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Lawrence Henry Gehling


Posted By: Richard Gehling (email)
Date: 6/30/2005 at 17:53:17


Lawrence was born on a farm near Carroll, Iowa, on 9 May 1916. He was the firstborn son of Henry and Regina (Reiling) Gehling. While still a baby, Lawrence was infected with a strain of the post-war influenza then sweeping the country. For a time his life was despaired of. Unlike several of the neighbor children, however, Lawrence survived the epidemic and was soon taking an active interest in the family farm. It is said that as a five-year-old he once substituted for his father, showing some construction workers the exact site and dimensions of the barn they had been hired to build.

Lawrence attended a small country school, always making the two-mile trip on horseback. His studies came to an end after eighth grade. For the next six years he worked alongside his father and brothers on the farm. At age 19, he and two friends - Lawrence Siepker and Eddie Klocke - decided it was time to see the country. The year was 1936, a Depression year, and money was hard to come by. But the trio confidently packed their belongings into an old car and headed west. They reached Kansas just as the wheat harvest was beginning. From there they traveled on to Arizona, rode mules down into the Grand Canyon, then went to the California orchards for a winter of orange picking.

Lawrence was back in Iowa in time for spring planting. But his stay on the family farm was short-lived. He soon met a 17-year-old girl from Halbur, Iowa, named Genevieve Reinart. The two were married on 28 October 1937, and after the wedding ceremony went for a short honeymoon to Atlantic, Iowa.

For the first ten years of their married life, the newlyweds moved from farm to farm across western Iowa. Sometimes Lawrence worked for wages, sometimes he rented the farm outright. His first job on the George Wernimont farm near Auburn, Iowa, paid only $30 a month, but did include three dozen eggs a week, one-half hog a year, the milk from one cow and part of the fruit from a large orchard. The hours were long, usually 5 A.M. to 9 P.M. The work was hard - farming with mules, slopping hogs, caring for over 400 head of cattle in the feedlot. After acquiring some livestock and equipment, Lawrence began renting farms on his own, beginning with the Billy Bedford farm northeast of Willey, Iowa.

In the spring of 1943, Lawrence moved his growing family to a farm he had rented on the Pocahontas County line, just a half mile north of Gilmore City. He stayed there for a couple of years, then moved to another farm two miles east of town along Hwy. 3. This new farm in Humbolt County had not yet been tiled, and the wet springs of 1946 & 47 proved to be a heavy drain on Lawrence’s resources.

In the fall of 1947, Lawrence quit farming altogether. He sold off all his machinery, bought a house in Gilmore City, and began hauling limestone. By then his growing family numbered six children (Lois, Richard, Connie, Bonnie, Tom and Charlie). Before the last of his children left home, Lawrence would become a jack-of-all-trades, working at various times as a truck driver for Hank Risteau, a mechanic for Jim Sabo, and a lathe operator in a Pocahontas factory. For most of the 1960’s he served as the Gilmore City town marshall, often working closely with the sheriffs of both Pocahontas & Humbolt counties, whenever police business brought one or the other to town. (The main street of Gilmore City has always served as the dividing line between the two counties). In his later years Lawrence was put in charge of the gas, water, and street departments of the town of Gilmore City.

Lawrence was a restless man in many respects. Always a hard worker, he found it difficult to sit back and relax. At home, after a long day at his job, he would invariably go out into his tool shed and work far into the night. His hands were a testament to his lifestyle - large, strong hands, calloused and rough, covered with the nicks and bruises of a lifetime of labor.

Much of Lawrence's relaxation came from the animals with which he surrounded himself. He had originally farmed with horses and mules, and always had a family dog around the house. In later life he acquired a couple of saddle horses and a goat. The horses he rode, the goat he hitched to a cart of his own manufacture. The goat cart worked so well, he considered building a small stagecoach to be pulled by six Shetland ponies. The ponies were easy to come by, but the stagecoach never left the drawing board. For a time he gave home to a mischievous pet raccoon, then to a de-scented though still smelly shunk. His last menagerie consisted of seven Siberian Huskies. These he hitched to a dog sled and mushed over the wintry Iowa countryside.

In the winter of 1981-82 Lawrence was diagnosed with lung cancer. For six months he fought the cancer with every means available, regularly making the long trip to Iowa City for the drugs of chemotherapy. But try as he might, this strong man - who had rarely been sick a day in his life - gradually succumbed to the ravages of the disease. Lawrence died surrounded by family on 19 August 1982. He was 66 years old. He was buried in the family plot in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, Gilmore City, Iowa.

Firstborn Sons of the Gehling Family

Pocahontas Biographies maintained by Karen De Groote.
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