The Life of John Graeff Wink

John G. Wink, one of the oldest and most interesting men in Kutztown, died Monday morning at 4:15 of infirmities. He was ailing since last Friday but his illness was not considered serious.

Deceased was the oldest native-born citizen of Kutztown, but during his later years his memory never failed him and he could recall dates of important events. He kept a diary for many years. Deceased was twice married, and one peculiar incident is that he died on the same date as his first wife died and about the same hour his second wife died, but complained very little of his sufferings.

He was a schoolteacher in his younger days in Kutztown and vicinity, and later proprietor of a general store at Ballietsville. He was a member of the board of trustees of the Kutztown State Normal School seventeen years and also served as secretary of the board.

He is survived by two children, John D. and Carrie R., and by two brothers, D.A.G. of town, who is in his seventy-eighth year and Samuel, of Lisbon, Iowa., in his eighty-third year. The funeral will be held tomorrow at the home of the deceased. Rev. J.J. Cressman and Rev. E.E.H. Leinbach officiating.
Submitted by Glenn Koch

He Lived to a Decrepit Old Age, But His Memory Was Still True

Death on Monday closed a career that was honorable, interesting, bright, unique and long. John G. Wink, the venerable local historian of Normal Hill, who knew more of the history of this section and its people than anybody else, fell asleep at 4:15 a. m., aged 86 years, 9 months and 2 days.
He was a man of unusually strong intellect, and a close student and observer all his life, and processed of strong social qualities.

He was the oldest native citizen of Kutztown. He was born in a house that stood on the site of the Dewalt house at present occupied by Prof. J. S. Grim. His father, Dewalt Wink died when the boy was in his tenth year. He was raised by his uncle, Dewalt Graeff, and the family treated him very kindly. He is survived by a son, John D., a member of the Patriot force; one daughter, Carrie, at home, and two brothers, Samuel, of Lisbon, Lynn County, Iowa, who is in his 83rd year and still carries the mail between the post office and the railroad, and D.A.G. Wink, of our town, who is still pretty active for a man of his age and weight.

His life story contains two rare coincidents as to dates. John D. Wink, the son, was born just 100 years after his paternal grandfather, and John G. Wink died on the day twenty-eight years after his first wife. His second wife died suddenly about a year ago.
John G. Wink was of the fourth generation of Winks in America. His great grandfather, Casper Wink, was the first American ancestor, He came from Mannheim in the old Palatinate and settled in Maxatawny Township, where he acquired much land. A part of the land is still in the family name, the farm of Jacob Wink, who is also a great grandson of Casper. The original homestead, however, stood on what is now the Wanner farm.
Casper was a man of prominence before the Revolutionary War. Unlike the other German settlers in these parts, he was a Catholic by religion. The father of the subject of this sketch was a hatter by trade and carried on the business of hat manufacturing in this town in the beginning of this century. He made his mostly from wool bought of the farmers of this locality. Good wool was worth 75 cents a pound in those early days, He took most of his hats to Philadelphia in a Conestoga wagon. From there the larger portion were shipped south to be used by slaves.

John G. Wink was in 1833, apprenticed to Peter M. Gift to learn cabinet making, but ill health compelled him to quit a year later. Mr. Wink was then a sickly young man, and no one thought he could possibly live beyond a few years. But he rallied, and in 1835 began teaching day school three miles northeast of Kutztown. The charges were three cents a day for an ordinary pupil. The first day he had three pupils, and his day’s wages were nine cents. The second and third days there were five scholars, and the number kept on increasing for some time. His board did not cost him anything, the farmers of the vicinity taking him by turns as their guest. He boarded with four different farmers that winter, what money he earned was all clear. His total earnings that winter amounted to about forty dollars, all of which he had saved when school closed.

The following summer he attended the famous school of John Vandeweer, at Easton, for twelve weeks. The next term he taught in the same place as the winter before, earning $120 this time. Next he went to Stoudhsburg and became a clerk in the store of Marcus Kauffman. After being at this place for six months, he secured a better position with Stephen Balliet, at Ballietsville, where he remained until March 4, 1837. Saeger, Keck & Co., of Allentown, next gave him a good position. He remained with this firm a year and than returned to Kutztown to teach the high school in the same old building on Walnut Street, in which he attended school when a boy.
In March 1839, he entered the store of Heidenreich & Kutz, an old Kutztown establishment. He was here until 1844. From October 1845, to April 1, 1846 he taught school in Kutztown. In May he went to Blandon to help start a store for Levi Guldin. The following October he taught at $ 30 a month. In the spring of 1847 he went to the store of his uncle, Daniel Fisher where Hinterleiter’s big store now is. He remained here six years and in this interval spent some of his tine in teaching, The borough of Kutztown couldn’t get a teacher, so Mr. Wink was urgently requested to leave the store for a few hours a day to teach the advanced classes of the Kutztown school. On June 17, 1856, Mr. Wink married Caroline Groff, of Ballietsville.
Next we find him attending store for Kemmerer & Sieslove, of Guthsville, Lehigh County. In March 1857, he and his brother in law, Stephen Groff, bought a store at Ballietsville and carried on a splendid business under the firm name of Wink & Graff. Here Mr. Wink was for quite a number of years and prospered. He not only owned half the store but a handsome home as well. In 1874 he moved to Kutztown and he has been here ever since.
Hid property a Ballietsville he sold and built his late handsome residence near the Normal school. His first wife died and he was married a second time, to Elenora, daughter of Peter Schantz, of Lehigh County. She was the mother of the surviving children.

He kept diaries up to the time his eyesight failed and it is from these diaries that the principal local events of fifty years ago are reproduced in the columns of the Patriot. He also kept a big scrap book, which contains all the prominent points of local history for t he last sixty years, together with bits of choice literature and samples of old printing, campaign badges, etc.

In his younger years Mr. Wink was a great Sunday school worker. He was the only surviving member of the first Sunday school of Kutztown, which organized in the old St. John’s church seventy-six years ago. It was called the Sunday School Union of Kutztown. In 1844 he was elected superintendent and devoted much of his time, talent, activity and substance to the cause. He held that honorable position for fourteen years. He was trustee of the Normal school for sixteen years and for nine years the boards secretary. He was president of the First National Bank of Kutztown for some years.

His earthly remains were consigned to earth in Hope cemetery on Thursday afternoon. It was a large funeral showing the esteem in which the deceased was held. Services were held at the house. Revs. E.E.H. Leinbach and J. J. Cressman officiated. The deceased had selected his own funeral text, Ecclesiastics, the twelfth chapter, especially the part: ”Remember the Creator in the days of thy youth. “ the bearers were Charles Deischer, Frank Keck, Charles Scheirer and William S. Kutz. Funeral Director D. W. Sharadin had charge of the remains.
The Patriot; 12/28/1901

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