The History of the Hockert Family

How fresh, O Lord how sweet and clean

Are Thy returns! Even as the flowers in spring,

To which, besides their own demean,

The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.

Grief melts away

Like snow in May,

As if there were no such cold thing.

"The Flower" by George Herbert (1593-1633)

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 them together.

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 Page]

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 1860's.

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 farmers.