Xaver Aleck

Even more so with Xaver than Charles Aleck, I have nothing new to add to Eileen and Vivetta’s research from The Smart Aleck so, I will simply post what was written by them.  I believe Eileen provided a copy to each of her nephews and nieces.  I only have a copy of that copy, so the photo’s in my copy are not that great.  If you know where one of the three copies in our family is, I encourage you to look for it and peruse it, if not admire the copies of letters, family photos, and key documents/records.  Oh – and if anyone is ready to give a copy up, I am always receiving. 😃

Eileen and Vivetta did a very thorough job and found things that I probably would never have been able to find.  Genealogy in their day consisted of more travel and first hand interviews of family members to get all the different stories remembered and re-told by known living descendents.  He is also profiled in The History of Harrison County Iowa, probabaly contributed by Myrle Gage Grimes.

From The Smart Aleck by Vivetta Aleck Jorgensen Emmer and Eileen Aleck Albert (1986)

Xaver was the sixth child, third, and youngest son of Lorenz and Agatha A1eck. His twin brother, Karl, died in infancy. When he was 14 years old, in 1842, his father died. He was sent to St. Gallen, Switzerland to live and continue his education with his older brother, Josef, who was seven years older than Xaver. He did not stay long. The two brothers were too different. Josef was a strict taskmaster and expected more than Xaver wanted to give. Xaver was very independent and did not like being bossed by his brother. He felt rejected and resented his family and position–he felt he should have the same advantages as his older brothers. When he was fifteen, he left Josef and became a tailor’s apprentice. In 1845 he began working for master tailors–traveling around the country.

He was issued a “Wanderbuch” which he had to carry with him–this was his identification. Whenever he went to a new location he had to go to the police station and have the “Warlderbuch” stamped. Each master he worked with wrote comments about his work and about him as a person. Typical remarks were that he was a good worker, was clean, and he had money. This “Wanderbuch” he carried with him to America and has been preserved and is in the possession of Vivetta Emmer.


The Wanderbuch or Wander Buch means journey book.  This image is the Wander Buch of a man named Wilibald Koch who’s immigration paralleled timewise with Xaver’s immigration to America.

Xaver was a young and ambitious young man. Conditions in Germany in the 1840’s and early 1850’s didn’t offer much for his future social and economic advancement. There was a lack of political freedom, heavy taxation, crop failures, high prices, mandatory military service, and machines were replacing the handwork which was leaving many jobless. It seemed he could hope for little more than to barely eke out a living–his efforts would not be justly rewarded. Too, letters from relatives and neighbors who had immigrated to America were being passed from hand to hand, reporting an abundance of cheap land, light taxes, the need of laborers and the opportunity to gain competence in a short time of toil. Newspapers were filled with accounts either of immigrants or regarding immigration. Xaver’s father had wanted to go to America and George, his brother, had already emigrated in 1849. Emigration seemed most attractive to Xaver for several reasons. The hope for betterment of his earthly condition; he had not fulfilled his required military obligation; he did not have the most satisfactory family relationship; and probably not the least of which was adventurous spirit, “the wanderlust”, the impulse to see the world. Immigration to America seemed to offer a solution. Xaver decided to go to America. He sailed from LaHavre, France on 9 September 1852 on the ship “Olivia”, arriving in New York on 7 October 1852.

He did not join his brother, George, who was now residing in Philadelphia, Penn.–he didn’t want any favors. Three days after landing in New York he was in Williamsburg, King County, New York, situated on the East River directly opposite the city of New York, where he worked at his trade until Christmas when he went to Philadelphia and joined his brother, George. He resumed his trade there.

Xaver was raised in the Catholic faith but it is said that after he came to America he read the Bible and from that point on he rejected the Catholic religion and thereafter did not claim a religious affiliation.

On 11 July 1854 he applied for his United States citizenship indicating that he intended to stay in America.

Much cheap land with good soil was available in the west just by going and claiming it. Xaver had a keen desire to possess land and so was greatly attracted. Too, he had met Christiane and was getting anxious to settle down.

He worked at his trade of tailoring until March 1855 when he went West, having no particular destination in mind. He took a railroad ticket from Philadelphia to Chicago with the stop-over privilege. He worked in Chicago three weeks and then started for St. Paul, Minnesota. This was the last of April and Lake Pepin was still frozen over and the boats were not running. Thinking that Minnesota was too cold a country in which to live, he abandoned the idea of going to St. Paul and instead went by boat to St. Louis, arriving there the first part of May. He stayed in St. Louis three days then went to Westerly, Iowa where he worked at his trade for awhile and then on to Council Bluffs, arriving there in July.

He and five others started with ox-teams into Nebraska to take a claim. Their wagon was of the old linchpin style, and while out on the prairie about two days drive, they lost one of their linchpins. This, at first, seemed a serious accident, but by the use of their ingenuity, a pin was provided from a piece of their whip-stock. Besides this, they had forgotten the very necessary axle-grease. It would be necessary for at least one to go back or all could go back. They used salt pork to wrap the axle and all went back to Council Bluffs. This trip satisfied his Nebraska fever—he said he would not live in a country where there was not enough wood with which to make a linchpin. Having come from the Black Forest area in Germany where there was an abundance of wood, he could not imagine living where there was no wood. It is a known fact that immigrants chose the location where they settled similar to the area they came from.

After returning to Council Bluffs, he worked in a brickyard for the rest of the season. He was not used to this kind of work and found it to be very hard.

That winter of 1855-56 he worked as a cook for a gang of men who were erecting a sawmill.

The next spring a young senator, Senator Logan, was going to be married and asked Xaver to make his wedding clothes. Xaver went home with him to Harrison County, Iowa. Xaver looked around and was favorably impressed with the country and found the settlers to be friendly. “A man at that time was not obliged to tell a falsehood in order to procure a glass of liquor”. He had found the place he wanted to settle.

On March 1856 he made a land claim in Cass Township in Harrison County on the Pigeon Creek. He worked for Lindley Evans for one yearly during which time he performed the necessary improvements on his claim as was required for preemption. By 1 May 1856 he had laid a foundation and had erected a dwelling house on that foundation. By July 1856 he had around twenty acres of ground broke. During that summer he was sick with the “ague” and the weather had been too bad the fore part of the winter; therefore, he was unable to finish the house before 1 March, 1857.

During a hearing on 21 April 1857 regarding the right of Xaver to pre-empt, the improvements are described as follows: the house is 16×18 feet square and about seven feet high; has a clapboard roof and a plank floor; has one door with a shutter hung and one window with sash and glass. Some of the logs have been made out of one and they may have been hewn down on the inside. It is partly chinked and daubed and partly lined with canvass. There is a cooking stove and utensils in the house. He had erected about 10 to 15 rod of fence, enclosed a door yard, made a corn crib, and set out about 15 fruit trees. Xaver was residing in the house at that time.

During this time he wrote to his mother telling her she need not worry about him for he was as independent as Adam and Eve, the only difference was that he had to plant his own apple trees, a gentle reminder that he thought he was in the Garden of Eden. He also indicated to her his interest in marriage and his need for financial assistance in getting started.

Now that he had purchased land, built a house, and established himself, he was ready to settle down and make a home. In 1858 he returned to Philadelphia hoping to claim, as his wife, the girl he had fallen in love with. Before Christiane would accept Xaver’s proposal of marriage, he had to agree to take her family West with them.

In order to become a naturalized citizen, one must have lived in a state for one year and in the United States for five years. The Declaration of Intention or “first papers” was to have been filed three years previously. Xaver had met all the requirements to be naturalized. On 27 September 1859 Xaver filed his “final papers”, took the Oath of Allegiance, and was issued his Certificate of Naturalization. He was now a citizen of the United States!

On 18 February 1860 Xaver and Christiane were married. George Aleck, Xaver’s brother, and Johann Geiger, Christiane’s uncle, were witnesses. They had a fine wedding picture made and sent it back to Xaver ‘s mother, Agatha. Christiane was a small thin woman, her dark hair parted in the middle and drawn back into a bun. Her dress was black silk with long sleeves, a full pleated skirt, a white lace yoke, and a black tie at the neck. Xaver wore a long coat, white shirt with a high stiff collar and a wide bow-tie. The vest was piped in satin and the trousers were pin-striped with dark horizontal stripes. He is holding her left hand with the wedding ring in his right hand ready to slip it on Christiane’s finger. His long dark hair receding at the temples, comes to the center of his ears. He is wearing side-burns, a mustache and a beard. He would look very much in style in the 1980’s,

Xaver’s and Christiane’s wedding picture was found hanging among other family pictures on the living room wall of Elizabeth Denzel in Pforzheim. After her death, this picture was sent to Vivetta Emmer who has it now.

Xaver, Christiane, and the Geiger family went West to Council Bluffs, Iowa by train, and from Council Bluffs went on to Harrison County, Iowa by wagon and oxen. Xaver entered upon his life-time occupation of farming.

It is uncertain whether Xaver took Christiane to the dwelling house he had built on his claim. Tradition has it they lived in a sod house. Regardless, it must have been difficult for Christiane. She had been used to living in the city with close neighbors and family. She had done housework in fine Philadelphia homes. Now she was isolated in the country with no close neighbors and her house was very crude and small.

What did they do with the fancy wedding garments? Where, in that tiny house, did they keep their marriage license, citizenship papers, the “wanderbuch”, and the letters from his mother? After the death of Joseph Aleck, 106 years later, these documents and letters were found.

In June 1863, during the Civil War, Xaver’s name appears on a Consolidated List of persons of Class I subject to military duty in the Fifth Congressional District in the State of Iowa. Class I comprises all persons subject to do military above the age of 35 years and under the age of 45. Information given for Xaver states his age as 34 years of age and married. Actually by June 1863 he would have been 35 years of age. We know he did not serve in the military during the Civil War. Either he was not drafted due to his age or he furnished a substitute to serve in his place, however, no records have been located to confirm these theories.

After the birth of their fourth baby, in about 1867, Xaver built a log house with a loft for sleeping. They lived in this log house until after the birth of their eighth baby in 1873. By this time Xaver had prospered and they built a large two-story house.

Politically, Xaver supported the American form of government. He was not in sympathy with the prohibition laws of Iowa, believing that it did not help the moral condition of affairs and took away one feature of personal rights vouchsafed under the constitution. He believed the platform of the Temperance Party which said the power of the Government comes from the Lord, was not correct; he believed that the power of our nation comes from the people, and that the laws are fixed by the education and ideas of those making up the Government.

The young German immigrant had done well. He had gradually purchased land until his farm comprised 720 acres. He had raised his family and he had money in the bank. He was a respected citizen in the community. He could not complain of his treatment in America.

A family member says, “Xaver used to visit them on Sundays and drove the finest surrey and horses anyone had ever seen”.

When his first grandson, Xaver, was born in 1897 he came to see the baby and offered his parents, Joseph and Ida, $5.00 (a lot of money in those days) if they would name him “Xaver”.

After cultivating his farm for about forty years, in 1900, Xaver and Christiane moved to Logan. They lived in a large two-story house two blocks west and one block, south of the court house.

On May 12, 1901 Xaver made his last Will and Testament in which he dictated his desires as to how his estate was to be distributed among his heirs (see Will).

After Xaver’s death, 28 June 1903, Christiane just fell apart–she just couldn’t cope by herself. Xaver had always told her what to do. She was taken to St. Bernard’s Hospital in Council Bluffs where she died 3 December 1903.

The epitath on Xaver’s tombstone reads: “Man is an atom–it lives and dies but the life principal is eternal”.

Clipped from Newspapers.com Davenport Morning Star (Davenport, Iowa) 30 Jun 1903, Tue Page 2.  The Smart Aleck provided a much lengthier and detailed version, but I was not able to identify which paper/publication date, and it did not come up in the search results.  It’s possible that the newspaper it came from is not digitized on Newspapers.com.