Wandering Welk Family Passed Through Berwick, ND
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."
"Mother and Dad, Frank and Katherine Welk, got married in 1905 and they moved onto the farm. That was about 5 1/2 miles (south) from Berwick. And they farmed it. And then, Dad being quite intelligent, the elevator company heard about him and asked him to take over the grain buying. So, he moved his family into town. In so doing he bought the biggest house in town and took the job. It was the only house in town that had a bathtub in those days.
The Welk house from Berwick as it appeared in 1989 after it was moved to Rugby, ND, decades later.
"Their oldest boy had died. He was a week old. Then the next child born was Barbara, and then came Frank, and then came Clements, and then came me. And then came Mary. And that’s when my father moved to town. And then was Becky, Agnes, Peter, Dorothy and Beatrice that grew up (in town). Anyway, it was a little town of about 150 population. And it was (then) five elevators. It was a big grain center. He was one of the buyers.
"He still has that farm instinct, so he bought the land around the town because his sons were growing up— Frank, Clem and me. We were getting at the age. By the time I was 12, I was working out in the field. See. We kind of grew up in a hurry. He kept his job and naturally he oversaw that we did everything right. He would say, “You do this on the north 40. And this here should be done on this 40.” First, we would have to plow it up and then we would seed it. But he would adjust it. What type of seed and all this and that. And then we would seed it. We had 12 horses, 50 head of cattle.
"Now it came to the point that I was kind of aggressive. The rest of the boys didn’t know to milk cows, so I took over the cattle business. So, I would go out in the fields about 5 o’clock in the morning and get the cows in. And milk ‘em. And they would take care of the horses and the machinery— get it all set up, you know for the grain. Get all the oil and this and that. And they would do that. Then perhaps we’d have a little breakfast in a hurry — oatmeal my favorite. Then I’d get through milking. I would separate it— the milk and cream. And take the milk and feed the calves. And then I would go out in the field with my brothers. You know, whatever work it was to be done in the field. Well, that was it and Dad would always supervise that, and he would go to work."