A few months ago I read a novel by a Wyneken. I’m sure you’ve never heard of the novel, or of the author. The book is entitled Chronicles of Manuel Alanus: A True Story of Old San Francisco. The author’s name is L. (Leopold) Ernest Wyneken.
In this blog entry I present some background information about the author and a brief overview of the book.
L. Ernest Wyneken
Ernest was born in 1838. His father, Ludwig August Friedrich Wilhelm (1802-1887), was a magistrate in the Holstein region of northern Germany, so presumably that’s where Ernest was born. Here’s a link to Ernest on my Wyneken genealogy website:
There is one group of Wynekens descended from Ludwig August living in Germany today: Nikolaus Ernst-Axel Wyneken and his family. Back in the early 19th century this branch of the family was closely related to the branches that produced FCD Wyneken (i.e. most of the US Wynekens) and Alexander Wyneken in Königsberg.
Ernest emigrated to the United States and wound up in San Francisco. One of my correspondents informed me that Ernest had emigrated to the US by the early 1860’s but I have no independent confirmation of that. He became a US citizen in 1886.
Ernest was a partner in the architect firm of Townsend and Wyneken. I have read that there are three buildings built by this firmstill standing in San Francisco. In addition, at the intersection of Market, Geary and Kearney streets in downtown San Francisco there is a fountain, called “Lotta’s Fountain”, which is attributed to Townsend and Wyneken. It was originally a source of drinking water and was constructed in 1875 as a donation to the city of San Francisco from the highly popular and wealthy actress, Lotta Crabtree.
After the great San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Lotta’s Fountain served as a meeting place for people trying to rebuild their lives in the midst of the destruction:
The Internet references a further product from the firm Townsend and Wyneken – an aerial view of San Francisco from 1875:
It is said that Ernest Wyneken was an artist on the side and may have traveled up and down the West Coast on sailing ships drawing the ports and coast lines. The circumstances and years of his death are unknown but it is possible that he died in Santa Barbara.
Chronicles of Manuel Alanus
This book was published in 1908 in New York. Various versions can be downloaded on-line, for example from:
I read an OCRed version of the text because I did not realize there were scanned versions of the book available as PDF downloads. I recommend to anyone who wants to read the book to procure a scanned version because, in the version that I read, it is obvious that little or no editing took place after the OCR process converted the pages into text format. The processed text is certainly understandable but there are countless spots with obvious errors and a very small number of passages which are completely incomprehensible.
The story is about Manuel Alanus, a young man struggling to deal with the hardships fate has thrown his way. He lost his mother at an early age, and was later separated from his father, as well. The father’s brother is a wicked man who attempts to thwart his brother and nephew whenever he can. Father and son are reunited for a while under difficult circumstances but are then separated again. Manuel is good-natured, honest and hard-working. His quest is to find his father again. In the course of his quest we are shown a bit of what life was like in a long-gone San Francisco of over a hundred years ago.
I cannot claim that the book is great literature. I was, however, impressed by how well the author writes in English even though German was his first language. Obviously, my main motivation to read the book was that it was written by a distant Wyneken relative. Being very partial to San Francisco, I was also pleased to get a view of life in my favorite American city as seen through the window of a time machine.
Perhaps, after this brief description, one or more of the readers of this blog might give the book a try. It doesn’t cost anything to download a copy, and if it winds up not catching your fancy, you can just throw the file into your computer’s trash can.