Biography of Carl Henry Gehrke

Carl Henry Gehrke has been a resident of Champaign, for thirty-three years and many years ago he established a bakery which has grown and prospered, every year seeing additional equipment and increased trade, until the Gehrke Illinois Bakery now does an immense wholesale and retail business extending all over this section of Illinois. His business success consists in building up this large plant, and along with his prosperity has come the esteem of a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

Mr. Gehrke was born in the city of Velpke, Province of Brunswick, Germany, June 18, 1852, a son of Henry and Elizabeth (Schultz) Gehrke. Both parents were born, lived and died in Brunswick, Germany. His father was a stone cutter by trade, while the grandfather, Henry Gehrke, was a school teacher. Mr. Gehrke thus represented the substantial stock of German citizenship, many of whose virtues his own life has amplified. Henry Gehrke and wife had eight children: Henry, now deceased; Carl H.; Herman, also a resident of Champaign, Illinois; Otto, deceased; August and Mary, still in Germany; Minnie, wife of Henry Schroeder, of Sidney, Illinois; and Alvina, still in Germany.

The compulsory system of education in Germany requires a boy’s attendance at school until fourteen. At that age Carl Henry Gehrke left school to begin an apprenticeship in a baker’s shop at Helmstead. Having completed the apprenticeship he returned to Brunswick, his home town, and then gave three years to his country as a member of the Black Hussars, a noted organization of the German army. After his military service he engaged in the bakery business at Magdeburg, Germany, for three years, and then returned to Brunswick and followed his trade until 1884.

Mr. Gehrke came to the United States and located in Champaign, Illinois, in 1884, and the first five years he spent in the city he worked as a journeyman baker. With this experience in American business life and with some capital representing his modest savings, he started a shop of his own at 207 East Clark Street. He has been continuously in that location for over a quarter of a century, and he has invested a large amount of capital in the construction and equipment of a modern two-story brick sanitary bakery known as Gehrke’s Illinois Bakery. He has taken the greatest of pride in maintaining the high standard of his products and has been as careful in his attention to the technical side of the business as to the commercial end of it. Mr. Gehrke is strictly independent in politics. He is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America and of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

On January 25, 1881, three years before he came to America, he married Miss Sophie Bank, of Schoppenstedt, Germany. Mrs. Gehrke died January 2, 1913, the mother of five children: Robert C. is associated with his father in business. Otto C. was accidentally killed when struck by an Illinois Central train while driving one of the Jewel Tea Company’s wagons on January 27, 1917. He had married Mary E. Short, but had no issue. Alma is the wife of John Ross, of Champaign. Jennie is the wife of Harry Haveng, of Champaign. Amanda is the wife of Albert E. Hendricks of Urbana.

Robert C. Gehrke, who is associated with his father in business, is one of the progressive men of Champaign and is not only doing well in business but is rapidly becoming an important influence in local affairs. He was born in Brunswick, Germany, May 4, 1884, and was brought to America in early infancy. He attended the public schools of Champaign, took a course in a business college, and then joined his father in the Illinois Bakery. He has since become competent to assume the heavy responsibilities of that plant and thus relieve his father in a measure.

In politics he is an active democrat and served as alderman from the fourth ward until the adoption of the commission form of government on May 1, 1917. Robert C. Gehrke is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America, the Loyal Order of Moose and is a member of St. Peter’s Church. On August 14, 1902, he married Anna T. Lynch, of Quincy, Illinois. They have two children, Robert, born June 21, 1903, and Miriam, born October 28, 1906.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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