Erwin Wenk
   ERWIN WENK (8/13/1910 - 10/19/1982) was a soft-spoken but funny man with a mischievous sense of humor, whose roots were still very German—despite being a third-generation American, he spoke with a thick German accent (the Wenk's still spoke German together in private, and Zion had a church service in German once per month).
   But Erwin was sickly as a child. He had a heart murmer, and once overheard his mother whispering to some one that she didn't expect him to live long enough to reach adulthood. Her words would haunt him for the rest of his life...which fortunately turned out to be a long one, because despite a weak heart, Erwin Wenk was a very strong, determined man.
   He loved all things mechanical, and was an expert at engines, appliances, and anything that took engineering talent. This fit in nicely with his father's threshing business, where Martin needed someone to repair and maintain the machinery.
   The Wenk brothers' threshing business worked all over Washtenaw County. One of their threshing clients, the Pritchard's, would soon figure very prominently in our line of the Wenk family. In 1915, the Pritchard family had moved from Illinois to Michigan and purchased the Updike farm in Sylvan. Three years later, DOROTHY IRENE PRITCHARD was born. She grew into a bright, happy young girl, and when she was eight years old, the Wenk thresher crew arrived to work on her father's farm. Dorothy was instantly smitten with Martin's handsome teenage son, Erwin, who was working on the crew. Still, she was eight years younger than Erwin, so when the two first met, Erwin didn't take much notice of her except to ask for food and drink (his brother Ernie, shy when he was young, never even looked up from his plate)... But Erwin would take notice of her, soon enough.

L-R: Wenk-Pritchard wedding photos, 1939. Their kids, Martha, Irene and Don (with more to follow); The entire family poses, mid-70's.

   In fact, on November 11, 1939, Erwin married Dorothy Pritchard. Outside of being raised on farms, Erwin and Dorothy had little in common. He still spoke in the German language with his brothers that his father had taught them, while her family was immigrated from Wales and spoke only English. He lived in a male-dominated family with several brothers, while she had only one sibling—a sister, Helen. Erwin's father was a farmer with a threshing business and a sawmill, while her father owned a farm but went into politics and became a justice of the peace, and even dabbled in photography. The Wenks were a close-knit family who kept mainly to themselves in a quiet German farming community, while the Pritchard's attended literary societies back in Illinois and loved to be involved with the outside community.
   But maybe the differences in their families and their upbringing made for a richer relationship. Their romance was deep and special from the start. Every moment they spent together was chronicled and photographed. Mementos fill their house in Chelsea, and have been handed down and cherished by the succeeding generations.

Personal Information
Census Image
Name:   Martin Wenk (Erwin, Dorothy)
Age:   64
Birth year:   1876
Birthplace:   Michigan
Home in 1940:   Freedom Township, Washtenaw, Michigan
Occupation:   Farmer
Owns farm:   Yes
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View blank 1940 census form
 (PDF 136K)
1940 United States Federal Census Roll: 81-33; SD #:2; ED# 81-33; Page 9A.
   Dorothy remembered: "When I was first married we lived at the Wenk Homestead. The layout of the house began with the kitchen. Above the kitchen was an attic-type storage place that could have been finished off into a room but never was. The kitchen had a wood range, and a tank off the range that heated the rainwater from the cistern in the tank. It also had an electric refrigerator; nice cupboards, counters, a table and chairs were to the right as you came into the door. A sink had running hot and cold water across from the stove. Most houses had cisterns back then. That's a big hole dug in the ground, usually bricked up, you had eves from the roof that filled the cistern. If there were too much rain you had to shut off the spouts so your basement wouldn't flood. Everyone had cistern pumps. Little hand pumps. That's how you got the water up into the house."
   "The Wenk homestead had an electric pump to bring up the cistern water. This was used for washing and cleaning. You had an outside well for drinking. They might have had drinking water inside via pump. There was a bathroom upstairs with a tub with running hot and cold water and a drain, no sink or no stool. Off the kitchen was a sink where you washed and shaved. The toilet was an outhouse outside. In each bedroom was a chamber pot that could be used. Off the kitchen was the dining room. Off the dining room was a bedroom. After the dining room was the living rooms, the room closest to the road, which could be closed off with sliding doors. Off the living room was another bedroom. There was a closet between both bedrooms for both bedrooms. To go upstairs you would enter off the dining room, At the top of the stairs to the left were the bathroom and a bedroom to the right. Down the hall were two more bedrooms on the left. Through the one bedroom you entered into the attic that was above the kitchen. There was a small third floor you entered via stairway in which you stored stuff. There was a window and you could look out. The basement had a cistern pump and we did our laundry down there. The furnace was down there. There was a separate room where you stored the vegetables, Potatoes, carrots, cabbage. Also there was storage of canned vegetables there. I only lived there for one year... Grandpa Wenk had a raspberry patch and strawberry patch we would all pick and start our own patches from. It was handier to have my own patch. We made apple butter. We had bees for honey and someone would use the apple peeler, and we would add spices, and apples. Paul Eisele and Ernie would get together and make it in a big iron kettle over an open fire outside. I made several pie crusts and apple pie. We had wolf river apple. We sat back and laughed as they were not the best. 'Take some without asking,' we would say. There was mincemeat with green apples. My mother used suet of some kind, used others used beef. Carrots, ate them fresh."

A Wenk reunion in the mid-seventies. Clockwise, from left-to-right: Erwin Wenk, Walter Georg Loeffler, Dorothy Pritchard-Wenk, Ernie Wenk, Edna Horning-Wenk, Lorena Hieber-Wenk, Norman Wenk, and Rubena Wenk-Loeffler.

Martha, Martin and their granddaughter Arlene Loeffler
   After Erwin and Dorothy moved out, the Wenk families stayed close. Dorothy remembered the family get-togethers: "We had confirmations, christenings, graduations—we always got together. Edna Burkhardt was always entertaining. She was organizer of it, enjoyed it. All of us came. Ruby, Walter, Carl Norman, Arlene, we got together a lot. Christmas, and just ever so often. Not just for special occasions. Quite often we went to Burkhardt's. Edna had us more than anyone else did it seemed as I recall. We always helped out on food. She organized it and we would all come. We had our special foods we brought. The short time they had a cottage at North Lake we would go there. We did not do games, we just sat around and talked. When we did dishes the women were in the kitchen, but otherwise we were inside and outside in living, dining and other rooms. We took turns at Christmas in having the get togethers. Grandpa Wenk at Christmas gave each family a bag of nuts and the children got money."

A 1959 photo of the Erwin Wenk farm, as it appeared in The Chelsea Standard, which used to have a "mystery farm" photo every week. People could call in and guess whose farm it was and get their names listed in the paper, while the farm owner would get a framed photo.

Personal Information
Census Image
Name:   Erwin Wenk
Age:   39
Birth year:   1911
Birthplace:   Michigan
Home in 1950:   Lima, Washtenaw, Michigan
Dwelling:   233
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SOURCE INFORMATION: Bureau of the Census; Washington, D.C.; Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790-2007; Record Group Number: 29; Residence Date: 1950; Home in 1950: Lima, Washtenaw, Mich.
   Erwin Wenk's farm was just down the road from his grandfather's, and it ran 148 acres, all of which were used for either raising cattle and hens or for farming—except for the thick woods in the rear of the property, which were teaming with deer and other wildlife that lived off the vegetation and the clear, babbling stream. It was a combination of various parcels secured from the US Government by different owners before 1835 and 1836, with 20 acres of the farm on the border of the Lima township and 128 acres in Freedom township. John Henry Feldkamp bought the farm in January of 1880. His family and descendants lived there until March of 1943, when Erwin and Dorothy purchased it from the Feldkamp estate.
   There were tough times: During the fifties, Erwin tried to plow one of the hillier fields in the far end of the property, out of view from the house. The tractor pitched sideways and turned over on top of him, shattering his pelvic bone. When Erwin didn't appear for supper, she got the kids in the car and drove down the lanel to find Erwin pinned under the tractor.

Newspaper Article
File Image
Title: Mystery Farm 61
Newspaper: Chelsea Standard
Subject: Erwin Wenk farm history
Publication Date: 1960's
   Once again, the Wenk family banded together in a crisis. While Erwin was laid up in the house with a broken pelvis, his brothers and friends would finish a long day of working their farms, then come over and work his! Martin even moved in temporarily to run the farm and milk the cows.
   On another occasion, Erwin was working underneath his car when it slipped off the jack, slamming hard on top of him and breaking his collarbone. Pinned under the car, he called out for Dorothy. She ran to him, removing the jack from the trunk. But there was one small problem: She had never worked a car jack before. Incredible, pinned with a broken bone. Erwin jacked the car up himself with one hand, then escaped from underneath!
   The truth is that they were a perfect team: Erwin was quiet and industrious, always working, while Dorothy was outgoing and loving. She ran the house and he ran the fields... and six children ran roughshod through all of it:


  • MARTHA ELLEN HAUSE was born on 07 Oct 1940 at Chelsea Hospital, Chelsea, Michigan. She married CARLETON MARCHANT HAUSE, JR. (1939-2014), in 1959 and had four children: Jeff (b. 7 Jun 1961), Kathy (b. 12 Aug 1965), Eric (b. 15 Sep 1967) and Michele Hause (b. 14 Sep 1968). She became the director of Noah's Ark Preschool and is now retired in Vista CA.
  • Click on the photo at right to access the Martha Wenk Hause Genealogical Page.
  • IRENE EDITH WENK was born 04 Jan 1943. She married JAMES POLEY on 03 Oct 1964 and had two sons: Anthony James (b. 25 May 1965) and Terry Lee Poley (b. 7 Oct 1967).
  • See the James Poley family here (Irene, Terry, Jim and Tony).
  • See Anthony Poley and Rebecca Brown-Poley here.
  • See the Terry Poley family here (Terry, Zachary, Amy Beth Adams-Poley, Dorothy Wenk).
  • DONALD ERWIN WENK was born on 05 Aug 1945. He was drafted into the army for the Vietnam war, where he received a Purple Heart for his service. Don became a carpenter and now lives with VELMA JANE MARKINS on a farm near Chelsea.
  • Photos of Don in Vietnam: 1, 2.
  • Photo of Don skiing.
  • CHARLES MARTIN WENK was born on 17 Aug 1949. He married LOIS BOLTON on 14 May 1988. She was born on February 11, 1952 in Paducah, Kentucky. Lois died on Sunday January 21, 2007 at the age of 54.¹ Chuck has a home near the family farm, in Lima Township, and at a second home on the edge of Lake Michigan. He now lives with DEBORAH MELVILLE near Jackson, Michigan.
  • See Chuck and Lois in 2005 here.
  • See Chuck and Deborah in 2018 here.
  • PAUL WILLIAM WENK was born on 10 Nov 1951. He was the brother who took us for long motorcycle rides on the backroads of Freedom and Lima townships. After Erwin's death he worked the family land for several years. He currently works in Ann Arbor, and lives in Chelsea.
  • JEAN MARIE WENK was born on 24 Jul 1953 at Saline General Hospital. She worked for Chelsea Schools and married THOMAS DAVID WINANS in 1985 at Rogers Corners, Washtenaw Co., Michigan. Today she is retired and lives in Chelsea.
  •    Erwin continued working right up to the end. He died in the barn, strengthening the foundation of the building when his heart finally gave out, many decades past the date that his mother had feared. And just he had worked to strengthen the foundation of that barn, he strengthened the foundation of the Wenks with the six healthy, happy, hard working kids listed above.
       They grew up working the land, like all Wenk's, but also hunting and hiking in the woods, hiding in the corn fields, clomping around the barns with the livestock, and wandering the 148 acres of farmland and forest, chewing stalks of sweet Timothy hay and dreaming of the future, whether they pictured that future on Fletcher Road or elsewhere.

    L-R: My Mom at various ages and stages: posing with sister Irene; which is the doll?; teeny-bopper; marrying Carl Hause; posing with the Wenk women, relatives, and doting husbands; Below, a sibling reunion from 2018 with L-R: Don, Velma, Irene, Jim, Chuck, Debbie, Jean, Marti, and Paul.

       My mother, MARTHA ELLEN, remains close to all of the family, even though we moved to California in 1961. She married CARLETON MARCHANT HAUSE, JR., in 1959, and together they've had four children: Jeff, Kathleen, Eric and Michele. All of the children have inherited the Wenk work ethic, and remain close. A couple even dabble in farming, although only for personal consumption.
       The Wenk farm on Fletcher Road remained the home base and the touchstone for the ensuing generations of the family.
       Whenever we visited we were always a little intimidated by Erwin. The harshness of his German accent made everything he said almost sound like an order, and it would take you a minute—until you saw the twinkle in his eyes—to realize he was actually just teasing you. His favorite target was my brother, Eric—then just called Ricky (pronounced by Grandpa as "R-R-R-R-R-eeeeeeckeeeeeeeyyyyy").


  • JEFFREY CARLETON HAUSE was born on 7 June 1961. Just look at the cute kid in the photo at right! What a dreamboat! Jeff is a writer and social worker living in Napa, California. A true Renaissance man, and an inspiration to his family (all of whom adore him)! He is incredibly handsome, intelligent, witty and engaging, and wrote this bio. In 2007 he married LORI ANN DOTSON (b. 07 Oct 1973, the same month and day as my Mom. How creepy is THAT???) and they raised two children, ATTICUS LEE HAUSE (b. 02 Aug 2011) and PHIN LEE HAUSE (b. 1 Nov 2013). After living in Napa for a decade, they moved back down to Vista CA.
  • Click on the photo at right to access the Jeffrey Hause Genealogical Page.
  • KATHLEEN ELLEN HAUSE was born on 12 Aug 1965. After suffering through a childhood dealing with her brother, Jeff, she somehow survived and married HALDEN LARSEN (b. 27 Oct 1964) on 29 June 1985 in Vista, Ca., and have three children: SASHA ELLEN-MARIE (b. 14 Jul 1987; m. COLE AKINS), DYLAN JEFFREY-LEE (b. 28 Apr 1990, m. EMMA FORD) and CAMILLE LARSEN (b. 4 June 1998).
  • Click on the photo at right to access the Kathleen Hause Genealogical Page.
  • ERIC DONALD HAUSE was born on 15 Sep 1967 in Oceanside, CA. As the photo clearly shows, this kid was trouble. He attended Cal State Long Beach, then a seminary school in Colorado and is now a pastor in Ithaca, New York. Eric married MARY MOONSAMMY (b. 29 Sep 1966) on 23 Mar 1996 in Bonsall, San Diego Co., CA. They have one child, MADELINE HAUSE (b. 10 Aug 1997) and currently live in the same New York state that the Hause family finally escaped 150 years before. Nice going, Eric. Now we're right back where we started.
  • Click on the photo at right to access the Eric Hause Genealogical Page.
  • MICHELE MARIE HAUSE was born on 14 Sep 1968 in Oceanside, CA. Just look at that little punk play to the camera! After a childhood full of torture from Jeff, Kathy and Eric, she decided to make her life's work torturing other children. So she became a teacher, like Carleton Jr., Carleton Sr., and Carlisle before her, and currently lives in San Diego, CA, with her husband JOHN HOUSTON and daughters SARAH and AVERY HOUSTON.
  • Click on the photo at right to access the Michele Hause Genealogical Page.
  •    Erwin died in 1982, and Dorothy outlived him by almost 30 years, running the farm with the help of sons Don and Paul. But our Grandmother still waits impatiently to greet us every summer in Chelsea, baking fresh cherry pies with the fruit she just picked from the trees, and we'll sit out on the stoop of the porch at sunset and count the deer shyly emerging from the woods, and then when it gets too dark for that, watch the kids catch fireflies. Her place was the only working farm left on Fletcher Road, as Norm and Lorena retired to downtown Chelsea, and Ignatz's farm, which was passed down to Ernest, was auctioned off when he retired in 1993.
       Dorothy continued to live on the farm she shared with Erwin. She worked in her garden every morning, picking the beans she could barely see, still honoring the land and, most importantly, honoring her family, until she passed away on Friday, 3 Sep 2010, at the age of 92.²

    Newspaper Article
    Title: Erwin Wenk
    Newspaper: Chelsea Standard
    Subject: Obituary
    Original Publication Date: October, 1982
    File Image
    Subject:   In Loving Memory of Dorothy Wenk, 1918-2010
    Funeral Date:   9 Sep 2010
    Location:   Zion Lutheran Church
    Eulogy:   by Martha Hause
    View file

    Erwin and Dorothy on the farm in 1972, with all of their grandkids (Jeff, Kathy, Michele, Terry, R-r-r-reeeeeeckeeeeyyyy and Tony.

      The Wenks have disappeared now from Fletcher Road, and their descendants have spread across the country. But we are still close in our hearts. Locales change: Baden was left behind for Michigan, and Michigan was left behind for California—but there's a Wenk reunion in Michigan every other year, and we always hope to attend, to honor Dorothy and all of the Wenks—and my Mother, now the matriarch of our family. Times have changed and the family-oriented communities like the one the Wenks created on Fletcher Road are a thing of the past—the farms are disappearing, the land is being divided up into small suburban lots, and the roads are actually paved now! But even though all of the Wenks are gone from Fletcher Road, it just makes you realize that home isn't a house or a town or a country—home is where your Mom is!!!


    JOSEPH WENK (? - 1736) married MARIA DIETSCHIN (1705 - 1779) and begat...

    JOSEPH WENK (1733 - 1797) who married MARIA BAHOLZER (1743 - 1800) and begat...

    JOHAN MICHAEL WENK (1772 - 1827) who married KATHERINA FALLER (1776 - 1843) and begat...

    JOHAN WENK (1801 - 1867) who married IDA GASSMANN (1802 - 1854) and begat...

    IGNANZ GASSMANN WENK (1823 - 1897) who married EVA CATHERINE MANTZ (1837 - 1923) and begat...

    MARTIN WENK (1876 - 1964) who married MARTHA CAROLINA GRIEB (1880 - 1937) and begat...

    ERWIN WENK (1910 - 1982) who married DOROTHY PRITCHARD (1918 - 2010) and begat...

    MARTHA WENK (b. 1940) who married CARLETON MARCHANT HAUSE, JR. (b. 1939) and begat...

    JEFF (who married LORI ANN DOTSON), KATHY (who married HAL LARSEN), ERIC (who married MARY MOONSAMMY), and MICHELE HAUSE (who married JOHN SCOTT HOUSTON).

    Photo: The entire family poses together at a Wenk Reunion during the early 1920's, an event held annually up to the present day. Sitting in the center of the group are Eve Catherine and Olive Wenk, the widows of Ignatz and Joseph Wenk, respectively.

    CHAPTER 1: FROM BADEN TO WORSE, 1705 - 1849

    CHAPTER 2: FREEDOM IN FREEDOM, 1850 - 1950






    ¹—Lois Marie Wenk
    Wenk, Lois Marie Chelsea, MI Age 54, died Sunday January 21, 2007 at Arbor Hospice Residence. She was born on February 11, 1952 in Paducah, Kentucky the daughter of Clifford and Geneva (Briney) Bolton. Lois has lived in the area most of her life and graduated from Chelsea High School in 1970. She worked for Chelsea Community Hospital for the past 17 years. Lois was a self taught Artist who delighted in painting meaningful images of interest for friends and family remembering her fondness of Lake Michigan's shoreline. She married Charles M. Wenk in S. Lake Tahoe and had over 35 loving years together. In addition to her husband, she is survived by her mother of Chelsea; one sister Jennifer (Roland) Lubbinge of Elk Rapids; numerous nieces and nephews; two cousins, Barbara Golbinec of Toledo, and Edward Bolton of Kentucky; her mother-in-law Dorothy Wenk of Chelsea; brother and sister-in-laws, Donald and Paul Wenk, Marty (Carl) Hause, and Jean (Tom) Winans, Irene (Jim) Poley and Her Dog Otto. Also surviving are many special and dear friends. The family would like to give a special thank you to all of the Chelsea Hospital staff and Administration personnel; and the University of Michigan Cancer Center. She was preceded in death by her Father Clifford Bolton, and her father-in-law Erwin Wenk. Funeral services will be Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 2:00 p.m. from the Staffan-Mitchell Funeral Home Chelsea with Pastor Doris Sparks officiating. Burial will follow at Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery. Expressions of sympathy can be made to Chelsea Community Hospital or University of Michigan Hospitals Cancer Center. The family will receive friends at the funeral home Tuesday from 1-4 and 6-8 p.m.

    ²—Wenk, Dorothy I.
    Died Friday, September 3, 2010 at Arbor Hospice in Ann Arbor. She was born April 15, 1918 to Wm. C. and Nelle Winters Pritchard in Sylvan Township on Pritchard Road (now Chrysler Proving Grounds). She married Erwin Wenk on November 11, 1939. They lived their married lives on their farm. She was an active member of Zion Lutheran church. She is survived by sons, Donald E., Charles and Paul, daughters Marti (Carl) Hause, Irene (Jim) Poley, Jean (Tom) Winans. Also surviving are six grandchildren, six great grandchildren, sisters-in-law and brother-in-law Edna, Lorena and Norman Wenk and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, sister Helen and daughter in law Lois. The family will receive friends at the Staffan-Mitchell Funeral Home on Wednesday from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Funeral services will be held at 1:30 Thursday, September 9, 2010 at Zion Lutheran Church at Fletcher and Waters Road with Pastor Doris Sparks officiating. Expressions of sympathy may be made to the Historic Zion fund or Arbor Hospice. (Published in on September 7, 2010)

    The church in Oberwihl as it looks today.