Johann Heinrich Gorger (Goerger/Goerges) son of Arnold and Maria/Gertrude Gorger, was born in Westphalia, Germany (probably Beelen) on October 1, 1814. Stories of him relate how he worked on the docks of Hamburg at twelve years of age. At this same time he decided to go to America and devised several large barrels to hide in during the trip. When he was ready, he hid in the barrels until into the journey when he was found out by several sailors. He made an arrangement with them to do their work for food and to keep his presence a secret. Once they reached New York harbor, the sailors smuggled him through customs onto the streets to find the way on his own.
In approximately 1837, Henry joined other Germans settling in Clinton County, IL near the newly formed village of Germantown. Here he married a widow, Catherine Lors Kniepmann at St. Boniface Catholic Church on February 1, 1842. Several children were born in Germantown: Gertrude was born August 19, 1843, Edward was born December 18, 1844, Anna Margaretha was born August 24, 1850, and Mary was born in 1852.
In 1842, Henry and a neighbor rode by horse to Chicago (a three day trip one way) to help form the first Union Stockyards. Henry raised cattle and oxen to two years of age for plow and wagon. Around 1850, Henry joined Col. Wingate’s wagon train and headed to California for gold. When they reached South Pass, Henry and others parted from the company to follow rumors of gold in the Columbia Gorge. Their party was hijacked, so they walked the rest of the way to Oregon. Having found no gold, they traveled to Seattle, obtained work on a freighter going to San Francisco. They found no gold here either, so hooked up again with Col. Wingate’s train and worked their way home as scouts for the wagon train. On the way, they were caught in a snow blizzard several days ahead of their train and would have perished had not the Paiute Indians rescued and nursed them back to health. Henry returned to the gold fields some years later and did find some wealth. He had a broach made for Catherine out of gold nuggets and she reportedly wore it on all occasions.
Early in 1855, Henry’s family traveled by steamship to Stearns County, MN, homesteading near St. Cloud. He became a naturalized citizen September 18, 1860 and purchased 160 acres of land July 1, 1861. By now other children had been born at St. Cloud: Bernard (Barney) on June 19, 1855, Elizabeth, born 1858, Frederick, born 1860, William F, born 1863, Anna born 1863, and George. Five year old Anna Margaretha had been left with Anton and Christina Dietz in Germantown, IL when the family migrated to Minnesota. She married Henry Duepmann and their descendants still live in the Germantown area. William migrated to Ione, Oregon while Bernard and Edward established their lives near St. Cloud. Many of their descendants still reside in those areas. Catherine (or Rosa) and two daughters, Anna and Mary returned south to live in St. Louis, MO while Henry and sons stayed near St. Cloud. Rosa died in St. Louis about 1897. Henry died of dropsy at eighty years of age on April 16, 1894. He is buried at St. Mary Help of Christians Cemetery, St. Augusta, MN.
Submitted by: Jeanne Goerger (great-great-grandaughter)
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