Forty-two years ago Gustavus Charles Wilkens, a native of the fair land of Poland, left the dominion of the Czar to seek his fortune in America, and being favorably impressed with the possibilities open to him in this country he lost no time in renouncing his allegiance to the Russian government.
Mr. Wilkens belongs to a race of liberty-loving people who have long cherished an ardent desire to regain their national independence, but the iron hand of imperial Russia still holds them in subjection. His father, Ludwig Wilkens, born in 1801, was in the service of the Russian government, having been at the mint for some time, and subsequently had full charge of large pulp and paper mills in Warsaw, Sacifa and Bozizno. In addition to his business ability he possessed a varied knowledge of the world and its affairs in general, having circumnavigated the globe, but his career of progress was cut short by his untimely death, which occurred when he was forty-seven years old. Ludwig Wilkens was married in 1842 to Caroline Teichman, who was born in Modzerowo, Poland, March 4, 1820, and is still living. Her father was the owner of three large freight boats plying on the Vistula river, which were destroyed by the Russian government forces during the Polish rebellion of 1830. Caroline (Teichman) Welkins’ mother was before marriage, Minnie Anglehart, born in Vloclawek, Russia, in 1978, daughter of a Polish shipbuilder at Vloclawek on the river Vistula, who died in Modzerowo at the advanced age of ninety-seven years. The children of Ludwig and Caroline (Teichman) Wilkens are: 1. Gustavus Charles, see forward. 2. Caroline, born in 1846, married (first) Frederick Kroll; married (second) Frederick Schroder; three children by first marriage. 3. Samuel, born in 1848, married twice and has a large family.
Gustavus Charles, eldest child of Ludwig and Caroline (Teichman) Wilkens, was born in Poland, August 8, 1843. He attended the public schools in Vloclawek, western Russia, and at the age of fourteen years was apprenticed to a butcher. He subsequently worked in various places in Germany and Austria, also in different cities in Russia, and was in the meat and provision business on his own account at Chechocinek for seven years. From Chechocinek he came to the United States, landing in New York, November 11, 1869, and proceeding to Philadelphia, was employed for a short time by Boucher & Company. In 1870 he began to learn the mason’s trade at Mt. Vernon, New York, but was compelled by ill health to relinquish work temporarily, and upon his recovery he resumed his trade in Newark, New York, Mercantile pursuits were, however, far more congenial to him than the trowel, and he therefore determined to resume the provision business. Locating at Geneva, New York, in 1871, he opened a meat and provision establishment in the William Knight block on Exchange street, under the firm name of Wilkens & Zobrest. After the withdrawal of Mr. Zobrest in 1872, Henry Schroder was admitted to partnership, and purchasing the latter’s interest in 1873 Mr. Wilkens conducted the business for nine years. He was next associated with Frank C. Hofmann, for several years, and at the expiration of that time he removed to Rochester, New York, where for two and one-half years he conducted provision stores on West Main and Front streets. Returning to Geneva he re-established himself at 28 Castle street, and carried on a profitable business for fourteen years, or until his retirement. He is now (1910) devoting his time to his real estate interests and also the management of a farm of eighty acres located in Waterloo, Seneca county.
He is also president of the Allen Drug Company, of Geneva, and associated with Frank C. Hofmann in the drug and ice cream business at Auburn, New York. In politics Mr. Wilkens is a Republican. He belongs to the Masonic Order, being a member of the blue lodge and chapter. He is a prominent member of the Evangelical Church of America, serving as trustee, class leader, treasurer, and upon the advisory board and for forty years has been active in church work.
Mr. Wilkens married in Bozizno, Russia, November 11, 1862, Caroline Kroll, a native of that place. Children: 1. Olga, born in Russia, January 11, 1865, married, in Geneva, New York, H. J. Finn, and has Irene, born July 17, 1892; Hazel, born April 10, 1893. 2. Louise, born in Russia, November 12, 1867, married Carrie Miller, of Auburn, New York, in 1901, and she died in September, 1906, have one son, Fred Wilkens. Mr. and Mrs. Wilkens also brought with them from the old country an adopted son, Charles Crane, who married, and after the death of his wife, they took charge of his two children, one died soon after and they reared and educated the remaining one, Olga Crane; she lives in Rochester.
Mrs. Caroline (Kroll) Wilkens’ father was Fred Kroll, and the maiden name of her mother was Nellie Schroeder. He was born in Germany in 1813, died in 1863. The brothers and sisters of Caroline are Frederick, Charles and Nellie.