Beginnings in Germany.
H.W. (Heinrich Wilhelm) Rincker was born in Herborn, Germany, on June 25, 1818. He was the oldest son of Philipp (1795-1868) and Elizabeth Treupel Rincker (1791-1862) who were wed in 1817. As a young man, H.W. Graduated from the University Carlsruhe in Germany and married Johannette W. Kunz. H.W.'s father owned & operated the Rincker Bell Foundry (still in existence and now the oldest such foundry in Germany). Mathilde “Tillie” Hemman wrote (H.W.'s granddaughter), "The oldest son traditionally got the business, but H.W. wanted to be a minister. So Philipp disowned his son."
Crossing the ocean to America with 75¢ in his pocket.
Having lost the support of his family, H.W. moved with his wife and children to the United States around 1846. Tillie wrote: "H.W. landed in Chicago penniless. When he and his family arrived in America, he only had 75¢ to his name."
Tillie went on to relate how H.W. met an elderly gentleman who had a small bell foundry in Chicago. Since H.W. was young and had worked at his father's foundry, the old man was happy to hire him as help. Eventually, the old man sold his bell foundry to H.W. who paid him back a little at a time. H.W. cast many bells for the railroads.
The first bell foundry in Chicago was that of H.W. Rincker on Canal Street near Adams. In 1848 H.W. cast the bell for St. Peter's, Chicago's largest church. In 1854, he cast the bell for the Court House which was used as a public alarm. The Court House bell was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
|The Chicago Courthouse had a Henry W. Rincker bell. The building was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.|
|The Chicago Courthouse (the center structure) after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.|
Tragedy strikes – twice.
In 1849, Chicago was plagued with its first major cholera epidemic. Sadly, H.W.'s wife, Johannette, and one of their two young sons, Frederick, died. They were buried in Lincoln Park as were many other victims of the epidemic.
H.W. married a second time in 1851. His new wife, Anna Margareta Ganz (1821-1896), was an immigrant from Bavaria, Germany.
|H.W. built his new home at 6384 N. Milwaukee Avenue near Devon and Nagel Avenues in 1851, now the site of Walgreens.|
Life goes on - H.W. as a landowner and minister.
H.W. and second wife Anna went on to have six children, the youngest being Odilie Christina Rincker (1856-1940).
|Rev. Heinrich Wilhelm Rincker|
in his robes (date unknown).
H.W. eventually organized and led several parishes in Shelby County, Illinois, as a circuit preacher. As Robert Hemman, a great grandson of H.W. wrote of H.W. in a high school family history project: "He spread the gospel with Bible and rifle." Tillie noted: "H.W. did all his traveling by horseback. One night when he was coming home, his horse stopped and would not move, so he got off the horse, lit a match and found he was in front of a deep embankment."
In 1865 he was called to become the first pastor of a newly-formed Lutheran church in the small town of Sigel, in Shelby County. Rev. H.W. Rincker organized the St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Strasburg, Illinois, on April 15, 1866.
Continuing to use his skills as a bell maker, H.W. established a bell foundry in Sigel, Illinois. In 1866-67 he was called to St.Louis, Missouri, to make (or re-make) bells for some Lutheran churches in that area. At least nine are known to have been made then.
H.W. made a bell for the Sigel church in 1875, although by then he was no longer the pastor there.
H.W. accumulated wealth over the years he was in business and bought a large tract of land in Niles, Illinois.
|Grain Farm & Residence of W.H. RINCKER - Sec 23, Prairie Tp.(10) P.5, Shelby County, Illinois (1881)|
When his youngest daughter, Odilie, was 18, H.W. asked her to marry his good friend, Johann Hemmann (1828-1891), who was 28 years her senior. Johann was recently widowed and the father of four children ranging in age from about 15 to 21 years. Although Odilie wanted to be a nurse, she married Johann to please her father. They had two children: Mathilda "Tillie" (1877-1971) and John Emil Hemmann (1890-1954). Johann died when Emil was an infant.
H.W.'s last years.
After living in a small four-room house for many years, H.W. built a large nine-room home and later added a large kitchen and a belfry where he hung his farm bell in Niles Township, Illinois.
|The Henry Rincker House, Niles Township, Illinois|
H.W. Rincker had a stroke and died in Herborn in 1889. He was 71. In 1896, H.W.'s wife, Anna, passed away in Herborn at age 75.
Tillie never tired of talking and writing about her Grandfather H.W. I believe she held him in very high esteem.
None of his eight children followed in the bell founding trade.
The passing of H.W. Rincker.
Mr. Rincker, an old and respected citizen of the prairie was stricken with paralysis Sunday morning and died in his home Wednesday night at 8 o'clock p.m. on November 27, 1889 at the age of 71 years. He was unconscious from the moment of the attack until he died. He was buried in the Rincker cemetery on Saturday, November 30th. Mr. Rincker was more than an ordinary man, was well educated in the German language, and at the time of his death had a fine, large library. The family and sorrowing friends have the sympathy of all with whom they are acquainted.
|Before being destroyed by a fire and razed in 1980, the house was the second-oldest in the city and the only remaining example of German Gothic Revival architecture in Chicago.|
Biography of Heinrich Wilheim (H.W.) Rincker (1818-1889) complied by: Patti Hemman Koelle (the Great Great Granddaughter of H.W. Rincker)
Edited by: Neil Gale, Ph.D.
- Anna Wilhelmine Mathilde "Tillie" Hemmann (1877-1971) thru her recollections and writings during the 1950s and the 1960s.
- Rincker Family History (1795-1962).
- "The History of Chicago" by Hon: John Moses and Joseph Kirkland, Volume 2, Published by Munsell & Co. 1895, Page 407, Ch. 9 - Part 4.
- Autobiography of Robert J. E. Hemman (mid 1930s), Great Grandson of H.W. Rincker.
- Rosadelle Hemman Schultz (Robert Hemman's sister) in taped interview in 1980s.
- Robert J. E. Hemman's genealogy research.
- Biographical Record of Shelby County.
- Family history research by Patricia Hemman Koelle.