Friday, March 10, 2017

The History of Chicago's Famous Bell Maker, Henrich "Henry" Whilhelm Rincker.

Henrich "Henry" Whilhelm Rincker was born to a famous bell making family in Germany in 1818.

Henry was the oldest son of Philip Rincker. The oldest son traditionally took over the family business, but Henry wanted to be a minister. Phillip Rincker disowned his son Henry for not following in his footsteps. That's how Henry landed in Chicago, pennyless.

When he and his family of five arrived in Chicago in 1846, he only had 75 cents to his name. Henry walked the streets desperate to find work. He found an elderly gentleman that had a Foundry business and he was happy to have a young man to work for him. After some time, the foundry owner turned his business over to Henry Rincker, allowing Henry to buy his business as Henry earned money. Henry cast many bells for the railroads. 

Henry built his new home at 6366 N. Milwaukee Avenue near Devon Ave and Nagel in 1851, now the site of a Dunkin' Donuts.
6366 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
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.

The first bell foundry in Chicago was that of Henry W. Rincker on Canal Street near Adams. In 1848, Henry cast the bell for St. Peter's Church which at that time was the largest bell in the city.
The Chicago Courthouse had a Henry W Rincker bell. The building was destroyed in the Chicago Fire.
In 1854, another bell was cast at this foundry for the Chicago Courthouse, which was utilized for purposes of public fire alarm, which was rung during the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, both the bell and courthouse were destroyed in the fire. Reportedly the bell was still tolling as the building was ablaze and eventually crashed to the ground. Commemorative coins and miniature fire helmets were cast from the remains of the bell. One part of the bell was saved with the name of Henry W. Rincker on it and is in the collectiom of the Chicago History Museum.
The Chicago Courthouse after the Great Chicago Firein 1871.
Henry's first wife Johannette and a son Friedrich died in the Chicago Cholera Epidemic of 1849. He remarried Anna Gans (or Ganz) of Bavaria, Germany.
Henry accumulated wealth over the years he was in business and bought a large tract of land in Niles, Illinois.

The Henry Rincker House, Niles Illinois.
In 1856 when his daughter, Mathilde, died at the age of 8 years, Henry gave up his foundry business and moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana to study for the ministry. He was installed as minister in the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne in 1858. Upon graduation, he was called to become the pastor of a Lutheran Church in Terre Haute, Indiana, and was ordained. It’s quoted that as a minister at Terre Haute he spread the gospel with Bible and rifle.

After occasionally preaching at churches in Shelby County, Illinois, in the early 1860s, he resigned as pastor in Terre Haute in 1864 on grounds of ill health. He moved to Shelby County, Prairie Township, Illinois, and settled in Section 23. He purchased some 600 acres of land which was at the time entirely unbroken. In this area, which he named Herborn after his birthplace in Germany, he remained the rest of his years.

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. 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.

He made a bell for the Sigel church in 1875, although by then he was no longer the pastor there. He also organized neighboring congregations in Shelbyville, Stewardson and Sigel. He cast the bell for the St. Paul's Church at Strasburg, Illinois. His bell foundry in this county was located in Sigel, Illinois."

He was also a prosperous farmer, and in the 1880s was described as a "retired farmer." He died in 1889 in Herbron, Shelby County Illinois. None of his eight children followed in the bell founding trade.

History of Chicago, Illinois, by John Moses and Joseph Kirkland. published 1895.

1 comment:

  1. The site of the Rincker House is now a parking lot of a shopping center. The city erected a small monument there.


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