In the midst of disaster, von Goessel made a name for himself and town

In the early 1895, Dr. Peter Richert was looking to establish a hospital in the place now called Goessel. He first needed a post office to receive shipments of medicines and supplies. He also needed a name for the post office.

According to oral tradition, Richert sent in the name “West Branch” because this was the name of the township. The name supposedly was rejected because the U.S. Postal Department did not want more names with a directional designation.

About that time, Jan. 30, 1895, the North German Lloyd steamship “Elbe” was passing through the English Channel when it was rammed by another ship at 5 a.m. It sank in 20 minutes, taking 350 lives; 22 half-frozen survivors made it to safety in one lifeboat.

In the face of tragedy and terror, Captain Kurt Von Goessel calmly gave orders, and finally saluted as he went down with his ship.

The story of the accident made world-wide news, including the front page of the New York Times on Jan. 31. Yacht clubs around the world flew flags at half-mast.

Since Von Goessel’s ship made regular runs from Germany to New York, he had American acquaintances, including the music composer S.B. Mills, who wrote a piano march titled “Elbiata” in his honor.

Von Goessel was described as having impeccable character, and was highly respected in nautical circles. He won medals for heroic rescues at sea. He left behind a wife and children.

Back in Kansas, Richert read the story of the captain. Because of the worldwide significance of the story and heroic nature of the captain, Richert sent in the name “Goessel,” and it was accepted by the U. S. Postal Department in a charter dated April 13, 1895.

This account was adapted from Goessel’s Web site at http://skyways.

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