William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken; William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken

The Gerken-Larson Heritage:
The 19th and 20th Centuries
A Family History

Herman Gerken (1819-1875)
Henry Gerken (1855-1914)
Ewald Gerken (1895-1956)
Joan (Gerken) Larson (1926-1994)
Thomas Larson (1962-)

Researched and written by
Tom Larson

William Gerken (1853-1922) was the eldest son of Herman and M. Catherine (Schulte) Gerken. He was Henry Gerken's brother and an uncle of Ewald Gerken.

William Gerken and Elizabeth Sudmeier
William Gerken and Carolina Wuebbelt

William Gerken was born at New Vienna on November 9, 1853, to Herman and Mary Catherine (Schulte) Gerken, the the third of eight children born to Herman and Mary Catherine (Schulte) Gerken. William's given name in German is Wilhelm, and this was what he was often called by family as well as the German community.

William resided at New Vienna until he was thirteen years of age, when he moved with his parents to the Gerken homestead east of Dyersville. He attended the rural and parochial schools at Dyersville and spent about a year studying at Dubuque, Iowa, and thereafter assisted his father on the farm. At the death of his father in 1875, he took over the Gerken homestead.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" (Sudmeier) Gerken
Marriage of William Gerken and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Sudmeier.
On April 20, 1877, he married Miss Elizabeth Sudmeier at St. Francis Church in Dyersville, with the Reverend Father Anton Kortenkamp presiding. They then went to housekeeping on the Gerken homestead. Maria Elizabeth Sudmeier, called Lizzie, was born on January 2, 1856 at Petersburg, Iowa, to John Bernard and Adelaide [Adelheid] (Poggeman) Sudmeier.

Children of William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken were seven children:

  • Adelhide "Addie" Herm. Domita Gerken was born July 5, 1878, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken. She married Aloysuis [Alois or Louis] Gerhardt Tegeler on May 27, 1903 [1902?], at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dyersville, Iowa. They lived at Nashua, Iowa. Louis Tegeler was born on May 29, 1880, to Henry and Ann (Burkle) Tegeler. "Louie" was a blacksmith by trade. Born to them were Oliver, Ermin, Leah, Ivo, and Luma. Addie (Gerken) Tegeler died on August 30, 1936. Louis Tegeler died on June 25, 1955.

  • John Bernard Herman Gerken was born January 15, 1880, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken. He married Anna Margaret Roling on October 16, 1906, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dyersville, Iowa. She was born on October 22, 1877, at Coesfeld, Westphalia, Germany, to Theodore and Caroline (Bruening) Roling. They lived at Woonsocket, South Dakota, for a year before returning to Dyersville to live. Born to them were Emaline, Elizabeth, Alfred, and Alma. He was a blacksmith by trade. John B. H. Gerken died on November 6, 1935, at Dyersville, and his wife Anna (Roling) Gerken died at a Dubuque, Iowa, hospital on December 6, 1956.

  • Frank Joseph Gerken was born September 3, 1881, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken. He married Anna Cecelia Regal on September 3, 1912, at St. Mary's Church in Waverly, Iowa. She was born on March 6, 1890, in McGregor, Iowa, to Benjamin and Katherine (Vollegrant) Regal. They lived and farmed at Waverly, Iowa; Charles City, Iowa; and Colby, Wisconsin, before finally settling at Dyersville, Iowa. Frank was also a blacksmith. Born to them were Raphael, James, Mary, Rita, and Giles. Frank J. Gerken died on November 29, 1969, at Dyersville. Anna (Regal) Gerken died on January 24, 1991, at Dyersville.

  • Henry Hugo Gerken was born March 31, 1883, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken. He married Catherine "Kate" Frances Tegeler on January 31, 1912, at Dyersville, where they lived and farmed. She was born on February 24, 1888, at New Vienna, Iowa, to Bernard and Theresa (Beckman) Tegeler. Kate was a first cousin to to Henry's brother-in-law, Louie Tegeler (Addie's husband), and Kate's brother Jerry married Henry's cousin, Rosa Kerkhoff. Born to the Gerkens were Lorraine, Bernard, Charles, Catherine, Mary Ann, Leo, and Vernita. Catherine "Kate" (Tegeler) Gerken died on July 26, 1956, at a Dubuque, Iowa, hospital. Henry Gerken died on November 1, 1971, at a Dubuque, Iowa, hospital.

  • Leo Michael Gerken was born April 5, 1885, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken. He entered the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained May 29, 1919, at Baltimore, Maryland, and offered his first Mass at St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville, Iowa, on June 3, 1919. He served parishes at Oelwein, Independence, Dyersville, and Cascade, all in Iowa. The Reverend Leo M. Gerken died on July 10, 1923, at a Waterloo, Iowa, hospital.

  • Rudolph Aloysius Gerken was born March 7, 1887, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken. Rudolph entered the Catholic priesthood, he was ordained on June 10, 1917. He became bishop of Amarillo and archbishop of Sante Fe. The Most Reverend Rudolph A. Gerken, D.D., died on March 2, 1943.

  • Maria Amelia "Molly" Margaret Gerken was born October 17, 1888, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken. She married Bernard "Ben" B. Willenborg on February 7, 1911, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dyersville, Iowa. He was born on June 4, 1885, at Petersburg, Iowa. They lived first at Independence, Iowa, but lived most of their lives at Dyersville. Born to them were Elmer, Iven, Dula, Roger, Delrose, Paul, Carl, and John. They lived their last years at a rest home in Dubuque, Iowa. Molly (Gerken) Willenborg died there on March 14, 1980. Ben Willenborg died on December 3, 1984.

The Gerken household in 1880.
The 1880 U.S. Census has the Gerken household consisting of William, age 26, farmer; Elisebeth, age 24, keeping house; Adelheid, age 1; and John B., age 5 months; Alois Gerken, age 17, works on farm; and Elisebeth Norry, age 15, domestic servant. Alois Gerken was William's younger brother, who came to be known by the name Louis.

Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken dies.
This happy home was saddened on October 26, 1888, when Mrs. William Gerken, née Elizabeth Sudmeier, was called to her reward. She was buried at the St. Francis Xavier cemetery at Dyersville.

William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken
Marriage of William Gerken and Carolina Wuebbelt.
On June 3, 1890, Mr. William Gerken married Miss Carolina Wuebbelt at St. Francis Church in Dyersville, with Monsignor G. W. Heer officiating. She was born in Coesfeld, Germany, May 26, 1856. Her education was received in her native village, and she grew to young womanhood there. In the year 1890, Miss Wuebbelt emigrated to this country, coming directly to Dyersville, and made her home with her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Rothaus, whose home was located on the lots later known as the city park. After the marriage, William and Carolina settled down to housekeeping on the Gerken farm east of Dyersville. In 1900 the Gerken household consisted of William and Caroline and their children, Adelaide, John B., Henry, Rudolph, Amelia, Willie, Laura, Oscar, Tecla, and Ludwig, as named in that year's U.S. Census.

Children of William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken:

  • William Henry Gerken was born October 11, 1891, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken. Bill married Ida Elizabeth Diers on June 19, 1917, at St. Boniface Church in New Vienna, Iowa. She was born on September 17, 1892, at New Vienna, Iowa. They resided at both New Vienna and Monona in Iowa before moving to Amarillo, Texas. Bill was a mechanic. Born to the Gerkens were Gilbert, Donald, Howard, Paul, Rudolph, Mark, Margaret, and Edward. Bill Gerken died on May 27, 1972, and Ida (Diers) Gerken died on August 19, 1974, both at Amarillo.

  • Laura Carolina Gerken was born December 2, 1893, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken. She married Edward Klostermann on January 31, 1917, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dyersville, Iowa. He was born on April 19, 1890, at Dyersville to Casper and Catherine (Jasper) Klostermann. They resided at Dyersville, Iowa. They first farmed, and then Ed worked as a salesman for Moorman Mfg. Later he was also with the Steger Funeral Home. Born to the Klostermanns were Florabelle, Wilma, and Mary. Ed Klostermann died on October 14, 1961, at Dyersville. Laura (Gerken) Klostermann died on October 21, 1967, at a Dubuque, Iowa, hospital.

  • Oscar Emil Gerken was born October 25, 1895, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken. He married Martha Katherine Wernke on September 3, 1928, at Luxemburg, Iowa. She was born on January 27, 1904, to John and Martha (Goebel) Wernke. They farmed at Dyersville, Iowa; Amarillo and Happy, Texas; and Guttenberg, Iowa, before retiring to Dyersville, Iowa. Born to them were Caroline, Dorothy, Robert, William, and Mary. Oscar Gerken died on April 18, 1987, at Dyersville, Iowa. Martha (Wernke) Gerken died on May 3, 1997.

  • Thecla Anna Wilhelmina Gerken was born June 29, 1897, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken. She married Clemens S. "Clem" Bruggeman on September 30, 1919, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dyersville, Iowa. He was born on April 6, 1893, at Petersburg, Iowa, to John and Ann (Deppe) Bruggeman. They farmed at both Edgewood and Petersburg, Iowa, before retiring to Dyersville. Born to them were Joseph, Ila, Paul, Leo, Rita, Robert, and Carol. Clem Bruggeman died on July 15, 1968, in Dyersville. Thecla (Gerken) Bruggeman died on January 1, 1984, at a rest home in Dubuque, Iowa.

  • Ludwig Theodore Herman Gerken was born August 13, 1898, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken. "Lud" farmed at Amarillo and Happy, Texas. Ludwig married Ottilia "Tillie" Romero on June 12, 1948 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Fe. They lived at Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he operated a bicycle shop. Ludwig Gerken died on January 23, 1966.

  • Carolina Olivia "Oliva" Constantia Gerken was born July 7, 1901, at Dyersville, Iowa, to William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken. She married William "Shorty" P. Janssen on March [June?] 3, 1931, at St. Francis Xavier Church in Dyersville, Iowa. They resided at Umbarger, Texas. Their adopted children were Mary and James. Oliva (Gerken) Janssen died on August 22, 1975. William Janssen died on August 21, 1985.

front seat:
Frank (passenger) and
Leo (at wheel).

rear seat:
Henry (wearing hat) and

1908 Model T.

Carolina, Oliva, and William Gerken on the Gerken homestead east of Dyersville, Iowa.
Gerkens travel to Germany.
In 1914 William and Carolina Gerken travelled to Germany for a visit to the old country. William Gerken was the son of a German immigrant, and Carolina herself had been born in Germany, and they were travelling to see relatives still in Germany. They left in June and did not return to Dyersville until late October. The excerpts that follow were chosen for their relevance to the Gerken heritage and for their historical value on the eve of World War I.

  • July 15, 1914. From Paderborn traveled to Si[dd]inghausen. A very beautiful village, lies in a hilly region. The farmers live together in the village and have their fields in the surrounding area. Visited the big linden (?) tree where Rev. F. W. Pape was born. Also visited the spring which Rev. Pape had enclosed. Were in the same church, a very old one, built of broken stone. The tower is supposed to have been built by pagans. The church was in later times built on to it.
  • Si[dd]inghausen, July 16. Anton Happe, called Schöler bought the farm where Rev. Pape was born.
  • Hegensdorf, July 17, 1914. Mr. Happe accompanied us to Hegensdorf. We were here received very friendly by Mr. Adorf, a son-in-law of Happe by Anna Gerken, daughter of Wilhelm Gerken in Hegensdorf. Her brother is in Muenster as a militia man for drills for 14 days. We slept in the house where my father was. Anna Gerken entertained us there very well, a daughter of Wm. Gerken called Öfeler. There is an old church here, it was built in the 15th century, it is a church of broken stone, not big, but beautifully built inside and also beautifully painted. There is a miraculous cross here, which hung from heaven in the 13th century on a silk string. It is 6 to 8 inches big, 2 fingers wide, and is encased in a silver case, was opened 4 years ago. The elderly Rev. Voss said, it still is in such good condition, as if it had been freshly painted a short while ago, it is oakwood. The priest blessed us with it before and after Mass. Met an old man named Mathias Heinrichs. He is 82 years old, knew mother and father very well, and also old Schefer and Conrad Woerdehoff. He had made the coffin for Wilhelm Gerken, my uncle. The old teacher, Mertens, still is alive, however he is on a pension. Was also at the Krespohl, a splendid spring in the valley, an old broken-off linden tree stands there. There the priest stands when there is a procession, in a little enclosure, and extends the miraculous cross to the people to kiss. There is also a cousin of Pinky Woerdehoff in this village.
  • On the 18th. from Hegensdorf by mail wagon to Büren, from there by rail to Brilon-Wald thru a long tunnel, a very beautiful romantic region. ... At 11:30 A.M. we arrived in Wirkede where Pastor Franz Gerken, a cousin of mine, is pastor. He is a very friendly, nice gentleman. He has here a big parish, has many parishioners. I think about 20,000 souls, and these he administers to alone. We were very kindly received and entertained here. The son of Wm. Gerken was, when we were in Hegensdorf, in Muenster. He had to do drills for 2 weeks as militiaman. John is a tall, slender, handsome soldier. He drilled with field artillery Reg. Nr. 22. He had seen active duty from 1906 to 1908 in Saarburg in Lorraine on the French border. The mother died on March 10, 1911, 6 days after her son Anton had read his first Holy Mass in Paderborn. Rev. Gerken telephoned at once to Muenster to cousin John, at noon, and he arrived in Wirkede at 7:00 P.M. It was a great joy for all of us. This was the first time he came to visit his uncle in this parish, so the joy was great.
  • Werl, July 20, 1914. Franz Gerken accompanied us to Werl, there is a shrine of the Holy Virgin here. ... From there to Gelsenkirchen from there to Wattenscheid, where Franz Gerken is assitant pastor. He is a son of Wm. Gerken of Hegensdorf, a cousin of mine ... To be sure the big church, where Franz Gerken is assistant pastor, has cracked in several places, so that it has been anchored together with iron rods. It is a parish of 28,000 souls, there are 6 priests here to administer to them.
  • July 31, 1914. We went from Kevelaer to Coesfeld. All the bridges were filled with soldiers, in order to prevent any spies or enemies from blowing up the buildings, because it is essentially directed toward the bridges, so that the trains cannot transport the military. On the first of August was still no mobilization, but on the 2nd it already appeared bad and tragic in Coesfeld. The Lamberti Church was packed full of sorrowing and weeping wives, husbands, and daughters. It was heartbreaking to watch as it was taking place. And now it looks still much worse. Almost every house must send 1 or even 4 or 5 men to the military. Also the people must give up horses and wagons, even if the crops stand and rot on the land. Several farms had to be cleaned off by fire, in order to make room that young recruits could be trained there.
  • August 5th in Holtwick. It is reported that England has declared war on Prussia. That is hard news for the poor, oppressed people. At Drensteinfurt an airship was shot down, where a spy and other things was inside. No car may travel freely any more, they are all stopped and checked. There were already several cars with Russian officers, who were dressed in women's clothing, detected and seized. So many volunteers are reporting that many of them are not taken.
  • On the 9th, Sunday, we were in Coesfeld for 13 hours devotion, which the bishop had ordered throughout the entire diocese, so that the people might pray in this troubled times. It was and is however also really edifying, how the people go to church and to the sacraments; even as the soldiers who did not yet have to march out and had still time, could be seen in great number in the church and at the Lord's table, in order to--perhaps for the last time--unite themselves with God and then to march off to fight for kaiser and fatherland.
  • August 16, 1914. Received a dispatch from the consulate in Barmen. Was commanded to come there, to show my papers and to prove I am an American citizen.
  • At 12:00 on the 18th from Barmen back to Duesseldorf, from Duesseldorf to Duisburg. In this city we had to wait 3½ hours, in order to get to Oberhausen. The time doesn't drag here however, since it is a splendid city and also good Dortmunder beer can be had here in very many pubs. It is in the Rhineland on the Rhine River.
  • August 20, 1914. The Telegram reported this morning that Pope Pius X died at 1:20.
  • On the 22nd a telegram came in Muenster that the crown prince of Bavaria had won a big battle. 10,000 French and 50 cannons are supposed to have been captured, near Metz.
  • On the 27th received disappointing news from Barmen that we can not leave on the 29th, but not until the 3rd of October by the Holland American line from Rotterdam.
  • On the 31st received a telegram in Coesfeld, that the Prussians have taken 30,000 Russians prisoner after a three day battle. A great jubilation.
  • On Thursday, Sept. 3, a telegram arrived that Pope Benedict XV had been elected. All the bells were rung.
  • On Friday, Sept. 4, we traveled by RR from Holtwick to Lette in order to attend the burial of Mr. Beranard Schmerken. When the corpse was brought into the city, the driver walked next to the left horse and led it by the bridle. The coffin stood on an old wagon and the relatives followed on foot. After the burial the Requiem was held in the church. Afterwards all the people went into a pub and first of all Schnaps was drunk. Afterwards all sat at several big tables and coffee and Zwieback was served, as much as the heart demanded. Then all the relatives went to the house where a grand noon meal was served. When the people went home, again coffee with ham and dark and white bread and Zwieback was served.
  • Sept. 14. Today a letter arrived from Addie from Nashua by way of Caspar Poepping, which was mailed from Nashua on August 24. In the letter it said that a telegram had arrived at our house from Wm Bryan. We have received no news from our people for a long time.
  • Sept. 15. Received the letter which Rudy sent from Dyersville on the 28th. Also the card from Leo, which he sent on August 22. [Although these letters mentioned in the past two diary entries were from William and Carolina's children, they apparently did not mention the death of William's brother Henry, who had died in an auto accident on August 13, 1914; perhaps they wanted to withhold the news until the Gerkens' return home; William and Carolina would, however, learn of Henry's death on October 15, 1914, from an acquaintance, while in Rotterdam, on their last day in Europe.]
  • Sept. 16. Went to Duesseldorf to have my passport signed by the Dutch consul. Duesseldorf is a very big city, which has a population of ½ million. It lies on the Rhine, has many big and beautiful monuments, splendid wide streets. There many wounded soldiers who go around with lame legs, arms in slings, and bandaged heads were to be seen.
  • Oct. 1, 1914. Traveled with great joy from Coesfeld to Rotterdam in order to leave from there on Oct. 3rd for New York. When we came thru Amsterdam in the night on the trip to Rotterdam, it was reported that the ship was still held in England. That was a great blow, but we still had hope, that it was only a false report. But to our greatest disappointment we learned, when we arrived in Rotterdam at 2 A.M. that it was only too true, and still no definite time until we could depart. There are thousand of men here, who are in the same situation as we, but must wait just as we must. It is so overcrowded here, that one can find almost no accommodations. We sat the first night, after a driver had driven us about one hour long in the city from one hotel to another, finally in a waiting room we sat in chairs until about 7:00 and had to pay a dollar for it. In the course of the day we found accommodations in Rafaels Hotel. It is only a house for 3rd class ship passengers, but the price is good and cheap. We had to pay 18 Marks board until the 9th, that is very cheap, and that is very agreeable to us, otherwise our cash on hand would have been in bad shape, if we would have had to be in a hotel in the city.
    Rotterdam is a big port city, we are near to the water, there is only the street between the hotel where we live and the water. We often take long walks along the water, one can go for hours and always still see much water and thousands of ships of all kinds, little and big--but one however soon feels bad and the thought and the longing comes again and again for the dear family members in distant America, and even the best will doesn't help.
  • Oct. 3, 1914. This evening here in the hotel a big number of refugees--men, women, and children (Belgians)--arrived from Antwerpen. They are complaining a lot about the Prussians, that they spare nothing but they say nothing about the atrocities which were committed on the poor, wounded Prussians in that their eyes were plucked out and ears and noses cut off by Belgian soldiers and civilians.
  • Rotterdam, Oct. 10, 1914. Today again thousands of refugees from Antwerpen arrived here, and also many left. I think there were very many Jews. They had a lot of luggage with them, were mostly well and richly dressed. It was said that they are traveling to England--London. There were 7 children whose mother had disappeared. She could not be located. So it goes here every day. It is indeed sad when one has to observe it, the great misery which the devastation of a world war brings to the land.
  • Oct. 15, 1914. Today is the day which we have waited for so passionately, in order to board the ship to begin the trip home. When the joy was great and we met Anton Wilberding here in Rotterdam, he told us of the misfortune of my dear brother Henry, that he was killed in an auto accident north of Luxemburg (Iowa). That was very sad news to us.
  • Oct. 24. Beautiful weather, always a westwind. At 12:00 saw a lighthouse, as it is called - Sandy Hook. We passed Long Island at 3:00 A.M. ... At 7:00 we arrived in New York. ... arrived in Dyersville on the 27th at 1:30 P.M..

Thousands of Americans Still Awaiting Turn To Return Home.

Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Gerken arrived home Tuesday, October 27, 1914, from their trip to Europe, coming to New York on the steamer Rotterdam by way of Holland. Considerable anxiety had been felt for the safety of Mr. and Mrs. Gerken for some time and the report of their arrival at New York came as good news to the members of the family and the friends of Mr. and Mrs. Gerken.

The Gerkens left for Germany in June, before there were any signs of the present conflict. When the war broke out, the mail service was crippled, and it was many weeks at a time that the children here failed to hear from their parents. Becoming anxious for their safety, the matter was taken up with the department, and in due time word was received from Secretary Bryan, stating that Mr. and Mrs. Gerken were safe in their old home and were preparing to return to America. The only route that ships are in operation is by way of Rotterdam and the thousands of Americans who were anxious to return home had to wait their turn, hence the delay in the return home of the Gerkens.

Mr. Gerken stated that the trip was an exceedingly perilous one, especially so passing through the channel and other coast waters, where most likely mines are planted. An English pilot took the boat through the channel, and when the high seas were safely reached the passengers cheered.

Mr. and Mrs. Gerken made the trip to Europe on the steamer "Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse," which has since been sent to the bottom of the ocean, striking a mine. They returned on the Rotterdam.

Conditions are not serious in Germany, according to the statements made by Mr. Gerken. He says that things have been greatly exaggerated. [This report seems a bit incredulous considering what William Gerken had written in his diary of things he had seen.]

The William and Carolina Gerken family picture
standing l to r: William, Leo, Ludwig, John, Henry, Oscar, Frank, Rudy, Addie, Laura, Molly, Oliva, Thecla; sitting: William and Carolina Gerken; inset: Elizabeth Gerken
standing, l to r: William, Leo, Ludwig, John, Henry, Oscar, Frank, Rudy, Addie, Laura, Molly, Oliva, Thecla
sitting: William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken     inset, upper right: Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken
Elizabeth, William's first wife, died in 1888. Addie, John, Frank, Henry, Leo, Rudy, and Molly were William and Elizabeth's children. Born to William and Carolina were William, Laura, Oscar, Thecla, Ludwig, and Oliva.

William and Carolina Gerken retire.
On September 6, 1921, the Gerkens retired from farming and moved to Dyersville, where they lived with their daughter Oliva. Their son Oscar farmed the Gerken homestead for several years, but during the Depression it passed out of Gerken hands when it was sold to Herman Nadermann.

William Gerken died on Wednesday, August 30, 1922. Mr. Gerken was nearly 69 years old at the time of his demise. His death followed an illness of six months duration, and his death certificate has the cause of his death as carcinoma of the liver with a contributory cause being anemia. He was survived by his wife and all thirteen of his children; he was also survived by his brother Louis of Dyersville; his sisters, Mrs. Mary Kerkhoff of Petersburg; and Mrs. Mike (Carolina "Lena") Steger of Norcross, Minn.; and 28 grandchildren.

Interment Made In The Family Lot in the St. Francis Cemetery.

The funeral of the late Mr. William Gerken, one of Dyersville's highly esteemed citizens, of whose death mention was made in the previous issue of the Commercial, was held last Saturday morning, September 2, 1922, at 9:30 o'clock, from the family home to the St. Francis church. Solemn requiem mass was read for the repose of his soul by his son, Reverend Leo Gerken, assisted by another son, Reverend Rudolph Gerken, of Ranger, Texas, as deacon, and Reverend Father William Kunkel, of Raymond, Ia., a nephew of the deceased, as sub-deacon. Rev. Francis A. Mullen, of Dubuque, Ia., was master of ceremonies. Monsignor George W. Heer of Dubuque delivered the sermon and paid high tribute to the life of the deceased. There was also present in the sanctuary the following priests:
  • Very Rev. Theodore T. Warning, Dyersville, Ia.
  • Rev. Thomas J. Rooney, Manchester, Ia.
  • Rev. Anthony Gerken, New Vienna, Ia.
  • Rev. Wm. Kerp, Farley, Ia.
  • Rev. Joseph H. Schilmoeller, Worthington, Ia.
  • Rev. Edward J. Dougherty, Oelwein, Ia.
  • Rev. Henry J. Dunkel, Earlville, Ia.
  • Rev. Anton L. Lorenz, Dyersville, Ia.
  • Rev. Wm. Rannaid, Bankston, Ia.
  • Rev. Henry J. Loosbrock, Petersburg, Ia.
  • Rev. F. Schulz, Worthington, Ia.
  • Rev. August R. Thier, Dubuque, Ia.
  • Rev. John B. Albers, Cascade, Ia.
  • Rev. John J. Murtagh, Edgewood, Ia.
  • Rev. Louis Iekel, Dyersville, Ia.
  • Rev. Henry C. Scharphoff

After requiem mass the funeral cortege, the largest in Dyersville for a long time, wended its way to St. Francis Cemetery, where interment was made in the family lot. His son Rev. Father Rudolph Gerken officiated at the grave. The pallbearers were Messrs. Adam Strekl, John Holscher, Aug. Goerdt, William Althaus, Wm. Lappe, John Goetzinger.

Oscar, William, John, Ludwig, William Gerken, Leo, Henry, Frank, and Rudolph (left to right) were all members of the Knights of Columbus.
Nine members of Family are K.C.'s.
Mr. Gerken and his eight sons were staunch members of the Knights of Columbus, and the council of the city attended the funeral in a body.

Mr. Gerken's life was lived in accord with the teachings of his faith, having been a consistent member of the Catholic church, and when death summoned him, he was well prepared to meet his Maker. All thru his spell of sickness, he was patient, never uttering a word of complaint, although at times his suffering was intense. His death was due to complications. He was devoted to his wife and family, his every act being for their welfare, and with his removal from this vale of tears, a void will be felt in the family circle, to which he devoted untiring years of happiness and service. He has reared a family of thirteen children, of whom he was justly proud, two of his sons having entered the state of holy priesthood. He was a man of excellent character, upright and honest and sincere in purpose; he made hosts of friends and helped them when the opportunity presented itself. Perseverance and patience, two noble qualities which bespoke the pioneer, dominated his character and made him a man among men, and his presence will not only be missed in the home, but by a wide circle of friends, who were stricken with deepest sorrow when it became known that Mr. Gerken had died. Deceased was very successful as an agriculturist, and living here over half a century, he did much toward the development of the now fertile fields in this vicinity.

He labored continuously until 1921, when he and his wife went to Dyersville to live. His time of retirement, to enjoy the fruits of his labor on this earth, however, was cut short, and he was called to receive a better reward which he so richly deserved. Heartfelt sympathy is extended the devoted wife and sorrowing children in the loss of a beloved husband and father.

Among the relatives present at the funeral were:
  • Mr. and Mrs. Alois Tegeler, and children Ivo and Luma, Nashua, Ia.
  • Frank Gerken, Colby, Wisc.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Clem Bruggeman, Edgewood, Ia.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Gerken, New Vienna, Ia.
  • Mrs. Mary Kerkhoff, Petersburg, Ia.
  • Mrs. Mike Steger, Norcross, Minn.
  • Mrs. Mary Goedken, Dubuque. Ia..
  • F. X. Gerken, New Vienna, Ia.
  • Mr. and Mrs. John Link, daughter Valeria, Guttenberg, Ia.
  • Mr. and Mrs. George Noethe, Bloomington, Wis.
  • Miss Paula Kunkel, Ossian, Ia.
  • Mrs. Jos. Fritz, Cresco, Ia.
  • Mr. and Mrs. George Gerken, Dubuque, Ia.
  • Ewald Gerken, Dubuque, Ia.
  • Ben Sudmeier, Timber Lake, S.D.
  • Wm. Gerken and 2 sons, Chicago, Ill.
  • Mrs. Herman Gerken, Chicago, Ill.
  • Misses Martha and Dorothy Ellwanger, Chicago, Ill.
  • Mrs. F. X. Mayer, Minnneapolis, Minn.
  • Mr. Jos. Schroeder, Dedham, Ia.

Mrs. Carolina Gerken moves to Amarillo, Texas.
In 1928 Mrs. Carolina Gerken and her daughter Oliva moved to Amarillo, Texas, and took up residence with Carolina's stepson, Bishop Rudolph Gerken.

In Texas, circa 1929:
In back, left to right: Ray Goedken, John Slavik, Ludwig Gerken.
In front, left to right: Olive Gerken, Carolina Gerken, Bishop Gerken, Leah Tegeler, Carl Knopp.
Notes. Ray Goedken was a son of John Theodore Goedken, a cousin of Bishop Gerken through his natural mother's lineage. Carolina Gerken was his stepmother. Olive Gerken and Ludwig Gerken were siblings of the bishop. Leah Tegeler was a niece of the bishop's, a daughter of his sister Addie.
Photo contributed by Gary Goedken, Ray Goedken's son.

Passed away at the Home of Her Son Bishop R. A. Gerken Saturday Afternoon.

memorial card for Carolina Gerken Word was received in Dyersville by Mr. John Gerken Saturday night of the death of his mother, Mrs. Carolina Gerken, which occurred at the house of her son, Bishop R. A. Gerken, at Amarillo, Texas, last Saturday afternoon, November 23, 1929, at 5:15 o'clock, on November 23, 1929, after an illness of several months' duration, due to complications.

Deceased is survived by the following children: Adeline, Mrs. A. Tegeler, Nashua; John of Dyersville; Frank of Colby, Wis.; Henry, Dyersville; Bishop R. A. Gerken, Amarillo, Tex.; Amelia, Mrs. Ben Willenborg; Wm. of Monona, Ia.; Laura, Mrs. Ed. Klostermann; Oscar on the homestead; Thecla, Mrs. Clem Bruggemann, Earlville; and Olivia and Ludwig, of Amarillo, Texas. One son, Rev. Leo Gerken, preceded her in death in the year 1923.

Mrs. Gerken was a woman of many noble traits of character. Her moral and religious life was modeled as the founder of the church and patterned in the true Christian mother. She was an untiring helpmate to her deceased husband, always ready to take life's burden on herself, fulfilling all duties in her home and towards her children. Her home life was ideal, her thoughts always being centered in providing happiness for the family circle. Her many acts of kindness and good example set will ever remain as a guiding star to those who remain to carry on. Heartfelt sympathy is extended to the bereaved children in the loss of their devoted mother.

Funeral services were first held in Amarillo at Sacred Heart Cathedral, where Pontifical Requiem Mass was offered by her son, Bishop R.A. Gerken, at 10 a.m., Monday, November 25, 1929.

The remains arrived in Dyersville from Texas Tuesday night, November 26, and were taken to the home of her son John, corner of South Tempe and DeWitt Streets, from where the funeral was held Thursday morning at 9:30 o'clock on November 28, 1929.

Pontifical Highmass Sung by Her Son Rt. Rev. Bishop R. A. Gerken.

The funeral of the late Mrs. Carolina Gerken, of whose death mention was made in last week's issue of the Commercial, was held Thursday morning at 9:30 o'clock from the home of her son John to St. Francis Church.

A Pontifical Requiem High Mass was sung by her son, the Rt. Rev. Rudolph A. Gerken, bishop of Amarillo, assisted by Rev. August R. Thier, of Columbia College, Dubuque, Ia., as archpriest; Rev. William A. Kunkel of Raymond, Ia., nephew of the deceased, as deacon, and Rev. Joseph H. Schilmoeler of Worthington, Ia., as sub-deacon.
  • Deacons of Honor: Rev. Patrick J. Coffey, Farley, Ia., and Rev. A. Wuchter.
  • Mitre bearer: Rev. John H. Mayer
  • Candle bearer: Rev. Joseph F. Wiehl, Chester, Ia.
  • Book bearer: Rev. Ernest P. Ament
  • Masters of Ceremonies: Rev. Leo A. Jaeger, Andover, Ia., and Rev. F. Kaminski, chancellor of the Amarillo diocese.
other priests in the sanctuary were:
  • Rev. Henry A. Reinert, New Vienna, Ia.
  • Rev. Theodore T. Warning, Dyersville, Ia.
  • Rev. Arnold Boeding, Sacred Heart, Dubuque, Ia.
  • Rev. Joseph A. Dupont, Guttenberg, Ia.
  • Rev. John A. Steinlage, Dyersville, Ia.
  • Rev. William A. Banfield, Bankston, Ia.
  • Rev. William J. Weirich, Holy Ghost, Dubuque, Ia.
  • Rev. Joseph J. Klott, Columbia College of Dubuque, Ia.
  • Rev. Aloysius J. Thole, Luxemburg, Ia.
  • Rev. Nicholas Krull, Plymouth, Ia.
  • Rev. Michael L. Kerper, Nativity Church, Dubuque, Ia.

Rev. Henry J. Dunkel, of Earlville, Ia., delivered a very able sermon, paying a high tribute to the life of the deceased. Father Dunkel's sermon was very timely and instructive. After services at the church, the funeral cortege wended its way to St. Francis cemetery, where interment was made in the family lot, her remains being laid to rest beside those of her late husband. The casket was borne by Messrs. Joe Lansing, George Nadermann, John Meyer, William Althaus, John Keuter, Joe Tegeler.

Out of town relatives and friends at the funeral were Ludwig Gerken and Olive Gerken, both of Amarillo, Texas; Frank Gerken, of Colby, Wis.; Mr. and Mrs. Alois Tegeler, of Nashua, Ia.; and Mr. and Mrs. William Gerken, of Monona, Ia., all children of the deceased; Mrs. Eva Steger Bauer, of Madison, Minn.; Mr. and Mrs. George Noethe, of Bloomington, Wis.; Miss Paula Kunkel, of Ossian, Ia.; Mr. Hubert Gerken, of Adrian, Minn.; Mr. and Mrs. George Schumaker, of Dubuque, Ia.; Messrs. Ewald Gerken, Fred Scheyer, George Koob and son Clarence, of Dubuque, Ia.; and Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Mormann, of Elma, Ia.

Funeral Services in Texas.
Funeral services for the deceased were also held at Amarillo, Texas, on Monday morning, previous to their leaving for this city, and were held in Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Southern Messenger of San Antonio had the following regarding the funeral services held there:

Pontifical High Mass was offered by Bishop Gerken, assisted by the deacons of honor, the Rev. J. J. Dolje and the Very Rev. T. D. O'Brien, and the deacons of the mass, the Rev. B. O'Brien and the Rev. G. A. Boeckman. Masters of Ceremonies were the Rev. F. M. Kaminsky and the Rev. J. S. Wonderly.

The body of Mrs. Gerken was accompanied to Dyersville by Bishop Rudolph Gerken, his brother Ludwig T., his sister Olive, and the Rev. F. M. Kaminsky. The remains will be laid to rest Thursday morning.

Mrs. Gerken had received all the consolations of religion before her death, which ended a long illness borne with edifying resignation.

Sources include news articles from the pages of the Dyersville Commercial, Dubuque County, Iowa, courthouse records, Dyersville: Its History and Its People; and a transcription of a diary kept by William Gerken while on a trip to Germany in 1914. Images of William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken, the Gerken family, and the nine Gerken men were furnished by Giles Gerken. The image of Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken was furnished by Sheila Young.

Gerken family history contents

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Tom Larson

Last revised August 10, 2019.

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