16 October 2016

The Fiegenbaum Family Logo

A Picture of Our Name

The image shows two half timbered homes typical of northwestern Germany.  Surrounding the farmstead is a hedge-row with toll bars at the two entrances.
Fiegenbaum Family logo
Illustration by Heyno Beddig, 1987. Courtesy of Dr. Günther Fiegenbaum.
Illustration by Heyno Beddig, 1987
Heyno Beddig (1923-1994) was a graphic designer and freelance artist long associated with Lüneburg, Federal Republic of Germany. His "student" and friend, Michael Rehr-Hoffmann, has created an online homage at Der Maler und Grafiker Heyno Beddig.

This illustration is a simple and graphic interpretation of the Fiegenbaum name. As Dr. Günther Fiegenbaum, of Lüneburg, Germany has pointed out, it includes a number of elements of significance to the old family farmstead at Hölter 11 in Ladbergen, Germany.

Half timbered structures are very common in this region of Westphalia and Ladbergen still has many fine examples of this architectural style. A number of Fiegenbaum men were carpenters and they would have supplemented their agricultural income by building homes, mills and sheds.

The spaces between the timbers were sometimes filled with laid brick, sometimes with wattle and daub. In Ladbergen, the wattle (in the local Plattdeutsch it is known as Spriäkeln-Wände ) was often constructed from interwoven branches of buckthorn and alder harvested from the hedgerows. This heavy-duty wicker partition was then covered with clay. In times of prosperity or special celebration, the daub might have gotten a coating of whitewash, as in our drawing. The reed for the thatch roofs would have come from the marshy areas of the commons close to the Fiegenbaum Hof.

The farmstead at Hölter 11 has been identified as having two dwellings. The Heuerhaus is the larger of the two and would have been home to the main family. The class of agricultural worker known as Heuerleute (or occassionally, Heuerlinge ) were contract farm workers who were given the use of a house and small plot of land in exchange for labor on the landowner's holdings and an annual payment in either cash or produce. The Leibzucht, or retirement house, to the right, is a smaller copy of the main building and would have been home for an older couple, perhaps the retired parents of the head of household and his or her family now occupying the Heuerhaus.

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Each building would have been a combination house and barn. The large door (Niendüöre in Plattdeutsch ) shown in the gable ends of the dwellings in our drawing would have given access directly to a large open area running down the middle of the length of the barn section of the structure. This was the threshing floor (Diele). To the left and the right would have been stalls for the livestock. Above this entire section was the haymow or hayloft (Hiele). Unmarried male farmhands (Knecht, -e ) commonly slept here.

At the far end of the building would have been the house section. The exact layout would have varied according to the size of the building, the size of the household and the family's financial means, but the basic features would have been the same throughout Ladbergen and much of northern Germany.

The main living area was one large room the entire width of the building and would have been completely open to the barn. The focal point of the room would have been the hearth, opposite the opening to the threshing floor. A large iron plate often protected the wall from the open fire, which was corralled on the floor in an iron grate. Smoke found its own way out through the doors or openings in the roof. Windows in the living space were often small and did not open. Chimneys were not common until required by government regulation in the 1890s.

All the cooking was done over the open fire, which burned or smoldered constantly. For the longest time in Ladbergen, the fuel was almost exclusively wood or peat. The wood came from the limbs and branches harvested from the hedgerows and the peat was cut from the Ladbergen marsh on the border with Kattenvenne. In the second half of the 19th century, coal from a mine in Ibbenbüren began to replace these more traditional fuels.

an sketch of a Schlafkammer or alcove bed
Alcove bed (Eng.)  Schlafkammer (Ger.)

Also in this room would have been a large table for preparing and eating meals. A corner of the room was typically set aside for bathing and washing; perhaps a basin and a pitcher or bucket of water. Against the wall, or sometimes partially blocking the large opening to the barn, would have been one or two alcove beds (Schlafkammern; Duddige in Plattdeutsch). Whether free-standing or built-in, these were wooden bed compartments, not unlike a wardrobe, that could be closed off with sliding door panels or curtains. People often slept two to a bed for warmth.

Beyond this main living area, at the very end of the building, would have been a series of smaller rooms. One, usually just behind the hearth, would have been set up for spinning and weaving. Many farming families in Westphalia raised flax and spun and wove linen. It was one of the few means available for earning cash to pay taxes and rents, to purchase supplies and materials the family could not raise or make themselves, and to buy a certificate of freedom from the landlord in order to move off the farm. If it was available, an iron stove would be installed here to give warmth during winter evenings when the family gathered.

Also along this end of the house would have been a shallow cellar. Raised above it by about 6 to 8 steps would have been a small room (Upkammer in Plattdeutsch, or Aufkammer ) used for sleeping. Depending on the size of the building, there may have been one or two additional rooms that may have held more looms or have been used for storage.

coat of arms for the village of Ladbergen

coat of arms

To the left of the Heuerhaus in our drawing, is an Immeshuer, or bee house. This open shed provided protection for the straw bee hives. The earliest extant document to mention Ladbergen by name, determined to have been written about A.D. 950, records the taxes due to the convent of Freckenhorst near Warendorf. Payment with honey is mentioned a number of times. Bee-keeping was wide-spread in Ladbergen, and the village has long identified itself with this activity. Honey was an important cash crop for centuries. When Ladbergen became an independent entity in 1949, the citizens agreed to featured honey bees prominently on the town's new coat of arms.

Surrounding the farm yard is a hedgerow. A little larger than true scale would dictate, it nonetheless conveys the correct impression of protecting the farm from outside elements. The raised earthen mound was planted at regular intervals with Koppstuken, generally oak and willow. The limbs were cut back every few years and as a result the trees never grew very tall and gave a gnarled appearance. In between grew smaller vegetation - birch, buckthorn, alder, ash, juniper and broom bush. These species were also regularly harvested. The result was a tangled mat of relatively new growth, a most effective fence.

Each of the two breaks in the hedgerow are guarded by a Schlagbaum (toll bar or turn stile). It is supposed that just such a structure may form the basis of part of the Fiegenbaum surname (see the article on Our Name for more details).

The flowers at the bottom of the drawing are from the flax plant, an important cash crop for Ladbergen farmers. Many a household expended great time and energy, essentially the spare time in the evenings, in the manufacture of linen thread and cloth, particularly from late autumn to spring. Cloth not sold at the Legge, the government trading house in Tecklenburg, was used to pay the wages of farm laborers. And a young woman who had not filled her hope chest with linen made by her own industry had some explaining to do.

The manufacture of linen was also an occasion for socializing. The household would gather in the evening in the spinning room behind the hearth. Often friends and neighbors joined in. News and gossip was exchanged. A good story teller was always welcome. And some in the room might manage to get in a little courting.

The linen industry was seriously hurt by the Continental Blocade (1806-1814) during the Napoleonic Wars. Later, competition from Holland and England, especially from large commercial operations utilizing power looms, threatened markets and eroded prices. Cotton goods also made inroads. The loss of this source of income in the early 1800s caused considerable hardship. Many families in Ladbergen and northwestern Germany could not survive on agriculture alone. These financial considerations were a significant impetus for emigration in the 19th century.