The Folkers Family in Menard County, Illinois and Beyond

My great grandfather was born in Wiesede, Hanover, Germany. This is an area commonly referred to as Ostfriesland where low German is spoken as a language as compared to the high German of the eastern half of Germany and that is so commonly taught in public education today. Our family stayed put throughout many generations in this section of Germany. Folkert Heinrich FOLKERTS was born on 5 Mar 1843. His parents were Hinrich Eden FOLKERS born 17 Dec 1804 in Wiesede and Gesche Catharina JANSSEN born 10 Feb 1812 in Langstrasse, Hanover, Germany. There were six children born to Hinrich and Gesche FOLKERS: 1 Thomas Janssen, 13 Aug 1838, Wiesede 2 Johann Hinrich, 15 Feb 1840, Wiesede 3 Folkert Heinrich, 5 Mar 1843, Wiesede 4 Johann Eden, 18 Jun 1845, Wiesede 5 Hinrich, 4 Feb 1847, Wiesede 6 Gerd Janssen, 17 Apr 1848, Wiesede

Folkert married Talke Margaretha GERJETS 12 Jul 1845 in Wiesede, Hanover, Germany and they had a son; Hinrich Eden, 23 Aug 1868, Reepsholt, Hanover, Germany. It is this family that decides to immigrate to America in 1869 for reasons that may include either poverty or military pressure. They debark out of Bremen and arrive in New York 23 Aug 1869. Folkert is listed as a farmer on the ships (Hermann) registry. Through channels I have not uncovered yet the family arrives in Menard County in late 1870 or prior to 17 Oct 1871 when a second child is born, George J. They set up a farming operation near Petersburg, Menard, ILL. in Tallula Precinct. Two more children are born; John, 26 Aug 1873 and Thomas, 10 Jul 1876. George, John and Thomas are listed as born in Petersburg.

Folkert’s brother Johan, born in Wiesede 15 Feb 1840, would arrive in America with his wife Treinke Margaretha nee HEIKEN, born in Hesel 17 Mar 1844 and their three children taking up farming in Jones County, Iowa in 1875 near Monticello. Folke Margarethe FOLKERS, their second child) would die before the journey is made to America. The other children names were Hinrich Eden, Gerd Janssen, and Gesche.

One and half years following the birth of Thomas in 1876, Talke Margaretha; Americanized to Meta FOLKERTS, dies (ca Jan 1878) while making soap in the yard. She had a large kettle sitting over an open fire in the yard and apparently she tripped and fell into the lye boiling in the kettle. Death was imminent. Not only was her body blistered to the exposure to the boiling water but the lye burned her too and her flesh pealed off. Folkert was summoned immediately. This was his wife dying. The woman he loved and chose to spend the rest of his life with in America. this writer has net been able to locat the grave of Meta Folkers in Menard County. Folkert is thrown into unimaginable shock and turmoil. He had four small children to care for and a farm to manage. He did what he could only imagine during the funeral and following the burial of his wife. Each child was placed with a German family living in the area so that he could be close to his boys while he continued farming. In the 1880 US Census each of the children were found living with German families with Volkert VOLKERTS (Folkert Folkerts) (1880 US Census spelling) living with the John H. Satorius family. He was listed as a farmer. John Satorius was from the same area in Germany as Folkert. There families had come across the Atlantic aboard the Hermann together. Henry VOLKETS, 12, (1880 US Census spelling) was placed with the August and Dena SCHAFFER family (Tallula Precinct) from Hanover, Germany. They also had a son, John, 12, who was attending school. Henry would join his brother Thomas in Macon, Ne. in 1894 where he would marry Anna Wilken, 23 Mar 1894. Henry and Anna would join the Macon Methodist Church in Macon, NE. 1894. Anna was born in Petersburg, Ill. in 28 Oct 1873. she was the daughter of Hie E. and Martha Wilken. George VOLKERT, 8, (1880 US Census spelling). The “V” was originally spelled with an “F” and then erased. George was placed with the John and Sophia DOORN family (Tallula Precinct) who also had a little girl, Anna, 3. The DOORNS were listed as from Prussia. John FOLKES (1880 US Census spelling), 6, was placed with the Henry and Mary ADEN family, T19, R7W, from Hanover, Germany. John was listed as an orphan. John joined Herman 25, and Mary ADEN 23. Alice HOBBIE, 11, orphan and Elijah ARMSTRONG 16, a servant also lived on the farm. The youngest child, Thomas FORCAS, 4, (1880 US Census spelling), was placed with the Harmon and Minie HUMMEL family of T19, R7W; immigrants from Germany. Harmon and Minie had four children from Minies former marriage. In addition they raised Henry Hummels, as son of Rev. Hummels, a foster daughter, Mary Sprinkle, (Rahmann) Stumpf and a foster son, Thomas Folkers. It is said Mr. and Mrs. Hummels always had room for more and took care of anyone who needed their love and assistance. The Hummel family leaves Illinois for Macon, Nebraska and join the Macon Methodist Church in 1886. At first Thomas’ adoptive parents lived 2 miles south of Macon and later moved to a farm on the NW1/4 of Twp. 3 Range 15, north and west of Macon.

It would be on 22 Jul 1881 that Fred FOLKERTS would marry Anna WEIGES(R)S nee BECKMANN in Lambridge, Menard, ILL. She was ten years older than Fred. On September of 1882 she deserted Fred and indicated that she had ten children from a prior marriage as the reason. Fred had given up his own children and with this marriage he accepted Anna’s children (ages 13 to 33). Anna’s love for her own children created a problem in her marriage to Fred and it ended in divorce 3 Oct 1885.

While Fred (short for Folkert) was living a life without his new wife Anna he meets Katherine Louise DABNEY (my ggrandmother). Since his second marriage was broken and Anna’s whereabouts was in question Fred fell in love with Katherine. A hasty divorce was at hand because Katherine was pregnant. Fred was divorced from Anna on 3 Oct 1885 and married to his third wife: Katherine Louise DABNEY, 24 Oct 1885. The first baby, Garret, termed a “catch colt,” by family members was born in 1885. Garret has been said to be a JOHNSON and was raised by Fred and Katherine as their own. Fred and Katherine (Little grandma; She was only 4 foot 9 inches tall.) would make Tallula Precinct their home and farm. The second child born would be my grandfather, Louis Albert FOLKERS, 26 Sep 1887. There would be three more children born to this new family; Jaye Dabney, 15 Dec 1889; Margaret Jane (Maggie), 4 Jan 1895; and William J. 31 Jul 1897.

Fred always carried a nichol or postage stamp in his pocket so that he could write home to his parents in Germany. When his parents died, Dec 1893, he would not go home to help settle his parents estate. He had experienced too much sea sickness when crossing the Atlantic the first time. His father died first followed by his mother six hours later.

Land was available in Nebraska and three of the boys from Fred’s first marriage; Henry, George and Thomas had moved to Franklin County, Nebraska during the 1890’s to begin their own farms and families. Henry and Thomas had originally moved to Franklin County because that is where his adoptive family went. John would remain in Menard County and was listed as living in Athens at the time of his brother’s (Henry) death; 2 Sep 1943. My grandfather, Louis, would live close to his half brothers for about 4 years in Franklin, Nebraska until the rest of the Fred and Katherine FOLKERS family caught up with him from Menard County, ILL. Henry’s farm (160 acres) was 4.5 miles east of Macon, George’s farm (160 acres) was 3 miles east of Macon and Thomas’ farm was located at Ashgrove near Bloomington.

Shortly after William was born to Fred and Katherine he was with his mother working in the field and she was shucking corn. Bill reached under the wagon to get an ear of corn and the horses went up and the wagon ran over him. He laid sick for a lengthy period of time and the doctors told Fred and Katherine they though he’d get better if he was taken west for a change of climate. The climate change proved to help the youngster although he would feel the pangs of the injury for the rest of his life. The way west lead to Franklin County, Nebraska and Fred’s three boys. The FOLKER boys lived in and around Macon, Ne.

Early farm life was rough and sod houses had to be constructed on the treeless plains. Each had their own farm and families. Fred and Katherine arrived in 1895 in Macon, Ne. and stayed four years in Franklin, Ne. and then moved on to Hitchcock County, Ne.; 1899. They had a 150 acre farm northwest of Culbertson in wheat. They left the first farm and moved on to Palisade and raised a good crop of corn for one year. Then we (as told by Margaret, the second to the youngest family member) rented a place seven miles southwest of Hayes Center. The stove in this house went up and the house burned down. We (kids) went to town to buy five gallons of kerosene but bought five gallons of gasoline instead. We put the gas in the stove, lit it and the whole thing exploded and burned the house down. Fred and Kate lived a total of 14 years in Hitchcock County, Ne. Uncle Dan Dabney arrived from Kansas and took Kate and Margaret to Coffeyville, Montgomery, Kansas. The burning of the farm house did something to Katherine. She kind of lost her mind. Dan was Katherine’s brother.

A relationship never changes but it is the way you think of past that makes the difference. This is the situation with Fred Folkers. He had carried his only possession of his first wife, Meta, with him through the years; her portrait. It hung at the foot of his bed and when he was not feeling well he would lay in bed and just stare at the picture drinking in the past when she was alive, but as time dictates, the picture would be consumed in flames as the old wooden farm house burns to the ground with the only reminder Fred had of Meta. One of the children had poured gasoline instead of oil in the furnace and when it was ignited the house caught on fire. My grandfather, Louis Albert Folkers would remain in the area and marry Anna MILLER (German Russian) while the rest of the family would join Katherine Folkers nee Dabney’s father, Jeduthen DABNEY (Referred to as only “J” rather than Jeduthen) in Montgomery County, Kansas. At Tyro, Kansas Fred would live until his death in 1917 while stacking bags of grain onto a wagon.

Fred (Folkert) Heinrich Folkers (Folkerts) was a kind man. He never swore and never gave up his German language but he did enjoy a nip from the bottle on occasion. He handled his children lovingly and never spanked them. Even toward the end of his life his wife was often the only one who could understand his thick Low German accent and language. Margaret (Aunt Maggie) FOLKERS told me once that she never really learned of his life in Wiesede, Hanover, Germany because he was too hard to understand.

The following thoughts and Ideas were reveiled by Clara BROWN nee FOLKERS (George FOLKERS daughter) during a conversation.

Following the death of Fred’s first wife he couldn’t cope with life. He took the death very hard and homed out his four boys. This is according to Lydia FOLKERS. He led a heck of a life. He was not a responsible person. Kate would not talk about Fred after he died. Fred was a hard worker and heavy drinker. They were penniless when they left Nebraska and moved to Tyro, Kansas and lived in a sodhouse. Fred would steal eggs to buy whiskey and when they got to town he would head straight for the saloon. Kate would be so frightened. She felt that drinking was his problem. According to Clara Fred overheated while working in the hay field and fell out of a wagon and died.

Kate (Little Grandma Kate) lived with different relatives following Fred’s death. She finally ended up with Jaye FOLKERS. Even up to her death she remained very energetic and active. While living in Brush, Colorado close to Jaye she fell and broke her hip in the nursing home and died shortly after that. She was 92-3.

A Brief Survey of Our Family from Germany and In America

1 Hinrich Eden FOLKERS Wiesede, Hanover, Germany (Ostfriesland)
+Gesche Catharina JANSSEN
2 Thomas Janssen FOLKERS b: 13 Aug 1838, Stayed in Wiesede
+Maria HARMS
3 Gesche Catharina FOLKERS
2 Johann Hinrich FOLKERS, Immigrated in USA 1875, Jones Co., Iowa
b: 15 Feb 1840
+Trienke Margaretha HEIKEN
3 Hinrich Eden FOLKERS
3 Anna Maria FOLKERS
3 Gesche M FOLKERS
3 Garret FOLKERS
3 Catharina FOLKERS
3 Thomas H FOLKERS
3 Friedrich W FOLKERS
2 Folkert Heinrich FOLKERTS, Immigrated to USA 1869, Menard Co. , Ill.
+Talke Margaretha GERJETS
3 Hinrich Eden FOLKERS
3 George J FOLKERS
3 Thomas FOLKERS
+ Anna Beckmann
+ Katherine Louise DABNEY
3 Garret FOLKERS
3 Louis Albert FOLKERS b: 26 Sep 1897, d: 18 Oct 1980
+ Anna MILLER, b: 13 May 1897, d: 11 Dec 1962
4 Margaret G FOLKERS
+Lyle Chandler BERRY
5 LaQuita Jo BERRY
5 Pamela Sue BERRY
+Danny Dale DAVIS
6 Marcus Dale DAVIS
6 Michelle S DAVIS
4 Louise Katherine FOLKERS
+Raymond Lewellen PETERSON
5 Raymond Lewellen PETERSON Jr
+Kathleen BROWN
6 Laura Louise PETERSON
6 David Roy PETERSON
6 Andrew Peter PETERSON
5 Ronald Leroy PETERSON
+Rebecca ROSS
6 Tracey Colleen PETERSON
7 Enoch David CLEMENCE
6 Marcy Lyn PETERSON
+Michael David KESTNER
7 Alexander K KESTNER
7 Benjamin M KESTNER
7 Zachery C KESTNER
7 Gabrielle K KESTNER
+Charlotte D CHASE
4 Louis Robert FOLKERS
5 Debra Lyn FOLKERS
+Donald Robert WHARTON
6 Jeffrey Robert WHARTON
6 Daniel Scott WHARTON
5 Marla Rae FOLKERS
+Regan Max LEE
+Michael HORT
6 Cassie Elaine HORT
6 Duston Lee JACKSON
6 Jeremy Ray JACKSON
4 Raymond Albert FOLKERS
+Shirley SHADLEY
5 Stephen Ray FOLKERS
4 Ruby Vergie FOLKERS
4 Lyle Lesley FOLKERS
4 Violet F FOLKERS
4 Katherine L FOLKERS
4 Truman W FOLKERS
4 Jay Dewane FOLKERS
3 Margaret Jane FOLKERS
4 Dorothy MAHAFFY
4 Lorrence MAHAFFY
4 Louise MAHAFFY
3 William J FOLKERS
2 Johann Eden FOLKERS, Stayed in Wiesede, b: 18 Jun 1845
+Gesche Margaretha EILKS
3 Catharina M FOLKERS
3 Ette Marie FOLKERS
3 Gesdhe C FOLKERS
2 Hinrich FOLKERS, b: 4 Feb 1847 and d: 26 Nov 1849
2 Gerd Janssen FOLKERS, b: 17 Apr 1848

The preceding collection of family names is very incomplete. Fred’s first marriage to Talke Margaretha (Meta) GERJETS produced many members to the FOLKERS family. The prior genealogy of Hinrich Eden FOLKERS and Gesche Catharina JANSSEN goes back an additional 5-6 generations in the Wiesede, Hanover, Germany area. I have that data. If I have left anyone out on this first rough draft I apologize.

You can make inquiries and corrections by writing to Ray Peterson, 2610 NE 157th Street, Vancouver, Wa. 98686; 360-573-2592 or email me at:

Submitted by Ray Peterson


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Illinois Ancestors