Rev. William Boetcker - Chez Goodman 
Previous Top Home Search Bottom Next Top
Bio | Texts | Bookmarks | Cool Files | JavaScript | Tools | Guest Book
Previous | Home | Site Map | Previous | Top | Home | Search | Bottom | Next | Search | Bottom | Next

William John Henry Boetcker was born in Altona, a suburb of Hamburg, Germany on July 17, 1873, the third child in a family of three sisters. At the age of 8, his father, a foreman in a factory, was carried home on a stretcher, disabled for life when he was beaten by striking workers.

When he was about 14 or 15, Boetcker started a book. Despite his father's assertion that he was crazy, he worked hard and finished it at age 16. It was called Neuester Rätzelschatz and was a collection of puzzles and mind problems. A newspaper described him as Germany's youngest author, and this drew the attention of the Countess Von Waldersee, an American born woman, who believed that Boetcker would have to go to America to make something of himself. She thought he would never amount to anything in Germany. At age 18, after he finished high school, she gave Boetcker $65 to go to America.

Boetcker took the steam ship Augusta Victoria to America. It was a stormy crossing, and when it arrived in New York 30 days late, they learned that they had been presumed lost at sea. Boetcker proceeded to Chicago, Illinois, where he attended the Chicago Theological Seminary. He spoke no English, and the professors spoke no German, so they conversed in Latin.

In 1893 the Columbian Exposition (the World's Fair) came to Chicago. The Pope had sent a Cardinal to represent the church, but a member of the Cardinal's Special Bodyguard had taken ill. An ad was placed seeking men six feet tall with military training who could play the cornet. Boetcker had been a Reserve Lieutenant in the German Army, and he knew how to play cornet, so he answered the ad despite being less than the required height. Nobody else responded, and he got the job.

While at the Exposition, Boetcker rode the Ferris wheel, which was the first to have been built. He was fond of telling how he got stuck at the top of the wheel, and played "Nearer My God to Thee" on his cornet. Let it not be said he had no sense of humor.

Boetcker disagreed with some of the Chicago Theleological Seminary's tenets, and moved to the Bloomfield Seminary in New Jersey to complete his studies for the ministry.

Information for this article obtained from newspaper clippings and Boetcker family documents.

Copyright © 2004 David K. Goodman. All Rights Reserved.
Previous | Top | Home | Search | Bottom | Next  Updated 7/8/2004