Gustav Friederich Wilhelm Troge was an older brother to my Great-grandfather August Karl Troge. Gustav was born February 11, 1860 in Neugoltz, West Prussia.
As a young man, he saw political turmoil and fighting all around him as the government, the land and its boundaries were constantly being fought over. With induction into the German army looming over him, and poor prospects for any kind of a prosperous life, Gustav decided he had to leave his family and homeland and make a fresh start.
In 1884 Gustav and his younger sister Pauline immigrated to the United States. They settled in Omaha, Nebraska. Why they decided to go to Nebraska is unclear, although there were already some members of a Troge family in nearby Iowa. At this time, I have not been able to make any positive connections to that Troge family, but perhaps they were cousins who sent letters home telling of the fertile soil and land of opportunity.
Gustav’s new life in America was certainly a colorful one. Afraid of being followed and found out by the German army, he immediately took on his first alias of Albert Smith.
Also at this time he married his first wife, Louise. Her last name is unknown. According to an old letter from Uncle Gus, he indicated that there may have been a child or two from this marriage. I believe he was naturalized sometime around 1890.
We don’t know what happened with his marriage to Louise. Uncle Gus seemed to like a drink now and then. Perhaps Louise left, or maybe Gustav did. In any case, on May 2 1892, he married a Swedish woman named Clara Gustafson Nelson. They proceeded to have 7 children. In the 1900 census, they are found living in Murray, Utah. His occupation was listed as a day laborer. By 1910, he and Clara were still living in Murray, and they owned a small café and ice cream parlor.
Things apparently weren’t going well for Gus and Clara. They ended up getting a divorce. When he was down and out, which seemed to be quite often, he wrote another letter to his brother August, and stated that: “I was drunk for 5 years, and when I woke up, I was with another woman.. My wife got the house, and I went broke. Some woman bought me a ticket to Denver.” Uncle Gus must have been a real charmer and ladies’ man. He had a sense of humor and charisma that saw him through it all.
By 1920 Gus was living in Denver, and had changed his name again to a new alias - Henry Orven. He also had married his third wife, Catherine “Katie” Harrigan. Somehow he managed to scrape up enough money to purchase another café. On the 1920 census his occupation was listed as proprietor of restaurant. They had no children living with them at this time.
Again, according to letters to his brother, he told of struggling financially, and finally going broke about 1929. He and Katie had moved to Los Angeles, and on the 1930 census it lists him as a cook in a restaurant and she was a chamber maid in a boarding house.
He never went to school beyond the 2nd grade, but could read and write, although not well. His letters to August were always newsy and colorful, and often interspersed with his native German language. He always maintained a wonderful sense of humor even in his later years.
Uncle Gus died in California on September 18, 1941. He was still living under the name of Henry Orven. His beloved Katie passed away a week later.
I truly believe that Uncle Gus made a wise decision when he decided to leave his homeland as a young man. Even though he was never a wealthy man, his life here in America had to be much better than he ever would have had in his poor, war torn native Germany.