The family foundation was inspired in the year 1607 by the will of  Nicolaus III Gercken (28. 2. 1555 – 16. 8. 1610), the founder. He was a lawyer and legal counsel of the Cathedral Chapter of Magdeburg. He was married to Margaretha Busse. The pair had no children. No portrait of the founder has been preserved.

The wandering student Magdeburg, Rostock, Wittenberg, Stendal, Tübingen, Basel, Speyer. Nicolaus III Gercken was sent by his father in 1571 to high school in Magdeburg. In 1573 he moved to Rostock to study at university. One year later he moved to Wittenberg, where he probably studied theology for three years. After graduation he was hired as co-headmaster of a school in Stendal. After three years in Stendal he accepted a call by the nobleman Breda v. Rantzow from Holstein in 1580 to lead both of Rantzow’s sons to Tübingen. He staid there until 1584 and pursued the study of law. From Tübingen he transferred to Basel, to graduate with a Doctor of Law. He had already presented his thesis defense (Disputation) and passed the accompanying examination, when he suddenly abandoned his plan in order to follow his father’s call. His father had recommended to spend the money fo the doctorate rather on a practical education, and to transfer to the empirial chamber court (Kaiserliches Kammergericht) in Speyer. The founder transferred to Speyer in 1585 and completed his education as a practicing lawyer.

Lawyer in Magdeburg In 1586 Nicolaus III Gercken returned to Magdeburg and established himself as a lawyer. He married Margaretha Busse in 1590. Margaretha was the daughter of a man who held a doctorate law degree and who served as counsellor of a court, the Schöppenstuhl, in Magdeburg. In 1592 Nicolaus was promoted to serve as chancellor by Duke Wolff von Braunschweig-Grubenhagen. In 1594 the Duke made him an emissary to the Reichstag (empirial conference) in  Regensburg.  Also in 1594 the Cathedral Chapter of Magdeburg promoted him to serve as their legal counsel (Syndikus). He worked in this role until he passed away in 1610. The Collegiatstift St. Sebastian, Magdeburg, tried to recruit him in 1602 to serve as Canonicus. The founder declined citing his obligations to the Cathedral Chapter. Nevertheless he submitted and was granted the request to be buried in St. Sebastian church.

Religious and well-read His contemporaries have described the founder as a religious and educated man of integrity. His favorite pasttime was reading judicial and theological texts. He had a large collection of books and journals and gifted it to posterity in his will.

The foundation Thrift and diligence made the founder accumulate a considerable fortune. As all his relatives were well off, he decided to endow a foundation for the benefit of the descendants of his grandfather. He wrote his will in 1607 prescient of his deteriorating health. He passed away on August 16th, 1610, between 11 pm and midnight, aged 55. He was interred on August 21st in St. Sebastian in Magdeburg just as he had wanted it. In his will dated November 27th, 1607, he stipulated that „the offspring of my father’s brothers and sisters “and their descendants shall benefit from the financial returns of my fortune, namely and specifically in the form of scholarships for academic study.

The father of the founder, Johannis Geriken (Gercken, 1528 – 1605, Magdeburg), was headmaster of the Latin school in Salzwedel Neustadt, which is located near St. Catharine’s church. He is depicted on an oil painting on wood which is preserved, on permanent lease and exhibited to this day in the Danneil-Museum (city museum) of Salzwedel.

The Latin inscription of the painting says:  IMAGE OF THE EDUCATED MAN MISTER JOHANNIS GERIKEN (GERCKEN), LECTURER OF CHURCH LAW AT THE DOME OF MAGDEBURG. ANNO CHRISTI 1585. HIS TRUE AGE 57. How Johannis made it from Salzwedel to Magdeburg is unknown. His judicial and theologial knowledge must have been substantial to receive a call as lecturer to Magdeburg. Johannis Geriken was married with Catharina, whose maiden name was Buchwitz. Johannis and Catherina had two children, Nicolaus III Gercken and Catharine Gercken, who married a man named Giese. Both of their children never had children of their own.

The grandfather of the founder (the progenitor of the foundation) was Nicolaus I (also Clawes) Gercken (1501 – February 23rd, 1579), a mayor, weaver and taylor in Salzwedel Neustadt. Weavers and taylors were wealthy merchants in those days. On May 28th, 1233, Count Johannes von Brandenburg and his brother Otto granted the guild of taylors of Salzwedel Altstadt the exclusive right to cut, taylor and sell fabric. In 1351 this right was extended to Salzwedel Neustadt.

The grave of the founder’s grandfather was placed among the inheritable burying grounds around St. Catharine’s church in Salzwedel. To prevent further weather-induced damage to the plaque of the grave, today this plaque is exhibited inside the church.

Inscribed on top: DAS BLUT JESU CHRISTI REINIGET VON ALLEN SÜNDEN. (JOHANNIS Evangelium). (The blood of Jesus cleanses all sins). (John, New testament).

At the bottom: NICLAUS GERCKENS BÜRGERMEISTER DIESER STADT IST SELIG IN CHRISTO ENTSCHLAFEN SEINES ALTERS 78 JAHR DEN 23. FEBR. ANNO 1579. (Mayor Nicloaus Gercken has passed away in Christ aged 78 on February 23rd, 1579.)

Source: Paul Gerhardt, honorary patron, patron from 1994 to 2001, slightly shortened and amended by Eckart Reihlen

Magdeburger Dom (dome), work place and final resting place of the founder.
Stiftskirche Tübingen. The founder studied and worked here.
Johannes Gercken (1528-1605), the founder's father. Danneil Museum, Salzwedel. Credit FotoClub Salzwedel e.V. paid for by the foundation. Portraits of the founder or his grandfather (the progenitor) have not been preserved, unfortunately.
Epitaph for the founder's grandfather Nicolaus I Gercken, † 1579. FotoClub Salzwedel e.V. for NGS.