Kuck Family History: The One Who Stayed In the Midwest


This picture is three generations of my Kuck ancestors and something that I treasure. Seated on the left is my 3rd great grandfather and immigrant ancestor John Kuck. In his lap is my great grandfather Victor Stephen Kuck. Standing is my 2nd great grandfather George Washington Kuck and on the right seated is his wife, my 2nd great grandmother Elizabeth Cogswell Kuck. By the time this picture was taken, John, wife and five other children were probably 13 years in their graves and George's older brother Henry was in Minneapolis shortly ready to leave west for The Dalles, Oregon. 

George was born 14 December 1868 in Charles City, Iowa. He was the fourth of seven children born alive, one more who died at birth. As mentioned in previous posts, a diphtheria epidemic in 1878/1879 killed five of his brother and sisters just leaving older brother Henry as the other survivor along with father John. 

According to accounts, George spent his formative years helping out in his father's leather shop and most likely continued to work there when out of school. He married a girl, Elizabeth Alice Cogswell, who lived in nearby Rockford and they started their family. My 2nd great grandmother Elizabeth Cogswell Kuck was a scrapbook maker and one of the things I have inherited over the years is her scrapbook chock full of newspaper clippings about their lives and the lives of others in the family. So I have quite a bit of information about their everyday lives.

I won't bore you with the details other than to say they were quite well to do financially. When John retired, accounts say he sold his leather harness business to his younger brother Frederick who carried on the business for a number years before it passed to Frederick's sons who closed and sold it. I don't know why George didn't inherit it other than perhaps he decided it just wasn't what he had in mind for the rest of his life. Perhaps unlike Henry and Ernest Kuck out in The Dalles, John and George didn't adapt with the times and the arrival of automobiles. Whatever the reason, George went into the general merchandise business, moving first to Rockford where his wife was from and later to Cedar Falls.

Above is another multigenerational family picture that I treasure. Seated left to right is my grandfather, great uncle, 2nd great grandmother Elizabeth, great grandmother Grace, great grandfather Victor, Victor's sister and husband and my 2nd great grandfather George. They were living well from the looks of things. 

But not everything is as rosy as the picture might suggest. My 2nd great grandparents George and Elizabeth Kuck were married not once, but twice to each other. I have two marriage certificates to prove it. I'm not sure what led to the initial divorce but if I had to guess, differences in personalities. One story passed down to me was that Elizabeth was an artist and painted a painting of a ship in stormy seas about to be dashed upon a rocky shoreline. Her family crashed to shore on a ship and were stranded for awhile on their initial entry into America so perhaps the painting commemorates that occasion. It now hangs on a wall in my house. Anyway, the story goes that George came home and didn't like the waste of time and threw the painting down the stairway of the house resulting in damage in one corner of the painting that someone along the way repaired. I can't verify any of this of course but it is a good story since I now own the painting. 

Elizabeth Cogswell Kuck

George Washington Kuck

They had only two children, Victor born in 1895 and Josephine born twelve years later in 1907. I've often wondered why the large gap. Their first marriage was in 1891 and the second one wasn't until 1925. Also, all census records including the 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 U.S. Census records as well as the Iowa Census of 1915 and 1925 all list them as married. All this to say is that I don't think the divorce played a part in the 12 year gap in their two children's ages. 

Although George was born into a well to do family and was well to do himself for much of his life, he didn't end up life that way. My grandfather always told a story about how on the day he was born, the stock market crashed in the lead up to the great depression and that Victor, who had been away on a business trip called his wife telling her to sell the stock immediately before it was worthless. She was in the middle of giving birth and so they lost everything in the stock market crash and ensuing years. In prior posts on this subject, I have debunked it because the dates just didn't line up. Yes my grandfather was born in 1929 but he was born in early spring, well before the collapse of the stock market later that fall. But like most things my grandfather told me, while not absolutely true, there was a grain of truth in it.

It was actually George that lost all the family wealth. I think my grandfather just got his father and grandfather mixed up as the one who lost the money. George has used what capital he had, perhaps from the previously pilfered estate of his father that I wrote about in a previous post, plus what he had earned over the years to buy real estate. Then using that as leverage, he bought more real estate. Then when the Black Friday crash of October 1929 occurred, the house of cards came tumbling down and he lost everything and was forced to declare bankruptcy and all that real estate went back to the bank. I know this due to a newspaper article stating he lost his court case and owed the county all the taxes he owed them before he had declared bankruptcy and that the bankruptcy hasn't wiped his tax duties clean as he argued. 

So when George died of a stroke on 9 April 1943 at age 74, he wasn't penniless, but he certainly wasn't wealthy anymore either. He and wife Elizabeth had run a grocery store until 1940 when they were forced to give it up due to failing health.  His son, my great grandfather would live much of his life as a salt salesman and pinched pennies in his retirement to make ends meet.  Wife Elizabeth would die on 10 August 1949 of causes unknown to me at age 74 as well. Unlike their married life at times, they are buried side by side in the Rockford Cemetery next to the parents of Elizabeth and not to far from her grandfather. 


  1. Such interesting lives people led in the past. We always think that scandals and mysteries are only present-day occurrences but then we do genealogical research and find out how little has changed regarding the fundamentals of human relationships.

    1. Yes! I have found a whole lot of drama over the years in researching my family tree. Sometimes it makes me wonder what someone 100 years from now may be thinking about my life based upon what they have found.


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