The History of the Wilken Family

Little is known of my father's past generations because records are scarce and he seldom spoke of his parents or early family life. My recollections of his family comes from his brother John and his two sisters, Mary who married Hetzel in Racine, Wisconsin and Elizabeth (Aunt Lizzie) who married Gustav Goehner, a photographer in Chicago.

The Wilken family originated in Grabow, Mecklenburg, Germany (near Berlin). [for more information on the origin of the Wilken family, including additional ancestors discovered since, see my Wilken Page] William's father Johann F. Wilken (1815) married Wilhelmina Hildebrandt and to this union were born Maria, Winna and John in Germany and William (July 16, 1853) and Elizabeth in Racine, Wisconsin. (One of the difficulties in tracing the Wilken ancestry is due to name changes, as is also true of other European settlers. The name fluctuates between Wuche, Wilke, Wilkin and Wilken. The family immigrated to America in 1851, leaving Hamburg, Germany on July 18 and arriving in New York on August 29. Then on to Racine.

After the passing of his father (1867) his mother remarried (Krieger) and moved to Minnesota with her son John in the early 1870's and homesteaded 160 acres half-way between our farm and Johnny's farm. We own the parcel where the buildings stood and have picked up pieces of pottery. John was in search of good soil as he wished to farm. Meanwhile my dad was working for his brother-in-law, Goehner, developing film in a dark room, and his health began to deteriorate. His doctor advised him to find outdoor work so his brother asked my dad to join him in Minnesota (1874). They purchased land from the Buse's who wished to return to Sweden where Mrs. Buse's relatives lived. This parcel of land totaled about 300 acres which was later divided between the two brothers.

[Note from John Nelson, May 1996: Wilhelmina Hildebrandt married Henry Krieger on April 13, 1857. The entire family, including 17 year old William, was in Millerville in 1870 according to the census records. Henry Krieger and Martin Buse were also from Mecklenburg]