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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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John H. Thedinga

THEDINGA, John H. (Kloster Thedinga, Ostfriesland, Hanover, May 25, 1814--Dubuque, IA, Dec. 13, 1876). MAYOR. In 1835 Thedinga came to the United States to visit a sister who had moved to St. Louis, Missouri with her husband the year before. Instead of returning to Europe, he decided to remain here.

Thedinga entered into business in St. Louis with his brother-in-law, I.N.A. Bentzen, under the firm name of I.N.A. Bentzen & Co., but soon dissolved this partnership. He came to Dubuque with a young Russian gentleman, Mr. Konopka, with whom he opened store at Peru, a flourishing village a few miles north of Dubuque. They closed this business in the spring of 1837. In 1838, Mr. Thedinga went to St. Louis, but, in 1839, he returned to Dubuque and opened a store in connection with his brother-in-law, Bentzen. From that time, he remained in Dubuque.

Thedinga was in the grocery and drug business. On the evening of January 11, 1851, one of his clerks, whom he had given an interest in the drug department, placed a pot of sulphuric acid upon the stove and heated it to a boiling point. He suddenly threw this into the face of Mr. Thedinga. It burned its way into the flesh and destroyed one of the eyeballs. As soon as it was discovered what had been done, the bells were rung and all the town was called out to search for the attacker. The next morning he was discovered dead in a stable in the vicinity-a suicide by strychnine. The attack led Thedinga to leave commercial business in 1852.

Thedinga held many political offices. In 1844, he was elected alderman and re-elected in 1845 and 1846. In 1847, he was one of the committee of twenty-five citizens to settle all land claims in the mining district of Dubuque before the land sales. In 1850, he was elected County Commissioner and in 1852-54 Justice of the Peace. In 1858, Thedinga became a member of the Board of Education and was continually re-elected without opposition. As member of the board, he was for many years chairman of the Finance Committee. In 1861, he was chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

In 1862 and 1863, Thedinga served as mayor of Dubuque; he was the first German resident to hold the office. A committee of the council appointed to investigate the harbor question reported at the January session, 1863, that in a short time the harbor would be wholly unfit for landing purposes unless the formation of the sandbars could be prevented; that the bar was caused by the filling up of the inner slough at the Third street bridge; that the Third street bridge should be removed or extended in one span over the whole slough and that the right of the city to remove such bridge which had been built by the Central Improvement Company was in doubt. It was during his administration that the city council named LINWOOD CEMETERY. In September, 1863, during the fair the streets were lighted with gas and the press asked to have it made permanent. The decision in GELPCKE v. DUBUQUE had financial ramifications through 1923.

When the German Savings Bank (afterward GERMAN BANK) was established in the fall of 1864, he was elected president and remained at the head of this institution until his death.


In 1976 the THEDINGA HOUSE, south of REDSTONE (THE) on the southeast corner of Fifth and Bluff, was placed on the NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES.



"John H. Thedinga," Linwood Legacies. Online: http://www.linwoodlegacies.org/john-h-thedinga.html

"Dubuque Sought Business Methods From Beginning," Telegraph Herald, March 27, 1921, p. 14. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=bi5eAAAAIBAJ&sjid=SmANAAAAIBAJ&pg=6644,4092622&dq=james+fanning+dubuque&hl=en

Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Online: http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-21-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml