Sunday, December 4, 2016

JW Selker: Visiting Bentheim

This is the fifth and final post in the J.W. Selker Series. The series will be focused on Joseph William Selker's return trip to Germany in 1906. This would be Joseph William's first and only trip to Germany after departing 21 years prior.

Other Posts in The Series: 
JW Selker: Planning a Trip Home
JW Selker: Arriving at Ellis Island
JW Selker: A Letter To Germany
JW Selker: Visiting Fürstenau

During his return trip to Germany Joseph William Selker and his son Frederick William Selker traveled to at least three different cities. They visited Fürstenau, Bentheim and Montabauer. While in Bentheim they spent time with J.W.'s uncle Johann Hermann Heinrich Selker. At the time of the visit Johann Hermann Heinrich Selker was 68 years old. J.W. referenced his uncle in the letter sent to his brother Karl Friedrich Selker after the trip:

"Dear Brother, I just received a letter from Germany with the news that Uncle [missing word - now known to be Johann Hermann Heinrich Selker] in Bentheim has died. He was 68 years old. He followed our father rather quickly; I am glad I still was able to see him."

-Letter J.W. Selker sent to Karl Friedrich Selker dated July 1906

Bentheim is relatively close to Fürstenau. J.W. Selker may have traveled to Bentheim to seek this family connection from his past. Uncle Johann would have been a link to J.W. Selker's father who died April 30, 1906. J.W. Selker may have also traveled to Bentheim to share the Selker family history and heritage with his son Frederick William. J.W. Selker's father,  Herman George Selk, was born November 15, 1814 in Bentheim.  He was the son of Hermann Heinrich Selker and Maria Anna Overhuis.

Family tradition maintains that Hermann Heinrich Selker served in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was among the soldiers that survived the fatal march from Moscow in November 1812. He would have watched many of his fellow soldiers and their horses freeze to death. Napolean is said to have gifted Hermann Heinrich Selker land in Bentheim for his military service. The land is said to be marked by the stone marker featured in the photographs below.
MB Boutiques: The Selker Collection &emdash; Stone Landmarker in Bentheim, Germany
Family Tradition maintains this Stone Marker marks land given to Hermann Heinrich Selker by Napoleon Bonaparte.

MB Boutiques: The Selker Collection &emdash; Stone Landmarker in Bentheim, Germany
Family Tradition maintains this Stone Marker marks land given to Hermann Heinrich Selker by Napoleon Bonaparte. In the black and white version the date of 1817 is more visible.
The military service of Hermann Heinrich Selker and the gift of land by Napolean Bonaparte have not been verified by any first hand historical records. Hopefully in time records will be located to verify this information. It should be noted that there is a second hand historical source.

Joseph William Selker is featured in the Genealogical and personal history of the Allegheny Valley Pennsylvania. The book was published in 1913. Although it is a second hand source - Joseph William Selker was likely interviewed. In his interview he made a point of highlighting his grandfather's military service:

"George Selker, the first member SELKER of this family of whom we have any definite information, was born November 15, 1814, in Bentheim, in the province of Hanover, Germany, where he died April 30, 1906. His father had been a soldier in Napoleon's army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812, and was later warden of the government prison in Bentheim." 
-Page 839: Selker

At the time of the interview Joseph William Selker was a prominent member of the Clarion community. He was well educated and a well known business owner. It is difficult to imagine J.W. Selker sharing a family legacy that isn't truthful. The fact that he took his son to visit Bentheim showcases the strong link J.W. Selker had to the city of his ancestors.

It is currently unknown if the said land in Bentheim remained in the Selker family or if it at some point the land was sold. 

This photograph is shared with permission. The original version is in the care of Leopold George Selker my 2nd cousin 1x. He is a descendant of Leopold George Selker, Sr. the oldest son of Joseph William Selker and Frances Philomena Guth. From the Leopold George Selker Collection.

Hermann Heinrich Selker and Maria Anna Overhuis are my 4th great grandparents. Hermann George Selker is my 3rd great grandfather. Johann Hermann Heinrich Selker is my 3rd great uncle. Joseph William Selker is my 2nd great grandfather. Frederick William Selker is my great grand uncle. 

  1. Photograph of the Stone Marker in Bentheim.
  2. Handwritten Letter from Joseph William Selker to Karl Friedrich Selker dated 19 July 1906.
  3. John Woolf Jordan, LL.D., Genealogical and personal history of the Allegheny Valley Pennsylvania, III vols. (New York:  Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1913), Page 839. View the book here:

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