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Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees with gold and silver leaves by artist Robin Starke is located just outside the Eleanor & John Kirkpatrick Research Center in the Oklahoma History Center. Each leaf of the "Oklahoma Family Tree" memorializes an Oklahoma family with the family surname, first name(s), and the town or county where they lived. In addition, a short family history will be preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. This is a great way for your family to make history and benefit future generations at the same time. To find out how to honor your own family with a leaf visit the Oklahoma Family Tree Project page.

Steichen Family

Nicholas Steichen and Mary Gengler were born in Koerich, Luxembourg. They knew each other in Luxembourg, and followed other family members to the United States and settled in Iowa, (where several communities of Luxembourg descent had been established), to seek better futures for themselves. They married in Sioux City, Iowa on December 24, 1884, and bought a farm near Roswell, South Dakota in 1888. By 1893, their family had grown to six children.

Tragedy struck in November 1893 when a diphtheria epidemic swept through their community. Within twelve days, five of their children were dead. They left their farm with their two-year-old daughter, Mary Frances, and returned to Iowa. They were living in Le Mars, Iowa when Mary gave birth to John Matthew on August 25, 1894, and in Remsen, Iowa when another son was born two years later. Then they moved back to their South Dakota farm where two more children were born.

After Nicholas and Mary Steichen sold their South Dakota farm in 1901, they moved to Noble County, Oklahoma Territory, to find a better place to farm and raise their growing family. They bought land north of Perry where their last child, Anna, was born in 1903. After Mary died in 1905, Nicholas stayed on the farm and raised their six children; Mary Frances, John Matthew, Nick, Aloysius, Susan, and Anna. Nicholas died on December 7, 1941, a day best remembered for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
John Matthew Steichen met his wife, Maude Schiltz, growing up in rural Noble County. Maude's father, Michael Schiltz, was born in Luxembourg in 1867 and immigrated to the United States with his brother, Nicholas. Both were teenagers when they made their bold move. The Schiltz brothers settled in the vicinity of Clifton, Kansas and became acquainted with the Wurtz family. The Charles and Catherine Wurtz family had abandoned their homeland of France to escape the turmoil of war with Germany and settled in Washington County, Kansas around 1873.

Nicholas Schiltz married Celestine Wurtz in 1889. Around 1892, the Schiltz brothers staked claims in the Sac and Fox country east of Oklahoma City. Eager to help her sister, Katie Wurtz joined them in their venture and wound up staking her own claim near Meeker in Lincoln County. Early on, they lived in dugouts.

Michael Schiltz and Katie Wurtz were married on January 15, 1894 at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Oklahoma City. They returned to their farm with a load of lumber to build a genuine house, where Maude was born on November 20, 1894.

In 1907, Michael and Katie sold their farm and moved with their four living children—Maude, Joe, Martha, and Mike—to land north of Perry, leaving two sons who died in 1904 buried at Meeker. Their last child, Katherine, died at birth on November 27, 1907. By 1913, they had completed construction of a home and barn about two miles from the Steichens' farm. The Schiltz and Steichen families got to know each other at neighborhood gatherings and St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Perry.

John Matthew Steichen and Maude Schiltz both taught in rural schools in Noble County for their first jobs, and they began a courtship. World War I and John Matthew's induction into the US Army in December 1917 interrupted their budding romance. He fought in France in 1918 and was discharged in 1919. Upon his return to Oklahoma, John Matthew and Maude resumed their courtship and were married in Perry on August 27, 1919.

When Maude's parents decided to move to Tonkawa, they rented their farm to John Matthew and Maude. They bought the farm in 1929, christened it Sunny Slope Farm, and proceeded to raise four children: John Henry, Joe, Robert, and Mary Lou. John Matthew and Maude were strong believers in education, not only for their children, but also for themselves. They complemented farming with active participation in community events and organizations. The Steichens' three sons graduated from Oklahoma A&M College (later, Oklahoma State University). In 1950, the Steichens retired from farming and sold Sunny Slope Farm to their son, John Henry.

When they were not participating in community activities, the Steichens loved to travel. In 1949, they made their first trip to Europe and enjoyed visiting with cousins in Luxembourg. Even after Maude died on December 17, 1959, John Matthew traveled the world. He became a popular speaker and shared films of his travels with local and state organizations. He died on January 27, 1978, in Perry, Oklahoma.

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