IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.


Henry Oelke. Among the more prominent citizens well known and respected in the business circles of Farmersburg, Clayton County, Iowa, may be found the subject of this biography, who holds the office of Postmaster, and is also a wealthy merchant of Farmersburg.

He was born at Hanover, Germany, September 10, 1844. His father, William Oelke, was a native of the same country, and was born there February 26, 1818. He followed the trade of a carpenter for quite a number of years, then later went to farming. He was married at Hanover to Miss Elizabeth Wilruth, who was born there in 1817. They emigrated to America in the year 1851, and located in Farmersburg Township on section 16, remaining on it for about six or seven months, when they removed to Read Township, where they remained for seven or eight years. Again moving to Farmersburg Township they purchased a piece of land on section 28, on which they lived. This land at the time of its purchase was a wild and uncultivated prairie, but to-day it may be seen vastly improved and bearing an abundant harvest. In 1869 they settled in Garnavillo Township, purchasing there a piece of improved property, on which he resided until about the year 1880, when he moved to Garnavillo and remained until his death, which occurred on the 15th of August, 1888. He was a Democrat in politics, and was well posted on all matters both of local and national importance. He need never regret having emigrated to this country, although at times the prospect seemed dark and uninviting, for he has with his untiring perseverance and hard labor acquired a competency for his family. They were the parents of four children, all of whom are living. They are as follows: William H.; Henry, our subject; August and Bertha. William H. served his country in the late war. The father now peacefully sleeps under the green sod and the weeping willows of Garnavillo Cemetery.

The subject of this sketch was a mere child when he came to this country, and remembers nothing more than the time spent on the ocean, which was fourteen weeks and three days. He attended the public schools of Clayton County, and also the German school at Garnavillo. When twenty-three years of age he was compelled to seek his fortune, and, having been reared on a farm, he decided to follow that vocation. In the spring of 1874, he removed to the village of Garnavillo, and engaged in teaming and farming there for thirteen years, when he came to the town of Farmersburg in the year 1887 and bought out the merchandise business of H. Knudson; he has since remodeled the building and increased the stock, which now is estimated at from $12,000 to $16,000. He carries a general line of merchandise and is interested also in a lumber and grain business.

In 1867 he was united in marriage with Miss Eliza B. Schelermann, who is a native of Germany and came to this country about the year 1852. Mr. and Mrs. Oelke were the parents of seven children, five of whom are living, and are as follows: Christ, Henry, Edwin, Arnold and Katie. The parents are both valued members of the Lutheran Church.

Socially, Mr. Oelke is a member of the masonic order and also of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. In politics he is a stanch Democrat, and takes an active part in all issues, both local and national. He was Postmaster during Cleveland's first term, and was again appointed to that position in 1893. Mr. Oelke is the Treasurer of the School Board.

source: Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties; Chicago: Chapman Pub. Co., 1894; pg 436-437
~transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall

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