Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

John Woelk

JOHN WOELK. In the death of John Woelk, which occurred in February, 1916, at the age of eighty-six, Pawnee County lost one of its early pioneers and one who was long a sturdy and thrifty farmer of River Township.

Mr. Woelk was born in West Prussia, a son of Martin Woelk, a farmer at Klein Czyte in Kreis Kuhn, where he died at the age of sixty-nine. Martin Woelk married Christine Schilling, and their children were Martin, John, Conrad, Christian, Caroline, William N., Anna and Margaret. William N. is still engaged in farming in Pawnee County.

John Woelk was married first in his native country to Miss Strobel. On coming to America he lived for several years at Alpena, Michigan, and from there came out to Kansas in 1879, making the journey by rail. He bought a tract of railroad land in Pawnee County, and that land is still owned and occupied by his widow. In that section of River Township John Woelk spent the rest of his industrious and profitable years. His first Kansas home was a sod house. It was in that house that his son Conrad was born. It consisted of a single room and in later years it was used as a smokehouse. John Woelk began farming with a yoke of cattle and broke his first ground with the aid of those animals. He also cultivated his crops with an ox team, and in the early years did all his planting by hand. There were hard times in every phase and variety and the Woelk family determined to remain with the country when most of the other early settlers were getting away as fast as they could under the stress and affliction of drought and other vicissitudes. In time John Woelk succeded[sic] in making his land support him and those dependent upon him, and he contrived to make his payments regularly to the railroad company. Railroad land was cheap, though a few dollars meant more than $100 today. As he prospered he surrounded himself with better comforts, building a frame house to succeed the sod building and also extending his land purchases. He bought two quarter sections for his oldest son and his stepson. His own efforts as a farmer were chiefly directed to wheat growing, though he also succeeded in raising sufficient stock for the use of his family. In 1911, five years before his death, he built a wonderfully attractive home, a ten room house, which is the admiration of the countryside. Its comforts were a great solace to him during his last years. He had also constructed two handsome barns, one 66 by 16 feet and the other 16 by 40 feet. Of his farm he had 130 acres under the plow. He had experimented with fruit growing, setting out several orchards, but the returns from them perhaps never justified the labor and care.

After coming to America he took out citizenship papers and afterwards regularly voted the republican ticket. He was a member of the German Lutheran Church. During his residence in America he acquired a fair command of the English language.

By his marriage to Miss Strobel he had three children: Fred, of Salem, Oregon; Mrs. W. L. Curtis, of Seward, Kansas; and Mrs. Matilda Navarre, of Alpena, Michigan.

For his second wife John Woelk married Mrs. Helena (Wiedersheim) Grabezewske. In the old country both the Wiedersheims and the Grabezewskes were entitled by station and standing to the prefix "Von" to their name. Mrs. Woelk, who still owns and occupies the old farm, had by her first husband three children: Fredericka, wife of William Schultz, of Metz, Michigan; Julius, a retired farmer of Larned; and Mrs. Hulda Curren, of Clovis, New Mexico.

Conrad H. Woelk, only son and child of John Woelk by his second marriage, was born on the old farm in Pawnee County August 30, 1879, and has spent his entire career in this locality. He was educated in the country schools and has identified himself successfully with farming. Some years before his father's death he took the active management of the farm, and in stock raising and wheat growing he has carried out the practices justified by the experiences of his father. His best wheat yield was thirty-five bushels to the acre and at one time wheat was hauled from his farm to Great Bend and sold for as little as 25 cents a bushel. This era of low prices has since been offset by the high scale of $2.50 a bushel paid in 1917. Like his father, Mr. Woelk has voted as a republican, but has never sought nor filled office. He is a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen of America and is unmarried.