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The Gerken-Larson Heritage:
The 19th and 20th Centuries
A Family History

Herman Gerken (1819-1875)
Henry Gerken (1855-1914)
Ewald Gerken (1895-1956)
Joan (Gerken) Larson (1926-1994)
Thomas Larson (1962-)

Researched and written by
Tom Larson

Oscar E. Gerken was a son of William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken. Oscar was a first cousin to my grandfather, Ewald Gerken. Oscar's father William was a brother to Henry Gerken, my great-grandfather.    T.L.

Oscar and Martha (Wernke) Gerken

Oscar Emil Gerken was born on October 25, 1895, at the family homestead east of Dyersville, Iowa, the third of six children born to William and Carolina (Wuebbelt) Gerken. His siblings were Bill, Laura, Thecla, Ludwig, and Oliva. Oscar also had seven half-brothers and sisters, Addie, John, Frank, Henry, Leo, Rudy, and Molly, who were children of William Gerken and his first wife, Elizabeth Sudmeier, who died in 1888.

Oscar Gerken marries Martha Wernke.
Oscar Gerken married Martha Katherine Wernke on September 3, 1928, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Luxemburg, Iowa. Martha was born on January 27, 1904, at Luxemburg, Iowa, daughter of John and Martha (Goebel) Wernke.

Oscar and Martha farmed at Dyersville, Iowa, before moving to Texas (following his half-brother Rudy, a Catholic priest and the first bishop of the Diocese of Amarillo), where they lived for 13 years at Amarillo and Happy, before returning to Iowa to farm at Guttenberg. Oscar and Martha retired from farming in 1972 and moved to Dyersville.

Oscar and Martha Gerken had five children, Caroline Gerken, Dorothy Gerken, Robert Gerken, William Gerken (who died an infant at birth), and Mary Gerken.

Oscar E. Gerken dies.
Oscar E. Gerken, age 91, of Dyersville, Iowa, died on April 18, 1987, at Oak Crest Manor. Oscar Gerken was the last of the thirteen children of William Gerken to die. Friends called after 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Kramer Funeral Home. The Knights of Columbus rosary was at 7 p.m. Tuesday and the wake services at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Funeral services were on Wednesday, April 22, at St. Francis Xavier Basilica in Dyersville with burial in the church cemetery.

Mr. Gerken was survived by his wife and three daughters, Mrs. Caroline Kleitsch of Waterloo, Iowa; Mrs. Donald (Dorothy) Tiller of Madison, Wisconsin; and Mrs. Donald (Mary Del) Stouse of Vergas, Minnesota, and one son, Robert of Dubuque, Iowa, 20 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Martha (Wernke) Gerken dies.
Mrs. Martha Gerken, 93, of Dyersville, died Saturday, May 3, 1997, at Oak Crest Manor, Dyersville. Services were at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Francis Xavier Basilica, Dyersville, with burial in the church cemetery. Friends called from 2 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, May 6, at Kramer Funeral Home, Dyersville, where there was a parish scripture service at 4 p.m.

Mrs. Gerken was survived by three daughters, Caroline Kleitsch, of Waterloo, Dorothy (and Don) Tiller, of Madison, Wis., and Mary Del (and Don) Stouse, of Vergas, Minn.; a son, Robert (and Darlene) Gerken, of Dubuque; 20 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren; three sisters, Marie Hoeger, of Dubuque, Kathryn Backhaus, of Garnavillo, and Dorothy Kann, of Guttenberg; and a sister-in-law, Odelia Wernke, of Holy Cross.

She was preceded in death by her husband in 1987; an infant son, William John; and a grandson, David Tiller.

Children of Oscar and Martha (Wernke) Gerken:

  • Caroline Ann Gerken was born November 26, 1929, at Dyersville, Iowa, daughter of Oscar and Martha (Wernke) Gerken. Caroline Gerken married LaVerne L. Kleitsch on November 28, 1953, in Independence, Iowa. LaVerne Kleitsch was born on July 7, 1929, in Polk Township, Benton County, Iowa, son of Laurence and Mabel (Wayson) Kleitsch. LaVerne served in the U.S. Army.
          LaVerne and Carol Kleitsch lived at Cedar Falls, Iowa. Carol was a bookkeeper for at Takin Bros. Transfer and Storage. LaVerne and Carol Kleitsch had four children, Stephen LaVerne Kleitsch, Lawrence Oscar Kleitsch, John Edward Kleitsch, and Martha Katherine Kleitsch.

    LaVerne L. Kleitsch, 42, died on January 2, 1972, at Cedar Falls, Iowa. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Cedar Falls.

    Caroline A. "Carol" Kleitsch, 83, of Waterloo, Iowa, died Friday, November 15, 2013, at her home in Waterloo. Memorial services were scheduled for 11 a.m., Thursday, November 21, 2013, at the Richardson Funeral Service in Cedar Falls, with inurnment in Greenwood Cemetery in Cedar Falls. Family received friends one hour prior to the services on Thursday at the funeral home.
          She was survived by two sons, Steve (Deb) Kleitsch of Sioux City, Ia., and John Kleitsch of Cedar Falls, Ia.; a daughter, Martha (Justin) Wright of Waterloo, Ia.; six grandchildren, Alison, Joshua, Meghan, Lacey, Kristen, and Janet; and five great-grandchildren, Jackson, Will, Ben, DaeQuan and Avianna. She was preceded in death by a son, Larry.

  • Dorothy Olivia Gerken was born at Dyersville, Iowa, daughter of Oscar and Martha (Wernke) Gerken. Dorothy Gerken married Donald R. Tiller on April 7, 1956, at Guttenberg, Iowa. Donald Tiller was born on July 23, 1933, at Lancaster, Wisconsin. Donald and Dorothy Tiller lived resided at Madison, Wisconsin. Donald worked for the U.S. Postal Service. Donald and Dorothy Tiller had eleven children, Carolyn Ann Tiller, David Gerard Tiller, Denise Marie Tiller, Mark Donald Tiller, Margaret Mary Tiller, James Michael Tiller, John Gregory Tiller, Jane Martha Tiller, Joseph William Tiller, Matthew Aloysius Tiller, and Jennifer Lynn Tiller.

    Donald Tiller, 66, of Madison, Wisconsin, died on September 18, 1999.

  • Robert Rudolph Gerken was born at Amarillo, Texas, son of Oscar and Martha (Wernke) Gerken. Robert Gerken married Darlene Mary Neiland on July 18, 1960, at Guttenberg, Iowa. Darlene Nieland was born, daughter of Joseph and Clara (Schmitt) Nieland. Bob and Darlene Gerken lived at Dubuque, Iowa, and he was in trucking. Robert and Darlene Gerken had three children, William John Gerken, Robert Joseph Gerken, and Mary Catherine Gerken.

  • William John Gerken was born and died on December 17, 1936, at Happy, Texas, son of Oscar and Martha (Wernke) Gerken.

  • Mary Delrose Gerken was born at Happy, Texas, daughter of Oscar and Martha (Wernke) Gerken. Mary Del Gerken married Donald C. Stouse on September 12, 1964, at Guttenberg, Iowa. Donald Stouse was born at Dubuque, Iowa. Donald and Mary Del Stouse lived at Vergas, Minnesota, where they farmed; they later moved to Calmar, Iowa. Donald and Mary Del Stouse had three children, Ann Louise Stouse, Jean Marie Stouse, and Marie Terese Stouse.

Sources include, primarily, the obituaries for Oscar Gerken from the Dyersville Commercial and for Martha Gerken from the Dubuque Telegraph Herald and A Family Tree of the William Gerken Family, updated by Sister Margaret Gerken in 1986.

Oscar Gerken was one of three of my grandfather Ewald Gerken's first cousins that I had the privilege of meeting. I visited him and Martha at their home in Dyersville on two separate occasions in 1978. They provided me with information that introduced me to the research of Giles Gerken, their nephew, from German sources about Herman Gerken, his parents, and brothers and sisters. Herman was our Gerken ancestor who came to Dubuque County, Iowa, from Germany, and he was Oscar Gerken's grandfather and my great-great-grandfather. Oscar also gave me a picture of Herman Gerken, which appears elsewhere on this website.

Oscar and Martha Gerken also told me another interesting thing about the family history: Reverend Franz Gerken, a nephew to Herman Gerken, had visited the United States at one time, and he had brought a Gerken family history with him when he visited here. It was written in the old German, and he left it with Xavier Gerken, his brother. Presumably, if it has not been lost, someone descended from that branch has an important and treasured document of the Gerken family.


Click here for the Gerken family history contents page.

© 2000-17
Tom Larson
Last revised May 10, 2017.

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