Brief Gerking Family History
Oral tradition from Nancy Angeline Gerking Junkin as written by William Sumner
Missouri was a border state and the settlers were divided on the question of
slavery. Bitter feeling existed between the Union Loyalists and those favoring
the Southern cause. At the call of President Lincoln to put down the Rebellion,
we find at least three sons of Jonathan Rice Gerking and Nancy Meyers Gerking,
namely: James, Benjamin F., and William Gerking going to serve in the Union
The enlisting company to which they were assigned suffered while in training
from an epidemic of measles and were disbanded and all sent home. This was early
in the spring of 1862. Grandfather Jonathan Rice Gerking immediately sold his
farm, loaded his wagons with household goods and supplies, and about April 1,
started for Oregon. He was accompanied by his sons and daughters and others.
They were joined at Twin Springs, Nebraska by an ox train from Iowa. A Mr. Yont
was selected captain of the expedition that included Mr. Williamson, Mr.
McIntyre, Mr. Joe Goodman, and others. The first Indians encountered were at
Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Because of wild rumours about the Mormons and their
"Destroying Angels," disguised as Indians, and lying in wait for the smaller
unprotected wagon trains, the party was apprehensive as they approached the
Mormon settlement in Utah. However, no hostile events were encountered. On one
occasion, Nancy, age 7, and other young daughters of the party were playing some
little distance from the camp when a party of Indians suddenly appeared and
caused them to be badly frightened. As they all started for the camp, Nancy with
the rest, Nancy thought of her little niece, with whose care she had been
entrusted, and returned, picked up the baby, and though, badly frightened,
carried her into camp without mishap.
The party arrived, in due time, and settled on Howell's Prairie, in what is now
the Bethany district near Silverton, Oregon, in Marion county. Jonathan at first
rented the Tom Shaw place, later buying a tract of land on the road to Silver
Creek [now Silverton]. This is near the present Bethany Church and Cemetery.
Uncle Mert Gerking estimated the land to total 60 acres. This land sold in
1871/2 and the family moved to Centerville [now Athena] in Umatilla County,
Oregon. Here land was entered in Indian Reservation area thrown open for
settlement. Jonathan and sons and son-in-laws settled on adjacent claims on what
is now known as Gerking Flat.
(The above is
borrowed from the Frazier Farmstead Museum. A considerable amount of
Gerking family research is available there.)