German Immigrant Ancestors
in Syracuse and Onondaga County, New York


(Soundex code: R250)

I would like to learn more about the Rexins. Their connection to me is that my great-grandmother, Elisabeth Kraft Lipke Denka, had a younger sister named Anna Kraft Rexin whom she helped to immigrate to Syracuse, New York from "Germany." I assume both these women originated from where Elisabeth came from, which was the area around Danzig in what was then known as West Prussia, part of the German Empire (today near Gdansk, Poland). The clues provided here that I have gathered so far should give others interested in researching these Rexins a head start, I hope. Please contact me or a Rexin family member ( or if you have history, information, or photos to share.

Here is what I know about these Rexins so far:


According to my great-grandmother Elizabeth Kraft Lipke Denka's obituary, she was survived by a sister, Mrs. Anna Rexin, who, family members said, had followed her in emigrating from Germany to the United States. My great-grandparents, Elisabeth and John Lipke, immigrated in 1904 in the wake of John's brother, August Liepke, who immigrated with his wife and children to Syracuse in 1893 (read their story).

My first clues came from family stories and a Lipke cousin of mine, Dorothy Caine Obrist, who told me that her mother (Anna Lipke, daughter of Elisabeth and John) had told her that her 'Grandpa [John] Lipke was trying so hard to bring over Tanta Anna [Anna Rexin, Elizabeth Kraft Lipke's sister] to the U.S., but she had 10 kids... he [John Lipke] earned only $7/week as a farmer, but scrimped to put all his money away to save and bring them over. He brought her and the little ones over first, but couldn't get the older ones over before World War I broke out, and therefore Lipke cousins in the U.S. were fighting against cousins in Germany.' Both Dorothy's mother and her uncle, Frank Lipke, had told her how horrible that was.

My cousin Dorothy also wrote to me: “My mother said they [Anna Lipke and her siblings and parents] came over to America on a cattle boat in 1907 [sic; 1904].... They came to escape the impending war. And they struggled to get the older kids [cousins remaining in the Old Country] here before the war came but didn't get Tanta Anna's (Rexin) boys here so Uncle Frank fought on the American side against his own cousins who were forced to fight for Germany. My mother often told me & once Uncle Frank said it was so awful. He hated to shoot his gun thinking perhaps he might shoot his own cousin.”

Years later I was able to find proof of the Rexin family's arrival in the U.S. at the Ellis Island port in New York City, sailing from Antwerp on the S.S. Zeeland on 5 May 1906, arriving in New York on 15 May 1906:
Friedrich "Resin" [Rexin], age 31, male, married, laborer, able to read and write, German from Germany, last residence: Gr. Lichtenow; final destination: Syracuse NY; has ticket, passage paid by brother-in-law, has $60 in possession; never in U.S. before; going to brother-in-law, Johann Lipke, 716 North Alward [Alvord] str., Syracuse NY; condition of health, mental and physical: good.
--Anna, age 29, wife
--Helene, 9, female, single, child
--Anna, 7, female, single, child
--Paul, 6, male, single, child
--Friedrich, 4, male, single, child
--Johann, 2, male, single, child
--Elizabeth, 1/2 [sic; about two months old], female, single, child

Ellis Island immigration depot, New York, early 1900's

Ellis Island, gateway to the U.S.
as it looked in New York harbor in the early 1900's


I can't provide any further information on the family's origins in the Old Country yet. I do not know where "Gr. Lichtenow" was/is for sure. My best guess might be the town of Lichtenau in Kreis Braunsberg, Ostpreussen, now Lechowo in Elblaskie province, Poland, which was not far from Brodsack, where the Lipkes emigrated from in 1904. In 1905 it had both a Catholic Parish church and a civil registry, and a population of 662. (Today it's about 10 km from the town of Pieniezno, Poland). Perhaps a look at the microfilmed church records from the Mormon Church Family History Library would yield some clues (Kirchenbuch, 1599-1945, Katholische Kirche Lichtenau, Kr. Braunsberg). This part of Central Europe was at various times either German, Prussian, Polish, or Russian, I believe.

The Rexin family in Syracuse

This REXIN family, along with the LIPKEs and the KRAFTs, all spoke German and considered themselves to be Germans, though they emigrated from an area sometimes considered Prussian or Polish. They settled on the German North Side of Syracuse and were Catholics who attended Assumption Church. Many of them are buried in Assumption Cemetery.

I have also found three other Rexins I have not yet researched further:

1. There was a John Rexin already living in Syracuse by 1896, according to a newspaper clipping of that year (shown below). I don't know if or how he is related to Frederick and Anna and their family.

2. I have found a Herbert Rexin, age 20, a single male, a chauffeur, arriving at Ellis Island, NYC July 1, 1923, coming from the "Free State of Danzig," on the S.S. Polonia out of Danzig, whose passage was paid for him by his "Aunt Anna Rexin, 211 John St., Syracuse, NY." Have found no trace of him since, yet.

3. There was an "Augusta Rexon," 75-year-old mother-in-law to Bernard Fraker (age 34) and his wife Bertha (age 35), living at 307 Second Street in Solvay/Geddes near the Solvay Process soda ash plant according to the 1920 census. The two women were listed as having immigrated in 1889. Could she have been Frederick W.'s mother, and Bertha his sister? More research is needed.

Descendants Chart of Friedrich W. and Anna (Kraft) REXIN

REXINS in the Syracuse City Directories, 1910-1935

Rexin Gravemarkers

Reference Notes

and finally:

Some Interesting Newspaper Articles related to the Rexins of Syracuse

1896: --------------------------------


No One Killed, But Rexin Was Badly Cut

--Woman In It.

At 11 o’clock last night there were shouts of murder at the corner of Lock and Division streets, and policemen rushed to the spot. A half dozen men were engaged in a brawl there, but the police succeeded in arresting only two, and they turned out to be the principals. They gave the names of John Rexin and August Wencel. Rexin had an ugly cut over the right eye and another in the side of the head. Dr. D. M. Totman was called and sewed up Rexin’s wounds. Rexin said that two years ago he married a widow who had a young daughter. He says that Wencel wanted to marry his stepdaughter, and that she rejected his suit and last fall married another.

Since then, it is declared, Wencel has been angry at the whole family. Last night the two men met in a North Salina street saloon and got into a dispute. Rexin says that he realized that Wencel would assault him, and he tried to reach his house by way of a back yard, but found Wencel and four or five of his friends there. Wencel, he says, struck him several heavy blows on the back with a flatiron and thrust a knife into him two or three times. Then he threw him upon the ground and three or four of the men were assaulting him when the others came and they ran away. Wencel tells a different story and says it was Rexin who had the knife. Both men are locked up.

[Syracuse Herald, Sunday morning, March 15, 1896, front page, column 6]

1907: --------------------------------


Mrs. Frederick Rexin Grieves
Over Arrest of Husband.


Father Charged With Stealing From Freight
Cars—Little Ones Who Had Counted So
Gladly on Kris Kringle’s Coming Are In

If her husband, Frederick Rexin, who is held for the Grand jury on the charge of complicity in the North Side freight car burglaries, should be found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment friends of Mrs. Augusta [sic; Anna] Rexin and the inspectors of the Department of Charities are convinced that the woman will lose her senses completely and may even attempt her own life. Even now a constant watch is maintained upon her by one or the other of her humble neighbors who go in and out, uttering words of cheer and encouragement, bringing some little gift of food or clothing and trying to speak words of comfort to the unhappy wife.

Mrs. Rexin is a pretty young woman of 29 years old and she is the mother of eight children—the oldest 10-year-old Lena, the youngest a twin boy and girl aged 4 months. The family came to this country from Germany in May, 1906, and almost immediately upon arriving here Rexin obtained work with the Solar Coarse Salt Company where he was considered one of the best and most trustworthy men employed by the concern.

The family was well housed, comfortable and happy until November 30th last, when Rexin was arrested on suspicion of having been concerned in the depredations upon freight trains, which had been going on at the Iron Pier for several months. He was arraigned with the other prisoners in Police court and charged with burglary in the third degree. He pleaded not guilty, but was held to await the action of the Grand jury.

The Rexins had always “held their heads high,” as their neighbors express it. In spite of the large family they had never considered themselves poor and had even been able to spare help to others in time of trouble. The shock of her husband’s arrest came like a crushing blow to the young wife. She protested vehemently that he was not—could not be—guilty. He had always been honest, she declared. He would not steal—she couldn’t believe it. She came to the police station to see him before he was taken to the Penitentiary and the pair wept together like little children. The Christmas preparations had already been started in the little home and the children who were big enough to talk—there are four younger than 3 years old—were counting the days until the coming of Kris Kringle and “das Christkindchen.” But that is in the past now. The Rexins are a stricken family. Even the little ones know it and every night when they say their prayers, the [sic] beg that their papa may be sent back to them.

Rexin’s employers have interested themselves in the family and appeared to speak a good word for him in court. The house rent is paid until March. There is coal and wood enough to keep the children warm and the city is attending to the grocery bills. But day after day the mother sits at the window looking out into space as if she were watching for some one who does not come. And her friends fear she is losing her mind. She holds her twin babies and mutters in her native tongue that they would better be dead than to be called the children of a thief and she alternates her bitter tears and sobs with protestations that her Frederick is innocent.

And the little ones crowd around and try to comfort her, begging her not to cry—telling her that “the Christ child” will bring papa back surely because they have prayed to him and his birthday is so near.

[Syracuse Herald, Tuesday evening, December 17, 1907, page 6]

Saltworkers, Syracuse, circa 1907

Saltworkers, Syracuse, circa 1907

Solar salt works and workers
at the edge of Onondaga Lake,
Syracuse, New York circa 1907

This page was last revised on 26 July 2009.

Reference Notes

Descendants' Chart