There's a column I read daily in the online version of the St Paul Pioneer Press, called Bulletin Board. People write in about whatever's on their mind, often adding their two-cents-worth to previous threads. (I've mentioned it before here on HH).
Last week, this COOL story popped up:
John in Highland: "Recent news stories concerning the 150-year anniversary of the Sioux Uprising of 1862 put me in mind of the lives of my German ancestors, who emigrated to Minnesota during those times. Germans were the most numerous of the settlers who came here in the 1850s, and by 1858 they constituted the largest ethnic group in the state. They continued to carry on their culture -- speaking, writing and reading in German.
"Transportation was difficult in those times, with travel mostly done by riverboat or stagecoach. Expansion of railroads would come after the Civil War.
"My great-great-grandfather, Cornelius Wermerskirchen, and his brother, Franz Josef, arrived here from Gross Vernich, Germany, around 1860. They settled on farmland four miles south of Jordan, near the village of St. Benedict. Another brother, Mathias, would arrive later, in 1869. Wermerskirchen is not a common name, here or in Germany. To our knowledge, all of the Minnesota Wermerskirchens are descended from the three brothers.
"Cornelius and Franz Josef quickly became successful farmers. Cornelius donated the large bell in the belfry of St. Benedict Church. Franz Josef had a good team of horses and a farm wagon.
"In 1862 the Sioux War broke out. Government officials came one day and drafted Franz Josef's horses, wagon, and a hired man, Jacob Schmitz, for service against the Indians. They joined an expedition for the relief of a garrison at Morton. The relief train was ambushed. The horses were shot, the wagon was destroyed, and Jacob barely escaped, crawling through the tall grass. Two weeks later he returned home without team or wagon.
"Franz Josef needed a team of horses badly and was determined to find out how to be reimbursed for his loss. One morning he decided to walk the 50 miles to St. Paul, to see the governor, Alexander Ramsey. Despite being in his 50s, Franz Josef was a good walker and made the journey in two days. On the next morning, he went to the State House and, speaking no English, found an interpreter. He was told that the governor was probably down at the river landing, welcoming incoming settlers.
"Proceeding to the wharf, he was introduced to a man quite different from the stiff, condescending state officials in the old country. Brushing aside all formality, Governor Ramsey smiled, shook his hand and said 'Wie gehts, landsman!' He spoke German! They walked back to the State House, where the governor assured Franz Josef that his loss would be made good. 'The government is engaged in a Civil War and it probably would take some time to get paid,' but he could be confident of being reimbursed, the governor said. A form was filled out describing the property, and a year later Franz Josef received $650 in gold to cover his loss.
"Such was the second governor of Minnesota, who went on to become a United States senator. The impression that he made on Franz Josef Wermerskirchen was extremely favorable."
Isn't that neat? There's a "no first name" Wermerskirchen monument in the St Joseph Cemetery in Pierz that could be Mathias and his wife, the late-comers (however, according to Find a Grave, Mathias died in 1893 in Scott co and is buried there in St Benedict's Cemetery, near his brothers). They must have arrived from Germany with small children, because their son Melchior Wermerskirchen, later a leading citizen in Pierz, was born in 1865.
Mel shows up often in the Pierz Journal and in the Little Falls Herald in those years, mostly in funny and charming accounts of fishing and hunting trips, social gatherings and guest lists...as well as in civic positions in the town of Pierz. He and his wife Mary (Hartmann) Wermerskirchen ran the Columbia House Hotel for 17 years, among other ventures.
Here's a Pierz promo Mel wrote evidently aimed at folks around Jordan, Mn, where his uncles and their families lived:...and some other clippings...
. . . . . . . . . . .Sadly, in December 1915, a tragedy struck the Wermerskirchen family--their son Leo fell thru the ice on Fish Lake and was drowned. (Right column). Mel died in 1937, and Mary lived till February, 1952. Pierz (and Morrison County) owes a lot to the Wermerskirchens, I think.