GIBSON CITY — Tom Dueringer of Smyrna, Tenn., formerly of the Gibson City area, presented the Ford County Historical Society with a gift on behalf of the Dueringer family — an 1860 version of a map of Illinois — during its Nov. 16 meeting at the Moyer District Library in Gibson City.
Dueringer presented the gift to the group after he presented the program “Destination Guthrie” — the story of his family’s 3,800-mile journey in 1867 from Hanau, Germany, to Liverpool, England, to the U.S., down the Ottawa Trail and finally to Guthrie in Ford County, just north of Gibson City. The map given to the historical society “clearly and distinctly shows the Ottawa Trail from Ottawa down through Ford County and on to Danville,” Dueringer said.
The map — which is in a “beautiful wooden frame and museum glass by Hobby Lobby,” Dueringer said — will be displayed at the historical society’s Water Tower Museum behind City Hall in downtown Paxton, which is open from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturdays or by appointment by calling 217-379-4111.In the program he gave to the historical society, Dueringer explained in great detail how his family ended up leaving Germany and arriving at its eventual destination of Ford County:
“Our great-great grandfather Karl Wilhelm (William) Dueringer in 1854 in the province of Theringer in the town of Hanau east of Frankfurt made a fateful decision that would generations of our family for years to come. Germany in the 1850s was a country caught up in political unrest, riots, rebellion and turmoil. Karl was greatly concerned about what real future his family would have in that political and economic environment. Others were of the same opinion: In 1854 alone, 210,000 fellow Germans would also immigrate to the land of opportunity, America.
“It was decided that Karl, head of the household, would make the journey to America, establish himself, then send for his family, which consisted of his wife, Anne Marie, and four children, Katherine, Johann (John), Fredericka and Karoline.
“On March 15, 1854, Karl departed Hanau and arrived in Liverpool, England. On April 4. he booked passage on the packet ship — a full rigged schooner Blackhawk. On the morning of April 14, 1854, 859 passengers departed Liverpool for the port of New York — a journey that was expected to take three weeks. On April 15, after departing Liverpool, the Blackhawk began encountering heavy seas and a falling barometer.
“A day later, the ship was in serious danger. The crew and passengers began pumping water and throwing cargo overboard. By the 19th, flares and signals were sent up to get help from passing ships. Four ships would arrive over the next couple of days to rescue passengers and the crew. Some were transferred on board the ship Carrituck, including our grandfather Karl. The Blackhawk would sink two days later, losing all their personnel belongings.
“All passengers and crew arrived safely in the port of New York on May 17, 1854. After getting on his feet and re-establishing himself as a cigar maker in Newark, N.J., he sent for Anne Marie and Johann, then the next year Katherine and Karoline and, lastly, Fredericka in 1856.
“In 1860, Johann, yearning for fresh air and to escape the confines of the city, went west as Horace Greeley recommended: ‘Go west, young man.’ He traveled the Erie Canal and through the Great Lakes and would end up in the growing metropolis of Ottawa, Illinois, on the Illinois River.
“Much like the Germany they left in 1854, America was hurtling into an unavoidable Civil War. The country was being torn apart by states rights and slavery. With the election of Abraham Lincoln of Illinois as the 16th president, six Southern states declared their succession from the Union. On April 12, 1861, Confederate soldiers fired on Ft. Sumter and the unavoidable war was on. President Lincoln sent out a call for 75,000 troops to put down the armed rebellion.
“One of those heeding the call was 16-year-old John Henry Dueringer. He enlisted Nov. 2, 1862, at Freedom, Illinois, into the Yates Sharpshooters — afterward known as the Illinois 64th Regiment. He would fight in three major engagements: New Madrid Island, the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, and Fort Pillow. He was fired upon 19 times. Eventually, the rigors and hardships of war would catch up with him. He was honorably discharged and was mustered out May 15, 1863.
“After his discharge, Henry returned to LaSalle County and convinced his father and family to join him in the rich, fertile soils of Illinois. On his arrival, Karl would purchase 80 acres in Wallace Township of Lasalle County.
“After getting his parents settled there, Henry would be married and started exploring a place for his wife and growing family to settle and live. He and Henry’s brother-in-law Jacob Morsch headed to the newly formed Ford County — the last in the state to be formed — and it was there, after traveling the Ottawa Trail, that John Henry would purchase his first tract of 80 acres in Section 21 of Dix Township for $11 an acre.
“Eventually, John Henry and his family of 12 children — which consisted of eight boys and four girls, including two sets of twins — would spread their wings to all parts of America. Four of the boys — including my grandfather Charles — would settle in Ford County, specifically Guthrie, his brother Gilbert with a dairy farm in Melvin, brother Oscar in Roberts with a general store and brother John near Gibson City.