The Last of the Blacksmiths

I am pleased and excited to announce that my historical fiction novel The Last of the Blacksmiths will be published by Coffeetown Press February 15, 2014.

The Last of the Blacksmiths is historical fiction about a 19th century blacksmith who comes to America from the Bavarian Rhineland inspired by Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, dreaming of flourishing wilderness, freedom and prosperity, only to meet with indentured servitude, anti-immigrant bigotry, and civil war, and to devote his life to a livelihood that, ultimately, will vanish.

Praise for The Last of the Blacksmiths
“… the writing quality was superb, the historical and geographic detail utterly convincing, the characters well-drawn, and the dialogue persuasive … Claire Gebben has extraordinary promise. Her prose is quite brilliant; I fully lived within her world.”
– William Dietrich, Pulitzer-Prize winning author


Writing this 19th century German immigrant’s tale has been quite a journey. (For more background, see The Next Big Thing interview.)

And that journey continues. In light of this new title (the working title was “Harm’s Way”–former heading of this blog) and in preparation for a February book launch, this web site will be under construction for a few weeks. It might look different each time you visit, but eventually, the dust will settle on a shiny new look.

Meanwhile, happy summer, and thanks to all my friends and family who have lifted me up and helped me get to this milestone!

6 responses to “The Last of the Blacksmiths

  1. Very exciting! Congratulations, Claire. And I like the new title. Best of luck with the book.

  2. Claire, I am doing some family research for George Rauch–I believe brother to the Charles Rauch you have mentioned. Unfortunately through I can trace many details about George and his father Jacob, founder of Rauch Carriage Works. But I can’t find anything about Charles. Under the father’s records it only lists one son, George. But Jacobs records include his death at Gettysburg which match with information I’ve found on Rauch Carriage articles. And certainly those same articles say that Jacob passed his company to his son Charles. So, I wanted to email you to see if you have any sources of information on Charles Rauch that might help me trace his family connections. I also see that you live in the Seattle area. I am flying to Seattle on the 28th, bringing my 92 yr old father to meet his newest great-grand daughter (My son’s family relocated with Amazon to Seattle in June) Its a small world we live in. 🙂

    • Hey Patricia,
      Welcome to Seattle! I too reached a “brick wall” of sorts in looking for genealogy information on Charles Rauch. In the 1853 German immigrants to Cleveland list, there is a Carl Rauch. I believe this might be Jacob? (Often Germans relied on the second name as primary, the first being the same for each son in the family.) So that entry might actually refer to Jacob Rauch? Anyhow, Carl Rauch is listed as being from Standenbuehl and working in a wagon factory (see my German Immigrants to Cleveland lists). In a separate email, I’ll send some other info I’ve collected, but it seems to add to the mystery more than solve it. Good luck and traveling mercies.

  3. Posted by Cindy

    I found your blog and saw that you had my great grandfather listed as Immigrants to cleveland his name is Joseph Welf and his brother is henry. Please I have never seen their picture nor have never heard any information can you fill me in please. My grandmother was clarabell welf.

    thank you in advance.

    • Hey Cindy,
      I don’t have a picture of Joseph or Henry Welf, but “Cleveland and Its Germans [1897-1898 edition]” has a nice write-up of both. I’ll type the bios up here:

      Mr. Joseph Welf was born on 14 April 1841 in Kempten, a town in the Bavarian district of Swabia. When Joseph was 5, his parents decided to emigrate, landing after a trying crossing of 90 days in New Orleans instead of New York as expected. From there they traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, where they stayed for two years, then moving to Cincinnati. Joseph, who had received a foretaste of schooling in Kindergarten in his native town, now received an education in the Free Men’s, public and Turner schools of Cincinnati. At the age of 14 he apprenticed to a jeweler and watchmaker, remaining there for 5 years, and then he worked 11-1/2 years as a helper in Springfield, Ohio, and established his own shop in the course of time in 1862 in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1865 Mr. Welf moved to Cleveland, where he has worked to the present day, earning a good reputation as a businessman.
      Through the entry of his brother Henry as a partner in 1876, the business became the Welf Bros., and under this company name it was run until his brother left the business on 1 March 1896. now Mr. Joseph Welf is the sole owner, and the business is located in its old place, 252 Superior Street.
      Six children were produced by his marriage with Miss Clara Waldek, contracted in 1868. His eldest son, Chs. J., 30, is a watchmaker. The second, Jackob H., 27, is also a watchmaker and active in his father’s business. The third, Albert J., 25, is a merchant. The daughters are Josephine, Bertha and Clara Pauline. Josephine is married to Mr. Herman Kickheim, and the second is married to Mr. George J. Schürer. Mr. Welf was long a member of the Cleveland Turner and Singing Societies, and he currently belongs to the Harmonie. He is also a member of the Alemannia Lodge of the I.O.O.F. and of the Germania Council, National Union.
      [Since he was in the Harmonie, I am certain your great-great grandfather and mine (Michael Harm) knew one another!]

      Henry Welf
      In 1846 the Welf family, consisting of five persons, the parents and three children, emigrated from Kempten, Bavaria, and landed after a difficult crossing of three months in New Orleans. The object of this sketch was then one year old. After a brief stay, the parents moved from New Orleans to Cincinnati, remaining there until 1862. Then Henry went with his elder brother to Nashville, Tennessee, and remained there until 1865. During the War of the Rebellion Henry came to Cleveland, but in 1869 after almost four years in the Forest City he went to California, passing the next three years in California and Nevada. The memories of those times, particularly from Virginia City, Nevada, are unforgettable, belonging to the most exciting times of his life. The discovery of silver mines was the cause of excitement throughout the state, and the Indian uprising also did not make his sojourn secure or comfortable. Even before his departure from Virginia City in 1873 he was able to experience the completion of the work he had begun to found a Turner and Singing Society. After his return here he founded with his brother the Welf Jewelry Shop, which has flourished for more than 20 years on Superior and Ontario Streets under the name of Welf Bros.
      In March 1895 the brothers parted as business partners, and Henry Welf has a wholesale jewelry business at 303 Bond Street.
      Mr. Welf takes the most prominent role in politics and social life. He is first of all president of the Ohio Retail Jewelers Association and director of the German-American Bank. In the last state elections Mr. Welf was a candidate of the People’s Party for the office of state treasurer, receiving the most votes of anyone in his party. In the same way he was nominated in the last elections for mayor and for county treasurer.
      He is also a member of the Cleveland Singing Society, the Criterion Lodge of the Knights of Pythias, the Germania Lodge, National Union, and the Lodge No. 18, B.P.O.E.
      Three sons have been born to his marriage of 1881 with Miss Emma Kindsvater from here.

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