HISTORY OF THE “NEW EAST FRIESLAND” COLONY AT GOLDEN, ILLINOIS
submitted by La Verne A Franken
Copyright © 1999-2000 – LaVerne A Franken – All rights reserved.
Sailing to America
In theYear of our Lord 1847, a decision was made by Gerd Tjarks FRANKEN of Ihlowerfehn and his brother-in-law Jann Gerdes BUSS of Ludswigdorf to emigrant from East Friesland, Germany to the United States. In March of 1848 they traveled to Bremerhaven where they obtained passage to New Orleans on the ship Elizabeth. They arrived in New Orleans on May 17, 1848.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Upon their arrival in New Orleans, they inquired about transportation to San Antonio, Texas. It had been their intention to settle in Texas where it had been rumored that a man with a family could own up to 640 acres of land just by homesteading it. To own this amount of land was unheard of in East Friesland. In 1846 some East Friesland families had settled at Quihi about 25 miles west of San Antonio in Medina County. One of the first settlers was Mimke Mimken Saathoff from Aurich. Upon hearing the news about Kickapoo and Lipan Apache Indian raids on settlers, the killing of John Henry Gerdes and the drought, this caused them to reconsider their plans.
St. Louis, Missouri
Many German families lived in St. Louis. It was decided to travel there by riverboat. They would then go to Waterloo, Illinois where some East Frieslanders had settled in 1835 and look for land there. While on the docks at St. Louis a german farmer recognized that they were “NEW GERMANS”. He asked them “From where and To where”? Upon learning that they wanted to go to Waterloo to find farm land, he offered to take them there as he also owned land there. He informed them that the area was unhealthy and that the land was swampy due to repeated flooding of the Mississippi river. He advised them that when he could sell his land he was going up the river to Quincy, Illinois. He told them that many German families lived in Quincy, that it was a friendly, healthy area and that some land was still unsettled in the county. Another change in plans and the group left St. Louis on the next river steamer for Quincy, Illinois.
The people of Quincy, Illinois welcomed immigrants unselfishly. They would provide shelter in their homes and assist them in finding work. Johann Kurk, a brick layer, provided shelter and work right away. He also told them of the prairie land available for colonization near his father’s land in Clayton Township of Adams County.
South Prairie Farmland
Gerd and Jann were both farmers and it had been their dream when they left East Friesland to be able to own their own land and give their children a chance at the opportunities available in this new land. This dream started becoming a reality on June 13, 1848 when Jann Gerdes Buss for the sum of $248 dollars bought 160 acres from John and Mary Kurk. This land is situated in the Southwest 1/4 quarter of Section 4 of the Township of Clayton, Adams County, Illinois.
Gerd Tjarks Franken, had very little money left over from the trip to be able to buy land. However, Gerd was able to buy 80 acres of farm land for $150 dollars on long term credit. This land had been designated as school land and was only one mile south of Jann’s farm. It may have been a verbal agreement as no known contract or written agreement exists. After living on and farming this land for 10 years, Gerd received a Quit Claim Deed after paying the sum of $150 to the Board of School Trustees of Clayton Township. The deed is dated November 2, 1858. This land is described as the East 1/2 of the Northeast 1/4 of Section 16 in Clayton Township, Adams county, Illinois.
Letters to the Homeland
It did not take long until their favorable reports about the beauty, the worth, and the cheapness of the land reached the listeners in the old homeland. That moved many to follow those who had already immigrated. The 1850 census of Clayton Township lists 7 families from Germany. From Westphalia, John Kurk and his son-in-law Carl Heinecke, From East Friesland: Gerd Franken, Jann Buss, Hinrich Flesner, Hinrich Franzen and Albert T. Hildebrandt. By 1852 the families of Christian Wilhelms, Gerd Flesner, Hinrich Buss, Harm Franzen, Hinrich Emminga, Hinrich Ihmken and Oltman Schoene had joined their fellow countrymen. These 14 families organized Immanuel Lutheran Church of South Prairie in 1852. The site for the church was in the southeast 1/4 of Section 4 of Clayton Township. The church and the blacksmith shop of Hinrich Franzen was the nucleus of the new Colony.
Besides food, the next necessity was the building of a shelter for the family and a shed with straw bedding for the animals. Many of the early pioneers of the area lived in block houses as they were called at that time. We now call them Log Cabins. After they were able to built better houses for themselves from cut lumber, they would sell their blockhouses to new settlers. These houses could be taken apart and hauled by wagon and oxen to the new settlers land. These block houses could be erected without hardware or nails. An axe, saw, mallet and a auger were the only tools needed. The logs were cut and shaped to fit where a joint came together. At other joints the auger was used and a wooden peg would secure the joint. The fireplace was constructed from clay and flat rocks that were hauled from the Missouri creek that was close by. The clay would also be used to fill in the cracks between the logs. The size of the cabin was usually around 20 by 30 feet (6 x 9 meters). Even though there was a language barrier, the pioneer neighbors helped each other. A firm handshake, and a smile expressed a warm welcome. The houses cost less than $20.00. The first church (Immanuel Luth. of South Prairie) was constructed from a block house for $22.00.
In 1854 “The Custom Mill”, the first of three wind-powered grinding mills was built by H. R. Emminga. The second mill was the ” Gronewold Mill” built in 1865 by William W. Gronewold for L.U. Albers and William B. Schoon. This mill was used for grinding grain for livestock. The third mill was “The Prairie Mill ” built in 1872-73 by Mr. Emminga. These mills were similar to the many windmills that were built in the East Friesland region of the North German Plains and the northeast area of the Netherlands. Before the construction of the mills, the farmers hauled their grain to Brooklyn, Illinois a distance of 15 miles. This mill was water powered by the Crooked Creek now called the LaMoine River. “The Prairie Mill” that Mr. Emminga built in Golden is still standing and is currently being restored by the Golden Historical Society. The mill contains the original grist stones and wooden gears, and has been a landmark of interest for a long time in Illinois.
A Town is Born
After the C. B. & Q. Railroad was completed in 1855, on the Northern Cross Right of Way, and the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroad crossed this track on the present site of Golden in the summer of 1863, this made it a suitable site for a village. It was first called LaBuda, but it was not long before it became known as Keokuk Junction. The Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroad built the Wabash Hotel in 1864 to provide a place for passengers to stay when transferring between the two rail lines. The Wabash Hotel was razed January 23, 1930. The first post office was established on June 12, 1863. The village was incorporated as Keokuk Junction with a special act of the Legislature on March 5, 1867. The name of the town was changed to Golden on October 18,1880 due to much of the mail being miss sent to Keokuk, Iowa.
Since a large group of immigrants from East Friesland had settled here, the town of Golden and much of the surrounding prairie land generally became known as the New East Friesland Colony of the United States. Golden became one of the main destinations for many immigrants from East Friesland. They would first come to Golden, then learn where land was available to settle and travel on to a new colony. Many of the early East Friesland settlers of Nebraska, Iowa, eastern Illinois and others first came through Golden Illinois.
LINKS for Confirmation Lists and History of Lutheran Churches in Golden, Illinois
Holy Cross Lutheran—–Trinity Lutheran