Transcribed by Pamela Wagler from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


Augustus Bernhart Henry Forkel, now in his seventieth year, and numbered among the oldest business men in the city of Burlington, Iowa, was born July 16, 1835, in Coburg, Germany, a son of Christian and Elizabeth (Langut) Forkel, and was educated in the common and high schools of his native place, being graduated from the latter at the early age of fourteen years. While a student in school he also began learning the trade of harness-making and saddler, in which he speedily perfected himself after the conclusion of his studies. He early went to Vienna, traveled in Hungary, and thence to Gerletz, Berlin, and different places. From Berlin he came to America in 1854, embarking June 1st in a sailing vessel, as there were only two steamships engaged in ocean passenger traffic at that time, and landing on this side of the Atlantic, September 13.

Before deciding upon a permanent location in this country, Mr. Forkel traveled a great deal, visiting different cities, including Washington, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Detroit, and in 1856 came to Burlington. He later, however, proceeded to Davenport, where he lived for a time; but in 1865 returned to Burlington, establishing himself in business here in 1866. Continuously since that time he has been actively engaged in business in Burlington, and now enjoys the distinction of being one of the oldest business men on Jefferson Street. On April 26, 1866, he wedded Miss Louisa Bercht, a daughter of Francis Bercht. Mrs. Forkel is now deceased, her death occurring at Mount Pleasant, Nov. 28, 1878. She was a woman of loveable and admirable personality, well educated, having been a student at the Ursaline College of St. Louis. To the service of his adopted country Mr. Forkel gave his best efforts during the time of the war between the States, enlisting at St. Louis on April 20, 1863, in Company F, Nineteenth Missouri Militia, in which he continued for two years, acting as Provost Guard, doing hospital and transportation duty, caring for the wounded, transferring prisoners, and doing whatever duty was required by the circumstances of those troubled and terrible times.

At 618 Jefferson Street Mr. Forkel handles all kinds of harness, saddles, and everything pertaining to the business, besides executing every species of repairs. All his work is done by hand, including a large part of the manufacture of his regular stock of goods, he making a specialty of handmade collars. In the latter class of work he uses the Scotch method, and is the only workman west of Chicago now making collars entirely by hand and absolutely without the aid of machinery.

Politically, Mr. Forkel is possessed of very pronounced opinions, which he expresses with convincing force, and in the exercise of his duties as a citizen he acts independently of all party organizations, casting his vote in favor of whatever man or measure best embodies his personal views. He is a valued member of the Knights of Honor, and has had the honor of election to all the offices within the gift of the Burlington Lodge. He was reared in the faith of the Evangelical Lutheran church, and although he has not maintained that connection, he considers himself a member of the great church of universal human brotherhood. He has enjoyed uniform success in the conduct of his business, and as one who has done his duty at all times as a man and a citizen, has followed an upright course of life, and manifested the quality of loyalty in friendship, his reputation is fair, stainless, and honorable, and many speak his praise.

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