gave up, before she and John Henry became pioneers in a raw new land, first in Wisconsin and then later in Iowa.

This is not a for sure, absolute statement, but I believe John Henry Verfurth lost his life in the terrible and sudden winter storm of 1888. The day was extremely warm in March 11, 1888. Warm enough for only light sweaters. According to grandmother Kate, the storm literally swooped down out of the sky in minutes. The snow was thick and fast. Several feet of it fell in a short time followed by severe cold almost instantly. John Henry must have gone to the barn to take care of the animals and really lost his way in the storm. Afterwards, he was found frozen beside a large hay stack.

After I was married to Harvey Bullis we went to Rapid City, S.D. His grandmother reported some of the same kinds of stories and how people had gone out in their buggies that day and, couldn't get home, or not at all, until after the storm broke. People and horses were found after the storm all dead and frozen.

Weather map of the 1888 blizzard

The very first issue of the National Geographic, March 1888, covered the storm, but only east of the Mississippi and out into the Atlantic ocean. The story pointed out a huge weather trough came out of the west. Snow, wind and cold seemed to come from all directions. Four hundred people in the U.S. had lost their life because of the extreme weather.

Francis Luth Bullis, March 1990

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