Peeking Into Lake City's Past

The Binkert Family

During the year 1850, just four years before the first white settler came to Calhoun county, a respected citizen of Bezeck, Switzerland lost his devoted wife during a small pox epidemic. The deceased was Regina Miller Binkert, who left to mourn a family of five children, her husband, Joseph Binkert, and a host of relatives and friends.

Joseph Binkert was born in Bezeck, Canton Aargau, Switzerland, just a few miles from the Rhine River that forms the border between Switzerland, southern Alsace and Baden, Germany. The Binkerts were educated in the German language.

In May, 1852, Joseph Binkert, now widowed, took his five children and with his brother left Bezeck, traveling by rail through France to Antwerp, Belgium, were they booked passage on an English owned, wooden, solar powered sail boat to the new world. The ship made regular scheduled trips, hauling emigrants to America by fitting the ship with folding bunk beds and hammocks. On the return trip to Europe, they would fold up the beds, remove the hammocks and fill the holds with American grain, cotton and other produce. Two whole months were required for the ship to cross the Atlantic.

Like many European emigrants the Binkerts were hard-working folks who had an intense desire to tame the wilderness and live in a free society, so they decided upon arrival to migrate on west.

When they arrived in Cleveland, they met another Swiss emigrant who became homesick and was on his way back to Europe. This man owned a homestead farm near Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, which he rented or sold to the Joseph Binkert family, who proceeded on their way to make a Wisconsin home. However, while traveling on a trail west of Cleveland, disaster struck. While the train was crossing a high trestle, it gave way dropping some cars into the ravine killing and injuring a large number of passengers.

But, the Lord was with the Binkerts. Shortly before the tragedy some young people on the train were poking fun at the oddly dressed emigrants, causing Joseph to take his family and move to another car. The car Binkerts moved to was saved from dropping into the ravine even though it was held fast by only a single coupling. This strengthened Joseph Binkert's faith that his God was protecting them from unexpected dangers in a strange land.

During the middle 1850's it was natural for emigrants to be concerned about many dangers crossing the Atlantic in sail boats, usually without proper sanitary conditions and facing the possibility of being caught in storms, or becoming plagued with serious diseases. The Binkerts made a safe crossing, but they encountered many dangers after arrival. Following the railroad wreck they arrived in Chicago, which, incidentally, had a population less than Fort Dodge has today. They were forced to live in a hotel for three weeks waiting on the railroad company to compensate them for possessions lost in the wreck. During their stay, the hotel caught fire in the middle of the night, driving the Binkerts from their warm beds into the street. Joseph, in his fright, left his wallet under his pillow, so without thought of impending danger, ran back through the dense smoke to rescue his money. Again, the Lord protected his life and he returned safely to his loved ones.

After settling his claim with the railroad, they traveled to Milwaukee by steam boat because rail roads to Milwaukee had not been built. Upon arrival in Milwaukee, they hired a teamster to transport their baggage to Fort Atkinson. The family followed the wagon on foot via a road that ran most of the distance through virgin forest land.

The next subject of this review is Joseph's son, Donald Binkert, born in Bezeck, Switzerland in 1840. Donald joined the Union forces to fight in the War between the States on September 30,1861, at age 21, enlisting in Company H, 13th Wisconsin Infantry. He served four years, two months and 26 days, being mustered out the day following Christmas in 1865. Two years later, on February 12, 1867, Donald married Miss Matilda Volkmann, who was born in Stettin, Prussian Germany near the Oder river just inland from the Baltic Sea. She came to Wisconsin with her parents in 1861. Donald Binkert was naturalized into U.S. citizenry after he fought in the civil War and was married.

Following the war there were pioneer battle cries echoed by eastern newspaper, shouting - "Go west young man, go west." Hoards of people left their homes in Europe and Asia, looking across the ocean toward the setting sun. The Binkerts of Wisconsin were prototypes of the movement. After 20 years in the USA, the Binkerts first and second generations, those with families and those single, decided to move on west to Jackson township, Calhoun county, Iowa. Those who came were Grandfather Joseph, his son Peter with his wife Wilhelmina Volkmann and children, son Donald and his wife Matilda Volkmann and their children, son Anthony, who was single, and daughter Blondina, also single. Peter Volkmann, father to Matilda and Wilhelmina Volkmann Binkert, also came to Jackson township with the Binkerts. Both Peter Volkmann and Joseph Binkert died the following year, 1873, and are interned in Cottonwood Cemetery. Soon after arrival, the two married Binkert brothers purchased adjoining farms in Jackson township. Our subject, Donald Binkert, passed his farm to his descendants. Today, 112 years later, Donald Binkert's grandson, Clarence Binkert and his wife Edna Hauptman Binkert, live on the original farm, which has since been registered with the state of Iowa as a Century Farm.

Graphic readers may be interested to learn of the interrelationships of the Binkerts to numerous other Lake City area families. This writing covers only a partial lineage of one son of emigrant pioneer, Joseph Binkert.

Our subjects, Donald and Matilda Volkmann Binkert, has a son named Benjiman, who acquired the century farm from his father. Benjiman married Rachel Trullinger, daughter of another Jackson township pioneer. Rachel was a grand-daughter of one of Lake City's very first settlers, Jesse Marmon, who came here with Peter and Christian Smith and his hunting party, visiting Ebenezer Comstock, the first white settler, in 1854. Jesse Marmon was the first to purchase land which is now within the corporate limits of Lake City.

Benjiman and Rachel Trullinger Binkert, daughter of Aaron Trullinger and Sabrina Marmon Trullinger had two children, both living today. Clarence D. Binkert, who resides on the century farm and his sister, Bertha Binkert Kurth, who lives in the house previously owned by her great uncle and earliest pioneer settler, Jesse Marmon.

There will be another Graphic article covering a partial lineage of pioneer Joseph's second son, Peter Binkert, who with his wife Wilhelmina Volkmann Binkert, raised eleven children, most of whom married into other well known Lake City area pioneer families.

It is well to remember that Graphic articles sponsored by the Lake City Historical Society are not intended to be a complete genealogical record of any family. If you were to trace all the descendants of pioneer Joseph Binkert, they would number into the hundreds. A family genealogical record is a valuable asset to future generations and every American family should have one.

Note: Pioneer Aaron Trullinger, brother-in-law to Jesse Marmon, the fourth registered settler in Calhoun county, who first came here with Peter Smith's hunting party in 1854. Aaron Trullinger and his wife Sabrina Marmon Trullinger, raised ten children on their Jackson township farm. All their children married into local families creating multiple relationships within the community.