Linn County - Wencil Rigel

 updated January 2007 - see bottom

Source:  History of Linn County, Iowa, 1887  -  page 481-2 

Wencil Rigel, deceased, was a prominent Bohemian farmer and large land owner, who successfully followed his calling in College Township on section 29. He was born Sept. 4, 1834, and departed this life Oct. 29, 1879. 

The father of our subject, Joseph Rigel, was a shoemaker by trade, and in early life contracted a marriage with a lady of the same nationality as himself. They passed their lives in their native land, and at the close their remains were there laid to rest in peace.

The early life of our subject was spent under the parental roof, where he assisted his father as best he could, and when he arrived at years of discretion started out to do for himself. He was of ambitious turn of mind, and from friends and relatives in the New World had obtained glowing accounts of what this country was doing for the enterprising immigrant. He resolved to seek his fortune here, and at the age of eighteen years started his voyage across the Atlantic, and after arriving on American shores, preceded to Iowa and located in Linn County.

His habits of industry and more than ordinary intelligence soon won him friends and well-wishers, and in his struggle for a livelihood he met with encouraging success. Before arriving at the age of twenty years he had already noticed a lady whom he believed would prove a proper partner in his coming struggle with the world. 

When he left his native land she was still living there, but in due time she followed her intended husband, and they were united in marriage in Iowa City, in October, 1860. This lady proved worthy of the confidence placed in her. Her maiden name was Mary Horak. She was born in Bohemia, Sept. 24, 1834 and at the time of coming to this country was accompanied by her parents, John and Frances (Jehicka) Horak. (My note:  other sources state her maiden name as Jehlicka.) They located in Johnson County, Iowa, and there the parents died. They entitled to a worthy and prominent place among the ranks of old settlers, and were successful in their effort to obtain a competency

Soon after their marriage, Mr. Rigel and his wife settled on a forty acre farm in the north part of Linn County, but in due time he sold this and rented the farm of his father-in-law for three years. Thence they removed to Linn County, where Mr. Rigel purchased eighty acres of unimproved land, and was engaged in it's cultivation for four years. He then disposed of this, and secured possesion of 160 acres in Fairfax Township, which he brought to a high state of cultivation, and occupied it for three years. He then abandoned farming for a short time, and became engaged in business in the city of Cedar Rapids, but his argricultural tastes prevailed, and he again became possessed of a tract of land of 200 acres, where he located permanently, and before his decease had established one of the most beautiful homesteads in the county, and here his life terminated in 1879.

To the household of Mr. and Mrs. Rigel was added a little band of eight children, two of whom are now deceased. A son, Frank, remains at home with his mother, and occupies himself in transacting the business of the homestead, in which he is assisted by his brother William; Mary became the wife of John Vaverka, and they reside in Johnson County; Catherine remains on the homestead, also Wencel and Anthony; Francis died in early infancy. 

Under the management of Mrs. Rigel and her family, the homestead has lost none of its prestige, beauty and system since the decease of the head of the household. The mantle of the father seems to have fallen upon the sons, they being possessed of the same enterprising spirit and tendency to industry, and they bid fair to perpetuate his name in dignity and honor. The boys have an active interest in local and general politics, and they are contentious adherents and supporters of the Democratic party.

Vaclav Rigel [aka Wencel, Wencil.  Rigel Rigl, Riegl, Riegel, Rigal, Ridl in various records.]



1860 United States Federal Census
Name /Home in 1860/ (City,County,State)/ Age in 1860/ Estimated Birth Year/ Birthplace/ Gender
Marton Fackler Putnam, Linn, IA 26 1833 Indiana Male
Mary Fackler Putnam, Linn, IA 23 1836 Bohemia Female
John J Fackler Putnam, Linn, IA 3 1856 Iowa Male
Edward T Fackler Putnam, Linn, IA 2 1857 Iowa Male
Anthony Reger Putnam, Linn, IA 60 1799 Bohemia Male (Mary's father)
Hannah Reger Putnam, Linn, IA 26 1833 Bohemia Female (Anna Rigel, sister to Mary)
Vencacl Reger Putnam, Linn, IA 26 1833 Bohemia Male

The "Vancacl Reger" is believed to be Wencil Rigel, (not yet married), living with his uncle Anthony Rigel.  Antonin Rigel was perhaps the first Bohemian to purchase land in northern Johnson County.  It is believed he (and perhaps others) came about 1852 or 1853 to Iowa and wrote back to friends and relatives to come to this country.  Below is a short biography on Antonin Rigel.

"Portrait and Biographical Album of Linn County, Iowa", Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1877

Excerpt from a biography on Martin Fackler ...
     Our subject, in 1855, was married to Miss Mary A., the daughter of Anthony and Annie (Barron) Riegel. They were natives of Austria, and came to America in 1852, spending their first winter at Milwaukee. The Following spring they moved into Iowa, and purchased 200 acres of land in Johnson County, where they passed the remainder of their lives. Mr. Riegel was a boot and shoe manufacturer in Austria, carrying on business there until his emigration to America. They had a family of four children, to all of whom he gave an excellent education; three are now living: John is still a resident of Austria, and one of that county's prominent men, having served as a Senator at Vienna; Annie is now Mrs. Woitishek (Mrs. Joseph Wojtisek or Woitishek) her husband being a prominent merchant and grain-dealer at Ely, this county; and Mary A., wife of our subject (Mrs. Martin Fackler). (Note: Wencil Rigel's father was Joseph, a shoemaker, and we believe that Joseph was Antonin's brother, thus Antonin would be Wencil's uncle.)


HISTORY OF LINN COUNTY 1878, The Western Historical Co., page 795, College Twp
Rigel, W., farmer, Section 27, P.O. Western, Ia; B. Bohemia Sep 4, 1834, came to Linn Co. Jan, 1854; married Mary Horak in 1860; she was b. Bohemia in 1834; six children - Frank, Wm, Mary, Catherine, Wesley, Anthony; has land valued at $40/Acre. Mr. Rigel is a member of Johnson & Linn Co. Reading Society.

In the above excerpt it states that Wencil came to Linn County in January 1854.  His wife Mary arrived at NY Harbor October 2nd, 1854 with her Horak parents and siblings aboard the "Elida".  They were married 6 years later, on November 12, 1860 in Iowa City, Iowa.

I have recently found what I believe to be Wencil's arrival in this country. 

January 5, 1854 the Schooner "Arnor" arrived at Boston Harbor from Bremen, Germany.  Aboard were members of the Sulek, Kubias, Barta (later Barta-Letovsky), Pribil (Pribl), Witousek (Vitousek & Stepanek families, who were all some of the first Bohemian families to settle in northern Johnson and southern Linn Counties of Iowa.  Other surnames, badly misspelled, are aboard as well.  Although the below surname from the Arnor ship list  is spelled "Riedl", I believe this is Rigl.

Francis, age 42, male, occupation: miller, (all the below also from Bohemia)
Verona, age 28, female
Petronella, age 15, female
Maria, age 8, female
Frances, age 6, female
Theodore, age 3, male
John, age 32, male, occupation: baker
Wenzel, age 19, male, occupation: shoemaker (I believe this is Wencil Rigl or Rigel from the above biography.)

Bohemians in Johnson County Iowa, written by Professor Bohumil Simek (Shimek) states that a purchase of land was made in 1854 in Johnson County by Francis Rigl.

A Francis Ridle appears on the 1854 Jefferson township, Johnson County censes with a household of 8 "aliens", 4 male and 4 females.  This would match the group traveling together on the "Arnor".  Also, "Anthony" Rigel appears in 1854 just miles away in Big Grove Township, Johnson County with a household of five aliens, 2 males and 3 females. (Antonin, his wife and two daughters).

The 1860 Census pretty much verifies the "Riedl" family that traveled on the "Arnor" to Boston.

1860 Census, Big Grove Township, Johnson County, IA, post office, Solon.
Francis Riddle, male, age 53, b. Bohemia, occupation: miller (born Bohemia
Veronia Riddle 32
Perolena Riddle 22
Mary Riddle 20
Frank Riddle 12
Theodore Riddle 10
Henry Riddle 5 (Henry and Wentz born after the voyage)
Wentz Riddle 2

1870 Census, Big Grove Township, Johnson County, IA, post office, Solon
Riddle, Francis, age 65, farmer, b. Bohemia
 - Sophronia, age 40 b. Bohemia
 - Frank age 20 b. Bohemia
 - Theodore age 18 b. Bohemia
 - Henry age 13 b. Iowa
 - John age 8 b. Iowa

1880 Census (same)
Francis Riddle, 67 (note occupation is "miller")
Sophronia, 52
John 18 b. Iowa

Weather Francis changed Rigl to Riddle, or the others change Ridl to Rigel is unknown, but I believe they are all from the same family.