These words by the 17th Century poet, Herbert are a fitting
prelude to the story of my parents, William Wilken and Bertha
Hockert, as this poem vividly suggests the cycle of nature's renewal
-death and once again a new birth. A story as old as time itself.
A story that will be told and re-told throughout the generations
- we mourn the death of a loved one, and rejoice at the birth
of a child . . . for "the seed must die that there may be
new life. "
The early immigrants had arrived in a new land with its hostile
environment. They had left behind relatives, friends, neighbors
and the knowledge of community. Their homes were now of rough
logs and a dirt floor; a complete contrast to the beautiful homes
in Germany. There was little to eat and much hard labor.
Why did these early pioneers sacrifice so much for an uncertain
future? Perhaps it was as Tennyson wrote, "To reach beyond
one's grasp, or else what is a Heaven for!"
I will begin this story of my parents with a brief account
of each families' history, beginning in Germany; how and when
they came to America and the common circumstances which brought
The curtain opens on the family of Hockerts, starting back
about eight generations. To preserve simplicity, I will pass through
the early generations relating to only one child, namely the important
name pertaining to the family history. The names of the children
were often duplicated, not only from family to family, but even
within the immediate family, which would add unneeded confusion
for our purpose.
The Hockerts were an old family of Löffelgiesers (spoon
casters) from Tintingen, in Madern parish, Saarland. Peter (Johannis
Petri) Hockert was born in Tintingen, Saarland and he married
Susanna Mettendorf to which Ludwig was born in 1738. [for more
information on the early Hockerts, including additional ancestors
discovered since this was written, see my Hockert
Ludwig married Barbara Schmidt and their son was Laurenz (1765).
Laurenz married Barbara Kinger and their son was Johannes (1795).
He in turn married Magdalena Weiten and they had eight children:
Joseph (1814), Anna Maria(1816), Maria(1819), Barbara(1822), Magdalena (1824), John (1827), Nickolaus (1830) and Magdalena (1836).
These children now become the focal point of our discussion
of the Hockert family, particularly Nickolaus and to a lesser
degree John. Nickolaus married Anna Boesen in 1858 and to this
union were born Bertha, Anna Maria, Nickolas, Anna, Michael in
Germany and Barbara in Jefferson County, Missouri. My mother was
baptized at St. Gongolph's Church in Trier, Germany.
Their home was a two-story structure. The main level had oak
flooring and it was a meeting place for the men of the area to
play cards and drink wine. Bertha would go to the basement to
bring up a "buttle" of wine. The family quarters was
on the second floor. A statue of St. Nick stands above the house
overlooking the Saar River. My mother had vivid memories of her
home even though she was but seven years old when she left Germany.
Her recollections must have been accurate because both Msgrs.
Lorsung and Renner (my cousins) visited the area and found all
to be true.
The Nickolas Hockert family immigrated to America in 1866,
arriving in New York where my mother tasted her first piece of
pie, and she enjoyed it so intensively that she determined, right
then and there, to bake lots of pie in America and it remained
her favorite dessert until she died. From New York they traveled
by boat to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi River to St. Louis,
Missouri. Nicholas's sister, Barbara, had immigrated to America
in 1866 and had married Mathias Heil and lived here. The family
then settled here for about two years. My mother wished to attend
school, but since it wasn't "Catlick" her father forbid
her to attend. This denial rankled my mother for the remainder
of her life. It was here too that Barbara was born.
A tale of an unusual occurrence needs to be inserted here.
Nickolas' father, Johannes who remained in Germany, evidently
was a very religious man. As the story goes, every time the clock
struck he would make the sign of the cross. One day the Hockert
clock in America kept chiming, not in its proper intervals, and
remained doing so for several minutes. Anna Boesen Hockert exclaimed,
"Jetzt ist die Grosspop gestorben" (just now Grandpa
died). He passed away June 29, 1869, the date the clock struck.
An older brother, John, immigrated to America in 1854 (the
date varies from document to document) and established land holdings
near Millerville. At this same time, a missionary priest, Father
Francis X. Pierz had been asked by his Bishop (Cretin) to establish
parishes in the Minnesota territory. Father Pierz walked from
St. Paul, established a parish at St. Cloud and aided German settlers
in finding good soil. He was also a friend of the Indians, concentrating
his time and effort among various tribes from New York state,
around the Great Lakes and eventually the Chippewa tribe of Minnesota.
It is, therefore, possible to speculate that Father Pierz may
have been instrumental in convincing John Hockert to locate at
Millerville. Although records show Father Pierz's initial efforts
in the Long Prairie, Millerville, Rush Lake area were in the late
After Nickolas' family left St. Louis, they traveled by boat
to Minneapolis and then, perhaps, by covered wagon. They arrived
at Millerville and "set up camp" on the eastern shore
of Lake Moses, a spot selected by John. This site is the present
farmstead of Dennis Hockert. Soon after arriving here, the mother
passed away leaving Bertha, now age ten, to become the mother
to her siblings. Her father refused the aid of willing neighbors
to bake bread, wash clothes, etc. , saying, "Ich wille keine
frauen im haus. Bertha (German pronunciation is Bearta) kam alles
tun. " (I don't need a woman in the house, Bertha can do
everything. ) He would arouse her from sleep at 5 a. m. "Bertha,
stay uff, mach mir etwas zu essen. " (Make us something to
eat.) So she got up to prepare breakfast for the family and would,
at times, complain that Anna never had to take a turn. Life was
very difficult during the next few years. Her father tried to
provide a meager livelihood through farming and helping other