Welk family arrives in North Dakota
By FREDERICK LEO WELK
As told to his son, Frederick Jr.
The origin of the surname Welk is given in various name history sources as meaning “foreigner” or “wanderer.” For hundreds of years that has been an apt label for many members of the clan, who ranged from Alsace to Southern Russia then to Dakota always looking for a better place and better times. My father lived until 2013, a few months short of his 100th birthday. He frequently commented on having lived from the "horse and buggy days to the computer age."
“Now North Dakota was a prairie country. The Sioux Indians lived there for thousands of years. The buffalo was their main food. They would kill it with bow and arrow whenever they needed meat. The pioneers came over and kind of pushed the Indians out, see? And the government helped it, and that was a sad part of it. They passed an ordinance— 160 acres free land for the immigrants. And those were the days when all the immigrants came over from German- speaking countries and the northern countries.
“Well my parents– my mother was only 4-years-old when she came. My father was 17. Of course he had gone to the German school (in South Russia) and became well-educated by the time he was 17. And my grandfather, Michael Welk, brought Dad and the rest of the family on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse steam ship. (The largest of its day.) And they landed in New York City. They took the train and went as far as Devils Lake. And from there they looked at where they were going to take that 160 acres of free land to plow it up and farm it. So they ended up near Berwick.
Now it was a small town so it was only a few blocks away from down to the railroad track which was a dividing point between a hundred people one side and a hundred people on the other side. And there was only one main street. That’s how it happened to be.
“But funny thing— those days there were five grocery stores — imagine in a little town like that! And there was a bank. Actually at one time there was two banks. And there was a drug store — and things like that. There was a butcher shop — things like that. It was very progressive. “