Hermann and his wife Christina Göken had eleven children
of which only three were male. Their oldest, Johann Lukas was born in 1767 and he married Margaretha Adelheid Santel in 1790. Lukas inherited the farm when both his parents died in early 1795. He had seven children and all were boys but one. Their oldest
son Gerhard Herman became a solider and died in combat probably in the Napoleonic wars in the early 1810s. Johann Gerhard, the second son, worked on his father’s farm with the intention of inheriting it just
as his father and father’s father had before him. He married Susanna Maria
Kamping in 1817 and Bernhard Lukas was born 20 July 1818. Unfortunately, his father died before his father and before Bernhard’s second birthday. Women and men didn’t stay in mourning, remarrying soon after the death of a spouse. The need for a man or woman to run the farm and raise the children were critical and their practical minds
sent them searching for a spouse immediately.
Susanna married Johann Theodor Lohmöller two months after
her husband’s death and in German tradition, he took the name of the family farm and was called Wilbers. He and Susanna had three girls and then sadly she died in 1827 when Bernhard was a week into his ninth
year. Following his dead wife’s example, he married Euphemia Mersch two
months later. Euphemia and Theodor probably parented Bernhard because later he
inherited the farm and became Neumeier Wilbers auf dem Hörtel zu Leschede. However, it is possible that the orphaned boy lived
with relatives until he came of age to take over the farm.
Bernhard was 27 when he married Gesina Ross in 1845. Five days before the birth of his first child on 11 October 1846, Bernhard paid 100
guilders to buy his farm free and clear. The hired hand had now become Kötter
or farm owner. He and Gesina had two more children but she died in July of 1849. True to form, Bernhard married Helena Schulting four months later in October of the
same year. Helena gave birth to a girl on 22 November 1850 and died a week later. The
child succumbed three days after its mother.
On 20 Feb 1851, Bernhard married for the third and last
time. His bride was Anna Maria Schomaker who came from Dreierwalde, a village
ten miles southeast of Emsburen. She was 27 years old when they married. Bernhard was 33. The couple had eight
children over the next 17 years and Anna Maria must have also raised the remaining two children from her husband’s first
The family lived at auf dem Hörtel until Bernhard died
in 1880. Shortly thereafter three of his five sons immigrated to the United States. The eldest, Gerhard Hermann stayed and was a Heuerling (hired hand) in Bernte a town
just north of Leschede. The reasons for the three middle sons to leave their
homes could have been many but were most likely because of a lack of opportunity in Germany.
Their only choices were to live in their brother’s home or to work as a farm laborer on a neighboring farm. With
their father gone, their mother in the care of the oldest brother and no prospect of a future, the three men left and never
returned. There were two other families connected to this Wilbers family that
immigrated in the 1850s and it is possible the sons contacted them and perhaps even met with them in the States.
Descendants of Bernhard’s oldest son Gerhard Hermann,
still live in Bernte. In 2000, I had the pleasure of visiting with his great-grandson
Bernhard Paul and his family at their beautiful home on their farm in Bernte. Bernhard
Paul’s uncle Bernhard Hermann was a soldier in World War II who was killed in battle.
It is unknown when Anna Maria Schomaker Wilbers died. No record has been found of her death, however, it is likely that she died after her
sons left and she may have lived with Gerhard Hermann.
One note of interest is that most marriages took place
when the bride was older than 25 and the groom close to or past age 30. Why this
is I am not sure but it runs counter culture to the early marrying ages of men and women in the early 20th century
in the U.S.