My Story – Martens-Dohrmann Family



My father was Claus Martens, born 13 February 1881, in Osterstedt, in the province of Schleswig Holstein, Germany. He was the youngest of six children, five sons and one daughter, born to Jurgen Martens and Abeline Jarsdorf. Jurgen was born 14 March 1831 and died 3 November 1912. Abeline was born 26 August 1844 and died 1 April 1924.


Osterstedt was a farming village. The farmers lived in the village in their hausbarn, a house with a barn attached. They kept their livestock in the fields, except in the winter, and went to the fields to till the soil.

Abeline had inherited the farm from her parents. She was blind in later years. My grandparents remained in Germany, as did one son and their only daughter. The other four sons came to America.

Claus was confirmed in the Lutheran church in Todenbuttel on 11 April 1897. He emigrated from Hamburg, Germany aboard the Augusta Victoria steamship and arrived at Ellis Island 13 June 1897. He worked for farmers in the Persia and Portsmouth, Iowa area.

My father received his Naturalization Certificate on 23 November 1904 in Logan, Iowa. In March of 1907, he and his brother, Hans Martens, purchased a 120-acre farm in Shelby County near Portsmouth. The purchase price was $85 per acre. They farmed in partnership for five years.

Father married Bertha Dohrmann 2 February 1912. The marriage took place at the home of his brother and her sister, Hans and Emma Dohrmann Martens.

Bertha was born 7 June 1891 in Hohenfelde, in the province of Schleswig Holstein, Germany to Frederick William Dohrmann and Margaretha Kay. My grandfather Dohrmann was born 25 September 1852 in Gadendorf, Prussia and died 1895 in Hohenfelde. My grandmother was born 2 February 1856 in Hohenfelde, Prussia and died 28 February 1936 in Gerber, California. All seven of my mother’s siblings and her widowed mother came to America.

Before my grandfather Dohrmann was married, he served in the army as a member of the personal guard of the King of Denmark. Denmark held possession of the province at that time. One of the requirements was to be at least six feet four inches in height, and my grandfather was six feet five inches tall.

We find it interesting that my mother’s brother, August Dohrmann, had enlisted in the German cavalry at the age of nineteen and served two years before he came to America. He had a successful career in the service and was noted for his ability to ride and jump horses. For a long time, he held a record for jumping eight feet two inches. A visitor from the United States who was reviewing the troops had the young Corporal Dohrmann summoned from the ranks. The visitor congratulated him on his horsemanship and handed him a cigar. That visitor was Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.

The Dohrmanns lived in a hausbarn. My mother told of walking to the fields, milking the cows and carrying the milk in buckets on a yoke across her shoulders, a bucket on each side, back to the village. The cows were not tied up; they just stood in the pasture. There was a moat around the pasture.

My mother emigrated from Liverpool, England aboard the steamship Mauretania and arrived at Ellis Island 12 March 1909. We are quite sure that her sponsor was her uncle, Charles (Carl) Dohrmann. A sponsor helped them to settle in and get established in the new country.

In March 1912, Claus and Bertha sold their undivided one half interest of the farm to his brother Hans, and purchased a 138-acre farm four miles east of Persia. The purchase price was $120 per acre. In 1918, they sold that farm and purchased an 80-acre farm three miles north and one and a half miles west, and one fourth mile north of Shelby. The purchase price was $212 per acre.


They were the parents of six children: Agnes (b. 16 November 1912; d. 21 July 1975) married Leonard Altstadt; Martha (b. 21 April 1914; d. 20 September 2008) married Henry Lissi; Loretta (b. 18 July 1919; d. 17 April 2009) married Roy Jessen; Helen (b.7 June 1921; d. 5 April 2010) married Orville Goshorn; Robert (b. 18 October 1928) married Mariann Green; Marvin (b.1 November 1931; d. 3 November 1996) married Jeannine (McFarland) Bramman.


When I was two weeks old, my mother’s sister-in-law, Johanna (Noehren) Dohrmann passed away, leaving my uncle August with five children. The youngest was only five and a half weeks old. Johanna’s sister and her husband cared for baby Darlene and adopted her. My parents had three of the children come to live with us. The oldest, Bernice, was eleven, Dena was seven, and Glenn was two years old. That made eight children in our home aged sixteen to two weeks! Bernice lived with us more than a year, and then went to Omaha to live with another aunt. Dena was with us for about two years, and then went to live with that aunt, also. Glenn was with us until he was thirteen, and then he went to work for other farmers and lived with them. Glenn and I were like brothers and still are.

My parents remained on the farm near Shelby the rest of their lives. All six of us children graduated from the Shelby Consolidated School.

My father passed away 24 October 1950, and my mother passed away 23 June 1958. Both are buried in the Shelby Cemetery.

By much correspondence and cooperation from other branches of the family, we have the Martens family traced back to 1595, the Dohrmann family to around 1769, and the Kay family to about 1800.