HENRY WISSLER, BEAR GROVE TOWNSHIP.
The old settler of Bear Grove township, this county, who located on the farm he now owns and occupies more than thirty years ago, and who has therefore witnessed all the changes in this country incident to its progress from a state of wilderness to one of high cultivation and development, is one of the township's best known and most cordially respected citizens. He is a native of Bavaria, Germany, born on the banks of the historic Rhine on December 8, 1831. His parents, John and Mary (Brandt) Wissler, were natives of the same romantic and picturesque section of the German empire, and were farmers there, passing their lives in the region of their nativity, the mother dying there about twenty-four years ago, and the father about twenty. The father was twice married and had a family of seven children, Henry being the only one of the number who is now living in the United States.
Henry Wissler remained in his native land until he reached the age of twenty, securing a fair German education and after leaving school turning his attention to farming, which had been the family occupation for generations. In 1851 he concluded to emigrate to America, and crossed the Atlantic in a sailing vessel, which consumed forty-three days in making the voyage. Mr. Wissler landed at New York and immediately afterward went to join an older sister who was living at Niagara Falls, her husband having advanced the money to bring him over to this country. He went to work at eight dollars a month to earn money to repay his brother-in-law's loan, and also, at the same time attended school where he learned to speak English. He remained in the neighborhood of the Falls four years, then came to Iowa, traveling by rail to Rock Island, thence by boat to Fort Madison, and thence by stage and on foot to Denmark, in Lee county. His first employment in this State was with the Rev. Mr. Turner, the first Congregational minister in Iowa, with whom he remained one year. He then drove a team for Oliver Mills to Lewis, arriving at the town in March, 1857. Remaining in the employ of Mr. Mills for nearly three years, he often assumed the thrilling and hazardous work of aiding fugitive slaves from the South to freedom on the "Underground Railway," as Mr. Mills was a strong Abolitionist and very philanthropic, and took great interest in this work. Mr. Wissler at times was called upon to use all his ingenuity, and often exhibited tactical skill of a high order. In the course of time he bought an eighty-acre tract of land of Mr. Mills which was on the county line and which he soon afterward sold. Returning to Lee county, late in 1859, he purchased another tract on which he lived fifteen years. Then, in 1874, he made his final move, returning to Cass county and buying the farm on which he is now living. This he has developed from a state of almost primitive wildness, adding all the buildings and other improvements, and putting his labor for a period of thirty years to excellent and productive use.
On December 13, 1859, Henry Wissler was united in marriage with Mary Herschel, a native of Lee county, this State, born in 1840. Her parents came from Germany and died when she was about two years old. Ten children have been born in the Wissler household, and all but two are living, viz.: John E., a farmer of Lewis; Henry A.; George F., also of this county; Carl E., a State employee at Stuart; Edwin A., an attorney at Carroll, this State; Ernest, a graduate of Cedar Falls College; Annie M., wife of J. A. J. Pulley, of Nebraska; and Amanda C., a teacher in the high school at Atlantic. Mr. Wissler was formerly a Republican, but is now a Democrat. He has served as township trustee and in several school offices. He is a Mennonite in religious faith, but the members of his family attend the Congregational Church.
From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pp. 559-560.