Charles Henry Wilcken:
How He Won the Iron Cross

The Prussian Army was endeavoring to ford a stream under the fire of the Danes. Men and horses alike shrank from duty, which seemed to foretell of certain death. Consternation was within the ranks, when a strapping youth came up from the rear and led his comrades on to the goal and victory.

For this service to his country, Charles was decorated with the Iron Cross. Two years of war were enough for him and he left the rank of the army. When the Emperor began to draft men of gigantic stature for his body guard, Charles left for America. Wilcken’s stature measured 6 feet 4 inches in his stocking feet. He had already achieved distinction for bravery and it seemed certain that he would be drafted. That life did not appeal to him and he emigrated to America, leaving his wife and family behind.

He arrived in New York practically penniless, having left all his worldly possessions with his family. He sought work, but his inability to speak the language proved a severe handicap. But for a short time, which he served as a cabinet maker, he was without work. Force of circumstances compelled him to join the army. He enlisted and came west with Johnston’s army.

Two years among the Mormon’s were enough to make him decide to make his home here. When his term of enlistment expired he remained in Utah and sent for his wife and family.

During the years of 1867, 1868 an 1869 he was engaged in work on the Union Pacific. The grading contracts were held by Brigham Young Jr. and John W. Young and Charles H. Wilcken was selected to be in charge of the actual work. In this way he was actively associated with the bringing of the first railroad to Utah.

On his return from the mission field, he became conspicuous in public life and served in the city employment for a period of twenty years. He was city recorder for the greater part of this time, but also served the city as watermaster and park custodian. He was also a special police officer. He was one of the most trusted men in the church. As a result of this confidence, he was with President John Taylor on the “underground’ during the years 1885, 1886 and 1887.

For the last twelve years of his life he served as guide on Temple Square.


Return to histories of Bertha and Dora Wilcken