Juhnke Family History -- Introduction

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Juhnke and Frances Kaufman

Carl and Frances Meet. Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Juhnke and Frances Kaufman, immigrants from German-speaking communities in Eastern Europe, were married in Yankton, South Dakota, on November 21, 1876. The groom at this wedding, at 35 years of age, was more than twice as old as the bride, who was 17. According to family oral tradition, they first met at the Old Germania Hotel in Yankton where Frances, who came from the Mennonite community at Freeman, South Dakota, had gotten a job. Carl had spent some time in Wisconsin before coming to northern Nebraska. Neither Carl nor Frances had living parents. It must have been a small wedding. The couple began life together on a farmstead in Knox County, Nebraska, not far south of the Missouri River.

Carl Juhnke's Origin and Family. Carl Juhnke (1841-1918) did not tell much about his family background or his coming to America. He said that he and his older sister, Fredericka (1836-1902), who also came to America, were orphans. They left no record of their parents' names. In the absence of documented information, we are left with unreliable oral tradition. Carl may have left in order to escape conscription into the Prussian army. Some family members remembered that he spoke of a tall brother who remained in Europe, and that he sold some pigs in order to raise money for passage to America.

When did Carl immigrate to America? It was probably in 1869, the year Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated president, although there is some evidence for an earlier year. The Carl Juhnke record on the Federal Census for both the 1900 and 1910 record gives 1869 as the year of immigration. We must assume that he gave this same date to the two census takers who gathered their information ten years apart. The year 1869 fits with the story that Carl left Prussia to avoid military service. The Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870.

However, when Carl died in 1918 a notice of his death which appeared in the Christlicher Bundesbote states that he had come to America in 1861 when he was twenty years old. Perhaps this is an error. The American Civil War began in 1861 and it does not seem to make sense for Carl to escape Prussian militarism by going to America which was in a Civil War. The numbers of European immigrants declined severely during the American Civil War. More than four times as many German speaking immigrants came to America in 1869 than in 1861. It is likely that Carl Juhnke came with the larger migration, but we will not know for sure until we find more reliable evidence, such as his name on an immigrant ship list.

Where did Carl and Fredericka come from? According to the obituary published at the time of his death, Carl was born in "Hinterpommern," which in English is Farther Pomerania. (Some family accounts mistakenly give this place name as "Hinterkonnern" or "Hiterkonnern.") Farther Pomerania was a Baltic Sea Coast province east of the Oder river. During Carl and Fredericka's childhood, Pomerania was part of the state of Prussia. Today it is a part of Poland. From 1713 to 1861, four men on the throne as King of Prussia had the name of Frederich Wilhelm (I-IV). Carl's parents gave him two middle names, Friedrich Wilhelm, after the names of the Prussian royal line. When Carl went to America, Otto Von Bismarck was the chancellor of Prussia and was engaging in the wars which unified Germany into a modern nation under Prussia's leadership.

Fredericka Juhnke married Albert Knopf in 1865 and they had a son, August Friedrich, the following year. According to family tradition, Albert was drafted into Bismarck's army and never returned. Fredericka dropped the name Knopf for both herself and her son. In 1870, with her brother Carl's financial assistance, Fredericka and August Juhnke emigrated to America. Fredericka married Carl Suenram, and lived on a farm near Yankton, not far from Carl and Frances' farm. Both of these families later moved to Kansas. August Juhnke whose name was changed to Yuhnke when he became a naturalized citizen, participated in the Cherokee Run of 1893 and began farming in Oklahoma. In 1901 the August Yuhnke family moved to Chico, California.

When August Yuhnke died in 1936, the newspaper notice said he had been born in Schleswig-Holstein, combined provinces which were annexed to Prussia in 1866. Schleswig-Holstein is just south of Denmark, about two hundred miles west of Farther Pomerania. How did Fredericka Juhnke get to Schleswig-Holstein? The details about the origins of the Carl and Fredericka Juhnke family in Europe remain obscure. The family history by Barbara Beitzel, Heritage of August & Alwina Yuhnke, contains some interesting information, but also includes some fanciful stories and numerous historical errors. Further genealogical research will be necessary to get reliable information about the family origins of Carl Juhnke.

Frances Kaufman's Origin and Family. Frances Kaufman (1859-1899), unlike her future husband, was born into a strong extended family and community tradition. Her people were Mennonites who traced their origins to Switzerland. Frances' Swiss identity was so strong that she told the census taker in 1880 that her father had been born in Switzerland. In fact, the Kaufman family was several generations removed from Switzerland. Their Swiss ancestors, who had been part of the Anabaptist reformation, fled persecution and moved northward in the seventeenth century to the provinces of Alsace and the Palatinate. The Anabaptists were persecuted because they followed teachings they found in the New Testament which were not acceptable to the established state churches. They practiced adult baptism and refused the oath and military service. In the late eighteenth century Frances' people migrated again, this time to eastern Europe. They eventually settled in Volhynia, a province on the shifting border of Poland and Russia. They came to be known as "Swiss Volhynians." When they came to America, most of them traveled in large groups rather than as individuals.

Frances was the daughter of Jacob Kaufman (1800-1873) and his third wife, Maria Unruh ( -1862). She was her father's eleventh child. She was fifteen years old at the time of the migration in 1874. Because both her parents had died by that time, she had to learn to be independent. The dislocations of her early life help account for her lack of education, her youthful employment in Yankton, and her early marriage to an older man. Frances could not read or write. On a mortgage of 1884 she signed by making a mark rather than writing out her name.

Nevertheless Frances was a strong woman who took initiative and who had the support of an extended family. The family pictures reveal her sitting tall and proud at the center of the family. She used the name of Frances for herself, rather than the more formal Francisca, but she was also known informally as Frehnie, Freni, or Fannie. One of the surviving mementos is a calling card decorated with flowers and with the name, "Mrs. Frances Juhnke." It is no surprise that her family eventually moved into the heart of a Mennonite settlement and that all of her children became Mennonites and married Mennonite partners.

Carl and Frances in Nebraska. On June 4, 1877, Carl Juhnke registered his patent for 160 acres in Frankfort Township, Knox County, Nebraska, under the Homestead Law of 1862. The farm was about two miles south of the Missouri River, seven miles north of Crofton, Nebraska, and twelve miles from Yankton, South Dakota.

On their homestead in Knox County, Carl and Frances Juhnke lived not far from friends and relatives. It is not known, however, how Carl Juhnke was related to other Juhnke families in northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota. Two of Carl's close friends were Carl Bartz and Charles Mischke. These three men apparently took out naturalization papers at the same time in 1875, according to the District Court Journal of Hartington, Nebraska. Family tradition says that Carl Bartz and Carl Juhnke worked on the Charles Mischke farm. Carl Bartz was married to Hanna Juhnke.

Life on the Nebraska agricultural frontier was difficult, but the Juhnke family found ways to survive. In the spring of 1880 a Nebraska census taker recorded that the value of the farm was $500 and the value of the livestock was $300. They had four horses, five milk cows, four pigs, and thirty chickens. In 1879 those chickens laid 150 eggs. They harvested three grain crops: Five acres of Indian Corn produced 200 bushels; eight acres of oats produced 180 bushels; eighteen acres of wheat produced only 36 bushels. The census records are not always accurate, but they do give some indication of the diet of the Juhnke family. They ate a lot of potatoes and bread.

Although the production figures of the Carl Juhnke farm in Nebraska are not impressive by modern standards, the increase in value of the land was spectacular. In 1883 Carl Juhnke sold his farm to Hulda Loeber for $3,000 -- not a bad profit for land received free of charge as a homestead from the United States government.

Frances Juhnke was eighteen years old in 1877 when she gave birth to her first child, Ida, on October 13, 1877. Three more children were born while they lived at the Knox County farm: Ernest (b. April 4, 1879), Emma Mary (b. June 6, 1881), and Lydia Clara (b. November 17, 1883). The children were all baptized as infants in the German Evangelical Church.

Carl and Frances Juhnke family, 1893

Carl and Frances in Kansas. In 1883 Carl and Frances and their four children moved from Knox County, Nebraska, to McPherson County, Kansas. Frances apparently took the initiative in this move. She arranged for the purchase of land which had belonged to the school district in Turkey Creek township, section 36. She came to Kansas before Carl and lived several months with her brother, Daniel Kaufman. The new Juhnke farmstead was five miles west and one and a quarter miles south of Moundridge. Here Frances gave birth to three additional children: Otto (b. Jan. 29, 1886), Wesley (b. Jan. 13, 1891), and Karl (b. Aug. 30, 1893). Here also the family was saddened by the death of Emma and Lydia of diphtheria on successive days in the summertime.
In McPherson County Carl and Frances and their family attended the German Evangelical Church, located near their farm, on the line between McPherson and Harvey Counties. When the members of this congregation decided to move to Moundridge, Carl and Frances were among a small group who opposed the move and who decided to conduct separate worship in the Mound schoolhouse. Otto was baptized as an infant in a ceremony in Mound school. Later this small group dissolved. Carl and Frances then began to worship with the Hopefield (Hoffnungsfeld) Mennonite congregation. Although Carl never officially joined the Hopefield congregation, he was buried on the south edge of the Hopefield cemetery.

The Kansas state agricultural census records for 1895 and 1905 show that the Carl family farm was a diversified operation. They doubled their farm size in that time, from 160 to 320 acres. They planted wheat, corn and oats, and a smaller amount of rye. In 1895 they had an orchard with forty bearing apple trees, ten bearing cherry trees, and three bearing pear trees. They milked four cows and made their own cheese and butter. They cut prairie hay to feed cattle during the winter, and they butchered farm animals for meat. It seems clear that Carl Juhnke prospered as a family farmer both in Nebraska and in Kansas. His decision to come to America had been a good one.

Death of Frances Kaufman Juhnke. Frances Juhnke died after a brief illness on October 24, 1899. She was forty years old. Her living children were all still at home, the youngest of whom was Carl, age five. According to family tradition, Frances' death was hastened by the broken engagement of her daughter, Ida. Ida had been engaged to marry Christian J. Goering, a young preacher at the Hopefield-Eden congregation. Frances looked forward to the honor of having a son-in-law who was a minister. But Christian broke the engagement, and local gossip said it was because Ida had been infant-baptized and did not come from a fully "Mennonite" background. Whether or not it contributed to Frances' death, the broken engagement was a humiliation for the Juhnke family. In 1900, not quite a year after her mother's death, Ida married Simon J. Stucky, who was from one of the most prosperous and prominent families of the Mennonite community. No doubt Frances would have been proud of that match as well.

Carl's Second Marriage. About two years after Frances' death, probably in 1901, Carl Juhnke married Elisabeth Flickinger Zerger (1852-1946), a widow. Elisabeth had been married in 1872 to Joseph Zerger and had lived with him in South Dakota and Kansas. They were charter members of the First Mennonite Church of Pretty Prairie, Kansas. Joseph had died in 1885. The 1910 census identifies Elisabeth, wife of Carl Juhnke, as "Lizzie," and notes that she was unable to read or write. At that time there were only two children left in the home, Wesley (age 19) and Carl (age 16). The family tradition says that Carl and Elisabeth did not get along well together and that they eventually separated. Divorce was unthinkable at that time in the Mennonite community. Elisabeth's death notice in the paper in 1946 discreetly says, "Later she made her home with her children."

Death of Carl Juhnke. In his later years Carl Juhnke lived alone at a farm in King City Township of McPherson County. When he was no longer able to care for himself his children took turns caring for him in their homes. He died at the home of Ernest and Alvina Juhnke near Elyria on November 2, 1918. This was just nine days before the end of the First World War. William Ernest Juhnke, Carl's grandson, remembered how Ernest put silver dollars over Carl's eyes to keep them closed in death.

While we know little of Carl Juhnke's life before his migration to America, we do know that he became a successful independent farmer in Nebraska and Kansas. He was fortunate to get land on the frontier at low cost, and he improved his property over time. He and his wife Frances reared a family of five children who grew to adulthood, and who all in turn spent most of their lives on Kansas farms. The Carl and Frances Juhnke family was one of deep religious piety, for whom the life of the congregation and of the Spirit was important. They transmitted a goodly heritage to their descendants.

Spread of the Juhnke Family. The descendants of Carl and Frances Juhnke are increasing in number and spreading over America and the world. The Juhnkes, however, are a relatively small clan. According to The World Book of Juhnkes, published in Ohio in 1995, there is an estimated total of only 2,178 persons in the world by that name, 807 of whom live in the United States. That number would be greater if it would include descendants of Juhnkes who changed the spelling of their name.

In Germany the name Juhnke is well known. Harald Juhnke is the name of a popular television personality, a variety show host who has been called "the Johnny Carson of Germany." The Berlin city telephone directory for 1991-2 included 49 listings with the name of Juhnke (and 390 with the name of Jahnke). Further genealogical research is necessary to find the family relationship of Carl Juhnke to other Juhnke families. The most likely connection will be with Juhnke families who settled on the northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota frontier at about the same time as Carl Juhnke in the 1870s and 1880s.

James C. Juhnke
Wheat harvest time
June 1994

The Children of
Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Juhnke and Frances Kaufman:

Ida Juhnke (1877-1953), m. Simon J. Stucky (1878-1952)
Ernest Juhnke (1879-1957), m. Alvina Kaufman (1884-1962)
Emma Mary Juhnke (1881-1889)
Lydia Clara Juhnke (1883-1889)
Otto Daniel Juhnke (1886-1971), m. Anna Stucky (1886-1972)
Wesley Carl Juhnke (1891-1957), m. Amelia Graber (1894-1978)
Karl William Juhnke (1893-1973), m. Katherine Mathilda Goering (1893-1974)

Note on Sources

This genealogy is a successor to one compiled and edited by Roland Juhnke in 1958, The Family Tree of Karl Juhnke. The above essay was based in part upon additional information gathered by William E. Juhnke from a variety of sources. One important source, for example, was an interview William had with Otto Juhnke on April 3, 1970, at the Bethel Home for the Aged in Newton, Kansas. William traveled to the site of the original Carl and Frances Juhnke homestead in Nebraska and worked to find Carl's relation to other Juhnke families. He investigated records from church congregations, courthouse registries, and the state and federal census. Among the key published sources for this family history are the following:

Beitzel, Barbara A. Heritage of August & Alwina Yuhnke. Typed and photo duplicated, ca. 1978.

Dyck, Cornelius J. An Introduction to Mennonite History. Third Edition. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1993.

Juhnke, Carl. Obituary, Christlicher Bundesbote, December 5, l918.

Juhnke, Roland, ed., The Family Tree of Carl Juhnke, 1958.

Juhnke, William. Juhnke (The Ernest and Alvina Juhnke family), 1983.

Kaufman, Frances. Obituary, Christlicher Bundesbote, November 9, 1899.

The Peter and Elisabeth (Graber) Kaufman Family Record 1770-1987. North Newton, KS: Kaufman Genealogy-Committee, 198B.

Schrag, Martin. The European History of the Swiss-Volhynian Mennonite Ancestors of Mennonites Now Living in Communities in Kansas and South Dakota, 1956.

The World Book of Juhnkes. Bath, OH: Halbert's Family Heritage, 1995.

Back to the Juhnke Family History Main Page

By James C. Juhnke, jjuhnke@bethelks.edu

Web page by Joanne Juhnke, joannethatsme@yahoo.com
Last updated 11 August 2009.