Busam Farm visit July 21, 1992
On July 21, my family and I had the opportunity to visit the Busam farm in Germany where my great-grandfather, Bernard Busam, was born and raised.
We arrived in Lautenbach, Baden, Germany for lunch on Monday, July 20. We knew of an inn (the Kreuz, meaning cross) there that was run by Karl Busam through some friends that live in Herrenberg, Germany. We had sent a letter to Herr Busam at the inn in Lautenbach hoping it would reach him. Luckily it did. Günther called the inn for us from his home Sunday evening. Herr Busam wasn't around but Günther spoke with a lady that said she had received the letter and would be happy to see us on Monday. We stopped by for lunch (which was very good!). We met the lady (never did find out her name). Herr Busam was not available. Since they didn't speak any English, we were lucky there was a patron in the restaurant who did. He translated for us for a couple of minutes. The lady said the Busams from the inn were not our relatives and suggested we check at the Rathaus (city hall) and church in Nubbach. So while we had a nice lunch, we didn't make any progress at this stop.
We drove west through Oberkirch and on to Nubbach, about 4 km west of Oberkirch. The church was locked and the Rathaus closed. We were beginning to wonder what to do next, when I saw a lady entering a house nearby with her children. I went over and asked if she spoke English and, luckily, she did speak enough that we found out the Rathaus is normally open on Monday afternoons, but was closed that afternoon. Other days of the week it is open only in the morning.
Keith spied a sign for Busam. We walked down the street in the direction it pointed and ended up at Busam's plumbing supply store. What a surprise! We walked in. We faced the language barrier again. I handed the clerk a copy of my letter (with both original English and German translation) asking for help tracking down my ancestors. I soon realized Herr Busam was not there. Luckily, a young man who worked there spoke a little English. We found out Mr. Busam was out of the office at that time and they didn't know when he would be back. We left a copy of the letter and said we would come back in the morning.
Next to the church is a monument to the dead from the world wars. On the monument we saw two Busam's listed and at one Benz (Caroline Benz was Bernard's wife).
Nubbach is essentially a bedroom community today. We didn't see any shopping area and just only a couple of offices. The church dominates the center of the town. The old road west from Oberkirch runs through the center of the town, but a new road bypasses Nubbach on the north.
We drove south from Nubbach to Herztal, about 1.5 km away. Herztal is another bedroom community with a couple of guest houses that appeared to be closed. Around Herztal there are lots of vineyards. It turns out the Oberkirch area is a significant wine growing area and wines from this area are labeled as from Oberkirch. There was one house being build that had what looked like a contractor's sign on it for Busam-Meier, probably painting contractors.
We continued south about 2 km more to St. Wendelin chapel. The outside was scaffolded for renovation, but the chapel was open. It was quite beautiful. I took a couple of pictures that came out fairly well. I expect that Bernard and Caroline had visited this chapel when they lived in this area. I lit candles for both of them and also for Bernard's brothers Stephen and Ignatz who also came to America. Outside the church was another war monument with another Busam listed as dying in W.W.II.
We drove around the beautiful countryside a bit. The area is quite green with rolling hills. There are lots of vineyards interspersed with groups of trees. The Oberkirch area is just a few miles east of Strasbourg, France. It is up toward the top of the Renchtal valley, a somewhat narrow valley that runs from the hills of the Black Forest on the east to the Rhine river on the west. The Rench river (quite shallow and maybe 40 feet across around Oberkirch) runs down the north side of the valley.
We rented a room in Oberkirch for the evening, took a brief rest, and then found out that the town closed up by 6:30! We were quite thirsty since a heat wave was on (temperature probably around 90F). It took a long time to find a place that sold liter bottles of soda, and that was in Appenweier, after we couldn't find anything in Oberkirch or Zusenhofen! We got our drinks and went to drink them by the Rench river in Oberkirch, behind the train station. The evening was quite pleasant. We saw a couple of men cutting down grass on the bank of the river using a long scythe. He seemed to effortlessly cut through about a 4' swath of grass. We then went to dinner at an outdoor cafe in Oberkirch that was right next to a channeled tributary of the river. On the way to the cafe, we noticed Busam's Salon. This certainly was Busam country! We found out that they pronounce the name more like "Boo-zam", actually I probably should write "Boo-sam", but the s is stronger than a normal English s. I hear it being somewhere between our s and z. Also the accent is on the last syllable.
Tuesday morning, I got up early and walked by myself to the Oberkirch Catholic church in the center of town. It is of quite substantial size and was build in 1863. I thought at the time that it was build not long before Bernard, et. al. went to America so there probably visited the church. Right next to the church, I found Busam florists! I walked over the Rathaus to see if they had any records that might help my ancestor search. The lady at the reception desk spoke a little German. Using a copy of my letter to assist, she called someone and spoke on the phone for a while. She then said there weren't any records there that would help me and suggested I go the Rathaus in Nubach. She did copy the phone book page for me with 65 Busam entries on it and the Benz page with 38 entries. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped by a wine store and tasted a couple of the local wines. They were pleasant white and rose wines on the dry side. I bought a two bottles to bring home.
By the time I got back to the hotel, it was about 9:30 and we already knew it was going to be another hot day. We drove out to Nubach, this time on the old road. We stopped by Busam's plumbing supply. They recognized us right away. Herr Busam was there and greeted us, but he didn't speak English. By this time I really wished I had remembered more of my college German! We were told to wait about 10 minutes and someone would come an pick us up. We found out later that the plumber Busam is "not a relative." But he evidently forwarded our request and got us connected with Anton Busam (born May 20, 1914).
Anton came over and greeted us warmly in German. We understood we were to go with him and that when we got there, someone would speak English. We followed his car out back towards Oberkirch. Just outside of Nubbach and past the road left to an overpass, we came to a turnout on the right from which a dirt road took off. We went down the dirt road just a short way coming to a farm courtyard. Just ahead of us on the left was a house with big timber beams and stucco, with a barn-like structure attached to it on the right. Another barn was just to our right. The two barns were connected on the second story with a passage way underneath that was suitable for a tractor or car to pass through.
Anton was obviously quite pleased to see us and kept explaining things to us in German. I did catch that this was the house in which Bernard (pronounced Bernhardt) was born. A visitor from Holland, Max, came out and greeted us in English. He acted as our translator. I am very appreciative for his efforts. At the end he commented about how hard it was to translate, since neither German nor English were his native language. He did a very good job, and we managed to get quite a bit of information.
I think they said the farm house was build in 1808 by Martin Busam, Bernard's grandfather. It was built after the previous house on that site burned down. The barns were build later. The farm is 7.5 hectares in size (about 18.5 acres). On the farm today, they have 10 cows, 3 bulls, and 5 calves. There is an orchard with cherries and plums (and perhaps other fruit). They make wine in a wine cellar below the house and sell it to local wine merchants. The Busam's came to the Nubbach area around 1720-1725 from Sülzbach which evidently was not far away. Either the old name of the farm or the name of the small area around the farm is called Weierhof. This name, spelled Weiherhof, actually shows on a bicycle map of the area! It is also listed in Meyer's Gazetteer of Germany (circa 1918) as a hamlet of Herztal.
Anton didn't know what the name "Busam" means, indicating it was an old name.
Evidently, Anton is the keeper of the family tree. I believe he said that he has been keeping it for 60 years. He gave me information about Bernard's parents and grandparents. Anton's grandfather, also named Anton, is Bernard's brother. Their parents, Ignatz Busam and Agatha Konig, were married May 18, 1840 and had 7 children, 4 of which were boys. Three of their boys - Bernard (the oldest), Stephen (they write it Stefan), and Ignatz (they write it Ignaz) all came to America in the 1870's probably about 1872 because of "bad times on the farm." (I couldn't get a better description of what bad times meant except he said that many people left just like they did after W.W.I.) Anton thinks they all left at the same time. Their remaining brother, Anton (born July 5, 1845), stayed behind. Anton's son Joseph is the father of the Anton with whom we spoke. The current farmer is Martin Busam. (I don't have a complete family tree so I am not clear on all the relationships.)
According to Anton, the three brothers never wrote home, so the family never knew what happened to them. He seemed quite appreciative to get the information I had, but was quite disappointed that both Bernard and Stephen died quite young, both at about age 40. Down by the wine cellar, he showed up a house timber on which Stephen carved his initials before going to America. Stephen had carved "St. Bu" and one line, with "W" below it, for Stephen Busam, Weierhof.
(One note I have that I don't understand is that Ignaz, born 1801, was the farmer who made this farm. Did I misunderstand, or perhaps he bought the farm and Martin didn't build the farmhouse.)
While at the house, the Burgermeister (mayor) of Nubbach came and visited. (I think Anton had called him on the phone.) He said that Nubbach was started in 994. Anton told him our story. He indicated he would search the town records to see if they were any relevant records and, if so, would send them to me. He also said there might be an article in the local newspaper about our visit. It turns out his name is Wilhelm Benz, so we were wondering if he might be related to Caroline Benz. He didn't know of a relationship, but maybe one will be found. Anton said he would write to Karlsruhe to try to get some records for us and would send them to me along with a copy of a picture showing his grandfather Anton (Bernard's brother!) outside the farm house.
We were warmly welcomed during this visit. We spent close to 4 hours at the farmhouse; they even served us lunch with rose wine made at the farm. Mathilde Busam, who I believe is Anton's sister, was at the home and served lunch consisting of sliced cheese, several types of sliced sausage, bread, and pickles. We also had plums which I suspect came from the orchard. While touring outside, we quickly met a couple of other relatives, but I don't remember their names. Even though it was hot and the room quite warm, I felt treated like visiting royalty. They made me feel very comfortable and were very friendly.
I was most excited to find my Busam roots. I was delighted to find out that our "relatives" are such nice people and that the area we came from was so beautiful.