JOSEPH GERKE was born March 7, 1878 in Philadelphia PA to Henry and
Matilda Gerke, who both were natives of Prussia. The elder Gerke worked
as a carpenter, and was almost 50 when Henry was born. When the 1900
Census was taken, he lived with his widowed mother Matilda and sister
Bertha at 222 McKean Street in South Philadelphia. He then worked as an
Gerke moved to Camden shortly after the 1900 census. He
married Ida Francis Cox around 1902, and a daughter, Matilda, was born
in 1903. When the Census was taken in 1910, he was working
as a pressman at the Victor Talking Machine Company factory. At that
time the Cox family, consisting of daughters
Matilda and Martha, and son Henry Jr., lived at 135 Beckett
Street in South Camden.
Gerke became a member of the Camden Fire Department as early as
September of 1918, and had by then moved to 619 South
4th Street. His wife's uncle, George
P. Cox, was then a battalion chief with the Camden Fire Department. When the 1920 Census was taken,
Henry Gerke's father-in-law and mother-in-law were living
at that address as well. Father-in-law Wright Ellis
Cox, who had
been a Camden fire fighter in the 1890s and early 1900s and a Camden
policeman as early as 1910, was then a sergeant with the Camden Police
Department, and would remain with the police force through at least
1924. The Gerke family also had another son by then, Wright
born in 1919.
J. Gerke moved to 2131 47th Street in Pennsauken shortly after the 1924 Camden City
Directory was compiled, and remained there through July of 1942 before
moving to Collingswood NJ. His wife, Ida passed in October of 1941.
Henry Gerke was still with the Fire Department in 1942.
Gerke's oldest daughter, Matilda, married Edward
R. MacDowell, a member of the Camden Fire Department. He
served as Chief of Department from 1959 until his retirement in
1965. Matilda MacDowell passed away on November 19,
Gerke's son, Second Lieutenant Wright
E. Gerke, was killed in action over Germany in August of 1943. Henry
Gerke was still working with the Camden Fire Department as late as the
spring of 1942. He died on April 15, 1945.