A number of sources contributed to this piece. It is a sketch, and there is still much to uncover…The Author.
Rebecca G Turck/Turk married Henry Turck in 1864 in Wisconsin, when she was just 17 years old. She was born in 1847, the daughter of a Vermont farmer. A girl, Luella, was born to the couple that same year, 1864. Ozaukee, just north of Milwaukee was settled by a large influx of German and Northern European immigrants, among them distant Turk relations. One county over, just north of Ozaukee County, Fond Du Lac county was home to Charcoal Iron works and Blast Furnace, of C. J. L. Meyer, just constructed, which employed 100 men, and a sash and blind company employing some 350. Meyer, who had made his fortune in the rebuilding Chicago after the Great Fire, was the wealthiest man in east-central Wisconsin.
At the age of 19 Rebecca and Henry had their second child, Edmund. Edmund’s brother Orville Grant was born in 1868 in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. 1870 finds the family in Mendon, Clayton county, Iowa. In 1872 their youngest son, Frank, was born across the river in Iowa. They settled a small farm on the bluff above Marquette on a plot of land considered part of McGregor, not far from a creek adjoining the Mississippi called Bloody Run.
In 1872 there were 11,168 persons of school age, twenty-one township districts, 136 sub-districts and seventeen independent districts. There were ninety-five frame, twenty brick, twenty log and nineteen stone school-houses. The average compensation of teachers was males, $40.68; females, $26.04. In 1874 there were twenty township districts.
Since 1837, MacGregor had been operating a ferry across the Mississippi River between Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and the present site of McGregor, Iowa. MacGregor planned the new city as a six block development, and it was quickly populated, being incorporated as McGregor in 1857. In that same year, the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad finished building a railroad track from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, thus connecting Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River by rail. McGregor quickly became a major commercial center, and served as a hub where grain from Iowa and Minnesota could be transported across the Mississippi and sent on to Milwaukee via railroad. More railroads were built to connect McGregor with cities further west, and the city of North McGregor (now Marquette, Iowa) was established just north of the city to serve as the city’s railroad terminus. After reaching McGregor from the west, trains were disassembled and railroad cars were ferried across the Mississippi to continue on towards Lake Michigan.
During the 1870s, the population of McGregor exploded to over 5,500 as the city became the busiest shipping port west of Chicago. In 1874, the system of ferrying railroad cars across the river between North McGregor and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, was brought to an end when Prairie du Chien businessman John Lawler commissioned the construction of a permanent pontoon bridge to connect the two cities’ rail lines. As the need for men to disassemble and ship trains across the river disappeared, the city’s population began to decline.
The tall brick chimney of the McGregor Brewery towered town, belching black smoke, with steam-powered malt mills that converted homegrown barley into Hagensick beer. The ubiquitous four-story stone and brick structure, with its ornate cupola, was built by John L. Hagensick in 1845. Nestled against rugged sandstone bluffs, just a mile north of town, not far from the Turck homestead. The brewery employed ten people at peak periods and turned out 10,000 barrels of beer annually. Four huge caves, in which kegs of beer were stored on wooden racks, were dug 60 feet into the bluffs behind the brewery. Hagensick’s beer business boomed from the start. For more than 40 years his beer was guzzled in every saloon for miles in every direction. The brewery became a social center. The beer garden and bowling alley that mushroomed up on the shady hillside did a lively business. When the boom was busted production fell to 4,000 barrels by 1880.
Hard years followed until Henry learned of a new venture northeast among the still untamed wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In 1883 Mr. Meyer organized the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company, which acquired a mill and landholdings, and began working on methods of utilizing the abundant hardwood timber on the surrounding lands held by the company. The company eventually developed innovative new methods and machinery for manufacturing pre-cut maple wood flooring; previous techniques for cutting and shaping maple in the US were laborious and inefficient because of the hard, brittle nature of maple wood. The IXL brand of flooring became a popular choice for flooring, due to its virtually indestructible nature and its rich color and grain.
Hermansville, a thriving company town carved from the wilderness some 40 miles north of Menominee, Michigan grew quickly as the mill prospered, with over 200 company-owned dwellings built for employees and their families. A passenger rail depot, general stores, taverns, a bank, library and post office were established, as was a multi-grade public school. The company owned virtually all the buildings in the village. Other industry developed in the area as well, aided by the town’s proximity to abundant rail freight service and local natural resources.
In 1885 Edmund Turk, the family’s second oldest child, now 19, returned to Mendon-Clayton, Iowa, where he is found in the 1885 census.
In 1887 the company built a second saw-mill and commenced the erection of a large maple flooring factory. In 1889 the company become involved in the failure of C.J.L. Meyer at Fond du Lac and Chicago and for two years was in the hands of an assignee for the benefit of its creditors. But in 1892 a settlement with the creditors was made and the property returned to the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co., who operated it during the following three or four years under considerable difficulty. In 1896 Up to this time the company was operating under the laws of Wisconsin, but in 1900 the present organization was effected under the laws of Michigan.
Daily life in Hermansville was more bitter than sweet. There wasn’t much up there other than trees, trees, and more trees, lumberjacks, sawmills, milling operations and the commerce required to support that. Winters were brutally cold, summers sweltering and bug infested, springtime muddy and rainy. Setbacks begot setbacks. Mill No. 1 burned in 1891 and had to be rebuilt, threatening livelihoods.
At its peak, over ten thousand rail cars were loaded with logs and other forest products each year. It was a pace that could not be sustained for long, a catastrophe in waiting for the laborers and their families of Hermansville. By the end of the nineteenth century, it became clear that Michigan and Wisconsin’s pine forests were rapidly depleting, and that no steps had been taken to replace the natural resource. As early as the 1860s, the state created a commission to assess the deforestation in Wisconsin. The findings were completely disregarded. Because of the common holding that the stands of trees were mainly an obstacle to settlement, there was no public support for limitations on the logging practices, and few laws were passed to protect forests until the timber boom had come and gone.
The town’s growth slowed and eventually declined, due to the rapid deforestation and subsequent scarcity of the timber that drove Hermansville’s economy. The village population dropped significantly, and most of the small businesses which catered to local people were eventually closed. For Henry and Rebecca, it was the end of a long hard life. Though it is impossible to say for certain, indications are that Henry, now 73 had fallen ill. Rebecca was also ill. While henry returned to Ozaukee County, Rebecca and the children remained in Menominee, where Rebecca was soon interned suffering from Dementia in a poor house.
Orvel Grant, or simply, Grant Turck left the family behind sometime around the turn of the 20th Century. he was now in his early 30s, and had likely grown up working the lumber camps and mills in and around Hermansville, just as his father and siblings had done. Grant moved West settling in or near Emmetsburg, Iowa.
Grant much later would describe himself as an orphan. The year 1910, amid a lifetime of hardship and hardscrabble living was perhaps the most painful of all. That year Henry passed away. Henry died at the age of 73 in Ozaukee County. In the 1910 census Grant and another sibling, Frank, are seen living with their mother in Menominee. Grant is shown as a”laborer.”
Rebecca, listed in the 1920 census in Menominee is shown living in Ward 2, on State Street and is described as an “inmate”in a local poorhouse, obviously referring to her internment and her mental and physical disability. The home was privately owned, and by indications provided decent care for those who resided there. Later that same year, interned and ill, Rebecca passed away alone and destitute, and was buried in a pauper’s unmarked grave in the newly consecrated Riverside Cemetery, west of the town, overlooking Blueberry Island and the blue -green waters of the Menominee river. The Menominee City Council established the cemetery at the foot of Stephenson Avenue on the banks of the Menominee River. A. L. Sawyer (1911) describes the cemetery as located “on a nicely elevated portion of ground where the rippling sounds of the shimmering river may forever soothe the endless sleep of its inhabitants.” Rebecca and Henry had been married for 46 years.
Whether Rebecca and Henry knew they were grandparents is unknown. At Emmetsburg Grant courted Mary Elizabeth McNamara. The couple were married, eloping to Minneapolis, in Hennepin County, Minnesota on Jul 18th, 1904. In 1909 Mary and Henry had a son, John Turck, born in Emmetsburg.
For Henry, it was the end of a journey through the building of a nation. Henry Turk was born to Charles and Magdelen Turk about 1838, possibly in Seneca, Ontario New York. Charles was born about 1799 somewhere in New York. His wife was born 5 years later. Charles is found in 1830 living in Smithfield-Madison New York. First verifiable mention of Charles Turk, about 1820 at Smithfield.
The family is seen through the early part of the 19th Century moving west. Lake Oneida and its tributary Wood Creek were part of the Albany-Oswego waterway, stretching from the Atlantic seaboard westward via the Hudson River. From there is forged its way through the Appalachian Mountains via the Mohawk River. Westward travel from here was by portage over the Oneida Carry to the Wood Creek-Oneida Lake system. The navigable waterway exited Oneida Lake by the Oneida River, which led to the Oswego River and Lake Ontario. From here travelers could reach the other Great Lakes. In 1835 Oneida Lake was connected to the Erie Canal system by construction of the (old) Oneida Canal, which ran about 4.5 miles (7.2 km) from Higginsville on the Erie Canal northward to Wood Creek, about 2 miles upstream of Lake Oneida. This was the route that brought the Turks from Eastern New York.
Henry was born amid the financial panic of 1837. Families were devastated in an ever-deepening recession. Men were thrown out of work, homes, farms and fortunes lost overnight. Factories and businesses shuttered. It would last the first 6 years of Henry’s life. It is possible that the devastation wrought by those years may have led to the family’s westward movement, driven perhaps for work on the waterways, and then the railroads as the country expanded west.
The first true record we have of Henry comes from the 1850 census for Constantia, Oswego New York, on the north-western shores of Lake Oneida. Interestingly, Henry and sister Martha are shown living with a 22-year-old Peter Turck,27-year-old Jonathan Turck, new settlers to the area. A map of the area from about that time lists Peter as the owner of a substantial parcel of property. Just east of that property a second smaller parcel is listed also apparently belonging to Peter Turck, born in Ulster New York, just west of what today is Martin Road. Charles, Henry’s father likely leased or worked the land for Peter.
The property matter is a bit confusing. The census helps to orient a bit better, and helps understand who was likely living and working on the two parcels of land, both marked as P. Turk. Beside and just east of Constantia, is the tiny hamlet of Bernard’s Bay. Besides that, and just slightly larger is Cleveland. We find Charles and his family connected to the Cleveland post office in the census. The road has changed little over nearly two centuries. It wasn’t paved then. Pine and fir trees grow thickly to the edge of the road. The land flows gently, the soil rocky and difficult to farm. There is a small plat that roughly corresponds to the homestead of Charles and Magdelen. The small creeks that flowed through are dried now. Just to the south, at the edge of the property, a small pond is now all but gone. Hunting and fishing would have been the main stay for the family. For the children, especially the boys, there was nothing of consequence tying them to the land.
Magdelen and Charles’ daughter Martha, born about 1844 in Constantia, married a local farmer by the name of Martin Hulburt, born in Vermont about 1832. When Charles passed away Magdelen moved west with her daughter, now Martha Hulburt, and her husband where they settled in Richmond, Nebraska, Jefferson County. Richland was once known as Benton. It was a shipping point on the Union Pacific Railroad. A post office was established at Richland in 1870.
A constitution for Nebraska was drawn up in 1866. There was some controversy over Nebraska’s admission as a state, and the bill admitting Nebraska as a state was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, but the veto was overridden by a supermajority in both Houses of Congress. In the 1870s and 1880s Civil War veterans and immigrants from Europe came by the thousands to take up land in Nebraska, with the result that despite severe droughts, grasshopper plagues, economic distress, and other harsh conditions the frontier line of settlement pushed steadily westward. Most of the great cattle ranches that had grown up near the ends of the trails from Texas gave way to farms, although the Sand Hills remained essentially a ranching country.
It was the railroad and the lure of cheap farmland that likely lured the Hulburts from New York. The Union Pacific (UP) land grant gave it ownership of 12,800 acres per mile of finished track. The federal government kept every other section of land, so it also had 12,800 acres to sell or give away to homesteaders. The UP’s goal was not to make a profit, but rather to build up a permanent clientele of farmers and townspeople who would form a solid basis for routine sales and purchases.
The UP, like other major lines, opened sales offices in the East and in Europe, advertise heavily, and offered attractive package rates for farmer to sell out and moved his entire family, and his tools, to the new destination. In 1870 the UP sold rich Nebraska farmland at five dollars an acre, with one fourth down and the remainder in three annual installments. It gave a 10 percent discount for cash. Farmers could also homestead land, getting it free from the federal government after five years, or even sooner by paying $1.50 an acre. Sales were improved by offering large blocks to ethnic colonies of European immigrants. Germans and Scandinavians, for example, could sell out their small farm back home and buy much larger farms for the same money. European ethnics comprised half of the population of Nebraska in the late 19th century. Married couples were usually the homesteaders, but single women were also eligible on their own.
The Hulburt’s direct descendents, and by extension Turcks, still reside in that part of Nebraska today. It was here that Magdelen Turk/Turck, Grant Turck’s grandmother passed away peacefully in 1883. Just 60 miles to the Northeast Magdelen’s Grandson would set down roots in Emmetsburg, Iowa. His son John would marry Joanne Mulroney where they would raise a large and loving family of 16 children through the Great Depression and a World War…