William Henss & Katharine (born Kämmer) Henss- a brief history

The following, incomplete, history follows the life and times of William & Katharine Henss, the founders of our US based Henss Family.Wm and Katharine Henss 1900

If you know of any additional history to support and expand our history, please use our contact page to share your information and/or images.

William Henss’s family and birth location have been identified.
We are in the process of gathering source images and details for entry into our family tree(s). Thus far we have added nearly 100 newly identified individuals and relevant source document links.  It may take several months to complete these tasks.

If you are interested in learning more about this effort, you may contact me directly; please do so using our Contact page.

Catharina Kämmer’s family and birth location have been identified.
We are in the process of gathering source images and details for entry into our family tree(s). Thus far we have added nearly 100 newly identified individuals and relevant source document links.  It may take several months to complete these tasks.

If you are interested in learning more about this effort, you may contact me directly; please do so using our Contact page.

William Henss Before 1854 and Before Iowa (US)

Preliminary analysis of our newly discovered information indicates that Wilhelm (William) was born on 20 Dec. 1831 to Johann Philip Henss and his wife Elisabetha Keil who were married earlier that same year on 12 Oct. 1831.

In 1831, Philip was the ‘new’ Ettingshausen town blacksmith and son of Johann Heinrich Henss (a part-time District Council Clerk – Gemeindeschreiber and full-time Master Carpenter – Schreinermeister from nearby Beuern).  Wilhelm, his parents and siblings (his brothers Heinrich & Jacob and sister Catharina) lived in the small village of Ettingshausen in what was then the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt .

Note: The Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was a Germanic Grand Duchy who’s name was most likely debased into the “Dormstead” seen in numerous family legends regarding William’s original home area.

It was, most likely, in Ettingshausen that the Henss brothers Wilhelm and Heinrich both learned the blacksmithing trade from their father Johann Philip. Heinrich appears to have taken over the family business in Ettingshausen from their father; while his older sibling, Wilhelm, went to Iowa to establish his successful blacksmithing and wagon making business.

Wilhelm’s mother Elisabetha Keil, Philip’s first wife, died on 27 Aug. 1842; Philip, Wilhelm’s father, remarried to Elisabetha Schaefer in 28 May 1843.  Wilhelm’s half-siblings from that second union were Maria and Elisabetha one and two.  The first Elisabetha dying as a young child; the second Elisabetha was born the year after the first Elisabetha’s death in 1856, some three years after Wilhelm’s departure to Iowa in 1853.

1854 to 1855

During these years William Henss (Wilhelm Henß) – who arrived in 1853- and Katharine Kaemmer (Catharina Kämmer)- in 1855- completed their travels from Hesse to Southeastern Iowa in the United States.

We know that Katharine travelled from Lumda through Bremen to Baltimore and then Burlington, Iowa (this information is on a tag affixed to Katherine’s trunk, which is in our possession). 20 July 1855 is the date we believe Catherine departed ‘Lumda’ for the United States. This information was obtained from the following text: Woher sie kamen… Wohin sie gingen; Auswanderungen aus dem ehemaligen Kreis Gruenberg in der 2. Haelfte des 19. Jahrhunderts by Marie Herber.

Although numerous relatives and family trees on Ancestry.com (and elsewhere) indicate that Katherine was born in Kassel, we believe this is inaccurate.  Our belief is that she was born and grew up near the area from which she departed in 1855 (Klein-Lumda in Hesse-Darmstadt).  We continue to search for records of her birth and family.

Based on a handwritten note on a photograph, we are quite certain that Katherine resided with the family of Konrad Kassel and Marie Anna (Mary Anna) Hentz (Henss) of Beuren, Hesse-Darmstadt upon arriving in Iowa. Mary Anna emigrated to the United States before 1839, the year she married Conrad Kassel in St. Louis.  Based upon the records we have found, we are certain that Mary was William Henss’s aunt.  She and her husband Conrad Kassel came to Iowa between 1841 and 1842 (Their marriage took place in 1839; and the first documented birth date of one of their children in Iowa is 1842.) It is our belief that Conrad & Mary hosted individuals arriving from the ‘old country’ to Iowa. Included among those new immigrants, we believe, was one Katherine Kemmer.  It is at the Kassel home in Union Township, Des Moines County where we believe Wilhelm Henss and Katherine Kemmer first met (were introduced). Although, other possibilities remain.


In 1856, William Henss (Hense) was a blacksmith living in Jefferson, Henry County Iowa. He was 25 and had been a resident of Iowa for 3 years. (according to the 1856 Iowa Census). This likely means he emigrated to the United States about 1853.

NB. The area where William lived had its plat filed as Marshall, Iowa in 1851.


William Henss and Katharine Kaemmer were married 12 Jan 1857. Their wedding record provides us with the following information:

  • Groom’s Name: William Heuss (note misspelling)
  • Groom’s Birth Date:
  • Groom’s Birthplace:
  • Groom’s Age:
  • Bride’s Name: Catharine Kraemer (note misspelling)
  • Bride’s Birth Date:
  • Bride’s Birthplace:
  • Bride’s Age:
  • Marriage Date: 12 Jan 1857
  • Marriage Place: Des Moines, Iowa
  • Groom’s Father’s Name:
  • Groom’s Mother’s Name:
  • Bride’s Father’s Name:
  • Bride’s Mother’s Name:
  • Groom’s Race:
  • Groom’s Marital Status:
  • Groom’s Previous Wife’s Name:
  • Bride’s Race:
  • Bride’s Marital Status:
  • Bride’s Previous Husband’s Name:
  • Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M02529-7
  • System Origin: Iowa-EASy
  • Source Film Number: 956350
  • Reference Number: Vol. 4 p.139
  • Collection: Iowa Marriages, 1809-1992

By 1859, we find a Hance William, blacksmith listed in the HENRY CO, IOWA DIRECTORY 1859-60 (Watson Brown, Publisher, Burlington, Iowa).

Town 73, Range 7.
Post Office-Marshall. ALEX. STEWART, P.M.

MARSHALL is the only village in this township. It has a population of some 250; one good church, a school house, and three stores. Is a place of considerable business. The township is timber and prairie about equally divided. The land is rich and well adapted for farming purposes.

The population of the township 803 persons.

[…] H
Hance William, blacksmith.


By 1860 William, now 28, (Hens) had married Katharine (Kaemmer, age 29) and had a son Louis (age 10 months). He continued to be listed as a blacksmith and along with his family resided in Marshall, Jefferson Township, Henry County, Iowa. His real estate was valued at $400 and his personal estate at $500. At that same time they had a white domestic servant named Christina Collin (aged 10).


In June of 1863, William Henss was registered on the consolidated list of all persons of Class I, subject to do military duty in the First Congressional District, State of Iowa.


In 1864, William Henss received his US citizenship.

Name: William Henss
Year: 1864
Place: Iowa
Source Publication Code: 6015.65.85
Primary Immigrant: Henss, William
Annotation: Date of naturalization in Henry County, Iowa. Country of origin also provided.
Source Bibliography: NATURALIZATION RECORDS, HENRY COUNTY, IOWA. In Henry County Genealogical Society Quarterly (Mount Pleasant, IA), vol. 9:4 (October 1995), pp. 306-311; vol. 10:1 (January 1996), pp. 317-320; vol. 10:2 (April 1996), pp. 326-329; vol. 10:3 (July 1996), pp.
Page: 317


According to the 1870 US Census, William & Katharine and their family lived in Mt. Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa. William (listed as 38) was Wagon maker while his wife Kate (also listed as 38) was keeping house. The value of their Real Estate was noted as $8000; their personal estate was valued at $320. With them were their children:

  • Louis (enumerated as Lewis) 11 at home
  • Elizabeth 9 at home
  • William 7 at home
  • Katie 3 at home

By 1880 US Census, the William Henss Family was in the Village of Wayland, Henry County, Iowa (NB. In March 20, 1880, just before the US Census was conducted, Marshall Iowa was renamed to Wayland Iowa in order to eliminate confusion with the larger Marshalltown, Iowa.). William (48) was listed in the 1880 US Census as a Blacksmith. Catharine (50), his wife was noted as Keeping house. Living with them were their children:

  • Lewis (20) Working in Blacksmith shop (presumably with William Henss)
  • Elizabeth (19) Keeping house
  • William (15) Working in Blacksmith shop (presumably with William Henss)
  • Catharine (12) at home
1885- 1887

However by the 1885 Iowa Census, we find William Henss (age 53) and Katharine (age 55) living in Jefferson Township, Henry County, Iowa. Living with them were their children:

  • Louis (age 25)
  • Lizzie (age 23)
  • William (age 21)
  • Katie (age 17)

They also had Oliver Carow (age 50),a teamster, and Will Franks (age 41), a laborer, living in their household. By this time William was in business as a wagon maker.

“The wedding of Joseph [Wenger] […] was a brilliant affair, and was celebrated on Thursday, Oct. 27, 1887, the bride being Miss Katie, the handsome daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Henss, the veteran wagon-maker, and one of the wealthy men of Wayland. The young couple took a pleasant bridal tour, and are now [cozily] settled in Wayland, the birthplace of the bride, who has one of the best of husbands and a man in whom the public repose confidence.”

source article: Portrait & Biographical Album of Henry County- 1888


“Louis Wagner of Burlington visited Mrs. William Henss Saturday. They are distantly related and were raised in the same village in the old country.”

Wayland News- Wayland, Henry, Iowa- July 8, 1908


By 1900, William (indexed as William Henis, age 68) and Katharine (indexed as Katie, age 70) were living in Wayland City, Jefferson Township, Henry County, Iowa with their daughter Lizzie (age 39).

William’s birth date is listed as Dec 1831; Katharine’s as Nov 1829; and, Lizzie’s as Feb 1861. William and Katharine had been married for 43 years by 1900 and Lizzie was single. Emigration dates listed as being 1852 for William and 1855 for Katharine. William was listed as being a naturalized citizen. William, in 1900, was listed as being a wagon manufacturer and a home owner. All three Henss Family members could speak, read, and write English. (A complete transcription of this 1900 US Census page is available on us-census. org.)


William Henss died on 19 March 1902.


In the 1910 US Census, we find that confirmation that William has died and Katharine is listed as the widowed head of household (age 80) living with her daughter Lizzie (age 48). They continued to reside in Wayland Town, Jefferson Township, Henry County, Iowa.


Katharine died on 18 November 1913.

Early Wayland Iowa Photos

The following photo gallery contains photos from Wayland, Iowa in the late 1800’s and early to mid-1900’s and are available for viewing on ManyRoads in our Henry County Iowa Gallery (below).


The information on this page has been graciously augmented by the efforts of numerous genealogical friends including: Manuela Bassler, Elvira Groot, Jerry Harris, Kate “Chris’ Mom”, and Jutta Hoffmann.
1 & 2 Aug. 2011:
I have read the following website… Hessisches Staatsarchiv Darmstadt(HStAD) Auswanderer-Nachweise(R 21 B); I have run searches and reviewed all materials for:

  • all Hen*
  • all Hin*
  • all Hes*
  • all kaem*
  • all Kae*
  • all Käm
  • all Beuren
  • all Baltimore
  • all Lumda
  • all bremen
  • all Chatharina
  • all kaemmer
  • all Wilhelm

The only “finds” that were returned were:

NACHWEIS Kämmerer, Katharina, Herkunft: Kröckelbach. – Auswanderungsdatum: 1854 / Ziel: über London. – Alter/geb.: 10 Monate, Eltern: Kämmerer, Adam, 28 J.; Kämmerer, Margarete, geb. NN, 24 J.. – Bemerkungen: mit Eltern; Vertr./Prüf.27.2./3.3.1854. Quelle: Huschke 823; G 15 Bergstraße 2 Nr. 284 1854

NACHWEIS Kammler, Katharina, Herkunft: Seeheim. – Auswanderungsdatum: 1854 / Ziel: Amerika, USA. – Alter/geb.: * 1836-12-15. Quelle: HFV-Kartei; Heimatbuch Seeheim-Jugenheim, S. 251

neither seem relevant.

I have ordered the following microfilms from the LDS:

  • FHC Microfilm (NARA Baltimore Ships Lists) K-560 and K-566 FHL #0821575
  • Beuern ev. Kirche Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1821-1840 FHL INTL Film 800674
  • Allendorf/ Lumda Taufen 1825-1845 FHL INTL Film 1195876
  • Grünberg, Hessen Taufen 1817-1835 FHL INTL Film 801274
  • Grünberg (Kr. Gießen)Tote 1827-1828 Tauf-, Heirats-, Totenindex 1808-1828 Tote 1829-1845 Tauf-, Heirats-, Totenondex 1829-1845 Tote 1846-1861 FHL INTL Film 1201518

17 Oct. 2010: New information, worthy of exploration, has been discovered in the Henry County History vol. 1 copyright 1982. This document states that William’s family was from Beuern, Hessen. In researching the location of Beuern a second Lumda was found within 5 miles of Beuern. Church records for Gruenberg and Stangenrod (both near Lumda) are being sourced for Katharine’s birth; and, Beuern Church records are being sourced for Wilhelm’s birth.– these documents produced nothing of interest.
14 Sep. 2010: Sadly, I reviewed the Church records for the ev. Kirche in Lumda and was unable to find either William or Katharine’s birth.

I will search on. If anyone knows of possible family members in Hesse (in Germany) or of possible birth record locations, please let us know!

William Henss – Katharine Kämmer

Henry County Iowa