Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fathers of Mine: Frank R. Geyer

This is the fourth (and for now, final) of a series on the men who make up my paternal line, the first was about my father Harlan Martin Geyer Jr, the second was about my grandfather Harlan Martin Geyer Sr, and the third was about my great grandfather Francis Grant Geyer.

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Frank Geyer
1862-1938

Frank Geyer was born Franz Freund on April 16, 1862 in the village of Johannesburg, near Ashaffenberg, Germany. His mother was Maria Anna Freund and his father is not listed in the baptismal record. It is noted on the record that Frank (Franz) was adopted by Vitus Geier upon his marriage to Maria Anna Freund when Frank was two years old. It is possible that Vitus was Frank's father and he and Maria didn't have the money to marry, but the fact that he isn't listed in the baptismal record as the father does cast doubt upon that. It's not known whether Frank knew of his questionable parentage, but there was no rumor of it among his descendents and it came as quite a surprise when we found out about it in a search of the Catholic archives in W├╝rzburg.

Frank's marriage certificate lists his parents as Victova (or Victoria) Geyer and Anna M. Freund. His mother's maiden name was also spelled "Fruiend" by family members, but the proper German spelling would be "Freund". All that is known by us about Vitus Geier is that he worked in a beer brewery and was later killed when he was run over by a beer wagon.  After Maria Anna passed away, the story passed down to us is that Vitus remarried and had more children, but no further record of the Geier family was found in the Johannesberg area.  There are no Geiers living in the area now, either.

Frank's mother died in 1867, when he was five years old. On September 23, 1876, at the age of 14, Frank left his father, sister Elisabeth, step-mother and five half-brothers in Germany to sail to the US with his uncle Josef (later Joseph) Freund. The family is listed as arriving in New York on October 6, 1876 on the ship Main from Bremen, and on the manifest, Frank is listed as nine year old Franz Freund.
Family tradition is that he stayed in New York City for six months, working days at a brush factory and attending school at night. His son George Geyer told Vernon Capps in 1967 that Frank worked as a shoe repairman in New York, having learned that trade in Germany. Family tradition also tells that he came with his cousin Frankie Freund to Iowa. In the 1915 Iowa State Census record for Frank, it states that he has been in the United States for 39 years and in Iowa for 34 years, leading to the conclusion that he and Frankie came to Iowa sometime around 1881.


26 year old Frank Geyer in 1880


On December 25, 1888, Frank married Lucinda Ellen Griffith. Their marriage license is difficult to read, but it appears that they were married at the bride's parents' home in Wellman. The witnesses were H. W. Denker and [illegible]. They were married by Rev. W. Chew. Upon their marriage, Frank changed his religion from Roman Catholic to Methodist Episcopalian. Their son George told Vernon Capps that his father had a big farm, 200 acres and raised good gardens. Before they planted gardens or trees on their farm, they used to go to the Griffiths to get their fruits and vegetables. When George and John were little, they remembered that their mother would let the neighbors help themselves for free to the gardens and fruits that they raised.


Frank and Lucinda Geyer with their boys
Back (L to R): George, Leonard, Grant, John
Front (L to R): Wilbur, Lucinda, Frank, and Harold

Frank and Lucinda had six sons, Leonard Lawrence (1890-1945), George Everett (1891-1971), Francis Grant (1897-1951), John Walter (1899-1983), Wilbur Griffith (1906-1993), and Harold Wayne (1908-1940). They lived in the Wellman, Washington, Iowa area except for five years spent near Pipestone, Minnesota from 1899 until 1904.


1922 Geyer family reunion
Standing (L to R): John and Margaret Geyer (children Harriott, Elloise), Grant and Grace Geyer, Wilbur Geyer, Harold Geyer, Leonard and Sylvia Geyer (child Leota), George and Jennie Geyer (children Beatrice, George Jr).
Seated: Frank with grandsons Kenneth (on Frank's right knee) and Harlan (on Frank's left knee), and Lucinda with Irene


My grandfather Harlan remembered his grandfather as being a very hard worker. Over 75 years later, he also still remembered the little bit of German his grandfather had taught him, "Eins, zwei, drei," ("one, two, three"). He told us that his grandparents grew everything they could get seeds for and his grandmother filled the basement with preserves.


Frank and Lucinda Geyer on their farm (before 1935)

Frank died of either a stroke or a heart attack on March 29, 1938 in his farmyard in Wellman. He was buried in Bunker Hill Cemetery about 3 miles west of Wellman, Washington, Iowa, but was removed to the Wellman Cemetery when Lucinda died in 1951.

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Frank Geyer Found Dead In Barnyard of Farm Home

Wellman -- Mr. Frank Geyer, 75, was found dead in the barnyard of his farm home, three and one-half miles northwest of Wellman, Tuesday afternoon. He had been in failing health for sometime and had been confined to his bed recently. Death is believed to have been caused by a heart attack.

Mr. Geyer was born in Johnsburg, Germany, April 16, 1862, and came to Iowa with an uncle when 13 years old. He lived in the Washington Prairie community for several years and married Miss Lucinda Griffith December 22, 1888. The couple settled on the Wishard farm near Wellman where they lived until moving to their present home, with the exception of five years passed in Minnesota.

Surviving are the widow; six sons, Messrs. Leonard and Grant Geyer of Wellman, Wilbur Geyer at home, George Geyer of Scranton, John Geyer of Thornburg and Howard Geyer of near Iowa City; 22 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. One sister and five half-brothers in Germany also survive.

Funeral services will be held at 2 o'clock tomorrow afternoon in the Wellman Methodist Episcopal church. Burial will be in the Bunker Hill cemetery.

Source: "Wellman Man Dies Suddenly," Iowa City Press Citizen 30 Mar 1938, page 9, last column.

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Gravestone of Frank and Lucinda Geyer
Wellman Cemetary, Wellman, Washington, Iowa

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