Dr. Christian William Stempel began the CHAIN OF WENDISH MIGRATION TO IOWA.  He, his children, & his GRAF in-laws were the FIRST KNOWN WENDS to enter IOWA and make it their home.


He had moved to PEITZ, where his first 11 of the children, of 1st wife Louise SCHINDLER & her sister, 2nd wife, Dorthea Charlotte Emilie SCHINDLER had been born. In 1831, the retired Dr. & family moved to DRACHHAUSEN; Charlotte having 3 more children before she died in 1837. It is not known which of the children were from his first wife, but Hugo, was the first child born in DRACHHAUSEN, in 1831.  A 3rd marriage, to Johanna GRAF, a young woman from Peitz about the same age as his oldest son, was believed to be below Dr. Stempel’s social standing, at least by some of the siblings; produced 7 more children, by May of 1847. This was a grand total of 21 children.


Dr. Stempel was a retired army surgeon who had served during the opposition to the invasion of Napoleon. Being a doctor may have played a role in the survival of so many of his children. The four older children, being married, with children of their own, stayed behind; along with his 3rd wife, Johanna, & their 7 children, while the rest traveled together to the USA.



 1) Christian Wilhelm STEMPEL, 72, retired doctor, of DRACHHAUSEN & 7 Children from his 1st & 2nd marriages a Sister-in-law & Brother-in-law:

 2) Herman STEMPEL, 23, Missionary

 3) Pauline STEMPEL, 18

4)    Adolph STEMPEL, 17, farmer

5)    Adelheit STEMPEL, 16

6)    Hugo STEMPEL, 14, farmer

7)    Louis STEMPEL, 11

8)    Loui GRAF, 27, farmer from PEITZ (brother-in-law)

9)    Emile GRAF, 25 of Peitz (possibly the wife of Loui Graf)

10)        Adam BERGAMI, 47, farmer of COTTBUS


This group traveled 7 weeks, from BREMEN, GERMANY to BALTIMORE, MD, on the three masted sailing ship “ANN,” arriving OCTOBER 18th, 1847; where they rested for several days.


They then took a land route through the Alleghenies, to Brownsville, Ohio, by horse drawn wagon; followed by a boat ride up the MONOGAHELA  RIVER, turning west on to the OHIO RIVER, & eventually north on to the MISSISSIPPI RIVER to KEOKUK, IA, where they were forced to stop due to ice on the river. They tried to settle in KEOKUK but could not find housing; so, the next day they quickly backtracked south, by wagon, to FORT MADISON, IOWA.  Here they rented 2 rooms, which became their 1st home in the USA, arriving on NOVEMBER 18, 1847. This leg, adding 1 month to their ocean voyage; got them to IOWA in just under 3 months.


It was their intention to continue their journey when spring came; though the original destination they had in mind is not known. When spring arrived, the family had so many new friends; they decided to stay in FORT MADISON.


According to his son, Guido ‘s biography, hoping to invest his money, Dr. Stempel purchased a large piece of land he believed to be of the best quality, according to local “sharpers,” who apparently mislead him.  Situated between Fort Madison and Burlington, on the Mississippi “bottoms,” near the river, the larger portion of the land was one to six feet under water when the spring thaw came.


On the 2 February, 1848, just 10 weeks after Dr CW STEMPEL arrived in Fort Madison, he purchased an almost unbelievable amount of land. In a series of 5 deeds on the same day, totaling 858 acres, plus a lot in town, he spent a whopping $3,250. This substantial sum was equal to 16 years salary for the average man, at the time.


Part this piece of property was located on the 1874 County Atlas, in Green Bay Township, Lee County, Iowa. It is situated north of Fort Madison and on a piece of land that almost be termed a peninsula, because the Mississippi River borders two sides of it, while the  tributary waters of the Skunk River borders the north edge, with the legal description of:



The “SE ¼ in section 20 of Township 68 N, Range 3 E/W of the 5th PM”


In 1874, this 160 acre parcel sat 1 ½ miles north of the Mississippi River and was listed as being owned by the “Stempel Heirs.”  In the “1916 Standard Atlas of Lee County Iowa,” the south east corner of the property, about 20 acres, are actually underwater, or part of the Mississippi River, so the property was “waterfront.” It was owned by the Mississippi Power Company. It is difficult to know why the heirs, poverty stricken orphans, held on to this property for 24 years after their father’s death.


By 2008, the south east corner of this property is known as:


37th Avenue and 200th Street, Wever, Iowa 52668


It is once again about one mile from the Mississippi River.



Much of the rest of the land was of questionable value. It was located closer to the river, some of it likely adjoining or being river front, on the 1874 map it is clearly on the Mississippi shore line and by 1916, much of it is under water, and from one foot to 60 feet under water, some of it a mile out in the water.  The exception, or better piece of land, is the one described above, which may have been far enough back to be relatively safe from the yearly spring floods.


In the summer of 1848, 12 year old son Louis Guido and two of his older brothers moved on to the farm, living in its one room log cabin. The oldest was the manager, the next was the cook, and young Louis was a “roustabout,” with the main job of tending the cattle by riding about through the 5 to 6 foot high grass. He also carried a gun and was also responsible for hunting and fishing.


In the winter of 1848, or perhaps early in 1849, Dr. Stempel’s third wife and the remaining younger children arrived in FORT MADISON.


The boys from Dr. Stempel’s second family, were hugely successful men, even with this shaky start. Among them, the oldest, Hermann STEMPEL, who had been a teacher in Germany, became a doctor and practiced under his father in FORT MADISON, becoming County Treasurer and United State Revenue Gauger. Having an interest in botany, he had one of the best collections of plants in the region for that time. He was the father of 9; one of whom also became a doctor.


Hugo Carl (HC) became an attorney and Deputy Clerk of Courts in Lee County where he practiced for many years and fathered 5 children. 


Guido Louis also became a medical doctor; while he was the Stewart of the Iowa Penitentiary in FORT MADISON.  Eventually moving on, he opening a drug store in CEDAR BLUFF, IOWA, and finally settling in MACEDONIA, IOWA, where he practiced medicine for many years. In his later years, he preferred to devote his time and energies to scientific research, having the best collection of butterflies and birds in the state. Throughout his entire life he was interested in the study of ornithology and entomology.                                                                      


Daughter Pauline married Friedrich HERMINGHAUSEN, a produce merchant, about 2 years after her arrival in the USA and had 8 children in the Fort Madison, Iowa area.


Daughter Adelhiede married tailor Frank KOEHLER, 3 October 1855, and had 6 children, before her early death at 38 years of age, very likely in childbirth.  Her niece, Anna STEMPEL, the oldest daughter of her older brother Robert, came from OQUAWKA, ILLINOIS and moved into the KOEHLER home in FORT MADISON, IOWA, keeping house and caring for the children for many years. Anna returned to Illinois and never married.


Though experiencing many hardships, the STEMPEL FAMILY was hugely successful in their careers and lives in IOWA.  Language may have played a role in this. Unlike other Wends who followed, Dr. Christian William STEMPEL was fluent in German as well as Wendish. While later Wends, speaking Wendish only, often isolating themselves in small farming groups; the STEMPEL’S were able to become part of the mainstream, taking important jobs in the community. At this time half of the US population spoke German.


Several extensive biographies are found in various county histories of IOWA.  It is believed they wrote back to friends in DRACHHAUSEN about their hardships and successes, encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.                                                                        

(Revised May 10 , 2008)





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