Family of R. C. Riekelfs

Pioneer Blacksmith, Storm Lake, Iowa
Submitted by: Ted Fetkenheuer

In the spring of 1875, Rickels Claussen Riekelfs moved from Nokomis Township, Buena Vista County (BVC), IA. to Storm Lake, IA. and opened his blacksmith shop, R. C. Riekelfs & Co. at 5th and Court. He worked at this endeavor until 1898, when severe and crippling arthritis forced him into retirement. Two years later, he succumbed to la Grippe (the flu)...

R. C. Riekelfs was born on 7 December, 1824, in Lintel, Ostfriesland, the second child of Jann (Johann) Jacob, son of Ricklef Claussen and Ida Harms, and Trientje Weets, daughter of Weet Weets and Trentje Bonnen Adolphs. (Riekelfs, a Danish name, means “rich wolf”, pronounced “nic-chols”). The family lived in the Westermarsch area, north of Nordon, Ostfriesland, between the North Sea shore and the river Norder Tief. Here the family had a small hut; which was elevated to escape flooding. (Ostfriesland lies in NW Germany next to Holland and the North Sea. Poverty, wars and famines led many Ostfrisans to come to the US. Most of them first settled around central Illinois). The family engaged in the transportation of goods (fuhrmanns) from the Norddeich Harbor to Norden. Rickels’s brother, Weets Janssen(b. 1819), age 17, died of a stroke as he was hauling goods on road from Greetsyhl to Nordenhamm.

After the death of his wife in June 1841, Jann Riekelfs married his widowed sister-in-law, Iccke Weets-Meints in Osteel, Ostfriesland, on 25 October 1841. (Iccke’s first husband was Frerich Ewen Meints, son of Meint Frerich and Gretje Alberts). Jann and his daughter, Angeline (born 14 Sept. 1835) came in 1848 and settled in Limestone township, Peoria County, IL. In 1852, Angeline married W. H. Nolte, who died in 1855, Peoria, IL. In the spring of 1849, Iccke, and her children- Gretje Meints Freers, Trentje Freers (married Henrich Koppmann a Lutheran minister); Meints Freers (married to Ofka TerVahn); Tina Freers (Mrs. R. C. Riekelfs); Bernetje Weets (Mrs. Cobus Frazen); Himke (married a Pastor Schueler) -immigrated to America. They landed at the Port of New Orleans and took a steamboat to Cairo, IL. Iccke died of cholera on the boat near Cairo. The children settled in Limestone township, six miles west of Peoria, IL, with their stepfather. Later that year, Jann also died of cholera. The Meints girls then went to Peoria, where their brother, Meints Freers, had settled. Rickels, following the same route of his family, joined them in Peoria in the spring of 1850.

On 21 December 1850, Rickels married his seven-years younger step-sibling and cousin, Christena Elisabeth Freers Meints, born April 19, 1839. the daughter of Frerichs and Iccke (Weets), in Peoria. In the same year they moved to Pekin, Tazewell County, IL. Their cousins, the Bonnens, had settled there earlier. Rickels secured a job as a manager in Smiths’ Shops, a plow factory, owned by Teis Smid, also from Ostfriesland. In Pekin, the family lived on the north side of town; named “Bohnchefiddle” or Bean Town; for the large number of bean fields in the area. While living here the family joined the German Methodist Episcopal Church of Pekin. Rickels sister, Angeline, now a widow with a son, Wilhelm Heinrich Nolte, married Gerralt DeVries (“DeFreeze”), who was also both a widower and from Ostfriesland, on November 9, 1857.

In 1873, R. C. set out with his family in a covered wagon for Nokomis, BVC.; a distance of about 420 miles. He farmed in Nokomis Township until 1875. They had eleven children of which four died, three died between 1870- 1880.:

1. Catharine, 1853, Pekin, Tazewell Co., IL. -1870 -1880.

2. Bernitena Margaret Helena,1861, Pekin, IL- after 1932. She married Harvey Eugene Smith son of Louis and Jerneska (Ransom) on November 28, 1880; Pastor J. M. Williams presiding. They moved to Vayland, Hand County, SD, with the other Smith families in the early 1880s. Their children were Maude Marie, Sylvia R. and Harvey Eugene Jr.

3. Friedericki Johanna, 1862, Pekin, IL- January 1932, Curtis, NE.. She was married by Rev. Charles Tramm, German Methodist pastor, to William Jesse Johnston, son of David and Hephzihah, nee Joyce (he from Canada and she from Brunswick, England, and his father, a disabled veteran, served with the Co. C, 27th. IA. Infantry), on 12 March 1881, by Rev. E. W. Hanke of the German Methodist Church. They moved to Curtis NE. They had five children: Katie May, Friedrick Wilhelm, David Francis, Robert Zidon, Bonita Maud.

4. Ida Margaret, born in 1863, in Pekin -1 June 1927, Spencer, IA. On 24 August 1879, she was married by the German Methodist Pastor, E. W. Henke, to Frank Brakel, son of Franz and Wilhelmine (Betram), a blacksmith and a farmer of Peterson, IA. Frank came from Hanover, Germany, and arrived in the US on the day of President Lincoln’s assassination. They were the parents of Grace, Maybell and Minnie. Their grandson, Arnold “Stubs” Johnson, son of Minnie, was a well-known restaurant owner and civic leader in Spencer, IA.

5. Margaret Christina, 15 Feb 1865, Pekin - 3 January 1919, in Elgin, Antelope County, NE. She married John Peter Hoefer, son of Johann Adam and Barbara Quirnbach, of Eden Township, Sac County, on 12 January 1886; by Andreas M. Brenner, German Methodist Pastor. They lived for a few years in Douglas Township, Clay County, IA and in Sioux Rapids, BVC, IA.. They along with the other Hoefer families moved to Logan Township, Antelope Co., near Elgin in January 1903. They had 8 children: Evaline, Joseph, Jessie Maude, Mary Emma, Josephine, Stella Marie, Russell Benjamin and John Orvil.

6. Christina, b. 1866, Pekin, IL. - 1870- 1880.

7. Tina Elisabeth, 1 July 1867, Pekin, IL. -11 October 1944, Storm Lake. She was married by Gottlieb Haefner, German Methodist Pastor, to Franz Hermann Friedrich Lebrecht Fethkenher (Fettkenheuer) (October 8,1868, Gross Wachlin, Naugard, Pommern, Prussia- August 25, 1949, Storm Lake, IA., son of Wilhelm Friedrich and Augustine Wilhelmine (Sternke) on May 22, 1891, in the home of her parents. He arrived in Baltimore, MD., with his parents and siblings on October 27, 1881 on the passenger ship, Weser, from Bremen, Germany. Frank and Tina farmed in Coon township until 1896, when he accepted the Postmaster’s position in Sulfur Springs. They moved to Storm Lake on February 14, 1900. Frank worked for the Storm Lake Post Office (1903-1912) but was let go as he wasn’t “going to drive a horse-less carriage”. He then worked for the Milwaukee- IL. railroad. Frank and Tina were the parents of seven children of which six survived: Angelina, Henrietta, Florence, Roy, Mabel and twins, Beatrice and Bernice (died at age 7). At the time of Tina’s death, her son, Roy, and all of his children (Alta, Norman, Walter, Bill, Duane) were serving in WW II.

8. Johanna, 1866, Pekin, IL. - 1870 - 1880.

9. Nettie, born/died: January 31, 1872, Pekin, IL

10. Augustine Henrietta, 1872, Pekin - after 1920. On 26 November 1896, she was married by Rev. George Pratt of the Alta Methodist Episcopal Church to Jesse Charles Sheppard, son of Elias and Sarah (Raymond), of Wessington Springs, SD., a short distance east of Vayland, SD; where the Henry Smiths lived. They moved to Lonesome Tree Township, Clay County, IA. and then to South Dakota where they lived the remainder of their lives. They were the parents of Edna and Raymond.

11. Angeline Wilhelmina, born 17 August 1875, Nokomis township, BVC, IA - November 10, 1932, So. Sioux City, NE. She also married a blacksmith, John Storm, age 28, son of John and Jennie (Walker) of Storm Lake, in Alta, by Pastor Georg Pratt, Pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on 2 August 1900. They were the parents of Genevieve and Harold. Her cousin, Carrie DeVries, was a witness. They were the parents of Genevieve and Harold.

After the death of Rickels, John finished a plow Rickels was working on at the time of his death.

The Storms moved to Sioux City, IA, where they patented and produced the plow for a short time. John and Lena as well as John’s parents and siblings all eventually settled in South Sioux City, NE.

(In 1875, the DeVries settled in Elk Township, BVC. To this union, 12 children were born, six boys and six girls; eight children survived- John (who moved to North Dakota), Angelina (who married Philip Schaefer of Alta and also moved to North Dakota), Carrie (married to William Holmes), Hermann, Charles, Dietrich, Anna (married to Louis Miller of Peoria, IL.) and Dena (married to Henry Fastanau of Pekin, IL.). They retired to Alta in 1896. Wilhelm Heinrich Nolte, Angeline Riekelf’s son, came from IL. in 1880, and settled in Aurelia, IA, where he was a partner in the firm of Nolte & Davis, curriers of dry goods and groceries. He was born in 1856, in IL., and married Ella Orr on October 20, 1876. In 1884, Wilhelm was a merchant in Holstein and also engaged in the selling of real estate. He was the Postmaster in Holstein from 1903 - 1910. Wm. and Ella had one adopted child, Francis Helen, b. 1898, IA.)

The blacksmith business was not only good but necessary as the deep thick-matted Large Bluestem prairie grass played havoc on the light-weight “eastern plows” of the day. The shop was located where Mammon Motors stood on W. 5th. Street. Newspaper accounts recall him working over his hot irons outside of his blacksmith shop. His anvil was at one time owned by Fred Witter of Storm Lake.

When the Riekelfs settled in Nokomis township, they joined the religious community of other Germans, who were members of the German Methodist Episcopal Mission of Peterson, IA. These families were first visited by Pastor E. W. Henke, Pastor E. E. Schuette, and then by Pastor Philip Hummel and Pastor Gottlieb Haefner.

On December 18, 1875, Rev. E. E. Schuette and Rev. Gottlieb Haefner organized the German Methodist Episcopal Church Society in Storm Lake. The first trustees were Friedrich Petersmeier (Clinton township, Sac County), Jacob Buehler (Clinton township), Adam Hartmann (Eden township, Sac County), Christian Schaefer (Eden township) and R. C. Riekelfs (City of Storm Lake). Other early Storm Lake families were George Witter, Jacob Breacher, Carl Scholl, Adam Harms, Michael Saathof, and George Foell. Rickels, who became a member on October 5, 1875, was a devote church leader who served as Sunday School teacher, Representative to the District Conference, and Trustee; his first and last official appointment which ended on October 1, 1898.

After the marriage of her youngest daughter, Angelina, Tina Riekelfs went to live with her daughter, Mrs. Harvey Smith, in Vayland, SD. She died there on May 26, 1912 and was brought back to Storm Lake to be buried next to her husband, who died on February 16, 1900, in the Hayes Cemetery.

Ted Fetkenheuer is a direct descendent of R. C. Riekelfs. He lives in Mesa, AZ.

Excerpts from a work-in-progress, History of the German Methodist Episcopal Church Society of Storm Lake, IA., 1864 - 1933.