Patricia Dombecki, Richard Drueke, Mary Kay Drueke Groening, Mariana Kopacz, Toni Wurzburg Viertel, Father Dennis Morrow, and Brother Thomas Smith, O.F.M., contributed to this family history.
Index Biography Germany Map Grand Rapids Map Census Directories Descendants Home Page
Franz Born in 1828
Dorlar, 1828-1844. Johannes Franziscus Berles was born June 27, 1828 in Dorlar, Westphalia, Germany. He was baptized June 28, 1828. His parents were Adam and Theresa Knoche Berles. Adam was from Dorlar and Theresa was from Altenilpe, 2.5 miles east of Dorlar. Godparents were Franz Nollecke and Gertrut Knoche of Dorlar.
Dorlar is in a chain of hills called the Sauerland. It is in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, or Nordrhein-Westfalen. North Rhine and Westphalia were combined into one state after World War II. When Franz lived in Dorlar, it was part of Prussia, which acquired Westphalia at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The Sauerland is mostly Roman Catholic. Dorlar is in the district of Hochsauerland, in postal code 57392, 8.5 miles from Schmallenberg.
Franz had a brother Anton Franz born in 1825 and a brother Franz Joseph born in 1827.
In 1831, Franz' sister Maria Catharina was born.
In 1833, Franz' sister Lisetta Helena was born.
In 1838, Franz' sister Theresa was born.
In 1842, Franz' brother Joseph was born.
In 1843, Franz' sister Josephina was born.
Detroit, 1844-1851. In 1844, at age 16, Franz immigrated to Detroit, Michigan in the United States. In 1844, there were 26 states in the Union. John Tyler was President of the United States. Michigan was the last state admitted to the Union, in 1837.
A biography of Franz Berles in the 1881 History of Kent County. Michigan, states that Franz worked as a printer in Detroit for two years and then as a harness maker.
In 1846, Franz' sister Theresa emigrated to America.
Regina Born in 1831
Schoenholthausen, 1831-1846. Regina Gruene (Gruhne, Green) was christened December 31, 1831, in the Catholic church in Schoenholthausen. Her parents were Johann Gruene and Anna Maria Spiekermann.
Schoenholthausen is in Westphalia in a chain of hills called the Sauerland. It is in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, or Nordrhein-Westfalen. North Rhine and Westphalia were combined into one state after World War II. When Franz lived in Dorlar, it was part of Prussia, which acquired Westphalia at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The Sauerland is mostly Roman Catholic. Schoenholthausen is in the district of Olpe, in postal code 57413, about 16 miles west of Dorlar.
Detroit, 1846-1851. In 1846, at age 14, Regina and her family immigrated to Detroit, Michigan in the United States. In 1846, there were 27 states in the Union. James K. Polk was President of the United States. Florida was the last state admitted to the Union, in 1845.
The family settled in Detroit, Michigan.
Franz and Regina Married in 1851, Have 8 Children
Franz Berles, 23, and Regina Green, 19, were married in Detroit on November 4, 1851.
Detroit, 1851-1852. After the wedding, Franz and Regina continued to live in Detroit. Franz continued to work as a harness maker.
In 1852, Franz and Regina had the first of their eight children, Frank.
Grand Rapids, 1852-1884. In September 1852, Franz and Regina and their son Frank moved to Grand Rapids, 160 miles west northwest of Detroit. The date of their move to Grand Rapids is listed in the Roll of Old Residents in the 1881 History of Kent County.
In 1854, according to the biography of Franz Berles in the 1881 History of Kent County. Michigan, Franz opened a grocery store in Grand Rapids. The grocery store was in a building on the west side of the Grand River called the Berles Block, where the family also lived. The Berles Block was on the northeast corner of Bridge Street and Turner Street, at 57 W. Bridge Street (347 Bridge Street NW after 1912). The Berles Block was on the site of what is now an expressway, US 131.
On June 12, 1855, Franz and Regina had the second of their eight children, John A.
On September 23, 1856, Franz' younger brother Joseph, 14, immigrated from Dorlar to Grand Rapids. He came by himself on the ship Clio, from Bremen to Castle Garden.
In 1857, St. Mary's Church was established to meet the spiritual needs of the German population in the Grand Rapids area. The first pastor was Father Mathias M. Marco. The 1907 History of St. Mary's Parish in Grand Rapids, Mich., lists Franz Berles as one of the founding parishioners in 1857. The history also mentions that Franz was the first secretary of the church committee.
In 1858, Franz and Regina had the third of their eight children, Elizabeth.
Franz' father Adam Berles died June 1, 1858, in Dorlar, less than five months after Elizabeth was born.
In 1858, Franz' sister Theresa married Eberhard Cordes, a farmer in Alpine Township, Kent County, Michigan. Eberhard had emigrated from Helden, Westphalia, Germany, to Westphalia, Michigan in 1836 and then to Alpine in 1844. Theresa had emigrated from Dorlar to America in 1846. Eberhard had married Elizabeth Schlick in 1853. They had one child, Joseph, born in 1855. Elizabeth died in 1857. Theresa and Eberhard had 11 children between the years 1859 and 1884, all of them living into adulthood. Cordes Road in Alpine was named for their farm.
He was still selling harnesses, but it is not clear that he was continuing to make them himself.
In 1861, Franz and Regina had the fourth of their eight children, Anna.
In 1864, Franz and Regina had the fifth of their eight children, Theresa.
In 1866, Franz and Regina had the sixth of their eight children, Josephine.
In 1867, the Berles family was listed in the Grand Rapids directory for the first time since Berles & Co. was listed in 1859.
Sometime in the 1860s, Regina's mother, Anna Maria Spiekermann Green, died. She was buried at St. Andrew's Cemetery.
Around 1867, Franz' sister Josephine Berles married Regina's brother John Green. In 1868, they had a child Anna. So, a Green sister and brother were married to a Berles brother and sister. The year of marriage is based on the year their child Anna was born.
In 1867, the St. Joseph's Mutual Aid Society was founded at St. Mary's Church. Franz was a founding member and served as its first president in 1867-74. The second president was William Hake, in 1874-78. William Hake had a wholesale liquor business and one of his employees was William Peter Drueke, future son-in-law of Franz Berles. William Peter would become president of the Society in 1894-95. The original purpose of the society was to provide members with a weekly sickness benefit and a $300 death benefit. The 1907 History of St. Mary's Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., reported that the Society had 240 members and its own building, called the Casino Club, near the Church at Third and Scribner streets. The Society continues to this day as the Casino Club with 600 members at 3260 Salerno Drive NE.
In 1868, Franz wrote a letter to a friend named Platte who had returned to Germany for a visit. Three days ealier, President Andrew Johnson had escaped impeachment by one vote. Casper Cordes is mentioned. He is the brother of Eberhard Cordes, who was married to Franz' sister Theresa. The Cordes family lived in Alpine, about 10 miles north of Grand Rapids. Casper and Eberhard's mother was a Platte and they had a sister, Theresa, who married a John Platte. The Cordes and Platte families were from Helden, Germany, about 20 miles from Dorlar, the hometown of Franz Berles. This letter was provided by Brother Thomas Smith, O.F.M., a descendant of Eberhard Cordes.
In 1869, Franz and Regina had the seventh of their eight children, Caroline.
In the 1870 census, Franz' younger brother Joseph was married to Theresa. His occupation was hardware merchant. Joseph and Theresa had three children: Josephine in 1873, William in 1877, and Edward in 1880.
In the 1872 Grand Rapids directory, in the same block as the Berles Block, appeared William Koch's undertaker business at 45 W. Bridge Street (335 Bridge Street NW after 1912). In 1906, Franz and Regina's grandson Will would marry the Koch's granddaughter Rose.
In 1873, Franz and Regina had the last of their eight children, Abigail.
On September 5, 1874, Franz' mother Theresa Knoche Berles, 72, immigrated to Grand Rapids from Dorlar with her son Anton Berles, 49, his wife Wilhelmina, 46, and three of their five children: Theresa, 16, Elizabeth, 9, and Joseph, 7. They arrived in Castle Garden from Bremen aboard the steamship Neckar. Anthony was the older brother of Franz Berles. Franz' mother Theresa lived with Anton and Wilhelmina at 15 Broadway, then at 321 Straight Street. Franz' father Adam had died in Dorlar in 1858. Anton and Wilhelmina's older sons, Frank W. and Anthony, also immigrated to Grand Rapids around this time.
Sometime before 1877, Franz and Regina's son Frank married Mary Schenkelberg. Mary died in 1877 at age 22.
In the 1878 Grand Rapids directory, Regina's father John Green was living in the Berles Block at 59 W. Bridge Street. Regina's father died sometime between 1878 and 1880.
On September 17, 1878, Franz and Regina's son John A. married Catherine Rademacher in St. Mary's Church.
On July 4, 1879, Franz' sister Josephine Berles Green, died at age 36 of heart disease. Josephine was married to Regina's brother John Green. She was survivied by her husband and their child Anna, 11. In the 1880 census, John and Anna were living with Franz' cousins at 321 Straight Street.
In the 1879 and 1880 Grand Rapids directory, the Berles grocery store was shown as having crockery, flour, and feed in addition to groceries.
The 1881 History of Kent County, Michigan includes a biography of Franz Berles. It states that
he keeps a full line of groceries, flour and feed, etc.; he also has a sample room adjoining. He carries a stock of $3,000, and does an annual business of $30,000 to $35,000. Mr. B. owns his present place of business, 50x75 feet in size. He is a member of the Old Settlers' Association and St. Joseph's Society; also the Family's Protective Society, of Michigan, and is a member of the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1882, Franz' mother, Theresa Knoche Berles, died in Grand Rapids at age 80. She was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery.
In 1882, Franz and Regina's daughter Elizabeth married William Peter Drueke at St. Mary's Church. After the wedding, William and Elizabeth lived for a couple years at the Berles Block at 57 W. Bridge Street (347 Bridge Street NW after 1912).
In 1883, after working for William Hake for seven years, William Drueke started his own liquor store with Alexander Kennedy, Drueke & Kennedy, on the east side of the Grand River at 25 Canal Street (now Monroe Avenue NW, north of Pearl). After a year at 25 Canal Street, the business was located at 76 N. Waterloo Street (now Monroe Avenue NW, between Fulton and Lewis), still on the east side of the river.
On October 7, 1883, William and Elizabeth Berles Drueke had their first of their eight children, William Francis.
In 1883, six years after his first wife died, Franz and Regina's son Frank married Mary C. They lived at 137 W. Fulton Street. Frank worked as a salesman for Welling & Carhart.
Franz Dies in 1884 at age 56
On August 2, 1884, Franz Berles died at age 56 of "Bright’s Disease of the heart." He was survived by his wife Regina and six children. Franz and Regina had been married 33 years. Following a funeral Mass at St. Mary's Church, he was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery.
The 1891 History of Grand Rapids states that the Catholic cemetery on the west side of the river is known as Mount Calvary — a plat of about seventeen acres just west of the city at the junction of Walker avenue and West Leonard street. It was purchased by Father Ehrenstrasser, the pastor of St. Mary's Church, April 10, 1882, and soon after was formally consecrated according to the Roman Catholic ritual. The land was purchased by the pastor with his own money, and during his life he gave four acres to the church, and on his death December 6, 1886, he left the remainder of the plat to the congregation of St. Mary's church, his intention, as expressed, having been to reside on the portion withheld, should he become superannuated before his death. The first member of the parish buried in this "city of the dead," was Franz Berles, August 5, 1884. Among the monuments in the course of construction, is a very elegant mausoleum to the memory of Father Ehrenstrasser, costing five thousand dollars. There are many small but tasty monuments, among which are noticed that of Franz Berles.
Regina Widowed at Age 53
Grand Rapids, 1884-1906. With Franz' death in 1884, Regina was widowed at age 53 after 33 years of marriage.Regina's son Frank Berles returned to run the Berles grocery store, with Adolph Wurzburg, under the name Berles & Wurzburg. Adolph was a nephew of William Peter Drueke's sister, Anna Sophia Drueke who married Frederick W. Wurzburg. Adolph was the son of Peter Wurzburg. Frank and his family continued to live on Fulton Street, but moved to the Berles Block in 1887.
In 1886, William Peter and Elizabeth had their second child, Antoinette. That same year, they moved from the Berles Block a half mile south to 122 Summer Street (116 Summer Avenue NW after 1912).
In 1886, Regina's daughter Theresa, 22, married Adelbert Hydorn.
From 1886 to 1888, Regina's son John A. worked as a salesman and clerk for Drueke & Kennedy.
On June 7, 1887, Regina's daughter Josephine Berles, 21, married William Peter's first cousin, once removed, Charles Drueke, 29, at St. Mary's Church. Theu were married by Father Joseph Schwick, who became pastor in 1886. They lived in the Berles Block for the first 15 years their marriage. Charles had worked as a clerk in William Peter's liquor business from 1883 to 1885. From 1886 to 1897 he was a traveling agent. In 1898 and 1899, Charles operated a saloon with Jerome Trowbridge next door to William Peter's liquor business on North Ionia Street. After that he is listed in the directories as a traveling salesman without mention of the firm name. The 1920 census lists him as a traveling salesman in the liquor business. Charles and Josephine Berles Drueke had two children: Arthur Karl, an accountant, and Marie Rose, who married Harry Langhoff and moved to Milwaukee.
On January 29, 1892, Regina's son John A. died at age 36, leaving his wife Catherine and daughter Antoinette. He was buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery with his father Franz. Catherine and Antoinette continued to live with Regina on Bridge Street. In 1900 Catherine married Ferdinand Fedewa. In the 1900 census, they were living in Westphalia, Clinton County, Michigan. In the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses, they were living in Portland Village, Ionia County, Michigan.
In 1892, Regina's daughter Caroline married Adolph Bodenstein. Adolph was born in Wisconsin. In the 1900 census, Caroline and Adolph were living on Bissell Street in Chicago, Illinois. Later, they lived in Streator, Illinois.
From 1895 to 1902, Franz' nephew, Frank W. Berles, was secretary-treasurer of William Peter Drueke's wholesale liquor business.
In 1897, the Berles & Wurzburg grocery store went out of business. Upon the death of Franz Berles, the store had been taken over in 1884 by Regina's son Frank and Adolph Wurzburg. In 1897, Regina, age 65, moved in with William Peter and Elizabeth Berles Drueke at 122 Summer Street. Regina's son Frank and his family continued to live in the Berles Block on Bridge Street. Regina's daughter-in-law Catherine continued to live in the Berles Block on Bridge Street until 1898, when she moved to 15 West Broadway.
In 1900, Regina's son Frank got a job as a collector for the Grand Rapids Water Works. In 1903, he was promoted to inspector.
In 1904, Regina's son Frank and his family moved out of the Berles Block to 169 Scribner Avenue (707 Scribner Avenue NW after 1912). In 1907, they moved to 211 Coit Avenue (763 Coit Avenue NE after 1912). Frank continued to work as inspector for the Water Works. In 1909, Frank invested for a brief period in Knape & Vogt and became a partner with John Knape and Englebert Vogt, son-in-law and son of Charlotte Drueke Vogt. Charlotte was a sister of William Peter Drueke.
Regina Dies in 1906 at Age 72
On June 4, 1906, Mary Regina Green Berles, died at age 72. Regina was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery with her husband Franz and her son John A. She had been a widow for 22 years. She had been living with her daughter Elizabeth since 1897.
Two weeks later, on June 28, 1906, Elizabeth's son William Francis Drueke, 22, and Rose Viola Smith, 24, were married at St. Mary's Church.
Franz and Regina: 8 children, 22 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren
Index Biography Germany Map Grand Rapids Map Census Directories Top Home Page