My Journey To America: August 1, 1914

Exactly 100 years ago today, my 18 year old grandfather, Kurt William Leucht, wrote the following entry into his journal:

 At 1:45am, we finally arrived in Chicago. Those of us who were to continue on received a piece of paper, which was pinned on.  At the train station, buses were waiting.  Everyone was placed on the appropriate bus.  Now, I was all alone.  The bus I was on went to another train station.  I had a four and a half hour layover before my train left for Peoria.  While waiting, I ventured out to look at the city of Chicago for a little bit.

At 9:00am, the train left.  I arrived in Peoria just before 2:00pm.

I took a taxi to my Uncle Gustav [Degenkolb’s] home, according to the address on my paper [822 Griswold Street near Humboldt].  When I got there, I rang the doorbell; but no one was home.  It wasn’t long before my Aunt [Alice] came.  My uncle was out of town and was to be back home on Tuesday.  My aunt and I spoke German with each other.  She could not speak much, but it was sufficient.  I washed myself thoroughly and laid down for awhile, since I was quite tired from the trip.

[On this very day, Germany was declaring war against Russia.  Kurt had no idea this was even happening.]

“Uncle” Gustav is not an uncle, nephew, nor cousin to Kurt even though he referred to him as Uncle Gustav throughout his journal. According to genealogical research Kurt’s father, Julius, had a sister named Alma who married a Degenkolb. This Degenkolb, Julius’ brother-in-law, had a brother named Gustav who came to America. So “Uncle” Gustav is related only by marriage to Kurt’s Aunt Alma.

Reverend Gustav J Degenkolb was born in the province of Saxony, Germany in 1876. He was twenty years older than Kurt. He came to the United States in 1896. He married his wife, Alice, in America. He was the first minister, from 1911-1915, of Grace Evangelical Church, located on the NW corner of 605 Stanley Street at Humboldt in Peoria.

Kurt and Verna were married in this church in 1920. The church built a new building diagonally across the street in 1925 which still stands there today. Kurt’s third son, Bill, married Gail in the 1925 building in 1966. It became Grace Evangelcal United Brethren Church in 1946, then Grace United Methodist Church in 1968 ending its affiliation in 2002 and was sold.

You can read my grandfather’s entire journal and see vintage photos of Chicago and Peoria by clicking below.  It’s quite interesting!  Of course, I’m biased!   🙂

Thanks for your interest!

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