Charles Henry Wilcken

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Charles H. Wilcken
Bust photo of Charles Henry Wilcken
Wilcken ca. 1890
Military career
Allegiance Germany
United States of America
Rank Sergeant, Prussian Army
Private (artilleryman), U.S. Army
Colonel, Utah Territorial Militia
Battles/wars First Schleswig-Holstein War (Prussia / German Federation)
Utah War (U.S.)
Awards Prussian Iron Cross[1]
Personal details
Born (1831-10-05)October 5, 1831
Eckhorst, Duchy of Holstein (now in Stockelsdorf, Ostholstein, Germany)
Died April 9, 1915(1915-04-09) (aged 84)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Spouse(s) Eliza + 3 others
Children 18
Relatives George Wilcken Romney (Great-grandson), American politician

Carl Heinrich "Charles Henry" Wilcken (October 5, 1831–April 9, 1915) was a German-American artilleryman who was awarded the Iron Cross by the King of Prussia, Frederick William IV.[1]

Illustration of Wilcken (depicted in a Prussian uniform, c. 1847) published in 1912 in the Deseret News

On arrival in the United States in 1857, lacking English and possessing military skills and discipline, he signed on with what came to be known as Johnston's Army, a part of the United States Army sent to put down the so-called "Mormon Rebellion" (also known as the Utah War). He got permission to hunt for game to supplement the military rations. On one such trip he met some Mormons and decided to desert to join them.[2] Later, to cover his defection, it was claimed that he had been captured by the Utah Territorial militia (the "Nauvoo Legion") at Fort Bridger. Wilcken later joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and served as water commissioner directing irrigation, as a municipal policeman, and as superintendent of the Deseret Telegraph Company.[1][3][4][5][6][7][8]

Wilcken's granddaughter Anna Amelia Pratt was the mother of American politician George W. (George Wilcken) Romney.[9][10]


Wilcken left Holstein, then ruled as a Duchy by the King of Denmark as Duke of Saxony, while a member of the German Confederation,[11] in 1857, ahead of his wife Eliza Christina Carolina Reiche Wilcken (1830-1906) and two small children. He planned to emigrate to Argentina to join his brothers there; however, while waiting in London to sail, he ran out of funds and could only afford to go to New York City. Wilcken's family joined him in the U.S. in 1860.[9] Wilcken eventually had three additional wives and fathered 18 children.

Six foot four inches tall,[12] Wilcken worked as a miller in Salt Lake City, a skill he learned in Prussia. Later he served as the friend, driver, and bodyguard for LDS Church presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff.[1][3][13] He assisted leaders of the LDS Church to relocate their polygamous families and he served as a go-between for them and their families when they were imprisoned.


  1. ^ a b c d Seifrit, William C. (1987), Charles Henry Wilcken, an Undervalued Saint 55 (4), Utah Historical Quarterly, pp. 308–321 
  2. ^ Utah.Edu Deserter
  3. ^ a b Hart, John L. (August 20, 1994), Soldier finds peace, not war, in Utah, Deseret News 
  4. ^ Davidson, Lee (September 8, 2007), Romney ancestor fled Army, joined LDS Church, Deseret News 
  5. ^ Schindler, Hal (October 8, 1995), Frenzied Mob Kills 'Murderer', Salt Lake Tribune 
  6. ^ Wilcken, Charles Henry (August 15 – December 1, 1885), A Soldier's Adventures 20 (, 16, 17, 22, 23), Juvenile Instructor, pp. 242–358 (non–inclusive) 
  7. ^ Incidents in the Life of a Sturdy German Jaeger Who Cast His Lot With "The Flower of the American Army," Marched West against the "Mormons"; and Remained to Dwell with Them., Deseret News, December 21, 1912 
  8. ^ Death of veteran Charles H. Wilcken: Worthy Public Official and trusted of leaders passes to his reward.: Won German Iron Cross: Came to Utah with Johnston’s Army: Many years watermaster: Pioneer Millbuilder, Deseret News, October 6, 1830 
  9. ^ a b Von Karin Jordt (2012-03-25). "Mitt Romney hat Holsteiner Blut Aus dem Land Schleswig-Holstein / KN - Kieler Nachrichten" (in German). Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  10. ^ Dobner, Jennifer; Johnson, Glen (February 25, 2007). "Polygamy was prominent in Romney's family tree". Deseret News. Associated Press. 
  11. ^ A History of Modern Europe: 1815-1900 Thomas Henry Dyer, Arthur Hassall; G. Bell and sons; 1901 page 114
  12. ^ Charles Henry Wilcken, Jared Pratt Family Association 
  13. ^ Nuttal, Leonard John (2007). Jedediah S. Rogers, ed. In the President's office: the diaries of L. John Nuttall, 1879-1892. Significant Mormon Diaries 11 (Signature Books). ISBN 9781560851967. 

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