The Story of George Frederick Gerding, successful New York businessman, is of prime importance to the history of Wartburg and Morgan County, TN, for the period immediately preceding the Civil War. This man who had rubbed elbows with the Roosevelts, Astors, and other prominent New Yorkers, and knew his way around in the royal circles of Europe, staked his fortune in the establishment of the German-Swiss colony of Wartburg in Morgan County in the 1845-60 period. He sold his interest in the remains of the colony after the Civil War, and moved to Oliver Springs, TN, at the age of 84. George F. Gerding was orphaned at an early age when his father, WILLIAM GERDING, died. He was reared by a maternal uncle. George attended local schools at Lage, and was later sent to Heidelberg to complete his school work. He came to New York City in 1825, and found employment with Casper Myer and Co., for whom he worked four years. He then entered into a partnership with George H. Simon in the export-import business which specialized in cut-glass and chinaware from Germany and France. Gerding had read glowing accounts by a German traveler named Bromme who had passed through Morgan, Anderson and Roane Counties in 1828 in which Bromme painted a most flattering picture regarding the fertility and cheapness of the land, and the healthy perfect climate. When in 1839 large tracts of land on the Cumberland Plateau were offered for sale in New York City, George F. Gerding was among the first buyers. In 1842, he joined with J. C. KUNCKELMANN to found a packet-ship line which operated four sailing vessels between New York City and Antwerp. This enterprise brought him in contact with immigrant societies.
EAST TENNESSEE COLONIZATION COMPANY FORMED: In 1844, Gerding and Kunckelmann joined with THEODORE DE COCK, a wealthy Belgian, to organize the East TN Colonization Company with DeCock as President and Gerding as Vice President. As a first step, on August 23, 1844, the Company sent FREDERICK B. GUENTHER to Morgan County as its resident agent. In 1845, the first immigrants reached Morgan County where the Company now had approximately 167,000 acres of land. In the meantime, Gerding was made a Minister to Belgium and Consul to Baden-Baden for the period of 1845-46. He seemed to be able to carry on his duties and to promote the interest of the Colonization Company with a minimum amount of conflict of interest.
GERDING TAKES CHARGE AT WARTBURG After returning from Europe, Gerding experienced the grief and misfortune of losing seven of his fourteen children by death and subsequent burials in Greenwood Cemetery in New York. The Wartburgcolony was floundering, and in consideration of his family's health, Gerding decided to take his remaining family to Wartburg and to take personal charge of the Colony in 1849. In addition to the problems related to hewing homes from a wilderness, he found the Colony wracked with problems concerning the Doctors and medical services, and divisive problems among the various religious groups of the 475 members of the Colony. Although the Colony made progress under the strong leadership of Gerding, by the 1860's it became highly disorganized over the on-coming Civil War. When President deCock decided to dissolve the Immigration Company, Gerding was forced into lengthy litigation in the New York courts with other members of the defunct firm.
GERDING LEAVES WARTBURG Gerding was a strong Confederate sympathizer, and soon became a refugee from Wartburg to Louisville, KY, where he waited out the War. After the War, he returned to inspect the Colony, but found it in ruins. Gerding sold his interests in the town and contiguous areas in 1865 to the New York City market. The Morgan County 1850 census shows George F. Gerding's land value as$100,000. the Morgan County 1876 Tax list shows George F. Gerding with 18,494 acres of land which he sold to the English Colony at Rugby in 1879.
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