My great-grandfather, Claus Siliacks Lührs came to the United States from Germany in 1886. He was born in Wischhafen, Germany in 1867 to Jacob and Katherina Lührs. Jacob, and at least two generations before him, were sailors. Jacob Lührs was a ship's navigator according to Claus's birth certificate and was said to have regularly sailed ships like the Beata and Johanna from Germany to England and back. (See Jacob Lührs).
When Claus was only five years old, his father died at sea when the Beata suddenly sank near the shores of England. Jacob was buried in the Seaman's cemetery in Plymouth, England. Only his wedding ring returned to Germany. Jacob was not the first Lührs to die at sea. Unfortunately, even though Jacob had just made the last payment on the ship, he hadn't gotten the papers before he sailed. There was nothing for Katherina Witthohn Lührs, his wife, as proof that the ship had been paid for. In order to make a living after Jacob's death, Katherina went to Kiel and learned to be a midwife so she could have her own home for herself and the children: Claus, and his sisters Anna Maria Beata and Adele Katherina, ages 4 and 2.
When Claus was a little older, his mother sent him to live with her brother (Heinrich Witthohn). Claus worked under the guidance of his Uncle as a baker's apprentice, where he learned to make the sugar buns that he would bake for his grandchildren in America many years later.
In 1885, before he turned 18, Claus's mother had him smuggled to England on a cattle boat to come to America from England (under the British quotas). If he had stayed in Germany, he probably would have had to serve in the German military during uneasy times. She hoped for a better life for him in America, not wanting him to be a seaman and die at sea.
The trip to America was most likely made by steamship from England to the East Coast of the U.S, probably entering the U.S. in New York City. The Ellis Island Immigration Center wasn't established until 1892.
Claus's sisters followed him to America. Adele came to America when she was 16 years old (1886-87), landing at Castle Gardens, N.Y.C., joining her sister Beata, her aunt and her uncle, in Philadelphia. Claus returned to Germany in 1888, and was married on September 12, 1888, to Anna Margorat Sophia Vagts in Otterndorf, Germany. "Sophie" was the daughter of a "painter/artist" from Otterndorf. Adele Katherina, his sister, may have accompanied Claus on this trip, returning to Germany to visit her mother and attend her brother's wedding.
Claus and Sophie Lührs returned to the United States soon after. On October 2, 1891 Claus became a U.S Citizen in the Queens County court in New York. He eventually had a farm on Long Island where he bought and sold cattle. A set of twin boys, Henry (Hienrich) and Wilhelm, were born to Claus and Sophie on June 7, 1895 in Hicksville, Long Island. Wilhelm died at the age of only 6 months and was buried in Long Island. The 1900 census records list Sophie as the mother of four children, only two were alive: Henry and his sister Helen, born in December 1898. Claus was listed as Charles C. Luhrs, who's home was "free" as a benefit of his job as grocer. Many other unrelated Lührs' in New York City were also grocers at the time. Augusta, their second daughter, was born in Astoria, on Long Island in 1901. Claus and his family moved up the Hudson Valley and settled in Centerville. Bertha, another daughter was born in 1908, in Centerville, NY.
Claus's mother came to New York City to live after her second husband, Mr. Beckmann died, sometime around November, 1896. She lived with her daughter Adele and her family, and in the summers would take Adele's children up the Hudson Valley on the train to see her son's Claus's family in Centerville. The Litterer children remember the carved wooden barn doors in Centerville. Adele and her family eventually went to Seattle, Washington, and lost touch with their East Coast relatives.
Claus's farm in Centerville, had cattle, horses, pigs, canaries, and he was said at one time to have been raising dogs (Saint Bernards). Richard Luhrs, as his grandson, remembers riding on the middle horse of a three-horse team pulling a thrasher or reaper through oat and wheat fields in Centerville. Richard also remembers riding into town with Claus in a Model T "stake" truck once or twice a week to pick up leftovers (garbage) from store owners for the pigs. Claus's granddaughter, Betty remembers that whenever Grandpa Claus would come upon a line of cars in traffic, he'd always ask, "I wonder how many of these cars are paid for?".
Claus owned a lot of land in the area where the Centerville Fire House now stands. Claus Luhrs, his son Henry, and son-in-laws Hans Jorgensen, Roy Van Vlierden and Ira Vedder were founders of the Centerville Fire Department around 1924. The Centerville Firehouse was built just a few hundred yards up the road from Claus's house. Claus, Henry, and Claus's grandson Richard were Lifetime members of the Centerville Volunteer Fire Department and their names can be seem on a plaque which still hangs in the firehouse hall. Claus served as Fire Chief and Treasurer at different times over the years, remaining active in the organization until he was 79. Henry Luhrs, (1895-1955), and his wife Eva Vedder lived in the township for 50 years. Henry was a member of the Town's of Highway Department for 30 years, and the Superintendent of Highways for many of those years. Henry's campaign slogan as 1939 Republican Candidate for Superintendent of Highways was "Let My Record of the Past Speak for the Future".
Claus, known as "Pop" by his many friends lived alone for a number of years, after his wife Sopie died in 1929 at age 61. In October, 1946, Claus died at age 80. Ironically, Claus died from serious burns, received when his clothes caught fire after an explosion which occurred when he used kerosene to start a wood fire in his kitchen stove.
* Most of the information on this page is based on stories and information collected from relatives. I continue to look for more clues and documentation.
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