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Fayette County, Iowa
Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910
Author: G. Blessin
B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana
Vol. I, Biographical Sketches
NELSON A. GERKEN
Believing that greater opportunities existed for him right here at home than elsewhere, Nelson A. Gerken has spent his life in the same vicinity, and, judging from the large success that has attended his efforts, he was wise in remaining on the old homestead in Oran township, Fayette county, where he was born August 2, 1865. He is the son of Henry Gerken, who was born December 28, 1826, in Hanover, Germany. He married Nancy Sidler March 26, 1854; she was the widow of Samuel Sidler and the daughter of Henry and Sarah Myers, natives of Pennsylvania. The following children were born to Henry and Nancy Gerken: Ellen, born December 21, 1856, married Henry Gerlt, and they are both now deceased; John Wesley, farmer, born March 11, 1859, in Oran township, married Alice L. Judd and they have four children, Mary L., Jessie M., Walter C. and John H.; Levi Arnold Gerken, born July 28, 1861, died when five years of age; Mary Agnes, born June 25, 1863, married Henry P. Faust, of Parkston, South Dakota; Nelson A., subject of this review; Aliva L. A., born November 16, 1868, married Dell Hunter, of Oelwein, Iowa; Benjamin F., born February 24, 1887, in Oran township, married Della Bradly, and died March 8, 1910.
Henry Gerken, father of these children, was reared and educated in his native community, Hanover, Germany, and, having his boyish ambition fired by the stories of success and opportunities in the New World, he set sail for America in 1844 and, after a tedious voyage, landed on our shores, unaccompanied, first setting foot on American soil at New Orleans. From that city he went by steamboat to St. Louis and from there to Saline county, Illinois, where he secured eighty acres of school land. In 1854 he came to Oran township, Fayette county, Iowa, and came into possession of one hundred and sixty acres of government land in section 10; then he went back to Illinois and brought his wife, who drove the team while he drove the cattle. They fell very sick with the ague and stayed at Fairbank, Iowa, living with Henry Myers, the wife's father; however, not long afterwards he began improving his farm. He was compelled to melt snow for his cattle to drink. He was a hard worker and was not to be discouraged, consequently he developed a fine farm and a comfortable home in due course of time. He took and interest in local political affairs and held some township offices. He was a Republican, a member of the Baptist church, and an honest and highly respected man. He reached and advanced age, dying in 1902. He was three times married, his first wife dying in 1883; his second wife was Annie Hillman, a native of Indiana, who died in 1898, and his third wife was Rachel Watkins, a sister of his second wife and the widow of a Mr. Watkins; she now lives in Kansas. In 1891 Mr. Gerken moved to Oelwein, Iowa, where he remained until his death. He made a success of his farming, being economical and a good manager, though there was a time when he sold wheat at thirty cents per bushel, butter at six cents per pound and eggs at three cents per dozen, pork at one dollar and twenty-five cents per hundred: this was at McGregor, Iowa. But whether prices were low or high, he always made money.
Nelson A. Gerken grew up on the home farm and attended the neighborhood schools. In 1887 he went to Wessington Springs, South Dakota, and remained there for a period of two years, and he spent four years in Antelope county, Nebraska, on a farm. Although he got a good start in the West, he preferred his home county and in 1893 returned to Oran township and rented land here for ten years and lived in Oelwein until the spring of 1907. Since that time he has lived on the old home place, of which he owns one hundred and sixty acres.
Mr. Gerken was married in March, 1890, to Mary Hundley, who was born in Van Wert county, Ohio, the daughter of O. E. and Dorothy (Hughes) Hundley, the father a native of Ohio and the latter of Wales. They were married in Ohio and in 1885 went to Clark county, South Dakota, where they remained for one year, then moved to Antelope county, Nebraska, and in 1891 moved to Washington county, Oregon, where they live one a farm. The following children were born to Mr. and Mrs. O. E. Hundley: Thomas, of Dilley, Oregon; Margaret, the widow of Arch Van Kirk, of Hillsboro, Oregon; Mary, wife of Nelson A. Gerken, of this review; Charles, who is farming in Washington county, Oregon; Richard and John, twins, the former living in Washington county, Oregon, and the latter in Portland, Oregon; Norman, living at home; Oscar and Arthur are the youngest children.
Four children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Gerken, namely: Floyd R., Roy V., Leslie C. and Glenn A.
Mr. Gerken has always been a farmer and has been very successful owing to his close application to business and his careful management of his own affairs and his honest dealing with his fellow men. He now manages a dairy in connection with his farm; he has twenty head of milk cows, handles short-horn cattle, and draft and driving horses of an excellent quality; raises Chester White hogs, Plymouth Rock chickens, Bronze turkeys and Indian Runner ducks. His stock and poultry are greatly admired by all who see them. He has a splendid and attractively located home, good barn and outbuildings. He has served on the school board and was trustee of Oran township for two years, also serving as assessor. A Republican in politics, he has long been active in local affairs and has very faithfully and ably served his fellow citizens. He is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, Camp No. 230, at Oelwein, Iowa.
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