Allamakee co. IAGenWeb - Immigration & Naturalization

Gerling and Deters
New Beginnings in Allamakee County

Gerhardt 'George' Gerling and Heinrich 'Henry' Deters

Bernard Heinrich Deters, youngest son of Gerhard Deters and Anna nee Stuenron, was born February 2, 1830, at Schale, Reis Inkleburg (Kreis Techlenburg) Prussia.  When two years old his mother died and when he was 13 years old also his father died.  Thus, as an orphan he found his home with his brother.

At the age of 21 years, he decided to emigrate to America.  So on April 15, 1851, he boarded a sailing vessel at Bremen, Germany. After a pleasant voyage, on May 27, 1851, he arrived at New Orleans, Louisiana.  While crossing the Atlantic Ocean the so-called ship cholera broke out among the passengers, many of whom died.  Also Bernhard Heinrich suffered an attack of this dread disease, but fortunately he survived and recovered.

Heinrich's total finances had shrunk to $7.00.  June 23, 1851 was his first day of work in America, which he put in with his brother-in-law, John Heinrich Franzen, living close to Bensenville, Illinois.  Here he remained employed until the fall of 1854, working most of the time in an oil-mill.

In the summer of 1853, he had purchased some government land in Union City Township, Allamakee County, Iowa, where he later started his home with Anna Maria Buchholz, whom he married October 7, 1855.

Anna Maria nee Buchholz was born October 5, 1836, in Addison, DuPage County, Illinois.  Her parents, Friedrich Buchholz and Louise nee Fischer, settled at this place in 1835 right in the midst of Indians and Anna Maria was the second white and the first German child that was born in this whole region. While building a house, the father was fatally injured and died leaving his widow, the three-year-old Anna Maria and two sons, Heinrich and Wilhelm. Later on her mother married again, namely Ludwig Schmidt, where Maria had her home even after the death of her mother, which occurred on July 23, 1854.

On October 7, 1855, Anna Maria was married to Bernhard Heinrich Deters. With them on the same day and at the same time also Mr. and Mrs. Gerhard Gehrling  (Gerling) were married.  

On October 10, 1855, these two young couples started on their difficult trip west, to a region that was then known as "The Wild West" to make their home in a country where the Indians reigned supreme, where foxes and wolves held sway, and where deer in large herds roamed over prairies and through the woods. To Dubuque, Iowa they could use a train but from there on the journey had to be made on a wagon drawn by two oxen, over hills and valleys, over ridges and ravines, over rocks and through ditches until they reached their new home where they arrived on October 20.

It was to be their future home, but nothing had been nor could be prepared beforehand. Trees had to be felled. A house or abode for dwelling had to be erected. For six weeks they found shelter in a deserted shack that had no floor and instead of doors and windows only bare openings. Since there was no straw for bedding, hazelbrush had to serve this purpose. However, in spite of this extreme poverty they were well and happy.

Beginning of December they were able to move into their warmer and more comfortable home, which had been erected on the farm of Mr. Gerling. For 1 1/2 years they lived together with Gerlings, because they had only one stove in common both for heating and cooking.

The first winter their diet consisted of white bread, turnips as vegetables, pork, venison and wild fowl.

All work was done in common with Gerlings, Also all personal property was held in common with them until later on the division was made by lot. ( casting lot)

Early in spring of 1856 land was broken and seeded with wheat. This, however, proved to be a failure because it was later demonstrated that only if land is broken and plowed the previous fall would it produce a good grain crop. Corn, however, as well as potatoes and all kinds of vegetables had flourished during the summer and done well, yielding a good crop so that there was an abundance in the cellar and kitchen for the beginners.

In 1857 a house was built on their (Deters') own place. Before the roof was completed they moved into it, with the result that frequently after a rain it was necessary to hang out the bedding in the sun to dry. However, the daily evoked blessing of the Eternal God was everywhere visible.

Lansing, Iowa, was the closest post office and to enjoy the privileage of mail service one had to walk afoot for 20 miles. .....Several years later, after several additional German families had moved into the neighborhood, one Sunday morning Heinrich Deters called on his neighbor, Fritz Ruhe....and Heinrich Deters suggested to his neighbor that an attempt be made to come together on look after their spiritual needs....From now on meetings were held in the different homes for general worship and services, until 1860 when these loyal and God-fearing pioneers banded themselves together to form the Evangelical congregation (St. John's Church was organized in 1860 at the home of Heinrich Deters) and a building was erected, that is, for the time being at least, to serve as a house of worship


~contributors notes:
The first mention of the Gerlings in this country is the 6 October 1855 marriage record of John Gerard Garlich and Christiana A. Franzen of Du Page Co. Illinois. They were married by the pastor of St. John's Evangelical church in Addison, Illinois, on what is now O'Hare Field. The church was moved to its present location in Bensonville but the old cemetery is still on O'Hare Field property. The Gerlings had a double wedding with Bernard Heinrich Deters and Anna Maria Buchholtz, who would be traveling together to the newly settled lands in Allamakee Co. Iowa where other relatives also settled. They were among the earliest settlers of that land and their home was a couple of miles south of Eitzen, MN which would be the location of their church some years later.

Gerhardt died at an early age, age 55, I think of heart trouble, survived by his widow and 6 children ages 10-19. Adeline lived to the age of 61 and died on the home farm.

~source: The article is thought to have been written by Berhard Deter's daughter Emma.
~contributed by Neva Auenson

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