- EUGENE GAUSS was born in Gottingen in the province of Hanover, Waldeck, G
ermany on July 29, 1811 to Karl Frederick Gauss
(1777-1855), the famous mathematician, and Minna Waldeck Gauss, his seco
nd wife (Hall 1970). Eugene shared his father's brilliance
in math and languages. His father opposed Eugene's study of philology, i
nsisting that Eugene study law. This opposition building
on Eugene's violent temper and unsettled nature led him to play cards, d
rink beer, and amass gambling debts at the university
rather than attending classes. His father's paying off Eugene's debt fue
led further conflict.
Eugene announced his intention of traveling to the United States. Eugen
e left home without saying goodbye or packing. Karl
followed him across Germany to Bremen with money and a trunk for his son
. They met for a final time at the astronomer Olber's
home (Hall 1970:154).
Eugene Gauss arrived in New York City on December 22, 1830 (Centennial 1
921b:936). Buhler (1981:114) says he came to Philadelphia.
After several months, Eugene enlisted in the U.S. Army and advanced to t
he rank of sergeant. He served at Fort Snelling, near St.
Paul, Minnesota (then Iowa Territory) in the 1st U.S. Infantry under th
e command of the future-president Zachary Taylor. Unhappy
in the army and his five-year enlistment he wrote his father in July 183
1 and again several months later seeking his assistance in
obtaining a discharge for nearsightedness. He also asked for money. Hi
s requests were denied, and his father sent a long letter
of reprimand by June 1831. Eugene Gauss joined the Minneapolis First Pre
sbyterian church when it organized at Fort Snelling on
June 14, 1835 under the direction of Rev/Dr Thomas S. Williamson (Churc
On January 27, 1836, Eugene Gauss, an orderly sergeant in Br. Loomis' Co
mpany, wrote the American Board of Protestant Foreign
Missions to offer his services as a missionary (ABPFM Mss 74 #9 MNHS)
. They decided not to do so (ABPFM Indians LBC, p. 484;
ABCPFM Mss 74 #11 MNHS). He also donated some shoes, valued at $1.50, t
o J.D. Stern's mission (ABPFM Mss 192:15-16 MNHS). In May
1836 Serg. Gauss may have been with Mr. Stevens (Ryan to Silbey: Sible
y Mss 5/10/1836 MNHS). Gauss copied a letter of D.Greene to
T.S. Williamson (ABCFN Mss 74 #31 10/4/1836). He also sought to becom
e a clerk in the fur trade (Pond Mss 1/20/1836 MNHS).
After his discharge (by June 1836) Eugene Gauss worked for Joseph Rennvi
lle as a clerk at Lac qui Parle, Minnesota for at least
a year (Letter 9/2/1836 Taufaterro of St. Peters to S.W. Pond, & anothe
r 6/8/1836: Pond Mss, MNHS; ABCFM Mss 74 #29 P. 60
10/1/1836). He learned Lakota and assisted a missionary with an alphabe
t for a bible translation (Willard 1964:80, 279). Gauss
also knew Greek. The missionaries at Lac qui Parle included Dr. Thoma
s S. Williamson, Stephen R. Riggs, Gideon and Samuel Pond,
Samuel Dentan, Daniel Gavin, Moses Adams, Huggins, and Pettijohn.
Toward the end of the 1830s his father, Karl Gauss, became convinced tha
t Eugene has improved and sent him the proceeds of his
inheritance from his mother (who died in 1831), which had been delayed b
y a codicil concerning good behavior. Henry Hastings
Sibley came to Mendota in about November 1834, living with the Alexis Ba
illey family and visiting the Fort. He served as the
co-sutler at the Fort as of January 1836. There he probably met Eugen
e Gauss during the final nine months of Gauss' enlistment.
Eugene Gauss' name appears in Henry Sibley's Ledger books for the Americ
an Fur Company store at Mendota from February 1837 through
July 1839 (Sibley Paper Ledger 42:102, 182, 265). He ended up owing th
e Company $258.94. His name also occurs on the Fort
Snelling Sutler's Account Book for Civilians from November 1837 throug
h October 1838 (Fort Snelling M164(28):88:213).
On May 1, 1837, Eugene Gauss signed a contract with Henry H. Sibley at F
ort Snelling to work for the American Fur Company during
the coming year for $100. He was hired as a clerk among the Sioux (H.H
. Sibley Papers 7/1/1837). By then he was fairly fluent in
Sioux and continued in close contact with the Ponds and their friends (S
.W. Pond to R. Hine 6/25/1837 letter in Pond Papers).
Gauss is mentioned in some correspondence (Letter 10/18/1837 Anderson t
o Sibley; Letter 10/21/1837 S.W. Pond to G.H. Pond, and
Rebecca Hine to S.W. Pond 10/22/1837: Pond Papers). T.S. Williamson sen
t his regards to Gauss in a letter to Sibley dated July
11, 1837 (Sibley Mss MNHS). A few days later (July 13, 1837), Eugene Ga
uss donated $10 to the ABPFM (ABPFM Mss 141 #1 MNHS).
Several months later (10/21/1837) Samuel W. Pond wrote in his letter t
o his brother, Gideon W. Pond, that he had not seen Gauss
for a while (Pond Mss MNHS).
Eugene Gauss taught school about half a mile from Fort Snelling during t
he summer of 1838 (Pond Mss MNHS 7/2/1838). He appears to
have continued to teach at least occasionally through 1839 (see below; S
ibley Mss 8/13/1838 MNHS). On October 10, 1838 Eugene
Gauss donated $10 to the Lac qui Parle Mission (ABCFM Mss 192 #6 MNHS)
, but appears to have continued to reside at or near Fort
Snelling through the fall of 1838 (ABCFM Mss 141 #6 11/8/1838 MNHS).
By November 1838 Gauss had enough to pay off his debt to the Company exc
ept $75 he owed Sibley. He expected some funds from
Germany (those mentioned above and held by his father). Until the fal
l of 1838 he worked with Mr. Farebault. He also anticipated
finding employment in St. Louis with Nicollette (Letter to Sibley: Paper
s 9/6/1838). In a subsequent letter Gauss offered to
replace Mr. Anderson who was leaving from the American Fur Company pos
t at St. Peters (to Sibley 11/26/1838). Judging from his
subsequent letter, it seems likely that Gauss went to St. Louis.
Gauss was working in Seley's [Sibley?] Store in St. Peter's in January 1
839 (Letter 1/10/1839 S.W. Pond of Lake Harriet
[Minneapolis] to G.H. Pond of Lac qui Parle: Pond Papers). That month h
e also gave Henry H. Sibley a note for his balance ($50)
owed to the American Fur Company. On February 1, 1839 H.H. Sibley credi
ted E. Gauss for $12.34 paid to him by John R. Wood for
tuition (Sibley Account Book 1838-56:1). It seems likely that E. Gaus
s spent the winter of 1838-39 at Sibley's store in Mendota,
Minnesota, but then went down river in March.
Eugene Gauss indicated in his letter to Samuel W. Pond written on Januar
y 25, 1839 that he was learning to speak Sioux very fast
(Pond Mss MHS).
On March 27, 1839 Eugene Gauss was advanced $100 by the American Fur Com
pany at St. Louis (Western Retail Store Ledger CC:13a,
84). The following day he purchased some blankets. The next day Gauss wr
ote Sibley from St. Louis to inform him that he was hired
by Chouteau's American Fur Company and would ascend the Missouri River t
he next week to return to the Sioux country on the upper
Missouri. Gauss anticipated being away from St. Louis for three years (S
ibley Papers 3/29/1839). He accompanied Joseph N.
Nicolett's expedition upstream to Ft. Pierre on the steamboat Antelope
. His contract with American Fur Co. was for three years,
but he only worked at Ft. Pierre until late 1839 (Chittenden, De Smet p
. 1549). On October 31, 1839 his account was paid in full
(American Fur Co. Western Retail Ledger CC:84).
A letter from Stephen R. Riggs to Samuel W. Pond dated October 3, 1840 s
tates that Gauss had gone to among the Sioux or to the
lower Missouri (Pond Mss MNHS). By then he was already established in S
In 1840 Eugene became a businessman in St. Charles, dealing in grains an
d lumber, and real estate (the Gauss Addition to St.
Charles). On August 1, 1840 he wrote Sibley again requesting that he sen
d his note to Carsters Angelroot & Company of St. Louis so
they could pay it for Gauss. This apparently was not done. On August 3
1, 1842 P. Chouteau paid note for $83.87 to E. Gauss from
Western Retail store in St. Louis (Western Retail Ledger EE:482, GG:50).
Eugene Gauss married Henrietta Fawcett at the Fawcett Tavern in St. Char
les, Missouri on February 14, 1844 (Marriage Records
27:249; Johnson 1982). They continued to reside in St. Charles.
At age 29 on May 8, 1844 Eugene Gauss became an American citizen. On Oct
ober 16, 1848 he wrote from St. Charles to Henry H. Sibley
of St. Peters, Minnesota to settle his account ($467) with a check fro
m the Bank of Missouri (Sibley Papers 10/16/1848).
The 1852 census (p. 50) lists his household in St. Charles as consistin
g of 3 white males < 10 years, 1 white male 10-18 years, 3
white males 21-45 years, 1 white female 10-18 years, 1 white female 18-2
1 years, 2 white females 21-45 years and 0 slaves.
The town of St. Charles elected Eugene Gauss treasurer in 1853. Eugene‚
s father died in Germany in February 1855. In January 1856
Gauss' Dry Goods & Hardware was located in a new store just south of th
e New School Presbyterian Church. This later was the site
of Hunington Dry Goods Co (St Charles Revilee 1/12/1856). On May 19, 18
60 Eugene Gauss joined the Dardenne Presbyterian Church,
but then transferred his membership to the Columbia Presbyterian Churc
h in 1886(?) (Watson 1977:345). The 1860 census shows that
Eugene was a lumber merchant (p. 104, #958). His household also had t
o German-born domestic workers: Emily Bruet (age 19) and
Anna Hillscamper (age 18).
Eugene Gauss was the founding President of the First National Bank of St
. Charles (1863-70). By 1867 Eugene Gauss was a member of
Redman & Gauss with John W. Redman, dealers in Lumber, opposite the Rail
road Depot in St. Charles.
His occupation is listed in the 1870 census as merchant, and his brothe
r Henry Gauss (also a merchant) and his wife Elizabeth
(after c. 1860), lived with them (1860 census #958, 1868#456, 1870 #109)
, as also did Henrietta's sister, Virginia Fawcett
(census: 1860, 1868, 1870).
All of the children of Henrietta Fawcett and Eugene Gauss were born an
d raised in St. Charles in their large stone house,
surrounded by a park (Gauss 1982:196), Missouri (1850, 1852:50, 1868, 18
70 1876 censuses) and many are also buried there in the
Oak Grove Cemetery(*), including: (1) Charles Henry Gauss (1845-1913, bu
ried St. Louis),(2) Theresa Gauss (1847-ca. 1850*), (3)
Theodore Gauss (1840-95*), (4) Robert Gauss (1851-1913, buried Denver/*?
), (5) Virginia Gauss (1853-1930*), (6) Eugene Gauss, Jr.
(1856-1951*), and (7) Albert 'Herbert'(?) Gauss (1862-aft 1930 Los Angel
By 1871 Eugene‚s eyes developed cataracts. He was a nervous man and dre
aded the operation, so he procrastinated (Letter V Fawcett
to E Fawcett 2/12/1876). In 1878 his lumber yard was destroyed by a fir
e (Letter W Fawcett to V Fawcett 5/12/1878). The firm of
Gauss & Son consisted of Eugene and his son, Theodore (Letter V Fawcet
t to L Fawcett 5/25/1882).
During the 1880s, Eugene‚s daughter Virginia Gauss, cared for Eugene an
d Henrietta. She often read for Eugene in the evenings
(Letter V Fawcett to E Fawcett 4/27/1882).
Following Virginia Fawcett's death, in December 1885 Eugene moved to hi
s country estate in Boone County, near Columbia, Missouri.
Eugene Gauss visited St. Charles at the end of 1885 (Columbia Missouri S
tatesman 12/11/1885 3/1; 12/18/1885 3/2). After he became
blind at age 80 he performed mathematical calculations in his head. Am
ong other things he calculated the sum to which one dollar
would have grown at 4% interest over the 6000 years since Adam's birth
. The amount was expressed as a cube of gold in which the
observable universe vanishes like a drop of water in a bathtub. He wa
s assisted by his son Theodore, who every few days wrote
down his father's figures. On occasion Eugene corrected Theodore's ow
n calculations. He was able to remember strings of 30
digits for days. The results were checked by a professor of astronomy
. Eugene Gauss was the last living child of Karl Gauss. He
burned most of his letters from his father. A gold medal awarded to Kar
l Gauss by King George V was inherited by Eugene Gauss.
He melted it down to make frames for his eyeglasses.
Eugene Gauss died near Columbia, Boone County, Missouri of heart failur
e on July 4, 1896 at 84 years, 11 months and 5 days, and is
buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery, St. Charles, Missouri (Gauss 1982:196
, Oak Grove Cemetery Registry p. 44; Geerling and Wiechens
1987:46; McElhiney 1970:44, 195, 433).
- Came to USA in 1930 after studying law at the University of Gottingen