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William Frederick Doepke
THE HISTORIAN is glad to herein set forth the salient
facts in the eminently successful and honorable career
of the well-remembered and highly esteemed gentle-
man of Cincinnati whose name initiates this memoir,
the last chapter in whose life record has been closed by the hand of death, and the seal set thereon forever, but whose influence still pervades the lives of those with whom he came in contact. For a period of over forty years, the late William Frederick Doepke ranked as one of the most progressive men of the State of Ohio, an influential and public-spirited citizen who was closely identified with the industrial development of the city of his nativity and almost life-long residence. Success came to him as the result of no accident or inscrutable caprice of fate, but as n result of strict justice, for he employed his talents, which were of a superior quality, in a legitimate line of endeavor.
Mr. Doepke, as his name would indicate, was of German blood, and seems to have inherited many of the sterling traits of his progenitors. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 27, 1838. He was a son of John Henry Doepke, who was a native of Hanover, Germany, where he spent his boyhood, immigrating to the United States, when fifteen years of age, with his parents, the family locating in New Bremen, Auglaize County, Ohio, later removing to Cincinnati, where the elder Doepke, our subject's grandfather, engaged in the dry goods business, under whose guidance John H. Doepke, his son, learned the same line of business, in which he engaged there for many years with much success. Both the grandfather and father were men of sound judgment, honesty, and frugality.
William F. Doepke grew up in his native city, in a mercantile atmosphere, and it is not to be wondered at that he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in a business way. He received his early education in the public schools of Cincinnati, which was greatly supplemented later in life by contact with the world and wide home reading, until he became an exceptionally well-informed man. He began his business career when a mere boy, his father placing him in a dry goods store at the age of fifteen years. Like many young men starting out in life, he desired to see something of the world before entering upon his serious life work, and he began his travels with the intention of visiting foreign countries; but he did not get far, stopping first at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where he worked in a general store for about a year, during which time he became familiar with the various phases of merchandising. After leaving that place, he visited a number of cities, finally locating for a time in St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked in a dry goods store for three years. He then went to New York City, where he remained but a short time, returning to Cincinnati about the time the news spread over the land of the firing on Fort Sumter. He proved his patriotism by being one of the first to respond to President Lincoln's call for troops to suppress the rebellion. He was then twenty-two
years old, and he enlisted on the day the nation's chief executive issued his proclamation, April 15, 1861, in Company D, Sixth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, his regiment being known as the "Guthrie Greys," one of the most efficient and loyal regiments in the Union army. He proved to be a brave and gallant soldier, always performing his duty faithfully, no matter how arduous or how dan- gerous, and he took part in many important campaigns and battles of the war.
On May 17,1861, the Sixth Ohio Regiment was ordered to Camp Dennison (named after the Governor of Ohio), and located on the Little Miami River, fifteen miles from Cincinnati. At that time, there were about ten thousand men in camp, in charge of Brigadier-General Joshua Bates. Mr. Doepke's term of enlistment, which was for three months, having expired, he reenlisted June
16, 1861, in the same regiment, for three years. This regiment was composed almost exclusively of young men. It was reviewed June
17, of that year, by Gen. George B. McClellan, and the regiment was presented with a handsome silk flag, six feet square, by the ladies of Cincinnati, and the banner was never captured. The regiment was commanded by Col. William K. Bosley. By June 29, it contained one thousand and thirty-two men, and on that date was ordered to Virginia, and soon had an opportunity to prove its mettle, being in the thickest of the fight at the battle of Carrick Ford, where the Confederates were routed. On July 21, the regiment marched over the mountains of the western part of Virginia, camping at Beverly, and during July, August, and September it was very active in the service, assisting in checking General Lee who was attempting to drive the Federal forces across the Ohio River, the most important engagements taking place around Elk-water. Although the enemy was repulsed, the Sixth Ohio suffered severely, being in the thickest of the fighting, and later suffered terribly on those bleak mountains from the cold and exposure during the fall and winter.
The following telegram was sent from Huttonville, Virginia, October 1, 1861:
"The Sixth Regiment, Ohio Volunteers, is in a freezing condition; forced marches innumerable and constant service have rendered the men ragged. The severe cold of the mountains paralyzes them. Cannot we be relieved by our State? Utterly without pay for five months' actual service. Cannot we at least be saved from destitution? In clothing we want overcoats, trousers, and blankets. We have none of these; and two hundred and twelve men do duty in their drawers alone. Sleep is never enjoyed at night on account of cold.
"N. L. Anderson, Lieutenant-Colonel."
The above telegram was sent to Ohio's Governor. Our subject was one of those sufferers and brave men of the Sixth Regiment, fighting for our glorious republic. The regiment was relieved in about two weeks thereafter.
On November 18, 1861, this regiment was ordered to duty in Kentucky, and camped about five miles from Louisville. On February 14, 1862, it started on a forced march to reinforce General Grant, arriving at Nashville, Tennessee, March 16. It was sent to Savannah, Georgia, and had to fight nearly every step of the way, Confederate cavalry burning the bridges and harrassing the Hanks of the Federal forces. This regiment was a part of the Fourth Division, which was commanded by General Nelson. It was ordered to Pittsburg Landing to relieve General Grant, who was then in peril of being crushed by the enemy, and it was General Nelson's division that saved the day at Shiloh for the Union, on April 6. In the thickest of the fray, General Nelson ordered those who did not want to fight to get out of the way, then shouted, "Sixth Ohio, follow me!" The lines were quickly reformed, and the battle was won. This regiment was given great credit by army officers for its splendid work on that momentous day. Our subject slept on the sanguinary field one night among the bodies of the slain. This regiment also saw hard service in Front of Corinth, and Company D was the company to first enter the town of Corinth. On June 9, 1862, the Sixth Ohio began a march to Chattanooga, taking part in that trying and exhausting campaign which lasted six months. The Tenth Brigade, of which the Sixth Ohio was a part, was sent to recapture Murfreesboro, and the flag of this daring regiment was soon seen floating from the courthouse there.
In 1862, Mr. Doepke was transferred to the signal corps by order of the War Department, and for bravery and efficiency he was promoted to sergeant. Mr. Doepke was in the battle of Perryville, Kentucky. Then his regiment became a part of the Army of the Cumberland under Gen. William Rosecrans, the Sixth Ohio doing rear guard duty for the entire division, and it was on the firing line at the great battle of Stone's River. On September 19 and 20, 1863, it fought at Chickamauga, one of the greatest battles of any war, and lost one hundred and ten men in killed and wounded, from a total of three hundred and forty-five officers and men. This regiment was in the thickest of the battle. On October 18,1863, General Grant took charge in person at Chattanooga, where the Sixth Ohio was then stationed. The battle of Orchard Knob, then Lookout Mountain, followed, also that of Missionary Ridge. On June 6, I864, the Sixth Ohio having completed its service of three years, was mustered out, June 23, 1864, but there was only a handful of the original regiment. Mr. Doepke immediately joined the Railroad Quartermaster's Department, at Nashville, Tennessee, and served until the end of the war, when he was honorably discharged.
In later years, he became an active member of Frederick C. Jones Post, Grand Army of the Republic, at Cincinnati, and he delighted to gather with his old comrades and talk over their trying experiences while fighting for the perpetuity of the Union. Although he told of the hardships, dangers, and sufferings he underwent, he was unassuming and never boastful.
Returning home after his military service, Mr. Doepke began his great mercantile career, engaging in the dry goods business in partnership with Frederick H Alms and William H. Alms, under the firm name of Alms & Doepke, which was organized in September, 1865, as a partnership, later was organized as a corporation. Their success was phenomenal, due for the most part to the energy, sound judgment, tact, and rare business acumen of Mr. Doepke, who became the executive head of the firm, his associates having charge of the buying and sales ends. Devoting his undivided attention to his mammoth store, our subject became in due course of time one of the best known men of affairs in southern Ohio, and since his death the business has been carried forward along the lines which he inaugurated until it has grown to one of the largest concerns of its kind in the United States, occupying modernly appointed and substantial quarters and employing scores of assistants.
Mr. Doepke was married, in 1871, to Augusta Sohn, a daughter of J. W. and Katherine (Rosenfeldt) Sohn, a prominent family of Hamilton, Ohio. The father was born in Bavaria, Germany, and was a student at Wurtesburg, Bavaria. When about eighteen years of age, he immigrated to the United States, locating first in Cincinnati, later taking up his residence in Hamilton, Ohio. He has been deceased a number of years. His wife was also born in Germany, from which country she came to America when young. Her father was a German Protestant minister, and he established the first German church in Chillicothe, Ohio, at that time the capital of the State. Later he established the first German church at Hamilton, Ohio.
The following children were born to Mr. Doepke by his first wife, Augusta Sohn: Alma, who married Dr. A. F. Morganstern, lives in Cincinnati; Elsa, wife of Dr. H. H. Wiggers, also resides in Cincinnati; Adi is single and lives in Cincinnati. The death of the wife and mother occurred January 24, 1881, at Cincinnati. Mr. Doepke subsequently married Leonora Sohn, a sister of his first wife, and to this union two children were born, namely: William L. married Ethel Page, and they have two children, Charles William, and Robert Page, and they live in Cincinnati; Robert H. Doepke is single and lives at home.
Mrs. Doepke is a member of the Women's Club, also the Cincinnati Woman's City Club, which was organized in 1914, having as its object the general betterment of Cincinnati. She is a woman of many commendable characteristics and is a favorite in the circles in which she moves. Her family were pioneers of Hamilton and influential in the affairs of that city for many years. Mrs. Doepke sailed for Europe June 9, 1914, on the Empress Augusta Victoria, of the Hamburg line. She went abroad for the purpose of attending the wedding of Captain Morgenstern, who was an officer in the German army. He was killed in battle in November, 1914, on the Russian border at Stallup6nen. Mrs. Doepke toured Germany notwithstanding the precarious times, and witnessed the mobilization of troops. She sailed for home by way of Holland on November 14, of that year. She is a great lover of nature and devotes her spare time to the study of plant life and has an excellent knowledge of the principles of botany. She is devoted to her home and family.
The death of William F. Doepke occurred at the commodious family residence in Cincinnati, on January 28, 1908, when nearly seventy years of age. In disposition he was modest and reserved, very kind-hearted, indulgent to his family, being happiest when by his own fireside. Having great determination, grit, and courage, he surmounted difficulties that would have thwarted others of less heroic mettle. His superior executive ability was unquestioned. Withal his honor was of the highest. He lived his religion, always honest in his business dealings, and he took great pains in inculcating right principles in his children. His sons are efficient, honorable, serious-minded young men, worthy of their distinquished sire in every respect. William is vice-president and executive head of the company, having succeeded his father. Robert is a director of the company and has general supervision of the store. He is by nature and training an expert electrical and mechanical engineer. He was graduated from the Massachusetts School of Technology, at Boston.
Mr. Doepke organized and founded the City Hall Bank, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and was its first president.
The family is well known and prominent in business and social life in Cincinnati.
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds