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By Cynthia Haggitt
History is everywhere in Calhoun County and there are some families that have deep roots that are planted with an ancestry dating all the way back to the 1900’s. David Bick and his family have a connection to Justus Franke. Bick was working last weekend dismantling a little bit of history, a log cabin. Bick has plans to restore the log cabin home later on down the road.
“If anyone wants to see the log home that Justus Franke lived in, I have it exposed,” Bick said. “Justus is our great-great-grandfather and is the one responsible for the Hillen’s, Baalman and Bick’s.”
Bick mentioned that the log home was in the kitchen walls where Travis Woelfel lives now, across from “Mom and Dad’s.” He said Justus (Justin Hillen’s name sake) left his family in Germany around the age of 20, worked a few years and bought 100 acres with two log cabins.
“He lived in the one I am dismantling. Franke died in the early 1900’s with 700 acres. His son, August, was Grandma Hillen’s father. Not sure, but the cabin is probably 180 years old, before the civil war,” Bick said. “ If anyone is interested in seeing the cabin in person [really cool family history] stop by.”
According to archives, “Justus Franke of Richwoods Precinct, Calhoun County, one of the wealthy and substantial farmers whose prosperity is due to personal effort. Franke descended from old and respectable families of Hesse-Cassel, Germany, and is himself a native of that province. His grandfather, Henry Franke, entered the army as a young man, and served during the time of Napoleon’s invasion.
“After his discharge, he followed the trade of a shoemaker some years, then turned his attention to farming. Chris Franke, the father of our subject, was also a soldier, but served only three years. He then adopted the occupation of a farmer in which he busied himself until called hence. He breathed his last in 1882.”
The archives state that the maiden name of the mother of our subject was Minnie Thias. She was also a native of Hesse-Cassel and died there about 1855. She was the mother of five children. The father’s second marriage resulted in the birth of three, but two of the family emigrated to America, Franke and his brother Henry, who lived near Batchtown.
Justus Franke was born on Feb. 4, 1846. He attended school from six years old until nearly fifteen, and in the intervals of study assisted his father.
Franke lived with his parents until he turned 18 and then left home to make a better life for himself.
“In March, 1866, he set sail from Bremen on the steamer “Hansa” and after a voyage of thirteen days landed at New York. He went directly to Wayne County, found employment on a farm near Clyde, and worked industriously to pay off a debt of $66 which hung over him when he landed.”
The archival record said, “Two years after arriving in the States, young Franke came to Calhoun County and worked as a farm laborer. Franke was very careful with his finances. By doing this it helped him to start working on rented land. His farming business started to grow and in 1876 he bought for himself one hundred acres of land. At the time of his purchase there were two log houses on the site and one of these was occupied by him as a dwelling for some years. He went into debt for a portion of this purchase but he managed to figure out a way to get himself out of debt through his prior laboring work.”
Records show that Mr. Franke made arrangements for securing one hundred and twenty acres of the Mississippi River bottom land and was soon able to pay for it and buy forty acres adjoining the home farm.
After this land was secured, he turned his attention to building a better home for his family. Franke continued to buy more land.
Franke had a wife named Martha Dilling, to whom he was united in marriage in 1868. The record of the family of Mr. and Mrs. Franke is as follows: William, born June 21, 1869; Henry, February 24, 1871; Charles, January 9, 1873; Albert, March 15, 1875; August, April 23, 1877; Fritz, July 26, 1880; Minnie, November 14, 1882.”