Monday, April 24, 2017

Who Was John Bentz?

In the early 1990’s my son and I traveled to Germany to see a dear friend of mine and her family.  She had told us to fly in to Luxembourg because it would be easier for them to pick us up since they lived in north western Germany.  As I purchased our plane tickets I had no idea that I had ancestors from Luxembourg.  Just before we left I found out that my ‘German’ ancestors were really from Luxembourg but I had no idea what part at that time.  What a surprise!! I remember traveling around the northern part of Luxembourg and noticing how green and beautiful it was in April.  I kept wondering ‘why’ had they left such a gorgeous place?

John Bentz was my maternal 2x great-grandfather.  There is still so little that I have been able to discover about John or Johan.
John was reportedly born in Weiler-la-Tour, Luxembourg in 1821 to Wilhelm Bentz and Maria Petesch Bentz.
Lux highlighted
I believe he married Maria Margareta Robin/Rovin 20 November 1855 in Luxembourg.  I find it interesting that later in several of the census records it states that they were both born in Luxembourg, however, John’s native language is listed as French and Maria’s is listed as German.

John and Maria had 6 children; John Nicholas (born in Luxembourg about 1856), Clara (born in Luxembourg 1860), Catherine (born in Luxembourg 1862), Nicholas (born in Dubuque, Iowa 1863), Jacob (born in Cascade, Dubuque, Iowa 1869), Suza/Susan born in (Worthington, Dubuque, Iowa 1878).  (Suza is my maternal Great-Grandmother).

1870 US Federal Census for Cascade Township, Dubuque County, Iowa 22 June 1870.  John Bentz, 50 years old, occupation-Farrmer, value of Personal Estate $300.  John was living with his wife Mary (36 years old), son John (14 years old-born Luxembourg), daughter Clara (10 years old-born Luxembourg), Catherine (8 years old-born Luxembourg), Nicholas (7 years old-born Iowa), Nicholas (5 years old-born Iowa), Jacob (11 months old-born Iowa).  Education-John and Mary are listed as not being able to read or write.  The children, with the exception of Jacob, are all listed as being in school.

1880 US Federal census for Worthington/Dubuque, Dodge County, Iowa 14 June 1880.  John Bentz, 59 years old, occupation-day laborer, born in Luxembourg as well as both parents.  Living with wife Mary (46 years old), son Jacob (10 years old) and daughter Suza (age 3).

From Wikipedia I learned that “Between 1860 and 1880, Dubuque was one of the 100 largest urban areas in the United States.”  “Beginning in the mid-19th century and into the early 20th century, thousands of poor German and Irish Catholic immigrants came to the city to work in the manufacturing centers.” 

According to Suza’s obituary in 1908- “Susan Bentz was born in Worthington, Iowa, August 20, 1878. When 8 years old her parents moved to LeMars and later, about 16 years ago, they moved to Remsen.”  That would have put the family in Remsen, Iowa about 1882.

Wikipedia states-“Remsen was incorporated in the spring of 1889. The population in 1885 was given at 650, of whom 400 were American born.  Remsen was settled by mostly Luxembourg immigrants. Plagued by religious persecution, unwelcome Prussian military conscription and economic limitations, the early immigrants left their native land to start a new life in the land of opportunity now called Remsen.  Remsen citizens retained their Luxembourg traditions of deep religious faith and loyal, energetic, hard working and fun loving style.”  
rr map of iowa
1881 Iowa Railroad Map found at the Library of Congress

I thought I should look at railroad lines in Iowa after I looked at the histories of Dubuque and Remsen because they both talked about being near railroad lines.  I thought about several of the cities I have come across while researching and found them all very near one particular railroad line:
rr map of Iowa with cities

Unfortunately, John Bentz and Mary Margaret seem to be rather common names which makes the searching difficult at times.  Their son John Bentz also married a Mary which, until I realized this, I had father and son information as one person.  Same with Mary Robin and Mary Wanderscheid.  Very confusing at times, to say the least.
Some thoughts: 
  • I have been unable to find John’s Naturalization paperwork or locate the ship he and his family traveled in to come to the Untied States.  This will definitely take further research and access to records in Luxembourg.
  • John, Mary and family were in Luxembourg in 1862 for the birth of Catherine but in Iowa by 1863 for Nicholas’ birth.  They must have come directly to Iowa upon their arrival in the United States.  Were they following other family members or someone they knew from their home town?
  • Learning about the history of the towns and the area adds a lot to the story of John and his family.
  • I wonder if John was a farmer in Luxembourg? 
  • I wonder why John stopped farming and turned to ‘day labor’ work?
  • Wish I could find a picture of John and family.

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,

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