K. Westhues

First visits back to the Westhues homeplace in Münsterland, 1952-1971

Links to resources
on Westhues-Peters
family history


Sister Mary's visit to the Westhues

homeplace in Münsterland, 1986

Kenneth Westhues, 2019

Farmhouse in 1986, when Sister Mary visited


In the middle of the 19th century, two brothers, Johan and Wilhelm Westhues, grew up together on the ancestral family farm in the hamlet of Horst, near Werne, along the Lippe River in Germany. They were wed the same year, 1878, Johan to Anna Maria Jurgens, Wilhelm to Theresia Peters. In the first months of 1880, each of these couples had a son, and each gave him the same name, Theodore, after Johan's and Wilhelm's father. One can imagine the two little Theodores, first cousins the same age, playing together at family gatherings in the 1880s.

In 1892, when they were twelve, the two boys were separated and never saw each other again. Wilhelm and Theresia moved their family to America, locating on a farm near Glasgow, Missouri. Their eldest son, the American Theodore, grew up, married Lena Moorman, bought a farm near his parents, raised five children, and lived there until his death in 1967. Meanwhile Johan and Anna Maria's son, the German Theodore, remained on the Westhues homeplace at Horst, married Antonia Zucker, raised four children, and lived there until his death in 1962.

The two Cousin Theodores kept in touch throughout their lives, even in the midst of German-American enmity in the two world wars. Two sons of the American Theodore, Ted and Norbert, fought in Europe against Germany in WWII. The eldest son of the German Theodore, Franz, was captured by American troops while serving in the Wehrmacht and transported to America, a camp near Chicago, as a prisoner of war. Yet the ties of blood held firm.

In 1986, almost a century after the two branches of the family went separate ways, a daughter of the American Theodore, Mary Bernadine, travelled back to the homeplace in Münsterland. She had joined the Cenacle Sisters in 1951. En route to a meeting of her religious community in Rome, she stopped to visit her late father's ancestral home. There she was welcomed by her second cousins, the four children of the German Theodore: Maria Hibbe, Franz, Ludger and Joseph. Ludger met her at the airport.

Many thanks to Sister Mary, now almost 95 years old and living in retirement at the Cenacle House in Chicago, for allowing reproduction here of some of the splendid color photos she took in 1986. Continued thanks to her also for the 60-page, cerlox-bound volume of family trees and history that she distributed in 1988.

Here is Sister Mary between Franz and Ludger on her right, Ludger's wife Wilhelmina and Franz's wife Elisabeth on her left, standing at the front door of the homeplace, the same place photos were taken on earlier visits of cousins from across the Atlantic — Bebe Staub in 1952, Jenny in 1958, and me in 1971.

Below: the German Theodore's eldest child, Maria, and her husband Hermann Hibbe, in their farmhouse not far from Werne. Maria was the longest lived of Theodore and Antonia's four children. She died in 2019 at the age of 98.

Below: a splendid photo of Franz with his son Ewald. As eldest son of the German Theodore, Franz assumed stewardship of the homeplace after his father died. This responsibility passed to Ewald on Franz's death. As of 2019, Ewald continues to run the farm.

Below: When Sister Mary was feted in Josef's farm and home, she took this picture of him with his wife Paula, a daughter-in-law and a grandson. Josef named one of his sons after his twin brother, Ludger — a distinctly Münsterländisch name, St. Ludger having been the first bishop of Münster 1200 years ago.

Below: Ludger was no less proud of his long career with the Volksbank than his sister and brothers were of their farms. Sister Mary snapped him and Wilhelmina in front of his workplace.

Sister Mary's cousins took her to visit the farm Wilhelm and Theresia Westhues were renting in 1892, before they moved to America. This farm was near Greven, a town north of Münster, about 30 miles north of Werne. When Sister Mary visited, the farm was owned by a family named Austmann, who had built a new home. Still hanging on a wall was a framed aerial view (below) of the old, now demolished Bauernhaus, combination house and barn. These are the actual buildings where Wilhelm, Theresia, and their first six children made their home.

Finally, below is Sister Mary's photo of the Westhues family burial plot in the Horst cemetery, a scant half-mile from the ancestral farm. Horst is not a parish, instead a tiny rural community within the parish of St. Christophorus in Werne. It has its own cemetery and since 1954, its own church building, a tasteful small chapel dedicated to St. Mary, where services are held from time to time.

Imagine how pleased Sister Mary's father, the American Theodore, would have been by the warm reception given his daughter (like many other cousins before and since) by the children of the German Theodore, the cousin he never laid eyes on after the age of twelve. The latter would have been no less pleased and proud. And they would both give Sister Mary a grateful pat on the back for taking these pictures, saving them, and sharing them via digital media that were not yet available back in 1986.