Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Adam George Kolker

In the last post, I told you about Reinhold Schell, my great grandfather. His wife was Sophie Helen Kolker. Sophie was born on February 2, 1860 in Quincy, Illinois to parents Adam George Kolker and Elizabeth Scheiner. Adam has a very interesting story. I had never heard about his voyage to America and neither had many others in the family. I came across an article in a Quincy newspaper that indicated he nearly did not make it here. Newspaper sources said he was born  near Fulda, Germany in a small village named L├╝tterz. I have not been able to locate any records from that area yet to confirm this. His civil war draft registration lists his age as 28 in July, 1863. That would make his birth year about 1835. He apparently left Germany from the port of Bremerhaven on September 28, 1854 on the ship New Era. Aboard were nearly 425, mostly German immigrants. Forty people died on the voyage due to an outbreak of cholera. That was not Adam’s close call though! When the ship approached the New Jersey shore near the modern site of Asbury Park, it encountered a powerful gale on November 13. The ship ran aground off the coast but did not sink. Rescue efforts from the shore were prevented by the powerful storm. Only about 160 survived with many simply being washed overboard in the cold seas. Adam was able to survive by clinging to the mast with several others. I found an article in a New York newspaper and a book written about this tragedy; both had lists of survivors and those known to be lost. What I could not find was Adam’s name on either the survivor or lost lists. One of the newspaper articles says his life was in doubt for several hours after he was rescued. The reason his name does not appear on the lists of survivors and lost could be that others did not know him; he was not traveling with a family. Rescuers probably did not speak German which could have added to the confusion. I have no reason to disbelieve this story about Adam; I just have not found hard evidence except for the newspaper accounts. Another fact I do not know is whether or not he was traveling with his brother, William. A newspaper article about his death states that he left Germany with his brother and they spent a year in Maryland before coming to Quincy. It’s funny that William was not mentioned in either of the Quincy articles about the ship disaster. William was also a successful businessman in Quincy.

The New Era

Adam established himself in Quincy as a successful businessman. With his brother, William, they established a grocery store at the corner of Fourth and Maiden Lane and remained there for four years. They then moved to the southeast corner of Third and Hampshire for 25 years; that business was dissolved in 1870. The business was grocery and retail liquor. The store was quite successful. I realized this after finding a little snippet in an 1895 Quincy paper saying he had established bank accounts in the amount of $1000 for each of his seven children! That was impressive enough; but when I used an inflation calculator, that $1000 was the same as $27,700 in 2013 dollars! In studying his probate records, the estate paid his widow and children a little over $13,000. In 2013 dollars, that is the same as $378,000! This only makes me wonder why his widow, Elizabeth, has seven boarders with her on the 1900 census---this is only one year after the death of her husband! Didn't seem she needed the money. Yet another mystery.

This is a monument erected to commemorate those lost in the tragedy. However, it was washed into the sea during a severe storm.


1 comment:

  1. Not sure if you're still reading comments on this blog but I'm delighted to have found it. Adam George Kolker was my great-great-grandfather (him->Rose Kolker->Marie Rose Bernbrock->my father) so I think this makes us third cousins? I hadn't found this story before. Thank you for posting, it's fascinating.