A Window to the Past, part 3

Historical background:

The Colony at Golden, Adams County, Illinois  (earlier known as  “New East Friesland”)

According to the witness of authoritative people, the Colony of “New East Friesland” stands in the first rank in seniority, stature, and East Friesen ways; a place where the East Friesen dialect has been maintained as purely as possible in the family circle and in other mutual associations.  It lies in the northeastern corner of Adams County, whose county seat is Quincy, some 140 miles from St. Louis, Missouri on the Mississippi River.

The prairie is level, however, rolling enough so as to make tilling unnecessary.  Golden lies on the watershed, where Bear Creek conveys the waters to the Mississippi, while the Missouri and Crooked Creeks to the east deliver it into the Illinois River.

Even though the pioneer life was difficult, yet these Friesens were satisfied and looked into the future where the possibility of independence, prosperity, and comfort beckoned to them as is could not have done in East Friesland.  (The East Friesens in America  written by Pastor George Schnucker (1917), translated by Pastor Kenneth DeWall (1986)


Do you remember Hinrich’s 1850 emigrant sailing adventure in A Window to the Past, part 2?  If not, you might want to re-read.

Now let’s listen to Hinrich’s son, Harm H. Franzen, recall early “New East Friesland” history, present-day Golden, Illinois.


Golden New Era 
Golden, Illinois
Thursday, August 29, 1929
Groves & Mockmore, Publishers


Given by Harm H. Franzen at Old Settler Meet

Dear people of this audience:

As I have the honor of being one of the first and oldest settlers of this part of the country, it seems appropriate and in place for me to give you a talk and history of this neighborhood and also of myself.  In the first place, I am past 81 years of age and am a full-blooded German.  I was born in Germany and was brought over the Atlantic by my parents on a sailboat.  It took us 13 weeks, and we landed at New Orleans January 11, 1850.  At this time, I was only one year and 7 months old.  There were ten in our party, and all were relatives of mine.  Nine took the steam boat to St. Louis.  My mother’s half sister fell in love with a young man on the boat, and she returned to Germany with him.

We finally reached St. Louis, where we stopped off for a few weeks.  Then my father and grandfather again took the boat for Quincy as they were told that there was good and cheap land near the city.  It happened to be in the month of February, and they got but a short distance when they were stopped by ice and frozen fast in the middle of the Mississippi.  And as father was a young man, he got into trouble with the deck hands, who threatened to kill him.  The start of this trouble was caused by whiskey.  The deck hands who had to stay aboard the boat soon got lonesome, and in order to make the time pass more quickly, they agreed to take a drink.  They were trying to raise money enough to purchase the stuff, but father and grandfather would not chip in because they could not afford it.  They drank the first batch, and they again called for more money.  In order to save his life, father looked for a hiding place, and as there happened to be an unused steam boiler on the boat, he crawled under the fireplace and ash pit.  Here he was safe as nobody expected to find him there, and his father-in-law (my grandfather) gave him food and water there.  It continued to be cold, so they waited until the ice got strong enough to hold them over, and then they walked to the Illinois side, and as it happened, where the Bluffs touched the water.  So they started on foot for Quincy, crawling up and on the bluffs, and as the ground was covered with snow and ice, they had a hard time getting there.  They were  completely worn out when they reached Quincy.  They were told that there was good land about 30 miles northeast of there, about where Clayton now stands.  On the way, they learned of two German families living about <illegible> miles northwest of Clayton and finally reached their destination. Of these two German families were John Buss and Gerd Franken and their families.

Father at once saw that this was a fertile country, although it was completely unsettled.  It was but a wild prairie and had been a wagon track, let alone a graveled road, and the grass and sunflowers grew higher than our heads.  He was at once decided that this was going to be our future home, and father returned back to St. Louis (leaving grandfather here) to get the balance for family.  When all was ready to begin a start, father had only ten dollars left in his pockets, and God only knew how they got a start, but as he was a blacksmith, he soon got it going, and in just a short while they bought 100 acres of land at $1.25 an acre.

What made this possible? More than we could even tell, this happened before I could say anything.  This was a time we had no automobile to ride over the whole United States, which was to fool away our money, our valuable time, and lose all in our business.  They only had buggies or surries to ride in.  We are glad to own an old wagon that was pulled by ox, or an ox and cows.    They were glad if they had chairs with hickory to sit on, but then they were .

When it comes to dwelling houses, they had nothing but log cabins.  The very first of this kind had a roof of clap-boards in place of singles.  They were homemade, split from blocks of clear wood.  In place of nails, they used a wedge for each board as each row of boards or shingles were held down by a pole and wedges driven in over each shingle.  It had no sheeting underneath, but the shingles rested on poles.  The walls were made of logs and the space between the logs was filled with yellow clay.  In place of windows, a piece of mud was left out.  The door had wooden hinges and latches.  The house had no floor, but just the earth.  The fireplace and chimney were made of sod.  This of course, was the most crude and ancient form of cabin and most of them were better made, and as time went on they kept improving and finally gave way to the frame house.

Harm H. Franzen


Golden New Era
Golden, Illinois
Thursday, September 12, 1929


Harm H. Franzen concludes His Pioneer story

Now as my talk is getting too long, I will try to shorten it, although I should like to tell a lot more.  My father was the first coal digger and also coal hauler, and he discovered the coal fields north of here.  He took the coal to Quincy.  It took four days to a load, one day to dig and three to haul it to Quincy.  This also caused him to be the first storekeeper in that locality, as one time he failed to dispose of his coal, but he traded it for groceries.  This gave him a start, and he stayed with it and finally got a regular store.  This store room is still in existence.

The next most important thing for this German settlement was a mill as up to that time all the grist had to be taken to Birmingham, a village about 30 miles east of here.  It was located at Crooked Creek and was run by water power.  They charged by taking a toll.  Then my Uncle Henry R. Emminga bought a piece of timberland, which was covered with the finest of oak trees.  These trees furnished all the heavy framework for the windmill, which still stands but is fast going to wreck.  This mill was certainly the greatest blessing in this part of the country and made Mr. Emminga.  Almost fifty-eight years ago, I married my most beloved and dearest wife, Margaret, and we moved to the state of Iowa, where we lived for about three years, but as the weather was too cold for me in my affliction, we moved back to Golden, which was then called Keokuk Junction.  Here I learned the tinner’s trade and finally got the first real Hard, Stoves, and Furniture Store, and I finally became an undertaker.  I have surely buried over 1000 persons, with Phillip Miller as my partner.  Thirty-seven years ago, I invented my famous Lightning Seed Sower, of which I have made nearly one-half million and is still the best little seeder in use.


We have now sold our complete business to Wm. M. Gronewold, who is now carrying on the business as we did before.  As I had nothing to do then, we made a trip to California last winter and returned April 16.  (author’s note:  this California trip may be a future post…would you like to read about it?)

In the beginning of my speech, I mentioned the auto and its detrimental effects but this does not mean that I am opposed to it.  Oh, no not all, and this will prove it as I have had 5 autos and besides have driven another one.  We still have a 26 model Ford Sedan, which is in fine running order, and I dare say that I think I have made more miles with my auto than any man of my age or anyone else in this neighborhood.

With this I bring my speech to a close.  I hope you have been able to understand my words as you see I am handicapped.  I thank you for your very kind attention, and I hope we will all meet here again next year.

I do heartily wish you all prosperity, and I remain

Yours very truly,

Harm H. Franzen

*  If you would like to read more about Harm H. Franzen, click 2013 Franzen, Harm H.

*Also, if you desire to read more Golden, Illinois early history, click 2013 Robbins, J. H.

*And if you want to travel from years ago to two weeks ago, go to www.corinthrose.com to view recent Las Vegas and other Southwest images…under travel.  I really wonder what Harm H. Franzen would have said about Vegas!

Thanks for dropping by.


About corinthrose

Born again Christian, helpmate of 42 years, domestic engineer of two children, GRANDmother of six darlings, professional volunteer, fanatic photographer, and a wanna be writer. Occasionally, infatuated with family history, flower photography, and traveling with my hiking buddy.
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9 Responses to A Window to the Past, part 3

  1. Fascinating story. I’d love to hear about the trip to California!

  2. California- yes. I love the line about the one family member who fell in live in the 13 weeks on board and went back to Germany. 🙂

  3. Don says:

    Another mystery to solve! The 2013 Robbins, J.H. news story states “Before the prairie was broke, there were cottonwood trees about one mile apart, running in perfect rows across what is part of North East Township. The rows were perfectly straight running north and south, from fifty to one hundred feet apart. Now they are a thing of the past, but they were set out by someone before the country was settled, and they were ornaments for the surrounding country.” Who planted the trees?

    • Diana says:

      What is the time period “before the prairie was broke”? During the Oregon Trail days, cottonwood trees were planted along the way to give shade for people travelling west in covered wagons. I followed some of these trails/ruts on the off-roads parallell to the old Oregon Trail, on a research trip in 1994. It might be an old Indian custom also. They bent saplings to the ground as direction-markers for paths to the next source of water. Read PrairyErth by William Least Heat-Moon.

  4. Diana says:

    In 2011, we drove the modern-day road, up from the river to the tall bluffs/flat land that became the the old city of Quincy, Illinois. I remembered the stories about the first Frisian emigrants being stranded on the river and walking cross-county in ice and snow to find their friends. They were survivors – despite all kinds of weather and hardships – rather amazing.

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