J. Gerlach “Gerlach” Reifenrath


J. Gerlach “Gerlach” Reifenrath

Death 19 Feb 1895 (aged 66)
Cedar County, Nebraska, USA
Burial Saint Helena, Cedar County, Nebraska, USA
Memorial ID 65537295 View Source

SS. Philip and James Catholic Church, Observing 96 Years of Catholic Faith, 1904-2000, Pp 84,85

Gerlach and Mary (Schmidt) Reifenrath Family

Gerlach Reifenrath was born in Birken, Germany, February 29, 1828. After serving three years in the Army, he came to America. Crossing the ocean in a sail boat took about 8 weeks. When he arrived in the United States, he heard about the gold rush in California. He went there and worked in the mines and took his citizenship papers in San Diego in 1857. He returned to Germany and brought back some of his brothers. They all worked in Cincinnati, Ohio, for a time. Then hearing of the Homestead Act in Nebraska of 1862, they came to Nebraska.

Gerlach took a 160 acre homestead in Brookey Bottom in the early sixties, and in May, 1867, he bought land from the government in Dixon County by patent. The papers were issued May 1, 1867, and signed by President Johnson's secretary. This land now belongs to a grandson, Alphons Reifenrath.

In 1868, Gerlach again went to Germany and this time married Mary Margaret Schmidt of Hossel, Germany. They returned to Brookey Bottom where he and his brothers had built a log house. This log house had to be moved in 1948 as the Missouri River had cut away the land and had come within thirty feet of the house. When the land was purchased, the river was two miles away.

This couple had nine children. They experienced many hardships through floods, droughts, grasshoppers and sickness. In the flood of 1881, the family lost everything: their grain, sixty-four head of cattle and seventy hogs. They lived for eleven days on the second floor of their house. The water was 5 feet deep on the first floor. They burned the wood work, bed slats and furniture for fuel to keep warm.

During their first years on the homestead, they traveled by oxen and wagon to the Catholic Church in St. Helena. Later they attended church in St. James. The distance to St. Helena was 16 miles, so Mrs. Reifenrath rented rooms from Alex Schulte (grandfather of Alex and Joe Schulte of Hartington), over their drugstore in St. Helena, and went there Saturday afternoon with her family. After attending Mass Sunday morning, they would have a good dinner and then start the return trip home. Later, heavy work horses replaced the oxen, and a team of driving ponies was purchased from C. M. Jones.

While working in the mines in California Gerlach had a wide band ring with a red stone setting made for his mother. When she died, it was returned to him and he had two wedding rings made from it for himself and his bride, with each engraved on the inside. He also had a crucifix, earrings and brooch made from the gold he had mined.

Mr. Reifenrath died February 19, 1895 and is buried in the St. Helena cemetery. Mrs. Reifenrath carried on at the homestead and to be closer to church and stores, she purchased 186 acres of land at St. James which has been the John G. Reifenrath farm since 1898. In 1906, Mrs. Mary Reifenrath donated the Blessed Virgin Statue for the new SS. Philip and James church. Mrs. Reifenrath died August 22, 1918 and is buried in the St. James cemetery.

The old log house was replaced in 1960 with a modern home by a grandson, Joseph F. Reifenrath, now the owner of the old homestead. His son, Don and his family, now live there.

There were 9 children in the Reifenrath family. John G. married Julia Imoehl of Iowa. They had 10 children. Mathilda married Bernard Klug, Twins were born and both mother and twins died in 1891. Peter died of Diptheria at the age of five. Anna married Joseph Imoehl and they had 3 children. Fred P. never married. August G. never married. Frank J. married Seraphine Haas and had no children. Elizabeth and Clara never married.

Gravesite Details

His first initial is on his headstone. Most likely John but I can't confirm that.


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