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Wahn and Wilbers Family History
Joseph Wilbers - From Immigrant to Family Man

There is discrepancy over Joseph Wilber's birth date.  His death certificate says he was born 17 Aug 1859.  His age at immigration in November 1882 is twenty and the record of his second marriage at St. Aloysius says that his birth date is 5 Aug 1862.  The most reliable source is the Kirchebuch (Church book) of St. Andreas in Emsburen.  The date given for his birth is 24 August 1861 at about four in the afternoon and his baptism took place the next day.  His godparents are his mother’s brother, Joseph Schomaker and his father’s second mother-in-law, Gesina Schulting.


Gerhard Joseph Wilbers is the third son of his father, Bernhard’s third marriage.  His brother Johann Gerhard, known as George, is five years his senior and is the first to immigrate to America in July of 1880.  Younger brother by two years, Andreas Heinrich, known as Henry, leaves two years later in June of 1882 and finally Joseph arrives in New York on 3 November 1882 sailing from Amsterdam on the Ship Jason.  He makes his way to the city of Covington, in Kentucky across the river from the metropolis of Cincinnati. 


In 1882, Covington is a thriving area, growing with the influx of immigrants many of German descent.  George lives on Western Avenue in Covington and Henry takes up residence in Cincinnati.  Joseph does not appear in a city directory in either location until 1890 when he is listed as a carpenter and lives at 145 Robbins Street, Covington.  By then he has married an immigrant woman from a town not too far from Emsburen.  She is Elisabeth Prues born in Sudmerzen, who came to America in August 1884.  Elisabeth lived in Covington with her cousins, the Reinersmann family, at 21 Riddle Street.  How Joseph and she met will forever be a mystery but they attend the same church, live in the same neighborhood, speak the same language and are both recent immigrants so there are many opportunities for well meaning friends or relatives to get them together. 


What Joseph does between 1882 and 1888 is unclear.  Perhaps he lived with his brothers in one place or another and learned the carpentry trade.  George had married in late 1883 but Henry was still single.  Since the brothers were all in the same business it is likely that Joseph was industrious, working and putting aside more money than he’d ever earned in his lifetime.  This would pay off later, he would be able to purchase property and have a home.


On Tuesday, 1 May 1888 at St. Aloysius Catholic Church on the corner of Seventh and Bakewell Streets in Covington, Elisabeth and Joseph are wed.  Their witnesses are Joseph’s brother Henry and Elisabeth Ruether, wife of August, the man who escorted Elisabeth on her trip to America.  He is a relative but it is unclear how at this time.


Where they live after they marry is unknown but in 1890 Joseph’s home address is 145 Robbins Street, near 10th and Russell, and his brother George is a few blocks south at 267 W 13th Street near Holman.  On 9 April 1891, Joseph purchases 721 Dalton Street for $525.  I would guess that this was for the lot only and if a house stood there it was not of much value given the price at the time of sale.  My bet is that Joseph added to an existing structure on the lot with the help of his brothers.  The property stood at the top of a low rise overlooking Willow Run Creek


By the time Joseph’s address appears as 721 Dalton in the city directory, the year is 1892. Also at this address is George Schaller, a wood turner.  Perhaps George and Joseph occupy the livable area of the house and make building improvements, or perhaps there was an extra room for Mr. Schaller to rent.  Impossible to say but nonetheless, by the end of 1892, Joseph and Elisabeth now had three children, Elizabeth, Joseph and Anna. 



721 Dalton Street
Built ca. 1890

Joseph and Elisabeth Prues Wilbers Wedding
1 May 1888 Covington, Kentucky

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