WILLIAM A. GERKEN, proprietor of the steam bakery of Bloomington, is a representative German citizen, and was
born in the Kingdom of Hanover, on the coast of the North Sea, June 25, 1835. His father, Albert Gerken, was a
gentleman of good education, and in his younger years was engaged at teaching school. He then entered the army
of Napoleon as a musician and soldier, serving six years. The mother of our subject, who in her maidenhood was
Miss Catharine M. Floater, was the second wife of Albert Gerken, and they became the parents of five children.
Our subject commenced attending school at the early age of five years, and continued until fourteen. He then served an apprenticeship of three years at the baker's trade, and when seventeen years old started for America. After a prosperous voyage he landed at Charleston, S. C., Nov. 20, 1853. There he passed the winter occupied at his trade with the firm of Martin Meyer for a time, and then went to Aiken, S. C., engaging in a store with the view of learning the English language and mercantile pursuits. Two years later he started for the Northwest, and landing at Milwaukee, Wis., engaged as clerk in a dry-goods store. From there he went to Kenosha, and forming a partnership with Andrew Clark engaged in the grocery trade. They operated together for eighteen months, when Mr. Gerken purchased the interest of his partner and continued the business alone for two years following. He then took Mr. William Ernst into the business, which they conducted together for five years, and then our subject sold out to his partner and engaged in the bakery business at Kenosha for twelve months.
In 1870 Mr. Gerken came to Bloomington, Ill., and opened a bakery on the corner of East and Front streets, where the present business is located. He began on a small scale at first, but was prospered in his labors and now has the largest establishment of its kind in the city. The old building has been replaced by a large and handsomer one, which Mr. Gerken erected in 1881. It is 65x115 feet in area, three stories in height, and furnished with all modern appliances of a first-class steam bakery. The entire building is devoted to the business, which is almost exclusively wholesale, their shipments being to neighboring towns and cities. Mr. Gerken is now largely interested in the milling business, having purchased a half interest in the Crown Roller Mills, W. H. Wentz being the owner of the other half interest.
Mr. Gerken was united in marriage with Miss Minnie A. Stemm, at Kenosha, Wis., in 1863. Of this union there were born three children, of whom one only is living Catharine M. Albert F. died when an interesting youth of sixteen years, and an infant died unnamed. Mr. Gerken is a member of Uhland Lodge No. 305, I. O. O. F., belongs to the Turners Society, and is a regular attendant of the Congregational Church.
Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 640. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.