by Bob Wrege
The church book from Lychen, Brandenburg, Germany records that on January 4, 1846 Carl Andreas Wrege, a master carpenter, died at age 49. From this we know he was born in 1796 or the first week in 1797 but we do not know the full date nor the place of birth. He was my great-grandfather and the earliest relative I have found. The death notice lists among his survivors an unnamed illegitimate minor child. This child is probably Carl Fredrich Heinrich Wrege whose name appears later in the church records reporting his marriage March 12, 1860 at age 23.
Carl Fredrich Heinrich thus was born in 1837, and before March 12, 1838, at which time his probable father, Carl Andreas Johann, was still unmarried. Shortly thereafter, however, on May 13, 1838, Carl Sr., age 41, did marry Florentine Beate Christine Fischmann, age 22. The bride's father was the local innkeeper and brewer. Eight months following the wedding, on January 16, 1839, Carl Sr. and Florentine had their first legitimate child: Florentine Therese Emilie, who lived only 5 months and 13 days. It was three years before they had their next child, Caroline Therese Henriett, Born September 7, 1841.
Carl Sr. and Florentine's last child, Carl Ferdinand Julius, was born March 23, 1843. The marriage lasted 8 1/2 years, until the death of Carl Andreas Wrege. He was survived by his 29 year-old wife, two legitimate children, one 4 1/4 and the other 2 years 10 months old, and one illegitimate child, age 9. It appears a safe assumption that Florentine was the mother of Carl Fredrich and that he probably was a member of the Carl Andreas Johann Wrege household.
The widow's outlook could not have been bright. She had three young children to care for. Her mother was 68 years old and her father was possibly dead. (We know her mother died a widow six years later.) Florentine Wrege remained a widow a little more than two years. On April 2, 1848 she married Wilhelm Ernst Rudolf Kastner. She was 32, he was 24. If you wonder how a 32 year old widow with three dependent children could attract a man 8 years younger, consider that she also had a full set of carpenter tools, a house and workshop, and a customer list. Kastner was a master carpenter. He could have been Johann's apprentice and, as such, lived with the family, continuing to do so after the father's death, running the business for the widow and eventually marrying her. The Kastners had four children, all daughters. Anna Maria Louise was born September 26, 1850. Anna Marie Auguste was born on May 12, 1852. Lida Ottilie Emile was born June 15, 1854 and died two weeks later. Marie Florentine, born August 23, 1857 died thirteen days later.
At that time (1857) the family consisted of Wilhelm Ernst Rudolf Kastner, age 33; Florentine Wrege Kastner, age 41; Caroline Therese Henriett Wrege, age 16; Carl Ferdinand Julius Wrege, age 14; Anna Marie Louise Kastner, age 7 and Anna Marie August Kastner, age 5. Carl Fredrich may have once lived with them buy by now would have been 20 and undoubtedly out on his own. We know that at age 23, on March 12, 1860, he married Johanna Wilhemine Blanck, age 30. Three months later, on June 12, 1860, they had a daughter whom they named Marie Amilie Emile Wrege. This choice of names lends strength to the assumption that Carl's mother was Florentine Wrege Kastner. Her sister, who would be Carl's aunt, was named Emilie Louise Amilie Fischmann. However, if Carl was the eldest son in the Wrege and Kastner families he did not, as might be expected, learn the carpentry trade from either his father or his step-father. Instead he became a brick or tile maker. In fact, one church book entry refers to him and his wife as both being brick or tile makers. Perhaps he was apprenticed or married into the business. The child Marie lived only 19 months. No further record of Carl Fredrick Wrege has been found. My father once told me hi had two aunts: Marie and Terese (who were half sisters, although he did not say so) who married brothers Wilhelm and Karl Runge.
One of these couples had a son, Karl Runge, who was killed in war in Russia. There is no report on Anna Marie Auguste Kastner beyond age 5. My father also said he was related to Julius Fischmann of Berlin. This would have been an uncle or a cousin. My father never mentioned a bastard uncle, and in fact, said his father had no brother. He evidently did not know of Carl Fredrich Heinrich Wrege.
Carl Ferdinand Julius Wrege (my grandfather) came to America either in 1860 or 1865. My father told me he was born in 1838 and came to America in 1860 when he was 22 years old. However, the church book says he was born in 1843 so my father was wrong about 1838. That means one of the other numbers also has to be wrong but which one? Did he come in 1860 or when he was 22? If so he was but 17 years old. Or did he come when we was 22 which would be in 1865? To further confuse things a passenger list dated 7/17/1872 of the S/S Thuringia bound from Hamburg to New York listed a "C.F.W. Wrege, age 33 from Hoeldendburg/Mecklenburg has been found. The name and age do not match that of my grandfather but more nearly correspond with the name and age of his bastard brother, C.F.H. Wrege. The list should be studied further to see if he traveled alone or accompanied by one or more relatives.
Other Wreges from the same region of northwestern Germany left for America around that same time. A family connection, however, has yet to be established. J.T. Wrege, a carpenter, emigrated in 1857; Fredric Wrege, sometime in the 1860's; Carl (born 1872) in 1892.
One can wonder why a young man, either 17, 22 or 33, would leave a family business for which he was trained and to which he was heir, to go to a foreign country. I vaguely recall hearing when I was a child that he left to avoid military service. An even more vague recollection is the story that he was forced to flee after having knocked an army officer from his horse. This could be an account about someone else which I read and transferred to my grandfather.
In America my grandfather was known as Ferdinand Wrege. The first record we have of him in this country is of his marriage on October 25, 1873 to Lydia Belser, age 18. He was 30. His profession was listed as "cabinetmaker." The marriage took place in New Albany, Indiana.
So, we do not know whether he came to America in 1860 or 1865; whether he came alone or with someone; why he left Germany; where he was or what he did during the time between his arrival in American and his marriage; how or why he chose to settle in southern Indiana, or when he arrived there.
We do know he remained there until he died in 1908 at age 65, from what was reported as "a complication of diseases." Since he died seven years before I was born I never got to know him. I do not recall my grandmother, aunt or uncles ever talking about him. In addition to the few facts I have mentioned my father told me my grandfather was of medium height and build and was a radical, a Populist and a Socialist. When in his mid fifties he was afflicted with cataracts and about 1902 returned to Germany for treatment. My father, then 9 or 10 years old, accompanied him. The treatment consisted of a very strong eyewash which was extremely painful and did no good. I have two large pictures of my grandfather and one small snapshot. In these he has a full beard which covers most of his face. Two smaller pictures taken at an earlier age, one in Germany, the other in Cincinnati, Ohio show a fairly handsome man with a mustache but no beard. I have had these copied as 5X7 enlargements.
Ferdinand Wrege was a respected member of the New Albany community, a member of the German Evangelical Church and the Pythagoras Lodge No. 355 of the F and A M (Masonic). He and his wife, Lydia, lived at 1420 Chartres Street, New Albany, Indiana where they raised a family of four boys and one girl:
August Gotlob, born 7/30/1874 in Vevay, Indiana
Karl Heinrich, born 5/3/1876 in New Albany, Indiana (died at birth)
Flora Rosina, born 9/23/1878 in Jeffersonville, Indiana
Arthur Julius, born 2/26/1880
Edward Franz and Wilhelm Herman (twins) born 11/28/1884 in Louisville, Kentucky (died 8 days later)
Johannes Linley, born 10/24/1887 in Louisville, Kentucky
Ferdinand Paul, born 4/30/1892 in New Albany, Indiana